Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
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Displaying articles for: February 2009

7 Ways to Network on a Shoestring Budget

Sorry, this is really not about IT networking.  It's about social networking.  I thought I'd post this as a social experiment to see how many network admins opened this blog today -- and maybe get some good ideas from you folks on how to take cost out of networking.  Let's hear it!


As I wait your ideas on IT networking, here's some useful stuff to build your personal networking skills. 



Maybe I should post this again on April Fool's Day!

Aaron Delp: Traditional Expansion Options for Blades and Virtualization

Aaron continued his series, 'Blades and Virtualization Aren’t Mutually Exclusive' this week. It's a very good read, especially if you're new to virtualization on blades and trying to figure out the best configuration.




  • Part 3 covered IBM Traditional Expansion Options and discussed different options for drives, memory and network connectivity in support of virtual servers.


  • Part 4 basically did the same thing for HP BladeSystem today.  Aaron promised more analysis of our virtualization blade and Virtual Connect Flex-10 in future posts.  Those are the ones I'm most looking forward.

There are lots of great comments on both of these posts, so you have something to add check out it and share your thoughts with Aaron.

Much ado about the unknown

That's how Ashlee Vance put it in regard to all the peacocking from Cisco these days. The only thing I can say is there is very little fodder for meaty analysis other than to examine what they say and offer questions to you dear reader. That's because vision is, well, a vision.  It sounds great, but it's all in the execution. 


Here's what we hear customers asking:




  • How will you help me take cost out today?


  • How will you help me be ready for the unknown tomorrow?

I know the world loves a good fight.  Sorry to disappoint you, but I can't fight what isn't there.  


In last weeks' blog, I asked "What If a Plumber Built Your House", posing some questions that came to mind based on a recent report by the Lippis Group. 


Well, after today's article courtesy of Ashlee Vance on the NYT blog, maybe is should have talked more about peacocks.  I haven't seen this much prancing, primin and preening in quite some time  Appearently, being a peacock is catchy as Bob Beauchapmp from BMC had to shake his tail feathers too.  Some of the comments are just too ripe not to expand on.


As you can imagine, we're spending a few minutes each day watching all the peacocking going on at Cisco. 


I really can't give you an analysis of Cisco'spromised products and vision because, well it's a vision.  What I can do is the same thing you are doing, taking in all the proclamations and grandstanding. 


Bob Beauchamp said, “There is a new architecture being developed that is really revolutionary,” Bob Beauchamp, the chief executive of BMC, told me in a recent interview. “I think that represents a very significant threat to I.B.M. and H.P. who have business model issues associated with a new architecture.”


Question to BMC: What is the business model issue and are these better questions of Cisco than to IBM and HP?  




  • Revolutionary innovation?  HP BladeSystem, Insight Dynamics, and Virtual Connect Flex-10 are just a few innovations that have the attention of about 54.7% of the market and apparently it has a few other vendors spinning their wheels too.


  • End-to-end capability? Network plumbing and management tools are key elements to the next-generation datacenter architecture.  However, we know that bringing the big picture together takes a lot of heavy lifting across the entire data center stack which explains our many decades of investment in our desktop to NonStop portfolio and integration with partners from Microsoft and Oracle to Cisco and Brocade and more.


  • Growth while delivering lower cost to customers; or stated another way, growth with thin margins?  We have kept a lot of the infrastructure inline with Moore's Law, storage, networking and management costs are the next targets.  We're sure that 65% vendor margins are not what customers are looking for in their next-generation data center.

Business model is a fine discussion to have. I just wish Mark Hurd had time to weigh in because he was say it more clearly than me.  If you think that HP can compete with revolutionary innovation.  Isn't Cisco jumping into the blade market HP created with innovation.  It seems a lot of this may be a response did Virtual Connect Flex-10.  http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/and-so-begins-the-next-mainframe-saga/


 


What's the revolution?  Fewer choice and less integration with what you have today and need tomorrow?

What makes a great engineer?

We are fortunate here at HP to be surrounded by the best engineers in the world.  When I ran across this presentation below, I had to share it with you.  N. Rajagopal at RDS came up with a solid list of six traits of a great engineer.


Here's a summary of the list with a blade team spin.




  1. Curiosity - Our software team stands out here.  They are always looking for a better way and questioning the status quo.  Greg on our team showed me some ideas about interfaces the other day that really turn the concept of systems management on it's head. Way cool stuff created because they wondered how it could be better.


  2. Likes to break things - Wade Vinson, HP's Fan Man turned Pod Father is my favorite 'breaker of stuff'.  Paradigms, constraints, rules - he relishes breaking stuff more than a 3 year old.  I mean that in a good way Wade.


  3. Knows how to get going - The server and infrastructure biz is all about sprinting to the next thing.  Seth Godin talked about sprinting the other day stating "When we sprint, all the internal dialogue falls away and we just go as fast as we possibly can. When you're sprinting you don't feel that sore knee and you don't worry that the ground isn't perfectly level. You just run."  I suppose a good kick in the pants from Mr. P never hurts either.


  4. Knows the art of the tradeoff - This is probably the hardest one.  Our folks HATE tradeoffs. Good ideas never die with the blade team.  They just wait for the next rev.


  5. How to think long term - Guy McSwain's team could have taken shortcuts on the power for BladeSystem c-Class for the short term, but they insisted on massive power scalability.  So far, the c7000 has taken everything that Xeon, Itanium and Opteron can throw at it. I wonder if IBM reads this . . .


  6. Never stop learning - I might add "never quit" too.  The original Compaq and HP blades were awesome learning experiences for us all.  I can promise you that even with more than 50% share of the blade market, they are still taking a lot of notes!

Enjoy the deck and share with an aspiring engineer.



What else would you add to the list?

Labels: engineers

Are you willing to kill the sacred cow?

Outside the box means killing cows.


Are you ready for -


To truly think different?


Switch ports are Cisco's sacred cow.  Whatever solution they come up with is unlikely to result in left over hamburger meat.

What if a plumber built your house?

Nine months ago, I started to build a house. This week was all about tying up loose ends. We're only days away from moving in. One such loose end was the mystery of the missing faucet.  It was a cool bronze faucet I picked up on eBay for a song.  Forgotten in my trunk, I never gave it to the plumber. 


As the plumber came today to install it, he handed me a change order for $175 - something about the valve and trim weren't compatible!?!  The faucet was in and the plumber was out in five minutes flat. He also warned me not to cry to him if it breaks. Sigh. 


I'm really glad my plumber didn't build my house.




  • The house budget would have come in just shy of a one billion dollars. I promise you, on a per hour basis, my plumber walked away with 10x more profit than my builder.


  • Faucets would have been the focal point of every room.  I even suspect the pipes would be outside of the walls.


  • All pipes and faucets would be made of 24k gold.  The rest of the house, crape paper.

If you want to build a house, hire a custom builder.  They can see your vision. They grasp the big picture and they know how to bring the pieces together.  Most importantly, they know how to execute it.  Custom builders also know your budget and they don't get paid if they bust it. 


That brings me to this article today from Lippis group.  The title is "Are Cisco, HP and IBM on Data Center Collision Course?" It's clear to me that Cisco is taking a plumbers' view to the next generation datacenter. Or a "packet plumber" view if you will. 


This article does a great job of posing some interesting questions of Cisco while clearly drawing the lines between different approaches already being executed in the market, i.e. Adaptive Infrastructure.  James Staten at Forrester echoed some of these sentiments in a recent post as well.


Here are some of the quotes and questions that popped out to me:




  • "Cisco’s Data Center 3.0 initiative is its vision to orchestrate virtual IT." - What data center is virtual only?  Convergence is needed in the data center - not divergence.  Virtual and physcial can not be addressed separately with different tools, processes, etc.  There needs to be a master plan for physical and virtual to minimize the proliferation of different tools, control conflicts and poorly managed processes.


  • "Its products include the Nexus family of data center switches including the Nexus 7000, a high-density 10Gbs Ethernet core switch; Nexus 5000 . . . "  followed by "Cisco Nexus family provides customers with a granular path to add capacity and capabilities to the data center network while allowing customers to have the ability to leverage their existing and continued investment in Catalyst." The granular path is a little unclear here for Catalyst and IOS folks.  Exactly how does Cisco's vision include the millions of Catalyst and IOS products out there? 


  • "But here’s the rub: business models."  Quite a rub indeed.  HP has a proven history of driving out cost across the data center.  Possibly the only player in that can do it on all four axis in the data center - compute, storage, networking, and facilities.  Will Cisco drive down network costs the way HP has driven down compute and facilities costs?  We think it takes a lot more effort than addressing FCoE to get there. 

The final assertion I saw was that Cisco thinks that "HP and IBM will be painted as legacy data center players."  I guess I'm okay with that as our legacy. 


HP knows data centers.  Cisco knows networks.  Which one do you want to build your house?


 

Aaron Delp Busts Blade Power Myths

We recently learned that Aaron Delp closed down his BladeVault blog and is focusing on creating more useful infomation to share with the greater community by contributing to Scott Lowe's blog.  For those of you that don't know Aaron, he's a senior engineer who is literally on the front lines of the blade and virtualization revolution. No, he doesn't work for HP or IBM.  But he does know just about everything there is to know about us both.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

power_meters

We not only like Aaron because he's a smart guy who shoots it straight, but also because he likes to share what he knows with the community.  Like I said, he knows a lot.


Well, here's what he's up to now.  In a series titled "Blades and Virtualization Aren't Mutually Exclusive", Aaron is sharing a ton of personal research and experience with blades.  In his first two articles in the series, he takes an insider look at the power advantages of blade versus rack servers - looking at both HP and IBM.  I know we told you blades use a lot less power before, but you still think we're full of crap.  Fine.  Take it from Aaron.


 



In his next article, Aaron promised to focus on the expansion abilities of both the IBM and HP blade servers. We'll be reading and linking his thoughts here.

Desperately Seeking Virtual I/O

Our friends at Dell are at it again.  In case you don’t pay as much attention to the happenings in the blade world as we do, here’s a recap.  Dell has been chasing the HP BladeSystem for some time now.  Though bamboozled on several fronts, the searchmetal_detector_convention for a competitive virtual I/O solution to Virtual Connect has been the most elusive.  Here’s the retrospective from March 2008 to February 2009. 

1. Virtual I/O ‘Take One’ for Dell was a partnership with eGenera in March 2008.

Headline: eGenera Inks OEM Deal with Dell

Dell is listening to customers and providing solutions that make the virtual data center easier to deploy and manage, regardless of platform,” said Rick Becker, vice president, Dell Software & Solutions. “Dell and Egenera will help customers focus on company growth by delivering excellence in virtualized infrastructure from server performance, storage interoperability to dynamic data center management.”

 

 2. Dell asked for a mulligan in July 2008 when they tossed eGenera overboard and tried to create something sort-of like Virtual Connect; meet FlexAddress.  Over a year and half late to market after version 1.0 of Virtual Connect.
Headline: Dell joins ranks of I/O virtualization providers with FlexAddress

"We have taken a very different approach than HP. Theirs is a proprietary switch that plugs into their backplane, and after adding all of the switching, it can cost about $20,000 for one chassis," said Rick Becker, vice president of software and solutions, Dell Product Group. "We have done this using open standards, so FlexAddress works with other switches like Cisco and Brocade and users don't have to switch their switches."

3. Dell and go back to the partner route with a Cisco bear hug.
Headline: Dell and Cisco team up on next-gen datacentres

Sorry, no quote from Rick Becker on this one, but here’s another that will give you an
idea.  "We're hearing much more interest from customers on FCoE, even though it is not an officially ratified standard, but at the moment, iSCSI is available and affordable," said Robin Kuepers, head of storage for EMEA at Dell.  No one asked if the Cisco's Nexus switches that Dell has simply agreed to resell are compatible with Cisco's large installed base of Catalyst switches or all the other industry compatible switches such as ProCurve and others.  Hint: They're not. (UPDATE: The comments below called me out that this was overkill and they are right; I should explain. There are differences in feature/functions between Nexus and Catalyst, especially related to capabilities with VM's and the future implementation of FCoE.  Catalyst switches will be missing out on some of these capabilities under the current direction.  The right direction is to have open standards for these types of capabilities, regardless of the plumbing in the datacenter and a Nexus-only approach doesn't get us there either.)

4. That brings us to Tuesday, February 3rd and a 180 degree sprint, to yet another partner.

Headline: Dell Pairs with Xsigo on Virtual I/O 

"What we are excited about with the Xsigo appliance is the openness," explains Rick Becker, vice president of software and solutions at Dell's Product Group. "This works across form factors and vendors, and in a heterogeneous data center, this can mange it all no matter what logo is on the box."  No shortage of handshaking going on over there. After all, HP's Solution Builder Program has over 300 members.
  

However, there’s one important thing that you should know about the Xsigo Dell announcement that Dell didn’t mention.  It does its magic with InfiniBand. That means you need to have an Infiniband network in place to use this product.  I’m all for open standards in this space too, like Anthony Dina at Dell blogged about last week, other than companies that have decided to base their server interconnect on InfiniBand, there is a more straightforward path for customers looking for a datacenter-wide virtual I/O strategy and an end-to-end virtual infrastructure
  

We do agree with Dell that not all businesses are the same, so a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution isn’t a good approach.  To complete our offerings, HP partners with Xsigo among other virtual I/O vendors.  It’s supported on HP blades and rack/tower servers too.  However, our cornerstone is advancing innovation like Virtual Connect Flex-10 on plain old fashioned Ethernet and Fibre Channel that most businesses will find is a ‘flex-size-fits-most’ solution that fits them just right.
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