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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Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. Here is a recap of some of the Tuesday afternoon sessions:
Brocade: Maximizing Your Cloud: How Data Centers Must Evolve
This was a session sponsored by Brocade to promote their concept of the "Ethernet Fabric". The first speaker, John McHugh, was from Brocade, and the second speaker was a client testimonial, Jamie Shepard, EVP for International Computerware, Inc.
John had an interesting take on today's network challenges. He feels that most LANs are organized for "North-South" traffic, referring to upload/downloads between clients and servers. However, the networks of tomorrow will need to focus on "East-West" traffic, referring to servers talking to other servers.
John was also opposed to integrated stacks that combine servers, storage and networking into a single appliance, as this prevents independent scaling of resources.
The Future of Backup is Not Backup
Primary data is growing at 40 to 60 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), but backup data is growing faster. Why? Because data that was not backed up before are now being backed up, including test data, development data, and mobile application data.
Backup costs are 19x more expensive than production software costs. There is an enormous gap in data protection because companies fail to factor this into their budgets. It is not uncommon for IT departments to use multiple backup tools, for example one tool for VMs, and another tool for servers, and a third product for desktops.
part of the problem is identifying who "buys" the backup software. The server team might focus on the operating systems supported. The storage team focuses on the disk and tape media supported. The application owners focus on the features and capabilities for backup that minimize impact to their application.
The analyst organized these issues into three "C's" of backup concerns: Cost, Capability and Complexity. Cost is not just the software license fee for the backup software, but the cost of backup media, courier fees, and transmisison bandwidth. Capability refers to the features and functions, and IT folks are tired of having to augment their backup solution with additional tools and scripts to compensate for lack of capability. Complexity refers to the challenges trying to get existing backup software to tackle new sources like Virtual Machines, Mobile apps, and so on.
Has everyone moved to a tape-less backup system? Polling results found that people are shifting back to tape, either in a tape-only environment, or to supplement their disk or disk-based virtual tape library (VTL). Here are the polling results:
The poll also showed the top three backup software vendors were Symantec, IBM and Commvault, which is consistent with marketshare. However, the analyst feels that by 2014, an estimated 30 percent of companies will change their backup softwar vendor out of frustration over cost, capability and/or complexity.
There are a lot new backup software products specific to dealing with Virtual Machines. Some are focused exclusively on VMware. When asked what tool people used to backup their VMs, the polling results showed the following. NOte that 20 percent for Other includes products from major vendors, like IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments, as the analyst was more interested in the uptake of backup software from startups.
Some companies are considering Cloud Computing for backup. This is one area where having the cloud service provider at a distance is an actual advantage for added protection. A poll asking whether some or most data is backed up to the Cloud, either already today, or plans for the near future within the next 12 or 24 months, showed the following:
In addition to backup service providers, there are now several startups that offer file sharing, and some are adding "versioning" to this that can serve as an alternative to backup. These include DropBox, SugarSync, iCloud, SpiderOak and ShareFile.
The final topic was Snapshot and Disk Replication. These tend to be hardware-based, so they may not have options for versioning, scheduling, or application-aware capabilities normally associated with backup software. Space-efficient snapshots, which point unchanged data back to the original source, may not provide full data protection that disparate backup copies would provide. Here were polling results on whether snapshot/replication was used to augment or replace some or most of their backups:
Some of his observations and recommendations:
Maintenance is more expensive than acquisition cost. Don't focus on the tip of the iceberg. Some backup software is more efficient for bandwidth and media which will save tons of money in the long run.
Try to optimize what you have. He calls this the "Starbuck's effect". If you just need one coffee, then paying $4.50 for a cup makes sense. But if you need 100 coffees, you might be better off buying the beans.
Design backups to meet service level agreements (SLAs). In the past, backup was treated as one-size-fits-all, but today you can now focus on a workload by workload basis.
Be conservative in adopting new technologies until you have your backup procedures in place to handle data protection.
Backup is for operational recovery, not long-term retention of data. A poll showed two-thirds of the audience kept backup versions for longer than 60 days! Re-evaluate how long you keep backups, and how many versions you keep. If you need long-term retention, use archive process instead.
Recovery testing is a dying art. Practice recovery procedures so that you can do it safely and correctly when it matters most.
The analyst had a series of awesome pictures of large structures, the pyramids of Giza, the Chrysler building, and so on, and how they would look without their foundations in place. Backup is a foundation and should be treated as such in all IT planning purposes.
IT is evolving, but some basic needs like networking and backup procedures don't change. As companies re-evaluate their IT operations for Big Data, Cloud Computing and other new technologies, it is best to remember that some basic needs must be met as part of those evaluations.
Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. Here is a recap of the Tuesday morning sessions:
Wells Fargo: Data Center Lessons Learned from the Wachovia Acquisition
This was the next in their "Mastermind Interview" series. The analyst interviewed Scott Dillon, EVP and Head of Technology Infrastructure Services for Wells Fargo bank. Some 13 years ago, Wells Fargo merged with Norwest, and three years ago, Wells Fargo merged again, this time with Wachovia bank. Today, the new merged Wells Fargo manages 1.2 Trillion USD in assets, some 12,000 ATMs, and 9,000 branch offices within two miles of 50 percent of the US population.
On the technical side, Scott's team has to deal with 10,000 IT changes per month, spanning 85 discrete businesses that Wells Fargo is involved in. To help drive the consolidation, they formed a culture group called "One Wells Fargo".
Often, Wells Fargo and Wachovia used different applications for the same function. The consolidation team took the A-or-B-but-not-C approach, which means they would either choose the existing application that Wells Fargo was already using (A), or the one that Wachovia was already using (B), but not look for a replacement (C). They also wanted to avoid re-platforming any apps during the merger. This simplified the process of developing target operating models (TOMs).
Before each application cut-over, the consolidation team did dry-run, dress rehearsals and walkthroughs over the phone to ensure smooth success. They wanted a Wachovia account holder to be able to walk into the bank on one day, and then come back the next day as a Wells Fargo account holder, into the same branch office but now with Wells Fargo signage, with minimal disruption.
Wells Fargo also adopted a test-to-learn approach of choosing small test markets to see how well the transition would work before tackling larger, more complicated markets. For example, they started in Colorado, where Wells Fargo has a huge presence, but Wachovia had a small presence.
This was first and foremost a business merger, not just an IT merger. Each decision to 6-18 months to act on, and the IT team spent the last three years working every weekend to make this a reality.
A Satirical Look at Business and Technology
Comedian Bob Hirschfeld presented a light-hearted look at the IT industry. Bob actually attended sessions on Monday at this conference so his satire was exceptionally hard-hitting. He took jabs at the latest IT job requirements, padding on light poles, IBM Watson, social media's impact on dictators, various industry acronyms, virtualization, the various reasons why printer ink is so expensive, and the evil masterminds behind Powerpoint.
Storing Big Data takes a Village
Two analysts co-presented this session on the 12 dimensions of information management that revolve around the volume, variety and velocity of "Big Data".
In the past, it took a while to gather data, and a while to process the data, so annual, quarterly and monthly reports were common. Today, with high-velocity streams like Twitter, especially during cultural events or natural disasters, data is produced and analyzed quickly. It is important to sort the steady-state from the anomalies.
Myth 1: All data fits nicely into relational databases. The analysts feel the concept of putting everything into one big data base is dead. Some data sets are so complicated that traditional database joins would cause smoke to come out of the sides of the servers. Instead, new technologies have emerged, including NoSQL, Cassandra, Hadoop, Columnar databases, and In-memory databases. XML has helped to bring together disparate data formats.
Companies need to adapt to this new reality of Business Analytics. Here is a poll of the audience on how many are in what stage of adaptation:
Myth 2: Everyone will do Big Data with commodity hardware. Businesses want commmercial offerings that don't fail every day. (For example, instead of using open-source Hadoop, consider IBM's [InfoSphere BigInsights] commercial product based on Hadoop designed for the Enterprise).
Myth 3: Big Data is too big for backup. Certainly, traditional full-plus-incremental approaches fail to scale, but that is not the only option you have. Consider disk replication, snapshots, and integrated disk-and-tape blended solutions that adopt a more progressive backup methodology.
Capacity forecasting can be difficult with Big Data. Scale-out NAS systems, including IBM SONAS and the various me-too competitive offerings, were originally focused on High Performance Computing (HPC) and the Media & Entertainment (M&E) industries, are now ready for prime-time and appropriate for other use cases.
It's like the game of Clue, but instead of Professor Plum with the candlestick in the library, it was Chuck with the Cluster in the Closet. To avoid shadow IT creating huge Hadoop Clusters in your closets, encourage the use of Cloud Computing for "sandbox" projects. IBM, Amazon and others offer hosted MapReduce engines for this purpose.
What type of storage do you plan to use for Big Data? The top five, weighted from a list during a poll of the audience were: (78) traditional disk arrays, (71) Scale-out NAS, (46) pre-configured appliances, (30) Hadoop clusters, and (23) Cloud Storage.
Big Data is about doing things differently. Do your employees understand analytical techniques? Your company may need to start thinking about policies for capturing Big Data, storing it correctly, and analyzing it for insights and patterns needed to stay competitive.
It was good to mix reality with a bit of humor. Some of these conference attendees take themselves too seriously, and it is good to be reminded that IT is just part of the overall business operation.
Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. Here is a recap of the Monday afternoon sessions:
IBM Watson and your Data Center
Steve Sams, IBM VP of Site and Facilities Services, cleverly used IBM Watson as a way to explain how analytics can be used to help manage your data center. Sadly, most of the people at my table missed the connection between IBM Watson and Analytics. How does answering a single trivia question in under three seconds relate to the ongoing operations of a data center? If you were similarly confused, take a peak at my series of IBM Watson blog posts:
The analyst who presented this topic was probably the fastest-speaking Texan I have met. He covered various aspects of Cloud Computing that people need to consider. Why hasn't Cloud taken off sooner? The analyst feels that Cloud Computing wasn't ready for us, and we weren't ready for Cloud Computing. The fundamentals of Cloud Computing have not changed, but we as a society have. Now that many end users are comfortable consuming public cloud resources, from Facebook to Twitter to Gmail, they are beginning to ask for similar from their corporate IT.
Legal issues - see this hour-long video, [Cloud Law & Order], which discusses legal issues related to Cloud Computing.
Employee staffing - need to re-tool and re-train IT employees to start thinking of their IT as a service provider internally.
Hybrid Cloud - rather than struggle choosing between private and public cloud methodologies, consider a combination of both.
University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Cracks Code on Data Growth
Often times, the hour is split, 30 minutes of the sponsor talking about various products, followed by 30 minutes of the client giving a user experience. Instead, I decided to let the client speak for 45 minutes, and then I moderated the Q&A for the remaining 15 minutes. This revised format seemed to be well-received!
University of Rochester is in New York, about 60 miles east of Buffalo, and 90 miles from Toronto across Lake Ontario. Six years ago, Rick Haverty joined URMC as the Director of Infrastructure services, managing 130 of the 300 IT personnel at the Medical Center. I met Rick back in May, when he presented at the IBM [Storage Innovation Executive Summit] in New York City.
URMC has DS8000, DS5000, XIV, SONAS, Storwize V7000 and is in the process of deploying Storwize V7000 Unified. He presented how he has used these for continuous operations and high availability, while controlling storage growth and costs.
The Q&A was lively, focusing on how his team manages 1PB of disk storage with just four storage administrators, his choice of a "Vendor Neutral Archive" (VNA), and his experiences with integration.
This was a great afternoon, and I was glad to get all my speaking gigs done early in the week. I would like to thank Rick Haverty of URMC for doing a great job presenting this afternoon!
Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. Here is a recap of the other Monday morning keynote sessions:
Driving Innovation to Achieve Dramatic Improvements
What is Innovation? It is a process that starts with one or more ideas, that results in change, that creates value. Easier said than done!
Innovation drives business growth. The analyst indicated that the IT infrastructure can either be in the way to impede business growth, neutral to enable growth, or contributing to business growth. Companies often find downtime as an inhibitor to business growth. The analyst gave these typical numbers.
Unplanned downtime (hours per year)
Planned Downtime (hours per year)
A big inhibitor to change is "cultural inertia", which states that the way things are prevent what they could be. Change requires both rewards and measures. Employees are often uncomfortable with change. Motivation should be with carrots not sticks.
(I often joke that the only people who are comfortable with change are babies with soiled diapers and prisoners on death row!)
The impedence to change is further amplified by leadership because what got them into their positions was their history of success, and often leaders perpetuate what worked for them in the past.
"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."
--- Peter Drucker
Nothing lasts forever, and companies should not try to avoid the inevitable. Innovators need to see themselves as change agents. the analyst feels that less than 10 percent of IT will adopt innovation to enact dramatic change. The analyst took a poll of the audience asking: Why isn't your IT Infrastructure and Operations more innovative? Over 800 attendees responded. Here were the results:
The analyst suggests treating Innovation like a team sport, with small 2-5 person teams. Search for breakthrough opportunities by setting audacious goals to inspire innovative thinking. What approach are most people doing today? Here are some polling results:
The analyst suggest it is more important to establish a culture of innovation first, and process second. Skunkworks projects are back in favor. IT folks should avoid the worship of so-called "best practices" as a reason to avoid change in trying something different. To think "outside-the-box" you need to get outside the box, or office, or cubicle, or wherever you work that prevents you from interacting with your internal or external customers. Customers can bring great insights on new approaches to take.
One new approach, born in the Cloud and now coming to the Enterprise is the concept of [DevOps], which consists of promoting collaboration between the "Appplication Development" half of IT, with the "Operations" half. If you never had heard of DevOps before, you are not alone, most of the attendees at this conference hadn't either. Here are the poll results:
Some companies have instituted a "Fresh Eyes" program, asking new-hires and early-tenure employees questions like: What surprised you the most when you joined the company? Was there anything that didn't make sense to you? Do you have any ideas to improve the way we do things?
"In a time of crisis we all have the potential to morph up to a new level and do things we never thought possible"
– Stuart Wilde
Why wait for a crisis?
Facebook: Efficient Infrastructure at a Massive Scale
Frank Frankovsky, the Director of Hardware and Design and Supply Chain at Facebook, was sitting right next to me in the audience. I didn't know this until it was his turn to speak, and he jumps up and walks to the stage! For those who live under a rock and/or are over 40 years old, Facebook is a social media site that allows people to maintain personal profiles, share photos, news and messages, play games, and create groups to organize events. They now support over 800 million accounts, a healthy percentage of the 1.9 billion people on the internet today.
Started in 2004, Facebook was originally hosted on standard server and storage hardware in colocation facilities. Facebook saved 38 percent costs by bringing their operations in-house, building their own servers from parts, and using no third-party software. Facebook has the advantage of owning their entire software stack, leveraging open source as much as possible. They even re-wrote their own PHP compiler, which they pronounce "Hip-Hop", short for high-performance-PHP.
Facebook can stand up a new data center in less than 10 months, from breaking ground to serving users. Most of Facebook's data centers sport a PUE less than 1.5, but their newest one in Prineville, Oregon is down to an amazing 1.07 level for a 7.5 Megawatt facility! How did they do it? Here are a few of their tricks:
Use Scale-Out architecture. Having lots of small servers, scattered in various data centers, allows them to survive a server failure, as well as having the luxury to shut down a datacenter when needed for maintenance reasons.
Free Cooling. Instead of air-conditioning, they pump in cold air from the outside, and send the heated exhaust back outdoors. Frank does not believe servers should be treated like humans, so their data centers run uncomfortably hot. The 50-year climate data is used to determine data center locations that have the optimal "free cooling" opportunities.
Eliminate UPS and PDU energy losses. Rather than running 480 VAC power through UPS that represent a 6 to 12 percent loss, and then PDU that introduce another 3 percent loss getting down to 208 or 120 VAC, Frank's team builds servers that feed direclty off the 480 VAC from the power company. For backup power, they use 48VDC batteries. One set of batteries can backup six racks of servers.
Target 6 to 8 KW per rack. Low-density racks are easier to keep cool.
Build their own IT equipment. Rather than buying commercially-available servers, Frank's team builds 1.5 U servers based on Intel "Westmere" chipset. 1.5U allows for larger fan radius than standard 1U pizza box format. (IBM's iDataPlex uses 2U fans for the same reason!) Facebook has a "Vanity free" design philosophy, so no fancy plastic bezels. In most cases, the covers are left off. Most (65 percent) of their servers are web front-ends. They plan new IT equipment based on Intel's "Sandy Bridge" chipset.
Use SATA drives. They buy the largest SATA drives available, directly from manufacturers, in direct-attach storage (DAS) in their servers. Data is organized in a Hadoop cluster, and they have developed their own internal "Haystack" for photo storage. Despite the floods in Thailand, Facebook has secured all the SATA disk they plan to buy for 2012 from their suppliers.
Use Solid-State drives. Their Database tier uses 100 percent Solid-State drives.
Frank is also a founder for the [Open Compute Project], which takes an "Open source" approach to IT hardware.
Facebook does not bother with hypervisors. Instead, they have adapted their own software to make full use of the CPU natively. This eliminates the "I/O Tax" penalty associated with VMware and other hypervisors.
Of course, not everyone owns their entire software stack, and can build their own servers! It was nice to hear how a company without such limitations can innovate to their advantage.
This week, I will be in Las Vegas for the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. For those on Twitter, follow the conference on hashtag #GartnerDC, and follow me at [@az990tony]. IBM is a Global Partner and Platinum Sponsor for this event. Here is a recap of some of the Monday morning keynote sessions:
Welcome and Introduction
Monday morning kicked off with a welcome introduction from the conference coordinators. This is the highest attendance for this conference in its 30 year history, with 60 percent of the attending for their first time, and 18 percent only once before. This is the fourth time I am attending. Half of the attendees represent corporations with 20,000 employees or more, the other half from smaller companies and government agencies. The top five industries represented are financial services, public sector, healthcare, manufacturing, and energy.
This conference uses a clever "interactive polling" where hand-held devices can be used to select choices, and results of over 800 voters are presented immediately on the big screen.
For IT budgets, 42 percent plan to increase next year, 32 percent flat, and 26 percent lower, which are similar to the numbers last year. Of nine different IT challenges, the top three were managing storage growth, power/cooling issues, and adopting a Cloud strategy.
Top 10 Trends and how they will impact Data Center IT
The analyst presented top 10 business, technology and societal trends that will impact IT. He added a last-minute eleventh issue that he felt will impact everyone in 2012:
Consumerization and the Tablet. Back in 1997, a GB of flash memory cost $7,992 US dollars, and today that same GB costs only 25 cents. Employees are bringing their own devices to the workplace, and expecting IT support.
Infinite Data Center. You may never have to expand your floorspace again. Improvements in server and storage density can allow you to continually upgrade in place.
Energy Management. Data centers consume 100x more energy than the offices they support. The cost of energy is on part with IT equipment. Energy management is becoming an enterprise-wide discipline. A key performance indicator (KPI) can be "compute per kW" or "compute per Square foot".
Context Awareness. There are hundreds of thousands of apps for Android-based smart phones and iPhones. Context awareness allows an app to help business travelers in airports know what restaurants are nearby, their flight status, and alternate flights available, based entirely on their location.
Hybrid Clouds. By 2013, over 60 percent of cloud adoption will be to redeploy existing apps like email. Some 80 percent of cloud initiatives will be private or hybrid configurations. Customers want "good enough" technology, and thus Cloud will be mostly an augmentation strategy.
Fabric Computing. The opposite of fully-integrated stacks is the notion of having compute, memory and storage joined together via an interconnect fabric with software to manage the entire environment.
IT Complexity. Robert Glass's Law states that for every 25 percent increase in functionality, there is a 100 percent increase in complexity. See Roger Session's whitepaper [The IT Complexity Crisis: Danger and Opportunity] for more on this.
Patterns and Analytics. Big data and business analytics is a key platform. This is expected to grow 60 percent CAGR.
Impact of Virtualization. Virtualizing your environment should be considered a continuous process, not a one-time project. Many companies are running x86 servers at less than 55 percent, which the speaker considers under-utilized. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a trade-off, may cost more but have other business benefits to consider. The problem is that many IT shops are organized vertially (a server team, storage team, network team) but problems surface horizontally, and there is no "ownership" for the resolution. Some use "tiger teams" to address this. Companies should reward lateral thinking.
Social Media. Of the ommunications on cell phones by college students, 98.4 percent are text messages, and only 1.6 percent voice phone calls. People search Google for "what was", but they search Twitter for "what is". Most of the growth on Twitter are in the 39-52 year-old demographic. The analyst felt that if your company is blocking or restricting access to facebook, twitter, youtube or other social networking sites, then shame on you. I agree!
Flooding in Thailand. Over two million square feet of HDD production space were flooded, and this will impact HDD prices for 2012. Already, a 2TB drive that was selling for $79 at local store is now selling for $190.
How To Get Your CFO's Support For Strategy and Funding
In the first of a series of "mastermind interviews", the analyst interviewed their own CFO Chris Lafond. Ultimately, it is about business results. They have grown annual 15-20 percent, from 250 million in 2003 to 1.3 billion US dollars in 2011 for annual revenue, 4600 employees, doing business in 85 countries. The company is focused on three business areas: Research, Consulting, and Events like this one. Chris does not approve 3-5 year projects, and instead requests projects be broken up into year-long phases. ROI can be very misleading, and he asks instead for benefits and contributions to initiatives.
It is important to keep the horse in front of the cart. Accounting departments should not drive business decisions. For example, companies should not move to the public cloud just so that the accounting department can shift from CAPex to OPex. Try to depreciate as soon as possible. Likewise, green technologies and social responsibility are factors, but not drivers of business decisions. Acquisitions are a natural evolution of the market, so risk mitigation strategies should be in place in case your vendor of choice is acquired by someone you don't like.
For BC/DR planning, the analyst has a single Data Center approach, but Chris indicated that IT is looking to expand this. Their single datacenter for one part of their business was in Florida, and the other in Massachusetts, and both impacted by Hurricanes or Earthquakes recently.
The "lightning round" asked Chris his thoughts, either thumbs up, thumbs down, or neutral, on single ideas or concepts. I liked this part of the interview!
Chargeback? Thumbs down. He doesn't feel you should have internal fighting over charge rates. He prefers showback instead.
BYO Device with stipend? Thumbs down, but inevitable. Giving people a chunk of money to buy their own laptop, smart phone or tablet of choice may wreak havoc on the IT department for support and service.
Telepresence? Thumbs down. Cool, but very expensive. I don't think people are prepared to exploit the benefits of this.
Corporate apps on public "app stores"? Thumbs down. Concerns over security and integration is main issue.
Access to Social Networks? Thumbs up. This is how employees communicate and collaborate. Don't stifle them doing the right things just because you are afraid they might waste 20 minutes on Facebook per day.
Your IT budget? It's up slightly 1-5 percent for 2012.
Cloud? Promising, some challenges related to integration and security.
Chris finished up with a story about an application team that indicated that they would need to make 100 customizations to an off-the-shelf general ledger financial application. Chris and the other executives asked to be presented each and every customization, and he was able to eliminate most of them.
Positive comments I heard from the audience was that these keynotes had real "meat" to them, and not just full of cliches and platitudes that is common for keynote sessions. I would have to agree.