Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience 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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Continuing my week's theme on the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] project, I have been amused watching the OLPC forum discussion on the choiceof browser options available.
The built-in browser is simple but functional. It is full screen,with back, forward, and bookmark buttons, and an entry field forthe URL. This browser is fully integrated with the Sugar platform,files downloaded will appear in the journal. Download an Activity*.xo file, for example, and you can install it from the Journal.If you want to upload a file, click BROWSE on the website, and theJournal will pop up to choose files from.
Out of the box, the XO supports a minimal Flash that can handlesome Flash-based games but not YouTube videos, and does not supportJava.
The good folks of Opera have built a special edition for the XO laptop.However, some settings need to be changed to make the fonts large enoughto read.
Opera can be run as a Sugar activity, but this just launches a mothertask, which in turn launches a daughter task that actually runs thebrowser. This means that Home View will have two icons. The mothertask has an the Opera icon, but click on it and you get a grey screen.The daughter task appears as a grey circle, click on it and you get thebrowser screen. Alt-Tab will rotate through the Activities, so thegrey screen of the mother task is part of the rotation.
Although Opera has one foot on the Sugar platform, and one foot off,the lack of integration means poor interaction with the journal. The use of Opera is correctly registered. However, downloadingfiles requires a working knowledge of subdirectories, and uploading anythingrequires knowing what it is called, and where it is located. Not obviousfor many of the items created by Sugar applications.
The XO laptop is based on Redhat Fedora distribution, so I downloadedthe Firefox RPM package and installed this. To run, you need to startthe Terminal Activity, and then at the cursor type firefox.Journal only registers that the Terminal activity was used, but not anythingelse.
Since I run Firefox 2.0 on Windows XP, OS X and Linux, I am very familiarwith this browser, and it works as expected. Like Opera, there are shortcut keys, tabs for multiple pages, and optionsto add Java and Flash player. I was able to install add-onsfor Del.icio.us and FireFTP, and they worked as expected. Having accessto FTP sites will make development on the XO much easier.Again all files are uploaded/downloaded to directories, so some workingknowledge of where files are placed is required.
The fonts in Firefox did not expand/shrink as nicely as they had in Opera.Be careful not to select "View->
To close, you have to select File->Quit from the browser window, whichbrings you back to the Terminal activity, which you can then shutdown with Ctrl-Esc.
For now, I will keep all three and continue to evaluate them.I saw a few opportunities for improvement:
The Opera and Terminal icons are not on the first screen.You have to hit the right arrow to get to the "overflow" set of icons. Re-ordering the icons is simply a matter of editing the following file with "vi"(my first few lines I use are shown below):
Put the activities in the order you want. Any activity not listed willappear after these.
It might be possible to create a modified Terminal activity thatinvoked Firefox directly, to eliminate having to type it in each time.
Several people have expressed interest in a browser that runs entirely withthe Xo laptop folded over in eBook/Game mode, such that thekeyboard is completely covered up, exposing only the up-left-right-down arrowsand the Circle/Square/X/Check buttons.
Change the "News Reader" to invoke Bloglines instead. This might be yetanother modified Terminal activity, but borrow the icon from News.
Well, if you have further thoughts on these browsers, enter a comment below.
Continuing my week's theme on the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] foundation, I successfully managedto emulate my XO on another system.
Part of what is attractive of the XO laptop is the hardware, the high-resolution200dpi screen, the clever screen that rotates and folds flat into an eBook reader,and the water-tight, dust-proof keyboard. The other part is the software, howthey managed to pack an entire operating system, with useful applications, intoa 1GB NAND flash drive.
The drawback for developers like me is the risk of changing something that breaks the system. For example, my first attempt to create my own activityresulted in a blank space in my action bar, and my journal went into someinfinite loop, blinking as if it were still loading for minutes on end. I fixed it by deleting out the activity I created and rebooting.
To get around this, I successfully ran the disk-image under Linux's Virtual Machinesoftware called Qemu. This is an open source offering, with a proprietary add-onaccelerator called Kqemu. Here were the steps involved:
Base Operating System
Qemu is now available to run on Linux, Windows and OS X-Intel. I have an Ubuntu 7.04"Feisty Faun" version of Linux installed on my system from a project I did last year, so decided to use that.
Normally, "apt-get install qemu" would be enough, but I wanted to get the latest release, so I downloaded the [0.9.0 version]tarball of compiled binaries. Note that trying to compile Qemu from source requiresa downlevel gcc-3.x compiler, and my attempts to do this failed. The compiled binariesworked fine.
The Kqemu author hasn't packaged this for distribution, so I download the source code anddid my own compiles. You can do the "configure-make-install" using the regular gcc 4.1compiler and it went smoothly.
Getting Kqemu active was bit of a challenge. I had to make sense of Nando Florestan's[Installing Kqumu in Ubuntu] article,and the subsequent comments that followed.
There is a tiny [8MB Linux image]that should be used to verify the Kqemu is activated correctly.
The Disk Image
As with other development efforts, there are the older stable versions, and the bleedingedge development versions. I chose the 650 Build from the [Ship.2 stable versions], whichmatches the version on my XO laptop. The image comes as a *.bz2, which is a highly-compressedfile. Using "Bunzip2", the 221MB file expands to something like 932MB.
I renamed the resulting file to "build650.img"
Once I got all this done, I then made a simple script "launch" in my /home/tpearson/bin directory:
Then "launch build650.img" was all I needed to run the emulation. The full-screen mode helpsemulate the view on XO laptop. I was able to change the jabber server to "xochat.org" and see otherXO laptops online on my neighborhood view.
When running under Qemu, you can't just press Ctrl-Alt-something. For example, Ctrl-Alt-Erase onthe XO reboots the Sugar interface. However, do this on a Linux system, and it reboots your nativeX interface, blowing away everything.Instead, you press Ctrl-Alt-2 to get to the Qemu console, designated by (qemu) prompt,and then type:
Press "Ctrl-Alt-1" followed by "Ctrl-Alt" to get back to the emulated XO screen.
With this emulation, I am more likely to try new things, change files around, edit system files,and so on, without worrying about rendering my actual XO laptop unusable. Once debugged, I canthen work on moving them over to my XO, one at a time.
IBM doesn't publicly report subset numbers on individual product lines, but we are growing, albeit single-digit growth, on the high-end with our IBM System Storage DS8000 and DS6000 series products. Single digit growth is not "booming", but it is what we expected in this space, so it is not like we are"feeling the chill" as Robin stated.Obviously, if the U.S. market overall is doing poorly, then it must be from something else. IBM's success appears to be from organic growth in our Asia and Europe markets, and taking marketshare away from the top two contenders, EMC and HDS. Here are my thoughts why:
EMC is remodeling its kitchen
Not happy with its status as #1 disk hardware specialty shop, EMC is admirably trying to redefine itself as an ["information infrastructure"] company, buying up software companies and introducing new storage services. [Byte and Switch] reports onEMC's recent acquisitions:
EMC is the latest vendor to pin its colors to the SaaS mast, revealing its plan to offer SaaS-based archiving services during its recent Innovation Day in Boston.
EMC gave another clear indication of its SaaS intentions last month, when it spent $76 million to acquire online backup specialist Mozy.
IBM has offered[Managed Storage Services] foryears through our Global Technology Services (GTS) division. Gartner recognized IBM as the #1 leader in storageservices, with three times more revenues than EMC in this space.
As with a restaurant that is remodeling its kitchen, it can expect a temporary drop inrevenue. If it is done right, customers will come back to a bigger brighter restaurant. If not, the restaurant re-opens as a much smaller lesser version of itself. Recent events this year might incent EMC to get that kitchen done quickly:
A recent [class-action lawsuit]might result in having EMC's "86 percent male" sales force goes to sexual harassment sensitivity training, takingtime away from selling high-end storage arrays in the field. Analysts consider "high-end" boxes as those costingover $300,000 US dollars. Because of the money involved, there is a lot of competition for high-end storage, so face-to-face time with prospective customers is crucial to making the sale.Anytime any vendor is mentioned in a lawsuit (andcertainly IBM has had its share in the past, as Chuck Hollis correctly points out in the comment below), priorities get shifted, and there is potential dip in revenues.
Dell acquires EMC's rival EqualLogic. Dell resold EMC midrange storage, like CLARiiON, so this should notimpact their high-end storage sales. While Dell will be allowed to sell EMC until 2011, this new acquisition mightmean Dell leads with the EqualLogic offerings, and that could potentially reduce EMC revenues in the midrange space.
IBM went through a similar phase in the 1990's, redefining itself from an "IT Technology" company, intoa "Systems, Software and Services" company. These transitions can't be done in a quarter, or even a year, theytake several years. IBM lost business to EMC in the 1990s, but is back with a stronger portfolio in the 2000's, and so IBM's kitchen remodeling effort appears to be paying off. We will see what happens with EMC in a few years.
HDS puts on the white lab coats
Meanwhile, HDS appears interested in taking over as #1 disk hardware specialty shop.For years, Hitachi was the stereotypical JCM (Japanese IBM-compatible manufacturer) that made well-engineered"me, too" storage arrays. They would see what innovators like IBM and EMC were doing, and copy them. Recently,however, they seemed to have changed strategy, introducing new featuresand functions on their high-end USP-V device, like[Dynamic Provisioning].
The problem is that customers don't want to feel like [Guinea pigs] in an experimental lab, especially withmission-critical data that they trust to their most-available, most-reliable high-end disk storage systems.Like IBM and EMC and the rest of the major storage vendors, Hitachi has top-notch engineers making quality products, but new features scare people, and so there is a lag in the adoption of new technologies.
In our youth, we might have preferred beer with recent born-on dates, and tequila aged less than 90 days. But as weget older, we switch to drinks like wine and whiskey, aged years, not weeks. The same is true for themarketplace. New start-ups and other "early adopters"might be willing to try fresh new features and functions on their storage systems, but more established enterprises prefer storage with more mature and stable microcode.Storage admins want to leave at the end of the day, knowing that the data will still be there the next morning. In tough financial times, many established companies want the technological equivalent to ["comfort food"], nothing spicy or exotic, but simplehearty fare that fills the belly and keeps you satisfied.
Recognizing this, IBM often introduces new features and functions on its midrange lines first, and position them accordingly. Once customers are comfortable with the concepts, IBM then can consider moving them into the high-end lines. For example, dynamic volume expansion was introduced on the DS4000 and SAN Volume Controller first, and once proven safe and effective, brought over to the DS8000 series. This strategy has served us well.
Well those are my theories. If you have a different explanation of why storage vendors are not doing well in thehigh-end, drop me a comment!
[R&D Magazine] recently conducted a survey that prompted readers to identify the world's most successful Research and Development (R&D) companies. The results are in: IBM was recognized as the best R&D company in the world when several different categories were evaluated, including:
R&D spending as a percentage of revenue
the number of patents
new products in development
The survey considered additional information on more than 130 companies such as data on intellectual property, community service and financial growth trends. Readers were also asked five distinct questions, including the following:
Where would you like to work based on their R&D?
What companies have the most improved R&D in the past five years?
What companies are the leaders in R&D?
Which company's R&D has the strongest influence on society?
Which company's R&D is the most proactive in high tech challenges?
Since it is often 5-15 years between when a scientist in one of our many research labs comes up with a clever idea, to when it is a market success, it is good to have external recognition for the R&D efforts we are doing right now.Here is a link to a [four-page PDF] of the magazine article.
Take for example IBM's recent breakthrough in Silicon photonics. Supercomputers that consist of thousands of individual processing nodes, typically running Linux on dual-core or quad-core processors, connected by miles of copper wires could one day fit into a laptop PC. And while today’s supercomputers can use the equivalent energy required to power hundreds of homes, these future tiny supercomputers-on-a-chip would expend the energy of a light bulb, so this solution is more "green" for the environment.According to the [IBM Press Release]:
The breakthrough -- known in the industry as a silicon Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulator -- performs the function of converting electrical signals into pulses of light. The IBM modulator is 100 to 1,000 times smaller in size compared to previously demonstrated modulators of its kind, paving the way for many such devices and eventually complete optical routing networks to be integrated onto a single chip. This could significantly reduce cost, energy and heat while increasing communications bandwidth between the cores more than a hundred times over wired chips.
“Work is underway within IBM and in the industry to pack many more computing cores on a single chip, but today’s on-chip communications technology would overheat and be far too slow to handle that increase in workload,” said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president, Science and Technology, IBM Research. “What we have done is a significant step toward building a vastly smaller and more power-efficient way to connect those cores, in a way that nobody has done before.”
Today, one of the most advanced chips in the world -- IBM’s Cell processor which powers the Sony Playstation 3 -- contains nine cores on a single chip. The new technology aims to enable a power-efficient method to connect hundreds or thousands of cores together on a tiny chip by eliminating the wires required to connect them. Using light instead of wires to send information between the cores can be 100 times faster and use 10 times less power than wires.
I'm continuing my coverage of IBM Systems Journal's [fifteen articles about IBM Service Management].As storage hardware cost per GB declines 25 percent per year, the cost of labor has grown to nearly 70percent of the total IT budget. This brings new focus on how we do things, rather than what things siton the raised floor. Yesterday, my post summarized[the first five articles].Here is what I got out of the next five articles:
Integrated change and configuration management
IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practice covers a variety of disciplines, including incident management,problem management, release management, service help desk, change management, and configuration management.IBM has combined the last two into a single database, and this paper provides insights gained fromimplementing these in practice. A special section talks about how service providers can support multipleclients that must be kept separate from each other.
The process of building a Process Manager: Architecture and design patterns
Business processes coordinate and sequence the work done by a collection of people.Most companies define their business process from scratch, and develop their own applicationsto support their implementation. Process Managers are "out of the box" applications that help customers integrateand automate more quickly than building from scratch. These Process Managers leverage and update informationabout configuration items (CIs) in the configuration management database (CMDB). One of the first developedby IBM was the IBM Tivoli Storage Process Manager.
Integration of domain-specific IT processes and tools in IBM Service Management
ITIL tells you what needs to get done, but it doesn't tell you exactly how to do it. Completing a simplechange request to the IT environment can have a drastic impact on service level agreements (SLAs), utilization of existing storage capacity, and business operations. Sometimes it is important to use multipleProcess Manager applications together. To accomplish this, it is important to launch and land in contextat the appropriate points for smooth transition.
Using a model-driven transformational approach and service-oriented architecture for service deliver management
Companies are considering outsourcing as a way to focus on core competencies. However, the trend is towardselective outsourcing, where the customer controls the IT solution architecture and retains their legacy tools.As a result, service providers inherit the business and IT processes from their clients. IBM Research has developed the model-driven business transformation (MDBT) method that choreographs workflow tools with humanactivities. A "balanced scorecard" allows both client and outsourcer monitor progress towards strategic goals.
Catalog-based service request management
Service providers (outsourcers) are able to bring the latest IT technology, best practices, and skilledservice delivery teams. Unfortunately, unique business processes from each client limits the ability to leveragethese resources effectively. A service delivery management platform (SDMP) catalog serves as a repositoryof atomic services and the delivery teams that can perform them. This allows outsourcers to leverage resourcesacross multiple clients, while still being able to tailor business compositions of these atomic services to an individual client's requirements.