Virtualization


Last summer I spent an enormous amount of money when I purchased the Torque game engine, so that my oldest son could try his hand at game development. In order to maximize my son’s success and seeing that there were many in-depth books available to learn how to use Torque, I offered to buy him a book as well.  But my son assured me that it was unnecessary, since he already knew how to program in Torque. That seemed odd to me, given that he had never had the software before, but turns out, he learned how to program in Torque by reading websites and watching videos on line. Increasingly, that’s how the latest generation learns. And thanks to a growing library of videos stored at sites such as YouTube, and contributors such as Khan Academy, you can learn how to do almost anything, including most of the math you will need to graduate high school and pass the first year of college.

Videos are also becoming an important medium for companies to get the word out, to explain, and clarify. So as an example, after a 2-day planning meeting with one of my clients, StorMagic, where I serve as a member of the board, I asked my son to record five short videos of StorMagic’s CEO, Hans O’Sullivan, answering simple, direct questions. Each video is less than a minute long and answers one or two questions on topics such as the background of the management team, the strategic focus of the company, the impact of recent announcements, and the company’s relationship with one of its partners.

Videos seem to be all the rage.  I don’t know what will come after videos, but it seems to me that for the next few years, at least, video will be of strategic importance in getting the word out about your company.

Hope you enjoy these.

StorMagic’s CEO Discusses Multi-Site Installations of SvSAN for VMware

StorMagic CEO Discusses the StorMagic Team and Recent Growth

More videos regarding StorMagic can be found on YouTube by searching StorMagic. You can even learn how to install and manage an SvSAN just by watching a video.

One of the sessions I attended at the New England Area VMware User Group meeting in Newport, Rhode Island last week included a discussion on how to take the internal storage of a VMware ESX host and turn it into a virtualized iSCSI storage appliance.  I happen to believe that the approach has great merit for many smaller IT shops and for remote office environments.  The internal storage of an ESX server, if totally useable and accessible to the ESX host and other ESX servers on the network, is probably the cheapest storage you will ever buy.  What I found particularly interesting about this session, however, was the fact that the presenter downplayed the approach as good enough to experiment with the storage virtualization software, but not good enough to run production applications.  In order to encourage companies to try the software, the developer offers a free 30-day trial, the expiration of which then renders the server unuseable, unless you purchase a permanent license.  While I believe the company has good software, I don’t understand the approach to the market. (more…)

I attended the New England Area VMware User Group meeting in Newport, Rhode Island last week.  It was a great opportunity to see what challenges IT managers are facing, what solutions they are adopting, and what problems remain to be solved.  It was also a good opportunity for me to revisit what I learned many years ago in studying the research of  Clayton Christensen and his concept of Disruptive Innovation.  Two of my clients have what I consider disruptive technologies.  I’ll write about Tek-Tools in this post, and then cover  StorMagic in a subsequent post. 

Tek-Tools offers the Profiler Suite of monitoring, reporting, and forecasting tools for servers, storage, applications, files, and, yes, VMware.  Why is it disruptive? Tek-Tools’ Profiler is easy to install, easy to afford, and easy to use, and it’s “good enough” for the bulk of today’s customers.  It does not overshoot current market requirements.  It gives quick answers to important questions like: How much storage do I have installed? How fast is it growing?  How much is allocated? How much is used? When will I need more storage? Where is my performance bottleneck? How old is my data? Who is violating data retention policies? Which virtual machines are using which storage? Which virtual machines are no longer in use? Which physical machines could I consolidate onto a  VMware ESX host, without encountering performance issues? Where is my orphaned storage? (That’s a technical term that means I deleted the virtual machine, but forgot to return the allocated storage to the storage pool.)  

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One of the things we used to discuss, when I was running the storage research practice at IDC, was “When will a market disappear and just become a feature of some larger market?”  Examples are numerous.  Remember when there was a market for browser software? And, while NetApp is going strong, both Microsoft and Sun Microsystems are trying to make NAS a feature of the operating system.

One of the reasons I joined the board of StorMagic was that I saw the potential for the company to be a market disruptor.  Today, StorMagic announced SvSAN software, which, when installed on a VMware ESX server, converts the internal storage of the ESX server into an iSCSI SAN.  VMware leverages the fact that most single applications don’t need all the computing power of today’s servers.  SvSAN leverages that same fact to provide the storage management function within the ESX server, and also takes advantage of the fact that the internal storage capacity of an ESX server, perhaps the least expensive storage you will ever purchase, is more than enough capacity for a large number of VMware ESX server-hosted applications.  (more…)

I was describing to my rather-precocious, thirteen-year-old son the problem that companies have of getting the word out.  As part of “Career Week” at his school (five different jobs for five days at the end of the school year), my son decided he would make a stop-motion Lego video for Tek-Tools, one of my clients, to promote the company.   I told him that, if it was good enough, I would show it to the CEO, and maybe he would use it.  Little did I know that my son was going to, upon completion, post the video on YouTube.  But he did.  Without permission.  And my wife asked me, once again, “Why don’t we have more controls on his computer?” 

Ken Barth, the CEO of Tek-Tools,  was our first client at Walden Technology Partners.  A lot of people in the computer storage industry know him, and beyond the fact that he has been successful in everything that he has done, everyone who meets him says the same thing: “He’s a great guy.”  Ken’s company provides a superb solution for reporting, monitoring, forecasting, and profiling IT infrastructure.  It’s easy to install, easy to use, and provides immediate value.  What could be better?   (more…)


I spent an hour today with an Onaro customer and through the conversation learned a little bit about how different companies handle the separation of duties in IT processing.  I met with the customer to better understand the critical decision criteria that were behind his choice of Onaro, what features were most valued and what alternatives were considered.  Turns out, at the time of his decision several years ago, he didn’t see many alternatives.  Onaro, which was an independent software supplier at the time, was recently acquired by NetApp, a storage systems company.

This customer originally licensed Onaro’s SANscreen offering to ensure that the company’s IT change-control process was being followed in the storage network.  SANscreen maps the entire data path from the host bus adapter (HBA) in the server, through the cables and switches, ultimately to the storage array.  Anytime someone makes a change to the configuration of his fibre channel storage area network (FC-SAN), he gets a notification.  If the change hasn’t been authorized through the change-control process, he investigates.  As we were talking he showed me several alerts, that he had just received on his Blackberry, regarding changes that had not been authorized. (more…)

I’ve spent a good part of this past week getting ready for Storage Networking World, co-sponsored by SNIA and ComputerWorld, and the I’m-Not-Going-to-Storage-Networking-World event hosted entirely at his own expense by Jon Toigo at a nearby, but semi-secret, location.  In honor of the two events, I felt compelled to write about storage.  But first, I’ll start with a one-question qualifying quiz.

Small and Medium Business (SMB) Storage Administrator Qualifying Exam

Question: Your “storage system” consists of 25 disk drives that are housed in 8 separate database and file servers.  Some of your applications are growing rapidly and require a lot more storage.  Others are not growing. In total, you have plenty of available storage capacity, but it sits inside servers that aren’t accessible to the applications that need extra capacity.  You want to move to a storage area network, because you’ve heard that all of the storage will then be available to all of the applications and can be managed as a shared pool. You must accomplish the migration of data from the internal drives to a new, blazingly-fast, infinitely-scalable storage area network without interrupting application availability or data access, and without screwing up volume names.  From the following,  select the answer that most closely describes the correct approach: (more…)

Taylor Allis asked this question on his most recent blog post: “What is server virtualization’s impact on Storage?”  Here’s my opinion. But I’m interested in yours, too.

First, I think storage comes out of the server and into a shared pool. Some might say that’s a book-of-duh comment, but given the enormous storage capacity you can put inside a server today, why would anyone need to go external? Here’s the reasoning.  Server workload, virtual or not, is relatively independent of the storage workload.  By that I mean, running out of server resources to support an application has no implicit or explicit relationship to running out of storage resources (capacity or performance) to support that application.  If you need to move a virtual server from one physical server to another, because the physical server is running out of head room, there’s no explicit reason I should also have to move the data. There are some impediments, like unwanted down time, to moving data out of a server and into a shared pool, but one of our clients, StorMagic, has pretty much solved that problem with their non-disruptive data migration capabilities. (more…)