Choosing the right product

Today I am going to write about something which a number of my customers are currently experiencing. Vendor selection, or rather technology selection, is critical. Choosing the right virtualization and storage solution is not so simple as it used to be. With the number of new technologies available to us, it is difficult to determine what is best. So how do you decide, and which products should you use to virtualize your environment.

To be fair, this is a blog about EMC and VMware products, but at the same time, I want to be clear, I am writing this as a consultant, with a fairly agnostic mindset, I just happen to like those products best in general.

So a client I am working on currently now, purchased an excellent backup solution. They are running vSphere, and are very happy with it, we are getting ready to move them to vSphere 5 from 4.1, and we are working to implement some best practice changes. Unfortunately, prior to our involvement, they bought a storage array from a vendor. The sales rep came in and told them what they needed without actually doing any design work, or looking at their environment. The performance was acceptable, but the Implementation, again done by the vendor, did not even follow their own best practices. When the client engaged us, we immediately looked at the issues, ran some tools to get a baseline, and made a list of recommendations.

As we have begun to implement the recommendations, we have found there are more issues which continue to arise. The storage is not properly designed for the I/O profile. The limitations on the vSphere design is creating a number of problems which we are having to work around. The network is was not properly configured, by the vendor who sold it to them.

So what is the point here, and how does this relate to EMC/VMware? I cannot emphasize enough the value of having a good consultant, even if you get the right vendor. Beyond that, understand your environment and be up front about it. Understanding your I/O patterns, your network load, your processing requirements are almost always the difference between a successful deployment and what we like to refer to as a Resume Updating Event. I am not saying if you hire me, or bring in EMC/VMware, everything will be perfect, I am saying rather make sure you have someone working on your environment you trust. Don’t ever trust a sales person, question them, make them explain all your questions. Factor in things like additional load from backups, look at your 5 year outlook, what might you implement in the future.

The landscape is changing, think about what vendor is going to be able to keep up with your needs, and what you are trying to accomplish. At the end of the day, no one ever got fired for asking questions of their vendors. If they can’t answer them and won’t get you answers, be very cautious about that vendor.

Choosing the right product

Phases of Virtualization

Often times we hear from our customers, about how they are approaching virtualization. Most of the people I talk to are somewhat virtualized, and often times, from an IT perspective they consider themselves to be fully or at least mostly virtualized. We have learned to ask, what does fully virtualized mean to you? This is the million dollar question. The typical response is something about everything that can be virtualized is virtualized. This is the question I would like to explore.

To lay the groundwork for this, there are about 5 common phases of virtualization.

Phase 1 is typically just setting up some test servers and virtualizing them with local storage using free software. This is the introductory phase.

Phase 2 typically involves moving the development or test environments, depending on the companies line of business, but these are non-IT test servers typically.

Once IT gets comfortable with this phase they are then ready to move on to Phase 3. This typically involves virtualizing the things IT has complete control over, domain controllers, maintenance and monitoring servers, and sometimes even email.

This is one of the most common places for what we have begun to term virtual stall. Getting the business to trust virtualization is typically a challenge. The concept sounds good, but the risks seem high. This is where it takes a good consultant to help bridge the gap between the technical team and the business units.

Phase 4 typically is where we begin to move business critical applications. This is where VMware on the VNX really begins to shine. While I really like competitive products, Netapp’s FAS line, Hitachi’s AMS, and some of the others, EMC has really helped us out here with not only by finally introducing unified storage, but by giving us the option for storage tiering and additional caching options. I plan to go into more details on this in a future post, but suffice it to say this is an incredible benefit for virtualizing mission critical high resource demanding apps.

Finally, the holy grail of virtualization. Phase 5 is IT-As-A-Service enables end users to generate their own servers through a simple web interface such as vCloud DIrector, or similar software. This is really where we want to get so IT can get back to playing World of Warcraft, or doing more behind the scenes work rather than always focusing on processing user requests.

This is a brief overview of the VMware/EMC “Journey to the Cloud”, but this is important for us to understand. Virtual Stall is a real problem, and should be addressed to prevent wasted money and resources. As budgets shrink, EMC and VMware continue to give us new and innovative solutions to make our business more agile.

Phases of Virtualization

Micro Niche

Hello World! For anyone who has written code, that is something which will be quite familiar, something which should bring a smile, or a grimace depending on your experience. This is the beginning of a new foray into blogging for me, hopefully, this time a bit more focused one. A brief note about the name and title of this blog. Carpe Diem is of course Latin for Seize the Day. CarpeTech is a shameless ripoff, to grab your attention and point you to the title. I truly want technology to enable business, and be a positive thing for businesses, thus Seize the Technology, make it work for the business.

A bit about me, I am a Senior Datacenter Consultant for a EMC and VMware partner in the Pacific North West. Basically that means I love to talk about technology, and generally speaking about EMC and VMware products. In honesty though I am interested in evangelizing technology on a much broader level, products are commodities, some better than others, though the purpose of this blog is to focus around those two specifically. As a standard disclaimer, my opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent the positions of my employer, EMC, or VMware. I welcome feedback and if necessary correction. I strive for honesty and integrity in everything, so please feel free to take me to task if you feel I am in error.

So why Micro Niche. A friend and colleague recently told me that it is not enough to find your niche, but we need to find a micro niche. There are more than enough virtualization blogs, or storage blogs, it is time for consultants to start differentiating themselves. While we are always a jack of all trades to a certain extent, mostly due to our love of technology, we all have something that we are passionate about.

All this being said, I plan to focus on VMware vSphere best practices specifically on the EMC VNX product line. Now I know that Chad at Virtual Geek covers this space quite effectively, but he also covers many other topics. I hope to bring an outsiders perspective, with many links to his and others postings with a bit of my own perspective on things. So thanks for reading, and hopefully this provides some value to the community in general and specifically to the customers I work with.

Micro Niche