Monthly Archives: November 2008

Will Ray Ozzie save Microsoft?

Just finished reading Stephen Levy’s story in this months Wired magazine about Ray Ozzie, the new chief software architect at Microsoft and successor to Bill Gates.  He’s the one responsible for some of the more dramatic moves that the company has been promoting recently including Windows Azure, Zurich (Azure Services Platform), Live Mesh, and Office Web Apps.  The four tiers of his strategy to save Microsoft are almost completely focused on “cloud computing”.

  1. Windows Azure is the platform underneath it all, a cloud operating system (formerly codenamed Red Dog) to provide servers to host the various applications that will eventually live on the web.  Competition: Google App Engine, Amazon EC2.
  2. The Azure Services Platform will provide a set of tools to help developers manage the interaction between their apps and the cloud OS.  Competition is currently a set of free open source tools.
  3. Live Mesh is a service built on Azure to allow PC and Mac synchronization across all their files.  Competition: Apple MobileMe.
  4. Office Web Apps are the popular Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) available in the cloud. Subscription-based or free ad-supported versions.  Competition is strong: Google Docs, Yahoo Zimbra, Zoho (all available now).

Whether or not this strategy works, or is an indication of the hype surrounding cloud computing today, remains to be seen. But for sure, Microsoft is quite focused on it.  Ray’s lead for the Red Dog project Amitabh Srivastava, convinced the immortal Dave Cutler (of VMS/WNT fame) to come out of retirement for it.

Interesting times are certainly ahead.

PowerVDI gets an update

The VMware affinity team within EMC is heavily promoting a tool called PowerVDI, written by Dan Baskette with maintenance and updates added by folks like Jeff Purcell and Chad Sakac.

It leverages the SAN network to speed up the creation of virtualized desktop environments which are becoming more and more popular in companies I speak with.  I always advise customers who are looking to gain speed and minimize impact to their CPU and network to utilize SAN-based functionality…

So here’s more about the PowerVDI tool and what it does from Chad Sakac (1, 2)

Here’s how to download and use PowerVDI

Here’s how to download and use the Celerra simulator which can be used instead of the actual hardware.

“In five years, 50 percent of our Exchange mailboxes will be Exchange Online.”

as quoted by Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s senior veep with the Information Worker Product Management group…  it appears Microsoft is about ready to get serious about the web with a hybrid offline/online approach and SaaS offerings mixed with dedicated/shared/virtualized hosting models.

Microsoft Watch Coverage

Daily Exchange Server blog

Information Week

TechNet Webcast

Exchange 2007 and Beyond: SAN to DAS and Back Again?

das-v-san

I frequently consult with customers who need to figure out how to better store, consolidate, protect, and manage their SQL databases, Exchange servers, and MOSS farms.

With Microsoft, most of the time I am simply in awe for their long-term ability to seed and harvest a market by slowing slipping innovations into gradually more expensive and higher-quality V2 and V3 products. SQL Server, Zune, SCOM, and Hyper-V are all illustrations of this.  But sometimes you get a rogue product group within the company that acts without regards for their overall company strategy.  And maybe that’s what happens when you have 65% market share.

I am speaking specifically about how people are being swayed away from using “expensive SAN hardware” for storing and protecting Exchange 2007 data.  Not only do the advocates of this approach (which includes the Exchange product team) obscure long term costs by comparing pure “cheap storage” or “DAS” acquisition costs and ignore long-term cost of ownership, they also ignore:

  • Management and simplicity of shared storage devices (one place to put stuff)
  • Utilization benefits of shared storage device (one place storage means more likely to use it)
  • Bandwidth requirements of the CCR/SCR replication scheme which can be 5 times larger than cached replication appliances (say EMC’s RecoverPoint)
  • Exchange server virtualization – massive amounts of people are virtualizing their Exchange servers and placing data on a SAN to get the maximum benefit (virtual servers need virtualized/SAN storage to enable most of the advanced features).

Paul Galjan writes a very convincing blog post about dissonance within Microsoft, their latest anti-SAN calculator, and how this anti-SAN stance really backfires when most of the company is aggressively pursuing a very heavy virtualization strategy and taking a more balanced approach about which virtualization platform to use (like ESX being certified under SVVP).  I travel around the country giving workshops on how to virtualize Exchange and it’s truly up to the customer to decide whether I talk about Hyper-V or VMware ESX as their hypervisor of choice.  At the end of the day, the customer will guide that decision. Not me. I am not paid to push VMware.

If it’s really a cost issue, perhaps customers could chain a bunch of USB drives together and create a super-DAS configuration.  But wait. That is pretty close to what they are saying, isn’t it?  Get rid of the SAN, get a lot more servers and some cheap disk, and prepare to throw a lot of people at the new storage management problems that will be sure to take place because you aren’t sharing storage across servers, and you’re not sharing global hot spares with hundreds of disks in a system, or taking advantage of a nice big cache layer that smooths out most of the peaks during the Outlook users workday. And not taking advantage of high speed LAN-free backup snapshots or clones for recovery from corruption.

I’ve seen customers trade in SANs and array-based replication schemes for this new model, and only months later come back to an EMC SAN (and replication) saying “OK, you were right… Just don’t say I told you so.”

But it’s not like me to say that to my customers.  I warn them up front. :)

Some interesting data I’ve been able to gather recently:

EMC’s Windows Related Webcasts Available On Demand

For a while EMC has been running their own internal web events to allow the product teams and engineers to communicate directly with people who might become customers.  Below is a list of several events that you might find interesting that are available OUTSIDE the firewall.  Enjoy!

Exchange

Microsoft Exchange 2007: A Second Look

Leverage the Benefits of IP Storage for Your Microsoft Exchange 2007 Infrastructure

Best Practices for Deploying Microsoft Exchange 2007 in a Virtualized Environment

SQL

How Celerra snapshots can be used for a mission critical SQL server environment

EMC Replication Solutions for CLARiiON Decision Support (in a SQL environment)

Virtualize Mission-Critical Microsoft SharePoint and SQL Server Environments with VMware and EMC

SharePoint

Networker: the most advanced SharePoint backup solution on the market

Virtualize Mission-Critical Microsoft SharePoint and SQL Server Environments with VMware and EMC

EMC Documentum Connector for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007

Managing Global Energy Projects with EMC Documentum and Microsoft SharePoint: A Customer Success Story with TietoEnator