Hello again for the first time! Until now I have concentrated my postings on XML.com, but my work has lately taken me into other realms. So let me start by introducing myself to the Sysadmin crowd. I work as a Senior Architect for Novell’s Systems and Resource Management Business Unit. What that means is that I spend most of my time visiting our clients’ data centers and doing proofs of concept of our first data center automation (DCA) product, ZENworks Orchestrator.
Data center automation? Well, that’s what the new data center is all about. It incorporates all the stuff that’s hot (or cool actually) in the data center world: consolidation, virtualization, simplification, rationalization, and a bunch of other -ations. But in short, it’s all about getting you a good night’s sleep.
Here’s a scenario for you: imagine you’re putting in a new application or service that requires some level of availability. In the old days you would probably have at least two physical machines for redundancy, set up shared storage between them, add some sort of failover (heartbeat with STONITH in the Linux world), and then let both those expensive machines sit mostly idle most of the time.
Today, the answer is to add a VM or two to some existing servers that have enough spare cycles to handle the load. But that’s still not quite enough. Why should you have to figure out which VM server has enough resources to handle another VM, and how to size the VM itself? If you architect it for peak load, you’re still going to have unused capacity — and if you scale it for average load, you’re going to lose performance when the load spikes.
You need some way of provisioning VMs on the appropriate server, migrating them to another server if need be, and monitoring them to make sure your load is being handled. And you need that all to happen without manual intervention. That’s data center automation.
My experience is with Novell’s product, which is still fairly new, but I’d love to hear about how real sysadmins are handling this problem today. I’ve had discussions with many of Novell’s customers, and most of them understand the vision but are not all the way there yet. Have any of you reached DCA nirvana?