Start with Applications

I have been revisiting my work towards some advanced datacenter certifications and decided to journal some of the thoughts I have during the process. After a 3 year break I decided it was time to start pushing toward some of these goals.

 This may sound eerily similar to something I have said before. It is a constant fight in the infrastructure technology field to get so weighed down by speeds and feeds and features. You begin to lose sight as to why you actually put servers, switches, storage and software together in the first place. While looking at the requirements guide for the VCAP-DCD the very first thing that is mentioned is getting the business requirements. How do I actually do that? What does the business actually require?

  1. Know what the applications actually do.
    Ask! What does this Microsoft SQL database do? How does email relate to our business doing deals? Find out how money goes in and out of the business. How does your company pay bills? How do you charge for whatever it is you produce? How do the MBA types make decisions about who, what, when, where and why for your business? In IT we often get so involved in rolling out a new widget from vendor X, Y and Z we often don’t realize what is the purpose to the business. Understand this from a high level first.
  2. Map technology to the impact on the business.
    Who cares if I can do a million IOPS if all I do is check email all day? How do I consolidate servers with no plan on how they impact the bottom line? How do I provide cloud like capabilities if no one really needs them? So start to map the capabilities to the benefits to the business. If the decisions being made can be done with data that is 5 minutes old instead of a 24 hours how can that change the landscape of your business? Does this give an advantage over competitors?
  3. Know something about the Apps.
    If your answer is I don’t know how are business runs or anything about SQL or Oracle I just make empty VM’s for people to put the apps on. I make sure they turn on and I move them around when they need performance or more capacity. Guess what? Those functions can be done by VMware Orchestrator. If you don’t know why you put 4 vCPU’s on a SQL VM because the batch jobs don’t ever use more than that and why, you need to learn. If you need tools to decipher the differences then get them. At least get the trial versions so you can see what happens. Get close to the queries that run at night. Do you know if they are CPU, Memory or Storage bound? Find out. Get off of reddit and check it out. Do you know if you put in faster servers will the app improve in a way that makes things better for business? Are you really going to gamble your budget on marginal improvements?

WhyInfraexists

Can you connect how all of these things relate and benefit the business?

Just some small things I have been thinking about. In my job it is a constant temptation to push how many IOPS you can do with this thing or that. When I need to say “what process needs the performance? If that process is faster AND you get additional benefits of data reduction, floor tile reduction, power usage reduction what will it mean to your business users?”

 

 

Book Review: Automating vSphere with VMware vCenter Orchestrator

So to be 100% honest I have had this book on my desk for several months. Just staring at me. Calling my name. VMware press provided this copy to me along with Mike Laverick’s SRM book and so I am finally going to review the first one.

Cody Bunch does an amazing job of breaking down one of the most mystifying yet powerful products hidden in the VMware portfolio. VMware vCenter Orchestrator is almost mythical in the promises of automation of typical tasks of a vSphere administrator. While you can bang your head against the wall for weeks trying to figure out how to properly setup the vOrchestrator server and client I was able to use Cody’s guidance to have to operational and running test workflows in just a few hours (I am a slow reader).

I can’t stress enough the need for automation and orchestration in today’s virtual machine environment. The business is demanding more and more from the Virtualization team and in order to deliver vCenter Orchestrator is a good start since you probably already OWN it.

Hopefully soon there will be an update with information on the vApp version of Orchestrator. Check it out here on Amazon or your favorite book reseller.

Thanks again

Leadership in the Cloud (And everywhere else)

This is really a post about leadership in general, but I like to apply it to our industry. I am totally cool if you take these concepts and apply them elsewhere.

In any work environment there is constant posturing, politicing, conflicting, that has nothing to do with the actual cause of the workplace. I am going to offer a few leadership tips for everyone, not just for managers, vp’s and directors. Tips that we can all put to use.

1. It is not all about you. We all know that “guy” (or girl). Using every oppurtunity to push others down and himself up. Using others backs to climb on never lasts. Being the MVP of a losing team is never my goal, make everyone around you better. The skills involved in doing that will take you further than your daily task knowledge. No one ever says, “Wow, Jon sure can deploy a sweet VM.” If you are known for adding value, contributing and making everyone better that is how what you do will last. Valuing your team as something more than tools to make you look good is a good start.

2. Have a Purpose/Mission. I am here to change the world. Personally and Professionally. I have done jobs and have volunteered with people and organizations where no one knows why they do what they do. If you are making Pizza, make life changing pizza. If you are building next-gen datacenters, do it in a way that will alter life for someone.

3. Lead, Even if you aren’t supposed to. Don’t sit around and wait to be asked to do something leadershippy.

4. Have a Strategy. If you don’t know why you do what you do get that first. Then decide how the world will look when you are done. Impact (well good impact) on people will not happen on accident.

5. If you see a problem be part of the Solution. Stop complaining. There is only so much time in the day. Personally, it is natural for me to complain. I am very good at pointing out faults in everything. I have to consciously make the decision to work on the solutions for things I can change and shut up about the other stuff (for now). Some things just need the proper timing.

6. Community. Jump into the deep end of the pool of community. Make this a core tenant of everything you participate in. You can not do it all by yourself. Community substitues like Twitter and Facebook are a start but go meet in person with some real people. Just an idea.

The most cynical of my readers never started reading this. If you got this far, I hope in your mind you see how this applies to you. Of course any comments are welcome.

Some Reality for us Infrastructure Peeps or Apps are cool too

Don’t’ you just love double titles?

For many years I have been an infrastructure guy. I really liked how the cables, and processors and Memory and blinking lights worked. Applications were often the necessary evil tolerated so that I can play with cool technology. During my own journey toward learning about the cloud it becomes increasingly important to consider the function of the application. Six years ago me would totally punch me in the face right now. Traitor. J

1 – Don’t get your App messed up in my resource buckets of awesomeness

 

So the reality check to the Infrastructure geek in me is this: The application teams really think of what you do as the network. That is why when anything is ever wrong it is always “the network’s” fault. What we love to do is getting abstracted more and more. I will still contend that is very important and very hard to do. Whether you are building reference architectures or deploying a converged infrastructure appliance almost no one but us cares. They just want the data to do their jobs. So while we have really great discussions about speeds and feeds, the guy in the picture below just wants the app. From the hypervisor down we need to design with the application in mind or we will risk becoming like that goth dude locked in the server room on IT Crowd.

 

2 Honey badger don’t care about FCoE

My next post will get into what I have been researching regarding what is out there and hopefully help us (infra. peeps) understand our App/Dev brothers better.

You are probably an Infrastructure person if:

  1. You read this blog.
  2. You work mainly with Virtualization
  3. Storage Admin
  4. Network Admin
  5. You like to make fun of DBA’s

 

Its About the Apps – The Need for Application Modernization Webcast

As we migrate to Cloud models for Enterprise IT one big need that gets overlooked is how the applications are architected. Modernizing existing apps can be a very scary but a necessary step to taking advantage of what the cloud can offer.

Just look at this crazy puzzle. As a VMware/Network/Storage geek I spend so much time focusing on the bottom of this picture the “infrastructure” part. I have to admit though without the Applications no one cares about all my infrastructure.

So what can we do with that middle layer? The legacy apps, Analytics and Cloud applications. Expect more to come from me on this. Don’t worry they won’t be “coding” posts but rather enablement of applications in the world of Private Cloud.

So where to start?
I want to create some awareness for this upcoming webcast. Details are here:

http://www.emc.com/events/2012/q1/01-25-12-application-modernization.htm

Jan 25, 2012

Time:
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM EST (Set Time Zone)

Event Type:
EMC Live Webcast

Location:
Online

Details: In this session, EMC Consulting will discuss Application Modernization on the road to Platform as a Service.

Our expertise and experience will help you understand Cloud Application Platform technologies, architectural patterns and practical approaches to a modernization strategy that maximizes long-term benefits.

Attend this webcast and learn:

About next generation Application Architectures
How other organizations have successfully tackled an Application Modernization initiative
How to develop a strategy for Application Modernization

vSphere Metro Stretched Clusters – Some Info/Links

A lot of questions lately about vSphere Clusters across distance. I really need to learn for myself so I collected some good links.

Make sure you understand what “Only Non-uniform host access configuration is supported” means. Someone correct me if I have this wrong but your device that enables the distributed virtual storage needs to be sure that hosts in site A are writing to their preferred volumes in site A and vice versa in Site B. Probably way over simplifying it.


LINKS

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2007545

http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_geek/2011/10/new-vmware-hcl-category-vsphere-metro-stretched-cluster.html

http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2011/10/07/vsphere-metro-storage-cluster-solutions-what-is-supported-and-what-not/

http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2011/10/05/vsphere-5-0-ha-and-metro-stretched-cluster-solutions/

Big thanks to Scott Lowe for clearing the details on this topic.

An Idea for vCloud Director and View

Sometimes I am sitting up late at night and I have a thought of something I think would be cool, like if x and y worked together to get z. This time I thought this was good enough to blog about. Now I want to stress that I do not have any special insight into what is coming. This is just how I wish things would be.

Today there are two end user portals from VMware. The vCloud Director for self-service cloud interface and the View Manager access point for end-users to access Virtual Desktops. Each interface interacts with one or more vCenter instances to deploy, manage, and destroy virtual machines. Below is a way over simplified representation of how View, vCloud Director (plus Request Manager) relate to the user experience. I think maybe there is a divide when there does not need to be (someday).

 

 

My idea

What if vCloud director could be used in the future to be the one stop user interface portal. Leveraging vCloud Request Manager, vCD could deploy cloud resources, Desktops or Servers or both. vCloud Director would be the orchestration piece for VMware View. Once the Request for a desktop is approved the entitlement to the correct pool is automatically given. If extra desktops are needed the cloning begins. vCloud Director will learn to speak the View Composer’s language, providing the ever elusive ability to use linked clones with vCD. vCloud Director with this feature could be great for lab and test/dev environments. The best part is operationally there is one place to request, deploy, manage all virtual resources from the end-user perspective. This could eliminate the ambiguity for a user (and service providers) on how to consume (and deliver) resources. This has implications on how IaaS and DaaS would be architected.

 

Now some drawbacks

You might say, hey, Jon you are going to make me buy and run vCD just to get VDI? No. The beauty of the API’s is each product could stand alone or work together (in my Vision of how they should work). Maybe even leverage Composer with vCD without View or Request Manager with View without vCD.

One Cloud Portal to rule them all.

First Three Months and the Cloud

This is the post where people start accusing me of working for EMC. Guess what? I do.

Now that Geek Week and onboarding are finished and I got my really cool shirt I wanted to spend a few minutes reflecting on the things I learned in the last few months. This post will introduce a few topics and be an overall summary of my first 3 months as a vSpecialist.

What is great is I didn’t have to be convinced to like or do something I didn’t already think or believe. I am definitely able to articulate my thoughts in a somewhat coherent manner.

I believe the way we DO technology will need to transform in order compete in the future. If you are doing well now and still spending most of your time and money keeping the lights on the margin for error is shrinking. Your IT needs to be empowered to focus on applications that will give you a competitive edge. I have seen that EMC is going all in to make this vision of the cloud reality.

Automate – Manage – Self-Service

We all have a vision of how the “cloud” will help us. For us technical guys our list may look like this:

  1. I want my kids to recognize me.
  2. I want tools that work.
  3. I like sleep.
  4. My Call of Duty Black Ops game needs some work.

Will we all be able to play golf every afternoon because of cloud? Most likely not. Let me know if it happens for you. It will enable us to provide more meaningful impact on the bottom line of our business. If that means I can spend less time pouring over logs to find errors and fixing them and more time improving the delivery and impact of our applications, I am sold. What I seek is less time fighting fires and more time creating value. I see that EMC is aiming (and currently delivers) to provide tools to make this happen. This will be done with tools to help automate, manage and supply self-service IT.

It has been a good few months learning. Soon I will have a few more posts about the last few months.

Coming Soon:

Everyone has a Shiny Thing

EMC Virtual Storage Integrator (VSI) is really cool.

You Care about Business Impact

A Team Makes a Difference

VMware View and Xsigo

*Disclaimer – I work for a Xsigo and VMware partner.

I was in the VMware View Design and Best practices class a couple weeks ago. Much of the class is built on the VMware View Reference Architecture. The picture below is from that PDF.

It really struck me how many IO connections (Network or Storage) it would take to run this POD. Minimum (in my opinion) would be 6 cables per host with ten 8 host clusters that is 480 cables! Let’s say that 160 of those are 4 gb Fiberchannel and the other 320 are 1 gb ethernet. The is 640 gb for storage and 320 for network.

Xsigo currently uses 20 gb infiniband and best practice would be to use 2 cards per server. The same 80 servers in the above cluster would have 3200 gb of bandwidth available. Add in the flexibility and ease of management you get using virtual IO. The cost savings in the number director class fiber switches and datacenter switches you no longer need and the ROI I would think the pays for the Xsigo Directors. I don’t deal with pricing so this is pure contemplation. So I will stick with the technical benefits. Being in the datacenter I like any solution that makes provisioning servers easier, takes less cabling, and gives me unbelievable bandwidth.

So just in the way VMware changed the way we think about the datacenter. Virtual IO will once again change how we deal with our deployments.

The Philosophy of Cloud

With several great posts recently about the cloud and its definitions I decided to jump in from maybe a new perspective.
So check out these links:
The Cloud is Kicking my Butt – Mike DiPetrillo

Is Virtualization Required for the Cloud to Work? – Mike DiPetrillo

Cloud Butt Kicking – Jason Boche

So to relate Cloud Computing to Philosophy. I have to define the previous way of computing would be the Modern way of thought. It fit with the very way most Engineers thought. It is linear. A + B = C computing design made sense. Faster CPU’s means faster programs. More memory meant bigger programs running faster. More Storage means we could store more and more data. Faster Networks let us move that data faster and faster.
Cloud computing redefines our existing way of thought but only does so be erasing our previous definitions. Cloud computing is POST-modern. It is the next step in the philosophy of computing. Postmodern philosophy is defined by being undefinable. The more you try to label and categorize the more it wiggles away. I have read a lot about the Cloud abstracting computing away from our traditional way of defining data center, computing, or information systems. So some thoughts on what this actually means to me.

1. It is ok that Cloud can mean 1000 different things to 1000 different people. That is what makes it “cloud”. What matters is what you experience from the cloud. Virtual Desktops? ok. Distributed Computing or Software as a Service? ok. Online backups? sure. Virtual Firewalls?. You bet! Going on and on…

2. Claiming to be the sole provider of what is really “cloud” will make you seem very “un-cloud”. Cloud computing will be such that when we hold it tighter the more we don’t understand it.

3. As we abstract our data away from the linear thought of the PC in front of me uploads and downloads data to various servers through various network devices sitting in various data centers in certain cities. We will work on relationships and experiences. As a consultant my goal would be to show how your information will “relate” to others and how you interact with the information.

What does all this mean for privacy, security and identity?
Our technical devices will be “connection points” to what is happening in the cloud.

This is getting rambling now so I will stop.