Intel Vendors & VMware have a Oracle Problem

Houston, we have a problem!

Intel server vendors Dell, VCE, HPE, Cisco, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Huawei, white box vendor Super Micro and any other server vendor using Intel chipsets have a problem if their customers use VMware to host Oracle Enterprise products (ie Database).

What’s “their” problem

In a nutshell, Oracle’s position is that customers running their Enterprise products like Oracle Enterprise Edition Database,  licensed by core (all cores in the server x 0.5) in a VMware environment must license every core on every server in which that Oracle workload could ever potentially reside managed by vCenter.  Server vendors, VMware, consultants and so on have a vested interest for Oracle to not do this because this Oracle tax is an extreme approach with their licensing terms that concern customers if they are running Oracle on Intel servers for fear Oracle will initiate a LMS audit leading to a substantial license settlement.

Quick Background

In my previous blog I wrote about “Intel; the Great Charade” where I discuss  each new generation of Intel processors having less performance per core than the previous generation.  As you read this and the ones referenced in this article (VCE & HoB) keep this ‘per core’ licensing approach in mind as this topic is central to how Oracle (typically) licenses its enterprise products.  For example, if a clients current server models are Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge era servers and plan to upgrade to the latest generation Broadwell you actually decrease the per core performance while increasing the number of cores per socket (if staying with the same SKU). Meaning 12 Ivy Bridge cores requires a little over 13 rounded up to 14 Broadwell cores to deliver equal performance. You don’t upgrade to get equal performance so you now have to move to a 16 or maybe 18 core SKU to gain additional socket performance or go with a higher frequency & lower core per socket SKU to obtain receive more performance per core….but now do you have enough overall performance?  To summarize my previous blog: It takes more cores from Haswell or Broadwell to equal the performance of the previous generation chips.  Since this increase in performance is at the socket and not with the core or thread (where most databases almost almost always prefer a stronger core vs more cores let alone weaker cores in a socket).  Since Oracle’s license calculation on Intel is to license all of cores in the server x 0.5 you may end up buying 1 or 2 extra Oracle licenses for every upgraded Intel server running VMware so be sure to factor that into your budget.

Who is complaining?

I could write the rest of this blog on this topic alone; around the right and wrong of Oracle’s licensing methods in VMware environments but I’ll defer to the thousands already available on this very topic.  This is not the reason I am writing this blog but to call out the self-serving and irresponsible Call-to-Action from House of Bricks and leader of a major CI player; VCE and to discuss why Oracle has no incentive to stop doing what they are doing.

Chad Sakac, the President of VCE which is the the Converged Infrastructure (CI) arm of EMC and soon Dell as the acquisition of EMC should be complete any day.  He is a regular blogger and in my opinion a master of marketing, technology & motivation.  On August 17, 2016 Chad wrote a blog titled “Oracle, I’m sad about you, disappointed in you, and frustrated with you.” in which he lays out how Intel server customers running Oracle Enterprise products, most often Oracle Enterprise Edition Database, are fed-up with Oracle’s abusive licensing tactics when Oracle Enterprise Edition products are installed and running in VMware.  He passionately pleads years of Oracle licensing frustration on behalf of clients while challenging clients to stand up to Oracle and not let them be bullied anymore.  He admits to selfishly partnering with House of Bricks (HoB), a VCE partner by funding their analysis on this situation.  HoB has been a leading voice in this fight in there own right so receiving compensation from VCE check was the proverbial icing on the cake IMHO as they were fighting the fight anyway.  What is VCE’s angle? They either have, or are losing  business due to clients fear of running Oracle workloads using VMware vSphere & vCenter.  There must be enough business at stake or EMC / VCE is desperate enough (not being critical here, just observing) to force them down this path to take such a in your face approach to Oracle.

House of Bricks, who is VCE’s partner and author of the whitepaper had a generally fair and moderated tone throughout the whitepaper.  That said, I do find they are irresponsible by encouraging VMware customers who are running  Oracle Enterprise Edition products licensed by core/processor (not socket or NUP) to run in configurations which are in direct conflict with Oracle’s standard licensing practices.  I’m not arguing the merits, fairness or legality of those licensing practices so save your comments.

Fight Mr Customer So We Can Sell You More!

Simply stated, Chad Sakac, the President of VCE and House of Bricks are actively encouraging system administrators, DBA’s and IT organizations to not only defend your use of Oracle Enterprise products in VMware environments, VMware clusters and VMware environments managed under vCenter but also to license Intel servers using sub-capacity licensing, using the BIOS to limit access to sockets or cores, only license the cores being used by Oracle.  Do these things and stand up to Oracle.  Do it for you….do it for us….just do it!  Of course, VCE funded the HoB paper but they won’t be funding your legal case (or bills) with Oracle.  All of this “encouragement” while at the same time promoting EMC / VMware / VCE products in lieu of traditional Oracle availability & replication products seems a little disingenuous…maybe….why not just keep your argument on the complaint of Oracle licensing with VMware?.  But instead, among many “do this instead of that” statements such as liminating Oracle RAC and use VMware HA and consider EMC RecoverPoint / SRDF in lieu of Oracle Active Data Guard (ADG).

Multiple agenda’s

Much of the HoB whitepaper feels like a marketing slick for EMC / VCE products. Then to have Chad be the front man out front crying on behalf of all customers seems a little too self-serving.

My Good Buddy Larry

Now back to Oracle….everybody knows I am NO Oracle fan.  A good day is any day I beat Oracle (anybody beats Oracle) or reduces their revenue.  But, with regard to Oracle’s practices on how they license their Enterprise products in a VMware environment, they have ZERO (0) motivation to loosen their licensing rules given Intel’s continued growth in the marketplace – Oracle is in the drivers seat!  Oracle wants customers to buy infrastructure from them running OracleVM with Oracle Linux hosting the Oracle software stack.  Oracle receives ALL of the Sales & Support dollars this way.  In addition to this, Oracle is predisposed to litigate.  Larry likes to fight!  HP and now HPE, SAP, Google (2 suits, going to a 3rd), Rimini Street, Oregon Healthcare, Mars and many more.  The Oracle v Mars case is a recent example of how Oracle goes after customers using their License Management Service (LMS) group to drive license revenue thru audits.  “Mars stated that Oracle was unwilling to “come to a mutually agreeable process” for completing an audit. Oracle then sent Mars a letter stating Mars had materially breached its license agreement”.  The greatest leverage clients have is to move off of Oracle products (hardware & software) to alternative solutions; specifically database variants such as IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server or Open Source alternative PostgreSQL from EnterpriseDB not to mention the many NoSQL alternatives that probably do a far better job.

Alternatives

If VCE really wanted to partner with an enterprise quality commercial-grade database technology to help clients run VMware with sub-capacity licensing for just the servers where the workloads are running and find an alternative to Oracle, they should look at IBM’s DB2 . DB2 is available in multiple editions from a free edition to Advanced Enterprise Server Edition.  What makes it different and better than both Oracle or SQL Server is that AESE, for example, includes many of the products & features that a client desires of Oracle Enterprise Edition products yet have to pay for À la carte.  DB2’s AESE cost $56,210 (list price for 70 PVU) per license which would match up against the Oracle Enterprise Edition portfolio which when you add up those products cost over $225K (Note: DB2 ESE is a level down from AESE, cost less and probably meets 90% of the customers requirements so the story just gets better).  DB2 always includes its first year of maintenance then 20% each year thereafter while Oracle always charges 22% for the first year then 22% each year thereafter.  Of course, DB2 runs 2X faster with Linux on POWER vs Intel. Clients can try it out for free in SoftLayer for 30 days running Linux on a OpenPOWER server.  Since LoP isn’t the topic of this blog, I’ll save that for another day but know that at least both Intel with VMware and IBM POWER servers support sub-capacity licensing with virtualization.

DB2-S822LC-vs-HPDL380

I didn’t write this blog to be a shill for IBM’s DB2 either, it just came to me as I was reading the HoB paper as it felt like they were trying to slyly present SQL Server as a more agreeable alternative to Oracle – maybe they are … either way thought I would mention DB2 for some balance.

There is ONE Platform …

At the end of the day, clients have a choice if they run Oracle products such as PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Oracle Apps, Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) or standalone Oracle Enterprise products like Database, RAC, WebLogic and many others.  Clients can run Oracle on Intel with VMware then surely deal with the risk and issues discussed by Chad and House of Bricks OR clients could run Oracle on the only platform which controls Oracle licensing without all of the consternation, debate and angst; IBM POWER servers running AIX.  For those who have read this far and were begging to say “But POWER servers have a core license factor 2X of  Intel so they cost twice as much”.  Enough please! I may hire House of Bricks to write a paper to put an end to this FUD, myth and farce. With POWER8 outperforming Intel servers generally around 2X per core it eliminates this argument right here. But, since we are talking about licensing a product at the core level it is important to remember that POWER servers support sub-capacity licensing natively, without debate from Oracle.  Last and most importantly, IBM’s Power Hypervisor suite, called PowerVM manages the compute resources more efficiently where it scales the 2X performance per core advantage typically increasing it up to 4X, 8X, 12X, even 20X (your mileage will vary).  This isn’t a performance advantage as much as it is an efficiency statement.  I call it the “Total Cost of Efficiency” as it takes into account the TCA, Performance advantage & Hypervisor efficiency and depending on the discussion, years 2-5 maintenance which is TCO.  I have personally sized, architected and delivered these solutions to customers who have in turn realized these very savings.

Now the Call-to-Action!

If you believe VMware & Intel are a critical part of your business identity that make your products better then continue using them with your Oracle products. You will pay more (compared to POWER) due to lower performance & less efficiency and pay the Oracle tax.  If you view IT as an enabler to your bottom line and use the right tool for the job then give me a call as I can help you as I have helped dozens of others save $100K’s to $M’s with IBM server technology.   Oh, and for those last few sharpshooters who want to remark that IBM servers are more expensive go ahead and save your comment.  First, I’ll shut you down by comparing a proper IBM server with the class of Intel server that you present me.  Next, we won’t go the 1 for 1 server route. As I recently showed a customer a reduction of 24 x Dell servers with 596 cores or 298 Oracle licenses to 7 x POWER8 servers with 168 cores and Oracle Licenses. My 7 servers are far less expensive than your 24 servers  not to mention the infrastructure required to support it (power cables, LAN/SAN cables, switch ports, cooling, etc). What makes me different is I show you how it’s possible to save  significant money running Oracle on IBM servers. What makes Ciber different is we have an Oracle consulting practice to help you implement, migrate or optimize your environment.

Intel; the Great Charade

Last weekend I was reading a few blogs on Intel’s recent Broadwell chip.  The current offering is the EP variation.  I regularly read & enjoy articles at The Register, The Four Hundred, AnandTech and The Next Platform.  Working with Enterprise platforms for most of my career, I sometimes get critical (maybe sensitive) of x86 technologies.  After reading a few I was motivated to put together a table comparing the features and performance from Nehalem (Gainestown release) through the latest Broadwell-EP E5-26xx v4 chips.  Essentially the 2 socket systems.

I was just enjoying some political tweets when I saw a tweet by @TheRegister promoting

TheRegister_article_04272016

an article on The Next Platform by Timothy Prickett Morgan titled “Intel does the math on Broadwell server upgrades“.  Tim writes “It all comes down to the math …”.  He is right except the premise behind this statement is there is *more* value going with Broadwell-EP (ie E5-26** v4) chips vs previous models.  I am not saying the author is saying this beyond the information as he understand it or was given by Intel.

This prompted me to stop my political tweeting since Trump & Cruz are in my home state today to write this blog.  There has been a “Great Charade” played by Intel duping customers for years.  Setting aside any comparison of Intel server chips to processors from IBM or Oracle, I will just focus on Intel vs Intel over the last 8 years.

For the table below, I pulled data from Intel’s documentation, Wikipedia, from other The Next Platform articles such as “Xeon bang for the buck, Nehalem to Broadwell” and WCCFtech.

Intel_Neh-Broadwell_Comparison

The row labeled with “1” shows the Relative Performance score used from this The Next Platform article.  My methodology is to divide the Rel Perf score by the # max number of cores available with that processor generation to obtain its per core score labeled by the row with a “2”.  The row labeled with “3” shows the % of increase in cores from the previous generation.  The row labeled with “4” is where it gets interesting.  This shows what the score would be if using the Rel Perf per core score for the original Nehalem processor 0f .29 by the number of cores available in the current generation.  So, Ivy Bridge is 0.29 x 12 to obtain 3.48.  The The data in row labeled with “1” comes from Intel even thought I obtained it from The Next Platform article.  Why is this important?  The actual score for the Ivy Bridge processor of 3.73 is greater than the extrapolated score of 3.48.  Having a higher score for row 1 over row 4 is better for Intel performance.  However, when you look at the Haswell & Broadwell-EP processors, the actual score is below the Nehalem extrapolated score indicating there is a decline in per core performance.

Now that you understand the methodology, lets look at the results for each tick-tock.  The Nehalem processor was released 8 years ago with 4 cores and a Relative Performance rating of 1.16 or .29 per core. The next release was the Westmere-EP processor with 6 cores having a chip score of 1.98 or .33 per core.  Westmere was followed by Sandy Bridge-EP with a Rel Perf score of 2.55 for its 8 cores or .32 per core. After Sandy Bridge was the long awaited and much hyped Ivy Bridge delivering 12 cores for the EP model. Its Rel Perf score of 3.73 translates to .31 per core.  Notice the trend? After IB-EP was Haswell-EP with 18 cores delivering a 5.20 Rel Perf score or .29 per core leading us to the latest and greatest Intel offering; Broadwell-EP with 22 cores & a 6.34 Rel Perf score or .29 per core.

What does this mean? With each Tick-Tock or successive release, Intel touts magnificent performance yet many of the improvements and performance benefits tout the total socket capacity vs its per core capabilities.  There is nothing wrong with socket totals if this is whats required or your software is priced in this fashion.  However,  many enterprise ISV’s charge license & maintenance fee’s based on cores.  Some are based on the total number of cores in the server such as Oracle and others simply base it on the number of cores required.  Either way, the stronger the core the better.

Yet the data shows that per core performance peaked with Westmere-EP followed by Sandy Bridge-EP.  At best you could argue performance has been flat over the last 8 years with little hope for the two anticipated successors in SkyLake and CannonLake.  I extrapolated the data using the same methodology showing performance will be flat to regressing.  This of course is consistent with the Intel Exec VP & GM William Holt who said “The best pure technology improvements we can make will bring improvements in power consumption but will reduce speed“.  Intel began moving away from Moore’s Law to an economic and financial model to remain on a tick-tock schedule rather than taking the approach to build an improved chip; not just one with more capacity.  Intel marketing is forced to hype the capacity increases in the latest chips as performance when it was mainly due to the addition of cores.  Yes, there were micro-architecture improvements but that benefits the internal plumbing to maintain coherence & data flow through increased cores. Core counts increased by 50%, then 66% and now it is slowing down with Broadwell-EP as they run into another problem which Intel’s Holt points to as well…..maintaining performance while maintaining TDP.

All of this as Intel moved from PCIe2 to PCIe3, DDR3 to DDR4 memory, more memory channels per controller and enhancing the QPI bus.  What is more telling with Intel  is that clock speeds have not just stalled but decreased with the top end chips because Intel is unable to deliver high core counts with high frequencies. All models still deliver 2 threads per core,  per core L3 cache has modestly increased with Nehalem at 2 MB to 2.5 MB.

The data speaks for itself.  Intel has perpetrated this Great Charade convincing customers they have receive increased performance with each successive processor release when in fact they are buying flat performance, subsidizing Intel while increasing software licensing / maintenance costs.

Oracle’s at it again – stuffing a card up their sleeve!

Oracle continues its record of having 0 (i.e. ZERO) credibility.  How many times has Oracle been called out for publishing & making statements about competitors solutions that were just flat out wrong leading one to wonder if it is more than the standard competitor FUD and benchmark exaggerations but purposefully meant to mislead.

Take a recent Oracle blog post by @Brian-Oracle at https://blogs.oracle.com/BestPerf/entry/20160317_sparc_t7_1_oltp.  Oracle is hell bent to produce a TPC-C benchmark on a POWER8 server since IBM has not.  I do not work for IBM and have not heard any official reason but have heard they do not see TPC-C as a good benchmark of platform performance which is why you do not see any entries since 2013 by any vendor.

There is a Oracle Marketing troll who posts as @PlinkerTind for this El Reg article http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2016/04/07/open_power_summit_power9/?post_received=2834982#c_2834982 who asks what is IBM scared of.  What he fails to disclose is that IBM would love to run a Oracle benchmark on POWER8 but the software license agreements state if the product is being used for benchmark purposes it requires the approval of the owning company.  Well, Oracle doesn’t permit it except for Oracle benchmarks such as Oracle EBS.  Why would Oracle not want to let IBM conduct a benchmark using Oracle DB? Because it would show what customers see who run it and what prospects wee who evaluate it that POWER controls software licensing; Oracle, DB2, EnterpriseDB, and every other product.  Fewer servers, fewer sockets, fewer cores, etc.
Back to the Oracle blog, author writes “On a per chip basis, the SPARC T7-1 server demonstrated nearly 5.5 times better performance compared to an IBM Power System S824 server”.  Let’s break it down using the authors “vernacular”.  A T7-1, although it is actually 8 x quad core chiplets and not a single 32 core chip as Oracle likes to claim,  yet this author along with the other Oracle marketing trolls refer to a 2 socket S824 & S822 as a 4 chip system – essentially for the Scale-Out servers, they call each socket two chips because of how IBM builds the chip using a Dual Chip Module (DCM) vs the Single Chip Module (SCM) in the Enterprise servers.  Now,  IBM who engineered the chips says it works functionally as 1 chip in 1 socket.   (Ref: IBM POWER8 S824 Redbook http://www.redbooks.ibm.com/redpapers/pdfs/redp5097.pdf).

So, the Oracle blog authors says the SPARC  32 core chip, by HIS words is 5.5X better performance than the POWER8 S824 server. Thus, 6 cores vs 32 cores or 5.33X.  6 cores because Oracle is comparing Chip to Chip.  Thus, they consider it reasonable and credible to compare their 32 core SPARC T7 chip vs a 6 core POWER8 chip.  That is so disingenuous.
Next, the author chose the 24 core S824 running at 3.52 GHz vs the 4.13 GHz T7-1. Why didn’t Oracle pick the 16 core S824 running at 4.15 GHz?  That way they could call it a 4 chip, 2 socket with 4 cores per chip system vs Oracle’s 32 core, single socket, single chip (that is really 8 x quad chiplets) system. Using the 16 core S824 would give the SPARC T7-1 server 2X more cores allowing for easier extrapolation?  Oracle did set the ASMI mode to favor performance but it is the 2nd best option to use (there is a better option but since Oracle doesn’t know the platform they either chose not to or didn’t know what to select). Even with this set, their is still a clock frequency discrepancy.  Now, I’m not hung up on the clock frequency because most Intel servers have lower clock frequency.  Unlike Intel which cannot run all of their cores at the higher clock frequency like POWER there are times when the clock frequency comparison being made is vastly different can’t be helped.  That’s not the case though with POWER.  IBM offers servers ranging from 3.0 to 4.35 Ghz making it easy for them to choose one that makes the comparisons as close as possible.

Next the author says “On a per core basis the SPARC T7-1 server demonstrated nearly 3% better performance per core compared to an IBM Power System S824 server.”. I’ll just refer to the above paragraph where the T7 clock frequency was running 17% higher.  Then he says “At the system level, the SPARC T7-1 server demonstrated nearly 1.4 times better performance compared to the IBM Power System S824 server.”. 24 cores times 1.4 = 33.6……hmmm. You tested a 1 socket vs a 2 socket server running with a 17% higher clock.  I point out the 1 vs 2 socket server because with POWER  processors I would expect a single socket to be slightly better performing than a 2 socket than a 4 socket than a > 4 socket server.  Taking into account other factors that do not require the memory & I/O provided by those extra sockets.  Again, if they want to test on a per core basis that can be done with any system. If they wanted to test on a per socket basis then do it with the T7-1 and even use the S824 but only use 12 cores.  Otherwise, compare a T7-2 vs a S824 which would be 64 vs 24 cores.

Read the comments for an article about POWER9 at AnandTech http://www.anandtech.com/show/10230/ibm-nvidia-and-wistron-develop-new-openpower-hpc-server-with-power8-cpus-nvlink.   Look for comments by @Brutalizer who is an Oracle Marketing troll.  He gets crushed by the the commenters as they rightly point out that Oracle ran the Oracle benchmark on the POWER8 server with no disclosure on the full details of how the server was configured; How many DIMMs were used?  Filling all 16 DIMM slots makes a difference than just 8 or 4 DIMMs since all 3 configuration options can achieve the configured 512 GB Ram. Although a few tunables were disclosed as if to demonstrate that Oracle made an effort to give the POWER server a fair shake, I question the ones used. I won’t disclose what I would have done differently as I like that Oracle looks like petty fools in their effort to show Oracle on POWER8 performance. If they were interested they would authorize IBM to run their own benchmark – or accept my POWER challenge where we run a customers workload on each of our servers.  Alas the cowards have yet to acknowledge it let alone accept it.

The lesson I hope readers learn from my blog is not that Oracle software and hardware products are bad, they are not at all.  However, they have this seemingly uncontrollable need to overstate and mislead customers by any effort to get customers to consider and god forbid buy their products.  Yes, in this poker game we all play there is bluffing and smart play but with most vendors it is within the rules.  With Oracle they always seem to have a card stuffed in their sleeve as they seem incapable of competing fairly making them resort to unscrupulous behavior such as the Oracle blog.

P.S.  I do not accept any of the results obtained by Oracle testing the S824.  If IBM conducted the same test running Oracle with AIX on POWER8 I am confident the results would make the S824 look far better than stated by Oracle.  One can only draw the conclusion that Oracle optimized their T7-1 to achieve the most favorable results.  IBM should have the same opportunity.  Of course, my Power challenge to Oracle is the real-world test using actual customer data.  Maybe this blog will get Oracle to man-up!

Will a Dell acquisition of EMC be another HP-Compaq disaster?

There is a feeding frenzy on the M&A speculation regarding Dell buying EMC.  How much will it cost, who is impacted and how big of an impact it will be?  Although the speculation is interesting, the 800 lb gorilla in the room is “What’s going on at EMC” to warrant this.

Working  in IT sales, I work and compete with EMC and their partner organizations; primarily VCE and VMware and their recently divorced partner, Cisco.  Following EMC and VMware at their respective vendor conferences; EMC World and VMworld they have an extremely large and dedicated following.  EMC sellers are some of the most aggressive and by extension successful compared to vendors.  I personally follow many of their technologist on social media reading their blogs and tweets – I view them as a very formidable competitor and occasional partner (even though I am not EMC’s biggest fan).

Why does a company whose products and partnerships are either #1 or leading in their respective areas desperate to find a company to acquire or possibly merge with them? It was shocking to hear HP’s name mentioned over a year ago.  They are an absolute train wreck as we now see.  If I was an EMC company officer or board member, I would not want to see my company consumed by the likes of HP.  Cisco makes sense but I don’t know how deep the recent divorce and hurt feeling goes.  Lenovo doesn’t make sense, nor Hitachi.  Fujitsu….well, they have their Oracle relationship and they seem content to with who and what they are? What about Oracle….EMC as a company has its own ego, I don’t think Larry’s ego and EMC’s ego would mesh. Although, Oracle’s storage is abysmal and this would elevate them to the leaders quadrant immediately. Maybe that would give Oracle the needed reason to finally kill off SPARC given its unending failures. How about IBM? Frankly, they have a great storage portfolio, they simply do not have comparable storage sellers to EMC. EMC’s software would fall into IBM’s vast portfolio then either rise to the top or fade into oblivion. I could see this making sense for IBM but don’t know if IBM has the stomach to ingest a company with such a different culture.  From Dell’s perspective, an EMC acquisition makes sense.  I see them having their most success in the SMB and academic markets then probably state and local governments.  At least in the US with corporate America, Dell is not a respected enterprise brand.  Buying EMC would give them immediate credibility, access to many customers data centers they are not in today.  They would have to decide what to do with their Compellent and EqualLogic products. I would probably keep the EqualLogic product family as it seems to service their low end SMB space, a space that I don’t think EMC cares much about.  Sell Compellent to get cash for the investments made as well as to strengthen the books.

From EMC’s perspective, they would be acquired by a company known for inexpensive laptops and decent desktops (How’s that market doing these days?) and reselling Lexmark printers (who makes them now?).  Only in the last couple of years do I occasionally hear Compellent’s name being mentioned and it is usually to smaller shops with lots of VMware….let’s say shops that aren’t very sophisticated. Their is still a relationship with Cisco both with EMC to Cisco but also with vBlocks.  VMware has their EVO:Rail and Dell has their partnership with Nutanix.  Lastly, their is VMware.  Here’s the irony of what is going on: Some people want EMC to spin off VMware while others want EMC to keep them to strengthen and shore up the Federation.  If the stories are right, Dell would buy EMC then sell off VMware to reclaim much of its acquisition cost.

We will  soon see if there is any truth to the rumors about Dell acquiring EMC. if they are true, will this be a repeat of what happened to HP after merging with Compaq (HPQ after all)?  They failed to integrate the many technologies and companies over two decades.  Some cost a fortune and often the cultures were vastly different.  HP is different from both Dell and EMC in that they made one bad M&A decision after another.  DEC, Tandem, Compaq, Autonomy, 3PAR, 3COM and Palm (just from memory).

Maybe a Dell acquisition of EMC makes sense but it will take a couple of years to see what products survive and what doesn’t. This of course will be disconcerting to customers who have invested in their respective technologies. IBM was often the source of FUD attacks claiming the end of every one of their businesses as well.  It is my contention that is how they have made it to 100+ years.  I hope we will hear someday what was really going on at EMC to warrant their ongoing search for a suitor.  The last mega merger of a commodity company to a enterprise company didn’t turn out so well: HPQ!

Linux put your business between a Rock & a hard place?

Just read an article on “The Register” by Simon Sharwood posted October 6, 2015. The article discusses why Sarah Sharp, a Linux community contributor & developer on USB 3.0 drivers in the Linux kernel is stepping away from the Linux community altogether.  But, she may be more famously known for encouraging Linux Torvald to tone down his own abusiveness in in July 2013 ; presumably towards her and others.

In her blog, Ms Sharp discusses in  detail her frustration with the Linux community.  Their unwillingness to recognize and acknowledge there is a problem.  An unwillingness to do little to nothing about it, let alone enforcing it.  She states she their is a general culture of hostility, vile and rude comments, cursing, yelling at and over each other along with sexist and homophobic comments.  In her words the Linux community is choosing inappropriate behavior over respect for the individual “they are privileging the emotional needs of other Linux kernel developers (to release their frustrations on others, to be blunt, rude, or curse to blow off steam) over my own emotional needs”.

It is this topic I wanted to discuss.  The business environment, particularly in the western countries who have promoted business cultures promoting tolerance and individual choice.  There are almost daily stories on Fortune 1000 businesses pushing local, state and federal (ie national) governments for equal rights whether that is for single parents, minorities, gender equality, sexual orientation as well as other groups and individuals.  Companies such as Facebook, SalesForce, IBM and Eli Lilly come to mind.

Presumably these companies have a Linux strategy.  Actually, I happen to know they all use Linux in various parts of their businesses.  In IBM’s case, they sell & support Linux (workloads) on their Mainframe and Power platforms.  How will these companies who publicly promote diversity react to a community that is not accountable to anyone which is what Ms Sharp was stating unlike a traditional vendor.  By the way, I am not advocating for open source vs traditional commercial offerings.  Just drawing a distinction.

The Linux community is consists of people whose strengths lie at their fingertips not in their polished verbal skills.  I may be stereotyping a bit but having worked in the Technology industry for 20+ years does not require a rocket scientist or a call to Mr Obvious to know that software developers and engineers lean more towards being introverts (think geeks, pocket protector).  Socially awkward except maybe when they are behind a keyboard or wearing a headset.  As I look across my own team of platform engineers there is a mix of personalities.  Each has their own strengths when it comes to collaboration, sharing ideas, presenting to an unfriendly audience.

For years I’ve said managing technical people is  about “personality management” vs performance management.  They are often not motivated by money or time-off.  They continue to work on problems until resolved as if they were saving a house from an impending flood.  A reward to them is an “Atta Boy”, “Great Job”, giving them movie passes to the next Star Wars movie or ensuring they have the latest toys to develop on.  Their strengths are often social weaknesses.  But, when there are problems they are the ones every business wants at the keyboard.  Due to this fear of the unknown, businesses often tolerate their behavior.   This highlights how the open source community which is not a singular  “business” to regulate behavior.  No HR department to ask for a sit down with someone who is escalating their tone or worse, hurling insults toward another individual because they do not suffer fools.

Maybe the problem is Ms Sharp herself.  I do not know her or her situation.  However, it does expose a weakness in the open source world where there is little accountability or enforcement….except when customers stop using a product claiming not only do we wish to operate our businesses with tolerant communities but also expect those with which we conduct business to do the same.

Power investments continue to pay off!

This article is to highlight the announcements IBM is making in their Fourth Quarter 2015 related to the Power platform.  This is one of the largest announcements in years that I can recall touching Linux, IBM i, AIX, virtualization, management, ISV’s and the platform itself.  Since I am not an IBMer with access to schedules there may be a few things that differ.

First,  you will want to register.  This is a virtual event which is convenient as you can not only register at anytime but also watch it at anytime online.  Register at https://engage.vevent.com/index.jsp?eid=556&seid=80414&code=Social_Tiles.

As a Business Partner I am glad to see that IBM is delivering on what they told us over the past several years.  They are taking their $B investment delivering useful and leading technologies  with Linux on Power as is needed but also with AIX and IBM i.  These latter two Power pillars are far more mature and do not require the technology enhancements nor the ISV adoption like Linux on Power (LoP) requires.  Stands to reason there will be more activity around the LoP space, not because that is the future and the others will diminish but  for what I mentioned, it is less mature relative to the enterprise AIX & IBM i markets.

This is the extensive list of features being announced this quarter.  I will add a reference section after the announcement(s) to allow you to get more information on each of the features.

AIX

  • AIX 7.2 – some really good features!
    • “Live Update” or apply AIX updates concurrently without requiring a reboot
    • RDSv3 over RoCE optimizes Oracle RAC performance using Oracle RDSv3 protocol with Mellanox Connect RoCE adapters (up to 40 Gb)
    • Workload optimization with Flash
    • Dynamic System Optimizer
    • BigFix Lifecycle for automated and simplified patching
  • New AIX Enterprise Edition packaging
  • AIX 6.1 Withdrawal from Marketing April 2016

IBM i

  • New IBM i v7.1 TR11
  • New IBM i v7.2 TR3
  • S822 expanded capabilities – supports IBM i
    • Requires VIOS for I/O

Virtualization – PowerVM

  • New VIOS release – v2.2.4 based on AIX 7
  • NovaLink architecture provides scalability features for OpenStack deployments
  • New SRIOV capabilities
  • Introducing vNIC Adapter – increases performance with SRIOV
  • Shared Storage Pool enhancements

HMC

  • New HMC model – CR9
  • New HMC version – 8.8.4
  • New virtual HMC offering – Run 8.8.4 in a VMware or RHEV VM (x86)

Power platform

  • New Power8 firmware release – 840 or 8.4 level
  • New PCIe adapters
  • PurePower enhancements
    •  IBM i support
    • vHMC support
    • PurePower Integrated Manager improvements
    • Order  both S822 & S822L with initial order

Management

  • New PowerVC 1.3 version – more management & OpenStack integration features
    • Advanced policy-based management
    • Supports MSPP
    • Expanded vSCSI & NPIV support for certain storage models
  • Manage Power servers using PowerVC with OpenStack with VMware’s vRealize

Security

  • PowerSC NERC Profile compliments existing PCI, DOD STIG, HIPPA, SOX-COBIT

High Availability

  • New PowerHA 7.2 version
    • Integrates Power Enterprise Pools as part of a PowerHA failover operation
    • Improved integration with LPM
  • Non-disruptive upgrade
  • Integrates with new AIX Live Update feature
  • New wizard to use GLVM for low cost mirroring option
  • Enhanced EMC SRDF support
  • Supported on AIX 6.1 TL9 and later
  • Supports Power6 and new servers

Linux

  • New Power Linux server models  – true price parity with Intel servers. Built on OpenPOWER
    • S822LC – up to 20 cores, 1 TB, 2 SFF HDD & 5 PCIe slot 2U server
    • S812LC – up to 10 cores, 1 TB, 14 LFF HDD & 4 PCIe slot 2U server
  • PowerKVM features
    • Dynamically add/remove cpu & memory resources from VM’s
    • Live Migration
  • IFL enhancements – IFL’s run IBM software in a Linux VM on 4 socket & larger Power servers with a 70 PVU vs 100 or 120

Performance

  • New CAPI offerings
  • New SSD offerings – Gen 4 drives, higher performance & capacities
  • 36 port EDR 100 Gb/s Infiniband Switch delivering latency as low as 130 ns

ISV & Software

  • New Linux ISV partnerships – More & more ISV’s are coming to IBM asking to be a part of the Power market revolution taking place
  • SAP HANA announcements
  • New BigInsights 4.1 features with Hadoop & Spark
  • PureApp now available with Power8 servers (announced July 2015)

Cloud

  • SoftLayer announcements – Linux on Power bare metal offerings
  • Power Enterprise Pool enhancements

The above list is fairly complete although lacking a lot of detail which is available online in the announcement letters or better yet contact your IBM Power Sales Specialist or Business Partner.  If your Business Partner is not proactively offering to keep you updated on these types of announcements you may want to reevaluate what value your Value Added Re-seller is providing and look for another.  Don’t settle for an order taker but a technology enabler.

IBM continues to deliver innovation, value, solutions and options to the “Good Enough” alternative with Intel where it has become obvious over their last 2 chip releases they are taking  customers for granted.  Hear how the performance of the Power8 processor gives  the equivalent of a 35 PVU vs Intel’s 70 PVU (this is a PowerMan example and not IBM itself). With IBM Software this is an immediate 50% reduction in licensing and maintenance costs.  Factor in the hypervisor efficiency and that should increase significantly.

Who doesn’t want more performance, more reliability for the same price as the competition? You can have it  your way with IBM Power8 & OpenPOWER.

 

Will there be a Cloud Bubble?

“The Network is the Computer” was the tagline used by Sun Microsystems for years. It captures the essence of what we take for granted today using our smart phones, wireless laptops and general World Wide Web usage.

Today, many customers are actively looking at hosted computing that has become ubiquitous with the word “cloud”. This “cloud” is a virtual pool of computing resources; servers, storage, network and applications. Many of these services have been around for 15 years such as Googles Gmail, Hotmail owned by Microsoft now moved to Outlook.com. Consumers would open a browser, login to send, receive and store emails. This was followed by retailers such as Amazon and ebay then social media such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Corporate customers cut their teeth with SalesForce.com as one of the early innovators of cloud services.

Now we have not just a plethora of web services from Dropbox, YouTube, Twitter to every major retailer having a web presence and countless more. Corporations though are looking at cloud providers: both major players, custom players and boutique players. The major players consist of offerings like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, IBM’s SoftLayer and VMware’s vCloud Air. Some of the custom cloud providers may have a mix of “CoLo” or Co-Location where customers place their own compute resources into someone else’s datacenter. They may retain their own administrative resources or use a managed service offering from that CoLo facility. Examples that come to mind are ATT, OVH, SuperNap, ScaleMatrix and TeraGo. Boutique clouds tend to be high touch, white glove and often specialize in specific services. Examples of Boutique cloud providers are SIS (www.thinksis.com) who I currently work for, Black Mesh and Global IT.

Regardless of what online services you use as a consumer or which corporate cloud provider they use, what are the threats to using these services? Clearly, one of the most insidious and ever increasing threats has been cyber terrorism. These threats, attacks, damage and thefts are ongoing. Some of the cyber terrorists are individuals and criminal syndicates; often from the former USSR countries and the Eastern Bloc countries. Other cyber terrorism is state sponsored meaning it is backed by the government of a country such as China, North Korea, Russia, Iran and others. Lastly, there are corporate terrorists. These are sometimes linked with state sponsored terrorists where the corporation is used as a front for their malicious activity.

Other threats to cloud users is the provider itself. They suffer outages due to infrastructure failures, failures outside of their control such as a construction crew putting in a new water line accidentally digs up a data line carrying network traffic out of the cloud providers. Most of the issues described by the latter issue are addressed as the better providers have redundant everything from Power, networking, cooling, facilities, etc.

The general concept for a cloud provider to make money is to deploy as inexpensive of infrastructure as they can, deploy as many customer workloads onto as few servers as possible driving up the system utilization just to the point of pain then dial it back 1 notch. This businesses model is at risk if they are not diversified or have other revenue streams as they only make money between the cost of goods provided and cost of goods sold. They are constantly trying to identify ways to reduce the cost of servers, disk drives, storage, adapters, network components as well as using lower cost resources to manage the operations desk or provide administration. Depending on the business, employee cost is at the top of expense cost. Finding resources with most of the needed skills for 25% less cost is probably good enough. The sum of these cost saving efforts can lead to a weakened environment due to increased operator error. Compatibility with software due to the use of white-box servers is less predictable leading to problems often not seen until specific features are needed. Reliability may be lessened with white box servers because they build the servers themselves such as Google does or obtain from a no-name provider who delivers a basic server consisting of cpu, memory and I/O with no bells and whistles that translates into lacking reliability & serviceability features. This may all be managed by resources that are junior, lacking professional certifications, experience and skills handling not just the day to day processes but also when there is a critical event. Do they do the proper triage, problem analysis and determination implementing a logical plan to resolution?

Of course, every provider is different and cloud providers are not the only ones at risk as many customers have computing operations far worse than most clouds. This may be why they are looking to cloud providers to improve their situation. In many, if not most cases, placing workloads often described as “Systems of Engagement” into the cloud makes sense while retaining “Systems of Record” at the customers premise. Cloud providers are especially vulnerable to cyber attacks because of the many holes coming into their facilities to support the customer diversity. Once inside the network an attacker will wait patiently to learn information about the environment to plan their next attack. With regard to the infrastructure, some shops invest in both architects and engineers to build, deploy and maintain their infrastructure. With discipline and skill they overcome the challenges that lesser providers struggle with; maintaining cash flow while keeping the lights on and payroll met.

We just have to look at the recent outages at AWS http://fortune.com/2015/09/20/amazon-cloud-snafu/ over the past week (Sept 26, 2015) to see how it can impact a business. we all have probably felt the impact of this whether it is our bank using internet banking, logging into a school computer down for maintenance or using a major internet service like NetFlix. How many customers like this will endure frequent outages before they decide to move back to an on-premise solution or at least a hybrid solution? With regard to cyber attacks, the list of companies attacked in 2015 would double the size of this blog to write them all out. How many of those will occur before businesses decide they cannot afford to not be in control of their network backbone, interview and hire their own people so they know the capabilities of the resources responsible for solution remaining safe and available.

I am not predicting a bubble but have to wonder why we wouldn’t expect one due to the security and availability threats.

Tell me what you think in the comments section.

Thank you