Tuesday Nov 12, 2013

The Jack LaLanne School of System Administration

Two of my childhood heroes were Tarzan and Jack LaLanne. Tarzan was an obvious choice: what boy wouldn't want to spend his days bungee jumping through the jungle with his own pack of gorillas? Jack Lalanne had a disturbing habit of wearing stretch pants, but he was so damn fit for an old guy that you couldn't help but be impressed. Especially back then, when nobody knew what a dumb bell was, much less Cross-Fit. Here's what he did to celebrate his 70th birthday.

Sooner or later we all face a choice in our careers: surrender to the life of a has-been like Bruce Sprinsteen's baseball player or become an unstoppable sysadmin like Jack Lalanne. If you'd rather keep on fighting like Jack, give these resources a look. Brian Bream's blog provides specific suggestions for keeping your skills up to date. The video interviews describe the types of technologies that are challenging what you used to know.

Blog: The Old School Sysadmin - A Dying Breed?

by Brian Bream

"The sysadmin role has been far too dependent on performing repetitive tasks and working in a reactionary mode ... the sysadmin must grow a much larger skill set to be successful. Don’t grow vertically in one technology, grow horizontally amongst many technologies." Just one of the suggestions Brian Bream provides in this excellent blog post.

Video: Freeing the Sysadmin From Repetitive Tasks

Interview with Marshall Choy

Marshall Choy, Director of Optimized Solutions at Oracle was once a sysadmin. And a Solaris engineer. He explains what optimized solutions are, how they are developed and tested, how they handle patching, and how these vertically integrated systems impact the job and duties of a sysadmin.

Video: The Oracle Database Appliance

Interview with Bob Thome

Bob Thome, Senior Director of Product Management, explains what makes the Database Appliance simple, reliable, and affordable, and how it could change the economies and processes of the data center.

Video: Why Pinellas County Chose Oracle Exalytics

Interview with Gautham

Gautham (pronounced like Batman's Gotham) recently led an effort to refresh the Pinellas County hardware systems. He'll explain what they were looking for, why they chose Oracle Exalytics, how they became convinced it was the right decision, and how it changed the way they managed their data center.

Video: DTrace for System Administrators

Interview with Brendan Gregg

This video interview will give you an idea of some of the value-add tasks you can perform when you are freed from the reactive mode that Brian Bream describes in his blog. Brendan Gregg describes the best ways for sysadmins to tune deployed applications to get more performance out of them in their particular computing environment

photograph of Ford Mustang GT 500 taken at Gateway Museum copyright by Rick Ramsey

-Rick

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Saturday Oct 05, 2013

Elasticity: The Biggest Challenge Facing Today's Data Center

Biggest Challenge Facing Data Centers Today

Interview with Brian Bream, Collier IT

Provisioning used to be a hardware activity. It involved heavy lifting. Today, thanks to Oracle's engineered systems, a data center can pre-configure itself to make provisioning a software activity. According to Brian Bream, CTO of Collier IT, instead of pulling a server off the shelf, installing an OS, and applications, then patching and configuring, it's a matter of bringing up the management tool, selecting the image, and hitting Bang! In Brian's experience, elasticity is the biggest challenge facing data centers today, and Oracle engineered systems are a great way to deal with it.

In addition to being Collier IT's Chief Technology Officer, Brian was named instructor of the year not once, but twice, by Oracle University. Get his opinion about the impact of training on the careers of sysadmins.

Related Resources

- Rick

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Monday Jul 29, 2013

How to Bend Bare Metal to Your Will

photo copyright 2013 by Rick Ramsey

The fins on this 1957 DeSoto were shaped during a time when Americans weren't afraid of offending anyone with their opinions, right or wrong. We have, perhaps, grown a little more introspective, a little more considerate, but our cars have paid the price. They all look alike. Their edges have been worn away by focus groups. They have no personality. They cringe at the sight of their own shadows.

I weep for my adopted country.

Well, if you like classic American cars as much as I do, you may on occasion feel the need to bend bare metal to your will. Here's your chance.

Tech Article: How to Get Best Performance From the ZFS Storage Appliance

Disk storage. Clustering. CPU and L1/L2 caching size. Networking. And file systems. Just some of the components of Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance that you can shape for optimum performance. Anderson Souza shows you how. Go ahead. Give your appliance a pair of tail fins. (Link is in the title.)

Psst:
You can see more unique cars from the Golden Age of American Automobile at the Gateway Automobile Museum. If you can't get to the border between Utah and Colorado to appreciate them in person, like I was fortunate enough to do, you can enjoy them through your browser at http://www.gatewayautomuseum.com/cars-and-galleries/.

- Rick

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Tuesday Apr 23, 2013

The Sysadmin as CEO

Bjoern Rost began his professional life as a sysadmin, and no doubt through the clever use of scripts became the CEO of his own consulting company (image removed from blog). Oracle recently announced his appointment to Oracle ACE Director. Here's some background information about Bjoern and his company, a video interview, and links to his most recent blog posts.

About Bjoern Rost, Oracle ACE Director

Bjoern is the co-founder of Portrix Systems, a service provider and consulting company focused on Oracle technologies including servers, storage, Solaris, Real Application Cluster databases, and desktop virtualization. He enjoys working with software developers to tightly integrate with existing Oracle features, is passionate about sharing knowledge, and has enjoyed speaking at several conferences and user group meetings including OpenWorld, UKOUG, COLLABORATE and DOAG. He also serves as the European Chair of IOUG's RAC special interest group.

Interview with Bjoern at Oracle Open World 2012

Before I knew that Bjoern was even being considered for Oracle ACE Director, I had the good fortune of chatting with him at Oracle Open World 2012. He's an excerpt from our conversation:

A Sysadmin CEO's Favorite Technologies in Oracle Solaris 11
Bjoern Rost, Orace ACE Director, was a sysadmin before he co-founded a consulting company, Portrix Systems. He describes how that happened, which Oracle technologies he used, what he used them for, and what his favorite parts of Oracle Solaris 11 are. Bonus: how engineered systems are leading to a confluence of the system admin and the database admin.

Bjoern's Blog

Bjoern's Blog is actually a team blog with contributions from three Euro-techies named Florian, Markus, and Ole. Recent topics are:

About Portrix Systems

Portrix Systems, an Oracle Gold Partner, is a full service provider helping customers run and operate complex IT systems by integrating infrastructure and services. From their home page:

"We started as the internal system administration division of the PORTRIX group. Duties involved setting up test and development systems for software developers and consulting about their optimal use. This soon evolved into services we provided for our customers who leveraged the potential to receive ISV software products bundled with integration and operation services by the same people who were already involved in development.

Congratulations, Bjoern! We're very glad to have you with us.

- Rick

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Wednesday Mar 27, 2013

Why Become a Solaris Sysadmin?

On the one hand Oracle is telling you that Solaris is the key component of the Oracle stack, that we've been investing heavily in it, and that it provides the best platform for managing the stack. Watch these videos:

On the other hand, we are telling your boss to buy our engineered systems because they'll not only reduce the complexity of managing the data center, but they'll need fewer sysadmins to run them.

So, which is it?

Video Interview: Why Become a Solaris Sysadmin?

I asked Larry Wake, Solaris old-timer. Tell me what you think of his answer.

Video Interview: Why Become A Solaris Sysadmin?.

A year or two ago, Justin asked Marshall Choy a similar question. Watch that video here:

Video Interview: Impact of Engineered Systems on the Sysadmin

- Rick

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Friday Mar 09, 2012

My Personal Crib Sheet for the ZFS Storage Appliance

Question: What do the F22 Raptor and the ZFS Storage Appliance have in common?

Answer: They bend time. They compress distance. And they both come with their own simulator.

We recently published some articles about really cool ways to use the ZFS Storage Appliance (see below), so I spent a little time looking into the darned thing. It's easy to find out what the ZFS Storage Appliance does, but more difficult to find out what its components are. What can I yank out and replace? What can I connect it to? And what buttons and levers can I push? Or pull.

So I put together this crib sheet. If you didn't grow up in The Bronx, see wikipedia's definition of crib sheet.

What Have We Published Recently?

What the Heck Is It?

It is Oracle's main NAS system for enterprise environments. In case you don't already know, NAS (Network Attached Storage) is simply a storage system designed to be shared by several servers on a network. Instead of each server having its own storage, which would make sharing files wicked slow, you put all your storage on your NAS system, and let all the servers access it fast. Plus, it's much easier to manage. Shoot, you can even store your boot environments on your NAS system so that if one of your servers dumps core, you can reboot it from the NAS system.

It comes in three variations:

  • 7120 - for small and medium size installations - 3.3 TB to 177 TB raw capacity
  • 7320 - mid-range storage for the enterprise - cluster option - up to 288 TB raw capacity - Hybrid Storage Pools with up to 4 TB of optimized cache
  • 7420 - For virtualized environments requiring multiple data services and heterogeneous file sharing - single or cluster - up to 1.7 PB of raw capacity

What Makes It Special?

  • It's wicked fast (see F22 Raptor, above).
  • It's got management software that makes it easy to administer.
  • Its Hybrid Storage Pool Design recognizes I/O patterns and places data in the storage media that will provide best performance for that data, whether DRAM, flash, or disk.
  • Hybrid Columnar Compression reduces storage footprints for NAS-based databases from three to five times.
  • DTrace analytics help you diagnose performance and networking bottlenecks
  • Fault Management Architecure (FMA) identifies faults and automatically re-routes traffic around them.
  • When you need more capacity, you can add:
    • DRAM, cache, or I/O ports for more resources
    • Disk shelf units for greater total capacity
    • Flash drives for faster performance.
  • You can get it in a dual-cluster configuration for high availability.
  • It provides a variety of RAID protections to balance capacity, protection, and performance requirements of your applications.
  • It's waaaaay cheaper than an F22 and doesn't require all that cryptic back and forth with those moody Air Traffic Control people.

Details here.

What's In The Box?

When I asked, I got the usual "Well, I could tell you what's in the box, but then I'd have to shoot you." Turns out they don't want me messing with it. Or you messing with it. The darn thing is built from off-the-shelf components, but the value-add comes from the way they're tuned to work together. So if you, Mister Curiosity, decide to pop open a terminal and run ssh into Solaris, you'll see a message notifying you that if you continue with your wayward ways you'll void your warranty. Ack! Like the good ol' boys from the Georgia Satellites like to put it...

She said, "No huggee, no kissee
Until you make me a wife."
Oh, my honey, my baby
Don't put my love upon no shelf
She said, "Don't hand me no lines
And keep your hands to yourself."

Here's what you really need to know: It's a specialized server with a processor, memory, and disk drives. Loaded with a highly tuned version of Oracle Solaris and other software goodies. But don't think of it that way. Think of it as remote storage. That's all. A box with:

  • Two types of storage:
    1. Filesystem, such as CIFS, NFS, ZFS, etc.
    2. Block, allocated as a Logical Unit (LUN)
  • Connections for a wide variety of network protocols
  • Two sysadmin toolkits:
    1. BUI (boo! boo!)
    2. CLI (yay! yay!)
  • Analytics to help you monitor its performance.

Connections? What Can I Connect It To?

For starters, you can connect it to the other servers on the network, through the stock Infiniband HCA's. That's part of what makes it wicked fast. But you can also connect it to other devices through industry-standard network protocols, including:

  • Infiniband
  • Fibre Channel
  • NFS
  • Common Internet File System (CIFS)
  • Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI)
  • NDMP (Network Data management Protocol so it can participate in remotely-coordinated automatic backups
  • A Virus Scan Service
  • NIS naming, LDAP directory, and Microsoft Active Directory services for centralized management of users, groups, hostnames, etc.

What Administration Tasks Does It Require?

Details vary by model and your needs, but basic administration consists of:

  • Defining the storage allocated to each server
  • Making it available to the servers (sharing)
  • Migrating data
  • Integrating it with other applications
  • Taking snapshots
  • Monitoring performance with DTrace Analytics
  • The usual backups, diagnostics, and housecleaning tasks for any server or storage system

Any Examples of What To Use It For?

Turns out you can do lots of cool things with the ZFS Storage Appliance. A partial listing:

For More Information

The Best American Country Song of All Time?

Is it the best? That's debatable. But it's certainly one of my favorite renditions of a country song, from one of my favorite movies of all time.

- Rick Ramsey (with special thanks to Andrew Ness)

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Tuesday Jan 10, 2012

Big Data is Cool

Do you like to screw around with Facebook's ad machinery by posting creative entries just to see what ads Facebook will post immediately afterwards? Try it sometime ... post an entry with "Alzheimers" or "lactose intolerance" in it and watch how the ads change. Beats late-nite television.

We take it for granted, now, but advertisements used to really miss their mark. I will read anything about motorcycles, but I'm bored to tears by Tommy Hilfiger's latest twist on torn jeans. Back in the day, retailers knew precious little about their customers, so Tommy would waste a lot of money sending me pictures of skinny teenagers in torn jeans. That's all changed. In today's living out loud society, Harley Davidson knows more about me than the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security combined.

That's because of Big Data. Instead of storing only transactions in relational databases, companies are now storing and mining the content in blogs, social media, photographs, and all kinds of non-traditional data to find out who their customers are likely to be, and what they're likely to want. In principle it sounds kinda creepy, but in practice it keeps Tommy Hilfiger outta my face, so I don't mind.

If you're a sysadmin, you may want to know Big Data works. Since Oracle just launched its Big Data Appliance, we have plenty of content to get you started. Here are three:

You can find these and more content about Oracle's BigData Appliance on OTN:

OTN's Big Data Appliance Page

White papers, blogs, videos,
data sheets, and links to
related technologies.

- Rick
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Contributors:
Rick Ramsey
Kemer Thomson
and members of the OTN community

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