Normally, IBM has its announcements on Tuesdays, but this week it was on Monday!
I am here in New York City, at the Kaufmann Theater of the American Museum of Natural History, for the [IBM Storage Innovation Executive Summit]. We have about 250 clients here, as well as many bloggers and storage analysts.
My day started out being interviewed by Lynda from Stratecast, a division of [Frost & Sullivan]. This interview will be part of a video series that Stratecast is doing about the storage industry.
(About the venue: American Museum of Natural History was built in 1869. It was featured in the film "Night at the Museum". In keeping with IBM's focus on scalability and preservation, the museum here boasts skeletons of the largest dinosaurs. The five-story building takes up several city blocks, and the Kaufmann theater is buried deep in the bottom level, well shielded from cell phone or Wi-Fi signals allowing me to focus on taking notes the traditional way, with pen and paper.)
Deon Newman, IBM VP of Marketing for Northa America, was our Master of Ceremonies. Today would be filled with market insight, best practices, thought leadership, and testimonials of powerful results.
This is my first in a series of blog posts on this event.
- Information Explosion on a Smarter Planet
Bridget van Kralingen, IBM General Manager for North America, indicated that storage is finally having its day in the sun, moving from the "back office" to the "front office". According to Google's Eric Schmidt, we now create, capture and replicate more date in two days than all of the information recorded from the dawn of time to the year 2003.
- 1928: IBM's innovative 80-column punch card stored nearly twice as much as its 50-column predecessor.
- 1947: Bing Crosby decided to do his radio show by recording it at his convenience on magnetic tape, rather than doing it live. This was the motivation for IBM researches to investigate tape media, delivering the first commercial tape drive in 1952. One tape reel could hold the equivalent of 30,000 punch cards.
- 1956: the IBM RAMAC mainframe was the first computer to access data randomly with an externally-attached disk system, the "350 Disk Unit", which stored 5 million 7-bit characters (about 5MB) and weighed over 500 pounds. Compare that today's cell phone that can store several GB of data in a handheld device.
- 1978: IBM invented Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) through a collaboration with University of Berkeley.
- 1993: IBM introduces the [IBM 9337 Disk Storage Array], the first external disk storage system for distributed operating systems. This was based on the Serial Storage Architecture [SSA] protocol.
- 1995: IBM launches products that support Storage Area Networks (SAN), based on the Fibre Channel Protocol. IBM's internal codenames for disk products were all names of sharks, and so our internal mantra was that a healthy storage diet was comprised of "Plenty of Fish and Fibre".
- 2010: IBM ships Easy Tier, the world's easiest-to-use sub-LUN automated tiering capability, for the IBM System Storage DS8700 disk system.
Storage is growing (in capacity) at 40 percent per year, but IT budgets are only growing (in dollars) by a measly 1 to 5 percent. She cited the success at [Sprint], presented at the October 2010 launch. By combining IBM SAN Volume Controller with a three-tier storage architecture, Sprint lowered their raw capacity from 10PB to 8.4PB, increasing utilization from 35 to 78 percent. This involved shrinking from six storage vendors to three, and reducing total number of disk arrays from 166 down to 96. The resulting system has only 38 percent of their data on their most expensive Tier-1 storage, the rest is now living on less expensive Tier-2 and Tier-3 storage.
Companies are entering the era of Big Data with an insatiable appetite for collecting and analyzing data for marketplace insights. IBM [InfoSphere BigInsights], based on the Apache Hadoop, has helped customers make sense of it all. Innovative technology, expertise and marketplace insight will provide the competitive path forward in the coming decade.
- Storage Challenges and Opportunities in 2011 and Beyond
I always enjoy hearing Stan Zaffos, Gartner Research VP, present at the annual [Data Center Conference] in Las Vegas every December. His analysis and research focuses on storage systems and emerging storage technologies.
Stan provided his perspective on the storage industry. He suggested a top-down approach, based on the market trends that Gartner is closely monitoring. He suggests focusing heavily on managing data growth, using SLAs to improve efficiency, and to follow Gartner's recommended actions. His statement, "If something is not sustainable, then it is unsustainable." resonated well with the audience. His key three points:
- Design to meet but not exceed Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
- Re-evaluate your ratio of SAN versus NAS based on growth of unstructured data content,
- Explore the variety of Cloud options available.
Those of us who have been in this business a long time recognize that the problems haven't changed, just the dimensions. When in the past three decades were IT budgets generous and plentiful? When was there more than enough IT staff to handle all the requests in a timely manner? When hasn't there been a period of information growth? Gartner's analysis external control block (RAID protected disk systems) is growing revenue at 8.7 percent. Raw TBs of disk capacity is growing at 55 percent, and expected to be 100 Exabytes by 2015.
SAN has four times more revenue than NAS today, but NAS is growing faster. NAS was only 9 percent marketshare in 2010, but is projected to grow to 32 percent by 2015. SAN can offer higher price/performance for traditional OLTP and database workloads, but NAS is better suited for unstructured data, backups and archives, assisted by storage efficiency features like real-time compression and data deduplication. Which industries create the most unstructured data? The ones involved in filling out forms! This includes government, insurance agencies, manufacturing, mining and pharmaceuticals.
The phrase "good enough" should no longer be considered an insult. Too often IT departments design solutions that far exceed negotiated Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and they should instead focus on just meeting them instead. Modular storage systems are often sufficient for most workloads. Slower 7200RPM SATA disks can be one third the price of faster 15K RPM Fibre Channel drives, and often sufficient performance for the tasks required. Unified storage, such as IBM N series, can help simplify capacity planning, as storage can be re-purposed if different workloads grow at different rates. The key is to focus on meeting SLAs based on the price-vs-risk factor. Take a minimalist approach with fewer SLAs, fewer management classes, and fewer storage vendors.
Stan suggests a two-pronged approach: Capacity management through content analytics and classification, and Efficient Utilization through Thin Provisioning, storage virtualization, Quality of Service (QoS), compression and deduplication capabilities. This features will be ubiquitous by 2013. If you are worried that these technologies mean more information packed onto fewer devices, Stan's response was "If it's not there, it can't break." Storing data on fewer disks or tape cartridges means less chance something will fail.
Stan feels IT shops using Thin Provisioning should continue to charge their end-users on what they ask for (the full allocation request) rather than what the thin-provisioned amount actually is on the storage devices themselves. For example, if someone asks for 100GB LUN to be allocated to their system, but this only takes up 30GB of actual data space, chargeback the full 100GB!
It can take five years for new technology to get 50 percent adopted. The Romans took eight years to build the [Colosseum]. His research on "network convergence" found that 42 percent planned to use iSCSI, 32 percent Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) or other Top-of-Rack(TOR) converged switches, and 16 percent looking for full convergence of servers, switches and storage. Features like IBM Easy Tier automatic sub-LUN tiering were introduced later, and so have not been adopted as widely as other features like Thin Provisioning that have been around since the 1990's IBM RAMAC Virtual Array.
Stan felt that Public and Private clouds were two different approaches. Public clouds offer reservation-less provisioning. Private clouds offer improved agility, but can be more complex to set up, and has the risk of idle capacity similar to traditional IT datacenter deployments. Storage and File virtualization should be considered a pre-req for adopting Cloud technologies.
Storage IT teams need to adopt more than just technical skills. They need to learn about legal and government regulatory compliance issues, financial considerations, and would even benefit doing some "marketing". Why marketing? Because often IT departments need end-users to change their attitudes and behaviours, and this can be accomplished through internal marketing campaigns.
This certainly was a great way to start the day!