About Rob H

A Baltimore transplant to Austin, Rob thinks about ways of building scale infrastructure for the clouds using Agile processes. He sat on the OpenStack Foundation board for four years. He co-founded RackN enable software that creates hyperscale converged infrastructure.

Podcast: Mark Thiele Talks Cloud, IT, and Jevons Paradox

Rob Hirschfeld, CEO/Co-Founder of RackN speaks with Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy and CIO of Apcera on a variety of cloud and DevOps related topics including Mark’s recent blog post, Why Adoption of Public Cloud Likely Won’t Exceed 17 Percent of Total IT Demand by 2022.

TOPIC                                                                    TIME
Intro to Mark / Latest on Culture                     0:00 – 3:50
Winners/Losers Mentality in IT                       3:50 – 8:35
Bottleneck in IT for Future                                8:35 – 11:00
Pay Down Debt in Interconnected Systems   11:00 – 13:15
IT More Consumable                                          13:15 – 15:10
Resiliency                                                              15:10 – 16:15
Jevons Paradox & Internal/External Cust      16:15 – 22:44
Public Cloud & Edge Computing                      22:44 – 26:55
Problem is People Not Tech                              26:55 – END

Don’t miss Mark talking about the Winchester Mystery House of IT at 12:07

Podcast Guest – Mark Thiele @mthiele10
Chief Strategy and Chief Information Officer – Apcera

Mark Thiele’s successful career in IT spans 25 years and has focused on both operating roles and on driving cloud adoption across enterprises of all sizes. Mark has deep industry experience and extensive knowledge of the requirements of policy-driven cloud computing and drives cross-functional strategic initiatives as Chief Strategy & Chief Information Officer for Apcera. Prior to joining Apcera, Mark was the executive vice president of ecosystem development at Switch SUPERNAP, builders of the world’s highest-rated data centers. He is also the president and founder of Data Center Pulse, an organization created to promote best practices in the data center industry. Mark has held executive roles at HP, Gilead, VMware and Brocade and is a member of nonprofit groups including The Green Grid and Infrastructure 2.0, where he advocates for data center and cloud industry evolution. A globally recognized speaker at leading industry events on a wide range of topics including cloud, IoT, data center, DevOps, and IT leadership. Mark is a regular content contributor to InformationWeek, GigaOm, Data Center Knowledge and other publications. Mark also serves on the technical advisory board of several startups.

Making Server Deployment 10x Faster – the ROI on Immutable Infrastructure

Author’s note: We’re looking for RackN Beta participants who want to help refine next generation deployment capabilities like the one described below.  We have these processes working today – our goal is to make them broadly reusable and standardized.

We’ve been posting [Go CI/CD and Immutable Infrastructure for Edge Computing Management] and podcasting [Discoposse: The Death of Configuration Management, Immutable Deployment Challenges for DevOps] about the concept of immutable infrastructure because it offers simpler and more repeatable operations processes. Delivering a pre-built image with software that’s already installed and mostly configured can greatly simplify deployment (see cloud-init).  It is simpler because all of the “moving parts” of the image can be pre-wired together and tested as a unit.  This model is default for containers, but it’s also widely used in cloud deployments where it’s easy to push an AMI or VHD to the cloud as a master image.

It takes work and expertise to automate building these immutable images, so it’s important to understand the benefits of simplicity, repeatability and speed.

  • Simplicity: Traditional configuration approaches start from an operating system base and then run configuration scripts to install the application and its prerequisites.  This configuration process requires many steps that are sequence dependent and have external dependencies.  Even small changes will break the entire system and prevent deployments.  By doing this as an image, deploy time integration or configuration issues fare eliminated.
  • Repeatability: Since the deliverable is an image, all environments are using the exact same artifact from dev, test and production.  That consistency reduces error rates and encourages cross-team collaboration because all parties are invested in the providence of the images.  In fact, immutable images are a great way to ensure that development and operations are at the table because neither team can create a custom environment.
  • Speed: Post-deployment configuration is slow.  If your installation has to pull patches, libraries and other components every time you install it then you’ll spend a lot of time waiting for downloads.  Believe it or not, the overhead of downloading a full image is small compared to the incremental delays of configuring an application stack.  Even the compromise of pre-staging items and then running local only configuration still take a surprisingly long time.

These benefits have been relatively easy to realize with Docker containers (it’s built in!) or VM images; however, they are much harder to realize with physical systems.  Containers and VMs provide a consistent abstraction that is missing in hardware.  Variations in networking, storage or even memory can cause images deployments to fail.

But… if we could do image based deployments to metal then we’d be able to gain these significant advantages.  We’d also be able to create portability of images between cloud and physical infrastructure.  Between the pure speed of direct images to disk (compared to kickstart or pre-seed) and the elimination of post-provision configuration, immutable metal deploys can be 5x to 10x faster.  

Deployment going from 30 minutes down to 6 or even 3.  That’s a very big deal.

That’s exactly why RackN has been working to create a standardized, repeatable process for immutable deployments.  We have this process working today with some expert steps required in image creation.  

If this type of process would help your operations team then please contact us and join the RackN Beta Program with advanced extensions for Digital Rebar Provision.

Note: There are risks to this approach as well.  There is no system wide patch or update mechanism except creating a new image and redeploying.  That means it takes more time to generate and roll an emergency patch to all systems.  Also, even small changes require replacing whole images.  These are both practical concerns; however, they are mitigated by maintaining a robust continuous deployment process where images are being constantly refreshed.

Fast, Simple, and Open: 10x ROI of Building Infrastructure in Layers

Last week, we released a new white paper: Fast, Simple, and Open: 10x ROI of Building Infrastructure in Layers. This blog highlights that white paper and provides links for additional information.

Executive Summary

RackN allows Enterprises to quickly transform their current physical data centers from basic workflows to cloud-like integrated processes. We turned decades of data center experience into data  center provisioning software so simple it only takes 5 minutes to install and provides a progressive path to full autonomy. Our critical insight was to deliver automation in a layered way that allows  operations teams to quickly adopt the platform into their current processes and incrementally add autonomous and self-service features.

Introduction

This short paper discusses the history and key architectural drivers for the RackN open source component known as Digital Rebar Provision. We describe how we designed independent architecture layers for Provision, Control and Orchestration that smoothly underlay popular tools like Ansible, Terraform, Chef and Puppet. We also discuss how RackN enhances the Digital Rebar Provision scaffolding with downloadable packages and a centralized management interface. Together, Digital Rebar Provision and RackN deliver a non-disruptive progressive approach to data enter automation that can drives a 10x (or higher!) improvement in infrastructure ROI.

Read the Complete White Paper:  9.17 RackN White Paper_Fast, Simple and Open

Get Started with Digital Rebar Provision and RackN today:

Podcast – Gartner Symposium Recap and Thoughts on IT Disruption

Rob Hirschfeld attended the Gartner Symposium last week in Orlando and provides his thoughts on the event, the attendees, and how larger company CIO’s plan for and choose technology. This is an excellent podcast for open source and leading edge technologists as it offers insight into how technology is chosen for large companies that always seem to be 5 to 7 years behind. Rob also has thoughts based on hearing from Clayton Christensen on disruption in the market and how large companies seem to always miss the real competition.

Additional L8ist Sh9y Podcasts at https://soundcloud.com/user-410091210.

October 6 – Weekly Recap of All Things Digital Rebar and RackN

Welcome to the weekly post of the RackN blog recap of all things Digital Rebar, RackN, SRE, and DevOps. If you have any ideas for this recap or would like to include content please contact us at info@rackn.com or tweet Rob (@zehicle) or RackN (@rackngo)

Items of the Week

RackN

RackN Beta Program Launch

Blog Post: Fast, Simple, Open Provisioning – Rethinking Infrastructure w/ Cloud Centric-Automation 

Operating hardware is too hard today. And too expensive.  Let’s fix that.

The problem with physical ops is not that it’s hard, complex or fragile. Okay, it is and those ARE problems, but they are compounded by the lack of shared management software and practices missing from this layer.  When the RackN team set out to solve these physical challenges, we knew the software had to be very focused to replace the current Cobbler and Foreman environments. It also had to be flexible and composable for heterogeneous environments or we’d be right back into snowflake custom DevOps.

We’re talking about a platform that finally addresses full lifecycle control at the hardware layer with open software.  That’s complex stuff automated in a reusable way.

Read More

Podcast

To participate in the beta please email us at beta@rackn.com, add your email on the RackN Beta Program website, or contact us twitter at @rackngo.

Digital Rebar 

Next Week – Digital Rebar Community Meetup #2

October 10 at 11:00am PST

Proposed outline agenda:

  • Welcome and recap from v001 meetup
  • demo: Kubernetes deployment via DRP / packet.net
  • demo: Injecting passwords and SSH keys
  • demo: Content Loading – demo and information
  • Weekly / or every-other-weekly meetups? https://www.meetup.com/digitalrebar/polls/1255504/
  • Release planning and features for v3.2.0

More Information at https://www.meetup.com/digitalrebar/events/243490128/

New Digital Rebar Provision Videos:

UPCOMING EVENTS

Rob Hirschfeld and Greg Althaus are preparing for a series of upcoming events where they are speaking or just attending. If you are interested in meeting with them at these events please email info@rackn.com

If you are attending any of these events please reach out to Rob Hirschfeld to setup time to learn more about our solutions or discuss the latest industry trends.

OTHER NEWSLETTERS

Fast, Simple, Open Provisioning – Rethinking Infrastructure with Cloud-Centric Automation

Operating hardware is too hard today. And too expensive.  Let’s fix that.

The problem with physical ops is not that it’s hard, complex or fragile. Okay, it is and those ARE problems, but they are compounded by the lack of shared management software and practices missing from this layer.  When the RackN team set out to solve these physical challenges, we knew the software had to be very focused to replace the current Cobbler and Foreman environments. It also had to be flexible and composable for heterogeneous environments or we’d be right back into snowflake custom DevOps.

We’re talking about a platform that finally addresses full lifecycle control at the hardware layer with open software.  That’s complex stuff automated in a reusable way.

Even worse, being both simple and flexible for ops is a design nightmare.

Yet, we think we’ve found the right balance by combining v3.1 Digital Rebar Provision with an online library of extension packages from RackN.  Keeping Digital Rebar Provision lightweight with minimal bootstrapping and configuration makes it simple to operate.  The RackN user interface (UI) makes the service even easier to use allowing users to pick from a catalog of next steps.

We’re asking for your help to redefine data center economics from these basic starting building blocks and then join our journey from simple automation to full autonomy.

We are pleased to announce the RackN Beta Program today for your opportunity to evaluate our current solution and work together to solve your provisioning challenges. To participate in the beta please email us at beta@rackn.com, add your email on the RackN Beta Program website, or contact us twitter at @rackngo.

For more information on the RackN Beta Program, please listen to this podcast:

September 29 – Weekly Recap Of All Things Digital Rebar And RackN

Welcome to the weekly post of the RackN blog recap of all things Digital Rebar, RackN, SRE, and DevOps. If you have any ideas for this recap or would like to include content please contact us at info@rackn.com or tweet Rob (@zehicle) or RackN (@rackngo)

Items of the Week

Digital Rebar Community

The Community held its first Online Meetup on Tuesday to select the final name of the Mascot as well as cover the latest information on the Digital Rebar Provision 3.1 release. As for the Mascot, Cloudia is the official name of our bear!

Additional new DRP v.31 Videos available:

Events Updates

HashiConf 2017 

Messy yet Effective Hybrid Portability  Rob Hirschfeld Post on the Event

Last week, I was able to attend the HashiConf 2017 event in my hometown of Austin, Texas.  HashiCorp has a significant following of loyal fans for their platforms and the show reflected their enthusiasm for the HashiCorp clean and functional design aesthetic.  I count the RackN team in that list – we embedded Consul deeply into Digital Rebar v2 and recently announced a cutting edge bare metal Terraform integration(demo video) with Digital Rebar Provision (v3).

Overall, the show was impressively executed.  It was a comfortable size to connect with attendees and most of the attendees were users instead of vendors.  The announcements at the show were also notable.  HashiCorp announced enterprise versions of all their popular platforms including Consul, Vault, Nomad and Terraform.  For their enterprise versions include a cross-cutting service, Sentinel, that provides a policy engine to help enforce corporate governance. READ MORE

RackN 

New Product Page on Rackn.com

Have you been to our newly launched product page? If not, click on over now to see the latest on our Data Center Infrastructure provisioning software solution leveraging Digital Rebar Provision 3.1.

Podcast – Challenges of CIOs and Operators for DevOps

Rob Hirschfeld, Co-Founder/CEO of RackN discusses the challenges of DevOps from the CIO and Operator viewpoint and how it is critical for each group to better understand the issues they each face. Only then can a true DevOps experience be had.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Rob Hirschfeld and Greg Althaus are preparing for a series of upcoming events where they are speaking or just attending. If you are interested in meeting with them at these events please email info@rackn.com

If you are attending any of these events please reach out to Rob Hirschfeld to setup time to learn more about our solutions or discuss the latest industry trends.

OTHER NEWSLETTERS

Podcast – Challenges of CIOs and Operators for DevOps

Rob Hirschfeld, Co-Founder/CEO of RackN discusses the challenges of DevOps from the CIO and Operator viewpoint and how it is critical for each group to better understand the issues they each face. Only then can a true DevOps experience be had.

Follow the new RackN Podcast “L8ist Sh9y Podcast”

HashiConf 2017: Messy yet Effective Hybrid Portability

Last week, I was able to attend the HashiConf 2017 event in my hometown of Austin, Texas.  HashiCorp has a significant following of loyal fans for their platforms and the show reflected their enthusiasm for the HashiCorp clean and functional design aesthetic.  I count the RackN team in that list – we embedded Consul deeply into Digital Rebar v2 and recently announced a cutting edge bare metal Terraform integration (demo video) with Digital Rebar Provision (v3).

Overall, the show was impressively executed.  It was a comfortable size to connect with attendees and most of the attendees were users instead of vendors.  The announcements at the show were also notable.  HashiCorp announced enterprise versions of all their popular platforms including Consul, Vault, Nomad and Terraform.  For their enterprise versions include a cross-cutting service, Sentinel, that provides a policy engine to help enforce corporate governance.

Since all the tools are open source, creating an enterprise version can cause angst in the community.  I felt that they handled the introduction well and the additions were well received.  Typically, governance controls are a good demarcation for Enterprise features.

I was particularly impressed with the breadth and depth of Terraform use discussed at the event.  Terraform is enjoying broad adoption as a cluster builder so it was not surprising to see it featured on many talks.  The primary benefits highlighted were cloud portability and infrastructure as code.  

This was surprising to me because Terraform plans are not actually cloud agnostic – they have to be coded to match the resources exposed by the target.

When I asked people about this the answer was simple: the Terraform format itself provides sufficient abstraction.  The benefit of having a single tool and format for multiple infrastructure created very effective portability.

Except the lack of cloud abstractions also drove a messy pattern that I saw in multiple sessions.  Many companies have written custom (“soon to be open sourced”™) Terraform plan generators in their own custom markup languages.  That’s right – there’s an emerging, snowflaked Terraform generator pattern.  I completely understand the motivation to build this layer; however, it strikes me as an anti-pattern.

Infrastructure portability (aka hybrid) is a both universal goal and frighteningly complex.  Clearly, Terraform is a step in the right direction, but it’s only a step.  At HashiConf, I enjoyed watching companies trying take that next step with varying degrees of success.  Let’s get some popcorn and see how it turns out!

Until then, check out our Digital Rebar Terraform provider.  It will make your physical infrastructure “cloud equivalent” so you can run similar plans between cloud and metal.

For more information on the Digital Rebar Terraform provider, listen to this recent podcast.

September 22 – Weekly Recap of All Things Digital Rebar and RackN

Welcome to the weekly post of the RackN blog recap of all things Digital Rebar, RackN, SRE, and DevOps. If you have any ideas for this recap or would like to include content please contact us at info@rackn.com or tweet Rob (@zehicle) or RackN (@rackngo)

Items of the Week

This week, RackN released a new high-level image highlighting the RackN and Digital Rebar solution and how they operate together to deliver provisioning services. Next week, we will provide further detail into how Digital Rebar operates between RackN Infrastructure Management and the provisioned hardware and VMs.

Digital Rebar Community

Terraform to Metal with Digital Rebar
Data Center Bacon Blog

We’ve built a buttery smooth Terraform provider for Bare Metal that runs equally on, of course, servers, Packet.net servers or VirtualBox VMs. If you like Hashicorp Terraform and want it to own your data center too, then read on.

Deep into the Digital Rebar Provision (DRP) release plan, a customer asked the RackN team to build a Terraform provider for DRP.  They had some very specific requirements that would stress all the new workflows and out-of-band management features in the release: in many ways, this integration is the ultimate proof point for DRP v3.1 because it drives DRP autonomously.

The primary goal was simple: run a data center as a resource pool for Terraform.

Digital Rebar and Terraform Provisioning Podcast

Digital Rebar v3.1 Product Launch
Product Launch Blog

We’ve made open network provisioning radically simpler.  So simple, you can install in 5 minutes and be provisioning in under 30.  That’s a bold claim, but it’s also an essential deliverable for us to bridge the Ops execution gap in a way that does not disrupt your existing tool chains.

The v3 mantra is about starting simple and allowing users to grow automation incrementally.  RackN has been building advanced automation packages and powerful UX management to support that mission.

Key v3.1 Features:

  • Layered Storage System
  • Content Packaging System
  • Plug-In System
  • Stages, Tasks & Jobs
  • Websocket API for Event Subscription
  • Embedded UI

Digital Rebar Provision 3.1 Launch Podcast

First Online Meetup: Sept 26, 2017 at 11:00am PST
Join Meetup Group Here : Meetup Announcement Blog

Topics for Meetup:

  • Welcome
  • Introduction to Digital Rebar Provision (DRP) and RackN
  • Naming the Digital Rebar mascot [1]
  • Discussion on DRP version 3.1 features
  • Feature and roadmap planning for DRP version 3.2
  • Use Github Projects or Trello Board
  • Demo of DRP workload deployment
  • Getting in touch with the Digital Rebar community and RackN
  • Questions and answers period

UPCOMING EVENTS

Rob Hirschfeld and Greg Althaus are preparing for a series of upcoming events where they are speaking or just attending. If you are interested in meeting with them at these events please email info@rackn.com

If you are attending any of these events please reach out to Rob Hirschfeld to setup time to learn more about our solutions or discuss the latest industry trends.

OTHER NEWSLETTERS