Friday, December 30, 2011

[IT] My IT wishlist for 2012 (part 3 - Virtualize the backplane)

My IT wishlist for 2012 (part 3 - Virtualize the backplane)

A few weeks ago I had a demo of Cisco UCS blade hardware and I find it pretty nice.

What's really nice is that the "Service Profile" technology of the UCS allows to move a complete configuration (BIOS settings/all firmwares/boot settings/MAC-address/etc) from one server (blade) to another. Now while this is really perfect for virtualization with a FCoE/iSCSI storage systems, I feel that the solution hasn't been really thought for those who would like to use local storage... these systems are mainly designed for those who only want 2 disks in their blades (again, when using local disks).

So my guess is that the next thing that needs to be virtualized is the backplane. This way you could have 8 blades, 16 blades or even 32 blades systems connected through multi-lane SAS to a huge "storage chassis" which would actually be only a big SAS endpoint which would allow to attribute bandwidth (SAS lanes) to servers (ie: give a web server 1x SAS 6G and a sql server 4x SAS 6G). Obviously, you would also be able to dedicate some disks to these servers, this way the blades would be almost diskless but still you would be able to add storage to your servers without the need for FCoE or iSCSI systems which both need you to learn and test much more things than what is usually used on simple web platform.

The idea here is to create almost ready-to-deploy racks full of servers and storage...
Why would you want to deploy iSCSI or FCoE, if you have a nearline SAS solution that answers your needs ans simplifies your infrastructure ?

Here is how it would look in a rack :

Obviously there would be a link between the DAS systems and the UCS switch/manager (UCS 6120) so that you would be able to manage the storage boxes with the same GUI/scripts as the rest of the rack.

Now that's "all-in-one" :)

[IT] My IT wishlist for 2012 (part 2 - Webtop/SmartTop)

My IT wishlist for 2012 (part 2 - Webtop/SmartTop)

Motorola all started it with the Atrix (and the upcoming Atrix2) but for me this is clearly where personal and enterprise computing should go...

This is how Motorola thought about it :

I think the future will be made of SmartTop's, you'll have a decent CPU in your mobile + RAM + Disk + a PCIe bus...

When you plug it to the "docking station PC", you would get :
- Super-HD graphics thanks to a PCIe card inside the station
- Maybe more processing power thanks to a FPU-like unit (back to the good old days) which might be integrated to the graphic card anyway (GPGPU-style)
- A big screen, at least 13"
- Two other disk drives :
- One which will automatically (differentially) replicate what's inside your mobile when you connect it;
- A big 1TB+ drive for storing whatever you need to store only on the lesser-mobile device.

Also, I think Motorola's design is flawed, you don't want your mobile device at the back of the SmartTop, you want it as the trackpad (in purple on the picture below) !

[IT] My IT wishlist for 2012 (part 1 - SSD Tiering)

My IT wishlist for 2012 (part 1 - SSD Tiering) :

Hybrid-Storage in servers

I've been a big fan of SSD technology from the very beginning, I've run or tested :
- Samsung's Hybrid HDD (a failure)
- HyperDrive's 4 and 5 (RAM-based SSD) with battery and CompactFlash backup => works fine
- Gigabyte i-Ram (RAM-based SSD) battery-backed => works fine but limited capacity
- Intel X25-E and HP Gen1 SSDs => works fine, but many failure with database workloads even though they are SLC
- Fusion-IOs PCIe => perfect, but expensive
- Pliant (now SanDisk) SSDs => perfect too, less expensive than the Fusion-IOs
- various consumer-class SSDs (Crucial, RunCore, Intel)

As SSD prices go down and need for fast and big data processing, it's more and more relevant to use tiered-storage (also called hybrid-storage or Tier-0 storage) :

This technology is coming from high-end SAN systems like Pillar Data system's and others...

The idea is pretty simple, while your favorite RAID controller's max RAM cache did increase over time, from 128MB (2000's) to 256MB and now 512MB (LSI) and 1GB (HP) or even 4GB (Areca). This amount of cache helps but can't cope with today's need for ultra-fast and extra-large cache in front of your favorite SAS or SATA drives... This is where the Hybrid cache comes and efficiently caches a good part of the most used data you are using. You then have 3 layers of cache in front of the "slow" drives : OS caching (mostly read), RAID Ctrl RAM cache (often 75% write, 25% read), SSD cache (read and write).

A bit of reading on this topic (all from LSI) :

Now imagine a server like the Dell PowerEdge C1100 with 2 x 200G SLC SSDs and 8 x 900G SAS drives, that's a nice database server in 1U...

Dell also announced that they will be able to provide SSD 2.5" drives which will be directly connected as PCIe cards in their next-gen servers (a kind of hot-plug Fusion-IO). That's nice but for some reasons (probably lack of space inside the 1U server) they won't allow 2 x PCIe-SSD + 8 x SAS HDD, only 2 SSD + 4 SAS HDD...

Anyway, this is clearly our future !

While on the consumer market there has been many failure to do this, probably mainly because they were trying to fit everything inside the HDD itself, there seems to be new approaches to the issue which will probably be more successful :
- Hybrid drive with "Tiering controller" + SSD + HDD on a PCIe-card : OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid PCI Express
- Software-based Tiering as seen on OCZ Synapse Cache which is basically a classic SSD Drive + Nvelo's Dataplex software (

Saturday, May 7, 2011

[Home Automation] Turning ON/OFF your Cambridge Audio Azur 840A (Version 2)

So you have a Cambridge Audio Amplifier (or any other product with a serial port) and a null-modem cable and want to be able to control your amplifier from a Linux PC (a web page or CLI). Here's a quick HOW TO...

Say you've connected it to /dev/ttyS0.

Step 1 - allowing anonymous/apache/everyone to write to /dev/ttyS0
echo "/bin/chmod 666 /dev/ttyS0" >> /etc/rc.local

Step 2 - PHP function to start/stop the amplifier
function cambridge_pstate($w) {
if($w=="ON") fputs($fp,"#1,11,1\r\n");
if($w=="OFF") fputs($fp,"#1,11,0\r\n");
while($line=fgets($fp,16)) if($line!="") break;
if(substr($line,0,2)=="#4") return true;
else return false;

Step 3 - Use the fonction in a PHP page
if(cambridge_pstate("ON")) echo "Starting the amplifier...";
else echo "Could not start the amplifier...";

... and obviously, the opposite :
if(cambridge_pstate("OFF")) echo "Stopping the amplifier...";
else echo "Could not start the amplifier...";

Sunday, May 1, 2011

So much for "intelligent" ads :)

Nice one...

CTR must have been quite low on these ads :)