Posts Tagged ‘Virtualisation’

Clouds are gaining in popularity. The demand for data, analytics, and forecasting has grown significantly, and the future might belong to those who are able to predict it. However, to predict the future requires computing power – Lots of it. And cloud providers, hosting companies, startups, and big-technology companies are looking at providing this.

So what exactly is the cloud, and why will it provide the computing capabilities which has been dominated by super-computers over the last 2 decades. And why will cloud computing succeed where grid computing failed.

In May 17 1999, SETI@Home was release, and it gave the public a glimpse of how inter-connected computers could be leveraged to perform very large tasks. Grid technology was encapsulated in technologies like SunGrid and xGrid, but largely failed to gain traction. The internet was only starting to go mainstream, and computers were still expensive items.

A decade and a bit later in 2012, Cloud-computing is making headlines, and it seems that cloud-computing may succeed where grid computing failed. So what has changed since 1999?

Computers are cheaper The Internet is much faster VMWare and Virtualisation is making inroads into organisations Hosting and Infrastructure companies are virtualising Accessing virtual services like email, social media, SaaS is common place. Increased awareness of online computing via Amazon Web Services, SalesCloud, Azure.

So will super-computing be replaced? Will there be reduced demand in running parallel jobs on multiple computing nodes? NO. There is significantly increased demand in running computer-intensive and parallel jobs. However the way in how a super-computer might be implemented will change. Instead of proprietary platforms, super-computer will evolve to open-platforms and be built on the cloud. The proprietary bits of super-computing will be the charging mechanisms for the utility.

Will grid computing be replaced? Grid computing will fade away. Grid computing addresses the same type of distributed super-computing that cloud computing would replace. The traditional super-computer might still serve a purpose for tightly-coupled applications which are difficult to distribute to the cloud or grid.

Consumers are not interested in a technology, but rather what they can do with it. In Cloud computing, this becomes more apparent with products like:

Database processing Running an algorithm Getting an answer

 

 

Here are some updates on VMware. Also sometimes called “The Cloud”, it’s the current fad in IT infrastructure.

1) Virtualisation is going to happen whether we like it or not

This was driven initially by under-utilized servers, but ease of management and configuration has taken over as the leading reasons for virtualisation. Currently only 30% of organisational server infrastructure is in the virtualised environment. If an organisation doesn’t reach 80% virtualised, it doesn’t gets the efficiency benefits of virtual infrastructure, but ends up with large overheads managing both virtual infrastructure and traditional infrastructure. VMware hopes to push this to 50% in 2011-12 The issues with adoption are confidence levels in application-infrastructure interoperability, and security. VMware has notoriously low security, and is itself a gateway to accessing the entire virtualised infrastructure. (Search Google for “vmware hack”)

2) Overheads

Virtualisation comes with overheads. If installing Vista, or Windows 7 was not enough, virtualisation can help by adding 10-20% overhead to CPU usage. VMs also generate alot more network traffic.

3) Configuration

VM configuration is going to be crucial as “the server” as it is spread over a VM, SAN storage, and network “bus”, and actual physical locations. So when we have slow VMs, it could be the result of alot of different factors now. A clone of VM for failover/failback scenarios can also generate alot of network traffic. So virtualisation increases network overheads.

4) The Virtual Desktop

VMWare hopes to bring back thin-client computing with virtualised downloadable profiles from VM infrastructure. Personally, I think this is a shot in the dark, as the PC-era is gone, and computing is already transitioning to the fragmented plethora of thin-clients (eg mobile devices, ipads, netbooks) with profiles stored in SaaS applications. The benefits of centralized profiles is supposedly in data security, however, with SaaS, fragmenting application, platforms, I doubt the virtual desktop will make it to the enterprise before iDesktops.

5) Capability

VMWare ESX 5 now supports upto 32 cores, and upto 1TB RAM per VM. These are called the “Big VMs” (or “Monster VMs” if you were a VMware sales person) that VMware has now released. This may support the more computationally intensive applications, but only if the virtual infrastructure has been upgraded.

6) Visibility

From an application development point-of-view, understanding the performance and capability of an application in the virtual infrastructure is less transparent as performance issues are less transparent. (eg. is a network, or disk bottleneck? or over-utilisation of the CPU?) Processor CPU utility within a Windows/Unix VM is not an accurate reflection of the actual processing capability available to your application. So VM infrastructure performance statistics needs to be actively shared (in real-time) with application teams. Using SPEC CPU benchmarking tools is another way to measure application-infrastructure performance. However let’s hope for an open environment with open information sharing.

7) Super-Computing / Grid Computing

Although there has not been any noted implementation of supercomputing in VM infrastructure, there are no reasons why this is not possible. Grid Computing, and maybe some aspects of super-computing is probably possible on VM infrastructure with the appropriate HPC software in place.

8) The Carbon Footprint

The Carbon Footprint is now the new driver for VM infrastructure. Running un-optimised / under-utilitzed servers kills the environment. If electricity prices go up by 30% in the next 2-5 years, what will organisations have to do to mitigate that?