From the Blogosphere
Bare Metal Blog: Mean Time Between Failures
MTBF has meaning well beyond storage
By: Don MacVittie
Feb. 23, 2013 11:00 AM
If you are new to the Bare Metal Blog series, find them all here
When assembling a model – any model, from a highly detailed functional replica of an engine to a mass produced plastic model of an airplane – there are several places where things can go wrong. The final product is only as good as the model kit, the glue used, the tools used, and the skill of the craftsman. I’ve seen the same exact model assembled and painted by two different people that look completely different, simply because of the array of variables and how they interact.
This is true of high tech equipment also, and like modeling, it is often overlooked. Interestingly, in my entire IT career, MTBF has only been a measure that meant a ton in two circumstances: When designing hardware and scoping the parts to go in it, and when talking about storage. In all other endeavors, MTBF if mentioned was a side note.
And yet it matters. It can matter a lot. Like most hardware companies (because we spec our own parts and monitor our own quality), we track MTBF both computed from the sum of the parts with average environmental considerations, and actual tracking based upon support cases involving hardware and RMAs. For us, knowing helps us improve quality. For customers, knowing helps gauge the bounds of useful life for the equipment being purchased. Of course, MTBF is a mean, not a fact, and it is entirely possible for a device to last much longer than its MTBF, in fact the fact that it is a mean kind of implies that roughly half of the devices out there will last longer. But it’s the mean, not the median, and most IT shops do not want to plan like a device will last well beyond its MTBF value. MTBF can offer a bit of guidance when it is fairly calculated, and another tool in the evaluation toolbox never hurt an IT shop.
As mentioned earlier in this series, F5 sets quality standards for suppliers to meet, if they wish to continue supplying. This allows a bit better control over MTBF than doing something like “lowest bidder” or similar procurement, simply because the standards set include the quality of parts used, which all rolls into the MTBF calculations – and more importantly for most IT shops, the MTBF reality. While MTBF is a complex set of equations, you can generalize to “the MTBF of a device is as low as or lower than the MTBF of its weakest part”. That means supplier quality standards matter in a very real way. I had a RAID array fail on me once – several drives down all at the same time. The array vendor had to count that as a failure, since RAID no longer worked (thank heavens for backups!), but the failure was on the part of one of their suppliers. That’s how it is in the manufacturing world whomevers’ name is on the box gets the bad rep for quality, regardless of whose handiwork was slipshod. That is why F5’s non-stop quality monitoring program (devices are tested from before release until EOL is announced) matters a lot. It’s also why quality standards for parts suppliers matter more then getting the absolute cheapest part, as some manufacturers are wont to do.
I will not replicate our entire knowledge base article here, if you have an ask.f5.com account, you can click here to read it. I’ll just summarize and pull bits out for the readers’ enjoyment.
F5 gear runs the gauntlet from entry level to massive blade systems. As such, MTBF varies from device to device. The worst calculated MTBF for an F5 device is over three years. And our quality team tells me that the calculated value is far lower than the real-life-experience value they get from watching returns and such. The best calculated MTBF is over 21 years. It’s a rare piece of computer gear that is used that long, but Lori and I have got some pretty old F5 gear that’s still clipping away like it was new, so no surprises there. Most F5 devices fall somewhere in between.
Why the large variance in MTBFs if we control for quality? A valid question. The fact is that it is not all about the quality of parts. Airflow inside the device, number of redundant parts, number of removable parts… there are a zillion other things that go into MTBF, and they all tend to get better as the device gets physically larger. Entry level devices are small, restricting airflow and cutting down on available space for redundant power supplies, etc. While the top end blade servers have room for all of that, and since cards are replaceable, tend to less failures. You will find a similar spread with any other vendor that covers such a wide range of hardware. And all of those numbers are likely to beat out a COTS server running a software product.
So when looking at any electronic gear, ask about MTBF. Alone it simply gives you insight into the priorities for the device you’re looking at, when combined with the MTBF numbers from several different devices (the same manufacturer or multiple), it gives you an idea of what you are buying in terms of quality. Of course with a large chunk of any given appliance handled in software, MTBF is not as meaningful as it once was, but it is still the underlying bedrock for that software to run on.
Cloud Expo Breaking News
Best Recent Articles on Cloud Computing & Big Data Topics
The Arlington, Virginia-based National Science Foundation has just released its "Report on Support for Cloud Computing" - in response to the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010, Section 524. It is an absolute must-read for all concerned with current and future research projects in Cloud Computing.
"The volume of data we're generating now from machines pales in comparison to the volume of data we'll soon generate from our own bodies," says data security expert Dave Asprey. Writing in a Trend Micro blog, Asprey - who is one of the leaders in the emerging Quantified Self movement - explains his vision of a world in which personal biometrical data is shared via the cloud.
Cloud computing has caught the attention of business leaders around the world in every industry because of its enormous transformative potential. Visionary companies know that the value of the cloud is far greater than the current focus solely on technology and operating costs: when combined with a collaborative approach to designing processes, cloud computing will change how we do business.
Want to make sense of the hottest new concept in Enterprise IT? Want to understand in just hours what experts have spent many hundreds of days deciphering? Cloud computing is a technology that has rapidly evolving peppered with a lot of hype along the way. Customers find it hard to navigate through this and make sense of what aspects of this technology will give them real business benefit. Cloud Computing Bootcamp, led by our 2013 Bootcamp Instructor Larry Carvalho, is a great way to get a practical understanding of this technology. We offer multiple days of actionable insight into what vendor offerings are currently available and help you comprehend their strategy. The ever-popular Bootcamp, which is now held regularly around the world, is being held in conjunction with the 12th Cloud Expo, June 10-13, 2013, at the Javits Center, New York, NY.
Did you know that ninety percent of the data in the world has been created in the last two years? Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion (or 2.518) bytes of data, according to IBM. As corporations across all industries globally are struggling with how to retain, aggregate and analyze this mounting volume of what the industry refers to as Big Data, it also provides a unique opportunity for innovative startups that recognize the business prospects Big Data presents. Big Data is not just unlocking new information but new sources of economic and business value. Interactivity is driving Big Data, with people and machines both consuming and creating it. Digital companies focused on becoming good at aggregating and analyzing the data created by the end users of their product, who then provide their customers with solid insights taken from that data are at a distinct competitive advantage over others in the marketplace.
Industry-specific clouds are those PaaS, IaaS, and PaaS services that are tailored for a specific vertical, such as transportation, retail, finance, and health care. IDC sees a $65 billion market in these industry solutions for 2013, rising to $100 billion in 2016. The value of industry-specific clouds is that businesses within a vertical can connect to applications, processes, and databases that are pre-defined for that vertical within a public or private cloud. They can extend processes and databases into the business domain, versus defining the data and processes within a generic cloud-based platform. So, are industry specific clouds right for your business? What options are out there? How do you figure out the ROI?
SYS-CON Events announced today that Rackspace Hosting, the open cloud company, has been named "Platinum Plus Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 12th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 10-13, 2013, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. Rackspace® Hosting (NYSE: RAX) is the open cloud company, delivering open technologies and powering more than 205,000 customers worldwide. Rackspace provides its renowned Fanatical Support® across a broad portfolio of IT products, including Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Hybrid Hosting and Dedicated Hosting. Rackspace has been recognized by Bloomberg BusinessWeek as a Top 100 Performing Technology Company, is featured on Fortune's list of 100 Best Companies to Work For and is included on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Rackspace was positioned in the Leaders Quadrant by Gartner Inc. in the "2011 Magic Quadrant for Managed Hosting." Rackspace is headquartered in San Antonio with offices and data centers around the world.
10th International Cloud Expo, held on June 11-14, 2012 at the Javits Center in New York City, featured four content-packed days with a rich array of sessions about the business and technical value of cloud computing led by exceptional speakers from every sector of the cloud computing ecosystem. The Cloud Expo series is the fastest-growing Enterprise IT event in the past 10 years, devoted to every aspect of delivering massively scalable enterprise IT as a service. We invite you to enjoy our photo album of the show - we'll be adding new images all week.
Ulitzer.com announced "the World's 30 most influential Cloud bloggers," who collectively generated more than 24 million Ulitzer page views. Ulitzer's annual "most influential Cloud bloggers" list was announced at Cloud Expo, which drew more delegates than all other Cloud-related events put together worldwide. "The world's 50 most influential Cloud bloggers 2010" list will be announced at the Cloud Expo 2010 East, which will take place April 19-21, 2010, at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, in New York City, with more than 5,000 expected to attend.
Cloud computing is becoming one of the next industry buzz words. It joins the ranks of terms including: grid computing, utility computing, virtualization, clustering, etc. Cloud computing overlaps some of the concepts of distributed, grid and utility computing, however it does have its own meaning if contextually used correctly. The conceptual overlap is partly due to technology changes, usages and implementations over the years. Trends in usage of the terms from Google searches shows Cloud Computing is a relatively new term introduced in the past year. There has also been a decline in general interest of Grid, Utility and Distributed computing. Likely they will be around in usage for quit a while to come. But Cloud computing has become the new buzz word driven largely by marketing and service offerings from big corporate players like Google, IBM and Amazon.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dell Inc. has been named "Silver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 12th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 10-13, 2013, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. For more than 28 years, Dell has empowered countries, communities, customers and people everywhere to use technology to realize their dreams. Customers trust Dell to deliver technology solutions that help them do and achieve more, whether they're at home, work, school or anywhere in their world. Learn more about Dell's story, purpose and people behind its customer-centric approach.
One of the most compelling promises of the cloud is that you can pull out a credit card and be working in minutes. No purchase orders to fill out, no equipment to wait for on the loading dock. Just instant access to the resources you need, when you need them. But accessibility comes at a price, and an unintentional consequence may be that you create yet another orphaned identity silo. Enterprise IT has spent years consolidating its mishmash of directories, only to discover that cloud now threatens to turn back their hard-won victories. In his session at the 12th International Cloud Expo, Scott Morrison, CTO and Chief Architect at Layer 7 Technologies, will look at strategies to incorporate identity into cloud applications. Enterprise identity or social login can both be a part of your go-to-cloud strategy, but you must plan for this upfront, rather than try to retrofit identity and access control at a later date.
Cloud Expo, Cloud Expo East, Cloud Expo West, Cloud Expo Silicon Valley, Cloud Expo Europe, Cloud Expo Tokyo, Cloud Expo Prague, Cloud Expo Hong Kong, Cloud Expo Sao Paolo are trademarks and /or registered trademarks (USPTO serial number 85009040) of Cloud Expo, Inc.
The World's Most Influential Blogs