EMC Electrocutes the Elephant
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Wrapping up my week's theme on IBM's acquisition XIV, we have gotten hundreds of positive articles and reviews in the press, but has caused quite a stir with the
In a block storage device, only the host file system or database engine "knows" what's actually stored in there. So in the Nextra case that Tony has described, if even only 7,500-15,000 of the 750,000 total 1MB blobs stored on a single 750GB drive (that's "only" 1 to 2%) suddenly become inaccessible because the drive that held the backup copy also failed, the impact on a file system could be devastating. That 1MB might be in the middle of a 13MB photograph (rendering the entire photo unusable). Or it might contain dozens of little files, now vanished without a trace. Or worst yet, it could actually contain the file system metadata, which describes the names and locations of all the rest of the files in the file system. Each 1MB lost to a double drive failure could mean the loss of an enormous percentage of the files in a file system.Nothing could be further from the truth. If any disk drive module failed, the system would know exactly whichone it was, what blobs (binary large objects) were on it, and where the replicated copies of those blobs are located. In the event of a rare double-drive failure, the system would know exactly which unfortunate blobs were lost, and couldidentify them by host LUN and block address numbers, so that appropriate repair actions could be taken from remote mirrored copies or tape file backups.
Second, nobody is suggesting we are going to put a delicateFAT32-like Circa-1980 file system that breaks with the loss of a single block and requires tools like "fsck" to piece back together. Today's modern file systems--including Windows NTFS, Linux ext3, and AIX JFS2--are journaled and have sophisticated algorithms tohandle the loss of individual structure inode blocks. IBM has its own General Parallel File System [GPFS] and corresponding Scale out File Services[SOFS], and thus brings a lotof expertise to the table.Advanced distributed clustered file systems, like [Google File System] and Yahoo's [Hadoop project] take this one step further, recognizing that individual node and drive failures at the Petabyte-scale are inevitable.
In other words, XIV Nextra architecture is designed to eliminate or reduce recovery actions after disk failures, not make them worse. Back in 2003, when IBM introduced the new and innovative SAN Volume Controller (SVC), EMCclaimed this in-band architecture would slow down applications and "brain-damage" their EMC Symmetrix hardware.Reality has proved the opposite, SVC can improve application performance and help reduce wear-and-tear on the manageddevices. Since then, EMC acquired Kashya to offer its own in-band architecture in a product called EMC RecoverPoint, that offers some of the features that SVC offers.
If you thought fear mongering like this was unique to the IT industry, consider that 105years ago, [Edison electrocuted an elephant]. To understand this horrific event, you have to understand what was going on at the time.Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, wanted to power the entire city of New York with Direct Current(DC). Nikolas Tesla proposed a different, but more appropriate architecture,called Alternating Current(AC), that had lower losses over distances required for a city as large and spread out as New York. But Thomas Edison was heavily invested in DC technology, and would lose out on royalties if ACwas adopted.In an effort to show that AC was too dangerous to have in homes and businesses, Thomas Edison held a pressconference in front of 1500 witnesses, electrocuting an elephant named Topsy with 6600 volts, and filmed the event so that it could be shown later to other audiences (Edison invented the movie camera also).
Today's nationwide electric grid would not exist without Alternating Current.We enjoy both AC for what it is best used for, and DC for what it is best used for. Both are dangerous at high voltage levels if not handled properly. The same is the case for storage architectures. Traditional high-performance disk arrays, like the IBM System Storage DS8000, will continue to be used for large mainframe applications, online transaction processing and databases. New architectures,like IBM XIV Nextra, will be used for new Web 2.0 applications, where scalability, self-tuning, self-repair,and management simplicity are the key requirements.
(Update: Dear readers, this was meant as a metaphor only, relating the concerns expressed above thatthe use of new innovative technology may result in the loss or corruption of "several dozen or even hundreds of file systems" and thus too dangerous to use, with an analogy on the use of AC electricity was too dangerous to use in homes. To clarify, EMC did not re-enact Thomas Edison's event, no animalswere hurt by EMC, and I was not trying to make political commentary about the current controversy of electrocution as amethod of capital punishment. The opinions of individual bloggers do not necessarily reflect the official positions of EMC, and I am not implying that anyone at EMC enjoys torturing animals of any size, or their positions on capital punishment in general. This is not an attack on any of the above-mentioned EMC bloggers, but rather to point out faulty logic. Children should not put foil gum wrappers in electrical sockets. BarryB and I have apologized to each other over these posts for any feelings hurt, and discussion should focus instead on the technologies and architectures.)
While EMC might try to tell people today that nobody needs unique storage architectures for Web 2.0 applications, digital media and archive data, because their existing products support SATA disk and can be used instead for these workloads, they are probably working hard behind the scenes on their own "me, too" version.And with a bit of irony, Edison's film of the elephant is available on YouTube, one of the many Web 2.0 websites we are talking about. (Out of a sense of decency, I decided not to link to it here, so don't ask)
technorati tags: IBM, XIV, EMC, BarryB, FUD, Nextra, blob, Thomas Edison, Nikolas Tesla, Web2.0, scalability, Petabyte-scale, self-tuning, self-repair, DS8000, disk, systems, Topsy, elephant, light bulb, movie camera, invention, DC, AC, YouTube