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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I am now fully a week behind in my coverage of my romp through Australia and New Zealand. Last week was "week 2" of the "Tony and Anna" show! This time we were in Auckland, New Zealand. Anna Wells is from New Zealand originally, so it was good for her to be back in her home country.
Sunday I was able to take the Ferry boat to Devonport, and climb to the top of Mt Victoria, which is only 283 feet above sea level, but still affords spectacular views of Auckland from across the harbour. My hotel, the Auckland Heritage, as well as the IBM building, is about a block or two away from the Sky Tower.
New Zealand shares a lot of traits with Australia, including low unemployment and a healthy economy. Employees feel secure enough in their jobs to invest in real estate, get married and start families. School teachers are well-regarded in society, earning six-figure incomes. Retail stores were filled with shoppers spending [disposable and discretionary income]. What a refreshing difference from the United States! The level of optimism made my skin tingle. I had to file a lot of paperwork for all the work permits and visas for this trip, so I hate to think what it would take to emigrate to either country.
(Of course, the grass always appears greener on the other side. Not everything is perfect in New Zealand. I saw warning signs for toxic sea slugs in their beaches, sales advertising for [Brolly Sheets], and the south island of New Zealand suffered a magnitute 7.1 earthquake near Christchurch on the day I arrived to Auckland on the north island. Over 100,000 homes were damaged, but nobody died, and the entire country rallied support to help out those affected.)
I took this photo of a seagull walking along Cheltenham Beach. I thought it might make for a nice wallpaper for my phone or laptop.
The Storage Optimisation Breakfast at this, the fifth of seven cities, went smoothly. The New Zealand client case study she had planned to show was in the middle of an [RFP], so instead she covered [Edith Cowan University] and [Bunnings Warehouse] from Australia as examples of success stories.
Our next speaker was Glen Mitchell, an IT architect in the Operational Integration, Technology & Shared Services
of Telecom NZ. The Telecom NZ is New Zealand's phone company, recently split up into separate business units, similar to what the US government did to AT&T during the 1974 [Bell System Divestiture].
The change forced Telecom NZ to be more financially responsible. Before, they were using an all-EMC disk environment, managed by HP Enterprise Services (formerly known as EDS). The EMC gear worked as expected and Telecom NZ is happy with EMC as a vendor, but they were uncomfortable with vendor lock-in. Some firmware upgrades on their EMC boxes often forced them to take outages on hundreds of connected servers to install Powerpath updates. After an EMC disk array went off its four-year prepaid warranty, it took another FOUR YEARS to get all 180 servers migrated to another disk array. Keeping a disk array after warranty expires can cost as much as $450K NZD per year, per disk array, in maintenance fees! Ouch! This served as a strong motivator to find a way to migrate data from one disk array to another in a more smooth and timely manner.
The new direction was a dual-vendor environment, keeping some of the midrange EMC gear, and getting new IBM high-end DS8700 gear, resulting in a drastically lower TCO. To make the transition as smooth as possible, Telecom NZ employed IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) to virtualize their entire environment, both EMC and IBM happily being part of shared disk pools. They had originally planned to migrate their entire server environment over in 12 months, but in the first six weeks, they are already at 20 percent, ahead of schedule!
The SAN Volume Controllers will also allow Telecom NZ have Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery protection in a consistent manner across both EMC and IBM equipment between their two main data centers in Auckland and Hamilton.
Remember those trees shown in the movie trilogy "Lord of the Rings"? The trees here in New Zealand are amazing! I'm not an arborist, but I was told this one shown here is a [Morton Bay Fig Tree]. Some of the oldest trees in the world live in New Zealand.
By deploying IBM DS8700 and SAN Volume Controller, Telecom NZ was able to reduce costs, manage risk, and improve service delivery!
Continuing my romp through Australia and New Zealand, the last Storage Optimisation Breakfast of the week was Brisbane, which the locals here refer to as [Brisvegas], probably for all of the nightlife and casinos here.
The IBM office building is conveniently across the street from my hotel, the [Sofitel Brisbane]. The hotel also sits above central station, which allows quick transportation to the airport.
This time, we had a tag team of two people from James Cook University (JCU) to present their success story. First up was Kent Adams, the Director or Information Technology and Resources. JCU is recognized as one of the top 5 percent of Universities worldwide, and as a result, their data storage requirements are growing at 400 percent per year! Their latest purchase put out for RFP was for at least 40TB that could handle at least 20,000 IOPS. The winning solutions was an IBM XIV disk system.
Behind the scenes at all the events this week here in Australia were, from left to right, Natalie from GPJ Australia, the local subsidiary of the George P. Johnson events management we use in the states; Sonia Phillips, IBM Advisory Marketing Lead for Dynamic Infrastructure Optimisation and Cloud Computing, Demand Programs, for Australia and New Zealand; and Monika Lovgren, IBM Marketing and Execution Lead for Workload Optimised Systems for Australia.
The second speaker was Lee Askew, one of the Storage Administrators. Overall, the JCU team have been amazed at how well this box works. When they started it up, they expected to spend the next 24-36 hours formatting RAID ranks, but not with the XIV. It was ready in 2 minutes and they started provisioning storage right away. Their own tests to fail a drive found they can do a full rebuild to redundancy in 9 minutes. It took 8-36 hours on their previous disk array. Failing a full data module took only 75 minutes to bring back to redundancy.
After a long and tiring week, I was able to relax by walking through this beautiful King Edward park near the IBM building. This had a nice variety of plants and flowers, and with the surprise visit of a lizard about the length of my arm that crossed my path.
JCU also uses Asynchronous Mirror to replicate data to another XIV at distance. Again, as with all aspects of IBM XIV, the solution works as advertised. They are well positioned to grow from the 18,000 students they have today, to their target goal of 25,000 students they want to have by 2015.
Worldwide, IBM has done well with colleges and universities, and this was a great example of how partnering with IBM for your IT infrastructure can make a huge difference!
In the first two cities, Adam Beames, system administrator for Tennis Australia, presented. Tennis Australia is most known for running the [Australian Open], the first Grand Slam tennis tourney of the year, but they also run some smaller events, such as the Brisbane International, the Sydney International, the Hobart International, the Davis Cup, the Fed Cup and the Pro Tour. They have 150 full time staff, and another 180 staff contributed from their eight member associations they support.
Of these events, the Australian Open is by far the biggest, with over 9 million unique visitors to the website for the few weeks in January every year. For this, Tennis Australia leverages IBM cloud computing services. The rest of the year, they have deployed their own "private cloud" for running the other events. During the month of January, Tennis Australia grows their staff from 300 to 4500 people.
Adam had been there since 2005, and told how back then they were using beige-colored IBM PC 330 tower servers, on a plastic shelf that was sagging from the weight. This server had six hot-swappable drives, 4.5GB each. There was also a mysterious "blue box" that served as their serial distribution panel, operated by a laptop running Windows 95, with a spare laptop just in case for high-availability.
The situation started to improve in 2008, Tennis Australia brought in BladeCenter H with HS20, HS21 and HS22 blade servers, and x3850 M2 machines for VMware virtual machines, and boot over SAN to an IBM XIV disk system. This allows them to run all of the other tennis events throughout the year. It provided N+1 redundancy, and made the process of provisioning servers and storage simple and efficient.
This is the view of Melbourne from the IBM office. The tall 975 foot building on the left with the golden bumblebees at the base is the famous [Eureka Tower], Melbourne's tallest residential building.
As Paul Harvey would say, at Melbourne we got to hear [the rest of the story] from Chris Yates, the CIO of Tennis Australia. He came on board in November 2007, just six weeks prior to the big Australian Open of January 2008. Witnessing how bad the IT was for the infrastructure, he partnered with IBM to deploy all the solutions that Adam mentioned in the first two cities. The transformation over the past two years has been a phenomenal success, with some of the best recognized international tennis organizations crediting Tennis Australia for some of the best run events.
IBM is also using its [cloud computing services to help the US Open] as well. In both the Australian Open and the US Open, IBM provides a cloud computing capability that allows the operation to scale up dramatically for the tournament. IBM rapidly creates and provisions services on a common infrastructure -- services that are mission-critical to the tennis tournament.
I'm down here in Australia, where the government is a bit stalled for the past two weeks at the moment, known formally as being managed by the [Caretaker government]. Apparently, there is a gap between the outgoing administration and the incoming administration, and the caretaker government is doing as little as possible until the new regime takes over. They are still counting votes, including in some cases dummy ballots known as "donkey votes", the Australian version of the hanging chad. Three independent parties are also trying to decide which major party they will support to finalize the process.
While we are on the topic of a government stalled, I feel bad for the state of Virginia in the United States. Apparently, one of their supposedly high-end enterprise class EMC Symmetrix DMX storage systems, supporting 26 different state agencies in Virginia, crashed on August 25th and now more than a week later, many of those agencies are still down, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Taxation and Revenue.
Many of the articles in the press on this event have focused on what this means for the reputation of EMC. Not surprisingly, EMC says that this failure is unprecedented, but really this is just one in a long series of failures from EMC. It reminds me of the last time EMC had a public failure with a dual-controller CLARiiON a few months ago that stopped another company from their operations. There is nothing unique in the physical equipment itself, all IT gear can break or be taken down by some outside force, such as a natural disaster. The real question, though, is why haven’t EMC and the State Government been able to restore operations many days after the hardware was fixed?
In the Boston Globe, Zeus Kerravala, a data storage analyst at Yankee Group in Boston, is quoted as saying that such a high-profile breakdown could undermine EMC’s credibility with large businesses and government agencies. “I think it’s extremely important for them,’’ said Kerravala. “When you see a failure of this magnitude, and their inability to get a customer like the state of Virginia up and running almost immediately, all companies ought to look at that and raise their eyebrows.’’
Was the backup and disaster recovery solution capable of the scale and service level requirements needed by vital state
agencies? Had they tested their backups to ensure they were running correctly, and had they tested their recovery plans? Were they monitoring the success of recent backup operations?
Eventually, the systems will be back up and running, fines and penalties will be paid, and perhaps the guy who chose to go with EMC might feel bad enough to give back that new set of golf clubs, or whatever ridiculously expensive gift EMC reps might offer to government officials these days to influence the purchase decision making process.
(Note: I am not accusing any government employee in particular working at the state of Virginia of any wrongdoing, and mention this only as a possibility of what might have happened. I am sure the media will dig into that possibility soon enough during their investigations, so no sense in me discussing that process any further.)
So what lessons can we learn from this?
Lesson 1: You don't just buy technology, you also are choosing to work with a particular vendor
IBM stands behind its products. Choosing a product strictly on its speeds and feeds misses the point. A study IBM and Mercer Consulting Group conducted back in 2007 found that only 20 percent of the purchase decision for storage was from the technical capabilities. The other 80 percent were called "wrapper attributes", such as who the vendor was, their reputation, the service, support and warranty options.
Lesson 2: Losing a single disk system is a disaster, so disaster recovery plans should apply
IBM has a strong Business Continuity and Recovery Services (BCRS) services group to help companies and government agencies develop their BC/DR plans. In the planning process, various possible incidents are identified, recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) and then appropriate action plans are documentede on how to deal with them. For example, if the state of Virginia had an RPO of 48 hours, and an RTO of 5 days, then when the failure occurred on August 25, they could have recovered up to August 23 level data(48 hours prior to the incident) and be up and running by August 30 (five days after the incident). I don't personally know what RPO and RTO they planned for, but certainly it seems like they missed it by now already.
Lesson 3: BC/DR Plans only work if you practice them often enough
Sadly, many companies and government agencies make plans, but never practice them, so they have no idea if the plans will work as expected, or if they are fundamentally flawed. Just as we often have fire drills that force everyone to stop what they are doing and vacate the office building, anyone with an IT department needs to practice BC/DR plans often enough so that you can ensure the plan itself is solid, but also so that the people involved know what to do and their respective roles in the recovery process.
Lesson 4: This can serve as a wake-up call to consider Cloud Computing as an alternative option
Are you still doing IT in your own organization? Do you feel all of the IT staff have been adequately trained for the job? If your biggest disk system completely failed, not just a minor single or double drive failure, but a huge EMC-like failure, would your IT department know how to recover in less than five days? Perhaps this will serve as a wake-up call to consider alternative IT delivery options. The advantage of big Cloud Service Providers (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, SalesForce.com and of course, IBM) is that they are big enough to have worked out all the BC/DR procedures, and have enough resources to switch over to in case any individual disk system fails.
Continuing my romp through Australia and New Zealand, today I presented in Hobart, the second city on my seven-city tour. Hobart is on a separate island called Tasmania, just south of the main Australian continent. The island is heart-shaped, and Hobart is in the lower right ventricle.
Hobart boasts the second deepest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere (yesterday's Sydney Harbour being the first). It is quite cold here, but at least the skies are clear.
I stayed in the [Henry Jones Art Hotel], named after the famous owner of the IXL Jam Company. When I arrived, they presented me with a list of 18 known convicts that shared my last name: PEARSON. I checked and made sure I was not on the list. Then it was explained to me that here in Australia, everyone values their criminal ancestors, as this is how the country was formed. The names were from registry archives from the 19th century.
In keeping with the concept of an art hotel, each of the rooms were unique, which is a nice way of saying that they fit whatever they could into the spaces available. It's been a while since I stayed at a hotel with the phone at one end of the room, but the electrical outlet at the other. The thermostat was hidden in the bathroom, and I had to master some 16 different ropes to put down the shades, as the bright light from the [Cenotaph] was keeping me awake. I was able to take pictures of some of the art sculptures from the balcony.
This was a smaller event than Sydney, with only about two dozen attendees. This makes sense, as Hobart population is only about 250,000 people. Tasmania island hold about 1 million people overall, concentrated mostly along the center line of the island.
As we had done in Sydney, Anna Wells presented IBM strategy and products, Adam Beames, system administrator for Tennis Australia (shown here in the picture at left) presented his experiences transforming their datacenter, and I presented the future trends in storage.
In appreciation for Adam's presentations in Sydney and Hobart, I presented him with a copy of my book, [Inside System Storage: Volume I], available from my publisher, Lulu.com, in paperback, hard cover, and now also in eBook format for those with Kindle, Nook or other digital book readers. See panel at right on this blog for ordering information.