Archive for the 'Maverick' Category

I need…

I had planned a long year end post that was around of all that happened in the past year, including some important updates on some of the software development that’s been going on here at Dell. Suffice to say the complexity of writing something that wouldn’t get me in trouble either for disclosing too much, or making it sound like finger pointing, which it wouldn’t have been, meant it never got written.

I had a great end of year Christmas trip back to the UK, the main reason for the trip was to get a new US Work visa, since my change of status, Permanent Residence aka Green card hadn’t been approved. After a few days in the West End dealing with that, I decamped to Islington and spent a few days out there including a great trip out to Stratford and the site of the 2012 Olympics. While in East London I caught this track a few times, called, I need – performed by Maverick Sabre who is now from Hackney, East London.

Maverick was of course one of our software project code names, the words made me laugh, “I need sunshine, I need Angels, I need something good and I need”. The irony won’t be lost. Enjoy.

The first Maverick Sabre album, Lonely are the brave, will be out Feb 6th, 2012.

Getting the ball moving

It’s getting interesting now as we start VIS 1.1 planning and design, while also working on the technology evaluations for VIS 2.0. At the same time seeing VIS 1.0 coming toward the end of it’s development sprints, with the final “tuxedo” UI replacing the “pyjama” UI, the simplicity and ease of use is looking really good.

So it was good to see this IDC White paper, sponsored by Dell, on  improving datacenter productivity. The IDC opinion section of the report aligns, unsurprisingly with the key areas we are working on, at lists the key capabilities. Mary Johnston Turner from IDC has also provided some useful background information.

Simplicity versus, well non-simplicity

I’ve had an interesting week, last Friday my corporate Blackberry Torch that was only 2-months old, was put in a ziploc bag with my name on it, and I was given a Dell Venue Pro phone with Windows Phone 7 in it’s place. I’ve written a detailed breakdown of what I liked and didn’t like. The phone itself is pretty rock solid, well designed, nice size, weight etc. and a great screen. Here is a video review which captures my views on the phone itself, a great piece of work from Dell.

What is interesting though is the Windows Phone software. Microsoft have obviously put a lot of time and effort into the User Interface and design experience. Although it features the usual finger touch actions we’ve come to expect, the UI itself, and the features it exposes have been carefully designed to make it simple to do simple things. There really are very few things you can change, alter, almost no settings, only very minimal menu choices etc.

What makes this interesting for me is this is exactly the approach we’ve taken with our UI. When trying to take 79-steps, involving 7x different products and simplify and automate it, it would be easy to make every step really complicated, and just reduce the number of steps. However, all that does is mean that there would be more chance of getting something wrong with each step; my experience with this type of design is that not only is the human operator more likely to make a mistake, but the number of options, configurations and choices drive up the complexity and testing costs become prohibitive, and eventually mistakes are made. Combinations not expected are not tested, tests are run in orthogonal configurations.

Back when the autonomic computing initiative was launched some 10-years ago at IBM, there seemed to be these two diametrically opposed desires. One desire was to simplify technology, the other was to make systems self managing. The problem with self managing is that it introduces an additional layer, in many cases, to automate and manage the existing complexity. To make this automation more flexible and to make it more adaptable, the automation was made more sophisticated and thus, more complex. The IBM Autonomic Computing website still exists and while I’m sure the research has moved on, as have the products, the mission and objectives are the same.

Our Virtual Integrated System work isn’t anywhere near as grandiose. Yet, in a small way it attempts to address whats at the core of IBMs’ Autonomic Computing, how to change the way we do things, how to be more efficient and effective with what we have. And that takes me back to Windows Phone 7. It’s great at what it does, but as a power user, it doesn’t do enough for me. I guess what I’m hoping at this point is that we’ll create a new category of system, it is neither simple, nor complex, it does what you want, the way you want it, but with flexibility. We’ll see.

Plug-in, turn off..

Plug-in, turn-off

Plug-in, turn-off

Work on the full VIS Unified automation and orchestration engine continues apace here in Round Rock, one of the first fruits on the Dev. teams efforts was announced this week, the Dell Management Plug-In for VMware vCenter.

In essence what it does is rather than require an additional console to manage, monitor hardware, it integrates the management for Dell PowerEdge servers directly into VMware vCenter so it can be access directly from there.

We’ll be leveraging this technology as a core component in VIS Unified, it’s got a solid delivery off a well thought through programming spec. and has already received numerous positive reviews. There is a good review here, along with some screen shots that will give you an idea of what the product does. Any questions, let me know.

What’s on your glass?

James Governor, @monkchips, makes some great points about UI design in his latest blog post. James discusses how Adobe is changing it’s toolchain to better support, endorse HTML5 and how open is a growth accelerator, not just a philosophical perspective. He get’s a useful plug in for the Dell Streak, and it as a piece of glass too 😉

I’ve alluded to it here before, we are heading in the same direction for both our PowerEdge 12g Lifecycle Controller and iDrac UI for one to one management of our servers; also for the simplified UI for the Virtual Integrated System, aka VIS. Flash/Flex/Silverlight had their time, they solved problems that at the time couldn’t be solved any other way. However, it was clear to me and I suspect to all those involved in the HTML5 standards efforts, that we were headed down a dead end of walled gardens“. What put this in perspective for me wasn’t James’ post, but one from fellow Redmonk, Cote, last year in which he discussed the web UI landscape.

Web UI Landscape by Cote of Redmonk

The details actually were not important, Cote ostentatiously discussing Apache Pivot, summarizes by saying “Closed source GUI frameworks have a tough time at it now-a-days, where-as open source ones by virtue of being free and open, potentially have an easier time to dig into the minds of Java developers.”

 

But really, it was the diagram that accompanied the article for me. It laid it the options as a flower, and as we know, flowers are grown in gardens, in this case, each was being cultivated in its’ own walled garden.

I cancelled the FLASH/WSMAN[1] proof of concept we’d built for the gen-next UI, and decided the right move was to adopt a more traditional MVC-like approach using open standards for our UI strategy.

We don’t have a commitment yet to deliver or exploit HTML5, but we’ve already adopted a REST style using HTTP for browser and HTML clients to interact with a number of our products, using Javascript and JSON and building towards having a foundation of re-useable UI artifacts. Off the back of this we’ve already seen some useful Android pilots.

Which takes us back to James post. He summarizes with “If the world of the API-driven web has taught us anything its that you can’t second guess User Interfaces. Someone else will always build one better. If you’re only allowing for deployment on one platform that cuts you off from innovation.” – Right on the money.

DISCLOSURE:
Redmonk are providing technology analysis for Dells Virtual Integrated System; James and I have professional contacts since 1996.

NOTES:
[1]WSMAN remains our key technology implementation for external partners and consoles to use to get information from the servers, and to send updates etc.

Senior Architect – Enterprise Systems Management and more

With things really rolling here at Dell on the software front we are still in the process of hiring,and are looking for some key people to fit into, or lead teams working on current and future software projects. At least currently these are based with our team here in Round Rock, TX. However, I’d like to hear if you’d be interested in joining our Dell west coast software labs in Sunnyvale and Palo Alto.

Here are a few of the current vacancies:

Senior SOA Architect – Enterprise Systems Management
Performance Engineer – SOA Infrastructure Management
Senior Java Developer – Systems Management
Senior Software Engineer – Systems Management-10069ZNS

Depending on how you count, there are over a 100 of us now working on the VIS and AIM products, with a whole lot more to come in 2011. Come join me and help make a fundamental change at Dell and be in on the beginning of something big!

Dell’s Virtual Integrated System

Open, Capable, Affordable - Dell VIS

Open, Capable, Affordable - Dell VIS

It’s always interesting travel, you learn so many new things. And so it was today, we arrived in Bangalore yesterday to bring two of the sprint teams in our “Maverick” design and teams up to speed.

In an overview of the “product” and it’s packaging, we briefly discussed naming. I was under the impression that we’d not started publicly discussing Dell’s Virtual Intergrated System (VIS), well I was wrong as one of the team pointed out.

Turns out a Dell.com web site already has overview descriptions of three of the core VIS offerings, VIS Integration Suite; VIS Delivery Center; and VIS Deploy infrastructure. You can read the descriptions here.

Essentially, Maverick is a services oriented infrastructure (SOI), built from modular services, pluggable components, transports and protocols that will allow us to build various product implementations and solutions from a common management architecture. It’s an exciting departure from traditional monolithic systems management products, or the typically un-integrated products which use different consoles, different terms for the same things, and to get the best use out of them require complex and often long services projects, or for you to change your business to match their management.


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society (bsc.org) I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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