Archive for the 'bluecloud' Category

Any to any fabric

I’ve spent the last few months working on IBMs’ plans for next generation data center fabric. It is a fascinating area, one ripe for innovation and some radical new thinking. When we were architecting on demand, and even before that, working on the Grid Toolbox, one of the interesting futures options was InfiniBand or IB.

What made IB interesting was that you could put logic in either end of the IB connection. Thus turning a standard IB connection into a custom switched connector by dropping your own code into the host channel adapter (HCA) or target channel adapter (TCA). Anyway, I’m getting off course. The point was that we could use an industry standard protocol and connection to do some funky platform specific things like specific cluster support, quality of service assertion, or security delegation without compromising the standard connection. This could be done between racks at the same speed and latency as between systems in the same rack. This could open up a whole new avenue of applications and would help to distribute work inside the enterprise, hence the Grid hookup. It never played out that way for many reasons.

Over in the Cisco Datacenter blog, Douglas Gourlay is considering changes to his “theory” on server disaggregation and network evolution – he theorises that over time everything will move to the network, including memory. Remember, the network is the computer?

He goes on to speculate that “The faster and more capable the network the more disaggregated the server becomes. The faster and more capable a network is the more the network consolidates other network types.” and wants time to sit down and “mull over if there is an end state”.

Well nope, there isn’t and end state. First off, the dynamics of server design and environmental considerations mean that larger and larger centralized computers will still be in vogue for a long time to come. Take for example iDataplex. It isn’t a single computer, but what is these days? In their own class are also the high end Power 6 595 Servers, again not really single servers but intended to multi-process, to virtualise etc. There is a definite trend for row scale computing, where additional capacity is dynamically enabled off a single set of infrastructure components and while you could argue these are distributed computers, just within the row, they are really composite computers.

As we start to see fabric settle down and become true fabrics, rather than either storage/data connections or network connections, new classes of use, new classes of aggregated systems will be designed. This is what really changes computing landscape, how they are used, not how they are built. The idea that you can construct a virtual computer from a network was first discussed by former IBM guru Irving Wladawsky-Berger. His Internet computer illustration was legend inside IBM and used and re-used in presentations throughout the late 1990s.

However, just like the client/server vision of the early ’90s, the distributed computing vision of the mid 90’s, and Irvings’ Internet computer of the late 1990s, plus all those those that came before and since, the real issue is how to use what you have, and what can be done better. That for me is the crux of the emerging world of 10Gb Ethernet, Converged Enhanced Ethernet, fibre channel over Ethernet et al. Don’t take existing systems and merely break them apart and network them, because you can.

As data center fabrics allow low latency, non-blocking, any to any and point to point communication, why force traffic through a massive switch and lift system to enable this to happen? Enabling storage to talk to tapes, for networks to access storage without going via a network switch or a server, enabling server to server, server to client, device to device surely has some powerful new uses. The live dynamic streaming and analysis of all sorts of data, without having to have it pass through a server. Appliances which dynamically vet, validate and operate on packets as they pass through from one point to another.

It’s this combination of powerful server computers, distributed network appliances, and secure fabric services that

Since Douglas ended his post with a qoute, I thought this apropo “And each day I learn just a little bit more, I don’t know why but I do know what for, If we’re all going somewhere let’s get there soon, Oh this song’s got no title just words and a tune”. – Bernie Taupin.

Cloud commentry

I posted my thoughts on some comments received, as well as a few emails I got offblog, as a response in this thread.

More on blue clouds

Thanks for the comments and emails on my recent posts on cloud computing wrt IBM, I’ll post some more useful discussion, feedback shortly but am bust traveling now. This flashed past my screen this morning though, net net, it is a press release announcing that our HiPods team is opening a cloud computing center in Dublin. Worth a brief read.

And so on Amazon and clouds

Here is the post I mentioned in yesterday’s Clouds and the governor post. I’ve deleted some duplicate comment but wanted to publish some of the things left over.

It was an unexpected pleasure to catch-up with Redmonk maestro and declarative liver(?) James Governor over Christmas, while back in the UK. It wasn’t a tale of Christmas past, but certainly good to see him at Dopplr mansions in East London. Sorry to Matt and the Dopplr guys for busting in on them in my xmas hat and not introducing myself.

James and I didn’t have much time together, I’d just got through handing in my IBM UK badge, and returning all three of their laptops, bidding fairwell to Larry, Colin and Paul, and wanted to head off to see my parents. We squeezed in a quick coffee and a chat, James was keen to discuss his theory on Linux distributions, I didn’t have any reason to really pitch for, or against this and just told him what I knew. We didn’t have time for much else, we did discuss erlang briefly both as a language, but also on explotation of multi-core, multi-threaded chips, and I’ll come back to that one day. What we didn’t get to discuss was Amazon, cloud computing and James on/off theory on IBM and Amazon.

There is no doubt in my mind that on demand computing, cloud, ensembles, call it what you will computing is happening and will continue apace. I’ve been convinced since circa ’98, and spent 6-weeks one summer in 1999 with now StorageTek/Sun VP, then IBM System z marketing guy, Nigel Dessau getting me in to see IBM Execs to discuss the role of utility computing. After that I did a stint in the early Grid days, and then on demand architecture and design.

So, whats this with Amazon? Yes, their EC2 and S2 offering are pretty neat; yes Google is doing some fascinating things building their own datacenters and machines, so is Microsoft and plenty of others. One day, is it likely that most computing will come over the wire, over the air, from the utility? Yes.

Thats not just a client statement, there is plenty of proof that is happening already, but a server or applications statement. Amazon API’s are really useful. I wish we had some application interfaces, and systems that worked the same way, or perhaps as James might have it, we had Amazons web services, perhaps without the business that goes behind it. Are we interested in Amazon, don’t know, I’m neither in corporate or IBM Software group business development.

It comes back to actionable items, buying, partnering or otherwise adopting Amazons web services, really wouldn’t move the ball forward for the bulk of our customers.

Sure, it would open up a whole new field of customers who are looking for innovative ways to get computing at lower cost, so are our existing customers. This would be of little use short term as there are few tools built around. I work at a company that helps customers. There are some things we are doing that are very interesting for the future, but what is more interesting is bridging from the current world and the challenges of doing that. Like every new technology, cloud computing will have to be eased into. We can’t suddenly expect customers to drop what they have and get up into the clouds and so that means integration.

Clouds and the governor

I’ve been meaning to respond to Monkchips speculation over IBM and Amazon from last year his follow-up why Amazon don’t need IBM. James and I met-up briefly before Christmas, the day I resigned from IBM UK but we ran out of time to discuss that. I wrote and posted a draft and never got around to finishing it, I was missing context. Then yesterday James published a blog entry entitled “15 Ways to Tell Its Not Cloud Computing”.

The straw that broke the camels back was today, on chinposin Friday, James was clearly hustling for a bite when he tweeted “amazed i didn’t get more play for cloud computing blog”.

Well here you go James. Your analysis and simple list of 15-reasons why it is not a cloud is entertaining, but it’s not analysis, it’s cheerleading.

I’m not going to trawl through the list and dissect it one by one, I’ll just go with the first entry and then revert to discussing the bigger issue. James says “If you peel back the label and its says “Grid” or “OGSA” underneath… its not a cloud.” – Why is that James? How do you advocate organizations build clouds?
Continue reading ‘Clouds and the governor’

The “L” Word

There’s an excellent analysis by Frank Dzubeck over on Network World today about the new Enterprise Data Center and that hoary old chestnut latency. I don’t know who briefed Frank, it wasn’t me, Jeff and I talked this afternoon and I asked, it wasn’t him, since the article covered also the z10 announcement, I have a good idea though ;-)

Frank covers ensembles, data center utilization and the some of the new data center fabric issues extremely well. He also makes the point, that I’d like folks to be clear about, that this isn’t the resurgance of the mainframe, or everthing back to a central server.

We’ve grown use to indefinite waits, or unbelievably fast response times from certain popular websites, but the emerging problem is around latency in the data center. How to deliver service levels and response times in an increasingly rich and complex systems environment. It’s OK to build a data center or server subsystem focussed around a single business model, something like Amazons EC2 or S3, or Googles search and query engines; it’s another to integrate a vast array of different vendors IT equipment bought at different times for different business applications and services and integrate them all together and orchestrate them as business services. While MapReduce may or may not be as good as, or better than a database, not everything is going to be run in this fashion.

Fibre channel over ethernet is a going to happen, 10Gb ethernet opens up some real options in terms of both integrating systems, and distributing services. It will be almost as fast to connect to another server as it is to talk between cores and processors within the same server. This disclosure from IBM Research today shows the way to the next generation of interconnected infrastructure, working at 300-Gbit/second, the bus goes optical making the integration of rich data systems video, VOIP, total encryption of data, secure key based secure infrastructure services, integrated with more traditional transactional systems a real possibility.

The opportunity isn’t to take the same old stuff and distribute it because the fabric is faster, it’s about better integrating systems, exploiting new ways of doing things. Introducing a common event infrastructure, being more intelligent about WAN and Application routing, having a publish/subscribe/consume model for the infrastructure and genuinely opening it up and simplifying it.

Of course, there a re lots of blanks to be filled in, but the new Enterprise Data Center is taking shape.

IBM’s new Enterprise Data Center vision

IBM announced today our new Enterprise Data Center vision. There are lots of links from the new ibm.com/datacenter web page which split out into their various constituencies Virtualization, Energy Efficiency, Security, Business resiliency and IT service delivery.

To net it out from my perspective though, there is a lot of good technology behind this, and an interesting direction summarized nicely starting on page-10 on the POV paper linked from the new data center page or here.

What it lays out are the three main stages of adoption for the new data center, simplified, shared and dynamic. The Clabby analytics paper, also linked from the new data center page or here, puts the three stages in a more consumable practical tabular format.

They are really not new, many of our customers will have discussed these with us many times before. In fact, there’s no coincidence that the new Enterprise Data Center vision was launched the same day as the new IBM Z10 mainframe. We started discussing and talking about these these when I worked for Enterprise Systems in 1999, and we formally laid the groundwork in the on demand strategy in 2003. In fact, I see the Clabby paper has used the on demand operating environment block architecture to illustrate the service patterns. Who’d have guessed.

Simplify: reduce costs for infrastructure, operations and management

Share: for rapid deployment of infrastructure, at any scale

Dynamic: respond to new business requests across the company and beyond

However, the new Enterprise Data Center isn’t based on a mainframe, Z10 or otherwise. It’s about a style of computing, how to build, migrate and exploit a modern data center. Power Systems has some unique functions in both the Share and Dynamic stages, like partition mobility, with lots more to come.

For some further insight into the new data center vision, take a look at the presentation linked off my On a Clear day post from December.

Appliances, Stacks and software virtual machines

A couple of things from the “Monkmaster” this morning peaked my interest and deserved a post rather than a comment. First up was James post on “your Sons IBM“. James discusses a recent theme of his around stackless stacks, and simplicity. Next-up came a tweet link on cohesiveFT and their elastic server on demand.

These are very timely, I’ve been working on a effort here in Power Systems for the past couple of months with my ATSM, Meghna Paruthi, on our appliance strategy. These are, as always with me, one layer lower than the stuff James blogs on, I deal with plumbing. It’s a theme and topic I’ll return to a few times in the coming weeks as I’m just about to wrap up the effort. We are currently looking for some Independent Software Vendors( ISVs) who already package their offerings in VMWare or Microsoft virtual appliance formats and either would like to do something similar for Power Systems, or alternatively have tried it and don’t think it would work for Power Systems.

Simple, easy to use software appliances which can be quickly and easily deployed into PowerVM Logical Partitions have a lot of promise. I’d like to have a market place of stackless, semi-or-total black box systems that can be deployed easily and quickly into a partition and use existing capacity or dynamic capacity upgrade on demand to get the equivalent of cloud computing within a Power System. Given we can already run circa 200-logical partitions on a single machine, and are planing something in the region of 4x that for the p7 based servers with PowerVM, we need to do something about the infrastructure for creating, packaging, servicing, updating and managing them.

We’ve currently got six-sorta-appliance projects in flight, one related to future datacenters, one with WebSphere XD, one with DB2, a couple around security and some ideas on entry level soft appliances.

So far it looks like OVF wrappers around the Network Installation Manager aka NIM, look like the way to go for AIX based appliances, with similar processes for i5/OS and Linux on Power appliances. However, there are a number of related issues about packaging, licensing and inter and intra appliance communication that I’m looking for some input on. So, if you are an ISV, or a startup, or even in independent contractor who is looking at how to package software for Power Systems, please feel free to post here, or email, I’d love to engage.

Finally on the same page

Linux another operating system slideThanks to James Governor at Redmonk or @monkchips on twitter, for the pointer. In this pretty direct interview, Linus Torvalds says something I got into trouble for about 7-years ago. Linus says “An OS should never have been something that people really care about… it should be completely invisible”.

I gave the keynote presentation at the OS/390 Expo and Performance Conference, I think in either 2000 or 2001, during the presentation I made exactly the same point, only about Linux. Yes, Linux was great, yes, we were going to do some pretty innovative things with it, but if in 5-years time we are still worrying about scalability, driver compatibility etc. then we’d missed the point, we shouldn’t really have to care about the OS.

Unfortunately in the audience was the IBM Account Executive for a large multi-national company, and the CTO from that company. Rather than come and ask questions afterwards, they took one point from a 75-minute presentation and complained about me to my then VP, Carol Stafford. Carol “invited” me into her office, I had to explain the remark, and context, Carol understood and took care of things.

So it’s with a wry smile I read the Torvalds article, and then sat up and wondered, do we still care about the OS, or has the stack become more important?

On a clear day, can you see a cloud?

It’s not very often these days I get to escape my bunker in IBM Austin. On December the 6th I was asked to speak at the NCOIC Conference and work group in St Petersburg, Florida.

The invitation came in a roundabout way, via Massimo Re Ferre from IBM Italy, and Bob Marcus at SRI. The agenda and speakers looked interesting, and so I decided to take the opportunity and go run some of the current thinking by an influential audience. Speaking right before me was Roger Smith, CTO of the US Army PEO STRI division, and he gave a fascinating talk on warefare simulation and training.

I decided to talk about the evolution of Grid, On Demand, SOA and the Blue Cloud implementation of a Service Oriented Infrastructure. We had a useful discussion on what could be done now, net answer, pretty much all of it. You can’t buy it as a product or solution, but you can build it from either IBM or open standards/source parts now.

What’s made the difference is the ability to build around a common, composite infrastructure for management. Previously we’d tried to build and deliver this everywhere, now it’s much more focussed on platform by platform based implementation. Get it right in one place, move it to another.

I’ve posted the slides on slideshare.net here and I’ve also put the PDF on wordpress for download, here.


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group. I was formerly Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell, and an IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.

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