Taking Stock of Linux – Maturation Continues

[Apologies to all who have just read this post with a sense of deja-vue. I saw a typo, corrected it and then republished the blog, and it reset the publication date. This post was originally published several months ago.]

Having been away from the Linux scene for a while, I recently took a look at a newer version of Linux, SUSE Enterprise Linux Version 11.3, which is representative of the latest feature sets from the Linux 3.0 et seq kernel available to the entre Linux community, including SUSE, Red Hat, Canonical and others. It is apparent, both from the details on SUSE 11.3 and from perusing the documentation on other distribution providers, that Linux has continued to mature nicely as both a foundation for large scale-out clouds as well as a strong contender for the kind of enterprise workloads that previously were only comfortable on either RISC/UNIX systems or large Microsoft Server systems. In effect, Linux has continued its maturation to the point where its feature set and scalability begin to look like a top-tier UNIX from only a couple of years ago.

Among the enterprise technology that caught my eye:

  • Scalability – The Linux kernel now scales to 4096 x86 CPUs and up to 16 TB of memory, well into high-end UNIX server territory, and will support the largest x86 servers currently shipping.
  • I/O – The Linux kernel now includes btrfs (a geeky contraction of “Better File System), an open source file system that promises much of the scalability and feature set of Oracle’s popular ZFS file system including checksums, CoW, snapshotting, advanced logical volume management including thin provisioning and others. The latest releases also include advanced features like geoclustering and remote data replication to support advanced HA topologies.
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Technology Jeopardy: Beat The Odds Of Project Failure With A Single Question

A version of this post originally appeared on Computerworld.

People are always asking me, “What can we do to help people do their very best work?”

Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question. But I really do wish someone who stewards workforce computing for his or her company would — and I'd be over the moon if it were someone who really wanted to know the answer.

Spend a million bucks on security? Sure! Two million on a sales force automation system to get better reports and more predictable forecasting? Of course! Another million or so on private cloud automation to speed up provisioning? Sign me up! But how much would you spend to understand how technology impacts the most powerful driving force in your company: the intrinsic motivation of your people? The what? Yes, exactly.

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From Intel Developer Forum – New Xeon E5 v3 Promises A Respite For Capacity Planners

I'm at IDF, a major geekfest for the people interested in the guts of today’s computing infrastructure, and will be immersing myself in the flow for a couple of days. Before going completely off the deep end, I wanted to call out the announcement of the new Xeon E5. While I’ve discussed it in more depth in an accompanying Quick Take just published on our main website, I wanted to add some additional comments on its implications for data center operations, particularly in the areas of capacity planning and long-term capital budgeting.

For many years, each successive iteration of Intel’s and partners’ roadmaps has been quietly delivering a major benefit that seldom gets top billing – additional capacity within the same power and physical footprint, and the resulting ability for users from small enterprises to mega-scale service providers, to defer additional data spending capital expense.

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WLAN Vendors Differentiate By Business Value And Market Focus, Not Technology

Forrester brought the wireless Forrester Wave™ back from the grave after an end-of-life announcement of it in 2007. Too many wireless innovations and changes in the vendor landscape have emerged not to dig it up and examine today’s solutions. The Forrester Wave: Wireless Local Area Network Solutions evaluated 10 wireless systems — Aerohive Solution, Aruba Mobility-Defined Networks, Cisco Aironet, Cisco Meraki, Fortinet Secure Wireless LAN, HP FlexNetwork WLAN, Meru Networks WLAN, Motorola Solutions WLAN,Ruckus Smart Wi-Fi products, and Xirrus Wireless— using 300 criteria asked in 58 questions . Besides the photo finish at the top, the wireless Forrester Wave reinforced what we were seeing and the reasons why the Forrester Wave needed to be resurrected:

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Apple's iWatch Will Impact Workforce Enablement And Customer Interactions

Tomorrow, Apple will reportedly unveil its wearable device, widely dubbed "iWatch" (though we don't yet know for certain what Apple will actually call the device). I'll be at the event in person along with a number of Forrester analysts. In advance of the event, my colleague James McQuivey and I have released two new reports -- one targeted at CMOs and one targeted at I&O professionals -- to preview what we think this release will mean. 

We've been thinking about the ramifications for several months, though we held the report until right before the event. I've been writing about wearables for well over a year, and back in February I authored a column for ComputerWorld in which I laid out what we would hope to see in the perfect smartwatch. Some of the elements of a perfect smartwatch I emphasized then were:

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Salesforce Wear Continues To Drive Wearable Innovations

Today Salesforce.com offered a formal update on its Salesforce Wear offering (which I wrote about at its release here). Salesforce Wear is a set of developer tools and reference applications that allows enterprises to create applications for an array of wearable devices and link them to Salesforce1, a cloud based platform that connects customers with apps and devices.

Salesforce’s entry into the wearables space has been both bold and well-timed. Salesforce Wear constitutes a first mover in the wearables platform space; while Android Wear offers a platform, it only reaches Android Wear based devices – unlike Salesforce Wear, which operates across a wide array of wearable devices. While it’s early to market, it’s not too early: Enterprises in a wide array of verticals are leveraging wearables worn by employees or by customers to redesign their processes and customer experiences, as I have written.

With today’s announcement, Salesforce:

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VMworld – Reflections on a Transformational Event

A group of us just published an analysis of VMworld (Breaking Down VMworld), and I thought I’d take this opportunity to add some additional color to the analysis. The report is an excellent synthesis of our analysis, the work of a talented team of collaborators with my two cents thrown in as well, but I wanted to emphasize a few additional impressions, primarily around storage, converged infrastructure, and the  overall tone of the show.

First, storage. If they ever need a new name for the show, they might consider “StorageWorld” – it seemed to me that just about every other booth on the show floor was about storage. Cloud storage, flash storage, hybrid storage, cheap storage, smart storage, object storage … you get the picture.[i] Reading about the hyper-growth of storage and the criticality of storage management to the overall operation of a virtualized environment does not drive the concept home in quite the same way as seeing 1000s of show attendees thronging the booths of the storage vendors, large and small, for days on end. Another leading indicator, IMHO, was the “edge of the show” booths, the cheaper booths on the edge of the floor, where smaller startups congregate, which was also well populated with new and small storage vendors – there is certainly no shortage of ambition and vision in the storage technology pipeline for the next few years.

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Extremes of x86 Servers Illustrate the Depth of the Ecosystem and the Diversity of Workloads

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about application-specific workloads and architectures (Optimize Scalalable Workload-Specific Infrastructure for Customer Experiences), and it got me to thinking about the extremes of the server spectrum – the very small and the very large as they apply to x86 servers. The range, and the variation in intended workloads is pretty spectacular as we diverge from the mean, which for the enterprise means a 2-socket Xeon server, usually in 1U or 2U form factors.

At the bottom, we find really tiny embedded servers, some with very non-traditional packaging. My favorite is probably the technology from Arnouse digital technology, a small boutique that produces computers primarily for military and industrial ruggedized environments.

Slightly bigger than a credit card, their BioDigital server is a rugged embedded server with up to 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB SSD and a very low power footprint. Based on an Atom-class CPU, thus is clearly not the choice for most workloads, but it is an exemplar of what happens when the workload is in a hostile environment and the computer maybe needs to be part of a man-carried or vehicle-mounted portable tactical or field system. While its creators are testing the waters for acceptance as a compute cluster with up to 4000 of them mounted in a standard rack, it’s likely that these will remain a niche product for applications requiring the intersection of small size, extreme ruggedness and complete x86 compatibility, which includes a wide range of applications from military to portable desktop modules.

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