PlateSpinWritten by: Roy Illsley
Data Centre OptimisationDate: October 2006
PlateSpin has two integrated products PowerRecon and PowerConvert that work together to provide organisations with the ability to gather an inventory of x86 servers, record performance statistics for these servers over time, analyse the performance metrics gathered, and generate an optimised plan for the data centre, and then execute that plan. Currently, organisations can do these tasks independently for the physical and virtual environments, but very few organisations have the tools that enable them to monitor and manage both environments as a single entity, therefore ensuring real-data centre optimisation is achieved. PlateSpin provides the ability to monitor, measure, and migrate workload between the physical and virtual environments, and enables organisations to move workload in the physical environment between dissimilar vendors and chip sets, i.e. between an AMD single-core server and an Intel-dual core server. The information is displayed in a technical server view of the organisation; Butler Group considers this useful but would prefer to see a service-centric view of the organisation as well. PlateSpin provides any organisation with a significant x86 architected data centre with the ability to optimise the performance of its existing investment: which will enable more informed investment decisions to be made. PlateSpin can be positioned as a tool to enable IT to manage the data centre more effectively and efficiently, and also provide the evidence needed to move organisations away from a departmental approach to computing, and towards a corporate computing resource perspective.
KEY FINDINGSKey: Product Strength Product Weakness Point of Information Easy to use and rapid installation. Provides a single tool to manage both physical
and virtual environments. A single PowerRecon installation can manage
up to 1000 servers. Single-button execution of any optimisation plan.
Operates on X86 architecture only. Does not currently provide a consolidated view across multiple PowerRecon installations. However, Multiple PowerRecon databases can be loaded together for aggregated analysis in version 2.5, which is to be launched at VMworld. Does not currently support 64-bit architecture
in the PowerConvert product. However, it is currently in planning.
PlateSpin has a solution that is initially being used for server consolidation purposes, but it plans to increase the solutions so that organisations can provide high-availability computing at a fraction of the cost of today’s duplication strategies. PlateSpin also intends to provide the data centre with a tool to support the continuous movement of servers (whilst ensuring optimum performance), and to develop application and service-level monitoring to provide greater visibility of workload, and improve the benefits of data centre optimisation. PlateSpin is in discussions with partners about the prospect of extending beyond x86 to include UNIX servers – at this point it is just investigating the feasibility of such an expansion.
Butler Group believes these aims are achievable as organisations are moving beyond virtualisation as a server-consolidation project, and are seeing greater benefits in the agile computing ability, especially at the application level. However, we consider providing integration with leading vendor’s system management tools and CMDBs, and providing a services view of the data centre, as developments that should be considered.
CIOs are being challenged by other ‘C’ level executives to ensure that the organisation’s investment in IT infrastructure is used as effectively and efficiently as possible. Whereas in the past data centre optimisation was used to describe general performance issues, and these performance issues were used by the IT department to increase capacity, stating the growth of the organisation has increased the demand for IT resources. Today, organisations will challenge the CIO to explain where the existing resources are being used and to explore alternative solutions to just simply increasing the spending on more resources.
PlateSpin provides two products that help IT departments optimise the x86 architecture in the data centre, by gathering, recording, and analysing resources and workload, and then executing the optimisation plan. This ability operates regardless to whether they are physical or virtual servers, and irrespective of the operating system (Windows or Linux) and hardware platform.
IT Service Management (ITSM) is a new discipline that has emerged from IT infrastructure management, which took a purely technical perspective on the delivery of IT. For example, in infrastructure management the tools would monitor the network and report when thresholds had been breached and performance degradation was being experienced, but in an ITSM environment this monitoring must also re-distribute resources so that mission-critical applications are given increased resources or moved to another server where these resources are available.
PlateSpin has developed two products, PowerRecon and PowerConvert, that help organisations understand their existing infrastructure and re-allocate existing resources according to demand anywhere within that infrastructure. PlateSpin has created these solutions for the x86 architecture only, thereby allowing organisations to manage both the physical and virtual environments: so that corporate computing resources can be re-distributed to meet corporate performance targets. Figure 1 shows the PlateSpin philosophy and business proposition.
PlateSpin’s philosophy is that before organisations can make decisions on optimising any server estate, a true picture of what resources are available and an awareness of the workload is required. Traditionally, systems management tools have been used to gain insight into performance and resource usage. However, with today’s virtual world these tools find it difficult to manage both the physical environment and the virtual environment as a single entity; they are often treated as two separate entities. PlateSpin provides a single solution that enables organisations to manage both environments and to perform migrations between them. Figure 2 shows the diverse capability of PowerConvert.
Figure 2: PowerConverts Capability (Source: PlateSpin)
Butler Group considers PlateSpin to have developed solutions that optimise the entire x86 architected data centre, regardless of hardware or technology. For example, it can move complete solutions such as the finance system to a 16-way AMD physical processor at year end when increased resources are needed, and then move it back to a four-way Intel Virtual Machine (VM) for the other 11 months of the year when the workload is considerably lower. PlateSpin’s solutions allow organisations to see what the estate of x86 servers are doing, where resources are being used and where they are idle. For example, a five-year old Compaq server may be 80% busy and struggling, while another newer Dell server may only be 10% utilised. Butler Group believes this ability provides IT departments with the ammunition needed to argue against the traditional silo or departmental approach to providing computing resources.
PlateSpin has two products, PowerRecon and PowerConvert, that can operate independently, but are very closely integrated and designed to be used together to obtain maximum benefit. Referring back to Figure 1 PowerRecon provides the first two parts of the equation, and PowerConvert the third, and combined they generate an optimised x86 data centre.
1. Inventory: Before any organisation can optimise its data centre it must first identify and categorise all the servers within the domain being considered for optimisation. PowerRecon captures this information by a combination of IP address and host name, its sophisticated algorithm eliminates duplicates and ensures all x86 devices have been identified. Alternatively the inventory file can be populated by importing the results of another discovery tool. Butler Group considers closer integration with third-party CMDBs and systems management tools an ultimate user requirement.
2. Record: Once the entire inventory has been captured the user can then generate reports to help them categorise the servers and identify which devices require immediate attention. PowerRecon can record all devices, or just a subset depending on user selection, this ability to limit the recording allows organisations to target projects to specific areas of concern, i.e. all single-core 3GHz servers in the Marketing department for example. PlateSpin uses burst sampling, which takes a number of machine-level readings in an adjustable interval and will record the average values. These are then translated to the metrics being used to assess performance, and the results aggregated to hourly, daily, and weekly values; providing minimum, maximum, average, variance, and standard-deviation readings within the period. Using this approach PlateSpin does not need to record and store all the detailed level data, reducing the amount of space required to store the information.
3. Analyse: The recordings are available for analysis almost immediately, but the value of analysing the data is derived from ensuring that sufficient data has been gathered to cover the business cycles. These cycles differ by application, industry, and department and can vary from daily to annually; therefore it is important that no optimisation be performed until data has been captured for the complete business cycle. Figure 3 shows a typical user view in PowerRecon, the analysis capability allows users to model different scenarios based upon estimated growth and usage. For example, in the single-core 3GHz example above, a user can create a template of the Desired Future State (DFS) based on quad core VMs, and observe the impact of transferring the workload and estimate the precise specification needed to support this migration. Butler Group considers this tool extremely useful, but would like to see this modelling performed at the service level as well as the server level. Once a DFS has been designed and verified PowerRecon will generate a plan for implementing this migration from current state to target state. PowerRecon v2.2 provides a seamless integration with PowerConvert that will action any plan. PowerRecon can monitor up to a 1000 servers, however, if multiple PowerRecons are deployed in an organisation, the results cannot be combined to provide an optimised solution. However, Butler Group considers this an issue for very large implementations only, as for most organisations capturing data and managing 1000 servers would represent a significant proportion of their x86 estate.
As Figure 2 demonstrates PowerConvert provides a tool that enables organisations to migrate between the Physical, Virtual, and Image environments. The close integration with PowerRecon allows organisations to model any changes, and then transfer the plan to PowerConvert to be implemented. Figure 4 shows a typical PowerConvert user screen; essentially a user drags from the left-hand panel and drops on to right-hand panel, although this can be configured differently by the user. Once a plan has been dropped in to the target the user is then presented with the detailed job screen: this screen enables the user to apply conditions to the migration such as number of CPUs, maximum percentage resource allocation, etc. PowerConvert does not currently support 64-bit architecture, but PlateSpin has stated that it is working on this and anticipate this to be available in 2007.
Within the detailed job screens users can request a verification of the plan, if PowerConvert does not validate the plan it will not allow it to be implemented. Butler Group considers this safeguard extremely useful: the parameters available to be manipulated could result in the target deployment ‘blue screening’, thereby causing the IT department embarrassment. PowerConvert has many potential different uses from providing warm standby solutions for the x86 server estate to supporting server consolidation and migration projects.
Figure 4: A Typical User View in PowerConvert (Source: PlateSpin)
PlateSpin’s focus is on optimising the x86 architected data centre to ensure that organisations can manage its physical and virtual environment. PlateSpin although not explicitly stating its green credentials, can save energy in the data centre, and actually has many examples of reducing data centre energy costs as a result of the optimisation exercise.
PlateSpin states that its products can be installed by any suitably qualified IT professional; however, it recommends the use of partners to add value and help organisations ensure that the complex tasks involved are conducted according to best-practice guidelines. PlateSpin adds that many customers typically deploy its solutions as a proof-of-concept, which is used to prove the benefits case before a full solution roll-out. Typically an installation will be completed within a day, providing organisations with immediate access to valuable information.
PlateSpin offers a two-day Certified PlateSpin Systems Analyst (CPSA) course, which can be delivered by partners either on the customer’s own site or at a local training centre. However, the product is easy-to-use and very intuitive for most normal tasks, only specialist technicians require the two-day training. PlateSpin offers a comprehensive support package, which includes a self service support portal, a knowledge centre, FAQs, e-mail support, and telephone support either 5x12 or 7x24x365, depending on the support package purchased.
Both PowerConvert and PowerRecon operate on a client/server model, and Table 1 shows the minimum system requirements required for installation (it can migrate to Linux servers, but it must be installed on Windows platforms).
System Windows 2000 Server (SP4), Windows 2000 Advanced Server (SP4), Windows 2003 Server.
Windows 2003 Server (SP0, SP1), Windows 2000 Server (SP4), Windows 2000 Advanced Server (SP4).
Server Disk Space 1.5 GB. 2 GB. Requirements will depend on the
number of servers monitored and the duration for storing summary and raw utilisation data.
Server Memory 512 MB. 2 GB (4 GB recommended).
Server Software Microsoft IIS 5.0 and up (with ASP.NET) and Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0.
Note Ensure that Microsoft IIS is installed before installing Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0.
Microsoft IIS 5.0/6.0 (with ASP.NET) and Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0.
Note Make sure you install Microsoft IIS 5.0/6.0 before installing Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0.
System Windows 2000 Server (SP4), Windows 2000 Advanced Server (SP4), Windows XP, Windows 2003 Server.
Windows 2003 Server (SP0, SP1), Windows 2000 Server (SP4), Windows 2000 Advanced Server (SP4), Windows XP (SP2).
Client Software Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0. Microsoft IIS 5.0/6.0 (with ASP.NET) and
Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0.
Client Memory N/A 512 MB.
Client Disk Space N/A 1 GB.
Databases N/A MSDE 2000, SQL Server 2000.
X PRODUCT STRATEGY
PlateSpin is not focused on any particular vertical market, it considers any industry that operates a data centre and is looking to optimise its investment in computing resources as a potential customer. Currently PlateSpin is servicing the server consolidation market that represents the current approach being used to reduce data centre costs by many organisations. However, it considers future markets to be more service centric, being focused on high availability and increased agility. PlateSpin recognises that as virtualisation adoption increases, and the audience matures, the demands to deliver optimum performance from existing infrastructure with a service perspective, will become paramount.
PlateSpin operates mainly a channel route to market, using partners that it considers have the correct skills and culture to ensure customers obtain the maximum benefits from any deployment. PlateSpin also operates a direct sales structure dependant upon geography, and it is working with SIs and VARs so that its products can provide consultants with tools to help on customer assignments. Butler Group considers the SI route-to-market particularly relevant and well-suited to PowerRecon’s modelling capabilities.
PlateSpin originally developed solutions for VM, and has formed a strong relationship with VMWare, with its diversification from virtualisation. PlateSpin has formed business partnerships with some of the leading IT organisations, including Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM, Virtual Iron, Microsoft, VMware, and Doubletake Software. PlateSpin has also built strong technical partnerships with VMWare, Microsoft, and Virtual Iron.
PlateSpin operates two different licensing models, the traditional perpetual license allowing users access to all software updates providing they have an active support agreement. The other model is a pay-as-you-go model, which starts from just US$1 per day per server, but does require a minimum number of days to be purchased. Butler Group considers this pay-as-you-go model to be an excellent innovation, and it will appeal to organisations wishing to reduce initial software purchase costs. We believe more vendors will follow PlateSpin’s lead by de-coupling licensing from per seat, or per CPU constraints, and offer a pay-as-you-go option.
PlateSpin intends to continue to increase the capabilities of its solutions and is planning to provide 64-bit operating system support for PowerConvert in 2007, and is working on developing integration with third-party system management tools. Currently, PlateSpin is providing solutions to customers that are either consolidating servers, or migrating from a physical to a virtual world. Butler Group agrees with PlateSpin that the use of virtualisation will rapidly move beyond this server consolidation phase, and we believe PlateSpin has the technology to support organisations that want to transform the way that the data centre is managed.
X COMPANY PROFILE
Founded in 2003, PlateSpin initially specialised in creating software to help manage VM environments specifically for VMware. However, shortly thereafter it created a P2V product and branched out into anywhere-to-anywhere technology; with the capability of streaming servers over the network no matter what the infrastructure type. PlateSpin is a private company funded by VCs, its headquarters are based in Toronto Canada, with regional sales offices in EMEA and APAC. It has 130 employees, with 112 working out of Toronto and the rest at sales offices spread throughout the ROW.
PlateSpin with its two integrated products, PowerRecon and PowerConvert, has created a new market for managing the entire x86 architected data centre, irrespective of whether that is in a physical or virtual configuration. However, PowerRecon’s inventory gathering capability is similar to many other products in the system management or network discovery arena. The modelling and recording capability acts as a differentiator with many competitor products as it is capable of dealing with both the physical and virtual environments. PowerConvert with its ability to move servers irrespective of manufacturer or operating system, further enhances PlateSpin’s proposition, and is the real differentiator between it and the competitors.
PlateSpin’s solutions, especially when used together, provide organisations with a powerful tool that will enable the IT department to reduce operating costs, defer new hardware purchases, and optimise the performance from an organisations existing investment in x86 computer infrastructure. We believe that PlateSpin has successfully identified that virtualisation will currently not provide a 100% solution to organisations, and by allowing the management of both physical and virtual environments as a single entity, it is providing a much needed hybrid solution to the market.
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