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Building A Virtualization Host

So what kind of hardware makes a good virtualization host?

Well, I would say the things you should consider are:

  • Processor, the more cores the better
  • Memory, the more the better
  • Storage, the more spindles the better

There are a couple more things you want to consider; for your CPU you really want a multi-core process that supports hardware virtualization.  I generally consider the Q6600, Q9300, and Q9400 to be good choices.  At $160, $170, $180 each you should probably consider the highest end processor your motherboard can support (some older Intel based motherboards may not accept the Q9300/Q9400 processors, so go with the Q6600, it’s about the same performance as the Q9300, just draws more power and produces more heat).  Of course, pricing varies — so figure out where the “sweet spot” is in the price curve for your favorite vendors.

With memory on a Intel processor you always want to populate all the banks; the interleaving will greatly increase the performance of your memory.  And with quality (Corsair DHX) memory costing only about $100 for 8GB (4x2GB) there’s really no excuse to scrimp.

Before I cover storage I’m going to throw in motherboards; yeah you need one of those two (as well as a case and power supply).  For motherboards I generally will pick something like the Intel DG33TL or DG45ID (the newer motherboard actually will cost less).  The built in video reduces the required component count, and you don’t really care about the video on your virtual host — it’s a server.  Also, that frees the x16 PCIe slot for a x8 RAID adapter if you choose to go that route (though there are now many motherboards that have multiple x16 PCIe slots that only cost a little more — but generally require a video card).  One other thing you might want in a motherboard is multiple ethernet controllers (and those should be Gig-E).  It’s not really required, for the most part your virtual infrastructure will be limited by your storage subsystem or your internet connection (depending on your application), but it is “nice to have”.

Now to storage.

The first thing is your system drive on a virtual host really isn’t that important.  Any reasonable SATA-II drive running in AHCI mode will be fine.  And you don’t really need to mirror it, since you can take a snapshot of it and restore it to another drive if it fails.  The decision of whether or not to mirror your OS drive will depend on other factors.  Also, since you definitely do not want your operating system swapping (no paging file) the performance of the drive isn’t a huge concern.  And if you want the ultimate, choose an SSD — that will let you boot very quickly, and there shouldn’t be any delay in writing a log file (32GB  is plenty, 16GB might be a little tight, but you could do it).

Your data drive, the one that will hold your virtual machine images, is very important.  For a small server you can start with just a mirrored (RAID1) or mirrored and stripped (RAID0+1) drive set of what ever size you need.  But understand that the number of spindles in your data set will greatly effect the performance of your virtual machines if they are disk bound (ie they read or write lots of data from the disk).  In fact, if any of the virtual machines are heavy disk users, they will impact all the virtual machines if you don’t have lots of spindles.

The rule of thumb I often use for virtual hosts that will have reasonable disk activity is the minimum number of spindles is the number of virtual machines plus one.  For economizing or for lightly loaded disk activity you can divid the number of virtual machines by two and add one… but you really always want at least a mirrored pair (single drives can get sluggish — they’re OK for a development workstation, but not a virtual server where you might depend on the machines running day in and day out).

To get more spindles you can use the pseudo RAID controllers build into the motherboard (the Intel Matrix controller isn’t bad, but it’s not a real hardware RAID controller); those controllers do fine for stripping and mirroring (and there’s no reason to buy anything more than that if that’s all you need).  If you get serious about virtualization and want to go with RAID5 (or RAID6) then you’ll want to invest in a real hardware RAID controller (and be careful when you buy, lots of entry level controllers actually aren’t any better than the Intel Matrix controller, except that they allow you to migrate to higher end RAID controllers seamlessly).

The absolute best name in RAID controllers is LSI, you can often save money buy purchasing an older series of controller, or a controller that uses the LSI chip set (but made by a systems vendor).  The most important thing is that the physical interface is SATA-II for the drives and PCIe for the system, and that the controller have enough channels for the number of spindles you’re likely to need (four, eight, twelve, sixteen, and twenty-four are the number you’ll see — LSI used to have a six channel, but they don’t offer that in the newer series).

You can buy a controller larger than you need, but you’re going to spend a great deal more money on the controller; and you’ll need a case and power supply that can handle that number of drives.

You will also want to consider hot-swap bays for more than four drives for sure; and those will add greatly to the cost of your machine (for 3.5″ drives you can get 1-in-1, 3-in-2, 4-in-3, and 5-in-3; for 2.5″ drives you can get 4-in-1… where this referes to the number of drives you can fit in a 5.25″ drive way).

What I do on my machines with sixteen channel RAID controllers is I have three 3.5″ 5-in-3 and one 2.5″ 4-in-1; the fifteen 3.5″ drives are attached to the first fifteen channels of the RAID controller (the sixteenth channel is unused), and four motherboard channels are attached to the 2.5″ drive bays.  My case actually has two power supplies, and all the 3.5″ drives are run off a 750W single rail power supply, and the 2.5″ and rest of the system are run off a 400W supply.  By using the combination of 2.5″ and 3.5″ everything fits nicely in the case, and the power supplies are more than adequate.  You’ll note that I use 2.5″ for system drives (I plan on going to SSDs eventually) — so obviously I’m not worried about the performance.  I have similar configuration for my eight channel RAID machines (except they don’t need dual power supplies). 

One final note, if you’re concerned about power consumption, you might want to consider building out a virtual host using only 2.5″ drives and stick with just using the motherboard controllers (real hardware RAID controllers consume a great deal of power).  With 500GB 2.5″ drives you could have 1TB mirrored and stripped, and that may be adequate for your needs.  Once you add a hardware RAID controller I’m not sure that you really need worry about the power consumption of the drives as much, but you’d need to do the math.

Originally posted 2009-02-11 01:00:16.

No Flash

I’ll start by saying that my view of Flash is that it’s total garbage – completely unnecessary – and a huge security hole.  Before I dive too deep, here’s what Adobe says about flash on their product page:

Adobe® Flash® Player is a cross-platform browser-based application runtime that delivers uncompromised viewing of expressive applications, content, and videos across screens and browsers. Flash Player 10.1 is optimized for high performance on mobile screens and designed to take advantage of native device capabilities, enabling richer and more immersive user experiences.

What the hell is “richer more immersize user  experiences” supposed to mean?  Is that the way to say that the vast majority of sites that use flash on their first page are done by idiots who don’t know how to build a standards based web page and think that annoying glitz is all that people care about?  I dunno — but the whole spiel reeks of a load of crap to me.

No one has ever (successfully) explained to me why they feel they need to use Flash.  Does it actually do anything that can’t be done in a standards based way that doesn’t require that you update a crappy plug-in almost as often as you change your underwear?  Any one got an explanation as to why Adobe feels that they need to us a download manager and update manager that further pollute your machine?  Wait, maybe it’s because Adobe engineers are nearly as clueless as their target audience.  I dunno — seem like more crap from Adobe.

Flash is just crap — and it’s from a crappy company that lives in the past and tries to sell over-prices products to clueless individuals who don’t understand what they’re doing.  I dunno — maybe Adobe should just be used as a synonym for “crap”.  It would fit; some Adobe huts look a little like a huge pile of dung; and Adobe and it’s software share more than a slight resemblance to a huge pile of crap!

I have (on several occasions) republished a Flash video by embedding it in a post – but I certainly would rather provide a link to a h.264 or MPEG4 video in a standard container that didn’t require individuals to install any proprietary trash on their computer to view or hear it.

Join me in moving forward to make the web a “NO FLASH” place… just say no to flash.

FLASH

NOTE: One of my good friends tells me that I shouldn’t just rant on how horrible Flash is without presenting a solid argument.  I don’t, in fact, have to substantiate my opinion — my feeling is that Flash is such a huge pile of crap that it wreaks such that anyone who’d understand the argument already realizes it’s crap — and those who are clueless are hopeless… but, I’ll present a link to Wikipedia which describes what Flash is, and I’ll emphasize that anything legitimate that can be done in Flash can be done using open standards (that require no browser plug-ins) in HTML4 with JavaScript (ECMAScript) with some work, and allegedly they can be done much more simply in HTML5.  And for those with only a basic understanding of JavaScript you can find free and open source JavaScript foundations and widgets to help you build a web site that works on virtually any browser (or degrades nicely) and doesn’t require a huge stinking pile of crap from Adobe.

Flash (aka ActionScript) on Wikipedia

Originally posted 2010-10-21 02:00:39.

GPS + Real Time Data

One of the toys I got when I stopped by the Microsoft Company Store was Streets and Trips 2008 with GPS and Connected Services.

Connected Services is what Microsoft calls the FM side band service that provides real time data.  Real time data like, traffic, construction, weather, gas prices, etc.  Other GPS vendors might call it something different, but essentially they are all the same.

I was really excited to be able to put it to the test — and driving around the Bay Area it worked great.

But, when I hit the open road I found a number of short comings.

  • There aren’t that many areas that have the service.
  • In areas that have the service construction data doesn’t seem to be updated.
  • Traffic data also seems to be slow (especially in non-rush hour times; like a major accident in Houston in the middle of the day on the weekend).
  • Plus it takes FOREVER for the receiver to obtain data (twenty minutes is what they say; and that’s any time you enter a new service area since it has nothing cached).

I still think the real time data is a great idea; but it’s not quite as useful to travelers as one might hope, and using it has certainly reduced my desire to go buy a new GPS receiver that includes the service.

Also, why don’t vendors allow you to use your phone to get data via the cellular network?  Many people like me (and iPhone users) have unlimited data plans… oh yeah — they couldn’t charge an arm and a leg for that service.

Originally posted 2008-10-13 16:00:51.

My BLOG

My BLOG has developed quite a following, and I appreciate all the readers it’s attracted.

I want to be clear that I do not accept money from any company for inclusion of information or preferential treatment or positioning on my BLOG.

If you have a product that you’d like me to “play” with, contact me — I will expect you to make reasonable arrangements to get it to me and returned to you, but if it’s something I’m interested in looking at I will be happy to see how I like it and share my experiences with the world.

If you have a site that you believe may be of interest to me or any of my readers, simply tell me about it, and I’ll check it out.  If I like it, I’ll be happy to include information on it here…

If you feel you need to “reward” someone for my efforts I encourage you to donate the money you would have given me to a charity of your choice.

Originally posted 2008-11-05 08:00:00.

Sean Byler

That’s the name of the groundhog all this folklore is based on about Groundhog Day…

I’m not sure what happens if some groundhogs see their shadows and others don’t — average the results?

Anyway, I’m hoping Winter is as short as possible and that we’ll all have a nice, long, comfortable Spring.

All eyes are on Punxsutawney today.

Groundhog Day @ Wikipedia

Originally posted 2010-02-02 01:00:31.

The new SPAMmer in town — Apple Computer, Inc

Last week I wanted to update my Mac Pro to the newest version of OS-X, it’s free after all…

So powered up my Mac, let it apply all the updates for the software I had on it; then I went to the App Store to download OS-X Version 10.9 “Mavericks”.

When I tried to use my Apple ID to log in, the system told me that it had been deactivated; when went through the rats maze of information I ended up needing to call Apple Support.

I got through in about two minutes, which was impressive until I was connected to a person who barely could speak intelligible English (if English was her native language I’d consider her near illiterate). After what seemed like an eternity of back and forth (the human version of the electronic rats maze I’d just been subjected to), she told me that she would not be able to re-activate my account… after that I ask to speak to her supervisor.

I don’t know how long the hold was, but it was long, and long enough to put us past the operating time for support — the phone clicked (I could tell a person had answered), and I was immediately disconnected.

Great service Apple — the only other places recently I’ve found websites as poorly done and customer service as clueless is HealthCare.gov…

Since service was now closed, and I couldn’t get another call through to Apple (I did schedule a call back for the next morning; which FYI — I never got, absolutely no record of any call attempt within an hour of the scheduled time) I decided to be creative with their recovery system.

Eventually I got a reset email (perhaps Apple’s recovery system takes a few hours to send an email — I don’t know — and I really don’t care).

I gained access to my account, changed my password as required (it indicated I couldn’t change my password to my previous password — so in fact it wasn’t that I had forgotten my credentials, the account really had been deactivated).

Finally, after several hours I was able to “purchase” Mavericks from the App Store (as an aside — what happened to the cat motif ) and start the install.  I just went to sleep, it was way later that I had expected to be up.

While it really miffed me that Apple decided to deactivate my account (no one could really tell me why) and made it so difficult for me to re-activate it (and threw a horrendous web site and clueless customer service in my face) but what really pissed me off is that Apple automatically subscribed me to their f’ing mailing lists.

WTF???

I don’t want $#!+ from Apple – unless you’re giving me something to get your f’ing marketing crap I don’t want it — and I (and the laws of the State of California — where Apple is based) would classify it as SPAM.

All I can say is Wall Street isn’t the only one who’s becoming disillusioned with Apple.

Originally posted 2013-10-29 16:00:04.

Advertising

I have added side-bar and banner advertisements to my BLOG in order to offset the hosting costs.  The advertisements are supplied through Google AdSense, and public service advertisements have been enabled.

I certainly will _not_ allow any pop up (or pop behind) advertising, and I have no idea how many (if any) readers will actually click-through the advertisements; but my feeling is it’s certainly worth a try to see if it can support itself.

Originally posted 2009-12-18 01:00:25.

Firefox 3

For those of you how are Mozilla Firefox fans, version 3 has been released.

 

You might also be interested in Mozilla Thunderbird for email; Mozilla Sunbird for calendaring or Mozilla SeaMonkey which is there all-in-one.

If you’re a Mac user, you might want to try Mozilla Camino; it looks like a Mac application, but uses the Mozilla rendering engine.

http://en-us.www.mozilla.com/en-US/products/

http://www.mozilla.org/projects/

Originally posted 2008-11-12 12:00:30.

nexus one

Today Google starts selling the nexus one Android smart phone (manufactured by HTC) direct.  The current model supports AT&T and T-Mobile GSM networks, but there will be a model for Verizon and vodafone this Spring as well.

The unlocked phone will set you back $529.00; the T-Mobile version costs only $179.00 (with contract).

Like most all HTC phones, this is a nice phone.  Well designed, and packed with all the latest features (including an OLED display).  You can check out the specs online as well as get additional information and order one if you like.

With Google selling an Android phone direct (it doesn’t appear on the HTC site) one can see that they are preparing to compete head-to-head with Apple (and Apple must be getting ready to compete head-to-head with Google since they just purchased an advertising network).

nexus one

google nexus one

Originally posted 2010-01-05 02:00:48.

Humankind and Socialism

I’ve often said that the one fundamental human traits that Karl Marx always failed to consider when he talked about socialism was the intense greed that drives most humans.

Greed, the failing of socialism, is largely the driving force that makes capitalism work.

The United States doesn’t have a totally free market economy; the government regulates many aspects of businesses — perhaps it shouldn’t or perhaps it should regulate more — there’s always a good argument on both sides.

Maybe it’s time that the United States government regulated businesses by exactly the same set of laws that it regulates individuals by.

Giving corporations the exact same rights and privileges, and subjecting them to the exact same legal and tax structure.

Powerful corporations have too long tried to manipulate society and government to satisfy their greed, and such manipulation in the long run puts an undo burden on society.

I see few alternatives for our society to grow and flourish.

Since humans will likely never be able to build a Utopian society, socialism (or any system like it) is not an option… since the powerful (and rich) will it seem always try and manipulate society to satisfy their own selfish greed we cannot depend on them “to do what’s right”.

How then do we build a society that will last and continue to grow?

Level the playing field — through insuring that one tenant of socialism lives on: from each according to their ability (where in this case, ability is wealth).

Long ago when I was much more idealistic I felt that the progressive tax system the United States uses was wrong…

Now I believe that a progressive tax system, with no deductions, treating all individuals and all corporations equally might be the absolute best solution.

Corporations will scream that their profits will suffer — but in the end greedy corporations will pass along those costs to individuals… the ones that will suffer will be the very rich… they will start paying their fair share (those who profit from society should bear a much larger portion of the costs of propagating it).

I’d prefer a better solution, but until humankind changes, we have to deal with realistic solutions to real problems.

Originally posted 2010-06-13 02:00:09.