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 2018, Tony celebrates his 32th 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'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.
Last week, in Computer Technology Review's article [Tiering: Scale Up? Scale Out? Do Both], Mark Ferelli interviews fellow blogger Hu Yoshida, CTO of Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). Here's an excerpt:
"MF/CTR: A global cache should be required to implement that common pool that you’re talking about going across all tiers.
Hu/HDS: Right. So that is needed to get to all the resources. Now with our system, we can also attach external storage behind it for capacity so that as the storage ages out or becomes less active we can move it to the external storage. They would certainly have less performance capability, but you don’t need it for the stale data that we’re aging down. Right now we’re the only vendor that can provide this type of tiering.
If you look at other people who do virtualization like IBM’s SVC, the SVC has no storage within it because it’s sitting so if you attach any storage behind it, there is some performance degradation because you have this appliance sitting in front. That appliance is also very limited in cache and very limited in the number of storage boards on it. It cannot really provide you additional performance than what is attached behind it. And in fact, it will always degrade what is attached behind it because it’s not storage, where as our USP is storage and it has a global cache and it has thousands of port connections, load balancing and all that. So our front end can enhance existing storage that sits behind it."
This is not the first time I have had to correct Hu and others of misperceptions of IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC). This month marks my four year "blogoversary", and I seem to spend a large portion of my blogging time setting the record straight. Here are just a few of my favorite posts setting the record straight on SVC back in 2007:
Since day 1, SAN Volume Controllers has focused primarily on external storage. Initially, the early models had just battery-protected DRAM cache memory, but the most recent model of the SVC, the 2145-CF8, adds support for internal SLC NAND flash solid state drives. To fully appreciate how SVC can help improve the performance of the disks that are managed, I need to use some visual aids.
In this first chart, we look at a 70/30/50 workload. This indicates that 70 percent of the IOPS are reads, 30 percent writes, and 50 percent can be satisfied as cache hits directly from the SVC. For the reads, this means that 50 percent are read-hits satisfied from SVC DRAM cache, and 50 percent are read-miss that have to get the data from the managed disk, either from the managed disk's own cache, or from the actual spinning drives inside that managed disk array.
For writes, all writes are cache-hits, but some of them will be destaged to the managed disk. Typically, we find that a third of writes are over-written before this happens, so only two-thirds are written down to managed disk.
In this example, the SVC reduced the burden of the managed disk from 100,000 IOPS down to 55,000, which is 35,000 reads and 20,000 writes. Some have argued against putting one level of cache (SVC) in front of another level of cache (managed disk arrays). However, CPU processor designers have long recognized the value of hierarchical cache with L1, L2, L3 and sometimes even L4 caches. The cache-hits on SVC are faster than most disk system's cache-hits.
This is a Ponder curve, mapping millisecond response (MSR) times for different levels of I/O per second, named after the IBM scientist John Ponder that created them. Most disk array vendors will publish similar curves for each of their products. In this case, we see that 100,000 IOPS would cause a 25 millisecond response (MSR) time, but when the load is reduced to 55,000 IOPS, the average response time drops to only 7 msec.
To be fair, the SVC does introduce 0.06 msec of additional latency on read-misses, so let's call this 7.06 msec. This tiny amount of latency could be what Hu Yoshida was referring to when he said there was "some performance degradation". There are other storage virtualization products in the market that do not provide caching to boost performance, but rather just map incoming requests to outgoing requests, and these can indeed slow down every I/O they process. Perhaps Hu was thinking of those instead of IBM's SVC when he made his comments.
Of course, not all workloads are 70/30/50, and not every disk array is driven to its maximum capability, so your mileage may vary. As we slide down the left of the curve where things are flatter, the improvement in performance lowers.
IOPS before SVC
IOPS after SVC
MSR before SVC
MSR after SVC
Hitachi's offerings, including the HDS USP-V, USP-VM and their recently announced Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) sold also by HP under the name P9500, have similar architecture to the SVC and can offer similar benefits, but oddly the Hitachi engineers have decided to treat externally attached storage as second-class citizens instead. Hu mentions data that "ages out or becomes less active we can move it to the external storage." IBM has chosen not to impose this "caste" system onto its design of the SAN Volume Controller.
The SVC has been around since 2003, before the USP-V came to market, and has sold over 20,000 SVC nodes over the past seven years. The SVC can indeed improve performance of managed disk systems, in some cases by a substantial amount. The 0.06 msec latency on read-miss requests represents less than 1 percent of total performance in production workloads. SVC nearly always improves performance, and in the worst case, provides same performance but with added functionality and flexibility. For the most part, the performance boost comes as a delightful surprise to most people who start using the SVC.
To learn more about IBM's upcoming products and how IBM will lead in storage this decade, register for next week's webcast "Taming the Information Explosion with IBM Storage" featuring Dan Galvan, IBM Vice President, and Steve Duplessie, Senior Analyst and Founder of Enterprise Storage Group (ESG).
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!
Wrapping up my seven-city romp through Australia and New Zealand, the final city was Canberra, which is the capital of Australia. As with Wellington, this meant many of the clients in the audience work in government agencies.
I had not taken any photos of Anna Wells, IBM Storage Sales Leader for ANZ, but I was able to find this caricature of her on a poster from an award she won within IBM.
I also did not have a picture of Robert, my videographer for this trip, who was always behind the camera himself.
The event went smoothly, just like the rest of them. Anna presented IBM's storage strategy and highlighted specific IBM storage solutions.
I had several emails asking if this event was called "Storage Optimisation Breakfast" because it was held in the mornings, or did we actually serve food at these events. The answer is we actually served food, a variation of the [Full English Breakfast], and most of the attendees gobbled it down while Anna spoke.
The fare was quite similar across all seven locations: scrambled or poached eggs, on toast or english muffin, ham/bacon/sausages, potatoes or mushrooms, and half of a baked tomato with bits of something toasted on top.
One morning, for a change, I decided instead to have a bowl of Weet-Bix cereal. Tasted like cardboard. I learned my lesson.
Next, we had Will Quodling, Manager of Infrastructure Operations, at Australia's Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research consists of 3200 staff that strive to encourage the sustainable growth of Australian industries. The Department is committed to developing policies and delivering programs to provide lasting economic benefits ensuring Australia's competitive future, undertakes analysis, and provides services and advice to the business, science and research community. American President, Barack Obama, visited Australia and was interested in adopting a similar concept for the United States.
The department was looking to replace their existing IBM System Storage DS4800 disk systems with something more energy efficient. They selected IBM XIV storage system, with an expected savings of 10kW per year. They are able to run 800 VMware images and 150 VDI workstations using storage on one XIV, replicate the data to a second XIV at a remote location, and have a third XIV for their Web serving environment. They tested out both single drive and full module failures, and experienced better-than-expected rebuild times, with no impact to users, and no impact to performance.
After 17 days without a functioning government, Australia finally selected a prime minister. Her name is Julia Gillard, shown here. She won in part by promising to build a National Broadband Network (NBN) for the entire country, including the rural areas.
[Canberra] is an interesting town, a fully planned community designed in 1913 by Chicago's husband-and-wife architect team of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. The location was selected as being half-way compromise between Australia's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.
I would like to thank all the wonderful people in both Australia and New Zealand for making this a successful trip!