VM and IT Services

Our regular readers will understand that we do not routinely report on vendor-specific industry events, but because of the increasing presence of virtualization as a foundational component in enterprise IT architecture, this week’s VMWorld in San Francisco is hard to ignore.

In a press release, VMware revealed a roadmap that is focused on IT services in support of Business. ¬†As expected, there is a lot of focus on the Cloud in this strategy. ¬†Earlier posts in this forum highlight how foundational the Cloud has become in enterprise IT roadmaps. ¬†What is more interesting in this announcement is the focus on IT as a service. ¬†In this post, we are focusing only on the content of VMware’s press release because of its statements about product strategy. ¬†It is recognized that additional color and content apply from the conference more broadly.

McAfee Inside?

Undoubtedly you’ve heard by now that Intel has a bid on the table to buy McAfee (for $7.7B). ¬†We’ve written before about the collaboration that’s been going on between the two companies for almost two years now, which we suspect is a leveraging of features at both ends of the stack to improve security of data processing devices. ¬†Indeed the two companies share a vision of combined secure hardware and software to protect the full spectrum of Internet connected devices.

So what does this mean for us chickens? ¬†Well, there’s quite a variety of opinion in the industry so far. ¬†The official company line(s) are of course that this will lead to technology that improves security for network connected devices of all types (something we certainly can benefit from), and of course that there is a great opportunity for more sales of security software if every new CPU is seen as an opportunity for that. ¬†However, there is a good bit of open endedness around this. ¬†We’ll at least give you our opinions.

Data Center Containers – On the Move

We’ve written quite a bit in this forum about containerized data centers, and our hope that in addition to providing great utility in current high density data processing implementations, they would also pave the way for a more pragmatic, modular approach to building data center space.¬† We still feel that there are improvements to be made regarding the cost of scaling the data center in alignment with near-time scaling of “the Business.”

After a period of many months during which there seemed to be little movement in the container world, the past few months have shown numerous new container product releases and announcements of new container concepts from an even wider array of suppliers.¬† It seems too, that the idea of “containers” is busting out from the limitations of shipping container form factors.¬† This development, we think, is indication of an approaching evolutionary step in the use of containerized space as a useful modular scaling option.

We will introduce a few of these new developments here, in order to present a view of the direction of new work in this area, and save detailed discussion on individual products for later posts.

Energy Efficiency Improvements Need Not Be So Tough

This week, I had the pleasure of touring a data center developed and operated by a provider that has sites in only two cities in the US so far.  I’m intentionally not mentioning the name of the provider, but would like to share some of the things they’re doing that impressed me.  I was impressed because these are basic energy efficiency and capacity optimization features that for many larger providers, are deliberated to the point of indecision, but for these guys are done almost casually and with ease.

Data Center Cage as Storage Facility

As someone with a strong operational ethic, one of my pet peeves is the colo site that resembles a monthly self-storage facility.¬† I’m referring here, to allowing (or tolerating) tenants storing boxes, material, and debris in their cages.

A colocation facility that has cardboard and other such material in customer cages shows very poorly.  That is, new customers touring the site as a potential future data center will not be impressed by the apparent state of operational controls when trash is visible in cages.

More importantly though, storage of cardboard and packaging material on the IT floor is a security risk.  This material is likely the most flammable of any present in the environment, and fire is an availability and safety exposure.

Stuxnet- an Example of Malware as a Weapon

In my classes at the university, I sometimes give students a project to create a malware pet shop or malware zoo.¬† The purpose is to make the students more aware of the “biodiversity” that really exists out there in the malware world.¬† We also often talk about the increasing use of malware and other network-based attacks by governments against other governments or industries within a country.¬† Then of course there is the extension of that in the form of cyber terrorism.

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of press for the Stuxnet (Trojan) worm.¬† What is interesting to share with you about this malware du jour is that rather than targeting personal information or productivity on a person’s PC, this critter is designed specifically to target control systems commonly used in manufacturing plants and other industrial facilities including critical public utility infrastructure.

Stuxnet exploits a previously undisclosed vulnerability in Windows to access management software for Siemens SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems that are commonly found in manufacturing, industrial, and utility systems.¬† These types of systems are typically not connected to the Internet, but the malware travels by USB device (e.g., a thumb drive).¬† Once the malware discovers the Siemens application software, it copies project files to an external web site.¬† Other actions are not yet reported, but it’s clear that with access to key control systems, serious disruption could be accomplished even beyond theft of manufacturing process information.¬† Stuxnet has the ability to upload code to programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in SCADA systems.¬† The PLCs determine how industrial systems operate.

Cloud Computing Panel at the ATP

By Bob Landstrom

This month I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion at the monthly meeting of the Association of Telecom Professionals (ATP). ¬†The event was titled, “Atlanta: Global Network Gateway to the Cloud.” ¬†The ATP did a wonderful job of assembling thought leaders from nearly all dimensions of the Cloud Ecosystem.

Representing the ranks of cloud service providers were Matthew Elkourie, CTO of ColoCube (an IaaS provider) and Steve Mannel, Global Industry Executive with Salesforce.com (a PaaS and SaaS provider).  The network layer was represented by Paul Savill, VP of Product Management at Level3.  Rounding out the panel was the enterprise user perspective, chaired by Intercontinental Hotel Group VP of Global Technology, Mr. Gustaaf Schrils.

New Guidance from The Uptime Institute- Operational Sustainability

The Uptime Institute recently released new guidance regarding operational behaviors supporting data center Tier levels.  In several other articles, we’ve discussed the notion that The Uptime Institute’s tier models for mission critical facilities are centered upon the topology of MEP infrastructure for increasing levels of site availability, but that these models do not significantly take into account operational maturity, which we will propose is predominantly responsible for availability performance regardless of the topology of infrastructure.  It is the reason that lower tier designs can historically demonstrate availability performance equal to or better than that predicted for higher tier designs (it should also be noted that the converse is true in the cases of poor operational frameworks on higher tier designs).  In this post, we share bits of what has been published by The Uptime Institute regarding this new guidance, and offer our own thoughts and comments along the way.