SME Stack V0.1, Part 1 – Overview

December 31, 2008

Our consulting practice exists to develop and deliver scalable technology infrastructure products to small enterprise (10-100 employees). This often means pairing KVM, Oracle VM and/or VMWare hypervisor solutions with modular, scalable, redundant, fault-tolerant storage systems.

We are constantly battling the technology pyramid of performance, cost and features to satisfy the management and continuity needs of the customer. Often, it is the area of storage where the pyramid is the most strained, as hypervisor and management technologies have come down from their once stratospheric basis.

Who’s getting it right? Let’s move aside the selection of hypervisor software and concentrate on physical infrastructure. Two big names in infrastructure seem to be converging on the same ideas: Cisco and Sun Microsystems. These ideas are aligned with Solution Oriented’s goal of “total commodity infrastructure” that leads to what Cisco calls the “Service Oriented Data Center.”

Cisco’s approach is sound, but requires economies of scale left to hosting providers and enterprise data center operators. Since Cisco leaves small business to its partner network to figure out (not to mention Linksys) their market strategy can not directly be “reduced” to the small business class solution. However, the “design template” they follow is worth incorporating into a small business strategy:

  1. Move to Service Oriented Data Center practices;
  2. Utility-level storage through SLA management;
  3. Drive for single SAN fabric architectures;
  4. Virtualization of resources (not just compute) with automated, on-demand provisioning;
  5. Virtualization of storage;

Cisco calls this “network as a platform” and well they should: they are the largest network equipment provider in the world and seek to maintain that position. Certainly, the push towards data center hosted solutions will present a lot of opportunity in the large, distributed enterprise market. But is this paradigm inclusive of the small business consumer? We do not think so because B2B is as global as many small businesses get, and relocating computational and network resources to remote data centers tends to increase OPEX for these customers.

Why does Sun have it right? Believe it or not, Sun has embraced the commodity computing model and focused its power on storage and storage networking. Their amazing shift continues in the adoption of and “open storage architecture” realized in the “Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage System” which they offer on a 60-day free trial – shipping included! As a result of the commodity model, this 2U, 2TB, 14x146GB 10K SAS-based, 4x1Gbps ports (LACP/802.3ad), 5 PCIe expansion slots (dual or quad GE/UTP, dual GE/MMF, dual 10GE/XFP) with a fully-licensed SAN/NAS OS (including iSCSI, CIFS, NFS, WebDAV, FTP) and full features including replication (1:N, N:1, manual, scheduled, continuous), built-in storage analytics, compression and snapshots can be had for under $10,000. Did I mention the platform is stackable in active-active clusters or that is can be augmented with hybrid storage pools of DRAM, SSD and other HDD technologies?

It is clear that the major players are quickly adapting to the commodity computing model to increase market share and margin. This trend towards utility computing will ultimately change the way we look at technology and shift focus back to applications and application delivery [where it should be] and drive applications in new and more cost effective directions [look out Microsoft.]

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