Blog is moving

We are merging the blog with our new website, so in future all new posts will be going to millennia.it/blog.

At some point this site will close down (probably when I need to make my next subscription payment!)

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Charlie: Challenging free speech

The events in Paris could not go without comment, and I think this blog entry sums it up nicely.

Climate Etc.

by Judith Curry

In response to the tragic shootings at the headquarters of satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, there have been a number of provocative essays on freedom of speech.

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POODLE attack takes bytes out of your encrypted data – here’s what to do

Another SSL hack follows Heartbleed to keep our systems management people awake at night.

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The Catch-22 of Energy Storage

Modern society needs copius amounts of energy to survive. Renewables as they stand cannot replace what we have today, and this excellent article explains why. A must read in the argument over the way forward for future energy production, something to which the IT industry is inextricably linked.

Brave New Climate

Pick up a research paper on battery technology, fuel cells, energy storage technologies or any of the advanced materials science used in these fields, and you will likely find somewhere in the introductory paragraphs a throwaway line about its application to the storage of renewable energy.  Energy storage makes sense for enabling a transition away from fossil fuels to more intermittent sources like wind and solar, and the storage problem presents a meaningful challenge for chemists and materials scientists… Or does it?


Guest Post by John Morgan. John is Chief Scientist at a Sydney startup developing smart grid and grid scale energy storage technologies.  He is Adjunct Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at RMIT, holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry, and is an experienced industrial R&D leader.  You can follow John on twitter at @JohnDPMorgan First published in Chemistry in Australia .

Several recent analyses of the…

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To Appliance or not to Appliance? Confusion reigns in the software defined datacentre

Everybody seems to think they know the answer, but sometimes I wonder if they even understand the question.

Hot on the heels of the launch of VMware’s EVO:RAIL, and somewhat more under the radar, Maxta have announced Maxdeploy, in which they seek hardware partners for their software only hyperconvergence solution.

Maxta CEO Yoram Novick has been quoted as saying “It’s very clear that customers don’t want to buy storage software and be their own integrators”.

Well, yes, the ones you talked to maybe, but there is no one size fits all solution in this space, and so the answer ain’t as easy as cosying up to SuperMicro and thinking all is well.

From my experience an appliance pre-configured and loaded with hyperconvergence goodness is a really quick way to get up and running – principally because I just don’t have the time to play system integrator and work out all the permutations of chassis, motherboard, CPU, RAM, storage, NICs, BIOS, firmware, etc., etc. that I need to develop a stable system.

In this way I can see Maxta’s point, and perhaps for their target market this works out, but there are organisations out there that think very differently.

They are the large organisations that carry such deep discounts on commodity hardware that they laugh in the face of the prices put forward when these commodity bits and pieces are converted into appliances. For them it is all about the software, how it works, how it performs, how it’s supported, how it gives them ROI.

They can pull in an order for any configuration of commodity server to run it on at the stroke of a pen, but they don’t own the IP of the software that ties it all together, and they often as not would like the ability to choose their hypervisor as well, by the way.

So while you watch some hyperconvergence solutions binding you to potentially inflexible hardware platforms, such as the 4 node minimum scale block of EVO:RAIL, don’t lose sight of those that might be going the other way.

The software defined datacentre will always need hardware, but nobody said it HAD to be exactly a certain type of hardware.

Don’t save all your excitement for the appliance, save it for the software; because if that doesn’t deliver then neither will your infrastructure solution.

 

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Nutanix – the Energizer Bunny of IT Infrastructure

energizers

“Software Defined” has become the epithet of the Nutanix solution, but you will always need hardware and hardware will always fail.

Recently we installed a relatively new NX-3460 for a Proof of Concept (POC) with all four nodes showing as up and running in the Prism management with no alerts. However, the storage total looked a little light, so on investigating the hardware section of the management interface we noticed 3 HDDs were missing from node A of the appliance. Not failed, just not there!

Reseating made no difference and there were no failed lights on the disks. Swapping disks into other bays showed that the disks themselves were not at fault. It’s important to note that this wasn’t a case of an in use storage system losing disks, which would have thrown errors, but as no storage pool was defined initially these just didn’t come online at all on setup and so didn’t show in the resultant storage pool when created – hence the low total readings that alerted us to this issue.

The SATA connecter was assumed to be the problem so a swap out node was arranged. When the replacement node arrived, the SATA DOM from which the node boots was moved to the replacement and the node replaced and booted. During this time the cluster on the other 3 nodes continued in ignorance with just a few alerts complaining of the node A’s disappearance.

This did not solve the problem – the three disks stubbornly refused to be seen. It was decided, therefore, that a total chassis replacement (as this carried the passive mid-plane into which all the nodes hot plug) was the only option, so it was duly ordered for next day delivery.

That night both SSDs in node C went offline which took out the node itself as the metadata disks were lost. However, the Controller VM didn’t actually fail as it boots on the SATA DOM and neither did the ESXi host – also present on the SATA DOM. The cluster continued in an initially degraded but still fully functional state! Data held on node C had duplicate blocks created on the surviving nodes for data consistency.

So now this still working cluster had 5 disks in trouble – 3 HDD on one node and 2 SSD on another, but it didn’t even stop for breath. Once the automatic recovery of node C was complete, the cluster wasn’t even degraded and could actually have taken another hit (say if node A played up again).

The chassis was swapped out the next day by simple replacement, one at a time, of the nodes and disks. This was the only point (about 30 minutes) when the cluster was actually down! All disks were then confirmed visible again, and although the SSDs were more of an issue than just a case of coming back online and needed support intervention to resuscitate, eventually all four nodes and all disks were up and happy.

Conclusion: Nutanix software continued with a working cluster even during a few days of multiple disk failures and even a collapsed node. No data was lost at any point.

The total outage of 30 minutes was just when the entire chassis was being swapped out.

Nutanix software is totally prepared for the inevitable hardware failure and the Energizer Bunny just keeps on going and going…..

Energizer-Bunny

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Nutanix, Dell, VMware – it’s all go in a converged world

First of all an update to my blog from yesterday: I am very grateful for an almost immediate reach out from , CEO at Nutanix, and a subsequent 20 minute phone call to discuss the concerns I had raised. This only goes to show what a different breed Nutanix are as an organisation from anything I have come across before in that this kind of engagement is even possible, let alone natural; although I can’t help thinking that my ability to get this kind of visibility with a nine figure run rate company only has a limited life time – at least until I’ve developed my own million dollar run rate with Nutanix solutions.

Think I just heard an Amen from their SVP of Sales there 😉

In the interest of balance I’d like to direct readers to two pertinent blog entries, one from Dheeraj, and the other from Steve Kaplan, their head of channel. There are strong points in there based on experience, and while I’ll still be cautious until I see what develops it is time to move on and concentrate on the good as there is much work to do.

One of the points Dheeraj made, both to me and in the blog, was basically a refutation of my assumption they were moving to a software plus hardware HCL type model, which is interesting. All the more so because of this announcement the same day from VMware, in which the HCL model is obviously pushed forward very strongly.

I have made a strong presentation in the past about the pain points I have suffered building my own solutions, even with HCL stated parts, and although there are many many people out there that want to do just that, in the Enterprise space I work in many just want to get a working trouble free solution in and running and get on with their jobs. This is why NetApp and EMC, despite their price points, have so much of the storage market.

I am in no way invalidating the VSAN product, it will have high traction in the SME space I feel, but for me and for a lot of other busy people the appliance approach to converged, web-scale, IT infrastructure has a lot going for it, and sometimes that convenience is worth paying for.

I run an Infrastructure-as-a-Service solution, and in Nutanix I see an IaaS supplier – helping me move on and tackle the configuration of VMware / Hyper-V / Citrix, etc. without having to worry about whether I’ve bolted my infrastructure together properly, and when I want to scale I don’t need to do anything but decide how many nodes it will be by.

The are great things ahead in this IT development, and in the Dell deal I think Nutanix may have just fired their second stage rockets – destination Moon.

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