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.

First Sign Of A Cloud Bubble Ready To Pop - An ETF

James Staten

On July 5th, First Trust launched an exchange traded fund (ETF) designed to help investors capitalize on the growing market for cloud computing. I'd be excited about this sign of maturity for the market if the fund let you invest in the companies that are truly driving cloud computing, but most of them aren't publicly traded. Now don't get me wrong, there are clearly some cloud leaders in the ISE Cloud Index, such as Amazon, saleforce.com and Netflix, but many of the stocks in this fund are traditional infrastructure players who get a fraction (at most) of their revenues from cloud computing, such as Polycom, Teradata and Iron Mountain. The fund is a mix of cloud leaders, arms dealers and companies who are directionally heading toward the cloud - dare I say "cloudwashing" their traditional revenue streams. 

The bigger question, though, is should anyone invest in this fund? Ignore the name and why not. Many of these stocks are market leaders in their respective areas, so if you are looking for a good technology fund, this is probably as good as any. 

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Cisco Tweaks UCS - New Interfaces, Management Software Expand Capabilities

Richard Fichera

Not to be left out of the announcement fever that has gripped vendors recently, Cisco today announced several updates to their UCS product line aimed at easing potential system bottlenecks by improving the whole I/O chain between the network and the servers, and improving management, including:

  • Improved Fabric Interconnect (FI) – The FI is the top of the UCS hardware hierarchy, a thinly disguised Nexus 5xxx series switch that connects the UCS hierarchy to the enterprise network and runs the UCS Manager (UCSM) software. Previously the highest end FI had 40 ports, each of which had to be specifically configured as Ethernet, FCoE, or FC. The new FI, the model 6248UP has 48 ports, each one of which can be flexibly assigned as up toa 10G port for any of the supported protocols. In addition to modestly raising the bandwidth, the 6248UP brings increased flexibility and a claimed 40% reduction in latency.
  • New Fabric Extender (FEX) – The FEXC connects the individual UCS chassis with the FI. With the new 2208 FEX, Cisco doubles the bandwidth between the chassis and the FI.
  • VIC1280 Virtual Interface Card (VIC) – At the bottom of the management hierarchy the new VIC1280 quadruples the bandwidth to each individual server to a total of 80 GB. The 80 GB can be presented as up to 8 10 GB physical NICs or teamed into a pair fo 40 Gb NICS, with up to 256 virtual devices (vNIC, vHBA, etc presented to the software running on the servers.
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The Cloud Computing Market Grows Up

James Staten

Mark this date. While it isn't an anniversary of anything significant in the past, it is a day where our beloved cloud computing market showed significant signs of maturing. Major announcements by VMware, Citrix, and Microsoft all signaled significant progress in making cloud platforms (infrastructure-as-a-service [IaaS] and platform-as-a-service [PaaS]) more enterprise ready and consumable by I&O professionals.

* VMware updates its cloud stack. The server virtualization leader announced version 5 of its venerable hypervisor and version 1.5 of vCloud Director, its IaaS platform atop vSphere. Key enhancements to vCloud include more hardening of its security and resource allocation policy capabilities that address secure multitenancy concerns and elimination of the "noisy neighbor" problem, respectively. It also doubled the total capacity of VMs service providers can put in a single cloud to 20,000. VMware also resurrected a key feature from its now defunct Lab Manager — linked clones. This key capability for driving operational efficiency lets you deploy new VMs from the image library and the system will maintain the relationship between the golden image and the deployed VM. This does two things; it minimizes the storage footprint of the VM, much as similar technology does in virtual desktops, and second it uses the link to ensure clones maintain the patch level and integrity of the golden master. This alone is reason enough to consider vCloud Director.

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VMware Pushes Hypervisor And Management Features With vSphere 5 Announcement

Richard Fichera

After considerable speculation and anticipation, VMware has finally announced vSphere 5 as part of a major cloud infrastructure launch, including vCloud Director 1.5, SRM 5 and vShield 5. From our first impressions, it is both well worth the wait and merits immediate serious consideration as an enterprise virtualization platform, particularly for existing VMware customers.

The list of features is voluminous, with at least 100 improvements, large and small, but among the features, several stand out as particularly significant as I&O professionals continue their efforts to virtualize the data center, primarily dealing with and support for both larger VMs and physical host systems, and also with the improved manageability of storage and improvements Site Recovery Manager (SRM), the remote-site HA components:

  • Replication improvements for Site Recovery Manager, allowing replication without SANs
  • Distributed Resource Scheduling (DRS) for Storage
  • Support for up to 1 TB of memory per VM
  • Support for 32 vCPUs per VM
  • Support for up to 160 Logical CPUs and 2 TB or RAM
  • New GUI to configure multicore vCPUs
  • Storage driven storage delivery based on the VMware-Aware Storage APIs
  • Improved version of the Cluster File System, VMFS5
  • Storage APIs – Array Integration: Thin Provisioning enabling reclaiming blocks of a thin provisioned LUN on the array when a virtual disk is deleted
  • Swap to SSD
  • 2TB+ LUN support
  • Storage vMotion snapshot support
  • vNetwork Distributed Switch improvements providing improved visibility in VM traffic
  • vCenter Server Appliance
  • vCenter Solutions Manager, providing a consistent interface to configure and monitor vCenter-integrated solutions developed by VMware and third parties
  • Revamped VMware High Availability (HA) with Fault Domain Manager
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Join Us July 27th In San Francisco For An iPad App Strategy Workshop!

JP Gownder

More than 90,000 iPad-only apps are available today. Forrester clients in a wide range of industries — media, software, retail, travel, consumer packaged goods, financial services, pharmaceuticals, utilities, and more — are scrambling to determine how to develop their own iPad app strategies (or browser-based iPad strategies).

Clients are asking us to help them address both challenges and opportunities associated with the iPad: How do I develop an app product strategy for the iPad? Does the browser matter, too? What will make my app or browser experience stand out from the competition? How will an iPad app complement my smartphone and Web properties?

If you are navigating these sorts of decisions, I'd like to invite you to a very exciting event being hosted by an analyst on my team, Sarah Rotman Epps. Sarah's holding a Workshop on July 27 (in San Francisco) to help clients like you separate the hype from the reality and take concrete steps toward developing a winning iPad app and browser strategy. 

The Workshop: POST — Refining Your Strategy For iPads And Tablets
This Workshop focuses on refining your strategy for reaching and supporting your key constituencies through iPads and other tablets. We'll take you through the POST (people, objectives, strategy, and technology) process, helping you to:

  • Understand where the tablet market is going based on Forrester's latest data and insights.
  • Apply what other companies have done to your own tablet strategy.
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Tips For Your ITIL Journey

Eveline Oehrlich

Embarking on your ITIL initiative can be daunting. Often, the breadth and scope of ITIL can leave I&O departments struggling to create a solid road map -- Where do I start? Can I pick and choose ITIL principles? Do I even need ITIL? Without answers, any one of these questions can put up a roadblock on your journey to smooth service management, so here are some tips to put you on the right track:

Pre-Race Checklist

  • Make sure you take the time to define and understand exactly what problem you're trying to solve -- many companies who skip this step end up regretting it.
  • Before you can decide where you want to go, you need to know where you’re coming from. Measure your ITSM maturity level, and then define where you want to go and how much you want to improve.
  • Once you know your ITSM baseline and the problem that you want to solve, you can figure out the best place to start in the ITIL v3 framework.

Start Your Engines

  • Keep in mind that technology or domain silos don’t work, and process silos don’t work either. Switch to a hybrid model for best results.
  • When determining who your process heads should be, incident and problem management should NOT be rolled together under one person. Incident management is about fire-fighting, and problem management is about root cause analysis -- two very different competencies. 
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Intel Steps On The Accelerator, Reveals Many Independent Core Road Map

Richard Fichera

While NVIDIA and to a lesser extent AMD (via its ATI branded product line) have effectively monopolized the rapidly growing and hyperbole-generating market for GPGPUs, highly parallel application accelerators, Intel has teased the industry for several years, starting with its 80-core Polaris Research Processor demonstration in 2008. Intel’s strategy was pretty transparent – it had nothing in this space, and needed to serve notice that it was actively pursuing it without showing its hand prematurely. This situation of deliberate ambiguity came to an end last month when Intel finally disclosed more details on its line of Many Independent Core (MIC) accelerators.

Intel’s approach to attached parallel processing is radically different than its competitors and appears to make excellent use of its core IP assets – fabrication and expertise and the x86 instruction set. While competing products from NVIDIA and AMD are based on graphics processing architectures, employing 100s of parallel non-x86 cores, Intel’s products will feature a smaller (32 – 64 in the disclosed products) number of simplified x86 cores on the theory that developers will be able to harvest large portions of code that already runs on 4 – 10 core x86 CPUs and easily port them to these new parallel engines.

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It's Time For Mass-Customized Clothing And Apparel Products

JP Gownder

Calling all product strategists at big name clothing and apparel companies: If you work at the likes of Gap, Macy's, Nordstrom, or American Eagle Outfitters, we at Forrester think you are currently missing out on an opportunity to delight customers, generate new revenue, and differentiate your offerings. We’ve been writing about why now is the time to experiment with mass-customized product offerings – customer-facing digital technologies have reached the point where customization is easy to deliver, and customers increasingly expect products and services will be tailored to their desires and needs.

Now it’s time for product strategists at big name clothing and retail companies to give mass customization another shot. Levi’s once offered customized jeans (from 1993-2003), but the offering was too far ahead of the curve – it didn’t have the opportunity to leverage the type of digital configuration experiences available today, and it didn’t offer buyers choice in features they wanted (like color).

We know that product strategists who want to offer mass-customized clothing and apparel products face customers who are stuck in an off-the-shelf comfort zone. We know that this customer resistance is holding back some product strategists at big brand-name clothing companies. Yet the return on investment could be significant. Incorporating customization into your product strategy will enhance current customer relationships and attract new customers that, up to now, have not been able to find what they want or need from your products.

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Microsoft's Office 365 Release Marks More Than Just The Delivery Of A New Platform

Christopher Voce

Microsoft is in a very critical period with their fiscal year ending this week, as my colleague Duncan Jones recently wrote. But today, Steve Ballmer is announcing one of Microsoft’s most important products in the company’s history – Office 365. Sound like an embellishment? It’s not – and it’s because Office 365’s release is not just the launch of a new technical solution for customers, but also a change in the relationship with their customers. Microsoft’s Office 365 is the single biggest change to the Microsoft customer relationship since the introduction of Software Assurance and the modern Enterprise Agreement in 2001.

For those that are blissfully unaware of Microsoft licensing, Software Assurance is Microsoft’s software maintenance relationship with customers and represents a large part of Microsoft’s predictable annual income. I wrote earlier about how cloud services like Windows Intune change the nature of this relationship – from one based on rights to upgrades and later releases of software, which for some customers had questionable predictable value – to one where a customer sees more predictable value by delivering benefits and services that truly offset internal costs. We know that we sink large sums of time and money into running email and collaboration services ourselves. Microsoft takes on far more responsibility and Office 365 exemplifies that motion. Cloud services solve Microsoft’s greatest challenge, building an annuity relationship with a customer that will be less risky to continue to deliver.

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