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IBM Spectrum Storage Announcements for November 2015
Well it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
(FCC Disclosure: This official launch also includes October 6 announcements. In any case, the usual disclaimer applies: I currently work for IBM, and this blog post can be considered a "paid celebrity endorsement" of the IBM products mentioned below.)
IBM announced various updates to its Spectrum Storage product line. Here is a quick recap.
IBM Spectrum Virtualize 7.6
Spectrum Virtualize is the new name of the "storage hypervisor" code that resides in IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) and Storwize family products. When you buy an SVC, you will license Spectrum Virtualize software on it. It is NOT available separately as software-only that you can install on any other hardware. There are three major improvements:
Software-based Data-at-Rest Encryption
Earlier this year, IBM delivered data-at-rest encryption for the Storwize V7000 and V7000 Unified. This week, IBM extends this support to other storage hypervisors.
Since this feature is based on the Intel processor that supports the Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (AES-NI), it applies only to the newer hardware: SAN Volume Controller 2145-DH8, the Storwize V7000 Gen2, FlashSystem V9000, and VersaStack converged systems that contain these. You can run Spectrum Virtualize v7.6 on older hardware models, but the encryption feature will be disabled.
Basically, by taking advantage of AES-NI commands, IBM can now offer data-at-rest encryption on any virtualized flash or disk arrays, eliminating the need for special "Self-Encrypting Drives", or SED.
The encryption keys are kept on USB memory sticks, that you can either leave in the machine, or stash away in some vault or safe somewhere.
The other improvement is distributed RAID. Distributed RAID has been hugely popular on IBM XIV products, and has since found its way into the DCS3700, DCS3860 and Elastic Storage Server models.
With this new enhancement, storage admins can select "Distributed RAID-5" or "Distributed RAID-6" as alternate choices to traditional RAID ranks.
Why use it? All the drives are now active, eliminating idle spare drives that do nothing collecting dust and cobwebs waiting for an opportunity to spin up, and when they finally are used for a rebuild become a terrible bottleneck. Since all drives are reading and writing, the rebuild rate is an order of magnitude (5 to 10x) faster!
For those clients nervous about large 8TB drives and the number of days it would take to perform a traditional RAID rebuild, this should calm all of your fears.
This is one of those line-items that we have told clients that it was "just around the corner" and "coming soon, watch this space", and finally it is available. For clients using Stretched Cluster or HyperSwap across two buildings, best practices suggests keeping the quorum disk in a third building. This often met having to dedicate a single 2U disk system in a closet somewhere, with expensive Fibre Channel cables connecting to the other two buildings.
To address this, IBM now allows the quorum disk to be based on Internet Protocol (the IP portion of TCP/IP), which can be any bare-metal or virtual machine that is LAN or WAN attached. The "quorum disk" is just a little Java program. This can run on any cloud service provider as well, such as IBM SoftLayer, that both buildings have connectivity.
A minor improvement worth mentioning is that the IBM "Comprestimator" tool that estimates the capacity savings of Real-time Compression is now integrated into Spectrum Virtualize v7.6 command line interface (CLI), allowing you to run the tool on demand, as needed, on any virtual volume.
IBM Spectrum Scale v4.2
IBM plans to offer all of its solutions in any of three flavors: software-only that you can deploy on your own server hardware, pre-built system appliances, and cloud services on IBM SoftLayer, IBM Cloud Managed Services or third-party cloud providers. Spectrum Scale is the software-only flavor, and Elastic Storage Server and Storwize V7000 Unified are pre-built systems based on that software.
File and Object access
IBM published a "Redbook" on how to implement OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3 interfaces to an existing Spectrum Scale deployment. IBM supported it, but it was basically Do-it-Yourself DIY implementation. This has now been resolved, with full integration of OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3 object-protocol interfaces.
(For those unfamiliar with "Object storage", think of it like valet parking for your data. Before working for IBM, I was previously employed as a valet attendant, so I feel qualified to make this analogy.
If you park your car in a 10-story high parking structure, you have to remember where you parked to go find the car again. With valet parking, you hand over the keys to the valet attendant, the car gets parked, and you get a claim stub that you then use to get your car back. In the meantime, you don't know where your car is parked, and you don't care either!
Storing files in volume-level or file-level storage is like that 10-story high parking structure. You have to remember where you put it, which LUN or which sub-directory. With object storage, the system provides a "claim stub" in the form of an Universal Record Identifier, or URI, and simple HTTP commands like GET and POST can be used to upload and download the content.)
Policy-driven Compression and Quality of Service (QoS)
If you want to differentiate the levels of service provided by files and objects stored in your infrastructure, look no further. Simple SQL-like language is used to set up policies that are invoked when needed.
Hadoop Connector for File and Objects
The IBM Hadoop Connector allows Hadoop and Spark analytics applications to treat Spectrum Scale as a 100 percent compatible alternative to Hadoop File Systems (HDFS). Previously, this was only available for files, but now it has been extended to include objects as well.
Advanced Graphical User Interface (GUI)
Based on the award-winning GUI that has been used for IBM XIV, SVC, Storwize and various other members of the IBM System Storage family, IBM announces an HTML5-based web-browser GUI for configuring and managing Spectrum Scale and Elastic Storage Server (ESS).
Storwize V7000 Unified
The "file modules" that run IBM Spectrum Scale will get updated to R1.6 level, which supports SMB 3.0 and NFS 4.0 protocols. SMB support will now include both internal and externally-virtualized storage. You will also be able to use Active File Management to migrate to other Spectrum Scale implementations.
IBM Spectrum Control
As the former chief architect of IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center v1, I have been a big fan of the advancements and evolution of Spectrum Control. IBM offers three levels. The first level is "Basic Edition", entitled at no additional charge for IBM storage hardware clients. The second level is "Standard Edition" which offers configuration, provisioning and performance monitoring. The third level is "Advanced Edition", which includes advanced storage analytics, file-level reporting, storage tiering and data placement optimization.
You can imagine my skepticism when I was told that Spectrum Control was going to be enhanced to support Spectrum Scale. What could it offer? IBM Spectrum Scale already has built-in storage tiering and data placement optimization!
It turns out that having effective "management tools" was the #1 reason clients have stated were needed to implement and deploy Spectrum Scale. Since 1998, back when it was called General Parallel File System, or GPFS, the target market was High Performance Computing (HPC) familiar with Command Line Interfaces (CLI).
But IBM was to broaden the reach of IBM Spectrum Scale, to financial services, health care and life sciences, government and education, and a variety of other industries. They won't tolerate being limited to CLI interfaces.
For clients with multiple Spectrum Scale clusters, Spectrum Control can offer the following:
Visibility across the capacity utilization (file systems, pools, file sets, quotas) and cluster health across all Spectrum Scale clusters in the data center
Ability to specify alerts which are applied across all Spectrum Scale clusters, for things like relative or absolute free space in a file system, or inodes used, nodes going down, etc.
Understand the cross-cluster relationships established by remote cluster mounts, and seamlessly navigate between them
If external SAN storage is used, Spectrum Control shows the correlation between Spectrum Scale Network Shared Disks (NSD) and their corresponding SAN volumes, again with the ability to navigate between them; also it can provide performance monitoring for the volumes backing the NSD
Ability to monitor file capacity usage in the context of applications, by adding Spectrum Scale "file set containers" to application groups defined in Spectrum Control
Compare file system activity across Spectrum Scale clusters, with the ability to drill into file system and node performance charts
Support for object storage on Spectrum Scale, determine which object-enabled clusters are closest to running out of free space
While the basic built-in GUI is great for smaller deployments, if you have a dozen or more Spectrum Scale clusters, or have Spectrum Scale clusters intermixed with traditional block-level and NAS storage devices, then Spectrum Control is for you!
It used to take weeks to deploy the original versions of Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, but now, Spectrum Control is now offered in the cloud, and you can deploy it in as little as 30 minutes.
Want to check it out? You can explore Spectrum Control Storage Insights cloud service as a [Live Demo], or [Start your free trial]! The reporting capabilities of Spectrum Scale are identical between the on-premise version of Spectrum Control, and this cloud service offering.
Here's a great quote from a leading IT industry analyst:
"In multi-petabyte, multivendor installations, overall storage costs of ownership for use of IBM Spectrum Storage solutions averaged 73 percent less than EMC, and 61 percent less than Hitachi equivalents" -- Brian Jeffery, Managing Director, International Technology Group, Naples, FL
As IBM continues its transition from a hardware-oriented company founded over a century ago, manufacturing meat scales and cheese slicers, to one more focused on higher value-add software and services, the Spectrum Storage software family will play a critical role of this transformation!