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This wraps up my week in Las Vegas for the 27th Annual [Data Center Conference]. This conference follows the common approach of ending at noon on Friday, so that attendees can get home to their families for the weekend, or start their weekend in Las Vegas early to watch the 50th annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
I attended the last few sessions. Here is my recap:
Where, When and Why do I need a Solid-State Drive?
The internet provides transport of digital data between any devices. All other uses have evolved from this aim. Increasing data storage on any node on the Web therefore increases the possibilities at every other point. We are just now beginning to recognize the implications of this. The two speakers co-presented this session to cover how Solid State Disk (SSD) may participate.
Some electronic surveys of the audience provided some insight. Only 12 percent are deploying SSD now. 59 percent are evaluating the technology. A whopping 89 percent did not understand SSD technology, or how it would apply to their data center. Here is the expected time linefor SSD adoption:
17 percent - within 1 year
60 percent - around 3 years from now
21 percent - 5 years or later
The main reasons cited for adopting SSD were increasing IOPS, reducing power and floorspace requirements, and expanding global networks. Here's a side-by-side comparison between HDD and SSD:
Disk array with 120 HDD, 73GB drives
Disk array with 120 SSD, 32GB drives
Per 73GB drive
Per 32GB drive
100MB/sec per drive
Read 250 MB/sec per drive Write 170 MB/sec per drive
300 IOPS per drive
35,000 IOPS per drive
12 Watts per drive
2.4 Watts per drive
However, the cost-per-GB for SSD is still 25x over traditional spinning disk, andthe analysts expected SSD to continue to be 10-20x for a while. For now, they estimatethat SSD will be mostly found in blade servers, enterprise-class disk systems, andhigh-end network directors.
The speakers gave examples such as Sun's ZFS Hybrid, and other products from NetApp,Compellent, Rackable, Violin, and Verari Systems.
Taking fear out of IT Disaster Recovery Exercises
The analyst presented best practices for disaster recovery testing with a "Pay Now or Pay Later"pre-emptive approach. Here were some of the suggestions:
Schedule adequate time for DR exercises
Build DR considerations into change control procedures and project lifecycle planning
Document interdependencies between applications and business processes
Bring in the "crisis team" on even the smallest incidents to keep skill sharp
Present the "State of Disaster Recovery" to Senior Management annually
The speaker gave examples of different "tiers" for recovery, with appropriate RPO and RTOlevels, and how often these should be tested per year. A survey of the audience found that70 percent already have a tiered recovery approach.
In addition to IT staff, you might want to consider inviting others to the DR exerciseas reviewers for oversight, including: Line of Business folks, Facilities/Operations, Human Resources, Legal/Compliance officers, even members of government agencies.
DR exercises can be performed at a variety of scope and objectives:
Tabletop Test - IBM calls these "walk-throughs", where people merely sit around the table and discuss what actions they would take in the event of a hypothetical scenario. This is a good way to explore all kinds of scenarios from power outages, denial of service attacks, or pandemic diseases.
Checklist Review - Here a physical inventory is taken of all the equipment needed at the DR site.
Stand-alone Test - Sometimes called a "component test" or "unit test", a single application is recovered and tested.
End-to-End simulation - All applications for a business process are recovered for a full simulation.
Full Rehearsal - Business is suspended to perform this over a weekend.
Production Cut-Over - If you are moving data center locations, this is a good time to consider testing some procedures. Other times, production is cut-over for a week over to the DR site and then returned back to the primary site.
Mock Disaster - Management calls this unexpectedly to the IT staff, certain IT staff are told to participate, and others are told not to. This helps to identify critical resources, how well procedures are documented, and members of the team are adequately cross-trained.
For exercise, set the appropriate scope and objectives, score the results, and then identifyaction plans to address the gaps uncovered. Scoring can be as simple as "Not addressed","Needs Improvement" and "Met Criteria".
Full Speed Ahead for iSCSI
The analyst presented this final session of the conference. He recognized IBM's early leadership in this area back in 1999, with the IP200i disk system. Today, there are many storage vendors that provide iSCSI solutions, the top three being:
23 percent - Dell/EqualLogic
15 percent - EMC
14 percent - HP/LeftHand Networks
This protocol has been mostly adopted for Windows, Linux and VMware, but has been largelyignored by the UNIX community. The primary value proposition is to offer SAN-like functionality at lower cost. When using the existing NICs that come built-in on most servers, iSCSI canbe 30-50 percent less expensive than FC-based SANs. Even if you install TCP-Offload-Engine (TOE) cards into the servers, iSCSI can still represent a 16-19 percent cost savings. ManyIBM servers now have TOE functionality built-in.
Since lower costs are the primary motivator, most iSCSI deployments are on 1GbE. The new10Gbps Ethernet is still too expensive for most iSCSI configurations. For servers runninga single application, 2 1GbE NICs is sufficient. For servers running virtualization with multiple workloads might need 4 or 5 NICs (1GbE), or consider 2 10GbE NICs if 10Gbps is available.
The iSCSI protocol has been most successful for small and medium sized businesses (SMB) lookingfor one-stop shopping. Buying iSCSI storage from the same vendor as your servers makes a lot of sense: EqualLogic with Dell servers, LeftHand software with HP servers, and IBM's DS3300 or N series with IBM System x servers.The average iSCSI unit was 10TB for about $24,000 US dollars.
Security and Management software for iSCSI is not as fully developed as for FC-based SANs.For this reason, most network vendors suggest having IP SANs isolated from your regular LAN.If that is not possible, consider VPN or encryption to provide added security.Issues of security and management imply that iSCSI won't dominate the large enteprise data center. Instead, many arewatching closely the adoption of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), based on revised standardsfor 10Gbps Ethernet. FCoE standards probably won't be finalized till mid-2009, with productsfrom major vendors by 2010, and perhaps taking as much as 10 percent marketshare by 2011.
I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts. In addition to the sessions I attended, theconference has provided me with 67 presentations for me to review. Those who attended couldpurchase all the audio recordings and proceedings of every session for $295 US dollars, and those who missed the event can purchase these for $595 US dollars. These are reasonable prices, when you realize that the average Las Vegas visitor spends 13.9 hours gambling, losing an average of $626 US dollars per visit. The audio recordings and proceedings can provide more than 13.9 hours of excitement for less money!
The booths at a typical week-long tradeshow only go from day 2 to day 4, so that day 1 and day 5 can be used for unpacking and repacking all of the demo equipment and displays. This was the case here at the27th annual [Data Center Conference] here in Las Vegas.
The solution showcase ended Thursday afternoon.
From left to right:George Lane, Ron Houston, Cris Espinosa, Patty Congdon, David Bricker, Paula Koziol, Steve Sams, Tony Pearson,Gary Fierko, Diane Hill, David Share, Nick Sardino, Carla Fleming, Bruce Otte.
Gary Fierko and I discuss the IBM's vision and strategy, the TS7650G ProtecTIER gateway, and the differences between LTO-4 and IBM Enterprise tape, with an attendees at the booth.
Behind the scenes were folks from the [George P. Johnson company] that run events.Deniese Dunavin here helped us be successful at this conference!
Here are just a portion of all the sponsors that made this event possible, printed on bags given to each attendee.
After the booths closed down, we were invited to several different hospitality suites, sponsoredby different vendors.
The Cisco hospitality suite had an Elvis impersonator and a beautiful bride. Her name was Trixie.
The bouncers at the Computer Associates (CA) hospitality suite wore the same shade of green and blue colors from their logo.
The APC hospitality suite went with an Island/Pirate theme.
The Brocade hospitality suite rocked the Casbah! Yes, that is a REAL snake she is holding.
Michael Nixon, a presenter from NEC Corporation of America.
By the time we got to the Data Domain hospitality suite, they were out of "dedupe-tinis", most ofthe attendees had left, but they were giving out these bumper stickers. For those considering Data Domain,you might want to look at the IBM TS7650G Virtual Tape gateway, which also provides inline datadeduplication, but about six times faster ingest rate.
Lagasse, Inc. sells janitorial supplies, such as mops, cleaning chemicals, waste receptacles, and garbage can liners. Of the 1000 employees of Lagasse nationwide, about 200 associates were located in New Orleans at their main Headquarters, primary customer care center, and primary IT computing center.
Amazingly, Lagasse did not have a formally documented BCP (Business Continuity Plan) but more of aBCI (Business Continuity Idea). They chose to take a ["donut tire"] approach, putting older previous-generation equipment at their DR site. They knew that in the event of a disaster,they would not be processing as many transactions per second. That was a business trade-offthey could accept.
Evaluating all the different threat scenarios for impact and likelihood, and focused on hurricanes and floods.They had experienced previous hurricanes, learning from each,with the most recent being 2004 Hurricane Ivan and 2005 Hurricane Dennis. From this, they wereable to categorize three levels of DR recovery:
Tier 1 - The most mission-critical, which for them related to picking, packing and shipping products.
Tier 2 - The next most important, focused on maintaining good customer service
Tier 3 - Everything else, including reporting and administrative functions
The time-line of events went as follows:
The US Government issues warning that a hurricane may hit New Orleans
August 27 - 7pm
Lagasse declares a disaster, starts recovery procedures to an existing IT facility in Chicago, owned by their parent company. A temporary "Southeast" Headquarters were set up in Atlanta.Remote call centers were identified in Dallas, Atlanta, San Antonio, and Miami.
August 28 - just after midnight
In just five hours, they recovered their "Tier 1" applications.
August 28 - 7:30pm
In just over 24 hours, they recovered their "Tier 2" applications.
August 29 - 6am
The Hurricane hits land. With 73 levees breached, the city of New Orleans was flooded.
The following week
Lagasse was fully operational, and recorded their second and third best sales days ever.
I was quite impressed with their company's policy for how they treat their employees during a disaster. For many companies, people during a disaster prioritize on their families, not their jobs.If any associate was asked to work during a disaster, the company would take care of:
The safety of their family
The safety of their pets. (In the weeks following this hurricane, I sponsored people in Tucson to go to New Orleans to attend to lost and stray dogs and cats, many of which were left behind when rescuers picked up people from their rooftops.)
Any emergency repairs to secure the home they leave behind
Marshall felt that if you don't know the names of the spouse and kids of your key employees, you are not emotionally-invested enough to be successful during a disaster.
For communications, cell phones were useless. They could call out on them, but anyone with acell phone with 504 area code had difficulty receiving calls, as the calls had to be processedthrough New Orleans. Instead, they used Voice over IP (VoIP) to redirect calls to whichever remote call center each associate went to. Laptops, Citrix, VPN and email were considered powerful tools during this process. They did not have Instant Messaging (IM) at the time.
While the disk and tapes needed to recover Tiers 1 and 2 were already in Chicago, the tapes for Tier 3 were stored locally by a third-party provider. When Lagasse asked for thier DR tapes back, the third-party refused, based on their [force majeure] clause. Force majeure is a common clause in many business contracts to free parties from liabilityduring major disasters.Marshall advised everyone to strike out any "force majeure" clauses out of any future third-party DR protection contracts.
Hurricane Katrina hit the US hard, killing over 1400 people, and America still has not fully recovered. The recovery of thecity of New Orleans has been slow. Massive relocations has caused a deficit of talent inthe area, not just IT talent, but also in the areas of medicine, education and other professions. The result has been degraded social services, encouraging others to relocate as well. Some have called it the "liberation effect", a major event that causespeople to move to a new location or take on a new career in a different field.
On a personal note, I was in New Orleans for a conference the week prior to landfall, and helped clients with their recoveries the weeks after. For more on how IBM Business Continuity Recovery Services (BCRS) helped clients during Hurricane Katrina, see the following [media coverage].
It's Thursday here at the [Data Center Conference] here in Las Vegas. Trying to keep up with all the sessions and activities has been quite challenging. As is often the case, there are more sessions that I want to attend than I physically am able to, so have to pick and choose.
Making the Green Data Center a Reality
The sixth and final keynote was an expert panel session, with Mark Bramfitt from Pacific Gas and Electric [PG&E], and Mark Thiele from VMware.
Mark explained PG&E's incentive program to help data centers be more energyefficient. They have spent $7 million US dollars so far on this, and he has requested another$50 million US dollars over the next three years. One idea was to put "shells" aroundeach pod of 28 or so cabinets to funnel the hot air up to the ceiling, rather than havingthe hot air warm up the rest of the cold air supply.
The fundamental disconnect for a "green" data center is that the Facilities team pay for the electricity, but it is the IT department that makes decisions that impact its use. The PG&E rebates reward IT departments for making better decisions. The best metric available is"Power Usage Effectiveness" or [PUE], which is calculated by dividing total energy consumed in the data center, divided by energy consumed by the IT equipment itself.Typical PUE runs around 3.0 which means for every Watt used for servers, storage or network switches, another 2 Watts are used for power, cooling, and facilities. Companies are tryingto reduce their PUE down to 1.6 or so. The lower the better, and 1.0 is the ideal.The problem is that changing the data center infrastructure is as difficult as replacingthe phone system or your primary ERP application.
While California has [Title 24], stating energy efficiency standards for both residential and commercial buildings, it does notapply to data centers. PG&E is working to add data center standards into this legislation.
The two speakers also covered Data Center [bogeymans], unsubstantiated myths that prevent IT departments fromdoing the right thing. Here are a few examples:
Power cycles - some people believe that x86 servers can typically only handle up to 3000 shutdowns, and so equipment is often left running 24 hours a day to minimize these. Most equipment is kept less than 5 years (1826 days), so turning off non-essential equipment at night, and powering it back on the next morning, is well below this 3000 limit and can greatly reduce kWh.
Dust - many are so concerned about dust that they run extra air-filters which impactsthe efficiency of cooling systems air flow. New IT equipment tolerates dust much betterthan older equipment.
Humidity - Mark had a great story on this one. He said their "de-humidifier" broke,and they never got around to fixing it, and they went years without it, realizing they didn't need to de-humidify.
The session wrapped up with some "low hanging fruit", items that can provide immediate benefit with little effort:
Cold-aisle containment--Why are so few data centers doing this?
Colocation providers need to meter individual clients' energy usage -- IBM offers the instrumentation and software to make this possible
Air flow management--Simply organizing cables under the floor tiles could help this.
Virtualization and Consolidation.
High-efficiency power supplies
Managing IT from a Business Service Perspective
The "other" future of the data center is to manage it as a set of integrated IT services,rather than a collection of servers, storage and switches.IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is widely-accepted as a set of best practices to accomplish this "service management" approach. The presenter from ASG Software Solutions presented their Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB) and application dependency dashboard. Theyhave some customers with as many as 200,000 configuration items (CIs) in their CMDB.
The solution looked similar to the IBM Tivoli software stack presented earlier this yearat the [Pulse conference].Both ASG and IBM "eat their own dog food", or perhaps more accurately "drink their own champagne", using these software products to run their own internal IT operations.
For many, the future of a "green" data center managed as a set of integrated service are years away, but the technologies and products are available today, and there is no reasonto postpone these projects any longer than necessary. For more about IBM's approach togreen data center, see [Energy EfficiencySolutions]. You can also take IBM's[IT Service Management self-assessment] to help determine whichIBM tools you need for your situation.