"You are an industry thought leader." Ehm, did you pick the right guy?

By Renegade on Friday 23 October 2009 16:42 - Comments (5)
Categories: General, Gestatl IT, Views: 5.760

The title of this post was my first thought when I received the invitation to join the Gestalt IT Tech Field Day.

To start off from the beginning, I'm a regular reader over at Gestalt IT. "So what is Gestalt IT" you may wonder now. Well, on their website you will find the following:
We are collecting the best analysis and commentary from leaders in the fields of virtualization, networking, storage, and desktop engineering.


We work with independent experts, bloggers, and writers to generate content focused on IT infrastructure topics. Many of our articles and posts are syndicated from the blogs of their authors, meaning that they select their best and most relevant work and transmit it to us using an RSS feed, just like Google Reader and other feed readers use. Posts are then formatted and edited for publication here.
So, you could call it an agregate of posts that are collected and submitted by people who know their stuff in things IT.

So, I read that they were organizing something called a "Tech Field Day", which is basically an event where they invite bloggers from all over the place to come to San Francisco and see and test new products by various vendors. You can use the stuff they introduce, punch holes in their product and exchange ideas and opinions.

The big difference to a regular conference? It's not sponsored by a big company. The main point is not profit. The people there are free to say what they want and can write about the things that they find interesting.

So, after reading about it I asked the initiator of this Idea, Stephen Foskett, when we would be seeing something similar in Europe. Shorlty after I received a short tweet from him with the question if I would consider attending.

Now, having the quote from the field day website in mind, namely:
The following industry thought leaders have tentatively agreed to attend
I was pretty confident he just sent his tweet out to the wrong person. But actually he did mean to talk to me. Can you imagine that? 8)7

Anyway, after confirming that I would be more than happy to attend I am now on the list as it appears and will probably be in San Jose, CA on the 12th and 13th of November and you can expect some blog posts about what I will see there and if we have some WiFi going on you will also see some tweets.

We will be seeing products introduced by:And the event is sponsored by some other companies who won't be presenting but will for example help in hosting part of the event:I'm looking forward to it, because instead of spending some time with myself, I will actually be able to talk to some genuinely smart folks there and be able to exchange ideas and opinions.

The Kindle is coming to Europe! Hurray, so what..?

By Renegade on Sunday 18 October 2009 10:26 - Comments (4)
Category: General, Views: 4.506

I was pretty psyched about the Kindle coming to abroad to Europe. First of all it means that we get a halfway decent e-book reader over here, and more importantly a lot of books in a format that is at least somewhat of a standard, be it a proprietary one. The pricing model is also okay in my opinion, be it not overly cheap.

Since I do a lot of reading I was actually seriously considering the option of purchasing one, but decided to wait. An important reason for me was a missing option of using a backlight. Instead of clipping on additional accessories that light up half the room, a built in solution that offers soft lighting in the dark would be a great option. Anyone who ever worked with a back-lit keyboard on a MacBook will know what I'm talking about.

Today Robert Scoble replied to me in a tweet and wrote about a new e-reader that Steve Jobs is supposedly working on. He also responded that the new device will do a lot more than black and white books with crappy typography.

Now, first of all I'm sure it will do a lot more. Apple or if you will, Steve Jobs are not the kind of players in this market to just copy someone else's product and features and then introduce it on the market. Independent of the fact if you like Mr. Jobs or not, usually they take several good ideas and try to build a product around that. E-Ink (the company) already introduced color E-Ink displays and I think this will be a big change for those media.

Instead of reading a 16 gradient monochrome screen, you can now actually read something on true black and white. Think of things like school or college where you would be able to just have your study books with you in one device, with the option of marking things, making notes and so much more.

You could add the 3G-service we already know from the Kindle so that we can purchase new books wherever we are. And perhaps, what the heck, even throw in wireless so that we can use it to browse blogs or websites without the need of a subscription. Or perhaps introduce the subscription, but just for the situations where we don't have a wifi connection.

If we get "the next generation of e-book reader" as Robert Scoble says, I just hope it won't make coffee. I don't want a halfway decent e-book reader that does other things good. I want an e-book reader that is truly great, and perhaps does other things but not at the cost of being a lesser e-book reader.

So, let's hope @Scobleizer is right and we get a great new device and not a mediocre one as we've seen it way too many times before. :)

My bad, Robert talked about Steve Jobs, and yesterday I was probably short on caffeine so that somehow got changed to Steve Ballmer. Woops. :X Be it that this does not change my idea that even Microsoft is more of an idea combiner. Anyway, the post above got changed just slightly so that I am now actually naming the correct Steve. ;)

Lo and behold! The EMC community expert! Or something?

By Renegade on Thursday 15 October 2009 10:26 - Comments (4)
Categories: EMC, General, Views: 3.428

About two weeks back (Friday October 2nd to be exact), I received an e-mail from Erin Capellman. She's one of the people working for EMC and seems to be at least partially, if not even full time, responsible for the EMC community network.

Basically it's the same as a lot of other online communities. People meet in a digital environment and exchange ideas, meet peers and get new information. Something that can be quite useful and add a lot of value to projects you are working on.

Apparently someone noticed that I spend some time asking and answering questions, or even talking about ideas or trends in the EMC community. The e-mail stated that:
EMC has initiated a program across all communities, entitled the EMC
Community Expert program, to recognize outstanding member contributions.
Only 20 individuals have been selected to receive this leadership
designation. You were nominated by managers across EMC communities
because you have consistently demonstrated extraordinary commitment to
helping customers, partners, or employees.


We deeply appreciate the time and commitment that you continue to make
to EMC, its customers, partners and employees. Thank you and
congratulations from all the communities of EMC and their thousands of
Now, it's quite nice to get such a mail, but it also made me think if this is something related to a persons interests. The answer is yes. You can't be successful or spend a certain amount of time just because you are hoping to get some recognition. It simply won't work.

However, I am convinced that certain people have a nack for communicating online. Be it in a community or by various other means. When I look at my own "online CV" I can look back at quite a history. I've been part of a very big community right here at Tweakers.net and got a good feel on how to talk to people online.

I don't know if this made a huge difference in getting the above "leadership designation", but I am certain it didn't hurt. Yesterday they announced the community experts on the various pages, and it's kind of funny to see a picture of youself online with such a title:


So, to end this with a question. Is being successful in one online community also beneficial if you want to be successful in other online communities?

Symmetrix access control: When unique is everything but unique

By Renegade on Friday 2 October 2009 10:22 - Comments (2)
Categories: SAN, Storage, Symmetrix, Views: 5.881

So, youve got a million dollar storage box standing there and want to make sure that it's secure? Sure thing you want to do that! And you ask your vendor "What can I do?". One of the replies could to use access control lists or ACL's. And all is great. Or is it?

From what I have heard, very few EMC customers in Europe tend to use ACL's on their Symmetrixes. Perhaps even for a good reason?

If you take a look at the documentation on Powerlink you can find some technical papers on Symmetrix Access Control, and the papers will state (among others) the following:
Today, anyone with access to Symmetrix-based management software can execute any function on any Symmetrix device. Many product applications such as EMC® ControlCenterTM, TimeFinder®, SRDF®, Optimizer®, Resource View, Database Tuner, and various ISV products can issue management commands to any device in a Symmetrix® complex. Open systems hosts can manipulate mainframe devices, Windows hosts can manipulate UNIX data, and vice versa.

Shared systems, such as these, may be vulnerable to one host, accidently or intentionally, tampering with another’s devices. To prevent this, the symacl command can be used by an administrator of the Symmetrix storage site to set up and restrict host access to defined sets of devices (access pools) across the various Symmetrix arrays.
Now, I have to admit that this info is from an older version of this guide, but the same is still true for the most part. You can change to in-band or out-of-band management, you can use the Symmetrix Management Console, but as soon as you install Solutions Enabler on a client connected to the storage box, you more or less open up a world of possibilities on said client.

Usually you don't want that, so why not implement some restrictions? symacl is just the thing for that! Normally I would create an access pool, in which I define permission to a host to perform certain Solutions Enabler functionality or commands on a specified set of devices. These sets of devices are referred to as access pools.

Now, once I have set up these access pools, I can assign single clients or groups of clients to these pools. I do that by creating access control groups. These contain unique access IDs and names, and are assigned to hosts and sorted into access control groups

So now I have one (or more) clients that I allow a certain piece of functionality or a certain (set of) command(s). In order to uniquely identify my client, I can run the following solution enabler command:
symacl -unique

and will receive an output similar to this:
The unique id for this host is: 254A30A9-54319DC0-8A476069

Now that we have the unique host id, we can add id to the configured access group via a command file using the normal preview, prepare and commit routine. After that, you should be good to go.

And that is where things can get nasty.

As we have found out the hard way, a unique host id is not necessarily unique. We have had occasions where we had multiple hosts with the same unique host id on the same Symmetrix. Fortunately, the DMX is so confused at that point that it won't allow any of the hosts to access the configured devices - and normally your masking and zoning provide some extra protection - but it is still a nasty thing that can happen.

That brings us to the second point. The unique host id can change. EMC will not tell you what changes influence the generation of the unique host id, but for example a change of FC-HBA will cause the unique host id to be changed. On Windows, there are versions of Solutions Enabler where a change in the NetBIOS stack seems to cause this change. Now you might think that you can check what unique host id was configured in the access group, but you would be wrong.

Unfortunately, all the unique host id's that are entered in to an access group will be crypted/hashed by the Symmetrix, and you won't be able to retrieve the unique host id. So my advice. If you want to compare the values you entered, store them somewhere so that you at least have the option to compare the values. It can make troubleshooting a bit easier.

Just as a hint, there is also a way to create static unique host id's, which are unaffected by hardware and software changes. Should you need it, ask your EMC support and refer to Powerlink ID emc198823. They should be able to give you a solution with that ID number. :)

A last word of advice. If you are working with ACL's and changing stuff, please make sure you back up your access logix database before you start with the changes. It might be a good idea to implement that as the first step in any scripts you might create.

ACL's are not a bad thing. They can increase your (sense of) securty. However, the way it was implemented in the Symmetrix environment leaves a bit to be desired, and troubleshooting issues can be a pain if you are not aware of the fact that the unique host id's aren't always unique.

Computer evolution: And we continue to wait.

By Renegade on Thursday 1 October 2009 11:29 - Comments (14)
Categories: General, Performance, Views: 4.040

It's all about waiting when it comes to computers.

Let's take a short trip down technology lane and look back at "what was" back then.

For me, it all started with a C64. My dad worked for a shipping and forwarding company, and they made the change from punched or IBM card systems to a new form of computing. The company he worked for made their employees an offer to purchase a Commodore 64 and use it at home. So he brought home the first computer I worked with. :)

One of the most notable things was that once you got it to display all of the files on one of the floppies, you needed a certain amount of patience to get it to actually start the program. There was no such thing as switching on your computer and just starting to work. Following (or something similar) was seen more than once in the lives of the C64 users:

LOAD "$",8
<get coffee>
<drink coffee>
<flip over the floppy>
<wait some more>

And you would be ready to start playing, or perhaps even start working. And this is just one example that I am quite familiar with. Something probably not even expected when Alan Turing described his Turing machine, but somehow managed to start with the ENIAC, follow us even after the transistors were invented and then integrated in to integrated circuits, and has since followed us from the Intel 4004 past the more modern systems like the Intel 80386 that included the FPU, and even nowadays with the new AMD Athlon and Intel Xeon processors.

Now, one would say that we have an immense amount of computational power. And I can't do anything else but agree with you. If you take a closer look at Moore's law and plot everything out you can even see that our computational power made a great leap. And that's absolutely great!

So by now we have so much computational power that we don't have to wait anymore when we want to do something, right? That must have changed since the days of the C64?

That's what you would probably expect, right? It's true, we don't have to insert floppies anymore. Instead we use a different medium with a higher data density. And we can run programs that are much bigger and complex on our machines right now that we ever imagined in the days of the Intel 4004.

But we continue to wait. How many people do you know at the office who start off with switching on their computer and then getting a cup of coffee while we wait for the operating system to load or for the programs they work with to start? I know loads of people. If I take the company I work for in to account, you can see that it's a huge piece of software that you install to your servers. But we still wait quite long times when we try to work with the program, and it's usually not the system that is waiting for some user input.

Fact is that we continue to find new things that we can actually compute. The more computational power we have, the more we try to compute. New technologies like nanocomputers won't change anything there. We will have a short lived feeling that is like "wow, this is really fast!", and then compute more and lose the (feeling of) speed.

In short; The computer continues to evolve, and we continue to wait.