Archive for the ‘Ethics and Technology’ Category

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Sun Finds a Buyer in Oracle

April 21, 2009

Sun and Oracle have come to terms on a $7.4B cash deal. Oracle’s Ellison rejected a similar deal in 2003 due to bad timing and a PeopleSoft acquisition. Says Sun’s post:

“Sun and Oracle today announced a definitive agreement for Oracle to acquire Sun for $9.50 per share in cash. The Sun Board of Directors has unanimously approved the transaction. It is anticipated to close this summer.”

“The acquisition of Sun transforms the IT industry, combining best-in-class enterprise software and mission-critical computing systems,” said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. “Oracle will be the only company that can engineer an integrated system – applications to disk – where all the pieces fit and work together so customers do not have to do it themselves. Our customers benefit as their systems integration costs go down while system performance, reliability and security go up.”

Oracle’s press release mirror’s Sun’s: Read the rest of this entry ?

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Quick Take: New Car Syndrome

April 9, 2009

John De Gelas over at Anandtech poses the “million dollar question” of upgrading memory and CPU versus replacing the entire system. So far, there is a 2:1 margin in favor of “throwing out the baby with the bath water” and replacing the entire server even when new CPUs are available. This curious “new car syndrome” that seems to have affected IT decision makers in the past will have to change in the “new” economy. Is Intel’s marketing strategy sound?

Some in the AMD fan-boy camp have accused Anand of “bending” to Intel by “always” presenting new Intel products in the glowing light of an post-coital cigarette. However, Intel has consistently “outed” more technology than AMD on many more fronts: hands-down, Intel gives Anand’s group much more to talk about! However, this relentless cycle of “product renovation” from Intel is an interesting formula of update and obsolescence that – like the “latest model” vehicle update – drags the user to a buying decision much earlier than the life-cycle warrants.

SOLORI is big on stable image platforms – Intel has SIPP for desktops and AMD’s cover desktop and server – and expanding an equipment line’s useful lifetime from 18 to 36 months with simple memory and processor upgrades seems an obvious choice. Perhaps the Intel-focus at AnandTech creates a reader bias towards disposable platforms than it would with more AMD followers. AMD Opteron users are likely more familiar with processor swaps than Intel users, given that a single-core AMD platform purchased in 2006 can be upgraded to 6-core Istanbul later this year with only another BIOS update – adding another 12-months to its life: that’s a 48-month product lifetime in tech! Read the rest of this entry ?

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Quick Take: Microsoft’s Azure – Ctrl-Alt-Del

March 23, 2009

It is not surprising that Microsoft’s cloud computing “technology preview” platform called Azure took a nose-dive. What’s more, it’s no surprise that a automated maintenance service caused the platform to crumble. As indicated by the Azure team, the failure was due to:

“During a routine operating system upgrade on Friday (March 13th), the deployment service within Windows Azure began to slow down due to networking issues.  This caused a large number of servers to time out and fail…”

“…We have learned a lot from this experience.  We are addressing the network issues and we will be refining and tuning our recovery algorithm to ensure that it can handle malfunctions quickly and gracefully…”

“…For continued availability during upgrades, we recommend that application owners deploy their application with multiple instances of each role…”

Did they really think that “Friday the 13th” could buy them some sympathy? In any case, running two instances of the same image does not seem like a way to CONSERVE resources to me, and it seems to fly in the face of “green” practices. Given that graceful maintenance processes can be handled – on-line – by simple vMotion in VMware “clouds” – it makes me wonder if Azure is nothing but a bunch of Windows-on-Hyper-V servers managed by untested PowerShell scripts…

Oddly, the cure-all of running multiple instances is proven not to be 100% effective, as evidenced by their subsequent admission:

“Any application running only a single instance went down when its server went down.  Very few applications running multiple instances went down, although some were degraded due to one instance being down.”

But rest assured, there will be no charge for the kludge, er, fix to the problem:

“We will not count the second instance against quota limits, so CTP participants can feel comfortable running two instances of each application role.”

SOLORI’s take: This reminds me of the early VoIP days, when everyone released a VoIP product and very few were ready-for-prime-time. That made the entire industry – good and bad alike – take a black eye and probably delayed broader adoption of VoIP by a solid 5-years. Could this really be Microsoft’s strategy: to undermine the concept of cloud computing so that it is only fully-baked when they “proclaim” it to be?

SOLORI’s 2nd take: I question the sanity of anyone trusting Microsoft with their cloud computing initiative. Microsoft proclaims their product delivers: choice, low risk and fewer distractions. What about Uptime? Performance? Cost? Management? Responsiveness? Isn’t that the bread-and-butter of cloud computing? Too many questions – not enough answers…

Check-out TeckWorld’s article for their perspective…

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Quick Take: Cisco Enters the Blade Market

March 20, 2009

NetworkWorld has a decent article on Cisco’s entry into the blade computing market with a virtualization-focused product Cisco calls the “Unified Computing System.” It’s not commodity stuff, building on “soon to be released” Nehalem processors, 10Gb interfaces and FCoE capability in a supposedly made-for-VMware design.

The response from the Dell VP made me reach for a handkerchief (somebody get him a crying towel!) Of course the Cisco solution is “very niche-focused” but it is also very forward thinking. However, with Cisco’s record on computing hardware in their embedded products, it’s hard to have a lot of confidence in their “first wave” of blades. Likewise, their QC on software needs to be “in the zone” if they are going to be successful in the “densely virtualized” market as this box would imply.

SOLORI’s take: Feature-for-feature, Cisco will be alone for a few months as others play catch-up, but catch-up to what market? Are there really lots of enterprise customers out there begging for 10Gb/FCoE-connected blade servers at price-be-damned rates? This approach is moving AWAY from commodity computing and, hence, is a “loser” based on the SOLORI enterprise model.

SOLORI’s 2nd take: This could become a juggernaut in the HPC setting with “price-be-damned” and “budgets” come from institutions and governments. It looks as if Cisco’s finally found a way to move its pricy 10G products into that space.

Read the entire article at NetworkWorld.com… Read the rest of this entry ?

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Quick Take: IBM moves to buy Sun

March 19, 2009

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that IBM is in talks with Sun that could result in an all-out purchase – possibly as soon as this week. Sun, seen as a hardware company by WSJ, could be a good fit for IBM since opening its go-to-market strategy from proprietary to commodity hardware. IBM, the middle-ware titan, is famous for turning otherwise commodity wares into cash flow.

Likewise, both IBM and Sun are open source supporters with proven records of cooperation within the community. Embedding Java and SunStorage into IBM’s arsenal could prove an effective strategy for Big Blue as systems migrate to the cloud and away from Microsoft’s control.

SOLORI’s take: IBM and Sun could be a very good thing with lots of valuable resources trickling to the open source community and SMB space.

See the entire WSJ article here.

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Virtualization and the New Economy

February 3, 2009

Microsoft is cutting 5,000 jobs on a reduction of 11% net income, and IBM – with net income up 12% – saw server sales drop 20% in the fourth quarter (2008) with Intel servers down 32%. Is the market is getting tougher or just smarter? IBM cites virtualization and consolidation as part of its weakend sales picture.

At SOLORI, we see the computing world as a vastly commoditized market. Sure, “no one ever got fired for buying IBM” – or Microsoft for that matter – but CIO’s and COO’s of smaller, leaner enterprises might be rethinking their purchasing strategies and where premium products fit in their organization. It appears that they were waking-up to this in Q4/2008. We’re asking customers to examine purchasing habits and form long-term relationships with commodity infrastructure vendors that provide good value and support without relying on service contracts to shore-up product quality.

Sure, IBM has a great service group, and that service is worth paying for by every means. However, are you asking the question: do I need that level of service if it does not actually change reliability?

Take the example of a typical VMware ESX consolidation: we’re looking for performance, reliability and scaling. We need three (3) 2P/4C/32GB/6GE servers for VMotion and high availability; local storage is irrelevent since clustered storage will be used. Choose an IBM x3455 for $5,749.00/each (7949AC1), get a Dell R805 for $4,550 or buy a “white box” Supermicro AS-1021M for $3,150/each similarly configured with KVM-over-IP? That’s a savings of 30-45% in initial hardware purchases. For the $7,200 in savings you’d nearly net your VMware license and have money left-over for training.

And before the arms get raised, yes, the Supermicro AS-1021M-UR has a 600W 1+1 power supply and has support for VMware for ESX Server 3 and ESX Server 3i. The single rack unit AS-1021M-UR comes in a more versitile 2U variant, the AS-2021M-UR, which also has redundant supplies and additional expansion due to its 6-slot riser versus the 2-slot riser of the AS-1021M.

Is the corporate world ready for the “white box” economy? Maybe not, but it’s never too early to get your budget in order, and as quickly as the winds change in this economy, being nimble on hardware and smart on software could mean the difference between here today and gone tomorrow…

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Hello world!

December 12, 2008

My name is Collin MacMillan. I believe that business relationships are best served with honest, straight-forward, ethical practices rather than slick salesmanship and skillful slight of hand. This is especially important with technology professionals as we hold many implicit trusts that could be easily exploited in the absence of a sound ethical foundation. I believe that responsible technology vendors must reduce a clients risk while implementing their services – not increase it.

I started Solution Oriented (SOLORI.NET) back in 1996 as Solution Oriented Engineering while on hiatus from work as an embedded design engineer. Working as an independent contractor of hardware and software development for embedded systems, I developed a custom controller interface using white room techniques for Super Nintendo systems. The resulting work was deployed in over 80K units world wide in the form of a “control chair” allowing more immersion in game play.

Recently, I’ve dropped the “Engineering” moniker from the name and now it’s just Solution Oriented (SolOri).  I find complex solutions require the knowledge of architecture, project management, application development and “black box” thinking. My personal gifts run toward the analysis and distillation of big-picture-thinking into its constituent (and often complex) elements and that’s the focus of SolOri’s work.