Monday Aug 17, 2009

Use all the Tools in the Tool Box...

Ultimately it is the software application that most IT customers look toward solving their business problems.  However software applications have a lot of moving parts sitting logically under the stack that enables the given application.  Some of these parts include operating system components, hardware and usually a large amounts of data.

A car, like an IT solution, requires more than a few set of tools to complete the job. While companies share many common problems, as do car manufactures, company solutions ultimately need the entire tool box to be fully utilized.  This is necessary in order to get the right solution to a company's IT problem.

Healthy competition amongst vendors enables multiple degrees of freedom for application solutions, but more technologies in a given vendors tool box only enables the ability to build better IT solutions.  The same applies to those who are in the business of building cars.  From a business perspective it is absolutely critical that the technologies have to be articulated into a cohesive and complementary strategy for success.  For example Ford builds cars, trucks and hybrids.  Ford does not depend on putting a truck engine into a Ford Focus and vice versa for obvious reasons.  The same applies for technology.  No "one solution fits all" has ever been successful in any market. 

Venture Capitalists and public companies have been chasing "the" goal for many years that one given technology can satisfy all aspects of a given marketHowever when you combine and use multiple technologies in your portfolio and present the right business and sales focus the results can be pretty awesome.

Here is a good example of software technologies:

from the tool box combined with partner technology to produce an ultimate software application solution.

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Thursday Jan 03, 2008

Holiday Technology Woes... at Home

In anticipation of some Winter Holiday downtime and unplugging from the internet cloud-- I envisioned some history reading and some home projects that required tools from a Craftsman Toolbox.  On Dec 24th my home computer hardware decided to get real sick.  The system uses fast RDRAM memory but all 2GB became usless when a single memory address line failure corrupted my system disk.  I was able to invoke extended memory tests then managed to isolate the faulty DIMM module and once again had good memory.  My next step was to try and recover the system disk.  I ran chkdsk (its just like fsck), mucked with the boot partion, etc. but could not recover the disk.  Previously I was fortunate to recover the system disk two times prior on this machine but this time my luck ran out.  Since all my data is on a separate data disk that is incrementally backed up daily to a network drive, I still had the most important items intact... The DATA.  So I reformatted the system disk and reinstalled the OS, then all the numerous updates, patches and ALL the applications (including configuring them).  It took about a day but all is normal on the home computer once again.  My wife and I realized how dependent we are on this device for running our domestic endeavours (paying bills, kids activities, purchases, getting information, etc.)  While we have other computers running various OSes in our house, this specific one was the nerve center.  It really resonated with me that I had taken precautions to preserve the data and they payed off.  It felt similar to the car accident question.  "Are you all right?"  We can replace the car but not you (the data). Personal digital data that an individual generates is just as important as the digital data of corporations.  We live in a sea of digital data today.  With free email, picture sharing and archives that store massive amounts of data that increases every second, protecting the data grows in importance as well.

My son received a new gaming console as a holiday present and the initial experience was amazing.  The ability of the graphic processor (GPU) to generate and manipulate polygons is incredible.  The effects generated to create waterfalls, reflection, smoke, 3D, etc. is excellent.  The visual effect is most stunning when the game's HD visual output is displayed in 1080i mode on a HD display.  It is safe to say the gaming console is a powerful personal computer.  The ultimate gaming experience is when you plug into the network cloud and play online with others.  Forget for a moment the complexities of configuring your network router, wireless LAN and the correct settings of open not restricted NAT and UPnP.  To play online and communicate in real time via VoIP, while you visualize in HD, hear in surround sound and control the events of the game is an experience you could only previously get at Walt's Kingdom.  The online response was great... for a few days when suddenly response started to get slow.  I told my son that good old latency had arrived.  He said "What?"  I told him that if 10 kids in each city of the world just received a new game console for the holidays that would be a lot of new consoles.  By the time most of them connected online would be about now...  As a result there are servers somewhere that are hosting these online games that are probably getting strained/hot and can't keep up with all the requests.  In other words the computer infrastructure (lots of servers, storage, etc.) that is keeping all game consoles in harmony can't do it as effortlessly as before because there are now too many of you playing while on school vacation. Then it happened...  His online id on his console got corrupted.  He could not recover his id.  All his scores, points, you name it data and a lot of it was unreachable on his console.  I told him I think his hard drive on his console is corrupted.  So I reformatted his hard drive (deja vu) and went through a recovery procedure.  Fortunately we recovered his online id and all his data since those busy servers with loads of storage kept a copy of his data too.

These technology woes are opportunities for those who provide the infrastructure of the internet... which is one large data cloud growing and growing and growing. 

Monday Nov 26, 2007

The Art of Coexistant File Sharing in OpenSolaris

Today any OS needs to provide support for the 2 dominant file sharing protocols in the industry (NFS and CIFS).  While there are good  implementations such as SAMBA which run  "On" the OS in user space, ideally you want both file sharing protocols to run portions of the implementation "In" the kernel.  Now that OpenSolaris has a kernel based CIFS server along side NFS, I want to give kudos to a few people who made it a reality. Keep in mind implementing any file protocol in any kernel is difficult.  When you introduce both Windows and OpenSolaris together at the kernel level one can appreciate the complexities introduced to coexist.  Coexist has the caveat that code gets added in a seamless fashion and that services are not negatively impacted by this new foreign object.  Fundamental items such as the file system, security, permissions, marshaling,  etc., play an important part in making the seamless coexistence a technical mountain to climb.  That said the OpenSolaris team solved some pretty significant technical issues to make the CIFS Server in OpenSolaris available to anyone.  Despite some self proclaimed experts insisting the feat would never be accomplished, I'll point you to a few folks who know how to collaborate, innovate and in some instances dictate how to "get it done."  You can see for yourself the numerous ARC (~35) cases sponsored and approved as well as some intricate details of how problems were solved.  You can hear from the developers directly and since OpenSolaris is open sourced-- peruse ~370 thousands of lines of code that are now part of OpenSolaris.  Let's start with Mike Shapiro and Alan M. Wright.  One is a Patriots and Red Sox fan (like me) and the other is fond of rugby (unlike me... I like the Patriots).  Both are top notch engineers who can architect with ease and crank out massive amounts of code... that just works.  Mike and Alan cracked a heck of a technical problem (yes these are the hard problems that motivate them both) with respect to "Unified POSIX and Window Credentials for Solaris."  Mike describes the problem in detail on a recent post at his blog.  Alan takes us through, via his blog, the evolution of how a fully integrated CIFS service was integrated into OpenSolaris.  He is very literate on topics such as SMB autohome shares and why they evolved.  Let's not forget about Afshin, Doug and Nico.  All quite literate as well on the details of the hows and whys of a fully integrated CIFS service into OpenSolaris that was not just munged to sort of work.  From an architectural perspective numerous design requirements were diligently reviewed.  Take for example endianness.  The CIFS protocol is sensitive to the x86 processor endian order of significance.  However careful care was taken to enable the CIFS protocol in OpenSolaris to work on both big-endian and little-endian architectures by putting intelligence into marshaling.  So that means that the OpenSolaris CIFS Server will run on a SPARC-based platform if a community member were to build an appliance or simply run the service as part of a general purpose server.  Yes Niagara-II and Rock microprocessors work as it is part of OpenSolaris architecture conformance.  What other open sourced OS supports a kernel based CIFS service that runs on both big and little endian machines?

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.


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


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