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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Well, it's Tuesday again, and that means IBM announcements! Today we had a major launch, with so many products, services and offerings
that I can't fit them all into a single post, so I will split them up into several posts to give the attention they deserve. So, in this
post, I will focus on just the networking gear.
IBM Converged Switch B32
The "Converged" part of this switch refers to Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE), which is just a lossless Ethernet that meets certain standards to allow Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) that are still being discussed between Brocade and Cisco. Thankfully, IBM demanded both Brocade and Cisco stick to open agreed-upon standards, and the rest of the world gets to benefit from IBM's leadership in keeping everything as open and non-proprietary as possible.
The B32 ("B" because it was made by Brocade) starts with 24 10Gb Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) ports, and then you can add eight Fibre Channel ports, for a total of 32 ports, hence the name B32. These are designed to be Top-of-Rack (TOR) switches. Basically, instead of having expensive optical cables for Ethernet and/or Fibre Channel out of each server, you have cheap twinax copper cables connecting the server's Converged Network Adapters (CNA) to this TOR switch, and then you can have the 10Gb Ethernet go to your regular Ethernet LAN, and your 8Gbps FC traffic go to your regular FC SAN. In other words, the CNA serves both the role of an Ethernet Network Interface Card (NIC) as well as a Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapter (HBA) card.
(You might see 8Gbps Fibre Channel represented as 8/4/2 or 2/4/8, this is just to remind you that these 8Gb FC ports can auto-negotiate down to 2Gbps and 4Gbps legacy hardware, but not 1Gbps. If you are still using 1Gbps FC, you need 4Gpbs SFP transceivers instead, shown often as 1/2/4 or 4/2/1.)
New SSN-16 module for Cisco directors and switches
When I present SAN gear to sales reps, I often get the question, "What is the difference between a switch and a director?" My quick and simple answer is that switches have fixed ports, but directors have slots that you can slide in different blades or expansion modules. The Cisco MDS9500 series are directors with slots, the three models provide a hint to their capacity. The last two digits represent the number of total slots, but the first two slots are already taken. In other words, model 9513 has 11 slots, model 9509 has seven slots, and model 9506 has four slots. You can have a 48-port blade in a slot, so in theory, you can have a maximum of 528 ports on the biggest model 9513.
However, if you want FCIP for disaster recovery, or I/O Acceleration (IOA) for remote e-vaulting tape libraries, you need a special 18/4 blade. This has 18 FC ports, four 1GbE ports and a special service processor that speaks FCIP or IOA. If you wanted two service processors for FCIP and two for IOA, you would need four of these blades, and that takes up slots that could have been used for 48-port blades instead. The solution? The new SSN-16 has sixteen 1GbE ports and four service processors, so with one slot, you can handle the FCIP and IOA processing that you previously used four cards, giving you three slots back to use with higher port-density cards.
Even better, you can put this new SSN-16 in the Cisco 9222i. The model 9222i is a "hybrid" switch with 22 fixed ports (18 FC ports, four fixed 1GbE ports, and a service processor, so basically the fixed port version of the 18/4 blade above), but it also has one slot! That one slot can be used for the SSN-16 to give you added FCIP or IOA capability.
For our mainframe clients, the FICON package includes four 24-port FICON blades and 96 SFP 4Gbps transceivers to fully populate them. Here is the IBM [Press Release].
Cisco Nexus 5000 series for IBM System Storage
The Cisco Nexus 5000 series is Cisco's entry into the Converged Enhanced Ethernet world, although Cisco sometimes refers to this as Data Center Ethernet (DCE), IBM will continue to use CEE when referring to either Brocade and Cisco gear. These are also Top-of-Rack aggregators that support CNA connections over cheaper twinax copper wires. Model 5010 has 10 ports that can be configured for either 1GbE or 10Gb CEE, 10 ports that are 10Gb CEE, and a slot for an expansion module. The Model 5020 has basically twice as much of everything, including two slots instead of one. Since 10Gb Ethernet does not auto-negotiate down to 1GbE, half the ports can be configured to run 1GbE instead. Frankly, that can be seen as wasting your precious Nexus ports with 1GbE connections, so you might find a 1GbE-to-10GbE aggregator that combines a dozen or more 1GbE to a few 10GbE links instead.
Today's announcement is that in addition to 10GbE and 4Gbps FC expansion modules, there is now an expansion module that supports 8Gbps Fibre Channel. Here is the IBM [Press Release].
Whether you choose Brocade or Cisco, nearly all of IBM System Storage disk and tape products can work today with Converged Enhanced Ethernet environments, either directly using iSCSI, NFS or CIFS, or using the FCoE methodology.
As you can see, it took me a whole post just to cover just our networking gear announcements, and I haven't even covered our disk, tape and cloud storage offerings. I'll get to these in later posts.
In addition to dominating the gaming world, producing chips for the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft Xbox 360, IBM also dominates the world of Linux and UNIX servers. Today, IBM announced its new POWER7 processor, and a line of servers that use this technology. Here is a quick [3-minute video] about the POWER7.
While others might be [Dancing on Sun's grave], IBM instead is focused on providing value to the marketplace. Here is another quick [2-minute video] about why thousands of companies have switched from Sun, HP and Dell over to IBM.
Am I dreaming? On his Storagezilla blog, fellow blogger Mark Twomey (EMC) brags about EMC's standard benchmark results, in his post titled [Love Life. Love CIFS.]. Here is my take:
A Full 180 degree reversal
For the past several years, EMC bloggers have argued, both in comments on this blog, and on their own blogs, that standard benchmarks are useless and should not be used to influence purchase decisions. While we all agree that "your mileage may vary", I find standard benchmarks are useful as part of an overall approach in comparing and selecting which vendors to work with, and which architectures or solution approaches to adopt, and which products or services to deploy. I am glad to see that EMC has finally joined the rest of the planet on this. I find it funny this reversal sounds a lot like their reversal from "Tape is Dead" to "What? We never said tape was dead!"
Impressive CIFS Results
The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) has developed a series of NFS benchmarks, the latest, [SPECsfs2008] added support for CIFS. So, on the CIFS side, EMC's benchmarks compare favorably against previous CIFS tests from other vendors.
On the NFS side, however, EMC is still behind Avere, BlueArc, Exanet, and IBM/NetApp. For example, EMC's combination of Celerra gateways in front of V-Max disk systems resulted in 110,621 OPS with overall response time of 2.32 milliseconds. By comparison, the IBM N series N7900 (tested by NetApp under their own brand, FAS6080) was able to do 120,011 OPS with 1.95 msec response time.
Even though Sun invented the NFS protocol in the early 1980s, they take an EMC-like approach against standard benchmarks to measure it. Last year, fellow blogger Bryan Cantrill (Sun) gives his [Eulogy for a Benchmark]. I was going to make points about this, but fellow blogger Mike Eisler (NetApp) [already took care of it]. We can all learn from this. Companies that don't believe in standard benchmarks can either reverse course (as EMC has done), or continue their downhill decline until they are acquired by someone else.
(My condolences to those at Sun getting laid off. Those of you who hire on with IBM can get re-united with your former StorageTek buddies! Back then, StorageTek people left Sun in droves, knowing that Sun didn't understand the mainframe tape marketplace that StorageTek focused on. Likewise, many question how well Oracle will understand Sun's hardware business in servers and storage.)
What's in a Protocol?
Both CIFS and NFS have been around for decades, and comparisons can sometimes sound like religious debates. Traditionally, CIFS was used to share files between Windows systems, and NFS for Linux and UNIX platforms. However, Windows can also handle NFS, while Linux and UNIX systems can use CIFS. If you are using a recent level of VMware, you can use either NFS or CIFS as an alternative to Fibre Channel SAN to store your external disk VMDK files.
The Bigger Picture
There is a significant shift going on from traditional database repositories to unstructured file content. Today, as much as [80 percent of data is unstructured]. Shipments this year are expected to grow 60 percent for file-based storage, and only 15 percent for block-based storage. With the focus on private and public clouds, NAS solutions will be the battleground for 2010.
So, I am glad to see EMC starting to cite standard benchmarks. Hopefully, SPC-1 and SPC-2 benchmarks are forthcoming?