Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Links for 12-18-2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Relearning past lessons about databases (& etc.)

There's an interesting interview with database guru Michael Stonebraker over at GigaOm. One of his points in particular caught my attention.
“My prediction is that NoSQL will come to mean not yet SQL,” he said.”… “Cassandra and Mongo have both announced what looks like, unless you squint, a high-level language that’s basically SQL.”
The perceived value of a purely low-level language all but gone, Stonebraker thinks NoSQL systems will also come to embrace ACID capabilities. It might already be happening.
“I think the biggest NoSQL proponent of non-ACID has been historically a guy named Jeff Dean at Google, who’s responsible for, essentially, most to all of their database offerings. And he recently … wrote a system called Spanner,” Stonebraker explained. “Spanner is a pure ACID system. So Google is moving to ACID and I think the NoSQL market will move away from eventual consistency and toward ACID.”
I suppose every new technology generation has to relearn the lessons of the prior one. I took a data science course earlier this year which, among other topics, spent some time going over NoSQL and "NewSQL" database technology. One of the clear trends was that a lot of the supposed baggage, such as ACID, that was ripped out of databases in service of performance and simplicity is now starting to get added back in many cases.
In Map-Reduce land, there are analogous trends. For example, Apache Pig "is a platform for analyzing large data sets that consists of a high-level language for expressing data analysis programs, coupled with infrastructure for evaluating these programs. The salient property of Pig programs is that their structure is amenable to substantial parallelization, which in turns enables them to handle very large data sets."
I guess it wasn't such a bad idea after all to build a lot of the optimization and parallelization in at the DBMS layer after all rather than forcing application programmers to handle it. On a side note, as someone who was following processor tech quite closely when multi-core hit the scene, I suspect that one of the reasons the "parallel programming problem" didn't develop into as big a problem as some thought it would be is that databases and other middleware (to use the term broadly) largely abstract parallelization.
I see this relearning of past lessons pervasively through cloud computing more broadly. Although, perhaps, reimagining is a better term. When we see the pervasive use of RESTful APIs, we're not really seeing SOA 2.0, although that makes a convenient shorthand. We are seeing a services-centric approach to delivering IT services. But it's a services-oriented approach that's much lighter weight and doesn't carry nearly the same amount of baggage as, say, a mid-nineties SOAP-based implementation. It's useful to understand why we did things or tried to do them in the past. It's also useful to understand why they might have been suboptimal or even ultimately failed--and why the environment (whether tech, ecosystem, or need) might be different now.

Controlling Clouds: Beyond Safety updated presentation

I've given a version of this cloud computing governance overview at several events over the past year. I made a few tweaks and recorded about a 20 minute audio track to go with it (although you can get most of the content just by going through the slides.)

Links for 03-16-2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

AWS re:Invent: Using Red Hat's OpenShift PaaS to Develop Scalable Applications on AWS

Red Hat's Steven Citron-Pousty is a fantastic presenter. Here's the talk he gave on OpenShift at AWS re:Invent in November which rated #1 for the whole conference. Strongly recommended!

Software is eating the world: software defined storage edition

"Is Your Storage Vendor Heading Towards the Elephant Graveyard?" was the provocative title of a presentation given by research directors Gene Ruth and Arun Chandrasekaran at the recent Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas. I couldn't make it out to the show myself but one of my colleagues was sufficiently struck by this preso to share it with me.

So what struck us about the presentation?

Screen Shot 2013 12 13 at 12 18 55 PM

Certainly not everything discussed was unexpected. Flash memory has finally emerged as an important component of the enterprise storage market. Full stop. Gartner noted that it can even lower storage costs by allowing IT shops to avoid array upgrades and by lowering spindle count. (I'd argue that new technologies coming down the road such as persistent memory are also going to have a big impact but the bottom line is that we're finally moving beyond using essentially one class of storage media for everything besides backup/archive.)

What was less expected was the emphasis on open source and software defined storage (SDS). Now, don't get me wrong. It should hopefully be obvious that I don't need any convincing about the importance of these trends. I do after all work for Red Hat and we bought Gluster, the developers of GlusterFS, a couple of years back. GlusterFS (Red Hat Storage Server is the name of the commercial product) is an open source, high-scale, distributed filesystem that runs on volume x86 hardware. In other words, software defined storage.

But Gartner is often seen as taking a wait-and-see approach to disruptive new technology approaches. Its clients after all tend towards the mainstream to late adopters of technology as another Gartner analyst, Lydia Leong, told me a while back. Therefore, that Gartner is advising clients to put plans in place around storage trends such as SDS, open source, and hybrid clouds is noteworthy.

To be sure, Gartner makes it clear that the full promise of SDS isn't here today. That's fair. SDS is still relatively new even though Red Hat Storage Server is in production use at companies such as Intuit and Pandora. At the same time, though, Gartner doesn't equivocate about SDS's future. It recommends: "Begin evaluating SDS — it's a nascent concept today, but its time is coming."

Among the advantages of SDS that Gartner recognizes are:

  • Enables a vendor agnostic hardware infrastructure
  • Moves operations toward an SLA delivery model
  • Enables new hiring practices and skill profiles
  • Challenges conventional data placement thinking

Gartner also recommends that IT shops "insist that incumbent storage vendors develop and enable storage technologies that support hybrid cloud infrastructures."

Venture capitalist and co-founder of Netscape Marc Andreessen famously wrote about how software is eating the world. Software defined storage (like software defined networking) is just another aspect of this trend. The hardware doesn't go away of course. The bits have to sit somewhere. But the intelligence that places, replicates, and mediates the access to those bits is increasingly in open source software rather than in custom circuitry and silicon or the microcode of a proprietary vendor's array controller.

Links for 12-13-2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Links for 12-12-2013

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Links for 12-05-2013

Podcast: AWS re:Invent 2013 with Jane Circle

Red Hat's Jane Circle works with our certified cloud provider program and attended AWS re:Invent this year along with a number of other Red Hat folks. This year's event was twice as big as last year's and, among other things, featured an increased enteprise focus. Jane talks about what she heard from customers at the event and shares some observations about cloud security, cloud adoption, and cloud management.

Some relevant links:

Red Hat Storage Data Protection Workshops (tickets still available for Toronto and San Diego)
Amazon re:Invent

Listen to MP3 (0:12:33)
Listen to OGG (0:12:33)


Gordon Haff:  Hi, everyone. This is Gordon Haff, Cloud Evangelist with Red Hat. Today, I'm sitting here with Jane Circle, who heads Red Hat's Certified Cloud Provider Program. Welcome, Jane.
Jane Circle:  Thanks, Gordon. Glad to be here.
Gordon:  The reason we're having this podcast right now is Jane and a bunch of other Red Hat folks just got back from Amazon AWS re:Invent, out in not so lovely Las Vegas.
This is the second year of the show. Tell me, at a high level, what some of your impressions are and how things were different this year from last year.
Jane:  That's a great way to start. First of all, the attendance. We had about twice as many people, this year, at AWS.
They had about 8,500 people in attendance and about, I'd say, 200 sponsors this year, which was about a threefold increase from the sponsors from last year. It was a much bigger show.
From the AWS point of view, they really focused on introducing new services for enterprise customers. We also talked to a lot of our own enterprise customers in our booth and on the show floor.
Gordon:  I didn't make it out there this year, but I was listening to the keynotes over the Internet. I was struck, in Werner Vogels' keynote, how many of the things he announced and talked about were things that are very directly relevant to IT shops.
Jane:  Absolutely. Their focus is on commercial customers moving to the cloud, obviously, and still talking a lot about wholesale movement to the cloud.
What we found, when we talked to customers actually on the floor, is customers are still in the planning stages and just‑getting‑started stages, whether that's a one‑year or a three‑year project.
What they're most interested in, at least in talking to us at Red Hat about, is how they can manage AWS as a public cloud in conjunction with their data center resources. That was a big focus and concern for them.
Gordon:  Amazon even used the "hybrid" word up on stage this time, even though they still, of course, believe everything will be public and the on‑premise data center is a passing fad.
The amount of interest in hybrid out there is striking. It's even pushed Amazon to acknowledge that this is the reality if they want to sell to enterprise businesses.
Jane:  Absolutely. I agree with that. Certainly, our messages with open hybrid cloud resonate very well and worked in nicely with that talk, with Vogels' talk, as well as some of the other services that they're offering.
Gordon:  I was at re:Invent last year. Talking to people over by our booth, I would just say the majority of folks there were "Red Hat, you do Linux." Were things any different this year?
Jane:  They were hugely different. First of all, I didn't have any Microsoft aficionados coming by, saying, "What's Red Hat Enterprise Linux?"
There's a good understanding that Linux, and especially Red Hat Enterprise Linux, is the operating system to power the cloud. We didn't have to have that talk.
What we did find is that customers were very interested in cloud solutions. What can they take today and implement and then take into the future one year and three years out, and how can Red Hat help them plan for that?
When we talked to customers, we talked about our complete cloud stack, which was very important to them, that we don't just have point solutions. We don't have solutions that just, frankly, enable a service, a point service, or a point solution on AWS. We can help them with the breadth of our portfolio.
Gordon:  People often talk about developing applications for "the cloud," whatever they mean by that exactly. The popular image is of this long‑haired developer in sandals doing this DevOps‑y sort of thing, depending on what they mean by that word exactly. Is that a type of developer that you're talking to, or is it really a broader mix?
Jane:  It's a much broader mix. From our standpoint, we love talking to the DevOps guys. They came by, by the droves, to our booth and to talk to us.
We also got a fair number of administrators coming by, wanting to understand how to manage the environment. We had very good demos on CloudForms.
We just released CloudForms 3.0, which will give our customers on AWS much more manageability and flexibility in looking at that as a resource in conjunction with their data center resources as well. I would say it was a good mix between DevOps folks, as well as admins.
Gordon:  Speaking of CloudForms 3, in addition to supporting OpenStack, which we announced out at the OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong, one of the things that really struck me from the AWS support in CloudForms 3 was the support for virtual private clouds.
Which a lot of organizations seem to be really cottoning on to as though "Maybe this is the way we get that additional level of control in a public cloud."
Jane:  We've had customers using VPCs, for years now, on AWS. It works out quite well for them. We're actually working in proof of concepts with one of our large enterprise customers, who is moving much of their production‑level applications to AWS.
They're doing it all through VPCs. That added capability is definitely needed. Again, our support with OpenStack makes a big difference to our customers.
The fact that we're on the forefront of really understanding, whether it's through a proof of concept with our customers or production‑level applications, that we understand what it means to actually build applications on a cloud.
It's not necessarily cloud‑centric. What they're looking at is a global policy for security across their entire organization, and VPCs are one way to achieve that.
Gordon:  Probably being a bit rude to our listeners. We probably ought to explain, for anybody who doesn't already know, what a VPC is. Take it away.
Jane:  [laughs] A VPC, simply within Amazon, stands for virtual private cloud. It's a way that, in layman's terms, a customer or a user can wall off an application or an environment such that it's only accessible via firewall.
It's basically a straight pipe back to their own application environment. It really affords a level of security that, in a multi‑tenant, unmanaged cloud, doesn't exist in other clouds.
Really, enterprises need this level of security for them to feel comfortable moving to the cloud. Even when our customers are using VPCs... AWS will talk about this too... there's still this visceral feeling within security operations groups that it's still not safe.
That's not the case at all. VPCs offer a very high level of security for our customers. We feel comfortable with our customers using it.
Right now, we have actually moved a customer using our own security environment all the way to AWS. We have professional consultants that are very well‑versed in VPCs and how to use them, and so does AWS.
Gordon:  There certainly are some very legitimate reasons why folks will still want to run their own data centers. There are certainly governance issues, compliance issues, and various legal types of restrictions, on where data can be stored, for example. But the "Public clouds are insecure" really seems increasingly naive these days.
Jane:  I don't hear that much anymore. That may still, as I said, be a visceral reaction, but when you actually get down to the planning and the architecture, our security operations people readily embrace them.
We can do a reference architecture that includes VPCs, and our enterprise customers feel comfortable with that.
Gordon:  Let's move on to some other elements of the stack. Data is a big deal with the cloud. We talk about, for instance, having portable applications, portable workloads, that kind of thing, but portable data is, arguably, at least as important.
Jane:  AWS made some announcements around Hadoop at the conference. We actually just released a new version of Red Hat Storage, which supports Hadoop and Big Data applications.
We had the opportunity, at re:Invent, to hold a boot camp, which essentially was a six‑hour, full‑on training session for attendees that wanted to come and learn about how to move data and secure data.
Also, with these Big Data applications, scalability and flexibility is a huge issue. With the new version of Red Hat Storage, we've added features to allow for that, for these Big Data applications.
That was a great opportunity for us to connect with those attendees, hear their use cases, and work with them almost one on one during this training session. That was a really positive experience as part of re:Invent.
Gordon:  That's GlusterFS, for people who are maybe more familiar with the community name of the project. There's also a lot going on with OpenStack, with Gluster and Red Hat Storage Server as well.
Jane:  Absolutely. That's really exciting work that we're doing in the community.
Also, I should just mention that if folks want to know more about Red Hat Storage, they're actually running a roadshow now. I'm not sure all the cities that they're going to be in, but I'm sure we have information, Gordon, that you can provide to them on that.
Gordon:  There will be a link on my blog post, once this podcast is posted. I do have to give a shout‑out to one of our developer evangelists, who got the number one session ranking at re:Invent.
Jane:  Steve Citron‑Pousty. He is an amazing evangelist. If any of you have a chance to see him speak and to hear him, he's just fantastic. He's entertaining. He's energetic as all get‑out.
He conveys an enormous amount of information in a small amount of time. He had one of the main tent sessions at re:Invent. We were just thrilled when he got number one speaker. Some of the comments were fantastic.
He really took everyone through the paces of OpenShift, which is our Platform‑as‑a‑Service offering that comes in three different flavors. He really concentrated on the entire ecosystem and how to build a PaaS and integrate a PaaS on top of an IaaS stack like AWS. It was really fantastic.
Gordon:  It's pretty amazing to see how Amazon Web Services and re:Invent have come along. I was an industry analyst before joining Red Hat. I wrote my first research note about Amazon Web Services just in 2006, which is not all that long ago.
Now, you have a show in Vegas with 8,000 or however many attendees. It really is an important factor in the industry.
Jane:  It is, and it's international as well. Besides AWS having eight regions, the uptick in our customers wanting to understand how they can incorporate AWS and public cloud is across the board, in every region.
In fact, we had a contingent of our Japanese customers who came to AWS, which we thought was fantastic, along with a translator and everything. They were there to learn and to also understand where is AWS going to go for the next year.
We can clearly see that they're going to be adding more services, as they already have. We'll go right along with them.
Not to give short shrift, at all, to the fact that we have millions of customers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux, now on‑demand and also using our Red Hat Cloud Access, which is a bring‑your‑own‑subscription model, to move their subscriptions to AWS and build their applications there.
It's Japanese. It's over in Europe. It's certainly over here in the United States. Their fastest growing region still is in APAC.
Gordon:  Great. Anything else, Jane?

Jane:  No. It was a great experience. We are now getting ready for Red Hat Summit, which we can't wait for, coming up in April.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Links for 12-04-2013

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Red Hat Enterprise Linux on Google Compute Engine

Google Compute Engine, essentially an AWS competitor, is out of beta.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux will be available on GCE--as it is on AWS and other clouds. This post by Red Hat's Jim Totton has the details on this collaboration.

Through this collaboration, we deliver:

  • Extended Choice: As a member of the Red Hat Certified Cloud Provider program, Google Compute Engine is a trusted and supported destination for developers, application owners, and administrators looking to benefit from the value of Red Hat. Additionally, as part of Red Hat’s open hybrid cloud ecosystem, Google Compute Engine provides the added choice of an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform for customers looking to extend their environment in conjunction with a service provider.
  • Consistency: Red Hat Enterprise Linux instances on Google Compute Engine deliver the same features (e.g., performance and security), and lifecycle (release and update cycles) as on-premise environments. If an application needs the latest development and run-time packages provided by Red Hat Software Collections, or security provided by SELinux, Google Compute Engine provides the consistent features and capabilities for robust application deployments. 
  • Certification and Support: A core value of Red Hat offerings is the assurance of support and certification for the platforms on which they are deployed. This promise spans from hardware platforms to virtual and cloud environments, providing customers with support at all levels of the stack and across all deployment models. Red Hat and Google have worked together to ensure that the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) platform that Google Compute Engine is built upon, is powerful, capable, and supported when running application workloads on Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the guest operating system.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Amazon drone kerfuffle

I wasn't going to hop on as it's already all over the place, but a few quick thoughts so I can call it a day.

You may or may not buy the claim that this was orchestrated to distract from a recent unflattering book and other, albeit rather minor, PR hits. I'm not sure I do. What I do know was that this was pretty much a puff piece airing the night before the biggest online shopping day of the year. That makes it a huge PR coup in any case and one which 60 Minutes--which at least purports to be a serious journalistic institution should have taken no part in. For appearances sake if nothing else.

Amazon, like others, is seriously interested in same day delivery. As such, it only makes sense that they would be experimenting with and investing in various delivery channels and logistics approaches in support of that goal. In that vein, prototyping a delivery drone makes perfect sense. So would putting out feelers and even doing a little lobbying around the concept to feel out what's possible and what isn't--and maybe influencing regulations a bit even if, realistically, delivery drone-friendly regulation is years or decades away. Amazon has a history of taking the long view.

But, make no mistake about it, this is a long and speculative play--for innumerable reasons that many others have articulated. Fundamentally, I'm not sure when or if we as a society will happily countenance swarms of small drones (excuse me, UAVs) swarming through the skies. And it's hard to imagine them functioning in cities at all--in there words, precisely where population is densest.

Finally, we actually know how to do a pretty good job of same day, even 30 minute, delivery given sufficiently close "distribution centers." It's called Dominos. In all fairness, pizza shops can operate at a lot smaller scale than warehouses. But same day delivery doesn't have to mean 30 minute delivery and it's not hard to imagine some sort of multi-tier distribution system from a warehouse outside an urban core to local delivery people in the city or around a set of suburbs. To be sure:

Those with memories that stretch back a dozen or so years (or who have watched the documentary “E-Dreams”) will remember The start-up offered free delivery of videos, toiletries, and snack foods in about an hour, thanks to a fleet of drivers and bike messengers. The company raised $250 million — including $60 million from Amazon — but couldn’t make the economics of same-day delivery work. Kozmo was out of business by 2001.

Amazon is at a different scale point today and is probably much closer to making the model work--even without drones. Which brings us to the fundamental point. This isn't really about drones.

There's no problem getting stuff from point A to B--assuming the stuff is in stock at point A and assuming a route that can be traversed at some speed between the two points. A are called warehouses. The route is called a road. The "only" challenge is doing so in a way which is economically feasible--which is to say it doesn't lose the retailer money because the buyer is willing to pay the retailer's average costs of delivery, perhaps subsidized in part by the profit margin on the purchase.

That's one of the big lessons of the dot-com crash. It's great that people want things. I want things. But to get them, I need to pay for them. 


Links for 12-02-2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Red Hat's Ashesh Badani talking cloud at AWS re:Invent

From AWS re:Invent, CIO Strategic Advisor Tim Crawford of AVOA (@tcrawford) interviews Ashesh Badani, General Manager Cloud Business Unit and Openshift at RedHat. He discusses Red Hat's investments in cloud and cloud management.

Links for 11-26-2013

The non-minimum viable kitchen

Around the beginning of the year, Matt Maroon wrote a piece called The Minimum Viable Kitchen. The title was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek reference to the minimum-viable-product startup idea even though the kitchen, as described, wasn't really minimal. Don't think of Asian street food vendors sweating over charcoal grills. Rather, as Matthew describes it:

This post lays out the Minimum Viable Kitchen (MVK) for creating gourmet food. It’s aimed at the person that wants to make truly great food, but isn’t quite sure where to get started or how expensive the commitment will be. As it turns out, you can assemble all the kitchen equipment you need to become a great chef for under $1000. This post isn't trying to convince you to become a great chef or a foodie, but if you are already so inclined, it will help you get started.

It's a good post and I recommend it. Here's my take which I've been meaning to write for a while. Some context and a few caveats first though.

Utensils DSCF0513

I'm assuming that you have a kitchen--which is to say an oven, stovetop, dishwasher, refrigerator, and microwave. (A microwave is more a handy tool for warming than cooking but it's so universal that it factors into some recipe prep too.) I have some opinions about those if you're starting afresh but I'm not going to get into those here. I'm likewise going to aim this post at the hypothetical reader going from $0 to about $1K--although I probably wouldn't actually recommend even the Twitter IPO winner just running out and buying everything. I'm giving a lot of opinions about what works for me but especially pots and pans and utensils and knives are best built out incrementally based on preferences and cooking habits.

In the same vein, I'll be leaving out a lot of little things that may be useful based on your particular cooking preferences; I'm trying to keep things general purpose. So I won't include a lobster pot or accessories even though these are things that I personally use on a regular basis. I'll also be doing a follow-on post on some bigger "add-ons" that I personally find useful but are probably too specialized for the general case. 

Also, a bit of context. I do a lot of cooking but not a huge amount of baking so this list is probably a bit light on baking pans and other accessories which could be a whole separate post. I'm also leaving out various small appliances that aren't really related to cooking. So no coffee machines or toasters. Nor do I go the modernist route in this post although I do have a DIY sous vide setup as well as a copy of Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine at Home. Finally, this post is about gear but putting together spices and other staples will be an equal part of building your NMVK. 


Here's where I'm probably most going to disagree with Matt. I really can't imagine trying to start someone out with Thomas Keller, even if it is his "simplified" Ad Hoc at Home. Modernist cuisine (i.e. using water baths, whipping siphons, and the like) may well be all very cool and so forth but--call me old-fashioned--I have trouble imagining all but the most uber-geek entering into cooking that way. (And you still need the traditional stuff anyway.)

If I had to pick one, it would be Cook's Illustrated The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition

The Cook's Illustrated crew, headed by Chris Kimball, is something of a mini-industry. They have shows on public TV, magazines, a Website that they actually succeed in getting folks like myself to subscribe to (something many newspapers would sincerely love to accomplish), and a passel of cookbooks that profitably rework and repurpose large swaths of content.

The central conceit of Cook's Illustrated is that everything from recipes to techniques is tested, tested, tested. They're also probably the best-known example of the modern "cooking geek" approach in that they investigate and explain why particular techniques work or don't work. (Alton Brown is another author who focuses on the science of cooking but without the obsessiveness of Cook's Illustrated.)

The Best Recipes is an encyclopedic work and it does a great job of breaking down and illustrating how to do things in the kitchen with something over 1,000 recipes in all. Because it does so much more than just present a bunch of recipes, this has become my go to reference for how to do things in the kitchen and a starting point for how to handle a cut of meat or other ingredient. If there's a knock on Cook's Illustrated it's that the whole "we tried 50 different ways of boiling an egg" shtick can get a bit old after a while. More to the point, I find it can result in recipes that are a bit fussy with three types of cheeses grated three different ways and the like. Also be forewarned that large quantities of cream, butter, and the like often seem to play heavily into getting the best tasting result. Still, overall, a great reference and a good bargain given its size.

A few other possibilities.

Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Today: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen capped a long string of cookbooks from the late, lamented Gourmet magazine. It reimagines recipes for the ingredients now available (in moderately cosmopolitan urban settings). 

Amanda Hesser similarly reimagined the long line of cookbooks from The New York Times with The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century while very much maintaining a link to Times recipes of year past. 

Of course the Internet has tons of recipes. And, for my readers, learning about the underlying science in books like Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen and Jeff Potter's Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food may be more interesting and useful than recipe books. (Though I still have large shelves of those--albeit with older books generally rotating into newer ones.)


Knives are key. In fact, I've found that since spending the money on some decent knives and learning how to keep them sharp I don't use a lot of my electric chopping gear nearly as much. It's still good stuff to have, especially for larger quantities. But, by the time you factor in cleanup, it's really faster and easier just to chop up the onion--and more consistent besides. 

The following is my idiosyncratic list of the four knives that I use most frequently. There are cheaper knives out there; Victorinox gets good reviews. There are also much more expensive knives out there. The Wusthof Classic line just feels good in my hand. Others I know swear by Shun. This is one area in particular where I would recommend starting out small and building incrementally rather than buying one of those knife sets. (I'd also mention that I seem to be a knife rather than a cleaver person for whatever reason.)

Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Cook's Knife ($119--I know, I know sticker shock but I use this daily)

Paring knife. Here's an example Victorinox Swiss Army 3-1/4-Inch Fibrox Straight Edge Paring Knife. I use this type of knife a lot but I can't say I care a lot about the details because I'm mostly cutting soft fruits and vegetables.

At this point I would recommend a top-notch big chef's knife like Wusthof Classic Ikon 10-Inch Cook's Knife but I'd totally blow our budget just as we were getting started so you might try something like the Victorinox 47521 10-Inch Chef's Knife, Black Fibrox Handle or just go down to a local Chinatown if you have one and pick up a big cleaver. (I prefer the 8" for daily use but you need something bigger for tasks like cutting chickens apart.)

Beyond the basics, I use a relative of the Wusthof Classic Ikon 7-Inch Fillet (which is also useful for cutting very thin slices of smoked ham for instance) and a smaller chef's knife like the WUSTHOF Classic 6-Inch Cook's Knife.

Once you have this expensive metal, you'll want to keep it sharp. Without going into the details of edge straightening and edge sharpening here, I use a combination of the DMT DS2E 12-Inch Diamond Steel Sharpening Rod, Extra Fine Grit and the Fiskars 7861 Axe and Knife Sharpener.

Pots and Pans

Again, this is a collection that you'll probably want to build up over time based on your needs. But here are a few suggestions to get you started. A few of these recommendations are stovetop dependent. You won't want an aluminum pot if you have an induction burner and you probably won't want uncoated cast iron if you have a smoothtop. I personally have gas and these, or pots like them, are things I use on a regular basis. I also mention a couple of things that I don't use regularly but are essential from time to time.

Circulon Contempo Hard Anodized Nonstick 3-Quart Covered Saucepot I don't have this particular pot but the Calphalon I have doesn't seem to be made any longer. I find a 3-4 quart heavy pot the perfect size for lots of things and having two short handles is ideal for deep frying and other tasks where you really don't want to spill something. Note that you don't want to cook acidic foods in aluminum. 

Lodge L10SK3ASHH41B Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Red Silicone Hot Handle Holder, 12-Inch Real traditional I know. But I still find a well-seasoned cast iron skillet to be versatile for a lot of things and inexpensive besides. 

T-fal E9380884 Professional Total Nonstick Oven Safe Thermo-Spot Heat Indicator 12.5-Inch Fry Pan / Saute Pan Dishwasher Safe Cookware, Black Nonstick gets a lot of disdain, in part because you can't brown food in it as well. But it's also great--even compared to well-seasoned cast iron--with sticky foods and delicate coatings. The T-fal line works well, while being inexpensive, which is important given that non-stick will lose its non-stick no matter how much you pay.

Lodge Color EC6D33 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, Blue, 6-Quart Dutch ovens are incredibly versatile and, while Le Crueset is great, you really don't need to pay those prices. You can use this pot for all sorts of soups and stews. I find the enameled version is better for most things than the plain cast iron. You wouldn't go wrong bumping yourself up a size either although the pot will start to get heavy at that point. 

A few other things that you may want:

Small (1 quart or so) saucepan. I use this all the time for melting butter and for heating small amounts of sauces.

Another pot in the 3-4 quart range. 

A tall six quart or so stock pot in addition to the dutch oven (but probably don't need this to start)

A roasting pan such as Calphalon Classic Hard Anodized 16-Inch Roaster with Nonstick Rack but only if you (well) roast--although it's useful for other things as well. 

A smaller skillet

(Unlike with knives, it may make sense to buy a pot set to get at least partially started although it won't cover everything.)

(Mostly) Rectangular stuff

Which, is to say, mostly stuff to bake in.

Pyrex Basics 8-Inch Square Baking Dish or two

Pyrex 3 Qt Oblong Baking Dish, Clear, 9" x 13"

A couple baking sheets (to put under things even if you don't bake cookies or all the other things you crisp in an oven)

Farberware Nonstick Bakeware 9-by-5-Inch Loaf Pan. These gets used for all manner of quick breads. (Substitute or add muffin pans.)

If you're interested in doing casserole-type stuff, you can probably get started with the above but may want to augment it with a basic set of Corningware such as CorningWare 1083955 French 14-Piece Bakeware Set, White. For quiches, you'll want something like BIA Cordon Bleu 1-Quart Round Quiche, White. And I'm leaving out relatively specialty baking gear such as springform pans--used for cheesecake although not exclusively so. 

Utensils and related

I'm mostly not going to go into specifics here, especially given that most people have at least some of these basics and can generally muddle along in many cases without upgrading everything. But here are some of the things you'll want. (See the photo for some of the favorites sitting in my drawer.)

Spatulas. I like metal for my uncoated skillets and something less destructive to use with non-stick.

Silicone scrapers. Silicon eis the bestest invention for lots of--though not all--kitchen uses. (Generally avoid it for pans.) Furthermore, I find myself now using silicone scrapers in place of spatulas when I'm primarily pushing things around (e.g. scrambled eggs) rather than flipping them. 

Silicone brushes.

The best ladle (according to Cook's Illustrated--and I agree).

Microplanes, e.g. Microplane 40020 Classic Zester/Grater. For zesting citrus fruits and parmesan, for example.

Slotted and unslotted spoons of various sizes and materials.

Whisks. I'd probably start with something like OXO Good Grips 9-Inch Whisk.

 OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler

CIA Masters Collection 6 Piece Measuring Spoon Set

Sieve(s). A basic fine wire mesh sieve (e.g. OXO Good Grips 8-Inch Double Rod Strainer) will be fine for many purposes although when we get into things like advanced soup making, the options explode (see e.g. chinois.)


Mixing bowls. Depending upon what I'm using them for I prefer either Pyrex or stainless.

Scoop. The example in the photo is from Chinatown.

One and two cup Pyrex measuring cups

Other stuff

Thermometers. Data is our friend. Instant read thermometers are especially useful when cooking meat. (Cook's Illustrated favors the ~$100 Thermapen but I've been happy with the ~$20 Polder.) Other types of thermometers are useful for deep frying, making candy, and checking that your oven is at the correct temperature. (You can also use sugar sorta phase change for this purpose.)

Major small appliances

This may be the most fraught area of these recommendations because the items in question are relatively expensive and how useful you find them is going to be dependent on what sort of cooking you want to do. That said, the items I'm going to mention here are fairly universal. As I mentioned earlier, I'll save more specialized gear for a later post.

Food processor. I have an ancient Cuisinart but, based on reviews at Cooks Illustrated and others, this model Cuisinart DFP-14BCN 14-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless Steel  seems to be a good choice. As I alluded to earlier, a good sharp knife is still a pretty efficient way to cut up a single vegetable. But a food processor can make quick work of lots of vegetables. When it comes to thin and precise slicing, it's hard to beat a good processor other than using a Mandoline. And you'll need an immersion blender and/or a high-speed blender to better a food processor at pureeing. The bottom line is that, while a food processor may not be the vey best tool for every task, it does well at a lot of them compared to both other machines and manual approaches. And even with a fairly fully-stocked equipment cupboard, I still keep my venerable old Cuisinart on the counter because it's just very convenient for doing many routine things. 

Stand mixer. Perhaps you don't see yourself baking in your NMVK. In which case I might concede you could get by shiningly with a cheap hand mixer for those times when you need to make some whipped cream or whatever. (And a hand mixer can be handy now and then regardless so it's not a waste to pick one up.) But, assuming all this cooking stuff is just not a passing fad, you'll probably end up with something like one of these regardless: KitchenAid K45SS Classic 250-Watt 4-1/2-Quart Stand Mixer, White. (KitchenAid makes bigger and more powerful models as well and most still regard them as the stand mixer standard.) Stand mixers are really useful for anything that involves beating lots of air into a mix, creaming butter, or kneading a dough. As a bonus, the KitchenAids also can be equipped with attachments for grinding meat and processing fruit or vegetables like apples through a mill for jam-making and other purposes. This may seem fairly exotic but it's nice add-on to a tool that you'll likely use for more mundane purposes on at least a semi-regular basis.

There are some small appliances that may or may not be useful to you depending upon your interests but I'm going to save those for a future post in the interests of keeping this post to a sane length and our budget within shouting distance of $1K.

Which is probably a good note on which to end. Again, the intention here is not to seriously argue that you NEED ALL OF THIS STUFF. But, rather, if someone were hypothetically going from zero to $1K kitchen, this is--for my tastes and my interests--what that kitchen might look like.