Archive for the 'software' Category

Dell Software VP: lightweight app monitoring is, well, just too lightweight – CWDN

Good interview with Steve Rosenberg on our App monitoring strategy, approach.

Dell Software VP: lightweight app monitoring is, well, just too lightweight – CWDN.

BUILD Madison

Last week I had the opportunity to go to the Dell Software Group lab at Madison, Wisconsin. I’d been there briefly once before, and was impressed with the energy and community involvement, this trip was for their 3rd annual build-a-thon, managed and excellently compared by location manager Tom Willis. I was joined by Doug Wright, Doug manages our common engineering team, which includes some team members in Madison.

The event was a 24hr hack-a-thon, where the R&D staff submitted ideas in advance, formed teams and went at the problem in a fun, team, relaxed environment. Projects didn’t have to be specifically work based, and one team took the opportunity to build a tele-presence robot using lego(r) and an Android tablet.

I was really refreshing to see programmers going at challenges in only 24hrs, even in an environment where we do code releases for some products every 10-days, it reminded me of the CIP(continuous improvement programmes)  projects we used to run back in the mid-1980’s where we couldn’t get code out fast enough for the explosive PC application demand. It was idea, code, evaluate, cleanup, ship and then re-evaluate, code, “lather, rinse, repeat”.

The projects for build were evaluated awarded points based on their success criteria, except the Directors award which was chosen. Extra points were given if the solution used the Common User Interface UX framework, and automated testing, as well as being grouped around key Dell initiatives.

The two main winners, with lots of honorable mentions. The main winner was “Project Timber”, a distributed log aggregator. Although I’d already declared my hand over on the @dsgbuild twitter account, looking at the other projects, Doug and I decided on the CUI Builder as the Directors award. Overall it was great to be around, congrats to Tom for organizing, and especially to Jenna for keeping the food and snacks flowing and the midnight root beer shakes. Finally, a special mention for the video confession booth, great idea, and the edited video was either really funny, or I was really tired…

For Dell Software Group employees, you can find more details and pictures here, on commons.

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Growing software influence and Dell

A few things have happened in the last couple of months that show the growing influence and maturity of the software team at Dell, and it’s been on my backlog to write up as a blog post.

DMTF VP of Regional Chapters

Yinghua Qin, the Senior Software Manager in our Zuhai China laboratory has been accepted as the new VP of Regional Chapters at the DMTF. This is an outstanding opportunity for Yinghua, who leads the Foglight and a number of software engineering projects, as well as serves as the local liaison to Sun Yat-sen University(SYSU) school mobile engineering (SMIE). Yinghua reports to the Foglight lead architect Geoff Vona.

Dell actually has at various stages in the past been very proactive with the DMTF. Current board chair, Winston Bumpus, was formally a Dell employee; My ESG colleague Jon Haas has been a major contributor to a number of standards. I for one am looking forward to the increased cooperation that working in international standards can bring.

Open Source Project

The Dell Cloud Manager product development team have open sourced their blockade test tool. Blockade is a utility for testing network failures and partitions in distributed applications. Blockade uses Docker containers to run application processes and manages the network from the host system to create various failure scenarios.

It’s a small step, but congratulations to Tim Freeman and the team for navigating through the process to produce the first new open source development project from the Dell Software Group team.

Angular giveback

A number of our development teams are using Angular.js. Once again after an original approach in November by Sara Cowles from the Dell Cloud Manager team stepped forward and asked the right questions, after checking with other teams, I was happy to sign the Google CLA to fax back to google.

Yocto – Embedded Linux and Beyond

Congratulations also go to Mikey Brown from Dells’ Enterprise Systems Group(ESG). Mikey has picked up the mantle of a project I was a big supporter of, when I was in ESG, Yocto. After doing a great job getting a couple of our embedded Linux offering back on track using Yocto, and the build infrastructure around. Mickey has re-connected with the Yocto team.

Each of these on their own are small steps, but these plus a number of other things going on give me a good feeling things are heading in the right direction. I’ll get to go have another facsinating time hearing from students about how things look from their side of the technology field when I head over to Texas A&M University(Insert “GO AGGIES” here!) to address class 481 on 2/25.

Der Spiegel Article Regarding NSA TAO Organization

As I know from search engine referrals to my blog a lot of readers arrive here for searches on firmware, open source and security, I thought it worth adding a link to point to the official Dell Corporate response to the current concerns on the Der Spiegel report.

This mirrors and was my experience.

Response time monitoring for AJAX and Javascript

[Updated 10/31, 7:50pm central] John Newsom, VP of our APM (Application Performance Monitoring) team has had a great overview of the issues and challenges around Web 2.0 monitoring published in The DataCenter Journal. He discusses the three main issues

  • Inadequate code-level analysis
  • Incorrect page response times
  • Insufficient context

and the key ways you can address application monitoring, including 1. Capturing functional issues and establishing context; 2.Capturing and troubleshooting JavaScript errors; 3. Looking for detailed insight into page load times; and finally, 4. Isolating problems to individual page elements.

Overall its a great read and served as a great refresher for a couple of issues I’m currently looking at in one of my projects. CTR (Computer Technology Review) has a good fly-by of the Foglight APM. You can read it here. Foglight can help you monitor and manage you applications, middleware and systems.

Dell Software and open source

Dell Software Group has updated and moved it’s open source software repository to the corporate server. If you are looking for the open source software we are required by license to publish, or other software projects that we produce that are open source, the formal legal copy is here:

Job on new Dell Software Product

We are starting on a number of brand new products in Dell Software Group, yep, thats organic development rather than simply getting product via acquisition.

Here is an opportunity for someone with Liferay/Java skills, the Position is Senior Engineer. The job is based in Round Rock, come work with us!

Foglight for Virtualization

Among some of the products and enhancements we announced at last weeks VMware conference is the latest Foglight for Virtualization. Included in this announcement is the next version of the product that was formerly known as vKernal vOPS Standard.

Inside, it’s actually a suite of products that work together to streamline key virtualization, storage and cloud initiatives. The products are:

  • Foglight for Virtualization, Enterprise Edition 7.0
  • Foglight for Virtualization, Standard Edition 7.0
  • Foglight for Storage Management 3.0.

The solution suite tackles a number of key IT challenges, including detecting and eliminating inactive “zombie” virtual machines.

Foglight Enterprise has all the features needed to track, monitor and simplify operational complexity in increasingly virtual datacenters. The product suite is also tightly integrated with Microsoft Active Directory, and Microsoft Exchange.

My colleague and peer, John Maxwell has some great links to reviews and the formal product family community on Dell Commons. There is a good summary of the features on

If you are looking for an eval or simpler way to get into Foglight for Virtualization, you can try out the Free Edition. Virtualization Review picked Foglight for Virtualization, Free Edition, as the best free tool at the show, along with selecting Dell Desktop Virtualization Solutions (DVS) as best Desktop/VDI.

Interview: John Swainson, president of Dell Software

Cliff Saran over at Computer Weekly has a brief but useful interview with Dell Software Chief, John Swainson. I know a few of our new team have been asking questions about joining, supporting and working with open source communities, especially the  Eclipse open source project. You can read it here.

Dell Software Analyst and Strategy Update

I know from conversations while cycling and running with friends and industry contacts here in Austin people want to know what is going on here at Dell, and especially in Dell Software Group. Last week a few key executives and senior colleagues held the 2013 Dell Annual Industry Analyst Conference. I didn’t attend, put there are a great set of short videos and pictures here, on Flickr, which reflect much of the detail covered.

When Patents Attack, Part Deux

I’m superpumped and have my headphones in, in my cube in the Dell “mau5hau5”. This weekends “This American Life” has returned to the topics of patents, especially software patents. Their June 2011 original episode was a classic expose of the patent system, many of the seemingly ridiculous conundrums that it involves, and why the patent system still embodies the classic American wild west way of making money, it’s a halfway house between a shakedown and a goldrush.

Interestingly patents have been at the front of my mind recently. A couple of weeks ago I attended the annual Dell patent awards dinner. Michael Dell was in attendance along with many of the Dell senior technical staff and executives, including my current and prior boss, legal and the Dell Inventor of the Year. All great stuff. I have no patents. This year I’ve declined to be named on two patents. One, which uses NFC, was soley my idea, I pushed to get it considered, I did the initial design, the software and app design. Yet, two or three people who were luke warm to the idea, are being named on the patent. They’ve actually been working on the actual design implementation.

This is good stuff. Morally and intellectually I’ve been against patents, especially software patents since they came into being. Between 1979-1987 I learned my craft, most of my skills from reading IBM source code. During that time, IBM for various reasons, many misguided, some legal, slowly withdrew source code. These days few would ever consider being able to read the entire original source code for their products, while others, in the Linux community but increasing the wbe and database and applications, wouldn’t consider running or using a product that didn’t have source code.

And so it was, throughout my career at IBM I declined numerous(approx. 15) to be named on a patent. It cost me financially through lack of awards, but not in promotion and pay increases. However, mostly through the relationship I had with IBM Senior Vice President, Nick Donofrio, I learned the value to the company of patents and why it was essential. The same has been true here at Dell(approx 6.). So while the system exists, companies at least have to play the game.

When a widely popular, and broadly heard program such as This American Life gets involved, you know the end is coming. Grab your headphones and listen along to “When Patents Attack Part II”.

Welcome to Enstratius

This morning Dell announced the acquisition of Enstratius, formally known as enStratus.

Enstratius complements the capability Dell recently acquired from Gale Technologies, now Active System Manager (ASM), by providing enhanced multi-cloud management and application configuration capabilities and integrates converged offerings with cloud systems management. Additionally, Enstratius has been in partnership with Dell since April 2012 in Dell’s Emerging Solutions Ecosystem Partner Program, and is offered as a component of the Dell OpenStack-Powered Cloud Solution.

Enstratius’ solutions are “cloud agnostic” so our customers can choose any combination of public and private cloud providers, including Dell and non-Dell clouds. The Enstratius technology can be deployed on-premises or consumed as a subscription service that enables full control from within a customer’s data center—giving our customers the flexibility to use the delivery method that best fits their business needs.

Michael Cote has some useful commentary and links over on his Drunk and Retired blog.

Dell software growth

We have a lot of things going on now, with the new Dell Software group emerging rapidly from the acquisitions we’ve made over the past few years.

I just saw a tweet this tweet

During my tour of Dell Software Group R&D centers last year, one I was really impressed with was the Madison , WI center. Vibrant, community engaged, and doing interesting projects. This is one vacancy, there many available across the portfolio, you can search starting at the page in the tweet. Feel free to get in touch if you are interested in any of them, leave a comment here, or contact me via mark underscore cathcart at dell dot com.

Dell Software – Accelerating Results

John Swainson, Dell Software GroupToday was a major day for Dell Software group. Out in San Francisco many of our team and some great customers, were talking about real Dell Software products. Why was this major?

Dell Software BYOD RealityBecause it wasn’t about strategy, it wasn’t about an acquisition, it was about real problems and Dell Software products that customers are using to address those problems. There were some great customer speakers, as well as keynotes and breakout panels. The whole thing was streamed live via livestream, recordings are already up and available.

InfographicBig up also to the marketing team, I must admit Dell puts together some great infographics and this one was one of the best.

[Update: A couple of emails came in. Here is a useful written summary page with links in a Press Release.]

Dell Software and Big Data

The Quest Software R&D integration is moving apace, 25-days into the acquisition and since announcement I’ve now managed to visit 14 R&D locations. I’ve been impressed by the people, many of the existing products, especially their bold move to support customers by getting a set of Office365 and Azure cloud based solutions out early to help customers migrate.

One of the more exciting products and announcements coming from the Quest(now part of Dell) team are the recent cloud data, business intelligence announcements.

CNBC has a good summary of the expansion of our big data solutions, new Hadoop-centric software capabilities for business analytics, which include application development, data replication, and data analysis features.

For me, just five more R&D location visits to go, Berlin, Dresden, Israel, then Poole and Horton in the UK. Then I can maybe catch-up on a huge backlog of blogposts I want to write, in the meantime  , go bigdata!

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 ( 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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