Showing posts with label Things that caught my attention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Things that caught my attention. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Faulty FC port meets ZFS

Right now, I'm in a project that is taking a lot of my time and as such, I am behind my normal readings. Whenever I'm in this situation, my mailing list subscriptions are usually the first ones to suffer.

Anyway, I just saw this post from the zfs-discuss mailing list at It was posted about two months ago but I think that it is worth posting here as well specially since a lot of my ZFS posts have been getting some encouraging levels of page hits.

The post talks about how ZFS caught a situation where different layers of the I/O stack were trusting each other to a point where data was being silently corrupted. In fact, even the administrators trusted their hardware so much. The post says (all emphasis mine):

there was no mirroring or protection at the server level, we had delegated that function to the DMX3500

I've seen this kind of "trust" in some sites. But that turned out to be a bad decision:

As it turns out our trusted SAN was silently corrupting data due to a bad/flaky FC port in the switch. DMX3500 faithfully wrote the bad data and returned normal ACKs back to the server, thus all our servers reported no storage problems.
ZFS was the first one to pick up on the silent corruption

Ah, silent data corruption, the kind of problem that used to keep me up at night. :)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What a pleasant surprise (the power of google)

I use Google Analytics and FeedBurner SiteStats to monitor the traffic and subscriptions of this blog. This site has a very modest traffic but for the past few months now, I noticed that more and more readers are landing to this site from a google search. I also noticed that most of the searches were for silent data corruption, a topic which I had a previous entry. Currently, this specific entry is number two on google search result when one uses the search term silent data corruption.

When I tried this search today, I got this:

No wonder. What a pleasant surprise! :)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The day is coming...

This is in reference to my previous entry titled "Is the day coming...".

Sun's ThinGuy says it is coming soon. You can see a demo here.

And yes, it is called win4solaris.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Is the day coming...

... when you will be able to run Windows on top of Solaris x64, just like you can run Windows on top of Linux using VMWare today? As of today, Solaris is supported only as a guest operating system under VMWare.

If Solaris can be a host operating system to another OS, then it is possible to use some of the Solaris features on the hosted OS. For example, today, it is possible to use DTrace on a Linux system running on a Solaris BrandZ Zone. In a similar fashion, if one can run Windows on top of Solaris, it is then possible for Windows to indirectly take advantage of features such as DTrace and ZFS. And with things like resource management, it then becomes possible to cap the resources used by that instance of the Windows OS. The thought of being able to do this excites me no end. :)

Anyway, I've always wondered what Sun is going to do in this area. A few years ago, we had a product called SunPCi. This product is a combination of hardware and software. The hardware component was a card that goes into a SPARC box. This card had an AMD processor. With this hardware/software combination, one can then install Windows and some Linux distros on top of Solaris. It was similar to VMWare in so many ways. I used SunPCi a lot and I loved it.

When Solaris x86/64 was announced, I thought that Sun would then take the SunPCi software component and make it run on Solaris x64/86. But that has not happened.

Then, last October, ThinGuy mentioned that Sun is working with Win4Lin. Today, I see this.

Hmmm.... win4solaris, anyone?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

T2000 - eBay's Database Platform of Choice for 2007

I've always loved it when a quote comes directly from a customer. Here's a recent one that describes the T2000 as scary fast :)

Niagaras run much cooler than our previous servers, plus they are scary fast. They’ve cut our total cost of operations [TCO] through lower acquisition and management costs. The Sun Fire T2000 will be our database platform of choice in 2007.
— Heather Peck, Infrastructure Manager, eBay Inc.

eBay mainly uses Oracle.

You can read about it here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Why stop there?

Today, this article from The Register caught my attention:

US politicos demand cool servers

US politicians have joined the great call for energy-friendly data centers, as the Senate this week approved a bill that promotes low-power server technology.

Senators unanimously pushed through the legislation that asks the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the energy consumption of data centers. The EPA has been instructed to bone up on items such as low-power chips, power supplies and energy distribution. It will also consider how incentives could be used to promote power-efficient data centers in the government and private sectors.

Energy efficient computing is becoming more and more of a topic these days. I'm glad to see that politicians are finally putting in place legislation to promote green/cool computing.

Even utility companies have started to offer incentives to promote green/cool computing. A few months ago, PG&E teamed up with Sun to offer up to US$1,000 rebate for servers:

Sun Teams with PG&E On First Ever Rebate For Servers, Up To $1000 In Savings

Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: SUNW) today announced that Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), one of the largest natural gas and electric utilities in the United States serving 350,000 California businesses, is offering significant rebates as part of a new energy incentive program for computer servers. The CoolThreads technology Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 servers -- which are three to five times more energy efficient than competing systems and take up less space(1)-- were the only servers to qualify for the rebate program. As part of PG&E’s Non Residential Retrofit program, customers replacing existing equipment with these eco-responsible servers can receive a cash savings between $700-$1000 per server or up to 35 percent when combined with the Sun Upgrade Advantage Program(2). This is the first-ever incentive rebate offered by a public utility company for servers.

Very nice and cool. I think its definitely a step in the right direction.

But why stop there? Right now, the focus is on servers. But there are also millions (billions?) of power-hungry desktops that are out there. How much power does an average desktop, without the monitor, consume? 200 watts? More? At Sun, our standard "desktop" hardware consumes as low as 4 watts. Yes, as low as four watts.

We used to call the Sun Ray an ultra-thin client to differentiate it from other thin client solutions. Other terms such as Display Over IP (DOIP) were also used to describe the technology but some of us sometimes replaced the meaning of D to Desktop so that DOIP would mean Desktop Over IP. Because that's what it really is -- our entire desktops are being delivered to us over the network. Then, just recently, "ultra-thin client" has been replaced with Virtual Display Client.

I'll be blogging more about this soon. In the meantime, you can look it up here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Scaling out?

Kevin Closson has a couple of interesting posts about Sun gear and Oracle here and here.

In the second post, he says:

But even for the “heavy” databases, it wont be long until they too only require some of the cores that a single socket offers.
OK, remind me again who actually needs to “scale-out” a database to multiple servers?
Very good point. Very good question.

I personally believe that a lot of the companies who use Oracle RAC today don't need it.

As to when "heavy" databases will need only some cores that a single socket offers, I'm already seeing this situation today. While a lot of people talk about scaling out - and some companies are actually scaling out - I also see companies that are consolidating their databases on more powerful machines. Right now, I'm working on a project for one of the big telcos in North America. You would think that these guys would be scaling out like crazy. On the contrary, they are consolidating all sorts of things, including big databases, on more powerful machines.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

NewsGator: Why?

I was playing around with different news readers/aggregators when I remembered that I have an existing NewsGator account that I set up a while back. So I went to the NewsGator site and tried to login but I forgot my password. Like most sites, NewsGator has a "Forgot your password?" link. Using that function sent me this email:
To:[My Email Address here]
Subject: NewsGator Online credentials
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2006 19:04:09 -0700
As you requested online, we are sending your NewsGator
Online credentials to you. They are as follows:

Username: [My Username was here]
Password: [My unencrypted password was here]

Customer Support
NewsGator Technologies


If this was a password reset or new account creation, that would have been acceptable -- as long as I am then required to change it the next time I log on. But what they sent me is a password that I created months ago.

This could only mean that in NewsGator's servers, my password is stored either in unencrypted format, or if it is encrypted, it is reversible. I know that a lot of smaller sites do this... but NewsGator? What happened to one-way encryption?

Comments? Good, bad, tolerable, unacceptable?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

ZFS - Another way to recover from a screw up... :)

Doug Burns wrote in his blog how he accidentally messed up some of his Oracle database development environments. Doug, I remember that a little while back, we had a short chat over at Christo Kutrovsky's follow-up blog entry to my ZFS post.

If you've had the chance to install Solaris 10 update 2 (6/06 release), it would be a good time to try ZFS, specially on development environments. ZFS has a snapshot feature and this is one of the ZFS features that I really love.

For example, I use this to create snapshots of entire filesystems. In your case, if there was a snapshot of /ora/data2, recovering the data from the snapshot would have been very f-a-s-t (most likely seconds). I routinely do this with my development environments.

I also use ZFS snapshots in place of the OS-level copy command when doing Oracle hot backups. When done this way, hot backups can be completed in seconds no matter how big the datafiles are.

Another place where I use ZFS snapshots is when I upgrade Oracle or any other software that is mounted under ZFS. If something does not work as I expect, a zfs rollback will quickly (again, seconds) bring order to a messy situation. :)

But my favorite use of ZFS snapshots is to snapshot entire Solaris 10 zones. Sometimes, these zones host Oracle databases. If something gets messed up, I simply issue a zfs rollback command and the entire zone goes back to its state when the snapshot was taken. Very fast and very neat. :)

I've been meaning to make a more detailed post about this for a while now, complete with examples for Oracle. Maybe now is a good time for me to do that. I hope I can make time to write something soon.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I hope they can make this work

This Wired article just caught my attention.

Powering Up, One Step at a Time


British engineers are converting street vibrations into electricity and predict a working prototype by Christmas capable of powering facility lights in the busiest areas of a city.

"We can harvest between 5 to 7 watts of energy per footstep that is currently being wasted into the ground," says Claire Price, director of The Facility Architects, the British firm heading up the Pacesetters Project. "And a passing train can generate very useful energy to run signaling or to power lights."

Gilbert is working with hydraulic-powered heel-strike generators, which he believes could be installed in the floors of busy public places like subway stations. Those stations typically capture the footfall of 20,000 commuters an hour during peak usage -- multiplied by 5 to 7 watts a person, that's more than enough to power a building's lights for the day.


The prototypes are scheduled for assembly by December 2006.

I think it's a cool idea. I hope they can make it work.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

India rejects 'One Laptop per Child'

The Times of India has reported that India's Ministry of Human Resource Development has rejected the idea of One Laptop per Child.


The HRD ministry has rejected the idea of 'one-laptop-per-child' (OLPC) being aggressively marketed by Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Laboratory. "India must not allow itself to be used for experimentation with children in this area," the ministry has said.

The ministry's detailed objection based on technical, social and financial grounds was sent to the Planning Commission two weeks ago.

It is not clear what the technical objections are; there was nothing mentioned in the article. As for me, I have my own personal reservations about OLPC's approach. At this time, I am not convinced that they are headed in the right direction. Why? Here's something from OLPC's FAQ page:

What is the $100 Laptop, really?

The proposed $100 machine will be a Linux-based, with a dual-mode display—both a full-color, transmissive DVD mode, and a second display option that is black and white reflective and sunlight-readable at 3× the resolution. The laptop will have a 500MHz processor and 128MB of DRAM, with 500MB of Flash memory; it will not have a hard disk, but it will have four USB ports. The laptops will have wireless broadband that, among other things, allows them to work as a mesh network; each laptop will be able to talk to its nearest neighbors, creating an ad hoc, local area network. The laptops will use innovative power (including wind-up) and will be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data.

Here's my concern: considering that the target users are young children (6-12 year olds, if I'm not mistaken), how wise is it to make a machine that is run by a full-blown operating system? Do we expect these kids to "play system administrators" on their laptops? Do we expect them to know how to patch their systems when there are security vulnerabilities in the operating system or application programs? Or are they planning to have professional system administrators push the updates to these laptops? Is that really going to succeed?

I am not picking on Linux just because I am a Sun employee. I will still have the same reservations even if they use Solaris as the operating system. The fact is all operating systems will have their own vulnerabilities even if these operating systems are stripped down of unnecessary services. And when these vulnerabilities are discovered, they have to be dealt with. Besides, no matter what operating system is used, there are still application programs that will also have their own vulnerabilities.

OLPC is talking about deploying millions of these laptops. Wouldn't it be better if they are engineered in such a way that the end users will no longer have to worry about securing their individual laptops?

I think it makes sense to study the viability of a thin client model -- a device that has no operating system to begin with. That way, there is nothing to maintain on the laptop itself.