Virtualization and Cloud Computing – Road Ahead – Trends ’10

I was thinking of writing a cloud computing prediction list, but realized that it is better to talk about trends, which are more relevant in the ever changing world of cloud computing. Also it is easier to write as :

  • Trends are vectors than a single snapshot point in time, thus giving one a thick gray region
  • And the fact that trends need not be linear gives one the latitude to say things that are closer to reality …

First we need a trends model and then a mapping of the trajectory and locus cloud domain onto that model – both shown below (of course, you can click on the pictures to get the larger view):

Technology Trends Model

The Model:

The technologies can be viewed in the traditional X-Y axes, Technology Adoption vs. Maturity.

  • Quadrant I is where the maturity and adoption are high, resulting in stable technologies.
  • In Quadrant II, we have mature technologies, solving effectively niche problems but not yet mainstream. The extreme is the top left corner, where we have complex technologies solving extremely special problems very well.
  • Then we have Quadrant IV, where the domain drives the technologies. Many times the requirement is very fast that standards are preempted by the users. And the extreme case is the bottom right corner, when there are complex domains where technologies can never mature.

Usually technologies take three different routes:

  1. A linear trajectory, when the technology matures in sync with the adoption
  2. A trajectory where the technology matures and then veers into the mainstream
  3. A trajectory where the users force standardization and maturity in a technology

Cloud/Virtualization Mapping into the trends Model:

Let us map some of our favorite cloud technologies onto this model:

  • Virtualization as a substrate for business architectures:
    • Virtualization as a technology is in sync with the adoption – at least at the present state. Which means the advances are absorbed by the adoption. In the very near future, we will see virtualization based solutions for traditional systems problems, like DR and HA. I remember designing elaborate systems for HA (with multi-cast active-active processes) which are all irrelevant now.
    • I did study the VMware HA and FT (as part of VCP) and they are right steps. Still not there yet, but just usable now. This is where the user adoption and influence can help to mature the product.
  • Virtualization-native security
    • There is a big gap in the security mechanisms at the virtualization layer. Vmware has technologies like security zones and vmsafe. But we need prevalent programming models as well as tools to effectively implement security – at different levels.
    • Actually this is the case with virtualization-native network – switching and routing – as well
  • Hybrid Cloud
    • While technologies to implement public clouds are maturing; and strong public clouds are emerging, there are no real solutions for the hybrid clouds. Again, a trajectory where the users will determine the maturity and force standardization of the technologies.
  • Cloud Storage
    • In my humble opinion, cloud storage is maturing more than adoption. As Mark Carlson points out in the SNIA paper, network based storage protocols (iSCSI, NFS, FCoE, and so forth) are standards and are implemented with interoperability. The big table type of storage is just developing (more below) and the Cloud based storage is working through it’s paces
  • No SQL key-Value Stores
    • Actually I am lumping key value stores as well as non-structured stores (like bigTable and HFS) in this category. Again, quoting Mark Carlson, these are table space storage focusing mainly on scalability (rather than features). They are solving niche problems very well, but not yet mainstream. They will follow the path of maturing technology driving the adoption.
  • IWM (Intelligent Workload Management) based on predictive analytics
    • I am sure Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Rackspace, Savvis and others have implemented some form of IWM; but the algorithmics and programming models are not yet available as mainstream packages. I believe that this is a domain that will be driven by the users.
    • As virtualization becomes norm, the cloud infrastructure control and management planes will get complex and that is when we need the quants to help us out!
    • I am working on a few pragmatic ideas on this, which I will share in another blog, in the near future.
  • PaaS
    • No prediction (whether trends or not) will be complete without PaaS; so I left the best for the last !
    • And thanks to insights from Gary Berger and James Urquhart, some of my thinking in this area were clarified …
    • So far, PaaS is a “my way or highway” i.e. an all encompassing full programming environment; which is fine but not the chosen path for many including the best of the breed mode.
    • This is the year PaaS is going to lose it’s shine and meet the contenders. I think time has come for virtualization based composable abstractions as part of a PaaS platform.
    • An orthogonally extensible PaaS platform that can be part of (and integrate well with) normal private clouds (and public clouds!) will emerge
  • Cloud Builders
    • I predict that this year the role of cloud builders and scalability architects would be more clear and relevant. We understand application architects and developers very well, but in the era of clouds there are also new distinct roles that need to fulfilled.

So … what thinks thee ? What generates intensity and motivation for you in the cloud business ? (I assume you are in the cloud business, otherwise you will not reach here ;o) …

Anatomy of a Cloud Concept Lab Stack

For the last few months we have been building a cloud concept lab based on Cisco’s UCS system (for compute), Nexus 5K/7K (for network) and NetApp/EMC(Storage). And during the Christmas season, we have a chance to show off our work. I will write more about the interesting projects we are working on; but for now, some pictures …

First our Compute POD – 6 X UCS Chassis with 8 blades each, connected to 6120s and then to Nexus 5Ks. As you can see we take our equipment seriously ! And Santa is here !

UCS Compute POD

UCS Closeup - Santa Claus is coming to the Cloud town !

A lab is known by the tools it keeps — A glimpse at our tools cache ;o)

A Lab is known by the tools it keeps !

Our network stack – Nexus, Catalyst, ASA and ACE

Network Stack - Nexus 7K, Cat 6500 & ASA

The storage stack – NetApp for now, and we are off to a VCE stack as well

And of course that is me & Rohit’s Flip camera

Just me !

Now onto the gory details – which I will add as a set of future posts – but to get started:

Cloud Concept Lab Topology

What is more important is not the stack one has, but what one does with it. And we have a set of concept projects …:

  • One interesting project is the Cloud provider API implementation (vCloud/OCCI with our own Cloud OS – in JRuby) and then showcasing Enterprise Extension into a service provider cloud (with extended network and compute semantics) ! A few of our pragmas :
    • Store context as an in-memory cmdb (with a disk based persistence backup)
      • memcached coupled with Cassandra
    • A very lightweight compute stack in terms of management and control layers
      • Control by Cloud OS talking directly to UCSM (UCS manager) for compute and network management layer (for network)
      • Stateless cloud instances with intelligence and inferences in the Cloud OS

More details in the next posts …

Till then Happy Holidays ….

P.S: The pictures were taken mostly by Rohit and Ram using Ram’s Canon Rebel XTI / Tamrom 17 – 50 /2.8 lens

VCP4 Study Plan

As I had mentioned in my last blog, I got thru VCP-410. My secret – good teachers for my VSphere 4.0 Fasttrack class. Jim McCullough and Brian Watrous did a good job.

I also followed a study plan – after the class. Some thoughts below :

  • Good Practical experience
    • Have a running system, good experience in solving various problems in a running virtualization infrastructure is essential. No doubt, the vmware course (FastTrack, for me) also rounds of the actual working experience – as one will not get a chance to work through all the facets of the product.
  • Read a good book – to get a slightly different view and narration technique
    • The VMware documents, while are very good compared to other tech documents, are not exactly a long read without getting monotonous
    • I read thru the book “Mastering VMware vSphere 4.0” by Scott. Rounds off the knowledge; also gets one’s attention as the book says the things in a different way, different order
  • Read VMware Tech Notes
  • Take on-line sample tests
    • I like to take the sample tests early and fail ! This way, one gets a feel for how the material will manifest in the test, also as one reads the documentation, the questions one failed will stand out !
    • My first choices are Simon Long and the VMware site
      • When you are at Simon’s site, don’t do the Maximums yet ! It totally confused me until I wrote some notes
  • Now the time has come for the VMware documentation work !
    • First download the book bundle and unzip them into a directory (I actually printed them and bound them at Kinkos)
    • Also keep the pdf copy of the Exam Blue print (download from the site and make sure you have covered all the sections, as you read the various documentation
    • The order I followed:
      • ESX & vCenter Setup Guide
      • vSphere Basic System Administration
      • iSCSI SAN Configuration Guide
      • Fibre Channel SAN Configuration Guide
      • Resource Management Guide (Pay special attention to this guide. It has lots of good information)
      • Upgrade Guide (important, may not so obvious stuff here)
      • Availability Guide
  • Next comes the VMware materials you got during the VMware course. Read them through to refresh all the good work you have done during the course
  • Now go back to the sample exams and work them until you have > 85%
  • (Dday – 3) Finally curl up with the study notes from Simon and the VMware Maximums.
    • Also my notes, if that helps. Or write your own notes on areas you are not that comfortable with.
    • This is also the time to do the “vSphere 4 Configuration Maximum Exams”. First do the exams referring to the notes.
    • And don’t overdo the Maximums. “They will come you …” when you need them
  • (DDay – 1) Get a good night sleep
  • (DDay) Refresh the VMware Maximums list, and the final notes
  • You will ace the test in no time …
  • Test taking tips
    • There are 85 questions for 90 minutes.
    • They have review check box which makes it easier to mark questions that you have some doubt on
    • You can also review all questions after you have gone thru all the 85 questions
    • My suggestion is breadth first – answer all questions you are sure of and mark the ones you have some doubt on. DOn’t dwell on any question too long
    • After the firat pass, depending on the time available (there is a countdown clock) allocate time for the ones you have marked for review
    • Usually your first gut feel is the right answer; but sometimes as you analyze the question, newer insights will change the answer
  • Good luck …

VCP4 Notes

Finally passed the VCP (VMware Certified Professional) today – clocked at 413/500 ! The toughest, for me, was to remember the myriad of vSphere maximum numbers. Some notes I had written down to remember a few things easily:

VCenter Ports

80, 389 (LDAP), 443, 636(Linked Mode), 8080, 8443
902/903 – For vClient to show VM Console

vSphere Network Switch Maximums

A quick diagram made it easier … First thing I did, after settling down for the exam, was to draw this on the erasable board.

ESX Partition sizes

I couldn’t remember them, so made a list in an order that was easy for me to remember !

Partition Size
/ 5 GB
Swap 600 MB/1600 MB
/boot 1.25 GB (1100MB for /boot and rest for vmkcore)
Esxconsole..vmdk 1200 MB
/home 512
/tmp 1024
/var/log 2000


Same story here. Too many mixed numbers all over the map. So I created a sorted list and the (kind of) ER diagram mentioned earlier !

Number Attributes that have this number as value


iSCSI initiators/Host




iSCSI paths to a LUN


HBA Ports







FC Paths to a LUN

e1000 NIC ports/Host


VMs/HA Closter (> 8 Hosts)


Failover as % of Cluster


Static Targets/iSCSI Adapter port


Dynamic Targets/iSCSI Adapter port

Logical Processors/Host



VMs/HA Cluster(<= 8 hosts)





VMs / Volume




VMs/Host DRS Cluster





PortGroups /vSS


Resource Pools/Cluster


Paths to a host

Children / Resource Pool


VMs/DRS Cluster




StdSwitch/vDSwitch ports per Host

Resource Pools/Host


vDSS ports/vCenter