Archive for the 'SOI' Category

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.

Blades a go-go in Austin

We’ve been working on some interesting technology prototypes of our common software architecture. It forms the core of the “Maverick” virtualization solution, the orchestrator for the Dell Virtual Integrated System(VIS).[More on this in a follow-on post].

We have a far reaching outlook for the common software architecture including embedded systems. One thing I’ve been looking at is creating a top-of-rack switch, with an embedded management server. We demonstrated it to Michael Dell and the Executive Leadership Team on Monday to show them where we are with software.

The same stack and applications for the next generation Blade Chasis Management Controller (CMC). For VIS, we are building a set of “adjacency” services so that it can scale to thousands of physical servers. So it was with some interest when I saw this piece in the Austin American Statesman, our “local” paper. It covers the new $9 million supercomputer at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University of Texas, to be installed next year.

The newest “Lonestar” system will be built and deployed by the Texas Advanced Computing Center; it’s expected to be operational by February 2011 and will will include 1,888 M610 PowerEdge Blade servers from Dell Inc., each with two six-core Intel X5600 Westmere processors.

Our VP of Global higher education, John Mullen, was quoted as saying “The system will be built on open-system architecture, which means it can be expanded as needed, that’s a cost-effective switch from proprietary systems of the past.”

Another coincidence for me, the entrance to the J.J. Pickles campus is right opposite the entrance to my old IBM office on Braker Lance, proving once again that old adage, as one do closes, another opens.

More jobs news

We are making great progress on filling out the teams, and my 2nd pilot technology program started with a bang last week, building an embedded processor stack based on ServiceMix; my 3rd pilot, to test some key technologies like AMQP and Cassandra is taking shape. However, we need to backfill some of the work I’ve been doing, and for the consultants we’ve had on staff.

Amongst the vacancies we have open is “Senior SOA Architect – Enterprise Systems Management-1003LEFS“. Also a “Senior Software Engineer, Systems Management- 10069ZNS

A good place to get a list of Dell jobs in Round Rock is here on the cnn.com website. If you are interested in working with some of our recent acquisitions out on the west coast, including Scalent(Dell AIM) or Kace, check out this link.

Got ServiceMix?

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the news and job position listings at Dell you’ll have seen a number of positions open-up over the last 3-months for Java and Service Bus developers, not to mention our completed acquisition of Scalent. We are busy working on the first release of the Dell “soup to nuts” virtualization management, orchestration and deployment software, one of the core technologies of which is Apache ServiceMix.

One of the open positions we’ve got is for a Senior Software Engineer with solid ServiceMix skills from a programming perspective. This job listing is the position, the job description and skills will be updated over the next few days but if you’d like to join the team architecting, designing and programming Dell’s first real software product, that’s aiming at making the virtual data center easy to use, as well as open, capable and affordable to run, go ahead and apply now.

If you make it through the HR process, I’ll see you at the interview…

EMC World – standards?

Tucci and Maritz at EMC World 2009

Tucci and Maritz at EMC World 2009

I’ve been attending the annual EMC World conference in Orlando this week. A few early comments, there has been a massive 64,000ft shift to cloud computing in the messaging, but less so at ground level. There have been one or two technical sessions, but none on how to implement a cloud, or to put data in a cloud, or to manage data in a cloud. Maybe next year?

Yesterday in the keynote, Paul Maritz, President and CEO of VMware said that VMware is no longer in the business of individual hypervisors but in stitching together an entire infrastructure. In a single sentence laying out clearly where they are headed, if it wasn’t clear before. In his keynote this morning, Mark Lewis, President, Content Management and Archiving Division, was equally clear about the future of information virtualization, talking very specifically about federation and distributed data, with policy management. He compared that to a consolidated, centralized vision which he clearly said, hadn’t worked. I liked Lewis’s vision for EMC Documentum xCelerated Composition Platform (xCP) as a next generation information platform.

However, so far this week, and especially after this afternoons “Managing the Virtualized Data Center” BOF, where I had the first and last questions on standards, which didn’t get a decent discussion, there has been little real mention of standards or openness.

Generally, while vendors like to claim standards compliance and involvement, they don’t like them. Standards tend to slow down implementation historically. This hasn’t been the case with some of the newer technologies, but at least some level of openness is vital to allow fair competition. Competition almost always drives down end user costs.

Standards are of course not required if you can depend on a single vendor to implement everything you need, as you need it. However, as we’ve seen time and time again, that just doesn’t work, something gets left out, doesn’t get done, or gets a low priority from the implementing vendor, but it’s a high priority for you – stalemate.

I’ll give you an example: You are getting recoverable errors on a disk drive. Maybe it’s directly attached, maybe it’s part of a SAN or NAS. If you need to run multiple vendors server and/or storage/virtualization, who is going to standardize the error reporting, logging, alerting etc. ?

The vendors will give you one of a few canned answers. 1. It’s the hardware vendors job(ie. they pass the buck) 2. They’ll build agents that can monitor this for the most popular storage systems (ie. you are dependent on them, and they’ll do it for their own storage/disks first) 3. They’ll build a common interface through which they can consume the events(ie. you are dependent on the virtualization vendor AND the hardware vendor to cooperate) or 4. They are about managing across the infrastructure for servers, storage and network(ie. they are dodging the question).

There are literally hundreds of examples like this if you need anything except a dedicated, single vendor stack including hardware+virtualization. This seems to be where Cisco and Oracle are lining up. I don’t think this is a fruitful direction and can’t really see this as advantageous to customers or vendors. Notwithstanding cloud, Google, Amazon et al. where you don’t deal with hardware at all, but have a whole separate set of issues, and standards and openness are equally important.

In an early morning session today, Tom Maguire, Senior Director of Technology Architecture, Office of the CTO on EMC’s Service-Oriented Infrastructure Strategy: Providing Services, Policies, and Archictecture models. Tom talked about lose coupling, and defining stateful and REST interfaces that would allow EMC to build products that “snap” together and don’t require a services engagement to integrate them. He talked also talked about moving away from “everyone discovering what they need” to a common, federated fabric.

This is almost as powerful message as that of Lewis or Maritz, but will get little or no coverage. If EMC can deliver/execute on this, and do it in a de jure or de facto published standard way, this will indeed give them a powerful platform that companies like Dell can partner in, and bring innovation and competitive advantge for our customers.

Robin Bloor asks what is dynamic infrastructure

Over on his have mac will blog blog, Robin Bloor asks What Does IBM Mean By Dynamic Infrastructure?

Rather than burden his comments section with a long trail of corrections, based on my suppositions, I thought I’d post my answer here and correct it as appropriate.

Robin, You might want to google for IBM Dynamic Infrastructure for MY SAP. or similar, or go look at this redbook. There is also a useful overview PowerPoint from Gerd Breiter, one of the architects and development leads, here

I’d guess the architects/development team for IDI have been moved internally from Systems Group to Tivoli. IDI was an early implementation of on demand and was developed in Boeblingen. As initially envisaged, IDI was a Systems Group initive and the bulk of the early implementation done before on demand, and then carried over and modified as and when possible.

Of course, I’m sure now that this mission is over in Tivoli the thinking and delivery will have evolved. Obviously cloud computing has become as major focus area in the industry since then, and would have to be factored in.

Unless you know better 😉

Is SOA dead?

There has been a lot of fuss since the start of the new year around the theme “SOA is dead”. Much of this has been attributed to Anne Thomas Manes blog entry on the Burton Groups blog, here.

Infoworlds Paul Krill jumper on the bandwagon with a SOA obituary, qouting Annes work and say “SOA is dead but services will live on”. A quick fire response came on a number of fronts, like this one from Duane Nickull at Adobe, and then this from James Governor at Redmonk, where he charismatically claims, “everything is dead”.

First up, many times in my career, and James touches on a few of the key ones, since we were there together, or rather, I took advantage of his newness and thirst for knowledge as a junior reporter, to explain to him how mainframes worked, and what the software could be made to do. I knew from 10-years before I met James that evangelists and those with an agenda, would often claim something was “dead”. It came from the early 1980’s mainframe “wars” – yes, before there was a PC, we were having our own internal battles, this was dead, that was dead, etc.

What I learned from that experience, is that technical people form crowds. Just like the public hangings in the middle ages, they are all too quick to stand around and shout “hang-him”. These days it’s a bit more complex, first off there’s Slashdot, then we have the modern equivalent of speakers corner, aka blogs, where often those who shout loudest and most frequently, get heard more often. However, what most people want is not a one sided rant, but to understand the issues. Claiming anything is dead often gives the claimer the right not to understand the thing that is supposedly “dead” but to just give reasons why that must be so and move on to give advice on what you should do instead. It was similar debate last year that motivated me to document my “evangelsim” years on the about page on my blog.

The first time I heard SOA is dead, wasn’t Annes blog, it wasn’t even as John Willis, aka botchagalupe on twitter, claims in his cloud drop #38 him and Michael Cote of Redmonk last year. No sir, it was back in June 2007, when theregister.co.uk reprinted a Clive Longbottom, Head of Research at Quocirca, under the headline SOA – Dead or Alive?

Clive got closest to the real reasons of why SOA came about, in my opinion, and thus why SOA will prevail, despite rumours of its’ demise. It is not just services, from my perspective, it is about truly transactional services, which are often part of a workflow process.

Not that I’m about to claim that IBM invited SOA, or that my role in either the IBM SWG SOA initiative, or the IBM STG services initiative was anything other than as a team player rather than as a lead. However, I did spend much of 2003/4 working across both divisions, trying to explain the differences and similarities between the two, and why one needed the other, or at least its relationships. And then IBM marketed the heck out of SOA.

One of the things we wanted to do was to unite the different server types around a common messaging and event architecture. There was  almost no requirement for this to be syncronous and a lot of reasons for it to be services based. Many of us had just come from the evolution of object technology inside IBM and from working on making Java efficient within our servers. Thus, as services based approach seemed for many reasons the best one. 

However, when you looked at the types of messages and events that would be sent between systems, many of them could be cruicial to effective and efficient running of the infrastructure, they had in effect, transactional charateristics. That is, given Event-a could initiate actions A, then b, then c and finally d. While action-d could be started before action-c, it couldn’t be started until action-b was completed, and this was dependent on action-a. Importantally, none of these actions should be performed more than once for each instance of an event.

Think failure of a database or transactional server. Create new virtual server, boot os, start application/database server, rollback incomplete transactions, take over network etc. Or similar.

Around the same time, inside IBM, Beth Hutchison and others at IBM Hursley, along with smart people like Steve Graham, now at EMC, and Mandy Chessell also of IBM Hursley were trying to solve similar trascational type problems over http and using web services.

While the Server group folks headed down the Grid, Grid Services and ultimately Web Service Resource  Framework, inside IBM we came to the same conclusion, incompatible messages, incompatible systems, different architectures, legacy systems etc. need to interoperate and for that you need a framework and set of guidelines. Build this out from an infrastructure layer, to an application level; add in customer applications and that framework; and then scale it in any meaningful, that need more than a few programmers working concurrently on the same code, or on the same set of services, and what you needed was a services oriented architecture.

Now, I completely get the REST style of implementation and programming. There is no doubt that it could take over the world. From the perspective of those frantically building web mashups and cloud designs, already has. In none of the “SOA is dead” articles has anyone effectively discussed syncronous transactions, in fact apart from Clive Longbottoms piece, no real discussion was given to workflow, let alone the atomic transaction.

I’m not in denial here of what Amazon and Google are doing. Sure both do transactions, both were built from the ground-up around a services based architecture. Now, many of those who argue that “SOA is dead” are often those who want to move onto the emporers new clothes. However, as fast as applications are being moved to the cloud, many businesses are nowhere in sight moving or exploiting the cloud. To help them get there, they’ll need to know how to do it and for that they’ll need a roadmap, a framework and set of guidelines, and if it includes their legacy applications and systems, how they get there, For that, they’ll likely need more than a strategy, they’ll need a services “oriented” architecture.

So, I guess we’ve arrived at the end, the same conclusion that many others have come to. But for me it is always about context.

I have to run now, literally. My weekly long run is Sunday afternoon and my running buddy @mstoonces will show up any minute. Also, given I’m starting my new job, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to respond to your comments, but I welcome the discussion!

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.

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.

neat podcast or should that be Monkcast?

A couple of weeks back, I met with Cote, or more correctly, Michael Cote, Analyst from Redmonk, for lunch. I wanted to try out some acronyms with him, talk WSDM, OSGI, SOI, Platform Management, and generally have lunch.

Turns out that Cote was off a couple of days later to Microsofts Tech Ed conference in Orlando, along with my longtime buddy and Redmonk co-founder James Governor. So it was with some interest when Cote posted a twitter entry about the MonkCast #4: ‘URL-based computing’ closer to reality (and so too is the GPLv3) – I was interested in what Cote had heard about MS management efforts.

I had a conference call late in today and right after giving a presentation on SOA and IBM System p. I found my way to a visitors desk over at the IBM Briefing Center and while waiting for the call, clicked on the link for the “monkcast” and listended to the first few minutes. After the conference call I restarted the podcast and while it was playing, I closed the lid to my IBM Thinkpad and as hoped, it kept playing. I walked down the stairs, out the door and across the street and it kept playing. Once in the car, while it was still playing, I reached into my glove compartment and found the 3.5mm to 3.5mmlead and connected my laptop the the AUX port on the GM’s stereo. I listen to it all the way home.

Then it occured to me, was I online via Wireless all the way home? Unlikely. So I guess it must have been cached on my laptop. Either way pretty neatto. No clicking on links to download, no saving files and replaying.

Despite lots of good comments and observation from Cote and the other Redmonk co-founder, Stephen O’Grady, there wasn’t much on the topics I was interested in. Worth listening though.

Monkcast #4 is here.

Zelenka on Open Source ESBs

RedNun’s report on Open Source ESBs is published and it has some useful updates and additional information from her earlier web piece which elicited my “I’m a centrprise architect” response.

In her intro, Anne says “Lightweight open source enterprise service bus (ESB) implementations offer a low cost, scalable, and practical approach to enterprise application integration.” – I’m so with that, but as always with a spin on it. Actually an ESB would make the perfect vehicle(bus geddit?) for system infrastructure integration.

Still much to do on standards, implementations, h/w runtimes etc. but I still firmly believe this is the direction we should be going to implement genuinely interoperable hardware based components. Common messages formats, industry schema, common messaging protocols and one or more buses to intermediate for the components and manage pub/sub etc.. Dynamic, autonomic, vendor neutral hardware, we’ll get there.


My 2003-2004 book on “Virtualization and the on demand Business”, Chapter-3, spells this out a little more…


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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