Raise your Data Center above the Clouds

As more and more companies move workloads and storage to public clouds, CIOs are forced to account for existing data center investments. Simply abandoning existing infrastructure is not an option and IT teams need to find new methodologies to fully use their available resources.   

Of course, legacy services continue to be served in these data centers; however there is ample opportunity for new technology to leverage the compute power by selecting a foundational provision and control solution from RackN. Our solution brings cloud management tooling found in public clouds to your data centers enabling IT teams the option of keeping resources in house.   

Issue :  Data Center as Clouds

  • Public Clouds – Shadow IT and leverage of public clouds have exposed the shortcomings of IT’s ability to deliver services in a timely manner for business needs
  • Data Center Sunk Costs – CIOs cannot simply leave existing data centers under-utilized with only legacy services and must enhance the operational skills of the IT team  

Impact : Data Center Investment

  • Data Center ManagementMany services cannot be moved into a public cloud and IT teams must enhance their skills to maximize their available resources in-house
  • Automated Provision/Control – Standardizing your infrastructure foundation with RackN allows IT to manage all platforms including data centers and public clouds at scale and securely

RackN Solution : Data Center Efficiency

  • Operations Excellence – RackN’s foundational management ensures IT can operate services regardless of platform (e.g. data center, public cloud, etc)
  • Operational Improvement – RackN delivers a single platform for IT to leverage across deployment vehicles as well as ensure IT team efficiency across services

The RackN team is ready to start you on the path to operations excellence:

Standardize your Operational Chaos for Provisioning Bliss

A common side-effect of rapid growth for any organization is the introduction of complexity and one-off solutions to keep things moving regardless of the long-term impact. Over time, these decisions add up to create a chaotic environment for IT teams who find themselves unable to find an appropriate time to stop and reset.  

IT operations teams also struggle in this environment as management knowledge for all these technologies are not often shared appropriately and it is common to have only 1 operator capable of supporting specific technologies. Obviously, enterprises are at great risk when knowledge is not shared and there is no standard process across a team.

Issue :  Infrastructure Management

  • One-Off Operations – Customized operation tooling per service leads to team dysfunction as operators cannot support each due to inexperience with unique tools
  • IT Productivity – Data centers struggle to meet business needs with no standard process or tools; cloud platforms expose this deficiency causing business to go shadow IT

Impact : Delivery Times

  • Costly and Slow – Many data centers operate with dated processes and tools causing significant delays in new service rollout as well as maintaining existing services
  • Cross Platform Support IT teams MUST maintain control over company services by supporting internal data centers as well as cloud deployments from a single platform  

RackN Solution : Global Standard

  • Operations Excellence – RackN’s foundational management ensures IT can operate services regardless of platform (e.g. data center, public cloud, etc)
  • Operational Standardization – RackN delivers a single platform for IT to leverage across deployment vehicles as well as ensure IT team efficiency across services

The RackN team is ready to start you on the path to operations excellence:

Take part in the Digital Rebar Community

Great Fun Accessing your Infrastructure: How Secure are You?

How secure is your infrastructure? Not just your internal data centers, but what about your networks connecting to public clouds or hosting providers? How about your corporate data which could be anywhere in the world as you certainly have Shadow IT somewhere?

RackN believes that IT security begins with a secure foundation for provisioning not only within your data center but into your cloud environments as well. Having a single tool architected with security as a key feature allows SecOps to spend more time worrying about protecting attacks at the application and data storage layer instead of allowing attacks at the metal.  

Issue – Secure the Enterprise

  • Many enterprises fail to patch both software and hardware on a regular basis due to their inability to reliably and safely manage the process without impacting service delivery.
  • With applications and data running globally, IT has lost the ability to know with certainty where their services are operating from and how secure they are; this is true even beyond public clouds.

Impact – Business is Digital

  • All business is now digital and a majority of companies don’t have the technical staff to ensure a high level of security and simply trusting cloud providers is not enough.
  • Companies must ensure that networks are protected and that applications and hardware are updated with the latest patches; is your company doing this?

RackN Solution – Secure Foundation

  • Delivering provisioning via an automated layered approach provides IT teams a secure and repeatable process to ensure application availability regardless of location; e.g. Data Center, Hosting Provider, Public Cloud, and eventually Edge infrastructure.
  • Like any construction project security starts with a solid foundation; RackN is that foundation to build your IT infrastructure on.

The RackN team is ready to start you on the path to operations excellence:

Shine a Light into the Darkness to Regain Control of your IT Services

Internal business units continue to bypass traditional IT in many organizations creating shadow IT leaving corporate data unsecured, networks exposed through unknown entry points, and the possibility of wasting IT resources by paying for services already provided by the company. CIOs must regain control of their IT sprawl to ensure security, resource allocation, and operational control of the business.  

RackN offers IT leaders a new way forward to take back control of their services by establishing a solid foundation capable of managing internal data centers, external hosting services, public clouds, and even the upcoming edge infrastructure opportunity.

Issue : IT & Business Conflict on IT Service Delivery and Ownership

  • Shadow IT – corporate services (internal and external) are delivered without the knowledge or control of the IT department  
  • Public Clouds – services are delivered via 3rd party hardware that may have noisy neighbors, unknown geographic location, and other issues requiring IT management

Impact : Loss of Operational Control of IT

  • IT Business Alignment – IT must engage with the overall business as more than just a delivery mechanism. IT is now a strategic MUST at the executive table  
  • Operational Failure – Without operational control and management companies are highly vulnerable to attacks and an inability to deliver on customer needs   

RackN Solution : Operational Flexibility & Excellence for Service Delivery

  • Operations Excellence – RackN’s foundational management ensures IT can operate services regardless of platform (e.g. data center, public cloud, etc)
  • Revitalize the Data Center – RackN delivers cloud-like operational capabilities for existing data centers offering internal business units less reason to create shadow IT

The RackN team is ready to start you on the path to operations excellence:

Podcast: Stephen O’Donnell on Massively Scaled Datacenters and Edge Service Layers for Innovation

In this week’s podcast, we speak with Stephen O’Donnell, Senior Analyst for Global Hive and author of What Every CIO Wants. He focuses on several interesting topics:

  • Building Massively Scalable Datacenters
  • What is the Edge? Complete 25 Use Case Definition
  • Enterprise Datacenters Move to Edge
  • Layering Solutions on Edge Services

Topic                                                            Time (Minutes.Seconds)
Introduction                                                   0.0 – 2.17
Lessons Learned at Data Center Scale    2.17 – 4.00
How make Changes at Scale?                    4.00 – 6.09 (Financial Driven)
Symbian Army                                               6.09 – 7.41 (Software Survival)
Changing Server Design Thinking              7.41 – 12.25
Operational Turnover                                    12.25 – 14.28 (All about ROI)
Edge Datacenter Definition                          14.28 – 21.58 (25 Use Cases: Latency, Human Life, …)
Street Furniture to Cloud                              21.58 – 22.53
Edge to Cloud Tiers                                       22.53 – 26.09 (Edge is Multi-Tenant)
Internet turn Inside Out                                 26.09 – 26.45
Data Flow Reverses                                        26.45 – 28.09 (Write Once / Read Never)
Enterprise Datacenters are Edge                 28.09 – 30.41
Managing Edge w/ Low Touch Solutions  30.41 – 33.20 (Edge Infrastructure Saloon)
Edge Infrastructure is not Wide-Open       33.20 –  37.40  (Can everyone leverage Edge?)
Wrap Up w/ Alexa                                         37.40 – END

Podcast Guest
Stephen O’Donnell, Senior Analyst, Global Hive

Steve O’Donnell has over three decades of global high technology experience. He is currently works as a Senior Analyst for Global Hive, a specialist Data Center consulting and analyst firm he founded. He served as Transformation Director for Ferguson plc working to fundamentally modernise business operations. He served as CIO for G4S plc, a managed services firm who are the second largest employer the world. He was CTO at Amlin Underwriting in the UK. He formerly served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GreenBytes (acquired by Oracle Corp), a Providence, Rhode Island-based manufacturer of cloud-scale Desktop Virtualization solutions, O’Donnell currently serves as Chairman of the Board at KSBC plc and Lanix, and Chairman of the Advisory Board at Eco4Cloud srl. O’Donnell is also a partner and founder at IABpro, a global Industry Advisory Board business

Previously, O’Donnell was CEO at MEEZA in Qatar, a large data center and managed services business, Managing Director at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), a leading analyst firm, Global Head of Data Centre Operations at British Telecom, and member of the Advisory Board at Fusion-io (FIO) and Violin Memory Inc (VMEM). He leads the judging panel of the Tech Trailblazers Awards.

Recognized as an expert commentator in Data Centres, Storage, IT Security and Cloud & Managed Services, O’Donnell has been the recipient of six industry awards including the British Computer Society Best Use of Green Technology. He has acted as a spokesperson for the IEEE on Cloud and IT Security, and is credited as the initiator of the Green Grid’s Data Center Maturity Model.


Virtual Toilet Backing Up? Internet Plumbers get the dirty jobs

The latest mantra in IT is to cleanly abstract away everything including hardware, software, management, processes, etc. Take “serverless” for example – there are still servers involved but much more hidden than before.  This abstraction obsession is rapidly changing the way that applications and services are developed and delivered.

However, the underlying abstractions hide, not remove infrastructure; it is still there and, like plumbing, simply becomes someone else’s problem to deal with. At RackN, we are focused on solving these hidden plumbing problems at the physical infrastructure operations layer.

Working with physical hardware is viewed as messy and is not going to be a trending hashtag anytime soon. We are ok with that. In fact, we view ourselves as Internet Plumbers keeping the “pipes” open without any hesitancy of getting dirty.

Part of our mission is to standardize the processes in physical ops to provide site reliability engineers and DevOps teams with an automated, open, secure, scalable, and reliable solution. Our solution is built not only for today’s needs but also the coming Edge computing revolution whereby physical ops will move from hundreds of nodes to hundreds of thousands of endpoints.

We offer several methods to being immediately working with our technology:

  • Digital Rebar Provision– Our open source DHCP/PXE/IPXE service with community or corporate plug-ins for additional features
  • RackN Trial – Get access to our solution built on Digital Rebar Provision; contact RackN sales

Based on a prior Rob Hirschfeld Post Physical Ops = Plumbers of the Internet. Celebrating dirty IT jobs 8 bit style

Sound and Fury as AWS Pulls Back Curtain for Bare Metal Offering

Yesterday, AWS confirmed that it actually uses physical servers to run its cloud infrastructure and, gasp, no one was surprised.  The actual news about the i3.metal instances by AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr shows that bare metal is being treated as just another AMI managed instance type (see also Geekwire, Techcrunch, Venture Beat).  For AWS users, there’s no drama here because it’s an incremental add to processes they are already know well.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is fundamentally about automation and API not the type of infrastructure.

Lack of drama is a key principle at RackN: provisioning hardware should be as easy to automate as a virtual machine. The addition of bare metal to the AWS instance types validates two important parts of the AWS cloud automation story.  First, having control metal is valuable and, second, operations are expected image (AMI) based deployments.

There are interesting AWS specific items to unpack around this bare metal announcement that shows otherwise hidden details about AWS infrastructure.

It took Amazon a long time to create this offering because allowing users to access bare metal requires a specialized degree of isolation inside their massive data center.  It’s only recently possible in AWS data centers because of their custom hardware and firmware.  These changes provide AWS with a hidden control layer under the operating system abstraction.  This does not mean everyone needs this hardware – it’s an AWS specific need based on their architecture.

It’s not a surprise the AWS has built cloud infrastructure optimized hardware.  All the major cloud providers design purpose-built machines with specialized firmware to handle their scale network, security and management challenges.

The specialized hardware may create challenges for users compared to regular virtualized servers.  There are already a few added requirements for AMIs before they can run on the i3.metal instance.  Any image deploy to metal process requires a degree of matching the target server.  That’s the reason that Digital Rebar defaults to safer (but slower) kickstart and pre-seed processes.

Overall, this bare metal announcement is signifying nothing dramatic and that’s a very good thing.

Automating every layer of a data center should be the expected default.  Our mission has been to make metal just another type of automated infrastructure and we’re glad to have AWS finally get on the same page with us.

Data Center’s Last Mile: Zero Touch Metal Automation

The embedded video is an excellent RackN and Digital Rebar overview created by Rob Hirschfeld and Greg Althaus, co-founders of RackN on the critical issue facing data center operations teams. Their open-source based offering completes the integration challenge existing between platforms/orchestration tools and control/provision technology.

By integrating with the platform and orchestration solutions, RackN is able to replace the control and provisioning tools without adding complexity or replacing established technology.

Watch the complete video below as Rob Hirschfeld provides the background of how RackN arrived at the current offering and the benefits for data center operators to support bare metal provisioning as well as immutable infrastructure. (Slides)

The demonstration video referenced in this overview:

The white paper referenced in this overview:








Have more questions? Contact us at sales@rackn.com or via social media on Twitter at @rackngo to learn more.

Breaking the Silicon Floor – Digital Rebar v3.2 unlocks full life-cycle control for hardware provisioning

The difficulty in fully automating physical infrastructure environments, especially for distributed edge, adds significant cost, complexity and delay when building IT infrastructure. We’ve called this “underlay” or “ready state” in the past but “last mile” may be just as apt. The simple fact is that underlay is the foundation for everything you build above it so mistakes there are amplified.

Historically, simple systems still required manual or custom steps while complex systems where fragile and hard to learn. This dichotomy drives operators to add a cloud abstraction layer as a compromise because the cloud adds simple provisioning APIs at the prices of hidden operational complexity.

What if we had those simple APIs directly against the metal? Without the operational complexity?

That’s exactly what we’ve achieved in the latest Digital Rebar release. In this release, the RackN team refined the Digital Rebar control flows introduced in v3.1 based on customer and field experience. These flow are simple to understand, composable to build and amazingly fast in execution.

For example, you can build workflows that handle discovering machines with burn-in and inventory stages that install ssh keys that automatically register themselves for Terraform consumption. Our Terraform provider can then take those machines and make new workflow requests like “install CentOS” and tell me when it’s ready. When you’re finished, another workflow will teardown the system and scrub the data. That’s very cloud like behavior but directly on metal.

These workflows are designed to drive automatic behavior (like joining a Kubernetes cluster), simplify API requests (like target state for Terraform), or prepare environments for orchestration (like dynamic inventory for Ansible). They reflect our design goal to ensure that Digital Rebar integrates upstack easily.

Our point with Digital Rebar is to drive full automation down into the physical layer. By fixing the underlay, our approach accelerates and simplifies orchestration and platform layers above. We’re excited about the progress and invite you take 5 minutes to try our quick start.

Follow the Digital Rebar Community:

Podcast with Bernard Golden talking Edge Computing and the Container Hotel

Joining this week’s L8ist Sh9y Podcast is Bernard Golden, a long-time tech innovator and visionary and one of the ten most influential people in cloud computing according to Wired.com. Bernard and Rob Hirschfeld discuss the latest blog from Bernard and the impact of Edge Computing and the reality of implementing this concept. We are also introduced to the Container Hotel.

Topic                                                                              Time (Minutes.Seconds)

Introduction                                                                               0.0 – 0.39
Edge Computing Blog                                                             0.39 – 3:35    (Bernard Blog)
Other Non-Control Loop Use Cases                                     3.35 –  7:10
Environmental Computing / IOT                                           7:10 – 9:05
Fallacy of Vendor-based Solutions                                       9:05 – 13:25
How Manage Edge Hardware                                                13:25 – 16:00
Container Hotel                                                                         16:00 – 16:50
No One Cares about Hardware                                              16:50 – 23:40
Cloud Extensions – Not Mini Clouds                                     23:40 – 27:05
Like Cloud but Own Data-Center Can’t Do What I Want   27:05 – 29:55
Wrap-Up                                                                                     29:55 – END

Podcast Guest: Bernard Golden

Bernard Golden is a long-time tech innovator and visionary. Wired.com named him one of the ten most influential people in cloud computing, and his blog has been listed in over a dozen “best of” lists. He is the author/co-author of five books, including Amazon Web Services for Dummies, the best selling cloud computing book ever.

From 2012 to 2015 Bernard served as an executive at two cloud computing software startups: Enstratius (acquired by Dell, 2013) and ActiveState Software (cloud product line acquired by HPE, 2015).

After leaving ActiveState, Bernard began researching and consulting across a number of new technologies, including machine learning, drones, genomics, and 3D printing. One, however, stood out as the next innovation platform that will transform our society: blockchain.