Monday, August 8, 2011

Dell's Powerhouse R910 Review

We've been using the R910 now for about 10 months. During those 10 months, I've learned this is one of those workhorse servers that can take anything thrown at it and come back for more. We have 3 of them running as HyperV host machines, and 2 running Oracle 10g and 11g Enterprise loaded with quad 8-core Intel Xeon CPUs, 128gb RAM, Perc H700 Raid Controller, with 4 146gb 15k SaS drives in RAID10 for the O/S and 12 SSD's from various manufacturers (OWC and the Crucial M4) in another RAID10 array with dual Broadcom 10gbE nics. These machines would fly outta the cabinet if they weren't secured with the sliding versa-rails. The raw speed of any operation is just crazy. IDrac6 makes remote management a breeze compared to the previous Dracs. The ease of service on these is nice, but I don't think we'll be needing that anytime soon. My ideal box would be like these, but with multiple 600gb 15k SaS drives for lower volatility data sets. I would add-in some Fusion-io or Virident cards for my data sets requiring extreme I/O, low latency, and high throughput. Imaging a DML statement running in parallel across 32 cores reading & writing to several FIO or Virident cards simultaneously. This server platform has plenty of PCI-E slots to fill up with those types of cards. Yes, in my mind, the R910 is the beast under your bed, in your closet, or in your head....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Columbus, Ga

Thursday, May 5, 2011

VOIP in the Small-Medium Business

Recently, I was faced with our aging legacy digital phone system coming off-lease. Years ago, when it was implemented, we looked at VOIP, but decided that it was too immature at the time. I planned to revisit it again when this system was to be replaced. That time has come and I looked at the major players: Cisco, Avaya, NEC, and Fonality/Trixbox.

After many weeks of evaluation and comparison, I realized they they all provide basically the same functionality. There was no big "killer feature" the differentiated one above the others, so I looked at "openess"and pricing. It seems that the big players like to charge extra for using SIP trunks, presence, and other options of the sort. Some vendors wanted 3 physical appliances or servers. Presence requires a dedicated server? I think that is to push you into spending more and adding more of their hardware into your shop. That's the feeling I got. One of the vendors wanted to charge per SIP trunk added to the system. I had enough of that sort of ridiculousness and looked deeply into the Trixbox/Fonality solution.

Trixbox Pro is basically a customized CentOS Linux 4.4 installation with the Trixbox Pro modules. I simply paid the licensing fees, downloaded the ISO image, burned it to CD, inserted it into my server, and booted from it. It looked like a normal CentOS install and asked for a bit of info such as root password, hostname, IP address, timezone, etc. Easy to follow. Afterwards, the server rebooted and I logged in, activated the server with Fonality, and connected to the management console. To my surprise, the management console is hosted by Fonality and trickles changes down to your server. I wasn't too thrilled with that, but it works. The Community Edition does not work like that. It is all hosted on your end. All clients connect to your local server and remote clients go thru Fonality to connect down to your server, again unlike the Community Edition. It took me about a day to add all 50 of my users and conference bridges. It seems like almost any SIP-compliant handset or softphone will work with it. We are pleased with it so far.

This is what made the decision easy to me:

Cisco Solution: $75,000-$86,000
Avaya Solution: $45,000-$65,000
NEC Solution: $46,000-$64,000
Trixbox Pro Solution: <$18,000

Simply, I got basically the same functionality with MORE flexibility for FAR less money with lifetime updates included. Professional support is only $2,000 per year as well. There really wasn't a decision to make after looking at it from a high-level overview. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

It's in the "Clooooud"....

Haha, that phrase just cracks me up. Hearing the typical "Web 2.0" fanboi belch out that phrase just makes me want to go "Falling Down". They say "Cloud" like its something profoundly new and great. While it may be great in some cases, it sure as heck ain't new. Let's break it down.... does a "Cloud" not have:

  • Datacenter Floorspace?
  • Server Cabinets or Racks?
  • Servers?
  • CPU's?
  • RAM?
  • Disk Storage?
  • Network Interconnects?
  • UPS?
  • Generator backups?
  • Windows, Linux, or Unix Operating Systems?
  • Shared resources?

Really? Are you sure? Of course they do. Don't stutter with glazed eyes and just say "It's the cloooud man.." It is the same things we've been doing for years. Same pig, different sauce. Its another buzz-word thought up by some ITIL/Six-Sigma/Business Analyst-wannabe techie type that wanted to coin a new slang phrase to make their self feel important. Whoop de do.

For a multi-million dollar line of business application, why would you even consider using a cloud vendor? Cost? Simplicity? Of course not. Only because you let a developer-type make infrastructure decisions. That is an epic fail. Selecting a cloud vendor means you do NOT have physical access to your production data, servers, or network infrastructure. Business App offline? Call your cloud vendor and pray they can get the issue(s) resolved to meet your SLA requirements. If you don't have physical control over your infrastructure, you can't *REALLY* guarantee anything to your customers because you ARE at the mercy of your *Buzzword* Vendor.

Don't get me wrong, cloud computing is useful in certain scenarios, but for hosting mission-critical applications, it is insane in my mind. I'm sure I'll get a bunch of flaming rebuttals posted here from cloud vendors and cloud-developer fanbois, but remember, you drank the Kool-Aid, and this is MY blog :-)



Friday, March 11, 2011

Oracle 10g dbconsole configuration error

I noticed lately when I install Oracle 10g on Windows or Linux, when I try to install/configure Enterprise Manager Database Control (DBConsole), it errors out and will not complete. No matter what I tried, dropping & creating the repository over and over, still didn't work.

I stumbled across Oracle Metalink Patch 8350262, which supposedly fixes the issue. The issue is that the self-generated certificate expired on 12-31-2010. After installing 10g, apply Patch 8350262 (it is an opatch patch), everything went fine as usual. I hope this saves you some headache and time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

SSD in the Enterprise

I recently wrote a high-level article focusing on SSD use in an Enterprise environment for my friend Les at TheSSDReview. It has some great info in it including use case scenarios. The article can be found here:

The goal is to alleviate concerns with using SSD in an enterprise environment. Far too many companies could tremendously benefit from SSD use in many cases with the right planning, preparation, and expectations. I plan to write many more for him, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fusion-io vs. OCZ

I've seen a lot of interest in my past posts regarding the testing of the Fusion-io ioDrive and the OCZ Z-Drive. I felt that I needed to clarify my position and opinions on the two products a bit.

If you are an end-user or enthusiast and your livelihood doesn't depend on the data stored by the product, the OCZ Z-Drive would probably be the better product for you because of the cost difference between the two.

If you are a business user using the products in servers where critical data is stored, your ONLY option at that point is the Fusion-io products, no question. DO NOT trust your critical business data to the OCZ-ZDrive, do not even think about it. I experienced a failure firsthand within 3 days of receiving the one I ordered, and I returned it. Fusion-io has well engineered and backed products. They perform extremely well, and are not "built upon another product" like the OCZ product is.

Let me clarify that, the OCZ product is simply an LSI RAID controller with MLC or SLC NAND memory modules. The RAID controller BIOS only allows RAID0 and RAID1. With 8 banks of memory, that means with RAID0, ONE big drive with no redundancy in the event of failure. With RAID1, that means 4 logical drives in which to store your data. One NAND bank can fail and you're still in business. With RAID0, how it is out of the box, one failure = TOTAL data loss. You're out of business if that was critical data.

Fusion-io has consumer-level products for the enthusiast users. I'd tend to recommend it to those types whom doesn't need large high performance storage needs. If you need 200+gb, then the OCZ Z-Drive would make sense if the data stored isn't critical. If so, reconfigure the RAID BIOS to use RAID1 and divide your data across the 4 logical drives. You'll still get great performance, but not as much as it would be with 8-way RAID0 with the threat of data loss present.

If you are a business needing high performance data storage,  I urge you to look into Fusion-io and their products. I can think of no better performing and robust product on the market that the Fusion-io ioDrive, ioDrive Duo, or ioDrive Octal.

For shops whom need the absolute highest level of performance for their SQL Server, Oracle Database environments, or any other I/O intensive workloads, nothing can beat the Fusion-io Octal drive for the money. Yes, it is VERY expensive, but not to those companies whom need that level of performance. If it is too much for you, the ioDrive and ioDrive Duo is your best bang-for-the-buck choice. Hands-down, you will not be disappointed with the level of performance or support that you get from Fusion-io.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tools of the trade

I just have to plug two of my favorite products here. They are absolutely great at what they do and make my life a LOT easier.

Confluence: This is an enterprise-grade Wiki for storing, categorizing, and searching documentation as well as collaboration. It is EASY to deploy, manage, and upgrade. Take a test drive of it.

Jira: This is a workflow tool allowing you to enter tasks & issues, track progress, and time spent on those. Our development team uses it for issue tracking and other things, but it is absolutely GREAT just like Confluence.