Enterprise IT Watch Blog

June 4, 2010  7:00 AM

One Cow’s Waste Is Another Data Center’s Energy Source

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Like those houses on reality TV, packed to the ceiling with years’ worth of accumulated trash and newspapers, your data center’s filled to the brim. Except instead of disposables, you need solutions to deal with computer and storage systems. Valuable stuff. You probably don’t want some cow grazing—let alone relieving herself—nearby. Well, not so fast.

Despite the industry’s attempt to catch up with data storage and cooling, across-the-board efficiency is ranked right up there with the Tooth Fairy. Not gonna happen. Not all solutions are magical thinking, however, as HP’s most recent research has revealed. Can cow manure catapult your data center into a self-sufficient, powered and cooled machine? Looks like it.

As TakePart’s Danny Jensen reports:

The HP research team recently unveiled a paper that explores the sustainability of converting waste from dairy farms and cattle feedlots into electricity to power and cool energy-hungry computer data centers. The massive heat output generated by the data centers is in turn reused to break down the biomass, creating a self-sufficient system.

Sound like a bunch of BS? (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) HP Lab’s “Design of Farm Waste-Driven Supply Side Infrastructure for Data Centers” [PDF] cites the “design and operation of data center infrastructure [as] one of the primary challenges facing IT organizations and economies alike.” Set aside the benefits for data centers worldwide—it seems to be the perfect symbiotic relationship of solutions. The food industry is always under fire for its wasteful and sometimes questionable practices, with vegetarians citing that “methane is 21 times more damaging than carbon dioxide” as a reason to quit meat. With this new research, IT pros, farmers and meat eaters alike can celebrate this unlikely new partnership. Continued »

June 3, 2010  3:16 PM

The perils of being a digital packrat

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

Every time I’m around tech-savvy lawyers, there’s one topic that seems to draw more smiles and gleaming teeth than any other: Digital storage and the costs, compliance and complexity around it.

Data backup and recovery is difficult enough, but what really gets their chops gleaming is data discovery, also called e-discovery, which generally relies on a second set of data backups. As SearchDataBackup’s W. Curtis Preston explains:

Basically the purpose of a data archive is not going to be met by a backup app. If someone asks you for specific emails, you’re not going to be able to go to your backup system and ask that question. For example, let’s say you have a full backup of Exchange every week for the last seven years. Then someone comes to you and says, “I want all of these emails with this word in them.” What you’re going to need if you want to extract this information with a backup application is restore the entire Exchange server and then extract out of that Exchange server the files that you need from seven years ago. Then you’re going to need to restore Exchange again to seven years ago minus a week, and do that all over again and over again, and in this case, roughly 150 times. Then you’re going to have to extract from it what you need. So doing satisfying archive requests with data backup and recovery software is something you’ll only do once. You’ll try it and then say to yourself, “We should have used archive software to satisfy this requirement.”

So not only is all your data being stored 4 or more times over on RAID disks, storage professionals need to coordinate with legal and compliance teams to make sure that the archival systems are up-to-date and ready-to-go, and they’re rarely either, out of the box. That means it’s a very good thing that storage prices have been shrinking over the years: As a study by IDG predicts, data production is booming, with an estimated 988 Exabytes of data being created this year. That means planning not only for the raw costs of storage but the expertise to make sure it satisfies all of the growing tasks our storage is called upon to perform. You can rest assured there is plenty of that earmarked to keep those lawyers well fed for years to come.

Michael Morisy is the community editor for ITKnowledgeExchange and formerly the news writer for SearchNetworking and SearchTelecom. He can be followed on Twitter or you can reach him at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

June 3, 2010  11:00 AM

Cream of the Twitter Storage Crop: Round 2

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

A couple of days ago, the IT watch blog revealed its “Cream of the Twitter Crop: Storage Edition.” Of course, we’re just one entity, so we’re always looking for feedback and suggestions. Well, we got it! Thanks to everyone for their retweets, suggestions and participation; it is much appreciated. Here’s what some of our members and Twitter followers had to add:

From @djenningspr:

  • AceSage: He blogs over at Storage Sanity and tweets about storage, virtualization and the cloud.
  • nigelpoulton: He “dives deep” into IT topics such as storage, data centers and I/O virtualization over at NigelPoulton.com.
  • storagebod: Storage Manager and blogger over at Storagebod.typepad.com.
  • SFoskett: Stephen Foskett focuses mainly on data storage, virtualization, the business side of IT, and “understanding the accumulation of data” over at his blog, Pack Rat.
  • HPStorageGuy: Calvin Zito has been in IT for over 25 years, and his expertise in data storage inspired him to send us some feedback as well.

June 3, 2010  9:21 AM

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, Unless You’re Google

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which straw will break the camel’s back. It’s not so difficult with Google. Their last straw? Chinese hackers. Remember back in January when Google announced it’d be pulling out of China and moving into Hong Kong? That was a reaction to a serious information breach, as reported at IT news: “Chinese hackers had broken into [Google’s] network and stolen confidential information.”

Google’s response? According to the Financial Times, Google has decided to replace internal use of Windows OS, offering Mac OS for Apple users and Linux for PC users instead. The forthcoming Chrome OS will soon be an option. Though the policy requires Googlites who want to use a Windows machine to receive approval from the CIO, the unnamed Google employees interviewed by the Financial Times cited the changeover as “semi-formal.”

Despite the Hyraq Trojan’s taking advantage of IE 6’s vulnerability and gaining access to Google PCs and Gmail accounts, Microsoft stood up for its OS and security measures.

Spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc in the Windows blog:

When it comes to security, even hackers admit we’re doing a better job making our products more secure than anyone else….third party influentials and industry leaders like Cisco tell us regularly that our focus and investment continues to surpass others.

Microsoft has taken a few hits lately—losing the most recent patent battles and being overshadowed by Apple as the most valuable technology company. With Microsoft’s recent revamp of Hotmail, the two companies’ rivalry has increased. Will this further serve to isolate Microsoft in the consumer and enterprise markets? What steps do you think Microsoft should take (other than writing an articulate blog post, of course)?

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

June 1, 2010  2:27 PM

Cream of the Twitter Crop: Storage Edition

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Here they are, this month’s specialized top 10 Twitter accounts. From IT pros with impressive storage insight to the industry greats sending out updates on their company’s innovations, check out these folks on Twitter for daily bites of what you need to know about storage.

  • 3parfarley: Marc Farley, the blogger behind StorageRap, sends out bite-sized bits of storage info. He’s also one of SearchStorage.com’s experts.
  • StorageNerve: Devang Panchigar is in the storage/virtualization/computer industry; he blogs over at StorageNerve and Gestalt IT.
  • skenniston: Follow the Storage Alchemist himself.
  • StorageAnarchy: From the blogger behind Storage Anarchy, get some storage rebel yells in 140 characters or less.
  • Continued »

June 1, 2010  12:06 PM

HP eats its own data center dog food, shooting for the cloud

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

According to a Hewlett-Packard SEC filing (and as reported by GigaOm’s Stacey Higginbotham), HP has decided to eat its own dog food, further consolidating and automating its data center in order “to facilitate the migration of client applications to modernized infrastructure platforms.”

Is HP going to be entering Amazon’s turf with expanded cloud offerings for storage and solutions? Just might be: The company plans on eliminating 9,000 current data center-related positions, 6,000 of which will be replaced by “global sales and delivery resources,” which sounds like it just might be the touchy-feely goodness of an aggressive new market offering.

HP previously offered a Storage-as-a-Service product, Upline, which was aimed at the consumer/SMB market but was shuttered in February 2009 after battling lengthy downtime.

Since then, HP is sure to have learned a thing or two in the data center arena, particularly since they’ve already successfully shrunk their own data center footprint from 85 locations to six spots, three of which are mirrored disaster recovery backups. They’ve been touting themselves as a poster child for networked cloud efficiency, and it might be high time to take that expertise to market.

Michael Morisy is the community editor for ITKnowledgeExchange and formerly the news writer for SearchNetworking and SearchTelecom. He can be followed on Twitter or you can reach him at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

June 1, 2010  5:00 AM

Back to the Future V: VPlex, That Is

Melanie Yarbrough Profile: MelanieYarbrough

Often people characterize the future as the bearer of flying cars and inexplicably tight silver bodysuits. Among the more likely of predictions of the future is federated storage. Though the term may fall victim to obscurity and lack of a solid definition, it’s not stopping anyone from trying. From Wikibon:

Federated storage is the collection of autonomous storage resources governed by a common management system that provides rules about how data is stored, managed, and migrated throughout the storage network. In this definition, storage resources include disk capacity managed by controllers or appliances controlling multiple arrays.

Wikibon pooled its Twitter followers for reactions to federated storage and received this comical but not unfounded opinion: “‘Federation’ is the latest word to be put through the hype & definition mangler.”

But even more exciting than the dozens of definition attempts around the Internet are the possibilities products like EMC’s VPlex will open up for storage in 2010 and the future. May 10th marked the announcement of VPlex Local and Metro, covering the distances of data centers and campuses, respectively. Future versions, the Geo and Global, hope to expand coverage to continental and global distances. What does this mean for storage? This means multiple DCs can be condensed into a single virtual resource. Batch operations can be moved to more energy and cost-efficient locations.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however. The Register pegs federated storage as “more of a journey than a finished product.” A journey to what? To moving thousands of VMs and information across thousands of miles. EMC’s AccessAnywhere is the safety net for issues with address latency, bandwidth and consistency.

One small step for EMC, one giant step toward private cloud computing. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s a huge step for EMC.

Melanie Yarbrough is the assistant community editor at ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Follow her on Twitter or send her an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

May 31, 2010  4:41 AM

Is there a branch office virtualization crisis coming?

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

This recent post from Michael Vizard hits some good points about virtualization and the branch office. Apparently Blue Coat Systems determined that 59% of IT managers surveyed have deployed virtual servers in branch offices. Big deal, you say. Well, as Michael points, out more virtual servers means more network traffic. Not a problem on the LAN but potentially a big problem on the WAN. Where’s that bandwidth going to come from? Who’s going to manage it? Who’s going to pay for it?

Another point Michael made is something I’ve seen ever since I started working in this field:

But more often than not, the folks in the branch office tend to do what they please when it comes to servers. It’s only when that activity starts having a negative impact on the network that corporate IT takes any notice of what’s happening in the branch office.

In other words, the typical branch office is often ignored – sometimes forgotten about – when it comes to computing resources. I don’t know if this is a flaw of a centralized IT management model or just a sign that the average network manager is too overwhelmed. Regardless, it’s a problem that cannot be ignored if you’re going to manage IT and, more specifically, virtualization and network bandwidth at remote offices. Perhaps an impending “virtualization management crisis” is indeed on the horizon?

Certainly something to think about.

Kevin Beaver is an independent information security consultant, keynote speaker, and expert witness with Principle Logic, LLC and a contributor to the IT Watch Blog.

May 28, 2010  11:38 AM

Next up: The “Zero” Client

Kevin Beaver Kevin Beaver Profile: Kevin Beaver

Now here’s an interesting concept I came across on Gizmag (a very cool site itself). It’s a “zero client” system by Pano Logic with “no processor, no operating system, no memory, no drivers, no software and no moving parts.” I don’t know about zero client since there’s still a 2″ x 3.5″ x 3.5″ box sitting on your desk, connected to your monitor, keyboard, network, and audio, but it’s a neat concept for clearing desktop clutter nonetheless. Like any other “thin” client, the Pano device also requires a server-side component to connect to for processing, storage, etc.

This reminds me of the NC. For those of you who were in the industry in the mid-90s, you’ll remember the network computer (NC) revolution. It was going to change the world, how we used computers, how we operated our businesses…and then it fizzled out like many other neat IT concepts. Now that virtualization has a strong grip on the industry, I suspect something like the Pano device could take hold as well. Maybe an acquisition target for Microsoft or Google? I’m a bit skeptical but I love this kind of innovation – it’s what makes the world go ’round…and keeps us employed!

May 28, 2010  10:30 AM

Apple trumps Microsoft: Why it matters and why it doesn’t

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

After years of Microsoft playing the Goliath to Apple’s David, the tables have officially turned: Apple’s market value hit $222.1 billion, besting Microsoft’s value $219.2 billion and making it the most-valuable technology company.

And while two imaginary numbers being punted around by investors doesn’t impact IT directly, the changing of the guard has made a significant impact on workplace technology and how it’s managed.

But first, what hasn’t changed: Continued »

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