Friday, April 30, 2010

So, what's going on?

So what's up with me? Now that UNIX and SAN admin are behind me, what am I doing as a system architect? There's obviously no further HP-UX administration going on, which means the readership of this blog will drop dramatically. I do have a link for you admins, though: look at this fascinating discussion in the ITRC that has been going on for a while about its future.

Deep technical content for The ex-syadmin blog can only be written if I get my hands dirty, which I'm not sure I'll be doing much for a while.

I probably can't disclose exactly what I'm doing, but I'll limit myself to saying that my current project consists of laying the grounds of data acquisition systems that use industrial-grade devices and software manufactured by Cooper Power Systems. Some of the win32 software parts are encapsulated using XenApp, which reminds me a lot of X-Windows. :) Everything needs to be bound to NERC security standards (one of the many standards we need to comply with) and it is my understanding that many legacy systems are in the process of being "NERC'ed", which means I'll have lots of interesting work to come.

It would be hard to blog about all the implementation details while still remaining generic enough to separate myself from my workplace; thus I won't speak too much, at least for the moment. Once I have a better understanding of the technologies I'm working with, I might come back with technical posts and recipes similar to what I did for Technocrat-UX.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Details on the future EVAs

I couldn't say much since I was bound by a CDA, but I can link to The Register team who has posted some details along with what should be the new name for the future EVAs:

Concerning release dates, sorry, I have to keep my mouth shut.

The new Integrity line has also been announced yesterday. It uses a modular, or should I say stackable, blade design. I'm no longer involved with them but if I was still an HP-UX admin, you bet I'd be excited. Note the new Superdome 2; this is a major redesign which will most probably mean the end of the cell-based servers. I didn't have the time to check if and what OLAR features will still be available to customers using the bl890c, as it was a selling point for the rx7640 and rx8640.

Yet this might be too late. RHEL no longer supports Integrity, nor will Windows soon. For customers looking for 32-core systems or more, this will still make the huge Proliants DL7xxx (and upcoming DL9xxx) interesting alternatives to the smaller blades.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

A visit at the "ESS CEC"

Earlier this week, I went for one day at HP's Enterprise Storage & Servers Customer Experience Center, which is located on HP's campus in Houston. You'll probably deduce that I was there to get some info on current and future storage offerings from HP, and I did. But I signed a CDA and can't disclose what exactly I learned there... however some new products have just begun shipping, such as LTO5 drives. As for sdates for other future announcements, well...of course I can't give dates and specifics. But the HPTF usually serves as a platform to announce new products, doesn't it?

One treat that topped the day pretty well was a visit of the Factory Express shop floor where all servers and blades are assembled, and optionally pre-racked. I also saw some PODs being assembled. Once again, I can't say much without getting my ass kicked but whew! They have a nice operation there, I was impressed. Of course, I couldn't take any picture either, but a fellow who probably wasn't under a CDA leaked some pictures via Twitter a few weeks ago during a storage-related event and you can try searching to see if they're still available.

Speaking of the HPTF, I won't be there this year.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The ITech Summit, Compellent, and cheap storage

The Infrastructure Technology Summit will be held in Montreal and Toronto in the next two weeks, and Calgary and Vancouver are coming in September. This event seems to be the descendant of the older SAN/NAS summit which was held yearly. HP won't be there... which is too bad because I remember seeing Chet Jacobs present right here in Montreal at the SAN/NAS summit maybe 7 years ago. And those who know StorageWorks know Chet; his presentation style is unforgettable.

HP aside, one SAN manufacturer I've been very interested in since last year is Compellent . As an ex-SAN administrator, I was having a lot of problems with unreasonable disk space demands that were reaching into chunks of terabytes, and Compellent's copy-on-write thin provisionning sure seemed like an easy to implement solution that didn't require putting a gazillion agents on servers. The 4/6/8x400 EVAs are, to say the least, average when compared to what Compellent makes. Let's hope the next-generation EVAs will be better. However, not everyone is jumping into Compellent's bandwagon as I personally feel it still has some mileage to do to prove itself as a reliable brand name in the enterprise where long-term commitments and support are very important. A recent article at the Register tends to show what effect having no household name in that world is having on Compellent.

Speaking about terabytes, users think storage is cheap because they can purchase a Hitachi 1Tb USB drive at Best Buy for, what, 100$ now?? Unbelievable. They can even choose to get a Seagate 500Gb hard drive filled with popular movies for the same price! Asking for terabytes is therefore no big deal, right? Well, boys and girls, Enterprise Storage ain't cheap. And there are good, valid reasons for this. I'll make a blog post about that subject soon.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Some last HP-UX tips before I go

I'm officially finishing my job as an HP-UX/SAN/VMware/Blade admin tomorrow, and I'm moving up the food chain next Monday to my new job. I'm supposed to come back to train my replacement but don't know when it will happen.

Here are some tidbits I found in the last two weeks:

swfixrealm(1m) - Appeared in HP-UX 11.31. It lets you correct the default realm in SD ACL files in one shot. Very useful if you create a depot on a system that has its hostname changed, such as one that was ignited with a golden image.

The new 11.31 Bastille has a parameter named AccountSecurity.unowned_files that wasn't there with 11.23. It is enabled by default and will silently chown files that aren't owned by anyone (i.e. belonging to a uid which is undefined in /etc/passwd) to the bin user. Same for groups. Be careful with this on a server that serves a bunch of home directories, or an NFS server. It might be normal that some files aren't owned by anyone.

Newer versions of Ignite dropped the "Wizard" installation screens which, while braindead, was the one I was suggesting support personnel use to install HP-UX using the Golden DVDs I made. They're in remote offices, so no remote igniting is possible, thus why I burn them custom DVDs. Loosing that interface means they'll have to use the Advanced TUI and it is less user-friendly.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Windows on Itanium: no more.

Corrected April 6th: I forgot NonStop

I just saw on Slashdot that Microsoft is dropping the ball on Windows on the Itanium platform. While I'm not surprised, that pretty much gives more weight to my prediction that the future of the Integrity platform, at least as we currently know it, is uncertain.

This sure isn't good news for BCS. Of course, everyone knows that most Integrity customers are using HP-UX, OpenVMS and NonStop so that shouldn't mean HP will loose that much revenue following the canning of Windows on ia64. But HP will loose potential customers for sure, and can say goodbye within a few years to ones are currently running SQL Server on Superdomes. I've heard through the grapevine that many Superdomes are actually running Windows, and less installed domes means higher engineering costs pushed down to whoever will remain to purchase high-end and midrange Integrity systems.

That's really too bad. Being a really-soon-to-be-ex-HP-UX admin I can only feel sad when I see such news. But let's be clear: HP still has three strong operating systems to run in Integrity, so that doesn't mean the end of it all.