Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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Those that prefer to work with one-stop shopping of an IT Supermarket, with companies like IBM, HP and Dell who offer a complete set of servers, storage, switches, software and services, what we call "The Five S's".
Those that perfer shopping for components at individual specialty shops, like butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers, hoping that this singular focus means the products are best-of-breed in the market. Companies like HDS for disk, Quantum for tape, and Symantec for software come to mind.
My how the IT landscape for vendors has evolved in just the past five years! Cisco starts to sell servers, and enters a "mini-mall" alliance with EMC and VMware to offer vBlock integrated stack of server, storage and switches with VMware as the software hypervisor. For those not familiar with the concept of mini-malls, these are typically rows of specialty shops. A shopper can park their car once, and do all their shopping from the various shops in the mini-mall. Not quite "one-stop" shopping of a supermarket, but tries to address the same need.
("Who do I call when it breaks?" -- The three companies formed a puppet company, the Virtual Computing Environment company, or VCE, to help answer that question!)
Among the many things IBM has learned in its 100+ years of experience, it is that clients want choices. Cisco figured this out also, and partnered with NetApp to offer the aptly-named FlexPod reference architecture. In effect, Cisco has two boyfriends, when she is with EMC, it is called a Vblock, and when she is with NetApp, it is called a FlexPod. I was lucky enough to find this graphic to help explain the three-way love triangle.
Did this move put a strain on the relationship between Cisco and EMC? Last month, EMC announced VSPEX, a FlexPod-like approach that provides a choice of servers, and some leeway for resellers to make choices to fit client needs better. Why limit yourself to Cisco servers, when IBM and HP servers are better? Is this an admission that Vblock has failed, and that VSPEX is the new way of doing things? No, I suspect it is just EMC's way to strike back at both Cisco and NetApp in what many are calling the "Stack Wars". (See [The Stack Wars have Begun!], [What is the Enterprise Stack?], or [The Fight for the Fully Virtualized Data Center] for more on this.)
(FTC Disclosure: I am both an employee and shareholder of IBM, so the U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this post a paid, celebrity endorsement of the IBM PureFlex system. IBM has working relationships with Cisco, NetApp, and Quantum. I was not paid to mention, nor have I any financial interest in, any of the other companies mentioned in this blog post. )
Last month, IBM announced its new PureSystems family, ushering in a [new era in computing]. I invite you all to check out the many "Paterns of Expertise" available at the [IBM PureSystems Centre]. This is like an "app store" for the data center, and what I feel truly differentiates IBM's offerings from the rest.
The trend is obvious. Clients who previously purchased from specialty shops are discovering the cost and complexity of building workable systems from piece-parts from separate vendors has proven expensive and challenging. IBM PureFlex™ systems eliminate a lot of the complexity and effort, but still offer plenty of flexibility, choice of server processor types, choice of server and storage hypervisors, and choice of various operating systems.
Well, it's Wednesday, and you know what that means... IBM Announcements!
(Actually most IBM announcements are on Tuesdays, but IBM gave me extra time to recover from my trip to Europe!)
Today, IBM announced [IBM PureSystems], a new family of expert-integrated systems that combine storage, servers, networking, and software, based on IBM's decades of experience in the IT industry. You can register for the [Launch Event] today (April 11) at 2pm EDT, and download the companion "Integrated Expertise" event app for Apple, Android or Blackberry smartphones.
(If you are thinking, "Hey, wait a minute, hasn't this been done before?" you are not alone. Yes, IBM introduced the System/360 back in 1964, and the AS/400 back in 1988, so today's announcement is on scheduled for this 24-year cycle. Based on IBM's past success in this area, others have followed, most recently, Oracle, HP and Cisco.)
Initially, there are two offerings:
IBM PureFlex™ System
IBM PureFlex is like IaaS-in-a-box, allowing you to manage the system as a pool of virtual resources. It can be used for private cloud deployments, hybrid cloud deployments, or by service providers to offer public cloud solutions. IBM drinks its own champagne, and will have no problem integrating these into its [IBM SmartCloud] offerings.
To simplify ordering, the IBM PureFlex comes in three tee-shirt sizes: Express, Standard and Enterprise.
IBM PureFlex is based on a 10U-high, 19-inch wide, standard rack-mountable chassis that holds 14 bays, organized in a 7 by 2 matrix. Unlike BladeCenter where blades are inserted vertically, the IBM PureFlex nodes are horizontal. Some of the nodes take up a single bay (half-wide), but a few are full-wide, take up two bays, the full 19-inch width of the chassis. Compute and storage snap in the front, while power supplies, fans, and networking snap in the back. You can fit up to four chassis in a standard 42U rack.
Unlike competitive offerings, IBM does not limit you to x86 architectures. Both x86 and POWER-based compute nodes can be mixed into a single chassis. Out of the box, the IBM PureFlex supports four operating systems (AIX, IBM i, Linux and Windows), four server hypervisors (Hyper-V, Linux KVM, PowerVM, and VMware), and two storage hypervisors (SAN Volume Controller and Storwize V7000).
There are a variety of storage options for this. IBM will offer SSD and HDD inside the compute nodes themselves, direct-attached storage nodes, and an integrated version of the Storwize V7000 disk system. Of course, every IBM System Storage product is supported as external storage. Since Storwize V7000 and SAN Volume Controller support external virtualization, many non-IBM devices will be supported automatically as well.
Networking is also optimized, with options for 10Gb and 40Gb Ethernet/FCoE, 40Gb and 56Gb Infiniband, 8Gbps and 16Gbps Fibre Channel. Much of the networking traffic can be handled within the chassis, to minimize traffic on external switches and directors.
For management, IBM offers the Flex System Manager, that allows you to manage all the resources from a single pane of glass. The goal is to greatly simplify the IT lifecycle experience of procurement, installation, deployment and maintenance.
IBM PureApplication™ System
IBM PureApplication is like PaaS-in-a-box. Based on the IBM PureFlex infrastructure, the IBM PureApplication adds additional software layers focused on transactional web, business logic, and database workloads. Initially, it will offer two platforms: Linux platform based on x86 processors, Linux KVM and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL); and a UNIX platform based on POWER7 processors, PowerVM and AIX operating system. It will be offered in four tee-shirt sizes (small, medium, large and extra large).
In addition to having IBM's middleware like DB2 and WebSphere optimized for this platform, over 600 companies will announce this week that they will support and participate in the IBM PureSystems ecosystem as well. Already, there are 150 "Patterns of Expertise" ready to deploy from IBM PureSystem Centre, a kind of a "data center app store", borrowing an idea used today with smartphones.
By packaging applications in this manner, workloads can easily shift between private, hybrid and public clouds.
If you are unhappy with the inflexibility of your VCE Vblock, HP Integrity, or Oracle ExaLogic, talk to your local IBM Business Partner or Sales Representative. We might be able to buy your boat anchor off your hands, as part of an IBM PureSystems sale, with an attractive IBM Global Financing plan.
Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. here is a recap of Wednesday morning sessions.
A Data Center Perspective on MegaVendors
The morning started with a keynote session. The analyst felt that the eight most strategic or disruptive companies in the past few decades were: IBM, HP, Cisco, SAP, Oracle, Apple and Google. Of these, he focused on the first three, which he termed the "Megavendors", presented in alphabetical order.
Cisco enjoys high-margins and a loyal customer base with Ethernet switch gear. Their new strategy to sell UP and ACROSS the stack moves them into lower-margin business like servers. Their strong agenda with NetApp is not in sync with their partnership with EMC. They recently had senior management turn-over.
HP enjoys a large customer base and is recognized for good design and manufacturing capabilities. Their challenges are mostly organizational, distracted by changes at the top and an untested and ever-changing vision, shifting gears and messages too often. Concerns over the Itanium have not helped them lately.
IBM defies simple description. One can easily recognize Cisco as an "Ethernet Switch" company, HP as a "Printer Company", Oracle as a "Database Company', but you can't say that IBM is an "XYZ" company, as it has re-invented itself successfully over its past 100 years, with a strong focus on client relationships. IBM enjoys high margins, sustainable cost structure, huge resources, a proficient sales team, and is recognized for its innovation with a strong IBM Research division. Their "Smarter Planet" vision has been effective in supporting their individual brands and unlock new opportuties. IBM's focus on growth markets takes advantage of their global reach.
His final advice was to look for "good enough" solutions that are "built for change" rather than "built to last".
Chris works in the Data Center Management and Optimization Services team. IBM owns and/or manages over 425 data centers, representing over 8 million square feet of floorspace. This includes managing 13 million desktops, and 325,000 x86 and UNIX server images, and 1,235 mainframes. IBM is able to pool resources and segment the complexity for flexible resource balancing.
Chris gave an example of a company that selected a Cloud Compute service provided on the East coast a Cloud Storage provider on the West coast, both for offering low rates, but was disappointed in the latency between the two.
Chris asked "How did 5 percent utilization on x86 servers ever become acceptable?" When IBM is brought in to manage a data center, it takes a "No Server Left Behind" approach to reduce risk and allow for a strong focus on end-user transition. Each server is evaluated for its current utilization:
Amazingly, many servers are unused. These are recycled properly.
1 to 19 percent
Workload is virtualized and moved to a new server.
20 to 39 percent
Use IBM's Active Energy Manager to monitor the server.
40 to 59 percent
Add more VMs to this virtualized server.
over 60 percent
Manage the workload balance on this server.
This approach allows IBM to achieve a 60 to 70 percent utilization average on x86 machines, with an ROI payback period of 6 to 18 months, and 2x-3x increase of servers-managed-per-FTE.
Storage is classified using Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) best practices, using automation with pre-defined data placement and movement policies. This allows only 5 percent of data to be on Tier-1, 15 percent on Tier-2, 15 percent on Tier-3, and 65 percent on Tier-4 storage.
Chris recommends adopting IT Service Management, and to shift away from one-off builds, stand-alone apps, and siloed cost management structures, and over to standardization and shared resources.
You may have heard of "Follow-the-sun" but have you heard of "Follow-the-moon"? Global companies often establish "follow-the-sun" for customer service, re-directing phone calls to be handled by people in countries during their respective daytime hours. In the same manner, server and storage virtualization allows workloads to be moved to data centers during night-time hours, following the moon, to take advantage of "free cooling" using outside air instead of computer room air conditioning (CRAC).
Since 2007, IBM has been able to double computer processing capability without increasing energy consumption or carbon gas emissions.
It's Wednesday, Day 3, and I can tell already that the attendees are suffering from "information overload'.
Continuing my coverage of the [IBM System x and System Storage Technical Symposium], I thought I would start with some photos. I took these with cell phone, and without realizing how much it would cost, uploaded them to Flickr at international data roaming rates. Oops!
Here are some of the banners used at the conference. Each break-out session room was outfitted with a "Presentation Briefcase" that had everything a speaker might need, including power plug adapters and dry-erase markers for the whiteboard. What a clever idea!
Here is a recap of the last and final day 3:
Understanding IBM's Storage Encryption Options
Special thanks to Jack Arnold for providing me his deck for this presentation. I presented IBM's leadership in encryption standards, including the [OASIS Key Management Interoperability Protocol] that allows many software and hardware vendors to interoperate. IBM offers the IBM Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM v2) for Windows, Linux, AIX and Solaris operating systems, and the IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager (v1.1) for z/OS.
Encrypting data at rest can be done several ways, by the application at the host server, in a SAN-based switch, or at the storage system itself. I presented how IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, the IBM SAN32B-E4 SAN switch, and various disk and tape devices accomplish this level of protection.
NAS @ IBM
Rich Swain, IBM Field Technical Sales Specialist for NAS solutions, provided an overview of IBM's NAS strategy and the three products: Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS), Storwize V7000 Unified, and N series.
IBM System Networking Convergence CEE/DCB/FCoE
Mike Easterly, IBM Global Field Marketing Manager for IBM System Networking, presented on Network convergence. He wants to emphasize that "Convergence is not just FCoE!" rather it is bringing together FCoE with iSCSI, CIFS, NFS and other Ethernet-based protocols. In his view, "All roads lead to Ethernet!"
There are a lot new standards that didn't exist a few years ago, such as PCI-SIG's Single Root I/O Virtualization [SR-IOV], Virtual Ethernet Port Aggregator [VEPA], and [VN-Tag], Data Center Bridging [DCB], Layer-2 Multipath [L2MP], and my favorite: Transparent Interconnect of Lots of Links [TRILL].
Last year, IBM acquired Blade Network Technologies (BNT), which was the company that made IBM BladeCenter's Advanced Management Module (AMM) and BladeCenter Open Fabric Manager (BOFM). BNT also makes Ethernet switches, so it has been merged with IBM's System Storage team, forming the IBM System Storage and Networking team. Most of today's 10GbE is either fiber optic, Direct Attach Copper (DAC) that supports up to 8.5 meter length cables, or 10GBASE-T which provides longer distances of twisted pair. IBM's DS3500 uses 10GBASE-T for its 10GbE iSCSI support.
Last month, IBM announced 40GbE! I missed that one. The IT industry also expects to deliver 100GbE by 2013. For now, these will be used as up-links between other switches, as most servers don't have the capacity to pump this much data through their buses. With 40GbE and 100GbE, it would be hard to ignore Ethernet as the common network standard to drive convergence.
Fibre Channel, such as FCP and FICON, are still the dominant storage networking technology, but this is expected to peak around 2013 and start declining thereafter in favor of iSCSI, NAS and FCoE technologies. Already the enhancements like "Priority-based Flow Control" made to Ethernet to support FCoE have also helped out iSCSI and NAS deployments as well.
The iSCSI protocol is being used with Microsoft Exchange, PXE Boot, Server virtualization hypervisors like VMware and Hyper-V, as well as large Database and OLTP. IBM's SVC, Storwize V7000, XIV, DS5000, DS3500 and N series all support iSCSI.
IBM's [RackSwitch] family of products can help offload traffic at $500 per port, compared to traditional $2000 per port for IBM SAN32B or Cisco Nexus5000 converged top-of-rack switches.
IBM's System Networking strategy has two parts. For Ethernet, offer its own IBM System Networking product line as well as continue its partnership with Juniper Networks. For Fibre Channel and FCoE, continue strategic partnerships with Brocade and Cisco. IBM will lead the industry, help drive open standards to adopt Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE), provide flexibility and validate data center networking solutions that work end-to-end.
Wednesday morning at the [Oracle OpenWorld 2011] conference started with another keynote session. This time, Safra Catz, CFO and President of Oracle, introduced John Chambers, CEO of Cisco.
John says Cisco is helping to "empower the customer through market transitions." This includes helping customers decide how to deploy new technology, choosing between integrated stacks and interoperable components, scaling the business with a flat IT budget, and how/when to decide on moving to the cloud.
(FTC Disclosure: IBM resells Cisco switches and directors and are considered a partner in this sense. If you are going to buy Cisco switches and directors, please consider buying them through IBM.)
The information economy is transitioning to a networked one. Access to information is not as important as access to expertise. Process and Procedures are not as important as Communities and Relationships. The old style Command-and-Control management is giving way to Collaboration. He showed a chart that showed the evolution from routed/bridged networks to packet/mobile and video. He also had a chart that showed the evolution from Mainframe/Mini-computers, to Client/Server and Web, to Virtualization in the Cloud. He also indicated that Google's acquisition of Motorola was indicative of the "Death of the PC".
High Tech companies must re-invent themselves to stay relevant. Here were Cisco's five "Foundational Priorities":
Leadership in the Core. This refers to his core business of high-end Ethernet and Fibre Channel directors.
Collaboration. This was the original promise of networking computers together, was to bring people together also. He feels that "Collaboration" will take off in the 2010's.
Data Center/Virtualization/Cloud. Cisco is now in the business of selling computers. They are now #2 in North America for x86 server sales, and #3 globally. In this regard, they are a direct competitor to both IBM and Oracle at this conference. John wants to create "borderless" networks between Private and Public clouds. He claims that they have now 8,228 Ciscu UCS customers over the past 18 months. This was a slam at Oracle, who hasn't sold half that many new systems in the same time period.
Video. John indicated that every product in the Cisco family is video-enabled, from the Cius tablet, to WebEx, to TelePresence, to all of his switches and directors. In theory, the "Flip" video cam that Cisco dropped in their latest round of layoffs would have also been counted in that category. John indicates that he envisions video will take over as the predominant communication mechanism. Back in 2006, at Oracle OpenWorld, John showed a chart that indicated that people will transition from passive TV-watchers to active video producers. Here we are five years later, and while 24 hours' worth of video are uploaded to YouTube every second, most people are still TV-watchers.
Architectures for Business Transformation. He elaborated on this to refer to issues like reliability, security, and products that are designed to work together. Business and Government leaders are focused on their business, not technology.
He gave a demo of Cisco UCS. This is a 4U collection of server blades, with up to 384GB of DRAM using 8GB DIMMs, or 192GB using much-cheaper 4GB DIMMs. There are 2 switches with 8 ports each 10GbE, for a total of 160 Gbps, that can carry both Ethernet and FCoE traffic. The UCS System Manager is similar to IBM's Unified Resource Manager in that it manages the entire box. A "service profile" has 40 to 50 BIOS settings that can be applied to give each x86 blade a specific personality. You can re-provision these by changing their service profile as needed.
The next demo was really cool. They took video that involved people talking, and had it "machine transcribed" so that you can read the words being said in the video. Type in a word like "tolerances" in the search engine, and the video advances exactly to the spot where that word is uttered.
The next demo after that involved a special camera for monitoring High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes in traffic. In an example used in London, UK, the camera can see inside the car and confirm there are enough people to justify HOV usage, and if not, scan the license plate and charge the owner of the vehicle a fine. (In a sense, "Big Data" analytics combined with Cisco's vision of ubiquitous video equals [Big Brother])
In another slam against Oracle, John actually backed up his claims with published benchmarks. He wrapped up his talk with: "If I have done my job well, then you will all leave this room a bit uncomfortable." Not surprisingly, John didn't mention either the vBlock relationship with EMC, or the FlexPod relationship with NetApp.