Tag Archives: 09ntc

Virtualization: The Revolution in Server Management and Why You Should Adopt It

This article was co-written by Matt Eshleman of Community IT Innovators and first published on the NTEN Blog in June of 2009.

  

Peter Campbell, Earthjustice and Matthew Eshleman, Community IT Innovators

This year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference offered a good chance to discuss one the most important — but geeky — developments in the world of computers and networks: server virtualization.

Targeting a highly technical session to an NTEN audience is kind of like cooking a gourmet meal with one entrée for 1000 randomly picked people. We knew our attendees would include as many people who were new to the concepts as there were tech-savvy types looking for tips on resolving cache conflicts between the SAN, DBMS and Hypervisor. We aimed to start very broad, focus on use cases, and leave the real tech stuff to the Q&A. We’ll try to do the same in this article.

We’ve already summarized the view from the top in a quick, ignite-style presentation, available wherever fine NTC materials are found (and also on Slideshare).  In a nutshell, virtualization technology allows many computers to run concurrently on one server, each believing it’s the sole occupant. This allows for energy and cost savings, greater efficiency, and some astounding improvements in the manageability of your networks and backups, as servers can be cloned or dragged, dropped and copied, allowing for far less downtime when maintenance is required and easy access to test environments.  It accomplishes this by making the communication between an operating system, like Windows or Linux, generic and hardware-independent.

Most of the discussion related to virtualization has been centered on large data centers and enterprise implementations, but a small network can also take advantage of the benefits that virtualization has to offer. Here are three common scenarios:

  • Using a new server running a virtualization hypervisor to migrate an existing server
  • Using a new server to consolidate 3-4 physical servers to save on electric & warranty expenses
  • Using a storage area network (SAN) to add flexibility and expandability to the infrastructure

In the first scenario, an existing server is converted into a virtual server running on new physical hardware. Tools from VMWare and other vendors allow disks to be resized, additional processor cores to be assigned and RAM to be added. The benefit to this process is that the physical server now exists on a new hardware platform with additional resources. End users are shielded from major disruptions and IT staff are not required to make any changes to scripts or touch workstations.

The second scenario, much like the first case, starts with the addition of new physical hardware to the network. Today’s servers are so powerful, it’s unlikely that more that 5% of their total processing power is used. That excess capacity allows an organization to use virtualization to lower their hardware expenses by consolidating multiple servers on one hardware platform. Ideal candidates are servers that run web & intranet applications, antivirus management, backup, directory services, or terminal services.  Servers that do a lot of transactional processing such as database & email servers can also be virtualized but require a more thoughtful network architecture.

The final scenario involves taking the first step toward a more traditional enterprise implementation, incorporating two physical servers connected to a SAN. In this scenario, the hardware resources continue to be abstracted from the virtual servers. The SAN provides much more flexibility in adding storage capacity and assigning it to the virtual servers as required. Adding multiple server heads onto the SAN will also provide the capacity to take advantage of advanced features such as High Availability, Live Server Migration, and Dynamic Resource Scheduling.

The space for virtualization software is highly competitive. Vendors such as Microsoft, VMWare, Citrix and Virtual Iron continue to lower their prices or provide their virtualization software for free. Using no-cost software, an organization can comfortably run a virtual server environment of 16 virtual servers on 3 physical machines.

The session was followed by a healthy and engaging Q&A, and we were fortunate to have it all transcribed by the incredibility talented Jack Aponte. Scroll down to 10:12 in her NTC Live Blog for a full re-enactment of the session. We can also start a new Q&A, in comments, below.

And stayed tuned for more! The biggest paradigm shift from virtualization is related to the process surrounding the backup and recovery of virtual servers. We’ll be writing an article for the November NTEN newsletter with some detailed scenarios related to backup & disaster recovery in the virtual environment.

NTC (Just) Past and Future

Photo by Andrew J. Cohen of Forum1

Photo by Andrew J. Cohen of Forum1

Here it is Saturday, and I’m still reeling from the awesome event that was the Nonprofit Technology Conference, put on by org of awesomeness NTEN. First things first, if you attended, live or virtually, and, like me, you not only appreciate, but are pretty much astounded by the way Holly, Anna, Annaliese, Brett and crew get this amazing event together and remain 100% approachable and sociable while they’re keeping the thing running, then you should show your support here.

We had 1400 people at the sold-out event, and if that hadn’t been a capacity crowd, I’m pretty sure we had at least 200 more people that were turned away. What does that say about this conference in a year when almost all of us have slashed this type of budget in response to a dire economic situation? I think it says that NTEN is an organization that gets, totally, and phenomenally, what the web means to cash-strapped, mission-focused organizations, and, while we have all cut spending, sometimes with the painful sacrifice of treasured people and programs, we know that mastering the web is a sound strategic investment.

Accordingly, social media permeated the event, from the Clay Shirky plenary, to the giant screen of tweets on the wall, and the 80% penetration of social media as topic in the sessions. As usual, I lit a candle for the vast majority of nonprofit techies who are not on Twitter, don’t have an organizational Facebook page, and, instead, spend their days troubleshooting Windows glitches and installing routers. My Monday morning session, presented with guru Matt Eshleman of CITIDC, was on Server Virtualization. If you missed it, @jackaponte did such a complete, accurate transcription, and you can feel like you were there just by reading her notes (scroll down to 10:12) and following along with the slides.

My dream — which I will do my best to make reality — is that next year will include a Geek Track that focuses much harder on the traditional technology support that so many NPTechs need. I stand on record that I’m willing to put this track together and make it great!

I was also quite pleased to do a session on How to Decide, Planning and Prioritizing, based on my chapter of NTEN’s book, Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission.  It was really great to start the session with a question that I’ve always dreamed I’d be able to ask: “Have you read my book?”.  I’m in debt to NTEN for that opportunity!

The biggest omission at this event (um, besides reliable wifi, but what can you do?) was the addition of a twitter name space on our ID badges. Twitter provided a number of things to the — by my estimation — half of the attendees who hang out there.

  • Event anticipation buildup, resource sharing, session coordination and  planning, ride and room sharing and other activities were all rife on Twitter as the conference approached.
  • Session tweeting allowed people both in other sessions and at home to participate and share in some of the great knowledge shared.
  • For me, as a Twitter user who has been on the network for two years and is primarily connected to NTEN members, Twitter did something phenomenal. Catching up with many of my “tweeps”, we just skipped the formalities and dived into the conversations. So much ice is broken when you know who works where, what they focus on in their job, if they have partners and/or kids, what music tastes you share, that catching up in person means diving in deeper. The end result is clear — #09ntc is still an active tag on Twitter, and the conference continues there, and will continue until it quietly evolves into #10ntc.

One thing, however, worries me. This was the tenth NTC, my fifth, but it was the first NTC that the online world noticed. Tuesday, on Twitter, we were the second most popular trend (the competing pandemic outranked us). NTEN’s mission is to help nonprofits use technologies to further their missions. But, as said above, this conference was, in many ways, a social media event. I’m hoping that Holly and crew will review their registration process next year to insure that early spots in what is sure to be an even more popular event aren’t filled up by people who really aren’t as committed to changing the world as they are to keeping up with this trend.

But, concerns aside, we need to send that team to a week-long spa retreat, and be proud of them, and proud of ourselves for not only being a community that cares, but being one that shares. I urge even the most skeptical of you to jump on the Twitter bandwagon, we’re not on there discussing what we had for breakfast. We’re taking the annual event and making it a perpetual one, with the same expertise sharing,  querying, peer support and genuine camaraderie that makes the nptech community so unique – and great. Come join us!

Where I’ll Be at NTC

Five days from now, the Nonprofit Technology Conference starts here on my home turf, in San Francisco, and I’m hoping to catch a few seconds or more of quality time with at least 200 of the 1400 people attending. Mind you, that’s in addition to meeting as many new people as possible, since making connections is a lot of what NTC is about. So, in case you’re trying to track me down, here’s how to find me at NTC.

Saturday — I’ll be home prepping, on email and Twitter, and then off to Jupiter in Berkeley (2181 Shattuck, right at Downtown Berkeley BART) at 6:00 pm for the Pre-NTC Brewpub Meetup I’m hosting. We have a slew of people signed up at NTConnect for the event. If you’re coming, get there promptly so you can help me reserve adequate space!

Sunday morning is Day of Service. I’ll be advising a local education nonprofit on low cost options for enhanced voice and video. NTC kicks off with the Member Reception, and I suspect that there will be lots of talk about our book at that event – if we’ve never met, this will be a good chance to figure out which of the 1400 attendees I am.

The Science Fair – NTEN’s unique take on the vendor show – is always a blast. If you’re at a booth, I’ll be coming by, but I’ll also be spending some time manning the Idealware booth, so that’s another good place to catch up. Dinner Sunday? I haven’t made plans. What are you doing?

Monday I keep busy hosting two sessions:

At 3:30, I’m at a loss, with excellent sessions by Peter Deitz, Allen (Gunner) Gunn, David Geilhufe, Dahna Goldstein, Jeff Patrick, Robert Weiner and Steve Wright all competing equally for my attention. If Hermione Granger is reading this, perhaps she can help me out.

On Tuesday, my tentative plan includes these breakouts: Google Operations: Apps and Analytics; Evolution of Online Communities : Social Networking for Good; and Measuring the Return on Investment of Technology. I caught a preview of the last one, led by Beth Kanter, at a Pre-NTC get together we did at Techsoup last month; it’s going to be awesome.

As a local co-host of the 501 Tech Club and a member of this year’s planning committee, I consider myself one of your hosts and am happy to answer any questions I have about what there is to do in the Bay Area, where I’ve lived since 1986. The best way to reach me is always on Twitter – if you’re attending the conference, following me, and I don’t figure that out and follow you right back, then send me a quick tweet letting me know you’re at NTC and I will (although, disclaimer required, I will quickly block people who use Twitter as a means to market products to my org). If you haven’t already gotten this hint, Twitter is an awesome way to keep connected during an event like this.

NTENsity

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It’s T minus 67 days and counting to the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, which has risen to THE social and professional peak event in any given year for me. The conference runs from Sunday, April 26th through Tuesday, the 28th this year, and it’s at the Hilton in downtown SF, quite convenient to Bay Area based Techcafeteria. Let me tell you how excited I am, then share a couple of recommendations on how you can have a great time and support the work that NTEN does.

This will be my fifth year attending, and, working my way up to the conference, I co-hosted a pre-conference event at Techsoup last week; I’m doing two NTEN Webinars on Personal and Server virtualiation next month; I’m celebrating the release of my first chapter in a book next month, when NTEN’s Managing Technology to Meet Your Mission comes out; and I’m hosting another pre-conference meetup the night before at a great brewpub in Berkeley. If you’re going, be prepared to meet a lot of really interesting people and to soak up a lot of challenging and helpful thinking about nonprofits and the web, all at one of the best-run tech conferences that you could hope to attend. If NTEN’s CEO and perennial party planner Holly Ross knows one thing (and she knows a lot of things, including how to play the trombone!), it’s how to plan a conference.

Those two things: First, if you’re going, do what you can to participate in the Day of Service. What’s that? I put together a slide show to tell you:

You can sign up and choose a Bay Area charity to advise or help out at NTEN’s site. This is what it’s all about – not just talking, sharing and socializing with peers, but practicing what we preach while we’re at it. I can’t recommend this enough.

Second, if you are or aren’t going, but you recognize, as I do, the value that the most web-savvy group of socially minded techies can bring to nonprofits who are struggling to keep up in this economy, support the NTEN Scholarship fund. Holly is going as far as one foolis–er, brave woman can to inspire us to help her raise $10,000 by the end of the month. Convio will match what we give and send 57 people who can’t otherwise afford it to the event. Give right here!

Let me know if you plan to attend, and/or you want to party with us beforehand. I hope to see you there!