Archive for December, 2009

Death of a Datacenter, Well Sort Of

What is kind of year was 2009 anyways?

Death of a datacenter, well sort, maybe the space in a realistic assessment is more of an oversized server room not a datacenter in the proper sense. I realize I need to explain this. Picture this… an office in the darkest corner of a large building, where one entire wall of the office is glass, looking out into a large file server area. A server site that supported thousands of people for almost 15 years, but now this server room is empty, just a bunch of holes in the raised floor that stretches before you. You remember laying down many of those raised floor tiles, and the server racks over them,. The growth of the site, as rows of racks grew over time. You remember the technology growing more powerful, the scale of capacity growing. But about 6 years ago, just as this file server room had been online for 8 years, 8 of the 18 years of a career in IT, virtualization appears.

Little by little, the number of physical servers does decline here and there, but the total volume of computational capacity increases, so the few empty racks, once full, don’t stand out. After all, there is work to be done. Warp speed. The minor changes in the number of staff or the changes in how the environment managed, the staff reductions in the on-site team are not that obvious. The newest technology, even with virtualization, has not changed the support model in extreme overt manner. Like a ship in dry dock, refits and upgrades of all types and sizes seem endless and ever more complex.

Computing is changing, the computing sites are changing. Remote device control, HP iLO, Dell RAC, IBM RSA, etc., blades, and other forms of topless or headless systems, is growing alone side virtualization, so now the number of cabinets that are empty are obvious and maybe just a bit unnerving. The staffing level has declined, the roles have changed, the command-center thousands of miles away or the command-center in our building is controlling more sites and locations than ever before. Doing more with less is not just a concept or slogan any more.

The years have passed all of the above has changed the concept of dedicated file server sites, of datacenters, of the IT industry. You realize that the number of days you transport into the office for the first time is fewer than the number of days you work from a remote site or location each week. Moreover, management, the command at the top, is encouraging this behavior, rather than blocking or debating its value. But the file server room is still there, darker, quieter than ever, but still doing its computational job. The systems are fewer of course, but they are so powerful, so significant in impact, but in such a small form factor, it is almost science fiction. The upgrades and changes have not touch the heart and soul of the site, the form and function change, but not the purpose.

Now you stand in that same office again, facing the entire wall that is nothing but glass, and you see a large empty room before you, has it been that long? How many worlds, virtual worlds, visited? You turn to look at the office and it is empty as well. Sure there is still a desk, a chair, maybe a bookshelf unit. But the soul of the office is gone, the energy of the late nights, early mornings, of echoes of laughter where practical jokes abounded are just ghosts of times past, none of the original team remains but you, the crew that saved your ass countless times is long gone. You remember when the kids, on bring your children to work day each year would walk through the massive columns of computing power, listening to the hum of the fans, the vibration of the equipment, the click of the disks in the arrays, the soft beeps or the rare click of keys in the distance. If you close your eyes, and let your imagination expand just a bit, you could see yourself in the engine room of starship, and the office, was the engineering operational center of the ship. After all the bridge was the command-center many floors above right?

But the reality is the engine room of this ship is empty now; warp coils and power relays gone, the heating/cooling system, the magnetic containment system, the atmosphere controls and fire suppression system gone. The core is gone. The ship is decommissioned, silent, just like the bridge, ah, I mean the command-center that was taken offline, sometime ago. You take off your badge, cough, your communication link, and place it on the control console, which has nothing on it but a layer of dust, dead, lifeless. No one said this would last forever, no one expected it would, but somehow it is sad that now it has come to the end. The perception is that the end of an era is among of you. Without thinking about it, you snap your heals together, straighten your back, and your arm seems to move on its own, and before you act to do otherwise, you salute the glass wall facing where the core once existed. You pause for a moment longer, remembering friends lost and long gone. You think the words… Warp Speed.

Reality comes back, so you straighten your uniform, and pick up your travel pack. Time has passed faster than you realized, you notice you are running late. The sadness that dominated your thoughts a few moments before, as you rush out of the room is gone; a new unique aspect of your career is beginning. You hear the hiss of the pressure doors close for the last time as you leave. You know you will never return to this ship again. The soul of the ship is now gone, she is now a cold dead hull, nothing but structural elements, components and resources to be recycled soon. You think to yourself you need to hurry now, that the last working transporter is on deck 12, and if Turbolift 4 is already offline, it is going to be a long climb from the engineering deck to deck 12.

As you run down the passage way on deck 12, yelling to the decommissioning crew in the way to make a hole, approaching the lift, you notice the designation on the wall next to the lift says… Elevator 4. You blink twice, shaking your head, but it still says… Elevator 4. Just a building, and file server room, after all? Not a ship? What was I thinking!

Add comment December 29th, 2009

Is virtualization entering a Dark Age?

Cloud Computing is Pushing Virtualization into the Shadows

Clouding is the rage, everyone that is anyone is riding, or would it be better to say floating in, the clouds? I prefer to call it cloud bursting. Clouding is fine, but if it is a solution looking for a problem, then it is a horrible time and resources pit to fall into. No this article is not about the good or bad of clouding, but the impact of clouding on virtualization and the resources that design and support virtualization, and what is missing in virtualization to support clouding to a degree. Moreover of all the commercials about clouding that flood the airways now… IBM has one that just makes my teeth grind… IBM commercial says, if I heard it right… “…Cloud is Simple…” Well, nothing about clouding is simple. Pods are simple, from a hardware perspective; but the clouding software is not. Google has had what? Ten (10) or more years developing cloud oriented logic from a software perceptive!

Virtualization is now a commodity, just one more tool or component to a greater synergistic effort. But is it really? None of the complexity of the computing environment is reduced, it is increased. Just as virtualization made computing more complex, so does clouding, adding layers of complexity, dragging virtualization, provisioning, automation, reporting, and decision making together, of course decision making. Thus effective and efficient management and control are more important than ever. This is where things get dark, and everything fades to long grey shadows, and environment or datacenter architects run for the shadows, like roaches for cracks in the floor molding. Why? Because clouding is not easy, it is not uniform, it is not consistent. Cloud decisions are career changers… people resign, give up, or get nailed, by cloud solutions that do not live up to the hype, and no cloud solution, no matter how valued or vaulted lives up to all the hype. Thinking I am wrong? Dig a bit deeper, the evidence is there, that cloud design and implementation is hard work that some just cannot handle, or others took many years to get right at some effective level. Years? Oh man, that is a word that management hates with a passion, up there with corporate taxes.

Worse the cloud terminology is horrible. Whoever came up with the term Service? As in an application in a cloud is a Service? Talk about selecting the worse way to communicate to the end-user population a concept. Could it have been made any more, less informative? An application in a cloud is just that, an application! End-users understand applications, not generic terms like Service. Come on, call a stone a stone, call an application an application, for crying out loud. Better yet, call applications in a cloud… Solutions! End-users think in terms of problems and solutions.

The ugly aspect of clouding beyond the human impact is that the complexity of virtualization is not being acknowledged, and so talent and resources once dedicated to good virtualization solutions are bled down to the minimum, either let go, or feed to the clouding chewing machine. This is fact, not fiction. The push to have automation and autonomous systems mange a virtualization environment is a great goal, but is it a technical reality? Having reviewed more than 8 significant management, control, and reporting applications this year, including Surgient, Hyper9, ManageIQ, CapacityIQ, Liquidware Labs, etc. offers, as well as MOAB and Platform ISF. The word that comes to mind is… disappointment. Not because most of the these solutions in their own right have no merit, they do, but because all of them lack something that is critical to cloud busting, and some of us have been asking for as customer of virtualization for more than four (4) years, in my case closer to six (6) years, Predictive Analysis.

Predictive Analysis, in reference to virtualization, is the ability to do What If analysis scenarios against an existing environment. Look before leaping, in context to and virtualization models, which clouding must also address or deal with. For example, given ten (10) virtual machines, what happens when one (1) more is added to this situation? Saying, in simple terms, the result of such a proposed move, is good, bad or ugly? Now what is the impact if adding five (5) new virtual instances to an existing pool of a 1000? Predictive Analysis is applicable to every single customer of cloud computing, or bursting, large and small.

Never before, has predictive modeling been needed, especially in clouding. So where are the 100s of products that do predicative analysis? I would have thought that P2V would have pushed this gap into the light, from the dark shadows, but that did not happen, in part because P2V is not popular in some environments. So now cloud computing should do it, forcing predicative engines to factual reality. Talk about missing an obvious opportunity to establish competitive advantage! So, as virtualization is fades into the background, into a dark age, becoming more black-box than ever, and predicative analytical tools to supporting clouding own the light? Not yet, not yet.

Add comment December 16th, 2009

Traveled Around the World, Traveled Through Time

Know What Virtualization Is, But What Is Next? – Chapter 17

A couple of days ago, I was in Cairo and the Valley of the Kings, in Egypt. Moved from Taxco, Mexico on to Hong Kong hours later, and last night as well as early this morning I was in Beirut, Lebanon. Last week I was in Bangkok, Thailand, and Penang Malaysia. Never mind, various locations in Canada, and the United States. As I write this blog entry I just left Tokyo Japan. How is this possible, well, I was going through several thousands of 35mm slides my maternal grandparents took as they traveled around the world in 1966 and going forward in time some 45 or so years until now, 2009? In 1966, which it so happens, was just after my 1st birth day, the world was a different place; the pictures I have seen make this clear. This walk through time, around the world, is more than interesting, it is quite personal, because my maternal grandmother now almost 92, is losing her short-term memory, and starting to lose some of her long-term memory. Thus, extreme age is curse at times, and not always a benefit. So now is the time to review the slides and make sure what my Grandmother remembers, is not lost to the continuum of space and time.

At this point, I am sure someone is asking… and this has something to do with virtualization? It does. What will we remember of virtualization in 4 or more years, what will the future of computing look like to each generation beyond us from now? In just the last 6 years, virtualization is now the driving force in computing. Hands down, cloud computing would be near impossible without virtualization. But, unlike Gartner, I do not have a crystal ball, I don’t have extensive resources to research the trends, the patterns, or the unique indicators that twist and turn computing destiny, like stellar matter on the event horizon of a black hole? But what I do have is a bit of common sense, and some basic knowledge of the information technology industry. There are few key concepts that computing continues to establish, and re-establish over and over the last 40 years for so. Will these concepts hold true 40 year from now?

Time versus Space. This is a fact, computing still struggles with a way to resolve this conflict. Technology hides the issue, but the principle never changes. In computing this is memory versus disk, even as disk as a metaphor changes, from mechanical to solid state, the issue does not. Well, operating system architecture may change and may eliminate the conflict, how? Imagine an operating system, complete and robust that lives only in memory? ESXi stateless with its direct memory load is a step in this direction. No, solid-state disks are disqualified, the use of disk IO will not survive, cell phone operating system design using SIM cards are an incomplete but parallel concept, the SIM card is seen as memory to an extent, and extension of memory space. If the entire operating system only lives in memory, disk is a drag that can be eliminated, not the just device, but the API that drives disks can be abandoned. Will the idea of a giant, huge, ever present data-core, exist in the future? I believe so.

Direct versus Indirect Interfaces. Keyboards, and mice, where and are indirect cybernetic interfaces. Which will apply to virtualization in 40 years? Ignoring the soul and the metaphysical aspects of human existence, what is the mind? A parallel computing system, sure, a database engine, short-term and long-term memory, caching, etc., yes to all, so improving the connections to these is a corner stone now that will build future methods? Consider cybernetic interfaces now in development for war veterans, there is no realistic wet interfacing to the mind, but variants of electro-chemic driven apparatus, all indirect methods. So cybernetic systems at least today are driven by proxy only, such as toes stand in for a hand, arm, or even fingers that no longer can be controlled by the mind via direct interface to the nervous system before injury or loss of limb? But in 40 years, direct interfaces will eclipse this limitation. One possible result of wet interfaces or direct integration of virtual space to the human nervous system, may overcome cerebral palsy. What did I lose some of you? Imagine the potential, for instance of such direct interfacing. Case in point, cerebral palsy is brain damage, where the voluntarily motor system is unable to function as designed. In computing terms cerebral palsy is corrupted firmware because the memory location where it resides is or has failed, the mind cannot drive the peripherals, meaning the arms and legs, as needed, in a correct manner, the result is all the side effects the condition creates, misalign muscle strength, tendons to weak or strong to work as designed, etc. I However, a direct interface technology, could create a virtual mirror of the damaged part of the brain, interface the rest of the functional brain to the new mirror, then flash the mirror, thus the brain via external reference, can by-pass the fault, and cerebral palsy never establishes the impact, and normal muscle and tendon development takes place. Don’t stop with just a cure, no, a fix for cerebral palsy? What would 40 or more years allow us to achieve? Almost any memory oriented chronic issue in the human mind could be eliminated or improved.

But considering virtualization in five (5) dimensions, beyond application versus operating system isolation frameworks? Abstract the mind, focus on the sensory aspects of the mind, that drive the five senses, touch, taste, smell, sight, sound? With cybernetic enhancement, and direct interface improvements overcome memory recall, or even memory imprinting? What will we be able to do in the future? Will we encounter a limitation of the mind? The old space versus time issue comes back again? Once solution would be to abstract human memory into a virtualized space not expanding consciousness but just access and retrieval functions for information, which would seem possible, no? Can the human mind learn to access external memory? So back to the indirect versus direct interface design again? Time versus space becomes an issue unless external resources and be leveraged by the mind. Get the feeling that this is circular logic? Imagine a world, where dementia and Alzheimer’s, or any of the various recall impacting diseases or chronic conditions, being addresses not by drugs or other electro-chemical alchemistic methods, but by information technology solutions? Ok, so maybe it is science fiction, but will it always be so? I hope not in 40 or more years, as I approach 85 years of age! VDI may one day stand for Virtual Direct Interface to the human mind?

If only walking through time, was as easy as walking around the world. If only walking through time, was like flipping through slides take decades ago. Consider this, in 1966 I am sure some could only dream of what we can do today with computing technology, virtualization would appear as a mystical and vague concept? So in the decades to come from now, what miracles will the future have that we can only imagine in simplistic terms now?

Add comment December 3rd, 2009


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