Continuing this week's theme on Cloud Computing, Dynamic Infrastructure and Data Center Networking, IBM unveiled details of an advanced computing system that will be able to compete with humans on Jeopardy!
, America’s favorite quiz television show. Additionally, officials from Jeopardy!
announced plans to produce a human vs. machine competition on the renowned show.
For nearly two years, IBM scientists have been working on a highly advanced Question Answering (QA) system, codenamed "Watson" after IBM's first president, [Thomas J. Watson]. The scientists believe that the computing system will be able to understand complex questions and answer with enough precision and speed to compete on Jeopardy!Produced by Sony Pictures Television, the trivia questions on Jeopardy! cover a broad range of topics, such as history, literature, politics, film, pop culture, and science. It poses a grand challenge for a computing system due to the variety of subject matter, the speed at which contestants must provide accurate responses, and because the clues given to contestants involve analyzing subtle meaning, irony, riddles, and other complexities at which humans excel and computers traditionally do not. Watson will incorporate massively parallel analytical capabilities and, just like human competitors, Watson will not be connected to the Internet or have any other outside assistance.
If this all sounds familiar, you might remember some of the events that have led up to this:
- In 1984, the movie ["The Terminator"] introduced the concept of [Skynet], a fictional computer system developed by the militarythat becomes self-aware from its advanced artificial intelligence.
- In 1997, an IBM computer called Deep Blue defeated World Chess Champion [Garry Kasparov] in a famous battle of human versus machine. To compete at chess, IBM built an extremely fast computer that could calculate 200 million chess moves per second based on a fixed problem. IBM’s Watson system, on the other hand, is seeking to solve an open-ended problem that requires an entirely new approach – mainly through dynamic, intelligent software – to even come close to competing with the human mind. Despite their massive computational capabilities, today’s computers cannot consistently analyze and comprehend sentences, much less understand cryptic clues and find answers in the same way the human brain can.
- In 2005, Ray Kurzweil wrote [The Singularity is Near] referring to the wonders that artificial intelligence will bring to humanity.
The research underlying Watson is expected to elevate computer intelligence and human-to-computer communication to unprecedented levels. IBM intends to apply the unique technological capabilities being developed for Watson to help clients across a wide variety of industries answer business questions quickly and accurately.
For more details, read the IBM[Press Release].
technorati tags: IBM, Cloud Computing, Dynamic Infrastructure, Data Center Networking, Jeopardy, Watson, Sony, quiz show, Terminator, Skynet, Deep Blue, Garry Kasparov, Ray Kurzweil, Singularity, HCI, AI, artificial intelligence
This week, I am in Costa Rica to blog about "Earth Day" which officially is this Wednesday, April 22.
Fellow published author Thomas Friedman has a book titled[Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution - and How It Can Renew America] which serves as a call to action for Americans. His recent op-ed piece in the New York Times newspaper, titled [(No) Drill, Baby, Drill] is all about Costa Rica. Here is an excerpt:
"These days, visitors can still see amazing biodiversity all over Costa Rica — more than 25 percent of the country is protected area — thanks to a unique system it set up to preserve its cornucopia of plants and animals. Many countries could learn a lot from this system.
More than any nation I’ve ever visited, Costa Rica is insisting that economic growth and environmentalism work together. It has created a holistic strategy to think about growth, one that demands that everything gets counted. So if a chemical factory sells tons of fertilizer but pollutes a river — or a farm sells bananas but destroys a carbon-absorbing and species-preserving forest — this is not honest growth. You have to pay for using nature. It is called “payment for environmental services” — nobody gets to treat climate, water, coral, fish and forests as free anymore.
The process began in the 1990s when Costa Rica, which sits at the intersection of two continents and two oceans, came to fully appreciate its incredible bounty of biodiversity — and that its economic future lay in protecting it. So it did something no country has ever done: It put energy, environment, mines and water all under one minister.
“In Costa Rica, the minister of environment sets the policy for energy, mines, water and natural resources,” explained Carlos M. Rodríguez, who served in that post from 2002 to 2006. In most countries, he noted, “ministers of environment are marginalized.” They are viewed as people who try to lock things away, not as people who create value. Their job is to fight energy ministers who just want to drill for cheap oil.
But when Costa Rica put one minister in charge of energy and environment, “it created a very different way of thinking about how to solve problems,” said Rodríguez, now a regional vice president for Conservation International. “The environment sector was able to influence the energy choices by saying: ‘Look, if you want cheap energy, the cheapest energy in the long-run is renewable energy. So let’s not think just about the next six months; let’s think out 25 years.’ ”
As a result, Costa Rica hugely invested in hydro-electric power, wind and geo-thermal, and today it gets more than 95 percent of its energy from these renewables. In 1985, it was 50 percent hydro, 50 percent oil. More interesting, Costa Rica discovered its own oil five years ago but decided to ban drilling — so as not to pollute its politics or environment! What country bans oil drilling?
Rodríguez also helped to pioneer the idea that in a country like Costa Rica, dependent on tourism and agriculture, the services provided by ecosystems were important drivers of growth and had to be paid for. Right now, most countries fail to account for the “externalities” of various economic activities. So when a factory, farmer or power plant pollutes the air or the river, destroys a wetland, depletes a fish stock or silts a river — making the water no longer usable — that cost is never added to your electric bill or to the price of your shoes.
Costa Rica took the view that landowners who keep their forests intact and their rivers clean should be paid, because the forests maintained the watersheds and kept the rivers free of silt — and that benefited dam owners, fishermen, farmers and eco-tour companies downstream. The forests also absorbed carbon."
|I start my visit at Arenal, where there is a hydro-electric dam at Lake Arenal that produces electricity, a large volcano, and natural hot springs.I found [more stats on Costa Rica's energy consumption] that provide more details.|
At left is a photo I took of the Volcano Arenal. This is just one of the 112 volcanoes in thecountry.
At the [Springs Resort and Spa], they have clear (chlorinated) swimming pools maintained at three different temperatures. I asked our guide,Alan, if the pools were being heated from the electricity generated from the dam at the lake.No, they use green water for green energy. Taking advantage of "geo-thermal" energy, the natural hot springs are run through a [Heat Exchanger], to heat the pools. The waters do not mix, keeping the clean water clean. The process is similar to IBM's [Rear Door Heat eXchanger].
|Why don't people just soak directly in the green water directly? Alan responded, "You can certainly enjoy soaking in the green water, but I recommend you buy some storage, which will cost you extra, as a souvenir."|
The storage, shown here at right, holds cash and credit cards with a water-tight seal. Normal pool water won'teffect cash or credit cards, and I have certainly seen people pay for food and drinks with soggy dollars in other places. This water is literally green, and perhaps not for everyone. How green is it? Think watered-down version of [split-pea soup] and you will have a close approximation.I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but am going to need some industrial-strength scum-and-lime remover to clean the glass face of my waterproof watch when I get back home.
Fortunately, I speak the Castellano dialect of Spanish that is spoken here in Costa Rica,and this will allow me to continue to gather more information about how Costa Rica leads the way in being more energy efficient and environmentally responsible.
technorati tags: IBM, Earth Day, Rear Door Heat eXchanger, geo-thermal,hydro-electric[Read More]
Well, it is Tuesday, and that means IBM announcements. This week many of my colleagues are attending Storage Networking World [SNW
] conference. Normally, the most exciting announcements are reserved for the weeks these conferences are held, but IBM apparently made an exception this week.
- New Factory configurations for XIV
The first announcement is for new [factory configurations] for the IBM XIV disk system. In the past, you could only order a partial 6-module or a full 15-module rack. Today, IBM announced that there will also be 9-, 10-, 11-, 12-, 13- and 14-module configurations orderable as well.
Some FUD out in the blogosphere led some to believe that these partial configurations had to be made full 15 modules within 12 months. That is false. You can order any of these partial rack configurations and leave them as is until you need more capacity. There is no obligation to buy more capacity with these partial rack configurations.
- IBM N series N6060 configurations
This second announcement indicates that the N6060 supports[672 drives]. The N6060 is the latest midrange model of IBM N series unified storage.
If you are asking "What is a 672 drive?" don't feel stupid. It actuallyrefers to the number of external drives that can be attached to the N6060. Previously, it was mis-reported that the N6060 could support as many as 840 drives, but this was not correct, and this announcement is to fixthat typo.
- IBM Passport Advantage Sub-Capacity Licensing
This last announcement today relates to IBM Passport Advantage[sub-capacity licensing].Pricing products is always a challenge. You want to come up with a pricing methodology such that people who get the most use pay the most, and those who get less pay less, in a manner that everyone thinks is fair. With commodities, it is simple to price rice by the pound, or fabric by the yard, but what about IT solutions?
Some of the IBM software is based on number of processors used, so that people who have the software running on multiple machines, or machines with multiple cores, should pay more because they are getting more value. This makes sense if this software is the only thing running on that server, but today you can also have server virtualization and are running many guest operating systems, each with different applications. The solution is to use "sub-capacity" licensing. If you have a quad-core processor server, but have four guest operating systems using 25 percent of this, then each OS should only pay for one processor's worth of licensing. Since different processors have different clock speeds, IBM has standardized the calculations to a mythical "Processor Value Unit" or PVU, with a corresponding IBM License Metric Tool (ILMT).
Initially, this will cover specific versions of Citrix Xen Server, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware, but IBM has made as a "statement of direction" that it will extend this sub-capacity licensing and ILMT support to IBM PowerVM capability for its POWER systems.
I have often heard clients complain that their third party software vendor does not support these hypervisors. Sometimes, this means the third party vendor will not fix or provide assistance if the problem occurs in this environment, and other times, it is that the pricing does not favor this environment, you get charged for all the processors, even if your slice of the processor is much smaller.
If you are at SNW this week, stop by and say "Hi" to my fellow IBM collegues for me.
technorati tags: IBM, SNW09, XIV, N6060, PVU, ILMT, Citrix, Xen, Hyper-V, VMware, ILMT
Earlier this week, EMC announced its Symmetrix V-Max, following two trends in the industry:
- Using Roman numerals. The "V" here is for FIVE, as this is the successor to the DMX-3 and DMX-4. EMC might have gotten the idea from IBM's success with the XIV (which does refer to the number 14, specifically the 14th class of a Talpiot program in Israel that the founders of XIV graduated from).
- Adding "-Max", "-Monkey" or "2.0" at the end of things to make them sound more cool and to appeal to a younger, hipper audience. EMC might have gotten this idea from Pepsi-Max (... a taste of storage for the next generation?)
I took a cue from President Obama and waited a few days to collect my thoughts and do my homework before responding.Special thanks to fellow blogger ChuckH in giving me a [handy list of reactions] for me to pick and choose from. It appears that EMC marketing machine feels it is acceptable for their own folks to claim that EMC is doing something first, or that others are catching up to EMC, but when other vendors do likewise, then that is just pathetic or incoherent. Here are a few reactions already from fellow bloggers:
This was a major announcement for EMC, addressing many of the problems, flaws and weaknesses of the earlier DMX-3 and DMX-4 deliverables. Here's my read on this:
- More ports
Now you can have as many FCP ports (128) as an IBM System Storage DS8300, although the maximum number of FICON ports is still short, and no mention of ESCON support. The Ethernet ports appear to be 1Gb, not the new 10GbE you might expect.
- Support for System z mainframe
V-Max adds some new support to catch up with the DS8000, like Extended Address Volumes (EAV). EMC is still not quite there yet. IBM DS8000 continues to be the best, most feature-rich storage option if you have System z mainframe servers.
- Improved Performance
Both the IBM DS8000 and HDS USP-V beat the DMX-4 in performance, and in some cases the DMX-4 even lost to the IBM XIV, so EMC had to do something about it. EMC chooses not to participate in industry-standard performance benchmarks like those from the [Storage Performance Council], which limits them to vague comparisons against older EMC gear. I'll give EMC engineers the benefit of the doubt and say that now V-Max is now "comparably as fast as HDS and IBM offerings".
- Getting "V" in the name
The "V" appears to be for the roman number five, not to be confused with external heterogeneous storage virtualization that HDS USP-V and IBM SVC provide. There is no mention of synergy with EMC's failed "Invista" product, and I see no support for attaching other vendors disk to the back of this thing.
- Switch to Intel processor
Apple switched its computers from PowerPC to Intel-based, and now EMC follows in the same path. There are some custom ASICs still in V-Max, so it is not as pure as IBM's offerings.
- Modular, XIV-like Scale-out Architecture
Actually, the packaging appears to follow the familiar system bays and storage bays of the DMX-4 and DMX-4 950 models, but architecturally offers XIV-like attachment across a common switch network between "engines", EMC's term for interface modules.
- Non-disruptive data migration
IBM's SoFS, DR550 and GMAS have this already, as does as anything connected behind an IBM SAN Volume Controller.
A long time ago, IBM used to have midrange disk storage systems called "FAStT" which stood for Fibre Array Storage Technology, so this might have given EMC the idea for their "Fully Automated Storage Tiering" acronym. The concept appears similar to what IBM introduced back in 2007 for the Scale-Out-File Services [SofS] which not only provides policy-based placement, movement and expiration on different disk tiers, includes tape tiers as well for a complete solution. I don't see anything in the V-Max announcement that it will support tape anytime soon.
And what ever happend to EMC's Atmos? Wasn't that supposed to be EMC's new direction in storage?
- Zero-data loss Three-site replication
IBM already calls this Metro/Global Mirror for its IBM DS8000 series, but EMC chose to call it SRDF/EDP for Extended Distance Protection.
- Ease of Use
The most significant part of the announcement is that EMC is finally focusing on ease-of-use.In addition to reducing the requirement for "Bin File" modifications, this box has a redesigned user interface to focus on usability issues. For past DMX models, EMC customers had to either hire EMC to do tasks for them that were just to difficult otherwise, or buy expensive software like their EMC Control Center to manage. EMC willcontinue to sell DMX-4 boxes for a while, as they are probably supply-constrained on the V-Max side, but I doubt they will retro-fit these new features back to DMX-3 and DMX-4.
When IBM announced its acquisition of XIV over a year ago now, customers were knocking down our doors to get one. This caught two particular groups looking like a [deer in headlights]:
- EMC Symmetrix sales force: Some of the smarter ones left EMC to go sell IBM XIV, leaving EMC short-handed and having to announce they [were hiring during their layoffs]. Obviously, a few of the smart ones stayed behind, to convince their management to build something like the V-Max.
- IBM DS8000 sales force: If clients are not happy with their existing EMC Symmetrix, why don't they just buy an IBM DS8000 instead? What does XIV have that DS8000 doesn't?
Let me contrast this with the situation Microsoft Windows is currently facing.
|I am often asked by friends to help them pick out laptops and personal computers. I use Linux, Windows and MacOS, so have personal experience with all three operating systems.|
Linux is cheaper, offers the power-user the most options for supporting older, less-powerfulequipment, but I wouldn't have my Mom use it. While distributions like Ubuntu are makinggreat strides, it is just too difficult for some people.
MacOS is nice, I like it, it works out of the box with little or no customization and an intuitive interface. However, some of my friends don't make IBM-level salaries, and have to watch their budget.
In their "I'm a PC" campaign, Microsoft is fighting both fronts. Let's examine two commercials:
- In the first commercial, a young eight-year-old puts together a video from pictures oftoy animals and some background music.The message: "Windows is easier to use than Linux!" If they really wanted to send this message, they should have shown senior citizens instead.
- In the second commercial, a young college student is asked to find a laptop with 17 inchscreen, and a variety of other qualifications, for under $1000 US dollars. The only modelat the Apple store below this price had a 13 inch screen, but she finds a Windows-based system that had this size screen and met all the other qualifications. The message: "Windows-based hardware from a variety of competitors are less expensive than hardware from Apple!"
Both Microsoft and Apple charge a premium for ease-of-use.In the storage world, things are completely opposite. Vendors don't charge a premium forease-of-use. In fact, some of the easiest to use are also the least expensive.
- If you just have Windows and Linux, you can get some entry level system likethe IBM DS3000 series, only a few features, and can be set up in six simple steps.
- Next, if you have a more interesting mix of operating systems, Linux, Windows and some flavorsof UNIX like IBM AIX, HP-UX or Sun Solaris, then you might want the features and functionsof more pricier midrange offerings. More options means that configuration and deploymentis more difficult, however.
- Finally, if you are serious Fortune 500 company, running your mission critical applications on System z or System i centralized systems in a big data center, that you might be willing to pay top dollar for the most feature-rich offerings of an Enterprise-class machine.Thankfully you have an army of highly-trained staff to handle the highest levels of complexity.
IBM's DS8000, HDS USP-V and EMC's Symmetrix are the key players in the Enterprise-classspace. They tried to be ["all things to all people"], er.. perhaps all things to allplatforms. All of the features and functions came at a price, not just in dollars, butin complexity and difficulty. You needed highly skilled storage admins using expensive storage management software, or be willing to hirethe storage vendor's premium services to get the job done.
Alan Cooper wrote a book that would change that mindset, titled[The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity]. This book showed why the situation had gotten out ofhand, and to demand better ease-of-use from all vendors. It was required reading for anyone working in or with IBM's "User Centered Design" teams.I highly recommend this book.
IBM recognized this trend early. IBM's SVC, N series and now XIV all offer ease-of-use withenterprise-class features and functions, at lower total cost of ownership than traditional enterprise-class systems. IBM is not the only one, of course, as smaller storage start-ups like 3PAR,Pillar Data Systems, Compellent, and to some extent Dell's EqualLogic all recognized thisand developed clever offerings as well.
While IBM's XIV may not have been the first to introduce a modular, scale-out architectureusing commodity parts managed by sophisticated ease-of-use interfaces, its success might have been the kick-in-the-butt EMC needed to follow the rest of the industry in this direction.
technorati tags: IBM, DS8000, XIV, SVC, EMC, Symmetrix, V-Max, DMX-3, DMX-4, Chuck Hollis, HDS, USP-V, FCP, FICON, ESCON, storage+virtualization, FAStT
It's Tuesday, which means IBM announcements, and today IBM made some major announcementsthat support a [Dynamic Infrastructure
]! I hinted at this yesterday, choosing the week's theme to be all about Cloud Computing and Alternative Sourcing. I will briefly highlight today's announcements related to storage here, and try to go into more detail over the next few weeks.
- Ethernet switches and routers
In support of Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage, IBM is now back in theEthernet networking business. This is part of storage as protocols likeiSCSI, CIFS and NFS are gaining prominence. Extending IBM's existing OEMrelationship with Brocade, there are four series:
- [c-series] - "c" for Compact, these are 1U high fixed port switches
- [g-series] - "g" for Pay-as-you-Grow using IronStack stacking technology to allow up to 8 switches to be
glommed, glued, er.. "gathered" together as a single virtual chassis.
- [m-series] - "m" for Multiprotocol Label Switching [MPLS] which supports routing between LAN and WAN networks over OC12 and OC48 lines.
- [s-series] - "s" for slots, the B08S has eight slots, and the B16S has sixteen slots, supporting up to 384 ports. These models support Power-over-Ethernet [PoE] that simplifies attaching Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephones and IP-based surveillance cameras.
IBM announced it will strengthen its partnership with Juniper Networks, and continues to consider Cisco a strategic partner as well. To help customer position themselves for Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage,IBM also launches some new services:
- IBM System Storage DS5000 disk system
The IBM [DS5000] now supports self-encrypting disk drives, known also as "full-disk encryption" or FDE, for added security, and 8Gbps Fibre Channel (FC) ports for added performance. The DS5300 model in particular now supports up to 448 disk drives for added scalability.
- Comprehensive Data Protection Solution
IBM's [Data Protection Solution] shows off IBM's awesome synergy between servers, storage and software. Combining System x servers, Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack software, and DS5000, DS4000 or DS3000 series disk systems. The solution is designed to both Windows-based servers and their applications, offering bare metal restores, and application–level protection for Oracle, SQL, Exchange and SAP.
- Tivoli Storage Productivity Center
Last February, IBM previewed the renaming of TotalStorage Productivity Center to its new name,Tivoli Storage Productivity Center. Today, IBM announces [Tivoli Storage Productivity Center v4.1]. Some key changes include:
- Productivity Center for Fabric has been merged into Productivity Center for Disk
- Productivity Center for Replication is now integrated, but remains separately licensed
- Productivity Center can now feed input to IBM's Novus Storage Enterprise Resource Planner [SERP]
- TS7650 ProtecTIER Data Deduplication IP-based replication
IBM previews IP-based replication which allows the TS7650 appliance or TS7650G gateway to sendvirtual tape data over to a remote location. This is instead of having the underlying disk systemsperform the replication on its behalf. Having the TS7650 do the replication is preferred, as itcan maintain virtual cartridge integrity, when a virtual tape is unmounted the replication can beginat that point.
This is just a small subset of all the announcements. For more information, see this 28-pagepresentation [Manage the Explosion of Information with IBM Information Infrastructure].
technorati tags: IBM, Dynamic Infrastructure, Ethernet, switches, routers, Cloud Computing, Cloud Storage, Brocade, Juniper Networks, Cisco, IronStack, FCoE, FCoCEE, PoE, DS5000, FC, FDE, TSM, FastBack, TotalStorage, Tivoli, Storage, Productivity Center, Novus, SERP, TS7650, TS77650G, ProtecTIER, Information Infrastructure