Intel Developer Forum (IDF) - Cloud. And Cloud, Cloud, Cloud. Oh, Yes, Did I Mention “Cloud”?

Richard Fichera

I just attended IDF and I’ve got to say, Intel has certainly gotten the cloud message. Almost everything is centered on clouds, from the high-concept keynotes to the presentations on low-level infrastructure, although if you dug deep enough there was content for general old-fashioned data center and I&O professionals. Some highlights:

Chips and processors and low-level hardware

Intel is, after all, a semiconductor foundry, and despite their expertise in design, their true core competitive advantage is their foundry operations – even their competitors grudgingly acknowledge that they can manufacture semiconductors better than anyone else on the planet. As a consequence, showing off new designs and processes is always front and center at IDF, and this year was no exception. Last year it was Sandy Bridge, the 22nm shrink of the 32nm Westmere (although Sandy Bridge also incorporated some significant design improvements). This year it was Ivy Bridge, the 22nm “tick” of the Intel “tick-tock” design cycle. Ivy Bridge is the new 22nm architecture and seems to have inherited Intel’s recent focus on power efficiency, with major improvements beyond the already solid advantages of their 22nm process, including deeper P-States and the ability to actually shut down parts of the chip when it is idle. While they did not discuss the server variants in any detail, the desktop versions will get an entirely new integrated graphics processor which they are obviously hoping will blunt AMD’s resurgence in client systems. On the server side, if I were to guess, I would guess more cores and larger caches, along with increased support for virtualization of I/O beyond what they currently have.

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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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NetIQ + Novell: A Nice Combo That Could Be Even Better If ...

Glenn O'Donnell

 

On 22-Nov-2010, Attachmate Corporation announced it was acquiring the assets of Novell, Inc. Once on top of the IT world, Novell's glory had clearly faded. Along the way, however, it acquired several attractive assets of its own (e.g., PlateSpin, Managed Objects). Towards the end of its independence, the future certainly looked bleak for Novell and especially its management software businesses.

The immediate reaction to the Attachmate acquisition was skepticism among most industry watchers, including yours truly. My reaction was similar when Attachmate acquired NetIQ. After all, what rationale is there to a legacy mainframe software company buying either NetIQ or Novell? The perception was that all of these product families would be milked for their maintenance revenue and innovation, and other development would be killed. It now appears these fears were largely unfounded, though I stand by my original skepticism. Veterans like me have seen such things unravel before.

The various Novell assets have been redistributed across four companies in the Attachmate Group, with the management assets being assimilated under the NetIQ brand. While a full merger of the NetIQ and Novell assets will take at least a year, the (now) NetIQ team has moved with impressive speed to launch its initial consolidated families.

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What Fine Whisky Can Teach Us As End User Computing Professionals

David Johnson

When Something Is So Good, It's Hard To Imagine It Will Ever Be Matched
The famous connoisseur Jim Murray said of the 1974 Ardbeg Provenance: "This is the finest whisky I have ever tasted. As close to perfection as makes no difference." Ever notice that every once in a while, something comes along in which it seems heaven, earth and the stars were aligned? It's as if all of the ingredients came together to create something so amazing, it's hard to imagine it could ever be matched.

Microsoft Excel Is IT's Answer To The 1974 Ardbeg Provenance
I felt this way when I used Microsoft Excel in 1996. At the time I was a geologist responsible for accurately steering an oil drilling bit 3,000 meters below the surface of a Montana farm field. With Excel and the magical help of John Walkenbach's advanced Excel programming books, I could create a graphical representation of the well bore's profile from downhole telemetry data, condensed so that the drillers and I could easily see which way the bit was going thanks to Excel's charting functions and some tricky Visual Basic wizardry. It seemed there was nothing that Excel could not do.

Used In Ways The Designers Never Imagined
I am certain that the designers of Excel never envisioned that use case (I know this because one of the original product managers is a former colleague and we talked about it), but the product was so functional that a skilled user could make it do virtually anything. It saved us literally days of drilling at $30,000 per day because we could see so much more easily what was going on beneath our feet. We could drill a well an average of 20% faster than our competitors - a significant advantage when at the time the price of oil was so low, that the profit from the wells would take 5 years or more to be realized.

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Xsigo Expands to a Data Center Fabric: Converged Infrastructure for the Virtual Data Center

Richard Fichera

Last year at VMworld I noted Xsigo Systems, a small privately held company at VMworld showing their I/O Director technology, which delivereda subset of HP Virtual Connect or Cisco UCS I/O virtualization capability in a fashion that could be consumed by legacy rack-mount servers from any vendor. I/O Director connects to the server with one or more 10 G Ethernet links, and then splits traffic out into enterprise Ethernet and FC networks. On the server side, the applications, including VMware, see multiple virtual NICs and HBAs courtesy of Xsigo’s proprietary virtual NIC driver.

Controlled via Xsigo’s management console, the server MAC and WWNs can be programmed, and the servers can now connect to multiple external networks with fewer cables and substantially lower costs for NIC and HBA hardware. Virtualized I/O is one of the major transformative developments in emerging data center architecture, and will remain a theme in Forrester’s data center research coverage.

This year at VMworld, Xsigo announced a major expansion of their capabilities – Xsigo Server Fabric, which takes the previous rack-scale single-Xsigo switch domains and links them into a data-center-scale fabric. Combined with improvements in the software and UI, Xsigo now claims to offer one-click connection of any server resource to any network or storage resource within the domain of Xsigo’s fabric. Most significantly, Xsigo’s interface is optimized to allow connection of VMs to storage and network resources, and to allow the creation of private VM-VM links.

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Prediction: HP Cuts Loose Their Networking Hardware And Transforms Into A True Networking Alternative

Andre Kindness

HP’s startling announcement, two weeks ago, to discontinue Touchpad and all webOS-based products, purchase Autonomy Corporation, and split off its PC divisions, caught the market off-guard. Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Leo Apotheker feels the company could be the next Polaroid in the consumer products and mobile device war — a business that requires companies to be “much faster than a conglomerate can move in most circumstances.” The reality is this new strategic direction should not have surprised anyone who has read Leo’s résumé; it was the board’s intention to hire a strategic thinker who could evolve the company into a software and services organization by leveraging HP high-margin assets coupled with a few acquisitions. HP has one of the strongest orchestration software portfolios in the industry, which encapsulates everything from enhancing user experience through its APM solution all the way down to controlling Layer 2 through the Intelligent Management Center (IMC). With strategy toward creating and servicing cloud infrastructures, HP should examine what it has and figure out if its current networking portfolio differentiates the company, changes the way networking is done, and aligns HP’s networking division to HP’s strategic goals.

Three things I&O teams should think about when it comes to HP:

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It's Not About Apple vs. Microsoft, Or Apple vs. Google. It's About Freedom.

David Johnson

We are learning once again that what people want most is to be free
John Quincy Adams (sixth President of the US) said: "Who but shall learn that freedom is the prize…and on the oppressor's head to break the chain." Glorious change. Monumental change. Empowerment and Freedom. I submit humbly but with absolute conviction to all of you that we are in the midst of revolution in personal computing - the extent of which we will only fully comprehend once it's over, and established vendors and IT leaders alike are scattered on the side of the road.

It's not about Microsoft vs. Apple or Google vs. Apple. It's about freedom. Freedom from control. Freedom from establishments. Freedom of identity. Freedom from IT departments too understaffed and ill-equipped to help. Freedom from layers of management agents and miscellaneous junk that sap minutes to hours of productive time from our lives every day. The price of compliance and security you say? Hogwash.

End user experience is at an all-time low
The end user experience has deteriorated to the point that we sit and wait while the hourglass spins, as IT's remote bots take inventory, or install software updates while we're frantically trying to get our slides together for a customer meeting. The mindless bots scan for threats and lock the cursor while we're trying to write an e-mail, and we get embarrassing pop-up reminders while we're presenting to rooms full of people to make sure we know to update Adobe Acrobat. We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take it any more! Who gave someone the right to assume that what their tool needs to do at any given moment is more important than the work we have to get done?

High performers are being hanged for taking matters into their own hands

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Intel Rewards Itanium Loyalists With Performance And RAS Features In Poulson

Richard Fichera

Intel Raises the Curtain on Poulson

At the Hot Chips conference last week, Intel disclosed additional details about the upcoming Poulson Itanium CPU due for shipment early next year. For Itanium loyalists (essentially committed HP-UX customers) the disclosures are a ray of sunshine among the gloomy news that has been the lot of Itanium devotees recently.

Poulson will bring several significant improvements to Itanium in both performance and reliability. On the performance side, we have significant improvements on several fronts:

  • Process – Poulson will be manufactured with the same 32 nm semiconductor process that will (at least for a while) be driving the high-end Xeon processors. This is goodness all around – performance will improve and Intel now can load its latest production lines more efficiently.
  • More cores and parallelism – Poulson will be an 8-core processor with a whopping 54 MB of on-chip cache, and Intel has doubled the width of the multi-issue instruction pipeline, from 6 to 12 instructions. Combined with improved hyperthreading, the combination of 2X cores and 2X the total number of potential instructions executed per clock cycle by each core hints at impressive performance gains.
  • Architecture and instruction tweaks – Intel has added additional instructions based on analysis of workloads. This kind of tuning of processor architectures seldom results in major gains in performance, but every small increment helps.
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What Steve Jobs' Resignation Means For Product Strategists

JP Gownder

First off, let me say this: I hope that Steve Jobs' health improves, and that he comes out of whatever challenges he's going through in the best of health. He's an amazing, visionary leader of a dynamic company -- and he's also a person with a family. Let's all wish him well.

While famously a CEO, Steve Jobs is also, it should be known, a product strategist par excellence. He's clearly been involved, in a deep way, in the development of Apple's product ideas, product designs, business models, go-to-market strategies, and responses to competition. These are the job responsibilities of product strategists. In his (and Apple's) case, product strategy has risen to the very top of the organization.

Product strategists of two different flavors are wondering how they might be affected by his resignation as CEO (and concomitant request to become chairman):

  • Product strategists who compete with Apple. Product strategists at companies like Microsoft, Google, Samsung, HP, Dell, HTC, and similar firms wonder if Steve Jobs' change in role might benefit them. They actually shouldn't wonder: His departure from the CEO spot won't benefit them -- not for a very long time, at least. Apple's product development road map stretches into multiple years ahead and has been shaped both by Jobs and by the organization he built. Jobs' departure won't affect Apple's product portfolio, quality, or competitiveness for a long time -- if ever.
     
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The Pit Of Despair Called Seat 54F, The MacBook Air, And Why People Are Bringing Them To Work

David Johnson

Most I&O professionals travel far less than the road warriors they serve, which means they could be missing an important personal connection with new forms of client computing. After years of lugging boat anchor-class laptops around and a broken shoulder from a skiing accident, I gave in last month and bought a new MacBook Air (yup, 13", i7, 4GB, 256GB SSD), and then spent the next month's worth of weekends getting it to work for my job. Here's why I did it, and why people in your firm are doing it too:

"Veev been vaiting for you," the Frau at the front of the 747 hissed as I stepped through the door with a sweat stain on my shirt roughly the shape of Alaska. Those of you who fly frequently on Star Alliance carriers may have noticed that Lufthansa is the only one that doesn't seem to care who you think you are on any other airline. I could be George Clooney (see "Up in the Air") with 10 million miles and a gold card from the chief pilot, and I'd still have to sit in a center seat -- 54F -- in the last row. No matter, it's where I always get to meet fun people like Ginny -- the wisecracking 101 year old grandmother from Wyoming, and Jim -- the head of desktop infrastructure for a large retail chain, who later became a customer.

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