Monday, March 31, 2014

RIP Server - Rise of the Service

I woke up this morning to an article written by Peter Coffee - RIP, the server. It's time to breathe the air of cloud connection.

It's definitely a sensational eye-ball catching headline when you read "RIP, the server." You immediately think, "Did Peter just say the server is dead?!" ... and certainly many of the readers did as you browse through the comments.

  • "Excuse me, but what else is the Cloud made of but servers!"
  • "Last time I checked, "the cloud" was running on servers...and lots of them"
  • "What does he think those Cloud environments run on....air?"
  • "you idiot. the cloud runs on servers."
  • "the moron who wrote this doesn't know tech. Cloud is a bunch of servers -_-"

Of course servers aren't dead. This is the challenge when a visionary piece hits the street and lands in a zombie herd of technical people. (Sorry too much Walking Dead last night) :-) ) Big shifts in how we do things don't happen overnight. They happen slowly, and while you're buried in your day to day tactical activities you can't see the shift. You poke your head up from time to time and "poo-poo" anyone that says something different from the way you are doing it. 

Back in the early 80's, I was a BBS kid. I grew up on 300/1200 baud modems and trading software on underground BBS's. One night while browsing through the boards I can across a file name "Madonna_Like_A_Virgin_Digitized.sound" ... well not exactly, this was early 80's so it was probably named MDLKVIRG.IFF .. don't you all miss the 8.3 days ? :-) Anyway, it was a HUGE file at the time and was going to take all night to download. I setup my YMODEM transfer and went to bed. (I actually worked with Ward Christensen later at IBM - It was kind of a big deal to meet him)

The next morning I woke up, super excited to play the file. I loaded it up, pressed play, and for a full 10 seconds I could barely make out the screeching and scratching over the PC speakers of Madonna singing Like a Virgin. It sounded like shit. I remember banging my fist on my homemade computer desk and screaming "Who the F#!K is going to do this?!"

Fast forward 10 years. I'm now a co-op at IBM. Taking classes part time and working mostly full time. This was the early 90's. We were college students on a corporate network in the early days of the internet. What do you think we were doing? Yup, downloading files from sites we shouldn't have been visiting ... hello newsgroups, and hello no filters and firewalls. One of the brighter amongst our group, name of Steve McKay (hopefully some statute of limitations has passed), came running down the hall to show us the .MP2 files he had just burned to a CD. You have to remember during this time CD burners cost $600 and media was $20 each. You had to be careful to not do anything else on your PC while burning a CD, or you made a $20 coaster.

I shrugged, "Hmmm, music files. I've seen these before. How many can you fit on the CD? ... only 20? ... How much to burn the CD? ... I can only play them from this application, I can't play them in a *regular* CD player? ... That's interesting, but who the F#!K is going to do this?! .. I can buy a music CD for $10."

It was only a few short years later that .MP3 was out, costs came down, and digital music was everywhere. Plus you have to remember that Apple had not even entered the market. Yet another lesson that you don't have to be first to be best.

Why did I tell this story?

First to remind myself to not get too old and crusty in my thinking and stop yelling "Get off my lawn!" Secondly, IMO Peter is trying to make people think to the future and much larger implications. He used some analogies that gave some knee-jerk reactions the comments, but if you stop and think, he's on to something.

I'm less and less competing with HP, Dell, Lenovo (the artist formerly known as IBM System x) and more and more with Amazon, Rackspace, Google, etc. My customers want services, not servers. Where I used to be competing against other hardware manufacturers on the best MS Exchange design and the merits of my technical solution, I'm now losing the whole deal to Office 365. Peter is simply pointing out new choices where customers can deploy their applications and services. Does it cost more in the public cloud now? ... Can you build a private cloud better? ... What about hybrid solutions? Questions that have certain answers now, but different answers in the future.

Lots of things to think about, instead of simply saying, "Hey you idiot, servers run the cloud." That's not really the point.

But then again, what the hell do I know? I "poo-poo'd" digital music not once, but twice.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Support our troops through Operation Supply Drop

 
What is Operation Supply Drop?
 
Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is a military gaming 501(c)(3) charity designed to build video game filled care packages for soldiers (America and Her Allies) both deployed forward to combat zones as well as those recovering in military hospitals.
 
Now you might be asking yourself, "wait a minute .... how the heck does giving video games to the troops help them?" You've got to remember the ages of these men and women who are serving us. They've grown up with gaming and games promote teamwork and camaraderie, as well as help combat the stress and boredom that comes with a deployment.
 
 
I've never been much of a fund raiser type of guy, but I know with your support, you can help me raise a simple personal goal of $500.
 
I'm also impressed with Operation Supply Drop's mission. It started with one man and a simple crazy idea, but they now have a much bigger goal to help the troops after deployment. Read about it directly from the website :
 
As the United States and her allies end of formal combat operations and continue the full transition of authority to the Afghan government scheduled in 2015, OSD will also transition from wartime to peacetime support of the military. This involves increased on-base activities stateside, further supply drops to peacekeeping and humanitarian missions worldwide, as well as OSD's newest initiative, the "Thank You Deployment" (kicking off mid-2014).
 
In the future, OSD will continue to act as an intermediary between video game developers/publishers and the United States military, working with soldiers leaving the service, into adult education programs to facilitate them into entry-level gaming developer jobs.
 
So join me in helping our troops. Thanks!
 
One Team, One Fight!
Donate directly by clicking here

Monday, February 17, 2014

Whiteboarding Cisco UCS and Cisco UCS Director

No, not water boarding. Although remind me to tell you the story of a customer that had their datacenter running under the jailhouse. Didn't turn out so good when an inmate stuffed the toilet and the sewage pipes burst, which were running directly OVER the racks ..... mmmmmmm, hopefully you're not reading this at lunch :-)

Lately I've been doing #SlideFree presentations, using a whiteboard followed by a demo.

If you're reading this in March, April, or May of 2014 - Click and register for more upcoming events.

I challenge you to do the same. When I worked at IBM, my last gig was in the Executive Briefing Center. I was mentored by a guy named Ron .. Ron Jeremy, Ron Burgandy ? .... heck I can't remember his last name. Anyway, he told me something I'll never forget. He said,
"Scott, these people are going to remember maybe 5% of what you told them. What they will remember is, did they believe you, and did they like you. If they like you and believe you, we're half way there. So stop putting so much damn stuff on your slides!"
Ron was right. Every preliminary presentation I've done with customers that includes too much detail, fails miserably. They end up being more confused than when I started.

Here's links to two recent whiteboarding sessions I recorded. If we haven't had a chance to meet in person, this is how I typically present the topics of Cisco UCS and Cisco UCS Director. Enjoy!

https://cisco.webex.com/ciscosales/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=EC&rID=73581487&rKey=62d1173d70e8905a

https://cisco.webex.com/ciscosales/lsr.php?AT=pb&SP=EC&rID=73062047&rKey=af7028c9822325c7


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Read all about it! HP charges - Cisco UCS updates remain FREE

It was an interesting night last night. I'm sitting in my normal poker game downtown. Between hands I always "check the streams" to see what's happening in the world. I look down and don't see pocket AA, but I do see a tweet that HP is going to start charging their server customers for firmware updates! Whoa, seriously, how can I not jump all over this. Being in the x86 server world my whole life, it was just a given that shit breaks and you can always go to the vendor's support site and download a fix. Support contract or not.


It's just the world we live in. When I worked at IBM, a wise man told me, "All hardware eventually fails ... and all software eventually works" ... if you deliver that line with perfect timing, you always get smiles. We all know this, we have to patch, maintain, fix all the time. We simply go to the Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Cisco, etc support sites and download the updates we need.

Well apparently not anymore for HP. This is good for us (Cisco) as most customers evaluate a new purchase when their support contracts run out. Well the one's in my segment sometimes push it a little longer. But now they are forced to renew contracts or look to a new vendor. It's good for me, so hell yeah I sent a tweet pointing this fact out.

I knew I would get a few replies to the tweet of the nature, "But yeah, Cisco has contracts, entitlements, SmartNet, etc that have to be in place to download your software". You're likely coming from the router/switch world of Cisco, in which that statement is absolutely true.

It is NOT TRUE FOR CISCO UCS. You can use any Cisco.com ID that you registered fresh off the street to download Cisco UCS firmware and software updates. 

Now I wouldn't be a proper geek if i didn't prove it. You have to show your work. Which is a problem with the other interesting thing that popped up in the streams last night. Go read Tony's great post on the report that shows how awesome FC is compared to FCoE. Seriously great read, you don't want to have this man pick apart your technical "marketing" whitepaper.

So here's my work.

First, create a gmail account from a computer on a public network.
 Next, create a free Cisco.com account.

Check that I don't have Service Contracts Associated.

Check I have no serial numbers attached to my account

Download any Cisco UCS updates I need

Anything I can't DL is marked with a "lock" icon - Router, switch, etc
Lock icon highlighted

All my freshly downloaded Cisco UCS updates - no registration, free account, wide open.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Quick and Dirty Disjoint Layer 2 Configuration on Cisco UCS

Quick! ... Someone tell me how to get to the LAN Uplinks Manager configuration page on Cisco UCS .. anyone, anyone? Yeah, it's a little hidden and you don't use it that often, but when you need to configure disjoint layer 2 in UCS, you need it.

Here's some quick and dirty notes on configuring Disjoint Layer 2 for Cisco UCS.

  1. Create VLANs on UCS on LAN Tab
  2. Configure Uplink ports on FIs
  3. Optionally put them in Port Channel Group
  4. Click LAN tab, LAN Object (at top), then “LAN Uplinks Manager” hyper link
  5. In LAN Uplinks Manager, click on VLANs tab, then VLAN Manager tab
  6. For Fabric A, Select the Uplink interfaces or Port channels on the left (you can CTRL select for Multiples) .. then select the VLANs on the right, then click the “Add to VLAN button” on the bottom.
  7. Repeat for Fabric B

Thursday, August 23, 2012

VMworld 2012

Geek-a-Palooza ... "Nerds Gone Wild" ... "The Nerd Herd" ... call it what you will. Every year around the end of August virtualization geeks from all over come home to roost at VMworld.

This year will be my 7th VMworld. The thing I enjoy most is seeing all the friends that I've made over the years in the industry. The company names may change, but the faces stay the same. This year I will be in the capacity of a #RovingReporter for Cisco along with @Josh_atwell, at the beck and call of @CommsNinja. I might have to get a beeper. If I call upon our friendship to put you on camera, don't be shy.

Every year I have the best intentions of staying on track with my sessions and meetings, but then starting day 1, it's wheels off. I believe that's the best way to experience VMworld. Let the winds flow you in what directions they may. You'll meet many interesting people and your conversations may bleed into a session you wanted to attend. Don't worry, every session is recorded and you can watch when you get back home. Use the time to make the connections, and do hands on labs!

There are many chances to connect with Cisco at VMworld. Come visit me at the booth, hit me up on twitter, or VMworld Socialcast and share a story on camera. One other tip, when you meet someone make sure to use your twitter name and have it on your badge.  Twitter has become the defacto standard for connecting and the conference and most of us have met via that channel.  Usually when I meet someone I recognize from twitter in meat-space for the first time, I say "Hello, I'm Scott Hanson, nice to meet you in person." Then I get this blank stare and I know, "Ohhh, they only know me as a tiny avatar and a twitter ID ... I should have worn my orange t-shirt"

If this is your 1st or 8th VMworld, I'd love to say hello if we haven't met. Here's my rough schedule for the week, but as I said, the winds blow :-)

Sunday 8/26 - v0dgeball from 4-6PM GO #TeamBacon ! and VMunderground from 8-11PM
Monday 8/27 - VMworld Tweetup and #vFlipCup leading #TeamJBOD for the Win ! from 7-11PM
Tuesday 8/28 - #vBacon Cisco DC Tweetup 9-11PM

My session schedule - whew ....


Stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes, and SMILE ! It's over quicker than you think.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

When I say Acknowledge - you ACKNOWLEDGE me ok? Ohh wait, I just rebooted ?

This has come up twice in the past few weeks. I decided to put a little something down in writing to help clarify Maintenance Policies in Cisco UCS and why it might not be working the way you think it should.

I believe the confusion starts in that we've all been doing server updates the same way for a LONG time.  You update the system through your method of choice (ISO, floppy, software tool, etc) then you reboot the server and it's running the new firmware code.

I like to say that the "S" in UCS does NOT stand for "Server", it stands for "System". When you're updating Cisco UCS there's a few more things going on under the covers.  First, every compute node (server) under control of Cisco is under the ever watchful eye of the Fabric Interconnects. In order to make these changes, the servers in UCS boot from the FIs and load what is called PNuOS.  You might have seen this scroll by when you first configure a Service Profile on a system.

Cisco UCS PNuOS
The "Processor Node Utility OS" is what controls the server.  It parses the XML of the Service Profile and makes the changes. 

When you make any change to a server under UCS that is disruptive, say for instance a FW update, it says, "OK, I hear what you're saying to me, but I'm going to look to my Maintenance Policy first and get back to you on when I'll actually perform the change you asked."

The default maintenance policy is "immediate" ... yucky, don't ask me, I didn't make it the default. Most people change to at least a "User-Acknowledged" policy.  Which means do the change when I acknowledge it at some later time.  At this point you should be saying, "So Scott, there's actually two sides to the UCS system ... one where it's under my control, and the other where it's under the FI overlord's control?" Correct. Until you actually acknowledge the changes, the system will never flip the bit in the service profile to make it boot from PNuOS.  If you simply reboot the system, it's still just a regular server and will perform a regular server reboot, never booting from PNuOS, but simply doing what you told it as a regular server.

Now when you make a change and have a User-Ack maintenance policy, you'll get a pop up that looks like this:

Ack the Ack
It can be a little confusing. At this point you are not actually Acknowledging the change.  You are acknowledging that you will Acknowledge it later.

To acknowledge the action, you have to Acknowledge it in the pending activities.

Pending Activities - where you Acknowledge and flip the bit for PNuOS
Clear as mud, which is maybe clearer than it was before. Or you could just create one uber service profile template with Immediate as the maintenance policy and activate all changes from there .... wait .. hmmm no, that's not really a good idea. :-)