Continuing this week's theme on Storage Area Networks, today I thought I would talkabout the various terms we use for our equipment.
One area of confusion are the adjectives "entry-level", "midrange" and "enterprise-class".What do these mean? Well, as in the case of disk and tape, these three are all relative terms that are a combination of "small, medium, large" as well as "good, better, best".
- Entry-level switches are typically only a maximum of 8-16 ports.Ports can connect the switch to a server, a storage device, or another switch.These are sometimes called "edge" switches, as they might be found in the mostremote sections of an office campus, remote branches, or other isolated areasoutside the primary data center.
- Midrange switches typically have a maximum of 32-64 ports.More ports on a single switch means fewer switches (and fewer cables) to manage.
- These are called "directors" to distinguish them from entry-level and midrange offerings.Directors have a maximum of 140-528 ports, and because so many devices or switches can beconnected to them, they need to be extremely reliable. Directors are designed for 24x7operation, with the ability to make most upgrades and configuration changes while the boxis running (often referred to as "non-disruptive upgrades"). Availability is typically better than "five nines", or 99.999 percent, which means that the box will be up 99.999 percent of the time, or conversely, will be down lessthan 5 minutes per year.
If you are asking yourself "which size is right for my company?" or "is my company big enoughfor a director?" you are asking the wrong questions! Instead, determine a SAN configurationthat meets your workload, and then decide the components for that design.
McData coined a phrase called "core/edge" design that is considered today as "Best Practice" throughout the industry.A good write-up can be found here at SearchStorage.com. Basically, you put your big beefy "core" directors in the center of the room, and then surround it with midrange switches, that then these connect to "edge" switches, that then connect to the servers and storage near them. As you grow, this design can easilyscale to grow with you.
So, if you need help implementing a SAN for the first time, or upgrading the one you have,call IBM, we can help!
technorati tags: IBM, SAN, switches, directors, entry-level, midrange, enterprise, non-disruptive, McData
Last week, Paul Weinberg of eChannelLine.com asks Is this the year of the SAN (again)?
So, I thought this week I would cover my thoughts and opinions on storage networking. We oftenfocus on servers or storage devices, and forget that the network in between is an entire worldon itself.
I believe Mr. Weinberg is basing this on the idea that in 2007, over 50 percent of disk will beattached over SAN, edging out the alternative: Direct Attached Storage (DAS). But perhaps 50 percentis the wrong number to focus on. In 2007, The United Nations estimates thatcities will surpass rural areas, with just over 50 percent of theworld's population. Does that make this the "Year of the City"? Of course not.
Instead, I prefer to use the methodology that Malcolm Gladwell uses in his book, The Tipping Point.(I have read this book and highly recommend it!)Gladwell indicates that the tipping point happens at the start of the epidemic, not when it is half over.Isn't it better to celebrate the sweet 16 debutante ball when young ladies have completed their years of training and preparation, and are ready to be introduced to the rest of the world, rather than after they are thirty-something, married with children.
Let's explore some of the history. Stuart Kendric has a nice 7-page summary on theHistory & Plumbing of SANs.
IBM announced the first SAN technology calledEnterprise Systems Connection (ESCON) way back in September 1990. This allowed multiplemainframe servers to connect to multiple storage systems over equipment called "ESCON Directors" that directedtraffic from point A to point B. Before this, mainframes sent "ChannelCommand Words" or CCWs, across parallel "bus and tag" copper cables. ESCON was serial overfiber optic wiring. SANs solved two problems: first, it reduced the "rat's nest" of cables between many serversand many storage systems, and second, it extended the distance between server and storage device.
For distributed systems running UNIX or Windows, the CCW-equivalent over parallel cables was called Small ComputerSystem Interface (SCSI). The SCSI command had over 1000 command words, so for its Advanced Technology (AT) personal computers (PC AT), IBM introduced a subset of SCSI commands called ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment). ATA drives supportedfewer commands, ran at slower speeds, and were manufactured with a less rigorous process. Today ATA drives are about 55 percent the cost per MB as comparable SCSI drives.
Anyone who has ever opened their PC and found flat ribbon cable with eight or sixteen wires in parallel, can understand that the same issues applied externally. Parallel technologies arelimited to distance and speed, as all the bits have to arrive at the end of the wire at approximately thesame time. Direct attach schemes with every server attaches directly to every storage device were also problematic.Imagine 100 servers connected to 100 storage devices, that would be 10,000 wires!
So, a new technology standard was developed, called Fibre Channel, ratified in 1994.The spelling of "Fibre" was intentionally made different than "Fiber" on purpose. "Fibre" is a protocol thatcan travel over copper or glass wires. "Fiber" represents the glass wiring itself.
Fibre Channel is amazingly versatile. For today's Linux, UNIX and Windows servers, it can carry SCSI commands, and the combination of SCSI over FC is called Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP). For the mainframe servers, it can carry CCW commands. Running CCW over Fibre Channel is called FICON. This convergence allows mainframes and distributed systems to share a common Fibre Channel network, using the same set of switches and directors.
We saw the use of SANs explode in the marketplace over the past 10 years, and then cool down with a series of mergers and acquisitions. Last year, Brocade announced it was acquiring rival McData, so we will be down to two major players, Cisco and Brocade.
So, IMHO, I think we are well past the "Year of the SAN".
technorati tags: IBM, SAN, storage, disk, United Nations, population, tipping point, Malcolm Gladwell, ESCON, SCSI, FCP, FICON, ATA, Brocade, McData, Cisco, Linux, UNIX, Windows
Continuing this week's theme of New Year's Resolutions for the data center, today we'll talk about one that people don't always think about on a personal level, that is to hone your tools and skills.
A long time ago, I used to be a regular speaker at the SHARE user group conference. One of the most attended sessions was Sam Golob presenting the latest CBT Tape set of tools. Over time, this large collection of "mainframe shareware" was handed out on 3480 tape cartridges, then on CDs, and finally made downloadable off the web.Sam's main point, which I remember to this day, was that everyone who has a job should figure out what tools they use, keep those tools functioning properly, and learn to use them well.
Later, I took some cooking classes at a culinary school. Among other things, we learned:
- A sharp knife is safer and easier to use than a dull one, resulting in fewer accidents
- Knowing what you are doing is the difference between food that is "simply awful" to that which is "awfully simple" to prepare.
- A well trained chef can prepare most meals with just a sharp knife and wooden spoon.
This last point hits close to home, as many people like me have too many tools that they do not use often enough to know how to use them well. Do I really need my strawberry corer, garlic press, or a tray designed for the storage and delivery of deviled eggs?
The same could be said about software tools. What tools do you use in your job? Do you feel you know how to take full advantage of their power and capabilities?If you develop software, do you know all the features for your debugging tools? If you develop advertising or marketing materials, do you know all the features of your photo or video editing software? If you manage storage in a data center, do you know all the tools for managing your storage area network (SAN), disk systems, tape libraries, and reporting tools to identify all of your files and databases across your entire IT environment?I would not be surprised if you could replace a whole mess of tools with just one, such as the IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center.
For me, I resolve to learn how to better use Lotus Notes e-mail client, and perhaps the new Office 2007.
technorati tags: Sam Golub, SHARE, CBT, tape, disk, SAN, mainframe, cooking, tools, IBM, TotalStorage Productivity Center, Lotus Notes, Office 2007
Wrapping up this week's theme of New Year's Resolutions for the data center, the New York Times argues we should go easy on the resolutions
, so I'll conclude with reducing stress. Lighten up! Relax, and try not to take your job so seriously.
(I know you're probably thinking, "That's easy for you to say, Mr. paid-to-play-golf-with-clients big-shot executive, but what about the rest of us?" or perhaps "I can't do that! My job is so important that if I didn't take it so seriously, my company would go bankrupt, my industry would falter, and global economies will collapse!" I can understand. Over 70 percent of all of the world's business transactions travels through, or sits on, IBM equipment, so you can imagine how stressful my past 20 years have been. Bear with me, read on, and hopefully you might benefit from my past experiences.)
- Laugh out loud
- Everytime someone laughs out loud at the office here in Tucson, everyone else within earshot stops what they are doing and rushes over to see what is so funny. Likewise, everytime it rains during normal working hours, people stop what they are doing, and run to the windows to see what water coming out of the sky looks like. Do you work in a "dry" climate, where laughter, like rain, is a rare occurrence?
Recognizing the benefits of laughter on reducing stress and improving health, my friends and I started theTucson Laughter Club back in 2004. There are hundreds of laughter clubs across the United States and the rest of the world, sometimes referred to as "Laughter Yoga" groups. Those of you readers in Tucson are welcome to join us, our next meeting is January 13.
Look to see if there is one near you, or start your own. Until then, laugh while you watch this funny storage-related video from the folks over at Sun StorageTek, or this one from Kodak.
- Every laughter club meeting starts out with some breathing exercises. If you feel stressed, try this simple2-minute relaxation technique.
- I'm not just talking about stretching our muscles here.
- The next time you tell the story, stretch the truth a little, aim for 70 percent truth, 30 percent embellishment.
- The next time you are making plans for lunch or dinner, stretch yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new and different, new restaurant, or different type of cuisine.
- The next time you get called by a phone solicitor or telemarket, stretch out the conversation, have fun with it, ask them what they are wearing, and share with them all the successes and problems you have at work, until THEY hang up first.
- The next time you are throwing a party, stretch your invite list to include someone you normally wouldn't invite, perhaps a neighbor or co-worker.
- The next time someone insists you make a list,stretch the process out, to give you more time to drink their expensive wine.
- When you hear the phrase Work/Life Balance, do you think to yourself, "I would settle for Work/Sleep Balance!"You're not alone. The National Sleep Foundation reports that most Americans don't get enough sleep, which can causevarious health problems.
So get plenty of sleep at home, before you get fired forsleeping on the job.
- Get along with others
- Peace on earth starts one relationship at a time.I found this amusing article on Wired, discussion the Top Blogfights of 2006.Can't we all get along? I stopped two blog-fights in 2006, just by pointing to the facts, and setting the record straight.
If there is someone you are not getting along with at work, fix it. Sooner, rather than later. Here are tips to be more assertive.
- Listen to Music
- Can you listen to music where you work? Listening to music has been shownto help reduce stress.I've got my Thinkpad T60 laptop connected to my wireless bluetooth headset, so I can listen to relaxing music without disturbing anyone else, and not be "tethered" to my system with traditional headphone wires.
In her book, "Life Hacker: 88 tech tricks to turbocharge your day", Gina Trapani suggestsPink noise. I prefer"The Quiet Earth", an internet radio station on Live365.
So, relax and enjoy your weekend. And remember, when you get back to the office on Monday, its only ones and zeros.
technorati tags: New Years, resolutions, reducing stress, laughter, Tucson Laughter Club, Laughter Yoga, Sun, StorageTek, Kodak, Work/Life Balance, sleep, blogfights, assertive, music, LifeHacker, Live365, Pink Noise
Continuing this week's theme of New Year's Resolutions
for the data center, today we'll talk about one that many people make for their own personal lives: staying on a budget.
Often, when faced with a tightening budgets, we try to make more use of what we already have. Tell someone they are only using 10 percent of their brain, and they immediatelybelieve you; but tell them they are only using 30 percent of their storage, and they ask for a whitepaper,magazine article, or clarification on how that percentage is calculated. I actually visiteda customer that was only using6 percent of the storage attached to their Windows servers!
So, to help those of you making data center resolutions to stay on budget, the terms to remember are "Reduce", "Reuse" and "Recycle".
- When people come to request storage, are they being reasonable about what they need today, or are they asking for what they might need over the next three years? They might need 50GB, but they ask for 100GB, in case they grow, and a year later, you find they have only 15GB of data on it. On the flipside, the person asks for what they need but some storage admins give out more, just so they don't have to be bothered so often when growth happens. Finally, I have seen this formalized into fixed size LUNs, all the disk is carved into big huge 100GB pieces, so if you need 20GB, here's one big enough with plenty of room to grow.
If you are going to keep on a budget, remember that storage today is 30% more expensive than storage next year. That is the average drop in both disk and tape on a dollar-per-MB basis. If there is any way to postpone giving out storage until it is actually needed, you can save a bundle of money. Timing is everything! In the event of a disaster, getting immediate replacement for disk can be very expensive, but if you can wait just two weeks, you can negotiate a better deal. I thought of this while going to the movie theatre yesterday. A "hot dog" and a bottle of water was $8.00, but if you are able to wait two hours and eat after the movie, you can get a much better meal for less.
- A lot of companies buy new storage because their existing storage isn't fast enough, or doesn't have the latest copy services. This can easily be solved with an IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC). The SVC can virtualize slower, functionless storage, and present to your application hosts virtual disks that are faster, and with all the latest disk-to-disk copy services like FlashCopy, Metro Mirror, and Global Mirror.
Chances are, you have unused disk capacity spread across all your storage today, but perhaps they are formatted into small LUNs. The SVC can combine the capacity, and let you carve up big LUNs at the sizes you need.This is like taking all those tiny pieces of soap in your shower and forming a new bar of soap, or taking all the crumbs at the bottom of your bread box, and making a new slice of bread. And, the virtual LUNs are dynamically expandable,so give out only the amount they need today, as it is simple to expand them to larger sizes later.
- Of my 13 patents, the first will always be my favorite, on a function called "RECYCLE" for the Data Facility Storage Management Subsystem Hierarchical Storage Manager (DFSMShsm) product, which is now a component of the IBM z/OS operating system. Basically, tapes could contain hundreds or thousands of files, such as backup versions or archive copies, and these expired on different dates. As a result, a tape would be written100 percent full, and then over time, decrease in valid data to 80, 60, 40, 20 until it hit 0 percent. In some cases, a single filecould hold an entire tape hostage. RECYCLE was able to read the valid data off tapes that were perhaps less than 20 percent full, and consolidate them onto fewer tapes. As a result, a whole bunch of tapes could be returned to the scratch pool, and reused immediately for other workloads. This also helps in moving to newer, higher capacity cartridges, such as the new 700GB cartridge that IBM co-developed with FujiFilm.(This RECYCLE function exists in our IBM Tivoli Storage Manager software, as well as our Virtual Tape Server, but is called "reclamation" instead, to avoid confusion on searches.)
When evaluating your use of tape, determine if you are making best use of the tapes you have now, and perhaps a RECYCLE (or reclamation) scheme may be in order. Fewer tapes can save money in many ways, such as reduced storage costs, and reduced courier costs to send the tapes offsite. Tape media can still be 10-20 times less expensive than disk, based on full capacity.
technorati tags: IBM, storage utilization,RECYCLE, Tivoli Storage Manager, SAN Volume Controller, SVC, tape, disk, FujiFilm, DFSMS, HSM, DFSMShsm, Virtual Tape Server, brains