Earlier this week, Sun Microsystems announced that its Project Blackbox was now a commercially shipping product. I have to confess that when they first told me about this effort I saw it as a nice showcase innovation — something they could use to demonstrate how densely racks could be configured and how energy efficient their products were. They could drive it from city to city for in-person demonstrations. Nice marketing idea. But I didn’t see the practicality to real enterprise data centers. Who’d be willing to buy a container and park it outside their data center? Yeah, that’s secure.
HP and IBM are tossing barbs at each other in the blade server space this week with dueling management tools that greatly simplify administration, whichever platform you choose. On Monday, HP announced the latest iteration of its Virtual Connect technology and today, IBM finally unveiled its competitive offering, Open Fabric Manager (although IBM’s won’t start shipping until Dec. 21). Both tools let administrators pre-assign network and storage configuration settings that fail-over and migrate with the server and virtual server images running on those blades. They both also, in these latest iterations, let you manage these profiles across multiple blade chassis (up to 100 chassis).
Wouldn’t it be nice if the enterprise software world were on board with your server virtualization efforts? Imagine downloading the latest version of PeopleSoft or Crystal Reports in a virtual server format that could be loaded on to VMware ESX and would just run – no installation, no configuration hassles, just instantiate and go.
Backup is a struggle for both enterprises and small and medium businesses. It’s a complex ecosystem of backup software, networks, servers, disk arrays, and tape systems. Most companies report they are having difficulty completing backups in the time available and when backups fail or complete with errors, it’s often very difficult to discover the root cause. Couple those troubles with the fact that the amount of data that you need backed up is growing conservatively at 30% to 50% per year. Aside from these challenges, most companies are also interested in keeping backups longer for version history and companies are interested in the ability to perform much faster restores if they could.
Given the headaches associated with backup, many small and medium business and even some enterprises are choosing to outsource their backups all together to a service provider. There are already numerous players in the marketplace from Evault (which is resold by a number of different service providers) to Iron Mountain, to your telecommunication provider, and to emerging entrants such as Berkeley Data Systems and its Mozy service offering. This opportunity is so huge that even Symantec (which acquired Veritas) launched a beta of its own online backup service called the Symantec Protection Network. EMC’s acquisition of Berkeley Data Systems is just further proof that the online backup market is a huge opportunity.
In today's LinuxWorld session by Simon Crosby, CTO of XenSource, and shepherd of the Xen open source project made the contention that the open source community is holding itself back by not ensuring compatibility between Xen, KVM and the other open source virtualization efforts. He's right to a degree in that standards for foundation functions would allow the greater community to enhance virtualization for all, but should we honestly hold out hope of this happening? As is always the case in the open source world, the crowd goes where the excitement is and popularity wins. It would be a waste of the community's efforts to try and drive standardization where it isn't wanted and to try and ensure compatibility between competing implementations when everyone expects a winner to emerge.
Enterprise customers want things they can count on, especially if they are pitched for use in production. The fickleness of the open source community runs counter to this desire which keeps open source technologies in the fringe until a commercial entity hardens them and wraps them in professional support offerings. This commercialization collects the interest of the community that wants to make a profit and, voila, the winner emerges. It's not the community that holds back open source projects its failure to bridge the desires of the commercial customers and ISVs and the community enthusiasts - the key to this is collective advancement of the chosen project.