Tag Archives: open source

CiscoLive! Melbourne – 2016

Having to miss last years edition I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this years CiscoLive! conference in my hometown Melbourne again. Venue was excellent as usual. MCEC provides perfect facilities and is in the heart of the city so no dramas here.

The opening keynote already showed to direction where Cisco has steered the ship. Datacentre agility to cope with the ever increasing demand for business flexibility and be able to adapt quickly to changes in market conditions.

Cisco is acknowledging that it needs to adjust their products and services portfolio in such a way business can still use its entire catalog but by opening up the methodologies in which these products are used it gives more control and choice to the people who have to design, implement and operate these infrastructures. This way they don’t need to align their internal processes to the ever more diverse product-set but the other way around.

One example is NX-OS. The operating system running the core of Cisco’s networking products. With the introduction of NX-OS 7 on the Nexus 7000 and the new 9000, the operating system has “rebranded” itself to “Open NX-OS”. This doesn’t mean Cisco has put the source on Github but it gives a more accessible method of interacting with the switches, or any other supported platform for that matter. By providing a rich REST-full API it’s easy to create programs, tools and scripts which can automate deployment and day-to-day operations.

Evidence of this is the fact that Cisco had set up an entire track for developers in the form of a, so called “DevNet zone”. An area at the conference where developers, or anyone interested, could learn more about developing scripts and tools to better interact with the wide portfolio Cisco has. This was not only restricted to the conference. Cisco has ramped  up a large online devnet area including a impressive sandbox where developers can test and validate their programs towards the majority of Cisco technology. As you may have seen this is not new and the methodology is more or less adopted from the OpenSource communities around the worlds where this has been created. Distributed development of software by coding, peer review, testing, building and deploying has been done for over two decades and even long before that in the educational institutions.

A lot of Cisco teams and individuals contribute in the form of code, documentation, examples and a myriad of hints and tips to get you started.

Obviously Cisco is no philanthropic organization so don’t expect any non-cisco technologies to be covered. Even when you think you see Cisco’s involvement in a non-cisco product or code, like for example OpenStack, a lot of code is contributed in the form of Cisco enablement in that product. No problem here, all vendors do that and it increases the usability and experience of the overall product.

I must applaud Cisco for embracing the way IT is used these days and give customers more control in the way they want to use Cisco products. This really is the way forward and all vendors should adopt this methodology and provide resources in the form of knowledge, product resources and people. Other companies like EMC with {code} and IBM’s Developerworks provide a similar experience

CiscoLive! 2016 covered a lot more topics like security, wireless, communications etc. etc.

Another great feat was I got to see a few friend again. Dr J Metz finally made it to Australia and David Jansen who’s sessions I always enjoy for its pragmatic approach and technical depth. Great to see you guys again.

All in all another excellent conference where I learned a lot and provide me with a significant bag of information to keep me busy for another year.

Thanks Cisco.



Open Source Software (OSS) and security breaches in proprietary firmware

It is no secret that many vendors use open source software in their products and solutions. One of the most ubiquitous  is Linux which is often the base of many of these products and used as core-OS because of it’s flexibility and freely available status without the need of keeping track of licenses (to some extent) and costs.

These OSS tools have different development back-grounds and are subject to policies of the person (or people/companies) who develop it. This obviously results in the fact that defects or bugs may result in security issues especially when it involves network related applications. Recently the bugs in OpenSSL and Apache have gain much traction as some of these are fairly significant and can result in access breaches or denial of service.

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Why Docker is the new VMware

5 Years ago wrote this article:

Server virtualisation is the result of software development incompetence

Yes, it has given me some grief given the fact 99% of respondents did not read beyond the title and made false assumptions saying I accused these developers for being stupid. Tough luck. You should have read the entire article.

Anyway, in that article I did outline that by using virtualization with the methodology of isolating entire operating systems in a container is a massive waste of resources and the virtualisation engine should have focused on applications and/or business functionality. It took a while for someone to actually jump into this area but finally a new tool has come to life which does exactly that.

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The first law of the Time Lords | Aussie Storage Blog

A buddy of mine posted this article and it reminded me of the presentation I did for the Melbourne VMUG back in April of this year.

The first law of the Time Lords | Aussie Storage Blog:

If you have ever worked in support (or had the need to check on events in general as an administrator) you know how important it is to have an accurate timestamp. Incorrect clock settings are a nightmare if you want to correlate event that are logged on different times and dates.

When you look at the hyper scale of virtualised environments you will see that the vertical stack of IO options is almost 10 fold. Lets have a look from top to bottom where you can set the clock.

  1. Application
  2. VM, the virtual machine
  3. Hypervisor
  4. network switches
  5. The 1st tier storage platform (NAS/iSCSI)
  6. A set of FC switches
  7. The second tier storage platform
  8. Another set of FC switches
  9. The virtualised storage array
Which in the end might look a bit like this. (Pardon my drawing skills)
As you can imagine it’s hard enough to start figuring out where an error has occurred but when all of these stacks have different time settings it’s virtually impossible to dissect the initial cause.
So what do you set on each of these? That brings us to the question of “What is time”. A while ago I watched a video of a presentation by Jordan Sissel (who is working full-time on a open-source project called LogStash). One of his slides outlines the differences in timestamps.:
So besides the different time-formats you encounter in the different layers of the infrastructure imagine what it is like to first get all these back into a human readable format and then aligned across the entire stack. 
While we’re not always in a position to modify the time/date format we can make sure that at least the time setting is correct. In order to do that make sure you use NTP and also set the correct timezone. This way the clocks in the different layers of the stack across the entire infrastructure say aligned and correct. 
You will help yourself and your support organisation a great deal.
Erwin van Londen

Oracle (and when the SUN doesn’t shine anymore"

I’m not hiding the fact I’ve been a SUN MicroSystems fan all my life. They had great products, great engineering philosophy and best of all great people who knew how to pick a potato. The problem was that they went down the same path as DEC (huhhh, who…???) DEC, Digital Equipment Corporation. One of those other fabulous engineering companies who fell as pray to the PC world due to their lack of marketing knowledge and sales strategies. Google around for that.

Oracle was by far the worst company to acquire SUN. They have a massively different company mindset which is 100% focussed on getting another boat for Uncle Larry “I want you.. o, no.. I want your money” and this went on to be a head-on collision with the SUN philosophy. Given the fact Oracle had a massive war-chest and SUN was struggling to keep afloat allowed them to get the entire SUN IP for a nickle and dime.

The worst thing for Oracle was that all of a sudden they inherited a hardware division with, be honest, great products but also a huge drag on sales numbers. (which was likely to be the reason for SUN’s struggling.) No easy way out here since product support and near term roadmap line-ups had to be fulfilled. Oracle is, has always been, and always will be, a software company so over the last couple of years you can already see that the majority of all hardware products are starved to death. Don’t expect any new developments here.

SUN was bought for two reasons: Java and Solaris. Well, only certain parts of Solaris. COMSTAR was one of them an ZFS the other. Java of course was the biggest fish since that piece of the pie runs in almost every device on the planet from cell-phones to toasters. ZFS allowed Oracle to create Exadata  and tailor this to very specific workloads. (Duhhhh…. lemme guess> Oracle Databases). The funny thing is that they almost give away this Exadata box since they know it only performs well with their database and this is were you start paying the big bucks.

So lets get back to what is left of SUN. SUN was also a very big supporter of the open source world. Projects like OpenOffice, Netbeans, GlasFish etc are all neglected by Oracle for them to die a certain death. OpenOffice (originally acquired by SUN as StarOffice had a really nice spin since some developers had absolutely no trust in Oracle anymore and “forked” the entire code branch in LibreOffice which is now the most actively maintained Office Suite outside M$ Office. Oracle is sidely hanging on to MySQL and allow some people to put some effort in this project. The reason is obvious. Its a stepping stone to one of Oracle own big bucks databases and suites so the biggest sponsoring is done on migration software from MySQL to OracleDB itself. If Oracle decides to pull the plug on MySQL it will be simply forked as well and continue under another name were Oracle has absolutely no insight and loses any business advantage. Don’t ever expect any Oracle IP going into MySQL. Larry needs a bigger boat.

Another product SUN “donated” to the open source world was OpenSolaris. A free (as in free beer) spin of SUN’s mainstream operating system. SUN’s intentions for OpenSolaris was to provide a free platform for developers to have easy access to Solaris. This would allow for more applications to become available and as such a larger ecosystem to live on into companies using those. The steppingstone to a revenue generating operating system for those applications would then be real easy. A similar fashion Microsoft has followed for quite a while. (Provide a real cheap consumer product for developers to hook onto and sell at a premium to companies). Unfortunately it wasn’t mend to be so as soon Oracle took over the OpenSolaris project was starved to death.

So when taking into account all things that happened with the SUN acquisition it is very sad to see that such great products and philosophy is butchered by pure greed. Many distinguished engineers  like James Gosling, Time Bray and Bryan Cantrill left immediately and many more followed. The entire Drizzle team resigned, as well as all of the jRuby engineers. In fact the only SUN blooded executive to stay was John Fowler who kept onto his hardware group.

In retrospect the only thing Oracle bought for that 5.6 billion dollars is Java which is a very heavy price for a piece of software (soon to become obsolete) and an empty shell.

This once more shows that great products will always lose against marketing, an effective salesforce and a money hungry CEO.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against someone making a fair chuck of money but effectively killing of an entire company and leaving so many people in the cold doesn’t really show any form of ethics. A good friend of Larry, the late Steve Jobs, had similar characteristics however he also had a heart for great products.


PS. The comment of Java becoming obsolete is because many major new web technologies are now being put in place to bridge the gap to Java. This includes semantics, document and extensive data control, device control etc. Within 5 years Java will likely have a serious competitor which allows developers to gain more freedom and interoperability than Java now can provide.

Open Source Storage

Storage vendors are getting nervous. The time has come that SMB/SME level storage systems can be build from scratch with just servers, JBOD’s and some sort of connectivity.

Most notably SUN (or Oracle these days) has been very busy in this area. Most IP was already within SUN, Solaris source code has been made available, they have an excellent file-system (ZFS) which scales enormously and has a very rich feature set. Now extent that with Lustre ** and you’re steaming away. Growth is easily accomplished by adding nodes to the cluster which simultaneously increases the IO processing power as well as throughput.

But for me the absolute killer app is COMSTAR. This way you can create your own storage array with commodity hardware and make your HBA’s fibre channel targets. Present your LUNS and connect other systems to it via a fibre channel network. Better yet even iSCSI and FCOE are part of it now. Absolutely fabulous. These days there would be no reason to buy an expensive proprietary array but use the kit that you have. Ohh yes, talking about scalability, is 8 exabyte enough on one filesystem and over a couple of thousand nodes in a cluster. If you don’t have these requirements it works one a single server as well.

The only thing lacking is Mainframe support but since the majority of systems in data-centres have Windows or some sort of Unix farm anyway this can be an excellent candidate for large scale Open Source storage systems. Now that should make some vendors pretty nervous.


**ZFS is not yet supported in Luster clusters but on the roadmap for next year