Thursday, June 26, 2014

Potomac Regional VMUG User Conference 2014

It's VMUG User Conference season!

You know the drill: brainy keynote, lots of exhibitors, unlimited free coffee, and dozens of great technical breakout sessions. The only problem is that you end up running into so many people you know, that you pretty much miss all that other stuff. But maybe that's the point.

The only breakout session I attended was on vCAC and Heterogenous Cloud Management. It's funny how some sessions really speak to you. I'm working on a project to modernize the virtualization infrastructure at the moment, and vCAC is likely the tool I've been looking for. I've been familiar with the product for a while, but it was never relevant to my work until now. But I hadn't been looking to integrate so many disparate solutions in a complex environment before. And all of a sudden, I can't complete a sentence at work without using "workflow" and "blueprint" a few times.

So expect to see a few vCAC and integration posts from me in the near future. I haven't been posting highly technical articles lately; that will change. I'm starting a project where I'll be rolling up my sleeves and getting into the guts of a virtualization infrastructure again. I'm looking forward to it!

A final note: many thanks are in order for the leaders of the MD and DC VMUGs. They put in more effort than we realize to make these events successful. Do yourself a favor and join one or both groups if you're in the Baltimore/DC area.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Please Use Other Door

Illegible because iPhone 4.

Four glass doors mark the entrance to my office building. Each day, up to one thousand people pass through these doors on their way to work, to lunch, to smoke, to walk, or just to get out for a moment. These doors are busy, for certain.

These doors are also broken.

See the door on the left? The sign says "Please Use Other Door." And that sign has been Scotch taped to the glass since at least December, when I started work here. It didn't bother me at first; doors break all the time. The world is an imperfect place. But after a few months, I started to wonder if the door would ever be fixed.

Now, seven months later, it seems that this door is doomed for dysfunction. What's worse: no one even notices it anymore.

*   *   *

In IT infrastructure, we spend time two ways: building things and fixing things. Personally, I like building, but love fixing. It's a chance to stretch your brain a bit as you detect, diagnose, and dispatch a problem. Usually, a problem arises, we sort it out, and we move on. But what about the problems that you don't fix right away?

Given enough time, you stop seeing these problems. You develop a blind spot; the problem still exists, you just no longer recognize it as a problem. It's like the old adage: the worst thing you can do with a problem is ignore it.

Dear readers, let this be a reminder to you: broken doors won't fix themselves. Stop making signs, and start solving problems.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Hyperconverged Hamburger

Le Big Mac.
A few ground rules for readers of this post: don't get lost in the metaphor here. I'm sure you've got a really clever angle on the McDonaldization of virtualization, or the paleo-inspired server diet you're promoting (and my my, aren't you fit?). But temper your white-hot desire to boast; we're all sure you're terribly smart.

Now. On to the meat of this post.

O, Big Mac. We love to hate you, but my god how we love to love you, too. Consumers of fast food world-wide see you as a whole, not just a collection of manufactured ingredients. As we drift into the smooth undulations of the drive-through lanes, we politely shout "BIG MAC" into a brown box with relentless red LEDs that transcribe our order. Never in the history of mankind (it's a documented fact) has a consumer made the following demands in this situation:
I'd like a seasame seed bun, a club, two burgers, some slices of cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, catsup, and some "secret" sauce, please.
It's because the Big Mac isn't just some collection of things. It, itself, is the thing. It's the unit of measurement with regard to hunger. Well, sometimes.

It's also a perfect metaphor for hyperconvergence.

Believe the Hype(rconvergence)

We've got to stop thinking about virtualization as a collection of things. Rather, it, itself, is the thing. Cisco squinted hard years ago and saw hyperconvergence on the horizon, and Project California begat Cisco UCS. UCS converges server and network (and storage, too, with the Whiptail acquisition from last year). Nutanix implements convergence of server and storage resources, which avoids the storage networking problem altogether. Dell's VRTX tries to do all three, but to date I've neither seen nor heard of a single implementation of this product (though to be honest, whether I've seen or heard of something is indicative of nothing).

The point is that no one treats virtualization like the product of multiple, discrete resources. It's not storage + server + network. It's virtualization.

The Hyperconverged Org Chart

I've written about the perils of applying yesterday's org charts to today's technology and how isolating your engineers can imperil problem solving. But over the weekend, while we drank copious amounts of cheap beer and jumped into the hot/cold waters of the Chesapeake Bay, a good friend echoed my opinions on org chart silos and the negative impact on IT. So I'm here to tell you again: quit it.

Stop segmenting your virtualization infrastructure into Server | Storage | Network teams. It does not work.