Last week, in my posting on Toshiba's latest 1.8" drive
, Robert Pearson asks:
You may not be the right person to ask but I am asking everyone so "How do you see hybrid disk drives?"
(For the record, I am not immediately related to Robert. At onepoint, "Pearson" was the 12th most common surname in the USA, but now doesn't even make the Top 100.)
Robert, I would like to encourage you and everyone else to ask questions, don't worry if I am the wrong person to ask, asprobably I know the right person within IBM. Some people have called me the "Kevin Bacon" of Storage,as I am often less than six degrees away from the right person, having worked in IBM Storage for over 20 years.
For those not familiar with hybrid drives, there is a good write-up in Wikipedia.
Unfortunately, most of the people I would consult on this question, such as those from Market Intelligence or Research, are on vacation for the holidays, so, Robert, I will have to rely on my trusted 78-card Tarot deck and answer you with a five-card throw.
- Your first card, Robert, is the Hermit. This card represents "introspection". The best I/O is no I/O, which means that if applications can keep the information they need inside server memory, you can avoid the bus bandwidth limitations to going to external storage devices. Where external storage makes sense is when data is shared between servers, or when the single server is limited to a set amount of internal memory. So, consider maxing out the memory in your server first (IBM would be glad to sell you more internal memory!!!), then consider outside solid-state or hybrid devices. Windows for example has an architectural limit of 4GB.
- Your second card, Robert, is the Four of Cups, representing "apathy".On the card, you see three cups together, with the fourth cup being delivered from a cloud. This reminds me thatwe have three storage tiers already (memory,disk,tape), and introducing a fourth tier into the mix may not garnermuch excitement. For the mainframe, IBM introduced a Solid-State Device, call the Coupling Facility, which can be accessed from multipleSystem z servers. It is used heavily by DFSMS and DB2 to hold shared information. However, given some customer's apathytowards Information Lifecycle Management which includes "tiered storage", introducing yet another tier that forcespeople to decide what data goes where may be another challenge.
- Your third card, Robert, is the Chariot, which represents "Speed, Determination,and Will". In some cases, solid state disk are faster for reading, but can be slower for writing. In the case of ahybrid drive, where the memory acts as a front-end cache, read-hits would be faster, but read-misses might be slower.While the idea of stopping the drives during inactivity will reduce power consumption, spinning up and slowing downthe disk may incur additional performance penalties. At the time of this post, the fastest disk system remains the IBM SAN Volume Controller, based on SPC-1 and SPC-2 benchmarks in excess of those published for other devices.
- Your fourth card, Robert, is the Eight of Pentacles, which represents"Diligence, Hard work". The pentacles are coins with five-sided stars on them, and this often represents money.Our research team has projected that spinning disk will continue to be a viable and profitable storage media for at least anothereight years.
- Your fifth and last card, Robert, is the World, which normallyrepresents "Accomplishment", but since it is turned upside down, the meaning is reversed to "Limitation". Some Hybriddisks, and some types of solid state memory in general, do have limitations in the number of write cycles they can handle. For thoseunhappy with the frequency and slowness for rebuilds on SATA disk may find similar problems with hybrid drives.For that reason, businesses may not trust using hybrid drives for their busiest, mission-critical applications, but certainlymight use it for archive data with lower write-cycle requirements.
The tarot cards are never wrong, but certainly interpretations of the cards can be.
technorati tags: Robert Pearson, Kevin Bacon, IBM, storage, Tarot, card, deck, Hermit, Four-of-Cups, Coupling Facility, Chariot, SAN Volume Controller, SVC, SPC-1, SPC-2, benchmarks, Texas Memory Systems, Eight-of-Pentacles, World, Hybrid, SATA
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.
Happy Winter Solstice!
technorati tags: IBM, Northern, Hemisphere, Winter, Solstice, Nora+Denzel, Oxfam, scarcity, Linux, UNIX, Windows, TSM, Tivoli+Storage+Manager, storage, admins, global+warming, climate+change, peak+oil, National+Space+Society, special, meal
On SearchStorage.com, my buddy Tony Asaro recaps the latest Storage Acquisition Frenzy
It has always been the case in fast pace technology areas that you can't tell the players without a program card, andthis is especially true for storage.
When analyzing each acquistion move, you need to think of what is driving it. What are the motives?Having been in the storage business 20 years now, and seen my share of acquisitions, both from within IBM,as well as competition, I have come up with the following list of motives.
Although slavery was abolished in the US back in the 1800's, and centuries earlier everywhere else, many acquisitionsseem to be focused on acquiring the people themselves, rather than the products or client list. I have seen statistics such as "We retained 98% of the people!" In reality, these retentions usually involve costly incentives,sign-in bonuses, stock options, and the like. Desptie this, people leave after a few years, often because ofpersonality or "corporate culture" clash. For example, many former STK employees seem to be leaving after their company was acquired by Sun Microsystems.
If you can't beat them, join them. Acquisitions can often be used by one company to raise its ranking in marketshare, eliminating smaller competitors. And now that you have acquired their client list, perhaps you can sellthem more of your original set of products!
Symantec had acquired Veritas, which in turn had acquired a variety of other smaller players, and the end result is that they are now #1 backup software provider, even though none of theirproducts holds a candle to IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager. Meanwhile, EMC acquired Avamar to try to get more into the backup/recovery game, but most analysts still find EMC down in the #4 or #5 place in this category.
Next month,Brocade's acquisition of McData should take effect, furthering its marketshare in SAN switch equipment.
Prior to my current role as "brand market strategist" for System Storage, I was a "portfolio manager" where wetried to make sure that our storage product line investments were balanced. This was a tough job, as the investmentshad to balance the right development investments into different technologies, including patent portfolios.Despite IBM's huge research budget, I am not surprised that some clever inventions of new technologies comefrom smaller companies, that then get acquired once their results appear viable.
- Value Shift
The last motive is value shift. This is where companies try to re-invent themselves, or find that they are stuck in acommodity market rut, and wish to expand into more profitable areas.
LSI Logic acquisition of StoreAge is a good exampleof this. Most of the major storage vendors have already shifted to software and services to provide customer value,as predicted in 1990's by Clayton Christensen in his book "The Innovator's Dilemma". The rest are still strugglingto develop the right strategy, but leaning in this general direction.
I hope that provides some insight.[Read More]
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.
technorati tags: IBM, snowman, competition, Second Life, holiday party
Chris Anderson, of Wired magazine, wrote a great article called The Long Tail
This article became a book by the same name published earlier this year, and I just discovered it on a recent visit to Second Life. A lot of IBMers are now alsoSecond Lifers, and I suspect it is just a matter of time before we are conductingour customer briefings there, and getting our year-end bonuses paid directly in Linden bucks.(Those of you not familiar with Second Life can watch this 3-minute video fromthe folks at Text100)
Anyways, the Long Tail describes the new economy of entertainment thanks to digitalstorage. Here are some of the key insights.
- In the past, entertainment was all about hits: hit songs, hit movies,hit novels, and this was primarily because of the economic realities restricted byphysical space. Chris writes: "An average movie theater will not show a film unless it can attract at least 1,500 people over a two-week run; that's essentially the rent for a screen. An average record store needs to sell at least two copies of a CD per year to make it worth carrying; that's the rent for a half inch of shelf space."
- Things have changed. To drive the point home, Robbie Vann-Adibe (CEO of eCast), poses the trick question"What percentage of the top 10,000 titles in any online media store (Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, or any other) will rent or sell at least once a month?" The answer will surprise you. Write down your guess first, then go read here. His digital jukeboxes are able to play from a list of150,000 songs, not the few hundred you'd find at the Tap Room which is rated as having the best jukebox in Tucson.
- The phenomenon is not just limited to music. "Take books," Chris writes, "The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are..."
This has incredible implications for the storage industry. For one, content providers are going to dig deep into their archives to digitize and deliver "long tail" offerings. If they don't have a deep archive, many will start to build one. Second, the need to search through that large volume of content will become more critical. Classifying and indexing with the appropriate tags and metadata will be an important task.
technorati tags: Chris Anderson, Wired, magazine, IBM, Secondlife, Linden bucks, Text100, Long Tail, Robbie+Vann-Adibe, eCast, NetFlix, iTunes, Amazon, Tap Room, Barnes Noble, deep, archive, metadata, tags