Sunday, March 2, 2008

What is ITIL? What is a CMDB?

I was working with some ITIL-type concepts before ITIL was well known. Pretty much all of us are, although many of us do not know it. I think of ITIL as a framework to not forget about some of the stuff that should be considered as we manage our IT and ops stuff. If you get ITIL training, part of it is about using terminology differently - we all know that people using the same word to mean different things can lead to confusion, especially in the tech. industry, so this is important. The other part is getting a list of all the stuff you should pay attention to - and it is meant to be a complete list.

CMDB is an inventory of stuff. A good inventory. For example - I have a list of all of my servers, and what they are for. Information about when they were deployed, and what their service contract is, if any, is in there. Then, instead of checking all the servers, we check the CMDB. It is just the database of record for what I choose to put there. It can be in several places - we use a separate database to track hardware problems. In the grand scheme of things, it is part of the CMDB too - the database of record of what is what.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Compute Power + Virtualization = Revolution

I've jumped on the virtualization bandwagon. My team now uses macs and vmware fusion. We're virtualizing all IT systems we can.

What we're virtualizing:
  • OS's: windows, solaris x86, linux
  • Applications: Oracle for development, IIS/ASP, Filemaker Pro, Operations management tools virtual center and Netapp DFM
  • Virtualization technology used: VMware ESX/Infrastructure
  • Features to use next: capacity planning
  • Favorite new feature: storage vmotion - we change what storage is behind a virtual server instance on the fly, live!
  • Unified HA: for an IT shop with a bunch of stuff with no HA solution, and 15 things with 15 ways to fail over, we unify the HA capabilities of our infrastructure, using the same HA metholodology across the board.
  • Capacity utilization: Our IT infrastructure was very lumpy in how much servers were utilized. Now we can pack in virtual instances until utilization is high across the board. VMware DRS keeps us from having over-utilization problems.
Where do we not use it:
  • Where we need a direct piece of external hardware: currently backup tape libraries
  • Where we want a server separate from our infrastructure: some monitoring server instances
  • Where vendors tell us not to (production Oracle, some other software...)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Virtualization - why I expect it to become a bigger deal, oh and who doesn't care?

I hear lots of folks talking about virtualization. However, there is one primary reason why I think it is about to become a bigger deal that people do not talk about much: hardware. First, the price of RAM has dropped off the charts - it is MUCH much cheaper than it used to be. The second is the small servers (1U tall) with huge power. 2 fast quad-core (with appropriate memory for caching) low-power-use CPUs with a mountain of memory - 32-64GB are available today. This is more CPU power than most companies need for any single purpose. There is talk of going back to a mainframe mentality - never before has so much compute capability been available for so little cost in so little space needing so little power. Ancient mainframes took up rooms or buildings - if these new virtual servers are like mainframes, they are the first to fit in 1U of rack space.
It is best for virtualization infrastructures to be on a central storage platform. I don't plan on talking much about that at this juncture, other than to say I am running vmware servers off of NFS quite successfully.
IT shops can get many bangs for the buck running vmware infrastructure with virtual center - take weird old servers, with only internal redundancy (if that) and gain:
-- capacity planning for virtualizing new servers
-- automated help virtualizing those new servers with minimal downtime
-- as much storage redundancy as the shop can afford and manage in central storage
-- options to use central storage backup capabilities to integrate with the IT shop backup strategy - have vmware cause a central storage snapshot with vm disk use quiesced, with no interruption in service - thus no longer needing a backup client license on each (virtual) server.
-- HA - clustering and failover - and this for services that did not have it before - makes an IT manager's service uptime much better
-- Easy server upgrades - just fail server instances off the physical server you want to replace, and replace!

So who does not care about virtualization? The big web ops shops don't care. They need CPU, RAM, and networking. These new cheaper more powerful servers using less power are still awesome, but not as part of a virtualization platform. They might have tens or hundreds of servers fulfilling one purpose, not part of an old server. I'm talking about the likes of production web operations of companies like Yahoo!, Google, Amazon, Ebay, and the like. They bind many servers together (for example, behind a load balancer) to act as one.
However, big web operations like these, more and more, are creating virtualization-like capabilities in the opposite direction - making large banks of servers be able to flip-flop repurpose as needed for other purposes. This is the same problem, kind of. If virtual servers can be very efficient, but multiple servers could bond together to act as one server in some ways, then

Initial Post

I should start by defining data center:

Facilities management, network and systems (and applications) administration, database administration. I include security type administration as well. This includes all aspects of IT and internet operations management. ITIL is a framework for... I'll say not forgetting about some of the important aspects of this area.