Rant about cool new tech vs Mainframes and SPARC

By | April 15, 2014

Attended a Blogger Briefing at Dell Enterprise Forum today. Hmmmmmm…. 

From the off it was obvious that Dell wanted us bloggers (all 4 of us at the entire event!) to sit watch their panel run through a scripted discussion covering topics they wanted us to hear about.  Yeah.  Pretty cheesy and obviously doomed from the start. Literally the start.  For example, the first question got me annoyed.  It went something like this (names and companies changed)

Mike (Big Chief at Dell): Joe, as CIO of SomeDellLovingCompany, let me start by asking you what you look for in solutions, do you look for open systems x86 or do you look for more proprietary systems?

Joe (CIO of SomeDellLovingCompany): Gee thanks Mike, well for me it's always gotta by open systems. Always x86…. blah blah blah Zzzzzzzz

That just grinded on me, probably because of how cheesy and scripted it was.  Anyway, the next guy on the panel, Mr Manager from MediumSizedAlsoDellLovingBank, dropped in that they still have some Mainframes kicking around.  So I asked him whether they would ever, over their dead bodies, switch out those Mainframes for super sexy latest greatest, software defined, virtual, commodity vx86 solutions.  I think you know the answer.  But just to be clear – 

Mr Manager (MediumSizedAlsoDellLovingBank):  Hahaha.  No chance!

Anyway.  Got me thinking.  Why are so many of us going all-in for the open x86 software defined virtual everything dream?  Clearly it's not the silver bullet (yet).  And clearly some of the more so-called closed solutions absolutely wipe the floor with the Windows/Red Hat/VMware based alternatives.  In fact a few minutes later in that same scripted convo, Mr Manager from aforementioned Dell loving bank also slipped in they used to run a lot of Solaris on SPARC.  Gee.  Another technology that was/is way more performant and reliable than its closest open alternative – RHEL on x86.  Way more performant!  Try running Oracle at full tilt all day on RHEL, on Dell or HP's biggest x86 servers compared to Solaris on SPARC, and see which runs faster and falls over less, a lot less.  No prizes for guessing.

So why are we so eager to switch everything to shiny toys?

I get that software defined everything running on commodity x86 is awesome from a home lab perspective.  I mean I can pretty much have any cool new tech in my lab at home to play with.  Cool.  I get that for a lot of business apps its also pretty cool.  But its not a self weeding, self watering garden of self-pruning roses.  It has its issues.

Just for starters, we're seeing an absolute shed load of server and VM sprawl.  I mean an absolute boat load of it.  Mr Manager from that bank again said he's burning through 2TB of storage on net-new VMs every month.  And hes Mr Manager at a relatively small bank here in the UK.  So this sprawl is gonna be a pain in the arse to fix – a royal pain in the arse!  Sure, better management will get us so far, but something fundamental has to change, and when it does there'll be an eye-watering amount of unpicking and re-architecting to do.

Don't get me wrong.  I love a load of this open x86 everything tech (check out my sidebar showing tech Im currently most interested in).  I'm just not sure we arent tipping the pendulum too far in that direction, and are about to experience a correction.

Just thinking out loud.  Probably wish I hadnt penned this.  Probably changed my mind already.  Probably got annoyed due to the scripted format of the meeting and this is me letting of some steam.


2 thoughts on “Rant about cool new tech vs Mainframes and SPARC

  1. Pingback: Rant about cool new tech vs Mainframes and SPARC | Storage CH Blog

  2. Edmund_English@Dell.com

    First & foremost thanks for taking the time to participate in the round table Nigel. Ultimately our aim was to engage you and your fellow participants in a dialogue on major tech trends & bring them to life by including customers who are living with these challenges and kicking the tyres on some of the solutions to tackle same. If it felt scripted, it definitely wasn't the intention as the only briefing with the customers was on the format we’d be using. That said your feedback is very much appreciated  & I will actively take same on board to ensure we continue working the format to ensure it delivers value for all who participate in it.

    Looking forward to both seeing & hearing from you in the future.

    Ed English @ Dell

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