I knew you were waiting!

waiting Back to tenuous pop lyric links it is… the first one of 2015… So i hear you ask…who was waiting? Let me explain, pre Christmas we did an infrastructure upgrade for one of our customers, these guys are probably looking to exploit technology and technology trends as much as anyone I get to deal with, they are keen on looking at how technology can continue to transform what they do for their customers as well as how it can keep them ahead of their competition and underpin continued growth and success. warningA bit of a warning before you delve in… this is a pretty solution specific post for me,  talking a lot about NetApp clustered Data OnTap, however please don’t get lost in that, it happens to be what the solution is based on, the important thing is about how we reached the decisions we did… so hopefully you’ll still find it interesting even if you use other technology and have no interest in changing…you’ve been warned! Their current infrastructure, which we deployed for them 3 or so years ago, has served the business well up until this point, with virtualisation providing the ability to scale infrastructure as needed and their NetApp storage allowing them to efficiently store and protect data, using both local snapshots and mirrored replication to multiple locations. Earlier last year the discussions began about what the upcoming technology refresh would have to do for them, so there where a few things high on the list;

  • Flexibility – any infrastructure would need to be able to bring in new technologies without disruption, be that new applications, hypervisors or storage types
  • DR and Continuity – a big consideration for the business
  • Scalability – the business is continuing to grow rapidly, so they need the ability to scale the infrastructure out at all levels as needed
  • Availability – non disruptive operations – service availability hugely important
  • Cloud – How is cloud going to change IT use in the future

Some of the decisions where pretty straightforward to make… at a hypervisor level we would migrate to Server 2012R2 (from 2008R2  – giving better scale and performance) however we would have the flexibility to deploy Vsphere into the environment…either of those hypervisor choices would provide us with the flexibility we need and the ability to provide both strong continuity options as well as increasingly commonplace and simplified cloud integration… The big decision for us was around storage, not really around the need to change vendor (although there was a discussion with EMC) but more about what kind of storage infrastructure did we want. As a NetApp customer, this really boiled down to two things…did they stay with the more traditional NetApp 7-mode environment, or did they look at making a shift to clustered data ontap (cdot)… In today’s NetApp world of course the answer is increasingly  that you deploy Clustered OnTap, this is the future for NetApp, there is no plans to further develop 7-mode and all the future good stuff is all going into cdot, however in early 2014 the issue in the mid-enterprise space, where you would be using the NetApp 2500 range of controllers, was the way the 8.2 versions of CDOT required certain disks for it’s default setup was hugely limiting, however this would be addressed in 8.3 by removing the need for dedicated disks to do certain tasks, making it much more realistic in the mid-enterprise space… The question was, did we move on with 8.2 or where they prepared to wait until 8.3 shipped, even though this would still be some 6-8 months away.. know what you wantThis comes down to something i’ve blogged about before…knowing what you want…now the guys at this customer are right on top of that, both technically and maybe more importantly they are in touch with the business needs, this allowed us to prioritise what was actually important… Flexibility – that was top of the list, it was critical that the new infrastructure allowed them to make infrastructure changes completely non disruptively, if we needed to install increased processing power, new disk technologies, integrate different data management processes, so the business could react quickly to changes in its requirements without disruption. cdot is all about flexibility – as a scale out technology, the ability to apply additional compute and different storage which we can seamlessly  utilise with absolutely no disruption, is something we just couldn’t do with the traditional 7-mode approach. Integrate new technology – a significant issue for these guys was the need to be able to utilise new technology quickly – one of their big challenges is reporting, they receive a lot of data and the need to provide reports for their customers and to do that quickly is a big challenge, increasingly this is going to need flash disk, however what they didn’t want was flash that was in a silo somewhere (ruling out separate all flash array), again right up the street of cdot, the ability for us to integrate all flash controllers simply into the environment, we can then move report data on the fly and present it to separate reporting compute power without skipping a beat, hugely attractive and again something we can’t do with traditional 7-mode deployments. These where the two main drivers for the technology refresh we where to embark on, now bear in mind that a version of cdot that commercially and technically would work for these guys was still some 6-8 months away, gave us a dilemma, technically the answer was cdot, but could the business wait all that time. It comes back to that point again, know exactly what you want from your tech and understand how important it is, this was not about a tech refresh just because they should or could, this was a about a refresh that was going to drive the business. Knowing that allowed them to make the decision to wait, in fact not only wait but actually purchase at the time (as commercially that made sense) but then wait until the relevant technology shipped ahead of deployment. I really liked that thinking, as it was all about getting what was right for the business both technically and commercially, and prepared to take a long-term view, rather than short-term, rushing in with a solution that may of potentially restricted their future growth. The implementation has proved the value of that thinking – NetApp clustered OnTap 8.3 went in like a dream, the flexibility we now have by abstracting the entire storage infrastructure from any hardware, allowing us to move it around the physical infrastructure completely without disruption ticks all of the boxes, the ability to take advantage of new protocols (SMB 3.0 for HyperV) gives us even greater long-term flexibility. It also means that we can upgrade controllers, add different storage tiers or add more compute totally non-disruptively. Next up with these guys is how we use cloud as part of their future growth and continuity planning, as well as integrating some central desktops into the equation, this will mean the flexibility of the underlying infrastructure is going to be pushed quickly. NetApp is really strong here for them, with great integration with AWS and Azure as well as more niche global cloud providers, but that’s another story. todays lesson Was it worth the wait…absolutely.. the lesson of this though… was not about patience…but about completely understanding what you need from your technology and aligning that to what your organisation needs to be able to achieve overall goals…. If you want to find out more about NetApp clustered Data OnTap click here or if you want to ask more techie questions, drop a comment or contact me on the social network links on the page… Hopefully this post can help you when it comes to looking at long-term decision-making… do what’s right in the long-term and not something to rush, just because you can… Thanks for reading….

A week in tech – Whatsa coming

red_coming_soon_stamp Happy New Year to everyone… so after a couple of weeks of festive fun, frolics and way too much food… certainly in my case anyway!!!..it’s back to work… At the back end of last year I thought that a weekly tech round up maybe useful for some of you, well it’s a new year…and  I thought at least I’d try to do a round up in week one!!! Well of course this time of the year my mailbox is full of tech predictions for 2015… so here’s five that caught my eye; As traditionally someone who gets involved in infrastructure design then I suppose those are the things that interested me most, so here’s some of my favourites…

All Flash – it’s now…or is it!?

flashCertainly a school of thought that all flash will start to increasingly become the standard home for workloads – rather than worry about using auto tier technologies (to be honest never been huge fan of tiering algorithms) and as flash drops in price and increases its reliability then the idea of all flash as a standard may become the norm. However there is a counter argument that still SSD is way too expensive for most and totally unnecessary and that the idea of all flash datacentres in the enterprise is still some way off – It’ll be interesting to see how that moves, certainly in the Enterprises I work in, I still see Flash as pretty workload specific, the trick will be about how you integrate that into your environment.

Internet of Things

There is certainly a feeling that increasingly the Internet of Things is going to become more influential, the idea that a business can have devices feeding real time data back into their organisation to aid decision making, has obvious advantages, however as the Internet of Things becomes more prevalent, it only really has benefit if you can take that information and do something useful with it. IoTIf you’ve been keeping an eye on the CES 2015 conference, you’ve of seen lots of interest and announcements about wearable tech… of course the most obvious and visible version of IoT for most of us. The increase in use of IoT in 2015 is likely to drive the growth of data analytics. Now traditionally analytics has been the preserve of the big boys, however don’t worry the increasing amount of analytics as a service offerings from the likes of Microsoft and IBM on the global level and a whole host of niche providers is allowing that kind of insight to be available to a wider range of businesses, not just the very biggest ones.

Cloud Storage

One of the things I was increasingly involved in at the back end of 2014 was the use of cloud object stores, and this pops up in many of the predictions for the coming year and maybe not surprisingly. The likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Softlayer are offering hugely resilient storage, geo-graphically spread for pennies per Gb. Now, this is not necessarily people using this as their primary storage, in fact it’s highly unlikely that is the main use for most, however as part of a storage strategy when tied to the likes of Panzura,  Steelstore and Storsimple (to name a very few) acting as your on premise gateway you can see for solutions such as backup, long term archival and global file sharing, the flexibility and cost of cloud storage is very attractive, I fully expect to be seeing an awful lot more of this in 2015.

Docker and Container technology

I blogged at the back end of last year about the Docker and IBM announcement and the growth in the Docker ecosystem and the potential emergence of other container tech, this again is right up there in the list of hot topics for the year. Docker-logo-011Containers right now is a very developer specific market, however the wider integration into major ecosystems, especially it appearing as part of the next version of Windows Server is certainly taking it more main stream. NetApp CIO Jay Kidd is very keen on the idea that containers have the potential to replace how we currently view and deploy virtualisation. The idea that your application is developed in a completely self supporting container and can be moved completely independently certainly has potential to have a big impact in all kinds of infrastructures, certainly a tech I’ll be keeping an very close eye on this year, to see how it may find it’s way into the enterprise.

Security

Last up for this week, Security. as the infamous Sony Pictures incident before Christmas showed, there is going to be no let up in the potential damage that a data leak can do to a business. A couple of the predictions above talk about how we are going to create more data and place more data in the cloud, well if we are going to do that, then the security of that data is going to be more critical that ever and the topic is certainly predicated to stay high on the CIO’s list of challenges as we move into 2015. It’s probably critical for us all that we continue to develop our security policies and data protection plans, the last thing any of us want is the world paying extra attention to our own Seth Rogen related slip up!!! Well last week was the first week back at work after a wonderful Christmas break and as you can see already lots of enterprise technology to keep me busy this year. I hope you all had an equally good break and are looking forward to a successful technology year in whatever you do. All the best for 2015. Have-A-Good-2015