Technology, Infrastructure and Cloud Focused.

Father of 3 lovely children, geek, infrastructure expert, technical architect and all round technologist.

Microsoft cloud Consortium – Digital Transformation Wrap Up

As some of you remember I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at a recent Microsoft event around their cloud stack, you can view the post here http://www.keithbucknall.co.uk/realising-digital-transformation-microsoft-technology-event/ I wanted to share with you some key points I took away from the delegates and the Cloud Consortium companies that were present:

Cloud Adoption

My slot was the down to earth realisation of moving work loads to the cloud, the pitfalls and challenges compared to the marketing view point of just right click and move.  I have always had a preconceived view that topics such as governance, application architecture and analysis and cost control is common sense when thinking of cloud migrations, however this was not the case and was surprised to get a warm reception that the slot was very interesting.  In summary the audience were split into the people that had some work loads in the cloud (test/dev or proof of concept) but only for the want of understanding, seeing how the IT governance or architecture would look, network security and then see how they need to adapt their IT organisation and culture to the cloud mindset.

The other side of the audience wanted to look into cloud transformation but either didn’t know were to start, what type of workloads to put in a cloud and then how the operational, cost and security model would look.

Another question I always ask is that the cloud is not the answer to everyone, it is not the silver bullet people think about, in fact most people just focus on that “lift and shift” of IaaS models rather than the true power and scale of PaaS.

Acknowledgement

When speaking with people on their cloud views the general consensus is trending towards my thoughts on Infrastructure that Infrastructure Ops is a thing of the past having big Infrastructure teams to manage the hardware, updates etc…

Interest

So many people appear to be interested in different cloud models, the issue for them is trying to work out a strategy and identifying the quick wins or the non-cloud ready applications (generally legacy applications).

Will it last

Of course the issue with a number of clouds is the perception that the SLA’s will be 100% and never have any outage, I guess my concern here is no one can really provide that SLA and outages will always occur it boils down to your HA design and continuity plans.

The presentations can be downloaded from clicking on this link with a summary of the different tracks and topics covered in the picture below.  I urge you to take advantage of these excellent set of companies all ranked very high and very competent within their own areas:

Cloud Consortium presentation tracks

What is the Cloud Consortium?

Microsoft decided to form a group of top ranked Microsoft partners that specialise in Office 365, SharePoint, Azure, Skype for Business, M/S Project, BI and Unified Communications to enable its customers to seamlessly migrate to the cloud.  This gives customers the benefit of managing a single point of contact and single supply chain.

Let me know your thoughts, experiences and views on the different types of cloud.

Realising Digital Transformation with Microsoft Technology Event

So it has been a while since I have presented at an event but next Tuesday (13th), I have the pleasure to be be attending an event arranged by a group of companies called the Cloud Consortium entitled Realising Digital Transformation with Microsoft Technology which focuses around a number of different tracks during the day.

These tracks are themed around the Microsoft cloud stack focusing on Skype for Business, SharePoint Online, Project Online and Azure.  My slot is part of the Azure track and embedded in a session where we will discuss the real world challenges and thoughts on a cloud strategy and moving from the high level vision to a low level technical reality.

Having had experience in two use cases for the cloud I will be discussing moving a 1,000 user company from pilot to production in Office 365, some test and development workloads in Azure with the vision of moving DR and the second use case which is what I am currently working on the cross roads of a cloud strategy and which Infrastructure-As-A-Service Provider should we go with.

It has been a pleasure to be asked and as you all know presenting is something I am trying to improve on session by session, I will follow this up with a post review and any slides that come out of this.

The Cloud Consortium is made up of these superb Microsoft Partners:

To register for the event please following this link – https://consortium.cloud/consortium-event/realising-digital-transformation-with-microsoft-technology/

Why you cannot backup Azure VMs created in the V2 Portal with Azure backup

Microsoft Azure

Hi, just a brief post for those of you that are wondering why Azure backup (at time of publishing this post, Feb 2016!) cannot discovery your IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) virtual machines you may have created within the same region but on the V2 portal – https://portal.azure.com/

Over the last few months I have been spending a bit of time setting up some labs in Azure both in the “classic” portal and the “v2” portal as Microsoft calls it.  The difference being the classic portal is the old fashion (and in my opinion easy to use) portal, while the v2 portal is where all the new development and features are.  Microsoft’s best practise is to try and ensure you are using the new v2 portal for all you IaaS build outs but the issue here is backwards compatibility.

So the use case – I have created a new IaaS environment within the v2 portal using Resource Manager and would like to use Azure’s VM Backup service, i.e. adding a new Recovery service and backup fault (which of course has to be in the same region) and discovery the virtual machines to carry out the backup – NOTE: this is different to the file level backup where you download the Azure Backup agent and carry our file level backups and restores.

Well……..

It turns out that you will be presented with the below error, the reason for this (and confirmed with Microsoft support) is this functionality is not currently supported!!!

Azure Backup Service Error

Yes I know, no notifications or advisory notes when you create these virtual machines nothing it simply does not work.  THE ONLY way to backup virtual machines in Azure with the Azure backup / recovery services is to carry on building your IaaS environment in the classic portal, end of – check this for more details – https://feedback.azure.com/forums/258995-azure-backup-and-scdpm/suggestions/8369907-azure-backup-to-support-iaas-vm-v2 

Limitations of Synology DSM 5.2 Backups to Microsoft Azure

Now I am a big fan of both Qnap and Synology Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, but recently I have moved a number of people over that own Synology devices from a local USB disk backup to a cloud backup, be it OneDrive or Azure.  For the small businesses these devices make a great all in one device but the Azure cloud backup has a number of limitations that Synology should address.

I am not going to cover off how to configure the backups as one of the excellent selling points of these NAS devices is the beautiful intuitive GUI, but Baris Eris has a great blog post on how to configure a backup job to an Azure storage account here – https://bariseris.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/attaching-synology-dsm-5-1-to-an-existing-azure-backup-store/ 

If you own any of these devices you will understand the concept of “Shared Folders” which are top level folders that can be shared over the network for people or companies to consume over their local (or cloud / internet with the cloud station apps) network.  Generally speaking people would use create sub-folders and files under the shared folder and this is where Synology need to change the functionality, you can backup all the files and folders under a shared folder (including multiple shared folders) but you cannot restore files or sub-folders if you have backed up your data to your Azure Storage Account.

When you go into the restore section it does not give you the option to browse any further down to select individual files or folders and on another point does not allow you to restore to an alternative location – I find this very frustrating for such a good piece of hardware – come on Synology.

screesnhot-synology

 

 

Having received confirmation from Synology support this is by design (ummm!) I am now left to revert back to the USB method.  Synology please provide granular restore options for this service it would seem that your restore functions are lacking compared to Qnap.

If you or anyone need assistance then please leave a comment and I will come back to you.

Webcast: Enterprise storage in flash – all flash array

Join myself, HP (well HPE), Freeform Dynamics and The Register for a live webcast (yes internationally and live!!) to discuss the real world benefits of moving to all flash storage array’s in the Enterprise.

At first people look at the financial impact of flash based arrays without analyising the benefits, saving on spinning disk or event the CAPEX VS the OPEX financial models.  This webcast will take you on a journey of a real implementation, the up front business case produced and then the realisation of additional benefits that could not have been foreseen.

We detail not only HPE’s storage on-demand cost optimisation but also the intangible business benefits we saw post the implementation.

You can register for the webcast here – http://whitepapers.theregister.co.uk/paper/view/4230/

2016 Update:

Please find a recorded version of this webcast on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhDyqEl3xe4

Where is storage 3.0 going and some thoughts

I wanted to share a number of thoughts with you all of which came out of an interesting evening session I attended looking at Storage 3.0 and how today’s startups see their technology and infrastructure, which got me thinking….

I have had the please of meeting Ash Ashutosh a number of times now and have to say my hat goes off to him, I would love to spend more time getting some coaching tips.  Ash is the CEO and founder of Actifio (and AppIQ to name a few), a Copy Data Protection company – why is this important you may say?  Really this goes down to his vision many years ago of what would happen to storage = what vmware did to server hardware – aka virtualise it, is where Ash not only saw and predicted Storage 2.0 but also 3.0.

In my opinion (BTW I am not a storage guru so some of this may be factual incorrect!) Storage 2.0 was layering software feature and bolting on modules, even 3rd party hardware that vendors had acquired and integrated.  Where Storage 3.0 is now about virtualising the storage, in some cases on consumer grade disks – wow think of that my £25k additional disk shelf / magazine / stack is now only £3k full of consumer grade (normally high capacity) drives!  Now granted the longevity of these disks is a lot lower but then again weigh that up against the costs, to quote – “cheap and deep storage”.

I have been saying for some time that everything will turn into software at some point, software defined networking, orchestration and now storage.  Can you ever imagine within an IT department where are the costs – Infrastructure, why?  Because it is complex, no one (wants to) understands it!  They think it is easy! For the last 2 years I had thought (and wish I started my own business in it) if companies could make infrastructure simple and I do not mean IaaS or PaaS, provide it in a box pre-packed on a consumed basis – what would this do – firstly you have known reference architecture templates built into the orchestration layer, you deploy the CRM system in 2hrs (rather than 9 months!), ypu have the servers virtualised, you have the instant backup and recovery and then you have (wait for it) any storage you like – be it fast (Flash, FC, in memory), slow (NL-SAS), expensive (no) or cheap.  Then all this is packaged into a OpEx based service – wow.

Chatting to people I was interested in a story from some ex-MIT people that have built start-ups and their views on internal infrastructure and systems  is none (excluding product development etc) because you can just consume cloud based services.  One person commented on all I have is wifi, a firewall and a switch!  Why, to reduce the CapEx – why buy a £5k server and depreciate this over 3-5yrs when you can subscribe to a service.  Just look at how facebook use their own consumer grade servers built on open source and standards – this saved them a staging $1b, Backblaze in the US did the same for their cloud back system.

This is why us as IT departments need to change into the ITaaS model, be a service provider within the company and as I always say the role of IT is changing…

 

The role of IT

The ideal VMware vSphere Lab

Cloud vs Virtualization

Cloud vs Virtualization by Tsahi Levent-Levi, on Flickr

Good evening to you all, I wanted to share the latest offers I have received from ServersPlus today which has got me thinking.  Firstly to cover off ServersPlus is a reseller / partner within the Infrastructure and I came over them about a year ago when looking for the HP Micro Servers as small NAS and VMware ESXi test servers.

I currently have a few servers running within a test and production environment but as always my test environment has not really been updated for a long time (v4.1 – yes I know!!!).  So I have been thinking and researching whitebox servers VS the ServerPlus deals that used to run on the HP Proliant ML110 G7 (which is now end of life and not being replaced at present – thanks HP.!).  I am planning on then looking into the VMware Essentials / Plus pack to build a full test environment and turning into a Pre-Production lab.

Of course I can just update and work through reboots etc but I am thinking of the hardware refresh to save this and jumping straight to ESXi 5.1.  So I wanted to share the great deal from ServersPlus on the Dell PE T110 (Dell comparison to the HP ML110):

Firstly click here to access the details or see below for the contact details of ServersPlus and don’t for get to mention us:

DELL PowerEdge T110 II ‘Ultimate 32GB ESXi 5.1 Testbed’ Bundle:

  • Order Code: SVDEL-32GBESXI5
  • Dell PowerEdge T110 Tower Server
  • Intel Xeon E3-1220 v2 (3.1 Ghz) Quad-Core
  • 32GB (4 x 8GB) ECC Udimms
  • 1x500GB SATA HDD
  • Samsung 24x DVD-RW
  • 1yr NBD Warranty
  • WOW – Bootable vSphere ESXi 5.1 Installer on 4GB USB 3.0 Drive

All this for under £600 ex VAT – WOW, OMG etc…  This is a ready to go (don’t forget to add a dual or quad port network card here).  If you are looking to experience vSphere vCenter to manage this environment then go now further with the following to bundled kits for SMB’s:

vSphere Essentials – all this for just over £500:

  • VMFS (Virtual Machine File System)
  • 8-way Virtual SMP
  • VMware Hypervisor
  • VMware vStorage Thin Provisioning
  • VMware Update Manager
  • VMware vStorage APIs
  • vMware vCenter Server for Essentials

vSphere Essentials Plus (around £3,800 check the link here):

  • VMware vSphere Storage Appliance for Essentials Plus
  • VMware Data Protection
  • VMware High Availability (HA)
  • VMware vMotion
  • VMware vStorage APIs
  • VMware vShield Zones
  • VMware vShield Endpoint
  • VMware Replication

I will update you on the decision and possibly put this into a blog series.

My 2013 Technology Predictions

Welcome to my 2013 Predictions.

Technology Trends for 2013

Picture thanks to Flickr and future tech_26

I cannot really say Happy New Year this far into January however as tradition I wanted to get my thoughts and predictions for 2013.  This is my yearly post where we look back on 2012, the technological advances or trends of last year and more importantly look forward to 2013 and see what the next 12 months will bring into the Tech Industry.  Of course I will still add that these are my own independent opinions and not related to an vendor or manufacturers.

The past 2012:

So what why the highlights for you in 2012, myself it includes the following summary:

  1. Apple – We had the iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPad Mini (still thinking of getting one but I suspect as you will see below I may wait until the iPad Mini 2 comes out, depending on rummors) and the updated lines on the iMac, Mac Book Air and Pro.
  2. Cloud – Well before we keep talking about different cloud service models such as IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, Public, Private, Hybird and Hyper Hybird.  We saw Amazon AWS take off and go up against Microsoft Azure and the success of Microsoft Office 365.  There had been so much talk and hype within the media around cloud, how you can save your CapEx budgets and move them into an OpEx Pay-As-You-Go model, not need to worry about infrastructure and have uptime statistics that we all dream of – all this for a simple credit card payment – Of course I am simplifying this but these are some of the attractions and benefits that cloud brings, but not without risk businesses need to ensure they assess, invest the time and select the right suppliers.  I could go into the Pro’s and Con’s and provide some real world experiences but they may come in a later post, for now the UK uptake has mainly been around Test and Development environments, small businesses or companies that are not regulated or come under any compliance rulings.
    • Some of the biggest cloud providers also suffer from issues, I believe Amazon had a number of failures within the US in 2012 not forgetting the NetFlex issues.    Microsoft had some issues towards the back end of last with some email issues – so it goes to show that these providers do from time to time have problems but of course I bet their downtime is still less then your own and their resilience and failover will only improve from these incidents.
  3. Big Data – My interupretation of Big Data is really the over hyped media of the next stage of evolution from data warehousing.  Vendors developing faster, better and more intelligent platforms to crunch, transform and analyise data.  These systems change from using structured relational databases to a more flat structure with intelligent logic to tackle to compute and analysis.  I am sure most enterprises have the move on their roadmap but of course we need to think of the operational issues around putting all your eggs into one basket so to speak – the larger these warehouses get the harder to support, backup, restore and make highly available it will be.
  4. Virtualisation – You may think it is strange for me to put this down, I am in agreement with you but having talked to a large number of peers in 2012 I was surprised to see how companies are still making the move to virtualisation and only just realising these benefits.  We see VMware having to bring out small business editions (or kits) of vSphere to tackle Microsoft or Zen dominating this market, lets see what 2013 brings us..!
  5. BYOD – So “Bring-Your-Own-Device”, we have seen how demand for consumer grade devices have been pushed into the business (both small business and enterprises) – why do people want a work desktop / laptop, smart phone, tablet and then their homes devices – surely we can work in a more smarter and agile way.  Of course for small businesses this makes sense and should help reduce their overheads but for enterprises the risks around data leakage and how to protect their corporate network from any old device is a problem.  To me this IT consumerisation demand brings back memories of the old main frame age – where we are going to have to provide a virtualised desktop or application streaming if we have any hope of BYOD take on.  Many new vendors operate in this space now to manage these devices and secure them as does vendors offering always on access to your data (business or personal) anywhere, any time and on any device.
  6. Ultrabooks – Following Apple and the Mac Book Air last year saw a number of small ultra portable laptops called Ultrabooks – this bridges the gap between laptops and tablets.  More to come on this below for my thoughts on 2013.

Moving into 2013

Ok so looking forward to the next 12 months what trends or predictions do I think we take over in this.  In summary I believe this will be the year of the desktop dimise moving more into the mobility space with companies looking more at their BYOD strategy or providing more laptops / come Ultrabooks.  Compound this with the mobile warrior work force or more companies reducing their overheads and pushing more flexible or home working policies in place.

So lets take a look at what I believe will trend this year:

  1. Ultrabooks – This year will see an explosion with the manufacturers bringing lighter, higher performance models and touch screen, so will tablets still be around with this – probably but it will be interesting to see what happens.  Lets look at what Windows 8 will bring, the touch experience will change how people interact with their computers – without touch screen I cannot use Windows 8 until they bring back the start menu within the desktop environment.  I do strongly believe that desktop sales will still keep reducing, Windows 8 sales will improve and mobility will increase.  
  2. Microsoft – So as mentioned Windows 8 is now released from the stats I saw before Christmas around 70 million copies sold worldwide which is approximately 4% down against the Windows 7 sales – but I do like the touch interface and the active tiles in a fantastic feature.  My issue is the desktop, going into the desktop environment is great and helps remind me of Windows 7 but where is the start menu?  Microsoft have removed this to force people going into the tile interface and setting up your applications in tiles, the only option is pressing Windows Key + X to pull up a small menu of features – now I know you can download Classic Shell from Source Forge or Start8 from StarDock.  I am sure with enough customer pressure we can force the inclusion within a Service Pack (please, please Microsoft) hence why you need a touch screen to get the full benefits of 8.  We now see Office 2013 coming into public release soon which I love, 2010 was brillent and now they have excelled with integrating this into your SkyDrive, abit the interface looks to “fancy” for more but Outlook and quick replying to emails is one of the best improvements I have soon for long time.  I am waiting to see if the Surface Pro takes off, personally I think it will enterprises will lap up the functionality and replace their iPad work force with these which can be secured and supported better compared to Apple. There is no forgetting SharePoint 2013 will be released with this wave including Exchange 2013.
  3. Apple – Ok I did not want to mention Apple but as I am typing this on my 1 year old Mac Book Air then I must – in my opinion Apple need to bring another game changer on the next gadget release this year – not just an Apple TV but something, I am not sure what or even if I can think of a gap.  If not then I feel other manufactures bringing out cheaper tablets will take the lead just like Samsung and their Galaxy S3.  Apple are rumoured to bring out the iPhone 6 with iOS 7, iPad Mini 2 and I am sure a refresh of hardware along their desktop and laptop range.  Lets hope the Mac Book Air’s get the retina display while keeping the battery life decent and maybe some cheaper iMac’s with touch screen would be good.
  4. Big Data – yes this will get more traction, more enterprises dipping their feet into the water.  Assessing companies, vendors and deployment options – instead of looking for on premise deployments could their be a marketing opening up for BigData-As-A-Service which will save companies time and improve costs.
  5. Hyper-V – More and more implementations and white papers are being released showing comparative stats and performance benchmarks of VMware / Zen VS Hyper-V 2012 – the ease of use, scaleability and license savings will show companies Microsoft means business.  More and more of their products are offering some form of free or discounted license model to deploy on Hyper-V servers this will be the year that Hyper-V is now a strong contender to VMware.
  6. Home Broadband – FTTC (Fibre-to-the-cabinet) or FFTP / FTTH ( Fibre-to-the-premise / house) Hopefully BT and the Government will help push this forward and we will see higher and higher speeds being brought into the house.
  7. Social Media – Well we have Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pininterest and Twitter to name a few.  Last week Facebook announced to the world their Graph Search this was collaboration with Bing (I think to start going up against Google) but this is not a text based search but more contextual, locational and based on your likes, dislikes and friends – so for example “What film shall I watch” should bring targeted films that I am interested in and then try XYZ cinema and is 3 miles away at 15:00.  We should see more business social media focus with enterprise tagging, attaching metadata and using more and more collaboration portals like Box, Huddle or Jive and for the people that know me SharePoint 2013 will be released.
  8. Cloud – One of my favourite topics at the moment and I am sure more vendors will release their offerings be it the newly formed BaaS, not Backup-As-A-Service but Backend-As-A-Service.  The big area’s I see here are:
    • Storage – More and more enterprise storage offerings will come out, we have seen in 2012 some issues with Dropbox, Oxygen Cloud focusing on the Enterprise, Citrix ShareFile, Google Drive and Microsoft increasing their Skydrive space.  More and more of these service will focus around businesses or teams to work on cloud drives that appear as a local network drive.
    • Cloud Backup – Or Backup-As-A-Service will find more businesses pushing their data out to provides for offsite storage / replication.  These facilities are very good in fact one I am testing at the moment had my test environment of 6 virtual machines configured within 20mins (excluding time for me to update the vm tools).
    • As-A-Service – These platforms will continue to grow and more and more vendors will be realising different spins or sales models the question is how do we engage or secure these providers and more importantly how do we de-ingest the data when we plan our exists
    • Copy Data Explosion (see below) – This is not something new but rather hidden within enterprises – the amount of wasted or copy data that sits within their infrastructure generally on Tier 1 (Flash, SSD or Fibre Channel Disks) or Tier 2 (NearLine or SATA) Storage.  These tiers have a high cost associated with them but server and storage admins do not take this into account when a request from a developer comes in to clone server 1 or virtual machine 2 or even clone a LUN from a database to work on or improve on.  We are know this is here but never really address it but IDC Analyst Ashish Nadkarni has some interesting facts and figures coming soon in his series of blog articles on the Copy Data issue.  One company is trying to soleve this issue by reducing the copy at the source and providing a single master copy that is hardly duplicated and if it is then this is primarily on tier 3 storage, couple this with backup, restore, continuity, data migration, SLA based classification and a simplified GUI all in a single platform meet Actifio.
  9. NFC – Near Field Communications – the technology starting to be embedded with phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and hopefully the iPhone 6.    This will allow the sharing of contact information or the ability to do something when compatible phones come near each other – one idea of this is what Moo.com are doing with businesses cards, embedding a chip into the card to pass over information or direct people to their website check this link for more details.
  10. Gaming – Will we see the Xbox 720 or PS4 this year?  What will be next for Sony?  Will they offer more cloud based gaming, or better 3D improvements – I will still go back to my 10 year fantasy of virtual reality umm maybe one day..!

So thats it for now, stay tuned and hopefully this year I aim to bring out a couple of posts each week on a variety of subjects that interests me, as a sample coming soon we look into improving my test lab, IT Consumerisation, backups, cloud and storage services.

Happy New Year.

Copy-Data-New

What is Copy Data