Friday, January 19, 2007

Bullshit Vendor Whitepapers...

Mike Laverick over at RTFM (link in my linkage section) has made a post regarding a Dell whitepaper that has just been released, that purports to compare "2 socket vs 4 socket hardware", specifically the Dell 2950 vs the HP DL585 G2. As a longtime reader of Mike's blog and someone with enormous respect for his opinions and contribution to the VMware community, Mike - I'm severely disappointed in you for simply reporting this as if you were on Dell's payroll. These kind of whitepapers prove absolutely fuck all, and are nothing short of pure marketing bullshit.

I guess anyone reading the title of the paper, the 'Executive Summary', the 'Introduction' and then glossing over the actual hardware specs used in the testing and going straight to the results numbers would reach the same conclusion... 3 x 2 socket 2950's show more grunt for less cash than 2 x 4 socket DL585 G2's.

First, comparing retail price is useless - anyone who has worked in a large enterprise knows how close Dell, HP and IBM really are in terms of price. Second, they are comparing Intel in the 2950 vs AMD in the 585 G2. But third and worst of all, the 2 socket Dell boxes are loaded up with quad core CPU's, where the 4 socket HP's only have dual core CPU's!!! Gee, what an 'Apples vs Apples' comparison!

I'd probably be less annoyed if the authors didn't go at such lengths to hide what is actually being compared. Count how many times they refer to sockets, and how many times they refer to cores. Look at where and how they actually say "we had 4 cores per socket in our stuff and only 2 cores per socket in their stuff". How about this direct quote
... this paper compares three two-socket Dell™ PowerEdge™ 2950s with two four-socket Hewlett-Packard™ ProLiant DL585 G2s. Or more simply – 6 sockets vs 8 sockets.
What, saying 24 cores vs 16 cores instead of 6 sockets vs 8 sockets is more complex? Oh, wait... no, that would screw their results.

And that's the funny part - going on cores, the performance numbers actually work against Dell. I quote:
...these tests show that three PowerEdge 2950 two-socket servers can provide up to 44% more performance...than two HP ProLiant DL585
G2 four-socket servers.
So with 50% more cores than the HP hardware, Dell gets 44% more perfomance... ummm, either my math sucks, or your boxes suck Dell.

*UPDATE* Good pickup by Kharbin over on the VMTN forums... the Dell boxes also have half the RAM of the HP boxes, if you bring them up to the same level of RAM, the prices are pretty much the same too!

OK, maybe that's being a little harsh, and I know that Dell are not the only offenders when it comes to psuedo-research papers, but this kind of thing really pisses me off. There are so many permutations that would have made this whitepaper meaningful. Why didn't they use Dell 6950's instead of HP 585's? Why didn't they at least use a HP DL580 G4 (or even better a Dell 6850) thus making it an Intel vs Intel comparison? Why didn't they use an equal amount of cores for comaprison (ie 2 dual socket quad core Dell's instead of 3)? How would 4 single socket quad cores stack up against 2 dual socket quad cores? You get the idea.

The whole scale up vs scale out question with regards to VMware is something we'd all really like to see some solid numbers on, but to date I don't think any hardware vendor has done the work. Maybe the fact that a 4 socket box is often more than twice as expensive as 2 x 2 socket boxes has something to do with that. The hardware manufacturers are already staring down the barrel of severely diminishing sales thanks to virtualisation, better for them to get the higher margins on 4 socket boxes I imagine. So rather than Dell shoot themselves in the foot by saying 3 x 2 socket Dells are better than 2 x 4 socket Dells (or god forbid, 2 x 2 socket quad core Dells are roughly equivalent in performance to 2 x 4 socket dual core Dells, but the 2 x 2 socket boxes are 200% cheaper), I guess the only choice these pseudo-researchers had was to compare them to another company's 4 socket product. And I guess Dell is really hurting since HP knocked them off the #1 PC seller spot.

I can only hope that HP retort when the quad core Opteron's are released. No doubt Dell would cry foul if that happened though, so I'm hoping for at least a Dell 2950 with Intel quad cores vs a HP DL385 with AMD quad cores (the 385 is HP's 2 socket AMD box for those who aren't familiar with HP). I'm sure you can guess what my money will be on.

And just to be clear, I'm not arguing that 'few big boxes' is better than 'many small boxes' (what design you use depends on the risk aversion of the stakeholders / customer more than anything) - all I'm saying is that this paper needs to called out for what it is... another BVW &trade

Sunday, January 14, 2007

VMware Workstation 6.0, totally awesome!

I've made the switch to the Workstation 6.0 beta on my main desktop now... it's totally awesome. Although I did find a few bugs, they are mostly minor or cosmetic (except for one really huge, massive one which I'll describe shortly). And sure the full debugging mode might have a little impact on performance, but not enough to make me care. The fact that I can use VNC to connect to VM's now (just by ticking a box in the VM's options - no software is required in the VM, not even VMware tools) saves some memory to compensate for that anyway - running a VM with the Workstation GUI uses around 23MB RAM and around 1% CPU per VM, whereas connecting to a VM via a VNC Viewer uses around 4MB RAM and pretty much 0% CPU. Since I usually run 3-4 VM's a time, that's a big benefit... even though I may need 4 VM's running, I rarely need more than 1 console displayed. Plus there's just something cool about watching a machine boot via a VNC window... that's right, since the VNC viewer is connecting to vmware-vmx.exe on the host rather than a VNC server in the guest, you get a proper console connection like an iLO on a HP server.

Then there's all the other numerous tweaks... mounting vmdk's from the GUI, the dual monitor support (bloody awesome)... it's going to be a truly great product. I don't care if Virtual PC 2007 is going to be free - like so many things in life, you get what you pay for! Although being a VCP, I do get Workstation for free anyway, but you know what I mean :-D

Now about that big nasty bug. If you take a snapshot of a VM, then add a pre-created virtual disk, then later revert to the snapshot... the vmdk file is deleted from disk!!!. I was expecting that the file would just be removed from the VM itself (ie removed from the .vmx file), so was quite surprised (and alarmed) to see the vmdk disappear from the filesystem. I have filed an SR with VMware (they use their support request system for bug tracking, oddly enough), and anyone reading this should do the same!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

WSS 3.0 unattended setup...

WSS 3.0 totally rocks, and to facilitate faster dev environment provisioning, I whipped up a quick unattended install that y'all might be interested in.

It assumes you have already install IIS and .NET Framework 2.0, and enabled the ASP.NET 2.0 web extension (aspnet_regiis -i -enable). So for the rest, I have an ISO with 2 directories, NETFX30 and WSS30. Then I have the following in a batchfile in the root of the ISO:

@echo off
:: Install .NET Framework 3.0
echo Installing .NET Framework 3.0...
cd NETFX30
start /wait dotnetfx3.exe /q /norestart
:: Install WSS 3.0
echo Installing WSS 3.0...
cd ..\WSS30
xcopy config.xml %WINDIR%
start /wait setup.exe /config %WINDIR%\config.xml
:: Sleep 10 mins
echo Sleeping for 10 mins for WSS config to complete...
sleep 600
:: Reboot
echo Rebooting...
shutdown -r -t 10

And the the config.xml file has the following:

[Package Id="sts"]
[Setting Id="REBOOT" Value="ReallySuppress" /]
[Setting Id="SETUPTYPE" Value="CLEAN_INSTALL" /]
[DATADIR Value="D:\WSSv3\Data" /]
[Logging Type="verbose" Path="%temp%" Template="Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Setup(*).log" /]
[Setting Id="UsingUIInstallMode" Value="0" /]
[Display Level="basic" AcceptEula="yes" CompletionNotice="no" /]

But of course all those square brackets should be angle brackets. And obviously all my boxes have a D: drive. If you already had a farm, you would change the SERVERROLE value to "WFE" (Web Front End).

The unattended setup of WSS 3.0 is pretty horrible... the SQL Embedded instance does a crapload of configuration long after the actual setup completes, hence the 10 minute sleep I have in there. If you reboot before that configuration finishes, the WSS 3 config wizard will give you a world of hurt. If you want to modify it to reboot exactly after the configuration is successful, look for Event ID 101 from source "SharePoint Products and Technologies Configuration Wizard" in the app event log.

But besides that, the product is awesome!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Just show me the damn clock!

One of the things that has always really annoyed me is the systray clock... so easy to turn on in the UI, oh so hard to do in an SOE! Well not anymore... this command will do it:

REG ADD "HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\
StuckRects2" /v Settings /t REG_BINARY /d
20300000205000002040000" /F

*NOTE* All that should obviously be one line... just found a bug in the .css of this site that I'll need to take care of later!

Of course, if you want to make it stick for all users, mount the Default User's NTUSER.DAT and make the change there too. No, changing the .DEFAULT hive won't work - that is the "All Users" ntuser.dat... stupid naming I know, but the actual "Default User" registry hive isn't exposed by default. And since a new user profile gets whatever is in the "Default User" hive, you need to modify it (in any SOE I have had anything to do with, I always make user related reg entries in both All User and Default User, just to be sure)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

That last year seemed to go fast when I look back at the blog entries, but when I think about the year I feel a mild sense of accomplishment which is cool. Hopefully this time next year I'll have a great sense of accomplishment... got some stuff planned for this year, here's hoping it all works out for me, and for everyone. Happy New Year!