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: http://opensource.dell.com/releases/Dell_Software/

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!


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'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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