Diggin' technology every day

July 27, 2012

Microsoft Licenses Linux to Amdocs

Filed under: General — Tags: , — Nate @ 3:00 pm

Microsoft has been fairly successful in strong arming licensing fees from various Android makers, though less successful in getting fees directly from operators of Linux servers.

It seems one large company, Amdocs, has caved in though.

The patent agreement provides mutual access to each company’s patent portfolio, including a license under Microsoft’s patent portfolio covering Amdocs’ use of Linux-based servers in its data centers.

I almost worked for Amdocs way back in the day. A company I was at was acquired by them, I want to say less than two months after I left the company. Fortunately I still had the ability to go back and buy my remaining stock options and got a little payout from it. One of my former co-workers said that I walked away from a lot of money.  I don’t know how much he got but he assured me he spent it quickly and was broke once again! I don’t know many folks at the company still since I left it many years ago, but everything I heard sounds like the company turned out to be as bad as I expected, and I don’t think I would of been able to put up with the politics or red tape for the retention periods following the acquisition as it was already bad enough to drive me away from the company before they were officially acquired.

I am not really surprised Amdocs licensed Linux from Microsoft. I was told an interesting story a few years ago about the same company. They were a customer of Red Hat for Enterprise Linux, and Oracle enticed them to switch to Oracle Enterprise Linux for half the cost they were paying Red Hat. So they opted to switch.

The approval process had to go through something like a dozen layers in order to get processed, and at one point it ends up on the desk of the head legal guys at Amdocs corporate. He quickly sent an email to the new company they just acquired about a year earlier that the use of Linux or any open source software was forbidden and they had to immediately shut down any Linux systems they had. If I recall right this was on a day before a holiday weekend. My former company was sort of stunned and laughed a bit, they had to sent another letter up the chain of command which I think reached the CEO or the person immediately below the CEO of the big parent who went to the lawyer and said they couldn’t shut down their Linux systems because all of the business flowed through Linux, and they weren’t about to shut down the business on a holiday weekend, well that and the thought of migrating to a new platform so quickly was sort of out of the question given all the other issues going on at the time.

So they got a special exclusion to run Linux and some other open source software, which I assume is still run to this day. It was the first of three companies (in a row no less) that I worked at that started out as Microsoft shops, then converted to Linux (in all three cases I was hired on a minimum of 6-12 months after they made the switch).

Another thing the big parent did was when they came over to take over the corporate office they re-wired everything into a secure and insecure networks. The local linux systems were not allowed on the secure network only the insecure one(and they couldn’t do things like check email from the insecure network). They tried re-wiring it over a weekend and if I recall right they were still having problems a week later.

Fun times I had at that company, I like to tell people I took 15 years of experience and compressed it into three, which given some of the resumes I have come across recently 15 years may not be long enough. It was a place of endless opportunity, and endless work hours. I’d do it again if I could go back I don’t regret it, though it came at a very high personal cost which took literally a good five years to recover from fully after I left(I’m sure some of you know the feeling).

I wouldn’t repeat the experience again though – I’m no longer willing to put up with outages that last for 10+ hours(had a couple that lasted more than 24 hours), work weeks that extend into the 100 hour range with no end in sight. If I could go back in time and tell myself whether or not to do it – I’d say do it, but I would not accept a position at a company today after having gone through that to repeat the experience again – just not worth it.  A few years ago some of the execs from that company started a new company in a similar market and tried to recruit a bunch of us former employees pitching the idea “it’ll be like the good ‘ol days”, they didn’t realize how much of a turn off that was to so many of us!

I’d be willing to bet the vast majority of Linux software at Amdocs is run by the company I was at, at last check I was told it was in the area of 2,000 systems (all of which ran in VMware) – and they had switched back to Red Hat Enterprise again.

FCoE: stillborn 3 years later

Filed under: Networking — Tags: — Nate @ 9:44 am

At least the hype for the most part has died off, as the market has not really transitioned much over to FCoE since it’s launch a few years ago. I mentioned it last year, and griped about it in one of my early posts in 2009 around when Cisco was launching their UCS, along with NetApp both proclaiming FCoE was going to take over.

Brocade has been saying for some time that FCoE adoption was lacking, a few short months ago Emulex came out and said about the same, and more recently Qlogic chiming in with another me too story.

FCoE – the emulated version of Fibre Channel running over Ethernet – is not exactly selling like hot cakes and is not likely to do so anytime soon, so all that FCoE-flavoured Ethernet development is not paying off yet.

More and more switches out there are supporting the Data Center Bridging protocols but those die hard Fibre Channel users aren’t showing much interest in it. I imagine the problem is more political than anything else at many larger organizations. The storage group doesn’t trust the networking group and would rather have control over their own storage network, and not share anything with the network group. I’ve talked to several folks over recent years where storage divisions won’t even consider something that is exclusively iSCSI for example for the company because it means the networking folks have to get involved and that’s not acceptable. Myself, I have had a rash of issues with certain Qlogic 10GbE network cards over the past 7 months which makes me really glad I’m not reliant on ethernet-based storage (there is some of it but all of the critical stuff is good ‘ol Fibre channel – on entirely Qlogic infrastructure again). The rash of issues finally ressurected a bad set of memories I had trying to troubleshoot network issues on some Broadcom NICs a few years ago with regards to something buggy called MSI-X. It took about six months to track that problem down, the symptoms were just so bizarre. My current issues with 10GbE NICs aren’t all that critical because of the level of redundancy that I have and the fact that storage is run over regular ‘ol FC.

I know Qlogic is not alone in their issues with 10GbE, a little company by the name of Clearwire in Seattle I know had what amounted to something like a 14 hour outage a year or two ago on their Cisco UCS platform because of bugs in the Cisco stuff that they had(I think it was bugs around link flapping or something). I know others have had issues too, it sort of surprises me how long 10GbE has been around and we still seem to have quite a few issues with it, at least on the HBA side.

iSCSI has had it’s issues too over the years, at least iSCSI in the HBAs, I was talking to one storage company late last year who has an iSCSI-only product and they said how iSCSI is ready for prime time, but after further discussion they clarified well you really only should use it with offloading NIC X or Y or software stack Z. iSCSI was a weak point for a long time on the 3PAR platform, they’ve addressed it to some extent on the new V-series, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they still don’t support anything other than pure software initiators.

TCP is very forgiving to networking issues, storage of course is not. In the current world of virtualization with people consolidating things on fewer, larger systems, the added cost of FC really isn’t that much. I wouldn’t be slapping FC cards in swaths of $3-5k servers, most servers that run VMs have gobs of memory which of course drives the price quite a bit higher than that.

Data center bridging really does nothing when your NIC decides to stop forwarding jumbo frame packets, or when the link starts flapping, or when the firmware crashes, or if the ASIC overheats. The amount of time it often takes for software to detect a problem with the link and fail over to a backup link alone is big enough to cause major issues with storage if it’s a regular occurrence. All of the networks I’ve worked on at least in the past decade or so always have operated at a tiny fraction of their capacity, the bottlenecks are typically things like firewalls between zones (and whenever possible I prefer to rely on switch ACLs to handle that).

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