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I helped set up the IBM booth at the Solutions Center, third floor, where we will have variousproducts on display, as well as subject matter experts to handle all the questions.
I also went ahead and got my conference badge. While most of my cohorts have purple badges, limiting them to the Solution Centers area, I have a red badge, so that I can attend the variouskeynote and break-out sessions this week.
In keeping with our "green" theme, we have all been given matching light green shirts, and these are 70 percent Bamboo cloth, and 30 percent cotton. They are very comfortable,and sustainable! If you see me, come up and just feel my shirt, go ahead, I won't mind!
Tomorrow, the fun begins with the keynote speakers!
I did not register soon enough to get into the MGM Grand itself, so I am staying at a Hiltonat the other end of the Las Vegas strip, but am able to hop on the "Monorail" to get to the MGM,just in time for the breakfast and first welcome session.
This conference has a familiar set up: six keynote sessions, 62 break-out sessions, and fourtown hall meetings. Thanks to electronic survey devices on the seats, speakers were able to gatherreal-time demographics. A large portion of attendees, including myself, are attending this conference for theirfirst time. Here's my recap of the first three keynote sessions:
The Future of Infrastructure and Operations: The Engine of Cloud Computing
How much do companies spend just to keep current? As much as 70 percent! The speaker noted thatthe best companies can get this down to 10 to 30 percent, leaving the rest of the IT budget to facilitate transformation. He predicts that companies are transforming their data centers fromsprawled servers to virtualization, towards a fully automated, service-oriented, real-time infrastructure.
Whereas the original motivation for IT virtualization was to reduce costs, companies now recognizethat they greatly improve agility, the ability to rapidly provision resources for new workloads, and that this will then lead to opportunites for alternative sourcing, such as cloud computing.
The operating system is becoming commoditized, focusing attention instead to a new concept: the"Meta OS". VMware's Virtual Data Center and Microsoft's Azure Fabric Controller are just two examples.Currently, analysts estimate only about 12 percent of x86 workloads are running virtualized, but thatthis could be over 50 percent by 2012.In this same time frame, year 2012, storage Terabytes is expected to increase 6.5x fold, and WAN bandwidthgrowing 35 percent per year.
Virtualization is not just for business applications. There are opportunities to eliminate the mostcostly part of any business: the Personal Computer, poster child of the skyrocketing costs of the client/server movement. Remote hosting of applications, streaming of applications,software as a service (SaaS) and virtual machines for the desktop can greatly reduce costs of customizedPC images and help desk support.
Cloud computing not only reduces per costs per use, but provides a lower barrier of entry and somemuch needed elasticity.Draw a line anywhere along the application-to-hardware software/hardware stack, and you can define acloud computing platform/service. About 65 percent of the attendees surveyed indicated that they were already doing something with CloudComputing, or were planning to in the next four years.
To help get there, the speaker felt that Value-added Resellers (VAR) and System Integrators (SI) wouldevolve into "service brokers", providing Small and Medium sized Businesses (SMB) "one throat to choke" in mixedmultisourced operations. The term "multisource" caught me a bit off-guard, referring to having someworkloads run internally (insourced) while other workloads run out on the Cloud (outsourced). Largerenterprises might have a "Dynamic Sourcing Team", a set of key employees serving as decision makers, employing both business and IT skills to determine the best sourcing for each application workload.
What are the biggest obstacles to getting there? The speaker felt it was the IT staff. People and cultureare the most difficult to change. The second are lack of appropriate metrics. Here were the survey resultsof the attendees:
41 percent had metrics for infrastructure economic attributes
49 percent had metrics for qualities of service (QoS)
12 percent had metrics to measure agility, speed of resource provisioning
The Data Center Scenario: Planning for the Future
This second keynote had two analyst "co-presenters". The focus was on the importance of having a documented Data Center strategy and architecture. Unfortunately, most Data Centers "happen on their own", with a majoroverhaul every 5 to 10 years. The speakers presented some "best practices" for driving this effort.
The first issue was to identify tiers of criticality, similar to those by the[Uptime Institute]. In their example, the most criticalworkloads would have perhaps recovery point objectives (RPO) of zero, and recover time objectives of lessthan 15 minutes. This is achievable using synchronous mirroring with fully automation to handle the failover.
The second issue was to recognize that many applications were designed for local area networks (LAN), butmany companies have distributed processing over a wide area network (WAN). Latency over these longer distancescan kill distributed performance of these applications.
The third issue was that different countries offer different levels of security, privacy and law enforcement.Canada and Ireland, for example, had the lowest risk, countries like India had medium risk, and countries likeChina and Russia had the highest risk, based on these factors.
The speakers suggested the following best practices:
Get a better understanding of the costs involved in providing IT services
Centralize applications that are not affected by latency, but regionalize those that are affected toremote locations to minimize distance delays.
Work towards a "lights out" data center facility, with operations personnel physically separated fromdata center facilities.
For the unfortunate few that are trying to stretch out more life from their existing aging data centers,the speakers offered this advice:
Build only what you need
Decommission orphaned servers and storage, which can be 1 to 12 percent of your operations
Target for replacement any hardware over five years old, not just to reduce maintenance costs, butalso to get more energy-efficient equipment.
Consider moving test workloads, and as much as half of your web servers, off UPS and onto the nativeelectricity grid. In the event of an outage, this reduces UPS consumption.
Implement power-capping and load-shedding, especially during peak times.
Enacting these changes can significantly improve the bottom line. Archaic data centers, those typically over 10 years old with power usage effectiveness (PUE) over 3.0 can cost over twice as much as a moreefficient data center. To learn more about PUE as a metric, see the Green Grid's whitepaper[Data Center power efficiency metrics:PUE and DCiE].
While virtualization can help with these issues, it also introduces new problems, such as VM sprawl anddealing with antiquated licensing schemes of software companies.
The Four Traits of the World's Best-Performing Business Leaders
Best-selling author Jason Jennings presented his findings in researching his various books:
It's Not the Big That Eat the Small... It's the Fast That Eat the Slow : How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business
Less Is More : How Great Companies Use Productivity As a Competitive Tool in Business
Think Big, Act Small
Hit the Ground Running : A Manual for New Leaders
Jason identified the best companies and interviewed their leaders, including such companies as Koch Industries, Nucor Steel, and IKEA furniture. The leaders he interviewed felt a calling to serveas stewards of their companies, not just write mission and vision statements, and be willingto let go of projects or people that aren't working out.
Jasonindicated a 2007 Gallup poll on the American workplace indicates that 70 percent of employees do notfeel engaged in their jobs.The focus of these leaders isto hire people with the right attitudes, rather than the right aptitudes, and give those people with the knowledge and the right to make business decisions. If done well,employees will think and act as owners, and hold themselves accountable for their economic results. Jason found cases where 25-year-olds were givenresponsibility to make billion-dollar decisions!
I found his talk inspiring! The audience felt motivated to do their jobs better, and be more engagedin the success of their companies.
These keynote sessions set the mood for the rest of the week. I can tell already that the speakers willtoss out a large salad of buzzwords and IT industry acronyms. I saw several people in the audience confusedon some of the terminology, and hopefully they will come over to IBM booth 20 at the Solutions Expofor straight talk and explanation.
The title of this post is inspired by Baxter Black's [latest book]. Rathera recap of the break-out sessions, I thought I would comment on a fewsentences, phrases or comments I heard in the afternoon and evening.
Stop buying storage from EMC or NetApp
The lunch was sponsored by Symantec. Rod Soderbery presented "Taking the cost out ofcost savings", explaining some ideas to reduce IT costs immediately.
First, he suggested to "stop buying storage" from EMC or NetApp that charge a premiumfor tier-one products. Instead, Rod suggested that people should "think like a Web company"and buy only storage products based on commodity hardware to save money, and to use SRM software to identify areas of poor storage utilization. IBM's TotalStorage Productivity Center softwareis often used to help with this analysis.
His other suggestions were to adopt thin provisioning, data deduplication, and virtualization.The discussion at my table started with someone asking, "How do we adopt those functions without buying new storage capacity with those features already built-in?" I explained that IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC),N series gateways, and TS7650G ProtecTIER virtual tape gateway can all provide one or moreof these features to your existing disk storage capacity.
IBM and HP are leaders in blade servers
In the session "Future of Server and OS: Disappearing Boundaries", the audience confirmedby electronic survey that IBM and HP are the leaders in blade servers, although blades representonly 8-10 percent of the overall server market.
Interestingly, 22 percent of the audience has deployed both x86 and non-x86 (POWER, SPARC, etc.) blade servers.The presenters considered this an interesting insight.
Another survey of the audience found that 3 percent considered Sun/STK as their primary storagevendor. One of the presenters was delighted that Sun is still hanging in there.
IBM Business Partners deliver the best of IBM and mask the worst
Elaine Lennox, IBM VP, and Mark Wyllie, CEO of Flagship Solutions Group, Inc. presentedIBM-sponsored back to back sessions. Elaine presented IBM's vision, the New Enterprise Data Center, and the challenges that demand a smarter planet.
Mark focused on his company's experience working with IBM through Innovation Workshops. Theseare assessments that can help someone identify where you are now, where you want to be, andthen action plans to address the gaps.
Cats and Dogs, Oil and Water, Microsoft Windows and Mission-critical applications, what do all of these have in common?
NEC Corporation of America sponsored some sessions on some x86-based solutions they have to offer.The first part, titled "Rats Nests, Snow Drifts and Trailers" focused unified storage, andthe second part, presented by Michael Nixon, focused on how to bring Microsoft Windows servers into the data center for mission-critical applications.
The Economy might be slowing, but storage is still growing
Two analysts co-presented "The Enterprise Storage Scenario". Unlike computing capacity, thereis no on/off switch for storage, not from applications nor from end-users. The cost ofpower for storage is expected to be 3x by 2013. Virtual servers, includingVMware and Microsoft's Hyper-V will drive the need for shared external disk storage.A survey of the audience found 20 percent were expecting to purchase additional storagecapacity 4Q08.
When someone reaches age 52, they expect to coast the rest of their career
At dinner with analysts, the discussion of financial meltdown and bailouts is unavoidable,including everyone's views about the proposed bailout of the Big 3 automakers. I can'tdefend Ford, GM and Chrysler paying their people $70 US dollars per hour, when their UScounterparts at Toyota or Honda are only paid $45 to $50 dollars per hour.
However, I have a close friend who retired after 20 years working for the fire department,and a cousin who retired after 20 years serving in the Navy (the US Navy, not the BolivianNavy), and both are still in their forties in age. A long time ago, IT professionalsretired after 30 years, in some cases with 50 to 60 percent of their base pay as theirpension for the rest of their lives. A 52-year-old that has worked 30 years might expect to enjoy the rest of his old age playing golf and pursuing other hobbies. This is not "coasting", it is called "retirement". The few of my colleagues that I have seen who worked 35 to 40 years did so becausethey enjoyed the challenge of work at IBM. They enjoyed solving tough engineering problems and helping customers.As long as they were having fun on the job,IBM was glad to keep their wealth of experience on board and actively engaged.
Unfortunately, many people rely on their own investments in the stock market for retirement, ratherthan company pensions. With the current financial crisis, I suspect many people my age arereconsidering their previous retirement plans.
We're going to need more trains!
I took the monorail back to my hotel. The ride includes funny announcements and statistics,including this gem:
"Since 1940, Las Vegas has doubled in population every ten years, which means thatby the year 2230, we will have over 1 trillion people calling Las Vegas home. We're goingto need more trains!"
That wraps up Tuesday, Day 2 of my attendance here! Now for some sleep.
Well, it's Wednesday, day three at the [Data Center Conference] here in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unlike other conferencesthat concentrate all of their keynote sessions at the front of the agenda,this conference spread them out over several days. They had three on Tuesday, two more Wednesday, and the last one on Thursday. Here are my thoughts on the two keynote sessions on Wednesday.
Top 10 Disruptive Technologies affecting the Data Center
The analyst presented his "top ten" technologies to watch:
Storage Virtualization - I was glad this made top of the list!
Cloud Computing - IBM was recognized for its leadership in this space. Cloud computing brings together new models of acquisition, billing, access, and deployment of new technology.
Servers: Beyond Blades - Currently, distributed servers have fixed CPU, memory and I/O capability, as manufactured at the factory, but what if you can re-assign these resources dynamically? New technologies mightmake this possible.
Virtualization for desktops - not just hosted virtual desktops, the speaker proposed having"portable personalities" that an employee might carry around on a CDrom or USB memory stick, andthen use whatever computer equipment was nearby.
Enterprise Mashups - You know analysts have too much time on their hands when they come up withtheir own eight-layer reference architecture for enterprise adoption of Web 2.0 technologies.
Specialized Systems - These are sometimes called heterogeneous systems, hybrids, or application-specific appliances. Unlike general purposes servers, these are more difficult to re-purpose as your needs change. However, if done right, can provide better performance for specific workloads.
Social Software and Social Networking - A survey of the audience found 18 percent were alreadyusing Mashups in the enterprise, but 65 percent haven't looked at this at all. Because traditionalhierarchically-organized companies can't re-structure their employees fast enough, the use ofsocial software to develop "virtual teams" and "communities of interest" can be an effective wayto get the "wisdom of crowds" from your employees. Rather than just installing this kind of software, the speaker felt it was better to just "plant seeds" and let social networks grow withinthe enterprise.
Unified Communications - Do you use different providers or software for cell phone, land line, wi-fi, internet, Instant Messaging (IM), audio conferencing, video conferencing, and email? The promise of Unified Communications is to bring this all together.
Zones and Pods - In the 1990s, traditional design for data centers tried to anticipate growthover the next 15-20 years, and build accordingly. These did not foresee all the changes in IT.The new best practice is a "pod approach" where you only build what you need for the next 5 to 7years, with the architecture to expand as needed. A traditional 9000-square-foot data center thatsupports 150 "watts-per-square-foot" would cost over $20 million to build, and over $1 million inelectricity every year. A pod alternative might cost less than $12 million to build, and nearlycut electricity costs in half.
Green IT - rapid "green" improvements are being demanded on IT operations, not just forpolitical correctness, but also for cost savings. A survey of the audience found 7 percentwilling to pay a premium price for green solutions, and another 26 percent willing to pay aslightly higher price for green features and attributes.
Don McMillan, Computer Engineer turned Stand Up Comic
Don gave a hilarious look at the IT industry. While most comics that are often hired to entertainthe audience have only a layman's knowledge of what we do, Don has a masters degree in ElectricalEngineering from Stanford and worked at a variety of IT companies, including AT&T Bell Labs andVLSI Technology. You can see more of his bio on his[Technically Funny] Web site.
Here's Don in a [four-minute video] demonstrating the kind of observational humor he performs.
It's good to see a bit of humor at IT conferences. With the pressures of IT staff and managementto manage explosive growth with shrinking budgets, the attendees appreciated the mix of serious with the not-so-serious.