There's no doubt that the recent "partial failure" of the Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform is giving enterprises, service providers, and developers pause--and will continue to do so for months to come. Amazon called the outage "partial" and a "degradation," but it was a very big deal. A significant part of Amazon's flagship EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) was offline for a day, as were the related EBS (Elastic Block Store) and RDS (Relational Database Service) offerings. The failure affected only the northern Virginia data center ("US-East"), and the majority … Read more
Comity (noun):A state or atmosphere of courtesy, considerate behavior, and mutual respect towards others; harmonious relations.Friendly understanding and mutual recognition between entities such as corporations, organizations, and nations.Something increasingly scarce in the IT industry.
IT started as a vertically integrated industry. Companies like DEC and IBM built almost everything from CPUs to application software themselves. But the last 30 years moved IT to a "horizontal" business model. Most vendors built components that would be later integrated by systems vendors, implementation partners, or customers themselves into "the complete solution." The rise of networking and &… Read more
Much of the world is consumed watching the coverage of the enormous disaster that recently struck Japan. As if a massive earthquake and subsequent major tsunami didn't cause enough death and destruction, they unleashed a cascade of failures that led to serious nuclear power plant accidents that have yet to be contained, and that threaten lives and indeed the inhabitability of an entire area of Japan. It's simply horrific.
We humans think that we're in control of, well, everything. We have plans and lists and goals and policies and fallback positions. Then something like this comes along … Read more
The big industry event about virtualization is VMworld, usually held in late Summer / early Fall. You don't have to wait for VMware's conference, however, to find yourself in VM World. We now live in it, every day.
It's really quite amazing how quickly virtualization has swept through, and become ensconced in, IT. Data centers have--for decades--been famously conservative when it comes to introducing changes that might threaten to disrupt production applications. For years, whenever we'd ask operationally focused IT managers about introducing new control software--for workload management, service provisioning, automated orchestration, and so on--we always heard … Read more
Everything in IT depends on the network.--and not just in an abstract, "need it occasionally" sort of way. The packets must flow for virtually every operation, every job, every transaction. Whenever packets drop, or links go down, we're disconnected and isolated. Information doesn't flow; apps don't work; users don't proceed. We need the network up and running, millisecond by millisecond, every millisecond of every day.
Modern IT is very focused on economics. We talk endlessly about cost. We debate capital costs vs. operational costs--CAPEX vs. OPEX, in the lingo. We look at Total Cost of Operations (TCO) and we try to calculate our projects' Return On Investment (ROI). But even with all of these economic metrics, we miss an enormous source of costs: Our long-term entanglement with the products, technologies, and approaches we choose.Long ago, we had a bright idea. "We could represent the year portion of dates with just two digits--that would save space!" We happily did that for a few … Read more
I was recently asked to help fix a high-visibility Web site that was performing poorly. I'd like to share some of the lessons--not learned, but reinforced--by the experience.
Fix the problem, not the blame. "We're in trouble! Help!" calls are fraught with embarrassment. Who, after all, wants to admit they have a problem? Many feel they "should" be able to "handle it ourselves," without sending up an emergency flare or asking for assistance. This latest was a straightforward "we can't get decent performance, and it's getting critical!" situation. … Read more
Virtualization analyst Brian Madden asks an excellent question:
If VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) is so great, then why aren't you using it?It's a really good question, isn't it? Brian observes that however encouraged we are by the progress VDI has made, and however enthused we may be about extending the wins of server virtualization over into the desktop realm, we, personally, are not using desktop virtualization. You don't see analysts and developers doing so. And even the folks you meet from Citrix, Microsoft, Quest, VMware, and Wyse--the people selling VDI, for goodness' sake!--use traditional &… Read more
A recent frenzy of storage acquisitions--with 3PAR going to HP, Isilon to EMC, and now Compellent to Dell--brings storage full-circle. Your next enterprise storage purchase? Almost guaranteed to be from a leviathan.
One of the once-amazing changes in the computer business was the birth of independent storage vendors. For decades there've been a few odd after-market and third-party storage vendors. But they were mere pilot fish congregating around the truly big, important swimmers: systems vendors. When you bought storage, it generally came from the same company that made your computer. That was the natural order.
But in the 1990s, … Read more
I recently discussed techniques for reviewing projects to improve their likelihood of success. Underlying this is the reality that projects do fail often, at a greater rate than we'd like to admit.
Some failures are spectacular. After spending tens or hundreds of millions of dollars over a period of years, nothing ever really works. The entire investment of time, money, energy, effort, and focus has to be completely written off. Those are the legends. The laughing stocks.
But it's a mistake to conflate failures and catastrophes. Most failures are mundane and much smaller scale. They result from changing … Read more