New Citrix Xen/KVM Virtual Switch

May 7, 2009 - Leave a Response

Citrix Synergy is in full swing this week with lots of new product announcements as expected. One new product that hasn’t garnered nearly the attention it probably merits is a new, Open Source virtual switch that runs on the Xen and KVM hypervisors.

Chris Wolf has great analysis as usual:

I’m expecting Citrix to offer more details of the open source Xen virtual switch in the near future, but in the mean time, here’s what I can tell you:

  1. The virtual switch will be open source and initially compatible with both Xen- and KVM-based hypervisors
  2. It will provide centralized network management
  3. It will support advanced network management features such as Netflow, SPAN, RSPAN, and ERSPAN
  4. It will initially be available as a plug-in to XenCenter
  5. It will support security features such as ACLs and 802.1x

This is clearly a great move by Citrix. An open source virtual switch will allow a number of hardware OEMs to ship a robust virtual switch on their products, while also giving them the opportunity to add value to both their hardware devices (e.g., network adapters) and software management suites. Furthermore, an open source virtual switch that is shared by a large vendor community will enable organizations to deploy this virtual switch technology while avoiding vendor lock-in.

There’s no doubt that virtualized network infrastructure is here to stay. Virtualized switches, particularly Open Source virtualized switches, have huge potential to shake up the status-quo network equipment vendor market in a big way.

Tinderbox 4.6

March 7, 2009 - 4 Responses
Tinderbox Mind Map

Tinderbox Mind Map

Tinderbox 4.6 was released this week.  Tinderbox continues evolve and add new and interesting capabilities. What I find most interesting about Tinderbox is the application’s usefulness across time: periodically I’m tempted by new software that claims to perform some subset of the tasks that Tinderbox performs, and/or present information in a new and better way. I’ll try these applications for a short period of time…and always end up realizing that Tinderbox performs the task or presents the information more effective.

I just spent a couple of days experimenting with Zengobi Curio, for example. Curio is a beautiful application, very Mac-like and attractive to look at. I was seduce by the concept of “Idea Spaces” and so gave it a try first as a means of mapping out the strategy for an article on a product announcement and then to gather notes during a managed services discovery engagement. Some time later I was in a meeting and needed a quick means of extracting my discovery notes and sharing them with colleagues. Simply exporting the text of my notes in some useful format in Curio turned out to be more difficult than I needed it to be while in the middle of a meeting. Curio provides a number of export options, but none of them easily generated simple text output that I could paste into an email or a wiki for sharing. In contrast, the notes that I had gathered just a week or so earlier during a disaster recovery assessment using Tinderbox were easily shared with a few mouse clicks, as plain text that I could easily reuse anywhere.

A note to makers of note taking and outlining software on the Mac: just because its so easy to export everything as a PDF doesn’t mean doing so is always the best thing to do.

Of course with a little bit of reflection I realized that an “Idea Space” is really just a Tinderbox map view, and that the relationships between all of the different Tinderbox views actually makes a map view more useful in many cases than Curio’s Idea Spaces. That small epiphany was as transformative to my view of how I could use Tinderbox in my work as was my very first “a-ha!” moment with Tinderbox back in March of 2002:

Now, here’s the cool part and the “aha!” moment. After we discussed what I was trying to achieve, Mark commented that I might be able to get the results I was really after not by doing any sort of HTML export, but simply by using Tinderbox’s Explorer view. It was like a light bulb went off. While I’d looked at Explorer view before, I’d never really tried to use it. A quick glance, however, revealed that Mark was right; with a little arrangement of my notes, I’d be able to easily see what feeds were being gathered by what agents, and I’d be able to navigate and read those feeds with a lot less clicking around and drilling down.

I’d been so caught up in two paradigms that I literally couldn’t see the easy solution that was right in from of me. To begin with, my propensity to always use the very graphical Map view blinded me to the other, very useful views available. Worse, my experience in recent years has been very server oriented, primarily using things like PHP and MySQL, so I naturally gravitated toward an implementation scheme that worked in a similar manner, blind to the fact that Tinderbox is a client application.

This sort of thing happens to me all the time with Tinderbox. Seven years after I had my first epiphany that if I just saw the software this way I would significantly transform my view and use of this particular tool I’m still regularly having that sort of experience with Tinderbox. I can’t think of a single other piece of software I’ve been using for any length of time that I’ve had that experience with.

Don’t get me wrong, Curio seems well-written and sophisticated, and may be just the thing for some people. Certainly I’m more familiar and facile with Tinderbox after years of use than I am with Curio after only a few days – but to some extent, that’s my point. Across the years Tinderbox has continued to be so amazingly useful and well-adapted to my work that any software that might be positioned to displace it will need to be a order of magnitude better at what it does and how it does it.

Ask the Core Team : Data Protection Manager: What is a ‘Consistency Check’ and what could cause it to fail?

September 15, 2008 - Leave a Response

Ask the Core Team : Data Protection Manager: What is a ‘Consistency Check’ and what could cause it to fail?

Very useful information for troubleshooting consistency issues on Microsoft DPM servers.

I, Cringely . The Pulpit . Fire Your Boss | PBS

September 13, 2008 - Leave a Response

If you are managing an IT shop and can’t write the code to render “hello world” in C, html, php, and pull “hello world” from a MySQL database using a perl script, then YOU are in the wrong job.

I should point out that these latter tasks can be copied and pasted straight from properly composed Google queries. They aren’t a test of programming knowledge at all, just of the ability to use the Internet. Yet many technical managers will fail and should get the boot as a result. You can’t manage what you can’t understand.

I, Cringely . The Pulpit . Fire Your Boss | PBS

I just spent thirty minutes writing a detailed post on why while I agree with Cringely’s point that technically incompetent IT managers are less valuable than technical staff I think his test is lacking. Unfortunately I was using the WordPress web-based editor for writing and a careless key stroke destroyed it all. Lesson (re-)learned: always use a desktop blogging client.

Here’s the gist of what I was trying to say: the technically incompetent are dangerous as managers, but IT managers that are unable to interact with other management and navigate the labyrinth of rules and policies present in most corporations are worse. Often, IT managers are capable of neither. I can cope with someone of limited technical ability that is willing to listen and learn. Someone who can’t or won’t shield the engineering staff from the distractions of corporate life so they can focus on the constant learning required of them while they also keep the technical infrastructure running with too few hands and dollars is a disaster.

Cringely’s test is too unsophisticated and focuses on the wrong skills to make this differentiation.

Dell EqualLogic – PS5500E

September 13, 2008 - One Response

Dell EqualLogic – PS5500E:

Built-in software functionality includes automatic load balancing, snapshots and replication, Microsoft application integration, hypervisor-aware snapshots for VMware, multi-path I/O, consistency sets, and much more.

I was pleased with the Equallogic product line before, but this new PS5500E is impressive.  One of the best things about Equallogic arrays is that the cost is inclusive of all of the software features – replication, for example, isn’t an additional license.

It’s also worth nothing that the hypervisor-aware snapshots for VMware are a feature of the latest software so if you’re already running a different model Equallogic SAN you can get this feature set by downloading and installing the new software.

EMC announced similar capabilities the next day.

Full disclosure, my company is a Dell Equalogic partner.

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