An Early Look at Windows Server 8 – Can You Say Cloud?

Richard Fichera

Well, maybe everybody is saying “cloud” these days, but my first impression of Microsoft Windows Server 8 (not the final name) is that Microsoft has been listening very closely to what customers want from an OS that can support both public and private enterprise cloud implementations. And most importantly, the things that they have built into WS8 for “clouds” also look like they make life easier for plain old enterprise IT.

Microsoft appears to have focused its efforts on several key themes, all of which benefit legacy IT architectures as well as emerging clouds:

  • Management, migration and recovery of VMs in a multi-system domain – Major improvements in Hyper-V and management capabilities mean that I&O groups can easily build multi-system clusters of WS8 servers, and easily migrate VMs across system boundaries. Muplitle systems can be clustered with Fibre Channel, making it easier to implement high-performance clusters.
  • Multi-tenancy – A host of features, primarily around management and role-based delegation that make it easier and more secure to implement multi-tenant VM clouds.
  • Recovery and resiliency – Microsoft claims that they can failover VMs from one machine to another in 25 seconds, a very impressive number indeed. While vendor performance claims are always like EPA mileage – you are guaranteed never to exceed this number – this is an impressive claim and a major capability, with major implications for HA architecture in any data center.
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Hyper-V Matures As An Enterprise Platform

Richard Fichera

A project I’m working on for an approximately half-billion dollar company in the health care industry has forced me to revisit Hyper-V versus VMware after a long period of inattention on my part, and it has become apparent that Hyper-V has made significant progress as a viable platform for at least medium enterprises. My key takeaways include:

  • Hyper-V has come a long way and is now a viable competitor in Microsoft environments up through mid-size enterprise as long as their DR/HA requirements are not too stringent and as long as they are willing to use Microsoft’s Systems Center, Server Management Suite and Performance Resource Optimization as well as other vendor specific pieces of software as part of their management environment.
  • Hyper-V still has limitations in VM memory size, total physical system memory size and number of cores per VM compared to VMware, and VMware boasts more flexible memory management and I/O options, but these differences are less significant that they were two years ago.
  • For large enterprises and for complete integrated management, particularly storage, HA, DR and automated workload migration, and for what appears to be close to 100% coverage of workload sizes, VMware is still king of the barnyard. VMware also boasts an incredibly rich partner ecosystem.
  • For cloud, Microsoft has a plausible story but it is completely wrapped around Azure.
  • While I have not had the time (or the inclination, if I was being totally honest) to develop a very granular comparison, VMware’s recent changes to its legacy licensing structure (and subsequent changes to the new pricing structure) does look like license cost remains an attraction for Microsoft Hyper-V, especially if the enterprise is using Windows Server Enterprise Edition. 
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Catching Up With SUSE -- The Attachmate Group Clarifies Branding And Role For SUSE

Richard Fichera

I recently had an opportunity to spend some time with SUSE management, including President and General Manager Nils Brauckmann, and came away with what I think is a reasonably clear picture of The Attachmate Group’s (TAG) intentions and of SUSE’s overall condition these days. Overall, impressions were positive, with some key takeaways:

  • TAG has clarified its intentions regarding SUSE. TAG has organized its computer holdings as four independent business units, Novell, NetIQ, Attachmate and SUSE, each one with its own independent sales, development, marketing, etc. resources. The advantages and disadvantages of this approach are pretty straightforward, with the lack of opportunity to share resources aiming the business units for R&D and marketing/sales being balanced off by crystal clear accountability and the attendant focus it brings. SUSE management agrees that it has undercommunicated in the past, and says that now that the corporate structure has been nailed down it will be very aggressive in communicating its new structure and goals.
  • SUSE’s market presence has shifted to a more balanced posture. Over the last several years SUSE has shifted to a somewhat less European-centric focus, with 50% of revenues coming from North America, less than 50% from EMEA, and claims to be the No. 1 Linux vendor in China, where it has expanded its development staffing. SUSE claims to have gained market share overall, laying claim to approximately 30% of WW Linux market share by revenue.
  • Focus on enterprise and cloud. Given its modest revenues of under $200 million, SUSE realizes that it cannot be all things to all people, and states that it will be focusing heavily on enterprise business servers and cloud technology, with less emphasis on desktops and projects that do not have strong financial returns, such as its investment in Mono, which it has partnered with Xamarin to continue development,.
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Recent Benchmarks Reinforce Scalability Of x86 Servers

Richard Fichera

Over the past months server vendors have been announcing benchmark results for systems incorporating Intel’s high-end x86 CPU, the E7, with HP trumping all existing benchmarks with their recently announced numbers (although, as noted in x86 Servers Hit The High Notes, the results are clustered within a few percent each other). HP recently announced new performance numbers for their ProLiant DL980, their high-end 8-socket x86 server using the newest Intel E7 processors. With up to 10 cores, these new processors can bring up to 80 cores to bear on large problems such as database, ERP and other enterprise applications.

The performance results on the SAP SD 2-Tier benchmark, for example, at 25160 SD users, show a performance improvement of 35% over the previous high-water mark of 18635. The results seem to scale almost exactly with the product of core count x clock speed, indicating that both the system hardware and the supporting OS, in this case Windows Server 2008, are not at their scalability limits. This gives us confidence that subsequent spins of the CPU will in turn yield further performance increases before hitting system of OS limitations. Results from other benchmarks show similar patterns as well.

Key takeaways for I&O professionals include:

  • Expect to see at least 25% to 35% throughput improvements in many workloads with systems based on the latest the high-performance PCUs from Intel. In situations where data center space and cooling resources are constrained this can be a significant boost for a same-footprint upgrade of a high-end system.
  • For Unix to Linux migrations, target platform scalability continues become less of an issue.

The Next Three Weeks Are Very Important To Microsoft, And That Gives Buyers Leverage

Duncan Jones

A couple of months ago I was blogging from sunny Barcelona with the Red Sox 0-6. Now I'm in Barcelona again for our IT Forum, but this month its raining heavily here, while back in UK we officially have a drought. But the good news is that Boston is 6-0,  at least in Yankee Stadium. A lot can change in two months.

The same is true in IT.  Just now, Microsoft faces threats to its strong market position from many directions, and Steve Ballmer is under pressure, but strong results for its June fourth quarter could deflect the flak. That's one reason why sales teams will have greater incentives than ever to close Enterprise Agreement deals in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully if you're negotiating an EA right now, whether a new deal or a renewal, you've read my report Consider These Five Criteria When Choosing A Microsoft Volume Licensing Program and maybe even had an inquiry call with my colleage Christopher Voce or me. One common question we get is whether the stated deadline to accept an offer is real, or will the same deals be available in the last days of the quarter or even in the subsequent months? The short answers are Yes, it is, and no, they won't." Microsoft has its own deal approval processes that take time to complete, and though it won't want to reject Purchase Orders, it may have problems processing them if they arrive too late.  And the deals available almost certainly wont be as good next quarter because sales teams will still have 9 months remaining in which to recoup any shortfall.

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The Mainstreaming of UCS - Cisco Announces Microsoft SQL Server Alliance

Richard Fichera

Entering into a new competitive segment, especially one dominated by major players with well-staked out turf, requires a level of hyperbole, dramatic positioning and a differentiable product. Cisco has certainly achieved all this and more in the first two years of shipment of its UCS product, and shows no signs of fatigue to date.

However, Cisco’s announcement this week that it is now part of Microsoft’s Fast Track Data Warehouse and Fast Track OLTP program is a sign that UCS is also entering the mainstream of enterprise technology. The Microsoft Fast Track program, offering a set of reference architectures, system specification and sizing guides for both common usage scenarios for Microsoft SQL Server, is not new, nor is it in any way unique to Cisco. Fast Track includes Dell, HP, IBM, and Bull. The fact that Cisco will now get equal billing from Microsoft in this program is significant – it is the beginning of the transition from emerging fringe to mainstream , and an endorsement to anyone in the infrastructure business that Cisco is now appearing on the same stage as the major incumbents.

Will this represent a breakthrough revenue opportunity for Cisco? Probably not, since Microsoft will be careful not to play favorites and will certainly not risk alienating its major systems partners, but Cisco’s inclusion on this list is another incremental step in becoming a mainstream server supplier. Like the chicken soup that my grandmother used to offer, it can’t hurt.

What Microsoft's Skype Deal Means: A Post For Content & Collaboration Professionals

Ted Schadler

I'm not going to comment on the $8.5B purchase price, though I'm sure Marc Andreesen's investment company is happy with their return. And I'm not going to comment on the impact on Xbox, Hotmail, and Live.com. And I don't think this has anything to do with Windows Mobile.

But I am going to comment on the impact of the deal on the enterprise, and specifically on content and collaboration professionals responsible for workforce productivity and collaboration. When you strip it down to its essence -- Skype operating as a separate business unit reporting to Steve Ballmer -- here's what you need to know about the Skype deal:

First, Microsoft gets an important consumerization brand. Skype is a powerful consumer brand with a reported 600+ million subscribers. But it's also a "consumerization brand," meaning that it's a valuable brand for people who use Skype to get their jobs done. Consumerization of IT is just people using familiar consumer tools to get work done. It's a force of technology-based innovation as we wrote about in our book, Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, Transform Your Business. Google and Apple and Skype have dominant consumerization brands. Microsoft does not. Until now. And as a bonus, Google doesn't get to buy Skype. And more importantly, neither does Cisco.

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Amazon’s Cloud Drive Is The First Step To Being A Personal Cloud Ecosystem Player

Frank Gillett

Today, Amazon announced the Amazon Cloud Drive. I think it is the first salvo in a series of steps that will lead Amazon to compete directly for the primary computing platform for individuals, as an online platform, as a device operating system, and as a maker of branded tablets.

Amazon Cloud Drive logo, with puffy arc behind the words

Much of the attention is going to the Amazon Cloud Player, announced at the same time, which enables customers to stream music stored in Cloud Drive – Forrester’s Mark Mulligan blogged about that for Consumer Product Strategists (Amazon Beats Apple and Google to the Locker Room). But the general purpose design of Cloud Drive, combined with the long-term opportunities for personal cloud services, lead to a really interesting set of possibilities and insights into Amazon’s long-term strategy for Vendor Strategists trying to sort out the technologies and players of next-generation personal computing platforms.

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Informal Buyers Of IaaS Cloud Computing Are Driving The Market, Not Formal IT Buyers – Vendor Strategists Need Two Strategies

Frank Gillett

Cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is a hot market. Amazon Web Services, now five years old, drives a lot of attention and customer volume, but the vendor strategists at enterprise-facing providers such as IBM, HP, AT&T and Verizon have been building and delivering IaaS offerings. As I’ve studied the market, I’ve heard wildly different types of requirements from buyers and quite a range of offerings from service providers. Yet much of the industry dialogue is about one central idea of what IaaS is – think that’s wrong headed. I found that there were really two buyer types: 1) informal buyers outside of the IT operations/data center manager organizations, such as engineers, scientists, marketing executives, and developers, and 2) formal buyers, the IT operations and data center managers responsible for operating applications and maintaining infrastructure.

With this idea in mind, I set out to test the views of IT infrastructure buyers in the Forrsights Hardware Survey, Q3 2010 and learned that:

  • After 2+ years of cloud hype, only 6% of enterprises IT infrastructure respondents report using IaaS, with another 7% planning to implement by Q3, 2012. After flat adoption from 2008 to 2009, this represents an approximate doubling from 2009, off a very small base.
  • Almost two thirds of IT infrastructure buyers themselves don’t believe they are the primary buyer of cloud IaaS! We asked them which groups in their company are using or most interested in cloud IaaS. Only 36% of IT infrastructure buyers listed themselves, while 7% didn’t know. The rest, 58% said that IT developers, Web site owners, business unit owners of batch compute intensive apps, and other business unit developers were more interested in using IaaS than themselves.
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The Consumerization Of IT Proceeds Unevenly, From Growth In Tablets To Anemic BYOPC Adoption

Frank Gillett

Tablets are a red hot topic since the launch of Apple’s iPad more than a year ago. Tablets are the most visible aspect of a broader topic on the minds of vendor strategists – the consumerization of IT. Consumerization is defined variously as using personal devices for work, pay-per-use payment models, spending personal money for work-related cloud services, and employee self-provisioning of IT capacity outside the oversight of IT. In our annual Forrsights Hardware Survey, Q3 2010, we asked IT infrastructure buyers responsible for supporting end user computing about a variety of topics related to consumerization of IT and learned that:

  • The IT organizations in 26% of enterprises (firms with 1000 employees or more) were planning to implement or had implemented general purpose touchscreen tablets such as the Apple iPad. Of that total, 4% reported they’d already implemented, and 17% were already piloting by Q3, 2010, approximately 6 months after the launch of this brand new category. SMBs, firms with 999 employees or less, were lower at 18% planning or implemented.
  • Only 2% of firms, large and small, reported implementing or piloting bring-your-own-PC models, despite several years of hype among the desktop virtualization software vendors about this model. We expect this PC deployment model to grow, but it’s not a broad trend yet.
  • Firms are using more consumer-style Web applications on PCs, with 84% firms increasing their use of Web applications. But they’re not abandoning locally installed applications. 55% of firms are increasing or staying the same on their use of installed applications, while only 4% are seriously reducing use.
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