Recently in OES Category

Migrating off of NetWare

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It has been around a year since we did the heavy lifting of migrating off of NetWare and retiring our eDirectory tree. By this point last year we had our procedures in place, we just needed to pull the trigger and start moving data around. I was asked to provide some hints about it, but the mail bounced with a 550-mailbox-not-found error *ahem*.

Because it's such a narrowly focused topic, and the WWU people who read me lived through it and therefore already know this stuff, I'm putting the meat of the post under the fold.

You're welcome.
I'm going over some of my older posts and am reposting some of the good stuff that's still relevant. I've been at this a while, so there is a good week's worth of good essays hiding in the archives.
Shortly after the release of Novell OES SP1, the version of Open Enterprise Server based on SuSE Linux 9, I ran a benchmark series to determine just how it would hold up in our environment. The results were pretty clear: not that good. I re-ran some of the tests with later versions and it got a lot better. SP2 improved things significantly, and has gotten even better with OES2 (based on SLES10).

The long and short of it is that the 32-bit Linux kernel has some design constraints that simply prevented Novell from designing a NetWare-equivalent system when it came to NCP performance. The 64-bit kernel that came with OES2 helped a lot. Also, more intelligent assumptions about usage.

Our big problem was concurrency. Our cluster nodes regularly ran between 2000-6000 concurrent connections. Anyway, for details about what I found, read the series:

Benchmark Results Summary

It has pictures. Oooo!

Digesting Novell financials

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It's a perennial question, "why would anyone use Novell any more?" Typically coming from people who only know Novell as "That NetWare company," or perhaps, "the company that we replaced with Exchange." These are the same people who are convinced Novell is a dying company who just doesn't know it yet.

Yeah, well. Wrong. Novell managed to turn the corner and wean themselves off of the NetWare cash-cow. Take the last quarterly statement, which you can read in full glory here. I'm going to excerpt some bits, but it'll get long. First off, their description of their market segments. I'll try to include relevant products where I know them.

We are organized into four business unit segments, which are Open Platform Solutions, Identity and Security Management, Systems and Resource Management, and Workgroup. Below is a brief update on the revenue results for the second quarter and first six months of fiscal 2009 for each of our business unit segments:



Within our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment, Linux and open source products remain an important growth business. We are using our Open Platform Solutions business segment as a platform for acquiring new customers to which we can sell our other complementary cross-platform identity and management products and services. Revenue from our Linux Platform Products category within our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment increased 25% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. This product revenue increase was partially offset by lower services revenue of 11%, such that total revenue from our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment increased 18% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

Revenue from our Linux Platform Products category within our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment increased 24% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. This product revenue increase was partially offset by lower services revenue of 17%, such that total revenue from our Open Platform Solutions business unit segment increased 15% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

[sysadmin1138: Products include: SLES/SLED]



Our Identity and Security Management business unit segment offers products that we believe deliver a complete, integrated solution in the areas of security, compliance, and governance issues. Within this segment, revenue from our Identity, Access and Compliance Management products increased 2% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 45%, such that total revenue from our Identity and Security Management business unit segment decreased 16% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

Revenue from our Identity, Access and Compliance Management products decreased 3% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 40%, such that total revenue from our Identity and Security Management business unit segment decreased 18% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

[sysadmin1138: Products include: IDM, Sentinal, ZenNAC, ZenEndPointSecurity]



Our Systems and Resource Management business unit segment strategy is to provide a complete “desktop to data center” offering, with virtualization for both Linux and mixed-source environments. Systems and Resource Management product revenue decreased 2% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 10%, such that total revenue from our Systems and Resource Management business unit segment decreased 3% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In the second quarter of fiscal 2009, total business unit segment revenue was higher by 8%, compared to the prior year period, as a result of our acquisitions of Managed Object Solutions, Inc. (“Managed Objects”) which we acquired on November 13, 2008 and PlateSpin Ltd. (“PlateSpin”) which we acquired on March 26, 2008.

Systems and Resource Management product revenue increased 3% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. The total product revenue increase was partially offset by lower services revenue of 14% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. Total revenue from our Systems and Resource Management business unit segment increased 1% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In the first six months of fiscal 2009 total business unit segment revenue was higher by 12% compared to the prior year period as a result of our Managed Objects and PlateSpin acquisitions.

[sysadmin1138: Products include: The rest of the ZEN suite, PlateSpin]



Our Workgroup business unit segment is an important source of cash flow and provides us with the potential opportunity to sell additional products and services. Our revenue from Workgroup products decreased 14% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 39%, such that total revenue from our Workgroup business unit segment decreased 17% in the second quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

Our revenue from Workgroup products decreased 12% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. In addition, services revenue was lower by 39%, such that total revenue from our Workgroup business unit segment decreased 15% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.

[sysadmin1138: Products include: Open Enterprise Server, GroupWise, Novell Teaming+Conferencing,

The reduction in 'services' revenue is, I believe, a reflection in a decreased willingness for companies to pay Novell for consulting services. Also, Novell has changed how they advertise their consulting services which seems to also have had an impact. That's the economy for you. The raw numbers:


Three months ended


April 30, 2009

April 30, 2008

(In thousands)


Net revenue
Gross
profit


Operating
income (loss)


Net revenue
Gross
profit


Operating
income (loss)

Open Platform Solutions


$ 44,112
$ 34,756

$ 21,451

$ 37,516
$ 26,702

$ 12,191

Identity and Security Management



38,846

27,559


18,306


46,299

24,226


12,920

Systems and Resource Management



45,354

37,522


26,562


46,769

39,356


30,503

Workgroup



87,283

73,882


65,137


105,082

87,101


77,849

Common unallocated operating costs





(3,406 )

(113,832 )



(2,186 )

(131,796 )























Total per statements of operations


$ 215,595
$ 170,313

$ 17,624

$ 235,666
$ 175,199

$ 1,667



























Six months ended


April 30, 2009

April 30, 2008

(In thousands)


Net revenue
Gross
profit


Operating
income (loss)


Net revenue
Gross
profit


Operating
income (loss)

Open Platform Solutions


$ 85,574
$ 68,525

$ 40,921

$ 74,315
$ 52,491

$ 24,059

Identity and Security Management



76,832

52,951


35,362


93,329

52,081


29,316

Systems and Resource Management



90,757

74,789


52,490


90,108

74,847


58,176

Workgroup



177,303

149,093


131,435


208,840

173,440


155,655

Common unallocated operating costs





(7,071 )

(228,940 )



(4,675 )

(257,058 )























Total per statements of operations


$ 430,466
$ 338,287

$ 31,268

$ 466,592
$ 348,184

$ 10,148

So, yes. Novell is making money, even in this economy. Not lots, but at least they're in the black. Their biggest growth area is Linux, which is making up for deficits in other areas of the company. Especially the sinking 'Workgroup' area. Once upon a time, "Workgroup," constituted over 90% of Novell revenue.
Revenue from our Workgroup segment decreased in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period primarily from lower combined OES and NetWare-related revenue of $13.7 million, lower services revenue of $10.5 million and lower Collaboration product revenue of $6.3 million. Invoicing for the combined OES and NetWare-related products decreased 25% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period. Product invoicing for the Workgroup segment decreased 21% in the first six months of fiscal 2009 compared to the prior year period.
Which is to say, companies dropping OES/NetWare constituted the large majority of the losses in the Workgroup segment. Yet that loss was almost wholly made up by gains in other areas. So yes, Novell has turned the corner.

Another thing to note in the section about Linux:
The invoicing decrease in the first six months of 2009 reflects the results of the first quarter of fiscal 2009 when we did not sign any large deals, many of which have historically been fulfilled by SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (“SLES”) certificates delivered through Microsoft.
Which is pretty clear evidence that Microsoft is driving a lot of Novell's Operating System sales these days. That's quite a reversal, and a sign that Microsoft is officially more comfortable with this Linux thing.

tsatest and incrementals

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Today I learned how to tell TSATEST to do an incremental backup. I also learned that the /path parameter requires the DOS namespace name. Example:

tsatest /V=SHARE: /path=FACILI~1 /U=.username.for.backup /c=2

That'll do an incremental (files with the Archive bit set) backup of that specific directory, on that specific volume.

High availability

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64-bit OES provides some options to highly available file serving. Now that we've split the non-file services out of the main 6-node cluster, all that cluster is doing is NCP and some trivial other things. What kinds of things could we do with this should we get a pile of money to do whatever we want?

Disclaimer: Due to the budget crisis, it is very possible we will not be able to replace the cluster nodes when they turn 5 years old. It may be easier to justify eating the greatly increased support expenses. Won't know until we try and replace them. This is a pure fantasy exercise as a result.

The stats of the 6-node cluster are impressive:
  • 12 P4 cores, with an average of 3GHz per core (36GHz).
  • A total of 24GB of RAM
  • About 7TB of active data
The interesting thing is that you can get a similar server these days:
  • HP ProLiant DL580 (4 CPU sockets)
  • 4x Quad Core Xeon E7330 Processors (2.40GHz per core, 38.4GHz total)
  • 24 GB of RAM
  • The usual trimmings
  • Total cost: No more than $16,547 for us
With OES2 running in 64-bit mode, this monolithic server could handle what six 32-bit nodes are handling right now. The above is just a server that matches the stats of the existing cluster. If I were to really replace the 6 node cluster with a single device I would make a few changes to the above. Such as moving to 32GB of RAM at minimum, and using a 2-socket server instead of a 4-socket server; 8 cores should be plenty for a pure file-server this big.

A single server does have a few things to recommend it. By doing away with the virtual servers, all of the NCP volumes would be hosted on the same server. Right now each virtual-server/volume pair causes a new connection to each cluster node. Right now if I fail all the volumes to the same cluster node, that cluster node will legitimately have on the order of 15,000 concurrent connections. If I were to move all the volumes to a single server itself, the concurrent connection count would drop to only ~2500.

Doing that would also make one of the chief annoyances of the Vista Client for Novell much less annoying. Due to name cache expiration, if you don't look at Windows Explorer or that file dialog in the Vista client once every 10 minutes, it'll take a freaking-long time to open that window when you do. This is because the Vista client has to enumerate/resolve the addresses of each mapped drive. Because of our cluster, each user gets no less than 6 drive mappings to 6 different virtual servers. Since it takes Vista 30-60 seconds per NCP mapping to figure out the address (it has to try Windows resolution methods before going to Novell resolution methods, and unlike WinXP there is no way to reverse that order), this means a 3-5 minute pause before Windows Explorer opens.

By putting all of our volumes on the same server, it'd only pause 30-60 seconds. Still not great, but far better.

However, putting everything on a single server is not what you call "highly available". OES2 is a lot more stable now, but it still isn't to the legendary stability of NetWare 3. Heck, NetWare 6.5 isn't at that legendary stability either. Rebooting for patches takes everything down for minutes at a time. Not viable.

With a server this beefy it is quite doable to do a cluster-in-a-box by way of Xen. Lay a base of SLES10-Sp2 on it, run the Xen kernel, and create four VMs for NCS cluster nodes. Give each 64-bit VM 7.75GB of RAM for file-caching, and bam! Cluster-in-a-box, and highly available.

However, this is a pure fantasy solution, so chances are real good that if we had the money we would use VMWare ESX instead XEN for the VM. The advantage to that is that we don't have to keep the VM/Host kernel versions in lock-step, which reduces downtime. There would be some performance degradation, and clock skew would be a problem, but at least uptime would be good; no need to perform a CLUSTER DOWN when updating kernels.

Best case, we'd have two physical boxes so we can patch the VM host without having to take every VM down.

But I still find it quite interesting that I could theoretically buy a single server with the same horsepower as the six servers driving our cluster right now.

The price of storage

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I've had cause to do the math lately, which I'll spare you :). But as of the best numbers I have, the cost of 1GB of space on the EVA6100 is about $16.22. Probably more, since this 6100 was created out of the carcass of an EVA3000, and I don't know what percentage of parts from the old 3000 are still in the 6100 and thus can't apportion the costs right.

For the EVA4400, which we have filled with FATA drives, the cost is $3.03.

Suddenly, the case for Dynamic Storage Technology (formerly known as Shadow Volumes) in OES can be made in economic terms. Yowza.

The above numbers do not include backup rotation costs. Those costs can vary from $3/GB to $15/GB depending on what you're doing with the data in the backup rotation.

Why is the cost of the EVA6100 so much greater than the EVA4400?
  1. The EVA6100 uses 10K RPM 300GB FibreChannel disks, where the the EVA4400 uses 7.2K RPM 1TB (or is it 450GB?) FATA drives. The cost-per-gig on FC is vastly higher than it is on fibre-ATA.
  2. Most of the drives in the EVA6100 were purchased back when 300GB FC drives cost over $2000 each.
  3. The EVA6100 controller and cabinets just plain cost more than the EVA4400, because it can expand farther.
To put it into a bit of perspective, lets take the example of a 1TB volume of, "unorganized file data", the seemingly official term for "file-server". If you place that 1TB of data on the EVA6100, that data consumes $16609.28 worth of storage. So what if 70% of that data hasn't been modified in a year (not unreasonable), and is then put on the EVA4400 instead? So you'd have 307GB on the 6100 and 717GB on the 4400. Your storage cost now drops to $5909.75. That's real money.

Infiltrating the market

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Over on The Open Road there is a very interesting blog post. It talks about how Microsoft and Red Hat approach the market, and touches on Novell.
Microsoft offers a full ecosystem of software to would-be buyers, but its greatest success may actually result from its strategy to present customers with an "and" decision when initially purchasing Microsoft technology, rather than a difficult "or" decision.
And I really see this. The argument has been made internally that what you get from a Microsoft Enterprise CAL is worlds above what we can get from a Novell academic seat license, which follows into cost-effective discussions (and not good ones). It is soooooo easy to go all Microsoft, whereas a pure Linux solution requires a lot of stitching, and translation-glue.

The article goes on to point out that Red Hat's targeting people looking to do forklift upgrades from Unix to Linux. And then points out that Microsoft wins more of that traffic than Red Hat does, by a good margin. Largely because the Microsoft family of products is very complete.

As it points out, Novell figured this out a few years ago when they launched their collaboration with Microsoft. The fruits of which arrived today with OES2 SP1, and the Novell CIFS stack and Domain Services for Windows. This allows OES2 to do something you can't do with Samba (yet), pretend to be a full up AD Domain Controller.

And yeah, Novell's current marketing slogan is, "Making IT work as One," which is a clear embracing of the "and" concept described. If they could make DSfW work on plain SLES, it may make it an even more attractive product for people.

OES2 SP1 ships!

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The NetWare 7 that never was

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My last post generated some comments lamenting where NetWare has gone. I hear ya.

I have friends and have spoken with people at BrainShare who were closer to things than I was regarding how the next version of NetWare evolved. And to be truthful, it sounded a lot like how Microsoft moved from XP to Vista. If you'll recall, "the version of Windows after XP," was something of a moving target for many years. I recall media reports of Microsoft scrapping the whole project and starting afresh at least once.

My very first BrainShare was 2001, and that was the release party for NetWare 6. It was in 2003 when Novell bought Ximian, and bought SuSE, so it is clear when Novell probably decided to bet the house on this whole Linux thing. Yet at BS01 there was talk about NW7, or if there would be a NW6.1 version out. The rumors I remember from back then had NW7 being a progression towards a more application-friendly environment. I also remember hearing the L word around once or twice.

What we actually got was NetWare 6.5, which solidified NetWare 6 and made the core services better and more mature. What it wasn't was any more application friendly than NetWare 6 was (or even NetWare 5.1 for that matter). NetWare 6.5 released in August of 2003, the same month as the Ximian purchase. This is what tells me that Novell had decided on a path for NetWare 7, and it was green, not red. Open Enterprise Server arrived in 2005, which gives OES a solid year and a half dev-time between when SuSE was bought and when we started seeing public betas of OES. The NetWare version of OES was NetWare 6.5 SP3.

What happened to NetWare 7? It got lost on the roadmap. When NW6 came out, Novell probably had 6.5 on the roadmap as the next rev, with NW7 next down. The rumors we were hearing were very provisional, as the spot on the map held by NW7 was at least 3 years away. Sometime between BrainShare 2001 and when Novell started buying its way into the Linux world NW7 was dropped and the decision was made to port to a completely different Kernel. That decision was probably made in the summer of 2003, as the NetWare 6.5 development was entering final beta, and the task of allocating developer resources for the next full rev needed to be made.

Which brings us to today. OES2 SP1 is going to drop any day now, probably in time for Novell's quarterly earnings report. SP1 finally brings the Linux-kernel 'NetWare Services' to feature-comparable with the NetWare kernel. There are still a few things missing, like an eDirectory integrated SLP server, but now all the major points are covered. If you count it up, this has taken Novell a bit over 5 years to get to this point.

In my opinion, that's about right for an organization the size of Novell. Porting over the proprietary NetWare services to completely new kernel requires a LOT of developer attention, and Novell is a lot smaller than Microsoft. Also of note, it took Microsoft 5 years to give us Vista after XP, including the presumed nuke-and-rewrite they did. Novell got a boost in that they had already ported eDirectory to Linux, so that helped out the NCP side. But that didn't help the NSS folks, who had to figure out a way to do a NetWare-style rich metadata file-system on a kernel and driver model that expects POSIX-spartan file-systems. The problems Novell had with this were amply displayed in the performance problems reported with OES1-FCS. Samba doesn't scale to the same levels as CIFS-on-NetWare did, so that meant Novell had to create their own CIFS stack from scratch. The AFP stack on Linux is a joke, and the resurgence of Apple since 2003 meant they had to do something about that as well; by making a proprietary AFP stack. All of this represents nuke-and-rebuild-from-spec, which takes time.

Novell probably should have started the migration in 2000 instead of 2003. They already knew that Exchange 5.5 upgrades were driving a LOT of customers into Active Directory, which was triggering migrations away from NetWare. But, there are business concerns here. Novell managed to survive the fall of NetWare by diversifying their product portfolio enough that GroupWise, Zen, and Identity Management could support the company. It took until this year to return to the black, but they did it. Had they shot the NetWare cash cow two years earlier, it is entirely possible that Novell couldn't have survived the lean years.

Signs and portents

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Last Thursday I was over on download.novell.com looking for an eDirectory patch. I was staging up a new NetWare box and needed to see what the latest edir levels were. I knew 8.8.3 came out in August, and we're not there yet, so I needed 8.8.2 ftf2. However, I noticed that one of the searchable versions was 8.8.4. There was nothing in the list, but it was an option. It's not there right now, but it was then.

Thus emboldened I checked around a few more places. NetWare 6.5 SP8 was in the list, and still is right now. As is Open Enterprise Server 2 SP1. Both have the public betas posted, though.

But 8.8.4 was there. I saw it. Must have been a test or something. All this tells me that OES2 SP1 (a.k.a. NW65SP8) is just around the corner. Since we were told back at BrainShare that Sp1 would be in the Q4 time-frame, it's about due.

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