Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
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Integrating BladeSystem Matrix into a Chargeback or Billing system

I got a call last week enquiring how the IaaS APIs of BladeSystem Matrix (Matrix) could be used to integrate with a chargeback or billing system at a customer site. its a snowy day in Boulder and being a fair weather skier I thought I would spend a few moments and put together some examples of how you could do this.


How Matrix calculates a service cost


Matrix service templates are listed in the template catalog, which shows their name, a description of the service template, and an associated service cost. This cost is calculated by adding the individual costs of each of the service elements in the template together. For example, in a service template the service designer specifies costs for each class of server, for each GB of a class of storage, and for each IP address consumed on a class of subnet. The cost of the service is calculated by combining these unit costs with the amount of each type of resource consumed to create a total. The template catalog shows the cost to deploy the template. However, once the service is deployed, the user can choose to add additional storage, or perhaps choose to temporarily release (suspend) a server. When the user adds additional storage, their service cost will increase based on the template unit cost per GB of storage. Similarly when the user chooses to temporarily suspend a server, their service costs reduces, reflecting that they have reduced their resource consumption. I'm showing an example of the cost breakout chart in the Matrix template designer tool.



Linking to a charge back or billing system


The ListServices web service call can be used by an administrative user to return summary information about the services deployed in Matrix. The Web service return includes information on the current resource consumption cost of that service. Let's assume the IaaS provider wants to chargeback to their customers based on a 15 minute usage increment. They could use a single CRON job on their billing system to fetch usage information every 15 minutes, as shown in figure 2 below.



The content of the CRON job is shown in figure 3. Matrix 6.0 includes a handy CLI wrapper which I am going use in this example. The wrapper is written in Java, so I can run it on any machine and use the underlying web services to connect the Matrix environment. In my example I copied the ioexec.jar file from the Program Files/HP/Insight Orchestration/cli directory to my linux machine. You could also use your favorite wsdl2{java,perl,python,c,.net} tool or the wsdl import feature in Operations Orchestration to create something similar.


Here is my outline of the bash script:


 # sample charge back cron job
# Cron runs script every 15 minutes
#
###################################################################
# charge_owner: used to apply incremental charge to owner's account
# Inputs: service_name owner cost cost_units
# Returns: !=0 if owner has no more credit
function charge_owner
{
echo service $1 owner "$2" cost $3 $4
# insert commands to charge customer here!
return 0
}
###################################################################
# credit_denied: called when owner has no more credit on service
# Inputs: service_name owner
function credit_denied
{
echo suspend service $1 of owner $2
# Insert commands to handle over drawn customers here
# ioexec deactive service -s "$1" -c chargeback.conf
return 0
}


####################################################################
# process_chargeback
# Inputs: processes listServices output invoking charge_owner &
#         credit_denied to perform chargeback processing
function process_chargeback
{
while read -r LINE
do
    FIELD=${LINE#*services*.}
    FIELD=${FIELD%%=*}
    ARG="${LINE#*=}"
  
    case "$FIELD"
    in
         name)  service="$ARG";;
         cost.value)    cost="$ARG";;
         cost.units)    units="$ARG";;
         ownerName)     owner="$ARG";
                        charge_owner "$service" "$owner" "$cost" "$units"
                        if
                        then
                            credit_denied "$service" "$owner"  
                        fi;;
    esac
    :
done


}


ioexec list services -o raw -c chargeback.conf | process_chargeback


The script uses the ioexec wrapper to invoke the list Services web service call. I then pipe the results to process_chargeback  to parse the results extracting the service name, current charge rate and charge units, and service owner. The information is passed to the chargeback system via two functions charge_owner and credit_denied. The sample code has a stubbed version of charge_owner, which takes the service name, charge rate, charge units and owner arguments and simply echos them. This routine could be extended to insert the usage information into a database or pass it directly to a charge back system. If the routine returns a non-zero result (indicating an error), then the credit_denied routine is called. This is another stub which, for now, just echos the name of owner and the associated service. This could be extended, as shown, to do other operations - such as invoke the deactivateService web service call to shut down the service when the user has no more credit.


More Complex Scenarios


The example I've given is very simple, but hopefully is enough to get people started on their own integrations. Matrix has additional integration points that can trigger workflows to perform additional actions. An example of one of these triggers is the "Approval" workflow that is used to gate requests for new resource allocation in Matrix. This trigger point could be used to do a credit check on a customer prior to proceeding with a resource deployment operation.


I'd love feedback about the charge back or billing tools people use today, and what kind of out-of-the-box integrations would be most useful.

First post this year!

Well it is February already and I am just now fulfilling one of my New Year’s resolutions – to start blogging more often.  So here I go.


 


Last week, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes chatting with Steve Kaplan, a vice president at INX, a Cisco reseller.  Steve is also the author of the blog “By the Bell” where late last year he compared Cisco UCS to HP BladeSystem Matrix.  He and I had the chance to compare our points of view on the applicability of blades.  Needless to say, our point of view here at HP is quite different from Steve’s support of UCS.


 


Here is a summary of a couple of areas that perhaps Steve and I do not yet see eye to eye.


1.      We at HP do not see UCS as comparable in functionality to BladeSystem Matrix, which we believe is in a category by itself.  Why is this?  Unlike other offerings that manage servers or VMs one at a time, Matrix uniquely allows customers to provision and manage the infrastructure of an entire application all at once – all the servers, VMs, storage, networks, and server images – through a service catalog based provisioning portal.  Further, Matrix also has built-in capacity planning tools and disaster recovery tools that are not found in UCS.


2.      We believe that data center power and cooling are substantial costs and challenges for customers and warrant significant attention.  It appears to me that Cisco has largely ignored this in their UCS design.  Not mentioned in Steve’s analysis is the ability for BladeSystem to throttle the power consumption of most chassis components that consume power including CPUs, memory, fans and power supplies to keep infrastructure running efficiently all the time.  Also not mentioned is that UCS requires up to double the amount of data center power allocated per server compared to BladeSystem.


 


While Steve’s analysis is very detailed, he omits general descriptions of the very capabilities of BladeSystem and BladeSystem Matrix that have made BladeSystem the most popular blades platform on the planet – with over 1.6 million blades sold.  (These can be found at www.hp.com/go/bladesystem and www.hp.com/go/matrix).  Anyone interested in hearing more of what I have to say about converged infrastructure and BladeSystem can check out this Information Week article.


 


I appreciate Steve taking the time to write on blades, one of my favorite topics!  I hope the dialogue over what customers find important for their IT infrastructure continues, as this is an important topic for our industry.  Our many years in the blades business has taught us a lot, and we always look forward to the opportunity to share with customers the technologies we can bring to help them save time, reduce power and cut costs associated with managing IT infrastructure, all while becoming more efficient.

Top 10 Server Technologies in 2010

Here's my count-down of the top technologies that will have the most impact on servers in 2010.

10. DDR3L - The JEDEC spec for low-voltage DDR-3 memory came out last year, but 2010 should mark significant adoption of these 1.35-volt DIMMs.  Since the memory in a  modern, high-memory server can consume more power than the processors, DDR3L will play a key role in helping solve data center power consumption and capacity problems.

9. Oracle Fusion Applications - Currently in beta testing, Oracle Fusion Apps is an evolutionary step in Oracle's piecing together of key technologies from its "standard" products with those it recently acquired, like PeopleSoft and Siebel.  In some cases, I expect we'll be learning (and managing) applications that are  effectively brand-new.

8.  Tukwila and Power7 - The UNIX-oriented mission-critical processors grow beyond dual-core, and get hefty caches shared between cores.  Intel expects to bring its Itanium into production in the first part of 2010, while published roadmaps from IBM also put Power7 in the 2010 timeframe.

7. RHEL6 - I haven't seen schedules from Red Hat showing RH Enterprise Linux futures, but based on their plan to move RHEL5 into "phase 2" of their lifecycle in early 2011 (that's basically the "no new features, just bug fixes" phase),  2010 would be the logical year for this virtualization-tuned generation of the OS.  Fedora 11 and 12 (now released) were the planned "feature previews" for RHEL6, so we'll see.

6.  SPEC virtualization benchmark - I'm making another guess at roadmaps to predict the SPEC Virtualization committee might reveal its plans for a benchmark in 2010.  (HP is a committee member, though I'm not personally involved in that; as always on this blog, I'm speaking for myself and not for HP.)  VMMark is a great tool, but the SPEC benchmark should boost our ability to do vendor-agnostic comparisons of virtualization systems.

5.  SAS SSDs - Solid state drives with a SATA interface have been available for a couple of years in servers.  (I think IBM was the first to use them as internal drives on blades.)  However, servers have traditionally relied on performance & reliability advantages that the SAS protocol brings, and so SAS SSDs are really going to help bring SSDs into everyday use inside servers.

4. Nehalem-EX - The benefits of an integrated memory controller and hyper-threading that emerged with the Intel Xeon 5000 processor will be available to servers with more than 2 processors.  Plus, with bigger cache and a beefier memory subsystem, performance will be impressive -- Intel says Nehalem-EX will bring the "largest performance leap in Xeon history".

3. CEE 'ratified' - Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) is the final piece to enable a standardized Fibre-Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). This carries the possibility of effectively eliminating an entire fabric from data centers, so there's  much-anticipated cost savings and flexibility boosts. Actually, there is no single "CEE" standard; but the  key final pieces (the 802.1Qbb and 802.1az standards from IEEE) are targeted for final ratification around mid-2010.

2.  Win2003 Server End of Mainstream Support - There are really only two reasons to upgrade an OS: You want some new feature, or the old one can't be patched. For those who are relying on Windows 2003, the chance of the latter happening is about to get larger in 2010, so expect a lot more pressure to upgrade older systems to Server 2008.

1. Magny-Cours processor - Twelve-core x86 processors; enough said.  Actually, maybe not: AMD's next-gen Opteron has other performance-boosting features (like additional memory channels), and Magny-Cours will be available for 2-processor as well as 4+ processor servers at the same time.  What else?  I'm impressed with John Fruehe's comments about AMD's plans to enable 4P performance with 2P economics.   I predict Magny-Cours will be the big story in 2010.


Top-ten lists don't seem complete without honorable mentions, so here are my two:  Ratification of the PCI Express 3.0 spec, and Microsoft's Madison / Parallel Data Warehouse extension of its SQL server line.


And finally, one new product that almost, but thankfully didn't, appear on this list: The 0.0635 meter hard drive.  The EU's Metric Directive , which comes into effect in 2010, originally prohibited publishing specs in anything but metric units.  Among other things, that could have lead to a renaming of 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch hard drives.  Luckily, later modifications to the EU rules mean the "0.0636 meter drive" won't make its appearance -- at least in 2010.

Three Opinions (But One Counts More)

I saw three new opinions about BladeSystem last week. 



First, PC World Latin America announced that the HP BL490c G6 virtualization blade won in the "Best Server" category of the annual PC World Latin America 2009 Awards.  These awards honor the "best digital & IT products available in Latin America", and I'm proud to see this virtualization-oriented blade got recognized.   (HP's been active in Latin America for a long time --  back in 1968, HP helped in the broadcasting of the Mexico City Olympic Games.)


A second opinion came from a market research company.  This one caught my attention when Cisco's Omar Sultan pointed out that Gartner had placed Cisco in the "Visionary" area of Gartner's Magic Quarter for blades, a section also occupied by Liquid Computing.  Omar says that category holds companies with of keen insights into blade usage, but as one comment points out, little track record for delivering on that vision.


That led me to the Quadrant itself,  where it looks like HP has been placed in the "Leaders" quadrant.  I’d agree with that – it signifies solid vision, along with the ability to deliver on that vision.  Obviously one criteria for demonstrated leadership is a satisfied base of users, which points me the third (and most revealing) opinion I saw last week.


Bytemark Hosting, a web hosting provider that calls itself the "nerd-hosting outfit of choice", let HP write a case study about their infrastructure based on BladeSystem.  It uses virtualization blades (specifically the ProLiant BL495c), HP Virtual Connect Flex-10, and carvable storage from the SAS-connected HP StorageWorks MSA2000.


But the slots-and-watts of what the guys put together what stood out to me.  It's what Bytemark's Peter Taphouse said about the impact of the system.  He said  BladeSystem’s improved uptime can actually boost the company’s revenue (by as much as 5%), because it delivers an SLA that lets Bytemark reach a new, untapped set of customers.


Now THAT'S an opinion on BladeSystem that's truly eye-opening.  It's not that BladeSystem earns awards, or that it helps guide data centers toward the future.   It’s that BladeSystem users say it doesn’t just cut costs, but it can also expand the reach of your business.


 

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About the Author(s)
  • More than 25 years in the IT industry developing and managing marketing programs. Focused in emerging technologies like Virtualization, cloud and big data.
  • I am a member of the Enterprise Group Global Marketing team blogging on topics of interest for HP Servers. Check out blog posts on all four Server blog sites-Reality Check, The Eye on Blades, Mission Critical Computing and Hyperscale Computing- for exciting news on the future of compute.
  • I work within EMEA HP Servers Central Team as a launch manager for new products and general communications manager for EMEA HP Server specific information. I also tweet @ServerSavvyElla
  • Hello! I am a social media manager for servers, so my posts will be geared towards HP server-related news & info.
  • HP Servers, Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and ExpertOne
  • WW responsibility for development of ROI and TCO tools for the entire ISS portfolio. Technical expertise with a financial spin to help IT show the business value of their projects.
  • I am a member of the HP BladeSystem Portfolio Marketing team, so my posts will focus on all things blades and blade infrastructure. Enjoy!
  • Luke Oda is a member of the HP's BCS Marketing team. With a primary focus on marketing programs that support HP's BCS portfolio. His interests include all things mission-critical and the continuing innovation that HP demonstrates across the globe.
  • Global Marketing Manager with 15 years experience in the high-tech industry.
  • Network industry experience for more than 20 years - Data Center, Voice over IP, security, remote access, routing, switching and wireless, with companies such as HP, Cisco, Juniper Networks and Novell.
  • 20 years of marketing experience in semiconductors, networking and servers. Focused on HP BladeSystem networking supporting Virtual Connect, interconnects and network adapters.
  • Greetings! I am on the HP Enterprise Group marketing team. Topics I am interested in include Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and Management, and HP BladeSystem.
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