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Restoring DevOps to Infrastructure with Actifio

August 23rd, 2016 No comments

As Enterprises integrate DevOps into more of their development lifecycles they start to bump up against some of the practicalities of managing data. A major tenet of DevOps is being able to ship code quicker to give you that edge against your competitors. It may be fast to write code and a continuous integration pipeline and continuous deployment capability allows you to take that new code, test it and push it out to production in an automated and repeatable fashion.

DevOps and Data

Data however is often one of the speed bumps that causes all this fancy CI/CD to slow to a crawl. If your developers need to test their small change against a large chunk of data you need to somehow have access to this data. Creating copies of databases or files is usually slow and inefficient, a time consuming process that negates most of the speedy DevOps cleverness you’ve done for your code writing.

I’ve worked on numerous projects where a robocopy/rsync was run weekly over the weekend to refresh the 100s of GBs UAT and DEV environment from production data, taking in effect three copies of production. This could only run at the weekend due to the size of the transfer and the impact on the underlying storage and network. One solution had to have the database down during the copy which meant the production one couldn’t even be used for a few hours over the weekend while the copy happened. Put that in your DevOps pipeline and smoke it!

Some storage vendors are able to work around some of the speed problem by being able to mount snapshots but Actifio has a very interesting, slick and more comprehensive solution. Actifio presented at a recent Tech Field Day 11 event.

The DevOps capabilities of Actifio are part of a far bigger solution which they call Copy Data Virtualisation. I previewed the solution in my pre-event post: Tech Field Day 11 Preview: Actifio

Basically you can create multiple copies of data very quickly without creating as many physical copies of the data. These copies can be used for multiple things, backups, analytics, compliance, forensics, DR, migrations etc. as well as DevOps.

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Categories: Storage, Tech Field Day, TFD11 Tags: , ,

Crowdsourcing Community Knowledge with CloudPhysics

August 22nd, 2016 No comments

Image result for cloudphysicsCloudPhysics is a SaaS based solution for sucking up all your on-premises vSphere metadata into its own data lake and performing any number of analytics crunching on it.

The Cloud Physics offering is built upon a system of displaying cards where you can correlate configuration and/or performance information to show you for example datastore utilisation or iSCSI LUNs.

One of the interesting aspects of CloudPhysics is how they can actively monitor the bloggosphere to crowd-source knowledge to help its customers. There are a whole bunch of built in cards which customers can use to report on their environments but something I didn’t realise was that CloudPhysics can also monitor blogs for issues plaguing vSphere environments. If the investigation involves gathering data from your vSphere deployment, CloudPhysics likely has that data already.

At its recent Tech Field Day 11 presentation, CloudPhysics showed how information from fellow delegate Andreas Lesslhumer’s blog which was about tracking down whether a vSphere Changed Block Tracking (CBT) bug which breaks backups affected you. CloudPhysics was able to code the information Andreas wrote about into a new card which customers could then use to report on their own infrastructure, so much easier than writing the code to gather the information yourself.

This could be even more important if you are not even aware of the bug. CloudPhysics or even any user can scan the VMware Knowledge Base as well as many other blogs and write a card to tell you for example that with the exact version of vSphere you are running on some or all of your hosts whether an issue affects you. Of course this wouldn’t apply to you if you were continually scanning all the official and community sites for all bugs reported and able to report on them! Thought you weren’t, well CloudPhysics may have your back.

I would have loved to have had this a few years ago when I had spent ages correlating vSphere versions with HP/Broadcom/Emulex Nic card drivers and firmware to track down the too many issues that plagued the HP Virtual Connect blade chassis networking at the time. I wrote a PowerCLI script which invoked Putty and SSH to connect to each ESXi host to gather the firmware version so I could check the support matrix, it was time consuming and cumbersome. CloudPhysics would have made this so much easier. I could have used the Developer Edition to create my own cards so much quicker and then this could have been made available to others by publishing it to the Card Store.

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Tech Field Day 11 Preview: Plexxi

June 9th, 2016 No comments

Tech Field Day 11 is happening in Boston, from 22-24 June and I’m super happy to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post: I’m heading to Tech Field Day 11 and DockerCon!

Plexxi

PLexxiLogoPlexxi is a still a newish company that has previously presented at Networking Field Days 5, 6, and 7 and was started by some clever brains who want to make the life of who they term a “Network Cloud Builder” easier.

Plexxi has three parts to its solution.

Plexxi Switch is an Ethernet Switch which is connected to a bunch of other switches in a physical ring with a clever optical multiplexed connector that means they act as if they were fully meshed without all the cabling. When a switch receives an optical signal from a neighbour switch it basically either terminates the optical signal for traffic destined for the switch it has just arrived at or optically passively passes it through to the next switch in the ring without having to actually switch it.

Think how useful this is for reducing latency if you don’t have to actually switch traffic at every switch you pass through, great for even high frequency trading. Plexxi calls this LightRail. You can talk directly to switches 5 along either side of you in this way with the equivalent of 20Gb direct bandwidth between every two switch (its like a mesh remember) but with far less cabling as the multiplex cable can carry all the signals for all the switches. If you need more or your bandwidth between any two pairs of switches creates contention it can then change into switching mode. I think I have this right but happy to be corrected.

Oh, did I mention these optical connections can be up to 10km in length, so strung together your span can be up to 80km, interested yet? This gives you an 11xswitch 20Gb fully meshed topology. It uses Broadcom’s commodity Trident II chipsets which are fairly common in the switching market. You can also use a pod like architecture to create a 6 switch LightRail ring which acts as a single leaf switch which can then be connected up to an Optical Spine Layer (OSL). Multiple LightRail pods can be connected to the OSLs. This can scale out to 6 x 12 rack rows which could give you up to 2448 10xGbE ports! This drastically reduces the need for north-south switching connections and increases the east-west connectivity where your servers actually want to talk to each other.

Plexxi Control

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Categories: TFD11 Tags:

Tech Field Day 11 Preview: Zerto

June 9th, 2016 No comments

Tech Field Day 11 is happening in Boston, from 22-24 June and I’m super happy to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post: I’m heading to Tech Field Day 11 and DockerCon!

Zerto

zerto-logoZerto sells a product called Zerto Virtual Replication for enterprise disaster recovery and business continuity for virtualised data centers and clouds. The idea is you use Zerto as a vSphere or Hyper-V hypervisor based solution to replicate data between your sites rather than using storage array replication. This means your replication is not storage vendor dependent so you can have different arrays on each side. You can also use Zerto to migrate or recover workloads from an on-premises environment to and from AWS and there is also a solution for service providers to provide DR as a service for their customers.

Zerto provides a whole bunch of the usual backup functionality as well such as creating test bubbles and efficiently storing the multiple copies of data.
Zerto is expanding its reach and that’s what I’m expecting we’ll hear about at Tech Field Day this time. They recently announced they will be supporting DR to Azure as well as IBM Cloud.

Zerto doesn’t have the buzz of Veeam which also plays in this space, I haven’t used Zerto personally yet have heard good things from people who have.

What I’d like to see

I hope we get to see some interesting use cases and not get too bogged down into the replication and backup minutia.

Let’s see an application/datacenter migrated to and from on-premises vSphere/Hyper-V to AWS/Azure and back. Can we see easy and simple hypervisor conversions using Zerto to do the VM conversion between clusters? Is KVM going to be a supported hypervisor sometime? Will we see more more DR orchestration?
Please don’t make this an unexciting backup / DR walk-through listing all the features, showing customer use cases and future looking possibilities is always more interesting.

Gestalt IT is paying for travel, accommodation and things to eat to attend Tech Field Day but isn’t paying a penny for me to write anything good or bad about anyone.

Categories: TFD11 Tags:

Tech Field Day 11 Preview: Plexistor

June 9th, 2016 No comments

Tech Field Day 11 is happening in Boston, from 22-24 June and I’m super happy to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post: I’m heading to Tech Field Day 11 and DockerCon!

Plexistor

plexistorlogoPlexistor has been developing its product for 3 years which it started selling in January 2016. It is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with an R&D center in Herzeliya, Israel.

The product has the tagline of “Software Defined Memory” which is a term that doesn’t have an obvious meaning but is a near-memory speed storage platform for crunching data at scale while keeping the infrastructure simple.

It is a software layer above your bare metal infrastructure which presents storage to scale out applications such as Cassandra, MongoDB, Varnish, Redis, Hbase, RockDB and Spark. Memory is fast but expensive so Plexistor allows you to tier “slower” than memory storage devices such as SSDs where cold data can be moved when it is no longer active in faster memory. This tiering is also being built for much faster upcoming solutions such as NVDIMMs and 3D XPoint. You can also use AWS Flash based EC2 instances as a tier.

Plexistor also allows you to create a tiered persistent storage layer for your in-memory applications that don’t have easy resilience at the application level.

It is interesting that there are a number of companies that make slower storage faster such as PernixData or Atlantis, we’ve come full circle when we’re needing to make faster storage slower!

Its very early days for Plexistor so I wonder whether they are looking to get acquired early to broaden the offering of someone else who needs more clever tiering or can stand alone. I do hope this isn’t just a technology fixer to make in-memory databases cheaper because memory is expensive or providing better persistent storage for applications when applications are getting better at managing their availability themselves and potentially manage their own tiering as well. Big Data applications cost big money so enterprises do have money to spend for performance for the right solution. Is Big Data ripe for commoditisation though (argument for another day!)?

Looking forward to hearing more, storage is a hot industry at the moment.

Gestalt IT is paying for travel, accommodation and things to eat to attend Tech Field Day but isn’t paying a penny for me to write anything good or bad about anyone.

Categories: TFD11 Tags:

Tech Field Day 11 Preview: Netwrix

June 9th, 2016 1 comment

Tech Field Day 11 is happening in Boston, from 22-24 June and I’m super happy to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post: I’m heading to Tech Field Day 11 and DockerCon!

Netwrix

netwrix-logo-no-tagline@2xNetwrix is a new company to Tech Field Day but has been running for a few weeks short of 10 years, headquarted in Irvine California.

I must admit I hadn’t heard of Netwrix before but it is a company focused on auditing IT infrastructure and has an impressive 6000 customers, shame on me for not knowing about them.

Auditing

IT auditing can be seen as one of those necessary yet dull components that annoy IT staff yet done correctly I believe can add massive value. The problem with IT auditing is it is often reactive, the IT auditors come and sit with you for a week and come up with all sorts of requests for reports that take forever to compile, taking screen shots to prove file server permissions and writing PowerShell scripts to audit AD group memberships (I know, I’ve done plenty!). How hard is it to actually report on your compliance with the VMware hardening guide for example without actually doing a pentest. The problem is also as soon as the auditor leaves there’s often very little ongoing compliance and the auditing just becomes a once or twice a year chore. I personally don’t like the way auditing is often done in my experience but I absolutely believe in proactive auditing as a security tool.

DevOps & auditing?

In fact part of DevOps is auditing. If you think about it, a continuous deployment system built on a continuous integration pipeline is ensuring your deployments are 100% consistent and never deviate from what you intend. If a service fails, you don’t fix, you kill and redeploy. This is in effect enforcing compliance. Combine this with auditing and if your audit tool spots something has changed it can kill the service which respawns a new one and you are back in compliance. What is integration testing? Testing your code/infrastructure to ensure it does what you intend, again, testing compliance.

Other than DevOps, what companies really need is to be able to set up their compliance requirements and have something take care of everything. I want file server permissions or local server administrators to never change without someone knowing and secondly be able to simply and automatically report on this. Sure you can use GPOs or Puppet/Chef to enforce many things but actually reporting on everything is still hard, emailing off Puppet manifests to auditors or GPO exports is only part of the job, can you confirm the Puppet manifests or GPO settings are actually being applied?

Being proactive

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Tech Field Day 11 Preview: Comtrade

June 9th, 2016 No comments

Tech Field Day 11 is happening in Boston, from 22-24 June and I’m super happy to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post: I’m heading to Tech Field Day 11 and DockerCon!

Comtrade

Comtrade-logo-lgComtrade is a slightly different company for Tech Field Day in that it is a sort of IT conglomerate that does system integration and is also a large software development house for hire. The Slovenian headquarted company wrote Ryanair’s booking system, has written mobile banking apps and in the IT world has written management tools for IBM, HP, EMC and Cisco. It has been around since 1990 and has 1500 staff of which more than 1000 are software developers.

We’re going to be hearing from Comtrade Software who are currently specialising in building management packs for SCOM. They have recently released a management pack for Nutanix which I presume is what we’ll be hearing about. They also have packs for Big-IP, F5 and Oracle Siebel. You can commision Comtrade to write a custom SCOM management back for your solution if you need it.

Interestingly they had a fairly comprehensive set of management packs for Citrix (XenDesktop,XenApp,XenMobile,NetScaler) which they’ve just sold to Citrix which will be integrated into the Platinum versions of the products. Is this the plan, develop management packs and sell them off or are they going to continue to sell them directly?

Who loves SCOM?

Microsoft System Centre Operations Manager to give it its its full title is an enterprise monitoring product which has a management pack system whereby you can install packs for all your infrastructure, be it hardware, backup software, applications etc. and SCOM can report on all manor of things that go down. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really loved SCOM, although it has integrations to everything I just have always found it overly complicated and difficult to tame. I’m also not a huge fan of SCCM, the OS and software deployment part of Microsoft System Center, so SCOM doesn’t have to feel like the only misunderstood child. SCOM is often purchased as part of a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement so many companies do use it extensively.

Nutanix

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Categories: TFD11 Tags: , ,

Tech Field Day 11 Preview: CloudPhysics

June 9th, 2016 1 comment

Tech Field Day 11 is happening in Boston, from 22-24 June and I’m super happy to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post: I’m heading to Tech Field Day 11 and DockerCon!

CloudPhysics

CloudPhysics is somewhat of a darling of the visualisation ecosystem, founded by a number of ex-VMware brains. CloudPhysics has previously presented at Virtualisation Field Day 3, two years ago

It has a SaaS product for analysing on-premises VMware installations. This is hugely valuable, vSphere is powerful, can have fantastic performance but by nature of it touching compute, storage and networking can be difficult to see where performance or configuration issues are.
CloudPhysics sucks up all your vSphere config and performance data via a small virtual appliance and sends the data to the cloud and crunches it to give you visibility across your entire infrastructure so you can view reports, see config changes and cluster performance. You can also look ahead and use the product’s trending and predictive analysis. You can get going in 15 minutes and spend no money with the Free edition or upgrade to the Premium edition for more features which is a yearly subscription.

The user interface is all based on cards, each one is a mash of systems data and analytics. In the free Edition you can see things like inventory information, VM reservations and limits, snapshots and host resource commitment. If you start paying you get many more cards including datastore space, cluster health, unused VMs, orphaned VM files, I/O contention, a helpful knowledge based advisor to match KB articles to your infrastructure and also some cost comparison calculators for vCloud Air and Azure. As its a SaaS platform the cards are continually being updated and new ones appear fairly regularly. You can also create your own.

Being able to spot bad configurations and unauthorised changes is so useful and if you can correlate a performance change to a configuration change that can save hours of needless investigation.

Its strange to say but you really shouldn’t need any of this, I wish vCenter was able to give you all this information in an easily digestible format but it doesn’t so CloudPhysics is great. Who knows if VMware ever get to vCenter as a Service whether analytics like this is part of the future roadmap?

CloudPhysics has always had the VM analytics but has recently been fleshing out its host and cluster exploration capabilities so can better see the relation between VMs for noise neighbours for example, it will be interesting to hear what’s new.

Partner Edition

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Categories: TFD11 Tags: , , ,

Tech Field Day 11 Preview: Actifio

June 9th, 2016 1 comment

Tech Field Day 11 is happening in Boston, from 22-24 June and I’m super happy to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post: I’m heading to Tech Field Day 11 and DockerCon!

Actifio

Actifio is a data management company and has a product which I believe could be of great use to Enterprises yet perhaps counter intuitively is a tough sell.

Actfio presented at Tech Field Day Day 4 way back at the end of 2010.

Companies waste vast amounts of time and storage space making multiple copies of things. Backups, DR, email/call journalling for compliance, stores for legal discovery, refreshing UAT DBs from production data, analytics, etc. If there was a way to store a single copy that could be leveraged for multiple uses that would be very powerful. Of course you need backup and DR in multiple locations so you will never get to only a single copy but being able to manage the copies easily, simply and cheaply is of real interest to companies.

Data Virtualisation

Actifio has a concept called “Data Virtualisation”. The term isn’t immediately obvious but the analogy is to virtualise data the same way as infrastructure, create an access layer between the actual stored data and how it is referenced which means the underlying data can be cloned/migrated/backed-up/moved and the application can still see the data via the virtualisation layer.

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Categories: TFD11 Tags:

I’m heading to Tech Field Day 11 and DockerCon!

June 9th, 2016 No comments
TFD Logo Mosaic logo

Tech Field Day

Tech Field Day 11 is happening in Boston, from 22-24 June and I feel very honored to be asked to participate as a delegate.

This will be my third Tech Field Day event, I previously attended Virtualisation Field Day 4 and Virtualisation Field Day 6. I like the change back to the roots of naming it Tech Field Day as virtualisation is so ubiquitous it has lost its meaning and can in some circumstances be a limiting definition.

I’ll be joined by Alastair Cooke, Andreas LesslhumerArjan TimmermanDrew Conry-MurrayHoward MarksJoep PiscaerJon HildebrandMariusz KaczorekMark MayMatthew Leib and Raff Poltronieri

Great to also have three new faces to the Tech Field Day family, new thoughts and voices are always important and as Tech Field Day covers the whole IT spectrum we have storage and networking specialists in the mix with more generalists like myself.

The format is the same as other events, companies get a chance to present their products which is all streamed live for anyone to view, there’s no closed door policy, what we see is what you see. More importantly you can also join in publicly via the connectedness of social media on #TFD11 or privately via DM/email if you prefer to keep a low profile.

Here are some of my advanced thoughts on the companies presenting:

DockerCon

Equally exciting is on the way to Tech Field Day I’ll be flying via Seattle to be at DockerCon from 19-21 June.

Docker has had so much buzz surrounding it over such a short time its crazy not to get caught up in the excitement and where better to get immersed than at DockerCon itself.

Much has already been written about Docker but we’re only starting to scratch the surface of this new option in microservice delivery for simpler application deployment.

Windows

What is super interesting is that Microsoft is the main sponsor. Yes, a container packaging / management framework built for Linux is being brought into the Windows ecosystem. That is unbelievably powerful.

As workloads start to span clouds and we are able to take advantage of features from different clouds this is hugely important. Being able to first of all describe the config you want whether it is a docker container on Linux or an upcoming Windows Server 2016 native container using the same descriptive language is the operational simplicity we all want.

If you have code that works best on Linux, great, if you have code that works best on Windows, great, but now you can define and orchestrate the building and deployment of two completely different containers environments with the same tools. We’re only starting to see the possibilities and as we see the ecosystem mature there is a huge amount of innovation that will be realised.

I’ll be very interested to see first of all how Docker for Windows will work but also to see how Docker and largely containers are going to play out in the future.

What’s the future of containers and Docker?

  • Are they just a replacement for VMs?
  • How is the security isolation being advanced to further blur the lines between when you need a VM vs needing a container.
  • Is Ubuntu LXC the container hypervisor to rule them all
  • What do people think of the future of VMware and its Photon Platform?
  • Will the innovation for containers largely happen outside the actual container itself and Docker containers become more of an invisible component, great for the community but not so great for Docker itself as a company.
  • How does Mesosphere vs. Kubernetes vs. Docker Swarm play out?
  • How will the future serverless platforms run on invisible containers?
  • Are containers just the PDF of infrastructure?

Much to learn, very exciting.

Gestalt IT is paying for travel, accommodation and things to eat to attend Tech Field Day and DockerCon but isn’t paying a penny for me to write anything good or bad about anyone.

Categories: Docker, TFD11 Tags: , ,