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5 Strategies for Moving Your Business to the Cloud (Article)

BizTechLogoI recently wrote an online article for BizTech’s Small Business magazine, titled “5 Strategies for Moving Your Business to the Cloud“.  Here’s the introduction to the topic:
Small businesses can use the cloud to gain scale and ensure that their infrastructure keeps up with their growth ambitions.
When a small company finds itself growing, it often faces serious challenges in maintaining an IT infrastructure capable of keeping up with the rest of the business. Leveraging cloud implementations can provide huge benefits to small companies facing these challenges. However, as with any IT initiative, a sound technology strategy can make the difference between success and failure. Here are some important considerations, based on my consulting experience…
Please see CDW’s BizTech site for the complete (free) article and more cloud-related articles for SMB’s.

Dell Tech Page One Cloud and Virtualization Articles

imageI recently had the opportunity to write several articles for Dell’s Tech Page One blog.  I always enjoy thinking (and writing/speaking) about topics related to IT architecture changes.  Over the last several years, that has focused on virtualization technology and cloud computer.  A special

Below are links to those articles, with a brief intro for each.

With the seemingly endless list of daily IT tasks and projects, it’s difficult to step back and ask a hypothetical question: How would we build out data center infrastructures if we could completely start over?

The availability of new technology is often the beginning of a new set of challenges for IT professionals. The trick is in finding how to get the benefits of improvements while staying within the constraints of budgets, human resources, time, expertise, and business requirements.

When implemented correctly, virtualization helps reduce complexity, reduce management overhead, and increase overall operational efficiency. Those words should be music to the ears of any data center manager struggling to make their business requirements and technology ends meet.

The enigmatic world of quantum mechanics notwithstanding, it’s difficult to create something from nothing. That’s especially true if you’re an IT professional tasked with meeting storage needs.

A special thanks to Ziff Davis for providing the project and getting this published!

Application Virtualization for Servers: Enabling Cloud Computing

To me, one of the more interesting aspects of virtualization (as a generic term) is the many different ways in which technical layers of abstraction can be combined.  The short list of technologies generally includes the following types of virtualization:

  • Sessions / Presentation
  • Server
  • Application
  • Desktop
  • Network
  • Storage

While these areas all differ widely from the standpoint of technical implementation, they all share the common goal of abstracting the physical implementation of a service layer from its technical components.  One case in point is the use of application virtualization on the server side.  My recent article, The benefits of application virtualization for servers and clouds provides some details on how this technology can be used to enable cloud computing.  From the article’s introduction:

Some combinations — such as peanut butter and chocolate — just go together. Similarly, with myriad virtualization options, several methods can work well together.

Virtualization has proven effective in addressing many of the challenges of data center management. But organizations that have invested in virtualization often encounter new and different problems. This tip discusses using application virtualization for server-based virtualization, the problems application virtualization attempts to solve and how this virtualization approach can improve virtualization administration and the management of data center resources.

The article is available for free online (registration is required).

Home Theater Power Consumption

I’ve always been curious about power consumption ever since the days before it was fashionable to think about this stuff.  The poor, lonely, unemployed, set of servers in the data center used to bother me.  Sure, they kept to themselves and rarely bothered anyone.  But, no one had the guts to fire them, and they continued to generate heat, suck down power, and take up space (who hasn’t felt that way at some point?). 

Of course, power frugality should start in the home.  When looking into getting a new TV, I noticed that actual power consumption statistics were really hard to come by.  Wattage ratings sometimes give a partial picture, but they’re far from real-world usage stats.  So, taking the problem into my own hands (literally), I used a handy power consumption meter to measure how much juice each of these devices used.  Below are details of my “test environment”.  The information is just for one configuration of devices and is completely anecdotal.  Still, I hope the information will be useful in some way and will inspire others to do the same types of tests.

The Test Environment

My current home theater setup is somewhat outdated (would-be thieves, please take note).  It includes the following:

  • A Microsoft Xbox 360: This is one of second generation units with a 120GB hard drive upgrade, obtained after a warranty replacement.  It has been running without problems for several years now.
  • Samsung LN52A630 TV: It’s a 52” LCD display; 120Hz refresh rate.
  • ReplayTV 5500 Series DVR: A standard-definition hard driver-based DVR.
  • Onkyo TX-SR507 Receiver: It’s in a standard 5.1 configuration.
  • Yamaha NS-A1738 Speakers: These are single-amped and hooked up to the received.  I also have a Polk center channel speaker and some small Polk Audio rear channels (yes, it’s a Frankenstein setup).

Power Consumption:The Results

The below tables provide details on instantaneous power consumption (in Watts) of each component in the setup.  I have tried to show the various modes, settings, and operations of the different devices.

LCD TV Power Consumption

Below are the results for various modes of my Samsung LCD TV.  The X360 uses component video cables, and the TV’s speakers are powered off (unless otherwise noted).

Mode / Configuration

Power (Watts)



TV (Snow)


TV (Snow w/Menu)


Channel Search (Black Screen)


Digital TV


X360 (Dim)


X360 (On)


1080P Movie


Entertainment Mode: Sports


Entertainment Mode: Cinema


Entertainment Mode: Game


Dynamic Mode


Movie Mode


Energy Saving (Off)


Energy Saving (Low)


Energy Saving (Medium)


Energy Saving (High)


Energy Saving (Auto)


AutoMotion (Off)


AutoMotion (Low)


AutoMotion (Medium)


AutoMotion (High)



Xbox 360

Below is X360 power usage, based on various operations.

Mode / Configuration

Power (Watts)

Xbox360 (Dashboard)


Xbox360 (1080p movie)


Xbox360 (Halo Wars)


Xbox360 (Halo 3 – Disc)



Replay TV Power Consumption

As a note, the device never spins down the hard drive – it’s always running as long as the unit is plugged in.

Mode / Configuration

Power (Watts)



ReplayTV + Receiver


ReplayTV + Receiver (No Audio)



Do It Yourself

Power usage meters such as the Kill-a-Watt are readily available and fairly inexpensive ($20 at NewEgg, at the time of this writing).  The general process is to simply place the meter between a plug and a wall socket.  Most of these meters will allow you to enter your cost-per-kWh rates to get estimates on daily, weekly, and annual costs. 


Hopefully this information is somewhat interesting to readers of this blog.  The fact remains that, at least in the United States, electricity costs are still far lower than they should be (based on the global impact of our consumption).  That makes this information academic, for the most part – it’s unlikely to result in significant costs savings.  Still, I somehow feel better with knowing how much power I’m burning when I’m being thoroughly destroyed in Halo online matches.

I’m also interested in seeing some other results, so please post them if you’ve got them!

Best Practices to Prevent and Manage Virtual Machine Sprawl (White Paper)

Sun-manage_vm_sprawlOften, new technology tends to bring with it some new problems that need to be addressed.  Granted, the problems are “better” ones to have, but they’re important concerns nonetheless.  Server virtualization is no exception.

It’s somewhat ironic that one of the main problems that server virtualization is designed to address, server sprawl, is often replaced with a similar problem – VM sprawl.  It’s a topic that I’ve written a lot about in the past and on this blog.  I recently revisited the topic and expanded on it in a White Paper that I wrote for Sun.  Here’s the introduction from Best Practices to Prevent and Manage Virtual Machine Sprawl:

While server consolidation using virtualization can significantly decrease costs and improve efficiency, organizations often find that they need to deal with an associated issue: the rapid proliferation of VMs with inadequate management. This article will provide best practices for addressing the issue of "VM Sprawl", including the following:

  • Creating and enforcing deployment policies
  • Detecting and addressing unauthorized VMs
  • Managing security and compliance in virtual environments
  • Managing the entire VM lifecycle and Planning for VM retirement
  • Sidebar: Steps to gaining (or regaining) control of a virtual environment.

The White Paper is available for free, but registration on the Sun Web site is required.

VDI: Virtuality vs. Reality

The idea of virtualizing desktops (often referred to as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, or VDI) would appear to be gaining traction and mindshare.  Indeed companies like VMware and a host of other smaller virtualization technology provides are spending large amounts of their budgets on promotion and enabling VDI.  However, many IT pros (myself included) are skeptical.

A recent article written by Christina Torode, Users eye VDI but may wait for client hypervisors is now available on TechTarget’s SearchWinIT site.  I was interviewed for the article and got a change to provide some of my input.  Here’s an excerpt of some of my comments quoted in the article:

Cheaper alternatives to desktop virtualization

For independent consultant Anil Desai, VDI presents a dilemma. It promises to address security problems such as lost laptops and give IT better control over remote workforces. But he doesn’t see virtual desktop technology as the best way to solve these and other business problems.

He said there are more cost-effective ways to reduce security risks and gain control over user devices with existing technologies. There is the ability in Windows to restrict access to the USB drive or to improve manageability with remote management tools that lets IT cut physical visits to desktops and use the Remote Desktop Protocol, just as VDI uses.

Another example is the alternative of Windows Server 2008 Terminal Services for resource, hardware and management consolidation versus using VDI. Terminal Services in Windows Server 2008 lets IT run a single application in a virtual environment, in turn centralizing application management, he said.

Then there’s the overall cost for a virtual desktop infrastructure versus buying desktops. "When you see how much infrastructure, power and server resources go into a VDI solution versus getting desktops that have come down so much in price, I just don’t see the justification for that kind of investment," Desai said.

Desai said he is backing the concept of a client hypervisor and is waiting to see what the big three — VMware, Microsoft and Citrix — will do in this area. "It can reduce potential application conflicts and speed up deployments on many operating system platforms," he said.

Overall, it will be interesting to see what happens here – will VDI be just another over-hyped technology that never made significant inroads into corporate IT?  Or, is this is a real technology that will start replacing full desktops?

Managing Virtualization: The Art of War

ArtOfWarMy latest article for Virtual Strategy Magazine is now available for free online.  This one covers some best practices and suggestions for keeping tracking of VMs and keeping IT departments in control of all of their physical and virtual systems.  From the introduction to Managing Virtualization: The Art of War:

"The direct use of force is such a poor solution to any problem, it is generally employed only by small children and large nations." – David Friedman

Make no mistakes, my friends. Virtualization technology is serious business. The stakes are high and the stakeholders are highly-motivated. War is a dirty word, and we did not choose this situation. However, today, we are called upon to defend ourselves against a vicious and unforeseen onslaught of virtual machines. They have attacked from every direction, and we now find ourselves in the middle of a battle for control. These once gentle automatons now threaten our very way of life within the IT department. Their unmanaged proliferation must be stopped here and now.

This will not be an easy fight, so heed these words carefully. The fate of entire data centers hangs in the balance, and mismanagement of one or a few VMs could tip the balance in favor of the enemy. But rest assured, my friends: There is hope, if only we allow cooler heads to prevail. Batten down the hatches, up the irons, release the Jolt! Cola, and prepare for Managing Virtualization: The Art of War.