Posts Tagged 'Storage'

August 3, 2010

How Clouds Killed The PC

Most days, it seems that technology progresses all too slowly. It is a different feeling when you work with cutting edge technology on a daily basis: deploying the first dual network datacenter infrastructure, being entrenched in solutions for everything from CDN to ISCI to DTS and more, testing the latest enterprise solutions from leading industry vendors long before money could buy them… it never really meant a whole lot to me; it was very much just, “How we roll”, as the gang would say.

But every so often, there is a day when a new technology catches my attention and reminds me why I got involved in the IT industry. Something that reminds me of the days spent tapping out QuickBasic 2.0 applications on my 18MHz 386 and 16 color EGA monitor. Surprisingly, the rise of cloud computing did just that. There was a day some still remember, when the cost of localized hardware was significant enough that terminals ruled the world. Occasionally, you may still see one at a grocery checkout stand or being used in a retail stockroom to check inventory across locations. Early terminals were commonly thin clients lacking a processor, non-volatile user storage, and only possessing enough memory to display what was on the screen at any given time. As the cost of memory declined, fat clients gained some popularity offering locally programmable memory. However, the concept was still the same: one host machine, usually a mainframe, serving applications over a distance to multiple (less capable) client machines.

Terminals were not destined to last though. In a twist of irony one of the innovations that they helped to inspire, the microprocessor, combined with the falling price and increased capacity of memory eventually led the decline of terminals. Left behind, in a cloud of dust, by hardware manufacturer’s race for speed capacity combined with advances in networking technology, the terminal PC became a historical relic looked upon as a necessary stop-gap solution used in the days when hardware was just too-darn-expensive. It was at that time the truly personal computer that we know and love was born and has forever-since reigned supreme. Then came the ARPANET, which gave way to the Information Super Highway, gave way to the World Wide Web, gave way to the internet we know today.

Mainframes gave way to servers. And today, I walk into a datacenter surrounded by servers boasting quad octo-core processors and Cloud Computing Instances, talking to customers who use their smart-phones to remotely access their web hosts, and quietly thinking to myself, “Have things really changed?” How far off is the day, when the benefits of remotely hosted applications outweigh the benefits of localized hardware? When we sit at the start of a new era where CCI’s can be created in minutes, regularly imaged for data security, migrated and restored quickly in the event of hardware failure, accessed from anywhere and from a variety of client hardware and software implementations, how much more would it take for us to return to the days of terminal PC’s. As bandwidth continues to improve, purchase and operational costs per processing core continues to fall, people demand more and more ‘anywhere access’, open source gains popularity and the idea of renting freely upgraded applications becomes accepted outside of the IT community, who knows what the future might hold. In a future where the concept of parallel uplinks may be no more foreign than that of parallel data transfer over CAT6 is to the layman, I wonder if personal computers will be thought of as the necessary stop-gap solution used while we waited for bandwidth to catch up to useable processing power; nothing more than a dinosaur that gave way to the green-movement and our need to be connected everywhere.

While I work on bringing my head out of the clouds, I remember why I am here. I am not here because technology’s past was all that fantastic, or because the present is all that glamorous, but because the future is still wide open. Whether-or-not clouds ever really kill the PC is anyone’s guess and only time will tell. However, one thing is currently known, as companies continue to see the benefit of having their staff conduct business through a web-portal interface, consumers continue trying to figure out what they are going to do with the extra two or three of the four cores they have, and the cost-to-performance ratio associated with remote resources continues to fall, we are steadily moving that way.

June 8, 2010

Core Construction

While constructing a storage building with a friend of mine I came to several realizations the first and less important was I really didn’t know what I was doing and was glad my friend was there. The next and most important thing was that the further into the construction we got the more I noticed from looking at the structure of the building from top to bottom there was a definite change in the need for structural support. I know what you are thinking at this point well duh, but for some reason when you actually step back and look at the framed structure the way that each layer depends on the previous is even more pronounced. A perfect example of this concept can be seen in every human and most animals of the world for as you peel back layers you eventually end up at a core that is the skeletal structure.

Something to ponder on when considering the layout of your IT infrastructure is the software is only as good as the under lying server and the server is only as good as the under lying network which is intern only as good as the power that feeds it and so for and so on. This is the core reason that here at SoftLayer we strive to provide the best we can from the ground up to help ensure our clients that they have the tools and foundation to compete in the world of online services.

October 19, 2009

I have backups…Don’t I?

There is some confusion out there on what’s a good way to back up your data. In this article we will go over several options for good ways to backup and sore your backups along with a few ways that are not recommended.

There is some confusion out there on what’s a good way to back up your data. In this article we will go over several options for good ways to backup and sore your backups along with a few ways that are not recommended.

When it comes to backups storing them off site (off your server or on a secondary drive not running your system) is the best solution with storing them off site being the recommended course.

When raids come into consideration just because the drives are redundant (a lave mirror situation) there are several situations, which can cause a complete raid failure such as the raid controller failing, the array developing a bad stripe. Drive failure on more than one drive(this does happen though rarely) , out of date firmware on the drives and the raid card causing errors. Using a network storage device like our evault or a nas storege is also an excellent way to store backups off system. The last thing to consider is keeping your backups up to date. I suggest making a new back every week at minimum (if you have very active sites or data bases I would recommend a every other day backup or daily backup). It is up to you or your server administrator to keep up with your backups and make sure they are kept up to date. If you have a hardware failure and your backups are well out of date it’s almost like not having them at all.

In closing consider the service you provide and how your data is safe, secure, and recoverable. These things I key to running a successful server and website.

May 13, 2009

The Data Center is Full of Surprises

After having been in the IT industry in some form or fashion for the last decade or so, I’ve learned that no matter how well you prepare yourself for disaster, you never seem to be surprised by certain issues that present themselves. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about the many surprises our friend Mr. Murphy can throw at us. I’m sure many a tech will anecdotally speak of the time where their server borked on them, their backups failed despite numerous backup audits, and they were up the infamous creek (I’m only assuming at least a few readers are nodding right now). Sometimes painful lessons are the best times to learn, but it’s a bad day when it happens on a production server.

Working in the SoftLayer data center, we take incredible measures to protect our customer’s servers. In a sense, we try to keep Mr. Murphy away. From the biggies (like redundant power and MASSIVE cooling units) to the routine (such as the data center walkthroughs, and proactive RAID alerts), we do our best to keep the servers in the data center running smoothly, and free of surprises.

Beyond the punches our friend Mr. Murphy can throw at us now and again, it’s nice to know there are a few good surprises in store for you, too. You might be surprised at the great deals our SLales team can provide. You might also be surprised at not only the amazing features such as the new Cloudlayer™ Storage, but the incredible rate we keep bringing new features to the table. I’ve also seen customer’s surprise when we rescue their server from the brink of disaster, or when we are able to provide a few tweaks to give THEIR business the edge it needs.

Furthermore, our people keep the data center interesting. SoftLayer sees no shortage of antics. There’s John’s fully automatic Nerf gun. There’s also plenty of jokes played at the expense of someone unfortunate enough to leave their workstation unlocked (call it “security training” – favorite backgrounds include the Care Bears and My Little Pony). We also have that one hardware tech who likes to hide around corners or sneak up behind you, and scare the life out of you while you’re focused on the task at hand.

With so many surprises, SoftLayer continues to be a very interesting place to work, and most certainly a place where one would never get bored!

April 27, 2009

Into the Cloud

You'll see the word "cloud" bouncing around quite a bit in IT nowadays. If you have been following The Inner Layer you'll have seen it a few times here as well. A cloud service is just something that is hosted on the Internet. Typically in a cloud scenario you are not actually doing the hosting but rather using hosted resources someone else is providing. Usually you'll hear it in terms of computing and storage.

This is going to be a brief article on a cloud storage product we are doing here at SoftLayer called CloudLayer™ Storage.

CloudLayer™ Storage is a WebDAV based system which uses client software on the local machine in order to redirect filesystem operations to the storage repository here at SoftLayer. In Windows you end up with a drive letter; on a Unix system you end up with a mount point. In both cases when you create folders and save files on those locations the actions actually happen on our storage repository here. Because the files are located with us you are able to access them wherever you are. Through the CloudLayer™ web UI you're able to also set up files for sharing with others so even if where you are never changes there is still value to using the cloud storage.

Even using a cloud storage system you must maintain proper backups. Hardware, software and human error all happens. Tied in with that concept of "errors happen" ... if you have files on CloudLayer™ that you need for a presentation, download them ahead of time. You don't want to be caught without files simply because the Internet connection at your hotel decided to take a nap the morning of your event.

Now what of security? Well, the connection to the CloudLayer™ endpoint here at SoftLayer is done via an encrypted session so people cannot snoop on your transmissions. This does mean you need to allow 443/tcp outbound communications via your firewall but since that is the normal HTTPS port I'd imagine you already have it open. Within CloudLayer™ you can control with whom you share your files.

Since CloudLayer™ is a filesystem redirected over the Internet the performance you get will be dependent on your local connection speed. Its best to treat CloudLayer™ Storage as simply a file repository. If you find you need some kind of off-machine storage for running applications on your server you could look into our iSCSI product.

So, dear readers, go forth and have a cloudy day.

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