Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing 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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In his blog post, [The Lure of Kit-Cars], fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) uses an excellent analogy delineating the differences between kit-cars you build from parts, versus fully-integrated systems that you can drive off the car dealership showroom lot. The analogy holds relatively well, as IT departments can also build their infrastructure from parts, or you can get fully-integrated systems from a variety of vendors.
Is this what your data center looks like?
Certainly, this debate is not new. In my now infamous 2007 post [Supermarkets and Specialty Shops], I explained that there were clients that preferred to get their infrastructure from a single IT supermarket, like IBM or HP, while others were lured into thinking that buying separate parts from butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and other specialty shops was somehow a better idea.
Chuck correctly explains that in the early years of the automobile industry, before major car manufacturers had mass-production assembly lines, putting a car together from parts was the only way cars were made. Today, only the few most avid enthusiasts build cars this way. The majority get cars from a single seller and drive away. In my post [Resolving the Identity Crisis], I postulated that EMC appeared to be trying to shed itself of the "disk-only specialty shop" image and over to be more like IBM. Not quite a full IT Supermarket, but perhaps more like a [Trader Joe's] premium-priced retailer.
(If you find that EMC's focus on integrated systems appears to be a 180-degree about-face from their historical focus on selling individual best-of-breed products, see my previous discussion of Chuck's contradictions in my blog post: [Is Storage the Next Confusopoly].)
While companies like EMC might be making this transition, there is a lot of resistance and inertia from the customer marketplace. I agree with Chuck, companies should not be building kit-cars or IT infrastructures from parts, certainly not from parts sold from different vendors. In my post [Talking about Solutions not Products], I explained how difficult it was to change behavior. CIOs, IT directors and managers need to think differently about their infrastructure. Let's take a quick look at some choices:
Following Chuck's argument, it makes no sense to build a "kit-car" combining Oracle/Sun servers with EMC storage. Oracle would argue it makes more sense to run on integrated systems, business logic on their "Exalogic" system, and database processing on their "Exadata". Benchmark after benchmark, however, IBM is able to demonstrate that Oracle applications and databases run faster on IBM systems. Customers that want to run Oracle applications can run either on a full Oracle stack, or a full IBM stack, and both do better than a kit-car including EMC parts.
HP has been working hard to keep up with IBM in this area. With their their partnership with Microsoft, and acquisitions of EDS, 3Com and 3PAR, they can certainly make a case for getting a full HP stack rather than a kit-car mixing HP servers with EMC disk storage. The problem is that HP is focused on a converged infrastructure for private cloud computing, but Microsoft is focused on Azure and public cloud computing. It will be interesting when these two big companies sort this out. Definitely watch this space.
If you squint your eyes and focus on the part of the world that only has x86 machines, then Dell can be seen as an IT supermarket. In my post about [Entry-Level iSCSI Offerings], I discuss how Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic was a signal that it was trying to get away from selling EMC specialty shop products, and building up its own set of offerings internally.
Cisco is new on the server scene, but has already made quite a splash. Here, I have to agree with Chuck's logic: the only time it makes sense to buy EMC disk storage at all is when it is part of an integrated "V-block". This is not really an IT supermarket situation, instead you park your car at the "Acadia Mini-Mall" and get what you need from Trader Joe's, Cisco UCS, and VMware stores.
But wait, if what you want is running VMware on Cisco servers, you might be better off with IBM System Storage N series or NetApp storage. In his blog post about [Enhanced Secure Multi-Tenancy], fellow Blogger Val Bercovici (NetApp) provides a convincing argument of why Cisco and VMware run better on an "N-block" rather than a "V-block". IBM N series provides A-SIS deduplication, and IBM Real-time Compression can provide additional capacity and performance improvements. That might be true, but whether you get your storage from EMC, NetApp or IBM, to me, you are still working with three different vendors in any case.
Of course, following Chuck's logic, it makes more sense for people with IBM servers, whether they be mainframes, POWER systems or x86 machines, to integrate these with IBM storage, IBM software and IBM services. IBM is the leading reseller of VMware, but also has a lot of business with Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Xen, Linux KVM, PowerVM, PR/SM and z/VM. While IBM has market leading servers, disk and tape systems, to compete for those RFP bids that just ask for one component or another, it prefers to sell fully-integrated systems, which IBM has been doing successfully since the 1950s.
Back in 2007, I mentioned how IBM's fully-integrated InfoSphere Balanced Warehouse [Trounced HP and Sun]. For business analytics, IBM offers the fully-integrated [IBM Smart Analytics Systems]. Today, IBM expanded its line of fully-integrated private cloud service delivery platforms with the announcement of the [IBM CloudBurst for on Power Systems], which does for POWER7 what the IBM CloudBurst for System x, Oracle Exalogic, or Acadia's V-block, do for x86.
IBM estimates that private clouds built on Power systems can be up to 70 percent less expensive than stand alone x86 servers.
Before he earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, my father was a car mechanic. I spent much of my teenage years covered in grease, helping my father assembling cars, lifting engines, and rebuilding carburetors. Certainly this was good father-son time, and I certainly did learn something in the process. Like the automobile industry, the IT industry has matured, and it makes no financial sense to build your own IT infrastructure from parts from different vendors.
For a test drive of the industry's leading integrated IT systems, see your IBM sales rep or IBM Business Partner.
This week, Hitachi Ltd. announced their next generation disk storage virtualization array, the Virtual Storage Platform, following on the success of its USP V line. It didn't take long for fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) to comment on this in his blog post [Hitachi's New VSP: Separating The Wheat From The Chaff]. Here are some excerpts:
"Well, we all knew that Hitachi (through HDS and HP) would be announcing some sort of refresh to their high-end storage platform sooner or later.
As EMC is Hitachi's only viable competitor in this part of the market, I think people are expecting me to say something.
If you're a high-end storage kind of person, your universe is basically a binary star: EMC and Hitachi orbiting each other, with the interesting occasional sideshow from other vendors trying to claim relevance in this space."
Chuck implies that neither Hewlett-Packard (HP) nor Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) as vendors provide any value-add from the box manufactured by Hitachi Ltd. so combines them into a single category. I suspect the HP and HDS folks might disagree with that opinion.
When I reminded Chuck that IBM was also a major player in the high-end disk space, his response included the following gem:
"Many of us in the storage industry believe that IBM currently does not field a competitive high-end storage platform. IDC market share numbers bear out this assertion, as you probably know."
While Chuck is certainly entitled to his own beliefs and opinions, believing the world is flat does not make it so. Certainly, I doubt IDC or any other market research firm has put out a survey asking "Do you think IBM offers a competitive high-end disk storage platform?" Of course, if Chuck is basing his opinion on anecdotal conversations with existing EMC customers, I can certainly see how he might have formed this misperception. However, IDC market share numbers don't support Chuck's assertion at all.
There is no industry-standard definition of what is a "high-end" or "enterprise-class" disk system. Some define high-end as having the option for mainframe attachment via ESCON and/or FICON protocol. Others might focus on features, functionality, scalability and high 99.999+ percent availability. Others insist high-end requires block-oriented protocols like FC and iSCSI, rather than file-based protocols like NAS and CIFS.
For the most demanding mission-critical mix of random and sequential workloads, IBM offers the [IBM System Storage DS8000 series] high-end disk system which connects to mainframes and distributed servers, via FCP and FICON attachment, and supports a variety of drive types and RAID levels. The features that HP and HDS are touting today for the VSP are already available on the IBM DS8000, including sub-LUN automatic tiering between Solid-State drives and spinning disk, called [Easy Tier], thin provisioning, wide striping, point-in-time copies, and long distance synchronous and asynchronous replication.
There are lots of analysts that track market share for the IT storage industry, but since Chuck mentions [IDC] specifically, I reviewed the most recent IDC data, published a few weeks ago in their "IDC Worldwide Quarter Disk Storage Tracker" for 2Q 2010, representing April 1 to June 30, 2010 sales. Just in case any of the rankings have changed over time, I also looked at the previous four quarters: 2Q 2009, 3Q 2009, 4Q 2009 and 1Q 2010.
(Note: IDC considers its analysis proprietary, out of respect for their business model I will not publish any of the actual facts and figures they have collected. If you would like to get any of the IDC data to form your own opinion, contact them directly.)
In the case of IDC, they divide the disk systems into three storage classes: entry-level, midrange and high-end. Their definition of "high-end" is external RAID-protected disk storage that sells for $250,000 USD or more, representing roughly 25 to 30 percent of the external disk storage market overall. Here are IDC's rankings of the four major players for high-end disk systems:
By either measure of market share, units (disk systems) or revenue (US dollars), IDC reports that IBM high-end disk outsold both HDS and HP combined. This has been true for the past five quarters. If a smaller start-up vendor has single digit percent market share, I could accept it being counted as part of Chuck's "occasional sideshow from other vendors trying to claim relevance", but IBM high-end disk has consistently had 20 to 30 percent market share over the past five quarters!
Not all of these high-end disk systems are connected to mainframes. According to IDC data, only about 15 to 25 percent of these boxes are counted under their "Mainframe" topology.
Chuck further writes:
"It's reasonable to expect IBM to sell a respectable amount of storage with their mainframes using a protocol of their own design -- although IBM's two competitors in this rather proprietary space (notably EMC and Hitachi) sell more together than does IBM."
The IDC data doesn't support that claim either, Chuck. By either measure of market share, units (disk systems) or revenue (US dollars), IDC reports that IBM disk for mainframes outsold all other vendors (including EMC, HDS, and HP) combined. And again, this has been true for the past five quarters. Here is the IDC ranking for mainframe disk storage:
IBM has over 50 percent market share in this case, primarily because IBM System Storage DS8000 is the industry leader in mainframe-related features and functions, and offers synergy with the rest of the z/Architecture stack.
So Chuck, I am not picking a fight with you or asking you to retract or correct your blog post. Your main theme, that the new VSP presents serious competition to EMC's VMAX high-end disk arrays, is certainly something I can agree with. Congratulations to HDS and HP for putting forth what looks like a viable alternative to EMC's VMAX.
To learn more about IBM's upcoming products, 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).
From New York, Rolf went to London, Paris, Madrid, Morocco, Cairo, South Africa, Bangkok Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and then back to United States. I was hoping to run into him while I was in Australia and New Zealand last month, but our schedules did not line up.
Travelingwithout baggage is more than just a convenience, it is a metaphor for the philosophy that we should keep only what we need, and leave behind what we don't. This was the approach taken by IBM in the design of the IBM Storwize V7000 midrange disk system.
The IBM Storwize V7000 disk system consists of 2U enclosures. Controller enclosures have dual-controllers and drives. Expansion enclosures have just drives. Enclosures can have either 24 smaller form factor (SFF) 2.5-inch drives, or twelve larger 3.5-inch drives. A controller enclosure can be connected up to nine expansion enclosures.
The drives are all connected via 6 Gbps SAS, and come in a variety of speeds and sizes: 300GB Solid-State Drive (SSD); 300GB/450GB/600GB high-speed 10K RPM; and 2TB low-speed 7200 RPM drives. The 12-bay enclosures can be intermixed with 24-bay enclosures on the same system, and within an enclosure different speeds and sizes can be intermixed. A half-rack system (20U) could hold as much as 480TB of raw disk capacity.
This new system, freshly designed entirely within IBM, competes directly against systems that carry a lot of baggage, including the HDS AMS, HP EVA, an EMC CLARiiON CX4 systems. Instead, we decided to keep the what we wanted from our other successful IBM products.
Inspired by our successful XIV storage system, IBM has developed a web-based GUI that focuses on ease-of-use. This GUI uses the latest HTML5 and dojo widgets to provide an incredible user experience.
Borrowed from our IBM DS8000 high-end disk systems, state-of-the-art device adapters provide 6 Gbps SAS connectivity with a variety of RAID levels: 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10.
From our SAN Volume Controller, the embedded [ SVC 6.1 firmware] provides all of the features and functions normally associated with enterprise-class systems, including Easy Tier sub-LUN automated tiering between Solid-State Drives and Spinning disk, thin provisioning, external disk virtualization, point-in-time FlashCopy, disk mirroring, built-in migration capability, and long-distance synchronous and asynchronous replication.
Finally, the various "internal NDA" that kept me from publishing this sooner have expired, so now I have the long-awaited [Inside System Storage: Volume II], documenting IBM's transformation in its storage strategy, including behind-the-scenes commentary about IBM's acquisitions of XIV and Diligent. Available initially in paperback form. I am still working on the hard cover and eBook editions.
For those who have not yet read my first book, Inside System Storage: Volume I, it is still available from my publisher Lulu, in [hard cover], [paperback] and [eBook] editions.
IBM System Storage DS8800
A lesson IBM learned long ago was not to make radical changes to high-end disk systems, as clients who run mission-critical applications are more concerned about reliability, availability and serviceability than they are performance or functionality. Shipping any product before it was ready meant painfully having to fix the problems in the field instead.
(EMC apparently is learning this same lesson now with their VMAX disk system. Their Engenuity code from Symmetrix DMX4 was ported over to new CLARiiON-based hardware. With several hundred boxes in the field, they have already racked up over 150 severity 1 problems, roughly half of these resulted in data loss or unavailability issues. For the sake of our mutual clients that have both IBM servers and EMC disk, I hope they get their act together soon.)
To avoid this, IBM made incremental changes to the successful design and architecture of its predecessors. The new DS8800 shares 85 percent of the stable microcode from the DS8700 system. Functions like Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, and Metro/Global Mirror, are compatible with all of the previous models of the DS8000 series, as well as previous models of the IBM Enterprise Storage Server (ESS) line.
The previous models of DS8000 series were designed to take in cold air from both front and back, and route the hot air out the top, known as chimney design. However, many companies are re-arranging their data centers into separate cold aisles and hot aisles. The new DS8800 has front-to-back cooling to help accommodate this design.
My colleague Curtis Neal would call the rest of this a "BFD" announcement, which of course stands for "Bigger, Faster and Denser". The new DS8800 scales-up to more drives than its DS8700 predecessor, and can scale-out from a single-frame 2-way system to a multi-frame 4-way system. IBM has upgraded to faster 5GHz POWER6+ processors, with dual-core 8 Gbps FC and FICON host adapters, 8 Gbps device adapters, and 6 Gbps SAS connectivity to smaller form factor (SFF) 2.5-inch SAS drives. IBM Easy Tier will provide sub-LUN automated tiering between Solid-State Drives and spinning disk. The denser packaging with SFF drives means that we can pack over 1000 drives in only three frames, compared to five frames required for the DS8700.
The [IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller] software release v6.1 brings Easy Tier sub-LUN automated tiering to the rest of the world. IBM Easy Tier moves the hottest, most active extents up to Solid-State Drives (SSD) and moves the coldest, least active down to spinning disk. This works whether the SSD is inside the SVC 2145-CF8 nodes, or in the managed disk pool.
Tired of waiting for EMC to finally deliver FAST v2 for your VMAX? It has been 18 months since they first announced that someday they would have sub-LUN automatic tiering. What is taking them so long? Why not virtualize your VMAX with SVC, and you can have it sooner!
SVC 6.1 also upgrades to a sexy new web-based GUI, which like the one for the IBM Storwize V7000, is based on the latest HTML5 and dojo widget standards. Inspired by the popular GUI from the IBM XIV Storage System, this GUI has greatly improved ease-of-use.
It's Tuesday, and you know what that means... IBM Announcements!
IBM System Storage ProtecTIER
Today, IBM refreshed its IBM System Storage ProtecTIER data deduplication family with new hardware and software. On the hardware side, The [TS7650G gateway] now has 32 cores and 64GB RAM. The [TS7650 Appliance] now has 24 cores and 64GB of RAM, and the [TS7610 Appliance Express] has 4 cores and up to 16GB of RAM.
On the software side, all of these now support Symantec's proprietary "OpenStorage" OST API. This applies across the board, from the [Enterprise Edition], [Appliance Edition], and the [Entry Edition]. For those using Symantec NetBackup as their backup software, the OST API can provide advantages over the standard VTL interface.
IBM Systems Director Storage Control
The second announcement has an interesting twist. I could file this in my "I Told You So" folder. Offiically, it's called the [Cassandra Complex], where you accurately predict how something will turn out, but being unable to convince anyone else of what the future holds.
About ten years ago, I was asked to be lead architect of a new product to be called IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center, which was later renamed to IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center. This would combine three projects:
Tivoli Storage Resource Manager (TSRM)
Tivoli SAN Manager (TSANM)
Multiple Device Manager (MDM)
The first two were based on Tivoli's internal GUI platform, and the MDM was a plug-in for IBM Systems Director. I argued that administrators would want everything on a single pane of glass, and that we should bring all the components under a common GUI platform, such as IBM Systems Director. Unfortunately, management did not agree with me on that, and preferred instead to leave each interface alone to minimize development effort. The only "unification" was to give them all similar sounding names, four components packaged as single product:
Productivity Center for Data (formerly TSRM)
Productivity Center for Fabric (formerly TSANM)
Productivity Center for Disk (formerly MDM)
Productivity Center for Replication (formerly MDM)
While this management decision certainly allowed version 1 to hit the market sooner, this was not a good "first impression" of the product for many of our clients.
In 2002, IBM acquired Trellisoft, Inc. which replaced the internally-developed TSRM with a much better interface, but again, this was different GUI than the other components. A "launcher" was created that would launch the various disparate interfaces for each component for Version 2. At this point, we have different development teams scattered in five locations, with the first two components being developed by the Tivoli software team, and the other two components being developed by the System Storage hardware team.
Often times, when a technical lead architect and management do not agree, things do not end well. The lead architect has to leave the product, and management is forced to take alternative actions to keep the product going. In my case, management considered the idea of a common GUI as an expensive "nice-to-have" luxury we could not afford, but I considered this a "must-have". I moved on to a new job within IBM, and management, unable to continue without my leadership, gave up and handed the entire project over to the Tivoli Software team.
The Tivoli Software team took a whiff at the pile of code and agreed that it stunk. Dusting off my original design documents, they pretty much discarded most of the code and re-wrote much from scratch, with a common database, common app server, and common GUI platform. Unfortunately, Productivity Center for Replication was held up waiting for some hardware prerequisites, but the other three components would be packaged together as "Productivity Center v3 - Standard Edition" and was a big improvement over the prior versions.
In Version 4, TotalStorage Productivity Center was renamed to Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, and the Replication component was brought into the mix. A scaled-down version packaged as Productivity Center "Basic Edition" was made available as a hardware appliance named "System Storage Productivity Center" or SSPC. The idea was to provide a pre-installed 1U-high hardware console that had the basic functions of Productivity Center, with the option to upgrade to the full Tivoli Storage Productivity Center with just license keys.
So, now, years later, management recognizes that a common GUI platform is more than just a "nice-to-have". IBM now support three very specific use cases:
1. Administration for a single product
For small clients who might have only a single IBM product, IBM is now focused on making the GUI browser-based, specifically to work with the Mozilla Firefox browser, but any similar browser should work as well. The new IBM Storwize V7000 GUI is a good example of this.In this case, the browser serves as the common GUI platform.
2. Administration for both servers and storage devices
For mid-sized companies that have administrators managing both servers and storage, IBM announced this month the new [IBM Systems Director Storage Control v4.2.1] plug-in, which provides Tivoli Storage Productivity Center "Basic Edition" support. This allows admins already familiar with IBM Systems Director for managing their servers to also manage basic storage functions. This is the "I Told You So" moment, connecting server and storage administration under the IBM Systems Director management platform makes a lot of sense, it did when I came up with the idea 10 years ago! Hmmmm?
3. Administration for just the storage environment
For larger companies big enough to have separate server and storage admin teams, IBM continues to offer the full Tivoli Storage Productivity Center product for the storage admins. The most recent release enhanced the support for IBM DS8000, SVC, Storwize V7000 and XIV storage systems.
Today, analysts consider IBM's [Tivoli Storage Productivity Center] one of the leading products in its category. I am glad my original vision has finally come to life, even though it took a while longer than I expected.
To learn more about IBM storage hardware, software or services, see the updated [IBM System Storage] landing page.
Intelligent block-level disk array that virtualizes both internal and external disk storage
8 Gbps FCP and 1GbE iSCSI
IBM Storwize V7000 disk system
Real-time compression appliance for files
10GbE/1GbE CIFS and NFS
Storwize, now an IBM company
IBM Real-time Compression STN-6800 appliance
1GbE CIFS and NFS
IBM Real-time Compression STN-6500 appliance
If you think this is the first time a company like IBM has pulled shenanigans with product names like this, think again. Here are a few posts that might refresh your memory:
In my September 2006 post, [A brand by any other name...] I explain that I started blogging specifically to promote the new "IBM System Storage" product line name, part of the "IBM Systems" brand resulting from merging the "eServer" and "TotalStorage' brands.
In my January 2007 post, [When Names Change], I explain our naming convention for our disk products, including our DS family, SAN Volume Controller and N series.
In my February 2008 post, [Getting Off the Island], I cover how the x/p/i/z designations came about for our various IBM server product lines.
But what about acquisitions? When [IBM acquired Lotus Development Corporation], it kept the "Lotus" brand. New products that fit the "collaboration" function were put under the Lotus brand. I think most people can accept this approach.
But have we ever seen an existing product renamed to an acquired name?
In my post January 2009 post
[Congratulations to Ken on your QCC Milestone], I mentioned that my colleague Ken Hannigan worked on an internal project initially called "Workstation Data Save Facility" (WDSF) which was changed to "Data Facility Distributed Storage Manager" (DFDSM), then renamed to "ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager" (ADSM), and finally renamed to the name it has today: IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM).
Readers reminded me that [IBM acquired Tivoli Systems, Inc.] in 1996, so TSM could not have been an internally developed product. Ha! Wrong! Let's take a quick history lesson on how this came about:
In the late 1980s, IBM Almaden research had developed a project to backup personal computers and workstations, which they called "Workstation Data Save Facility" or WDSF.
This was turned over to our development team, which immediately discarded the code, and wrote from scratch its replacmeent, called Data Facility Distributed Storage Manager (DFDSM), named similar to the Data Facility products on the mainframe (DFP, DFHSM, DFDSS). As a member of the Data Facility family, DFDSM didn't really fit. The rest processed mainframe data sets, but DFDSM processed Windows and UNIX files. That a version of DFDSM server was available to run on the mainframe was the only connection.
Then, in the early 1990s, there were discussions of possibly splitting IBM into a bunch of smaller "Baby Blues", similar to how [AT&T was split into "Baby Bells"], and how Forbes and Goldman Sachs now want to split Microsoft into [Baby Bills]. IBM considered naming the storage spin-off as ADSTAR, which stood for "Advanced Storage and Retrieval."
Pre-emptively, IBM renamed DFDSM to "ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager" or ADSM.
Fortunately, in 1993, IBM brought a new sheriff to town, Lou Gerstner, who quickly squashed any plans to split up IBM. He quickly realized that IBM's core strength was building integrated stacks, combining systems, software and services to solve business problems.
In 1996, IBM acquired Tivoli Systems, Inc. to expand its "Systems Management" portfolio, and renamed ADSM over to IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, since "storage management" is an essential part of "systems management". Later, IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center would be renamed to "IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center."
I participated in five months of painful meetings to figure out what to name our new internally-developed midrange disk system. Since it ran SAN Volume Controller software, I pushed for keeping the SVC designation somehow. We considered DS naming convention, but the new midrange product would not fit between our existing DS5000 and DS6000 numbering scheme. A marketing agency we hired came up with nonsensical names, in the spirit of product names like Celerra, Centera and CLARiiON, using name generators like [Wordoid]. Luckily, in the nick of time, IBM acquired Storwize for its compression technology, and decided that Storwize as a name was way better fit than any of the names we came up with already.
However, the new IBM Storwize V7000 midrange product had nothing in common with the appliances acquired from Storwize, the company, so to avoid confusion, the latter products were renamed to [IBM Real-time Compression]. Fellow blogger Steven Kenniston, the Storage Alchemist from Storwize fame now part of IBM from the acquisition, gives his perspective on this in his post [Storwize – What is in a Name, Really?]. While I am often critical of the names and terms IBM uses, I have to say this last set of naming decisions makes a lot of sense to me and I support it wholeheartedly.
To make true advances in any industry or field requires forward thinking—as well as industry insight and experience. It can't be done just by packaging a bag of piece parts and putting a new label on it. But forward thinkers are putting smarter, more powerful technology to uses that were once unimaginable -- either in scale or in progress.
The graphics developed for the IBM Smarter Planet vision are interesting. This one for Infrastructure includes images relating to public utilities, like gas, water and electricity, clouds representing cloud computing, green forests representing the need for energy efficiency and reducing carbon footprint to fight global warming, roads, representing the intricate transportation and traffic systems, highways and city streets that connect us all together, and a printed circuit board, representing the Information Technology that makes all of this possible.
Ironically, I didn't even know I made the final cut until I got three, yes three, separate requests for interviews about it. I already reached the "million hits" milestone. Other people track these things for me, so it will be interesting how much additional traffic my latest [15 minutes of fame] will generate.
Infrastructure is just one of the 25 different areas that IBM's vision for a Smarter Planet is trying to address, including the need for smarter buildings, smarter cities, smarter transportation systems, smarter energy grids, smarter healthcare and public safety, and smarter governments.
A client asked me to explain "Nearline storage" to them. This was easy, I thought, as I started my IBM career on DFHSM, now known as DFSMShsm for z/OS, which was created in 1977 to support the IBM 3850 Mass Storage System (MSS), a virtual storage system that blended disk drives and tape cartridges with robotic automation. Here is a quick recap:
Online storage is immediately available for I/O. This includes DRAM memory, solid-state drives (SSD), and always-on spinning disk, regardless of rotational speed.
Nearline storage is not immediately available, but can be made online quickly without human intervention. This includes optical jukeboxes, automated tape libraries, as well as spin-down massive array of idle disk (MAID) technologies.
Offline storage is not immediately available, and requires some human intervention to bring online. This can include USB memory sticks, CD/DVD optical media, shelf-resident tape cartridges, or other removable media.
Sadly, it appears a few storage manufacturers and vendors have been misusing the term "Nearline" to refer to "slower online" spinning disk drives. I find this [June 2005 technology paper from Seagate], and this [2002 NetApp Press Release], the latter of which included this contradiction for their "NearStore" disk array. Here is the excerpt:
"Providing online access to reference information—NetApp nearline storage solutions quickly retrieve and replicate reference and archive information maintained on cost-effective storage—medical images, financial models, energy exploration charts and graphs, and other data-intensive records can be stored economically and accessed in multiple locations more quickly than ever"
Which is it, "online access" or "nearline storage"?
If a client asked why slower drives consume less energy or generate less heat, I could explain that, but if they ask why slower drives must have SATA connections, that is a different discussion. The speed of a drive and its connection technology are for the most part independent. A 10K RPM drive can be made with FC, SAS or SATA connection.
I am opposed to using "Nearlne" just to distinguish between four-digit speeds (such as 5400 or 7200 RPM) versus "online" for five-digit speeds (10,000 and 15,000 RPM). The difference in performance between 10K RPM and 7200 RPM spinning disks is miniscule compared to the differences between solid-state drives and any spinning disk, or the difference between spinning disk and tape.
I am also opposed to using the term "Nearline" for online storage systems just because they are targeted for the typical use cases like backup, archive or other reference information that were previously directed to nearline devices like automated tape libraries.
Can we all just agree to refer to drives as "fast" or "slow", or give them RPM rotational speed designations, rather than try to incorrectly imply that FC and SAS drives are always fast, and SATA drives are always slow? Certainly we don't need new terms like "NL-SAS" just to represent a slower SAS connected drive.
In his last post in this series, he mentions that the amazingly successful IBM SAN Volume Controller was part of a set of projects:
"IBM was looking for "new horizon" projects to fund at the time, and three such projects were proposed and created the "Storage Software Group". Those three projects became know externally as TPC, (TotalStorage Productivity Center), SanFS (SAN File System - oh how this was just 5 years too early) and SVC (SAN Volume Controller). The fact that two out of the three of them still exist today is actually pretty good. All of these products came out of research, and its a sad state of affairs when research teams are measured against the percentage of the projects they work on, versus those that turn into revenue generating streams."
But this raises the question: Was SAN File System just five years too early?
IBM classifies products into three "horizons"; Horizon-1 for well-established mature products, Horizon-2 was for recently launched products, and Horizon-3 was for emerging business opportunities (EBO). Since I had some involvement with these other projects, I thought I would help fill out some of this history from my perspective.
Back in 2000, IBM executive [Linda Sanford] was in charge of IBM storage business and presented that IBM Research was working on the concept of "Storage Tank" which would hold Petabytes of data accessible to mainframes and distributed servers.
In 2001, I was the lead architect of DFSMS for the IBM z/OS operating system for mainframes, and was asked to be lead architect for the new "Horizon 3" project to be called IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center (TPC), which has since been renamed to IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
In 2002, I was asked to lead a team to port the "SANfs client" for SAN File System from Linux-x86 over to Linux on System z. How easy or difficult to port any code depends on how well it was written with the intent to be ported, and porting the "proof-of-concept" level code proved a bit too challenging for my team of relative new-hires. Once code written by research scientists is sufficiently complete to demonstrate proof of concept, it should be entirely discarded and written from scratch by professional software engineers that follow proper development and documentation procedures. We reminded management of this, and they decided not to make the necessary investment to add Linux on System z as a supported operating system for SAN file system.
In 2003, IBM launched Productivity Center, SAN File System and SAN Volume Controller. These would be lumped together with Horizon-1 product IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and the four products were promoted together as the inappropriately-named [TotalStorage Open Software Family]. We actually had long meetings debating whether SAN Volume Controller was hardware or software. While it is true that most of the features and functions of SAN Volume Controller is driven by its software, it was never packaged as a software-only offering.
The SAN File System was the productized version of the "Storage Tank" research project. While the SAN Volume Controller used industry standard Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) to allow support of a variety of operating system clients, the SAN File System required an installed "client" that was only available initially on AIX and Linux-x86. In keeping with the "open" concept, an "open source reference client" was made available so that the folks at Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft could port this over to their respective HP-UX, Solaris and Windows operating systems. Not surprisingly, none were willing to voluntarily add yet another file system to their testing efforts.
Barry argues that SANfs was five years ahead of its time. SAN File System tried to bring policy-based management for information, which has been part of DFSMS for z/OS since the 1980s, over to distributed operating systems. The problem is that mainframe people who understand and appreciate the benefits of policy-based management already had it, and non-mainframe couldn't understand the benefits of something they have managed to survive without.
(Every time I see VMware presented as a new or clever idea, I have to remind people that this x86-based hypervisor basically implements the mainframe concept of server virtualization introduced by IBM in the 1970s. IBM is the leading reseller of VMware, and supports other server virtualization solutions including Linux KVM, Xen, Hyper-V and PowerVM.)
To address the various concerns about SAN File System, the proof-of-concept code from IBM Research was withdrawn from marketing, and new fresh code implementing these concepts were integrated into IBM's existing General Parallel File System (GPFS). This software would then be packaged with a server hardware cluster, exporting global file spaces with broad operating system reach. Initially offered as IBM Scale-out File Services (SoFS) service offering, this was later re-packaged as an appliance, the IBM Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS) product, and as IBM Smart Business Storage Cloud (SBSC) cloud storage offering. These now offer clustered NAS storage using the industry standard NFS and CIFS clients that nearly all operating systems already have.
Today, these former Horizon-1 products are now Horizon-2 and Horizon-3. They have evolved. Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, GPFS and SAN Volume Controller are all market leaders in their respective areas.