The market is depressed it’s not the “Depression”

The market had a huge day today with the Dow rising 936 points!  Following the biggest rise in the markets history I thought I would post a few figures from Friday for all the people who pulled thier money out the market last week in a panic and who most likely are questioning the move after today.

As of Friday’s closing bell the US martkets were down ~ 18%, EU markets ~ 25% and the Asian markets ~ 30%.  While an 18% slump sucks is it enough to make me panic?  Well let’s look at a few additional indicators today vs. the "Depression"

  Today "Depression"
Industrial Production

Down ~ 1% Down ~ 44%
Unemployment ~6% ~ 25%
Housing payments in the rears ~ 4% ~ 40%

The market conditions today are a long way from the conditions in 1929.  Things look much closer to the market crash of 1973/74 where the Dow lost ~ 45% of its value.

Now let’s look at an investmetment made in 1972 and present day value.  This would be representative of a thirty somethings investment today with a retirement target cashout.

I looked at an investment in XOM made 01/70 and sold today, even following last week the gain is ~ +843%.  The Dow inthe same time perios is ~ +1060%.

I also looked at the past 10 years from Oct 1998 til today which shows a ~ +107% for XOM and ~ +19% for the Dow.

Conclusion, the market is not a place to put your cash if you need liquidity.  As a long term investment the market is the place to be!

A rant on the economic situation…

Let me start by saying this post has little to do with IT at least not directly.

Anyone who knows me knows that today is Friday which is “Dadddy & Maddy date night”, for those of you who don’t know me on Fridays my wife gets to take a break as Mom and enjoy some adult interaction while I get to enjoy my daughters company, usually at Johnny Rockets.  I usually get a hamburger and Maddy gets a hot dog or chicken fingers and we talk about how her week was.  Lately she talks a lot about her good friend Ashna who she seems very fond of.  Tonight we had a really nice dinner and now we are home to “Party Like Rock Stars” (Her words not mine, this is how she articulates staying up and watching a movie with daddy, tonight’s movie selection is Narnia.  With some time on my hands while she enjoys the movie it gives me an opportunity to express my anxieties using the written word.  Anyway this brings me to the point of this post.

For the past 2 weeks I have been listening to people complain about the market.  Today’s train ride into NYC was especially irritating and it seems with each passing hour I get more irritated.  What kills me is in a typical American, spoiled brat like, I want it all fashion every comment places blame on “Wall Street”, corporate CEOs, predatory banks, yada, yada, yada!!!!!  I have yet to hear someone say man I f’d up, I am under a mortgage payment I really can’t afford, I should have known this when I singed up for that Power Option ARM.  I have two BMW lease payments that are nearing their 36 month term, I should have just bought a couple of used Honda Civics, etc… what was I thinking.  My only option is to pull my money out of the market now at a massive loss.  I can’t blame the market for this only my own stupidity, this would not be as big of a deal had if I just exercised better judgment and some prudence.  The following are examples of what I am hearing when listening to people talk about their perception of the economic situation.

  • People seemed to think that the market was a high yield savings plan made available to the upper middle class and the wealthy that would continue paying ridiculous returns forever therefore they took a unhealthy position.
  • I make 35k (example) a year, 2K a month net, I have no savings and a $500 a month car payment but this nice man in blue pinstripe suit is telling me I can afford a 300K mortgage.  The guy in the suit may be a predator but you let yourself be his prey.  His greed and your greed screwed all of us!
  • I sunk all my money into real estate as an investment vehicle assuming the real estate market would continue to endlessly climb.  To compound the issue I used the financial programs developed by the predatory bankers, physicists and mathematicians and completely disregard historical real estate market volatility.  BTW – I have no savings or other investment vehicles and I was relying on the historically documented volatile real estate market defying history this time around.
  • I did not find it odd that my monthly mortgage payment was less than the loan amount divided by 360 (BTW – since I have little faith in human beings these days 360 months is a standard 30 year mortgage term).
  • etc…..  The list goes on and on.

How depressing is the stupidity depicted above.  To me it is far more depressing than the money I am losing in the market right now.  To quote Ron White, “You can’t fix stupid”.

The bottom line is that if you are one of these people you either hoped to rent a life above your means forever or maybe you thought you would rent for a while with an option to buy in the future.  I am pissed off, the idea or re-capitalizing mortgages so people can stay in homes they could not afford in the first place makes my blood boil!  The Fed is now developing widespread social welfare programs to attempt to resurrect our Stupocracy.  Regulation, social welfare programs and whatever other rhetoric the Fed comes up with will not be an answer for the epidemic stupidity plaguing our countries citizens.

Economies are based on the simple concept of supply and demand.  Sometimes supply creates demand and sometimes demand has a way of finding a supply.  In the case of the financial programs of the past few years let’s not forget that the demand never slowed.  The banks were in a state of economic euphoria so they were not thinking straight, but the vast number of consumers consuming these obviously dangerous products like power option arms, interest only loans, no income verification loans, 50 year fixed rate mortgages, etc… consciously disregarded logic to satisfy greed in many cases.

If we continue on our current path of having our cake and eating it too we are doomed as a country!  We are in a downward spiral because the prophecy is self fulfilling, too many people have leveraged positions in stock market and real estate when they should not, this is forcing massive sell offs because people need cash.  There is no quick fix, politicians are in full bullshit mode with the election 30 days away they want the uneducated and impressionable listening to feel good about their rhetoric when in reality they have no idea what to do about our financial crisis.  The fix here is rational and prudent behavior, yes it is going to take time to undo the irrational behavior of the past but the only way to fix the problem is to sleep in the bed we made.  This is not a domestic problem, the world economy is suffering as bad and in many cases worse than we are.  Only we can fix this mess we made, take some damn ownership and change your lifestyle!

I have carved out a decent life for me and my family, managed to intelligently accrue a decent nest egg which is loosing double digit figures almost daily these days but I am hoping I am intelligent enough and liquid enough to try to capitalize on this.  I am amazed by the 30 somethings in a full panic, taking major losses when they should be viewing themselves as having 30 years of runway to recoup their losses, pushing more money into the market today and lowering their cost basis and decreasing the time required to recoup their loses.  Instead unhealthy positions have many 30 somethings in a situation where absorbing the loss and taking the cash is the only option.

The market is not much different than the blackjack table, but in the market counting cards is welcomed, encouraged and expected.  It is all about being cool, waiting for the shoe to turn and having the bank roll to capitalize when it does.  If you panic, become greedy or spend your bank roll to early you may leave injured!

Tighten your belts, double down on your investments and there may be something at the end of the rainbow.  This is my advice and I am taking it, I am cutting back on personal expenses to double my monthly cash into the market.  This is time for measured investment, dollar cost averaging, reducing your cost basis and buying and holding as the market stabilizes.  Never forget the bottom is 0, but if that happens the cash you pull out of the market will be worth 0 as well, remember the tender you are walking around with is only as valuable as our capital markets, there is no gold bullion backing that paper!

Keep a positive perspective, the markets will turn and hopefully you will be there to benefit in some positive way.

Thin Provisioning 101

I was asked by someone for a quick overview of Thin Provisioning and when I view this as an valuable or applicable technology.

So let me start with a quick simplified visual overview of both Thin Provisioning and Traditional (aka Thick)Provisioning.

thin_provisioning_101

So now that you understand the concepts of Thin Provisioning and Traditional (aka Thick) Provisioning let me quick talk about the only where I see Thin Provisioning as a valuable technology.

I look at Thin Provisioning in the same way that a Disaster Recovery (DR) provider looks at taking on new customers.  If storage is your business (i.e. – You are offering a shared storage model to customer co-located in your data center) then Thin Provisioning may be a key ingredient to your business model.  Let me expand on this, DR providers like SunGuard oversubscribe their data centers hedging that 100% of their customer will not have a disaster at the same time (BTW this has happened and put the provider out of business).  Thin Provisioning works in the same way by providing the user with the belief that they have 100% of the capacity while in fact the capacity may be over provisioned and the storage service provider (SSP) is hedging that 100% of the user co-located on the storage array will not demand 100% of the resources at the same time.

There are some very minor management benefits that I outlined in the pictorial above but IMO given some of the pitfalls associated with Thin Provisioning these do not provide a compelling reason consider Thin Provisioning.  Read and interesting article here that outlines one very real issue encountered with Thin Provisioning and NTFS.

So in conclusion if you are SSP of some sort consider Thin Provisioning otherwise go thick or go home 🙂

Open Source Storage Management

aperi1 So anyone who knows me knows I am huge fan of Open Source.  Traditionally there have been lots of great open source projects focused on network management like GroundWork, OpenNMS and Nagios to name a few.  Open Source storage projects are few and far between which is why I was so excited a few years back when the Aperi project was announced.  I have been tracking the progress of the project over the past few years and I recently invested the time to do the installation and configuration required to see what sort of value it could deliver today and if it was ready for prime time.  Aside from the fact that the user interface relies on a java client as opposed to being a web based application I was pleasantly surprised by the stability, functionality and overall usefulness of the application.  My goal in this blog is to highlight some of the finer points of the application which supports everything from reporting to physical configuration.

For my lab in configuration I am running the Aperi server / console on a Windows 2003 VM, I have a physical Windows 2003 server connected via fibre channel to a Cisco 9124 fibre channel switch and an EMC CLARiiON CX3-10 connected to the same Cisco 9124.  Solutions Enabler is installed on the physical Windows 2003 server and a LUN is mapped from the CX3-10 to the physical windows 2003 server.

An Aperi host agent is running on the Aperi server (aperi-vm) and also on the Windows 2003 physical server (w2k3phys1) which is connected to the EMC CLARiiON.

I will now walk you though a few Aperi features, my configuration is just for testing so it is not perfect but good enough to provide a taste of the power that the Aperi project is delivering.  This is also by no means a comprehensive overview of the product but rather an introduction some of the features, I am hoping to create a video in the near future, time permitting.

Figure 1:  The Aperi Dashboard

dashboard

The Dashboard provides an overview of your storage environment.  The left hand navigation tree makes it easy to move between task while the quadrants on the right provide information about managed elements, capacity and utilization.

Note:  Some of the screenshots below have been cropped to improve clarity, the navigation tree is actually always visible on the left.

From here we will click on the Topology and we will be presented with high-level topology (Figure 2:  Topology) which shows all the elements of the SAN. 

Figure 2:  Topology

topology

You notice above that in the high-level topology we can see information about the fabrics, computers, switches, storage devices and other which are elements that are connected to the SAN but are unidentifiable.  I this case an EMC Celerra and RecoverPoint Appliances.

Next we will view the topology from different perspectives, when we click on Computers we are then presented with Figure 3:  Computer Topology View.

Figure 3:  Computer Topology View

computer

When we drill down in the computer topology view we can see that the HBA in the host w2k3phys1 is connected to a port on the Cisco 9124 and the WWN is also displayed.  We can also see that 1 volume (in CX terms a LUN) is mapped to the host w2k3phys1 and identified by the label "FC Test Lun for Rich".

NOTE:  The application uses SNIA terminology so it does not map directly to the terms used by the CLARiiON.  This can be a little but confusing but once you understand how Aperi references luns, volumes, raid groups, etc… it is not a big deal.

Next we will navigate to the Figure 4:  Fabric Topology View.

Figure 4:  Fabric Topology View

fabric

You you will notice here is that 2 Virtual Fabrics are shown, these are synonymous with Cisco VSANs.  Here we can see each VSAN and at-a-glance what is attached to each VSAN.  Next I will drill down on the individual VSANs (Switches) Figure 5:  Switch Topology View, my personal favorite topology view.

Figure 5:  Switch Topology View

switch

Here you can easily visualize and gather information about the SAN.  We can see that there are 2 connections from the CLARiiON to port 101 and 102 and one connection from the host w2k3phys1 to port 108.  There is also one unknown device connected to port 104 (the reason there is no line is because physical connectivity lines are established by clicking on either the initiator or target object, multiple objects are selected by holding down the CTRL key, very intuitive).

We can also look at the storage topology Figure 6:  Storage Topology View another one of my personal favorites.

Figure 6:  Storage Topology View

storage

Here we view the physical CLARiiON configuration.  The physical drives, storage groups and LUNs.  We can also see what switch(es) and ports the CLARiiON is connected to.

In addition to being able to view interactive topologies from a number of different perspective, reports can also be run on many different aspects of the storage infrastructure.  In Figure 7: Physical Storage Report we can see all the physical devices across the environment from both the array and host perspective, reports can be filtered to only show array physical storage, host physical storage, etc…

Figure 7: Physical Storage Report

reporting

Along with interactive topologies and reporting the Aperi project offers the ability to configure and provision.  Volumes can be created and provisioned through the Aperi GUI, pretty cool! 

Figure 8:  Create a Volume Wizard

create_vol

Here a LUN can be created and labeled.  Chose the RAID type, array (RAID Group), number of volumes (luns) to be created, the volume (lun) size and label and click next and you can assign the volume to a host port to make it accessible.

While the Aperi project definitely has some growing up to do this is a remarkable tool given the current state of Open Source storage management tools.  Hopefully this spurs OSI (Open Source Initiative) to focus on development of Storage Management tools, I will continue to watch the progress and do more testing and hopefully find the time to publish some additional findings.

Voice Mail and Discoverability with Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging

So I was catching up on some reading on the way home tonight when I stumbled across a pretty interesting blog, that got me thinking.

You Had Me At EHLO… : Voice Mail and Discoverability with Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging.

There are a plethora of solutions and business that have been spawned by 21st century Email bloat.  The problem is not adequately being solved because we continue to take disposable conversation mediums like voice calls, instant messages, etc… and turn them in long term, translated, full-text indexed, searchable, etc…. , historic evidence.  Storing one copy of the data is no longer good enough, we need to create full-text searchable databases witch in many cases store > 2x the original data source.  The proof is everywhere that the exponential growth of digital information is far outpacing Moore’s Law.  Just look around, I am astounded by the number of kids I see who have replace verbal conversation with an SMS (IMO a major contributor to information bloat) even when sitting right next to each other. 

Articles like this are not only scary because the world is making all forms of correspondence a matter of record which is a bit scary and Orwellian.  Remember Orwell’s 1984 was not meant to be an instructional guide but as long as we treat it that way it will continue to create a huge amount of opportunity for us in the technology sector (I am not complaining).  The need to protect and store information has never been greater and the there seems to be no slow down in the exponential growth of stored information, I sometimes question the actual need but then I double-click my CTRL and up pops Google Desktop, I punch in from:john doe and there are all the Emails I have received from John Doe.

Security and Social Engineering

So much time is spent these days on logical security, penetration testing, intrusion detection, etc… The reality is most attacks occur from the inside. This week I attended a trade show at which I was scheduled to speak. Upon arrival at the convention center I approached the speakers registration booth to collect my conference badge and materials. After 2 or 3 minutes of searching it appeared that there was no badge for me and I was not in the system as a registered attendee or a speaker. Apparently I did nor register but if I have received numerous confirmations on the speaking engagements should I not already be registered? Anyway, when I was not found in the system I proceeded to open a conference program and point out that I was scheduled to speak at two sessions, how could I not be registered. The person manning the booth then proceeded to enter my name into the computer and create me a badge with the name of the speaker I pointed out in the program. Never did they ask to see identification to verify that I was actually that person, I had socially engineered my way into the conference.

The biggest whole in any secure system is the human beings who work within the system. Even in theatrical scenarios like the ones portrayed in Mission Impossible 1 through 1000 🙂 the key to entry is always a person. Find the weakest link with the most information and power and social engineering goes to work. Once I received my badge I proceed to walk onto the show floor in large part unmanned at the hour I was there, there was literally next to no security with plasma and LCD TVs everywhere and computers powering these TVs I pretty much could have walked out with anything.

It was a pretty good show overall and I thought this experience was worth sharing.

EMC InfiniFlex

30 drives in a 3 U platform.  Includes servers, DAS SAS or SATA, IP connectivity between servers and IP connectivity to client network.  Sounds like a HPC cluster in-a-box?

Configuration details:

  • 300 TBs in a 44U rack
  • 10 – SAS / SATA disk shelves
    • 30 drives per 3 U shelf
  • 12 1 U servers
    • JBOD or Raid Controller
  • Dual Switches
    • 24 gigE server ports
    • One 10 gigE port for uplink
  • Front-to-back cooling
  • Variable server to drive ratio (1:30) defined above
  • Config for capacity or performance
  • Upgrade CPU and storage independently
  • HA config options available
  • Simplified serviceability

Note:  Not CX DAEs (visibly they look the same to me, but apparently they are native SAS shelves) but they have the same footprint.  The equivalent of 2 DAEs are mounted in the same 3 U on a moveable shelf.  Essentially 2 DAEs in the same 3 U vertical footprint.

InfiniFlex is customer serviceable, customer can spare all parts or the customer can opt for a standard EMC support contract.

InfiniFlex 10000 Server Specs:

  • 64-bit dual-core
    • Woodcrest 2.33 Ghz
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • Single Power Supply
  • CD / DVD-RW (boot image)
  • Standard 19" NEMA rackable
  • 20" deep
  • Adaptec 3085 disk controller
    • SAS / SATA

Use cases:

  • Web 2.0 deployment model
    • Proprietary applications
    • Availability by replication
    • Preference for self-service
  • Web 2.0 use cases
    • ISP services
    • Social networks
    • Cloud computing
    • etc…
  • Content depots
    • Documents
    • Videos
    • Surveillance
    • Research repositories

Disaster Recovery Strategies for Exchange 2007

Should have called this session Site Recovery Manager brainwashing revisited.

I find it interesting that we are still spending time talking about Replistor and MirrorView as viable Exchange replication technologies.  I thought we determined years ago that they just don’t work.

It would make more sense to me when talking about Exchange 2007 and replication to spend more time on Local Continuous Replication (LCR), Cluster Continuous Replication (CCR) and Single Copy Clusters (SCC).  With applications like Exchange enterprises will more to adopt the technology with the tightest application integration (e.g. – Oracle RAC).  I would have preferred a discussion focused on application integration.

Just my 2 cents.