Cloud Computing

August 28, 2009 – 10:14 pm

I attended CloudCamp at Google HQ in Sydney last night. Interesting mix of attendees. Lots of discussion.

“Cloud Computing”, is a hot buzzword at the moment. Probably used most often by people who have no idea what it means. Some people use it and have AN idea, but its different to the idea that other people have. Arguments result. People get tired of hearing the term.  There is good stuff behind the hype however.

NIST have released a draft definition paper. If we can all agree on what to call things, then we can come out of the hype phase and start figuring out what is good when and for what (etc).

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.

Another way of describing “cloud” is “the stuff i don’t have to care about”. This has been used in various forms by a range of leading minds in the area. I didn’t make that up.  It’s a pretty good definition I think.  It’s common practice for network engineers draw clouds on their network diagrams to represent bits of network they don’t control, usually service provider networks.  Cloud Computing works the same way. “They give me computing resources of a particular type with a service description and an SLA and I don’t need to worry about the details”.  If you need a certain amount of security, get it in the contract. If you need a certain guaranteed performance, get that in the contract too.

It’s early days. Cloud Computing offerings are still maturing. The types of offerings are still evolving.  In my opinion, there are some exciting changes starting to happen.

IT departments in many or most enterprises are in an ongoing wrestle with their business masters. Both sides complain about the other, saying they don’t understand, they don’t deliver or don’t listen.  When IT departments don’t support their businesses, wholesale outsourcing usually results. However that’s had limited success and it’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  You need healthy competition for an optimum result.  An internal IT department effectively has a monopoly, holding the business to ransom. Outsourcing the lot just moves that monopoly elsewhere.  We need to eliminate this monopoly situation.

Network services have become a commodity because we now have standard networks. Everyone uses IP, ethernet, MPLS etc.  Switching from one carrier to another is a relatively painless process. Many companies use a mix, moving traffic and infrastructure onto one or the other over time. Competition is good!

Cloud computing has the same potential. Running your company’s servers or apps on a service provider’s platform and being able to move from one service provider to another easilly is key. Hooray, true competition!

Yes, this will most likely mean lots of job losses in IT departments all over the globe.  But this is a change that needs to happen.  If you work in IT, ask yourself, “how am I contributing to the profitability of my company?” If you can’t answer that, you better make some career changes so that you can.

Company executives will start looking at IT departments as business enablers, not just a cost.


July 24, 2009 – 11:12 am

Whilst looking through the cartoon archive, I saw this. Very apt. This is a great summary of my experience being technical in a sales department.


Philosophical about virtualisation

May 4, 2009 – 5:28 pm

I stop and ponder things from time to time. Get philosophical about why we’re all charging like lemmings after buzzwords without stopping to wonder why or if we’re really going in the right direction. I’ve seen people end up in dead end careers because they were too near sighted. I dont want to end up like that.

This article reminded me about a particular topic i ponder from time to time; Virtualisation.

Google fires back at VMware

I’ve known about VMware since it began yeeeeears ago. back then, i saw it as a developer tool, for people who needed to try various operating systems but having multiple hardware boxes wasnt practical.

fast forward to the here and now, and virtualisation is all the rage, with VMware being top dog.  I’m from a telco core systems background, which is pretty much pure unix, of varying flavors.  vmware is almost exclusively used by SME, who are all windows shops.

My opinion is that the dominating reason for vmware being such a huge success is the nature of windows and the apps that run on it.  windows server apps dont play nicely with each other, thus the resulting plethora of servers, each running one or two apps, all under utilised, with headroom for peak usage.

In the unix world i’m used to, multiple apps all run happilly alongside each other.  the first big production systems i worked on were a pair of Sun enterprise 3000 servers. they ran mail, news, web, proxy, dns and some other minor apps. all on a single instance of Solaris. the apps were installed on external SAN disk and could be failed over between the two servers. this was in the late 90s.  ten years later, vmware is bringing to the windows world the efficiencies and high availability features that has been available for a long time in the unix world.  that said, even the unix world lagged behind the mainframe world.

that got me thinking, why the move from mainframe to unix to wintel?  its about $.  when “open systems” aka UNIX started to beat the pants off mainframes, it was because of cost. the systems were good enough for what they were needed for and a lot less expensive. the fact that the technology wasnt as impressive didnt mater. the business case, weighing everything up tipped in favor of unix.   later, for the SME, the same thing happened between windows and unix. windows was “good enough” and required much less skill to work with. many companies couldnt afford the skilled sysadmins. their wages would cost the company more than the losses due to system crashes/outages.

vmware helps companies run their windows environments in a much better way, without changing the way those companies’ apps work.  google helps companies by offering a whole new way of using software. new applications. gmail instead of Exchange/Outlook.  Google Apps instead of the MS Office Suite.

as a result, system/hypervisor virtualisation is not needed by Google, they virtualise the apps.  the fight is between Google trying to convince companies to consume IT apps in a new way and VMware trying to convince companies their existing way is fine, but that vmware can make it run better.

pass the popcorn 🙂 this should be fun to watch

NOTE: VMware and Google are just examples. there are other players in each of their respective markets, they’re just the leaders in my opinion.

Online sake & shochu shopping in Australia

March 9, 2009 – 11:06 pm


Good news folks, you can now buy quality sake and shochu in Australia, online.  The owner of Toriciya has opened an online shop where you can buy the sake available at Toriciya and more.

The shop is

I’m currently drinking Taketsuru HidenSuiryu is another favorite, particularly the Junmai Kimoto.  Many people get all worked up about whether you should have good sake hot or cold.  I recommend you try it hot and cold, and see which you like better.  Some are definitely better hot and others better cold. Its more about the style than the quality.  

Mitsuo Shoji Ceramics

December 15, 2008 – 5:29 pm

Mitsuo Shoji is a well respected Japanese japanese born ceramics artist (which i didnt know until recently) who lectured at Sydney College of the Arts for several decades.  We received an invite to an exhibition of his via friends of a friend of his.

So many nice pieces I would love to have, but we should really buy a house to put them in first.  In the end we picked up a couple of bowls which we can use.

Fishworks finally released

November 20, 2008 – 12:38 pm

Sun’s super-secret-squirrel storage appliance project has been under wraps for years now. We’re talking Apple style secrecy.

About a week ago they finally launched product.  Another cool bit of news is that there is a vmware ‘simulator’ version available for download. cool.

The “fishworks” project was rumoured to be Sun’s NetApp killer NAS appliance, based on ZFS and solaris with a nice GUI.  This turned out to be bang on.  The GUI must have been what took the most time and effort, it looks slick.  NetApp have done bugger all with their GUI. I find it very clunky.

add Fibre Channel support, de-duplication and if the performance is good Sun might just have a winner.

UPDATE:  I’ve just seen Sun’s stock price chart and profit/loss info over the last few years. It’s in freefall. Lets hope this new stuff isnt too little too late.

UPDATE2: it was. Oracle bought Sun


November 9, 2008 – 1:22 am

Life is good.  Cheese, wine, crackers and fruit. nom nom nom nom….

Recent cheese discoveries at Jones The Grocer. Left to right;

and wine to go with it.

  • Moorebank 2003 Merlot
  • Petersons 2001 Mudgee Cab Sav

and another delicious discovery, english apple pickle.

New sandbox PC

November 3, 2008 – 12:45 pm

I bought a new PC recently to run virtual machines on.  Virtualisation is all the rage, so I’ve decided to play around with Xen and VMware.  It also gives me an easy way to play with numerous OSes without having to frig around with hardware. As GNS3 is to Cisco routers, this box will be to OS’s.

I’ve got ESXi on it at the moment with a ReadyNAS NFS fileshare set up as a datastore in addition to the internal disk.

Thanks to nice corporate discounts, i was able to get this spec for a good price;

HP Compaq dc5800 SFF

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 160GB SATA-2 10K rpm HDD
  • Intel PRO dual port gig-eth network card

PS: Rational Survivability is a good blog for people interested in Virtualisation and Security

UPDATE: Something to be aware of. Many corporate desktops have the Virtualisation enhancements in the CPU (Intel: VT-x) turned off by default for security reasons.  On this PC i had to upgrade the BIOS and drill down through the security menu to find the option to turn it on.  There was no doco on it that I could find and HP’s support people had no clue.

SANS 2008

November 2, 2008 – 4:43 pm

A little while ago I discovered that Verizon has annual training budget for employees to do work related courses of their choice.  Around that time I learned that SANS was holding one of their training events here in Sydney. I’ve always wanted to do a SANS course but the cost put me off.

I enrolled in “SEC502: Perimeter Protection In-Depth“.  I’ve got a lot of experience with designing and building datacenter networks but it’s been some years since i was was working with people that i could call mentors. So I could do with a bit of a refresher.  The course was being run by its author, Chris Brenton.

The course finished up yesterday. It was an intense 6 days of theory, practice and examples from Chris’s extensive experience. This course was definately worth the money. I’ve got 6 books of course notes full of scribbled comments. I’ll be going back to the books for months or more, to get what i couldnt absorb during the course itself.

It was the best course I’ve ever done. Equal best with training i did with Dr. Rex di Bona some years ago.

My next task is to study for the GIAC certification that’s associated with the course. It’s open book, so that worries me a little. It’ll be hard!

Another attendee’s blog: Chris Mohan

Some relevant websites;

InGuardians Dr Rex Di Bona

UPDATE: 4 Mar 09 – A week and a bit ago I passed the exam. I’m now a GIAC Certified Firewall Analyst (GCFW)

Hunter Valley wineries

September 22, 2008 – 5:56 pm

Pictures from a recent trip to the hunter vallery visiting cellar doors.

We visited our old favorites Moorebank and Petersons and 8 others. Standout new winery for me was Calais Estate. Most of the rest were passé. Still, you don’t discover good things if you’re not adventurous.