Showing posts with label Green IT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Green IT. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Economic and Climate Imperatives Combine to Elevate Green IT as Cost-Productive Priority

Transcript of a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast on making progress toward Green IT and on what companies can do to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon footprints and save money.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect.

Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on Green IT and the many ways to help reduce energy use, stem carbon dioxide creation, and reduce total IT costs -- all at the same time. We're also focusing on how IT can be a benefit to a whole business or corporate-level look at energy use.

We'll look at how current IT planners should view energy concerns, some common approaches to help conserve energy, and at how IT suppliers themselves can make "green" a priority in their new systems and solutions.

[UPDATE: HP named "most green" IT vendor by Newsweek.]

Here to help us better understand the Green IT issues, technologies, and practices impacting today's enterprise IT installations and the larger businesses they support, we're joined by five executives from HP: Christine Reischl, general manager of HP's Industry Standard Servers. Welcome, Christine.

Christine Reischl: Welcome to you.

Gardner: We're also joined by Paul Miller, vice president of Enterprise Servers and Storage Marketing at HP. Hello, Paul.

Paul Miller: Well, thank you.

Gardner: And Michelle Weiss, vice president of marketing for HP's Technology Services. Welcome Michelle.

Michelle Weiss: Hello.

Gardner: Also Jeff Wacker, an EDS Fellow. Welcome, Jeff.

Jeff Wacker: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Gardner: Lastly, Doug Oathout, vice president of Green IT for HP's Enterprise Servers and Storage. Welcome Doug.

Doug Oathout: Good afternoon. Thank you.

Gardner: Doug, let's start with you. Tell us a little bit about what the major concerns are for those who are creating and consuming IT and apparently trying to reduce the amount of energy that they're consuming as well.

Cost of energy

Oathout: The major issue that customers are wrestling with is the current cost of energy. The current cost of energy continues to rise. The amount of energy used by IT is not going down. It continues to rise. So, it's becoming a larger portion of their budget. They're very concerned with managing their expense and, therefore, want to look at energy use and how they can reduce it, not only from a data center perspective, but also from consumption of the monitors, printers, and desktop PCs as well. So, the first major concern is the cost of energy to run IT.

The second one they run into is that they want to extend the life of their data center. They don't want to have to spend $10 million, $50 million, or $100 million to build another data center in this economic environment. They want to extend the life of their data center. So, they want to know anything possible, from best practices to new equipment to new cooling designs, to help them extend the life of the data center.

Lastly, they're concerned with regulations coming in the marketplace. A number of countries already have a demand to reduce power consumption through most of their major companies. We have a European Code of Conduct, that's optional for data centers, and then the U.S. has regulations now in front of Congress to start a cap-and-trade system.

As regulations get passed around the world, clients and customers are going to have to react to them, and they're going to have to know how much energy they're using, as well as their carbon footprint, so they can act upon it to meet the regulatory environment.

Gardner: So, Doug, this is by no means just a "nice to have," this is pretty much a "must-do."

Oathout: This is a must-do. The business environment is saying, "You've got to reduce cost," and then the government is going to come in and say, "You're going to have to reduce your energy." So, this is a must-do.

Gardner: The role of IT is I suppose, fairly prominent, and not just a rounding error.

Oathout: No, it's a big opportunity for the clients, because they can use IT to fix their inefficient processes or to fix how things are running. They can use IT to put intelligence behind some of their processes to reduce the amount of energy and carbon they produce.

Gardner: That means that IT perhaps is more of a solution to the general energy problems than simply the amount of energy that it consumes as a department?

Backbone of digitization

Oathout: It's exactly that. IT can multiply the effects of intelligence being built into the system. IT is the backbone of digitization of information, which allows smart business people to make good, sound decisions.

Gardner: Let's go to Paul Miller now. What are some common issues that you're seeing among the users of your services and solutions at HP? What's the common thought around some of your infrastructure efficiency demands?

Miller: One of the key issues is who owns the problem of energy within the business and within the data center. IT clearly has a role. The CFO has a role. The data center facilities manager has a role. One of the key issues, when we go into a customer, is determining who owns the problem and who owns the decision to change the problem?

The other key element, and we talk about this, is that you can't manage what you can't see. There are very limited tools today to understand where energy is being used, how efficient systems are, and how making changes in your data center can help the end customer.

That's where HP has assembled a set of tools and services that can come in and help customers instrument their data centers. Our expertise in knowing where and how changes to different equipment, different software models, and different service models can drive a significant impact to the amount of energy that customers are using and also help them grow their capacity at the same time.

We recently introduced a product called our Environmental Edge, which instruments an entire data center from those to services to help customers deploy and build brand new data centers.

Technologies like our containers, which we call our Performance-Optimized Data Center (POD), have been designed specifically to enable customers to achieve the highest power utilization and lowest cost for building out a data center. Those are some of the options that we can bring to a customer that has infrastructure energy issues.

Gardner: When we factor in the cost of energy, it seems that the return on investment (ROI) equation moves quite a bit closer to a short-term calculation. Is there some sort of an energy arithmetic that you're seeing among folks, as they examine their spending?

Everyone needs rapid ROI

Miller: In today's economy, everyone needs an ROI that's as quick as possible. It's gone from 12 months down to 6 months. With our new ProLiant G6 servers, the cost and energy savings alone is so significant, when you tie in technologies like virtualization and the power and performance we have, we're seeing up to three months ROI over older servers by companies being able to save on energy plus software costs. It's just not focusing on the energy as energy's sake, but also looking at the efficiencies of the rest of the data center that we take into account.

Gardner: Does the general movement towards conservation across the corporation require a bit of an organizational shift? Do the folks in IT now need to relate to other groups in the organization that they perhaps didn't have to before?

Miller: Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, typically, the energy costs come at an aggregate level of facilities organizations, and being able to communicate what changes we can make from an IT standpoint into those organizations is critical. It goes all the way up to energy utilization being a corporate issue in helping build the corporate brand by implementing technologies that help a corporation put on a green set of initiatives and help build the entire brand for the company.

Gardner: Let's go next to Christine Reischl. Christine, with millions literally of servers pouring off of assembly lines, what do you do in terms of bringing energy efficiency into the design? Is there a great deal being done across the life cycle of the products themselves?

Reischl: Yes. Energy efficiency is one of our critical design objectives for our product, and we have been innovating in power cooling and software for years now. We have quite a significant amount of HP Labs activity going on with process applications, and so forth. Our customers are benefiting from that hardware right now.

As an example, the G6 servers, the new generation of our x86 servers, which use 50 percent less power, are 50 percent more energy efficient and have 50 percent less power utilization than servers sold several years ago. In addition to that, there is a claiming capacity possibility, as well as extending the life of the data center.

How did we do that for our G6 servers? It was really coming with innovation. The first one, as an example, involves the Sea of Sensors, which are 32 smart thermal sensors across our servers that constantly optimize the energy use, the fan speed, and the acoustics.

Another example is the Dynamic Power Capping, where we have a safe way of limiting the power

Energy efficiency is one of our critical design objectives for our product, and we have been innovating in power cooling and software for years now

draw or power consumption without impacting performance, so that customers can really fill up their racks and up to triple their service in the data center.

Another example is the common power supply, which allows the power supply to run at efficiency levels of 92 percent and above, which again helps with the power consumption tremendously. Those are the examples of our G6, a broad new generation of x86 servers which came out end of March and is here, filling out the portfolio.

At the same time, we also have announced just recently a new product family, the SL product family, which allows for specific energy savings of 30 percent for a current generation of products. This is specifically, from a design objective, targeting a low-Watt environment per server.

Gardner: As we pointed out earlier, this whole ROI equation is so important, assuming that we're only getting a certain distance into what's potentially possible at energy savings. How far into this potential efficiency drive do you think we are?

Continuous innovation

Reischl: Well, we have been investing in that area for several years now. We will have an energy power cooling roadmap and we will continuously launch innovation as we go along. We also have an overall environment around power and cooling, which we call the Thermal Logic environment. Under this umbrella, we are not only innovating on the hardware side, but on the software side as well, to ensure that we can benefit on both sides for our customers.

In addition to that, HP ProCurve, for example, has switches that now use 40 percent less energy than industry average network switches. We also have our StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array, which reduces the cost of power and cooling by 50 percent using thin provisioning and larger capacity disks.

So, not only are we talking about servers, but we are also talking about storage and ProCurve

That is clearly a big benefit for winning deals and helping our customer to operate efficiency.

switches in this context. The greater HP environment around innovation is on those greater types of divisions and engagements.

Gardner: I've received questions about Energy Star ratings and what that means. Are there certain incentives in terms of whether you adopt an Energy Star-rated device or not, how does that work?

Reischl: The high-volume products or our G6 servers have the Energy Star rating. Clearly, what it documents and demonstrates is that we are the only ones in the industry who are able to certify for Energy Star, which again speaks to the fact of how power- and cooling-efficient our servers are. That is clearly a big benefit for winning deals and helping our customer to operate efficiency.

Gardner: Thank you so much. Michelle Weiss, when it comes to people and process, when we look at solutions level approaches to IT and overall energy conservation, what is HP doing? What are some of the general solution approaches to helping your customers get greener?

Weiss: Well, Dana, for us it's pretty simple, because it's really all about helping clients use their resources -- using what you've got more efficiently and effectively.

You can start with those infrastructure resources. We just heard Christine speak to those and Paul as well. We can help clients with things like consolidation, whether simple consolidation or all the way up to a big data-center consolidation, like HP did, going from 85 data centers down to 6 locations.

We could help with virtualization. We could also help with networking, a more efficient network design, or more efficient installation. Christine spoke about storage. We could certainly go to and help people profile their data to see if there is wasted space or if the data needs to be tiered or consolidated.

Obviously, we're talking about energy and energy-efficiency analysis. Paul was talking about the facilities and the IT person coming together and having a discussion.

Hands-on assessment

We can go in and do a hands-on assessment of the actual power use in the data center and provide people with a report that says, "Here's what you're using and here's our recommendation." We can go from a very low cost recommendation, like, "You should shut down an air conditioner," all the way up to a very extensive recommendation.

Let me talk for just a second about the human resources, because you spoke about that, and I think it's an often-overlooked area about getting more efficiency out of our human resources.

We have a lot of HP education, very much geared for IT personnel around getting them more capable and effective around technology areas like virtualization. But, we also have a lot of capability to help people with training in the use of things like videoconferencing with Halo technology, etc. So, it's all of those things together, using those resources more efficiently.

Gardner: Now, there is more than energy when it comes to being green. There is reducing

. . . by 2010, HP will have recycled over two billion pounds of product.

waste, recycling, and examining the lifecycle of a device from cradle to grave, and then also being mindful of how to properly dispose of those parts that can't be recycled. Tell us about the solutions are for how equipment gets sunset.

Weiss: This is a really interesting area. I don't know if you know this, Dana, but by 2010, HP will have recycled over two billion pounds of product. For someone that's always trying to lose weight, I think about that -- my God, that's a lot of product.

We've won a lot of recycling awards throughout the U.S. and abroad. We we’re the first computer company to actually have a recycling plant -- it's actually located near to me -- which we opened about a dozen years ago. So, we do a lot of that.

We also provide other options for disposal, other options to purchase recycled or refurbished products for our customers, and we also have HP Financial Services that come in and ensure that IT equipment that has passed its prime can actually be disposed of in a way that will help meet local environmental laws. We have a lot of work on asset recovery and a lot of work on that end stage of the lifecycle.

Gardner: Is there a great deal of education that needs to take place with IT? Are IT folks generally already thinking about life cycle and recycling, or is this an educational issue as well?

Thinking of a lifecycle

Weiss: It's both. IT tends to think in terms of a lifecycle. If you think about ITIL and all of the processes and procedures most IT people follow, they tend to be more process oriented than most groups. But, there is even more understanding now about that latter stage of the lifecycle and not just in terms of disposing of equipment.

The other area that people are really thinking about now is data -- what do you do at the end of the lifecycle of data? How do you keep the data around that you need to, and what do you do about data that you need to archive and maybe put on less energy-consuming devices? That's a very big area.

Gardner: Having high redundancy of data, of course, is basically wasted cycles, wasted electrons, and wasted money.

Weiss: Exactly. That footprint is very large when you really think about that entire supply chain of energy.

Gardner: Thanks so much. Let's go over to Jeff Wacker at EDS, an HP company. As a fellow there at EDS, Jeff, tell us a bit about what EDS, as a very large global hosting organization, is doing in regard to going green.

Wacker: We're a services play. We look for total solutions, as opposed to spot solutions, as we approach the entire ecology, energy, and efficiency triumvirate. It's all three of those things in one. It's not just energy. It's all three.

My colleagues have talked very eloquently about data centers and hardware. I'll mention a little more on data centers. One of the things I wanted to bring up was that we look from the origination all the way through the delivery of the data in a business process. Not only do we do the data centers, and run servers, storage, and communications, but we also run applications.

You may not have heard of green applications, but, indeed, applications are also high on the order of whether they are green or not. First of all, it means reconciling an application's portfolio, so that you're not running three applications in three different places. That will run three different server platforms and therefore will require more energy.

It's being able to understand the inefficiencies with which we've coded much of our application services in the past, and understanding that there are much more efficient ways to use the emerging technologies and the emerging servers than we've ever used before. So, we have a very high focus on building green applications and reconciling existing portfolios of applications into green portfolios.

How you use IT

Moving onto the business processes, the best data delivered into the worst process will not improve that process at all. It will just have extended it. Business process outsourcing, business process consulting, and understanding how you use IT in the business is continuing to have a very large impact on environmental and green.

Gardner: Now, given that you have high stakes in cutting your cost and reducing redundancy and waste, I'd think this goes right to your bottom line as an outsourcer. What metrics of success do you use, how do you measure, and how do you know when you're doing the right things?

Wacker: It's a good question. There are a lot of metrics out there, and a lot of them were built with the efficiency of buildings in mind, and some, directly with data centers in mind. The defense council on integration and efficiency has created a data-center infrastructure efficiency (DCIE). There is a power-usage effectiveness (PUE), or essentially an inverse of one over the other. What they do is ask, "How many Watts does it take for you to run the infrastructure of the data center in order to drive a watt of power at a server?"

These are traditional metrics. Quite frankly, right now we, as well as others in the industry, are looking at new metrics, because it's both sides of the equation. You want an efficient data center. You want efficient use of the watts that are going into the servers. So, you now have to consider how many partitions am I running, how smart are the power supplies and the fans on these servers, everything that's been talked about before.

Moving into the data center, we're looking at capabilities that are using, for example, air

. . . if you know where you're getting your IT from, you can ask that supplier how green is your IT, and hold that supplier to a high standard of green IT.

handling in the proper locations that allow you not to use compression. Anybody who runs their air conditioner during the summer knows that a lot of their electricity charges are running that compressor, which is actually creating the cooling capability for their house.

If we are locating some of our data centers in locations where the air is of a certain temperature that allows us to run data centers without compression 97 or 98 percent of the year, you can imagine that we have created quite a bit of savings for us.

Gardner: That's true, of course, for your data centers. Other organizations that are looking at how to place their data centers, I suppose, have more sourcing options. We've heard a lot about cloud computing recently. How impactful is this long-term decision about how many data centers? I suppose also at the architectural level of what sort of applications and architectures you want to support, is this top of mind for all the folks you're dealing with?

Wacker: Well, it is becoming top of mind, and you've already identified the major culprit in this. That is that the cost of energy is going to continue to accelerate, and to be higher and higher, and therefore a major component of your cost structure in running IT. So yes, everybody is looking at that.

One of the things about what has been called cloud or Adaptive Infrastructure is that you've got to look at it from two sides. One, if you know where you're getting your IT from, you can ask that supplier how green is your IT, and hold that supplier to a high standard of green IT. That's the type of a standard that HP seeks to meet at all times.

But, not everybody who is going to be running computing infrastructure within the cloud is going to meet that. So, one of the big challenges of cloud computing is how green are they. You, as a corporation, have to identify all of your green for cap-and-trade or for the regulations. You're going to have to know that. So there are going to be some interesting disclosures that will be coming up as we move down the road.

A two-sided sword

On the other hand, cloud is, by its definition, moving a lot of processes into a very few number of boxes -- ultra virtualization, ultra flexibility. So it's a two-sided sword and both sides have to be looked at. One, is for you to be able to get the benefits of the cloud, but the other one is to make sure that the cost of the cloud, both in terms of capabilities as well as the environment, are in your mindset as you contract.

Gardner: Unfortunately, we're asking even more of our beleaguered IT executives and strategists. They're being asked to do more for less now in terms of productivity, but we're going to be asking them to do less in terms of their energy use, and then thinking outside the box when it comes to the sourcing options and how to factor the green across an ecology of providers.

I'd like to take the question to both Paul and Michelle. How do these IT strategists get a handle on this? What are some first steps for them?

Weiss: Let me start and then I can turn it over to Paul. One of the really clear things we have seen in our experience is that taking a set of uncoordinated approaches to this whole area just doesn't work. You really are better off if you have a top-down view of what you're trying to do. So, always understand your strategy and build the plan around that.

Certainly, we've got services both from our Technology Services organization and from Jeff in

We can help make that case in business language, because this is all about business technology.

EDS about helping people make the case. As Paul was talking earlier today, many people are actually making the case to their CFO. It's no longer always a CIO concern.

We can help make that case in business language, because this is all about business technology. It's all about driving business outcomes. We can help make that case in plain business terms, either around energy efficiency that you can do, around adopting, for example, the G6 servers, or around a virtualization project. We can do that in business language.

Gardner: Paul, what sort of approaches won't work? The first thing that comes to my mind is doing nothing. It sounds like proactive is the message of the day.

Miller: Yeah, two things ... One is doing nothing. The other is jumping at a lot of claims out there. There are multiple claims out there. Every time I see a press release or I see an advertisement, it has a claim on energy efficiency. As Jeff pointed out, you need to have an approach on this that looks at it from a data center, from a PUE, standpoint, and just not jump on the claim of the day.

The other element is that the claim of the day is done a lot around a specific application or a specific setup that may not be appropriate for your business. So, take time to research. Look for companies like HP that have power calculators that you can plug your own unique configurations into, but then go beyond that.

Coordinated approach

One of the other things, and this goes to what Michelle was talking about, is a coordinated approach. A coordinated approach is not just about buying energy efficient equipment. It's about managing them very effectively.

We have our power capping tool, which enables you to set specific power limits within the data center, so that you can guarantee an outcome for your energy, an outcome for your power, an outcome for your performance that you're going to have from a service-level agreement (SLA). Building intelligence into them is critical for the long-term success and long-term savings of power for your environment.

Gardner: A last set of questions. Doug, at this point, what should we expect in the future? Are we undertaking a journey and we're only in the very first steps, now that energy and the environment have become so prominent?

Oathout: Dana, this is an ongoing process. This process of energy efficiency never ends. As Michelle and Paul pointed out, once you undertake a simple assessment of figuring out how much energy you're consuming, where it’s being consumed, then you develop a roadmap for virtualization, you develop a roadmap for consolidation, you develop a roadmap for application efficiency, then you start all over again.

It's an ongoing, continuous process improvement that you do every day, every week, every month. It's a journey that bears fruit. It can be a small project or it can be a large project, but the key is to have a snapshot of where you are today and then measure yourself on an ongoing basis on your progression.

The servers are more efficient than they were three years ago. Our storage is more efficient than

It's an ongoing, continuous process improvement that you do every day, every week, every month. It's a journey that bears fruit.

it was three years ago. Our networking is more efficient. There are all different kinds of projects based on technology, but there is also technology in software and services that can help you gain even more efficiencies. This is the beginning of a never-ending process, but it does bear fruit on an ongoing basis.

Gardner: I have to imagine that a lot of people feel pretty strongly about this, and the community approach could be quite powerful. Do we have avenues for how folks in the field who might have some ideas themselves about process, technology, and perhaps even other aspects of this equation can contribute?

Oathout: We have both an internal and an external green website that is continually taking questions and being monitored for ideas. Our internal sales team can go through our green website, and our external clients and consultants can take advantage of HP's knowledge, as well, through our external green website.

Gardner: Well, I'm afraid we're about out of time. We've been discussing green IT and the many ways that IT can help reduce energy and play a larger role in the "greenification" of enterprises at large.

We've been joined by a panel of five executives from HP. We've been joined by Christine Reischl, general manager of HP's Industry Standard Servers. Thank you, Christine.

Reischl: Thank you.

Gardner: Paul Miller, vice president of Enterprise Servers and Storage Marketing at HP. Thank you, Paul.

Miller: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: Michelle Weiss, vice president of marketing for HP's Technology Services.

Weiss: It's been a pleasure.

Gardner: Jeff Wacker, an EDS Fellow. Thank you, Jeff.

Wacker: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And Doug Oathout, vice president of Green IT for HP's Enterprise Servers and Storage.

Oathout: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner. You have been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast. Thanks for joining and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Transcript of a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast on making progress toward Green IT and on what companies can do to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon footprints and save money. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2009. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Improved Insights and Analysis From Systems Logs Reduce Complexity Risks From Virtualization

Transcript of BriefingsDirect podcast on the infrastructure management and security challenges of virtualization.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: LogLogic.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect. Today, a sponsored podcast discussion about virtualization, and how to better improve management of virtualization, to gain better security using virtualization techniques, and also to find methods for compliance and regulation -- but without the pitfalls of complexity and mismanagement.

We're going to be talking about virtualization best practices with several folks who are dealing with this at several different levels. We're going to hearing from VMware, Unisys and LogLogic.

Let me introduce our panel today. First, we're joined by Charu Chaubal, senior architect for technical marketing, at VMware. Welcome, Charu.

Charu Chaubal: Thank you.

Gardner: We're also joined by Chris Hoff, chief security architect at Unisys. Hi, Chris.

Chris Hoff: Hi, how are you?

Gardner: Great. Also, Dr. Anton Chuvakin, chief logging evangelist and a security expert at LogLogic. Welcome to the show.

Dr. Anton Chuvakin: Hello. Thank you.

Gardner: Virtualization has certainly taken off, and this is nothing new to VMware. Organizations like Unisys are now doing quite a bit to help organizations that utilize, expand, and enjoy the benefits of virtualization. But virtualization needs to be done the correct way, without avoid pitfalls. If you do it too tactically, without allowing it to be part of an IT lifecycle and without management, then the fruits and benefits of virtualization can be largely lost.

Before we get into what virtualization can do, what to avoid, and how to better approach it, I'd like to just take a moment and try to determine why virtualization is really hot and taking off in the market now.

Let's start with Chris Hoff at Unisys. Some of these technologies have been around for many years. What is it about this point in time that is really making virtualization so hot?

Hoff: It's the confluence of quite a few things, and we see this sort of event happen in information technology (IT) quite often. You have the practically perfect storm of economics, technology, culture, and business coming together at one really interesting point in time.

The first thing that comes to mind is when people think about the benefits. The reasons people are virtualizing are cost, cost savings and then cost avoidance, which is usually seconded by agility and flexibility. It’s also about being able to, as an IT organization, service your constituent customers in a manner that is more in line with the way business functions, which is, in many cases, quite a fast pace -- with the need to be flexible.

These things are contributing a lot to the uptake, not to mention the advent of a lot of new technology in both hardware and software, which is starting to enable some of this to be more realistic in a business environment.

Gardner: Now over to VMware. Charu, tell us how deep and wide virtualization is emerging? It seems like people are using it in more and more ways, and in more and more places.

Chaubal: That's right. When the x86 virtualization first started out, maybe 10 years ago in a big way, it was largely being used in test and development types of environments. Over the last five years, it's definitely started to enter the production arena as well. We see more and more customers running even mission-critical applications on virtualization technologies.

Furthermore, we also see it across the board in terms of customer size, where everyone from the smallest customer to the very largest enterprises, are expanding further and further with their virtual environments.

Gardner: Let's go to LogLogic. Tell me, Anton, what sort of security and what sort of preventative measures are you helping your customers with in terms of gaining the visibility and the analytics about what's going on among these many moving parts? Many of these deployments are in now in an automated mode, more so than before they were virtualized. What are some of the issues that are you helping people deal with?

Chuvakin: You were exactly right about the visibility into the environments. As people deploy different types of IT infrastructure, first physical and now virtual, there is always a challenge of figuring out what happens with those PCs, at those PCs, which people are trying to connect to, or even attack them, and do all these at the same time around the clock.

Adding virtualization to the technology that people use in such a massive way as it's occurring now brings up the challenges of how do we know what happens in those environments. Is there anybody trying to abuse them, just use them, or use them inappropriately? Is there a lack of auditability and control in those environments? Logs are definitely one of the ways, or I would say a primary way, of gaining that visibility for most IT compliance, and virtualization is no exception.

As a result, as people deploy VMware and applications in a couple of virtual platforms, the challenge is knowing what actually happens on those platforms, what happens in those virtual machines (VMs), and what happens with the applications. Logging and LogLogic play a very critical role in not only collecting those bits and pieces, but also creating a big picture or a view of that activity across other organizations.

Virtualization definitely solves some of the problems, but at the same time, it brings in and brings out new things, which people really aren't used to dealing with. For example, it used to be that if you monitor a server, you know where the server is, you then know how to monitor it, you know what applications run there.

In virtual environments, that certainly is true, but at the same time it adds another layer of this server going somewhere else, and you monitor where it was moved, where it is now, and basically perform monitoring as servers come up and down, disappear, get moved, and that type of stuff.

Gardner: Now, Chris at Unisys, when you're dealing with customers, based on what we've heard about this expansion of virtualization, you're dealing with it on an applications level, and also on the infrastructure and server level.

What’s more, some folks are now getting into desktop virtualization infrastructure and delivering whole desktop interfaces out to end-user devices. This impacts not just a server. We're talking about network devices and storage devices. This is a bit more than a tactical issue. It really starts getting strategic pretty quickly.

Hoff: That's absolutely correct. If you really look at virtualization as an enabling technology or platform, as we can look out to the next three years of large companies use from the perspective of their strategic plans, you'll notice that there is a large trend toward what you might call "real-time infrastructure."

The notion here is about how you apply and take this enabling technology in the benefits of virtualization and leverage that to provide automation re-purposing. You have to deal with elements and issues that relate to charge-back for assets, as IT becomes more of a utility service.

If we look further out from there, we look at the governance issues of what it means to not really focus on hardware anymore, or even applications -- but on service and service levels. It gets a lot more strategic at times, played out all along the continuum.

While we focus virtualization on the notion of infrastructure and technology, what's really starting to happen now -- and what's important with the customers that we deal with -- is being able to unite both business process and business strategy, along with the infrastructure and the architecture that support it.

So we're a little excited and frothed up as it relates to all the benefits of virtualization today, and the bigger picture is even more exciting and interesting. That's going to fundamentally continue to cause us to change what we do and how we do it, as we move forward. Visibility is very important, but understanding the organizational and operational impacts that real-time infrastructure and virtualization bring, is really going to be an interesting challenge for folks to get their hands around.

Gardner: Now, Charu at VMware, you obviously are building out what you consider the premier platform and approach to virtualization technically. You've heard, obviously, the opportunity for professional services and methodologies for approaching this, and you have third parties like LogLogic that are trying to provide better visibility across many different systems and devices.

How are you using this information in terms of what you bring to the management table for folks who are moving from, say, tactical to more strategic use of virtualization?

Chaubal: A lot of customers are expanding their virtualization so much now, to the point where they're hitting some interesting challenges that they maybe wouldn't have hit before. One great example is around compliance, such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI) compliance. There are a lot of questions right now around virtualizing those systems that process credit card holder data.

Chaubal: They're asking, "If I do this, am I going to be compliant with PCI? Is this something that's a realistic possibility? If it is, how do I go about demonstrating this to an auditor?"

This is where partners like LogLogic come into play, because they have the tools that can help achieve this. We believe that VMware provides a compliance-ready type of platform, so it is something you can achieve compliance with. But, in order to demonstrate and maintain that compliance, it's useful to have these tools from partners that can help you do that.

Gardner: Now, Anton at LogLogic, you're able to examine a number of different systems, gather information, correlate that information, do analytics, and provide a picture of what should be happening. Or, when something is not happening, you can look for the reasons why and look for aberrant or unusual behavior. So let's address security a little bit.

What are some of the challenges in terms of security when you move from a physical environment for compute power and resources to a virtualized environment? Then second, what about the mixture? It is obviously going to be both physical and virtualized instances of infrastructure and applications. Tell us about the security implications.

Chuvakin: I just follow the same logic I used for our recent webcast about virtualization security. In this webcast, I basically presented a full view of things that are the same and that are different in virtualized environments. I'll use the same structure, because some people who get too frothy, as Greg put it, about virtualization just stick to "virtualization changes everything." That is used sometimes as an excuse to not do things that you should continue doing in a virtualized environment.

Let's start from what things are the same. When you migrate from a physical to a virtual infrastructure, you certainly still have servers and applications running in those servers and you have people managing those servers. That leaves you with the need to monitor the same audit and the same security technologies that you use. You shouldn't stop. You shouldn't throw away your firewalls. You shouldn't throw away your log analysis tool, because you still have servers and applications.

They might be easier to monitor in virtual environments. It might sometimes be harder, but you shouldn't change things that are working for you in the physical environment, because virtualization does change a few things. At the same time, the fact that you have applications, servers, and they serve you for business purposes, shouldn't stop you from doing useful things you're doing now.

Now, an additional layer on top of what you already have adds the new things that come with virtualization. The fact that this server might be there one day, but be gone tomorrow -- or not be not there one day and be built up and used for a while and then removed -- definitely brings the new challenges to security monitoring, security auditing in figuring out who did what where.

The definition of "who" didn't change. It's still a user, but what and where definitely did change. I mean, if it was done on a certain server, in virtual environment it might not be a server -- it might be a virtual image, which adds additional complexities

There are also new things that just don't have any occurrence in the physical environment -- for example, a rogue VM, a VM that is built by somebody who is not authorized to run VMs. It might be the end user who actually has his own little mini infrastructure. It brings up all sorts of forensic challenges that you have now solved. You don't just investigate a machine. You investigate a machine with a virtual platform, with another server on top, or another desktop on top.

This is my view of things that are the same that you should continue doing and things that are new that you should start learning how to audit and how to analyze the activity in the virtual environments, as well as how to do forensics, if what you have is a machine with potential a rogue VM.

Gardner: How about you, Chris at Unisys, how do you view implications for security and risk mitigation when it comes to moving increasingly into virtualized environments?

Hoff: I have to take a pretty pragmatic approach. The reality is that there are three conversations and three separate questions that need to be addressed, when you're talking about security in virtualized environments.

Unfortunately, what usually happens is that all three of them are combined into one giant question, which tends to lead to more confusion. So I like to separate the virtualization and security questions into three parts.

One of them is securing virtualization, and understanding what the impacts are on your architecture, your infrastructure, and your business process and models, when you introduce this new virtualization layer. That's really about securing the underlying virtualization platforms and understanding what happens and what changes when you introduce that, assuming that you have a decent understanding of what that means, and how that will ultimately flow down operationally.

The second point or question to address is one of virtualizing security, which is actually the operational element of, "What does it mean, and how do I go about taking what I might do in the physical world, and replicate that and/or even improve it in the virtual world?"

That's an interesting question, assuming that you have a good understanding of architecture and things that matter most to you, and how you might protect them, or how you might not be doing that. You may find several gaps today in your ability to actually do what you do in the physical world.

The third element is security through virtualization, which is okay, assuming that I have a good architectural blueprint and that I understand the impacts, the models, who and what changes operationally, how I have to go about securing things, and what benefits I get out of virtualization.

How do I actually improve my security posture by using these platforms and this technology? If you look at that, if you look at it in that way, you really are able to start dealing with the issues associated with each category. You could probably guess that if you mixed all three of them up, you could go down one path, and very easily be distracted by another.

When we break out the conversations with customers like that, it always comes back to a very basic premise that we seem to have forgotten in our industry. Despite all the technology, despite all the tools, and all of the things that go blinky-blink at night, the reality is that this comes down to being able to appropriately manage risk. That starts with understanding the things that matter to you most and using risk assessment frameworks and processes.

In a gross analogy, when you go to a grocery store and you take time to pack your frozen goods in one bag, and your canned goods and your soft goods in other bags, you use this compartmentalization, understanding what the impact is of all of the wonderful mobility, balanced with compliance and security needs.

If you got home, and you've got canned goods in with your fruit, the reality is that you've not done a good job of compartmentalizing and understanding what the impact of one good might have on the other.

The same thing applies in the virtual world. If you don't take the time to go back to the basics, understanding the impact of the infrastructure and the changes -- you're going to be a world of hurt later, even if you get the cost benefits and all the wonderful agility and mobility.

We really approach it pragmatically in a rational manner, such that people understand both the pluses, the pros and the cons of virtualization in their environments.

Gardner: We've determined that virtualization is quite hot. It's ramping up quickly. A number of studies have shown a 50-70 percent increase in the use of virtualization in the last few years. Projections continue for very fast-paced growth.

We also see a number of organizations using multiple vendors, when it comes to virtualization. We've also discussed how security and complexity apply to this, and that you need a comprehensive or contextual view of what's going on with your systems -- particularly if you have a mixture of physical and virtual.

Let's look at some examples of how this has been mitigated, how the risk has actually been decreased, and how the fruits, if you will, of virtualization are enjoyed without the pitfalls.

Let's first go to Charu at VMware. Can you offer some examples of how people have used virtualization, done it the right away, avoided some of these pitfalls, and have gained the visibility and analytics and therefore helped with their matured approach to virtualization?

Chaubal: One thing we've done at VMware over the last year and a half is try to provide as much prescriptive guidance as we can. So a lot of securing of virtualization comes down to making sure you actually deploy it [properly].

So, one thing that we've done is created hardening guides that really aim to show customers how this can be done. That's proved to be very popular among our customers.

Not to get into too much detail, but one of the main issues is the fact that you have a virtualization layer that typically has a management interface in it. Then, you have the interface that goes into your virtual machines. People need to understand that this management layer needs to be completely separated from the actual production network.

That principle is manifested in different recommendations and scenarios, when you plan a deployment and configure it. That's just one example where customers have been able to make use of our prospective guidance. Then, they architect something that is actually much more secure than possibly they would have with some preconceived notions that they might have had. I think that's one area where we are seeing success.

Gardner: Let's go to LogLogic. Anton, give us some examples, actual companies or at least use-case scenarios, where the use of LogLogic, or the methodologies that it supports, have brought to bear on virtualization – to lower the cost, increased performance, gain higher utilization, and so forth -- but without some of these risks.

Chuvakin: I'll give an example of a retail company that was using LogLogic for compliance, as well for operational usage, such as troubleshooting their servers. This company, in a separate project, was implementing virtualization to convert some of their infrastructure to a virtual machine.

At some point, those two projects mainly had their log management to track operations to satisfy PCI requirements. These issues collided with the virtualization projects, and the company realized that they now have to not just collect logs from the physical infrastructure, but also from the virtual side that is now being built.

What happened was that the logs from the virtual infrastructure were also streamed into LogLogic. Now, LogLogic has the ability to collect any type of a log. In this case, we did use that capability to collect the log, which were at the time not even supported or analyzed by LogLogic.

The customers understood that they have to collect the logs from the virtual platforms, and that LogLogic has an ability to collect any type of a log. They first started from a log collection effort, so that they could always go back and say, "We've got this data somewhere, and you can go and investigate it."

We also built up a package of contents to analyze the logs as they were starting their collection efforts to have logs ready for users. At LogLogic, we built and set up reports and searches to help them go through the data. So, it was really going in parallel with that, building up some analytic content to make sense of the data, if a customer already has a collection effort, which included logs from the virtual platform.

In this case, it was actually a great success story because we used part of the LogLogic infrastructure that doesn't rely on any preconceived notions of what the logs are. Then, they built up on top of that to help them pinpoint the issues with their VMs to see who accesses the platforms, what applications people use to manage the environment, and, basically, to track all sorts of interest in events in their virtual infrastructure.

I have to admit that it wasn't really tested on their PCI yet, but I'm pretty confident that their PCI auditors will accept what they did for the virtual environment. And, they would satisfy the requirements of PCI, which calls for logging and monitoring, as well as the requirements in the compliance mandate.

At the same time, while they are building it for that use, their analysts are already trying to do searches and look certain things that might be out of order in their VM environment. An operational use-case spontaneously emerged, and now they not only have their own idea for what to look for, but also our content to do that.

Gardner: You bring up a point here that we shouldn't overlook. This isn't something that you just build and walk away from. It requires ongoing refinement tuning. The dynamic nature of virtualization, while perhaps automated in terms of allocating resources, is an overall process that needs to be managed in order for these business outcomes to be enjoyed.

Let's go back to Chris at Unisys. Tell us about the ongoing nature of virtualization. How do you keep on top of it? How do you keep it performing well, and perhaps even eke out more optimized utilization benefits?

Hoff: There's not a whole lot of difference in terms of how you might apply the same query to non-virtualized infrastructure. It's not a monolithic single-time event, but, as I alluded to in a previous answer, the next extension should be evolution along the continuum. That notion of real-time infrastructure really does take in the concept of a lot of tasks.

Today, we are quite operationally inefficient in doing that, both from the perspective of practice and infrastructure utilization, and really making sure that our infrastructure, and the compute and storage, and all of the things that go into, up in our infrastructure become much more efficient, for power, cost efficiency, utility, and flexibility.

When you unite all of those capabilities, what it's going to mean going forward is a much more rich methodology and model for taking business process and instantiating that as an expression of policy within your infrastructure. So, you can say the things that are most important to your business are these processes, and these services.

What you need to be able to do, and ultimately what it means to automation and the efficiency problems, is that the infrastructure needs to self-govern, self-provision and re-provision. You need to be to able to allocate cost back to your constituents, and it gets closer and closer to becoming a loose, but federated, group of services. It can essentially play and interact in real-time to service the needs of the business.

All the benefits that we get out of virtualization today are just the beginning and kind of the springboard for what we are going to see in terms of automation, which is great. But we are right at the same problem set, as we kind of pogo along this continuum, which is trying really hard to unite this notion of governance and making sure that just because you can, doesn't mean you should. In certain instances the business processes and policies might prescribe that you don't do some things that would otherwise be harmful in your perspective.

It's that delicate balance of security versus operational agility that we need to get much better at, and much more intelligent about, as we use our virtualization as an enabler. That's going to bring some really interesting and challenging things to the forefront in the way in which IT operates -- benefits and then differences.

Gardner: In the way that you were describing this continuum, it almost sounds like you were alluding to cloud computing, as it's being defined more and more -- and perhaps the “private cloud,” where people would be managing their internal enterprise IT resources from a cloud perspective. Am I overstating it?

Hoff: No, I don't think you're overstating it. I think that's a reasonable assertion and assumption based on what I am saying. The difficulty in using the "cloud" word is that it means a lot of things to lots of people. I think you brought up three definitions in your one sentence.

But the notion of being able to essentially utilize our resources pretty much anywhere, regardless of who owns the infrastructure, is something that's enticing and brings up a host of wonderful issues that make security people like me itchy.

If you read Nicolas Carr's book The Big Switch, and you think about utility or grid computing or whatever you want to call it -- the notion of being able to better utilize my resources, balance that with security, and be very agile -- it's fun times ahead. You are absolutely right. I was alluding to the C-word, yes.

Gardner: Okay. Charu at VMware, given that organizations are at different rates of adoption around virtualization -- some are just starting to test the waters -- but the end goal for some of these adopters could be this cloud-compute value, this fabric of IT value.

How are people getting started, and how should they get started in a way that sets them up for this longer-term payoff?

Chaubal: That's a very broad question, but I think it is important that you can go in and use virtualization to consolidate physical servers on to smaller number of physical servers, and you get that savings that way. If that's the approach you take, you might end up at a dead-end, or you might get off on a tangent somewhere.

What we find is that there is really a maturity curve when it comes to virtualization adoption, and one of the most important axes along that curve is, in a broad sense, your operational maturity.

When you are starting out, sure, go ahead and consolidate servers. That's a good way to get some quick wins, but you're rapidly going to come to a point where you need to start to imposing an operational discipline and policies and procedures that perhaps you didn't have before.

Perhaps you had them, but they weren't all that rigidly adhered to or weren't really followed all the time. The most important thing is that you start thinking about this operational maturity, and then go to things like being able to standardize upon processes and standardize upon the way things are configured.

Any kind of process you do, make sure it goes through the right steps in terms of getting it approved. There is a whole methodology around that, and that's one of the things that we spend a lot of time with our customers.

We have this graph where, if you can look at how many servers are virtualized over time, we would like to see a steady upward 45-degree angle to that curve. If somebody virtualizes too many too soon, you will see that curve shoot up sharply. Then, you repeat yourself, because you virtualized so much so quickly, and all these other issues that Chris alluded to come into play, and they might bog you down.

On the other hand, you could suffer the other extreme where you virtualize so slowly, that the curve is very shallow, and you end up leaving savings and benefits on the table, because you are just picking them up so slowly.

Gardner: Missed opportunities, right?

Chaubal: Right, exactly. The most important thing, when you are starting out, is to keep that in mind that you are not just installing a piece of software that will optimize what you have already. It's really a fundamental transformation in how you do things.

Gardner: Okay, let's take the last question to Anton at LogLogic. How do you recommend people get started, particularly in reaching this balance between wanting not to miss opportunities, wanting to be able to ramp up quickly and to enjoy the benefits that virtualization provide, but doing it in such a way that they get that visibility and analytics, and can set themselves up to be risk resistant, but also strategic in their outlook?

Chuvakin: I'll use the case that I just presented to illustrate the way to do it. As has happened with me in technology before virtualization, people will sometimes deploy it in a manner that's really makes auditing and monitoring pretty hard. So they have to go back and figure out what the technologies are doing in terms of transparency and visibility.

I suggest that, as people deploy VMware and other virtualization platforms, they instantly connect those to their log-management tools, and that log collection starts day one.

Admittedly, most of those organizations would not know what to do with those logs, but having those logs as a first step will be important. Even if you don't know how to analyze the log, you don't know what they mean, or what they're trying to tell you, you still have that repository to fall back to.

If you have to investigate an issue, an incident, or an operational issue in an environment, you still have an ability to go back and say, "Oh, something of that sort already happened to me once. Let's see what else occurred at the same time."

Even if you have no skills to delve into the full scope of how to analyze all these signals that virtual infrastructure is sending us, I would focus first on selecting the data and having the data for analysis. When you do that, your future steps or your further steps, when you make sense of the data, will be much more easy, much more transparent, and much more doable overall.

You will have to learn what the signals are, what information is being emitted by your virtual infrastructure, and then make conclusions on that. But, to even analyze the information, to make conclusions, and to figure out what's going on, you have to have the original data.

It's easier to collect the data early, because it's really not a big deal. You just send those logs to LogLogic or the log management system, and they are capable of doing that right away. Now, admittedly, you have to pick a system, such as LogLogic, that can support your virtualization infrastructure and then you can build up your analysis and your understanding and build up your true visibility, sort of the next layer of the intelligence as you go. Don't try to use the analysis right away, but start collecting it day one.

Gardner: Right, visibility early and often. I appreciate your input. We have been talking about virtualization -- how to do it right, how to enjoy lower risk, understanding security implications, but at the same time moving aggressively as you can, because they are significant economic benefits.

Helping us understand virtualization in this context, we have been joined by Charu Chaubal, senior architect in technical marketing at VMware. Thank you, sir.

Chaubal: Thank you.

Gardner: Also Chris Hoff, chief security analyst at Unisys. I really appreciate your input, Chris.

Hoff: Thanks, very much.

Gardner: And also, Dr. Anton Chuvakin, chief logging evangelist and also a security expert at LogLogic. Thank you, sir.

Chuvakin: Thank you so much for inviting me.

Gardner: I would like to thank our sponsor for this podcast, LogLogic. This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. You have been listening to a BriefingsDirect podcast. Thanks, and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: LogLogic.

Transcript of BriefingsDirect podcast on the management and security challenges of virtualization. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2008. All rights reserved.

Oracle and HP Explain History, Role and Future for New Exadata Server and Database Machine

Transcript of BriefingsDirect podcast recorded at the Oracle OpenWorld Conference in San Francisco the week of Sept. 22, 2008.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to a special BriefingsDirect Podcast recorded at the Oracle OpenWorld Conference in San Francisco. We are here the week of Sept. 22, 2008. This HP Live! Podcast is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, and distributed through the BriefingsDirect Network.

Today we are going to discuss a large and an impactful product announcement at Oracle OpenWorld that took place on Sept. 24. It was the introduction of appliances in a cooperative relationship between HP and Oracle to create some of the most high performing databases and date warehouses in history. We are going to talking about the Oracle Exadata Storage Server and -- when put together in a very impressive configuration -- what becomes the HP Oracle Database Machine.

Here to help us understand how these impressive server configurations and high-speed, extreme-performance databases came together, we are joined by Rich Palmer, the director of technology and strategy for industry standard servers at HP. We are also joined by Willie Hardie, vice president of Oracle database product marketing. Welcome to the show, Willie.

Willie Hardie: Good to be here, Dana.

Gardner: Tell me a little bit about this very momentous announcement. This has been several years in the making, but it’s not just a product announcement. It seems like an architectural shift, and also an alliance and partnership shift in terms of the cooperation between a hardware provider, in this case HP, and Oracle, until now purely a software company.

Hardie: That’s an excellent question. So what we actually announced this week is the Oracle Exadata Storage Server. Now, the Oracle Exadata Storage Server is an intelligent storage device. We’ve basically taken industry standard hardware and storage components from HP, and we’ve combined that with smart intelligence software from Oracle that allows us to offload query processing from the database servers to the storage servers.

So now they can do a lot of the work for us, to allow the stripping off of the rows and columns that we require, and push last data backups through much wider networks.

Gardner: For those of us who are not computer scientists, but are nonetheless interested in the outcomes, architecturally we are putting the intelligence that we usually have in a database server in very close proximity to the data storage itself, connecting that through a very fat pipe in the form of InfiniBand. And, in essence, parallel processing comes to bear, because of the proximity. Is that correct?

Hardie: Absolutely. So what we are able to do for the first time ever is we can use these storage devices to actually do the query processing itself. So the more that the storage server processes and we compute into our configuration, the more of the workload they can take off, which traditionally is done at the database server.

Gardner: Let’s go to Rich Palmer at HP. Tell us a little bit about the history. How did this come about, and what is it that HP has been doing to improve upon the performance of this long-term database lineage?

Rich Palmer: If you look at HP and Oracle as partners in this industry, we have a long-standing history together. We have several reference configurations, more than 50 reference configurations that we do with industry standard hardware and Oracle solutions, which we’ve been delivering for many years now.

Going back all the way to the introduction of Oracle Real Application Clusters (RAC), and even before RAC introductions, the history of the two companies really stems from two leadership positions. HP does more servers on Oracle than any other company. Oracle does more data warehouses than any other company. You bring those two forces together, and you get a very strong formidable entry into this data warehouse appliance market.

Where HP and Oracle really started this discussion stems back a couple of years, and it really became a trend in the market of bringing data and server processing power closer together; that trend has escalated over the last couple of years -- especially as so much data has been growing at exponential rates, every single year. What we found is that, you cannot push so much data over a traditional storage fabric. This new technology allows us to do that.

Gardner: And we are talking about very large data sets, of terabytes and larger, right?

Palmer: Enormous Data sets. Let me give you an example, and I think we are all very familiar with this example. We all use cell phones in today’s industry. Every one of those cell phone calls is a database record somewhere, be it on AT&T’s database or T-Mobile’s database or whomever's database -- they store that data. Now, when they are storing that data, sometimes they are going to want to move it. If you have a narrow pipe to push that data down, and you’re bringing back enormous amounts of data that is erroneous, and you don’t need the other data; all you need is just for what you’re looking for in the query.

So this process allows us to push just the query information across that pipe. Less data over the pipe, a wider pipe, and your performance goes up dramatically.

Gardner: Okay, so let’s unpack this a little bit. We’ve established that the marketplace is demanding better performance, particularly in the use of large data sets, 1 terabyte and larger up to 10 terabytes, and size often. That requires the movement of very large sets of data, and the inhibitor here was the storage’s physical capacity, and ability to deliver the data.

So you’ve re-architected, and we brought together two companies to work together. This brings the question: Why hasn’t the hardware and software duality gotten closer before this? Why now?

Palmer: In this market, it’s constantly evolving to a state where you have to bring software tools to the table, and you have to bring high-performance hardware to the table. The evolution of both of those have hit at the perfect time in the last year.

Oracle has been developing the software code for several years now, and HP has been working on the hardware side of this equation to bring together the two forces at this time. We are using industry standard technology, so it’s not something that we are the only hardware guys out there with InfiniBand, and InfiniBand is an evolving technology. But the performance of InfiniBand is at a point now where we can actually leverage it using Oracle software to offload the storage processing from the database server. Those are the two key components -- it’s not just the hardware, and it’s not just the software. You have to marry these two things together.

So why hasn’t it been done in the past? Well, it has to some degree, there are others who had tried to do this, but they haven’t done both. They haven’t been able to achieve both facets, and that’s really why this is the right product at the right time.

Gardner: Okay, Willie, let’s get into the actual product itself. Explain to me what the Oracle Exadata Storage Server actually is? What are we talking about?

Hardie: You see that the Oracle Exadata Storage Server is basically comprised of an industry standard HP DL180 Storage Server. So inside this storage server we have 12 3.5-inch disks to be 12 SATA drives. We have two Intel quad-core processors. We have 8 gigabytes of memory; we have two InfiniBand network connections, and dual power supplies.

So in this storage server we have a lot of storage capacity, we have a lot of processing power, and we have a lot of network bandwidth. Then the real secret sauce here is this intelligence software from Oracle that’s installed into each and every one of those devices. It’s this intelligent software that enables us to offload this query processing, which makes the Oracle Exadata Storage Server really unique.

Gardner: Okay, let's dumb this down a little bit in simplistic terms. Instead of large data sets moving from storage to the database and back, what happens differently now?

Hardie: What happens differently now is, because we are offloading the query processing at the storage server, the storage server can strip out the columns that we don’t need, strips out the rows we don’t need, returns a subset of data back up through this wide InfiniBand network. That’s what makes the difference. We are treating a much smaller data set that we pass up through this network, and the database server can just finish off that query processing much faster than it ever could previously.

Palmer: One of the other values that we achieve here is certainly in the data passing back and forth, or less data over a wider pipe. So you’re going to get exponentially better performance. Now at the storage servers you’ve taken the processing power of doing the query right at the disks, and in every one of these storage servers you have eight cores, these are Intel quad core processors, two of them in each servers, and so you have eight cores on the input/output (I/O) path directly to the disk.

So there is no external I/O going to your disks. Traditionally you’ve had to go outside of the server, go to the disk that is across the fabric -- and everyone else is sharing that fabric.

So you have many people sharing a fabric, versus now you have a dedicated fabric inside of the server. So it’s a copper-to-copper connection inside the server. Those disks are right on top of the processor. That is really the essence of it -- you can pull the data off of this rapidly because it’s all so much faster. As Willie indicated, you can strip out all the unnecessary data and pass a much smaller data set over a much wider pipe, back to your database servers. There are so many levels of performance improvement here.

Gardner: And to your point on the secret sauce -- you are also taking advantage of all those cores via multiple threads, and the software has been a deeply tuned to take advantage of those multiple threads in a concurrent fashion.

Hardie: Oh, absolutely, and Rich touched on that as well.

Palmer: When we add more Exadata Storage Servers into our configuration we can take advantage, not just that additional storage capacity, but we can now take advantage of that additional processing capability -- to own that storage layer, which is a big, big difference.

Gardner: And at the announcement here, Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison described use cases where improvement typically was 10x to up to 72x over what has been the industry benchmark.

Hardie: Absolutely, when you actually cut away the technology and look at this from a business perspective, what it means for me as a business user -- it means that when you’re accessing those data warehouses that Rich was talking about earlier -- like a call data record -- data warehouse have billions of rules additionally. What this means, when you’re accessing those, your queries are going to run much, much faster than they ever did previously. Not only will they run faster, you can have much more queries and more long-running queries concurrently. That’s what is going to be making the big difference.

So when we hear of customers talking about getting 20x performance, improving 30x performance in one particular instance; in one particular query, 72x performance -- that is extreme performance improvements, in anybody’s measurement.

Gardner: Okay, so we have this engine, this Oracle Exadata Storage Server. We also a new announcement, the HP Oracle Database Machine. Tell me how one relates to the other.

Palmer: The HP Oracle Database Machine is a single rack that contains everything you need to run a large data warehouse. It contains eight ProLiant servers running Oracle Database 11g and RAC. It has four InfiniBand network switches and it has 14 of these Oracle Exadata Storage Servers that we talked about earlier. So in a single unit you have everything you need, ready to load up your data and start running your business queries right away.

Gardner: Tell us a little bit, Rich, about this 42-slot rack configuration and why it’s right for the market now?

Palmer: Well, so if you look at the market in data warehousing, the appliance type of delivery is a much simpler deployment of hardware and software configurations. That is emerging as a high-growth area in data warehousing. So with this market trend that’s going on between HP and Oracle, we’ve been able to come together and put everything in customers’ needs in one box. We put it at the customer’s site, and that’s on a global basis.

If you look at HP, one of the strengths that HP brings to this relationship is our ability to distribute and deliver globally. We build all of these database servers or database machines in regions around the globe. They are not just built here in the United States; they are built in United States, they are built in Singapore, they are built in Scotland, and then they are delivered to those regions on a worldwide basis.

So this ability of HP to build the product from the ground up to an exact specification, deliver to the customer, install at to customer's site, and then have Oracle come in and tune the software to make sure it's optimally configured -- that is a no-lose environment. We have the ability here to deliver an appliance-like stack of hardware, put the right software set on that hardware, and target a customer's need for simplicity, high performance, and data reliability -- all in one box.

Gardner: Okay, we've described the marketplace need, the size of data pushing the envelope. Now we are re-architecting to adjust to that. We've described the subset, which is the Exadata Server, and then the configuration, which is the racked Machine. Now, what kind of organizations are going to be interested in having the forklift upgrade to this, bring it right in, drop it in, pre-configured, optimized, and what are they going to do with it? Is this for business intelligence (BI), is this for simply managing scale? What are the speeds that this now provides going to do for companies to improve, or to change, how they do business?

Hardie: The organizations that are going to be interested in Oracle Exadata Storage Server and the HP Oracle Database Machine are those primarily interested in large data warehouses. And by large data warehouses we're talking into the (terabytes and petabytes) and beyond. Now if you look at the organizations that are typically dependent on very large data warehouses, it's organizations that Rich mentioned earlier, the telcos could be an obvious one, call data records, retail organization, very much dependent on analyzing point of sales (POS) transactions. You look at other organizations like trading systems, massive amount of transactions flow through these systems on a daily basis.

Gardner: Especially these days.

Hardie: Absolutely. It is really important to understand what's going on with these transactions, and to make informed business decisions. The beauty of this is you have completely scalable infrastructure from a storage point of view. But more importantly, you've got completely scalable infrastructure from a query performance point of view. As you store more call data records into these systems, more POS transactions, more stock transactions into these systems, you're not going to deteriorate your query performance at all. The more hardware, the more storage servers you put into these systems, the better your performance is going to be.

Gardner: Now that I have this capability to bang on this thing, so to speak, in more ways without the degrading performance, in what ways do you expect these companies to actually "bang" on this? Is this going to provide new and higher level of business intelligence querying? Is this going to provide higher-order analytics? Are there going to more business applications that can derive near real-time data and analytics from this? All of the above? What's the qualitative payback?

Hardie: There is definitely an element of "all of the above." Let me give you some of the examples of some of the queries that customers have actually been experiencing using the Oracle Exadata Storage Server. This probably fits into the context pretty well. You have organizations out there, retail organizations, telcos, for example. You know, some of the queries they are running are literally running for over half an hour. In some cases it is hours.

Moving to this new architecture is bringing down these execution times. One particular example, a query that was running for over 30 minutes is now running in under 30 seconds. It's that scale of improvement. Now when you can set your terminal, your laptop, or your mobile device and then kick off a query and get an answer within seconds -- then you're going to do more of these. If you know that when you kick off a query it is going to take 30 seconds to return it, you're going to pick more times when you choose to kick that off. You don't have to worry timing that anymore. You can just ask queries when you like, and expect to get a quick answer.

Palmer: Willie, I think you are absolutely right. The ability to capture business information has accelerated so much because of this technology. There are customers that cannot access data records beyond a certain time period simply because of the massive size of those data records, or because of how long a query would take to access a historical group of data. That all goes away now.

Now you have the ability. Historically you might have been able to look at the last week's worth of retail records, or medical records. Now you have the ability to go and look at years and years of data in the same timeframe that you were looking at weeks of data, and query a much bigger dataset, because of this architecture. That's a big business value, because now I can trend my business in a much more effective way. I'm putting more productivity tools in the hands of the user, so that they can actually turn data queries and business intelligence back into a fundamental element of growing their business and being more competitive in their markets.

Gardner: I imagine this will also compel companies to put even more data and information into these warehouses, because they are not going to degrade the performance of these essential queries. They are also going to able to do more types of queries. And, again, we're improving the quality and breadth of the data types, but still getting even better performance. So it's sort of a qualitative improvement on many different dimensions.

Hardie: It's a qualitative improvement, and it's a quantitative. I mean, you're absolutely right. Organizations today are more and more dependent on faster access to better information. It's just as simple as that.

Gardner: We've talked about the types of organizations that we'll use this now in its current configuration. I expected this re-architecting of the database and the storage will also move down market a bit. What possible other use-case scenarios do you envision for leveraging this technology beyond the high-end of the market, into other areas of the market?

Palmer: If you look at some of the growing and emerging markets today, just think of cloud computing and all of the massive amounts of data that we're storing in other locations on the Internet, or through a paid service, and the massive amounts of storage that's being deployed for those types of applications. That's not going to slow down at all. This allows us through the Database Machine to go in and drop in a configured environment for that workload, specifically dedicated to a workload.

You can now scale this product by connecting multiple racks together, you can now scale just the storage component, if the processing side of the database environment is sufficient. You can now just scale the storage nodes, so it is a scalable grid architecture that can grow on the fly. So cloud computing is a very good example where we really don't know what the upper limit of that storage is going to be. So deploy a configuration, say, on a HP Oracle Database Machine and then grow it as your needs grow. This is one application where we know this is going to succeed.

Gardner: Willie, we're also aware that organizations will just want the Oracle Exadata Storage Server. They might have their own environments, their own preference for configuring what's available to them, and what would become available to them in the future.

Hardie: Any organization that wants to run their data warehouse on the Oracle Exadata Storage Server -- all they have to do is buy the Oracle Exadata Storage Server. It's just as simple as that. Oracle and HP of long given customers a choice of configurable options. So if customer feels that something like HP Oracle Database Machine is not the right fit for their organization, if it does not fit the standard needs for their organization, then they have the option of buying the individual components, the Oracle Exadata Storage Server, the InfiniBand connectors, connecting to the database servers, they have that option.

Gardner: Looking at this again through how to get started, where do organizations go? Now that this is available immediately, both of these configurations, is the sales happening through both HP and Oracle?

Palmer: It's a cooperative effort, but Oracle is leading the sales process. So the Oracle sales representatives on a global basis are leading this process, and HP is certainly as their partner going to join with them and make sure that the customer receives the best from both companies.

Gardner: HP is going to service the hardware, but the support comes through Oracle, is that correct?

Hardie: Oracle is the first point of contact if you want to buy an Oracle Exadata Storage Server, Oracle is your first point of contact. So talk to your local Oracle sales representatives. If you do decide to buy one, and you want to resolve a support issue, you call Oracle, and Oracle will bring in HP as and when required to resolve any issues.

Gardner: To sum up a little bit, for those folks who perhaps are a few steps removed from the IT department, who are doing queries, or using business applications, what's the big take away for them? What about this announcement is going to change their world?

Hardie: For these types of users you just mentioned, a little bit or a couple of steps removed from the IT department ... To be quite honest, they don't really care what their systems run on. What they are interested in is getting fast answers to their business queries. It's just simple as that. So when these business users know that they can get instantaneous response times, they can get real extreme performance of their date warehouse, or of their business intelligence applications -- that's what's going to make a big difference for them.

Gardner: Rich, at HP, let me flip the question to you. For those people inside the IT department, who want to come in Monday morning without big headaches, what is this new configuration and architectural approach mean for them?

Palmer: Simplicity, higher performance, the ability to increase their service level agreements (SLAs) with their customers in the warehousing world. This is a solution built on industry standard hardware, with Oracle software that is just well accepted in the industry as an enterprise software leader. The IT departments are very comfortable with both of those facts. They're very comfortable with HP; they're very comfortable with Oracle. Putting the two together is a natural event for any IT manager.

Gardner: We've been talking about a large and impactful announcement here at Oracle OpenWorld, the introduction of the Oracle Exadata Storage Server -- the first hardware product from Oracle. Isn't that right?

Hardie: Absolutely.

Gardner: We've also looked at the configuration of those Exadata servers into the HP Oracle Database Machine, which is in effect a data warehouse appliance. Joining us to help explain this, we have been happy to have Rich Palmer, director of technology and strategy in the industry standard servers group at HP. And also Willie Hardie, vice president of Oracle database product marketing. Thanks to you both.

Hardie: Thank you, Dana.

Palmer: Thank you very much, Dana.

Gardner: Our conversation comes to you today through a sponsored HP Live! Podcast from the Oracle OpenWorld Conference in San Francisco. Look for other podcasts from this HP Live! event series at, as well as via the BriefingsDirect Network. I'd like to thank our producers on today's show, Fred Bals and Kate Whalen.

I am Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks for listening, and come back next time for more in-depth podcasts on enterprise IT topics and strategies. Bye for now.

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Transcript of BriefingsDirect podcast recorded at the Oracle OpenWorld Conference in San Francisco. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2008. All rights reserved.