Technologies for these troubled times

“What technologies should we  come up to speed in these troubled times”, is a question that students and engineers freshly into a job ask me. Times are tough, especially for guys coming out of college and those having a job in hand but  not working on client  project yet. Here is my take on some recent technologies areas which everyone wanting to work in the server and storage domain should know about.

Virtualization is something which will be taken for granted a few years from now. Every enterprise would have implemented some form of virtualization or other. Virtualization, in case you didn’t know, is the act of showing something that doesn’t exist. Some people feel Ramalinga Raju of  Satyam was a master in this. The only difference is that the virtualization we are talking about is beneficial to the user whereas the sort of virtualization done by Enron, Madoff and others of their ilk is beneficial only to the ‘virtualizer’.

In case anyone wants to get on the Server Virtualization bandwagon, it is quite easy.Free VMware player is available for download (http://www.vmware.com/products/player) .  I downloaded VMware player and use Ubuntu Linux in it. That enables me to write some programs in the Linux environment while still using my Windows to check my mails and prepare Powerpoint slides.  (Who can ever escape Powerpoint?) In VMware marketplace there are many virtual appliances available for free. (http://www.vmware.com/appliances/marketplace.html) If you have the free disk space and time on your hands, you can download them and try it out. This will give you an idea about server virtualization. If you love Open Source, you can try out Xen Hypervisor. I have not tried it out yet but will do so soon. (www.xen.org)

In the Storage area, assuming you have a basic understanding of Storage technologies, Thin Provisioning is an technique which you can read up on. This is a technique wherein you show the user a lot of disk space as his quota but you don’t need to have all that space physically available right now. (Think  Satyam again) You keep buying storage as the users keep filling up capacity. This is something which all free email service providers like Google, Yahoo, Rediff etc would be doing. It makes no sense to buy all the advertised storage. (I mean, how can you buy ‘unlimited’?) The companies would be buying more and more storage as your mail account keeps growing with all those mp3 and jpeg files. This technique is called Thin Provisioning and the key aspects to achieve success in this are capacity planning and capacity forecasting. So read and understand how Thin Provisioning works and how it is implemented. I am sure if you are in the Storage array space you will have to do this sooner than later.

The next Storage technology you may want to look at is Data Deduplication. This is the simple idea of removing all duplicate data by storing a single image and pointing all duplicates to this image. There are multiple ways to do this and there is debate on where it needs to be done. Will post on this debate at a later date. Virtual Tape Library (VTL) solutions come with Data Deduplication. So here is something you should be looking at. Even in these tough times Data Domain, a company focused on Data Deduplication has posted impressive results.

Another technology you can read up on is Wide Striping and Micro RAID. Rather than me explain I will point you to this lovely video by Mark Farley of 3Par, where he clearly explains these concepts. (BTW, Marc makes most of the videos you seen on his blog while driving!! He uses a steering wheel cam. This is one of the few videos he has made when he wasn’t driving. Shows how quality of improves dramatically when you feet are firmly planted on the ground 🙂

Things like Solid State Drives and Fibre Channel Over Ethernet (FCOE) are happening on the infrastructure front but as engineers and system integrators concentrate on virtualization and the other technologies that I mentioned. Our role in Solid State Drives and FCOE will be limited in the immediate future.

Before I end, I need to say something to all college grads which should actually be unsaid. But I will say it anyway. More than reading up all this stuff, ensure your basics are strong. Your programming skills, your understanding of the operating system and your analytical ability are things that anyone planning to hire you will look for initially. So strengthen your basic by working hard on them regularly. Now that I have given this piece of advice, I can sign off  in peace.

(I got an indication on how bad times are for all industries when the Toyota service centre folks called me on their own and give you a service  appointment. “Whatever day and time  you want, sir”. Made me realize the enormity of the problem)

Update:  I had not checked my Google Reader for a couple of days. After posting this I checked my reader to realize that Marc of 3Par has now put up a video explaining chunklets. Check it out.