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IBM Technical University in Johannesburg - Day 1
Last week, September 11-13, I was in Johannesburg for the IBM Technical University! The event was held at the Hyatt Regency in the Rosebank section of town. This event was focused on IBM Systems, including storage, Power systems, and IBM Z mainframe servers. Here is my recap for the first day:
Opening Keynote Session
The conference was opened by a warm welcome from Ronnie Moodley, IBM Executive for Systems Hardware. He explained that we live in a VUCA world. For those who have not heard this term before, it is a four-letter acronym that conflates four different business challenges: [Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity].
Ronnie also mentioned the shifts in marketing, from the "four P's" to the "four E's":
Clients are no longer evaluating individual products, but also services that come with it, the context on how it is used, the identify of users, and other characteristics that provide a complete experience.
With so many free, open-source alternatives, the question is not comparing the prices of competing products, but what do you exchange for choosing one option for another. Often referred to as the total cost of ownership (TCO) or "opportunity cost" in economic terms.
The Internet and cloud technologies now allow people to buy and use products practically anywhere. Having a bricks-and-mortal location on a busy street corner may no longer be a competitive advantage.
Old marketing methods relied on uni-directional promotion from corporate marketing teams. Today, social media, blogs, and word-of-mouth evangelism are providing greater influences on purchase decision.
The second segment was "The World is our Lab", by Kugendran Naidoo, IBM Research South Africa. Unlike some companies that consolidate all of their research to one location, IBM does research across the globe, with two locations in Africa (Nairobi, Kenya and here in Johannesburg, South Africa).
Dr. Naidoo explained that often research leads us into areas we weren't expecting. For example, an algorithm developed to detect black holes in space failed, but it turned out to be useful for detecting Wi-Fi hot spots.
This begins back in 1974, when Stephen Hawking theorized that under certain circumstances, small black holes might "evaporate" — and simultaneously emit radio signals. These hypothesized black holes were about the mass of Mount Everest, and smaller than an atom. Soon after, the physicist and engineer John O'Sullivan tried to find these signals.
If these small black holes were evaporating, they would emit radio signals as they vanished. But because of their great distance from us, these signals would be hard to identify because they would be tiny by the time they arrived, as well being buried in a background of louder 'noise'. Furthermore, this tiny signal would be 'smeared' (turned from a sharp spike into a rounded shape). So he and his colleagues came up with a wonderful mathematical tool to detect these tiny, smeared signals.
As it turned out, they never did find these small black holes.
In 1992, John O'Sullivan was at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia, trying to develop computer networks that communicated without wires.
But there was a big problem. The signals he wanted to detect were tiny, smeared and buried in a background of louder 'noise'. Just like the black hole signals.
By a wonderful coincidence, his black hole mathematics turned out to be the key to Wi-Fi. CSIRO took out patents in Australia in 1992, and in the US in 1996. By 2000, they had some working chips.
Improve your NAS environment in One Day! Introducing IBM Spectrum NAS
IBM has been in the NAS storage business for decades. IBM Spectrum NAS is our most recent software defined storage. This session gave an overview on how Spectrum NAS is designed. This software can be deployed on as few as four nodes in less than an hour, leaving you the rest of the day to migrate your data from other NAS solutions.
IBM Spectrum NAS fills the gap between a single file server and expensive dual-controller models available commercially. A single file server, running perhaps Windows Storage Server or Linux with NFS and Samba, represents a single point of failure (SPOF). Lose the one server, and your department or team loses access to all of those shared files!
At the other extreme, commercial dual-controller NAS devices, such as those from NetApp or DellEMC, are loaded with advanced features and application-specific capabilities. Some people take advantage of these, others don't.
IBM Spectrum NAS is software defined storage that runs on four or more nodes, is highly available, and provides many of the advanced features offered by commercial dual-controller models at roughly half the total cost of ownership.
Dip your TOE in our Pool! iSER and Data Reduction with IBM Spectrum Virtualize
All of the presenters at this conference were asked to come up with fun and quirky titles for their sessions. The title is a bit of wordplay.
When IBM launched its SAN Volume Controller in 2003, I was one of the "Technical Evangelists" that traveled around the world to explain how it works. Today, 15 years later, I am still talking about how great this technology is.
Ethernet network interface cards that have co-processors to offload some of the TCP/IP processing are called TCP-Offload-Engines, or "TOE" cards.
IBM recently announced two new flavors of 25GbE cards, one that supports RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE), and another that supports Internet Wide Area RDMA protocol (iWARP).
To implement data deduplication, the Spectrum Virtualize team refactored the code that handled pools of managed space. The original pools are now referred to as "Legacy Storage Pools", and the new pools are referred to as "Data Reduction Pools".
Fahima Zair, Tony Pearson, and Maria Lancaster
After the sessions, we had a nice evening reception to celebrate the General Availability of the IBM FlashSystem 9100. At events like these, many attendees are local and commute to the event, so I was happy to see many stuck around to have conversations with the experts.
I was able to reconnect with many of my colleagues, including Fahima Zair in charge of our VersaStack relationship with Cisco, and Maria Lancaster from our Storage Marketing team.