Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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In his blog, Paul Gillin agrees with Time Magazine's Person of the Year choice of "all of us", those of us who use the World Wide Web to do business or have fun, and to those who contribute to the internet by creating content, such as people who blog or create websites.
So, in continuing my theme this week to recap the best and worst of last year, I list my personal "tech highlights" of 2006.
Programming my Tivo Remotely.
Last September, I realized on a 3-week business trip that I had not programmed my Tivo to record the premieres of each of the new season's television shows. If you miss the first few weeks, it might be difficult to make sense of the rest of the season. Fortunately, I was able to program my Tivo remotely through the internet.
Purchasing TV shows on iTunes
Despite this, I had a repeat episode of "House" record instead of a new episode of
Still unable to make sense of what was going on in the TV show "Heroes", I was able to read the "wiki" which explained all the subtle imagery and background implied.
Using Linux to rescue lost Windows data
My disk drive failed on my laptop, and although I had most of my data backed up with Tivoli Storage Manager prior to my business trip, I had some files that I acquired or updated during the business trip. Thankfully, there are Linux "LiveCD" images that allow you to access your Windows files. You boot these LiveCD images from your CD drive, so there is no installation of Linux on the hard drive itself. If you travel as much as I do, consider bringing along some Linux CDs to get you out of trouble.
Connecting my home entertainment system to my Mac
I now have an 802.1g (54Mb) wireless hub which allows my Tivo to connect wirelessly to the internet to get daily updates, but also allows me to play all my music stored on my Mac through my home entertainment system, and I can also listen to thousands of radio stations through "Live365.com". My favorite station is "Depeche Mode Inspired" which plays songs by Depeche Mode, as well as cover versions by a variety of others.
Learning to Blog
Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to blog, and this year has been a good learning experience. IBM has a fairly healthy blogging policy, but nonetheless, say the wrong thing and I could be in serious trouble. Fortunately, that hasn't happened, and I am glad to see a fairly open exchange of ideas among the set of bloggers that discuss storage issues.
Building a Snowman in Second Life
I have been a member of Second Life now since November, but it wasn't until I entered a competition to build avirtual snowman last week that the potential of this new interface became obvious to me. There is still lots to learn, but at least now I see value in spending more time and effort learning more about it.
Getting an all-in-one printer/scanner to work with both my Mac and IBM PC
I didn't think it could be done, but here it is, my all-in-one Printer/Scanner works correctly, seemlessly, from both my Windows PC and my Mac Mini, and I have it on my home network so my laptop can use it also, wirelessly!
Using Google Language Tools to translate materials to Portuguese
I speak several languages, enough to order food in restaurants and to get around through various modes of transportation, but translation for a technical audience is more challenging. A class we normally conduct in pure English was taken to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and although most students know some amount of English, we thought it would be good to translate the test questions to Brazillian Portuguese. I took the questions and ran them through a number of translation services websites, and had local IBMers review the results. The winner was Google language tools, which required hardly any edits to the generated text. The class was a big success.
Digital Cameras and CD Burners
As I travelled from Brazil to Bolivia last August, I met a young back-packer who was on her way to Peru, but was staying in La Paz for a few days. We had a great time together, and I was able to transfer the digital photos from my Canon PowerShot digital camera into my laptop and burn her a CD to take with her to Peru.
Painting my Dining Room table
After Halloween, I accidently left my pumpkin jack-o-lantern on my kitchen table as I left for a trip, and when I got back, it had decomposed and left a terrible stain on the wood surface. After sanding the table, I determined that the best course of action was just to paint the surface. I could have just painted it a solid color, or maybe a faux finish with two colors, but instead, chose to copy a famous painting, "Le Cafe" by Alberto Magnelli. I was able to scan this into my computer, resize it, and then project the image onto my table, to then outline the image and paint. I know I would not have been able to do this free-hand.
I am sure there are other triumphs I had throughout the year, but these are the first the come to mind.
'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' --- George Santayana
This last week of 2006 seems like a good time to recap the past year, and review the upcoming new year.That said, a good start is PC World's Top 21 Tech Screwups of 2006.
Laptops made the news this year in a variety of ways. #1 was exploding batteries,and #6 were the stolen laptops that exposed private personal information. Someone I knowwas listed in one of these stolen databases, so this last one hits close to home. Securityis becoming a bigger issue now, and IBM was the first to deliver device-based encryptionwith the TS1120 enterprise tape drive.
IBM makes the chips used in all the major game consoles: Microsoft's Xbox 360, Nintendo's Wii,and Sony's PlayStation 3. Being all based on IBM technology doesn'tmake the games interoperable or compatible, and in the case of Sony, it made #8 for being incompatible with their own PlayStation 2.Sadly, Nintendo's Wii had its own set of problems, and I found this parody of asafety video on YouTubeyou might enjoy.
Microsoft had #5 (not understanding the holiday shopping season ends in December), #12 (not understanding people who use PCs prefer privacy), and #17 (not understanding how people useMP3 music players). At least they delivered their latest Xbox with minimal problems.As an engineer, taking on a market strategy role involved reading books and taking classeson marketing. I learned that it is all about understanding the marketplace well enoughso that your prospects "know, like, and trust" your company. Perhaps Microsoft should take a refresher course.
A few companies showed off their brilliant customer service. Comcast is representedin a video on #7, and AOL in a taped phone conversation on #15. Many of our clients areafraid of vendor lock-in, and how difficult it might be to undo the deployment of new storagetechnology. Fortunately, IBM is committed to open standards, making it easier for our clientsto make the right choice and feel good about it.
Hopefully, we can all learn from the mistakes of others, and not repeat them in 2007.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, yesterday was this year's Winter Solstice, representingthe shortest amount of daylight between sunrise and sunset. So today, I thought I would blog on my thoughtsof managing scarcity.
Earlier in my career, I had the pleasure to serve as "administrative assistant" to Nora Denzel for the week at a storage conference. My job was to make her look good at the conference, which if you know Nora, doesn't take much. Later, she left IBM to work at HP, and I gotto hear her speak at a conference, and the one thing that I remember most was her statement that thewhole point of "management" was to manage scarcity, as in not enough money in the budget,not enough people to implement change, or not enough resources to accomplish a task.(Nora, I have no idea where you are today, so if you are reading this, send me a note).
Of course, the flip-side to this is that resources that are in abundance are generallytaken for granted. Priorities are focused on what is most scarce. Let's examine some of theresources involved in an IT storage environment:
Capacity - while everyone complains that they are "running out of space", the truth is that most external disk attached to Linux, UNIX, or Windows systems contain only 20-40% data. Many years ago, I visitedan insurance company to talk about a new product called IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. This company had 7TB of disk on their mainframe,and another 7TB of disk scattered on various UNIX and Windows machines. In the room were TWO storage admins for
the mainframe, and 45 storage admins for the distributed systems. My first question was "why so many people forthe mainframe, certainly one of you could manage all of it yourself, perhaps on Wednesday afternoons?" Their response was that they acted as eachother's backup, in case one goes on vacation for two weeks. My follow-up question to the rest of the audience was:"When was the last time you took two weeks vacation?" Mainframes fill their disk and tape storage comfortablyat over 80-90% full of data, primarily because they have a more mature, robust set of management software, likeDFSMS.
Labor - by this I mean skilled labor able to manage storage for a corporation. Some companies I have visitedkeep their new-hires off production systems for the first two years, working only on test or development systemsonly until then. Of course, labor is more expensive in some countries than others. Last year, I was doing a whiteboard session on-site for a client in China, and the last dry-erase pen ran out of ink. I asked for another pen, and they instead sent someone to go re-fill it. I asked wouldn't it be cheaper just to buy another pen, and they said "No, labor is cheap, but ink is expensive." Despite this, China does complain that there is a shortage of askilled IT labor force, so if you are looking for a job, start learning Mandarin.
Power and Cooling - Most data centers are located on raised floors, with large trunks of electrical power and hugeair conditioning systems to deal with all the heat generated from each machine. I have visited the data centers ofclients that are forced now to make decisions on storage based on power and cooling consumption, because the coststo upgrade their aging buildings are too high. Leading the charge is IBM, with technology advancements in chips, cards, and complete systems that use less power, and generate less heat. While energy is still fairly cheap in the grand scheme of things, fears ofGlobal Warmingand declining oil supplies, the costs ofpower and cooling have gotten some news lately. In 1956, Hubbert predicted US would reach peak oil supplies by1965-1970 (it happened in 1971), and this year Simmonsestimated that world-wide oil production began its decline already in 2005. Smart companies like Google have movedtheir server farms to places like Oregon in the Pacific Northwest for cheaper hydroelectric power.
Bandwidth - Last year IBM introduced 4Gbps Fibre Channel and FICON SAN networking gear, along with the servers and storage needed to complete the solution. 4Gbps equates to about 400 MB/sec in data throughput. By comparison, iSCSI is typically run on 1Gbps Ethernet, but has so much overheads that you only get abour 80 MB/sec. Next year, we may see both 8 Gbps SAN, and 10 GbE iSCSI, to provide 800 MB/sec throughputs. My experience is that the SAN is not the bottleneck, instead people run out of bandwidth at the server or storage end first. They may not have a million dollars to buy the fastest IBM System p5 servers, or may not have enough host adapters at the storage system end.
Floorspace - I end with floorspace because it reminds me that many "shortages" are temporary or artificially created. Floorspace is only in short supply because you don't want to knock down a wall, or build a new building, to handle your additional storage requirements.In 1997, Tihamer Toth-Fejel wrote an article for the National Space Society newsletter that estimated that ...Everybody on Earth could live comfortably in the USA on only 15% of our land area, with a population density between that of Chicago and San Francisco. Using agricultural yields attained widely now, the rest of the U.S. would be sufficient to grow enough food for everyone. The rest of the planet, 93.7% of it, would be completely empty.Of course, back in 1997 the world population was only 5.9 billion, and this year it is over 6.5 billion.
This last point brings me back to the concept of food, and I am not talking about doughnuts in the conference room, or pizza while making year-end storage upgrades. I'm talking aboutthe food you work so hard to provide for yourself and your family. The folks at Oxfam came up with a simpleanalogy. If 20 people sit down at your table, representing the world’s population:
3 would be served a gourmet, multi-course meal, while sitting at decorated table and a cushioned chair.
5 would eat rice and beans with a fork and sit on a simple cushion
12 would wait in line to receive a small portion of rice that they would eat with their hands while sitting on the floor.
So for those of you planning a special meal next Monday, be thankful you are one of the lucky three, and hopefulthat IBM will continue to lead the IT industry to help out the other seventeen.
Well, there's little to no chance we'll get snow in Tucson the rest of this year, so I built a snowman out in Second Life. That's my avatar on the right, andI am an eightbar specialist. Eightbar refers to our logo.
This was part of an IBM "Holiday Party" where dozens of IBMers met "in the virtual world" to participate in 3D competitions,I entered the "Build a Snowman" competition, since I am still a beginner at this. This was whatI was able to come up with in 20 minutes that we had to get it done. Why I made mine out of woodwith different colors was so that I could stand out from the crowd. Everyone else used traditionalwhite snowy textures.
Others had a more challenging "Build a Snow Globe" where you have to write scripts to get thelittle snow flakes to move around. This for the advanced builders of our group.
This is still new, emerging technology, but eventually, Second Life and other MMOs could be used to market products,that people can view from all three dimensions, talk to a technical specialist, and get all questions answered.It could be used for education, shopping around, and collaborating with others.
Anyways, I haven't heard the results, but I had fun anyways.