Continuing this week's theme on "best of breed", some questions arise: How is this calculated or determined?How is one storage solution "better" than another? Which attributes weigh more heavily in the decision?
Some attributes are directly measurable, like storage performance. For this, gather up a list ofall the storage products you are interested in, go to the [Storage Performance Council website],determine whether SPC-1 or SPC-2more closely matches your application workload, and then choose the best product fromthe benchmarks, discarding any vendors that don't bother to have benchmarks posted.The new SPC-2 benchmark was created, in part, to address new workloads for the Media and Entertainmentindustry. (For a comparison of the two, see my post [SPC benchmarks for Disk System Performance])
However, other attributes, like "easy to manage", are not as straightforward to measure.One client compared the complexity of different solutions by counting the number of cables involved to connect the various parts of each solution. Only external cables were considered. All of the cables inside an IBM SystemStorage DS8000 would not be counted. By this measure, a single IBM System z10 EC mainframe connected to a single IBM DS8000 disk system over a few FICON cables would therefore be "less complicated" than a thousand x86 servers connectedvia FCP SAN switches to dozens of disk systems.
I thought of this when fellow IBM blogger Alan Lepofsky posted[Lenovo x300 versusMacbook Air commercial], pointing to this:
But counting cables only handles the hardware part of the interconnections. You have to also considerthe interconnections between the software, between users, and between IT administrators. It is not alwaysobvious where those connections are, and how to count them into consideration.
This month, IBM introduced the first "Management Complexity Factor" (MCF) for the Media andEntertainment industry. IBM MCF a result of IBM's acquisition of NovusCG, and is an essential part of"Storage Optimization Services" being offered by IBM. Here is an excerpt from the[IBM Press Release]:
"Media companies are facing a double-edged sword with the exponential rise in digital media storage needs, coupled with concerns about optimizing storage to be more efficient," said Steve Canepa, vice president of Media and Entertainment, IBM. "By quickly and cost-effectively analyzing the interconnected IT and storage environments that increasingly comprise media operations, MCF for Media helps our clients identify opportunities for improvement and align their IT and business strategies."
Since 1995, IBM has invested more than $18 billion on public acquisitions, making it the most acquisitive company in the technology industry, based on volume of transactions.
IBM has a strong global focus on the media and entertainment industry across all of its services and products, serving all the major industry segments -- entertainment, publishing, information providers, media networks and advertising.
For more information on IBM, please visit [www.ibm.com/media].
technorati tags: SPC, storage, performance, benchmarks, SPC-1, SPC-2, complexity, Steve Canepa, IBM, MCF, acquisitions
Happy [Cinco De Mayo
I had a great weekend, participating in this year's ["World Laughter Day"] yesterday, and preparingfor tonight's festivities, found me pulling out the various packages from "Simply Dinners" from my freezer.
A Tucson-based company, [Simply Dinners] offers an alternative to restaurant eating.My sister went there, assembled a set of freezer-proof plastic bags containingall the right ingredients based on specific recipes, and gave them to me for my birthday, and they have been sitting in my freezer ever since... until last weekend.
My sister was careful to choose items that fit my [Paleolithic Diet] that my nutritionist has me on. However, I was skepticalthat any plastic bag full of frozen groceries would be any better than anything I could assemble on my own.I did, after all, attend "chef school" and do know how to cook well. Each package was intended to be a "dinner for two" but since I am single, was two meals each for me.
So, I decided to try them out, which would also give me more room in my freezer for incoming items, and theycame out very well. The outside of each plastic bag was a label that explained all the steps required to heatthe food. Partially-cooked vegetables were wrapped in foil, and went in for the last 10 minutes of cooking the meat.The process was straightforward, and the meals were delicious, but nothing I could not have done on my own witha recipe and a trip to the grocery store.
The question is whether someone with little or no skills could achieve similar, or acceptable results. I havefriends who are limited to assembling sandwiches from luncheon meats and cheese slices, as anything involvingheat other than simply boiling water is beyond their skills.
What does this have to do with storage? Blogger Taylor Allis from Sun Microsystems has a few posts[Sun is on to something - Open Storage and An Easier Storage Platform - OpenSolaris"] that explain Sun's recent press release[Sun Microsystems Extends World's First Open Storage Platform with New Services and Tools in OpenSolaris Operating System].
The key difference between "cooking for yourself" and "building your own storage" is that you aren't buildingstorage for just yourself. Unless you are a one-person SMB company, you are building storage that all of youremployees and managers count on to do their jobs, and by extension your customers and stockholders count on.
Of course I had to read responses from others before jumping in with my thoughts.Dave Raffo from Storage Soup writes [Sun going down in storage],feeling this is yet another indication that Sun has lost their mind, recounting previous events that supportthat theory.EMC blogger Mark Twomey in his StorageZilla posts [When Open Isn't] felt a littlebit guilty kicking a competitor when down. EMC blogger Chuck Hollis questions the reasons peoplemight be tempted to even try this in his post [Do-it-Yourself Storage]. Here'san excerpt:
I really, really struggle with this concept, I do. Here's why:
Anything I use and get comfortable with -- well, I'm "locked in" to a certain degree. If I use a lot of storage software X; well, I'm sorta locked in, aren't I? Or, if I put my servers-as-storage on a three-year lease, I'm kind of locked in, aren't I?"
(For EMC, vendor lock-in is great when customers are using and comfortable with EMC products, and awful when they use andare comfortable with storage from someone else. But nobody who is "comfortable" with what they have ever complain about"vendor lock-in" do they? It's the ones who are growing uncomfortable and feel trapped in changing. Howinvolved a company's use of EMC's proprietary interfaces are can greatly determine the obstacles in switching toa different vendor.Of course, if you count yourself as someone growing uncomfortable with your existing storage vendor, IBM can help you fix that problem, but that is a subject for another post.)
Worried about "vendor lock-in"? Try "admin lock-in" where you must keep a storage admin around because he or shewas the one that put your storage together. I've seen several companies held hostage by their system adminsfor home-grown scripts that serve as "duct tape for the enterprise".The other issue is whether you have storage admins who have the necessary hardware and software engineering skillsto put suitable storage together. There are some very smart storage admins I know who could, and others that wouldhave a difficult time with this.
No doubt this is promising for the home office. I myself have taken several PCs that were running older versions of Windows,but not powerful enough to upgrade to Windows Vista, wiped them clean, loaded Linux, and configured them from everythingfrom simple browser workstations to full LAMP application server configurations. While this might sound easy, I am a professional hardwareand software engineer with Linux skills.I have no doubt that someone with sufficient engineering and Solaris skills could put together a storage system for home use.
One area where Sun definitely benefits from this "Open Storage" approach is to develop Solaris skills. I have no personal experience with OpenSolaris, but assume that if you learn it, you would be able to switch overto full Solaris quite easily.Today, most people have Windows, Linux and/or MacOS skills coming into the workforce, and this could be Sun's way of getting new fresh faces who understand Solaris commands to replace retiring "baby boomers". The lack of Solaris-knowledgeable admins is perhaps one reason why companies are switching to IBM AIX, Linux or Windows in theirdata center.
Certainly, IBM's strategic choice to support Linuxhas been a great success. People learn Linux on their home systems, and at school, and are able to carry those skillsto Linux running on everything from the smallest IBM blade server to IBM's biggest mainframe.
The videos on Sun for the "recipes" on how to put together various "storage configurations in ten minutes" appear simplerthan last summer's "How to hack an Apple iPhone to switch away from AT&T" procedures.
technorati tags: Cinco De Mayo, World Laughter Day, Simply Dinners, Paleolithic, diet, Taylor Allis, OpenSolaris, Solaris, open storage, Dave Raffo, Mark Twomey, Chuck Hollis, EMC, Sun, Linux, Windows, MacOS, mainframe, blade, recipes, hack, Apple, iPhone, AT&T
Continuing my week's theme on how bad things can get following the "Do-it-yourself" plan, I start with James Rogers' piece in Byte and Switch
, titled[Washington Gets E-Discovery Wakeup Call
]. Here's an excerpt:
"A court filing today reveals there may be gaps in the backup tapes the White House IT shop used to store email. It appears that messages from the crucial early stages of the Iraq War, between March 1 and May 22, 2003, can't be found on tape. So, far from exonerating the White House staffers, the latest turn of events casts an even harsher light on their email policies.
Things are not exactly perfect elsewhere in the federal government, either. A recent [report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)] identified glaring holes in agencies’ antiquated email preservation techniques. Case in point: printing out emails and storing them in physical files."
You might think that laws requiring email archives are fairly recent. For corporations, they began with laws like Sarbanes-Oxley that the second President Bush signed into law back in 2002. However, it appears that laws for US Presidents to keep their emails were in force since 1993, back when the first President Clinton was in office. (we might as all get used to saying this in case we have a "second" President Clinton next January!)
In Ars Technica, Timothy B. Lee wrote [An elephant never forgets? George W. Bush's lost e-mails]. Here's an excerpt:
"The Federal Record Act requires the head of each federal agency to ensure that documents related to that agency's official business be preserved for federal archives. The Watergate-era Presidential Records Act augmented the FRA framework by specifically requiring the president to preserve documents related to the performance of his official duties. A [1993 court decision] held that these laws applied to electronic records, including e-mails, which means that the president has an obligation to ensure that the e-mails of senior executive branch officials are preserved.
In 1994, the Clinton administration reacted to the previous year's court decision by rolling out an automated e-mail-archiving system to work with the Lotus-Notes-based e-mail software that was in use at the time. The system automatically categorized e-mails based on the requirements of the FRA and PRA, and it included safeguards to ensure that e-mails were not deliberately or unintentionally altered or deleted.
When the Bush administration took office, it decided to replace the Lotus Notes-based e-mail system used under the Clinton Administration with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. The transition broke compatibility with the old archiving system, and the White House IT shop did not immediately have a new one to put in its place.
Instead, the White House has instituted a comically primitive system called "journaling," in which (to quote from a [recent Congressional report]) "a White House staffer or contractor would collect from a 'journal' e-mail folder in the Microsoft Exchange system copies of e-mails sent and received by White House employees." These would be manually named and saved as ".pst" files on White House servers.
One of the more vocal critics of the White House's e-mail-retention policies is Steven McDevitt, who was a senior official in the White House IT shop from September 2002 until he left in disgust in October 2006. He points out what would be obvious to anyone with IT experience: the system wasn't especially reliable or tamper-proof."
So we have White House staffers manually creating PST files, and other government agencies printing out their emails and storing them in file cabinets. When I first started at IBM in 1986, before Notes or Exchange existed, we used PROFS on VM on the mainframe, and some of my colleagues printed out their emails and filed them in cabinets. I can understand how government employees, who might have grown up using mainframe systems like PROFS, might have just continued the practice when they switched to Personal Computers.
Perhaps the new incoming White House staff hired by George W. Bush were more familiar with Outlook and Exchange, and ratherthan learning to use IBM Lotus Notes and Domino, found it easier just to switch over. I am not going to debatethe pros and cons of "Lotus Notes/Domino" versus "Microsoft Outlook/Exchange" as IBM has automated email archiving systems that work great for both of these, as well as also for Novell Groupwise. So, taking the benefit of the doubt,when President Bush took over, he tossed out the previous administration's staff, and brought in his own people, andlet them choose the office productivity tools they were most comfortable with.Fair enough, happens every time a new President takes office. No big surprise there.
However, doing this without a clear plan on how to continue to comply with the email archive laws already on the books, and that it continues to be bad several years later, is appalling. I can understand why business are upset in deploying mandated archiving solutions when their own government doesn't have similar automation in place.
technorati tags: James Rogers, Washington, White House, Iraq War, Sarbanes-Oxley, George W. Bush, incompetence, Timothy B. Lee, Steven McDevitt,elephant, Federal Record Act, email, e-mail, archive, IBM, Lotus, Notes, Domino, Microsoft, Outlook, Exchange, Novell, Groupwise,
While HDS blogger Hu Yoshida and IBM blogger Barry Whyte make a [great case for why you should buy IBM SAN Volume Controller
], my favorite arch-nemesis and fellow blogger BarryB on his Storage Anarchist
blog feels the SVC is "blue spray paint".
BarryB's latest round of red-meat rhetoric is his amusing post [This is like déjà vu all over again], titled after a [quote from Yogi Berra].BarryB pokes fun at Andy Monshaw's commentsin Chris Preimesberger's eWeek article [IBM's Big Storage Picture], andmy post ealier this week about Sun's "Open Storage" initiative [Simply Dinners and Open Storage from Sun], as if the two were somehow connected.
He feels I was unfair to accuse EMC of "proprietary interfaces" without spelling out what I was referring to. Here arejust two, along with the whines we hear from customers that relate to them.
- EMC Powerpath multipathing driver
Typical whine: "I just paid a gazillion dollars to renew my annual EMC Powerpath license, so you will have to come back in 12 months with your SVC proposal. I just can't see explaining to my boss that an SVC eliminates the need for EMC Powerpath, throwing away all the good money we just spent on it, or to explain that EMC chooses not to support SVC as one of Powerpath's many supported devices."
- EMC SRDF command line interface
Typical whine: "My storage admins have written tons of scripts that all invoke EMC SRDF command line interfacesto manage my disk mirroring environment, and I would hate for them to re-write this to use IBM's (also proprietary) command line interfaces instead."
Certainly BarryB is correct that IBM still has a few remaining "proprietary" items of its own. IBM has been in business over 80 years, but it was only the last 10-15 years that IBM made a strategic shift away from proprietary and over to open standards and interfaces. The transformation to "openness" is not yet complete, but we have made great progress. Take these examples:
- The System z mainframe - IBM had opened the interfaces so that both Amdahl and Fujitsu made compatible machines.Unlike Apple which forbids cloning of this nature, IBM is now the single source for mainframes because the other twocompetitors could not keep up with IBM's progress and advancements in technology.
Update: Due to legal reasons, the statements referring to Hercules and other S/390 emulators havebeen removed.
- The z/OS operating system - While it is possible to run Linux on the mainframe, most people associate the z/OSoperating system with the mainframe. This was opened up with UNIX System Services to satisfy requests from variousgovernments. It is now a full-fledged UNIX operating system, recognized by the [Open Group] that certifies it as such.
- As BarryB alludes, the unique interfaces for disk attachment to System z known as Count-Key-Data (CKD) was published so that both EMC and HDS can offer disk systems to compete with IBM's high-end disk offerings. Linux on System zsupports standard Fibre Channel, allowing you to attach an IBM SVC and anyone's storage. Both z/OS and Linux on System z support NAS storage, so IBM N series, NetApp, even EMC Celerra could be used in that case.
- The System i itself is still proprietary, but recently IBM announced that it will now support standard block size (512 bytes) instead of the awkward 528 byte blocks that only IBM and EMC support today. That means that any storage vendor will be ableto sell disk to the System i environment.
- Advanced copy services, like FlashCopy and Metro Mirror, are as proprietary as the similar offerings from EMCand HDS, with the exception that IBM has licensed them to both EMC and HDS. Thanks to cross-licensing, you can do [FlashCopy on EMC] equipment. Getting all the storage vendors to agree to open standards for these copy services is still workin progress under [SNIA], but at least people who have coded z/OS JCL batchjobs that invoke FlashCopy utilities can work the same between IBM and EMC equipment.
So for those out there who thought that my comment about EMC's proprietary interfaces in any way implied thatIBM did not have any of its own, the proverbial ["pot calling the kettle black"] so to speak, I apologize.
BarryB shows off his [PhotoShop skills] with the graphic below. I take it as a compliment to be compared to anAll-American icon of business success.
|TonyP and Monopoly's Mr. Pennybags|
Separated at Birth?
However, BarryB meant it as a reference back to long time ago when IBMwas a monopoly of the IT industry, which according to [IBM's History
], ended in 1973. In other words, IBMstopped being a monopoly before EMC ever existed as a company, and long before I started working for IBM myself.
The anti-trust lawsuit that BarryB mentions happened in 1969, which forced IBM to separate some of the software from its hardware offerings, and prevented IBM from making various acquisitions for years to follow, forcing IBM instead into technology partnerships. I'm glad that's all behind us now!
technorati tags: HDS, Hu Yoshida, IBM, Barry Whyte, SVC, BarryB, Storage Anarchist, blue, spray paint, red-meat rhetoric, Yogi Berra, Andy Monshaw, Chris Preimesberger, eWeek, Open storage, Sun, proprietary interfaces, mainframe, z/OS, UNIX, Open+Group, CKD, NAS, NetApp, Photoshop
My theme this week was to focus on "Do-it-Yourself" solutions, such as the "open storage" concept presentedby Sun Microsystems, but it has morphed into a discussion on vendor lock-in. Both deserve a bit of furtherexploration.
There were several reasons offered on why someone might pursue a "Do-it-Yourself" course of action.
- Building up skills
In my post [Simply Dinners and Open Storage], I suggested that building a server-as-storage solution based on Sun's OpenSolaris operating system could serve to learn more about [OpenSolaris], and by extension, the Solaris operating system.Like Linux, OpenSolaris is open source and has distributions that run on a variety of chipsets, from Sun's ownSPARC, to commodity x86 and x86-64 hardware. And as I mentioned in my post [Getting off the island], a version of OpenSolaris was even shown to run successfully on the IBM System z mainframe.
"Learning by Doing" is a strong part of the [Constructivism] movement in education. TheOne Laptop Per Child [OLPC] uses this approach. IBM volunteers in Tucson and 40other sites [help young students build robots]constructed from [Lego Mindstorms]building blocks.Edward De Bono uses the term [operacy] to refer to the"skills of doing", preferred over just "knowing" facts and figures.
However, I feel OpenSolaris is late to the game. Linux, Windows and MacOS are all well-established x86-based operating systems that most home office/small office users would be familiar with, and OpenSolaris is positioning itself as "the fourth choice".
In my post[WashingtonGets e-Discovery Wakeup Call], I suggested that the primary motivation for the White House to switch from Lotus Notes over to Microsoft Outlookwas familiarity with Microsoft's offerings. Unfortunately, that also meant abandoning a fully-operational automated email archive system, fora manual do-it-yourself approach copying PST files from journal folders.
Familiarity also explains why other government employees might print out their emails and archive them on paperin filing cabinets. They are familiar with this process, it allows them to treat email in the same manner as they have treated paper documents in the past.
- Cost, Control and Unique Requirements
The last category of reasons can often result if what you want is smaller or bigger than what is availablecommercially. There are minimum entry-points for many vendors. If you want something so small that it is notprofitable, you may end up doing it yourself. On the other end of the scale, both Yahoo and Google ended up building their data centers with a do-it-yourself approach, because no commercial solutions were available atthe time. (IBM now offers [iDataPlex], so that has changed!)
While you could hire a vendor to build a customized solution to meet your unique requirements, it might turn outto be less costly to do-it-yourself. This might also provide some added control over the technologies and components employed. However, as EMC blogger Chuck Hollis correctly pointed out for[Do-it-yourself storage],your solution may not be less costly than existingoff-the-shelf solutions from existing storage vendors, when you factor in scalability and support costs.
Of course, this all assumes that storage admins building the do-it-yourself storage have enough spare time to do so. When was the last time your storage admins had spare time of any kind?Will your storage admins provide the 24x7 support you could get from established storage vendors? Will theybe able to fix the problem fast enough to keep your business running?
From this, I would gather that if you have storage admins more familiar with Solaris than Linux, Windows or MacOS,and select commodity x86 servers from IBM, Sun, HP, or Dell, they could build a solution that has less vendor lock-in than something off-the-shelf from Sun. Let's explore the fears of vendor lock-in further.
- The storage vendor goes out of business
Sun has not been doing so well, so perhaps "open storage" was a way to warn existing Sun storage customers thatbuilding your own may be the next alternative.The New York Times title of their article says it all:["Sun Microsystems Posts Loss and Plans to Reduce Jobs"]. Sun is a big company, so I don't expect them to close their doors entirely this year,but certainly fear of being locked-in to any storage vendor's solution gets worse if you fear the vendor might go out of business.
- The storage vendor will get acquired by a vendor you don't like
We've seen this before. You don't like vendor A, so you buy kit from vendor B, only to have vendor A acquire vendorB after your purchase. Surprise!
- The storage vendor will not support new applications, operating systems, or other new equipment
Here the fear is that the decisions you make today might prevent you from choices you want to make in the future.You might want to upgrade to the latest level of your operating system, but your storage vendor doesn't supportit yet. Or maybe you want to upgrade your SAN to a faster bandwidth speed, like 8 Gbps, but your storage vendordoesn't support it yet. Or perhaps that change would require re-writing lots of scripts using the existingcommand line interfaces (CLI). Or perhaps your admins would require new training for the new configuration.
- The storage vendor will raise prices or charge you more than you expect on follow-on upgrades
For most monolithic storage arrays, adding additional disk capacity means buying it from the same vendor as the controller. I heard of one company recently who tried to order entry-level disk expansion drawer, at a lower price, solely to move the individual disk drives into a higher-end disk system. Guess what? It didn't work. Most storage vendors would not support such mixed configurations.
If you are going to purchase additional storage capacity to an existing disk system, it should cost no more thanthe capacity price rate of your original purchase. IBM offers upgrades at the going market rate, but not all competitors are this nice. Some take advantage of the vendor lock-in, charging more for upgrades and pocketing the difference as profit.
Vendor lock-in represents the obstacles in switching vendors in the event the vendor goes out of business, failsto support new software or hardware in the data center, or charges more than you are comfortable with. These obstacles can make it difficult to switch storage vendors, upgrade your applications, or meet otherbusiness obligations. IBM SANVolume Controller and TotalStorage Productivity Center can help reduce or eliminate many of these concerns. IBMGlobal Services can help you, as much or as little, as you want in this transformation. Here are the four levelsof the do-it-yourself continuum:
|Let me figure it out myself||Tell me what to do||Help me do it||Do it for me|
|This is the self-service approach. Go to our website, download an [IBM Redbook], figure out whatyou need, and order the parts to do-it-yourself.||IBM Global Business Services can help understand your business requirementsand tell you what you need to meet them.||IBM Global Technology Services can help design, assemble and deploy asolution, working with your staff to ensure skill and knowledge transfer.||IBM Managed Storage Services can manage your storage, on-site at your location, or at an IBM facility. IBM provides a varietyof cloud computing and managed hosting services.|
So, if you are currently a Sun server or storage customer concerned about these latest Sun announcements, give IBM a call, we'll help you switch over!
technorati tags: do-it-yourself, OpenSolaris, Solaris, Sun, Linux, SPARC, Yahoo, Google, iDataPlex, x86, x86-64, x64, mainframe, EMC, Chuck Hollis, HP, Dell, SAN, monolithic, disk, storage, system, arrays, open storage, NYT, New York Times, vendor lock-in, IBM, Global Services, GBS, GTS, SVC, TotalStorage, Productivity Center, Managed Storage Services, cloud computing