Friday
May232008

Microsoft Virtualisation Q&A

Q&A: Microsoft’s virtualization chief assesses the competition, licensing and security - Network World

Lots of interesting stuff in here - and a few things that bear examination and questioning.
"The prevailing belief among observers is that Microsoft is way behind VMware. What do you say to the WSV-bashers?
At a high level, I disagree. Server virtualization is still a developing market and technology. Since, to a great degree, the utilization of virtualization has been in relatively confined areas, typically in large enterprises or infrastructure products like [VMware's] ESX Server, Microsoft will be able to have a much broader approach and make virtualization available to a wider swath of the industry."
True, the market is in development, but I disagree with his characterization that it is limited to larger enterprises. I have spent the last 6 months working on a variety of ESX deployments for smaller organisations that are going the VMWare route in order to be able to profit from the feature-set that was once the sole domain of larger environments. Microsoft's current offering does not meet their needs, and they are making their first baby-steps towards storage consolidation. It's doubtful from the roadmaps I've seen that Viridian will offer anything sufficiently compelling for SMBs, especially when compared to the fully featured VI3 offering. Worth noting that virtualisation per se is relatively stable at this point in time. What these people are looking for is ease of administration, flexibility of integration with backup solutions and disaster recovery planning.
"Critics say the delay of the Live Migration feature, which would provide the ability to migrate while virtual machines are running, is a big setback for Microsoft as it tries competing against VMware. What's your take? I dispute it to some degree. From a competitive standpoint, it is a sexy feature and sounds really exciting. But, of the Microsoft customers using VMware or other virtualization technology, few are actually utilizing that type of functionality. It is a relatively sophisticated piece of technology to set up. The capabilities we do have and are shipping -- our ability to cluster virtual machines and the ability to migrate quickly -- will meet most customers' needs."
I have to disagree here. The level of difficulty in implementing VMotion is no more complex (and I would say easier) that preparing a Microsoft cluster solution. And this feature is being used in almost all of the deployments that I've done recently, most of which are small 2-4 server implementations. This is an essential service that permits companies to manage maintenance tasks without downtime, and the transparent integration of new ESX server resources in the environment. Currently, I would say that ESX is being selected as the appropriate solution for departmental and SMB deployments that in 2006 would have gone with VMWare Server or Virtual Server. The excellent integration of iSCSI in VI3 has eliminated the major barrier to entry: the cost of a fiber infrastructure and fiber based SANs. In most cases, latency issues are of no real importance for the majority of the server infrastructures I've seen. The bulk of the servers out there are sorely underutilized and there are some impressive cost savings possible with the implementation of a storage virtualisation solution to complement the server virtualisation implementation.
Wednesday
May212008

re: Betalogue » Word 2008: How to assign command-G to ‘Find Next’

Betalogue » Blog Archive » Word 2008: How to assign command-G to ‘Find Next’: "Word 2008 is so bad that it is driving me positively nuts. Yet I have no choice but to use it sometimes, and in such situations I need to try and reduce the mental pain as much as possible. Inevitably, this process involves customizing Word, not to make it do things your way, but simply to make it do things the normal way, i.e. the way that every other Mac OS X application does it, which of course Word is incapable of doing on its own. 

Case in point: a keyboard shortcut for the ‘Find Next’ command. The standard behaviour in word processors and text editors for the Mac is the following."

(Via Betalogue.)

Thank you for this indispensable tip. As described on this page Word does not follow the UI standard adopted by well, everyone with respect to Find (Command-F) followed by Find Next (Command-G). Convincing Word that this really is what you want to do is way more complicated than it needs to be, but many thanks to Pierre Igot for unearthing how to accomplish this task.

Betalogue also has a number of other interesting tips and complaints about Word which hasn't changed its spots since Office 2004. If you have to use Word, then take a spin by his site as there's a pile of useful tidbits.

And while I'm on the subject of griping about Word, I'm going to add another one. Word does not play nicely with Spaces. If you're using Spaces and Command-tab over to Word, you'll get the menu bar, but it won't necessarily bring its documents to the front most layer. Even more frustrating, clicking on the document window doesn't bring it up either when this happens. However, if you happen to have two documents open, clicking on the other window changes the focus, still behind any other application windows and clicking on the first window at this point bring it forward along with the second window. WTF?

I was going to try for some screen shots, but it's behaving right now. I think that's probably the thing that annoys me the most about Word is its inconsistency. Don't get me started on heading numbering behaviour - it's a crapshoot.

Tuesday
May202008

Update on the PERC situation

Followup up on the PERC fiasco. After a few more back and forths with DELL, the following facts have become clear :
  • If you're using a PERC with a direct attached JBOD (eg. MD1000) any discontinuity will result in the card reporting a foreign configuration error and you'll have to reimport the configuration and let the drives do a full background 'initialization' (which really means verification in this context).
  • If you're using a PERC with a direct attached Powervault solution (eg. MD3000) discontinuities will be automatically handled by the internal RAID card in the MD3000 so that the foreign configuration issue will not require manual intervention. Now obviously, if you lose power to an MD3000, the controllers and the disks go down at the same time so theoretically it should come back up directly.
What's still not clear:
  • Still no confirmed answer on how the MD3000 handles a missing MD1000 disk bay when used as a SAS extension. The basic response is that it will not require any user intervention (good), but it remains to be seen whether or not this situation provokes the background initialization or not (potentially bad).

Tuesday
May202008

Re: Common Myths for the Macintosh

David Alison's Blog: Common Myths for the Macintosh: "There are however an increasing number of people that are moving to Macs now - many of them people like me that hated Macs at one time. I believe there are lots of reasons for this, not the least of which is that people that are running Windows XP are faced with an upgrade to Vista as their next logical step and feel that maybe it's okay to consider a Mac since they have to go through a full operating system refresh anyway.

One of the reasons I was not interested in Macs for a very long time was that I clung to many facts about the Mac that I felt eliminated it from contention. Well, as with many things in life it turns out the facts that I knew about the Mac were either hopelessly outdated or simply myths. What I wanted to do was tell you the ones that I was aware of and often cited when I dismissed Macs in the past."

(Via David Alison's Blog .)

I love reading these articles from switchers, especially technical ones. Interestingly, these are exactly the things that I've been explaining to my PC-using friends and colleagues for years. The question that still remains is why didn't people believe me up until recently?

I think that given the status quo of XP, they were content to ignore my demonstrations of OS X, but post-Vista release, it seems that people started paying more attention. The basic facts of the situation have been pretty static on the Apple side (counting from the release of Tiger) but most people were unwilling to accept the facts I presented as detailed by Mr Alison. I suspect that the bad press (and some disappointing experiences) surrounding Vista had more of an effect that people are willing to admit to. Or was it the insanely massive buzz around the iPhone that made people stop off at the Apple site more frequently and be exposed to the OS X collateral as they passed through looking for more iPhone information?

On the Vista front, I'd say that highly technical people are the ones who were first in line for Vista and that seems to be where I'm seeing the most movement to OS X. Something that's really important here is that these people are influencers that non-technical people look to for advice.

There's obviously some additional factors at play other than just Apple's products and marketing since the latest NPD stats show that Apple has an astounding 66% retail marketing in machines over $1,000 in the US last quarter. Now this is exceptionally interesting when you figure that most corporations don't buy retail, so this is truly the general public's voice speaking here. It means that when individuals are ready to put down a serious amount of their own money, they're choosing the Mac.

The pessimist pundits are all saying that the reason is because Apples are more expensive, but that's only part of the picture. The fact that these are the figures while we're in an economic downturn, combined with totally flat PC growth means that the high end PC market has disappeared and been replaced by the Mac market. If the numbers were more evenly distributed, or if it was also in a period of overall growth I could almost understand it. It indicates to me that people with willing to spend the money are no longer content with the cheap-PC experience and want something else.

Now it's not a vote in pure numbers, but I'm willing to bet that the people who buy the more expensive machines are also the people that carry more influence so I'd say that we're seeing the beginning of a generational shift here.

I really wish I knew what the tipping point was that obliged switchers to revisit their internalized myths regarding Apple and actually take the step towards purchasing one. I'm curious. What is the catalyst that lets switchers look past their internalized myths and misconceptions?

For amusement's sake - here are a few more that I still run into today :

  • It doesn't matter since Microsoft bought Apple back when they were in trouble (referring to the 150M stock purchase back in 1997, which was more of a PR move than anything else)
  • (often nonsensically combined with) Microsoft only keeps Apple alive in order to not be a monopoly
  • Apples are really chatty on the network (referring to the obsolete Appletalk protocol)
Monday
May192008

Review: "Here comes everybody" by Clay Shirky

I've long been a fan of Clay Shirky's writings published on the web, and just finally received my copy of his latest published work "Here comes everybody" which collates much of this work into a very nicely packaged tour of the impacts of our new media world on social networks and group behaviour.

My first introduction to Clay's works was his article Ontology is overrated, which is an essay on the transformative power of tags vs categorization. It opened my eyes and quantified something I'd been seeing happen, but unable to express coherently. Highly recommended reading.

His new book covers the transformative power of our newly acquired ability to form groups of various sizes and types based on the tools that are now ubiquitous due to the various online tools that eliminate much of the friction of creating and assembling groups. The book is full of fascinating examples that, while anecdotal, clearly demonstrate that we are starting to move into a different era of communications.

This is a must read for anyone interested in the psychology of groups and the impact that ubiquitous social tools have on them.

He's not sitting still on these subjects, and his latest talk concerning what he calls the cognitive surplus of society is making the rounds and is well worth reserving 15 minutes to watch.

Part 1

Part 2