Thursday Aug 23, 2007

Sun & IBM Server Partnership = Solaris

Last week was a perfect example of 2 companies coming together to offer choice to customers.  In addition to IBM's offerings of Windows and Linux on their X-Series servers-- Solaris is now a fully supported offering.  As a result this enables an opportunity for more customers for both companies.  This new partnership also shows the community that companies do listen to their requests for solutions and it may be an indicator that other customer/companies will take notice.  Solaris does ship on more x86 systems from IBM, HP and Dell than Sun x86 developed systems but this offers customers choice.  Sun keeps listening to ensure we continue to offer choices so we can compete for more and more opportunities.  Will IBM expand the Solaris offering to their other server products including the mainframe?  Time will tell.  The point is that IBM and Sun can both compete and collaborate which benefits customers and creates additional opportunities for both companies.

Solaris continues to make investments in its proven enterprise class open sourced os.  From new rich features which enable new products to enhancements on ease of usability to attract a wider audiance of customers-- the community is active which translates into more opportunity.

Thursday Aug 09, 2007

Storage as a commodity is accelerating

As company earnings continue to be announced in the 2nd half of 2007 more evidence is becoming available which points to a softening of storage demand, especially in the U.S.A.  Opinions range from the credit crunch of rising interest rates, product mix issues and full channel inventories that need to be drawn down.  While all of the above reasons may be a factor, I’d like to propose one of my own observations.

The storage industry is approaching an inflection point.  Multiple public companies are all speaking about IT consolidation and virtualization.  For newly formed companies and businesses their criteria requires designing around scalability, minimum solution costs and most importantly no vendor dependence.

I believe that companies that enjoy margins north of 50 points for storage solutions will be forced to be more competitive with storage solutions that go the way of commodity.

Let’s take as an example: block and file storage.  Solutions are provided today via a variety of proprietary embedded methods that range from traditional server/storage configurations to specialized appliances.  Storage services for all solutions typically provide support for industry standard protocols (iSCSI, NFS, CIFS, NDMP) and data services (snapshots, replication, RAID, compression, compliance, … etc.).  Storage solutions today charge you licensing fees or RTUs (Right To Use) for each protocol and data service you need.  This is a healthy revenue stream for certain storage vendors.

RAID performed by intelligent hardware controllers is a solid solution today.  However businesses are moving toward solutions based on software RAID because of enhanced protection provided by the software RAID/file system combination.  The design of the application is a factor too when multiple hardware failures can be tolerated because data copies are distributed and recoverable.  A good example of using cheap, non redundant hardware with software capable of handling multiple hardware failures is the Google File System (GFS).

Another factor at work here is a trend that can almost be defined as a default standard today—that of basing your IT solutions off of a Linux distribution.  There are multiple offerings of Linux today.  One distribution that is gaining adoption is CentOS.  Both public and private companies are deploying CentOS as an alternative to a popular Linux vendor distribution.
CentOS is built from publicly available open source SRPMS provided by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor. CentOS conforms fully with the upstream vendors redistribution policies and aims to be 100% binary compatible. (CentOS mainly changes packages to remove upstream vendor branding and artwork). All perfectly legal under the terms and conditions of open source licensing.

How would the competitive landscape change if storage protocol support and data services could be added to a unix distribution? In other words take a proven enterprise unix os that is open sourced and build in additional features specific to storage.  In fact why not add other features that are becoming expected standards.  A good example here is virtulization.  If this could be done it would be an enabler for creating storage product offerings out of non proprietary software using commodity servers and storage.  This would change the current landscape especially if cost savings and prevention of vendor lock in is achievable.

There is a growing customer base that is building their IT infrastructure from hybrid storage solutions.  They don't quite fit nicely into the standard file, block or even object industry segments today.  In some ways these customers want to slightly tweak the storage, servers and software to create the hybrid.  This hybrid also turns out to be their competitive weapon.

Helping customers achieve their own individual hybrid is certainly an opportunity worth pursuing.



Friday Jul 27, 2007

NFS Mirror Mounts

Attached is a screen cast for NFS mirror mounts.

If you are interested in
watching, check it out by clicking here.

This URL can also be found at the Sun Developer
Center (click it here) ... along with Brian Wong's
article on "Storage Device Evolution," Christian Bandulet's piece on
"Object Storage Devices" and much more.

Get connected. 

Monday Jul 16, 2007

SAAS - SkatingboardingDog As A Service

We all know that Software As A Service (SAAS) is here to stay.   The internet IS the Social Media in many (some will argue all) aspects of our professional and private lives.  From a business perspective companies want to participate in 2 basic ways.  The 1st is to provide the infrastructure of the internet Social Media via hardware and software.  The 2nd is to be "the" social media "provider" or medium. Some examples of internet mediums are MySpace, YouTube, Digg and Flickr

Capturing an individual's precious slice of attention is so difficult today.  Who relies on bulk snail mail today?  Not many.  EMail is so overused and is loosing its effectiveness.  Cell phones... again overused, land line phones... forget it.  If you really want to get a non intrusive slice of someone's precious time, a social internet medium is turning out to be the answer.

In my opinion, an effective way to get a small snipet of communication to a person is to send them a text message on their cellphone or use an Instant Messaging service.  The telecommunications providers want to connect you into the internet Social Media.  How does one attract on the social medium?  There are many methods such as blogs, podcasts and "providers."  Take YouTube and the "skateboarding dog."  This video clip has generated millions of views on the social media channel called the internet.  YouTube was the provider and the clip was the service that many people used.  You can't argue that a dog with the ability to skateboard to the point of leaning to turn is pretty impressive.  Take this video clip and then associate it with paying for a service.  Would you pay a very small fee to view this clip?  I would.  Why does your cellphone provider give you free minutes but charges you a small fee per bytes transferred to connect to the internet?  Because they want to compete for your precious slice of time on the social medium and be a provider.  Also, of course, to monetize being a provider. 

Get connected, participate in the growing social medium...  It's not going away but will only get better in connecting a wide variety of communities and how they interact.

Tuesday Jul 03, 2007

Is the storage industry going open source?

Once again the walk has followed the talk of being committed to open source. Last week more storage source code was posted at OpenSolaris.org for the community.  Parallel NFS (pNFS) and Sun's implementation of the NFSv4.1 protocol (IETF) is being developed as an OpenSolaris project in the open.  Technology such as ZFS, which is also open sourced, continues to be enhanced in the open as well.  Take ZFS encryption-- this is another OpenSolaris project.  Imagine disk compression and encryption capability built into the core of the file system.  No expensive bolt on solutions or hardware required, but rather completely implemented in software that is open sourced and runs on platforms from Dell, IBM, HP and Sun. 

pNFS will be technology that helps build HPC solutions.  Why is the HPC industry driving to computational horsepower  that is based on general purpose hardware, general purpose storage and open sourced software?  In fact why are industry segments such as storage and servers driving the general purpose message as well?

Could it be choice?  Other vendors have announced their open source plans recently.  In fact just last week it appears more intend to follow those who have been leading the contribution effort in the community.

Sun has been adding to its open storage stack this past year.  To date the stack includes:

p(NFS) client and p(NFS) server, WebNFS, CIFS client, OSD initiator, OSD target, iSCSI initiator, iSCSI target, ZFS, UFS, Volume Manager, iSNS server, Availability Suite (volume snapshot & replication), Fibre Channel Framework, Disk & Tape drivers and OEM drivers from Emulex and Qlogic.

We still have more work to do...

Friday Jun 22, 2007

Typecasting - is for compilers not actors

When I wrote code a long time ago, one useful compiler feature I often used was that of typecasting. There are basically 2 types of programming languages (strongly typed and weak typed).  With strongly typed languages such as Pascal and FORTRAN compilers, typecasting can force the conversion of one data type to another data type for useful reasons.  In weak typed languages such as C and C++ you can do the conversion implicitly.  In other words the C compiler will not complain if you are walking off a cliff.  With strongly typed languages you are forced to tell the compiler-- "Yes I know what I am doing, walk me off this cliff."   The value with typecasting is that it provides an "extra" step and makes you think about the conversion.  If no typecast operand was used for a conversion the compiler would issue errors on mismatched data types.

Below is a code fragment from a realtime OS called VAXELN.  The compiler was called EPASCAL and it did support typecasting as well as many other real time extensions.  The typecast was indicated with the '::' operand.

procedure search_id(var header:queue_entry; id_in:integer; var found:boolean);

var walk:\^queue_entry;

begin
    walk:=header.flink;
        repeat
            if walk::\^store\^.id=id_in
            then begin
                error ();
                walk:=address(header);
                found:=true;
                    end
            else
                walk:=walk\^.flink;
        until walk = address(header);
end;    

For me personally it did make a difference in producing quality code.  Finding bugs, especially obscure ones, early in the implementation cycle makes sense.  How many times have you had levels of indirection too many or too little with that pointer (\^) that caused havoc?  Clever code that a compiler can handle is nice, but code should be clean, easy to follow to the point of being self documenting.  Keep the clever part of the project to the algorithm and/or design.  Code it straight forward.  Quality and stability does make a difference.  Ask the customer who runs your software...





 

 


Wednesday Jun 13, 2007

Free Compilers and ZFS does protect your laptop/desktop data

Computer language compilers and their respective debug environments can vary widely when it comes to execution efficiency, debugging features and compiling options.  While many standard practices of processing a given context sensitive grammar include recursive descent parsers and peep hole optimizers-- ultimately it is the support environment and code execution efficiency that differentiates.

Sun has recently introduced new compilers with Sun Studio 12. Check out this speed trial against gcc and Linux.  Keep in mind these compilers are available not only for Solaris platforms but for x86/x64 Linux platforms as well.  Download and register for SDN.

Also you can get the new compilers, more tools and much more all bundled in the latest Solaris Express Developer Edition

Click here to get the free download or free DVD kit.  You don't have to pay for the postage.

QLogic and Emulex, well known FC HBA vendors, are   participating in OpenSolaris.

Click here to get to the Emulex OpenSolaris project.

QLogic has recently published a white paper titled
"HBA of Choice for Solaris Environments" outlining their Solaris soution." 

If you have been burned by a bad disk on your laptop or desktop check out this blog.  Lots of others have checked it out already. 

 


Thursday Jun 07, 2007

What do pNFS, NFS and QFS have in common?


There has been an increase in web traffic regarding the NFSv4.1 open standard being driven at the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force).  Few can argue the commercial success of the 2 dominant file sharing protocols today:

  1. NFS (Network File System)
  2. CIFS (Common Internet File System)

 

 

The above block diagrams shows NFS topology and CIFS message flow respectively.  This type of information is readily available for both NFS and CIFS with plenty of detail.  However Sun's NFS source code is readily available.  Sun is the inventor of the NFS protocol and it is an open standard driven by IETF.

The NFS implementation by Sun is open sourced today. Sun's implementation of pNFS (NFSv4.1 protocol) is currently an OpenSolaris project.  Sun is a full participant in this effort along with other members who are doing their own implementation of the NFSv4.1 standard as well.  Check out this interactive demo which explains the parallel or shared nature of serving data to clients.  What is interesting is that other IETF members are deciding to open source some of their code as well!  Why not open source all of it? Open source continues to gain traction.  Approximately 8 million downloads (the pink dots) of Solaris 10 is an indicator.

pNFS will be used by vendors to build solutions for areas such as High Performance Technical Computing.  Sun's offering will build solutions using ZFS and pNFS.  Sun provides HPC solutions today using QFS.  QFS does have a parallel serving capability known as shared-QFS. It also can function with Storage Archival Management (SAM) software.

There certainly is a leader with open source software.  Technologies in Solaris will continue to be developed and (yes) open sourced as well.  How can you be open but not provide the source code to the community? 

That sounds proprietary...

The common thread that pNFS, NFS, and QFS share is that they are part of Solaris and that implies free access to source code AND open.  Stay tuned.

If you attended JavaOne and could not get a copy of the  (Honeycomb) StorageTek 5800 SDK 1.0 jumpdrive go here and download it now.  Download the latest Solaris Express Developer Edition (SDXE).

Tuesday May 22, 2007

Tetris - From Russia With Love

I have to give another plug of 1 of my favorite television channels, The Science Channel which is part of the Discovery Channel. This past weekend the Science Channel did a feature (next showing is May 26th) on the history of this famous game that almost everyone has played worldwide.

Tetris (Russian: Тетрис) was created in June 1985 by Alexey Pazhitnov at


the Moscow Academy of Science's Computer Center.  He was inspired to write this game from a board game called pentominoes.  If you cannot catch the next showing on the Science Channel then check out this history summary of the game that I discovered on the big beautiful free world wide web or its short name the internet. As I watched this program I thought the history of Tetris is really a saga (long involved story, account or series of incidents).  The story of Tetris is already written but how would this story change if the June 1985 event (creation of Tetris) occured today?  With the medium called the internet and websites such as YouTube and Boing Boing user content and creation for all tastes is exploding.

It appears the large amount of the people who create this content want to get it out there to share.  "Hey! Watch this video Bill created and posted on YouTube."  "Did you catch Steve's posting on why he thinks Johnny Damon is a good hitter deep into the pitch count?"  Yes I know Johnny is now a NY Yankee but he did help win a 2004 World Series with the Boston Red Sox.  As Yogi said "It aint over till it's over."

Thursday May 17, 2007

Valachi Papers Part Deux???

Lots of open ended questions here.  I don't claim to have all the answers?  Customers as a whole do have some of the answers. 

So where do you stand with respect to the debate of what constitutes stepping on ones intellectual property?  Who benefits from the open software and hardware contributed to the community by corporations, students, developers, etc?   Would you be a happy customer if your  broadband provider forced you to get ip telephony service with that ISP connection? How would you vote if  your  doctor insisted that you take that famous aspirin brand because she served on its parent company's board? 

Isn't the internet about unleashing freedom worldwide?  Do you think developing countries have really controlled and restricted access to the internet?  Today you can connect to the internet via wire, wireless, satellite, etc.  Do you think you can stop the continued worldwide proliferation of the internet?

Was there any turning back when President Ronald Regan gave a famous speech which said:


"General
Secretary Gorbachev
, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here
to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down
this wall!"

Does the software community have the forward momentum of 0 gravity space with a vacuum?  The push has already happened. Are only imaginary objects in its way?

In the case of open source software will the majority (customers) or few minority (vendors) dictate long term? Customers are never bashful to tell us what they want and need. Do beer manufacturers force you to use only certain beer nuts with their beer?  Does Apache, Eclispe, Netbeans, Debian, OpenSolaris, Ubuntu, RedHat, openSUSE, force you into a corner to use only one kind of beer nut?  What if they did?  What would your reaction be? 

Electric utility companies in the U.S.A. offer their customers choices to select who is their source generator.  Do you want coal fired or wind generated electricity?  Do you want a fixed or variable KwH rate?  You have options and can change the source generator even though you keep the same electric distributor.  For me I have KeySpan Energy here in Massachusetts, U.S.A.  In fact I have the option to participate in selling electricity back to them if I generate it via a means such as solar panels!  What a concept. They even send me money when I buy a qualifying EnergyStar Appliance. 

My son is boxer underwear, low riding jeans but keeps his hair cut short.  When I was his age, I wore briefs, bell bottom jeans and long hair (1970s).  Times have changed and will continue to keep changing.

What type of momentum do you think countries such as China, India and South America have with respect to the open software movement?  Take China for example.  If you have anything to do with technology in your line of business go there and visit.  I have been there two times in the last 6 months and the rapid pace of change, development and m-o-m-e-n-t-u-m is incredible.  You probably do not want to upset China the customer, as they are a rapidly expanding customer base.  Take China Mobile. They have more subscribers today then well established phone providers based in the Western part of the world.  This was not true a few years ago.  The change is that rapid and more importantly it has mass.

As an engineer I had to take Physics I,II,III and IV.  One formula you learn is F=ma.  Force=mass\*acceleration.  A speeding nerf ball has little mass and hence small force despite any acceleration.  On the other hand an accelerating freight train has significant mass and is a force that is very difficult to stop by another moving object even if it is another freight train...

Thursday May 10, 2007

Clever and Happy

Being able to delight customers is on the wish list of every vendor.  When you can help them run their business around their constraints which includes budget, time and technology you have embraced opportunity.

I heard of a presentation by Maureen Chew (Staff Engineer at Sun Microsystems, Inc.) who gave a paper and talk at the SAS Global Forum users conference in
Orlando a few weeks ago.  The CDC was able to implement a very clever solution in short order by using Solaris Containers and ZFS Clones together.  In a nutshell here was the solution...  From concept to deployment took 4 hours. There was no incremental cost.  Users, System Admins, etc...  everybody was happy.  Congratulations on the innovations.

To see her full paper and conference presentation get it here (SAS Global Forum 2007: Zebra, Zamboni, Zen and the Art of ZFS).


 


 


 

 

 

 


Wednesday Apr 25, 2007

Cosmos

I have always been fascinated by the vastness, complexity and unknowns of space.  While technology has provided huge advancements here on earth, it has also enabled more in-depth study of the cosmos.  While microprocessors are measuring clock ticks in billionths of a second, astrophysicists are busy studying objects that are millions of light years away.  Beyond the visible light spectrum we explore space through the infrared and ultraviolet.  X-rays and Gamma-rays have been able to unlock many of the questions of space. These efforts consume many servers and storage... Analyze, render, simulate, etc.

Black holes, the Crab Nebula and the Milky Way galaxy which earth inhabits.

 

 

 

I have to admit that I'm a fan of The Science Channel.  I recommend their programs and website if you are interested in learning some topics of space.  Their animations and real images are excellent.  If you want some theoretical physics check out string theory.  If you are a reader there is an excellent book on the Big Bang Theory called Atom by Lawrence M. Krauss of Case Western Reserve University.  It explains most concepts in layman's terms.  He is also the author of other relevant books including The Physics of Star Trek.

Do you think that other inhabitants of the Cosmos besides us humans are Eco responsible?

Space matters here on earth literally and figuratively.

 


Tuesday Apr 10, 2007

Sun is OPEN to opportunity

Customers and consumers do not want to be locked into a service, a given provider or a single option.  They want choices.  Look at what has happened with basic phone service and television over the past 20 years.  Mobile phones and VOIP has certainly changed the landscape.  Cable television and satellite dish offerings have created a menu of choices.


Along the same lines why would a customer want to be locked into a proprietary operating system or runtime?  For a list of operating systems both proprietary and non proprietary (open) click here.


OpenSolaris.org and NetBeans.org have been leading the way for providing an OPEN community of developers, contributions and participation suitable for all.  Solaris offers security, performance scaling, data protection and yes... innovation such as DTrace that is truly OPEN. See CDDL (Common Development and Distribution).


 


Sun this week has announced the contribution of core storage technologies to OpenSolaris.  



Take for example the open sourced Availability Suite (Point-in-Time Copy and Remote Mirror Copy) technologies.  Table stakes for protection and management of your data.  This technology is not closed but open and integrated with Solaris.


Speaking of innovation we also continue to extend our open sourced technologies of Solaris.  The ZFS file system adds even more innovation with clone promotion, recursive snapshots, RAIDZ protection and hot sparing for storage pool devices.  ZFS today supports built in file compression.  ZFS encryption is actively being developed in the community as an open source project.  A dynamic file system with built in compression AND encryption.  Unlike data protection solutions with expensive bolt on special purpose hardware and software, but rather an open source solution built in at the core.


The community is enabled to build open storage solutions with general purpose servers, general purpose storage and the Solaris open sourced stack.  Yes that's right, the community can take hardware from any vendor, Dell, HP, IBM, Sun, etc. and build robust storage solutions at commodity price compared to the traditional proprietary storage vendors. 


The community is all of us.


Customers and storage developers can look to Solaris as the core building block. 



  • Open protocols such as NFS and NFSv4.1 extensions

  • Open operating system with continued innovation

  • Open storage components continuing to come to OpenSolaris.org 

Customers have a choice and can help influence that choice.

For those of you who requested a pic of myself here it is.

Bob Porras 

Bio

Bob Porras (picture)
Vice President, Solaris Storage Software
Sun Microsystems, Inc.


As Vice President of Sun's Solaris Storage Software Group, Bob Porras leads a global organization that is focused on the delivery of Solaris core storage products and technologies. This includes all storage products for NAS, SAN and Object based environments.   In addition the organization delivers storage components into Solaris such as the ZFS file system and Storage Archive Management software.


Previous to Sun, Bob served in Vice President and Director roles at both startup and public companies including: Accolade Technology, Vitesse Semiconductor, Sycamore Networks, Compaq, Digital and Mitre. His experience spans storage, servers, intelligent optical switches, operating systems and semiconductors.


Bob holds a MSM from Lesley University, a MS in Computer Science from Boston University and a BS degree in Engineering from Northeastern University.

Friday Mar 30, 2007

Parallel processing

Baby boomers and Generation Jones' remember (as I do being from this generation) that study hall and libraries were meant to be quiet.  In order to learn you needed silence, sturdy posture, good light and your Ovaltine

Enter the Millenials (or Generation Y).  Our future.  They have taken multi tasking to a new level.  My soon to be 13 year old son is one of them.  Watching him is amazing.  Our kids computer is located right by the kitchen table... intentionally.  There he is at work...  IPOD is playing,  multiple IM conversations in flight,  surfing MLB.COM, ESPN.COM, eating a snack and doing some homework.  I ask "How can you do this?"  He responds "What. This? It's easy."  He is on the honor roll... These type of individuals are entering the workforce now.  They are our potential employees, customers, partners and future leaders.  They will help drive where Web 2.0 is going.  They will be the consumers of the next YouTube.  They will be working on Wall Street, in Asia, Europe, the Americas, e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

Millenials want to gain our experience, we admire their youth and eagarness.  We need to teach them as well as learn from them.  It is a great opportunity for all.

 


About

The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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