Wednesday, August 24, 2011

360is Completes Migration to New Data Centre

360is have recently completed a data centre migration from our primary location (shared with the Manchester University Supercomputer) into a new facility nearby. We continue to maintain a presence at both sites, which have layer-2 adjacency. The motivation for the move?

Power costs.

UK consumers are seeing domestic bills increase this year up by 18% for gas and 10% for electricity. The UK electricity price broadly tracks natural gas futures, so we can expect further rises in the months and years to come. Since 2004, electricity prices have doubled from below 3.0p/KWh to 6.0p/KWh. At that rate they will be between 8p and 9p per KWh by 2013, an increase of 40% from today.

UK Energy Prices, Gas and Electricity, 2004 to 2011, Source: BuyEnergyOnline

Since many companies sign 3-year contracts with their provider, increases of 30-40% in the power-portion of their data centre costs are common upon contract renewal. Although the long term trend for network bandwidth prices is down, the reduction is nowhere near enough to offset the power cost increase, particularly since most companies have modest bandwidth requirements.

Besides contracting with a new data centre, 360is have also deployed energy efficient virtualisation appliances to reduce overall power consumption. These systems provide large VM carrying capacity (upto 384GB RAM in a 1U unit) in a tiny power power envelope (between 120 and 300 Watts depending on utilisation), they can carry hundreds of VMs.

By re-contracting at a new site, and replacing commodity systems from HP and Dell with dedicated virtualisation appliances, we have been able to mitigate the hike in power costs.

If you have received a shock when presented with a new data centre, hosting, or colocation contract then speak to one of our consultants. Together we can formulate a long term strategy to better insulate you  from increasing power costs.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

360is Welcomes New Consultant

We'd like to welcome another new consultant to 360is. Miles is an ex-UUNET consultant who worked with 360is founders in the 90's, where he  specialised in secure Internet gateway deployments and UNIX/Solaris hosting. At UUNET he managed the secure Internet gateway infrastructure for BP/Amoco at 7 international sites. Back then, Miles drew the short straw and did all the on-site work in Bogota.

Miles has many years experience in the ISP and data centre world as consultant and engineer, and more recently has been operating a VMware estate for a UK-based display technology company. He is based in Cambridge.

Welcome Miles!

Friday, August 12, 2011

360is at DSEi 2011

Three Sixty will be present at the 2011 Defence & Security Equipment International, held at at the Excel Center, East London, between City Airport and Canary Wharf. Between the 14th and 16th September we shall join with our clients and partners in the exhibition hall, briefings, and break-out sessions.

Just as in 2009, the 2011 the conference will be attended by a range of military, intelligence, government, and private organisations. There will be 25000 delegates and over 1200 exhibitors. Of the many streams and seminars to attend, we recommend that our clients and partners check the following briefing:

Intellect Cyber Security Briefing
Briefing Room Two
15th Sep 2011
14:00 - 16:00
  • The threat landscape 
  • The impact on the Defence industry
  • How SMEs can protect themselves and the supply chain
  • Virtual Task Force (industry response to cyber threats)
  • Reactions to the UK Government's Cyber Security Strategy
DSEi is a secure event and all visitor applications must pass through the security vetting procedure to assess their eligibility to attend. If you are unable to attend and would like to speak to one of our consultants about your information security project then please get in touch.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

XenServer & The City, London LinkedIn Group

There is now a LinkedIn group for those end users running or evaluating Citrix XenServer in the City Of London.

New members shall need to be approved before being able to post (to keep the SPAM out) but otherwise the group is open to members. Feel free to invite your colleagues and contacts. Discussions can only be read by other members of the group. This group operated for the benefit of end users, sorry vendors/resellers.

Running IT operations in one of the worlds largest financial centers puts extreme pressure on infrastructure managers:

  • Data center space is in short supply, driving up prices and driving out colocation to make way for fully managed hosting customers. Hosting offers higher margins and reduced churn rates to service providers, but does not suit everyone.
  • Power demand continues to outstrip supply as it has done for years. Although there is some hope this will improve after 2012. Lack of power in London has been a recurring problem!
  • Cooling. Due to the Urban Heat Island effect, central London can be up to 10 degrees warmer than the surrounding area. This places further strain on cooling plant and equipment. We have just entered what is traditionally the warmest month.

These factors have driven city sysadmins to ever more dense virtualisation and higher levels of utilisation. However, maintaining mission critical systems under such conditions is a challenge.

The XenServer City Of London Group activities outside LinkedIn will likely include occasional informal get-togethers (yes, that means drinks), briefing sessions, peer talks, and perhaps even collaborative projects. The group will also provide leverage for pushing bug fixes and feature requests back into Citrix Engineering through our longstanding relationship with the development teams.

As with any user forum, you get out what you put in.
In other words "ask not what this group can do for you, but what you can do for this group".

Monday, August 01, 2011

Maximising VM Density

Maximising Virtual Machine Density is one of the few topics that is of interest to both engineers and business managers alike. With recent announcements from VMware, even Procurement and Finance Directors have reason to show an interest in this subject.

Being able to run a very large number of Virtual Machines on a very small number of physical hardware platforms (servers, switches, storage, racks) requires a high degree of technical skill and great operational discipline. Not every IT team has both in the the right measures.

For business managers, VM density may be directly linked to profitability (hosting, cloud, or something-as-a-service providers). For other kinds of company, VM density may be just another marginal competitive advantage among many, rather than an outright ace.

One thing we can be sure of, for companies using our favorite metric (IT Head Count to Free Cash Flow), increasing VM density can be a primary ratchet for achieving operational efficiency. It is the essence of "doing more with less", and can link IT performance to business outcomes.

360is consultants regularly work with our clients to maximise their VM density, either as part of a performance tuning exercise or a new-build data center project. We were recently invited to present on the subject of maximising VM density at the Citrix XenServer UK User Group's regular meeting in Cambridge. We covered:

  • Hardware Selection, down to the component level
  • Hypervisor Configuration (we limited things to XenServer)
  • Performance Monitoring
  • Operational Practices

Delegates from some of the UK's largest companies were present, along with a mixture of hosting service providers, government, and educational establishments. We were pleased to see a few familiar faces from our own client list.

For those of you who could not make the event, you may obtain the slides in PDF form here. If you had not previously registered for the event then you will have to enter your Email address in order to access them.

If you would like to speak to one of our consultants about increasing VM density in your data center, or you would like to register for the next event, then please get in touch.

--- Update 25-07-2011 18:20:21
The application shown on the slides displaying performance and capacity planning information is the Virtual Estate Manager, which is part of VMC's high density virtualisation appliances.

Measuring IT Performance & Spending

Industry analysts never seem to tire of debating factors that drive IT spending, it may be their favourite subject. In our experience, IT spending is driven primarily by 4 factors:
  • Your choice of products and technologies
  • Your business processes
  • How your organisation is structured
  • The way in which you interface with customers
If you are a CIO (or more likely in UK companies, an IT Manager), the chances are that only one of those factors is under your direct control. This is why you feel constant pressure to stay within budget while delivering the levels of service the organisation demands. IT managers are simply not in control of most of what influences the total cost of IT. As a result of this, IT headcount comes under constant scrutiny. Unable to alter the organisation's basic processes, structure, or the way it touches customers, the IT headcount figure receives a great deal of attention and more often than not, downward pressure from senior management.

It is for this reason that measuring the IT department's performance through a set of ratios and comparables has become the industry analysts 2nd most popular topic after debating spending drivers.

So how should we measure the performance of IT in 2011?

We already know that about 70% of all IT budgets are contractually committed to software or hardware maintenance, telecommunications, to managing what is already running. After taking out another 15-20% for migration/end-of-life projects, this leaves about 10% for innovation. With such a large part of the budget locked-out from the effects of short-term management changes, it does not make sense to use IT budget number itself as part of a performance metric. Instead we can use something better...

To find out what, download our guide to measuring your IT organisation's performance in 2011.

At 360is each of our consultants have over 15 years experience helping our clients make product and technology decisions. As vendor-neutral advisors we can help you get the maximum value from your IT budget through fixed-price engagements and periodic intervention in your mission critical projects. We are able to assist in budget justification and vendor negotiations and act in the sole interest of our client. If you have a project that would benefit from our contribution then please get in touch.