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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 currently a Senior Solutions Architect at StackIQ, Inc. He is also working with Mesamundi on D20PRO, and is a member of the Stacki Open Source project. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing, and IT management. 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.

Go Beyond IaaS to Deliver "Anything As a Service"
Many organizations want to expand upon the IaaS foundation to deliver cloud services in all forms—software, mobility, infrastructure and IT. Understanding the strategy, planning process and tools for this transformation will help catalyze changes in the way the business operates and deliver real value. Join us to learn about the new ITaaS model and how to begin the transformation.

@CloudExpo Stories
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment proces...
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them ...
In demand-intensive mobile and web applications, an emerging pattern is to host the Systems of Engagement in the cloud (for maximum responsiveness) but keep the Systems of Record with the other important business systems in the company datacenter, often on a tightly secured mainframe. But what about the space in between? In this IBM Redpaper publication, we show that the IBM Bluemix cloud platform offers technologies that make it easy for cloud-based SoEs to securely connect to on-premises IBM...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true ...
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem"...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound...
As organizations shift towards IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing & protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. CommVault can ensure protection & E-Discovery of your data - whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, San...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user e...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint, a global leader in monitoring, and testing the performance of online applications, has been named "Silver Sponsor" of DevOps Summit New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016 at the Javits Center in New York City. Catchpoint radically transforms the way businesses manage, monitor, and test the performance of online applications. Truly understand and improve user experience with clear visibility into complex, distributed online systems.Founde...
In today's enterprise, digital transformation represents organizational change even more so than technology change, as customer preferences and behavior drive end-to-end transformation across lines of business as well as IT. To capitalize on the ubiquitous disruption driving this transformation, companies must be able to innovate at an increasingly rapid pace. Traditional approaches for driving innovation are now woefully inadequate for keeping up with the breadth of disruption and change facin...
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
The revocation of Safe Harbor has radically affected data sovereignty strategy in the cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Jeff Miller, Product Management at Cavirin Systems, discussed how to assess these changes across your own cloud strategy, and how you can mitigate risks previously covered under the agreement.
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical...
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
In his General Session at DevOps Summit, Asaf Yigal, Co-Founder & VP of Product at Logz.io, explored the value of Kibana 4 for log analysis and provided a hands-on tutorial on how to set up Kibana 4 and get the most out of Apache log files. He examined three use cases: IT operations, business intelligence, and security and compliance. Asaf Yigal is co-founder and VP of Product at log analytics software company Logz.io. In the past, he was co-founder of social-trading platform Currensee, which...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
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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.
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It's a simple fact that the better sales reps understand their prospects' intentions, preferences and pain points during calls, the more business they'll close. Each day, as your prospects interact with websites and social media platforms, their behavioral data profile is expanding. It's now possible to gain unprecedented insight into prospects' content preferences, product needs and budget. We hear a lot about how valuable Big Data is to sales and marketing teams. But data itself is only valuable when it's part of a bigger story, made visible in the right context.
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Everyone talks about a cloud-first or mobile-first strategy. It's the trend du jour, and for good reason as these innovative technologies have revolutionized an industry and made savvy companies a lot of money. But consider for a minute what's emerging with the Age of Context and the Internet of Things. Devices, interfaces, everyday objects are becoming endowed with computing smarts. This is creating an unprecedented focus on the Application Programming Interface (API) as developers seek to connect these devices and interfaces to create new supporting services and hybrids. I call this trend the move toward an API-first business model and strategy.
We live in a world that requires us to compete on our differential use of time and information, yet only a fraction of information workers today have access to the analytical capabilities they need to make better decisions. Now, with the advent of a new generation of embedded business intelligence (BI) platforms, cloud developers are disrupting the world of analytics. They are using these new BI platforms to inject more intelligence into the applications business people use every day. As a result, data-driven decision-making is finally on track to become the rule, not the exception.
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@CloudExpo Blogs
The annual holiday shopping season, which started on Thanksgiving weekend and runs through the end of December, is undoubtedly the most crucial time of the year for many eCommerce websites, with sales from this period having a dramatic effect on the year-end bottom line. Web performance – or, the overall speed and availability of a website or mobile site – is an issue year-round, but it takes on increased importance during the holidays. Ironically, it is at this time of year that networks and infrastructure come under the most strain from traffic and are more vulnerable than ever to performan...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them to design hosted applications.
Every day, every hour, every minute, devices are becoming connected. The Internet of Things (or Iot) has gone from a buzzword floating through the echoes of Silicon Valley to a tangible and quickly advancing movement in the world of hardware. But, like a stone tossed into a pond, the effects of the Internet of Things are quickly rippling outward, causing immense changes to the environment surrounding it. And, as it turns out, the IoT is a rather big stone and it's making a large splash. The IoT revolution is necessitating enormous changes to companies who want to play in this brave new world -...
DevOps is an organizational and cultural rethink of how software-driven organizations can become organizations at velocity – agile enough to innovate and fast enough to deal with any change that comes their way. Information technology is a central enabler of DevOps, but today’s better-faster-cheaper technology is not the whole story, as tools are only as good as the people wielding them. The more fundamental story here is the organizational and cultural transformation necessary to take full advantage of modern tech. Business at velocity depends upon such transformation.
It's been a busy time for tech's ongoing infatuation with containers. Amazon just announced EC2 Container Registry to simply container management. The new Azure container service taps into Microsoft's partnership with Docker and Mesosphere. You know when there's a standard for containers on the table there's money on the table, too. Everyone is talking containers because they reduce a ton of development-related challenges and make it much easier to move across production and testing environments and clouds. Containers are the technology that, many believe, deliver on the long-promised port...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
For the last 15 years, companies operating in the United States and Europe have benefited from Safe Harbor - a streamlined process that allowed U.S. companies to transfer and store European citizens' data in the U.S. provided a level of privacy protections were adhered to according to outlined European standards. Recently, however, an Irish court has ruled, in a case brought by an Austrian citizen concerned about how Facebook was handling his private data, that the Safe Harbor agreement is inconsistent with European privacy law, as it did not require all organizations entitled to work with EU ...
I didn’t want to be so dramatic, but I couldn’t help but be completely honest as well. The end possibility is that your entire organization may suffer the fate as Sony Pictures, Target, Anthem and others that have been shaken by hacks and vulnerabilities in their networks. In some cases it has been analyzed that hackers sat in for months stealing data, until they chose to tell everyone about their presence. That’s probably one of the reasons that websites like WikiLeaks are constantly able to churn document after document, exposing one thing or the other. Without supporting any of these and st...
The Internet of Things is here. In the coming years, billions of devices like sensors, meters or actuators will be connected to the network, sharing information and taking instructions. These connected devices will sense and deliver more data, respond to control inputs and provide more information to help people and machines make decisions. Examples of “things”’ include IPTV cameras in major metropolitan areas, crop-growing water detection systems, smart meters that communicate energy consumption and smart transportation systems that adapt to traffic conditions. These are all computing systems...
Unicorn is a term in the investment industry, and in particular the venture capital industry, which denotes a start-up company whose valuation has exceeded (the somewhat arbitrary) $1 billion. The term has been popularized by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures. Fortune magazine counted over 80 unicorns as of January 2015. Now its most likely past 100. But their journey lately has been bumpy. There are signs of cooling the "lofty valuations" of these unicorns. Fidelity wrote down Dropbox by 20%; Snapchat by 25%; and Zenefits and MongoDB by around 50% each. Zenefits had raised money at a $4.5B valua...
If you think of automated provisioning as a formal written language definition, it does have some value in illuminating issues with partial automation or portions of the overall data center that are not automated. The path to automation is not a straight one at most organizations. It takes time, it takes resources, and even though there is a definable ROI, the press of business needs wins every time there is a conflict – because meeting business needs is pretty much the purpose of IT. But taking the staggered approach has costs too, and it’s good on occasion to look at them. I’ve admittedly ...
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at Built.io, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
Wearable technology has come a long way since the calculator watch. In the past whenever I thought of the term “wearable technology” the first things I would like of were always calculator watches and pedometers, but boy have things changed! Even if you’re a skeptic, this blogger thinks that pretty much everyone will be using some type of wearable tech by 2020. It seems like wearable technology is everywhere. Whether it is Google Glass, or the Samsung Galaxy Gear, there seems to be nothing that you can't tech out. There is Colour Change Couture, fabric that changes color when wet, The Progra...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
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Past SYS-CON Events
    Cloud Expo West

    Cloud Expo East

    Cloud Expo West

    Virtualization Expo West
    Cloud Expo Europe

    Cloud Expo East

    Virtualization Expo East
    Cloud Expo West

    Virtualization Expo West
    GovIT Expo
    Cloud Expo Europe

Cloud Expo 2011 Allstar Conference Faculty












Dell Boomi


Layer 7 Tech



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