Archive for the 'sun' Category

Unix migrations and game changers

More product talk, much closer to home for me are this weeks new Dell PowerEdge servers including the PowerEdge R910 which was specifically designed and configured for a market segment I’m fully aware of, RISC Server migration.

It’s well worth taking a look at this youtube video from the R910 h/w design team, for me this is something that I just think people don’t realise, just how much clever design goes into the Dell PowerEdge servers. I think this, better than anything else I’ve seen, embodies the difference between peoples perception of what Dell Server engineering does, and what we actually do. I can honestly say that even back to my IBM mainframe days, I’ve never seen a better designed, more easily accessible, configurable and thought out server.

In terms of configuration the R910 is specifically aimed at those who are rethinking proprietary UNIX deployments either on SUN SPARC or POWER AIX. Based on industry standards and the x86 architecture, the R910 is an ideal platform for RISC/UNIX migrations, large database deployments and server virtualization implementations. It’s a 4U rack server is available with a high-performance four-socket Intel Nehalem-EX processor, up to 64 DIMM slots for memory, redundant power supplies and a failsafe embedded hypervisor resulting in the performance, reliability and memory scalability needed to run mission critical applications. It also includes an option to have 10Gb ethernet right on the motherboard.

There are 3-other new servers this week, including the M910 Blade server, the R810 virtualization and consolidation server and the R815 virtualization, high-performance computing, email messaging, and database workloads server.

The PowerEdge R815 deserves it’s own “shout-out”, it comes with the same level of detail in h/w design as the R910, but is powered by the brand new 12-core AMD Opteron 6100 processors and has up to 32 DIMMs with up to 48 processor cores in a four-socket, 2U server.  As my friend and former IBM colleague, Nigel Dessau, now Chief Marketing Officer at AMD put it, the new AMD processors are “game changers

All this weeks new servers include the iDrac embedded management that our team works on, as well as the  Dell Lifecycle Controller. Lifecycle Controller provides IT administrators with a single console view of their entire IT infrastructure while performing a complete set of provisioning functions including system deployment, updates, hardware configuration and diagnostics.

For customer who are interested in migrating from proprietary UNIX environments we are also now offering a set of migration services to an open server platform and an open OS.

Visible personal branding and the big company

I’m keeping busy at Dell, currently working on designs for both our 12g and 13g servers. My current motto is less is more, I’m trying to see what I can cut out to simplify things, as well as what can be automated. In my blog catch-up this morning I came across this excellent post, The psychology of social media: Can a visible brand ruin your life?

No, it is not another warning about posting compromising pictures on facebook, or blogging about doing outside work while telling your boss you are off sick. It talks about some of the issues and values of creating your own “brand” through social media tools. Now, back when Nigel Dessau and I worked together at IBM UK in the mid-1990’s, Nigel was quick off the mark creating content for, and getting involved with IBM UK and IBM Europes first web sites. I had the chance to work with him on some of the content and low and behold, the first Cathcarts Corner was published almost 13-years ago. Over the years, it moved, grew and contracted, and now is just this blog.

One thing I learned though was indeed the value of the perosnal brand. When reading Jennifer Leggios’ blog posting a few things rang true. One, it is worth thinking through before you launch into “just blogging”. It’s not sufficient to work out what you want to talk about and how you say it, but who your audience are, how you will reach them, your style and much more. Secondly, at many IBM Acadamey of Technology annual meetings, and often at other events, we were told by the business executives how IBM wanted the company to be more recognised for its innovation, for its technical leadership, and yes, they promised action. However despite the multi-million dollar marketing campaigns, there are and have never been almost any household names of technical leaders at IBM, or for that matter any major publically qouted company like Oracle, HP in the tech business, but also in other traditional NYSE style big companies GE, General Motors etc. Have there ?

In the second section of her blog post, entitled Workplace Impact, Jennifer talks how the corporation handles the rising, and visible brand that is a key spokesperson. I also worked with one of the tech industries most visible brands, Simon Phipps of Sun, now Oracle. It will be interesting to see where his “brand” goes once things get sorted out at Oracle. While Simon and I worked together at IBM, I was the Linux/Open Source guy, Simon was the Java guy, but he has done a much better job of communicating, and putting the case for open source than I ever could, and in the process created a brand through his blog, twitter and other contributions. I can’t see he’d have had the same success at IBM.

The point that Jennifer makes is it’s how the company reacts that makes the difference. My IBM UK managers where always very supportive of my personal brand, they definately empowered me. However, at a corporate level, unlike Simons’ experience at Sun, it’s my view that most companies practise what Jennifer describes as “talking out both sides of their mouth”. That is they realise that an engineer or technician that creates a personal brand is both getting distracted from their “day” job through their activities, and secondly, is a risk to the company if their exposure gets them unwanted attraction from competitors, start-ups and analyst companies who might offer them a better deal in order to capture the value from their brand.

I’d never thought about it that way, but it certainly puts into perspective the legions of corporate Vice Presidents who march through the PR sausage machine and come out the other other side talking tech, only to disappear 18-months later when they move on to their next assignment and are replaced by the next [insert name here] VP. The only really famous technical person I can recall from IBM, from a public perspective is Gene Amdahl, and thats more legend than fact. Sure, I’ve known many others, but none outside their narrow specialist area and through personal contact rather than through their notoriety, promotion or brand. Can you name anyone ?

Jennifers article is a long, but worthwhile read on the subject of personal brands, and certianly made me reconsider some of my long held views.

Oracle gets big on Sun

Predicting the Future, The Oracle concept watches by Designer Andy Kurovets mixes time with Chinese philosophy

Predicting the Future, The Oracle concept watches by Designer Andy Kurovets mixes time with Chinese philosophy

Fascinating news. I didn’t see a single consultant, analyst, journalist predict this. WRT to the supposed IBM/SUN on/off deal, I guess the biggest part to work out is how this will effect Oracle products on IBM Power Systems servers.

Oracle was definately the most significant software product on Power systems, I assume if Oracle decides it wants to keep the SPARC hardware architecture alive, it’s going to have to start favouring SPARC over Power. If nothing else, one assumes the fees IBM pays Oracle for Power support/currency/testing etc. will likely go up. Fascinating indeed.

I guess that also puts Oracle into competition with Dell and HP too, not just becuase of their SUN x86 hardware, but also again for platform currency. I didn’t dial-in to the investor call this morning, but I wonder how many are already wondering what the chances are of Oracle spending a year to work out how to sell-off the parts of Sun it doesn’t want, like the hardware business, but keeping the bits it does want, like Java and the other key software assets and intellectual property. Fascinating indeed.

However, if this knoxnews.com picture is anything to go by, Oracle have some work to do on their Industrial design and human factors for their hardware.

Whither IBM, Sun and Sparc?

So the twitterati and blog space is alight with discussion that IBM is to buy Sun for $6.25 billion. The only way we’ll know if there is any truth to it is if it goes ahead, these rumors are never denied.

Everyone is of course focussed on the big questions which mostly are around hardware synergies(server, chips, storage) and Java. Since I don’t work at IBM I have no idea whats going on or if there is any truth to this. There some more interesting technical discussions to be had than those generally think they have an informed opinion.

IBM bought Transitive in 2008; Transitive has some innovative emulation software, called QuickTransit. It allows binaries created and compiled on one platform, to be run on another hardware platform without change or recompilation. There were some deficiencies, and you can read more into this in my terse summary blog post at the time of the acquisition announcement. Prior to acquisition QuickTransit supported a number of platforms including SPARC and PowerMac and had been licensed by a number of companies, including IBM.

I assume IBM is in the midst of their classic “blue rinse” process and this explains the almost complete elimination of the Transitive web site(1), and it’s nothing more sinister than they are getting ready to re-launch under the IBM branding umbrella of POwerVM or some such.

Now, one could speculate that by acquiring SUN, IBM would achieve three things that would enhance their PowerVM stratgey and build on their Transitive acquisition. First, they could reduce the platforms supported by QuickTransit and over time, not renegotiate their licensing agreements with 3rd parties. This would give IBM “leverage” in offering binary emulation for the architectures previsouly supported, on say, only the Power and Mainframe processor ranges.

Also, by further enhancing QuickTransit, and driving it into the IBM microcode/firmware layer, thus making it more reliable, providing higher performance by reducing duplicate instruction handling, they could effectively eliminate future SPARC based hardware utilising the UNIX based Power hardware, PowerVM virtualization. This would also have the effect taking this level of emulation mainstream and negating much of the transient(pun intended) nature typically associated with this sort of technology.

Finally, by acquiring SUN, IBM would eliminate any IP barriers that might occur due to the nature of the implementation of the SPARC instruction set.

That’s not to say that there are not any problems to overcome. First, as it currently stands the emulation tends to map calls from one OS into another, rather than operating at a pure architecture level. Pushing some of the emulation down into the firmware/microcode layer wouldn’t help emulation of CALL SOLARIS API with X, Y, even if it would emulate the machine architecture instructions that execute to do this. So, is IBM really committed to becoming a first class SOLARIS provider? I don’t see any proof of this since the earlier announcement. Solaris on Power is pretty non-existentThe alternative is that IBM is to use Transitive technology to map these calls into AIX, which is much more likely.

In economic downturns, big, cash rich companies are kings. Looking back over the last 150 years there are plenty of examples of big buying competitors and emerging from the downturn even more powerful. Ultimately I believe that the proprietary chip business is dead, it’s just a question of how long it takes for it to die and if regulators feel that by allowing mergers and acquisitions in this space is good or bad for the economy and the economic recovery.

So, there’s a thought. As I said, I don’t work at IBM.

(1) It is mildly ammusing to see that one of the few pages left extoles the virtues of the Transitive technology by one Mendel Rosenblum, formerly Chief Scientist and co-founder of VMWare.

It’s a performance double-up for Power!

That got your attention didn’t it?

We’ve announced another performance and benchmark record this week, IBM WebSphere Application Server benchmark involved more than 109,850 concurrent clients and produced 14,004.42 SPECjAppServer2004 JOPS@Standard (jAppServer Operations Per Second), which translates into more than 50 million business transactions over the course of the benchmark’s hour-long runtime. That’s a lot of clients, and a lot of transactions!

The performance run was completed on IBM POWER6 BladeCenter servers powered by two dual-core IBM® POWER6® 4.0 GHz processors and IBM DB2 Universal Database v9.5 on a System p p595 running AIX.

We ran the test over 52-processors, 2-cores per processor and with SMT on. The software config included 26 WAS instances. Now, the issue here isn’t performance, 26-instances isn’t so bad from a config and deployment perspective either. But wouldn’t it be better if you could bundle that all up into a couple of racks and use cloning, automatic deployment, recovery, scheduling etc. and on an even more consolidated, energy efficient platform.

Funnily enough, we are working on that. The IBM Press release mentions IMPACT 2008, that might be good timing, I won’t be there as I’m off to do the Machu Picchu thing at the start of April.

Prior to the new WebSphere+Power double-up, the 4Q2007 record was held by Oracle on HP-UX Integrity Server Blade Cluster, with 10,519.43 JOPS over 24 server instances on 22 2-core processors; Sun also submitted a SPARC T5120 SPECjAppServer2004 benchmark with Sun Java System Application Server 9.1 running 6-nodes, 18-server instances on 48-cores, 6-chips and only scored 8,439.36 JOPS.

You can read the full press release with links to SPEC and IMPACT 2008 here.

Update on Solaris and IBM Systems…

No, not Solaris on Power, but today my long time buddy and fellow IBM Distinguished Engineer, Jim Porell, is gushing about their demo of Solaris on System z(aka the mainframe). Still no word on middleware and application vendor support. Thats when it gets interesting until then it will be a another open source and development option.

Jims’ flow can be read here. My original comment and opinion on this, here.

A trapped animal is always dangerous

I initially wrote the following a version of this as a comment to John Meyers blog entry over on sun.com – Somewhere between starting the comment on his blog and finishing it, comments were closed and it didn’t get accepted.

A number of people over the past few weeks having been egging me on to respond to John’s blog entries comparing SUN and POWER offerings. It’s great being an evangelist, being the ultimate believer in a product, technology, cleaning equipment or life saving gadget, you can’t fail, the world is your oyster, your vision is world domination and your business allows you to do it, better still, they encourage you. I’m certainly not going to do a line by line analysis and deconstruction of his writings, it’s just unproductive. He has an opinion, and he is entitled to it.

Over the next few weeks though I will post some thoughts on the general assertions. Here though, is the response I originally wrote to this blog post.

John, it’s been fun reading your POWER and virtualization analysis, you are obviously passionate about your position and the technology at SUN. SUN have clearly done a good job at filling some gaps in their product portfolio over the past few years, some in response to competitive pressure from IBM and others, and some as industry leadership.

There is no doubt that SUN have done some things that have meant IBM has had to respond. However, what you seem to have glossed over, in direct comparison to POWER Systems, rather than IBM Virtualization in general, is the real need for some of the features, and their real usability, rather than just the technical implementation. Hey, but thats life through “rose-tinted spectacles”. Oh yes, this isn’t “hubris”, I didn’t create logical partitioning, but I did contribute to it as well as a number of other important virtualization technologies.

Matais, I assume you mean CTSS which was developed at MIT to run on an IBM 709 computer between 1959-1961.

One of the programmers on that project, Bob Creasey, went on to become the project lead for CP40 the first ever IBM Virtualization implementation. CTSS was really more of a time sharing system, rather than “virtualization.”

Gene Amdahl, then Chief Architect for the S/360 product line at IBM, visited MIT a number of times and had meetings with the Professor and the CTSS team with a view to making enhancements to the hardware architecture. It is reported that they didn’t see eye-to-eye over a number of things.

There is a written history and more of this than you’d ever want to know at: http://www.princeton.edu/~melinda/25paper.pdf

The concept of “domains” and logical partitions isn’t included in the above. It would not be correct though to state that Amdahl created LPARS. He actually lead a company that created a firmware/hardware implementation of multiple domains. IBM’s implementation of logical partitions differed significantly although used a similar basic premiss. Further discussion with revisions, corrections and updates probably belongs elsewhere, where it can be maintained, and not a reply to a blog post where it cannot.

There are number of companion documents that show the roll of other important users and customers which helped IBM improve its’ virtualization offerings.

Regards.

For the record I also wrote comments on the Solaris/Linux/AIX conspiracy theory 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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