NetApp joins the EVO:RAIL party and includes a FAS

NetApp announced yesterday that they are now part of the EVO:RAIL partner program. Although I have been part of the EVO:RAIL team it is not something I would have seen coming. But I can see why they decided to join and find their announcement interesting. I wasn’t planning on writing about it as Mike Laverick already did yesterday, but as I received 8 emails over night on this topic I figured I would share what is going to be included in this package.

NetApp has created a rapid deployment mechanism for theNetApp FAS unit that will be integrated with the  NetApp EVO:RAIL appliance. The FAS unit will connect into the same top of rack switch that the EVO:RAIL appliance will connect into. We have created a link and launch capability that NetApp can leverage from within the EVO:RAIL configuration engine to rapidly configure/integrate the FAS unit with the EVO:RAIL appliance. 

Yes, this does mean that that 2U hyper-converged appliance which includes vSphere, VSAN and LogInsight now also will include a FAS unit (FAS 2500 judging by NetApp’s website?) in NetApp’s case. Now this is not the first time I have seen vendors adding hardware to the VMware EVO:RAIL offering, but in most other cases physical switches were included. I think this is a very interesting play though, and am looking forward to see how these two products will be integrated. From a configuration perspective I can envision what this would look like, but from a management point of view that will be a bit more challenging and may take some more time. With cool features like Virtual Volumes coming out in the near future this could be a nice way of providing a customer multiple types of storage in a seamless way.

Startup Intro: Eco4Cloud

This week I had the pleasure to be briefed by Eco4Cloud on what it is they bring to the world of IT. First thing which stood out instantly that this startup is based out of Italy, yes indeed… Europe and not a Silicon Valley based startup… that is a nice change if you ask me! Not just from a geographical perspective are they different then most startups today, but also in terms of what solution they are building. Eco4Cloud is all about datacenter optimization and efficiency. What does this mean?

Most of you probably have heard of vSphere DRS and DPM, if you look at DPM from a conceptual perspective then you could say it is all about lowering cost by consolidating more virtual machines on fewer physical hosts and powering off the unneeded hosts. Eco4Cloud is targeting to do something similar, but doesn’t stop just there. Lets look at what they can do today.

Workload Consolidation is the name of the their core piece of technology (in my opinion). Workload Consolidation analyses your hosts and virtual machines and tries to increase consolidation to allow for hosts to be powered off without impacting the virtual machine SLAs. In other words, if your VM is using 1024MB and 2GHz it should have this available after the consolidation as well. (vMotion is used to move VMs around.) Now it does this in a smart way of course by ensuring that resources are properly balanced both from a CPU and Memory point of view. E4C has done many proof of concepts now and they have shown that they can for instance reduce power consumption between 30-60%, as you can imagine this is huge for larger datacenters. Of course it is not just the decrease of power consumption, but it is also reduction in carbon footprint etc.

Besides consolidation of your workload E4C also has a number of features that can help with optimizing your workloads itself. For instance Smart Ballooning which will preemptively, and in a smart way, claim unused memory from specific virtual machines so that other virtual machines can use the memory when needed. But more importantly, free up claimed resources which are not used anyway to avoid the scenario where you reach a state of (false) overcommitment.

Of course it is best to right size your virtual machines in the first place, but as we all know this is fairly difficult and especially with the ever growing demands of the application owners it is not going to get any easier. E4C can also help with that part, they can provide you the data needed to show VMs are oversized and help providing them the correct resources: Capacity Decision Support Manager. It doesn’t just allow you to analyze the current scenario, but also provides you the option to do “what if” scenarios. These “what if” scenarios are very useful in the case where you expect a growth. CDSM will be able to tell you how many hosts you will need to add, but can also help identifying which type of hosts.

Last but not least there is E4C Troubleshooter, a monitoring solution that will help identifying configuration problems for hosts and virtual machines. It can help you with identifying problems in different areas, but for now the focus seems to be SLA compliance, VM mobility and resource accessibility.

So who is doing this? E4C showed me a case study they have done with Telecom Italia, and out of the 500 hosts Telecom Italia had they were able to place 100 hosts in hibernation mode, leading to a 440MWh decrease (avg 20%). What I like about the solution by the way, as that you can run it in analysis mode without having it apply the recommendations. That way you can see first what the potential savings are.

So how does this thing work? Well it is fairly straight forward, as far as I understand. It is a simple appliance and installing it is no rocket science… Of course you will need to ask yourself how you would benefit from this solution, if you have 2 hosts then it probably will not make sense, but in large(r) environments I can definitely see how costs can be dramatically lowered leveraging their datacenter optimization solution.

** disclaimer: I was briefed by E4C, I have no direct experience with their products. E4C is actively looking for Enterprise customers who are willing to test out their solution in there data center. If you work for an Enterprise and are wondering if you can benefit from this, please leave a comment and I can get you in touch with them directly! **

Recommended viewing: VMUG Sessions

Last week I presented at a couple of VMUGs and at those VMUGs all whole bunch of sessions were recorded. I receive a lot of requests to speak at VMUGs and although I try to attend many of them, there is still quite a few I have to decline unfortunately. Whenever I visit a VMUG I try to attend various sessions just to get a better understanding of what it is our partners offer, how our customers use our products and what type of questions are raised. Below you can find a couple of the sessions (including my own) which I enjoyed and recommend watching. I understand that it is difficult to find a block of 5 hrs to watch these, but I would like to urge to do so as they will prepare you for what is coming in the future.

We are DevOps

devopsOver the last couple of months I have started running in to more and more customers who are wondering what that DevOps thing is they keep hearing about. They want to know if they need to start hiring DevOps engineers and which software they need to procure for DevOps. I more or less already alluded to what I think it really is or means in my blog post about The Phoenix Project, let me re-use a quote from the review that I wrote for that book:

After reading the book I am actually left wondering if DevOps is the right term, as it is more BizDevOps then anything else. All of IT enabling the development of business through operational efficiency / simplicity.

DevOps is not something you buy, it is not about specific tools you use, it is a state-of-mind … an operational model, a certain level of maturity. I would argue that it is just a new fancy way of describing IT maturity. At VMware we have had this professional services engagement called Operational Readiness where IT (Ops and Dev) and business owners would be interviewed to identify the shortcomings in terms of the IT offerings and agility, the outcome would a set of recommendations that would allow an organization to align better with the business demands. (This engagement has been around for at least 6 years now to my knowledge.)

Typically these types of engagements would revolve around people and process and focus less on the actual tools used. The theme of the recommendations generally was around breaking down the silos in IT (between the various teams in an IT department: dev / ops / security / networking / storage), and of course reviewing processes / procedures. It is strange how even today we still encounter the same types of problems we encountered years ago. You can deploy a new virtual machine in literally minutes, you can configure physical servers in about 10 minutes (when the installation is fully automated)… yet it takes 3 weeks to get a networking port configured, 2 weeks to get additional LUNs, 4 days to prepare that test/dev environment or even worse the standard change process from start to finish takes 6 weeks.

What is probably most striking is that we live in an ever changing world, the pace at which this happens is unbelievably fast and we happen to work in the industry which enables this… Yet, when you look at IT (in most cases) we forget to review our processes (or design) and do not challenge the way we are doing things today. We (no not you I know, but that guy sitting next to you) take what was described 5 years ago and blindly automate that. We use the processes we developed for the physical world in a virtualized world, and we apply the same security policies and regulations to a virtual machine as to a physical machine. In many cases, unfortunately, from a people perspective things are even far worse… no communication whatsoever between the silos besides through an ancient helpdesk ticketing tool probably, sadly enough.

In todays world, if you want to stay relevant, it is important that you can anticipate as fast as possible to the (ever changing) demands of your business / customers. IT has the power to enable this. This is what this so-called “Operational Readiness” was there for, identify the operational and organizational pain-points, solve them and break down those silos to cater for the business needs. In todays world the expected level of operational maturity is a couple of levels higher even, and that level is what people (to a certain extent) refer to when they talk about DevOps in my opinion.

So the question then remains, what can you do to ensure you stay relevant? Lets make it clear that DevOps is not something you buy, it is not a role in your organization, and it is not a specific product, it is an IT mindset… hence the title: we are DevOps. Joe Baguley’s keynote at the UK VMUG was recorded, and although he did not drop the word DevOps he does talk about staying relevant, what it is IT does (provide applications), how you can help your company to beat the competition and what your focus should be. (On top of that, he does look DevOps with his beard and t-shirt!) I highly recommend watching this thought provoking keynote. Make sure to sit down afterwards, do nothing for 30 to 60 minutes besides reflecting back on what you have done the last 12 months and then think about what it is you can do to improve business development, whether new or existing markets, for your company.

Sharing VMUG presentation “vSphere futures”

Last week I presented at the UK VMUG, Nordic VMUG and VMUG Belgium. My topic was vSphere futures… I figured I would share the deck publicly. The deck is based on this blog post and essentially is a collection of what has been revealed at last VMworld. Considering the number of announcements I am guessing that this deck is a nice summary of what is coming, feel free to use it / share it / comment etc.

Once again, I would like to thank the folks of the VMUG organizations throughout EMEA for inviting me, three great events last week with very passionate people. One thing I want to call out in particular that struck me last week: Erik from the VMUG in Belgium has created this charity program where he asks sponsors (and attendees) to contribute to charity. Last event he collected over 8000 euros which went to a local charity, it was the biggest donation that this particular charity received in a long time and you can imagine they were very thankful… all of this while keeping the event free for attendees, great work Erik! Thanks for giving back to the community in various ways.

See you next time.