Nov 27, 2007

Tuesday at the Gartner Data Center Conference

I just survived day one at the Gartner Data Center Conference, and I'm taking a small break before booth duty at the Cassatt booth. This is my first year at the conference, and I'm joining a veteran crew of Cassatt folks-- or alumni as Gartner calls them. This year, the conference is held in the MGM Grand Conference Center, which is a 10-minute walk from the MGM Grand hotel. There are nearly 2,000 attendees at the event, but the crowd is quite different from the Java One crowd I used to hang with. There are quite a few "suits" in the audience, and the sessions are quite different from Java One sessions and BOF's (Birds of a Feather-- an informal tech talk usually held in the evening).

I attended several sessions today:
Later tonight, I'll post some entries with my notes from these different talks. I've got to don my green Cassatt bowling shirt and get ready for booth duty. There will be a small contingent of us in the booth, flanking an MCC that has the latest Cassatt Active Response software. Let's hope we wow the crowd! It is Vegas after all.

Nov 17, 2007

Come and Get It! Standard Edition is Here

On Nov 16, 2007 at 8:59pm PT, we had our GA build of Cassatt Active Response, Standard Edition. That's when I got the final e-mail from Sudhrity Mondal, the new QE manager, that he and Chuck Brunson had finished their testing of Standard Edition. Build 9352 is now our GA build for the new Policy Manager, and we now have our GA release of the Standard Edition-- on Nov 16, as planned. (In all three US time zones, no less.) Whoo, hoo!

Standard Edition introduces several new components:

The Policy Manager, a new UI for entering policies for power-managing your servers.

The Scheduler, which schedules these policies and graphically shows which policy is in effect.

The Report Manager, which provides different reports for showing how much your different teams are spending on power. Yes, it's a charge-back report on operating costs for your server usage.

Looking back on the past few months, it's definitely been a pretty intense effort getting to this point. And here are the folks who made it all possible: Alan McClellan, Barbara McKercher, Bill Minto, Bob Hendrich, Chuck Brunson, Craig Vosburgh, Dave Resch, Dorothy Vernon, Jim Engquist, Jason Haugland, James Urquhart, Jo Pelkey, Jon Nordby, Ken Oestreich, Kevin Werner, Kirk Fjeldheim, Linda Finnegan, Lynn Still, Mark Emeis, Martha Dumler, MaryAnn Zhang, Melinda Sorber, Spencer Smith and Sudhrity Mondal. I hope everyone's taking the weekend off!

Nov 14, 2007

From Capitol Hill to Sand Hill (Road)

The latest Silicon Valley development revolves around our newest Venture Capitalist-- Vice President Al Gore. Earlier this week, Kleiner Perkins announced that Al Gore has joined the VC firm as their newest partner. Gore will focus on new clean-technology investments, continuing Kleiner's new investments in green technology.

I guess you could see this coming. When Gore accepted his Nobel Peace Prize, he accepted in downtown Palo Alto. As a Palo Alto resident, I remember the crowds lining up to see the Vice President. School was out that day (for other reasons), and many students even ventured downtown to see Mr. Green.

Nov 11, 2007

Managing VM's Is No Easy Task

A recent cover story in Network World magazine talks about the difficulty in managing virtualized environments. Virtualization is everywhere-- especially in dev/test environments. VM's are easy to create and setup, but that rapid proliferation of VM's introduces new challenges in managing these virtualized environments.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like VM's. They're cool, and the learning curve is not steep. If you can set up a development environment on a physical server, there's almost nothing else you need to do with a VM. However, what happens when you have 100's or 1000's of VM's running around?

According to Network World, there are several things to watch for:
  1. Consistency and standardization (patch-levels on your apps and O/S) become a bigger issue when managing VM's alongside physical machines.
  2. Since VM's are easy to deploy (just create 'em as you need 'em), there is a tendency to have too many VM's. Controlling virtual server sprawl requires the same processes and auditing that would be used to control deployments of physical servers.
  3. The standard management tools that ship with VmWare or Xen are not sufficient to manage large-scale VM deployments.
  4. The problems of the managing physical servers don't disappear in the virtual world-- they multiply and become obscured by the intangible boundaries between systems.
It was a long article, but a very interesting read. You should check it out for yourself.

If you've been following my blog, you'll know that I've posted often about creating VM environments. Back in January, I wrote about provisioning 400 VM's in an afternoon with Collage and XVM. Our new product line, Cassatt Active Response, integrates the Collage and XVM products.

Cassatt Active Response Premium Edition provides the ability to create and manage VM environments from VmWare and Xen. Active Response will provision the hypervisor, create the VM's and then deploy applications to those VM's. With Linux applications, you can create a heterogeneous environment with applications deployed to VM's and physical machines. You can also migrate a Linux app running on a VM to a physical machine, in case you realize that you need the additional horsepower from a dedicated, physical server.

Cassatt Active Response allows you to manage physical machines and virtual machines, by integrating the features of the former XVM product. We've also reduced the price point with Premium Edition. Check it out for yourself, and get those VM's under control!

Nov 5, 2007

Say Hello to My Little Friend, Cassatt Active Response

My recent blog entries have all focused on power management and some of the inefficiencies in today's engineering labs and departmental server rooms. During the past few weeks, I've been talking with customers, and a recurring theme has been the desire to get control of the power and cooling costs.

One customer in Arizona has maxed out their data center, and they're not allowed to pull any more power into their facility. Even though electricity is inexpensive in Arizona, this customer has a power problem. They would like to reduce electrical consumption by 20% so that they can deploy new applications. However, they're not in a position to change out their servers or their infrastructure. They just want an easy way to power down one set of servers (and applications) so they can deploy another set of new applications (and their corresponding servers). Many of these servers are needed for cyclical applications, such as batch and ERP, that need more capacity at the end of the month. So managing which servers are powered on/off can allow this customer to deploy new applications without building a new data center.

In Silicon Valley, a large product-development company has hundreds of engineering labs and departmental server rooms. These labs are teaming with the devices they need to develop and test their product. These labs are used primarily for weekly builds and occasional patches for customer escalations. And after you count all the devices in these "little labs," the grand total is more than 200,000 devices. Now that's a large electric bill!

Cassatt's new product line, Cassatt Active Response, provides some solutions that are easy to implement in these engineering environments. The new product line consists of four product editions packaged for different audiences.
  • Standard Edition provides energy efficiency by allowing you to manage power consumption and set policies in your environment.
  • Premium Edition provides increased energy efficiency and application resiliency by allowing you to pool resources and manage application workloads.
  • Data Center Edition provides increased energy efficiency, high application availability,
    and server workload management in production environments.
  • Enterprise Edition will allow you to manage all data center resources across your enterprise.
Premium Edition and Data Center Edition map to the previous Collage & XVM products. (details). Both of these editions are available today. Enterprise Edition is a new product that we are still developing, and it will be available in late 2008.

Standard Edition is a new product that is combines new technologies, such as Active Power Management, with Collage technologies, such as policy management and a rules engine. Standard Edition introduces a new policy manager that allows different teams to set up power-management policies for the servers that they use. Standard Edition is easy to deploy in engineering environments, since you don't need to change the applications or O/S on the servers that will be power-managed. And you can see immediate savings. To calculate the savings in your environment, check out the ROI calculator.

And yes, we fly our own airplane within Cassatt. (I prefer that to "eating your own dog food.") We have three engineering labs with close to 500 servers. The servers in these labs are all managed with Cassatt Active Response. Servers are powered on only when they're part of a dev/test cycle. And our instantaneous power consumption is well below our rated capacity in each lab.