Looking at netbooks

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Though I’m not sure if netbooks are indeed one of the three horsemen of the “Coming Networking Revolution,” I still think they’re pretty cool, useful and am planning to get one any day now.

In early 2008 I bought and tested a Fujitsu U810, a mini PC which arguably helped pave the way for the current wave of netbooks. I was quite satisfied with the usability and features which included a webcam and fingerprint-based biometrics, though annoyed that I was stuck with the Windows Vista version. However, the combination of Vista Home version which limited its utility in the corporate office (no Active Directory authentication), limited free WiFi where I was residing (Tysons Corner, Northern Virginia), and absence of mobile broadband definitely reduced the usefulness of this handy little machine. In the end I reverted to a standard light Dell laptop which I’ve used more as a desktop replacement with occasional mobile use.

In terms of technical requirements, having Ubuntu as the OS is an absolute must since it’s become my primary client OS. I’m satisfied with the standard netbook specs including Atom N270 CPU and 1 GB RAM. The main usage will be, not surprisingly, casual web browsing and email, though I also have needs relating to remote sys admin, assuming I set up a mobile broadband plan. Must-have apps include PuTTy, Terminal Server client, terminal, Firefox, and a PDF viewer.


So far I’m leaning heavily to the Dell Mini 10v, which fits the bill and has a comfortable keyboard. I also looked at the new Dell 2100-N but it’s a little too heavy in mind for a netbook and is designed primarily for the student market.

The HP Mini has a good sized keyboard too, though its a $100 premium over the Dell Mini. On the other hand, the keys on the Acer Aspire, which is being marketed through Verizon/Radio Shack for $49 lately, were just not usable based on my testing.

Now I need to finish research on the Mobile Broadband plans available, leaning towards Verizon but also want to check out AT&T and Sprint.


Reactions to VMware’s VSphere 4

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I was impressed with the VMware simulcast this morning announcing VSphere, the next iteration of their enterprise virtualization platform, dubbed the first “Cloud OS.” Having deployed and administered VMware products for several years, it’s exciting to see them continue to push the evolution of virtualization, which has now expanded from a single server up to multiple data centers.

It’s also becoming quite apparent that a loose alliance is coalescing between several of the established leaders in the infrastructure space. In particular, VMware continues to align with Cisco, whose recent unveiling of a “Unified Computing System” combined with VSphere offers the promise of a private “cloud in a box.” Other members of this confederation are Intel, whose recent Xeon 5500 Nehalem chip is tailored for VM loads, in addition to EMC, whose updated Symmetrix SAN is optimized for VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V support. Dell appears to be more closely aligned than HP, and has a better position in the SMB market.

And don’t count out Oracle / Sun, one of today’s VSphere demo’s featured Sunfire servers, and when Cisco CEO John Chambers left the stage to congratulate VMware’s lead engineering team, Sun racks were featured quite prominently.

So who’s not joining the party, yet?

Here’s my list –

  • HP – not seeing innovation, very quiet these days
  • IBM – passed on Sun, noticeably low-key at today’s VSphere event
  • Google – how long before they offer a full-blown Cloud service
  • Microsoft – no support for Hyper-V in VMware VSphere
  • Citrix – falling further behind, no support from EMC Symmetrix, or VSphere

The continued limited inter-operability between major virtualization vendors – VMware, Microsoft, Citrix – and subsequent “vendor lock-in” really makes me wonder about the feasibility and likelihood of a truly Open Cloud platform, given the symbiotic relationship between Virtualization and Cloud computing.

P.S. I still think Cisco should have picked up Sun…

Dry reflections on a possible IBM purchase of Sun

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The rumors of this IT mega-merger have been swirling and were in full force this week. I’m not sure yet how the long-term balance of strategic benefits will work out for IBM, as well as the impact on the industry. Who knows, maybe Big Blue wants to take spotlight away from possible controversy involving CEO Sam Palmisano’s monstrous $21 million bonus in 2008, in light of the current AIG drama? Just sayin’…


  • Sun’s new Open cloud API, very cool
  • Sun’s virtualization
  • MySQL, and more open-source credentials
  • Bigger imprint into the Data center (and the cloud)
  • Java


  • Accumulating more overhead…HP took years to digest Compaq
  • Sun’s cachet has been fading for many years
  • Still not a major network player, despite recent partnership with Juniper
  • Still not a major storage player – see EMC, NetApp, Dell and Hitachi
  • Java

It’s hard not to interpret IBM wanting to swipe back at Cisco in the race to dominate the emerging cloud market, given that the rumors emerged barely a day after Cisco’s major Unified Computing initiative. But IBM is enhancing their strengths – servers, open source, applications – and not addressing weaknesses in networking and storage with this potential acquisition. HP appears to have a more compelling end to end Data Center offering, with an established EVA StorageWorks line in addition to ProCurve networking. I’m not sold on this one yet…

First thoughts on Cisco United Computing Vision

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My first response to Cisco’s announcement today is measured skepticism. Cisco certainly plays a central role in most modern data centers, dominating arguably the most critical infrastructure component, the network. By consolidating network, compute, storage and virtualization systems, Cisco is essentially offering a “cloud in a box.” Aside from the obvious marketing angle of leverage the current excitement around the cloud, though, it seems that Cisco is realizing they need more to drive sales of the new Nexus enterprise switch platform. However, while VMware and Microsoft are natural partners for virtualization, I’m wary of Cisco’s initial venture into the compute space. After all, a handful of companies with names like IBM, Dell and HP already have substantial experience in delivering enterprise server solutions, and I noticed none of them were listed as partners in the Cisco announcement. This is certainly a stark illustration of the new balance of power in the infrastructure world, where hypervisors and VM’s are taking precedence over bare-metal servers. Very interesting…