Buying a car is just like buying storage

Supermicro...the king of all storage disruptors

Would you like some underbody rust protection with your array sir?

So the family car (a tiny 2012 Mazda 3) lease is up in February which means it’s time to get a new Agnosto-ride for the Supe Module spouse, the Child Partition and -like dads everywhere know- all the heavy, awkwardly-shaped stuff that’s required to go everywhere the Child Partition goes.

It’s 2015, I’m nearing 40 and so I’m thinking Agnosto-ride 2.0 will be something bigger, safer, and because gas is so cheap and will never, ever, ever go up again, suitably powerful & commanding. Something established, something that says “Look upon and fear me,”  yet is soft, friendly and maneuverable enough that my wife and I can park it without effort.

Or hell, maybe it can park itself.

That’s right. Time to go car shopping, baby.

I love shopping for cars, almost as much as I love shopping for storage arrays. When you step back and think about it, the two industries (cars & storage arrays) are so similar I’m convinced a skilled salesman could make a great living selling cars in the morning and slinging shelves in the afternoon.1

Think about it. Glen works for a dealer selling Camrys in the morning, and he’s really good at bumping his commission up by convincing his mark to buy something that really should be included: a spare tire. By late afternoon, he’s pitching the exact same thing (High Availability via Active/Passive controllers) in expensive recurring license form to some poor storage schlub who just needs a few more TBs so he can sleep at night without worrying about his backups.

What’s more, the customer victim can’t just go and purchase the car/array from the manufacturer himself,  he’s got to have some value added to that transaction by way of a VAR or a dealer, you see, else what reason is there for Glen?  The customer must have Glen’s guidance; he literally is incapable of picking the right car or array for himself, even if the mark produces his own storage podcast or subscribes to Auto Week & Consumer Reports. The mark’s hands are held until such time that he selects the right car/array, which is always either the car/array closest to Glen, or the car/array that offers Glen’s employer the most margin.

For this is the way of things, except during quarter or year end.

And in both industries, the true cost of the product is either really hard to find or it’s been hidden in plain site, or it only applies in certain use cases, all of which  makes determining a car/array’s value very hard to quantify. Yes, you can take all the variables, drop them in Excel, but pivot tables only go so far: the electric gets you an invaluable HOV sticker for 2x the cost of the range-anxiety free hybrid, while the all flash array that dedupes & compresses inline and goes like a bat out of hell costs twice as much as the compress-only hybrid array which has honest-to-God cheep ‘n deeps that you know and trust.

Lastly, no buyer of metal boxes with rotating round things2 is as biased & opinionated as car & storage buyers. “You’ll regret that POS Kia in a few years, it’ll let you down!” says the Honda snob to the dad trying to save a buck or two. “No one ever got fired for buying EMC!” shouts the storage traditionalist at his colleague who just wants a bunch of disks & software.

And in the end, all this …analysis if you can call it that…. is utterly worthless if your family doesn’t like the way the car handles or your DBA can’t quite grasp the concept of mounting a cloned snapshot of his prod LUN and insists on doing SQL backups the way he learned to do them in 19-diggity-7.

Don’t hate the player, hate the game, Jeff you’re thinking.

But I don’t! I love the player and the game. I just like winning and if that means Glen loses a point or two on his commission, so be it.

Which is why before I buy a car or a storage array, I arm myself as best I can. In the case of storage, it’s imperfect spreadsheets with complex formulas, some Greybeards on Storage, some SQLIO & IOMETER, and some caffeine. In the case of cars, it’s perfect spreadsheets + Clark Howard + myFico.com credit report3 + bank check just to let Glen know that I’m the real deal, that I could bolt and buy that other car he’s trash-talking if he doesn’t toss in the spare tire gratis.

Game on. Time to go hunting!


  1. Or perhaps NetApp could merge with Ford and the same guy who sells you a Taurus could sell you a filer out of the same dealership 

  2. usually 

  3. Incidentally, it won’t be Myfico.com this time around since Fair Isaac apparently refuses to encrypt their entire site like a real bank would

    For Shame Fair Isaac

    For Shame, Fair, Fair Isaac, if that is your real name

     

System Center is Dead, Long Live System Center?

MSFTSystemCenterlogo1Change is afoot for System Center, Microsoft’s stack of enterprise technology management applications that guys like me install, use, manage, and build great careers on top of. And not just little change. Big, sweeping change, I’m convinced, thanks largely to Satya Nadella, but also thanks to a new & healthy culture of pragmatism inside Microsoft.

But that pragmatic culture began with a bit of fear & intimidation for the System Center team. I’m told by a source1 that it went down like this: Nadella strolled over to the office building where System Center is built by  segregated development teams. I’m told that the ConfigMan & VMM teams, as creators of the most popular programs in the suite, get corner offices with views of the Cascades, while the Service Manager & DPM teams fight over cubes in the interior.

Anyway, Nadella walked in one day, called them all around a handsome, gigantic, rectangular redwood work table in the center of their space. He looked at each of them quietly, then -with a roar that’s becoming legendary throughout the greater Seattle metroplex- he bent over and with enormous strength, flipped the table on its side, spilling coffee, laptops, management packs, DPM replicas, System Center Visio shapes and the pride/pain of so many onto the cold, grey marble floor.

“Some of this is going to stay. And some of it’s going to go,” he said to them, motioning to the mess on the floor.

And then, he vanished, like a ninja.

But seriously, look at all the change happening at Microsoft. Surely the System Center we love/hate/want to name our kid after is not goign to escape 2015 without some serious, deep, and heartbreaking/joy-inducing change, depending on your perspective. It’s already happening. To wit:

  • Parts of System Center are dead as of Windows Server Technical Preview: App Controller, the self-service Silverlight & http front-end to VMM has been dropped out of System Center Technical Preview.  Farewell oddly-named App Controller, can’t say I’ll miss you. In its place? Azure Pack baby.
  • In the last 45 days, the whole System Center team has been busy begging and pleading with us to give them some feedback. VMM put up a Survey Monkey , and the DPM, Orchestrator, and Service Manager blogs all have been asking readers to give them more feedback. VMM even has a Customer Panels  whose purpose is to take the pulse of working virtualization stiffs like me. That’s awesome -and reflects the broader changes in the company- but it’s also a bit scary because I love my VMM & Configman and I’m not used to being asked what I think of it, I’m used to just taking it, warts and all.2
  • There are many Configuration Management products out there, but ConfigMan is mine, and it has remained suspiciously absent from System Center Technical Preview. Now I’m not suggesting that MS is going to kill off the crown jewel of its System Center suite, but crazier things have happened. Jeffrey Snover, father of Powershell, isn’t giving up on his Desired State Configuration cmdlets, the DSC sect within the Microsoft professional community is gaining influence & strutting about the datacenter floor with some swagger, and DSC is a tool that with some maturity could largely make ConfigMan unnecessary in many environments. It probably scales to Azure better, though it doesn’t have anything in MDM as far as I know.
  • Though much improved, SCOM still strikes me as too hard  to build-out compared to Monitoring as a Service offerings like New Relic. Granted, SCOM’s cloud story was pretty strong; just two months I ago I got a taste of #MonitoringGlory when I piped an endless train of SCOM alerts/events directly into Azure Operational Insights and got, well, some insight into my stack. But guess what SCOM-fans? You no longer need SCOM for that.  Ok then.  Why would I use it?
  • There are no sacred cows at Microsoft anymore: My precious Lync? Gone. Renamed Skype for Business. The Start Screen, which I was strangely beginning to like? I’m suffering Stockholm Syndrome as I play with the latest Windows 10 build; it’s been axed! Sharepoint online public-facing websites? Starting March 9, new customers won’t have to go through the crucible some of us have gone through to stand-up a dynamic corporate website back-ended by Sharepoint in Office 365. They get to go through someone else’s crucible, like Drupal or something.
  • Nadella has a talent for picking the obvious, and he’s clear: Apparently it was Nadella who told the Microsoft Holo Lens team that what they were building was more akin to the Enterprise’s Holodeck than a new way to play shooters in XBox Online. It’s been Nadella repeating the call that there should be One Windows across all products, not an RT here, and a Windows Phone there. Like him or not, the man has some clarity on where he wants Microsoft to be; and I think that’s exactly what MS needed.

So, I have no evidence that System Center is going to get all shook up in 2015 -and I mean seriously shaken up- but it seems pretty obvious to me that with Nadella came a healthy & powerful introspection that’s really bearing some fruit in parts of Microsoft’s business.

Now it’s System Center’s turn. And it’s good. We should look at that suite holistically, in the context of our time & and the marketplace. Parts of it are undoubtedly great & market-leading; other parts of it are, in my opinion, beyond fixing. The former will be strengthened, the latter will be cut off and discarded. System Center, whether it lives on or gets swallowed up by the Azure Pack, will get better, and I’m pumped about that!


  1. Not really 

  2. Since they asked, I’m running SCVMM Technical Preview in the lab at home and though its changes mostly amount to removal of features in the production version, I view it as a great advancement for one reason: I can now automate the re-naming of vNICs through VMM itself, rather than some obscure netsh command/batch file thingy. Awesome 

Scale Computing & the Led Zeppelin School of Virtualization #VFD4

1420647440simplicity

Scale Computing is a virtual infrastructure company that sponsored Virtualization Field Day 4. The company, along with others, paid money to Gestalt IT to participate in the event. That money went towards funding my trip to the great city of Austin Texas from January 13-16, 2015. That money also paid for my food, lodging, and perhaps a few spirits. I received no compensation from Scale Computing, Gestalt, or anyone else to write this post, and none of the parties have viewed this post before it went live. Today, we continue our discussion with a grumpy, cynical, and almost angry Riker, my alter-ego, about Scale Computing’s product. 

SRiker : Who from #VFD4 is next at bat?

Oh just a hyperconverged player in the Linux virtualization/SMB space that presented an hour or two before I boarded a jet and flew home. I hadn’t even heard of them before #VFD4…Scale Computing.

Riker: From?

Scale’s based out of India…..napolis, Indiana, as the company’s Twitter account joked recently. This is hyperconvergence, Hoosier-Style.

Riker: And they do what exactly?

They’re in the hot hyperconverged market, but, interestingly, they run a forked KVM as hypervisor unlike the players I was more familiar with. So I got to revisit that Swedish guy Libvirt & his sidekick Qemu during this presentation.

Riker: What else stood out to you about the presentation?

One other thing about Scale stuck with me..what was it now..

Riker: Hoosier VMs?

Nah. I already made that joke.

Riker: And you got in the crack about funny Linux names…

I know. Damnit! It’s on the tip of my tongue…

Oh wait. I remember.

As Tech Field Day events go, this one really kicked ass! Not only did we geek out on virtualization stuff, but Scale brought some servers & switches in a crate that you could wheel around or maybe even ride, like a pony.

Also, the Scale CTO was fun; he wore cowboy boots & a beige blazer and at the start of the show, he was like, “Powerpoint?!?! What’s that?!?!” and then he was like “Demo Time!” and finally he was like “I wonder what would happen if we pulled power from a cluster node?” and then he did it Riker, he did it, cause he’s a baller and he has no fear!

Riker: Wow. You’re easy to impress. Calm down and tell me who they’re trying to sell to. 

Well, unlike other appliance slingers, Scale Computing is focused entirely on  IT shops in midmarket/small business.

 Riker: They’re pitching hyperconvergence downmarket, where the only thing thinner than the margins are the skillsets? Is this even a viable market?

Hey! Knock it off with the “downmarket” conceit. Small businesses have IT needs too, and Scale thinks there’s still a lot of runway left for on-prem virtualization in businesses with 25-500 employees.

Some of the Delegates challenged Scale on this point, but our cowboy CTO knew his Dunn & Bradstreet data, saying that the Fortune 500 are well-served by incumbents, but no one is delivering hypercoverged systems to the 300,000+ “midmarket” businesses in America.

Riker: So? You and I have worked in such places. They’re ultra-cheap, or as you would call it, “value-oriented.” They don’t like complexity in IT systems because they usually don’t have the skills or personnel to manage it.

Right. Best practice isn’t cost effective in such environments, right?

IT as Music Orchestra Metaphor. Yeah. I went there.

IT as Music Orchestra Metaphor. Yeah. I went there.

Riker: Right. 

So that begs the question, what is hyperconvergence? Scale Computing has a whole article explaining this much-hyped term, but I have a different approach.

Think of the applications we in IT deliver to our users as somewhat analogous to music.

 

Riker: You’ve got to be kidding me. IT makes music? 

Bear with me now.

Now, the traditional way of making music is to get an orchestra together. You hire the very best brass, wind, and string musicians, and each of these highly-trained pros bring their best-in-class instruments into a special, purpose-built chamber that’s designed to deliver music in an optimal way.

Next, you hire a world-class conductor, vExpert or better. It’s the conductor’s job to get all the musicians and their specialized instruments to work together, in harmony, at the right time and in the right sequence. The conductor is uniquely capable of doing this because he’s familiar with all the instruments, and he knows what good music sounds like, and everyone respects his credentials & command of the music.

Riker: Okay. Get to the point. 

So my point is that midmarkets, as Scale thinks of them, don’t hire conductors. They don’t buy world-class instruments either, nor do they have professional musicians on staff. What’s more, the entire music industry more or less ignores midmarkets; they think there’s no appreciation or desire for beautiful music in such environments.

When I saw the Scale Computing logo, it called to mind that midmarket iconic American pony car of the 1980s: the Camaro IROC-Z. Intentional & savvy logo marketing for IT guys in midmarkets or am I just crazy for seeing the similarities? You decide.

When I saw the Scale Computing logo, it called to mind the logo of a midmarket American sports coupe of the 1980s: the Camaro IROC-Z. What was the IROC-Z? Better than a regular Camaro, the IROC-Z gave the working man a taste of the high-end sports car lifestyle, just as Scale brings enterprise capabilities down to the working IT guy in the midmarket space. Deep, right? Ok so that is entirely made up but still, the Logo ….it’s familiar somehow.

But they’re wrong. Midmarket companies still want good music, even if their music is more Led Zeppelin than Mozart’s 5th. And midmarket IT generalists who study & practice their musical skills, want to deliver that great music to their users, they just don’t have the luxury & time to specialize and their instruments suck.

Scale Computing’s hyperconvergence is, in essence, that. It’s an appliance designed to abstract the complexity of compute, storage and network so that it’s easier for midmarket companies to deliver their applications the way big enterprises do, with high-availability, scale out options, VM replication, and DR/backup on the horizon.

Riker: Absurd metaphor, let’s move on. Tell me about the architecture. 

Right. So it’s hardware. With Software. Together at last.

All kidding aside, the hardware menu is pretty simple: you can have any chassis you like as long as it’s a rebadged Dell 1U or 2U pizza box, with a big Scale Computing logo on the front.

The chassis, suitably outfitted with Xeons, copious RAM, adequate HDD & SSD, and a few 10 or 1GbE NICs are called HC3 nodes, with the forked KVM HyperCore OS running as hypervisor.

You need three HC3 nodes at minimum to build a proper cluster.

All of this sounds and is quite routine in virtualization with the exception of one thing: the storage is not shared. There’s no filer or block storage array listening at the other end of your vNIC or pNIC, follow?

Scale me baby. Where's the storage? Oh right. it's all up and hyper-converged in my nodes!

Scale me baby. Where’s the storage? Oh right. it’s all up and hyper-converged in my nodes!

Riker: No. Not really. Explain it to me like I’m a 3 year old. 

Scale calls their storage abstraction system “SCRIBE” which  stands for “Scale Computing Reliable Independent Block Engine,” and is, in addition to be a really kick-ass acronym, feels like an awesome mix of some of the best storage paradigms I’ve used.

For instance, SCRIBE abstracts your disks in a way that feels similar to ZFS or Storage Spaces by bundling them into a single logical volume that is presented to you in the management GUI. Only the disks are on different computers, and behind the scenes, it’s mirroring & “wide-striping” that data to at least two other nodes, such that you won’t lose a VM if a node goes down, you’ll just suffer through a restart.

Also, it’s borrowing RAM from each host to accelerate reads & writes of the most recently used blocks across all three nodes. I thought that was cool, but I have similar tech in my Hyper-V CSV caching. But here’s the kicker about SCRIBE: you’ll likely see latency improvements from the VM’s perspective as both disk + RAM may be on the same node’s bus.

The architecture was impressive. There’s a whole paper on it that’s quite in-depth. I’ll say that I like their style.

Riker: Management, Orchestration? 

So management is done through an HTML 5 interface called HC3. This was the GUI system they demoed for us at #VFD4, and while it falls short of System Center VMM in terms of orchestration & managing virtual infrastructure, you have to put HC3 in the context of where Scale is trying to sell it: midmarket IT shops that are only partially or not-at-all virtualized yet.

This is your storage. On Scale Computing.

This is your storage. On Scale Computing.

For a place like that? It’s quite game-changing. You can build templated VMs, you can get comfortable with things like snapshots, cloning, and monitoring performance in a converged, shared system.  SCRIBE can replicate block volumes off-site, much like Hyper-V’s replication, and it’s all done from within this nice HTML interface.

HC3 supports running the latest and greatest versions of Windows as VMs, with guest integrations between parent/child.

Lastly HC3 is also way better than the vSphere http client, but that’s admittedly not saying much.

Riker: Can you buy the software alone? 

I like the software; but no. Scale won’t de-couple software from hardware entirely; they make you buy the whole thing.

In the midmarkets where they play, IT guys have to re-use servers. Wouldn’t it be great if Scale gave such places a non-supported mechanism to run HyperCore on hardware they already owned? Don’t they want more Scale Computing nodes out there, not fewer? Can’t I play with this in my lab?!??

Scale resists that idea and I understand why; this is a highly-engineered stack designed to operate as an appliance.

Riker: So we don’t get root access either? 

Doubtful. Which makes me sad, angry and such, but it’s the New Way.

On the positive side, because HyperCore is KVM, the Scale guys told me that virtual appliances like the lovely Kemp Load Balancer will work inside of HyperCore.

Riker: Last thoughts? 

Oddly, they don’t sell switching as part of their hyperconverged product. So you have to buy the server hardware, you have to buy the software, and you can’t buy the software apart from the hardware.

But when it comes to the switching stack, perhaps the most critical component in an HA design, you as the customer have to Bring Your Own Switch. Does that make sense to anyone given the market they’re focusing on? Scale tells me they do have recommended switch configs and can resell if necessary, but still.

Word of advice to anyone pondering a Scale Computing infrastructure: make sure you have two good switches. I’d get ‘em with Layer 3 licensing cause collapsing the router onto the switch stack is part of my hyper-converged style, but just make sure they’re decent, line-rate switches and you should be good to go.

Going all in for my nephew #CooperStrong

Scarcely two days after I returned from Austin Texas, my nephew Cooper Wilson was born in Denver Colorado. Coop is Danielle & Eric’s first child, and Eric is the youngest of my two brothers. Scott, my other brother, has two kids, and I – the Parent Partition as I joke on this site- have spun-off one Child Partition, Everett, 2.  With my mom and dad, the Wilson Family is a geographically-dispersed Cluster with 14 Nodes, largely in the western US WAN.

All of us are pretty close, sending out our heartbeats daily/weekly to the other nodes, sharing the workloads of the child partitions and load-balancing and forwarding our way into what we hope will be a happy, secure, peaceful retirement. We’re a typical, run-of-the-mill middle-class family, aiming for Norman Rockwell tranquility, ending up like the Simpsons in the couch gag scene.

I know it’s two parts funny/two parts bizarre to write of my family this way, but 1) it’s my schtick leave me alone and 2) it’s a feature & not a bug of my personality.

And today, the metaphor is really meaningful to me because Cooper, the youngest member of the Wilson family, of our tight cluster, is in some big trouble and I’m telling you about it because I’d like to ask for your help.

Eric, Danielle and Cooper

Eric, Danielle and Cooper

You see, Cooper was born with Leukemia. We don’t have a prognosis yet, but he got a spinal tap today and received his first round of chemotherapy an hour later at Rocky Mountain Children’s Hospital in Denver.  He’s got six months of such treatments in front of him.

He’s five days old, weighs about 8lbs 4oz  and already life has dealt him a hand so unimaginably cruel that I tremble and break down when I think deeply on it.

But like you, I’m a fixer and a doer, I can’t navel-gaze or curse the universe for long. My brother and I jumped into action to support Eric; he flew out to Colorado, I stood-up  a blog, organized mail groups & shared calendars in Exchange. My sister-in-law organized the Facebook push, and all of us worked on the text & donation workflow at Crowdrise.com.

We’ve raised nearly $45,000 since Thursday evening.

I try to keep my personal & professional affairs largely separate on this blog, but this is one of those things were such firewalls are meaningless, and besides; I think the world of my colleagues in this industry and the blog has some reach that I can leverage on behalf of Cooper, the youngest node in my cluster.

Thanks for reading/sharing and if you feel moved -donating- to help Cooper!

Managing all the stacks : Platform9 @ #VFD4

Platform9 is a software-as-a-service company that sponsored Virtualization Field Day 4. The company, along with others, paid money to Gestalt IT to participate in the event. That money went towards funding my trip to the great city of Austin Texas from January 13-16, 2015. That money also paid for my food, lodging, and perhaps a few spirits. I received no compensation from Platform9, Gestalt, or anyone else to write this post, and none of the parties have viewed this post before it went live. Also, for this post, we’re going to continue our conversation with Riker, my cynical but sharp alter-ego, who’s helping us get some clarity on #VFD4’s sponsors. 

Riker: So who’s up next?

Next up, Riker, is Platform9, a curious startup with an interesting SaaS offering that wants to invite many on-prem hypervisors into its warm, HTML 5 embrace.

Riker: Oh? HTML5? Is this post about vSphere webclient angst again?

Not quite.

But before we get into that, let’s visit an important background component to Platform9: a seemingly competitive virtualization & orchestration platform that’s been around for quite awhile, but is core to Platform9’s offering and is finally getting some R.E.S.P.E.C.T from the pros like me at #VFD4.

Riker: Oh wait. I know this part. You’re going to mention Hyper-Vanity?

No, I’m talking OpenStack, the best named platform of all time (no Vs!). I love the OpenStack story because it came out of NASA & Rackspace, somewhat organically, in the best traditions of technology development. In my mind, I imagine some NASA & Rackspace IT guys like myself huddling together after a painful, highly manual deployment of 500 VMs and saying, “Guys. We totally suck. You know we can do better. What if we ….”

And thus OpenStack was born.

Riker: You have a very active imagination.

automateWell, necessity is the mother of invention, and I can’t underscore enough that if you’re in an IT shop that thinks building VMs is cool & cutting-edge, you’re doing it wrong, son. 2009 called and they want their technology back.

It’s 2015 and like my #VFD4 friends said, it’s time to automate all the things and get out of the business of building VMs. That’s part of the OpenStack story, and, it turns out, the Platform9 story.

Riker: Now you’re getting preachy!

I’m getting to my point.

Cinders and ashes! Oh wait. Wrong Cinder.

Cinders and ashes! Oh wait. Wrong kind of Cinder.

If OpenStack is an automation & orchestration platform atop open-sourced abstraction & virtualization technologies, then Platform9 seeks to be a Software or Application layer above OpenStack…and ultimately above VMware (beta), Docker (soon), and Hyper-V (believe it when you see it) that’s OpEx oriented, not CapEx intensive.

Riker:  Ok got it. Hold on, I’ m getting a vision. I see…..pay per month, and get some….agents! Agent-based management of on-prem physical servers. Am I warm?

Correct! Platform9’s pitch is that you can start bringing some rationality & business performance to your on-prem virtualization infrastructure systems in just five minutes, by downloading an agent to your physical hosts, and then managing them on an annual -not monthly- basis from the cloud via a new slick HTML 5 GUI they’ve built into OpenStack.

Riker: Ha! So if the premise of virtualization was about reducing the number of costly pizza boxes in my datacenter, bringing some order & rationality to my stack, is Platform9 suggesting that my hypervisors & VMs are now a disorganized mess?

They didn’t put it like that, but I’ll go ahead and broadcast the obvious that Platform9 isn’t targeting IT pros with this service…in fact, they’re likely talking directly past us to heavy dev shops, even business users themselves. Look at the part IT plays in the Platform9 universe in the “desired state” graphic below:

Wherein the self-service portal users take a look at “IT Admin” and say, “What the hell do we need that guy around for?”

 

Riker: That’s just scared IT Pro talk. They paid good money to pitch this idea to you. 

Maybe, but I think the founders of Platform9 (many are ex-VMware engineers) are making a bet that businesses love the service, speed & OpEx of the public cloud, but aren’t able or willing to move their systems to AWS or another cloud player for many reasons (compliance is the usual bogey) some of which might include IT resistance and/or incompetence.

Platform9 offers those businesses a happy medium that is not hybrid cloud, not public cloud, and doesn’t require a deep bench of rockstar infrastrucrists like you and me, to build private clouds for them.

The message to such businesses is: “You took a great and powerful step forward with your virtualization push. Now let us help you take the next step into utility computing, and don’t worry, we’ve got your compliance/IT problems figured out.”

Riker: I can see that getting some traction in some environments. What’s the competitive landscape look like?

Well, initially I thought Eucalyptus might be a player in this space, and they still seem to be to me, but I’m not an AWS/KVM guy and the other #VFD4 Delegates told me I was wrong. But what the hell, I’ll mention them anyway.

I’m a Microsoftie, so I see everything through that lens, and I have to say Platform9 seems to be building a combination of System Center Virtual Machine Manager & Configuration Manager, but as a service and primarily for Linux-based virtualization systems.

I mean check out my little comparison table below show what Platform9 offers versus what I gots with my beloved System Center:

Platform9 Offers What I gots with my System Centers
Multi-datacenter management Host Groups organized by location/network
Policy based rapid provisioning PRO optimizations & service provisioning of multiple VMs
Multi-Hypervisor support Multi-hypervisor support for vCenter & Xen
Snapshotting Checkpoints
Tenants & Quotas Tenants & Quotas
RBAC RBAC
Network Virtualization Network Virtualization and Gateways with NVGRE
Image Catalog VMM Library
Clones/dedupe Storage Spaces integration & classification
REST API More Powershell than you can shake a stick at
Self-service portal Self Service portal via App Controller

I mention all those not to troll but to ask, in as astonished, dramatic and trollish a way as possible: Linux virtualization systems are struggling with that stuff? To the extent that there’s an opening for a new player like P9?  In 2015?!? 

Forgive me, for I can’t resist:

schadenfreude_pic

I’ve had SCVMM for going on 6 years, and I won’t lie and say it’s always been smooth,  but on each of those points, Microsoft really has a mature & compelling private cloud offering. Class-leading perhaps, though I don’t know my vSpheres from my vClouds, to be frank.

Riker: You’re such an obnoxious fanboy. 

Well, yes, guilty, but I’m seeing a hole open up in the O-line, a hole that P9 may be able to exploit to at least get a first down.

System Center isn’t difficult to set up. I mean, it’s not Exchange or Sharepoint, for instance. But it’s not Office 2013 either. It’s complex, yes, requires some forethought, intelligence and skill. To get to the promised land of System Center automation + monitoring (VMM, ConfigMan, SCOM, maybe Orchestrator), requires probably a good 30-40 hours of thoughtful, diligent work, depending upon how deep you go and how big your environment is.

The promised land of automation does exist at the end of that tunnel, but the barrier to entry in terms of skill, cost, and time (System Center Datacenter costs about the price of an entry-level Civic) is a bit high in SMB shops.

Both System Center & Platform9 say they can take me to the promised land, but System Center wants a pound of my flesh, can be a total bitch about my Group Policies on the way there, asks for multiple AD service accounts like a greedy little child, and always leaves me a little greyer than when I started.

Oh and you want HA System Center, you said?!? Bend over!

Platform9 just needs my credit card and $50/month/socket, then run sudo apt-get install my-private-cloud-agent  on your physical hosts, and you’re on your way.

Not bad. Conceptually, it’s an easier road to go down than System Center + Azure Pack. Too bad it just wouldn’t work at all with Hyper-V.

Riker: Say what? So if I have Hyper-V on-prem, and don’t want to go the System Center route but still want capable private cloud, can’t Platform9 help? 

Not at this point no. But in an informal conversation with their CEO that evening, I expressed how familiar Platform9 felt to me as a System Center architect and that they ought to think about a certain company that has new leadership touting its love for Linux, offers a virtualization system that, like OpenStack, runs public clouds, on-prem infrastructure and the greatest f$(#*@#@ home lab on the West Coast, and oh, by the way, owns 27% of the virtualization market, much more than OpenStack does.

I can’t remember if our conversation was off the record (clouded by drinks on cold Austin river cruise, I was), but Sirish Raghuram seemed open to Microsoft.

I’ll check back in a year when they’ve reached startup escape velocity and can take a look at their next stage.

Riker: What the other delegates think of it? 

They liked it, for the most part, though they raised legitimate security questions. Platform9 hooks into your on-prem via https, doesn’t need any of your company’s data to traverse the internet, and seems about as secure as anything else these days.

Riker: Last thoughts? 

It’s unclear to me wherein Platform9 begins, and OpenStack ends or vice-versa, and whether that speeds support for Hyper-V or not. OpenStack is at least aiming to be a real & open “CloudOS” or “InfrastructureFabric,” welcoming of all my hosts, be they Linux or Windows…and they even list Hyper-V in “Group B” of supported Hypervisors, right next to VMware and Xen.

But there’s more to it than that. As I’ve gone on about incessantly, Microsoft rewrote much of Windows Server in the transition from 2008 R2 to 2012, and added more for 2012 R2. The push was on networking & storage mostly, but also on adopting open https management hooks rather than proprietary APIs.

Thus, SMI-S support, better remote management through CIM/WinRM, OMI, etc. Hell, the OpenStack wiki shows 10 integrations that are broken between OpenStack & Hyper-V…there are 11 for VMware.

Yeah it’s  come to that, we have fewer things broken than VMware for OpenStack!  

So yeah: Platform9 does run on OpenStack, and OpenStack does contemplate Hyper-V,  and should interoperate with Microsoft products that use open management frameworks like CIM and WinRM. But Platform9 does not officially support Hyper-V so I can’t say it’d be a good play for Microsoft IT shops.

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