EMC Xtrem VMAX Integration

image EMC XtremSF (formerly VFCache) is a PCIe flash card deployed in the server to dramatically improve application performance by reducing latency and accelerating throughput. XtremSF can be used as a local storage device (think RAM disk) to accelerate read / write IO/s, but on a persistent Direct Attach Storage (DAS) that exists only on the individual server. Coupled with XtremSW, the solution becomes an ultra high performance Read Cache allowing writes to pass to back-end shared storage arrays and providing incredible performance with data remaining part of the enterprise data protection solution.

One of the issues with server-side caching is that administrators have yet another user interface to deploy to get performance statistics and availability alerts.

imageWith XtremSF, EMC has integrated the communication channel with existing intelligent arrays like the EMC VMAX to provide statistics and reporting through the existing Unisphere user interface storage administrators are already using. As seen in the screenshot above, Unisphere detects and displays the performance metrics associated with the server-side cache in addition to the metrics associated directly with the VMAX array. In addition, the XtremSF cards will leverage this communication channel with the VMAX to send out EMC dial-home event notifications in case of trouble.

Expect to see more of this “vertical” integration between the Xtrem family and the VMAX and VNX families in the future. The vision is to provide not only a common user interface, but also a vertically integrated Fully Automated Storage Technology (FAST) solution that places the right data in the right place, just before the right time that it’s needed (predictive).

Let’s discuss ITaaS rather than IaaS vs. PaaS

imageWhether or not the infrastructure teams know it, almost all business development teams have investigated or are actively working with a Public Cloud provider to spin up new app / dev environments outside of IT control.  This “Shadow IT” is becoming pervasive and on the surface represents a clear and present danger to the relevance of IT to the business.  At a deaper level IT will always be vital to the Enterprise as the broker of IT services (whether public or private), security / risk / availability / compliance manager (governance), and as a strategic consultant to help the business map to emerging technological capabilities (consulting).

imageIT must Transform into managing itself as a business to become more agile to deploy service, become easier to do business with, and bring the brokerage, governance and consulting benefits.  This way it will compete successfully against Shadow IT by offering the needed agility the Business requires.  IT will need a new Business Model focused on
delivering the service of application hosting (not just boxes, switches, and bodies)
being market driven, first listening to their customers, then building solutions to meet their needs
focusing on Profit & Loss to measure efficiency of delivery and value of offerings
brokering service across internal services or Public external cloud services while maintaining control and knowledge of which data assets reside in each environment
The enabling technology already exists for the most part.  Public Cloud is great and has its purpose to fulfill Business needs, but should be governed by IT policy, not done in the “shadows.”  Other workloads are a better fit for the resiliency and security risk mitigation of Private Cloud infrastructures.  Over the next few years all Enterprise it shops will be managing a Hybrid Cloud comgining the most cost effective elements of Public and Private systems to conduct their business.

imageThis transformation is as much about People and Processes as it is about new technologies.  IT will need “front office” sales and product management capabilities to sell its own services to the internal business customers.  New roles to build and report on service level compliance are important to show value to the business and maintain operational control.  IT also needs to maintain presence with an Office of the CTO help Business users stay on top of emerging trends and capabilities.

Iaas or Paas isn’t as relevant to Enterprise IT shops as “IT as a Service” (ITaaS).  It’s much more important that IT itself can transform into a service level integrated cloud broker priced as a consumed service under GRC management rather than whether Iaas or Paas is the proper development stack for any given business unit.  If IT runs itself aaS, it is capable of making the proper technology decisions for any new need that emerges.

So what does the Hybrid Cloud model look like?  First and most obviously, it does include a standardized infrastructure Private Cloud combined with Public Cloud services.  The integration and federation between them is best accomplished with products like VMware’s vFabric Connector that allows deployment across infrastructure providers.  Leveraging virtualization the orchestration and security compliance features can be implemented. 

imageLegacy apps are containerized and run on the virtualized hybrid infrastructure.  “Next Gen” apps are SaaS purchased or developed specifically for PaaS, preferably against a common framework like Cloud Foundry which allows deployment against internal or external scale out PaaS with data and app mobility across different PaaS providers.  Let’s not forget too, the presentation of all of these apps to the next generation of user access devices, mobile, tablets, and PC’s, and provide credentialed user access to the various Hybrid Cloud assets on any device from anywhere.

So where is your IT organization?  Can you effectively present a web based services catalog that offers your internal business customers a competitively priced monthly consumption rate model of various services?  Does that model measure itself against public providers?  Do you have an internal IT sales team that promotes IT consumption to the business, or does IT hoard a scarce technology resource pool fearing the business will grow?  Is your IT org an effective consultant to your business users about emerging capabilities?  Let’s chat!

Silicon Valley IT vs Enterprise IT

Recently @RFFlores recently posted an excellent article describing the difference he sees in “Silicon Valley PaaS” and “Enterprise PaaS” when thinking about what comes after a foundational IaaS. 

imageHe points out that “while enterprises do release new apps, the vast majority of their effort is expended on evolving the current applications that run their business,” and “the level of standardization dictated by Silicon Valley PaaS isn’t realistic for most large companies.”  Go read his article for more on this. 

I’d like to extend that thinking into the nature and differences of IT as a whole within the two euphemistic categories, “Silicon Valley IT” and “Enterprise IT.”  The Clouderati are in many ways talking past the ITIListas.  They live in separate worlds, and as we’ll see have differing resources and methodologies.  The methods of the Clouderati are proper for that world, and the methods of the ITIListas are proper for theirs.  The real question is in what form will new ideas in Service Management govern the transition from these two emerging extremes into a hybrid IT operational model.

Silicon Valley IT is characterized by several key assumptions that make the hyper standardized Clouderati rhetoric work well:

  • The Business is the technology / data and not just supported by it.  Business processes, customer engagement, the product for sale, and the distribution model are all inextricably tied to one another through the application(s) built to run across the internet.
  • There are 1’s of hyper standardized scale out infrastructures required to be supported.  The zealous drive to drive out cost ensures that everything runs on a single infrastructure model.  This infrastructure could be private cloud (Facebook) or public cloud (Netflix) or a hybrid of both.  The infrastructure is built and ready (or provisioned from the Public Cloud on demand) for new projects to leverage and reuse.
  • Apps are developed in house as scale out web services to take advantage of the scale out infrastructure.  All applications must necessarily conform to the scale out model of processing, are generally x86 based, leverage modest scale up in terms of # of cores and amount of memory, etc.
  • The tight linkage between the Business and the Technology produces a DevOps group that scales out as the infrastructure grows.  The classic example (can that term be used?) is Netflix that has gone to a DevOps model where each business unit creates and manages their own piece of the loosely coupled production application set.

Enterprise IT is characterized by several opposing assumptions that make the hyper standardized cloud rhetoric nearly impossible to achieve for an ITILista:

  • The Business processes were developed prior to the technology revolution, and IT is used to augment or support them.  The business deals with objects or people in the “real world” and is dependent on many factors outside the realm of software. 
  • There are 10’s to 100’s of very distinct and customized infrastructure silos required by COTS software vendors.  IT is seen as a cost center, and funding is provided on a project by project basis often without regard for leveraging existing assets purchased outside the project budget.  New infrastructure stacks are architected, built, and run to support every major new initiative.
  • Apps are as often purchased and customized as developed in house. They may run on different CPU architectures, require wholly different CPU / Memory / Storage / Network resources, and require a significant systems integration capability to function with other systems.
  • There is a ship-load of skillsets, MBO’s, metrics, and goals that have been developed to manage the diversity of platforms required.  That ship is indeed hard to turn.

Look for future posts exploring how the various cloud players are looking to transform ITSM into simply Service Management of Hybrid Public + Private technology services.

Enterprise Cloud Adoption Waiting on Mobile App Development

imagePrivate, Public, and Hybrid Cloud adoption in Enterprise IT will largely emerge hand in hand with the development of web based or mobile based apps to replace traditional “brick and mortar” hardware stacks and legacy apps. After operational cost savings, “enterprise agility,” and “IT bringing value to the business” are often cited as justifications for Enterprise IT shops moving to a Cloud model. I support the point that IT needs to become more agile in support of the Business, and possibly this provides value, but agility gets to the point of this post: that Cloud adoption is hard on the people and process side of IT, and if adoption of Cloud appears slow in the traditional Enterprise, it may be due to the Business not yet driving the need. I submit Cloud adoption is stalling waiting on Enterprise Mobile app development.

Transformation takes two forms: Revolution and Evolution.

Revolution comes to Enterprise IT in two forms: revolutionary thinking by a strong C-Level executive sponsor and/or a visionary new business model driving new IT requirements. Big Data analytics may fall into the revolutionary category, but only time will tell. Revolutions seem to happen within individual IT shops, not generally to the industry as a whole.

Evolution in IT happens much more pervasively, without a compelling event, and as IT assets age and are replaced. The shift happening today is to replace traditional Distributed Systems and PC interfaces with Cloud infrastructures and Mobile interfaces.

It’s the transition from the PC Age to the Mobile Age that will herald Cloud adoption in Enterprise IT. As major software vendors develop mobile interfaces and as the Business develops new applications with better customer engagement, achieving the value of making data visible to web mashups, mobile workforces, and end customers on a global scale will require a scale-out capable infrastructure to support it.

Weekend Mountain bike trail building on Coldwater Mountain

The past two weekends, I had a great time volunteering with IMBA’s Trail Solutions teams to help create some world class mountain bike trails for Anniston, AL.  imbaplansThe first weekend, turned out to be an all-day adventure deep in the woods on Coldwater Mountain hauling rock and armoring sections to create a rock garden trail that will be one of the centerpieces of the first phase of trails to be built on the mountain.  I had a great time learning from the master, Joey Klein how to effectively rock armor sections of trail.  This process provides a solid base for tires and feet, and a great experience for riders to travel over a slightly more advanced rock path rather than an easier line around the feature.

Jake and Jenny summarized the potential of the Coldwater Mountain trail project nicely:

The system will include professionally, purpose-built mountain bike trails for all ability levels, a gravity area, a skills park, and a pump track. The project has been twelve years in the making, and it is so exciting to see all of the hard work and planning coming to fruition. This world-class trail system is within a couple hours of Birmingham, Montgomery, Atlanta, and Chattanooga.

scottrockarmorhandiworkHere I am trying to help rock armor a section.  I will admit to no skill whatsoever.  The credit of a successful section goes entirely to Joey from IMBA.  He’s been all over the world laying trail, and learning from the in-country experts the techniques for effective trail building across any terrain.

How many people get to work with both Subaru Trail Care teams at the same time?  Morgan and Steve Lommele were in town as well to educate and lend a hand to laying some trail.

Check out this video of building and testing out the flow of the Coldwater Mountain trails.

If you want to come be a part of the great things IMBA, NEABA, and local volunteers are doing on Coldwater Mountain, if you’re coming in for the Parker House B&B.  It’s THE Bed and Breakfast in Anniston.

 

EMC Transforms Hadoop Infrastructures

EMC Greenplum HD on Isilon Scale Out NASEMC is transforming Hadoop based Big Data Analytics infrastructures from one-off, build-it-yourself, science projects of the early adopters to a fully supported, proven scalable, incredibly reliable solution for the majority of Enterprise IT shops.  EMC has married it’s proven Greenplum HD distribution of Apache Hadoop with the EMC Isilon, highest performing single filesystem scale-out NAS on the planet.  The Greenplum HD appliance removes the complexity of setting up a big data analytics infrastructure, and allows businesses to focus on generating value from their unstructured data.

 

Why Hadoop?

Not all data resides in a database.  It used to be the case that computers only analyzed data about well structured back office processes.  Business Intelligence was about sorting through transactions, and demographics, and data with very well defined structure.  imageBig Data Analytics is the next “big thing” for enterprise scale business, because not only are we now able to do BI on a much more rapid, iterative, dare I say “real-time” basis, but we are able to conduct these Analytics not just on data describing peoples’ demographics, but describing and tracking peoples’ behavior.  Peoples’ behaviors are fundamentally unstructured.  To track behavior (apparently) creates an unstructured mess of xml schemas, text log files, web traffic data, etc.  Hadoop (really a combination of MapReduce framework with the Hadoop Distributed File System) provides the ability to perform analytics tasks on any relationaly structured or non-structured data.  Imagine being able to iteratively process through all of the data you have about your products, customers, market trends, twitter streams, security logs, purchase history, etc. and come up with a predictive view of potential actions your constituency might take.  You constituency may be your marketing team given customers’ likely buying decisions, your product developers given product quality improvement data, your risk managers given data about potential clients, or your security team provided real-time data about attacks in progress.

Do you like spending money on science projects?

imageThe few who are willing to bet on new tech are called Early Adopters.  The Majority wait for a more guaranteed return on investment.  Early Adopters are willing to dedicate infrastructure for one-off projects, accept single points of failure and limited disaster recoverability, sacrifice solution efficiency for quicker time to market, and maintain a specialized support workforce when normal support channels don’t exist.

Why run a Hadoop appliance with EMC Isilon and EMC Greenplum HD?

According to the Enterprise Strategy Group’s White Paper: EMC’s Enterprise Hadoop Solution: Isilon Scale-out NAS and Greenplum HD (email address required), the EMC Hadoop Solution overcomes the innate issues with home grown Hadoop projects.

  • Isilon’s OneFS operating system eliminates the single point of failure of a single NameNode within Hadoop.  The NameNode contains all of the metadata for the HDFS storage layer.  By distributing all of the metadata across every node within the Isilon cluster, every node acts as a NameNode and provides a highly available solution for mission critical workloads.
  • Isilon’s HDFS implementation streamlines data access and loading by allowing NFS, CIFS, HTTP, or FTP access to data resident on the HDFS filesystem.  Since Hadoop applications can access the data directly without the expense of copy or move operations, this saves time, cost of storage, and greatly simplifies the Analytics workflow.
  • Implementing a dedicated storage layer allows for more efficient utilization of the compute and storage resources by allowing them to expand independently.  Most Hadoop infrastructures are based on DAS inside the compute nodes preventing independent scale.
  • Implementing the EMC Greenplum Hadoop Distribution on EMC Isilon hardware provides configuration backed by EMC’s premiere customer support capabilities.  Customers can leverage their existing knowledge and experience with EMC and Isilon, and don’t have to have specialists on staff to manage the Big Data Analytics infrastructure.

Ultimately any Hadoop implementation is just a portion of the overall Big Data Analytics requirement, but it is one that has held some mystery to traditional infrastructure customers.  Take a cue from what we’re learning from the Cloud value proposition and ask yourself if your enterprise is wants to get into the Hadoop business, or do they want to extract value from Big Data Analytics.  In the end Hadoop is a tool, now you can pick up the phone and “order one.”

The Cloud tech shift to be faster than any in IT history

Cloud is the New NormalCloud is the next transformational technology in the IT world, and is arriving faster on the heels of the previous tech shift than at any other time in IT history.   Even though Cloud is the most overhyped term out there, this rapid advance will take many IT organizations and IT vendors by surprise.

Price Waterhouse Cooper authored a whitepaper showing a good summary of the ratio of IT spending to GDP.   There is approximately a 15 year separation between the efficiencies delivered by each of the UNIX, Distributed, and Virtualization technology transformations.  Between each shift to the next technology, there was an increase in IT spending above the average growth trend.  This may be due to the proliferation of the existing technology within the datacenter, and the cost of maintaining the personnel to manage the proliferation of systems.

Will VM sprawl lead to massive increases in IT spending in the next few years to bring spending back to the trend?  Not if the next major technology transformation happens quickly enough to drive additional efficiencies of doing IT.
Cloud technologies (scalable & elastic infrastructure + on and off site data and app mobility + orchestration / automation + end user portals + financial transparency, and aaS pricing) have the potential to keep the industry on a new trajectory of lower costs relative to increased productivity.  It looks like the pace of transformative innovation has increased since widespread adoption of Cloud infrastructures is already beginning to displace “mere virtualization.”

My advice?  Become a transformation agent within your organization to champion the new normal of Cloud technologies.  Cloud will transform IT.  Now is the time to get ahead of the shift, develop new skills, lead others who can’t see what’s happening.