Monday, October 27, 2008

How do I keep up-to-date with all that is happening in IT?

Hey everybody
I’ve had a few people now ask me how I keep up-to-date with the latest technology trends and innovations. The answer is fairly simple – Use lots of different news sources along with attending lots of IT gatherings, events and conferences.

From a news perspective – I find Blogs are the best way to stay on top of the latest IT news and I use the integrated RSS reader in Outlook 2007, which is an easy method of collating them into the one view.

The Blogs that I read regularly are:
The Clustering and High Availability Blog from the MSDN team

Michael Kleef ::: MSFT

Microsoft Security Bulletins

Network World on Security

Network World on Servers

Robert Hensing’s Blog

The Sobelizer – Robert Scoble

Microsoft Security Vulnerability Research & Defense

Sunbelt Software’s Blog

The Enterprise Engineering Centre Blog

Windows Mobile Team Blog

Windows Server Division WebLog

Windows Virtualization Team Blog
You Had Me At EHLO..

And of course – The IDEAS Insights Blog – The company I work for

The other news site I always scan over is SlashDot – “News for nerds, stuff that matters”

Other than regularly reading these Blogs, I also like to attend as many industry events and conferences as I can – Microsoft’s TechEd, Cisco’s Technology Solutions, HP’s Technology At Work, CeBIT, product launches and other various vendor and end user events and conferences around the place.

The other piece of news this week is the Microsoft System Centre Virtual Machine Manager (SCVM) 2008 has been RTM’d, which is good news, especially with my Physical to Virtual (P2V) conversions I was talking about in my previous blog post.

Also – Further to my post about Data Centre’s in a Box – It looks like Microsoft has taken this to the extreme and is using containers to run servers in, but inside a building.

Each container is 40 foot long and can contain up to 2,500 servers. Apparently they are extremely energy efficient with a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.22

It also appears that the latest Google data centre may be heading in the same direction

This is an interesting twist on the Data Centre in a box concept – It will be interesting to see how that pans out.

In other news - I’ve just booked in my final Uni exam – It’s booked in for the 24th November – I’m very excited about the prospect of having it all done, now just to focus on the last assignment due in 2 weeks time.

Phil P

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Thoughts on Virtualisation

Hey everybody,
I’ve just submitted my 2nd last assignment for my Masters degree, so I thought I’d take some time to update my blog post.

As I write this I’m finishing off migrating our production development system from a virtual server on Virtual Server 2005 over to Hyper-V (Windows 2008). So far so good. The new server is much quicker and I can now allocate up to 2 virtual CPU’s for Windows 2003 (up to 4 for a Windows 2008 guest OS).

I started thinking about a recent LinkedIn discussion where I was shocked at the perception people had about Microsoft’s virtualisation platforms – Words like this were thrown around:

  • “Go with VMware who is the leader of the pack. It's been around for a long time, and it is using efficient memory”
  • “VMware are several years ahead of these new players. So, don't tried the inferior products, and go with the best for now”
  • “VMware is the market leader and their technology is proven”
  • “It's not mature yet”
I personally don’t believe any of these above statements are correct – Other than the fact that VMWare has been around for longer than MS Virtual technologies (not by that much though).

Hyper-V can do most things that VMWare can, and it’s considerably cheaper. The big thing that Hyper-V can’t do is “ live hot swapping” in a clustered environment.
More information on this here.

I came across an interesting article published earlier this month where the PacLib Group commissioned a study to find out what it would actually cost to migrate their environment over to a virtualised environment. The outcome is it would cost $25K for installation and $25K for software for a VMWare installation. This is one of the most interesting quotes I have read in a long time from David Furey (the IT Manager at The PacLib Group): - “You’ve got to question whether it’s worth paying $50,000 for that. I know the VMware camp go on about features like VMotion, but for $50,000 I could pay someone to move my virtual machines for me.”

The functionality David is talking about is the live hot swapping in VMWare (that Hyper-V doesn’t have) – But one seriously needs to ask – How much is that functionality actually worth to the business? Is it worth the 10 seconds or so of downtime you save when comparing it to a Hyper-V clustered environment? Perhaps it is important for your business to have the VMWare functionality – But it needs to be evaluated.

The one thing I sorely miss at the moment is some way to perform a Physical to Virtual migration (P2V). In MS Virtual Server 2005, this was fairly complicated, although do-able using the Virtual Server Migration Tools coupled with Automated Deployment Services (ADS) – All were free provided you had Windows 2003 Enterprise.

With Hyper-V the only way to perform a P2V migration (using the Microsoft tools) is via the System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 – Which so happens this software is in Beta, and it would eventually be a purchasable product.

I’m not saying VMWare is no good – It’s great – I just think people need to have more of an open mind about the solutions that they look at and evaluate all options. I suspect that over time we will see more of what the PacLib Group went through as people start to question whether the extra features of VMWare are actually worth the money given the various virtualisation options around now.

Anyway – That’s it from me.

5 weeks to go for my Masters degree and I’m done :- ) Can’t wait.

All the best.