Posts Tagged VMware

Where Have All the Enterprise IT Hardware Vendors Gone?

Remember that song asking where all the flowers had gone? In a few years you might be asking the same of many of today’s enterprise hardware vendors.  The answer is important as you plan your data center 3-5 years out.  Where will you get your servers from and at what cost? Will you even need servers in your data center?  And what will they look like, maybe massive collections of ARM processors?

As reported in The Register (Amazon cloud threatens the entire IT ecosystem): Amazon’s cloud poses a major threat to most of the traditional IT ecosystem, a team of 25 Morgan Stanley analysts write in a report, Amazon Web Services: Making Waves in the IT Pond, that was released recently. The Morgan Stanley researchers cite Brocade, NetApp, QLogic, EMC and VMware as facing the greatest challenges from the growth of AWS. The threat takes the form of AWS’s exceeding low cost per virtual machine instance.

Beyond the price threat, the vendors are scrambling to respond to the challenges of cloud, mobile, and big data/analytics. Even Intel, the leading chip maker, just introduced the 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor family to address these challenges.  The new chip promises optimized experiences personalized for end-users’ specific needs and offers double the battery life and breakthrough graphics targeted to new low cost devices such as mobile tablets and all-in-one systems.

The Wall Street Journal online covered related ground from a different perspective when it wrote: PC makers unveiled a range of unconventional devices on the eve of Asia’s biggest computer trade show as they seek to revive (the) flagging industry and stay relevant amid stiff competition. Driven by the cloud and the explosion of mobile devices in a variety of forms the enterprise IT industry doesn’t seem to know what the next device should even be.

Readers once chastised this blogger for suggesting that their next PC might be a mobile phone. Then came smartphones, quickly followed by tablets. Today PC sales are dropping fast, according to IDC.

The next rev of your data center may be based on ARM processors (tiny, stingy with power, cheap, cool, and remarkably fast), essentially mobile phone chips. They could be ganged together in large quantities to deliver mainframe-like power, scalability, and reliability at a fraction of the cost.

IBM has shifted its focus and is targeting cloud computing, mobile, and big data/analytics, even directing its acquisitions toward these areas as witnessed by yesterday’s SoftLayer acquisition. HP, Oracle, most of the other vendors are pursuing variations of the same strategy.  Oracle, for example, acquired Tekelec, a smart device signaling company.

But as the Morgan Stanley analysts noted, it really is Amazon using its cloud scale to savage the traditional enterprise IT vendor hardware strategies and it is no secret why:

  • No upfront investment
  • Pay for Only What You Use (with a caveat or two)
  • Price Transparency
  • Faster Time to Market
  • Near-infinite Scalability and Global Reach

And the more AWS grows, the more its prices drop due to the efficiency of cloud scaling.  It is not clear how the enterprise IT vendors will respond.

What will your management say when they get a whiff of AWS pricing. An extra large, high memory SQL Server database instance lists for $0.74 per hour (check the fine print). What does your Oracle database cost you per hour running on your on-premise enterprise server? That’s what the traditional enterprise IT vendors are facing.

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IBM PowerLinux Changes the x86 Calculus

With Linux reportedly the fastest growing operating system in the work and 99% of Global 2000 enterprises intending to include open source software in their portfolios by 2015 (up from 73% in 2012), clearly open source Linux has long crossed the adoption chasm and achieved enterprise acceptance. This is an ideal time for IBM to introduce its new PowerLinux servers, which deliver the performance of IBM Power Systems at x86 prices.

The IBM PowerLinux introduction includes two Linux-only models, a 2-socket, 2U rack server (7R2) and a 2-socket compute node (p24L) intended to plug into IBM’s newly introduced PureFlex appliance. Each socket contains 8 POWER7 cores and 256GB of memory, and IBM has tuned the machines for key tasks, like Big Data.  BottomlineIT covered the PureSystems introduction previously here. PureFlex is a computing appliance that accepts a variety of nodes in the form of blades, including PowerLinux as a compute node.

IBM’s goal was to deliver PowerLinux at a cost of acquisition competitive with x86 systems.  For example, the PowerLinux system including POWER7, virtualization (PowerVM), and the Linux open source OS (either Red Hat or SUSE) costs $21,282 (USD). By comparison, a comparable Dell/Intel system (able to handle the same workloads and running VMware vSphere Enterprise 5 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription and support comes in at $22,650 (USD). A comparable HP/Intel system running VMware vSphere Enterprise 5 and Red Hat subscription and support costs $24,838 (USD). Comparative cost data provided by IBM.  If you don’t want the PowerVM hypervisor, there is the KVM option.

Both the Dell and HP systems run 2-socket, 16-core 2.4GHz ER-2665 Sandy Bridge processors with32GB of memory, two 300GB SAS drives (15k), a 4x1GbE network controller, and a SAS, DVD, RAID storage controller. The PowerLinux system brings a faster 16-core processor (3.55 GHz) while matching the other specifications.

So, in terms of speeds, feeds, and cost, PowerLinux not only meets but exceeds the leading x86 systems for running virtualized Linux workloads. When you look at virtualization for PowerLinux compared to VMware vSphere 5.0, PowerLinux looks even better. PowerLinux handles 16 virtual CPUs per virtual machine vs. 8 for VMware and 4 CPU threads per core vs. 2 for VMware. Throw in the secure hardware-based hypervisor for PowerLinux (PowerVM) vs. VMware’s software-based hypervisor and the PowerLinux machine is the clear winner.

In terms of workloads, one beta user, the University of Hamburg (Germany), compared two PowerLinux machines with ten x86 Linux servers for a big file serving workload. The result: PowerLinux delivered a 50% performance gain and a 30% lower cost of virtual file server acquisition.

If you look at a Big Data analytics workload—another increasingly important workload—the PowerLinux server with 4 threads per core has an immediate advantage over Intel’s 2 threads per core. PowerLinux also can handle parallel file systems across multiple servers using HDFS or the highly optimized IBM GPFS. In short, PowerLinux servers can natively exploit massively parallel processing across Linux clusters, which is what you want for Big Data.

PowerLinux already has been highly tuned by IBM. Should you deploy it as a compute node in the PureFlex appliance, you get the added integration, optimization, and automated expertise (patterns) IBM has packed into that device too.

The appeal of the PowerLinux system is that IBM streamlined it to match or exceed x86 cost and performance objectives. It, indeed, can beat comparable x86 machines running Linux virtualized workloads and do it at less than x86/VMware prices.

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Open Source Virtualization Saves Money

Virtualization is a powerful technology that enables numerous benefits detailed here, particularly saving money. The savings come mainly through the IT resource consolidation. When you add open source to the virtualization equation, it creates another avenue to savings.

 Virtualization technology, in the form of the hypervisor, is not exactly cheap. VMware, the industry’s 900lbs. hypervisor gorilla commands significant license fees. With its latest pricing plan introduced last year, the standard license starts at about $1000. Enterprise costs are based on processor sockets and memory and, given how it is calculated, VMware can require four times as many licenses as previously needed, which dramatically increases the cost.  Here’s VMware’s FAQ on pricing. Depending on the amount of memory licensing costs could run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Open source virtualization, noted Jean Staten Healy, IBM’s worldwide Cross-IBM Linux and Open Virtualization Director, presents opportunities to reduce virtualization costs in numerous ways.  For example, the inclusion of open source KVM in enterprise Linux distributions reduces need for additional hypervisors, enabling the organization to avoid buying more VMware licenses.  KVM also enables higher virtual machine density for more savings. IDC’s Al Gillen and Gary Chen put out a white paper detailing the recent KVM advances.

 The ability to manage mixed KVM- VMware virtualization through a single tool further increases the cost efficiency of open source virtualization. IBM’s System Director VMControl is one of the few tools providing such mixed hypervisor, cross-platform management.  For general hypervisor management, Linux and KVM standardized on libvirt and libguestfs as the base APIs for managing virtualization and images. These APIs work with other Linux hypervisors beyond KVM (higher-level tools, such as virsh and virt-manager, are built on top of libvirt).

The combination of KVM technical advances, the slow but steadily increasing adoption of KVM, and the inclusion of KVM as a core feature of the Linux operation system is driving more enterprises deploy KVM along with VMware. Of course, the fact that KVM now comes for free as part of the Linux core means you can try it at no cost and minimal risk.

Enterprise Linux users are now using KVM where they previously would have not bothered to virtualize a particular workload due to cost. This makes sense for several reasons; free being just one of them. Other reasons include the integration of the KVM toolset with the Linux toolset and the fact that Linux admins already know how to use it.

One large bank used Linux and KVM as a development and test resource in a private cloud. Normally, they would have needed to request more budget for VMware but since they had Linux with KVM they could just add Windows virtual machines. And by developing in Java, they could roll out prototypes fast.  In the process, the bank achieved high virtual machine density at minimal cost.

Another financial services firm set up virtual machines with KVM to monitor Linux usage for under-utilized hosts and then deployed virtual machine images to the host as warranted. The result: an ad-hoc grid of KVM virtual machines with high utilization, again at minimal cost.

KVM is a natural for private clouds. IBM reports private clouds being built using Moab with xCAT and KVM. The resulting private cloud handles both VMware and KVM equally well, making them plug-compatible.  With this approach, organizations can gradually expand their use of KVM and reduce, or at least delay, the need to buy more VMware licenses, again saving money.

KVM also is being exercised in a big way as the hypervisor behind IBM’s public Smart Cloud Enterprise, demonstrating how enterprise-capable this free, open source hypervisor is.

BottomlineIT expects VMware will remain the dominant x86 virtualization platform going forward. However, it makes sense to grab every opportunity to use KVM for enterprise-class, multi-platform virtualization and save money wherever you can.

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OVA and oVIRT Drive KVM Success

In the x86 world VMware is the 900-pound hypervisor gorilla. Even Microsoft’s Hyper-V takes a back seat to the VMware hypervisor.  KVM, however, is gaining traction as an open source alternative. Like an open source product, it brings advantages portability, customizability, and low cost.

In terms of overall platform virtualization, the Linux world may be lagging behind Windows in the rate of server virtualization or not, depending on which studies you have been reading.  Regardless, with IBM and Red Hat getting behind the KVM hypervisor in a big way last year, the pace of Linux servers being virtualized should pick up.

The driving of KVM today is being turned over to the Open Virtualization Alliance (OVA), which has made significant gains in attracting participation since its launch last spring. Currently it boasts over 240 members, up from the couple of dozen when BottomlineIT looked at it months ago.

The OVA also has been bolstered by an open virtualization development organization, the oVirt Project here.  Its founding partners include: Canonical, Cisco, IBM, Intel, NetApp, Red Hat and SUSE. The founders promise to deliver a truly open source and openly governed and integrated virtualization stack.  The oVirt team aims to deliver both a cohesive stack and discretely reusable components for open virtualization management, which should become key building blocks for private and public cloud deployments.

 The oVirt Project bills itself as an open virtualization project providing a feature-rich server virtualization management system with advanced capabilities for hosts and guests, including high availability, live migration, storage management, system scheduler, and more. The oVirt goal is to develop a broad ecosystem of tools to make up a complete integrated platform and to deliver them on a well defined release schedule. These are components designed and tested to work together, and oVirt should become a central venue for user and developer cooperation.

The idea around OVA and oVirt is that effective enterprise virtualization requires more than just a hypervisor, noted Jean Staten, IBM Director, Worldwide Cross‐IBM Linux and Open Virtualization, at a recent briefing.  In addition to a feature-rich hypervisor like KVM, Healy cited the need for well-defined APIs at all layers of the stack, readily accessible (reasonably priced) systems and tools, a corresponding feature-rich, heterogeneous management platform, and a robust ecosystem to extend the open hypervisor and management platform, all of which oVirt is tackling.

Now KVM and the OVA just need success cases to demonstrate the technology. Initially, IBM provided the core case experience, its Research Compute Cloud (RC2). RC2 runs over 200 iDataplex nodes, an IBM x86 product using KVM. It handles 2000 concurrent instances, is used by thousands of IBM employees worldwide, and provides 100TB of block storage attached to KVM instances via a storage cloud. RC2 also handles actual IBM internal chargeback based on charges-per-VM hour across IBM.

Today IBM is using KVM with its System z blades in the zBX. It also supports KVM as a tier 1 virtualization technology with IBM System Director VMControl and Tivoli system management products.  On System x, KVM delivered 18% better virtual machine consolidation in a SPECvirt_sc2010 benchmark test.

Recently KVM was adopted by DutchCloud, the leading ISP in Netherlands. DutchCloud is a cloud-based IaaS provider. Companies choose it for QoS, reliability, and low price.

DutchCloud opted for IBM SmartCloud Provisioning as it core delivery platform across multiple server and storage nodes and KVM as the hypervisor for virtual machines. KVM offers both minimal licensing costs and the ability to support mixed (KVM and VMware) deployments.  IBM’s System Director VMControl provides heterogeneous virtual machine management. The combination of KVM and SmartCloud Provisioning enabled DutchCloud to provision hundreds of customer virtual machines in a few minutes and ensure isolation through effective multi-tenancy. And since it can communicate directly with the KVM hypervisor, it avoids the need to license additional management components.

KVM is primarily a distributed x86 Linux platform and cloud play. It may, however, make its way into IBM’s zEnterprise environments through the zBX as the hypervisor for the x86 (IBM eX5) blades residing there.

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The Challenge of Managing Multi-Platform Virtualization

While virtualization has been experiencing widespread adoption over the past decade it was considered an x86-VMware phenomenon. Sure there are other hypervisors, but for most organizations VMware was synonymous with virtualization. Even on the x86 platform, Microsoft Hyper-V was the also ran. Of course, virtualization has been baked into the mainframe for decades, but most organizations only began to take notice with the rise of VMware.

Virtualization provides the foundation for cloud computing, and as cloud computing gains traction across all segments of the computing landscape virtualization increasingly is understood as a multi-platform and multi-hypervisor game. Today’s enterprise is likely to be widely heterogeneous. It will run virtualized systems on x86 platforms, Windows, Linux, Power, and System z. By the end of the year, expect to see both Windows and Linux applications running virtualized on x86, Power Systems, and the zEnterprise mainframe.

Welcome to the virtualized multi-platform, multi-hypervisor enterprise. While it brings benefits—choice, flexibility, cost savings—it also comes with challenges. The biggest of which is management complexity. Growing virtualized environments have to be tightly managed or they can easily spin out of control with phantom and rogue VMs popping up everywhere and gobbling system resources. The typical platform- and hypervisor-specific tools simply won’t do the trick. This will require tools to manage virtualization across the full range of platforms and hypervisors.

Not surprisingly, IBM, which probably has the most virtualized platforms and hypervisors of any vendor, also is the first with cross-platform, cross-hypervisor management in Systems Director’s newest version of VMControl, version 2.4, part of IBM’s System Director family of management tools. This is truly multi everything management. From a single console you control VMs running on x86 Windows, x86 Linux, and Linux on Power. One administrator can start, stop, move, and otherwise manage virtual machines, even across platforms. And it is agnostic as far as the hypervisor goes; it can handle VMware, Hyper V, and KVM.  It also integrates with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager and VMware vCenter. (I’ve been told by IBM that it also will be able to manage VMs running on the zEnterprise platform soon after a few issues are resolved regarding the mainframe’s already robust virtualization management.)

The multi-platform VMControl 2.4 dovetails nicely with another emerging virtualization trend—open virtualization. In just a few months the Open Virtualization Alliance has grown from the initial four founders (IBM, Red Hat, Intel, and HP) to over 200 members. The open source KVM hypervisor being championed by the alliance handles both Linux and Windows workloads, allowing organizations to dodge yet another element of vendor lock-in. One organization already used that flexibility to avoid higher charges by running the open source hypervisor for a test and dev situation. That kind of open virtualization requires just the kind of multi-platform virtualization management VMControl 2.4 delivers.

Multi-platform is where enterprise virtualization has to go. Eventually BottomlineIT expects the other hypervisors to get there, but it may take a while.

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VMworld Triggers a Clash of Titans

If you believe the hype about VMworld 2011, the annual virtualization fest held by VMware, the leading distributed systems hypervisor company, you might think virtualization was poised to take over the world. OK, in some ways it is, at least the IT world anyway. Virtualization is important because it has the potential to save money and change much that is inefficient with conventional IT. It also forms the foundation of cloud computing

But VMworld wasn’t the only mega-event going on at the end of August. Salesforce.com, the 900 lbs. gorilla in the SaaS industry, staged its annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco the same week. Dreamforce expected 45,000 attendees, better than doubling VMworld’s 20,000. Salesforce is using Dreamforce to rebrand itself as the social enterprise company on the basis of its cloud platform and how it leverages social, mobile, and open cloud technologies to change companies’ relationships with their customers. Dreamforce sponsors include the big consulting firms but few of the big IT vendors.

Judging by the projected attendance at this year’s VMworld it clearly was one of the two places to be this final week of summer if you’re in IT.  The list of corporate participants includes all the big names in technology—the ones not at Dreamforce–Cisco, EMC, HP, NetApp, CA, IBM, Intel, Symantec, and more; a veritable clash of titans. Here’s a sampling:

IBM is using VMworld to promote its hybrid and private Smart Cloud initiatives. In this case it announced a hybrid cloud product based on its recent Cast Iron acquisition that promises to reduce the time it takes to connect, manage and secure public and private clouds. An integration and management tool, it aims to help organizations of all sizes gain better visibility and control while effectively easing the ability to integrate and manage all of an organization’s on-and-off premise IT resources. What once took several months to set up, according to IBM, can now be done in a few days.

NetApp, a storage vendor, joined with VMware to announce the VMware cloud infrastructure on NetApp, which will allow companies to migrate to a secure cloud computing model at their own pace while avoiding the need to rip and replace their existing infrastructure. The product combines NetApp’s flexible Unified Storage Architecture and comprehensive set of storage and data management capabilities built on NetApp’s Data ONTAP with VMware’s recently enhanced cloud infrastructure suite.

Cisco announced technology enhancements to its joint VMware virtualization product that help organizations accelerate their transition to the cloud. Sound familiar? The companies unveiled network virtualization that will broaden the mobility range of virtual machines across multiple datacenters and cloud environments.

Symantec Corp. joined VMware to announce an expansion of their joint effort to define and architect Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solutions with the goal to provide secure, pre-integrated, and well-managed enterprise-quality virtual desktop computing environments for both enterprises and IT service providers. This initiative will leverage VMware’s virtual desktop and cloud infrastructure products with Symantec products to deliver a secure, manageable and cost-effective DaaS solution.

Of course VMware made many announcements starting with VMware View, which enhances the company’s virtual desktop offerings and VMware Horizon, dubbed as a platform for the post PC era. Horizon handles a variety end user tasks for virtualized Windows applications and mobile users. It also used the event to launch vSphere 5, the latest enhancement to its vSphere virtualization platform for building cloud infrastructures. This will surely trigger a clash of titans as every major IT vendor brings out its cloud virtualization platform.

Not to be outdone or ignored, Microsoft, another IT titan, chose the VMworld kickoff to launch its counter initiative  through two executives who announced new reduced pricing. This was a pointed attack on VMware, which recently raised prices through a backdoor change in its pricing model that raised a howl from customers. Said the executives: This is “a great time to showcase the value of Microsoft’s cloud offerings versus those from competitors VMware and Salesforce.com.” They promise Microsoft customers 4-10 times savings over a period of one to three years. Ain’t competition great.

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Where Best to Run Linux

Mainframe data centers have many platform options for running Linux. The challenge is deciding where: x86 servers and blades, IBM Power Systems, HP Itanium, Oracle/Sun, IBM’s System z or zEnterprise.

Here is what IBM has to say about the various options: System z / zEnterprisePower/System p/System i, andSystem x blades and rack mount servers. And now with the zBX there is yet another option, Linux blades on the zBX. But this doesn’t answer the real question: where should your organization run Linux?

If you have only one platform the answer is simple. Linux has been widely ported. You can probably run it on whatever you already have.

Most organizations today, especially enterprise data centers, have multiple platforms running Windows, Linux, UNIX, AIX, Solaris, and more. And they run these on different hardware platforms from IBM, HP, Oracle/Sun, Dell, and others. Now the decision of where to run Linux gets complicated. The classic consultant/analyst response: it depends.

Again, IBM’s response is to lead the organization through a Fit for Purpose exercise. Here is how IBM discusses the exercise in regard to cloud computing. BottomlineIT’s sister blog addressed Fit for Purpose here last year.

The Fit for Purpose exercise, however, can be reduced to four basic choices:

  1. Where does the data that your Linux applications will use most reside—in general you will get the best end-to-end performance the closer the data is to the applications. So, if your Linux applications need to use DB2 data residing on the mainframe, you probably want the run Linux on the System z or a zBX blade.
  2. Since cost is always an issue look at the price/performance numbers—in this case you have to look at all the costs, paying particular attention to cost in terms of performance delivered. Running Linux on a cheap, underpowered x86 box may cost less but not deliver the performance you want.
  3. Available skills—here you need to look at where the Linux and platform skills available to you fall and opt for the platform where you have the most skills availability. Of course, a relatively modest investment in training can pay big dividends in this area.
  4. IT culture—to avoid resistance even if the data proximity or price/performance considerations fall one way, many might opt for the platform favored by the dominant IT culture.

Further complicating the decision is the lack of good data available on both the cost and the performance of Linux on the zBX or its Linux blades. Plus there are other variables to consider, such as whether you run Linux on an IFL on the z with or without z/VM. Similarly, you can run Linux on an x-platform with or without VMware or some other hypervisor. These choices will impact price, performance, and skills.

Although the answer to the question of where to run Linux may not be as simple as many would like, DancingDinosaur believes as a general principle it is always better to have choices.

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