Click here to close now.


@CloudExpo Authors: Jennifer Gill, Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, John Basso, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, @BigDataExpo, @DevOpsSummit

@CloudExpo: Article

Wasted IT Resources

Resource consolidation through newer architectures and solutions like PaaS is a way to tackle this

David Rubinstein's post "Industry Watch: Be resilient as you PaaS" makes a very good point about underutilized hardware in IT data-centers.

Millions of enterprise workloads remain in data centers, where servers are 30% to 40% underutilized, and that's if they're virtualized. If not, they're only using 5% to 7% of capacity.

The reason for this?

Take, for example, servers that are spun up for a project two years ago that were never decommissioned, just sitting there, waiting for a new workload that will never come. And, because the costs of blades and racks went down, cheap hardware has led to a kind of data center sprawl.

So is IT buying new hardware for each new project and not recycling? Is this because projects do not clearly die? Do we need "time of death" announcements mandated on IT projects?

Late last year, the US Government Accountability Office reported that the Federal IT spends 70% of its IT budget on care for legacy systems. That's $56 billion! How many of those legacy systems are rusty old projects with low utilization and are over-consuming resources?

Who wants those old servers? They might only be 2 years "old," but each new project has its own requirements and trying to retrofit old hardware to shiny new projects is probably undesirable. A project has a budget and specifications. A project needs X number of machines, with Y gigabytes of RAM and numerous other requirements. Can second-hand hardware fit the bill? If it can, can we find enough of it? Nobody wants a Frankenstein's monster of a cluster or the risk that it would be difficult to grow the cluster in the future. Better to go with new servers.

IaaS provides a path to a solution. It makes it easier to provision and decommission resources. Virtual machines can be sized to fit the task. Even if specific new hardware is required to meet the SLA (Service Level Agreement) demands of a new project, it can be recycled back in the available resources.

But does IaaS go far enough?

IaaS provides infrastructure to be used by projects. But as David Rubinstein points out, even virtualized machines are still 30% to 40% underutilized. This is because virtual machines are provisioned as a best guess of what might be required by the software that is intended to run on it. The business does the math of the traffic they hope to receive and then adds some padding to be safe. They pass the numbers to Operations who provision the machines. Once a machine is provisioned those resources are locked in.

Virtualized or not, adding and removing servers to a cluster can be logistically difficult if the application is not designed with scale in mind. When it comes to legacy IT, it is probably better to leave as-is than to invest more resources and risk in a project that is receiving no engineering attention.

Configuration Management
While IaaS is an essential building block of the cloud, it is not the solution. Pioneers in the age of DevOps have shifted the mindset from pets (knowing every machine by its cute name) to cattle (anonymous machines in named clusters). But even on the other side of this transition we are still focused on machines and operating systems.

Configuration management helps us to wrangle and make sense of our cattle. It whips our machines into some kind of uniform shape with the intention of moving them all in the same direction, but not without considerable sweat and tears. Snowflake servers that did not receive that last vital update, for reasons unknown, bring disease to the herd.

In Andrew C. Oliver's InfoWorld post "The platform-as-a-service winner is ... Puppet", he makes a good point that IT organizations are also "not a beautiful or unique snowflake".

Whatever you're doing with your IT infrastructure, someone else is probably doing the exact same thing. If what you're doing is so damn unique, then you're probably adding needless layers of complexity and you should stop.

Is configuration management the answer? It enables every organization to build beautiful unique snowflakes, but all the business actually wants is an igloo.

Thin Servers
Servers are getting thinner. There is shift from caring about the overhead of the operating systems to focusing on the processes. CoreOS is great example of this and there is also boot2docker on the development side. We will no doubt see many more flavors of this in the next few years.

If we encapsulate the complexity of software applications and services in containers then the host operating system becomes much simpler, less of a concern and more standardized. If we can find an elegant way to spread the containers across our cluster then we only need to provision a cluster of thin standardized servers to house them.

Why Containers? Why not virtual machines or hardware?

Filling a cluster with virtual machines, where each virtual machine is dedicated to a single task is wasteful. It's like trying to utilize the space in a jar by filling it with marbles, when we could be filling it with sand. Depending on your hardware and virtual machine relationship, it might even be like filling it with oranges.

Containers are also portable - and not just in a deployment sense. In a recent talk on "Google Compute Engine and Docker", Marc Cohen from Google spoke about how they migrate running GAE instances from one datacenter to another, while only seeing a flicker of transitional downtime. vSphere also has similar tools for doing this with virtual machines. Surely, it is only a matter of time before we see this commonly available with Linux containers.

We need clusters; not machines, not operating systems. We need clusters that support containers. Maybe we need "Cluster-as-a-Service." Actually, maybe we don't need any more "-as-a-Service" acronyms.

Just as we have stopped caring about the unique name of individual servers, we should stop caring about the details of a cluster. When I have a machine with 16Gb of RAM, do I need to care if it's 2x8Gb DIMMS or 4x4Gb? No, I only need to know that this machine gives me "16Gb of RAM". Eventually we will view clusters in the same way.

Now that we can fill jars with sand instead of oranges, we can be less particular about the size and shape of the jars we choose to build our cluster. Throwing away old jars is easier when we can pour the sand into a new jar.

The Why
I believe we always should start with "why." Why am I writing a script to run continuous integration and ensure I always have the latest version of HAProxy installed on all the frontend servers? Why are we buying more RAM and installing Memcached servers?

The "why" is ultimately a business reason - which is a long way from the command-line prompt.

Todd Underwood's excellent talk on "PostOps: A Non-Surgical Tale of Software, Fragility, and Reliability" highlights the SLA as the contract that is made with the business and ensures that the Operations team is delivering the throughput, response time and uptime that the business expects. Beyond that they have free reign to ensure that the SLA is met.

Too many SysAdmins and Operations Engineers are stuck in the mindset of machines and operating systems. They have spent their careers thinking this way and honing their skills. They focus too much on the "what" and the "how", not on the "why".

At some level these skills are vital. The harder you push, the more likely it is that you will find a problem further down the stack and have to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.

Operations teams are responsible every level of stack, from the metal upwards. Even in the age of "the cloud" and outsourcing, an Operations team that does not feel that they themselves are ultimately responsible for their stack will have issues at some point. An example of this is Netflix, who use Amazon's cloud infrastructure service and may actually understand it better than Amazon. They take responsibility for their stack very seriously and because of this they are able to provide an amazingly resilient service at incredible scale.

Focusing solely on machines and operating systems does not scale and too many IT departments find it difficult to transcend this. Netflix are a good example here too. When you have tens of thousands of machines you are not going worry about keeping them all in sync or fixing machines that are having issues unless it is pandemic. Use virtualization, create golden images, if a machine is limping - shoot it. This is how Netflix operates. And to ensure that their sharp-shooters are always at the top of their game, Netflix uses tools like Chaos Monkey. They are purposely putting wolves amongst their sheep.

DevOps is a movement that aims to liberate IT from its legacy mindset. It aims to step back and take a look at the bigger picture. View business needs. Address the needs that span across the currently siloed Dev and Ops. This may be through fancy new orchestration and CI tools or be through organizational changes.

Tools and infrastructure are evolving so quickly that the best tool today will not be the best tool tomorrow. It is difficult to keep up.

Todd Underwood said that Operations Engineers, or rather Site Reliability Engineers, at Google are always working just outside of their own understanding. This is the best way to keep moving forward. From this, I take that if you fully understand the tools you are using, you are probably moving too slowly and falling behind. Just do not move so quickly that you jeopardize operational safety.

As long as we focus on "why", we can keep building our stack around that purpose instead of around our favorite naming convention, our favorite operating system and favorite toolset.

PaaS is currently the best tool for orchestrating the container layer above the cluster layer. It manages the sand in your jars. ActiveState's PaaS solution, Stackato, also provides a way to manage the human side of your infrastructure. By integrating with your LDAP server, providing organizational and social aspects you can see your applications as applications, rather than as infrastructure.

As Troy Topnik points out in a recent post IaaS is not required to run Stackato. Although an IaaS will make managing your cluster easier as you grow.

But will an IaaS help with managing your resources at the application level? No. Will it help identify wasted resources? No. Will it put you directly in touch with the owners of the applications? No. But PaaS will.

The reasons for waste in IT organizations are many. One reason is the way resources are provisioned for projects. The boundaries of a project are defined too far down the stack, even though a project may simply be defined by a series of processes, message queues and datastores. Another reason for waste is bad utilization of resources from the outset - not building the infrastructure where resources can be shared. A third reason for waste is lack of visibility into where waste is occurring.

Lack of visibility comes from not being able to see or reason about machines and projects. Machine responsibilities may be cataloged by IT, but will it be visible by all involved? Building the relationship between machines, processes and projects is still a documentation task without PaaS.

If redundant applications are not visible to the entire organization, then those accountable for announcing "time of death" will less likely make that call. Old projects which should be end-of-lifed will continue to over-consume their allocated resources - resources that were allocated with the hope of what the project may one day become.

Nobody likes waste. Resource consolidation through newer architectures and solutions like PaaS is a way to tackle this. PaaS brings more visibility to your IT infrastructure. It exposes resources at the application level. It spreads resources evenly across your cluster in a way that enables you to scale up and down with ease and utilizes all your hardware efficiently.

Source: ActiveState, originally published, here.

More Stories By Phil Whelan

Phil Whelan has been a software developer at ActiveState since early 2012 and has been involved in many layers of the Stackato product, from the JavaScript-based web console right through to the Cloud Controller API. He has been the lead developer on kato, the command-line tool for administering Stackato. His current role at ActiveState is Technology Evangelist.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
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.
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"...
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...
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...
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.
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...
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.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
In his General Session at DevOps Summit, Asaf Yigal, Co-Founder & VP of Product at, 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 In the past, he was co-founder of social-trading platform Currensee, which...
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Su...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
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...
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.