Archive for the 'Virtualization' Category

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 virtualization.info

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.

VM Backup product comparison

Dell sponsored a VM backup comparison white paper. Those that remember my early 1990’s data protection work will remember the product shootouts I used to do at IBM, picking apart the features and rating the functions to make it clear which products were suitable for what.

If yours is like 52% of IT organizations, your IT stack isn’t 100% virtualized. This probably means you’re managing two backup solutions: one for virtual and another for physical. Virtual capabilities that were once cutting edge are becoming default, but how do you balance ease-of-use with staying ahead of the curve? We drew upon the best research to help you find the optimal solution for your organization.

This guide isn’t quite like those, but I had a read through earlier this morning and it’s worth reviewing if you have VM’s and want to understand how to backup and what products are out there. Yes, AppAssure is a Dell product. The paper is available without registration.

New Servers, New Software and more

Dell announced Monday our Dell PowerEdge 12th Generation Servers and always, the hardware garnered much of the interest, it’s tangible and you can see it, as in this picture of my boss and Dell VP/GM of Server Solutions, Forrest Norrod holding up our new 4-up M420 Blade server. However, along side the were a ton of announced and unannounced new features.

iDRAC7

The first worth a mention comes from our team, out-of-band management for updating the BIOS and firmware and managing hardware settings—independent of the OS or hypervisor throughout a server’s life cycle, and initial deployment of an OS for a physical server or a hypervisor for a virtual machine. That function is delivered by the Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller 7 with Lifecycle Controller (iDRAC7).

It is an all-in-one, out-of-band systems management option to remotely manage Dell PowerEdge servers. In iDRAC7, we have combined hardware enablement capabilities into a single, embedded controller that includes its own processor, power, and network connection and without OS agents, even when the OS or hypervisor isn’t booted. The iDRAC7 architects have worked with marketing to pull together a useful summary of the capabilities, it can be found here.

OpenManage Essentials

The next software initiative announced was the 1.0.1 release of OpenManage Essentials (OME). We listened to customers when it came to management consoles and while a lot of companies liked what we’d been doing and our partnership with Symantec for Dell Management Console, many of our smaller customers, and a few bigger ones wanted a simpler console for monitoring and that was quicker and easier to deploy. OME is it. There is a full OME wiki page here and development lead Rob Cox has summarised the 1.0.1 update here.

OpenManage Power Center

Not formally announced, but covered in slides and some presentations, because it’s linked to some of the advanced power management of our servers. The Fresh Air Initiative, Energy Smart design and the introduction of OpenManage Power Center in our 12th generation servers has the potential to change the way you power and manage the power distributions across servers, racks and more.

Dell Virtual Network Architecture

There is a new wikicovering the announcement of the Dell Virtual Network Architecture, which has at its’ foundation High-performance switching systems for campus and data centers; Virtualized Layer 4-7 services; Comprehensive automation & orchestration software; Open workload/hypervisor interfaces. Our VNA framework aims to extend our current networking and virtualization capabilities across branch, campus and data center environments with an open networking framework for efficient IT infrastructure and workload intelligence. Shane Schick over on IT World Canada has a good summary.

Oh yeah, there was hardware too… Tomothy Prickett Morgan has a useful summary over at vulture central and the Dell summary page is here.

vStart 200 announced – Pre-packaged private cloud

We’ve announced the details of our vStart 200 virtualization solution offering. As with the other vStart offerings, the vStart 200 is ready to run with servers, storage and networking, supports upto 200 virtual machines and includes Integrated management via the VMware vCenter with Dell’s management plug-in to display inventory; choice of hypervisors  and validated to run on both vSphere from VMware and Hyper-V from Microsoft®.

  • The formal Dell vStart 200 details are here.
  • David Chernicoff has a summary over on zdnet here.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Dell vStart 50 – Start simple… stay that way

Dell vstart 50One thing I’ve think I’ve been fairly consistent about is taking the complexity out of IT. Seems to me that one of the big wins that people are getting from using public cloud based apps, systems, is that they are easy to get started with. PaaS, Saas etc. offer the options of quick deployments, not just flexible utilization deployment and elastic resource consumption.

Since it will be a very long time before cloud is the de facto deployment environment, and especially while virtualization continues to gain significant traction across the spectrum of businesses, I was delighted to see the formal announcement of the Dell vStart 50 which is a significant effort to deliver that same simplicity of deployment into small and mid-sized businesses.

We’d previously announced the Dell vStart 100, and Dell vStart 200 but they were firmly aimed at larger businesses looking into what’s become known as private cloud, and a virtualization fast start. It is a classic example of what we use to describe as a server consolidation solutions, with the pre-validated, pre-wired vStart system, which can integrate nto your existing infrastructure.

Apart from the smaller physical, logical and virtualized size of the Dell vStart 50, it continues the simplification thread, delivering a package  that delivers both servers, storage and switch configs. The Dell vStart 50 will be sold in two versions – vStart 50m with support for Microsoft Hyper-V, and vStart 50v with support for VMware ESXi. The main dell.com web page for additional information is http://dell.com/vstart

VM Master Class

As is the way, the older you get the more entangled your life becomes. My ex-Wife, Wendy Cathcart, nee Foster, died of cancer recently, such a waste, a fantastic, vibrant woman and great Mother to our children. After the funeral the kids were saying how they’d hardly got any video of her. I had on my shelf, unwatched for probably 10-years or more a stack of VCR tapes. I’d meant to do something with them, but never got around to it.

I put the tapes into Expressions in video here in Austin, they were ever so helpful and were able to go from UK PAL format VCR tapes to DVD, to MPEG-4. Two of the tapes contained the summary videos from the 1992 and 1993, IBM VM Master Class conferences. And, here’s were the entanglement comes in. Wendy never much got involved in my work, we went on many business trips together, one of the most memorable was driving from North London to Cannes in the South of France. I had a number of presentations to give, and the first one was after lunch on Monday, the first day. I went to do registration and other related stuff Monday morning. I came back to the room to get the car keys and go and collect my overhead transparencies and handout copies from the car. Unfortunately for me, Wendy had set off in the car with a number of the other wives to go visit Nice, France and my slides and handouts were in the trunk/boot. D’oh.

Unlike this week where my twitter stream has been tweet bombed by #VMWorld, back in the 1980’s there were almost no VM conferences. IBM had held a couple of internal conferences, and the SHARE User group in the USA had a very active virtual machine group, there really wasn’t anything in Europe except 1-day user group meetings. My UK VM User Group, had been inspirational for me and I wanted to give something back and give other virtual machine systems programmers and administrators and chance to get together over an extended period, talk with each other, learn about the latest technologies and hear from some of the masters in the field.

And so it was that I worked through 1990 and 1991 with Paul Maceke to plan, and deliver the first ever VM Master Class. We held it at an IBM Education facility, La Hulpe, which was in a forest outside of Brussels, Belgium. As I recall, we had people met at the airport and bused them in in Sunday and the conference ran through Friday lunchtime, when we bused them back to the airport. Everything was done on site, meals, classes and hotel rooms. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s in was required for computer systems to be represented by something iconic, for VM it was the bear. You can read why and almost everything else about the history of VM here on Melinda Varians web page, heck you can even get kindle format version of the history.

So, when it came to the Master Class we needed a bear related logo. Thats where Wendy came in. She drew the “graduate bear”, for which Paul got not only included in the folders, but also metal pins, what a star. Come the 1993 VM Master Class, Wendy did the artwork for the VM Bear and it’s Client/Server Cousin sitting on top of the world and as I remember, this time Paul actually got real soft toy bears. Thanks for all the great memories Wendy, the videos on youtube also remind me of many great people from the community, who came you name? Please feel free to add with comments here to avoid the Youtube comment minefield.

I’ll start with Dick Newson, and John Hartman, couldn’t be two different people, both totally innovative, great software developers and designers.

Dell Tech Camp London wrap

Dell Tech Camp London

Talking, Talking, Listening

I’ve been meaning to just say “hi” and thanks to everyone who stopped by Dell Tech Camp last week.

The picture shows the Design center team which included a complete cross section of our design team across Enterprise and Consumer groups. Tom, Scott and myself were there from Enterprise. I must admit, Tom and Scott outclassed me as they were from the h/w design side of the team and bought “things” along for touch and feel. If I’m going to do this again next year, I need to think through how we show off some of our software. Having a play penof inanimate objects and mock-ups works great for hardware.

The event itself was actually 3x separate events. A Customer event, a Press/Analyst event, and on the last evening, a Team Dell event. The good news about being the software guy, no parts or demo’s to break down when it was all over. Over in the Virtualization zone, they had our delivered stuff covered, they had a pre-release version of vStart, our all in one rack based virtualization solution; Running on it was a virtualization stack from our partners, and DELL Advanced Infrastructure Manager(AIM), plus a number of other simulated software demos.

Each of the “events” were very different. For the customer events I got to talk to some great folks about what they are doing, where they are with virtualization, perhaps the most interesting was with the folks from a UK Government agency who didn’t use virtualization at all. We had a great discussion about how they could gain greater flexibility and optimization while not compromising on their important data analysis mission.

Now I remember how I dislike standing up all day

The Press/Analyst briefing was more formal, the Dell AR had grouped the attendees into interest groups, and they were cycled through every 45-mins. I had some great discussions with the guys from the451 Group and IDC as well as a number of others on our use of agile, some of the technology selection and challenges in working towards being more visible(as opposed to embedded) software company. We also talked about how we were approaching some of the complicated issues in the automation and orchestration of work to deploy and manage multiple hypervisors and physical servers and storage.

I had a frantic last day, up early and run in Regents Park, shower, pack, check-out and hoped on the London Underground over to Liverpool St station to meet and have coffee with James Governor of Redmonk aka Monkchips. James had been at Dell Tech Camp, we acknowledged each other across a briefing and left the catch-up for today. As always our discussions ricochet’d all over the place, but as always around our common interests, data center efficiency and complexity vs simplicity. Then it was back on the Underground, pick-up my case from the the hotel, Underground, Paddington Express and then the familiarity and comfort of the AA Flagship lounge and AA service back to Austin.

It was great meeting folks again, either to argue the pro’s and con’s of what we were doing, or to hear what they were doing. I’d forgotten though how hard work being a “booth babe” was, and how my lower back hates me for it.

One to follow?

Nepotism rocks, it makes the world go around. Ok, ok, maybe not. However, when one of your personal friends, that until a few years ago you never even knew worked in IT, starts writing a great, to the point blog, what’s a man to do except provide a link. Here it is, Jays “Technology Defenestration” blog.

Hey Jay, when you get a minute, do me a favor, read this paper of mine on virtualization from 2006 and try to put Oracles hard and soft partitioning in context. Cheers.

Dell Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter ordering online

Back when we announced this there wasn’t an easy link to order online. We’ve added some tags to the category index that now returns them as part of a standard uri. You can click on this link and go there directly. Note that the usual caveats apply to the prices, discounts, corporate licenses etc. all effect the actual price you pay…

We are working on the HLD for the 2nd release, I’d really like to hear back from anyone that uses or tries it. You can either post here, or email me direct, email address top right.

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.

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!

Flash, Flex, the real web experience and eating your own dog food

I watched with interest a few weeks back when Apple Steve Jobs launched into positioning Apple products, namely the iPad against other soon-to-be tablet PC’s. Now this isn’t a robust defense of the Dell Streak (5-inch) Internet phone/wifi device/tablet, it is commentary on what happened next.

A few days later, RIM CEO Jim Balsillie fired back at Jobs with a great media qoute about Apples “Distortion Field”. Saying amongst other things that the RIM 7-inch tablet aka Playbook, will get a good market share and that “we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real web experience”.

Blackberry Torch 6 Home screen

Blackberry Torch 6 Home screen

Which brings up an interesting point. I just got a brand new Blackberry Torch, which has Blackerrys latest 6.0 OS, a touch screen and some really nice software and service integration that combines RSS, Facebook and Twitter feeds together. The phone has also been pretty reliable in my first 3-weeks of use, I’ve only had to remove the battery once to force a reboot.

Every time I visit a web page that has flash, the webkit enabled browser reports “This graphic requires version 9 or higher of Adobe Flash Player.” and provides a helpful link to “Get the latest Flash Player”. Sadly, clicking on that link just gets the screen that has welcomed a million* iPhone users…

“Sorry Adobe Flasy Player is not available from adobe.com for your device’s operating system or browser”

And thats that. So, Mr Balsillie, where’s my real web experience on your flagship phone product?

Of course, this disappointment was made all the more ironic in that last week I got an email from Brian Gladden, Chief Financial Officer, Ron Garriques, President, Communication Solutions, and Robin Johnson, Chief Information Officer here at Dell announcing that they will be moving all Dell-issued Blackberry phone users over to Dell based devices like the Dell Streak Tablet and Dell Aero Smartphone over the next 2-years as Blackberry contracts expire.

Now thats great news as I’m a big believer in eating your own dogfood, something we didn’t do often enough at IBM. Getting IT Suppliers and manufacturers to use their own new products is a key move in my opinion. It’s one of the things that drove some great innovation into the early virtual machine operating systems at IBM. However, our internal IT team are under just as much pressure to modernize and adapt new technology, possibly more so than our customers. Adopting these Dell devices will give us some valuable experience in what our customers will have to go through.

For my part, Dell IT already have deployments of our Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) and getting good results. In the design and architecture for VIS, we’ve so far managed to avoid and eliminate any use of flex/flash technology in our User Interface design and requirements, and that is great at it means we have a greater freedom of action by being able to develop for a much wider range of devices, and still deliver a quality interface and user experience.

*OK, ok, millions and millions…

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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