A bit of a blog cataloging stuff I do... Sort of like a lazy mans scrap book of random stuff. Something I can look back on later in life and say "huh... so thats what I spent my time on..."

Warrior Dash - DONE :)   Did it 15 minutes faster than I thought I would.   A bit sore, a bit scraped up, but super freaking happy to have knocked this out.  It was actually not as hard as I thought it would be.  Going to do it again next year, and try to better my time.

Today I did one of the first performance upgrade on a server I built back in 2010 before moving to CO.   This is a beast of a home server with 20TB of disk (including 512GB of SSD), 48GB of ram, and 2x Xeons.   The CPUs were fine, and they were as much as I could afford when I bought them new.  Xeon E5620’s ran around $380/chip back in 2010.

I was lurking on Ebay and ran across what seemed too good to be true,  X5650s (nearly 12% faster in clock speed, and with 50% more cores, and a much faster memory and bus speed).   These are 6 core (12 threads), 2.66 Ghz, 6.4 GT/sec CPUs.  Vs the E5620 which was a 4 core, 2.4Ghz, 5.8 GT/s.  Last I saw, these CPUs were running on the order of $1000/cpu even as recent as a year and a half ago.   Way outside my price range.

Well it seems HP is offloading  CPU upgrade kits, because for $144 for 2 CPUs I received a new, unopened, HP CPU upgrade kit with 2 brand new procs in it.    Something that cost over $2000 used last year, now $144 new!   It makes sense since these CPUs are hitting the end of a normal enterprise server lifecycle being 4 years old.   But they are still brutally fast and way high horse power.

So for little more than what 2 heat sinks cost these days for servers, I just jumped the performance of my home virtualization server by over 50%.

If you are looking for some cheap speed, look on Ebay for some X5650s.  On a few websites, I recently saw these listed as the best bang for the buck CPU around today.

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Like many people, I keep most of my records, pictures, memories, important documents all in digital format.   Keeping everything in a digital format is by far more efficient, flexible, and lossless (in terms of pictures not aging).  But this flexibility comes at the cost of being much more fragile overall.  Live data - data that is online, and accessible - is as vulnerable in most home environments as your file cabinet sitting next to a big glass window off a busy street.   The wall between your data, and disaster is very thin.

Digital records and data have the ability to be incredibly easy to store in multiple locations, much easier than physical records. A duplication of every record you have, every picture, etc… can be accomplished for virtually free and in a matter of minutes in some cases.  By not leveraging that capability, you are skipping one of the best perks of this digital/data age.   Today you records and data are much more open to attack by anyone with the intent, and determination, or mistakes by the end user.  

Your Cloud Drive is not Backed up:

Just because your data is already in your Drop Box, OneDrive, Box, etc… account doesn’t mean it’s safe.   Those accounts are still a single point for data in many cases, and are actually more open to attack and exploit than your on premises data.   They should be backed up just as anything else should.

Malware wake up call:

Cryptolocker Malware:  A virus that locks your files and required you to pay to unlock them or when the clock times out, it erases everything you had.

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One wrong move by mistake, or by malicious malware could wipe out a lifetime of pictures, and records.    With so many “Data locker” viruses and malware (like Cryptolocker) going around these days, your precious data could forever be locked or encrypted unless you pay some Russian mobster hundreds or thousands of dollars for the decryption key.   This is where having backups of your data come into play.  It’s insurance against you or someone else destroying the most important data we all keep and archive these days.

Synolocker - a NAS specific malware:

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Some of the new Malware is able to focus attacks on NAS  (networked hard drives) specifically as well.  No Antivirus on your PC will protect your NAS device in that case.

If you have backups of your data, you could effectively just ignore these malware requests and just restore the data and delete the malware encrypted files (pending you removed the Malware that is).

If your backups were online and accessible via the same account, there is  a good chance your backups could be compromised or blocked from you as well.  Which is why you need to consider an “air gap”, security firewall (2 factor auth for accessing backups), or off line storage for backups to keep them protected from real time attacks like these data locker malwares.

Backups 101:

Like any insurance, backups are never supposed to be needed, but we do it just in case we do.    Backing up your data is at a simple level, just making copies of your data in another location.    Just like making copies of important physical documents and storing some in a safety deposit box off site.   

Backups come in many forms.   You can backup to a USB drive, second hard drive, optical disc, tape, cloud, etc…    But there are a few main categories of backup:

  • On Site , Online - Backed up data is stored in the same physical location, and at the same time is currently connected and accessible via your network or systems.  (Example: Second Hard drive in your PC, always running and accessible)
  • On Site, Offline - Backed up data is stored in the same physical location, but is only mounted or online while the actual backup is being performed, after that it is offline, disconnected and stored. (Example: Burned DVD, then stored next to your PC, or a USB drive you back up to now and then but keep in your house.) 
  • Off Site, Online (ish) - Same as on site and online, just in a different physical location, but still accessible. (example: Backup to another office location, but that location remains online, and updated continuously.  Like Drop Box or OneDrive, or other services that sync files from onsite, and is always available for read/write and being erased with no special security.)
  • Off Site, Offline(ish) - Same as On Site, but in a different physical location.   This is the highest level of resiliency for backed up data. (Example: Backup to a DVD or Disk and move that disk off site after the backup is complete. Also a Cloud Service that lets you do snapshot, or incremental backups but retains previous backup images for a time period. Typically encrypted and requires special logins/access to access any data already uploaded. )

 Most home users will backup to an on site solution these days (if they do at all).  With USB drives, NAS devices, or internal hard drives being the primary backup location.   These are good for general protection of data, but in the case of a fire/flood/theft/natural disaster, most of these are prone to the same data loss as no backup.   You can mitigate the risk with fire safes, or even fireproof USB drives that are out there.   But those devices are still prone to theft, and even bitlocker encryption has been shown to be vulnerable to attack in some cases on those devices if not configured properly.

Fireproof USB drive - iOSafe:

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To the Cloud!

With the advent of relatively cheap cloud storage many consumer level cloud backup solutions are coming into play.  Companies like Carbonite, CrashPlan, and Mozy  are offering cost effective consumer (and enterprise in some cases) cloud backup solutions.   These are cheap enough and easy enough in some cases to replace what someone would typically backup onto USB drives or DVDs.

Example of Consumer pricing:

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These products are easy to use, and can be considered Off Site and Off line (in some cases, other times these are still very online and accessible)  backups, giving you the best of all worlds in terms of protection.   The downside for many of these systems if they don’t scale well.   These solutions are meant to protect 10’s of GB of data, or 100’s of GB for a monthly fee in most case (Example: Mozy Home offers 125GB for 10$/mo, 20GB extra for $2/mo).   Which is great for most home users today, but as cameras get more powerful, images take up more space.  And soon avid photographers may find themselves out running what the “consumer” cloud solutions can offer for space.   This is where you need to start to become strategic in your backup plans.

Backup Strategies

Backing up everything to the cloud isn’t feasible for most people.   To prioritizing where you backup what data to what location becomes important.  Just like you don’t buy the most expensive insurance plan you can get, you weigh the risk and cost into the equation.

The basic rule  is - Nothing important should reside only in one physical location, whether that be a single PC, or in a single residence.    Malware, Fires, Floods, Tornados, Hurricanes, Burst pipes, Pet accidents, etc… are all generally capable of removing all your most valuable items in one quick move.   So might as well keep a copy somewhere else. 

Some basic things I use to prioritize data I back up:

  • Is the data replaceable - (Ex: OS installs, downloadable apps, downloadable app data, etc…) - Don’t Backup.
  • Is the data already copied in multiple locations or cloud solutions - (Ex: iTunes Match, Amazon Cloud Player for music,  One Drive or Drop Box for other forms of data.) - Not important for off site backups as the data already resides off site and in a cloud or another datacenter.  In this case, backing up to an on site (or another cloud) but offline system could be a good idea.
  • Is the data not replaceable and is important - (Ex: Photographs, records, and documents) - Backup, off site and off line.
  • Is the data semi important, but replaceable, but time consuming? - (Ex:  Purchased Downloaded Movies and Music, scanned pictures, archived data from other mediums) - Backup if you feel the time to recover/download the lost data again is more of a hassle than the cost to backup the data.

As you can see above, there is no straight forward and universal recommendation for how to backup everything.    Some things aren’t worth the cost, some things are, and it is largely a personal decision based on risk, time, and cost.

On Site storage is largely purchased in bulk, one time payments.  You buy a NAS device, you buy a USB disk, etc…  These are one time purchases and you use as much of the storage as you can.  And buy more when you need.

Off Site Cloud storage is much more granular, and you generally pay for what you use.  So if cost is a major concern you need to organize your data you want to backup very carefully to not use more cloud storage than you need.

Big Pipes:

Getting the data up to a cloud provider, means you need to  (in most cases) upload the data over your internet connection.  This is a bigger hurdle than one may think.   Lets take the Mozy 125GB example from above.  And factor how this comes into play in the consumer market.

Most consumer internet connections have bandwidth caps in place. Ranging between 200GB/mo to 500GB/mo.  After that you are charged a higher rate, or your speeds drop down.

Also consider that your upload speeds are fractions of your download speeds.   Many consumer connections are limited to 1 - 5Mb/Sec upload.  With most being at the lower end of that range.  Many consumer connections also suffer from congestion of the connection when all the upload speed is being used.   So even while the download stream is clear, the high upload seems to lock up the connection.

Upload times can be measured in weeks or months depending on your connection, and this is at 7Mb/sec up (picture of Veeam Cloud Edition):

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The Bad news:

So if you were to backup 125GB of data, at 2Mb/sec that would take approximately 7 days to run and could drag your connection to the ground when that is happening.  This could also potentially (depending on how your provider measures your bandwidth consumption) use half your monthly allocation. 

You can throttle most of the backup apps to only back up on certain schedules or only use so much bandwidth.

Not many consumer level backup solutions offer what is called “pre seeding” which lets you mail them a disk to do the initial replication of data.

The Good News:

Almost all cloud backup providers do block level backups.  Which means only items that are changed in files or whole files are backed up ever run.   So after the initial large backup (7+ days in this case), your weekly or daily backups could be much smaller.  More often you back up, the smaller the uploads become.

So an avid photographer with hundreds of GB of images and data to backup, may need to consider business class internet connections, and enterprise grade backup solutions.

Business class internet connections are getting cheaper and faster every year.  With 10Mb uploads as low as $100/month in my area.   With Gbit fiber coming to more locations in the coming years, this bottle neck may not be an issue much longer.

Big Data = Big Money

If you are a data pack rat like I am, you may look at some of the consumer backup solutions and shake your head.   Because when you start getting to data sizes measured in terabytes, the game changes dramatically.

You are now playing in the realm of enterprise solutions and enterprise level costs.   Most of the consumer players mentioned earlier have business level solutions that scale, but at a business/enterprise level costs.

Mozypro Business pricing (as an example since we used Mozy above):

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As you can see, for 1TB Mozy business grade is over $400/month.  That is extremely significant and shows that these solutions tend to not scale well.   They come packed with features, from enhanced management, to easy restore, etc…  but at an extreme cost.

There are other, more out of the box, and custom options out there that may fit better for these level of customers.

To the BIG cloud! (on the cheap… kind of…)

 Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, RackSpace, Amazon Glacier, etc…   These are intimidating names generally reserved for the developer or enterprise circles.

But what they are in reality, is the biggest cloud storage organizations on earth. (Microsoft has stated back in 2011, they were adding already 1 Petabyte a week of storage to Azure, that was when Azure was a fraction its current size.)   Because they buy so much storage, and really just offer it as bulk storage with few native features, its incredibly cheap.

How cheap?   1TB of Microsoft Azure Blob Storage is $24/mo,   Amazon S3  $30/mo, Amazon Glacier is $10/mo

The issue?  tools to actually access it.   Unlike the Mozy’s of the world who package their storage (which… is largely actually stored on Amazon and Microsoft storage on the back end) is wrapped in easy to use tools they support, and you pay for it.   These cheap, massive cloud storage providers do not offer any (or limited) native tools around these storage solutions.  

One exception is Microsoft Azure - they do offer a native plugin / Backup tool for Windows Server 2008 and 2012 to backup direct to Azure Cloud storage.  But this backup isn’t to the cheap storage we are talking about here.   That agent backs up to a special location in Azure that is 10x more expensive than bulk storage.   It backs up to special storage called the “Backup Vault” which is a managed and specialized storage area.   The agent is free for any windows server instance, but per 1TB you will pay $290/mo for it.  So for the purpose of this, we are not counting that as a cheap option. It’s more in line with the MozyPro example above, only with less features.

In terms of Amazon Glacier,  the primary method of storing data in that cloud is by shipping them a disk to load into the storage system.  But they also do have a direct connect feature as well that allows 3rd party tools to upload and sync.  Glacier is meant for long term records retention (keeping the records on ice… get it.. glacier… ice! )

Azure and S3 also have similar import/export physical disk capabilites but their primary way to use them is via upload and have the backups updated via online transactions via the internet.

Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure both have options for local redundant and geo redundant replication.  Meaning your data will either be stored in one DC or spread around the country. (both have different pricing for those tiers)

Discussions about enterprise cloud storage will need an entirely separate post because they all have so many different features and capabilities.  For the scope of this, I am going to leave it here and just say they are big,cheap, and straight forward purpose built systems.  

Potential Hidden Costs:

One aspect of the a la carte pricing in these large cloud systems is the potential “hidden” or unexpected cost that may come into play is data transfers.   For most big cloud providers, uploads into the cloud are free .   Downloads (Egress / Restore) cost money though.   In theory this will only be used in the case of restoring from a backup.   In the case of Microsoft Azure (Amazon S3 is the same price) it is close to $120 if you choose to pull 1TB of data back from the cloud.

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Amazon and Azure offer “Export” services to throw data onto a disk and mail it to you for $40/disk in most cases.   But your backup solution may not understand how to handle the data being made locally.

Now lets talk about those 3rd party tools.

Tools to use the cheap clouds: 

 Every enterprise backup provider is starting to incorporate some cloud backup solutions.   Generally to their own datacenter or offering, similar to the Microsoft Azure backup agent mentioned above.   These native tools come at a premium cost, and are bundled into the enterprise management tools you know and love.

But there are some challengers in the market that are making this cost effective, and strangely easy.

One of the leaders in this space is Cloudberry labs.  (I am not compensated, or have any involvement with Cloudberry, their product just fits this discussion, and after lots of testing, I’ve found it to be one of the better backup tools to the cloud.)

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Cloudberry makes a backup tool that is actually licensed and rebranded by other backup solutions, like Veeam Cloud edition.

This tool will connect to almost any bulk storage cloud on the web (local and FTP included), and allow encrypted, block level, managed backups.

Pricing around it (direct from Cloudberry) has options from Desktop users, to server users:

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 Licensing for these tools are generally based on devices you are backing up. In the case of the desktop, its per desktop.  Same for Server.  These licenses are perpetual, so the one time cost of $30 for desktop backups, and Azure storage gives you backup capabilities for 1/20th the price of what that MozyPro was offering.

But with different features as well.  The expensive MozyPro and other embeded options give you stuff like management and restore from a mobile device, enhanced web management, etc…   This tool is pretty simple and bare bones, but in the end, it does exactly what it says.

The Cloudberry Lab based Veeam Cloud Backup:

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This tool allows you to set bandwidth schedules and limits, encryption levels (Up to AES 256), Compression, SSL uploading, and after the initial sync, it will do block level changes and can do it real time as changes occur in data. 

In the case of the Veeam option, this is licensed as part of their Backup and Replication suite, and in my case is backing up my Veeam Backup images.  But it can backup raw files direct as well.  

 Encryption of your backups?

 Encryption of your backup data is more important than many may think.  Many consumer products tout their military level encryption, and in most cases its all done on the cloud side without any end user intervention.

But like any encryption, your data is only as secure as the key is kept private.

If you use Amazon S3, or Microsoft Azure, and you account gets compromised, anyone can download your stored data.   If its not encrypted, then they can just open it and read it.    This is one reason many recommend keeping 2 factor authentication on your cloud service accounts, but also encrypt your data before or at the time of upload.

The Cloudberry tool will not only encrypt the uploaded data, but will also encrypt the file names making the objects in the cloud file system look like gibberish if anyone were to gain access.

Below is an image of a storage container I am backing up into in Microsoft Azure.  Note all the file names are complete garbage, and no one knows what they are.

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The decryption key, which is required for any restore from Azure to the Cloudberry tool (Veeam in this case), is stored separately and offline.   I can control where that key resides, and the data is useless in Azure without it.

So if someone were to compromise this storage area of Azure, worst thing they can do is delete the data, and I need to re-upload it.

Wrap up (for now):

Every single person who has important, or sensitive data stored in only one location (a laptop, NAS device, Drop Box, One Drive, etc…) needs to have some kind of backup strategy.  It is far too easy for an exploit or a misplaced key stroke to permanently delete or damage data these days.

As data keeps piling up, and the need for backups grows in all segments of computer and data users, options are everywhere and for all sizes.  If you want easy, highly manageable, “one throat to choke” kind of offsite and offline backup solutions to the cloud, then solutions like Carbonite, Crash Plan, Mozy, etc… are your solutions.   But they all come at a cost.

If you are more inclined to get your hands more dirty, and play with the big boys with enterprise grade tools and systems, then look at using some of the big cloud players and the associated 3rd party tools.   They can be far cheaper, but if you aren’t careful in what you use, or how you use it, that cost savings can evaporate.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what you use to backup important data, the most critical thing is to know what data you have is actually important.   Do the work before hand to identify what you need to backup, and where it should go, then look for solutions to fit your needs and budget.   Because no one wants to be sitting in the middle of a data disaster and wondering if they actually backed everything up.

Oh and one last thing - test your restores.  Before you ever start putting data in any backup solution.  Do a test, so you know what you will need to do to restore down the road.   No one wants to learn on the fly in the middle of a crisis.

Some pics a friend snapped of me on my hike up Mt Bierstadt last weekend.

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For the last 3 years now I’ve been pretty active and focused in RC Racing.  I’ve been in this hobby for years before moving to Denver.   The onroad racing program in Denver (www.5280Raceway.com) is one of the best in the country, and not only made me a better driver and mechanic, but made it fun.    I have traveled all over the country racing with the crew from 5280, and have had an awesome time doing it.   With the peak of this being 4th place (out of a class of 45+) in Vegas 2013 for one of the classes I was running.

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In the last 7 or 8 months, my interest has been declining as costs have been rising in the sport.  I have been focused on getting in shape and changing my overall lifestyle since that race.   I was replacing time I would use at the track racing, with healthy active options like biking, hiking, or just generally being outside and doing stuff.   My view on what was important to me shifted away from expensive toy cars as a primary focus.

RC is pretty much the polar opposite of a healthy life style.   You sit on your ass most of the day huddled over an expensive toy car, working with toxic and known carcinogenic materials (Lead, petroleum distillates, and the occasional smoke from burning electronics and exploding lithium batteries - which on their own release phosgene gas).    You try to find food between runs which generally results in some fast food variant if you didn’t manage your time well or if your racing isn’t going good and you spend your time wrenching instead.

The unhealthiness of RC isn’t the biggest reason.  The main reason for this hiatus is money.  We just signed a contract on a new house and the belt needs to tighten across the board for the next year as we save.  RC is an epic money pit, and if you don’t put the time into it, the money you spend is pointless (and unending).    Since I don’t have the interest in focusing on RC right now, it seems best suited to go on hold to not burn money needlessly.  

I still have a true love for the hobby.  I am keeping everything and will still race now and then.   But I have packed up my gear, turned in my key to the track last night.

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Above is the total culmination of everything I have in RC, now stacked up in my office. It’s sitting next to its replacement for now, my hiking backpack.  

What’s Next?

As stated above, active outdoorsy things mostly.   I am already planning at least 1 14er to summit later this summer, the Warrior Dash in a couple weeks, and quite a few fun hikes and bike rides on the weekends and mid week. By not going to big RC races like IIC in Vegas, it leaves me with more vacation time to spend on a potential motorcycle vacation in September also.

Pics from a hike I did with a good friend on 7/28 at Mt Sniktau near Loveland Pass Colorado.    My first 13er and a beautiful hike.   Total elevation was close to 1800ft in under 2 miles of hiking up.  It was a great time and now I am looking to hammer out some other hikes in prep for the Warrior Dash and 14ers later this summer.

Pics from NIN and Sound garden @ Red Rocks.  The NIN set was bad ass.  Easily one of the better concerts I’ve seen at RR. 

Whose Side Are You On? - Join the battleforthenet.com stop Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from destroying Net Neutrality and an open Internet.

Do It!

Photos from tonight’s storm over Denver.  Coors Field is shown mid game in the foreground.    Some impressive lightning tonight, some closer than I’d want them to be.  

 Note these are as they came off the camera minutes ago, and a lot of the strikes have some CA that I need to clean up. Big watermarks on these, as people have a tendency to steal storm pics.

Went on a fun hike this morning with some friends @ Herman Gulch near Silver Plume, CO.    6.7 miles round trip.  Surprising amount of snow up near the top, but the weather was awesome up at 12K (well … 11987ft).   The trail was pretty gnarly in some places, especially mid day with more run off.  But overall it was what I was expecting.  Total elevation gain was 1803ft. (all via a data logger I had in my backpack.)

BTW if you think Fitbit devices are accurate… it reported 8.7 miles.   So yeah only 2 miles off :)

Besides for some sore feet, I am feeling great from the hike and looking forward to doing more!

Start to finish rainbow in Denver.

Start to finish rainbow in Denver.

Been too busy to get to the track lately, so at my desk I got one of my cars all built up to the new spec of the Awesomatix chassis.   Aluminum chassis, floating front gear box, an a new motor.   Hoping to get it on the track tonight.  My first visit to the RC track in just about 2 months!

Amazing how much time it takes to work on cars like this.  I was working on this for 2 full nights to get everything swapped over and setup.   Lots of pretty amazing engineering going on with this car.

This is easily my favorite song off Big Data’s 1.0 album.   So good… but as I saw someone comment on another page “I feel like I’ll be put on some kind of watch list for liking this song” :)

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TechEd 2014 was a far cry different than any other TechEd I’ve been to. This was my 6th year attending and I have seen many technologies and themes come and go.  This year wasn’t a fad theme based event.  No cool flashy big data demos using features no one will use.  No pimping of “cloud” tech that is largely irrelevant or temporary (ahhem… VM roles in Azure pre IaaS).   What was talked  about and shown for the IT infrastructure and cloud side was not only relevant, but was one of the most confident, and consistent messages I have seen from MS.

Microsoft Azure - its everything.

One consistent theme that has been building like a snowball every year is Azure.   First couple years I attended, Azure was a web platform, and MS’s infantile cloud strategy.  As the years went on, it was a low end VM platform, then an Infrastructure as a Service platform.   This year the easiest way to frame how MS is looking at Azure is “its everything”.

Microsoft is not playing around either.   They are playing with numbers that boggle the mind.  In addition to the current datacenters they already run, they are building (currently, already in production) 20 new DCs at the cost of over 1B$ each, and each takes 3 years to complete. More are planned.   MS has already 1 Million+ physical servers running.  Making them 2nd to only AWS… that is until their new DCs come online. ( http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2014/05/11/microsoft-becomes-second-largest-cloud-services-pr.aspx )   I would guess only one or two other companies in the world could drop that kind of money up front.  (Apple doesn’t count, because they spend all their money on purely client focused DCs, and their DC scale overall is fractions of the size of AWS/Google/MS)

MS is also the only major player in the cloud market that has released their Hypervisor to the public (Hyper-V 2012), released their management tools to the public (System Center and Azure Pack), and is participating in the Open Compute Project and has published their server specs and designs.

The other thing that was striking to me was how complete the hybrid (On-Prem/In-Cloud) vision is becoming.   MS doesn’t want to just say “everything in the cloud”, because they even know that’s not likely in the next 10 years for most companies.    The Hybrid strategies are clearly geared at making the move to full “cloud” easy, but they don’t force the issue.   Instead they augment existing implementations.  The message was an enhancement on the “Cloud on your terms” theme from the last few years.

The Ultimatum for IT Pros:

MS has thrown down the gauntlet in terms of your career in IT.   If you work in infrastructure, and you shun cloud technologies, you should probably start reviewing your long term job prospects.   Because you can push back, but you will be about as valuable as a Novell Admin in 2014.

 VMware and the competition:

Looking at the real game that is being played shows an interesting story.  MS isn’t fighting with VMware anymore.  VMware’s cloud stragtegy is based on small DCs (relatively) operated by 3rd parties, and they lack the capital to do anything like what MS or AWS are doing.

Frankly, everyone I talked to at MS and even people at the VMware booth were on the same page.  VMware’s diminishing grip on the on-prem virtualization market, and their increasingly out gunned cloud concept, is going to relegate everyone but 2 companies to the niche market.  (which will still be hugely profitable)

The real competitors that MS is focused on is AWS and Google. On-Prem is the battle ground of the past,  consistent on-prem and in-cloud services are the future, and MS is betting everything on it. To the point Mark Russinovich made the comment that “One catastrophic failure of Azure (data leaking, core security failure, etc…) could spell the end of not only the cloud push for everyone, but could end MS as a company. “   Those are some large dice to roll.  In that same interview it became clear Microsoft knows the risks, and knows what is important to focus on.

Money… or lack of conversation about it:

In the keynote, and any and every breakout session you were shown and told how incredible Azure IaaS, DRaaS, etc… are.  The one thing that they didn’t quite cover in many cases is what the reasonable expectation of cost is with some of these implementations.    Storage is getting cheaper, much cheaper, in the cloud.  Connectivity is getting cheaper. and your licensing may become cheaper in a move to the cloud.

But now you are paying for what you use, and that in some cases could be considerably more expensive than you may realize.   Items like the new MASR (Microsoft Azure Site Recovery) will be an incredible feature for the enterprise DR market, but at an incredible cost for lots of VMs.   Currently the Azure  DR orchestration portion alone costs $8/VM per month.   With MASR expect that to be multiplied many times over for storage size, and demand resource that are held in reserve for your DR implementation.

Before a move to Azure in any large capacity is executed there needs to be a detailed look at what you are doing, how you are doing it, and how you can do it more efficiently.   This is where consultants and managed services providers will come in to the mix in a big way in the coming years.

Overall:

Overall I am encouraged, but at the same time my eyes are open that as an IT Pro I need to consistently refine and grow my skills to stay relevant.  IT infrastructure has had a period of relatively stable progress with skill sets transferring from one project or system to another.   That all changes, and we as IT professionals are about to enter one of the largest shake ups in how we do, what we do.  This is equivalent the move from mainframes to discrete servers.  How many big iron / mainframe admins you see around your IT circles these days?

On the flip side, those who adapt, will have endless work ahead of them in this move.  Yes less IT people will be required (and that’s a key goal of virtualization, and the “cloud”.), but it’s your job to be ready and relevant to the technology you want to be focused on.   There will be plenty of dead weight cut from IT staffs… and that’s OK.   Don’t be dead weight :)

Maybe the last round of Photos from JSC.

On the property they have some land allocated to local students to raise long horn cattle.  And they have some beauties there!  One of which just won a cattle competition and was auctioned for 250K.

The picture of the big round thing, is the Instrumentation Unit ring for the Saturn V rocket, and looking up through the area the LEM lander would have been kept.   In Florida the IU isn’t as well setup as this IU was actually meant to fly into space.   The Saturn V at JSC is the only one assembled of flight pieces, everything shown was built to go into space.

Some other pics of the Mission Control.  I love the big steel doors.   The MET timer (mission elapsed time) clock in the ISS is neat, that thing has been “on orbit” for over 15 years now.

A picture of the test articles for potential Martian manned rovers.  These are tested in Utah and Arizona to see if they can get them stuck.

A picture with yours truly in the reflection of a real 24 Million Dollar Nasa space suit.  Complete with goal plated visor.

And that hatch, is to a training Soyuz from Russia.  All astronauts are trained on this simulator to understand the real thing before they head to Kazakhstan to fly up in one.    This is a real Soyuz that’s been turned into a simulator.

And the final pic is pretty cool, Engineers were testing and working on mobility of Robonaut 2 with his fancy legs.   This is meant to allow this robot to crawl over the exterior of the space station and conduct tasks an astronaut would normally do.   According to the Docent, they recently made a breakthrough in the mobility of this robot.