More from: corporate

The “Data Center” of the Future

A visual model of the Data Center of the Future: Coffee Maker insides after years of use.

I just read through Network World’sHow a data center works, today and tomorrow” (see https://www.networkworld.com/article/3223692/data-center/how-a-data-center-works-today-and-tomorrow.html).

They feel ‘The future of data centers will rely on cloud, hyperconverged infrastructure and more powerful components’.

I partly agree, and partly disagree.

The IT business cycle is well known: IT starts as a centralized department, becomes a bottleneck, other departments set up their own IT for operational survival, the uncoordinated small IT becomes unmanageable, policy swings back to standardizing and centralizing IT, and the cycle repeats. So “Data Centers” will be centralized, then distributed, then centralized again … likely forever at the corporate level.

The controlling force will not be commercial dominance: no one company will succeed at becoming the global “Data Center Hegemon” – grass roots, open source, widely varied people driven interests will take over IN SPITE of corporate attempts to “own” the Data Center scene. The “Data Centers” inside large organizations will be a tiny part of the planetary Data Center.

Photo of a Nest Thermostat in The Bond Building. 20 June 2013, 11:54:32 by Amanitamano

I also disagree that the Data Center of the future will be composed mostly of more powerful things, rather I feel that it will be made up of far less powerful things, redundant, error correcting, in massive numbers, using cooperative computing protocols, to become a massive unified computing power. As each cell in a human body is little by itself, coordinated together all the cells form a much more significant and powerful organism: an organism that can loose many cells, survive, heal, and grow. No single corporation, or corporate alliance, can approach this potential because of management, legal, contractual, and financial encumbrances. The Data Center’s life blood is network connectivity and its future body will be shaped accordingly.

All technologies must eventually inter-operate, and those which do not will be relegated to irrelevance, but most of this will be from non-corporate innovation, not for profit initiatives. There will likely be government attempts initiated by corporate influence to eradicate all “unauthorized” software on some pretense: any software not sold by “authorized” programmers, such as that created by programmers not under corporate control and released for the public good without mandated government “back doors” or for profit motives may even be criminalized. Public software will not only survive but it will grow and the attempts to destroy it will drive it underground, improve it, increase its sophistication, and make it harder, not easier, to oppose.

And yes, I believe some large corporations will contribute to the process, which will eventually be overwhelmed and confiscated by massive grass roots factors, gently, slowly, imperceptibly until it is too late. The surviving Corporations will be the ones which recognize this from the start and design to work together with rather than oppose global communications.

There will always be “free public cloud” ( that is, network based file and app servers), sometimes  bootlegged inside ‘secure’ corporate systems, but there will be much more storage a kilobyte at a time from mundane and ignored things such as Mom’s pacemaker or Uncle Joe’s radio all coordinated by Harriot’s thermostat. IoT device security and control will improve accordingly. Remember BitCoin. In the future, my FitBit may be harboring 1% of your favorite vacation picture for you – but don’t worry, if I upgrade my watch Harry’s fish locator and Mary’s microwave have redundant copies just in case.

The idea that people in mass will keep their most private data on a server owned by some for profit entity that will turn everything over to secret government agencies or marketers at a whim is unworkable until people have absolute confidence that their private data will remain absolutely private NO MATTER WHAT. This can never happen with any ownership of centralized “Cloud” services because government can and will seize those centralized computers if they think it necessary.

Reading, gaming, sleeping… All in Kyiv subway by teteria sonnna from Obukhiv, Ukraine

There will probably be significant human influencers wearing rags and living in dilapidated buildings or on the streets as well as those wearing jeans or tuxedos and living in middle-class homes or skyscrapers. BOT nets will no longer be merely for mafia profits, ransomware,  and spam generators but will be a means to suborn “secure” private networks or effect communications kept temporarily private from “official” corporate or government eyes.

The “Data Center” of the future will not be one place but every place. It will be connected by multiple redundant means to circumvent corporate power to use government to silence profit syphoning opposition. It will not look like a ‘Max Headroom’ dystopia but free open source software will be critical in its reliable operation even though specific corporate proprietary software will also be present.

And the one thing we can count on is that it will be constantly changing all of the time. How can for profit corporate interests survive or thrive in this new world? Easy, simply make your corporation indispensable to the victors.


Puttin’ On the (Oracle) VirtualBox

john-headsetOver time people change. Over time corporations and their philosophies change. Managers must anticipate what the impact will be on their own operation and take proactive steps to ensure business continuity and profitability.

Virtual Machines (VMs)

Teaching handouts often require fair use (‘Teaching” under the Copyright Act of 1976, as amended) screen shots of the actual computer screens. The VM allows one to run a sand boxed OS and collect such information as is needed to put screen shots in teaching handouts, especially screens that do not have any convenient means of saving a screenshot such as the GRUB boot loader. They are also used to test software, create a safe(r) place to try new apps which might contain malware or spyware, and to run a different OS than the one in general use on the computer.

For example, to access one Indiana medical reporting system, care providers are required to use only Microsoft Internet Explorer — no other browser will work right. If the care provider uses some distribution of Linux on all their computers for reasons of cost control, reliability, and security then they would be excluded from inputing their work into this system and as such would never get paid. They can create a VM and buy one Windows license to install in it so that they can use IE in this one situation.

This also keeps all their highly private client data isolated from all their other computer systems, thus making it far less likely that they will run afoul of patient privacy legislation such as HIPPA and its uglier, more vicious step sister 42 CFR Part 2. One disclosure of patient information not covered by a specific signed permission form can result in a cost of $240,000 to the care provider, per unauthorized disclosure. Imagine if a care provider’s client data were stolen and published on the Internet. Since the VM is totally isolated from all other systems, and is not even turned on except when it is needed to enter data in the State system, this provides much less opportunity for unauthorized disclosure from within or without the agency. Since a VM is physically just files, it can be on a removable disk or memory stick and locked in a drawer (or safe) when not in use. Web Service providers often use VMs for each web server so they can maximize efficiency of their physical hardware and also so that they can recover entire web servers from backup in a matter of minutes.

VMWare

We have used VMWare Workstation and later VMWare Player since 2003. However lately there seem to be changes at VMWare: The CEO (who helped found the corporation) was fired by the Directors and an ex-Microsoft executive hired to replace her. Wikipedia says:

VMware, Inc. is an American software company that provides cloud and virtualization software and services,[2][3][4], being the first who managed to virtualize the x86 architecture.[5] It was founded in 1998 and based in Palo Alto, California, USA. In 2004, it was acquired by EMC Corporation and now operates as a subsidiary.

VMware’s desktop software runs on Microsoft WindowsLinux, and Mac OS X, while its enterprise software hypervisors for servers, VMware ESX andVMware ESXi, are bare-metal embedded hypervisors that run directly on server hardware without requiring an additional underlying operating system.[6]

VMWare does have a lot of trial and free downloads available, but I don’t find the free VMWare Player any longer. There is a new VMWare Player Plus. There are concerns about the eventual impact should the license terms become unacceptable to me. VMWare has a much larger number of products now than they did in 2003 when I purchased my first VM supervisor from them, and honestly I do not grasp all the intricacies of each. I am really quite comfortable with VMWare Player and Workstation, but I have no idea where VMWare is going, and that concerns me.

Oracle

In 2010 our favorite hardware manufacturer and protagonist for the free OpenSource office suite OpenOffice and for the free OpenSource database MySQL (which is used on 90% of the web servers on the Internet), Sun Microsystems, was bought by the for-profit database giant Oracle. Oracle has long been recognized as the absolute best of the best so far as high performance secure corporate database systems is concerned: the name Oracle is synonymous with “high quality professional database”.  Says Wikipedia:

Oracle Corporation is an American multinational computer technology corporation headquartered in Redwood City, California, United States. The company specializes in developing and marketing computer hardware systems and enterprise software products – particularly its own brands of database management systems. Oracle is the third-largest software maker by revenue, after Microsoft and IBM.[3]

OpenOffice seems to have then gone on hold after the transfer of ownership and some of the OpenOffice project personnel forked the project to start LibreOffice. However, Oracle Corporation does not seem to have totally rejected the concept of OpenSource software, libre (free) computing, and related social movements, rather they have many Communities and seem to have some interest in supporting new OpenSource, or at least free, software development. There are free downloads. VirtualBox is one of the Oracle projects that has come to the public mind in the last two years or so. It is a substitute product for the VMWare Player and possibly Workstation.

The Install

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As such, it is time for me to be proactive and learn how to use the new Oracle VirtualBox. To install VirtualBox is straight forward — choose VirtualBox in the Ubuntu Software Manager.

Once installed, I changed the default folder for storing Virtual Machines to something I liked better than the default. The other preferences I left alone.

I clicked the NEW icon in the upper left corner of the box, then set up a Windows 7 Home machine. From there I simply followed the prompts and had a VM in about 10 clicks.

Next I installed the Windows 7. I converted the Windows 7 Home DVD into an .iso, as .iso files on the disk tend to work much faster than DVD drives. Then I connected the .iso as the cd drive. Click Settings in the top tool bar. Under the storage area I deleted the CD (- icon at bottom) and added a new CD using the .iso image file. If you have done this in VMWare it is similar — you’ll find your way around easily.

Total Windows 7 Home install time was about 3 minutes, including the obligatory reboot. As I learn more about VirtualBox I will update or post more.

vbox31

Notes: 20130807 2338

1. You can resize the VM window to fit the unused space on your desktop and have Windows respond by changing its resolution to use the full area.

2. Use of system resources is light.

3. Remember to install “Guest Editions” to get full functionality, such as shared folders. At the top menu bar click Devices, then at the bottom of that menu select Install Guest Editions.