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Tonight PBS plans to air Season 38, Episode 6 of NOVA, titled [Smartest Machine On Earth]. Here is an excerpt from the station listing:
"What's so special about human intelligence and will scientists ever build a computer that rivals the flexibility and power of a human brain? In "Artificial Intelligence," NOVA takes viewers inside an IBM lab where a crack team has been working for nearly three years to perfect a machine that can answer any question. The scientists hope their machine will be able to beat expert contestants in one of the USA's most challenging TV quiz shows -- Jeopardy, which has entertained viewers for over four decades. "Artificial Intelligence" presents the exclusive inside story of how the IBM team developed the world's smartest computer from scratch. Now they're racing to finish it for a special Jeopardy airdate in February 2011. They've built an exact replica of the studio at its research lab near New York and invited past champions to compete against the machine, a big black box code -- named Watson after IBM's founder, Thomas J. Watson. But will Watson be able to beat out its human competition?"
Like most supercomputers, Watson runs the Linux operating system. The system runs 2,880 cores (90 IBM Power 750 servers, four sockets each, eight cores per socket) to achieve 80 [TeraFlops]. TeraFlops is the unit of measure for supercomputers, representing a trillion floating point operations. By comparison, Hans Morvec, principal research scientist at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) estimates that the [human brain is about 100 TeraFlops]. So, in the three seconds that Watson gets to calculate its response, it would have processed 240 trillion operations.
Several readers of my blog have asked for details on the storage aspects of Watson. Basically, it is a modified version of IBM Scale-Out NAS [SONAS] that IBM offers commercially, but running Linux on POWER instead of Linux-x86. System p expansion drawers of SAS 15K RPM 450GB drives, 12 drives each, are dual-connected to two storage nodes, for a total of 21.6TB of raw disk capacity. The storage nodes use IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS) to provide clustered NFS access to the rest of the system. Each Power 750 has minimal internal storage mostly to hold the Linux operating system and programs.
When Watson is booted up, the 15TB of total RAM are loaded up, and thereafter the DeepQA processing is all done from memory. According to IBM Research, "The actual size of the data (analyzed and indexed text, knowledge bases, etc.) used for candidate answer generation and evidence evaluation is under 1TB." For performance reasons, various subsets of the data are replicated in RAM on different functional groups of cluster nodes. The entire system is self-contained, Watson is NOT going to the internet searching for answers.
By combining multiple components into a single "integrated system", IBM can offer a blended disk-and-tape storage solutions. This provides the best of both worlds, high speed access using disk, while providing lower costs and more energy efficiency with tape. According to a study by the Clipper Group, tape can be 23 times less expensive than disk over a 5 year total cost of ownership (TCO).
I've also covered Hierarchical Storage Management, such as my post [Seven Tiers of Storage at ABN Amro], and my role as lead architect for DFSMS on z/OS in general, and DFSMShsm in particular.
However, some explanation might be warranted in the use of these two terms in regards to SONAS. In this case, ILM refers to policy-based file placement, movement and expiration on internal disk pools. This is actually a GPFS feature that has existed for some time, and was tested to work in this new configuration. Files can be individually placed on either SAS (15K RPM) or SATA (7200 RPM) drives. Policies can be written to move them from SAS to SATA based on size, age and days non-referenced.
HSM is also a form of ILM, in that it moves data from SONAS disk to external storage pools managed by IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. A small stub is left behind in the GPFS file system indicating the file has been "migrated". Any reference to read or update this file will cause the file to be "recalled" back from TSM to SONAS for processing. The external storage pools can be disk, tape or any other media supported by TSM. Some estimate that as much as 60 to 80 percent of files on NAS have low reference and should be stored on tape instead of disk, and now SONAS with HSM makes that possible.
This distinction allows the ILM movement to be done internally, within GPFS, and the HSM movement to be done externally, via TSM. Both ILM and HSM movement take advantage of the GPFS high-speed policy engine, which can process 10 million files per node, run in parallel across all interface nodes. Note that TSM is not required for ILM movement. In effect, SONAS brings the policy-based management features of DFSMS for z/OS mainframe to all the rest of the operating systems that access SONAS.
HTTP and NIS support
In addition to NFS v2, NFS v3, and CIFS, the SONAS v1.1.1 adds the HTTP protocol. Over time, IBM plans to add more protocols in subsequent releases. Let me know which protocols you are interested in, so I can pass that along to the architects designing future releases!
SONAS v1.1.1 also adds support for Network Information Service (NIS), a client/server based model for user administration. In SONAS, NIS is used for netgroup and ID mapping only. Authentication is done via Active Directory, LDAP or Samba PDC.
SONAS already had synchronous replication, which was limited in distance. Now, SONAS v1.1.1 provides asynchronous replication, using rsync, at the file level. This is done over Wide Area Network (WAN) across to any other SONAS at any distance.
Interface modules can now be configured with either 64GB or 128GB of cache. Storage now supports both 450GB and 600GB SAS (15K RPM) and both 1TB and 2TB SATA (7200 RPM) drives. However, at this time, an entire 60-drive drawer must be either all one type of SAS or all one type of SATA. I have been pushing the architects to allow each 10-pack RAID rank to be independently selectable. For now, a storage pod can have 240 drives, 60 drives of each type of disk, to provide four different tiers of storage. You can have up to 30 storage pods per SONAS, for a total of 7200 drives.
An alternative to internal drawers of disk is a new "Gateway" iRPQ that allows the two storage nodes of a SONAS storage pod to connect via Fibre Channel to one or two XIV disk systems. You cannot mix and match, a storage pod is either all internal disk, or all external XIV. A SONAS gateway combined with external XIV is referred to as a "Smart Business Storage Cloud" (SBSC), which can be configured off premises and managed by third-party personnel so your IT staff can focus on other things.
See the Announcement Letters for the SONAS [hardware] and [software] for more details.
For those who are wondering how this positions against IBM's other NAS solution, the IBM System Storage N series, the rule of thumb is simple. If your capacity needs can be satisfied with a single N series box per location, use that. If not, consider SONAS instead. For those with non-IBM NAS filers that realize now that SONAS is a better approach, IBM offers migration services.
Both the Information Archive and the SONAS can be accessed from z/OS or Linux on System z mainframe, from "IBM i", AIX and Linux on POWER systems, all x86-based operating systems that run on System x servers, as well as any non-IBM server that has a supported NAS client.
Greg and 3PAR's Marc Farley did an "ambush" interview with the folks at the IBM booth at SNW, including Paula Koziol about Twitter, and [Rich Swain] about IBM's latest SONAS product. Here is their post [Storage Monkey business with IBM]:
You can learn more about SONAS from my post [More Details about IBM Clustered NAS]. SONAS is based on software that has been available since 1996, on commodity off-the-shelf server and storage systems, but building a complete system was left as an exercise to the end-user, which many of the top 500 Supercomputers have done.
Back in November 2007, IBM announced Scale-Out File Services (SoFS) which was a set of IBM Global Technical Services to build a customized solution from the software and a set of servers, disk and tape storage. Customized configurations were done for a variety of workloads from Digital Media to Scientific Research High Performance Computing (HPC). Last year, SoFS was renamed to IBM Smart Business Storage Cloud (SBSC).
This year, IBM was able to package all of the software and hardware into an easy to order machine-type model that has everything cabled and ready to use. This is what SONAS is today.
"With Cisco Systems, EMC, and VMware teaming up to sell integrated IT stacks, Oracle buying Sun Microsystems to create its own integrated stacks, and IBM having sold integrated legacy system stacks and rolling in profits from them for decades, it was only a matter of time before other big IT players paired off."
Once again we are reminded that IBM, as an IT "supermarket", is able to deliver integrated software/server/storage solutions, and our competitors are scrambling to form their own alliances to be "more like IBM." This week, IBM announced new ordering options for storage software with System x servers, including BladeCenter blade servers and IntelliStation workstations. Here's a quick recap:
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack v6.1 supports both Windows and Linux! FastBack is a data protection solution for ROBO (Remote Office, Branch Office) locations. It can protect Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, DB2, Oracle applications. FastBack can provide full volume-level recovery, as well as individual file recovery, and in some cases Bare Machine Recovery. FastBack v6.1 can be run stand-alone, or integrated with a full IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) unified recovery management solution.
FlashCopy Manager v2.1
FlashCopy Manager uses point-in-time copy capabilities, such as SnapShot or FlashCopy, to protect application data using an application-aware approach for Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL server, DB2, Oracle, and SAP. It can be used with IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC), DS8000 series, DS5000 series, DS4000 series, DS3000 series, and XIV storage systems. When applicable, FlashCopy manager coordinates its work with Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) interface. FlashCopy Manager can provide data protection using just point-in-time disk-resident copies, or can be integrated with a full IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) unified recovery management solution to move backup images to external storage pools, such as low-cost, energy-efficient tape cartridges.
General Parallel File System (GPFS) v3.3 Multiplatform
GPFS can support AIX, Linux, and Windows! Version 3.3 adds support for Windows 2008 Server on 64-bit chipset architectures from AMD and Intel. Now you can have a common GPFS cluster with AIX, Linux and Windows servers all sharing and accessing the same files. A GPFS cluster can have up to 256 file systems. Each of these file systems can be up to 1 billion files, up to 1PB of data, and can have up to 256 snapshots. GPFS can be used stand-alone, or integrated with a full IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) unified recovery management solution with parallel backup streams.
For full details on these new ordering options, see the IBM [Press Release].