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How Thick is Your OS?

HP had a product announcement last month and it's one that I think was pretty exciting.  BladeSystem Matrix is a new offering from HP that pulls together compute, storage, networking integrated with a co-designed management, automation, and orchestration software stack.  From dramatically simplified ordering  to installation on the order of minutes, every aspect of delivery has been aligned with the goal of allowing customers to purchase solution ready infrastructure instead of piece parts.


 


In looking at the combination of software and hardware that HP has pulled together to create BladeSystem Matrix, I was struck by some familar problems of providing an agile infrastructure.   I look at BladeSystem Matrix and see many of the features and capabilties that HP has been delivering in our HP-UX, OpenVMS, and NonStop environments for a long time.   But those environments were created in an era of highly vertically integrated vendors, and the world has more options that that today.  To my mind, this exposes a tension between how we've done things and how we might see them evolve.


 


How thick is your OS?


 


When I look at the co-designed software stack of BladeSystem Matrix, I see functions for security, resource management, virtualization, availability and workload flow control.  In the OSes running on the hardware I see all those same functions along with libraries and APIs.  In fact, if I look at what's becoming one of the most important workloads running under that OS, a hypervisor, I'm seeing many of those same functions replicated yet again.  At this point, there's an 'embarrasment of riches' argument, that all those cycles replicating functions would have been wasted anyways, so why not use some of them to allow you to get a fraction more efficient?


 


Now don't get me wrong. A ubiquitos API and a rich library of routines is critical to making sure that we have a steady stream of software developers who can ramp quickly and stay productive for a long career. That's not going to change and there are some great examples of "the next big thing" that failed to live up to expectations because they didn't  allow a world's worth of mortal programmers to stay productive. 


 


But what about those other functions?  It's not just a problem of replication, it's also a problem of lack of perspective. Should we expect an OS inside of a virtual machine inside of a blade inside of an enclosure inside of a rack inside of a data center inside of an enterprise to make the right power versus performance tradeoffs?  The same OSes that we used to expect to discover and manage a whole system are now being utilized unchanged to manage a small part of a much bigger whole and that causes problems.


 


What this has me wondering about is the potential to offer substantially thinned out versions of today's operating systems where we retain the APIs and libraries that allow programmers to remain productive and seperate those from the resource management.  There are existing examples here from the world of high performance technical computing with thinned Linux distros, but in this case we'd need to replicate the same levels of reliability and availability as traditional OS models. 


 


It could be that as we continue to innovate at the intelligent infrastructure level that for the OS of the future, thin is in.

Labels: OS Unix HP-UX
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About the Author(s)
  • I work as a Master Architect in HP Servers R & D group. I work with teams spread across the lab and outside to build solutions which are highly available on HP-UX, OpenVMS and Mission Critical Linux platforms. In particular I contribute to develop HP Serviceguard clusters, HP-UX Security and Middleware products. I have been with HP for last 17 years and have exposure to HA/DR field from both R & D and customer perspectives.
  • Kirk Bresniker is the Vice President/Chief Technologist for HP Business Critical Systems where he has technical responsibility for all things Mission Critical, including HP-UX, NonStop and scalable x86 platforms. He joined HP in 1989 after graduating from Santa Clara University and has been an HP Fellow since 2008.
  • I’m the worldwide marketing manager for HP NonStop. I’ll be blogging and tweeting out news as it relates to NonStop solutions – you can find me here and on twitter at @CarolynatHP
  • Cynthia is part of the HP ExpertOne team. ExpertOne offers professional IT training and certifications from infrastructure refresh to areas that span across the datacenter like Cloud and Converged Infrastructure.
  • Hi, I work on the HP Servers team as HP-UX worldwide product marketing manager. I´m interested in how customers use our technology and will be blogging about their stories and on how our products evolve to help their businesses be always on.
  • I have worked with NonStop systems since 1982. I am a Master Technologist for HP and am part of the IT SWAT organization, the Cloud SWAT and work with HP Labs. I report into the Enterprise Solutions and Architecture organization.
  • Joe Androlowicz is a Technical Communications and Marketing manager in HP’s NonStop Product Division. Joe is a 25 year journeyman in information systems design, instructional technologies and multimedia development. He left Apple Computer for Tandem Computers to help launch G03 and hasn’t looked back yet. He previously managed the program management team for the NonStop Education and Training Center and drove the development and growth of the NonStop Certification programs.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • I am the Superdome 2 Product Manager. My interest is to learn how mission critical platform helps customers and would also like to share my thoughts on how Superdome has been helping customers and will continue to do so.
  • I work in the HP Servers marketing group, managing a marketing team responsible for marketing solutions for enterprise customers who run mission-critical workloads and depend on HP to keep their business continuously running.
  • Mohan Parthasarathy is a Technical Architect in the HP-UX lab. His primary focus currently is in the core kernel, platform enablement and virtualization areas of HP-UX. Mohan has worked on various modules of HP-UX, including networking protocol stacks, drivers, core kernel and virtualization
  • I’ll be blogging about the latest news and enhancements as it relates to HP Moonshot.
  • 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.
  • As a Managing Consultant for HP’s Enterprise Solution & Architecture group, I collaborate with client business and IT senior management to understand, prioritize and architect advanced use of data and information, drawing insights required to make informed business decisions. My current focus leverages event-driven business intelligence design techniques and technologies to identify patterns, anticipate outcomes and proactively optimize business response creating a differentiated position in the marketplace for the client.
  • Wendy Bartlett is a Distinguished Technologist in HP’s NonStop Enterprise Division, and focuses on dependability – security and availability - for the NonStop server line. She joined Tandem in 1978. Her other main area of interest is system architecture evolution. She has an M.S. degree in computer science from Stanford University.
  • I am part of the integrated marketing team focused on HP Moonshot System and HP Scale-up x86 and Mission-critical solutions.
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