Learning how to use blu-tack to hold the RAM pack in place for a ZX81 was the first small step on a journey that led me to now be working on multi-petabyte SAN systems
14 posts • joined 15 Jan 2009
Re: what the hell am I rambling on about?
Now now Trevor, no need to be so defensive. I never claimed non-cloudy computing was the only answer. It's just I've been in the trenches too long to buy into another revolution so easily, and while you can brush of slower, feature-limited applications as something SMEs are willing to accept I've been the mug dragged in front of the chief executive to explain precisely why their new super duper cloud application isn't as fast and can't do as much as the local application they used to run in-house.
The thing is, this stuff isn't new. We've been running hosted apps for our customers for years, back before some bright spark came up with "The Cloud" as a cool way to market it. So yes, hosted services are a good option for SMEs, but if you choose to ignore some very real problems with the technology you shouldn't get so worked up when those of us actually rolling out these systems think it's worth mentioning that the picture might not be as rosy as the one you paint.
what the hell am I rambling on about?
Bitter experience I'm afraid. Our client base runs from 200 user SMEs to 25000 user multinationals with their own Microsoft account managers, with a few systems that absolutely, positively have to be available otherwise people will die, so I've seen both sides of the coin. Our job isn't to flog servers or software, it's to make sure the users can do their work when they need to. If that means a cloud based system is the right solution we go with it, but too often "the cloud" is sold as some panacea to all a customer's ills without properly analysing the full impact of handing over core systems to someone else. I've worked on both good and bad cloud projects and have a few real nightmares under my belt. An ISP screwing up a connection and taking the customer off line for nearly 2 weeks. A lorry crashing into a telecoms cabinet in the street round the corner that took a week to fix. A cloud application where the hosting company woefully underspecced their kit while overselling their service leading to months of terrible performance. And one glorious case where a client fell out with a vendor and it took the threat of court action to get some of their data back so they could move to a new application.
So judicious use of cloudy whatsit widgetry can be a boon to SMEs, but us techies have to be a bit more cynical when it comes to evaluating the options and leave the cheerleading to the sales people.
Re: SaaS just shifts the single point of failure
So what use are two broadband connections? The failure is almost never at the ISP level, so if you've 2 connections coming along the same trunk from the same cabinet they're more than likely going to be affected by the same fault. To do it properly you'd need two connections from different suppliers coming into your premises using two different routes. All of a sudden what you're paying to make sure you can access your data in the cloud would finance a pretty decent rack of servers in your own office.
SaaS has many benefits, but you also have to factor in the levels of complexity you're adding to your environment. Most may not be obvious and are easy to ignore, but there's a lot of hops between you and your data and with both Google and Microsoft experiencing prolonged outages on their office productivity platforms you'd probably have a more reliable system if you chose to run it yourself.
SaaS just shifts the single point of failure
from the server in the corner to your internet connection.
How many SMEs are running on a broadband product with no SLA, guaranteed uptime or failover option? The big box in the cloud may be well protected, but it a BT engineer pulls the wrong card from the cabinet or the JCB digging up a water main goes through the fibre you're left twiddling your thumbs until someone can be bothered to fix it or else dragging the office to the nearest MacDonalds and hoping the free wifi is still up.
So how will kids know if they like programming
unless they get a taste of it in school?
I despair over the current level of ICT teaching in this country. It's focus on spreadsheets, word processing and presentations may be fine if we're trying to produce a nation of administrators, but it's not a hell of a lot of use if we need IT professionals. We may not need to push them through five years of Python and C, but a few modules of basic programming spread over the years, along side some networking and lessons on how the boxes actually work would do everybody some good and might encourage more kids to explore the subject more deeply.
You've missed one key part of the story. The virtual storage software, such as the LeftHand Virtual Storage Appliance, can combine storage from multiple physical servers into a single pool, allowing you to to grow LUNs across a number of boxes. If you need to grow a virtual LUN just add another server to the pool.
Why was an organisation of this size relying on automatic updates to patch their machines? There are enough patch management systems out there to control the rollout of updates to PCs that don't rely on the vagaries of a random download and reboot. Even WSUS could've handled the theatre PCs as a special case and that's a free download from MS.
This isn't a Windows problem so much as a management issue. Put this shower of monkeys in charge of a Linux installation and they'd still screw it up.
We may all laugh...
but the thing is that's the target audience for Linux if it's ever going to make the breakthrough into the mass market desktop. While it's probably safe to assume every-one reading The Reg knows a thing or two about computers and thinks Ubuntu is the dogs danglies, the average clueless punter still seems to struggle with the basics. These are the sort of people you see in Currys and PC World with a glazed expression on their faces as some spotty faced kid runs off his learned-by-rote spiel full of nice technical buzz words. These people believe what they're told by sales assistants, buy the nice shiny box, take it home, spend 2 hours plugging it in, then expect the internet to appear by magic even if they haven't switched their broadband on.
It's one area were MS has bent over backwards to make things as idiot-proof as possible, much to the annoyance of techies who don't need that sort of hand-holding, but it's worked for them and allowed them to dominate the market. Something Linux in general still has to grasp.