Sunday, February 25, 2007

Blog Tag

Well, I got tagged (not the graffiti type) by Steve Wilson. Now it’s my turn to reveal 5 things-you-don't-know-about-me, and then tag 5 more unsuspecting-yet-interesting folks… But first, I had to do a bit of the pedigree/ancestry tracing to see where this tagging all began:

Steve first got tagged by Rich Green (a former colleague; and prior to that, a former colleague); Sin-Yaw Wang tagged Rich; Hal Stern tagged Sin-Yaw; Mary Cay Kosten tagged Hal. Then the trail went cold... Mary Cay’s original tag was from behind Sun’s Firewall, so this was a dead-end.

So I took another track from someone else I know: Jonathan Schwartz was tagged by James Governor (of RedMonk, a cool analyst group I’ve worked with in the past); James was tagged by Jeff Pulver. Ahh. Jeff points to the "Root" of Blog Tag pedigree, 3 orders-of-magnitude better/bigger than mine, residing at Solo SEO ... clearly indicating that some folks have way too much time.

Anyway, here goes the whole point of the thing:

  1. I once sailed 1,300 miles from Myrtle Beach SC to Tortola, BVI – with no electronics onboard except a UHF radio and a Timex digital watch. There were 3 of us onboard for 10 days (fortunately two of us knew how to use a sextant). It was one of the most memorable times of my life, being at the mercy of the elements, but having ‘science’ in our back pocket. We made landfall within a mile or so of our target… You gotta read the book “Longitude” to appreciate how important this form of navigation was.
  2. I was a product of the Reagan defense-spending era – my first job (just out of engineering school) was working for a defense contractor designing and building hardware-based real-time adaptive optics and wavefront correction systems. Next time you hear about DoD blowing planes out of the sky with lasers, think of me. (I think that’s all I’m allowed to say about that)
  3. I’d rather be renovating a bathroom, laying tile, or for that matter, building a house. There’s something intensely gratifying about building something permanent/durable.
  4. I wrote a program (circa 1979) in Basic on a Commodore PET with 16k of RAM that played Solitaire. Yes, just 16k. When I finished, there wasn’t enough space to actually execute it. This was perhaps my finest (and final) foray into software. Unless you consider writing FORTRAN batch jobs using punch-cards on a Sperry/Univac.
  5. I started building a historically-accurate plank-on-frame scale model of Lord Trafalgar’s flagship, HMS Victory, back when I was in high school. I put 18 months into it and got as far as building the hull. Then life intervened. Once the kid(s) are out of school, I burn-out in High Tech, and I get over that “I’ve gotta build a house” thing, the HMS Victory is how I plan to occupy my remaining time in the Rest Home.
And now, the Tag-You're-It list (which isn't so easy when most of your friends don't yet blog): Ashesh Badani, Rich Sands, James Urquhart, David Gee, and Vinay Pai.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Virtual Infrastructure Diversity... and the Need to Manage it.

I can't take credit for the following observations... They were simply handed to me by one of Cassatt's best account executives, who spends endless days speaking with CIOs and operations personnel who manage huge, diverse data centers - and who frequently miss these important facts. He's noted that "Virtualization" is being inaccurately subsumed to mean the software hypervisors purveyed by VMware.

However, the Truth is that virtualization is multi-vendor, multi-technology, and inherently heterogeneous. So: How will these diverse technologies be managed in the future? Here are some observations:
  1. People are confusing ‘Virtualization’ with VMware (but remember, there are more types of virtualization than just hypervisors for software!)
  2. VMware’s scope is limited to X86 Platforms. Most organizations have more than X86.
  3. There are other types of Virtualization within other platforms (Example: Mainframe LPARs, Solaris containers/Zones, HP VPARs).
  4. There are even Virtualization alternatives in X86 (XenSource, Xen/RHEL, Xen/SuSE, and SWSoft Virtuozzo and others).
  5. There are different types of Virtualization (JVM, VLANs in the network domain, SAN & NAS in the storage domain, not to mention Incipient and 3Par).
  6. VMM Virtualization is an OS feature and it’s price will be commoditized to $0 over time. Evidence:
    - Historically LPARs came with MVS
    - Sun does not charge extra for Containers/Zones
    - IBM AIX & HP-UX don’t charge extra either
    - JVM’s are free.
    - VLAN-ing comes built-in into Switch Firmware
    - You can get NAS for free or pay for specially-tuned version in Proprietary Hardware (NetApps)
    - Watch out in the SAN-space but it will be interesting to see where that goes with iSCSI and 10Gig Ethernet etc.
  7. A comment on X86 VMM-pricing:
    - Red Hat will deliver Xen for free in RH5
    - SuSE will deliver Xen for free in SuSE 10.x
    - Intel supports it for free in Intel-VT chips
    - AMD supports for free in their Pacifica chips
    - XenSource costs 25% of VMware and will eventually be acquired by somebody who will give it away for free as part of something else
Thus we see that there are nearly dozens of types of "virtualization" that need to be managed collectively - many of them are already present in data centers, and many will be available for free (or nearly so) in the near future.

This is the next impending management crisis - management, automation, and optimization of virtualized computation, containers, storage, and networking.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Postcards from IDC’s Virtualization Forum 2.0

I just attended the IDC analyst conference yesterday in New York. In some sense, the big news was simply how pervasive virtualization is becoming, and how many different technology sources there are. And most interesting, there was lots of talk about *managing* virtualization, not just using it for consolidation.

John Humphreys (Enterprise Computing) opened with some riveting statistics:

  • 62% of VM users are looking for a “unified tool”
  • 45% of servers planned for installation next year will be virtualized
  • 23% is the average savings being reaped from HW, power and facilities
  • 70% of IT costs still reside in operations... not in hardware or software.

In addition, he had the foresight to refer to VMs as “the new atomic unit of management.” Hmmm. Right up Cassatt’s alley.

Finally, under “challenges”, one of the big bullets was “How can you consolidate/manage across the DMZ?”... which I found interesting. True, it’s a growing issue, but frankly, with automated network configuration, Collage already manages virtual (and physical) resources across a number of virtual networks.

We also spoke 1:1 with analysts Matt Eastwood (VP, Enterprise platforms), Michelle Bailey (Datacenter Trends), and Al Gillen (VP, system software). Overall, they confirmed the themes that Virtualization is pervasive, and the challenges were becoming how to manage this new technology. Topics of note:

  • Managing across networks (as above)
  • Parameterized & “mass-produced” provisioning of VMs
  • Managing a virtual enterprise across geographies
  • Justifying economics beyond hardware savings

Besides the better-known technologies (i.e. VMware and Xen) there were also some interesting virtualization options:

  • Trigence: which has an interesting “encapsulation” technology; they don’t use a hypervisor, per se, but rather encapsulate an application, plus all relevant files/libraries, etc. so it’s completely portable
  • SWsoft: which has a unique virtualization approach which, if you only care about one OS, gives you high performance and a huge degree of consolidation
  • HP and IBM: both hyping their versions of self-managing blade systems.
  • IBM has also announced their Secure Hypervisor (sHype) product, that may be incorporated into 3rd-party hypervisors.

From a purely selfish perspective, Cassatt is pretty well-positioned to help manage/automate an upcoming need: as the Virtualization market matures, more datacenters will need a vendor-neutral way of managing across virtual and physical domains, pooling resources, and guaranteeing service levels.