Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Lori MacVittie, Andreas Grabner, Jim Kaskade, John Basso

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo, Cloud Security, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: 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 currently a Senior Solutions Architect at StackIQ, Inc. He is also working with Mesamundi on D20PRO, and is a member of the Stacki Open Source project. He has experience in application development, architecture, infrastructure, technical writing, and IT management. 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
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, will share examples from a wide range of industries – includin...
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
"We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, discussed recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model for s...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Video experiences should be unique and exciting! But that doesn’t mean you need to patch all the pieces yourself. Users demand rich and engaging experiences and new ways to connect with you. But creating robust video applications at scale can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zohar Babin, Vice President of Platform, Ecosystem and Community at Kaltura, discussed how VPaaS enables you to move fast, creating scalable video experiences that reach your aud...
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
IoT is rapidly changing the way enterprises are using data to improve business decision-making. In order to derive business value, organizations must unlock insights from the data gathered and then act on these. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, and Peter Shashkin, Head of Development Department at EastBanc Technologies, discussed how one organization leveraged IoT, cloud technology and data analysis to improve customer experiences and effici...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...