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IBM Technical University in Nairobi Kenya - Day 1
Last week, I presented at the "IBM TechU Comes to You" event in beautiful Nairobi, Kenya. This was a three-day event, so here is my recap of Day 1, Tuesday Aug 2, 2016.
Opening Keynote Session
Once again, Marlin Maddy, IBM Manager of Worldwide Systems Technical Events, served as master of ceremonies. He arrived into Nairobi just a few hours earlier, and we were worried that one of us might have to jump in and take over if he had any delays in his flight schedule. Fortunately, he arrived and did a great job welcoming the audience.
Eric Jaoko, chief manager of Kenya's Rural Electrification Agency [REA], presented next. Back in 1973, the Kenyan government wanted to have all of its rural areas offering electrical service. Some 30 years later, in 2002, only 4 percent of the rural areas had achieved this. In 2006, the Kenyan government formed this new REA agency to accelerate the progress. By 2008, nearly 25 percent of rural areas were electrified. Currently (2016), they are now at 68 percent, including all primary schools (more than 20,000 across the country).
Eric mentioned that this success was in part to their partnership with IBM for Information Technology. REA switched from Oracle to SAP applications on IBM Power systems with IBM Storwize V7000, resulting in lower costs, less power consumption, easier to deploy and manage, redundancy and high availability, scalability and high speed access to critical data. Not surprisingly, IBM's leadership in "Mobility" plays another key role, since these areas are rural and often connected only by cellular phone service.
REA employees both AIX and Linux on POWER operating systems, and uses OpenStack to manage both the servers and storage components. PowerVM, PowerVC and PowerHA complete the solution to provide a more robust environment. REA found it was very easy to clone their SAP systems, which made it very easy to test software upgrades without impacting their production environments.
The next speaker was IBM's own Glenn Anderson, IBM z Systems Consultant and Worldwide Technical Events Content Manager. His talk was titled "Think Outside the Cubicle" to emphasize that there are changes underfoot in the IT industry. Rather than focusing on IT as a cost to be reduced, enlightened CEOs are discovering that IT can be used to optimize value for their organization.
One trend that has changed drastically is what IBM refers to as "Systems of Engagement". To better connect with clients, customers and suppliers, organizations now create conversations on social media channels, listen and react to those conversations, building communities that allow them to better understand and serve their markets.
Another trend was "Two-speed IT", often called "Bimodal IT", which indicates that some projects should have "fast-track" status, streamlining the process of design, development and deployment for new innovations. This is in contrast to traditional "slower" projects for mission critical "Systems of Record" operations, like databases and Online Transaction Processing (OLTP).
His last trend he covered was this notion of "Cognitive Business", the use of self-learning, natural language processing to assist in business decision making. Glenn compared the old way as a static map that indicated "You Are Here". The new way was more like GPS, which indicated where you are, where you want to be, and the steps to get there.
(You might ask "Why do business leaders need such assistance?" First, business executives cannot ingest and comprehend the vast amount of data they need to make correct decisions, causing them to make less-than-optimal choices with limited information. Second, business leaders are often only on the job a few years, moving around from one opportunity to another, and do not build the experience background that a computer that can ingest millions of documents can achieve much more quickly. Third, business leaders often are prone to bias, surrounding themselves with ["yes-men"], unwilling to accept any information that contradicts their world view. Computers do not have that bias, and are capable in finding insights, trends and patterns that business leaders might not have considered.)
Software Defined Storage -- What? Why? How?
I was honored to be asked to be the keynote kick-off for the IBM Storage track of this conference. There is still much confusion over the concept of Software Defined Storage (SDS). While there are many different positions on this, IBM has adopted the IDC definition, which requires all three criteria to be met:
Solutions based on Industry-standard, off-the-shelf components.
Solutions that offer the complete set of storage features and functions, such as point-in-time copies, data footprint reduction, technical refresh migration, and remote replication.
Solutions that are offered in multiple ways, such as software-only, pre-built systems using industry-standard off-the-shelf components, and cloud-based services.
IBM's SDS offerings include all of the IBM Spectrum Storage family available as software-only, pre-built systems like SAN Volume Controller and XIV Gen3, and cloud-based services like IBM Cloud Managed Backup and Archive, and IBM Cloud Object Storage System (formerly Cleversafe).
IBM ranks #1 in SDS marketplace, with over 40 percent marketshare. The advantage of IBM's approach is that it does not require a complete rip-and-replace of existing IT infrastructure. IBM solutions can work with your existing servers and storage that you have already in place! This allows for a smooth and graceful transition.
Cloud Computing Concepts and the Role of Infrastructure
This session was covered by Mack Kigada, IBM Executive Consultant for the "Executive Advisory Practice" portion of Systems Lab Services. Frankly, I think this should have been classified as a "Cross-Brand" rather than other "Storage", as it showed not just storage but also how servers and OpenStack participate in a complete Hybrid Cloud solution.
The new IBM FlashSystem A9000 GUI
This session was presented by Dominique Salomon, IBM Certified IT Specialist Storage and European New Technology Introduction Leader. He works at the IBM Montpelier Briefing Center in France, a sister organization to the IBM Tucson Executive Briefing Center that I work in.
When IBM was ready to launch its newest FlashSystem offering, which combines the low-latency IBM FlashCore technology from IBM FlashSystem 900 with the IBM Spectrum Accelerate software from XIV, they had to decide what Graphical User Interface [GUI] to deploy it with. The IBM development team had narrowed it down to three options:
Use the IBM XIV Gen3 GUI, which is installed client code that runs on a handful of select operating systems. This GUI is nine years old.
Adopt and modify the browser-based GUI used by all of the other IBM Storage systems like DS8000 and SAN Volume Controller. By using HTML5, AJAX and Dojo widgets, this newer approach eliminates Operating System and Java dependencies, and can run on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. However, this technology is four years old.
Deploy a new GUI, adopting the latest techniques and methods, offering a new, simpler way to manage the new device.
The development team decided on the third option, and so Dominique spent the first half hour explaining what the IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R systems are, and then the last half showing a live demo connecting back to his systems in Montpelier, France.
IBM XIV, Spectrum Accelerate and the new IBM FlashSystem A9000
This session was covered by Maurice "Mo" McCullough, IBM Storage Technical Content Leader for IBM Systems Worldwide Technical Events. In retrospect, he admitted that he should have scheduled this session before Dominique's session above, which would have reduced the amount of time and questions Dominique spent explaining the IBM FlashSystem A9000 and more time showing the new GUI.
Mo first covered the newest model of the XIV Gen3 pre-built system, the model 314. It has double the cache memory and double the processing cores to drastically improve Real-time compression. Then, he explained IBM Spectrum Accelerate, available as either software you can deploy on your own x86 servers on-premises, or in cloud-based servers from IBM SoftLayer. Finally, Mo covered the A9000 and A9000R, the newest members of the IBM FlashSystem family that share features and capabilities with the XIV Gen3 and Spectrum Accelerate offerings.
Tuesday evening we had a welcome reception for all the attendees, staff and speakers. This was a great time to relax and meet everyone on a social level.