The Register Columnists

Jon Collins

Contact Mail Follow Twitter RSS feed
SGI logo hardware close-up

High performance for the masses

Reg reader survey High-Performance Computing (HPC) has traditionally been seen as the domain of the über-specialist. It’s as close as the IT industry will ever get to “2 Fast, 2 Furious” – gangs of highly technical experts pushing their custom-built computers to the limit with an aim to win that ultimate prize, a place in the world …
The Register breaking news

The long and winding road to server virtualisation

Reader feedback "Move along, nothing to see here," said Reg reader Joshua 1, a self-confessed "old timer on the virtualisation front," in response to the question of whether server virtualisation was ready for prime time. Indeed it is difficult to read anything about virtualisation without getting the impression that it is inevitable. But while …
Jon Collins, 04 Feb 2010

Show me the money!

Workshop IT costs money, and the job of any CIO, IT director or manager will include some element of balancing the books. In their simplest form, budgets split across money for new acquisitions and one-off purchases, and money to be spent keeping things going, covering everything from contract renewals and staffing, to spare parts and …
Jon Collins, 29 Jan 2010

Storage is boring, right?

Workshop In the spirit of calling a spade a spade, it is fair to say that computer storage is generally perceived to be quite dull – in Douglas Adams terms it would qualify as ‘mostly harmless’. While this is a bit of a shame for people who look after storage, backups and so on (let’s face it, the job description is never going to break …
Jon Collins, 22 Jan 2010
The Register breaking news

Data protection and virtualised machines

Lab Let’s face it, we’re not very good at backups. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. Few organisations could one hundred percent put their hands on their hearts and say, “Yup, we’ve got it covered!” And as my esteemed colleague Tony Lock likes to point out, even places that think they have backups taped (if you’ll excuse the pun) …
Jon Collins, 21 Jan 2010
Broken CD with wrench

Post-Copenhagen, does green IT matter?

Workshop It's difficult to talk about “green IT” without coming across as a techno-apologist. However much suppliers lay claim to having the most tree-huggingly planet friendly technologies available, the indisputable, unavoidable, insurmountable truth is that IT is largely about wiring up and plugging in sometimes large pieces of …
Jon Collins, 20 Jan 2010
The Register breaking news

Why an embedded OS is like a mammal

Embedded software applications are like the mammals of the software industry – while the monolithic dinosaur applications slug it out up in broad daylight, the embedded apps scurry about in the undergrowth doing what they do best, hidden from all but the most observant. While this isn’t an analogy you’d want to push too far, it’ …
Jon Collins, 17 Jan 2010

Is dynamic IT management necessary for mid-sized firms?

Workshop It’s a fair assumption that the operational management of IT follows some kind of maturity model. Many organizations are, in theory, chaotic; a logical next step is to implement a layer of control, and from there one might say one could start building a managed environment. After that – hurrah! – it is reputedly an easy hop, …
Jon Collins, 15 Jan 2010

Understanding service requirements: How true are the truisms?

Workshop How easy it is to say that ‘IT service delivery should start with the business’? It’s one of those statements like ‘the customer is king’ or ‘always clean up as you go along’, that may indeed save time in the long run but which can be a lot harder in practice than some theorists would like. Like many a true word, just because …
Jon Collins, 14 Jan 2010
SGI logo hardware close-up

Demystifying architecture for non-enterprise organizations

Workshop Architecture, schmarchitecture... words like “architecture” get banded around in IT like they have a specific meaning, when in reality you’d get ten different definitions from ten different people if you asked. But few would agree that IT should do without some degree of ‘structure’, be it mere forethought or understanding about …
Jon Collins, 13 Jan 2010

IT infrastructure: what really matters?

Mini Poll It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day… and a new year for IT strategies to be set, budgets to be fixed and plans to be rolled out. The current rhetoric would suggest it’s all about cost – and for many organizations it may be. But each business is different, both in terms of the problems it is trying to solve, and the objectives it’s …
Jon Collins, 12 Jan 2010
The Register breaking news

Delivering and deploying software for virtualisation

Lab To date, much of the outside attention on virtualisation has fallen on the infrastructure side of the equation – that is, what’s the impact of adding such a software layer to physical machines etc. etc. But, as we discussed in our recent webcast, as the thinking moves beyond the pilot phase for virtualisation, then the spotlight …
Jon Collins, 12 Jan 2010
The Register breaking news

What to do about virtual server security?

Lab Security’s important, right? Well, so it may be – but when it comes to virtualisation, it’s not hard to get the impression that it isn’t being treated as seriously as it should be. I don’t know about you, but when I read about the take-up of virtualisation, the feeling of foreboding is not unlike seeing a five-year-old play with …
Jon Collins, 15 Dec 2009
The Register breaking news

Where is virtualisation taking you?

Lab Anyone who’s been in this industry for longer than a decade will know that some of what IT vendors say needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Virtualisation holds great promise, so we are told – but yet so did blade servers, grid architectures, enterprise management solutions, application service providers... the list goes on. …
Jon Collins, 14 Dec 2009
The Register breaking news

Just how political is your IT organisation?

For this week, the last in this workshop series, we were looking at the near-future, with particular focus on how we deliver server resources and a central question – are we any closer to the nirvana of dynamic IT delivery? I’d love to say we’ve learned a lot from your feedback. What we can say is this is not an area that …
Jon Collins, 27 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

Juggling server virtualisation and database workloads

Lab As the conversation moves from generic virtualisation of ‘quick win’ workloads such as web servers and print servers, development and test environments, one-off applications and so on, the question arises – where does server virtualisation go next? One potential area is to see virtual machines as a target for database workloads …
Jon Collins, 27 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

Responding to change in the server room

Mini Poll When talking about managing the server environment, we hear all kinds of words bandied around to suggest how organisations might benefit from enhanced levels of flexibility, adaptability, agility, you name it. But resource allocation, that is, how well existing or new server capacity meets new or changing requirements, is where …
Jon Collins, 25 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

Orchestration and the server environment

Workshop Few words in the IT industry’s vocabulary are more grandiose than ‘orchestration’, evoking images of symphonic movements, rows of groomed musicians and wild-haired, baton-pointing conductors. Just how the term came to be used for the allocation of server resources must leave IT managers more than a little flummoxed, however. It’ …
Jon Collins, 24 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

Where is server virtualisation taking us?

Lab No, no, not the v word...! There are few topics that have garnered as much interest recently as virtualisation. And that’s not just coming from us – the level of feedback we get on this is head and shoulders above many other areas. But let’s be realistic. As the Reg Tech Panel has informed us, the majority of workloads that have …
Jon Collins, 20 Nov 2009

Infrastructure convergence - The two sides of the coin

Comment Let’s be fair – IT isn’t the only industry fraught with jargon, but it can certainly hold its head up high among the leaders in the field of gobbledygook. The minefield of acronyms we all have to suffer is worsened by the astonishingly bad practice of overloading individual, sometimes quite innocuous words and combining them …
Jon Collins, 19 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

What upcoming plans do you have for your server estate?

Mini Poll It's coming up to budget setting time again. As many of you are likely to be making changes to your server estates, we would like to know what plans you have for the coming year. Do you intend splashing out on new kit or will you be carrying on with what you have? Of course, if you are buying new stuff, the question arises of …
Jon Collins, 17 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

Stuff you run v. stuff you run it on

Mini-poll There are lots of things to say about servers, and there are lots of things to say about applications. One of the curses of the IT industry is the ease at which we can remove the working context between things and talk about them as though they exist in isolation. Whether this simple observation is the primary cause of business- …
Jon Collins, 11 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

Is the server layer just a commodity?

Workshop It’s been a while since Nicholas Carr wrote his polemic ‘Does IT matter? which documented how IT was commoditising, turning into a utility with little to differentiate itself – a theme which he continued in the book The Big Switch. He was clearly demonstrating an economist’s grasp of technology – falling onto the trap of …
Jon Collins, 09 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

What does a server environment look like anyway?

Workshop Stock photo companies have got a lot to answer for. For most people, the phrase ‘server environment’ generally conjures images of sleek racks of equipment, all glistening chrome and black with just the suggestion that the equipment requires no management at all, or if it does, it will be conducted in some place far away like the …
Jon Collins, 04 Nov 2009
The Register breaking news

A short poll about server architectures

Tech Panel Reg readers, we're interested in finding out what your server architecture looks like, and how this might map onto what we have uncovered as some of the core challenges. Is it hub-and-spoke, all in one place or highly distributed? Let us know. READER POLL 1. If you add up everything in the boxes, racks and blade chassis, roughly …
Jon Collins, 02 Nov 2009

Are you mulling new ways of refreshing desktop and laptop estates?

Workshop In this week’s poll we asked if people were rethinking their desktop strategies, and what options they were considering. So what is really happening – is anyone actually considering refreshing their desktop and laptop estates? Well when we asked you “Have you been given pause for thought about your own desktop strategy for any …
Jon Collins, 30 Oct 2009

How much does desktop PC support actually cost?

Workshop Here’s a direct question on this (hopefully sunny) day. Do you, or does anyone in your organisation, know precisely how much money you spend on PC support? In principle, this sounds straightforward enough to answer – after all, isn’t it just about the desktops and laptops, and the software they run? But in our travels we have …
Jon Collins, 15 Oct 2009
The Register breaking news

Remind me what we're doing again?

Workshop Over the past few weeks that we’ve been writing about service management, it’s become very clear just how hard it is to hold the fort. Indeed, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of you don’t wonder – at least to yourselves – why bother? This is actually a very good question, and one which deserves just a little scrutiny. …
Jon Collins, 12 Oct 2009
DVD it in many colours

The great productivity myth: Are we slaves to the machine?

Workshop Desktop computers crash - that’s life. We know from numerous research studies that, while there are indeed ‘bad guys out there’, in most instances the causes of downtime are far more mundane – application failure, connectivity problems and the infamous ‘blue screen of death’. We can’t blame Microsoft for everything (as I …
Jon Collins, 12 Oct 2009

Desktop minipoll results – user ignorance is bliss?

Workshop The results are in from yesterday’s mini-poll, and they are pretty conclusive – even if we take into account that removing users altogether is not an option. The top two types of call may be quite easily balanced – as you can see from the chart, between ‘don’t know how to do something’ and ‘application not responding’. When we …
Jon Collins, 09 Oct 2009

The state of desktop support

Mini-Poll This week we've been looking at desktop management from the point of view of supporting users. It can be a jungle out there, as one reader illustrated: Somehow, people still sneak through with all kinds of configurations and it's killing us - so many deskside visits it's unbelievable. But is that the norm, or are some of you …
Jon Collins, 07 Oct 2009

Probably the best server survey in the world

Last week we asked you to tell us about your desktop environments. The response was fabulous, with over a thousand people filling in our survey. This week, we want to build a picture of your x86 server environments: what’s working and where are the challenges? Is today a time of change in the data centre, particularly as we come …
Jon Collins, 25 Sep 2009
The Register breaking news

IP telephony: Still happy?

Reg Reader Studies The benefits of IP telephony (IPT) are now increasingly understood, and as offerings proliferate, we are starting to see wider scale adoption become reality across all types of business. But has the move to IPT been all it’s cracked up to be? Are problems around service and call quality still causing major headaches? What model …
Jon Collins, 23 Sep 2009
The Register breaking news

Managing the Windows desktop estate: Your view

Reg Reader Studies Some things in life, it is often considered, should ‘just work’ - and so it is for the desktop and laptop PCs (the majority running Windows) that are in general use across organisations of all sizes. Pity the poor person who has to keep these facilities running, often in the face of complete disinterest from the users themselves …
Jon Collins, 16 Sep 2009
The Register breaking news

The cloud virtualization black hole

Reader Workshop Last week was an interesting one for the virtualization workshop, as we turned our attention to cloud computing and the reaction has been, well, nothing. Well, that's not quite fair – the comment on Virtualization and the cloud was, "Good article. Please, I implore you to add case studies," and on Unravelling the cloud confusion …
Jon Collins, 01 Sep 2009
The Register breaking news

Cutting your teeth on desktop virtualization?

Reader Study It could be argued that desktop virtualization was where it all started in terms of the current hoo-ha around virtualization as a whole. Most attention might now be focused on the server, but there's still plenty of potential for virtualization on the desktop. While desktop virtualization may be simple in principle, in practice …
Jon Collins, 26 Aug 2009
The Register breaking news

Unravelling the cloud confusion

Reader Workshop In the last article we looked at whether virtualization provided a springboard to that loosely knit set of capability some refer to as 'cloud services'. But, as we've found previously when discussing such topics, cloud is a can of worms (if that's not too much of a mixed metaphor). So, what is meant by cloud services? As we have …
Jon Collins, 26 Aug 2009
The Register breaking news

Cutting your teeth on desktop virtualization?

Reader survey It could be argued that desktop virtualization was where it all starte' in terms of the current hoo-ha around virtualization as a whole. Most attention might now be focused on the server, but there's still plenty of potential for virtualization on the desktop. While desktop virtualization may be simple in principle, in practice …
Jon Collins, 25 Aug 2009
The Register breaking news

Virtualization and the cloud

Reader Workshop A reasonably fundamental principle of virtualization is that it creates a layer of abstraction between a virtual machine and the physical hardware. As we have already discussed in this series, this allows multiple virtual machines to run on a single physical machine, and also can enable a virtual machine to be moved quite …
Jon Collins, 24 Aug 2009
The Register breaking news

Getting under the shell of virtualization

Round up Week 3 What's an operating system anyway? The questions we posed this week were quite disconnected, but they inspired similar perspectives from the comments. Not least, respondents to the first article sought to address what exactly was an operating system. Graham Bartlett summed it up perhaps, by saying: The answer really is " …
Jon Collins, 18 Aug 2009
The Register breaking news

Does *free* virtualization = certain chaos?

Reader workshop This week we broached the subject of 'stuff that can go wrong with virtualization'. One of the comments we received on last week’s round-up article serves as a good lead in. The Reg reader was asking for: 'free, good virtualization software [to] come with server OS'es as standard...once virtualization software costs drop to " …
Jon Collins, 07 Aug 2009

Virtualization security – oxymoron or perfect partnership?

Workshop So far in this series we've looked at where virtualization is at, and where it's going in terms of both benefits and operational challenges. Like many newly adopted technologies, the law of unintended consequences comes into play – virtualization will undoubtedly be used for a raft of previously unimagined things. Similarly, …
Jon Collins, 05 Aug 2009
The Register breaking news

Server virtualization – what could possibly go wrong?

Workshop Indisputably, server virtualization has a lot going for it. The challenge does not lie in its faults, given that no technology is perfect. Rather, when we researched this topic we found that the level of competence and/or experience around virtualization is not particularly high. So what could go wrong? Top of the list - given …
Jon Collins, 03 Aug 2009
fingers pointing at man

App dev security – where are the risks?

Thanks for some great comments from the article about making applications more secure. One of my favourites was, “It's all very well trying to make your software idiot proof, but the problem is that the world keeps creating bigger and better idiots.” How true this often appears. Meanwhile, from secure applications we can turn …
Jon Collins, 17 Jul 2009
The Register breaking news

Chrome OS: Windows killer?

Google’s announcement last week concerning its plans to bring out a fully fledged operating system was inevitably going to put the cat amongst the twitterati. “Let’s see,” asked the pundits, “who else makes operating systems?” Of course the intention was to have the Microsoft marketing monster shaking in its boots, not least to …
Jon Collins, 15 Jul 2009

How secure are your applications?

Let’s be blunt. The fine heritage of application development has not traditionally incorporated the pre-emptive creation of secure code, i.e. programs that are built from the ground up to be secure. There are a number of potential reasons for this – not least that in the old days, before every system was connected (either …
Jon Collins, 30 Jun 2009
For Sale sign detail

When rip and replace is not an option

Comment Today’s brochures about data centre design show pictures of row upon row of rack-mounted devices, and come with the clear message that in networking, servers and storage, conformity is the answer, efficiency is the goal and value is the inevitable result. This message is reinforced by many parties. Networking companies such as …
Jon Collins, 22 May 2009
The Register breaking news

Register readers on software development

This is one of a series of articles which draws on research conducted in partnership with The Register in October 2008. In this article, we focus on application development, current initiatives and the tools and technologies being used. Software development is business as usual Software development is alive and kicking. Indeed …
Jon Collins, 13 Apr 2009
The Register breaking news

Do we get the IT security we deserve?

In recent weeks we have run a number of connected "articles" about IT security. In this, the last article in the series, we reflect on security as a whole, and reviewing some of your feedback. We kicked off with a piece on "why IT security matters" . While we said that it would be a rare IT person who saw security as unimportant …
Jon Collins, 03 Apr 2009
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Linux on the desktop: cheap trick or pragmatist’s dream?

Reg Tech Panel Welcome to our third and final poll on desktop operating systems. First, we looked at Vista readiness for business use: you can check out a short write up of that one here. Then we moved onto one of the main contenders to desktop Windows, Mac OS X. In this week's poll we turn our attention to desktop Linux: the challenge is to …
Jon Collins, 30 Mar 2009