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Thankful for Atmos
This week is Thanksgiving holiday in the USA, so I thought a good theme would be things I am thankful for.
I'll start with saying that I am thankful EMC has finally announcedAtmos last week. This was the "Maui" part of the Hulk/Maui rumors we heard over a year ago. To quickly recap, Atmos is EMC's latest storage offeringfor global-scale storage intended for Web 2.0 and Digital Archive workloads. Atmos can be sold as just software, or combined with Infiniflex,EMC's bulk, high-density commodity disk storage systems. Atmos supports traditionalNFS/CIFS file-level access, as well as SOAP/REST object protocols.
I'm thankful for various reasons, here's a quick list:
It's hard to compete against "vaporware"
Back in the 1990s, IBM was trying to sell its actual disk systems against StorageTek's rumored "Iceberg" project. It took StorageTek some four years to get this project out,but in the meantime, we were comparing actual versus possibility. The main feature iswhat we now call "Thin Provisioning". Ironically, StorageTek's offering was not commercially successful until IBM agreed to resell this as the IBM RAMAC Virtual Array (RVA).
Until last week, nobody knew the full extent of what EMC was going to deliver on the many Hulk/Maui theories. Severalhinted as to what it could have been, and I am glad to see that Atmos falls short of those rumored possibilities. This is not to say that Atmos can't reach its potential, and certainly some of the design is clever, such as offering native SOAP/REST access.
Instead, IBM now can compare Atmos/Infiniflex directly to the features and capabilities of IBM's Scale Out File Services [SoFS], which offers a global-scale multi-site namespace with policy-based data movement, IBM System Storage Multilevel Grid Access Manager[GAM] that manages geographical distrubuted information,and IBM [XIV Storage System] that offers high-density bulk storage.
Web 2.0 and Digital Archive workloads justify new storage architectures
When I presented SoFS and XIV earlier this year, I mentioned they were designed forthe fast-growing Web 2.0 and Digital Archive workloads that were unique enough to justify their own storage architectures. One criticism was that SoFS appeared to duplicate what could be achieved with dozens of IBM N series NAS boxes connected with Virtual File Manager (VFM). Why invent a new offering with a new architecture?
With the Atmos announcement, EMC now agrees with IBM that the Web 2.0 and DigitalArchive workloads represent a unique enough "use case" to justify a new approach.
New offerings for new workloads will not impact existing offerings for existing workloads
I find it amusing that EMC is quickly defending that Atmos will not eat into its DMXbusiness, which is exactly the FUD they threw out about IBM XIV versus DS8000 earlier this year. In reality, neither the DS8000 nor the DMX were used much for Web 2.0 andDigital Archive workloads in the past. Companies like Google, Amazon and others hadto either build their own from piece parts, or use low-cost midrange disk systems.
Rather, the DS8000 and DMX can now focus on the workloads they were designed for,such as database applications on mainframe servers.
Cloud-Oriented Storage (COS)
Just when you thought we had enough terminology already, EMC introduces yet another three-letter acronym [TLA]. Kudos to EMC for coining phrases to help move newconcepts forward.
Now, when an RFP asks for Cloud-oriented storage, I am thankful this phrase will help serve as a trigger for IBM to lead with SoFS and XIV storage offerings.
Digital archives are different than Compliance Archives
EMC was also quick to point out that object-storage Atmos was different from theirobject-storage EMC Centera. The former being for "digital archives" and the latter for"compliance archives". Different workloads, Different use cases, different offerings.
Ever since IBM introduced its [IBM System Storage DR550] several years ago, EMC Centera has been playing catch-up to match IBM'smany features and capabilities. I am thankful the Centera team was probably too busy to incorporate Atmos capabilities, so it was easier to make Atmos a separate offering altogether. This allows the IBM DR550 to continue to compete against Centera's existingfeature set.
Micro-RAID arrays, logical file and object-level replication
I am thankful that one of the Atmos policy-based feature is replicating individualobjects, rather than LUN-based replication and protection. SoFS supports this forlogical files regardless of their LUN placement, GAM supports replication of files and medical images across geographical sites in the grid, and the XIV supports this for 1MBchunks regardless of their hard disk drive placement. The 1MB chunk size was basedon the average object size from established Web 2.0 and DigitalArchive workloads.
I tried to explain the RAID-X capability of the XIV back in January, under muchcriticism that replication should only be done at the LUN level. I amthankful that Marc Farley on StorageRap coined the phrase[Micro-RAID array] to helpmove this new concept further. Now, file-level, object-level and chunk-level replication can be considered mainstream.
Much larger minimum capacity increments
The original XIV in January was 51TB capacity per rack, and this went up to 79TB per rack for the most recent IBM XIV Release 2 model. Several complained that nobody would purchase disk systems at such increments. Certainly, small and medium size businessesmay not consider XIV for that reason.
I am thankful Atmos offers 120TB, 240TB and 360TB sizes. The companies that purchasedisk for Web 2.0 and Digital Archive workloads do purchase disk capacity in these large sizes. Service providers add capacity to the "Cloud" to support many of theirend-clients, and so purchasing disk capacity to rent back out represents revenue generating opportunity.
Renewed attention on SOAP and REST protocols
IBM and Microsoft have been pushing SOA and Web Services for quite some time now.REST, which stands for [Representational State Transfer] allows static and dynamic HTML message passing over standard HTTP.SOAP, which was originally [Simple Object Access Protocol], and then later renamed to "Service Oriented Architecture Protocol", takes this one step further, allowingdifferent applications to send "envelopes" containing messages and data betweenapplications using HTTP, RPC, SMTP and a variety of other underlying protocols.Typically, these messages are simple text surrounded by XML tags, easily stored asfiles, or rows in databases, and served up by SOAP nodes as needed.
It's hard to show leadership until there are followers
IBM's leadership sometimes goes unnoticed until followerscreate "me, too!" offerings or establish similar business strategies. IBM's leadership in Cloud and Grid computing is no exception.Atmos is the latest me-too product offering in this space, trying pretty muchto address the same challenges that SoFS and XIV were designed for.
So, perhaps EMC is thankful that IBM has already paved the way, breaking throughthe ice on their behalf. I am thankful that perhaps I won't have to deal with as much FUD about SoFS, GAM and XIV anymore.