On the surface, the Open Compute Project — first announced by Facebook several months ago — is focused on sharing best practices and data center architecture approaches that can help data centers become more energy-efficient and “greener” overall.
But the theme of “open hardware” that dominated the latest summit held by the group in New York suggests that there is actually a much bigger movement afoot, one that I think could provide new momentum for system builders that integrate their own servers based on Intel technology.
Andy Bechtolsheim, chief development officer and chairman of Arista Networks (and, of course, one of the Sun Microsystems co-founders), said that information technology industry has a long history of standards development that has helped drive adoption and drive down costs. “What has been missing is a standard at the system level,” he told attendees of the second Open Compute Summit.
Bechtolsheim went on to criticize the “gratuitous differentiation” that distinguishes data center infrastructure technologies from each other and makes it tough for VARs and systems integrators — and businesses for that matter — to ensure interoperability. “This benefits the vendor more than the customer,” he said.
It is also a big reason that Facebook choose to build its own servers when constructing its data centers, said Frank Frankovsky, director of technical operations for Facebook executive, who founded the Open Compute Project and now sits on its board. Frankovsky’s fellow directors are Bechtolsheim; Don Duet, managing director with Goldman-Sachs; Mark Roenigk, chief operating officer of Rackspace Hosting; and Jason Waxman, general manager of high-density computing for the Intel data center group.
By thinking about the rack holistically (in effect, the rack is the new chassis), Frankovsky said Facebook was able to reduce the energy consumption of Facebook’s Prineville, Oregon, data center by 38 percent compared with existing data centers tasked with doing the same amount of work. The cost to build out that facility was 24 percent less, because Facebook exercised total control. Among other things, it opted for a 480-volt power distribution system to help reduce power losses during the conversion process and it reuses the hot aisle air to heat offices in the winter time.
Here’s the interesting part. As part of the Open Compute Project, Facebook plans to make its approaches available to the Open Compute Project community. This community will operate according to the model embraced by the Apache Software Foundation, adopting the contributions it deems appropriate. One of the early contributions are motherboards from ASUS. In addition, Red Hat has said it will ensure that it will support Red Hat Enterprise Linux on certified systems.
How far will the Open Compute Project reach? Frankovsky said that in order for “scale computing” — the infrastructure necessary to support the cloud computing movement — to succeed, the pace of hardware innovation needs to increase.
Open Compute encourages the best brains in the community share their ideas, including the best members of the white-box server channel. Other technology companies that have jumped on the bandwagon include Baidu, Cloudera, Dell, DRT, Future Facilities, Huawei, Hyve (Synnex), Mellanox, Nebula and Silicon Mechanics. Netflix, another company that relies on massive data centers, has also joined the community.
Nasuni, an infrastructure storage company that relies 100% on channel sales, has added multi-site access to its Data Continuity Services offering.
The new capability takes file-level snapshots of a customer’s data and puts it in the cloud with controllers at different offices. It then allows users to access and work with the same data from multiple locations.
Bill Trautman, director of storage technology at DataSpan, explained that the key to customer interest in multi-site capabilities is no longer worrying about syncing and moving their data to different physical sites and that data is always up to date. There’s also great granularity in customer control in that customers can grant access to data to whomever they please because they hold the encryption keys.
Nasuni partners don’t gain much margin on the product itself — their real business comes from services such as storage upgrades and renewals while building a loyal customer base. They will be able to sell the service on a terabyte-per-year basis and, according to Andres Rodriguez, Nasuni CEO, a midrange deal for partners would be $21,000 for three terabytes. Nasuni, which has 40 to 50 partners in North America, targets infrastructure partners that are able to sell and deploy storage and virtualization.
Trautman said that this is the right place and right time for unstructured data.
“Multi-site access will be huge in this market because customers will find a myriad of ways to use it. A number of them are looking for an unstructured data offering in the cloud,” Trautman said. “For us, it’s more service than offering, and it’s great because customers have the ability to use the amount of data they want when they need it.”
Nasuni mainly uses Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) to store customer data to assure high availability and, though it hasn’t happened yet, is able to detect outages and issue 10 days of credit to customers in those instances. That 100% uptime guarantee for service-level agreements (SLAs) and help with cloud service providers are big pieces to the service.
“Nasuni handles customer questions such as ‘who’s going to be my back-end cloud provider’ and ‘what’s this going to cost me on a monthly basis’ and deals with the with the cloud provider-customer agreement for them,” Trautman said. “And 10 days of credit to customers who experience a failure is statement to the market that they’re serious.”
Citrix and VMware are both focusing on updates and technology developments that help make their virtualization platforms easier to configure, deploy and manage.
During its VMworld Europe conference last week, VMware introduced three new virtualization management offerings: a vCenter Operations update and new vFabric Application Management and IT Business Management suites. Here’s what is new:
- New licensing options, including one squarely focused on SMB and small vSphere deployment that includes just the vCenter Operations Manager for a price of $50 per virtual machine (VM)
- Application discovery and mapping, which shows which applications are running on which hosts; this is seen as an advance for backup and security policies
vFabric Application Management Suite
- Includes vFabric Application Director and vFabric Application Performance Manager; the latter offers insights about the performance of virtualized applications
- In the future, this suite will be integrated more tightly into AppInsight (a new product); VMware is offering promotions for users of its Hyperic technology, so there is a migration opportunity for IT solution providers
IT Business Management Suite
- This is the repackaged version of the Digital Fuel technology acquired by VMware earlier this year
- Offered as a service, the application allows non-IT business managers to look at the labor and technical costs associated with specific applications
Probably the biggest drawback for these new releases, due in late 2011 and early 2012, is that they don’t support heterogeneous hypervisors other than VMware’s own technology.
Several new technologies being announced this week by Citrix also are intended to ease management, although the focus on the desktop rather than the server.
At the center of the releases is an update to VDI-in-a-Box, which is a set of technologies for setting up virtual desktops. The release supports all three of the major hypervisors, including Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, and VMware’s vSphere, ESX and ESXi. It has also been integrated with Citrix GoToManage, a managed services platform that can be used to monitor and tune VDI-in-a-Box remotely.
Citrix has created a new partner designation in its Citrix Solution Advisor Program, called SMB Specialist, in order to support IT solution providers and managed services providers selling into this space. The company will begin certifying partners at this level in January.
Yet another open source project is going commercial — Nginx, the little Web server that could, seems to be picking up steam in the enterprise IT community.
Nginx (pronounced engine-x) Inc. has been moving forward with improvements that managed services providers (MSPs) and VARs delivering Web services will welcome. The open source Web server is already the power behind popular high-traffic sites such as Facebook and Hulu, among 40,000 other domains. While it still has a relatively small share of the Web server market, it is growing in popularity while Apache and Microsoft are losing market share.
When Nginx founder Igor Sysoev found his project becoming popular, maybe too popular, and started receiving feature requests from commercial users, he realized that it may be time to take his little project and go commercial. Sysoev created Nginx in 2004 with the aim of solving a problem he had with the current technology offerings. Now the startup has secured $3 million in Series A round funding and plans to offer its first commercial product in Q3 2012.
According to Andrew Alexeev, head of business development and marketing and Nginx, the focus of the commercial products is based on customer feedback and will include high availability, clustering, integration and performance management improvements and tools. In addition, the company is looking at the cloud for business opportunities.
“We are also targeting cloud infrastructure density and efficiency,” said Alexeev. “Nginx can conserve hardware performance and improve security.”
The first commercial product will be a connection processing and optimization software platform that enables advanced performance, traffic management, extended configuration and security features for hosting, and cloud and enterprise server infrastructure. The company will also offer an easy way for partners to migrate existing Web installations such as those on Apache to Nginx.
Dell partners should take note of this news as one of Nginx’s investors is a firm affiliated with MSD Capital, which is Dell chairman and CEO Michael Dell’s private investment firm. Alexeev shared that Nginx hopes to use this relationship to collaborate on the delivery of hardware services and management for customers.
The company will open its new San Francisco headquarters in Q4 2011.
Full disclosure: I write about green technology issues on a daily basis, so my decision to write for SearchITChannel about how IT solution providers are becoming involved with e-waste services was a very self-motivated and self-interested one.
But just in case you need more validation of the fact that businesses do, in fact, care about technology energy efficiency, materials make-up and so on, consider that massive technology distributor Ingram Micro has just signed a deal with EPEAT, the system that the federal government and an increasing number of companies are using to gauge the green credentials of the hardware they are interested in buying.
In case you don’t know EPEAT, the name is actually short for the Electronics Product Environmental Assessment Tool. The system covers a number of IT categories, including displays, integrated systems, notebooks, desktops, thin clients and workstations; in the future, it will cover things including printing and imaging devices, servers and mobile phones. There are more than 3,200 products covered in the database (from 48 different manufacturers).
EPEAT designates the green-ness of a given product, by looking at things such as energy efficiency, the materials used within the equipment, and the services that are offered around the product in terms of end-of-life management (including reuse or recycling). The system is used to help determine which products in a given category have a better story to tell with respect to some of those metrics.
Ingram Micro has already been integrating EPEAT information into its solution provider catalogs. Under the extended relationship, starting the fourth quarter, the distributor will be able to help solution providers become EPEAT Channel Partners. That means they will be officially qualified to “sell” the value of the EPEAT information. They will also be featured on the EPEAT Web site.
Whether or not your organization has a green agenda, some of the metrics covered under EPEAT such as energy efficiency and lifecycle management policies are more general issues of interest to a growing number of buyers. This alliance is a smart move on both the part of Ingram Micro, which can help provide a differentiator for some of its reseller customers, and for EPEAT, which can continue pushing its visibility out of government agencies and into the business world.
The BlackBerry mobile device may have gotten its start in the enterprise world, but Research in Motion is determined to help small and midsize businesses perceive its technology as indispensable.
The Canadian company signed a deal this week with distributor Tech Data to better support IT solution providers selling BlackBerry solutions into SMBs. Tech Data and its partner in this mobile venture, Brightstar, will facilitate the activation process, which can be a hang-up for solution providers seeking to include BlackBerry devices as part of a mobile solution but that haven’t previously been able to handle the transaction process very easily. The process is supported by TDMobility, a new service offered by ActivateIT (a joint venture of Tech Data and Brightstar).
Joe Quaglia, senior vice president of U.S. marketing for Tech Data, described the offering:
“RIM is a strategic vendor partner for our launch of TDMobility into the channel, and ActivateIT is key to making the complete solution possible. We formed a strategic alliance with Brightstar to enable just this kind of offering, and we’re excited to offer our reseller customers the opportunity to increase their footprint in the channel by making complete, end-to-end BlackBerry solutions more easily available.”
I have to admit, as cool as this announcement sounds, I find myself wondering: what took so long?
With due respect to Tech Data, RIM hasn’t seemed much interested in the value-added channel before, so I feel sort of cynical about its intentions. Especially given its recent travails. Still, TDMobility is definitely the sort of service that I hope the channel hears a lot more about as mobile device management becomes an increasingly complex proposition for SMBs.
VARs interested in VM backup and hosted services may want to keep an eye on Veeam and its ProPartner Service Provider program.
Veeam specializes in virtualization backup and management and the program has been in existence for 18 months and now has 1,000 partners.
According to Dan Timko, Director of Hosted Services for BlueWave Computing, an Atlanta-based VAR and IT services provider, a big draw for partners is the Veeam Backup & Replication product that’s included in the program. Timko said that the product, services and upsell capabilities it provides was BlueWave’s primary reason for joining the ProPartner Service Provider program.
The Backup & Replication product allows BlueWave, an Infrastructure as a Service company, to back up entire VMware deployments, take full snapshots and replicate VMs at its off-site facilities in Arizona.
“It helps reduce operating costs, and having better disaster recovery and backup has increased our revenue,” Timko said. “With [Veeam’s] licensing, there are no big, up-front purchases and we can sell per-customer VMs. If you don’t back up a customer’s VMs well, you won’t have that customer for very long.”
These VM backup and hosted services for customers have been a big growth area for BlueWave.
“Cloud services have been the fastest-growing part of our business and will be our biggest source of income over the next two-to-three years,” Timko said. “Customers are starting to ask more and more about hosting and the cloud.”
Mike Waguespack, director of emerging market development and global hosting for Veeam Software said that because of how easy the program is to join and the flexibility of licensing has helped it gain popularity.
“[VARs] can choose between CAPEX or OPEX models or have a combination of both where they use CAPEX for long-term customers and OPEX for the variable parts of their business,” Waguespack said.
As reported on SearchDataRecovery.com, Waguespack also said that Backup & Replication 6 will include Hyper-V support.
The latest version of the N-able Technologies managed service automation toolset adds remote monitoring for VMware, under the virtualization developer’s “VMware Ready” program.
N-central 8.1, which was released this week, can now be used to monitor the hardware components of ESX and ESXi servers, including power supplies, fans and RAID-related hardware. The platform also reports about the condition of disk subsystems. The idea is to ensure that the hardware underlying virtualized servers are in tip-top shape, lest an outage seriously impact performance.
The feature is being billed as an industry first among managed services automation platforms.
With another new N-central 8.1 enhancement, managed service providers (MSPs) can now control N-central via a mobile application for Android-based devices. (You can download the mobile app on the Android marketplace.)
The third big change in N-central 8.1 lies in the scheduling component. The platform includes a much broader range of scheduling options. What’s more, it can now be used to collect warranty information and create expiration alerts for equipment from Acer, Apple, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Toshiba.
The attention to automation should help MSPs focus staff on higher value technical services that could benefit from the attention of a human and not on routine concerns that can be automated. Said Karl Samborski, operations manager for Dynamic Strategies, an MSP in Cranbury, N.J.: “Using N-central, we’ve been able to lower our administrative costs, which means there’s more time to focus on customer service.”
MSPs that already use N-central and that have a current maintenance and support contract will receive the upgrade for free.
News has spread that Microsoft will delay the LAR deal registration program launch that was slated for on Oct. 1, 2011 until March 2012.
While some LARs who rushed to get trained on T-36 online certifications by Oct. 1 may be irked by the late notice, some think this is good news, and that Microsoft may even be responding to channel feedback.
“The thing is the processes behind all the registration programs for incentives and proofs of concept are not easy,” said Josef Hans Lara, business development manager at LAR Long View Systems. “Microsoft needs to develop the process to make it smoother for partners.”
Lara explained that the amount of paperwork required for opportunity registrations with Microsoft is a full-time job, and welcomes any effort to smooth out the kinks. Interestingly, Microsoft has not made any official announcement to its channel partners about the change yet.
“We haven’t received any official notification per se. They have to prepare a nice email,” said Lara, who relied on a colleague’s discussion with a Microsoft executive for confirmation following news from Channel Register.
While it certainly is one component, the deal registration program goes beyond getting LARs not to compete for big clients. It’s asking the LARs to offer services, which is a big portion of this new incentive program.
“Microsoft wants to make sure the LARs offer services so the clients can actually use what they buy,” said Lara. The deal registration program ensures that the Microsoft partner is actually promoting all of the products while providing services. For companies like Long View Systems that have their roots in services, this is a win.
Lara also said, however, that partners in Europe may struggle the most with this new regime. This is mainly because of the high costs associated with T-36 online training, which is required to get their shops up to speed on providing customers services.
After announcing in August that it plans to spin off its Personal Systems Group, Hewlett-Packard is making more moves. HP confirmed that it plans to lay off more than 500 webOS Global Business Unit (GBU) employees from its soon-to-be-discontinued webOS hardware business.
HP wants to do away with the hardware portion of webOS, but possibly salvage the software part. Based on HP’s decisions so far, it looks like the mobile operating system has no future at HP and the company’s eventual plan for it remains to be seen. There has been talk of licensing the OS to third-party vendors or players such as Google or Facebook.
Though PSG head Todd Bradley said back in August that HP should spin off PSG, HP executives have been short on details so far.
What will Mike Parrottino’s promotion mean to PSG?
HP hasn’t announced long-term PSG plans yet, but it did say last week that Mike Parrottino will be the new head of the solution partner organization within PSG, meaning he will lead U.S. PSG channel sales.
Parrottino has put in 24 years at HP, most recently as the vice president of PSG sales and business management, and is a stabilizing influence at a time when PSG is in turmoil. HP thinks highly enough of Parrottino to put him in such an instrumental channel role, but one has to wonder whether PSG, and his role within it, will be intact even a few months from now.
HP is banking on PSG senior vice president and general manager for the Americas Stephen DiFranco and Parrottino’s leadership to guide the PSG through uncertain times.