Archive for the ‘Datacentre automation’ Category

The Hanukkah Armadillo and predictions for 2010.

18/12/2009

PL Junior is three years old and a bit, and I thought I’d share an interesting conversation from Friday last week, which was the first night of Hanukkah, whilst I was driving PL Junior to school.

‘Daddy, when will it be dark?’

‘Not until this evening, I’m afraid.  Why do you ask?’

‘Is tonight Hanukkah?’

‘Yes, it is …as soon as the sun goes down.’

‘When it gets dark we light the candles?’

‘Yes, are you excited?’

‘Um hmmm!  After the candles the Hanukkah Armadillo will come and sing me a lullaby.  And bring me presents!’

I start to laugh.  PL Junior isn’t.  He’s deadly serious.

‘Erm, sure. I suppose.‘  Not good to hurt a three year old’s feelings.  Best play along.

‘What else does the Hanukkah Armadillo do?’

‘He has flying powers, just like rocket!  And big jet!  And he comes down with presents each night of Hanukkah!  But he doesn’t like biscuits.  Only water and cucumbers.’

I dropped off PL Junior at school and then phoned Mrs. PL where, after we got done laughing, she tells me that she was channel hopping recently when she happened upon the Friends episode with the Holiday Armadillo.  It being one of her [and my] favourites, she watched and laughed.

PL Junior didn’t.  My father lives in Texas.  PL Junior thought it was real.  So, being a great mum, Mrs. PL decided to just go with it.  And thus was born the legend of the Hanukkah Armadillo in Casa PL.

My father just sent me an email offering to send a stuffed armadillo to place next to our menorah.

Thanks dad.

What’s this got to do with Data Storage & Protection?

One of the many things that I love about living in the UK generally and London specifically is the amazing diversity and breadth of opinion.

I don’t know if there is such as thing as a Universal Truth other than to say that everyone I know and work with would describe family as being paramount.  It doesn’t really matter much if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Eid, Kwanzaa, Christmaskah, or Festivus …or none of these …you tend to do what you do because it makes you and your family happy.  And, frankly, how you observe or celebrate will often vary from family to family …who’s to say if there’s a ‘right’ way or ‘wrong’ way to do it?

Although I must say, there is a lot of merit in the Airing of Grievances around the Festivus pole.  But I digress.

As I’ve said before, I have a religion and it ain’t storage.  I’m not aware of any ‘one size fits all’ solution, but we have developed an equation and methodology which gives us as fair and equitable a way as I know for selecting and recommending solutions.  Just as families celebrate holidays in different ways so too do customers select and implement technologies.

That said, my predictions for 2010:

1.  The emergence of the virtualised datacentre.

What do you get if you add optimised storage, deduplication, storage compression, converged networks, virtualised servers, virtualised applications, integrated backup to disk/replication/tape storage, automation for the whole lot …I’m probably missing a few bits, but you get my point.  Whether you call it VCE Vblock, IBM Dynamic Infrastructure, NetApp Virtualise Everything, HP Converged Infrastructure, they’re all articulations of a virtualised datacentre.  We’re headed towards integrated and virtualised datacentres and one of the fascinating things about IT is stick around long enough and you’ll see the same ideas come back round.  We deconstructed the mainframe in pursuit of open systems, but now open systems are creaking under the load of data proliferation and low utilisation.  What to do?  Well, reconstruct the mainframe conceptually using integrated open systems.  And that’s what customers want …not necessarily flashy marketing schtick, but, rather a self healing/self tuning, policy based datacentre which allows customers to flex up/down depending upon market conditions with predictable and best costs and then sits invisibly in the corner and behaves!

2. Innovative products continue the march to becomes universal features.

There was a time when thin provisioning, data deduplication, disk spindown for underutilised disks, and automated storage tiering were products in their own right.  But if a product is so great that it demonstrably reduces costs and increases utilisation, shouldn’t it be a feature?  Exactly.  Which is why 2009 saw EMC, IBM, NetApp, HP, and HDS introduce or extend these technologies as features in their product sets.  And I don’t think that the list will stop there as I expect to see data compression enter as a feature in primary storage in 2010 as well.  Why should we care?  As features within an infrastructure we can use these technologies holistically, whether in a ‘branded’ virtualised datacentre or one composed of open products which work together seamlessly, to deliver storage at the most appropriate cost from creation to cremation with zero disruption to production business.

3. Server and desktop virtualisation are no longer incorrectly viewed as workloads.

VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V are good examples of server virtualisation, whilst VMware View and Citrix XenDesktop are good examples of desktop virtualisation.  Virtualisation of physical resources undoubtedly delivers higher utilisation and cost benefit, however virtualisation is a technology not a workload.  What’s the difference?  A workload is what you do with the technology, and everyone will do something slightly different with their workload based upon their business needs.  If you forget that and leave out the storage design and tuning, you may fail to achieve cost benefit at best or have to abandon the project at worst.  Don’t believe me though, have a read of this blog post by Chad Sakac, worldwide VP of VMware and all round virtualisation guru who is intimately involved with such deployments worldwide.

4. Grid storage / scale out storage take hold and never look back.

IBM XiV, EMC Vmax, NetApp ONTAP v8 …don’t look now, but everybody’s going grid.  Will it solve global warming, introduce world peace, and cuddle baby seals?  Not exactly.  But it will introduce self healing/tuning highly efficient and utilised storage at attractive price points using commoditised components …and become the bedrock of the virtualised datacentre.

5. Automation, automation, automation.

What use are virtualised servers, virtualised desktops, virtualised applications, self healing/tuning storage systems if you have to provision and manage them manually?  Precisely.  If you can’t automate it, chances are it will be left behind in the march towards the virtualised datacentre.  But don’t stop there as pure automation should give rise to …

6. Automation gives birth to policy based storage.

Remember aligning data to business value?  Of course you did!  Automation will remove the manual nature of managing IT and related resources, but customers don’t just want a conveyer belt of chocolates with Lucy and Ethel.  Automation which allows us to align a customer SLA and/or business value is what we truly want to deliver …policy based movement of data with zero disruption.

7. Customers continue to interact openly and publicly.  Are we listening?

Customers are speaking with us and our vendor partners publicly and openly in ways that we never could have anticipated through the use of technologies such as Twitter and blogs.  If you think that Twitter is just a platform for people to tell you what they’ve had for breakfast, you’ve missed the point entirely.  These platforms are a way for end users/customers to interact with one another as well as business partners efficiently. Storagebod, an end user at a major media company, took the time to write six individual letters to Father Christmas regarding what he would like to see from vendorsIanhf, an influential end user at a major telecoms company, took the time to write about what he expects from business partners.  Think you’re Elite?  See if you can get through all 17 of Ianhf’s points saying ‘yes, we/I do that’.  I’m not sure that I can, and that’s the point …by actively reading and engaging with what our customers are saying we and vendors have two choices …ignore it and continue making products / delivering services which customers find shoddy, or listen and strive to evolve and provide the products / services / solutions which make a difference to them in a positive way.  I know which one I’ll be choosing in 2010, otherwise we’re left just talking to ourselves and what fun or use is that?  Ignore customer public sentiment at your peril, as it would seem AT&T did in the USA with iPhone users.

8. England win the World Cup, Watford FC are promoted to the Premiership, and Mrs. PL stops yelling at me for snoring.

Okay, I kinda made that last one up but a PL can dream can’t he?  And who knows what 2010 will bring but what I do know is this …England, Watford FC, indeed all of us are in control of our destiny for the year ahead.

Have a great Christmas / Hanukkah / Diwali / Eid / Kwanzaa / Christmaskah / Festivus …none of the above …enjoy your holiday with your family and see you in 2010.

I’m off to light the last Hanukkah candle with Mrs. PL, PL Junior …and anxiously await the arrival of the Hanukkah Armadillo.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

The end of history and the last technology?

13/11/2009

Francis Fukuyama wrote The End of History and the Last Man in which he famously postulated that, as far as systems of government and markets were concerned we had reached the ‘end of history’ …democracy and the free market had defeated all comers and, as far as Francis was concerned, the only thing left open to debate was how to implement such systems and what controls were required for regulation.  The book became a bit of a touchstone and rallying point for what would become known as neo-cons, but as time has marched on many of Francis’ original assertions have been challenged by the likes of Robert Kagan in The Return of History and the End of Dreams …as well as real world events like 11 September, the Iraq war, and the recent economic recession.  The end of history?  Doubtful.  Just as surely as we have debated systems of government and markets since Greek and Roman times, so we will surely debate them in the weeks, months, and years ahead. 

What has this got to do with data storage and protection?

There have been many exciting developments in technology generally and storage specifically over the past few weeks.  VMware, Cisco, and EMC …the VCE consortium or coalition, if you will …announced a reference architecture which is essentially a virtualised datacentre in a box called vBlock as a infrastructure package / product in its own right, with Acadia as a private cloud ‘solution provider’ to help enterprise customers migrate their existing infrastructures to said virtualised datacentre and possibly even the much vaunted cloud.  Not to be outdone or left behind, HP also made a similar announcement regarding their converged infrastructure, and then made things very interesting by acquiring 3Com for $2.7 billion.  We also had IBM with their development and test cloud launch and the IBM Cloud Academy, and we mustn’t forget BT having selected NetApp as their provider of choice for BT cloud offerings labelled the Virtual Datacentre.

Now, announcements are all well and good but there remains plenty left for us to more fully understand about just what these solutions will look like …and cost …so I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself nor overstep my bounds prior to more senior Computacenter executive views on what this all means for both us and our customers. 

That said, I am hugely excited about what, at first glance, would appear to be the conversion of hype to reality.  We’ve heard so much about ‘cloud’ computing over the past few years that customers were becoming palpably sceptical …in many cases, cynical …about the ‘cloud’, and I can’t say that I blame them.  Indeed, if you want to have fun ask two industry analysts or vendors to defined cloud and watch the three or more definitions come back.  I say fun, but I’m a geek remember so I tend to find analysts and vendors arguing about these things humorous …but customers don’t and, frankly, don’t really care about the new whizz bang features of a cloud solution.  No, what they care about is how technology can improve their business …or Sharpen it, if you will …to reduce their costs in the pursuit of their being competitive in their respective market.

So are these announcements the signalling of the end of history for technology …will the cloud be the final end point for customer computing infrastructures and datacentres?  I personally don’t think so, and tend to view the announcements as a watershed waypoint rather than an endpoint.  Just as I don’t believe that Spotify will be the death of iPods or iTunes, nor do I believe that customers will take an ‘all or nothing’ approach to cloud computing.

If you look more closely at the recent vendor announcements, what is perhaps most interesting is that the productisation of a virtualised datacentre through the use of a reference architecture is essentially made possible by aligning core products such as VMware, a scale out storage offering, blade servers, a unified network to bring it all together, and software to automate the provisioning and management of the lot. 

And here is where I fundamentally believe we can add real and demonstrable value. 

We are well versed with capabilities which far outweigh our competition in the components which make a virtualised datacentre possible.  Don’t believe me?

We have been involved with VMware since 2002 and won a Supplier Innovation Award in 2007 from BT

I’ve been developing collateral, running customer education events, and providing internal training around grid storage solutions such as IBM XiV, EMC Vmax, and NetApp ONTAP 8 internally for well over a year. 

We have more BMC, BladeLogic, and Tideway datacenter automation experience than anyone in the UK. 

We’ve automated the provisioning of data storage

We have skills in Cisco networking, virtualised I/O solutions such as Xsigo, and unified network architectures such as FCoE.

Put simply, we have demonstrable skills and expertise to advise and assist customers every step of the way from their existing traditional datacentre …and the low utilisation and high costs it undoubtedly entails …to a virtualised and automated datacentre with the high efficiency, increased utilisation, and lowered and predictable costs it promises.  What’s more, we have an equation in [ROI] + [CBA] + [DPB] = CSS which we use to quantifiably measure what our customers will reap by moving to the next step …and, in certain circumstances, we will agree with a customer to underwrite and gainshare the difference between their existing costs and the lowered costs our proposed solution has identified.

The end of history?  No, I think this is just the beginning …and Computacenter are ideally placed to help customers write the next exciting chapters.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like help in taking this journey.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

The future is Automatic For The People.

16/10/2009

Donʼt think I can fit useful storage information in to succinct ideas? Follow me on Twitter and watch me try with just 140 characters! http://twitter.com/mpyeager

Iʼm pretty sure that Iʼve talked about this previously, but of all the jobs I have the one which I feel is most important …and the one that, frankly, I enjoy the most …is being a father. Not a Franciscan, mind you …although I dig the robes, kind of reminds me of Jedis …but being introduced as ʻPL Juniorʼs daddyʼ.  Donʼt get me wrong, I love being a PL and all around technoweenie helping our customers and working for Computacenter, but someday in the (hopefully!) far distance I will retire, whereas being a father has a bit more permanence about it.  Folks have sometimes asked for photos of PL Junior, so here you go …click
here …or here for one with a very fetching hat.  His name is Louis, after my wifeʼs grandfather who started the family business over 100 years ago in Edgware.

One of my favourite pastimes is to watch Louis learn new things as heʼs growing up.  Many of the things that we take for granted every day are just not that easy when youʼre learning them for the first time …Louis looking more like he was throwing water into his mouth as opposed to trying to drink from a cup for the first time was particularly amusing.  Although in retrospect, I perhaps should have laughed in private given Mrs. PL wasnʼt so enamoured with my reaction.

But I digress.  What fascinates me is watching as Louis and his brain learn to assimilate many of the functions we as adults hardly if ever think about any longer.  Have you ever sat and watched your children beginning to walk and the progressions they make?  If they are anything like Louis, when he first started walking you could just see his brain thinking ʻleft foot, right foot, left foot …steady!ʼ to the ʻall one speedʼ he then developed where he could only run everywhere and come to a very sudden stop as opposed to the more balanced gait you and I have developed.  Hours of free entertainment, I tell you …and to be honest, the very best part of my day is the forty five minutes we spend together when I give PL Junior a bath and get him ready for a bedtime story and sleep.

What has this got to do with data storage and protection?

When was the last time that you had remember ʻbreathe in, breathe outʼ?  Or how to walk?  Or how to hold your cutlery so you could eat dinner?  How about driving?

The fact is, the human brain is the most sophisticated and complex computer ever designed and, as you have grown your brain has learned how to automate many of these processes.  Great, so I wonʼt drool on myself during meetings.  Hugely useful.  Sorry, why should I care?

Every process which cannot be automated by your brain removes cycles which you could be spending trying to solve a sudoko puzzle or deciding whom to vote for in The X Factor.  I jest, but at present we only use about 8% to a maximum of 12% of our brains for pure abstract thinking …the rest of our brain power goes to processes which keep us alive, so frankly we need to automate as many of the highly repeatable processes as we can.  I read an interesting book recently which asserts that we have been able to develop civilization because we started cooking.  Seriously!  You can find it here, and donʼt try to act shocked …you knew I was a geek when you met me.

So it does beg the question …why would a customer want to devote the finite manpower resources they have to highly repeatable tasks?  Surely we donʼt want someone sitting around allocating storage and updating databases when we could automate that to allow our technologists to help business people align information technology to business such that we are more competitive?  Exactly.

This is not to say that this is an easy discussion to have, mind you.  Simply stating fact and scoring points debate style doesnʼt convince a customer that they should hand over these processes to automation …or to Computacenter to help them automate.
One way is to cut through the standard vendor datasheets which might describe automation in great detail, but never really show the customer what it looks like.  It is for this reason that we created the Automated Storage Provisioning demo video, and watch this space as weʼll be creating more videos like it in the not too distant future.

Another way is to run cost benefit analysis models which will show just how much a customer will save in the way of pounds, shillings and pence by automating things like server deployment, software and patch deployment, storage allocation, database management …it is quite an extensive list of the things we can automate, actually!  Indeed, the datacentre of the future is likely to have a man and a dog and nothing more to run it …the dog is there to bite the manʼs hand any time he tries to touch anything.

In all seriousness, the best way to engage on the automation journey is to contact Kevin Ebbs, Practice Leader for Software & Systems Management.  Click here to contact him. Kevin has a wealth of knowledge in this area, and a great team which include Gavin Stone and Mike Hutt who have done more in the area of datacentre automation than just about anyone in the UK.  In fact, I believe that Kevin is running a customer roadshow regarding information management in conjunction with our business partner, IBM. Click here to see what itʼs all about, and be sure to contact myself or Kevin if you’d like to attend.

As for me, Iʼm off to automate my corporate build backups so that I can spend a bit more time with PL Junior this weekend.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.