As more companies move to virtual machines and blade servers to reduce space and costs, there are few mentions of the downside or "dark side" of virtualizing hardware and operating systems. I spoke with Bob Waldie, CEO and founder of Opengear , an open-source out-of-band management services provider, about the problems associated with the adoption of blades and VMs.
Q: So why do you think that virtualization is such a problem? Waldie: The dark side of virtualization is the complexity of the environment it creates. While server virtualization improves flexibility and asset utilization, it also adds complexity to the environment, specifically by adding an extra hypervisor layer to the operating and management load and creating complicated virtual appliances and virtualized I/O. For example, when the enterprise VPN network is routed through software VPN appliances running on virtual servers and then migrated to virtual machines, the connection of the virtual machines back to the LAN presents a new layer of management challenges.
Well, what are these new management challenges? Waldie: For the vast majority of enterprises, virtualization coexists with physical deployments and data center managers need tools for managing both physical and virtual environments. However, in addition to needing new virtual management tools, the added network complexity means the tools that previously used to manage the physical infrastructure pre-virtualization aren't appropriate. Adding to this management issue is the increase in disaster sensitivity that comes with consolidation. While prevalence of infrastructure outages may not increase, the consequence of a hypervisor or blade failure will, so managers have to find and implement a completely new set of tools while under incredible pressure to avoid any downtime or IT issues.
Even given additional management issues, isn't there a real benefit to the consolidation that virtualization brings? Waldie: Sure, there are lots of reasons that people give for virtualizing a data center with the big one being increased infrastructure utilization as well as load balancing and power management, simplifying scheduled maintenance, and improving disaster recovery. But we've seen significant barriers to delivering such promises, and there are real costs in moving to more virtual environments.
Do you mean costs beyond the problems raised by managing virtual and physical machines? Waldie: Yes, organizations are actually cutting their ROI on previous infrastructure management tools, and increasing upfront energy costs. For example, there is currently around $3 billion in KVM switches installed in the racks in enterprise data centers, and these tools are being progressively disconnected from the systems they used to manage. Server virtualization isolates the KVM switch from operating system and application. Not only does the sys admin lose a management tool, the organization also loses its investment in the switch.
As far as energy consumption goes, as virtualization moves server utilization up from its historical floor of 10 percent to 20 percent, power consumption also rises. There is also more risk that these increasingly mission critical servers can become hot spots, which can degrade server life and performance. Blade servers are also a problem; built for density, they ramp the power dissipation in each rack but demand sophisticated direct cooling solutions to ensure the servers run smoothly.
So what kinds of solutions out there help solve these problems? Waldie: There's no integrated vendor-neutral solution that will monitor and measure power, direct cooling, control the physical and virtual servers that generate the load, and then enable the data center managers to load shed and balance power demand and power supply. On average, virtualized environments have 11 different platforms, technologies, and vendors present, and most proprietary tools can't deal with this level or heterogeneity, making open-source tools like Opengear's KCS6000 or Minicom's KVM.net II a good, flexible fit.
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M.--Fashions for private space travel are becoming reality.
On Saturday, the Washington, D.C., start-up Orbital Outfitters showed off a prototype of its first pressurized suit for the commercial space industry here at the 2007 X Prize Cup, a two-day space and air show.Orbital Outfitter's spacesuit
The suit, called the ISC , is specifically designed for pilots who will man an upcoming generation of suborbital rockets. Companies including Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic plan to send four or five tourists at a time up on suborbit trips with a few minutes of weightlessness, for example. Those flights will be manned by one or two pilots.
Jeff Feige, CEO of Orbital Outfitters, said that the company plans to release a passenger suit mid to late next year "when there will be demand." If all goes according to plan, Virgin, Blue Origin and others plan their first trips in 2009 and 2010.
Orbital Outfitters designed its suit under contract with XCOR Aerospace, a developer of rocket-powered vehicles based in Mojave, Calif. The company called the design "retro," yet it's made with modern off-the-shelf materials like breathable polyurethane, which comprises its inner layer. The material holds pressure, but wicks away sweat.
Feige wouldn't divulge all of the materials, but he said most can be bought commercially. The key, he said, is that the suits are customizable to the pilot so they have greater mobility. It's also incredibly light and cheaper to make than any NASA suit , he said. So far, it's tested well above the pressures NASA uses for its suits, he said.
Still, a man modeling the pressurized outfit Saturday looked more than a little uncomfortable.
In the wake of yesterday's iPhone software development news, a few positive tidbits related to Apple's iPhone surfaced here and there regarding 3G support, carrier exclusivity, and shipment expectations.
First off, UBS analyst Nicolas Gaudois posted a research note-- spotted by AppleInsider among others--declaring that Apple has a 3G iPhone slated for the middle of this year using a modem chip from Infineon. The 3G model has long been expected to arrive at some point this year, and could help boost its standing with European customers and business types.Apple COO Tim Cook, believe it or not, still likes the iPhone.
Secondly, Apple COO Tim Cook took the stage at the Goldman Sachs Investment Symposium in Las Vegas to reiterate Apple's goal of selling 10 million iPhones in 2008. Over the last several weeks, several analysts had gone on record predicting Apple would fall short of that goal, dragged down in part by a souring economy, but that was before news broke yesterday of the pending enterprise applications scheduled to be unveiled next week.
Cook also noted that Apple wasn't "married" to the exclusive carrier rollout strategy it has used so far in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France. That could imply that Apple is thinking about adding other carriers in those places, although I still think it's unlikely that Apple will release a CDMA-based iPhone that would work on Verizon and Sprint's networks anytime soon. It could also imply that Cook is angling for a better revenue-sharing deal with the carriers already in Apple's fold.
The combination of all of these developments--the prospect of a more business-friendly 3G iPhone that could be available through multiple carriers--seems to have revived interest in Apple's prospects. After getting killed over the last few weeks, Apple's stock is up over 5 percent today, swimming against the tide of a broader downturn on higher unemployment numbers .
Following this company is sometimes like watching a tennis match. Or maybe it's closer to hockey, where everybody scurries around on one end of the ice before flying around on the other end.
MySpace Music will launch in September, according to Chris DeWolfe, the social network's CEO.
DeWolfe made the comments at the Fortune Brainstorm conference in Half Moon Bay, Calif., TechCrunch reported .
MySpace announced in April that it planned to launch a music service that would offer songs from three out of the top four recording companies .
MySpace said then that the music site, which will offer free streaming music, unprotected MP3 downloads, ringtones, and merchandise, would roll out over a span of three to four months.
Major record label EMI announced today that they have settled an ongoing copyright dispute with the Beatles that had prevented the label from licensing their music for distribution. In light of EMI's recent deal to release its catalog on iTunes, it appears that there is little left to prevent the Fab Four's back catalog from finally being released online.
Legal issues aside, the band has historically declined offers to sell downloads of its music. Still, with Steve Jobs using the Beatles' music as part of his Macworld demonstration for the iPhone , it's fair to say Apple is eager negotiate a way to make iTunes the first download music service to offer the group's music. If Michael Jackson hasn't sold his remaining shares of Beatles publishing rights to pay for his legal troubles, I'm sure he and his pet chimpanzee are crossing their fingers hoping this deal goes through.
The big mobile phone companies are apparently in a snit because ring-tone services like Jamster are marketing directly to consumers , bypassing the carriers' portals. What the phone companies must realize, of course, is that they are facing a larger tide that is being driven by the changing dynamics of the Internet, where a combination of new technologies and evolving consumer behavior is obviating the need for the middleman where content is concerned.
Already, we have seen unprecedented moves in the television and cable industries as content providers market their shows directly to viewers, forgoing the traditional route of the broadcast networks and cable operators. The shift is somewhat analogous to the way direct computer marketers like Dell, online travel agencies like Expedia and large e-tailers like Amazon forced middlemen out of the equation in previous years.
Our advice to the phone carriers: Get used to it.
Blog community response:
"The more flexible and frictionless are the transactions between producers and consumers, the more control both will have in terms of maximizing the value they extract from these transactions, which I guess is what free markets are supposed to be about. The role of pipe owners in the equation is less clear." -- IP Democracy
"What kind of business can a person start for $25, $50, $100? Well, with $10 to register a domain, $2/month for 6 months hosting, you still have $1 to call a friend and tell them about your new Web based business...A $10 domain can be making $15 a day selling cell phone ring tones. How's that for a return on investment?" -- 1, 2, Free: Entrepreneurship by the Numbers
"Don't get me wrong, I love all the technology, and the potential it will bring, but by fragmenting the means of access, and the means of delivery, it could make it confusing for the customer, more difficult for the developer " -- Musings of a mobile marketer
Three solar-thermal companies have raised money in the past week in a sector that's showing life, despite a choppy investment environment.
Infinia on Tuesday said it has taken $7 million from Asian contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group , part of a total of $57 million in a Series B round first announced in February .
Infinia's dishes use the sun's heat to generate electricity with a Stirling engine. The company uses a dish to concentrate sunlight onto a Stirling engine, which makes electricity. It intends to sell its 3-kilowatt devices to small-scale utility plants.
On Monday, eSolar said it has raised $130 million from Idealab and Google.org . Its solar-thermal systems, designed for utility-scale power plants, use mirrors to reflect light onto a tower that turns a turbine.
And last Thursday, Stirling Energy Systems announced a $100 million investment from renewable-energy developer and waste management company NTR .
Stirling Energy Systems makes a huge concentrator dish that generates heat to turn a Stirling engine that makes electricity. It's under contract for two power plants in the Mojave Desert that would initially generate 800 megawatts of power.
Solar-thermal technology has been around for decades, and Stirling engines date back to the 19th century. But the high cost of silicon-solar cells has made solar-concentrating systems more attractive in desert areas like the Southwest United States and Spain.