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Bare Metal Blog: Test for Reality
Test results provided by vendors and “independent testing labs” often test for things that just don’t matter in the datacenter

Test results provided by vendors and “independent testing labs” often test for things that just don’t matter in the datacenter. Know what you’re getting.

When working in medicine, you don’t glance over a patient, then ask them “so how do you feel when you’re at your best?” You ask them what is wrong, then run a ton of tests – even if the patient thinks they know what is wrong – then let the evidence determine the best course of treatment.

Sadly, when determining the best tools for your IT staff to use, we rarely follow the same course. We invite a salesperson in, ask them “so, what do you do?”, and let them tell us with their snippets of reality or almost-reality why their product rocks the known world. Depending upon the salesperson and the company, their personal moral code or corporate standards could limit them to not bringing up the weak points of their products to outright lying about its capabilities.

“But Don!”, you say, “you’re being a bit extreme, aren’t you?” Not in my experience I am not. From being an enterprise architect to doing comparative reviews, I have seen it all. Vendor culture seems to infiltrate how employees interact with the world outside their HQ – or more likely (though I’ve never seen any research on it), vendors tend to hire to fit their culture, which ranges from straight-up truth about everything to wild claims that fall apart the first time the device is put into an actual production-level network.

The most common form of disinformation that is out there is to set up tests so they simply show the device operating at peak efficiency. This is viewed as almost normal by most vendors – why would you showcase your product in less than its best light? and as a necessary evil by most of the few who don’t have that view – every other vendor in the space is using this particular test metric, we’d better too or we’ll look bad. Historically, in network gear, nearly empty communications streams have been the standard for high connection rates, very large window sizes the standard for manipulating throughput rates. While there are many other games vendors in the space play to look better than they are, it is easy to claim you handle X million connections per second if those connections aren’t actually doing anything. It is also easier to claim you handle a throughput of Y Mbps if you set the window size larger than reality would ever see it.

Problem with this kind of testing is that it seeps into the blood, after a while, those test results start to be sold as actual… And then customers put the device into their network, and needless to say, they see nothing of the kind. You would be surprised the number of times when we were testing for Network Computing that a vendor downright failed to operate as expected when put into a live network, let alone met the numbers the vendor was telling customers about performance.

One of the reasons I came to F5 way back when was that they did not play these games. They were willing to make the marketing match the product and put a new item on the roadmap for things that weren’t as good as they wanted. We’re still out there today helping IT staff understand testing, and what testing will show relevant numbers to the real world. By way of example, there is the Testing Configuration Guide on F5 DevCentral.

As Application Delivery Controllers have matured and solidified, there has been much change in how they approach network traffic. This has created an area we are now starting to talk more about, which is the validity of throughput testing in regards to ADCs in general. The thing is, we’ve progressed to the point that simply “we can handle X Mbps!” is no longer a valid indication of the workloads an ADC will be required to handle in production scenarios. The real measure for application throughput that matters is requests per second. Vendors generally avoid this kind of testing, because response is also limited by the capacity of the server doing the actual responding, so it is easy to get artificially low numbers.

At this point in the evolution of the network, we have reached the reality of that piece of utility computing. Your network should be like electricity. You should be able to expect that it will be on, and that you will have enough throughput to handle incoming load. Mbps is like measuring amperage… When you don’t have enough, you’ll know it, but you should, generally speaking, have enough. It is time to focus more on what uses you put that bandwidth to, and how to conserve it. Switching to LED bulbs is like putting in an ADC that is provably able to improve app performance. LEDs use less electricity, the ADC reduces bandwidth usage… Except that throughput or packets per second isn’t measuring actual improvements of bandwidth usage. It’s more akin to turning off your lights after installing LED bulbs, and then saying “lookie how much electricity those new bulbs saved!”

Seriously, do you care if your ADC can delivery 20 million Megabits per second in throughput, or that it allows your servers to respond to requests in a timely manner? Seriously, the purpose of an Application Delivery Controller is to facilitate and accelerate the delivery of applications, which means responses to requests. If you’re implementing WAN Optimization functionality, throughput is still a very valid test. If you’re looking at the Application Delivery portion of the ADC though, it really has no basis in reality, because requests and responses are messy, not “as large a string of ones as I can cram through here”. From an application perspective – particularly from a web application perspective – there is a lot of “here’s a ton of HTML, hold on, sending images, wait, I have a video lookup…” Mbps or MBps just doesn’t measure the variety of most web applications. But users are going to feel requests per second just as much as testing will show positive or negative impacts. To cover the problem of application servers actually having a large impact on testing, do what you do with everything else in your environment, control for change. When evaluating ADCs, simply use the same application infrastructure and change only the ADC out. Then you are testing apples-to-apples, and the relative values of those test results will give you a gauge for how well a given ADC will perform in your environment.

In short, of course the ADC looks better if it isn’t doing anything. But ADCs do a ton in production networks, and that needs to be reflected in testing. If you’re fortunate enough to have time and equipment, get a test scheduled with your prospective vendor, and make sure that test is based upon the usage your actual network will expose the device to. If you are not, then identify your test scenarios to stress what’s most important to you, and insist that your vendor give you test results in those scenarios. In the end, you know your network far better than they ever will, and you know they’re at least not telling you the whole story, make sure you can get it.

Needless to say, this is a segue into the next segment of our #BareMetalBlog series, but first I’m going to finish educating myself about our use of FPGAs and finish that segment up.

Read the original blog entry...

About Don MacVittie
Don MacVittie is Founder of Ingrained Technology, LLC, specializing in Development, Devops, and Cloud Strategy. Previously, he was a Technical Marketing Manager at F5 Networks. As an industry veteran, MacVittie has extensive programming experience along with project management, IT management, and systems/network administration expertise.

Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was a Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing, where he conducted product research and evaluated storage and server systems, as well as development and outsourcing solutions. He has authored numerous articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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Cloud Expo - Cloud Looms Large on SYS-CON.TV


Cloud Expo 2013 East Opening Keynote by IBM
In this Cloud Expo Keynote, Danny Sabbah, CTO & General Manager, Next Generation Platform, will detail the critical architectural considerations and success factors organizations must internalize to successfully implement, optimize and innovate using next generation architectures.
Lisa Larson, Vice President of Enterprise Cloud Solutions of Rackspace Hosting Live From New York City
In the old world of IT, if you didn't have hardware capacity or the budget to buy more, your project was dead in the water. Budget constraints can leave some of the best, most creative and most ingenious innovations on the cutting room floor. It's a true dilemma for developers and innovators – why spend the time creating, when a project could be abandoned in a blink? That was the old world. In the new world of IT, developers rule. They have access to resources they can spin up instantly. A hybrid cloud ignites innovation and empowers developers to focus on what they need. A hybrid cloud blends the best of all worlds, public cloud, private cloud and dedicated servers to fit the needs of developers and offer the ideal environment for each app and workload without the constraints of a one-size-fits-all cloud.

Keynote: Driving Cloud Innovation: SSDs Change Cloud Storage Paradigm
Cloud is a transformational shift in computing that can have a powerful effect on enterprise IT when designed correctly and used to its full potential. Join Citrix in a discussion that centers on building, connecting and empowering users with cloud services and hear examples of how enterprises are solving real-world business challenges with an architecture and solution purpose-built for the cloud.

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[June 11-14, 2012]

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Introducing Big Data Expo
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There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Get a jump on that rapidly evolving trend at Big Data Expo, which we are introducing in June at
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Cloud Expo was a fantastic event for CSS Corp - we easily exceeded our objectives for engaging with clients and prospects."
AHMAR ABBAS
SVP, Global Infrastructure Management, CSS Corp.
 
With our launch at Cloud Expo, we successfully transformed the company from a relatively unknown European player into the dominant player in the market. Our competitors were taken by surprise and just blown away. We got a huge number of really high quality leads..."
PETE MALCOLM
CEO, Abiquo
 
We were extremely pleased with Cloud Expo this year - I’d say it exceeded expectations all around. This is the same info we got from partners who attended as well. Nice job!"
MARY BASS
Director of Marketing, UnivaUD
 
Cloud Expo helps focus the debate on the critical issues at hand in effect connecting main street with the next frontier."

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President & CEO, Appzero


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@CloudExpo Blogs
Being a huge supporter of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), specifically, container-based PaaS, such as CloudFoundry and Heroku, I decided to apply my pricing experience to hacking up an estimate for delivering a mobile application inclusive of development through operations. The goal for me was to see if my own assertions that PaaS actually reduced both development and operating costs could be supported. My results were verified by both and independent consulting peer and a provider of PaaS.
One of the most difficult things to do today is to identify a legitimate user. Part of the problem is that the definition of a legitimate users depends greatly on the application. Your public facing website, for example, may loosely define legitimate as "can open a TCP connection and send HTTP request" while a business facing ERP or CRM system requires valid credentials and group membership as well as device or even network restrictions.
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While errors and logs are often instrumental to diagnosing application issues, getting the most out of them isn't easy. If you’re using a narrowly focused tool or rolling your own solution, it’s likely you’re either struggling to quickly get to the data you need when you need it, or you’re trying to find a needle in a haystack. Learn how to make sense of all this data in this interesting blog.
Polymorphism is a concept central to object-oriented programming. The notion of polymorphism is used to extend the capabilities of a basic object, like a mammal, to specific implementations, like cats or dogs or honey badgers, even though they don't care about such technical distinctions. A good example of this is cats and dogs, which are both of the type "mammal" but that "speak" in a different voice.
In recent years, we’ve watched mobile, cloud technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) enable increased connectivity for every network and every industry, ranging from connected cars to commercial vehicles and fleet management to smart cities to data centers. At MWC, it was clear that professionals in these areas are continuing to make strides in their fields. Below are a few of the major developments we noticed and look forward to hearing more as 2015 progresses.
In my last blog post, I made a case for the powerful combo of APM and Analytics that you shouldn’t miss out on. Today, I’m going to explain what I mean by that with an example on how you can build better apps and write better code leveraging this powerful combination. There is a common misperception that the only way a developer can write better code is by running profilers and by painstakingly collecting every call graph of their application to learn how its code is actually behaving. Cutting edge developers have started using application performance management (APM) to understand code per...
Our guest on the podcast this week is Mark Thiele, EVP of Data Center Technology at Switch. We discuss the idea that private clouds are often equated with do-it-yourself and why that should be changed. Taking sure you are receiving the private environment you need at a cost that can support your business. Listen in to learn the different ways to own and manage a private cloud.
It's spring in the Northeast, and this week we're launching a new blog post series, "Everything You Want to Know about Windows Server 2003 Migration." Why a series of posts on WS2003? Even as summer and EOS is just months away, our "State of Readiness for Windows Server 2003 End of Support" survey reveals the shocking truth: most of you haven't done anything about remediation yet, and most will not complete your upgrades before the deadline.
SYS-CON Events announced today that WHOA.com, an ISO 27001 Certified secure cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. WHOA.com is a leader in next-generation, ISO 27001 Certified secure cloud solutions. WHOA.com offers a comprehensive portfolio of best-in-class cloud services for business including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Secure Cloud Desktop, Cloud Storage, Disaster Recovery, Integrated Applications and Security.
There's a lot of focus on the performance of mobile communications given the incredible rate at which mobile is outpacing legacy PC (did you ever think we'd see the day when we called it that?) usage. There's been tons of research on the topic ranging from the business impact (you really can lose millions of dollars per second of delay) to the technical mechanics of how mobile communications is impacted by traditional factors like bandwidth and RTT. Spoiler: RTT is more of a factor than is bandwidth in improving mobile app performance.
Cloud computing is transforming the way businesses think about and leverage technology. As a result, the general understanding of cloud computing has come a long way in a short time. However, there are still many misconceptions about what cloud computing is and what it can do for businesses that adopt this game-changing computing model. In this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo Conference Chair Jeremy Geelan, Rex Wang, Vice President of Product Marketing at Oracle, discusses and dispels some of the common myths about cloud computing that still exist today.
Vicom Computer Services, Inc. was awarded an 11 year contract with the MTA. The MTA launched a request for proposal in September 2013 for a project encompassing and creating a fully redundant core data network across the three core data centers and upgrade user access to applications and facilities throughout NYC Transit. Vicom will design, install and maintain data communications hardware, software and a comprehensive enterprise management system for a network infrastructure upgrade at three NYC Transit core data center locations, six concentrator locations, 58 major facilities and approx...
DevOps is all the rage these days and with good reason as it promises to reduce the time-to-market for new applications. It also promises to improve change management, allowing teams to deploy changes to their applications quickly and efficiently. However, DevOps isn’t something you buy, install, or implement; rather it is the symptom of an appropriate organizational system. In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Thiele, EVP, Data Center Technologies at SUPERNAP International, will discuss how to get to the right organizational model that will allow DevOps practices to flourish.
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Past SYS-CON Events
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2011west.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcexpo
2011east.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2010west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualization
2010west.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2010.
sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcomputingexpo
2010east.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo East
virtualizationconference
2010east.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2009west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualizationconference
2009west.sys-con.com
    GovIT Expo
govitexpo.com
 
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2009.sys-con.com
 

Cloud Expo 2011 Allstar Conference Faculty

S.F.S.
Dell

Singer
NRO

Pereyra
Oracle

Ryan
OpSource

Butte
PwC

Leone
Oracle

Riley
AWS

Varia
AWS

Lye
Oracle

O'Connor
AppZero

Crandell
RightScale

Nucci
Dell Boomi

Hillier
CiRBA

Morrison
Layer 7 Tech

Robbins
NYT

Schwarz
Oracle

What The Enterprise IT World Says About Cloud Expo
 
"We had extremely positive feedback from both customers and prospects that attended the show and saw live demos of NaviSite's enterprise cloud based services."
  –William Toll
Sr. Director, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
Navisite
 


 
"More and better leads than ever expected! I have 4-6 follow ups personally."
  –Richard Wellner
Chief Scientist
Univa UD
 


 
"Good crowd, good questions. The event looked very successful."
  –Simon Crosby
CTO
Citrix Systems
 


 
"It's the largest cloud computing conference I've ever seen."
  –David Linthicum
CTO
Brick Group