154: GreyBeards annual VMware Explore wrap-up podcast

Thanks, once again to The CTO Advisor|Keith Townsend, (@CTOadvisor) for letting us record the podcast in his studio. VMware Explore this year was better than last year. The show seemed larger. the show floor busier, the Hub better and the Hands-On Lab much larger than I ever remember before. The show seems to be growing, but still not at the pre-pandemic levels, but the trend is good.

The engineers have been busy at VMware this past year. Announced at the show include Private AI Foundation, a way for enterprises to train open source LLMs on corporate data kept private, a significant re-direct to VMware Edge environments moving from the push model updates to push model updates, and vSAN Max, NSX+, Tanzu App Engine, and more. And we heard that Brocade is clearing more hurdles to the acquisition. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Private AI plays to VMware’s strengths and its control over on-prem processing. Customers need a safe space and secured data to train corporate ChatBots curated on corporations knowledge base. VMware rolled this out two ways,

  • Reference architecture approach based on Ray cluster management, KubeFlow, PyTorch, VectorDB, GPU Scaling (NVLink/NVswitch), vSAN fast path (RDMA, GPUdirect), and deep learning VMs. There was no discussion of tie ins to the Data Persistence (object) storage.
  • Proprietary NVIDIA approach based on NVIDIA workbench, TensorRT, NeMO, NVIDIA GPU & Network Operator

By having both approaches VMware provides alternatives for those wanting a non-proprietary solution. And with with AI/MLOps moving so fast, the open source may be better able to keep up.

The tie in with NVIDIA is a natural extension of what VMware have been doing with GPUs and DPUs, etc.

Also, VMware announced a technological partnership with Hugging Face. We were somewhat concerned with all the focus on LLM and GenAI but the agreement with Hugging Face goes beyond just LLMs.

VMware Edge solutions are pivoting. Apparently, VMware is moving from the vSphere pull model of code updates in the field which seems to handle 64 server, multi-cluster environments without problem to more of a YAML-GitHub push model of IoT device updates that seems better able to manage fleets of 1K to 100K devices in the field.

With the new model one creates a GitHub repo and a YAML file describing the code update to be done and all your IoT devices just get’s updated to the new level.

Once again the Brocade acquisition is on everyone’s mind. As I got to the show, one analyst asked if this was going to be the last VMware Explore. I highly doubt that, but Brocade will make lots of changes once the transaction closes. One thing mentioned at the show was that Brocade will make an immediate, additional $1B investment in R&D. The deal had provisionally passed the UK regulatory body and was on track to close near the end of October.

Other news from the show:

  • The Tanzu brand is broadening. Tanzu Application Platform (TAP) still exists but they have added a new App Engine is to take the VMware management approach to K8s clusters, other cloud infrastructure and the rest of the IT world. Tanzu Intelligent Services also now supports policy guardrails, cost control, management insight and migration services for other environments.
  • vSAN Max, which supports disaggregation (separation) of storage and compute is available. vSAN Max becomes a full fledged, standalone storage system that just happens to run on top of vSphere. Disaggregated (vSAN Max) storage and (regular vSAN) HCI can co-exist as different mounted datastores and vSAN Max supports PB of storage.
  • Workspace One is updated to provide enhanced digital experience monitoring that adds coverage of what Workspace One users are actually experiencing.
  • NSX+ continues to roll out. VMware mentioned that the number one continuing problem with hybrid cloud/multi-cloud setup is getting the networking right. NSX+ will reduce this complexity by becoming a management/configuration overlay over any and all cloud/on-prem networking for your environment(s).
  • VMware chatbots for Tanzu, Workspace One and NSX+ are now in tech preview and will supply intelligent assistants for these solutions. Based on LLM/GenAI and trained on VMware’s extensive corporate knowledge base, the chatbots will help admins focus on the signal over the noise and will provide recommendations on how to resolve issues. .

Jason Collier, Principal Member of Technical Staff, AMD

Jason Collier (@bocanuts) is a long time friend, technical guru and innovator who has over 25 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur in technology. Jason currently works at AMD focused on emerging technology for IT, IoT and anywhere else in the world and across the universe that needs compute, storage or networking resources.

He was Chief Evangelist, CTO & Co-Founder of Scale Computing and has been an innovator in the field of hyper-convergence and an expert in virtualization, data storage, networking, cloud computing, data centers, and edge computing for years.

He has also been another co-founder, director of research, VP of technical operations and director of operations at other companies over his long career prior to AMD and Scale.

He’s on LinkedIN.

141: GreyBeards annual 2022 wrap-up podcast

Well it has been another year and time for our annual year end wrap up. Since Covid hit, every year has certainly been interesting. This year we have seen the start of back in person conferences which was a welcome change from the covid lockdown. We are very glad to start seeing everybody again.

From the tech standpoint, the big news this year was CXL. As everyone should recall, CXL is a new-ish PCIe hardware and protocol that supports larger memory sitting out on a PCIe bus and in the future shared memory between servers. All this is to enable a new wave of memory based computing. We spent probably half our time discussing CXL and it’s impact on IT.

The other major topic was the Cloud Native ecosystem. In the past all we talked about was K8s but nowadays the ecosystem that surrounds it is almost as important as K8s itself. The final topic was a bit of a shock earlier this year and yes it was the Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware. Jason and I spend our Explore podcast talking about it (see our 137: VMware Explore wrap-up). Keith has high hopes that the EU will shut it down but the jury’s still out on that one. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

As for CXL, it turns out that AMD have just released full support for CXL hardware and protocols with their latest round of CPU chips. But the new AMD CPUs only support DDR5 memory, (something about there’s only so much logic one can fit on a chip…) which means all those DDR4 DIMs out in the wild need somewhere to land. CXL could supply a new lease on life for DDR4 DIMs.

And it’s not just about shared memory or increased memory sizes, CXL can also provide a tiered memory hierarchy, with gobs of flash behind memory DIMs (see: 136: FMS2022 wrap up …) So, now its no longer a TB or ten of server memory but potentially 100s of TBs. What this means for SAP HANNA, AWS Aurora and other heavy-memory solutions has yet to play out.

Cloud Native won. We see this in the increasing adoption of containers and K8s in the enterprise, cloud and just about anywhere IT happens these days. But the ecosystem surrounding K8s is chaos.

Over time, many of these ecosystem solutions will die off, be purchased, or consolidated but in the mean time, it’s entirely too confusing. Red Hat’s OpenShift is one answer and VMware’s Tanzu is another. And of course all the clouds have their own K8s packaged solution. But just to cover their bets, everyone also supports native K8s and just about every software package that works with it. So, K8s’s ecosystem is in a state of flux and may take time to become a stable set of tools useable by the enterprise IT.

Finally, Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware has everyone up in arms. Customers are concerned the R&D juggernaut that VMware has been, since its very beginning, will be jettisoned in favor of profits. And HCI vendors that always felt Dell EMC had an unfair advantage will all look at Broadcom in a similar light.

Keith says there’s a major difference in how USA regulators view an acquisition and how EU regulators view one. According to Keith, EU views acquisitions in how they help or hurt the customer. USA regulators view acquisitions on show they help or hurt the competition. Will have to wait and see how this all plays for Broadcom-VMware.

On the other hand, speaking of competition, Nutanix seems to be feeling the heat as well. Rumors are it’s up for sale. Who will want it and how the regulators view both of these acquisitions may be as interesting story for 2023

2023 looks to be another year of transition for enterprise IT. The cloud players all seem to be coming around to the view that they can’t be all things to all (IT) people. And the enterprise vendors are finally seeing some modicum of staying power in the face of a relentless push to the cloud. How this plays out over the next few years will be of major interest to everybody.

Happy New Year from the GreyBeards!

Keith Townsend, The CTO Advisor

Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor) is a IT thought leader who has written articles for many industry publications, interviewed many industry heavyweights, worked with Silicon Valley startups, and engineered cloud infrastructure for large government organizations. Keith is the co-founder of The CTO Advisor, blogs at Virtualized Geek, and can be found on LinkedIN.

Jason Collier, Principal Member of Technical Staff, AMD

Jason Collier (@bocanuts) is a long time friend, technical guru and innovator who has over 25 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur in technology. He was founder and CTO of Scale Computing and has been an innovator in the field of hyperconvergence and an expert in virtualization, data storage, networking, cloud computing, data centers, and edge computing for years. He’s on LinkedIN.

140: Greybeards talk data orchestration with Matt Leib, Product Marketing Manager for IBM Spectrum Fusion

As our listeners should know, Matt Leib (@MBleib) was a GreyBeards co-host But since then, Matt has joined IBM to become Product Marketing Manager on IBM Spectrum Fusion, a data orchestration solution for Red Hat OpenShift environments. Matt’s been in and around the storage and data management industry for many years which is why we tapped him for GreyBeards co-host duties.

IBM Fusion, in its previous incarnation, came as an OpenShift software defined storage or as an OpenShift (H)CI solution. But recently, Fusion has taken on more of a data orchestration role for OpenShift stateful containerized applications. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Fusion can run in any OpenShift deployment whether (currently AWS, Azure, & IBM) clouds, under VMware (wherever it runs), or on (x86 or IBM Z) bare metal. It supplies NFS file or S3 compatible object storage for container applications running under OpenShift. But it does more than just storage.

Beyond storage, Fusion includes backup/recovery, site to site DR and global (file & object) data access. It’s almost like someone opened up the IBM Spectrum software pantry and took out the best available functionality and cooked it up in to an OpenShift solution. IBM’s Spectrum Fusion current website (linked to above (Dec.’22)) still refers only to the software defined storage and (H)CI solution, but today’s Fusion includes all of the functions identified above.

All Fusion facilities run as containers under OpenShift. Customers can elect to run all Fusion services or pick and chose which ones they want for their environment. IBM Fusion supports an API, an API backed GUI, and CLI for its storage & data management as well as REST access. Fusion is fully compatible with Red Hat Ansible.

IBM Fusion is intended to be storage agnostic. Which means it can support its data management services for any NFS file storage as well as anyone’s S3 compatible, object storage.

Now that Red Hat software defined CEPH and ODF are under IBM product management, CEPH and ODF options will become available under Fusion. And CEPH offers block as well as file and object. We’ve talked about CEPH before, packaged in a hardware appliance, see our SoftIron podcast.

One intriguing part of the Fusion solution is its global data access. With global access, any OpenShift application can access data from any Fusion data store, across clouds, across on prem installations, or just about anywhere OpenShift is running. Matt mentioned that compute could be on AWS OpenShift, Fusion’s data control plane could be running on prem OpenShift and the data storage could be running on Azure OpenShift. All this would be glued together by Fusion global access, so that AWS compute had access to data on Azure.

There’s some sophisticated caching magic to make global access happen seamlessly and with decent levels of performance, but customers no longer have to copy whole file systems over from one cloud to another in order to move compute or data. IBM Fusion would need to run in all those locations for global access.

Keith asked if it was directly available in the AWS marketplace. Matt said not yet but you can deploy OpenShift out of the marketplace and then deploy IBM Fusion onto that.

It took us sometime to get our heads wrapped around what Fusion has to offer and throughout it all, Keith and I had a bit of fun with Matt.

Matthew Leib, Product Marketing Manager, IBM Spectrum Fusion

Matt has spent years in IT, from Engineering, to Architecture, from PreSales to analyst work, and finally to Product Marketing at IBM.

He’s spent years trying to achieve both credibility in the space, as a podcaster, blogger, and community member.

In his spare time, he’s a dad, dog owner, and amateur guitar player..

127: Annual year end wrap up podcast with Keith, Matt & Ray

[Ray’s sorry about his audio, it will be better next time he promises, The Eds] This was supposed to be the year where we killed off COVID for good. Alas, it was not to be and it’s going to be with us for some time to come. However, this didn’t stop that technical juggernaut we call the GreyBeards on Storage podcast.

Once again we got Keith, Matt and Ray together to discuss the past year’s top 3 technology trends that would most likely impact the year(s) ahead. Given our recent podcasts, Kubernetes (K8s) storage was top of the list. To this we add AI-MLops in the enterprise and continued our discussion from last year on how Covid & WFH are remaking the world, including offices, data centers and downtowns around the world. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

K8s rulz

For some reason, we spent many of this year’s podcasts discussing K8s storage. TK8s was never meant to provide (storage) state AND as a result, any K8s data storage has had to be shoe horned in.

Moreover, why would any IT group even consider containerizing enterprise applications let alone deploy these onto K8s. The most common answers seem to be automatic scalability, cloud like automation and run-anywhere portability.

Keith chimed in with enterprise applications aren’t going anywhere and we were off. Just like the mainframe, client-server and OpenStack applications before them, enterprise apps will likely outlive most developers, continuing to run on their current platforms forever.

But any new apps will likely be born, live a long life and eventually fade away on the latest runtime environment. which is K8s.

Matt mentioned hybrid and multi-cloud as becoming the reason-d’etre for enterprise apps to migrate to containers and K8s. Further, enterprises have pressing need to move their apps to the hybrid- & multi-cloud model. AWS’s recent hiccups, notwithstanding, multi-cloud’s time has come.

Ray and Keith then discussed which is bigger, K8s container apps or enterprise “normal” (meaning virtualized/bare metal) apps. But it all comes down to how you define bigger that matters, Sheer numbers of unique applications – enterprise wins, Compute power devoted to running those apps – it’s a much more difficult race to cal/l. But even Keith had to agree that based on compute power containerized apps are inching ahead.

AI-MLops coming on strong

AI /MLops in the enterprise was up next. For me the most significant indicator for heightened interest in AI-ML was VMware announced native support for NVIDIA management and orchestration AI-MLops technologies.

Just like K8s before it and VMware’s move to Tanzu and it’s predecessors, their move to natively support NVIDIA AI tools signals that the enterprise is starting to seriously consider adding AI to their apps.

We think VMware’s crystal ball is based on

  • Cloud rolling out more and more AI and MLops technologies for enterprises to use. on their infrastructure
  • GPUs are becoming more and more pervasive in enterprise AND in cloud infrastructure
  • Data to drive training and inferencing is coming out of the woodwork like never before.

We had some discussion as to where AMD and Intel will end up in this AI trend.. Consensus is that there’s still space for CPU inferencing and “some” specialized training which is unlikely to go away. And of course AMD has their own GPUs and Intel is coming out with their own shortly.

COVID & WFH impacts the world (again)

And then there was COVID and WFH. COVID will be here for some time to come. As a result, WFH is not going away, at least not totally any time soon. And is just becoming another way to do business.

WFH works well for some things (like IT office work) and not so well for others (K-12 education). If the GreyBeards were into (non-crypto) investing, we’d be shorting office real estate. What could move into those millions of square feet (meters) of downtime office space is anyones guess. But just like the factories of old, cities and downtowns in particular can take anything and make it useable for other purposes.

That’s about it, 2021 was another “interesteing” year for infrastructure technology. It just goes to show you, “May you live in interesting times” is actually an old (Chinese) curse.

Keith Townsend, (@TheCTOadvisor)

Keith is a IT thought leader who has written articles for many industry publications, interviewed many industry heavyweights, worked with Silicon Valley startups, and engineered cloud infrastructure for large government organizations. Keith is the co-founder of The CTO Advisor, blogs at Virtualized Geek, and can be found on LinkedIN.

Matt Leib, (@MBLeib)

Matt Leib has been blogging in the storage space for over 10 years, with work experience both on the engineering and presales/product marketing. His blog is at Virtually Tied to My Desktop and he’s on LinkedIN.

Ray Lucchesi, (@RayLucchesi)

Ray is the host and co-founder of GreyBeardsOnStorage and is President/Founder of Silverton Consulting, and a prominent (AI/storage/systems technology) blogger at RayOnStorage.com. Signup for SCI’s free, monthly industry e-newsletter here, published continuously since 2007. Ray can also be found on LinkedIn

116: GreyBeards talk VCF on VxBlock 1000 with Martin Hayes, DMTS, Dell Technologies

Sponsored By:

This past week, we had a great talk with Martin Hayes (@hayes_martinf), Distinguished Member Technical Staff at Dell Technologies about running VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) on VxBlock 1000 converged infrastructure (CI). It used to be that Cloud Foundation required VMware vSAN primary storage but that changed a few years ago. . When that happened, the Dell Technologies team saw it as a great opportunity to support VCF on VxBlock CI.

This is the first GreyBeards podcast for Martin, but he was extremely knowledgeable about VxBlock and Cloud Foundation technologies. He’s been a technical product manager on the VxBlock converged infrastructure at Dell Technologies for many years. He’s an expert on Cloud Foundation and he knows an awful lot more about VMware NSX-T networking than seems reasonable (good thing). In any case, Martin’s expertise covers the whole gamut of VCF services as well as VxBlock 1000 infrastructure. The podcast is a bit longer than our normal sponsored podcast but there was a lot of information to cover. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

With VCF enabling primary storage on networked storage systems, all the storage vendors in the world gave a mighty cheer. But VMware Cloud Foundation still requires the vSAN servers to run its management domain. Late in 2020, VxBlock 1000 from Dell Technologies released a new software defined version of its Advanced Management Platform (AMP) to run on vSAN Ready Nodes. AMP is VxBlock’s management platform but also runs management domains for VCF and NSX-T.

For workload domains, VxBlock 1000 offers Cisco UCS M5 rack and blade servers, that can be configured to support just about any workload needed by a data center.

Historically, VMware vSphere problems with DR weren’t as much storage replication issues as networking problems. But NSX-T and VCF seemed to have solved that problem.

And with vRealize Automation plugins and NSX-T APIs, customers can have 0 touch network provisioning which enables the use of IaaS or infrastructure as code for their data center.

VMware vVOLs are now available with Dell EMC PowerMax storage. So, now VxBlock 1000 customers can use vSphere storage policy-based management (SPBM) as well as automated vVOL replication for data on PowerMax.

VMware NSX-T implements Application Virtual Networks (AVNs) using a GENEVE overlay network, which make extensive use of encapsulation. But where there’s encapsulation, de-encapsulation must follow to access outside networks. All this (encapsulation on ingress, de-encapsulation on egress) is done through NSX-T Edge clusters.

The net result of all this is that VMware customers have more choice, i.e., now they can run VCF on HCI or CI. And with VxBlock 1000 CI, VCF customers can select a best of breed components for each level of their 3-tier infrastructure.

Martin Hayes, DMTS, Dell Technologies

Martin Hayes is a Technical Product Manager at Dell Technologies, where he develops and executes data center product strategies that incorporate virtualization, software-defined networking (SDN) and converged systems.

Previously, he served in network advisory and architect roles at Dell EMC, converged systems pioneer VCE and Irish broadband provider eircom.