Welcome!

Security Authors: Roger Strukhoff, Paul Speciale, Elizabeth White, Kevin Jackson, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Virtualization, Java, SOA & WOA, Cloud Expo, Security, SDN Journal

Virtualization: Blog Feed Post

Bare Metal Blog: Mean Time Between Failures

MTBF has meaning well beyond storage

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.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Don MacVittie

Don MacVittie is Founder of Ingrained Technology, LLC, specializing in Development, Devops, and Cloud Strategy. Previously, he was a Technical Marketing Manager at F5 Networks. As an industry veteran, MacVittie has extensive programming experience along with project management, IT management, and systems/network administration expertise.

Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was a Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing, where he conducted product research and evaluated storage and server systems, as well as development and outsourcing solutions. He has authored numerous articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. MacVittie holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Northern Michigan University, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, has spent 16 years as a marketing, product management, and busin...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: Samsung recognizes that true, accelerated innovation cannot be driven from one source, but requires a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash Inc., will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic • Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it’s a mix of architectural style...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accelerate their digital channels with APIs, drive partner adoption, monetize their assets, and achieve a...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customizable platform to easily integrate into existing software solutions, embed business logic and build s...
Connected devices are changing the way we go about our everyday life, from wearables to driverless cars, to smart grids and entire industries revolutionizing business opportunities through smart objects, capable of two-way communication. But what happens when objects are given an IP-address, and we rely on that connection, sometimes with our lives? How do we secure those vast data infrastructures and safe-keep the privacy of sensitive information? This session will outline how each and every connected device can uphold a core root of trust via a unique cryptographic signature – a “bir...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, will discuss how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Spansion Inc. (NYSE: CODE), a global leader in embedded systems, today added 96 new products to the Spansion® FM4 Family of flexible microcontrollers (MCUs). Based on the ARM® Cortex®-M4F core, the new MCUs boast a 200 MHz operating frequency and support a diverse set of on-chip peripherals for enhanced human machine interfaces (HMIs) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The rich set of periphera...

SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce the value of the network in helping organizations to maximize their company’s cloud experience.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Matrix.org has been named “Silver Sponsor” of Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Matrix is an ambitious new open standard for open, distributed, real-time communication over IP. It defines a new approach for interoperable Instant Messaging and VoIP based on pragmatic HTTP APIs and WebRTC, and provides open source reference implementations to showcase and bootstrap the new standard. Our focus is on simplicity, security, and supporting the fullest feature set.
Predicted by Gartner to add $1.9 trillion to the global economy by 2020, the Internet of Everything (IoE) is based on the idea that devices, systems and services will connect in simple, transparent ways, enabling seamless interactions among devices across brands and sectors. As this vision unfolds, it is clear that no single company can accomplish the level of interoperability required to support the horizontal aspects of the IoE. The AllSeen Alliance, announced in December 2013, was formed with the goal to advance IoE adoption and innovation in the connected home, healthcare, education, aut...