It’s 2010 (according to reliable sources 😉 ), and I hardly believe that there are still sooo many software vendors that freak out as soon as I propose virtual servers for hosting their apps (virtual has been our default for the last 2+ years).

Whether they’ve been hit by evil FUD or simply (that’s the vast majority of the cases) unaware of what virtualization is nowadays, I simply don’t accept it, unless there are SERIOUS reasons (e.g. insanely huge performance/capacity requirements, which account for .00001 of our workloads – to be fair -, or a dumb support/licensing policy (ORCL, can you heaaar meeee?)).

So, virtual is the way to go. But as a *seasoned* 😉 IT admin, I know my chickens, and know well that sooner or later they’re going to show up and blame the virtual environment for their app’s poor performance, and waste my precioussss time to prove they’re wrong (I’m the server guy and they’re the software monkeys… They should already know that it’s their fault… But they’re monkeys, so… 😉 ).

vBastard mode to the rescue. Joking apart, since my assumptions and proposals about the virtual environment are not based on black magic or voodoo rituals, but rather on performance metrics, years of statistics for a wild variety of application workloads, and plain ‘experience’ on the field, and since I take responsibility anyway for the platform hosting those applications, I blended a bit the ‘politics of server consolidation’, introducing the vBastard mode: simply put, if the vScared app vendor insists in using FUD against the virtual environment, I’ll cease the virtual proposal and embrace a fully physical environment, adding some makeup to the thing: ‘oh no!!! Your oh-so-cute-and-critical-and-precious Crap, ahem… App should be given its own iron!!! That V thing is for toys and dhcp servers… Don’t worry, I’ll bring you the gozillahertz and ultrabytes you need. Oh, and if you’ll see something like ‘vmtools’ running in the box, or vmx* sort of device drivers/modules, don’t worry… We install them just… for… standard… governance… guidelines’ (most of the time, the monkey will stare at you wondering what a device driver is 😉 ).

Needless to say, it ends being virtual (most of the time, at least). And you already know it… The V thing simply does its job (and more).

I know this sounds so BOFH, but since some people won’t EVER learn, I prefer to let them live under their pRock, while I can go on with the vParty!
And most important of all, I can deliver a better service to my employer, which is what matters at the end of the day.

While walking out of the office yesterday evening, I stumbled upon this one, and couldn’t resist to take a picture:

where information lives

I think this deserves a post, and some “comments”… like, for example:

– Hey boss, when I told you to get rid of all the paper and put all documents in a EMC box.. I didn’t mean it LITERALLY 😉

– Boss!, ok… I know storage ain’t cheap… but hey! 😉

– How the heck I’m gonna find an hba to tie this one to my SAN? 😉

– Man, these EMC guys are dead serious about storage tiering! FC, SATA, EFD, and now this! 😉

– What if I sit down on this? how do you call it? compression or dedupe? 😉

 Eheh,

 Drakpz

Slaves to contingency

November 21, 2009

This week I attended many meetings, which started as ‘planning/strategy meetings’, but sadly ended in being in something like ‘let’s just fix that’, ‘let’s extinguish that fire’, ‘let’s just do that and then we’ll see’.
Apparently, there’s a growing adoption of the lifestyle that I decided to call ‘slave to contingency’. Whether it’s due to high pressure (see previous posts), lack of enthusiasm (see previous posts), or lack of common sense/practical wisdom (see previous posts), it seems that as things go on, more and more people lose their ability to focus and innovate, and sadly accept the fact that as long as you stick to the rules, and don’t let fires burn everything to dust… You’re good to go.

Again, this leads you into surviving vs living, into watching your life passing by vs grasping it. I’ve always been able and willing of estinguishing fires as needed, but still, I need to be sure that there’s a wyser, longer plan that will bring to further innovation, quality, success.

So, bring on the contingency, the issues and the catastrophes… I’m going to face ’em, and still… Seeing the ‘big picture’. 🙂

Curb your enthusiasm. That’s a name of a tv series, that’s a sentence that generates a sound that I like when it’s pronounced. What I don’t like is the meaning of it: enthusiasm, in my opinion, is something that should never be curbed… But nonetheless, it generally is.
I had the luck, overtime, to get in touch with people with different degrees of enthusiasm in what they do and what they are. You just feel it… It’s in the words that those people use, in the gestures they do, in the tireless effort and courage they put into things. Enthusiastic people are those who make things happen, that don’t sit and wait for the time passing by. Enthusiasm should by the way generate enthusiasm, which is totally normal (and highly welcome) for me… But I found that to be an exception.
Fact is, most of the time I found that those who were enthusiastic at first, got ‘curbed’ over time, and most of the time it wasn’t their fault: they just gave up on a overwhelming pressure on avoiding enthusiasm, on sticking to the ‘rules’.
This is very much true especially in work areas, where bureaucracy and endless hierarchies seem to have a vital need of getting rid of enthusiasm. Eventually I understood that need: it starts as a way to make certain that basic rules (indeed needed) are followed, but it blatantly ends as a way of controlling what you don’t know or can’t understand. Too many rules, by definition, curb enthusiasm and creativity.
In the long run, you’ll probably end up with something that’s as much controlled as useless.
Luckily, a few bright minds keep their enthusiasm, no matter what… I don’t know if I became picky over time, but I found myself growing an exclusive preference for this kind of people. I’m not interested in shallow, controlled, ruled minds: their predictability is both their virtue and the cause of their ultimate failure. I believe, in the long run, this difference (enthusiasm vs lack of enthusiasm) will define something bigger: the difference between living and surviving. Count me in for the former.

Nagios, or Perish

October 4, 2009

A huge overhaul in my monitoring architecture is in progress, and as it goes on I find myself more and more confident that going with nagios is THE way to go. Period. Overtime we grew a number of monitoring tools (either FOSS or not) that do (when things go as expected) what they’re meant to do… But nothing more.

Here’s what’s cool about nagiois: it does what you expect it to do, and a whole lot more. It’s no secret I’ve always been a fan of Ethan Galstad’s baby, but overtime I also found myself adopting something different for special purposes… and it didn’t go as expected: highly specialized monitoring tools, with 0 flexibility and 0 integration w/ the rest of the world. Moreover, those systems tend to make you become a ‘slave’ of the system itself, not only for setting them up, but also for running them… And that’s simply unacceprable.

People often say that Nagios has a steep learning curve, but I found that it only requires accurate planning (which is not an option for other monitoring tools as well!).

What’s wrong with other monitoring solutions? In my opinion, most of them fail due to the ‘everything in a box’ approach, while Nagios itself is extremely modular by its very nature.

Fact is, unless your architecture is pretty straight (read dull), you’ll end up needing something more than the out-of-the-box bells and whistles that many tools provide. My own architecture is everything but straight (or dull 😉 ): kilos of systems, tons of apps, complex networks, and so on: this is where nagios fits, as it allows for an incremental approach that makes you start with the basics and add bells, whistles, and whatever as you go.

The incremental approach is the key: you should really monitor only what’s critical, what’s providing insight into your systems/apps, what’s valuable when your dealing with outages and faults. This is why I don’t like the ‘agent does everything’ approach: it gives you tons of data, which seems cool at first sight, but ends up being useless (or, even worse, confusing) in real world scenarios.

Nagios is also often criticized for its lack of graphical configuration frontends. Actually, there are a few good frontends, but after a LONG evaluation I ended up choosing the good old conf by hand. Nagios’ template based and inheritance based conf allows for some elegant configuration scheme, which (if carefully planned) results in a highly maintainable system.

The result? A clean conf structure (structured dir tree for conf files), easily expandable conf items (templates, etc), manageable exceptions (which is soooo fundamental), integration w/ other tools (read trouble ticketing, etc), network awareness (parent/child relationship), dependencies awareness (when it’s needed!), and bells/whistles (nagvis, pnp4nagios, etc).

Nagios rocks!

Just a quick one, to let you know that I seriously jumped in the “virtualize everything” bandwagon. Yeah, I know, this is a EMC initiative, but apart from borrowing the expression from them, my commitment is to fight against EVERYONE that doesn’t support virtualization, and more specifically that turn 180 from that kind of tech. I’m totally pissed off of companies literally building up tons of excuses or commercial mazes just to  lock you in the physical world forever, or at least (yeah, ORCL, I’m talking to you) taking the time to figure out how to get some more $$ from your wallet. I am the one that should choose where my apps are going (p or v), and any unjustified lock in the pworld, simply won’t be accepted anymore. I’ll bite.

A quick note. Thanks to Chad/virtualgeek (http://virtualgeek.typepad.com), I found this two extremely interesting videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pHJZS6oCyA

and

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFikywfCVP4

which show the EMC Storage Viewer Plugin for Vcenter, and the “Vmware-aware” Navisphere, respectively. Being both a Vmware and Clariion user/enthusiast, I found these to be just great, and reminds me what “integration” means. Good Job!