Enterprise Architecture @ Swansea University

So a brief summary of EA @ Swansea – what’s what etc.

One Enterprise Architect – Me.  One Solution Architect assigned to the Dev Team to architect in house developments, plus two Business Analysts.

Frameworks –  Best described as based on TOGAF using ArchiMate 3 as the modeling language.  Currently Architecture happens as part of a standard project cycle run by the PMO.

Tools – Orbus iServer is being used for the Repository.  Currently running 2017 version but a upgrade to the 2019 version is due shortly.  Which brings an API and integration with Microsoft Flow.  Viewing the iServer repository is available via the iServer Portal

There is also a Microsoft Team Site for Enterprise Architecture

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Exploring Wardley Maps

I’ve been reading up about Wardley Maps and trying to understand where they fit in with EA. So a few thoughts…

  • In EA terms what I believe the Maps show is an Architectural “View Point” of an EA Model.  So we have a Graph (as  in Mathematic Graph theory, not as in an X/Y plot) presented against a pair 0f variables – “Value Stream” and “Evolution” (Which being very picky fits in with the Dictionary Definition of a Graph, and not a Dictionary Defined Map which seems to stick Spatial (Geographic) Maps and DNA!) – See References below.
  • Anyway, the Model in Wardley Maps doesn’t really define what the nodes represent (a real map would use symbols and a key), but it is possible (not necessarily) desirable to represent them using ArchiMate for example – e.g. Roles & Actors (Client Role), Business, Application and I.T. Services etc.  Here’s is my effort at a Map for the “As-is” Blackboard VLE:

    Wardley Map for VLE

    Wardley Map for VLE

  • What’s really nice about the Maps is that they (and Simon Wardley’s “book”) manage to present in essence a Strategic level of Enterprise Architecture without once mentioning the phase “Enterprise Architecture” which I suspect helps make them more acceptable to senior managers.
  • What’s nice and clear from the Maps is that an Organisation should be investing time and effort towards the top left of the map – so Custom Build or Customise Product elements that are important on delivering value to the customer, whilst trying to use Commodity/Utility as much as possible for the “invisible” layers.   So for the University a key value stream is for Teaching and Learning for Students, so the “To-be” replaces the off the shelf (but mildly customised – e.g. Branded) VLE with a custom portal built on Office 365, looks like this:

    Wardley Map for possible Student Portal

    Wardley Map for possible Student Portal

  • EA would be able to provide other more detailed views of this data, and could record and summarise, for example, the costs for each of these building blocks e.g. by sizing the blocks based on cost, so showing which solution is more cost effective, or highlight the Security Risks by tagging the blocks with Red/Amber/Green icons.
  • Simon Wardley demonstrates duplication and commonality by overlapping multiple maps, which in the University’s case would likely show that even if the VLE were migrated to Office 365, the Windows Server/VMware elements would remain to support many other services with the only savings to be made there in the amount of hardware required.  Of course, a further map could show “evolution” of VMware etc to a cloud based IaaS solution such as Azure or a Hybrid Azure solution which would sit across the Product/Commodity boundary?
  • The examples are very much a first try at Wardley maps and so I’ve already seen some missing elements – e.g. Networking!

References

Oxford Definition for Graph

Oxford Definition for Map

About Graph (plots) vs Graph (Theory)

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The Great Exchange 2016 Crash

I often get frustrated when facing I.T. outages (e.g. home broadband down) with the lack of detail in the information put out.  So this is an attempt to provide an overview of the recent Exchange outage, with the aim of providing an idea of the scale of the problem and why it’s been taking so long to restore service.

Background

ISS I.T. Services have been trying to migrate off our aging Exchange 2010 environment onto a new Exchange 2016 environment, with the eventual aim of moving the majority of users to Office 365.  In order to do this new HPE Server Hardware was purchased in a “Best Practice” configuration for the new Exchange 2016 environment.  These were setup, added to the Exchange environment and migration of students proceeded without any problems.    Migration of the staff accounts then followed and reached about 15% of staff before the problems started.

The Crash

On 23rd October, one of the 4 servers crashed and rebooted with a “Blue Screen of Death”.  The reboot triggered an automatic “repair” of the file systems on the server – normal for servers these days.  However, a combination of this repair and the reboot resulted in damage to some of the database mailbox stores which prevented them mounting.

Normally, when this happens the Exchange system flips over to a secondary copy of the database (for fault tolerance we keep two copies and a nightly backup).  However, it seems that the database damage replicated to the copy somehow and hence both “live” copies became unavailable, this resulted in a large number of mailboxes being unavailable to end users.

Whilst trying to recover the databases from backups, other servers in the 4 server cluster also “Blue Screened” damaging further databases.  We also ran into issues when trying to restore databases from backups…

schodingers-backup

Our 3rd Party Support company, having been pulled in to help, did a “Root Cause Analysis” and the conclusion was that the Disk Systems on the servers could not keep up.    This lack of performance was picked up by Exchange’s “Health Service” as a problem which triggered the “Blue Screen” in order to protect itself. This resulted in the disk corruption and hence the database corruption.  Once recovery has completely we will be looking at the Systems to determine the exact cause of the disk performance problem.

The Recovery

Having now got a number of damaged databases all on servers which could best be described as “delicate” when hit with lots of disk traffic, ourselves and our support company looked to try and recover the data to our old 2010 service – a “rollback”.

Several methods have been used involving backups, database repairs, restores, mailbox moves etc.  Some of these have proven extremely slow – for example two restores for student mailboxes (approx. 4000 mailboxes each) have taken over a week and are still going – these users are those who will be missing a week or two of data.  Some of the new methods have had more success and since they are working with the recovered damaged databases are recovering all data. The Disk I/O bottleneck limits the number of activities we can progress at any time.

Given the time take to get the old data back, affected users will had a “dial tone” mailbox – i.e. Empty – which enables them to send and receive mail which will receive recovered mail as and when we can.

The Future

Once everything is rolled back to Exchange 2010 we will be looking at options going forward, such as a revised 2016 rebuild and Office 365, engaging some hardware independent Microsoft consultants to help us make the right decisions.

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vSphere 5.1 VSA some observations

I’ve been looking into vSphere 5.1’s Essentials Plus free Virtual Storage appliance (VSA). So first a few gotchas – first it requires four NICs before it’ll install, and it seems to take over all spare storage, leaving no local storage for VMs which you don’t what to run with HA – e.g. if you have two DNS servers – HA is irrelevant, as you have fault tolerance at the Application layer.

Haven’t tried this, but I suspect you’d just need to divide your local storage into two chunks – I can do this using my HP Smart Array Controller, so the single disk set presents as multiple virtual disks – one for VSA and one for normal use. Then you install ESXi as normal, create a VMFS partition on the VSA disk before installing the VSA. Once the install is completed, you should be able to put VMFS on the “normal” disk.

I’ve also taken a brief look inside the VSA – thinking it was likely a DRDB based solution, but it actually seems to be is a SUSE 11 VM using MD on top of iSCSI to provide the mirrored volumes. So if you’ve got some linux skills then creating a homebrew version which you have more control over is going to be fairly easy.

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Microsoft Campus Licences Renewed

We just renewed our Microsoft Campus licence.  In particular we have now licensed each node in our vSphere cluster for Windows Server and System Centre Suite in their respective Data Centre Editions.  This means we all allowed to install any of the following on these nodes:

  • Windows Server (any version, any edition, 2003, 2008, 2012, Standard, Enterprise, etc.)
  • Hyper V
  • System Centre Operations Manager 2012
  • System Centre Virtual Machine Manager 2012
  • System Centre Data Protection Manager 2012
  • System Centre App Controller 2012
  • System Centre Configuration Manager 2012
  • System Centre Service Manager 2012

Also, we have licensed the Campus for the Education Desktop (OS + Office) with the Enterprise CALs.  So CALs for all the above products are covered for client use on our PC estate.  Finally we have licensed 6 nodes for SQL Server Enterprise Edition which allows us to mint any number of SQL Server VMs on those nodes – subject to physical memory CPU constraints obviously!

This leaves us some interesting quandaries.   Specifically how much should we pay for products which are better in some ways than the Microsoft equivalents listed above.  Currently we pay extra for:

  • Novell Zenworks: App Controller + Configuration Manager
  • RMS Helpdesk: Service Manager
  • VMware vSphere Enterprise: Hyper-V + Virtual Machine Machine
  • Veeam (back for vSphere) -Data Protection Manager
  • VMware View:  Included in Windows Server 2012
  • VMware ThinApp:  App Controller

Together this duplication of licencing runs to in excess of £30,000 a year.  Add to this the fact that we are reaching the levels of virtualisation that would require us to purchase VMware Operations Manager, Chargeback and vCloud – all of which appear to be covered already by Virtual Machine Manager and Operations Manager.

So how much should we pay for “best of breed”, if indeed these additional products are best of breed any more?

 

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