Archive for the 'Systems Director' Category

IBM update on Power 7

For those interested, IBM has apparently revealed some details on the upcoming Power 7 processors. Gordon Haff an analyst has written two blog entries on aspects of the disclosure meeting. The first on the size, capacity, performance and the second, on the design, threading and cache etc. Nice to see Gordon picked up on x86 Transitive, no word on any new developments though.

I suspect that given the state of the industry now, the Power Systems folks are feeling pretty pleased with the decisions we made on the threading design and processor threading requirements almost over two years ago, no point in chasing rocks if you have virtualization. Best not rest on your laurels though guys. You’ve got some really significant software pricing issues to deal with, and it will be interesting to see if you took my advice on an intentional architecture for the Power server platform management.

In a interesting, karmic sort of way, I’m doing an “Avoiding Accidental Architecture” pitch here at Dell this afternoon, I’ll be using the current Power 6 state of affairs as a good, or rather bad example. Thanks as always to Tom Maguire of EMC, and Grady Booch at IBM for the architecture meme.

Dell Management Console and 11G Server Launch

I spent Friday afternoon in a wet Round Rock parking lot where we held the launch thank you party for the team that put together the 11th Generation of Dell servers and the associated management software. We don’t complain about rain in Austin, it feeds some of the best things about town, namely Barton Springs, Lake Travis, which feeds Town Lake where I run, and the lake at Pure Austin North where I swim, in perfect conditions, twice per week. The celebration was sponsored by our partner Broadcom.

The event was hosted by our executives, including Michael Dell, and they made some important observations on the process to design the servers, market acceptance and customer feedback. While I was waiting in the food line, one the other folks and I got talking, he said “I looked at your blog the other day and you didn’t write anything on the Dell Management Console”. And he’s right.

It’s a significant step forward for Dell customers and for Dell. The DMC is based on the modular Symantec Management Platform architecture and offers a comprehensive set of features at no additional cost. While I was in IBM Power Systems, one of the fights I had with them was over their console and management strategy. While I’m sure they had good reasons the way they did, what they did, their ongoing strategy couldn’t follow the same path of fragmented consoles for this, consoles for that, different interfaces, different terminology for the same things etc. I’m hopeful still that when they introduce their next generation of servers, they’ll have learned the lessons that Dell already has.

DMC replaces the existing Dell hardware management console, Dell OpenManage IT Assistant. DMC has a plug-in architecture that allows the console to be extended with additional function and to be used as a manager for other scenarios, devices etc. However, true to the Dell mission to simply IT, Reduce TCO and one way we are doing that is to included a significant amount of function in the base, rather than as chargeable plugins. Here’s a summary of the major functions and improvements over prior offerings:

  • Hardware – multiple choices on how to explore, report and understand hardware configs plus export as tables; many pre-configured reports asd well as the ability to create your own.

    Proactive heartbeat monitoring is also supported, based on a user defined schedule; event suscription is also supported for Dell servers and MIBs can be imported for non-Dell hardware.

    You can push config changes and agent, BIOS, driver and firmware patches to many servers simultaneously without scripting.

  • Security – you can group devices and servers by geographical, logical, organisztional or type, or create your own. These can then be managed using role based secuity. You can create your own roles, or import them from Microsoft Active Directory.
  • Software – Support for hypervisors such as VMware(r) ESXi as well as Microsoft and Citrix. Health monitoring, discovery of virtual machines, associate to physical host server etc. Also included is the normal OS monitoring of utilization for memory, processors, free space and I/O.
  • Networking – The console includes support for a broad range of devices, but also includes support for Fibre Channel switches.

Thats an outline of the support in the new Dell Management Console, powered by Altiris from Symantec. I went to look for a couple of white papers to include links for. One with a more detailed list of device support and a second with a more comprehensive strategy that showed the plug-in architecture and the other function available for DMC. I came across this great resource, the Dell POWER Solutions magazine(just a hint of irony).

Here is a link where you can download the entire magazine, as a 21Mb PDF file. Alternatively, here is a link for an index into the articles where you can review each article seperately.

Managing your career

No, not the verb, the noun.

One of my early posts in this blog was “A. Seven – Q. Ways to measure progress ?”, a response to an entry on Brian Peacocks internal blog. Thursday last week I had the pleasure of doing the pitch behind the post, to the world-wide IBM Assistant Technical Staff Member(ATSM) community. Although “corny“, one of the phrases that is a staple in the presentation is “Make sure change is something that happens for you, not to you”.

It stuck in my mind. When I got off a flight from the UK on Tuesday night, actually early Wednesday morning, I decided that I needed to live up to that mantra.

And so it was after some frantic last minute activities yesterday, I’m pleased to announce that today I signed form to become a full IBM US employee as of today. Nothing much else changes, I’m still leading the marketing requirements, scenarios and related work on Systems Management. I’m pulling together a number of important threads for the p7 based server, and I lead/own the Power Systems Appliance strategy work. But as of today I do that as a full IBM Corporation employee and will be resigning from IBM United Kingdom, and at least for the foreseable future, no more assignments. Colour me really excited.

Make sure change is something that happens for YOU, not to you.

[Update: I’ve uploaded the slides after a couple of requests, you can view them online or download from slideshare.net here. ]

BarCampESM in Austin

BarCampESMI just put my name on the attendees list for BarCampESM, it’s an excellent idea to get together in an informal attendee driven agenda. There is not date set yet for barcampESM so I really hope it will be when I can attend.

I have a lot to learn in this area, but hopefully will be able to make some useful contributions based on my background with the whole Grid services evolution and the work being done on the Server group management platform and interfaces.

[Update:] Here is a good description of Summer Camp for Systems Management, from William Hurley, one of the organizers/coordinators.

More on complexity, configurability

One of my first posts in this blog, was on the subject of complexity. James Governor of Redmonk weighed in today on complexity with a trackback post called “What SOA needs to learn from Ruby On Rails“.

I noted, that while our software, and often our systems were complex, that was because our customers are, not because we design them to be complex. Our customers run a vast array of machines, in widely different environments, supporting a broad range of applications. Of course, this is chicken and egg, and is a difficult tightrope for established solutions to walk. We could just remove most of the configuration options and in a generation or two the complexity would have gone, but what about the customers?

Forced into a straightjacket of “our way or the highway”, would you take the later?

It’s easy for the new kid, in this case Ruby on Rails to come out and offer little or no configuration options, side files etc. It doesn’t have to, it has never made a significant change it what or how it does things. The same isn’t true for the old-timers. Comparing SOA to Ruby, is like comparing a transport system to a footpath.

It is a subject important to me though. At the moment I’m carefully trying to marshal the merger of the function in the System p Hardware Management Console with that of IBM Systems Director and Director console. My desire is to make one simple management platform that acts both as the local platform director, managing configuration, hardware and service management etc. and at the same time providing a set of programmable, function services based interfaces to provide both remote access, and remote management.

So, I’m all for simplicity but it has to be thought through. We are doing this with the System p Configurations for SOA Entry Points. The original SOA Entry points were pure software plays divided into five categories, People, Process, Information, Connectivity, and Reuse. We are taking the entry points one step further and mapping the software onto System p removing another layer of complexity by showing how they work, how you can configure them and testing them as a total solution.

You can read the System p Configurations for SOA Entry Points overview here, via FTP

John Lennon once sang “It’s been too long since we took the time, No-one’s to blame, I know time flies so quickly” … “It’ll be just like starting over, starting over”.

IBM RedWiki on IBM Director

IBM Systems DirectorIBM Director and the IBM Systems Director play an important roll in the future of managing IBM Servers and especially IBM System p. I’ve been a long term fan of the IBM Redbooks, and have written three myself, and co-authored or been a contributor to five or six others.

So, it was with some delight that I learned today they Redbooks people are trying a new idea. They are going to build a wiki on IBM Director. It’s an excellent idea, and you’ve done any extensive work with IBM Director, or if you are an IBMer in ITS or S&D who wants to learn more about Director and use the opportunity to create some real value, perhaps you might take part in an ITSO Residency to kick start the wiki!


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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