Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing 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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Tony Pearson is not a medical doctor, and this blog does not reference any IBM product or service that is intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, prevention or monitoring of a disease or medical condition, unless otherwise specified on individual posts.
It's that time again. Every year, IBM hosts the "System Storage Technical University". I have been going to these since they first started in the 1990s. This time we are at the lovely [Hilton Orlando] in Orlando, Florida.
For those who want to relive past events, here are my blog posts from this event in 2010:
As was the case last year, IBM once again will run this conference alongside the [IBM System x Technical University] the same week, in the same hotel. This allows attendees to cross over to the other side to see a few sessions of the other conference. I took advantage of this last year, and plan to do so again this year as well!
For those on Twitter, you can follow my tweets at [@az990tony] or search on the hash tag #ibmtechu.
Did IBM XIV force EMC's hand to announce VMAXe? Let's take a stroll down memory lane.
In 2008, IBM XIV showed the world that it could ship a Tier-1, high-end, enterprise-class system using commodity parts. Technically, prior to its acquisition by IBM, the XIV team had boxes out in production since 2005. EMC incorrectly argued this announcement meant the death of the IBM DS8000. Just because EMC was unable to figure out how to have more than one high-end disk product, doesn't mean IBM or other storage vendors were equally challenged. Both IBM XIV and DS8000 are Tier-1, high-end, enterprise-class storage systems, as are the IBM N series N7900 and the IBM Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS).
In April 2009, EMC followed IBM's lead with their own V-Max system, based on Symmetrix Engenuity code, but on commodity x86 processors. Nobody at EMC suggested that the V-Max meant the death of their other Symmetrix box, the DMX-4, which means that EMC proved to themselves that a storage vendor could offer multiple high-end disk systems. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) would later offer the VSP, which also includes some commodity hardware as well.
In July 2009, analysts at International Technology Group published their TCO findings that IBM XIV was 63 percent less expensive than EMC V-Max, in a whitepaper titled [COST/BENEFIT CASE
FOR IBM XIV STORAGE SYSTEM Comparing Costs for IBM XIV and EMC V-Max Systems]. Not surprisingly, EMC cried foul, feeling that EMC V-Max had not yet been successful in the field, it was too soon to compare newly minted EMC gear with a mature product like XIV that had been in production accounts for several years. Big companies like to wait for "Generation 1" of any new product to mature a bit before they purchase.
To compete against IBM XIV's very low TCO, EMC was forced to either deeply discount their Symmetrix, or counter-offer with lower-cost CLARiiON, their midrange disk offering. An ex-EMCer that now works for IBM on the XIV sales team put it in EMC terms -- "the IBM XIV provides a Symmetrix-like product at CLARiiON-like prices."
(Note: Somewhere in 2010, EMC dropped the hyphen, changing the name from V-Max to VMAX. I didn't see this formally announced anywhere, but it seems that the new spelling is the officially correct usage. A common marketing rule is that you should only rename failed products, so perhaps dropping the hyphen was EMC's way of preventing people from searching older reviews of the V-Max product.)
This month, IBM introduced the IBM XIV Gen3 model 114. The analysts at ITG updated their analysis, as there are now more customers that have either or both products, to provide a more thorough comparison. Their latest whitepaper, titled [Cost/Benefit Case for IBM XIV Systems: Comparing Cost
Structures for IBM XIV and EMC VMAX Systems], shows that IBM maintains its substantial cost savings advantage, representing 69 percent less Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than EMC, on average, over the course of three years.
In response, EMC announced its new VMAXe, following the naming convention EMC established for VNX and VNXe. Customers cannot upgrade VNXe to VNX, nor VMAXe to VMAX, so at least EMC was consistent in that regard. Like the IBM XIV and XIV Gen3, the new EMC VMAXe eliminated "unnecessary distractions" like CKD volumes and FICON attachment needed for the IBM z/OS operating system on IBM System z mainframes. Fellow blogger Barry Burke from EMC explains everything about the VMAXe in his blog post [a big thing in a small package].
So, you have to wonder, did IBM XIV force EMC's hand into offering this new VMAXe storage unit? Surely, EMC sales reps will continue to lead with the more profitable DMX-4 or VMAX, and then only offer the VMAXe when the prospective customer mentions that the IBM XIV Gen3 is 69 percent less expensive. I haven't seen any list or street prices for the VMAXe yet, but I suspect it is less expensive than VMAX, on a dollar-per-GB basis, so that EMC will not have to discount it as much to compete against IBM.
The new [IBM System Storage Tape Controller 3592 Model C07] is an upgrade to the previous C06 controller. Like the C06, the new 3592-C07 can have up to four FICON (4Gbps) ports, four FC ports, and connect up to 16 drives. The difference is that the C07 supports 8Gbps speed FC ports, and can support the [new TS1140 tape drives that were announced on May 9]. A cool feature of the C07 is that it has a built-in library manager function for the mainframe. On the previous models, you had to have a separate library manager server.
Crossroads ReadVerify Appliance (3222-RV1)
IBM has entered an agreement to resell [Crossroads ReadVerify Appliance], or "RV1" for short. The RV1 is a 1U-high server with software that gathers information on the utilization, performance and health for a physical tape environment, such as an IBM TS3500 Tape Library. The RV1 also offers a feature called "ArchiveVerify" which validates long-term retention archive tapes, providing an audit trail on the readability of tape media. This can be useful for tape libraries attached behind IBM Information Archive compliance storage solution, or the IBM Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS).
As an added bonus, Crossroads has great videos! Here's one, titled [Tape Sticks]
Linear Tape File System (LTFS) Library Edition Version 2.1
While the hardware is all refreshed, the overall "scale-out" architecture is unchanged. Kudos to the XIV development team for designing a system that is based entirely on commodity hardware, allowing new hardware generations to be introduced with minimal changes to the vast number of field-proven software features like thin provisioning, space-efficient read-only and writeable snapshots, synchronous and asynchronous mirroring, and Quality of Service (QoS) performance classes.
The new XIV Gen3 features an Infiniband interconnect, faster 8Gbps FC ports, more iSCSI ports, faster motherboard and processors, SAS-NL 2TB drives, 24GB cache memory per XIV module, all in a single frame IBM rack that supports the IBM Rear Door Heat Exchanger. The results are a 2x to 4x boost in performance for various workloads. Here are some example performance comparisons:
Disclaimer: Performance is based on measurements and projections using standard IBM benchmarks in a controlled environment. The actual throughput that any user will experience will vary depending upon considerations such as the amount of multiprogramming in the user's job stream, the I/O configuration, the storage configuration, and the workload processed. Therefore, no assurance can be given that an individual user will achieve throughput improvements equivalent to the performance ratios stated here. Your mileage may vary.
In a Statement of Direction, IBM also has designed the Gen3 modules to be "SSD-ready" which means that you can insert up to 500GB of Solid-State drive capacity per XIV module, up to 7.5TB in a fully-configured 15 module frame. This SSD would act as an extension of DRAM cache, similar to how Performance Accelerator Modules (PAM) on IBM N series.
IBM will continue to sell XIV Gen2 systems for the next 12-18 months, as some clients like the smaller 1TB disk drives. The new Gen3 only comes with 2TB drives. There are some clients that love the XIV so much, that they also use it for less stringent Tier 2 workloads. If you don't need the blazing speed of the new Gen3, perhaps the lower cost XIV Gen2 might be a great fit!
As if I haven't said this enough times already, the IBM XIV is a Tier-1, high-end, enterprise-class disk storage system, optimized for use with mission critical workloads on Linux, UNIX and Windows operating systems, and is the ideal cost-effective replacement for EMC Symmetrix VMAX, HDS USP-V and VSP, and HP P9000 series disk systems, . Like the XIV Gen2, the XIV Gen3 can be used with IBM System i using VIOS, and with IBM System z mainframes running Linux, z/VM or z/VSE. If you run z/OS or z/TPF with Count-Key-Data (CKD) volumes and FICON attachment, go with the IBM System Storage DS8000 instead, IBM's other high-end disk system.
(FTC Disclosure: I do not work or have any financial investments in ENC Security Systems. ENC Security Systems did not paid me to mention them on this blog. Their mention in this blog is not an endorsement of either their company or any of their products. Information about EncryptStick was based solely on publicly available information and my own personal experiences. My friends at ENC Security Systems provided me a full-version pre-loaded stick for this review.)
The EncryptStick software comes in two flavors, a free/trial version, and the full/paid version. The free trial version has [limits on capacity and time] but provides enough glimpse of the product to decide before you buy the full version. You can download the software yourself and put in on your own USB device, or purchase the pre-loaded stick that comes with the full-version license.
Whichever you choose, the EncryptStick offers three nice protection features:
Encryption for data organized in "storage vaults", which can be either on the stick itself, or on any other machine the stick is connected to. That is a nice feature, because you are not limited to the capacity of the USB stick.
Encrypted password list for all your websites and programs.
A secure browser, that prevents any key-logging or malware that might be on the host Windows machine.
I have tried out all three functions and everything works as advertised. However, there is always room for improvement, so here are my suggestions.
The first problem is that the pre-loaded stick looks like it is worth a million dollars. It is in a shiny bronze color with "EncryptStick" emblazoned on it. This is NOT subtle advertising! This 8GB capacity stick looks like it would be worth stealing solely on being a nice piece of jewelry, and then the added bonus that there might be "valuable secrets" just makes that possibility even more likely.
If you want to keep your information secure, it would help to have "plausible deniability" that there is nothing of value on a stick. Either have some corporate logo on it, of have the stick look like a cute animal, like these pig or chicken USB sticks.
It reminds me how the first Apple iPod's were in bright [Mug-me White]. I use black headphones with my black iPod to avoid this problem.
Of course, you can always install the downloadable version of EncryptStick software onto a less conspicuous stick if you are concerned about theft. The full/paid version of EncryptStick offers an option for "lost key recovery" which would allow you to backup the contents of the stick and be able to retrieve them on a newly purchased stick in the event your first one is lost or stolen.
Imagine how "unlucky" I felt when I notice that I had lost my "rabbits feet" on this cute animal-themed USB stick.
I sense trouble for losing the cap on my EncryptStick as well. This might seem trivial, but is a pet-peeve of mine that USB sticks should plan for this. Not only is there nothing to keep the cap on (it slides on and off quite smoothly), but there is no loop to attach the cap to anything if you wanted to.
Since then, I got smart and try to look for ways to keep the cap connected. Some designs, like this IBM-logoed stick shown above, just rotate around an axle, giving you access when you need it, and protection when it is folded closed.
Alternatively, get a little chain that allows you to attach the cap to the main stick. In the case of the pig and chicken, the memory section had a hole pre-drilled and a chain to put through it. I drilled an extra hole in the cap section of each USB stick, and connected the chain through both pieces.
(Warning: Kids, be sure to ask for assistance from your parents before using any power tools on small plastic objects.)
The EncryptStick can run on either Microsoft Windows or Mac OS. The instructions indicate that you can install both versions of download software onto a single stick, so why not do that for the pre-loaded full version? The stick I have had only the Windows version pre-loaded. I don't know if the Windows and Mac OS versions can unlock the same "storage vaults" on the stick.
Certainly, I have been to many companies where either everyone runs Windows or everyone runs Mac OS. If the primary target audience is to use this stick at work in one of those places, then no changes are required. However, at IBM, we have employees using Windows, Mac OS and Linux. In my case, I have all three! Ideally, I would like a version of EncryptStick that I could take on trips with me that would allow me to use it regardless of the Operating System I encountered.
Since there isn't a Linux-version of EncryptStick software, I decided to modify my stick to support booting Linux. I am finding more and more Linux kiosks when I travel, especially at airports and high-traffic locations, so having a stick that works both in Windows or Linux would be useful. Here are some suggestions if you want to try this at home:
Use fdisk to change the FAT32 partition type from "b" to "c". Apparently, Grub2 requires type "c", but the pre-loaded EncryptStick was set to "b". The Windows version of EncryptStick> seems to work fine in either mode, so this is a harmless change.
Install Grub2 with "grub-install" from a working Linux system.
Once Grub2 is installed, you can boot ISO images of various Linux Rescue CDs, like [PartedMagic] which includes the open-source [TrueCrypt] encryption software that you could use for Linux purposes.
This USB stick could also be used to help repair a damaged or compromised Windows system. Consider installing [Ophcrack] or [Avira].
Certainly, 8GB is big enough to run a full Linux distribution. The latest 32-bit version of [Ubuntu] could run on any 32-bit or 64-bit Intel or AMD x86 machine, and have enough room to store an [encrypted home directory].
Since the stick is formatted FAT32, you should be able to run your original Windows or Mac OS version of EncryptStick with these changes.
Depending on where you are, you may not have the luxury to reboot a system from the USB memory stick. Certainly, this may require changes to the boot sequence in the BIOS and/or hitting the right keys at the right time during the boot sequence. I have been to some "Internet Cafes" that frown on this, or have blocked this altogether, forcing you to boot only from the hard drive.
Well, those are my suggestions. Whether you go on a trip with or without your laptop, it can't hurt to take this EncryptStick along. If you get a virus on your laptop, or have your laptop stolen, then it could be handy to have around. If you don't bring your laptop, you can use this at Internet cafes, hotel business centers, libraries, or other places where public computers are available.
In less than a month, I will be presenting at the annual IBM Storage Technical University, July 18-22, at the Hilton in Orlando, Florida. This is one of my favorite conferences! You can sign up for this at their [Online Registration Page].
I will be covering a variety of topics:
IBM Storage Strategy in the Era of Smarter Computing - After IBM has led the IT industry through the "Centralized Computing" era, and then later the "Distributed Computing" era, we are now entering the third era, that of Smarter Computing. Come learn IBM's strategy for Storage to address today's big challenges, including Big Data, Integrated Workload-optimized systems, and Cloud service delivery models.
IBM Information Archive for Email, Files and eDiscovery - This session will cover the latest announcement for our non-erasable, non-rewriteable compliance storage, the Information Archive (IA), how this can be used to protect your emails and files, and provide indexed search to assist with eDiscovery.
IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center Overview and Update - I was one of the original lead architects for Productivity Center. Come learn what this software is all about, and how the latest features and functions can help you manager your IT environment.
IBM SONAS and the Smart Business Storage Cloud - Confused about Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage? I will explain everything you need to know, including how the integrated SONAS appliance operates, IBM's customized solutions for private cloud deployments, and IBM's public cloud offerings.
BOF on Social Media - BOF stands for "Birds of a Feather", and his normally an after-hours discussion on a single theme. This BOF will be a four-expert Q&A panel, including myself, John Sing, Rich Swain and Ian Wright. We will discuss how we got started in Social Media, and how it has boosted our careers and our ability to get work done.
Last Thursday, on IBM's 100-year anniversary, we had a huge turn-out for the celebration here at the IBM Development Lab site in Tucson, AZ. Employees brought in memorabilia that reminded them of the past 100 years.
Everyone got a black tee-shirt with the original IBM logo. There was plenty of music, food and drink, as well as a few speeches by former and current IBM executives.
Now, the fun begins on the next century of IBM. What will be in store for the world in the 21st century? We live in interesting times!
Kevin's perspective focused on the evolution over the past 100 years of "information science", in six chapters: sensing, memory, processing, logic, connecting, and architecture. He covers the technology from IBM Punched Cards and core memory, to the latest optical chips and the DeepQA technology in IBM Watson.
Steve's perspective was on IBM as a corporation, and how IBM and other corporations have evolved over the past century. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, "Internationals" had their headquarters in the United States, and regional sales and distribution offices elsewhere. The mid-20th century gave rise to "Multinationals" that invested more heavily in regional headquarters scattered across the globe. Today, in the 21st century, IBM and its clients are [Globally Integrated Entrprises] that move work to the lowest costs, best skills, and most attractive business climates.
Jeffrey M. O'Brien
Jeffrey M. O'Brien has been a senior editor [Fortune] and [Wired] magazines, and his work has appeared in The Best of Technology Writing, The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and The Best American Science Writing.
Jeffrey's perspective is on the impact technology has on humanity, organized into five steps towards progress: Seeing, Mapping, Understanding, Believing, and Acting. These steps have been around long before IBM, and Jeffrey is able to draw parallels to such efforts as Lewis & Clark mapping out the Louisiana Purchase, advancements in genetically modified foods, and the thousands of IBMers required to land a man on the moon.
This afternoon, everyone at the IBM Tucson site will be getting together to celebrate IBM's Centernnial!
This week, IBM celebrates its Centennial, 100 years since its incorporation on June 16, 1911.
A few months ago, the Tucson Executive Briefing Center ordered its latest IBM System Storage [DS8800] to be on display for demos. This was manufactured in Vác, Hungary (about an hour north of Budapest), and was going to be shipped over to the United States.
However, Sam Palmisano, IBM Chairman and CEO, was in Hannover, Germany for the [CeBIT conference] and wanted this DS8800 to be re-directed to Germany first for this event. He was kind enough to sign it for us. Brian Truskowski, IBM General Manager for Storage, and Rod Adkins, IBM Senior Vice President for IBM Systems Technolgoy Group (and my fifth-line manager), also signed this as well!
I am pleased to say this "signed" DS8000 has arrived to Tucson. This is the latest model in a family of market-leading high-end enterprise-class disk systems designed to attach to all computers, including System z mainframes, POWER systems running AIX and IBM i, as well as servers running HP-UX, Solaris, Linux or Windows.
For more on IBM's other innovations over the past 100 years, check out the [Icons of Progress], which includes these storage innovations:
This Thursday, June 16, 2011, marks IBM's Centennial 100 year anniversary. It happens to also be my 25th anniversary with IBM Storage. To avoid conflicts in celebrations, we decided to celebrate my induction into the "Quarter Century Club" (QCC) last Friday instead.
My colleague Harley Puckett was master of ceremonies. Here he is presenting me with a memorial plaque and keychain. Harley mentioned a few facts about 1986, the year I started working for IBM. Ronald Reagan was the US President, gasoline cost only 93 cents per gallon, and the US National Debt was only 2 trillion US dollars!
Here are my colleagues from DFSMShsm. From left to right: Ninh Le, Henry Valenzuela, Shannon Gallaher, and Stan Kissinger. I started in 1986 as aa software developer on DFHSM, and slowly worked my way up to be a lead architect of DFSMS.
Here are my colleagues from Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM). From left to right: Matt Anglin, Ken Hannigan and Mark Haye. I first met them when they worked in DFDSS, having moved from San Jose, CA down to Tucson. While I never worked on the TSM code itself, I did co-author some of the patents used in the product and other products like the 3494 Virtual Tape Server that makes use of TSM internally. I also traveled extensively to promote TSM, often with a TSM developer tagging along so they can learn the ropes about how to travel and make presentaitons.
Here are my colleagues from the disk team. From left to right: Joe Bacco, Carlos Pratt, Gary Albert, and Siebo Friesenborg. I worked on the SMI-S interface for the ESS 800 and DS8000 disk systems needed for the Tivoli Storage Productivity Center. Joe leads the "Disk Magic" tools team. Carlos and I worked on qualifying the various disk products to run with Linux on System z host attachment. Gary Albert is the Business Line Executive (BLE) of Enterprise Disk. Siebo Friesenborg was a disk expert on performance and disaster recovery, but is now enjoying his retirement.
Here are my colleagues from the support team. From left to right: Max Smith, Dave Reed, and Greg McBride. I used to work in Level 2 Support for DFSMS with Max and Dave, carrying a pager and managing the queue on RETAIN. We had enough people so that each Level 2 only had to carry the pager two weeks per year. On Monday afternoons, the person with the pager would give it to the next person on the rotation. On Monday, September 10, 2001, I got the pager, and the following morning, it went off to help all the many clients affected by the September 11 tragedy.
I worked with Greg McBride when he was in DFSMS System Data Mover (SDM), and then again in Tivoli Storage Productivity Center for Replication (TPC-R), and now he is supporting IBM Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS).
Standing in the light blue striped shirt is Greg Van Hise, my first office-mate and mentor when I first joined IBM. He went on to be part of the elite "DFHSM 2.4.0" prima donna team, then move on to be an architect for Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM).
I wasn't limited to inviting just coworkers, I was also able to invite friends and family. Here are Monica, Richard, and my mother. Normally, my parents head south for the summer, but they postponed their flights so that they could participate in my QCC celebration.
From left to right: my father, Greg Tevis, and myself. It was pure coincidence that my father would wear a loud darkly patterned shirt like mine. Honestly, we did not plan this in advance. Greg Tevis and I were lead architects for the Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, and Greg is now the Technology Strategist for the Tivoli Storage product line.
Here is Jack Arnold, fellow subject matter expert who works with me here at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center, sampling the food. We had quite the spread, including egg rolls, meatballs, luncheon meats, chicken strips, and fresh vegetables.
More colleagues from the Tucson Executive Briefing Center, from left to right, Joe Hayward, Lee Olguin, and Shelly Jost. Joe was a subject matter expert on Tape when I first joioned the EBC in 2007, but he has moved back to the Tape development/test team. Lee is our master "Gunny" sargeant to manage all of our briefing schedules. Shelly is our Client Support Manager, and was the one who organized all the food and preparations for this event!
Lastly, here are Brad Johns, myself, and Harley Puckett. Brad was my mentor for my years in Marketing, and has since retired from IBM and now works on his golf game. I would like to thank all of the Tucson EBC staff for pulling off such a great event, and all my coworkers, friends and family for coming out to celebrate this milestone in my career!
In addition to the plaque and keychain, Harley presented me with a book of congratulatory letters. If you would like to send a letter, it's not too late, contact Mysti Wood (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Well, it's Tuesday, in the United States at least, and you know what that means... IBM Announcements! I am actually down under in Sydney, Australia, and it is Wednesday already as I write this. I feel like a time traveler.
IBM announces their latest disk system, the [IBM System Storage DCS3700], designed for high-performance computing (HPC), business analytics, video broadcasting, and other sequential workloads. The "DCS" stands for Deep Computing Storage. IBM already has the DCS9900 for large enterprise deployments, so this smaller DCS3700 is targeted for midrange deployments.
In a compact 4U package, the DCS3700 packs dual active-active controllers and up to 60 disk drives. The controller drawer can support two additional expansion drawers, of 60 drives each in 4U drawers, for a maximum total of 180 drives in 12U of rack space. Packed with "green" 7200RPM energy-efficient 2TB drives, a system can have up to a 360TB raw capacity. The system supports RAID levels 0, 1, 3, 5, 6, and 10.
The system comes with the latest 6Gbps SAS connections for host attachment, but you can choose 8Gbps Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) instead, allowing the DCS3700 to be managed by SVC or Storwize V7000.
Dan Galvan, IBM VP of Marketing for Storage, was the next speaker. With 300 billion emails being sent per day, 4.6 billion cell phones in the world, and 26 million MRIs per year, there is going to be a huge demand for file-based storage. In fact, a recent study found that file-based storage will grow at 60 percent per year, compared to 15 percent growth for block-based storage.
Dan positioned IBM's Scale-out Network Attached Storage (SONAS) as the big "C:" drive for a company. SONAS offers a global namespace, a single point of management, with the ability to scale capacity and performance tailored for each environment.
The benefits of SONAS are great. We can consolidate dozens of smaller NAS filers, we can virtualize files across different storage pools, and increase overall efficiency.
Powering advanced genomic research to cure cancer
The next speaker was supposed to be Bill Pappas, Senior Enterprise Network Storage Architect, Research Informatics at [St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital]. Unfortunately, St. Jude is near the flooding of the Mississippi river, and he had to stay put. An IBM team was able to capture his thoughts on video that was shown on the big screen.
Thanks to the Human Genome project, St. Jude is able to cure people. They see 5700 patients per year, and have an impressive 70 percent cure rate. The first genetic scan took 10 years, now the technology allows a genome to be mapped in about a week. Having this genomic information is making vast strides in healthcare. It is the difference of fishing in a river, versus putting a wide net to catch all the fish in the Atlantic ocean all at once.
Recently, St. Jude migrated 250 TB of files from other NAS to an IBM SONAS solution. The SONAS can handle a mixed set of workloads, and allows internal movement of data from fast disk, to slower high-capacity disk, and then to tape. SONAS is one of the few storage systems that supports a blended disk-and-tape approach, which is ideal for the type of data captured by St. Jude.
IBM's own IT transformation
Pat Toole, IBM's CIO, presented the internal transformation of IBM's IT operations. He started in 2002 in the midst of IBM's effort to restructure its process and procedures. They identified four major data sources: employee data, client data, product data, and financial data. They put a focus to understand outcomes and set priorities.
The result? A 3-to-1 payback on CIO investments. This allowed IBM to go from server sprawl to consolidated pooling of resources with the right levels of integration. In 1997, IBM had 15,000 different applications running across 155 separate datacenters. Today, they have reduced this down to 4,500 applications and 7 datacenters. Their goal is to reduce down to 2,225 applications by 2015. Of these, only 250 are mission critical.
Pat's priorities today: server and storage virtualization, IT service management, cloud computing, and data-centered consolidation. IBM runs its corporate business on the following amount of data:
9 PB of block-based storage, SVC and XIV
1 PB of file-based storage, SONAS
15 PB of tape for backup and archive
Pat indicated that this environment is growing 25 percent per year, and that an additional 70-85 PB relates to other parts of the business.
By taking this focused approach, IBM was able to increase storage utilization from 50 to 90 percent, and to cut storage costs by 50 percent. This was done through thin provisioning, storage virtualization and pooling.
Looking forward to the future, Pat sees the following challenges: (a) that 120,000 IBM employees have smart phones and want to connect them to IBM's internal systems; (b) the increase in social media; and (c) the use of business analytics.
After the last session, people gathered in the "Hall of the Universe" for the evening reception, featuring food, drinks and live music. It was a great day. I got to meet several bloggers in person, and their feedback was that this was a very blogger-friendly event. Bloggers were given the same level of access as corporate executives and industry analysts.
During the break, I talked with some of the other bloggers at this event. From left to right: Stephen Foskett [Pack Rat] blog, Devang Panchigar [StorageNerve], and yours truly, Tony Pearson. (Picture courtesy of Stephen Foskett)
Meet the Experts
This next segment was a Q&A panel, with a moderator posing questions to four experts. Originally, I was scheduled to be the moderator, but this was changed to Doug Balog. The experts on the panel were:
Rich Castagna, Editorial Director for Storage Media, TechTarget. TechTarget is the group that runs the [SearchStorage] website.
Stan Zaffos, Gartner VP of Research, who spoke earlier today. I have worked with Stan for years as well, and have attended the last four Gartner Data Center Conferences held every December in Las Vegas.
Steve Duplessie, Founder and Senior Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). Steve's blog is titled [The Bigger Truth].
Jon clarified a statement Doug Balog said earlier in the day attributed to his study. Doug had said that 40 percent of all data should be archived. The study that Jon Toigo had done found that, on average, for the data on disk systems, about 30 percent is useful data, 40 percent is not active and could be eligible for archive, and the remaining 30 percent was crap.
The other experts introduced themselves. Rich felt that "Cloud" was still the biggest buzzword in the IT industry. Stan felt that CIOs should ask their storage administrators "What are you doing to improve my agility and efficiency". Steve felt that it was better to focus on improving process and procedures, rather than trying to deploy the best technology.
How can you best reduce backup costs per TB?
Jon- use tape.
Rich- Clean up your environment.
Stan- Don't rehydrate your deduplicated data, adopt archive approach, and revisit your backup schedules.
Steve- Deduplication covers up stupidity. No band-aids! Companies need to address the cause.
Does Backup as a Public Service for large enterprises makes sense?
Rich- Yes, especially for those with Remote Office/Branch Office (ROBO).
Stan- It depends. You should implement client-side dedupe. Get the Cloud Provider to waive telecom bandwidth charges.
Steve- Consider recovery scenarios, and try to maintain control.
Jon- "Clouds" are bulls@#$ marketing. WAN latency will pile up.
What are the top issues IT leaders should be discussing with the Storage Managers?
Stan- To ensure SLAs meet but not exceed design, to automate, and to evaluate SAN/NAS ratios.
Steve- Server virtualization is putting the spotlight on storage. Failure to implement storage virtualization is becoming the gate that slows down sever virtualization adoption.
Jon- Insist on management features from all storage vendors, try to separate feature/function from the underlying hardware layer. See IBM's [Project Zero].
Rich- Efficiency, Archiving, Thin Provisioning, Compression, Data Protection & Retention, Backup Redesign to protect endpoints like laptops and cell phones.
When does Archive eliminate Backup?
The need for protection never goes away. There are two kinds of data: "originals" and "derivatives", and two kinds of disk: "failed" and "not yet failed".
Given SATA and SAS drives, what is the future of 10K/15K RPM drives?
There is no future for these faster drives, they are going away.
What is the biggest challenge for adopting archive?
It is easy to move data out of production systems, but difficult to make these archives accessible for eDiscovery and Search. There is also concern about changing data formats. Adobe has changed the format of PDF a whopping 33 times.
This was by far the most entertaining section of the day! Hand-held devices allowed the audience to vote which answers they liked best.
Doug Balog, IBM VP and Business Level Executive for Storage, presented Smart Archiving. Citing research by Jon Toigo, Doug indicated that 40 percent of data on disk should be archived. Sadly, a vast majority of companies continue to use their backups as archives. There is a better way to do archives, to address the needs of four use cases:
The IBM Information Archive for email, files and eDiscovery offers full text indexing. A well-deployed archive strategy can save up to 60 percent in backup costs, and reduce backup times by 80 percent. IBM offers advanced analytics and visualization for archive data.
An analysis of a global insurance company found that they kept, on average, 120 copies of every email sent. This was the combination of an average of 12 copies of the email, multipled by 10 backups of the email repository.
Banjercito, a bank in Mexico, has a 10-year retention requirement from government regulations.
The new LTFS Library Edition allows Library-based access to files stored on tape cartridges. The new TS3500 Library Connector means that a single system of connected tape libraries can hold up to 2.7 Exabytes (EB) of data.
Archive Industry Perspectives
Steve Duplessie from Enterprise Strategy Group [ESG] gave his views on the challenges of volume, access and cost. His definition for archive: the long term retention of information on a separate environment for compliance, eDiscovery and business reference purposes. Steve advocates a purpose-built solutiion for archive. There are three major challenges for implementing an archive solution:
Getting Participation -- Steve feels that key stakeholders have inappropriate expectations of what archive is, or can be.
Define Tasks -- Steve argues that archive is very much a process-oriented approach, and tasks must fit business process and procedures
Prepare for Future Content Types -- the frequent change of standard and proprietary data types poses a real challenge for long term retention of data
For example, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority [FINRA] oversee 4,000 brokerage firms, and 600,000 broker/dealers. They have mandated the storing of digital data related to stock trades, and this can include text messages, voice messages, and emails. They continue to expand this definition, so soon this could include tweets on Twitter, for example.
Steve feels there are four key requirements for archive:
Support for email, such as an email application plug-in
Off-line access to archived data
Support for mobile devices, such as smartphones
Basic search capabilities
Companies are starting to take archive seriously. About 35 percent of firms surveyed have adopted archive, and another 36 percent plan to in the next 12-24 months. Enterprise archive has grown over 200 percent from 2007 to 2009. Steve agrees that not everything needs to be stored on disk. Retention periods greater than six years dictates the need for tape.
Current systems may not meet today's requirements. Data loss and downtime costs have skyrocketed. Data Protection and Retention projects can represent a gold mine of savings, new capabilities can greatly lower costs, allowing companies to shift resources over to revenue generation.
Big Data, New Physics and Geospatial Super-Food
I would vote this the best session of the day! For all those confused on what the heck "Big Data" means, Jeff has the best explanation. Jeff Jonas is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and the Chief Scientist of Entity Analytics. He had just finished his 17th marathon on Saturday, and his fingers were bandaged.
Jeff had founded the Systems Research and Design (SR&D) company, known for creating NORA (non-obvious relationship awareness) used by Las Vegas casinos to identify fraud. SR&D was acquired by IBM back in 2005. Jeff is focused on sensemaking of streams. He feels many companies are suffering from "Enterprise Amnesia".
"The data must find the data .. and the relevance must find the user."
-- Jeff Jonas
Jeff's metaphor to Big Data is a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the outside of the box. To demonstrate his point, he presented a pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces and asked four teenagers to put the puzzle together without the advantage of the picture on the box. What he had not told them was that he mixed four different puzzles together, removing out 10 to 20 percent of the pieces from each puzzle. He also added some duplicate pieces from a second identical puzzle, and just to make things fun, included a dozen pieces from a sixth puzzle just to mess with their heads. Within a few hours, the kids had managed to figure out that there were four puzzles, that there were duplicate pieces, and that there were some pieces that did not fit any of the four puzzles.
"You can't squeeze knowledge from a pixel."
-- Jeff Jonas
This approach favors false negatives. New observations reverse out old conceptions. As the picture emerges, this provides added focus on new information. More data can provide better predictions. "Bad" data, including misspelled words and mis-coded categories, was often discarded or corrected on the basis of "Garbage-In, Garbage Out", but can now be useful in a Big Data perspective.
Take for example the 600 billion recordings of the "location data" captured on cell phones every day. With regular triangulation of cell phone towers, the information can pinpoint you within 60 meters, add GPS and this improved to within 20 meters, and add Wi-Fi is further improved to 10 meters. While this data is "de-identified" so as not to identify individual users, the process of re-identification is relatively trivial. Jeff's system is able to predict a person will be next Thursday at 5:35pm with 87 percent accuracy.
Thus, Big Data represents an asset, accumulation of context. Real-time analytics can be a competitive advantage. These streams of data will need persistent storage and massive I/O capabilities. In one example, Jeff processed 4,200 separate sources of information and was able to identify "dead votes". These are votes cast by people that died in years prior, indicating voter fraud.
Jeff's latest project, codenamed G2, will tackle not just people, but everything from proteins to asteroids.
Normally, the worst time slot is the hour after lunch, but these presentations kept people's attention.
Down the street, in Times Square, IBM made it on the big board.
Continuous Data Availability
Jeanine Cotter, IBM VP for Data Center Services, started out with a video about Sabre. IBM developed this revolutionary airline reservation system to handle the huge volume of transactions. Today, 18 percent of organizations consider downtime unacceptable for their tier-1 applications, and 53 percent would be seriously impacted by an outage lasting an hour or more.
Eventually, companies cross the "Continuous Availability" threshold, the point where they discover that the possibility of downtime is too costly to ignore. IBM has clients using 3-site Metro/Global Mirror that can fail-over an entire data center in just five mouse clicks.
Jeanine also mentioned Euronics, which is using SAN Volume Controller's Stretched Cluster capability, which allows them to easily vMotion virtual guest images from one data center to another. SVC has had this capability for a while, but now, with full VMcenter plug-in and VAAI support, the capability is fully integrated with VMware.
A final example was a mid-sized University, they are using IBM Storwize V7000 with Metro Mirror. The primary location's Storwize V7000 manages Solid-state drives with Easy Tier. The secondary location's Storwize V7000 has high-capacity SATA drives and FlashCopy.
Customer Testimonial - University of Rochester Medical Center
Rick Haverty, Director of IT infrastructure at University of Rochester Medical Center [URMC] provided the next client testimonial. The mission of the URMC is to use science, education and technology to improve health. URMC gets over $400 million USD in NIH grants, which puts them around 23rd largest University-based academic medical centers in the country. They have over 900 doctors, general practice and specialists.
URMC has an IBM BlueGene supercomputer, a Cisco network over 45,000 ports, and over 7.5 million square feet of Wi-Fi wireless internet coverage. They have three datacenters. The first is 7500 square feet, the second is 6000 square feet, and the third is just 800 square feet to hold their "off-site tapes".
URMC has digitized all of their records, including Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system, medical dosage history, imaging "priors", calibration of infusion pumps, RFID monitoring, and even provide IT support while the patient is on the operating table. RFID monitoring ensures all of the refrigerators are keeping medications at the right temperature. A single failed refrigerator can lose $20,000 dollars worth of medication.
When is a good time for downtime? At URMC, they handle 90,000 Emergency Room vists per year, so the answer is never. When is the ER busiest? Monday morning. (not what I expected!)
URMC's EMR software (Epic) runs on clustered POWER7 servers, with DS8700 disk systems using Metro Mirror to secondary location. They also keep a third "shadow" POWER7 for read-only purposes, and a separate system that provides web-based read-only access. Finally, they have 90 stand-alone Personal Computers (PCs) that contain information for all the patients that have reservations this week, just in case all the other systems fail.
The exploding volume of data comes from medical imaging. For radiology (X-rays), each image is called a "study" takes 20-30 MB each, and they have 650,000 studies per year. This represents about 16TB storage per year, with 3 second response time access. These must be kept for 7 years since last view, or until the patient reaches the age of 18 years old, which ever is later.
But radiology is just one discipline. Healthcare has a whole bunch of "ologies". Another is "Pathology" which looks at cells between glass slides in a microscope. Each study consumes 10-20GB, and URMC does about 100,000 pathology studies per year, representing 150TB per year.
URMC has identified that they have 42 mission-critical applications. The data for these are stored on DS8000, XIV, Storwize V7000 and DS5000, all managed behind SAN Volume Controller.
During lunch, people were able to take a look at our solutions. Here are Dan Thompson and Brett Cooper striking a pose.
Hyper-Efficient Backup and Recovery
The afternoon was kicked off by Dr. Daniel Sabbah, IBM General Manager of Tivoli software. He started with some shocking statistics: 42 percent of small companies have experienced data loss, 32 percent have lost data forever. IBM has a solution that offers "Unified Recovery Management". This involves a combination of periodic backups, frequent snapshots, and remote mirroring.
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) was introduced in 1993, and was the first backup software solution to support backup to disk storage pools. Today, TSM is now also part of Cloud Computing services, including IBM Information Protection Services. IBM announced today a new bundle called IBM Storwize Rapid Application Backup, which combines IBM Storwize V7000 midrange disk system, Tivoli FlashCopy Manager, implementation services, with a full three-year hardware and software warranty. This could be used, for example, to protect a Microsoft Exchange email system with 9000 mailboxes.
IBM also announced that its TS7600 ProtecTIER data deduplication solutions have been enhanced to support many-to-many bi-direction remote mirroring. Last year, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) reported that they were average 24x data deduplication factor in their environment using IBM ProtecTIER.
"You are out of your mind if you think you can live without tape!"
-- Dick Crosby, Director of System Administration, Estes
The new IBM TS1140 enterprise class tape drive process 2.3 TB per hour, and provides a density of 1.2 PB per square foot. The new 3599 tape media can hold 4TB of data uncompressed, which could hold up to 10TB at a 2.5x compression ratio.
The United States Golfers Association [USGA] uses IBM's backup cloud, which manages over 100PB of data from 750 locations across five continents.
Customer Testimonial - Graybar
Randy Miller, Manager of Technical System Administration at Graybar, provided the next client testimonial. Graybar is an employee-owned company focused on supply-chain management, serving as a distributor for electical, lighting, security, power and cooling equipment.
Their problem was that they had 240 different locations, and expecting local staff to handle tape backups was not working out well. They centralized their backups to their main data center. In the event that a system fails in one of their many remote locations, they can rebuild a new machine at their main data center across high-speed LAN, and then ship overnight to the remote location. The result, the remote location has a system up and running by 10:30am, faster than they would have had from local staff trying to figure out how to recover from tape. In effect, Graybar had implemented a "private cloud" for backup in the 1990s, long before the concept was "cool" or "popular".
In 2001, they had an 18TB SAP ERP application data repository. To back this up, they took it down for 1 minute per day, six days a week, and 15 minutes down on Sundays. The result was less than 99.8 percent availability. To fix this, they switched to XIV, and use Snapshots that are non-disruptive and do not impact application performance.
Over 85 percent of the servers at Graybar are virtualized.
Their next challenge is Disaster Recovery. Currently, they have two datacenters, one in St. Louis and the other in Kansas City. However, in the aftermath of Japan's earthquakes, they realize there is a nuclear power plan between their two locations, so a single incident could impact both data centers. They are working with IBM, their trusted advisors, to investigate a three-site solution.
This week, May 15-22, I am in Auckland, New Zealand teaching IBM Storage Top Gun sales class. Next week, I will be in Sydney, Australia.
Optimizing Storage Infrastructure for Growth and Innovation
This session started off with my former boss, Brian Truskowski, IBM General Manager of System Storage and Networking.
We've come a long way in storage. In 1973, the "Winchester Drive" was named after the famous Winchester 3030 rifle. The disk drive was planning to have two 30MB platters, hence the name. When it finally launched, it would have two 35MB platters, for a total raw capacity of 70MB.
Today, IBM announced the verison 6.2 of SAN Volume Controller with support for 10GbE iSCSI. Since 2003, IBM has sold over 30,000 SAN Volume Controllers. An SVC cluster can now manage up to 32PB of disk storage.
IBM also announced new 4TB tape drive (TS1140), LTFS Library Edition, the TS3500 Library Connector, improved TS7600 and TS7700 virtual tape libraries, enhanced Information Archive for email, files and eDiscovery, new Storwize V7000 hardware, new Storwize Rapid Application bundles, new firmware for SONAS and DS8000 disk systems, and Real-Time Compression support for EMC disk systems. I plan to cover each of these in follow-on posts, but if you can't wait, here are [links to all the announcements].
Customer Testimonial - CenterPoint Energy
"CenterPoint is transforming its business from being an energy distribution company that uses technology, to a technology company that distributes energy."
-- Dr. Steve Pratt, CTO of CenterPoint Energy
The next speaker was Dr. Steve Pratt is CTO of [CenterPoint Energy]. CenterPoint is 110 years old (older than IBM!) energy company that is involved in electricity, gasoline distribution, and natural gas pipeline. CenterPoint serves Houston, Texas (the fourth largest city in the USA) and surrounding area.
CenterPoint are transforming to a Smart Grid involving smart meters, and this requires the best IT infrastructure you can buy, including IBM DS8000, XIV and SAN Volume Controller disk systems, IBM Smart Analytics System, Stream Analytics, IBM Virtual Tape Library, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, and IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
Dr. Pratt has seen the transition of information over the years:
Data Structure, deciding how to code data to record it in a structured manner
Information Reporting, reporting to upper management what happened
Intelligence Aggregation, finding patterns and insight from the data
Predictive Analytics, monitoring real-time data to take pro-active steps
Autonomics, where automation and predictive analysis allows the system to manage itself
What does the transition to a Smart Grid mean for their storage environment? They will go from 80,000 meter reads, to 230,400,000 reads per day. Ingestion of this will go from MB/day to GB/sec. Reporting will transition to real-time analytics.
Dr. Pratt prefers to avoid trade-offs. Don't lose something to get something else. He also feels that language of the IT department can help. For example, he uses "Factor" like 25x rather than percent reduction (96 percent reduced). He feels this communicates the actual results more effectively.
Today's smarter consumers are driving the need for smarter technologies. Individual consumers and small businesses can make use of intelligent meters to help reduce their energy costs. Everything from smart cars to smart grids will need real-time analytics to deal with the millions of events that occur every day.
IBM's Data Protection and Retention Story
Brian Truskowski came back to provide the latest IBM messaging for Data Protection and Retention (DP&R). The key themes were:
Stop storing so much
Store more with what's on the floor
Move data to the right place
IBM announced today that the IBM Real-Time Compression Appliances now support EMC gear, such as EMC Celerra. While some of the EMC equipment have built-in compression features, these often come at a cost of performance degradation. Instead, the IBM Real-Time compression can offer improved performance as well as 3x to 5x reduction in storage capacity.
OVer 70 percent of data on disk has not be accessed in the last 90 days. IBM Easy Tier on the DS8700 and DS8800 now support FC-to-SATA automated tiering.
IBM is projecting that backup and archive storage will grow at over 50 percent per year. To help address this, IBM is launching a new "Storage Infrastructure Optimization" assessment. All attendees at today's summit are eligible for a free assessment.
Analytics are increasing the value of information, and making it more accessible to the average knowledge worker. The cost of losing data, as well as the effort spent searching for information, has skyrocketed. Users have grown to expect 100 percent uptime availability.
An analysis of IT environments found that only 55 percent was spent on revenue-producing workloads. The remaining 45 percent was spent on Data Protection and Retenion. That means that for every IT dollar spent on projects to generate revenue, you are spending another 90 cents to protect it. Imagine spending 90 percent of your house payments for homeowners' insurance, or 90 percent of your car's purchase price for car insurance.
IBM has organized its solutions into three categories:
Hyper-Efficient Backup and Recovery
Continuous Data Availability
What would it mean to your business if you could shift some of the money spent on DP&R over to revenue-producing projects instead? That was the teaser question posed at the end of these morning sessions for us to discuss during lunch.
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.
IBM introduced the Linear Tape File System last year, which I explained in my post [IBM Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary for LTO tape], and released it as open source to the rest of the Linear Tape Open [LTO] Consortium so that the entire planet can benefit from IBM's innovation. IBM presented a technology demonstration of its Linear Tape File System - Library Edition at the NAB conference, showing how this new IBM library offering of the file system can put mass archives of rich media video content at the users fingertips with the ease of library automation.
From left to right, here is Atsushi Nagaishi (Toshiba) and Shinobu Fujihara (IBM). Fujihara-san is from IBM's Yamato lab in Japan where some of the LTFS development was done. The Yamato Lab was not damaged by the [Earthquakes in Japan].
With the capabilities of LTFS, IBM has introduced an entirely new role for tape, as an attractive high capacity, easy to use, low cost and shareable storage media. LTFS can make tape usable in a fashion like removable external disk, a giant alternative to floppy diskettes, DVD-RW and USB memory sticks with directory tree access and file-level drag-and-drop capability. LTFS can allow the for passing of information around from one system or employee to another. And as for high video storage capacity, a 1.5TB LTO-5 cartridge can hold about 50 hours of XDCAM HD video!
A group photo of the global IBM LTFS team, from left to right, David Pease from IBM Almaden Research Center, Ed Childers from IBM Tucson, Shinobu Fujihara and Hironobu Nagura from IBM Japan.
IBM was once again #1 leader in Tape worldwide for the year 2010. With this exciting new win, tape is not just for backup and archive anymore!
Back in Februray, my blog post [A Box Full of Floppies] mentioned that I uncovered some diskettes compressed with OS/2 Stacker. Jokingly, I suggested that I may have to stand up an OS/2 machine just to check out what is actually on those floppies. Each floppy contains only three files: README.STC, STACKER.EXE and a hidden STACKVOL.DSK file. The README.STC explains that the disk is compressed by Stacker, a program developed by [Stac Electronics, Inc.]. The STACKER.EXE would not run on Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. The STACKVOL.DSK is just a huge binary file, like a ZIP file, compressed with [Lempel-Ziv-Stac] algorithm that combines Lempel-Ziv with Huffman coding.
In my follow-up post [Like Sands in an Hourglass], I explained how there are many ways I could have tackled this project. I could either use the Emulation approach and try to build an OS/2 guest image under a hypervisor like VMware, KVM or VirtualBox, or just take the Museum approach and try taking one of my half dozen old machines, wipe it clean and stand up OS/2 on it bare metal. This turned out to be more challenging than I expected. The systems I have that are modern and powerful enough to run hypervisors don't have floppy drives, so I opted for the Museum approach.
(A quick [history of OS/2] might be helpful. IBM and Microsoft jointly developed OS/2 back in 1985. By 1990, Microsoft decided it's own Windows operating system was more popular with the ladies, and decided to break off with IBM. In 1992, IBM release OS/2 version 2.0, touted as "a better DOS than DOS and a better Windows than Windows!" Both parties maintained ownership rights, Microsoft renamed OS/2 to Windows NT. The "NT" stood for New Technology, the basis for all of the enterprise-class Windows servers used today. IBM named its version of OS/2 version 3 and 4 "WARP", with the last version 4.52 released in 2001. In its heyday, OS/2 ran the majority of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), was used for hardware management consoles (HMC), and was used worldwide to run various Railway systems. After 2001, IBM encouraged people to transition from Windows or OS/2 over to Java and Linux. For those that can't or won't leave OS/2, IBM partnered with Serenity Systems to continue OS/2 under the brand [eComStation].)
Working with an IBM [ThinkCentre 8195-E2U Pentium 4 machine] with 640MB RAM and 80GB hard disk, a CD-rom and one 3.5-inch floppy drive, I first discovered that OS/2 is limited to very small amounts of hard disk. There are limits on [file systems and partition sizes] as well as the infamous [1024-cylinder limit] for bootable operating systems. Having a completely empty drive didn't work, as the size of the disk was too big. Carving out a big partition out of this also failed, as it exceeded the various limits. Each time, it felt the partition table was corrupted because the values were so huge. Even modern Disk Partitioning tools ([SysRescueCD] or [PartedMagic]) didn't work, as these create partitions not recognizable to OS/2.
The next obstacle I knew I would encounter would be device drivers. OS/2 comes as a set of three floppy diskettes and a CD-rom. The bootable installation disk was referred to affectionately as "Disk 0", then Disk 1, then Disk 2. Once all drivers have been loaded into memory, then it can start looking at the CDrom, and continue with the installation. In searching for updated drivers, I came across [Updated OS/2 Warp 4 Installation Diskettes] to address problems with newer display monitors. It also addresses the 8.4GB volume limit.
The updates were in the form of EXE files that only execute in a running DOS or OS/2 environment, expanded onto a floppy diskette. It seemed like [Catch-22], I need a working DOS or OS/2 system to run the update programs to create the diskettes, but need the diskettes to build a working system.
To get around this, I decided to take a "scaffolding" approach. Using DOS 6 bootable floppy, I was able to re-partition the drive with FDISK into two small 1.9GB partitions. I have the full five-floppy IBM DOS 6 set, I hid the first partition for OS/2, and install the DOS 6 GUI on the second partition. I went ahead and added a few new subdirectories: BOOT to hold Grub2, PERSONAL to hold the data I decompress from the floppies, and UTILS to hold additional utilities. This little DOS system worked, and I now have new OS/2 "Disk 1" and "Disk 2" for the installation process.
(If you don't have a full set of DOS installation diskettes, you can make due with "FORMAT C: /S" from a [DOS boot disk], and then just copy over all the files from the boot disk to your C: drive. You won't have a nice DOS GUI, but the command line prompt will be enough to proceed.)
Like DOS, OS/2 expects to be installed on the C: drive. I hid the second partition (DOS), and marked the first partition installable and bootable. The OS/2 installation involves a lot of reboots, and the hard drive is not natively bootable in the intermediate stages. This means having to boot from Disk 0, then putting in Disk 1, then disk 2, before continuing the next phase of the installation. I tried to keep the installation as "Plain Vanilla" as possible.
I had to figure out what to include, and what to exclude, and this involved a lot of trial and error. For example, one of the choices was for "external diskette support". Since I had an "internal diskette drive", I didn't think I needed it. But after a full install, I discovered that it would not read or write floppy diskettes, so it appears that I do indeed need this support.
OS/2 supports two different file systems, FAT16 and the High Performance File System (HPFS). Since my partition was only 1.9GB in size, I chose just to use FAT16. HPFS supported larger disk partitions, longer file names, and faster performance, none of which I need for these purposes.
I thought it would be nice to get TCP/IP networking to work with my Ethernet card. However, after many attempts, I decided against this. I needed to focus on my mission, which was to decompress floppy diskettes. It was amusing to see that OS/2 supported all kinds of networking, including Token Ring, System Management, Remote Access, Mobile Access Services, File and Print.
Once all the options are chosen, OS/2 installation then proceeds to unpack and copy all the programs to the C: drive. During this process, IBM had informational splash screens. Here's one that caught my eye, titled "IBM Means Three Things" that listed three reasons to partner with IBM:
Providing global solutions for a small planet
Creating and Applying advanced technologies to improve with which customers run their businesses
Constantly improving customer service with the products and services we provide
You might wonder how these OS/2 splash screens, written over 10 years ago, can appear almost identical to IBM's current [Smarter Planet] campaign. Actually, it is not that odd. IBM has been keeping to these same core principles since 1911, only the words to describe and promote these core values have changed.
To access both OS/2 and DOS partitions, I installed Grand Unified Bootloader [Grub2] on the DOS partition under C:/BOOT/GRUB directory. However, when I boot OS/2, I cannot see the DOS partition. And when I boot DOS, I cannot see the OS/2 partition. Each operating system thinks its C: drive is the only partition on the system.
Now that I had OS/2 running, I was then able to install Stacker from two floppy diskettes. With this installed, I can compress and decompress data on either the hard disk, or on floppy diskettes. Most of the files were flat text documents and digital photos. After copying the data off the compressed disks onto my hard drive, I now can copy them off to a safe place.
To finish this project, I installed Ubuntu Linux on the remaining 76GB of disk space, which can access both the OS/2 and DOS drives FAT16 file systems natively. This allows me to copy files from OS/2 to DOS or vice versa.
Now that I know what data types are on the diskettes, I determined that I could have decompressed the data in just a few steps:
Set up a DOS partition on C: drive
Insert one of the compressed diskettes into the floppy drive
Copy the STACKER.EXE program from the floppy to the C: drive
Run "STACKER A:" to decompress the floppy diskette
However, now that I have a working DOS and OS/2 system, I can possibly review the rest of my floppy diskettes, some of which may require running programs natively on OS/2 or DOS. This brings me to an important lesson. If you are going to keep archive data for long-term retention, you need to choose file formats that can be read by current operating systems and programs. Installing older operating systems and programs to access proprietary formats can be quite time-consuming, and may not always be possible or desirable.
Yes, it's Tuesday, and that means more IBM Announcements! A lot was announced today, so I have selected an eclectic mix for your enjoyment.
Microsoft Windows support on IBM Mainframes
Last year's announcement of the new IBM zEnterprise included the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extention (zBX) which could run POWER7 and x86 operating systems, but managed by the mainframe's overall Unified Resource Manager. Initially, this was intended for AIX and Linux-x86, but today, IBM [announced a statement of general direction to support Microsoft Windows] on the zBX extension by end of this year. Of course, the standard disclaimer applies: All statements regarding IBM's plans, directions, and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice. Any reliance on these statements of general direction is at the relying party's sole risk and will not create liability or obligation for IBM.
New 15K RPM drives for IBM Storwize V7000
Last October, when IBM introduced the Storwize V7000, it offered both large (3.5 inch) and small form factor (2.5 inch) drives. Unfortunately, a few people were upset that there were no 15K RPM drives for the small form factor models. There were SSD and 10K RPM drives, but nothing in between. Today, IBM [announced new 15K RPM drives of 146GB capacity] have been qualified for both the controller and expansion drawers.
New RVU licensing for IBM Tivoli products
IBM [announced it is changing over to this new RVU licensing model], from the previous PVU license, based on processor value units. What is an RVU? An RVU is a unit of measure by which the program can be licensed. RVU Proofs of Entitlement (PoE) are based on the number of units of a specific resource used or managed by the program. This makes sense, resource management software should be charged by the amount of resources you manage, not the size of the server the software runs on. This change also enables running on server virtualization and live movement of VM guest images from one type of host machine to another.
If you are contemplating a visit to an IBM [Executive Briefing Center], then April and May is a great time to come to Tucson. The weather is ideal here. The cold snap appears to be over, and spring is in the air!
The IBM Storwize V7000 was introduced last October, and has proven to be wildly successful. I saw two awesome reviews recently of the IBM Storwize V7000 disk system that I thought I would bring to your attention.
The first review is [IBM Storwize V7000] from Roger Howorth of ZDNet UK. Here are some quotes:
"Under the hood, the Storwize V7000 is built from technologies originally developed for IBM's enterprise-class storage systems, so the V7000 benefits from a comprehensive set of high-end features that have been scaled down for mid-range buyers."
"Initial configuration couldn't be simpler."
"We really liked the layout and functionality of the GUI."
"Storwize V7000 is virtual storage that offers efficiency and flexibility through built-in SSD optimization and "thin provisioning" technologies while enabling users to virtualize and re-use existing disk systems..."
"Storwize V7000 advanced functionality also enables non-disruptive migration of data from existing storage, simplifying implementation and minimizing disruption to users."
"The Storwize V7000 graphical user interface is a browser-based, easy to navigate intuitive GUI."
"ESG Lab found that getting started with the Storwize V7000 disk system was intuitive and straightforward."
"Easy Tier increases the efficiency and simplicity of deploying SSD drives."
I started attending the Arizona International Film Festival eight years ago. I took a week off work to see the films, and came back to tell people how enjoyable it was to just sit and watch thirty movies. "Dirty movies?" they would ask. "No, not dirty, thirty!" To avoid further confusion, I quickly switched to saying "I spent the week watching 25 to 35 independent films."
A few weeks ago, the Arizona International Film Festival notified me that my 2007 System Storage video has been recognized for a technical award under the category of "Innovative use of Technology for Animated Short Film." I will receive the award in person this evening, April 1, at the opening ceremony, which starts at 6:00pm, at the [Fox Theater] in downtown Tucson, Arizona.
As is the case with the Oscars and Grammies, technical awards are handed out in smaller ceremonies in advance of the primary award ceremony that recognizes the best actors, directors and films, which will be held April 9.
In this virtual world, avatars representing IBM executives and marketing managers would present our latest products to avatars of the IBM Business Partners, Industry Analysts and the Press. A short "highlights" video that stitched together bits and pieces of the 90-minute event was used by executives at conferences and road shows. I submitted this shortened version to the Airzona International Film Festival back in 2008, so I am glad the judges had finally gotten around to review it. Here it is uploaded as a [YouTube video]:
During the event, I captured the real-time video from my laptop screen using a tool called [FRAPS]. I also had some of my colleagues capture video from different angles in case we needed these in post-production. The technique of capturing computer-generated 3D video from a computer screen is known as Machinima.
I was in Bogota Columbia that week teaching a Top Gun class. I got to the IBM building only to discover the firewall would not let me get through to the Second Life website, so I took a taxi back to the hotel and ran the event from their business center. Then the unthinkable happened, and I got to experience [Columbia's worst power outage in 22 years], in which 98 percent of the country lost power. Luckily, I had enough battery charge on my laptop and was still connected to the Internet to continue with the rest of the event.
Voice-over-IP but it did not have that feature back then. The other $91 was for virtual items in Second Life. I learned how to make virtual objects and use the GNU Image Manipulation Program [GIMP] to create avatar clothing, giveaway items, and demo equipment.
Instead of hiring voice actors, I had IBMers Andy Monshaw, Eric Buckley, Funda Eceral, David Tareen, and Kristie Bell all provide their voice talents directly.
I asked the coordinator of the film festival if there was going to be a &quot;practice session&quot; for the technical award ceremony. She laughed, and said basically that I would just be walking across the stage, receive the award in my left hand as I shook hands with my right, and then turn slightly clockwise to pose while my picture is taken. If I had ever gotten a diploma from high school or college, she said, then I already knew what to expect. "Don't worry," she assured me, "you won't have to give a speech!"
(In lieu of a speech, I would like to thank Christine Heinisch, my video editor, and Katrina Smith, my cinematographer. I could not have won this technical award without their assistance.)
After the ceremony tonight, the film festival (celebrating its 20th anniversary this year) will kick off with the first of 110 films called "Journey from Zanskar", a 90-minute documentary directed by Frederick Marx and narrated by Richard Gere, starting at 8:00pm. The Arizona International Film Festival will continue through April 20, with films being shown on the evenings and weekends so that I won't have to take time off from work.
If you are in the Tucson area, come out and join me tonight at the Fox Theater!
(Update: Yes, this was an April Fools joke! I did not win any awards for this video. I apologize to my friends and family who showed up to see me receive the award that I didn't get.)
Normally, when EMC fails, it is worth a giggle. Companies are run by humans, and nobody is perfect. However, their latest one, failing to defend their RSA SecurID two-factor website, is no laughing matter. Breaches like this undermine the trust needed for business and commerce to be done with Information Technology, so it affects the entire IT industry.
(FTC Disclosure: I do not work or have any financial investments in either EMC nor ENC Security Systems. Neither EMC nor ENC Security Systems paid me to mention them on this blog. Their mention in this blog is not an endorsement of either company or their products. Information about EMC was based solely on publicly available information made available by EMC and others. My friends at ENC Security Systems provided me an evaluation license for their latest software release so that I could confirm the use cases posed in this post.)
Of course, EMC did the right thing by making this breach public in an [Open Letter to RSA Customers]. While this may affect their revenues, as clients question whether they should do business with EMC, or affect their stock price, as investors question whether they should invest in EMC, they were very clear and public that the breach occurred. As far as I know, none of the executives of the RSA security division have stepped down. The disclosure of the breach was the right thing to do, and required by law from the [US Securities Exchange Commission]. This law was created to prevent companies from trying to hide breaches that expose external client information.
The breach does not affect RSA public/private key pairs used by IBM and most every other large company. Rather, this breach was targeted to RSA SecurID two-factor authentication. I explained two-factor authentication in my blog post [Day 5 Grid, SOA and Cloud Computing - System x KVM solutions], but basically it is an added level of security, requiring something you know (your password) with something you have (such as a magnetic card or key fob). Both are required to gain access to the system.
Breaches happen. Recently, [Hackers found vulnerabilities in the McAfee.com website]. Last month, fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC had a blog post on [Understanding Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)] in the week leading up to their RSA Conference. It was precisely an APT that hit RSA, so the irony of this breach was not lost on the blogosphere. Perhaps Chuck's blog post gave hackers the idea to do this, like saying "I hope terrorists don't bomb this building that hold all of our chemical weapons..." or "I hope bank robbers don't rob this repository where we keep all the cash..."
(The sinister counter-theory, that EMC staged this breach as a marketing stunt to undermine trust in hybrid or public cloud offerings, such as those offered by IBM, Amazon or Salesforce.com, offers an interesting twist. While computer breaches in general are fodder for [Luddites] to argue we should not use computers at all, this particular breach could be used by EMC salesmen to encourage their customers to choose private cloud over hybrid cloud or public cloud deployments. Given all the extra work that RSA SecurID customers have to now do to harden their environments, that would be in bad taste.)
Today, March 31, is World Backup Day. This is because many viruses are triggered to operate on April 1. Just like checking the batteries in your smoke alarms every year, you should ensure that your backup methodology remains valid.
Back in 2008, I was a volunteer for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, and built an XS server to be used for Uruguay. I shipped [this baby off to school] to be the central server that all the student and teacher laptops connected to. It was the gateway to the Internet, as well as the [repository for the blogs of each student]. The blogs were accessible to the public, so that parents could read what their students were writing.
Unfortunately, this public access resulted in my little XS server being attacked by hackers, with IP addresses in Russia and China. Why anyone from either of those two countries wanted to ruin the hopes and dreams of small school children in Uruguay was beyond me. Fortunately, I had planned for remote administration. Backups were taken by me weekly to a second drive that was only mounted when I was dialed in to take the backup. The rest of the time, it was offline, so as not to be written to by hackers.
I also shipped along with the server a bootable DVD that contained a modified version of [System Rescue CD], scripts to start up SSHD daemon, and pre-populated for use with public/private RSA keys for me and eight other administrators located in various countries. To effect repairs, the local operator would reboot to the DVD, and then I could login via "ssh" and restore the operating system, programs and data. Sadly, this meant that the students might have lost some of their most recent blog posts since the last backup.
Please consider reviewing your own backup strategies. If your security were compromised, data was corrupted or lost, would you be able to recover from your backups?
Use Encryption where Appropriate
If you plan to travel this Summer, you may want to consider encryption to protect yourself. ENC Security Systems has just released their latest [Encrypt Stick] which is a USB memory stick pre-loaded with software that provides three features:
Encryption for your files
A secure web browser for accessing sensitive websites
Secure password manager
Many hotels now offer computers for use by the guests. These are typically running some flavor of Windows operating system. Encrypt Stick comes with an EXE file that you can run to browse the web securely, and have access to your encrypted files and passwords, leaving no trace on the hotel lobby computer.
Friends and Family
What if you are visiting friends and family, and they have a Mac instead? No problem, as Encrypt Stick has a DMG file to use on Mac OS X operating system. While you may not be worried about your siblings hacking into your bank account, you may not want them necessarily seeing what sites you visited.
I have been to several airport lounges now that use Linux for their public computers. Makes sense to me, as there are fewer viruses for Linux, and updating Linux is relatively straightforward. However, Encrypt Stick does not support Linux. For my Linux-knowledgeable readers, you can build your own with [Unetbootin] bootable USB memory stick to launch your favorite Linux browser in memory on whatever system you are using. The [Gparted Magic] utility rescue tool includes [TrueCrypt] to encrypt your files. Lastly, you can use [MyPasswordSafe] to hold all of your passwords securely.
Several clients have asked if any of the IBM data-at-rest encrypted disks or tapes are affected by this breach. IBM uses AES encryption for the actual disk and tape media, but we do use RSA keys to encrypt the generated keys used on the TS1120 and TS1130 drives. However, these were not affected by the RSA SecurID breach, and your tapes are safely protected.
Advanced Persistent Threats, viruses and other malware are no laughing matter. If you are concerned about security, contact IBM to help you assess your current environment and help you plan a robust protection strategy.
Next week, April 6, IBM will host the [Smarter Computing Virtual Event] to cover IBM's Smarter Computing initiative, with key themes of Smarter Computing - Big Data, Optimized Systems, and Cloud. Smarter Computing is a new and innovative approach to computing based on the evolving role of IT in your business and an intrinsic understanding of the economics of IT.
(I found it amusing that EMC has chosen two of IBM's themes, "Big Data" and "Cloud", for their upcoming EMC World 2011 conference. I was tempted to include their graphic, but people might have accused me of using Photoshop or GIMP to make EMC look bad. Instead, you can look at the graphic on this blog post titled [When Cloud Meets Big Data: Information Logistics Revisited] by fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC. IBM has been a leader in IT for decades, so we are used to having other companies follow in our footsteps. As an [IBM wannabee], EMC is no different.)
For many on tight travel budgets, this event REQUIRES NO TRAVEL! This is a virtual event, You can participate from your desk. You will hear from key IBM executives, all of which I have heard speak myself, so I can vouch that this should be a good event.
Steve Mills - IBM Senior Vice President and Group Executive, Software and Systems (my seventh-line manager)
Tom Rosamilia - IBM General Manager, Power and Mainframe Systems, IBM Systems and Technology Group.
Robert LaBlanc - IBM Senior Vice President, Middleware Software
Helene Armitage - IBM General Manager, Systems Software, Systems and Technology Group.
This event is targeted to CIOs, IT Directors and Managers, Business Analysts, Systems and Storage Administrators, and DBAs. However, we don't check what your actual title is, so feel free to attend even if you have different job responsibilities.
I am giving you one week's notice for this event. If this is the first time you have heard of this event, then I hope that is enough time to plan for this event in your busy schedule. If you had heard of it already, perhaps this serves as a useful reminder to [Register Now!] Is a week ahead the right amount of time? For virtual events, do we need more or less advance notice? What about for events that involve travel? Feel free to enter your thoughts on this in the comments section below.
Last night, I presented an E-Talk to the Engineering Student Council (ESC) of the University of Arizona (UofA).
The ESC is the student governing body of The University of Arizona’s College of Engineering. The organization works with scholastic honorary societies, professional organizations, and project clubs to aid and encourage the professional and social development of students. This year, ESC launched a new program, Engineering Talks (E-Talks), consisting of workshops and lectures, which will focus on teaching students what it takes to work within a company, before they enter the workforce. To make this program successful, career advice from professionals working at established companies is essential.
The audience was a mix of undergraduate and graduate engineering students from a variety of disciplines, such as Petroleum, Hydrology, Mining, Biomedical, Electrical and Computer Engineering. Only a few were graduating this May. There were roughly an equal number of boys and girls, which was encouraging. When I was an engineering student at the UofA, women engineers were very rare.
A little about myself, my academic and professional career over the past 30 years, and some background of IBM as a company, how it is organized, and its 100 year Centennial celebration.
An overview of IBM's corporate strategy for Smarter Computing, explaining how IBM is solving the world's toughest challenges for analyzing Big Data, developing Optimized Systems for particular workloads, and new delivery and deployment models for Cloud Computing.
Some career advice, based on my decades of work experience at IBM and elsewhere
After the Q&A, several students stayed around afterwards to ask questions. This seems to happen every time I give a presentation to a mixed audience. I handed out plenty of business cards, and offered to make the charts available to all the students via the IBM Expert Network on Slideshare.net website.
Before we started, we asked the first survey question: "How is storage planning conducted in your shop?" Of the various responses, nearly four out of ten responded "Part of an overall IT infrastructure strategy".
Jon Toigo went first, and spent 20 minutes or so laying out the problem as he sees it. Jon travels all over visiting customers struggling with their storage infrastructures, so he gets to hear a lot of this first hand.
I then spent 20 minutes or so presenting IBM's vision, strategy and offerings to help solve these problems. I could speak for hours on this topic, but we kept it short for this one-hour webcast. To learn more, request a visit to the Tucson Executive Briefing Center.
At the end of my talk, we put out the second survey, asking the audience "What is your number one priority with respect to storage operations today?" Over one fourth of the attendees were focused on reducing storage infrastructure cost of ownership by any means possible.
I am glad we saved the last 15 minutes for Q&A, as there were a lot of questions.
The replay is now available. If you attended the event and want to hear it again, or want to share it with your colleagues, or you missed it and want to hear it, then [Register for the Replay].
A reader from New Zealand expressed concern some corporate bloggers were [using the earthquake for marketing]. He lost someone close to him in Christchurch, and is unable to reach a friend living in Japan, so I am sorry for his loss. I plan to be in Australia and New Zealand to teach a Top Gun class May 15-27, so hopefully I will be able to meet him in person when I am down there.
"Earmarking funds is a really good way of hobbling relief organizations and ensuring that they have to leave large piles of money unspent in one place while facing urgent needs in other places. ... Meanwhile, the smaller and less visible emergencies where NGOs can do the most good are left unfunded.
In the specific case of Japan, there's all the more reason not to donate money. Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of new money."
Another reader mentioned that the last surviving American WW-II vet died the same week. WTF? IBM and Japan have been allies for quite a while now, and there is no reason to bring up past wars except to compare the scope and magnitude of the cleanup effort. (Update: Frank Buckles was the last surviving WW-I vet, but also served in WW-II).
Many readers felt that charity begins at home, and there are plenty of worthy causes right here in the USA to donate to instead. Inspired by last year's movie [Waiting for Superman], my girlfriend started a project called [Centers for My Super Stars] for her first grade class on DonorsChoose.org. For those not familiar with this website, DonorsChoose.org uses the cloud to connect school teachers in need of supplies with rich people to donate funds towards these projects. If you want to contribute to her project, [donate here].
"And speaking of class, there just happens to be a baseball team in Sendai, Japan. The Golden Eagles. Their stadium was severely damaged from the earthquake. Wouldn't you think some of them lug nuts who run American baseball would bring the Golden Eagles and their opponents over to the United States when the Japanese season starts -- play some games over here and raise money to help the Japanese? Wouldn't you think they could just once stop that national pastime stuff and help the international pastime?"
As you can see, different readers have different opinions on this. We are all on this world together, and both our economy and our ecology are more interconnected than you might think. Let's build a smarter planet.
IBM announced that it will offer [three free months of IBM Smart Business Cloud] computing and storage services to government agencies, charitable non-profit organizations, and other organizations involved with reconstruction resulting from the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan and the northern Pacific region.
With traditional communications down, and many data centers incapacitated, Cloud Computing can be a great way to resume operations. According to the announcement, organizations can submit their requests now until April 30, and the program will run until July 31, 2011. Options include:
Virtual machine images running 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Linux or Windows.
60GB to 2 TB of disk storage per instance.
Options for various IBM middleware (DB2, Informix, Lotus, and WebSphere)
Rational Application Lifecycle Management and Tivoli Monitoring software
The offer also includes [LotusLive] Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for email and online collaboration. For more about LotusLive, see this [Red Paper].
When I turned on the television last weekend, I saw large waves of water knock down rows of small houses. I thought I had caught the end of a bad Godzilla movie, but sadly it was not movie special effects. Mother Nature can be quite destructive. Over the past four days, Japan has been hit hard by a series of earthquakes and resulting tsunami.
(Note: Disasters can happen anywhere and at any time. Last month, New Zealand had an earthquake as well. It is best to always be prepared. If you haven't done so lately, check out the latest recommendations from the US Government [Ready.Gov] website.)
Several have asked me how this tragedy in Japan might affect IBM and its clients. Here is what I have gathered from various sources. All IBM Japan employees have survived, are safe and reporting no major injuries. IBM has four major facilities, near central part of the country around Tokyo, far from Sendai, the epicenter. All IBM buildings are still standing and operational. A few sections of Tokyo are affected by scheduled brown-outs in an effort to save electricity. Employees are asked to telecommute (a.k.a. work from home) to minimize traffic congestion.
Hakozaki - Headquarters and executive briefing center
Makuhari - Technical Center, where we often hold conferences and other events
Yamato - Research Facility, where R&D is done for IBM tape storage products
Toyosu - Service Delivery Center
I have been to Japan many times throughout my career. Back in the summer of 1995, IBM sent me to Osaka to help out clients in the aftermath of the Great Hanshin eartquake near Kobe. I remember it well, sending an email back to my team saying "It is 1995, and here in Japan it is 95 degrees and 95 percent humidiy." It was seven months after the earthquake, but people were still living in cardboard boxes and make-shift tents.
Many people asked if I will be going back to Japan to help out. I speak Japanese, can make sense of the Japanese Katakana characters on computer monitors, and am an expert in Disaster Recovery. However, the IBM Japan team is doing an awesome job helping our clients restore their data and recovery their business operations. Of course, if IBM needs me in Japan, I will gladly go, but so far, it doesn't seem that I am needed there.
IBM and the Austin Chamber of Commerce is inviting registered SXSW Interactive attendees to the networking reception being hosted by the IBM Innovation Center and the IBM Venture Capital Group. Power Systems and Watson will have a significant feature at this SXSW event to be held on March 14, 2011.
While I won't be there personally at the SXSW conference, I strongly recommend you to attend this event.
Innovators and Entrepreneurs Networking Reception
Four Seasons Hotel
March 14, 2011
Hosted by IBM Venture Capital Group, Austin Chamber of Commerce, and the IBM Innovation Center.
This reception will provide a rare opportunity to network and collaborate with your professional community of industry leaders, entrepreneurs, developers, academics, venture capitalists, members of the Austin Chamber of Commerce.
Webcast: How to Diagnose and Cure What Ails Your Storage Infrastructure
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 11:00 AM PDT / 11:00 AM Arizona MST / 2:00 PM EDT
Storage is the most poorly utilized infrastructure element -- and the most costly part of hardware budgets -- in most IT shops today. And it’s getting worse. Storage management typically involves nightmarish mash-up of tools for capacity management, performance management and data protection management unique to each array deployed in heterogeneous fabrics. Server and desktop virtualization seem to have made management issues worse, and coming on the heels of changing workloads and data proliferation is the requirement to add data management to the set of responsibilities shouldered by fewer and fewer storage professionals. Forecast for Storage in 2012: more pain as long delayed storage infrastructure refresh becomes mandatory.
In this webcast, fellow blogger Jon Toigo, CEO of Toigo Partners International, of [DrunkenData] fame, and I will take turns assessing the challenges and suggesting real-world solutions to the many issues that confound storage efficiency in contemporary IT. Integrating real world case studies and technology insights, our storage experts will deliver a must see webcast that sets down a strategy for fixing storage...before it fixes you.
Don't miss this event, unless you like the stress of knowing that your next disaster may be a data disaster.
Wrapping up my week's coverage of the IBM Pulse 2011 conference, I have had several people ask me to explain IBM's latest initiative, Smarter Computing, which IBM launched this week at this conference. Having led the IT industry through the Centralized Computing era and the Distributed Computing era, IBM is now well-positioned to help companies, governments and non-profit organizations to enter the new Smarter Computing era, focused on insight and discovery.
Thousands of IT professionals
Effiicent, but only the largest companies and governments had them
Millions of office workers
Personal computers (PC)
Innovative, extending the reach to small and medium-sized businesses, but resulted in server sprawl and increased TCO
Billions of people
Smart phones and other handheld devices
Efficient and Innovative, combining the best of centralized and distributed computing
1952 to 1980
1981 to 2010
2011 and beyond
To help clients with this transition, IBM's Smarter Computing initiative has three main components. This is a corporate-wide strategy, with systems, software and services all working together to realize results.
The first component is Big Data. This combines three different sources of data:
Traditional structured data in OLTP databases and OLAP data warehouses, using data management solutions like DB2 and IBM Netezza.
Unstructured data, including text documents, images, audio, and video, processed with massive parallelism using IBM BigInsights and Apache Hadoop.
Real-Time Analytics Processing (RTAP) of incoming data, including video surveillance, social media, RFID chips, smart meters, and traffic control systems, processed with IBM InfoSphere Streams
Of course, Big Data will bring new opportunities on the storage front, which I will save for a future post!
Rather than general purpose IT equipment, we have now the scale and scope to specialize with systems optimized for particular workloads, the second component of the Smarter Computing initiative. Of course, IBM has been delivering integrated stacks of systems, software and services for decades now, but it is important to remind people of this, as IBM now has a spate of competitors all trying to follow IBM's lead in this arena.
As with Big Data, the focus on Optimized Systems has impacted IBM's strategy on storage as well. I'll save that discussion for a future post as well!
I am glad that nearly all of the storage vendors have standardized to a common definition for Cloud, the third component of Smarter Computing, which shows that this concept has matured:
Cloud computing is a pay-per-use model for enabling network access to a pool of computing resources that can be provisioned and released rapidly with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. -- U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology [nist.gov]
Of course, Cloud is just an evolution of IBM's Service Bureau business of the 1960s and 1970s, renting out time-sharing on mainframe systems, Grid Computing of the 1980s, and Application Service Providers that popped up in the 1990s. While the [butchers, bakers and candlestick makers] that IBM competes against might focus their efforts on just private cloud or just public cloud, IBM recognizes the reality is that different clients will need different solutions. Rather than rip-and-replace, IBM will help clients transition to cloud via inclusive solutions that adopt a hybrid approach:
Traditional enterprise with private cloud deployments, using solutions like IBM CloudBurst, SONAS and Information Archive
Traditional enterprise with public cloud services to handle seasonable peaks, providing offsite resiliency, and solutions for a mobile workforce
Hybrid clouds that blend private and public cloud services, to handle seasonal peak workloads, remote and branch offices
IBM's emphasis on IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Tivoli and Maximo products will play well in this space to provide integrated service management across traditional and cloud deployments. This is why IBM decided to launch Smarter Computing initiative at Pulse 2011 conference, the industry's premiere conference on intergrated service management.
The IBM Watson that competed on Jeopardy! is an excellent example of all three components of Smarter Computing at work.
IBM Watson was able to respond to Jeopardy! clues within three seconds, processing a combination of database searches with DB2 and text-mining analytics of unstructured data with IBM BigInsights.
IBM Watson combined servers, software and storage into an integrated supercomputer that was optimized for one particular workload: playing Jeopardy!
IBM Watson used many technologies prevalent in private and public cloud computing systems, storing its data on a modified version of SONAS for storage, using xCat administration tools, networking across 10GbE Ethernet, and massive parallel processing through lots of PowerVM guest images.
This week was the IBM Pulse 2011 converence in Las Vegas, Nevada, with over 7,000 attendees. I wasn't there, and my on-the-scene correspondent was too busy running the hands-on lab to get out and attend sessions. Fortunately, I was able to watch some of the [IBM Software live stream], and here are my thoughts and observations.
Fellow inventor [Dean Kamen] was the keynote speaker. His inventions help people, making the world a better place. Here are three examples I found interesting during his talk:
Helping third world countries
Dean started out with his favorite quote:
"A problem well defined is a problem half-solved." - John Dewey
Dean mentioned that we are fortunate, having both potable drinking water and a reliable supply of electricity, but 2 to 4 billion people on the planet do not. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, Dean and his team of innovators were able to come up with small units that can be placed in a village or town. One unit takes in wet liquid and produces potable drinking water. The other unit takes combustible materials, like cow dung, and products electricity. Each unit is roughly the size of half a standard server rack. What does Coca-Cola get out of this? New "vending machines"! By combining drinking water with flavored syrups, they can create soft drinks on demand.
Dean's opinion was that if you want something done, you need to work with large corporations, as governments are mired in beauracracy and rules. I agree. When I first joined IBM, I was introduced to [TRIZ] which was a systematic method for solving problems. IBM's best and brightest are working to solve some of the toughest computer science challenges. For more on TRIZ, see this blog post about [TRIZ in BusinessWeek].
Helping injured veterans
Dean Kamen is well known for inventing the two-wheeled [Segway Personal Transporter], but his company, [DEKA], makes all kinds of things, mostly medical equipment. To help wounded soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan without one or both arms, Dean and his team developed a robotic arm that has enough motor dexterity to pick up a raisin or grape off the table without dropping or squashing it. Dean has appeared several times on the Colbert Report, and here is a video of the robotic arm:
I have myself enjoyed riding a Segway. A local place in Tucson uses them to lead tourists through downtown Tucson and the University of Arizona campus.
Helping young students to learn science and technology
Dean wrapped up his talking by talking about his passion about "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology" or [FIRST]. Modeled after sports competitions, FIRST encourages teams of kids to build robots that perform specific tasks. Every year, companies and universities sponsor teams by purchasing robot kits from FIRST. Teams compete in regional competitions, and then the best of those go on to compete in a stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, hosting 76,000 people cheering for their teams.
Unlike other school sports (Football, Basketball, Baseball, etc.) where a student is more likely to win the lottery than get a successful career as a professional athlete, every student involved in FIRST competitions can "go pro". A study of FIRST success tracked students who participated in competitions, and found a substantial improvement in percentage of those students attending college and working as science and engineering professionals.
I am a big fan of encouraging kids of all ages to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math [STEM]. Back in 2009, I blogged about my involvement with [One Laptop Per Child] and [Junior FIRST Lego League]. I've gotten a great reaction to my latest challenge, to build a Watson Jr. in your own basement, based on my [step-by-step] instructions.
If you attended IBM Pulse this week, please comment on your thoughts and observations!
Guest Post: The following post was written by Tom Rauchut, IBM Infrastructure Architect and Advanced Technical Sales Specialist for Tivoli Automation. Tom is at IBM Pulse 2011 for Las Vegas this week, and has offered to send his observations.
The expo opened last night. There are so many fantastic demos and product experts. Las Vegas has a Tivoli buzz on right now.
My series last week on IBM Watson (which you can read [here], [here], [here], and [here]) brought attention to IBM's Scale-Out Network Attached Storage [SONAS]. IBM Watson used a customized version of SONAS technology for its internal storage, and like most of the components of IBM Watson, IBM SONAS is commercially available as a stand-alone product.
Like many IBM products, SONAS has gone through various name changes. First introduced by Linda Sanford at an IBM SHARE conference in 2000 under the IBM Research codename Storage Tank, it was then delivered as a software-only offering SAN File System, then as a services offering Scale-out File Services (SoFS), and now as an integrated system appliance, SONAS, in IBM's Cloud Services and Systems portfolio.
If you are not familiar with SONAS, here are a few of my previous posts that go into more detail:
This week, IBM announces that SONAS has set a world record benchmark for performance, [a whopping 403,326 IOPS for a single file system]. The results are based on comparisons of publicly available information from Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation [SPEC], a prominent performance standardization organization with more than 60 member companies. SPEC publishes hundreds of different performance results each quarter covering a wide range of system performance disciplines (CPU, memory, power, and many more). SPECsfs2008_nfs.v3 is the industry-standard benchmark for NAS systems using the NFS protocol.
(Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary. As with any performance benchmark, the SPECsfs benchmark does not replicate any single workload or particular application. Rather, it encapsulates scores of typical activities on a NAS storage system. SPECsfs is based on a compilation of workload data submitted to the SPEC organization, aggregated from tens of thousands of fileservers, using a wide variety of environments and applications. As a result, it is comprised of typical workloads and with typical proportions of data and metadata use as seen in real production environments.)
The configuration tested involves SONAS Release 1.2 on 10 Interface Nodes and 8 Storage Pods, resulting a single file system over 900TB usable capacity.
10 Interface Nodes; each with:
Maximum 144 GB of memory
One active 10GbE port
8 Storage Pods; each with:
2 Storage nodes and 240 drives
Drive type: 15K RPM SAS hard drives
Data Protection using RAID-5 (8+P) ranks
Six spare drives per Storage Pod
IBM wanted a realistic "no compromises" configuration to be tested, by choosing:
Regular 15K RPM SAS drives, rather than a silly configuration full of super-expensive Solid State Drives (SSD) to plump up the results.
Moderate size, typical of what clients are asking for today. The Goldilocks rule applies. This SONAS is not a small configuration under 100TB, and nowhere close to the maximum supported configuration of 7,200 disks across 30 Interface Nodes and 30 Storage Pods.
Single file system, often referred to as a global name space, rather than using an aggregate of smaller file systems added together that would be more complicated to manage. Having multiple file systems often requires changes to applications to take advantage of the aggregate peformance. It is also more difficult to load-balance your performance and capacity across multiple file systems. Of course, SONAS can support up to 256 separate file systems if you have a business need for this complexity.
The results are stunning. IBM SONAS handled three times more workload for a single file system than the next leading contender. All of the major players are there as well, including NetApp, EMC and HP.
It's Tuesday again, and that means one thing.... IBM Announcements! On the heels of [last week's announcements], IBM announced some additional products of interest to storage administrators.
IBM Information Archive
Back in 2008, IBM [unveiled the Information Archive]. This storage solution provides automated policy-based tiering between disk and tape, with non-erasable non-rewriteable enforcement to protect against unethical tampering of data. The initial release supported [both files and object storage], with support for different collections, each with its own set of policies for management. However, it only supported NFS initially for the file protocol. Today, IBM announces the addition of CIFS protocol support, which will be especially helpful in healthcare and life sciences, as much of the medical equipment is designed for CIFS protocol storage.
Also, Information Archive will now provide a full index and search feature capability to help with e-Discovery. Searches and retrievals can be done in the background without disrupting applications or the archiving operations.
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments V6.2 extends capabilities that currently exist in IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. TSM backup/archive clients run fine on guest operating systems, but now this new extension improves backup for VMware environments. TSM provides incremental block-level backups utilizing VMware's vStorage APIs for Data Protection and Changed Block Tracking features.
To minimize impact to the VMware host, TSM for VE make use of non-disruptive snapshots and offload the backup processing to a vStorage backup server. This supports file-level recovery, volume-level recovery, and full VM recovery. Of course, since it is based on TSM v6, you get advanced storage efficiency features such as compression and deduplication to minimize consumption of disk storage pools.
IBM Tivoli Monitor has been extended to support virtual servers, including VMware, Linux KVM, and Citrix XenServer. This can help with capacity planning, performance monitoring, and availability. Tivoli Monitor will help you understand the relationships between physical and virtual resources to help isolate problems to the correct resource, reducing the time it takes for debug issues between servers and storage. See the
Next week is [IBM Pulse2011 Conference] in Las Vegas, February 27 to March 2. Sorry, I don't plan to be there this year. It is looking to be a great conference, with fellow inventor Dean Kamen as the keynote speaker. For a blast from the past, read my blog posts from Pulse2008 [Main Tent sessions] and [Breakout sessions].
For the longest time, people thought that humans could not run a mile in less than four minutes. Then, in 1954, [Sir Roger Bannister] beat that perception, and shortly thereafter, once he showed it was possible, many other runners were able to achieve this also. The same is being said now about the IBM Watson computer which appeared this week against two human contestants on Jeopardy!
(2014 Update: A lot has happened since I originally wrote this blog post! I intended this as a fun project for college students to work on during their summer break. However, IBM is concerned that some businesses might be led to believe they could simply stand up their own systems based entirely on open source and internally developed code for business use. IBM recommends instead the [IBM InfoSphere BigInsights] which packages much of the software described below. IBM has also launched a new "Watson Group" that has [Watson-as-a-Service] capabilities in the Cloud. To raise awareness to these developments, IBM has asked me to rename this post from IBM Watson - How to build your own "Watson Jr." in your basement to the new title IBM Watson -- How to replicate Watson hardware and systems design for your own use in your basement. I also took this opportunity to improve the formatting layout.)
Often, when a company demonstrates new techology, these are prototypes not yet ready for commercial deployment until several years later. IBM Watson, however, was made mostly from commercially available hardware, software and information resources. As several have noted, the 1TB of data used to search for answers could fit on a single USB drive that you buy at your local computer store.
Take a look at the [IBM Research Team] to determine how the project was organized. Let's decide what we need, and what we don't in our version for personal use:
Do we need it for personal use?
Yes, That's you. Assuming this is a one-person project, you will act as Team Lead.
Yes, I hope you know computer programming!
No, since this version for personal use won't be appearing on Jeopardy, we won't need strategy on wager amounts for the Daily Double, or what clues to pick next. Let's focus merely on a computer that can accept a question in text, and provide an answer back, in text.
Yes, this team focused on how to wire all the hardware together. We need to do that, although this version for personal use will have fewer components.
Optional. For now, let's have this version for personal use just return its answer in plain text. Consider this Extra Credit after you get the rest of the system working. Consider using [eSpeak], [FreeTTS], or the Modular Architecture for Research on speech sYnthesis [MARY] Text-to-Speech synthesizers.
Yes, I will explain what this is, and why you need it.
Yes, we will need to get information for personal use to process
Yes, this team developed a system for parsing the question being asked, and to attach meaning to the different words involved.
No, this team focused on making IBM Watson optimized to answer in 3 seconds or less. We can accept a slower response, so we can skip this.
(Disclaimer: As with any Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project, I am not responsible if you are not happy with your version for personal use I am basing the approach on what I read from publicly available sources, and my work in Linux, supercomputers, XIV, and SONAS. For our purposes, this version for personal use is based entirely on commodity hardware, open source software, and publicly available sources of information. Your implementation will certainly not be as fast or as clever as the IBM Watson you saw on television.)
Step 1: Buy the Hardware
Supercomputers are built as a cluster of identical compute servers lashed together by a network. You will be installing Linux on them, so if you can avoid paying extra for Microsoft Windows, that would save you some money. Here is your shopping list:
Three x86 hosts, with the following:
64-bit quad-core processor, either Intel-VT or AMD-V capable,
8GB of DRAM, or larger
300GB of hard disk, or larger
CD or DVD Read/Write drive
Computer Monitor, mouse and keyboard
Ethernet 1GbE 4-port hub, and appropriate RJ45 cables
Surge protector and Power strip
Local Console Monitor (LCM) 4-port switch (formerly known as a KVM switch) and appropriate cables. This is optional, but will make it easier during the development. Once your implementation is operational, you will only need the monitor and keyboard attached to one machine. The other two machines can remain "headless" servers.
Step 2: Establish Networking
IBM Watson used Juniper switches running at 10Gbps Ethernet (10GbE) speeds, but was not connected to the Internet while playing Jeopardy! Instead, these Ethernet links were for the POWER7 servers to talk to each other, and to access files over the Network File System (NFS) protocol to the internal customized SONAS storage I/O nodes.
The implementation will be able to run "disconnected from the Internet" as well. However, you will need Internet access to download the code and information sources. For our purposes, 1GbE should be sufficient. Connect your Ethernet hub to your DSL or Cable modem. Connect all three hosts to the Ethernet switch. Connect your keyboard, video monitor and mouse to the LCM, and connect the LCM to the three hosts.
Step 3: Install Linux and Middleware
To say I use Linux on a daily basis is an understatement. Linux runs on my Android-based cell phone, my laptop at work, my personal computers at home, most of our IBM storage devices from SAN Volume Controller to XIV to SONAS, and even on my Tivo at home which recorded my televised episodes of Jeopardy!
For this project, you can use any modern Linux distribution that supports KVM. IBM Watson used Novel SUSE Linux Enterprise Server [SLES 11]. Alternatively, I can also recommend either Red Hat Enterprise Linux [RHEL 6] or Canonical [Ubuntu v10]. Each distribution of Linux comes in different orientations. Download the the 64-bit "ISO" files for each version, and burn them to CDs.
Graphical User Interface (GUI) oriented, often referred to as "Desktop" or "HPC-Head"
Command Line Interface (CLI) oriented, often referred to as "Server" or "HPC-Compute"
Guest OS oriented, to run in a Hypervisor such as KVM, Xen, or VMware. Novell calls theirs "Just Enough Operating System" [JeOS].
For this version for personal use, I have chosen a [multitier architecture], sometimes referred to as an "n-tier" or "client/server" architecture.
Host 1 - Presentation Server
For the Human-Computer Interface [HCI], the IBM Watson received categories and clues as text files via TCP/IP, had a [beautiful avatar] representing a planet with 42 circles streaking across in orbit, and text-to-speech synthesizer to respond in a computerized voice. Your implementation will not be this sophisticated. Instead, we will have a simple text-based Query Panel web interface accessible from a browser like Mozilla Firefox.
Host 1 will be your Presentation Server, the connection to your keyboard, video monitor and mouse. Install the "Desktop" or "HPC Head Node" version of Linux. Install [Apache Web Server and Tomcat] to run the Query Panel. Host 1 will also be your "programming" host. Install the [Java SDK] and the [Eclipse IDE for Java Developers]. If you always wanted to learn Java, now is your chance. There are plenty of books on Java if that is not the language you normally write code.
While three little systems doesn't constitute an "Extreme Cloud" environment, you might like to try out the "Extreme Cloud Administration Tool", called [xCat], which was used to manage the many servers in IBM Watson.
Host 2 - Business Logic Server
Host 2 will be driving most of the "thinking". Install the "Server" or "HPC Compute Node" version of Linux. This will be running a server virtualization Hypervisor. I recommend KVM, but you can probably run Xen or VMware instead if you like.
Host 3 - File and Database Server
Host 3 will hold your information sources, indices, and databases. Install the "Server" or "HPC Compute Node" version of Linux. This will be your NFS server, which might come up as a question during the installation process.
Technically, you could run different Linux distributions on different machines. For example, you could run "Ubuntu Desktop" for host 1, "RHEL 6 Server" for host 2, and "SLES 11" for host 3. In general, Red Hat tries to be the best "Server" platform, and Novell tries to make SLES be the best "Guest OS".
My advice is to pick a single distribution and use it for everything, Desktop, Server, and Guest OS. If you are new to Linux, choose Ubuntu. There are plenty of books on Linux in general, and Ubuntu in particular, and Ubuntu has a helpful community of volunteers to answer your questions.
Step 4: Download Information Sources
You will need some documents for your implementation to process.
IBM Watson used a modified SONAS to provide a highly-available clustered NFS server. For this version, we won't need that level of sophistication. Configure Host 3 as the NFS server, and Hosts 1 and 2 as NFS clients. See the [Linux-NFS-HOWTO] for details. To optimize performance, host 3 will be the "official master copy", but we will use a Linux utility called rsync to copy the information sources over to the hosts 1 and 2. This allows the task engines on those hosts to access local disk resources during question-answer processing.
We will also need a relational database. You won't need a high-powered IBM DB2. Your implementation can do fine with something like [Apache Derby] which is the open source version of IBM CloudScape from its Informix acquisition. Set up Host 3 as the Derby Network Server, and Hosts 1 and 2 as Derby Network Clients. For more about structured content in relational databases, see my post [IBM Watson - Business Intelligence, Data Retrieval and Text Mining].
Linux includes a utility called wget which allows you to download content from the Internet to your system. What documents you decide to download is up to you, based on what types of questions you want answered. For example, if you like Literature, check out the vast resources at [FullBooks.com]. You can automate the download by writing a shell script or program to invoke wget to all the places you want to fetch data from. Rename the downloaded files to something unique, as often they are just "index.html". For more on wget utility, see [IBM Developerworks].
Step 5: The Query Panel - Parsing the Question
Next, we need to parse the question and have some sense of what is being asked for. For this we will use [OpenNLP] for Natural Language Processing, and [OpenCyc] for the conceptual logic reasoning. See Doug Lenat presenting this 75-minute video [Computers versus Common Sense]. To learn more, see the [CYC 101 Tutorial].
Unlike Jeopardy! where Alex Trebek provides the answer and contestants must respond with the correct question, we will do normal Question-and-Answer processing. To keep things simple, we will limit questions to the following formats:
Who is ...?
Where is ...?
When did ... happen?
What is ...?
Host 1 will have a simple Query Panel web interface. At the top, a place to enter your question, and a "submit" button, and a place at the bottom for the answer to be shown. When "submit" is pressed, this will pass the question to "main.jsp", the Java servlet program that will start the Question-answering analysis. Limiting the types of questions that can be posed will simplify hypothesis generation, reduce the candidate set and evidence evaluation, allowing the analytics processing to continue in reasonable time.
Step 6: Unstructured Information Management Architecture
The "heart and soul" of IBM Watson is Unstructured Information Management Architecture [UIMA]. IBM developed this, then made it available to the world as open source. It is maintained by the [Apache Software Foundation], and overseen by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards [OASIS].
Basically, UIMA lets you scan unstructured documents, gleam the important points, and put that into a database for later retrieval. In the graph above, DBs means 'databases' and KBs means 'knowledge bases'. See the 4-minute YouTube video of [IBM Content Analytics], the commercial version of UIMA.
Starting from the left, the Collection Reader selects each document to process, and creates an empty Common Analysis Structure (CAS) which serves as a standardized container for information. This CAS is passed to Analysis Engines , composed of one or more Annotators which analyze the text and fill the CAS with the information found. The CAS are passed to CAS Consumers which do something with the information found, such as enter an entry into a database, update an index, or update a vote count.
(Note: This point requires, what we in the industry call a small matter of programming, or [SMOP]. If you've always wanted to learn Java programming, XML, and JDBC, you will get to do plenty here. )
If you are not familiar with UIMA, consider this [UIMA Tutorial].
Step 7: Parallel Processing
People have asked me why IBM Watson is so big. Did we really need 2,880 cores of processing power? As a supercomputer, the 80 TeraFLOPs of IBM Watson would place it only in 94th place on the [Top 500 Supercomputers]. While IBM Watson may be the [Smartest Machine on Earth], the most powerful supercomputer at this time is the Tianhe-1A with more than 186,000 cores, capable of 2,566 TeraFLOPs.
To determine how big IBM Watson needed to be, the IBM Research team ran the DeepQA algorithm on a single core. It took 2 hours to answer a single Jeopardy question! Let's look at the performance data:
Number of cores
Time to answer one Jeopardy question
Single IBM Power750 server
< 4 minutes
Single rack (10 servers)
< 30 seconds
IBM Watson (90 servers)
< 3 seconds
The old adage applies, [many hands make for light work]. The idea is to divide-and-conquer. For example, if you wanted to find a particular street address in the Manhattan phone book, you could dispatch fifty pages to each friend and they could all scan those pages at the same time. This is known as "Parallel Processing" and is how supercomputers are able to work so well. However, not all algorithms lend well to parallel processing, and the phrase [nine women can't have a baby in one month] is often used to remind us of this.
Fortuantely, UIMA is designed for parallel processing. You need to install UIMA-AS for Asynchronous Scale-out processing, an add-on to the base UIMA Java framework, supporting a very flexible scale-out capability based on JMS (Java Messaging Services) and ActiveMQ. We will also need Apache Hadoop, an open source implementation used by Yahoo Search engine. Hadoop has a "MapReduce" engine that allows you to divide the work, dispatch pieces to different "task engines", and the combine the results afterwards.
Host 2 will run Hadoop and drive the MapReduce process. Plan to have three KVM guests on Host 1, four on Host 2, and three on Host 3. That means you have 10 task engines to work with. These task engines can be deployed for Content Readers, Analysis Engines, and CAS Consumers. When all processing is done, the resulting votes will be tabulated and the top answer displayed on the Query Panel on Host 1.
Step 8: Testing
To simplify testing, use a batch processing approach. Rather than entering questions by hand in the Query Panel, generate a long list of questions in a file, and submit for processing. This will allow you to fine-tune the environment, optimize for performance, and validate the answers returned.
There you have it. By the time you get your implementation fully operational, you will have learned a lot of useful skills, including Linux administration, Ethernet networking, NFS file system configuration, Java programming, UIMA text mining analysis, and MapReduce parallel processing. Hopefully, you will also gain an appreciation for how difficult it was for the IBM Research team to accomplish what they had for the Grand Challenge on Jeopardy! Not surprisingly, IBM Watson is making IBM [as sexy to work for as Apple, Google or Facebook], all of which started their business in a garage or a basement with a system as small as this version for personal use.
The IBM Challenge was a big success. One of the contestants, Ken Jennings, [welcomes our new computer overlords]. Congratulations are in order to the IBM Research team who pulled off this Herculean effort!
Some folks have poked fun at some of the odd responses and wager amounts from the IBM Watson computer during the three-day tournament. Others were surprised as I was that the impressive feat was done with less than 1TB of stored data. Here is what John Webster wrote in CNET yesterday, in hist article [What IBM's Watson says to storage systems developers]:
"All well and good. But here's what I find most interesting as a result of what IBM has done in response to the Grand Challenge that motivated Watson's creators. We know, from Tony Pearson's blog, that the foundation of Watson's data storage system is a modified IBM SONAS cluster with a total of 21.6TB of raw capacity. But Pearson also reveals another very significant, and to me, surprising data point: "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 1 Terabyte."
What Pearson just said is that the data set Watson actually uses to reach his push-the-button decision would fit on a 1TB drive. So much for big data?"
To better appreciate how difficult the challenge was, and how a small amount of data can answer a billion different questions, I thought I would cover Business Intelligence, Data Retrieval and Text Mining concepts.
"In this paper, business is a collection of activities carried
on for whatever purpose, be it science, technology,
commerce, industry, law, government, defense, et cetera.
The communication facility serving the conduct of a business
(in the broad sense) may be referred to as an intelligence
system. The notion of intelligence is also defined
here, in a more general sense, as the ability to apprehend
the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as
to guide action towards a desired goal."
Ideally, when you need "Business Intelligence" to help you make a better decision, you perform data retrieval from a structured database for the specific information you are looking for. In other cases, you might be looking for insight, patterns or trends. In that case, you go "data mining" against your structured databases.
Here's a simple example. John runs a fruit stand. One day, he kept track of how many apples and oranges were bought by men and women. How many questions can we ask against this small set of data? Let's count them:
How many apples were sold to men?
How many apples were sold to women?
How many oranges were sold to men?
How many oranges were sold to women?
But wait! For each row and column, we can combine them into totals.
How many apples were sold in total?
How many oranges were sold in total?
How many fruit in total were sold to men?
How many fruit in total were sold to women?
How many fruit in total were sold?
But wait, there's more! Each row and column can be evaluated for relative percentages, as well as percentages of each cell compared to the total. You could make five relevant pie-charts from this data. This results in 16 more questions, such as:
Of the fruit purchased by men, what percentage for apples?
Of all the apples purchased, what percentage by women?
And that's not including more ethereal questions, such as:
Are there gender-specific preferences for different types of fruit?
What type of fruit do men prefer?
This is just for a small set, two market segments (by gender) and two products (apples and oranges). However, if you have many market segments (perhaps by age group, zip code, etc.) and many products, the number of queries that can be supported is huge. For small sets of data, you can easily do this with a spreadsheet program like IBM Lotus Symphony or Microsoft Excel.
But why limit yourself to two dimensions? The above example was just for one day's worth of activity, if John captures this data for every day for historical and seasonal trending, it can be represented as a three-dimensional cube. The number of queries becomes astronomical. This is the basis for Online Analytical Processing (OLAP), and three-dimensional tables are often referred to as [OLAP cubes].
Back in 1970, IBM invented the Structured Query Language [SQL], and today, nearly all modern relational databases support this, including IBM DB2, Informix, Microsoft SQL Server, and Oracle DB. SQL poses two challenges. First, you had to structure the data in advance to the way you expect to perform your ad-hoc queries. Deciding the groups and categories in advance can limit the way information is recorded and captured.
Second, you had to be skilled at SQL to phrase your queries correctly to retrieve the data you are after. What ended up happening was that skilled SQL programmers would develop "canned reports" with fixed SQL parameters, so that less-skilled business decision makers could base their decisions from these reports.
IBM has fully integrated stacks to help process structured data, combining servers, storage, and advanced analytics software into a complete appliance. IBM offers the [Smart Analytics System] for robust, customized deployments, and recently acquired [Netezza] for pre-configured, and more rapid deployments.
However, the bigger problem is that more than 80 percent of information is not structured!
Semi-structured data like email provides some searchable fields like From and Subject. The rest of the information is unstructured, such as text files, photographs, video and audio. To look for specific information in unstructured sources can be like looking for a needle in a haystack, and trying to get insight, patterns or trends involves text mining.
This, in effect, is what IBM Watson was able to perform so well this week. Finding the needle in the haystacks of unstructured data from 200 million pages of text stored in its system, combined with the ability to apprehend the interrelationships of meaning and subtle nuance, resulted in an impressive technology demonstration. Certainly, this new technology will be powerful for a variety of use cases across a broad set of industries!
Full VMware Vstorage API for Array Integration (VAAI). Back in 2008, VMware announced new vStorage APIs for its vSphere ESX hypervisor: vStorage API for Site Recovery Manager, vStorage API for Data Potection, vStorage API for Multipathing. Last July, VMware added a new API called vStorage API for Array Integration [VAAI] which offers three primitives:
Hardware-assisted Blocks zeroing. Sometimes referred to as "Write Same", this SCSI command will zero out a large section of blocks, presumably as part of a VMDK file. This can then be used to reclaim space on the XIV on thin-provisioned LUNs.
Hardware-assisted Copy. Make an XIV snapshot of data without any I/O on the server hardware.
Hardware-assisted locking. On mainframes, this is call Parallel Access Volumes (PAV). Instead of locking an entire LUN using standard SCSI reserve commands, this primitive allows an ESX host to lock just an individual block so as not to interfere with other hosts accessing other blocks on that same LUN.
Quality of Service (QoS) Performance Classes.
When XIV was first released, it treated all hosts and all data the same, even when deployed for a variety of different applications. This worked for some clients, such as [Medicare y Mucho Más]. They migrated their databases, file servers and email system from EMC CLARiiON to an IBM XIV Storage System. In conjunction with VMware, the XIV provides a highly flexible and scalable virtualized architecture, which enhances the company's business agility.
However, other clients were skeptical, and felt they needed additional "nobs" to prioritize different workloads. The new 10.2.4 microcode allows you to define four different "performance classes". This is like the door of a nightclub. All the regular people are waiting in a long line, but when a celebrity in a limo arrives, the bouncer unclips the cord, and lets the celebrity in. For each class, you provide IOPS and/or MB/sec targets, and the XIV manages to those goals. Performance classes are assigned to each host based on their value to the business.
Offline Initialization for Asynchronous Mirror.
Internally, we called this Truck Mode. Normally, when a customer decides to start using Asynchronous Mirror, they already have a lot of data at the primary location, and so there is a lot of data to send over to the new XIV box at the secondary location. This new feature allows the data to be dumped to tape at the primary location. Those tapes are shipped to the secondary location and restored on the empty XIV. The two XIV boxes are then connected for Asynchronous Mirroring, and checksums of each 64KB block are compared to determine what has changed at the primary during this "tape delivery time". This greatly reduces the time it takes for the two boxes to get past the initial synchronization phase.
IP-based Replication. When IBM first launched the Storwize V7000 last October, people commented that the one feature they felt missing was IP-based replication. Sure, we offered FCP-based replication as most other Enterprise-class disk systems offer today, but many midrange systems also offer IP-based repliation to reduce the need for expensive FCIP routers. [IBM Tivoli Storage FastBack for Storwize V7000] provides IP-based replication for Storwize V7000 systems.
Network Attached Storage
IBM announced two new models of the IBM System Storage N series. The midrange N6240 supports up to 600 drives, replacing the N6040 system. The entry-level N6210 supports up to 240 drives, and replaces the N3600 system. Details for both are available on the latest [data sheet].
IBM Real-Time Compression appliances work with all N series models to provide additional storage efficiency. Last October, I provided the [Product Name Decoder Ring] for the STN6500 and STN6800 models. The STN6500 supports 1 GbE ports, and the STN6800 supports 10GbE ports (or a mix of 10GbE and 1GbE, if you prefer). The IBM versions of these models were announced last December, but some people were on vacation and might have missed it. For more details of this, read the [Resources page], the [landing page], or [watch this video].
IBM System Storage DS3000 series
IBM System Storage [DS3524 Express DC and EXP3524 Express DC] models are powered with direct current (DC) rather than alternating current (AC). The DS3524 packs dual controllers and two dozen small-form factor (2.5 inch) drives in a compact 2U-high rack-optimized module. The EXP3524 provides addition disk capacity that can be attached to the DS3524 for expansion.
Large data centers, especially those in the Telecommunications Industry, receive AC from their power company, then store it in a large battery called an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). For DC-powered equipment, they can run directly off this battery source, but for AC-powered equipment, the DC has to be converted back to AC, and some energy is lost in the conversion. Thus, having DC-powered equipment is more energy efficient, or "green", for the IT data center.
Whether you get the DC-powered or AC-powered models, both are NEBS-compliant and ETSI-compliant.
New Tape Drive Options for Autoloaders and Libraries
IBM System Storage [TS2900 Autoloader] is a compact 1U-high tape system that supports one LTO drive and up to 9 tape cartridges. The TS2900 can support either an LTO-3, LTO-4 or LTO-5 half-height drive.
IBM System Storage [TS3100 and TS3200 Tape Libraries] were also enhanced. The TS3100 can accomodate one full-height LTO drive, or two half-height drives, and hold up to 24 cartridges. The TS3200 offers twice as many drives and space for cartridges.
The Tucson Executive Briefing Center hosted 20 dignitaries from local companies and academia.
This is a historic competition, an exhibition match pitting a computer against the top two celebrated Jeopardy champions:
Brad Rutter, won $3.2 million USD on Jeopardy!, winning 5 days on the show, and then three later tournamets.
Ken Jennings, winning $2.5 million in a 74-day winning streak on Jeopardy!
One of the members of the audience had never seen an episode of Jeopardy! in his life.
(Note: there are NO SPOILERS in this blog post. If you have not yet watched the show, you are safe to continue reading the rest of this post. I will not
disclose the correct responses to any of the clues nor how well each contestant scored.)
Calline Sanchez, IBM Director, Systems Storage Development for Data Protection and Retention, kicked off today's ceremonies.
The IBM Watson computer, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, has been developed over the past 4 years by a team of IBM scientists who set out to accomplish a grand challenge - build a computing system that rivals a human's ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence. IBM Research labs in the United States, Japan, China and Israel [collaborated with Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts at eight universities], including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Texas (UT) at Austin, University of Southern California (USC), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), University at Albany (UAlbany), University of Trento (Italy), University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Carnegie Mellon University.
(Disclaimer: I attended the University of Texas at Austin. My father attended Carnegie Mellon University.)
Last week, NOVA on PBS had a special episode on the making of IBM Watson, you can [watch it online] on their website. Delaney Turner, IBM Social Media Communications Manager for Business Analytics Software, has posted [his observations of Nova].
Since IBM Watson is the size of 10 refrigerators and weighs over 14,000 pounds, it was easier to design the Jeopardy! set at the TJ Watson Research lab in Yorktown Heights, NY, than to ship it over to California where the show is normally recorded. Two of the visual designers that worked on this set, as well as on the visual appearance of Watson, live in Tucson and were part of our audience today.
The IBM Challenge consists of a two-game tournament, where the scores of both games will be added to determine winner rankings. The producers of Jeopardy! will give $1 million dollars USD to first place, $300,000 to second place, and $200,000 to third place. Regardless of outcome, [IBM will donate all of its winings to charity]. The two human contestants plan to donate half of their earnings to their favorite charities as well.
Jeopardy! The IBM Challenge
Alex Trebek introduces IBM Watson, explaining that it can neither hear nor see. It will receive all information electronically. Categories and clues will be sent as text files via TCP/IP over Ethernet at the same time the two human contestants see them so that all have the same time to think about the right answer.
Watson has two rows of five racks, back to back. This was done so that cold air could rise up from holes in the tile floors around the unit, and all the hot air would be forced into the center and up to the ceiling return. This technique is known as "hot aisle/cold aisle" design. Alex Trebek opens one of the rack doors to show a series of 4U-high IBM Power 750 servers.
The avatar is a representation of Watson, as the machine itself is too big to fit behind the podium. The avatar is IBM's "Smarter Planet" logo with orbiting streaks and circles. It shows "Green" when it has high confidence, and orange when it gets an answer wrong. When busy thinking, the streaks and circles speed up, the closest we will see to "watching a computer sweat."
During the show, an "Answer panel" shows Watson's top three candidate responses, with confidence level compared to its current "buzz threshold".
Watson knows what it knows, and knows what it doesn't know. Here is an [Interactive Watson Game] on New York Times website to give you an idea of how the answer panel works. I was impressed with how close all three candidate answers were. In a question about Olympic swimmers, all three candidates are Olympic swimmers. In a question about the novel "Les Miserables", all three candidates were characters of that novel.
Well, IBM Watson did well, but missed answered some questions incorrectly. This [parody Slate video] pokes fun at this. Here were some discussions we had after the show ended:
IBM did not do well in categories that required [abductive reasoning]. For example, to identify two or three things that happened in different years, and then postulate that what they all have in common is a specific decade (such as the 1950s) is difficult.
Watson does not hear the wrong answers from the two human contestants. For one question, Ken buzzes in first, guesses wrong, then Watson buzzes in with the same exact response. Alex Trebek rebukes Watson with "No, Ken just said that!" Brad would learn from their mistakes and guess correctly for the score.
Watson is provided the correct answer after a contestant guesses it correctly, or if nobody does, when Alex provides the correct response. This is sent as a text message to Watson immediately, so that it can use this information to adjust its algorithms and machine-learning for future clues in that same category. This was evident in the "Answer panel" on the fourth and fifth attempts on the category of "Decades".
With this demonstration, IBM Research has advanced science by leaps and bounds for the Articial Intelligence community. IBM is a leader in Business Analytics, and this technology will find uses in a variety of industries. The average knowledge worker spends 30 percent of her time looking for information on corporate data repositories. By demonstrating a computer that can provide answers quickly, employees will be more productive, make stronger business decisions, and have greater insight.
Day 1 was only able to cover the first round of Game 1. This allowed more time to talk about the history and technology of IBM Watson. Tomorrow, the contestants will finish Game 1 and head into Game 2.
"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 1 Terabyte (TB). 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."
I had several readers ask me to explain the significance of the "Terabyte". I'll work my way up.
A bit is simply a zero (0) or one (1). This could answer a Yes/No or True/False question.
Most computers have standardized a byte as a collection of 8 bits. There are 256 unique combinations of ones and zeros possible, so a byte could be used to storage a 2-digit integer, or a single upper or lower case character in the English alphabet. In pratical terms, a byte could store your age in years, or your middle initial.
The Kilobyte is a thousand bytes, enough to hold a few paragraphs of text. A typical written page could be held in 4 KB, for example.
The IBM Challenge to play on Jeopardy! is being compared to the historic 1969 moon landing. To land on the moon, Apollo 11 had the "Apollo Guidance Computer" (AGC) which had 74KB of fixed read-only memory, and 2KB of re-writeable memory. Over [3500 IBM employees were involved] to get the astronauts to the moon and safely back to earth again.
The importance of this computer was highlighted in a [lecture by astronaut David Scott] who said: "If you have a basketball and a baseball 14 feet apart, where the baseball represents the moon and the basketball represents the Earth, and you take a piece of paper sideways, the thinness of the paper would be the corridor you have to hit when you come back."
The Megabyte is a thousand KB, or a million bytes. The 3.5-inch floppy diskette, mentioned in my post [A Boxfull of Floppies] could hold 1.44MB, or about 360 pages of text.
In the article [Wikipedia as a printed book], the printing of a select 400 articles resulted in a book 29 inches thick. Those 5,000 pages would consume about 20 MB of space.
One of my favorite resources I use to search is the Internet Movie Data Base [IMDB]. Leaving out the photos and videos, the [text-only portion of the IMDB database is just over 600 MB], representing nearly all of the actors, awards, nominations, television shows and movies. A standard CD-ROM can hold 700MB, so the text portion of the IMDB could easily fit on a single CD.
The Gigabyte is a thousand MB, or a billion bytes. My Thinkpad T410 laptop has 4GB of RAM and 320GB of hard disk space. My laptop comes with a DVD burner, and each DVD can hold up to 4.7GB of information.
The popular Wikipedia now has some 17 million articles, of which 3.5 million are in English language. It would only take [14GB of space to hold the entire English portion] of Wikipedia. That is small enough to fit on twenty CDs, three DVDs, an Apple iPad or my cellphone (a Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant).
Perhaps you are thinking, "Someone should offer Wikipedia pre-installed on a small handheld!" Too late. The [The Humane Reader] is able to offer 5,000 books and Wikipedia in a small device that connects to your television. This would be great for people who do not have access to the internet, or for parents who want their kids to do their homework, but not be online while they are doing it.
In the latest 2009 report of [How Much Information?] from the University of California, San Diego, the average American consumes 34 GB of information. This includes all the information from radio, television, newspapers, magazines, books and the internet that a person might look at or listen to throughout the day. This project is sponsored by IBM and others to help people understand the nature of our information-consuption habits.
Back in 1992, I visited a client in Germany. Their 90 GB of disk storage attached to their mainframe was the size of three refrigerators, and took five full-time storage administrators to manage.
The Terabyte is a thousand GB, or a trillion bytes. It is now possible to buy external USB drive for your laptop or personal computer that holds 1TB or more. However, at 40MB/sec speeds that USB 2.0 is capable of, it would take seven hours to do a bulk transfer in or out of the device.
IBM offers 1TB and 2TB disk drives in many of our disk systems. In 2008, IBM was preparing to announce the first 1TB tape drive. However, Sun Microsystems announced their own 1TB drive the day before our big announcement, so IBM had to rephrase the TS1130 announcement to [The World's Fastest 1TB tape drive!]
A typical academic research library will hold about 2TB of information. For the [US Library of Congress] print collection is considered to be about 10TB, and their web capture team has collected 160TB of digital data. If you are ever in the Washington DC, I strongly recommend a visit to the Library of Congress. It is truly stunning!
Full-length computer animated movies, like [Happy Feet], consume about 100TB of disk storage during production. IBM offers disk systems that can hold this much data. For example, the IBM XIV can hold up to 151 TB of usable disk space in the size of one refrigerator.
A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for some larger companies is the number of TB that can be managed by a full-time employee, referred to as TB/FTE. Discussions about TB/FTE are available from IT analysts including [Forrester Research] and [The Info Pro].
The website [Ancestry.com] claims to have over 540 million names in its genealogical database, with a storage of 600TB, with the inclusion of [US census data from 1790 to 1930]. The US government took nine years to process the 1880 census, so for the 1890 census, it rented equipment from Herman Hollerith's Tabulating Machine Company. This company would later merge with two others in 1911 to form what is now called IBM.
A Petabyte is thousand TB, or a quadrillion bytes. It is estimated that all printed materials on Earth would represent approximately 200 PB of information.
IBM's largest disk system, the Scale-Out Network Attach Storage (SONAS) comprised of up to 7,200 disk drives, which can hold over 11 PB of information. A smaller 10-frame model, the same size as IBM Watson, with six interface nodes and 19 storage pods, could hold over 7 PB of information.
For those of us in the IT industry, 1TB is small potatoes. I for one, was expecting it to be much bigger. But for everyone else, the equivalent of 200 million pages of text that IBM Watson has loaded inside is an incredibly large repository of information. I suspect IBM Watson probably contains the complete works of Shakespeare as well as other fiction writers, the IMDB database, all 3.5 million articles of Wikipedia, religious texts like the Bible and the Quran, famous documents like the Magna Carta and the US Constitution, and reference books like a Dictionary, a Thesaurus, and "Gray's Anatomy". And, of course, lots and lots of lists.
For those on Twitter, follow [@ibmwatson] these next three days during the challenge.
We are only days away from the big IBM Challenge of Watson computer against two human contestants on the show Jeopardy!
I watched two episodes of Jeopardy! on my Tivo, pausing it to follow the [homework assignment] I suggested in my last post. Here are my own results and observations.
Episode  involved a web programmer, a customer service representative, and a bank teller.
Of the first six categories in Round 1, I guessed four of the six themes for each category. For the category "Diamonds are Forever", I wrote down "All answers are some kind of gem or mineral", but the reality was that all the answers were some physical characteristic of diamonds specifically. For the category "...Fame is not", I wrote down "All answers are TV or Movie celebrities". I was close, but actually it was famous celebrities, rock bands and pop culture of the 1980s. (The movie "Fame" came out in 1980).
In the round, there were 27 of the 30 answers given before they ran out of time. Of these, I was able to get 24 of 27 correct by searching the Internet. That is 88 percent correct. Here were the ones that eluded me:
Answer related to a "multi-chambered mollusk". I could not find anything on the Internet definitively on this, so abstained from wager. The correct question was "What is Nautilus?".
Answer was the Irish variant of "Kathryne". I found Kathleen as a variant, but did not investigate if it had Irish origins. The correct question was "What is Caitlin?"
Answer was this Norse name for "ruler" whether you had red hair or not. I found "Roy" and "Rory" so guessed "What is Rory?" The correct question was "What is Eric?"
The second round, I guesed three of the six themese for the categories. For category "Musical Titles Letter Drop" I wrote down "All the answers are titles of musical songs" but it was actually "Musicals" as in the Broadway shows. For category "Place called Carson", I wrote down "All the answers are places" and was way off on that one, with answers that were people, places and names of corporations. And for "State University Alums", I wrote down "All the answers are college graduates", but instead they were all "State Universities" such as the University of Arizona.
In this second round, only 26 answers were posed. I got 80 percent correct with Internet searching. I missed three on the "Musical Titles", one in "Pope-pourri" and one State University (sorry SMU). The "Musical Titles Letter Drop category" was especially difficult, as for each title of a Musical, you had to remove a single letter out of it to form the correct response.
For the answer "Good luck when you ask the singers "What I Did For Love"; they never tell the truth", you would need to take "Chorus Line" the musical, where the song "What I did for Love" appears, and ask "What is Chorus Lie?" Note that "line" changed to "lie" and the letter "n" was dropped out.
For the answer "Embrace the atoms as Simba and company lose and gain electrons en masse in this production", you would need to recognize that Simba was the main character of "The Lion King" and change it to "What is The Ion King".
I think these play-on-words are the questions that would stump the IBM Watson computer.
In the final round, the category was "Ancient Quotes". I thought the answer would be a famous adage or quotation, but it was instead famous people who uttered those phrases. The answer was "He said, to leave this stream uncrossed will breed manifold distress for me; to cross it, for all mankind". I was able to determine the correct response readily from searching the Internet: The river was the Rubicon, the border of the Gaul region governed by an ambitious general. The correct response "Who was Julius Caesar?"
Total time for the entire exercise: 87 minutes.
The following night, episode  brought back Paul Wampler, the returning champion web programmer, against two new contestants: an actor, and high school principal.
Of the first six categories in Round 1, I guessed five of the six themes for each category. For the category "Nonce Words", I wrote all the answers would be nonsense words. I was close, the clues had words invented for a particular occasion, but the correct responses did not.
I was able to get 29 of 30 correct by searching the Internet. That is 96 percent correct. The one I missed was in the category "Nonce Words" and the answer was "In an arithmocracy, this portion of the population rules, not trigonometry teachers.." My response was "What is Math?" but the correct answer was "What are the majority?" It did not occur for me to even look up [Arithmocracy] as a legitimate word, but it is real.
The second round, I guesed five of the six themese for the categories. For category "Hawk" eyes, the "Hawk" was in quotation marks, so I wrote "All answers would start with the word Hawk or end with the word "eyes". I was close, the correct theme was that the word "hawk" would appear in the front, middle or end of the correct response.
In this second round, I got 28 of 30 correct. I got 93 percent correct with Internet searching. Ironically, it was the category "German Foods" that caught me off guard.
For, the answer was "Pichelsteiner Fleisch, a favorite of Otto von Bismarck, is this one-pot concoction, made with beef & pork". I know that "fleisch" is a German word for meat, so I guessed "What is sausage?" but the correct response was "What is stew?" I should have paid more attention to the "one-pot concoction" part of the answer.
For the answer was "Mimi Sheraton says German stuffed hard-boiled eggs are always made with a great deal of this creamy product". I didn't realize that "stuffed eggs" was German for "deviled eggs". Instead, I found Mimi Sheraton's "The German Cookbook" on Google Books, and jumped to the page for "Stuffed Eggs" The ingredients I read included whippedc cream, cognac, and worcestershire sauce. Taking the "creamiest" ingredient of these, I wrote down "What is whipped cream?" However, it turned out I was actually reading the ingredients for "Crabmeat Cocktail" that was coninuing from the previous page. I thought it was gross to put whipped cream with eggs, and should have known better. The correct response was "What is mayonnaise?"
In the final round, the category was "Political Parties". This could either be political organizations like Republicans and Democrats, or festivities like the Whitehouse Correspondents Dinner. The answer was "Only one U.S. president represented this party, and he said, I dread...a division of the republic into two great parties." So, we can figure out the answer refers to political organizations, but both Democrat and Republican are ruled out because each has had multiple presidents. So, looking at a [List of Political Parties of each US President], I found that there were four presidents in the Whig party, four in the Democrat-Republic party, but only one president in the Federalist party (John Adams), and one in the War Union party (Andrew Johnson). Looking at [famous quotes from John Adams] first, I found the quote, it matched, and so I wrote down "What is the Federalist party?". I got it right, as did two of the three contestants. Ironically, the one contestant who got it wrong, the returning champion web programmer, wagered a small amount, so he still had more money after the round and won the game overall.
Total time for the entire exercise: 75 minutes. I was able to do this faster as I skipped searching the internet for the responses I was confident on.
To find out when Jeopardy is playing in your town, consult the [Interactive Map].
With all the excitement of the [IBM Challenge], where the [IBM Watson computer] will compete against humans on [Jeopardy!], I thought it would be good to provide the following homework exercise to help you appreciate how challenging the game is and the strategies required.
Overview of the game of Jeopardy!
If you are familiar with the show, you can safely skip this section.
Known as "America's Favorite Quiz Show", the Jeopardy pits three contestants against each other. The board is divided into six columns and five rows of answers. Each column indicates the category for that column of answers. The rows are ranked from easiest to most difficult, with more difficult answers being worth more money to wager.
The contestants take turns. The returning champion gets to select a spot on the board, by indicating the category (column) and wager (row), such as "I will take Animals for 800 dollars!" Contestants must then press a button to "buzz in", be recognized by the host, and respond correctly. If the contestant responds incorrectly, the other two contestants have the opportunity to respond. The contestant with the correct response gets to chose the next answer.
For each turn, the host, Alex Trebek, shows the answer on the board, and spends three seconds reading it aloud to give everyone a chance to come up with a corresponding question. This is perhaps what Jeopardy is most famous for. In a traditional "Quiz Show", the host asks questions, and the contestants answer that question. On Jeopardy, however, the host poses "answers", and the contestants provide their response in the form of a "questions" that best fit the category and answer clues. For example, if the categories were "Large Corporations" and the answer was "Sam Palmisano", the contestant would answer "Who is the CEO of IBM Corporation?" Both the categories, and the answers are filled with puns, slang and humor to make it more challenging. Often, the answer itself is not sufficient clue, you have to factor in the category as well to have a complete set of information.
The game is played in three rounds:
In the first round, there are six categories, and the rows are worth $200, $400, $600, $800 and $1000 dollars. If you respond correctly on all five answers in a category column, you would win $3000. If you respond to all thirty answers correctly, you would earn $18,000.
In the second round, there are six different categories, and the rows are worth twice as much.
The final round has a single category and a single question. Each player can decide to wager up to the full amount of their score in this game. This wager is done after they see the category, but before they see the answer.
After the host finishes reading the answer aloud, the buzzers are lighted so that the contestants can buzz in. If a contestant gets the question correctly, he earns the corresponding money for the row it was in. If the contestant guesses incorrectly, the money is subtracted from his score. If the first contestant fails, the buzzers are re-lit so the other two contestants can then buzz in with their answers, learning from previous failed attempts.
To provide added challenge, some of the answers are surprise "Daily Double". Instead of the dollar amount for the row, the contestant can wager any amount, up to their total score they have won so far in that game, or the largest dollar amount for that round, whichever is higher, based on his confidence in that category. There is one "Daily Double" surprise in the first round, and two in the second round.
In the final round, each contestant wagers an amount up to their total score, based on their confidence on the final category. A common strategy for the leading contestant with the highest score is to wager a low amount, so that if he fails to guess the response correctly, he will still have a large dollar amount. For example, if the leader has $2000 and the second place is $900, the leader can wager only $100 dollars, and the second place might wager his full $900. If the leader loses the round, he still has $1900, beating the second place regardless of how well he does.
Whomever has the most money at the end of all three rounds wins that amount of cash, and gets to return to the show for another game the next day to continue his winning streak. The other two contestants are given consolation prizes and a nominal appearance fee for being on the show, and are never seen from again.
The show is only 30 minutes long, so the folks at Sony Pictures who produce the show can film a full weeks' worth of television shows in just two days of real-life, Tuesday and Wednesday, allowing the host Alex Trebek and his "Clue Crew" time to research new categories and answers.
So, here is your homework assignment. Record a full episode of Jeopardy on your VCR or Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and have your thumb ready to press the pause button. For each round, listen to each category, pause, and try to guess what all the answers in that column will have in common. For each category, write down a statement like "All the responses in this category are ...".
The answers could be people, places or things. Suppose the category "Chicks Dig Me". In English, "chicks" can be slang for women, or refer to young chickens. The term "dig" can be slang for admires or adores, so this could be "Male Celebrities" that women find attractive, it could be objects of desire that women fancy (diamonds, puppies, etc.), or it could be places that women like to go to. As it turns out, the "dig" referred to archaeology, and the responses were all famous female archaeologists.
Once you have those all your statements written down, press play button again.
Next, as each answer is shown, you have three seconds to hit the pause again, so that you have the question on the screen, but before any contestants have responded. Go on your favorite search engine like Google or Bing and try to determine the correct response based on the category and answer. Consider these [tips for being an Internet Search ninja]. Once you think you have figured out your response, write it down, and the dollar amount you wager, or decide you will not respond for that answer, if you are not sure about your findings.
Even if you think you already know the correct response, you may decide to gain more confidence of your response by finding confirming or supporting evidence on the Internet.
Press play. Either one of the contestants will get it right, or the host will provide the question that was expected as the correct response.
How well did you do? Were you able to find on the the correct response online, or at least confirm that what you knew was correct. If you got it correct, add in your dollar amount to your score. If you got it wrong, subtract the amount.
At the end of each round, look back at your statements for each category. Did you guess correctly the common theme for each category column of answers? Did you misinterpret the slang, pun or humor intended?
At the end of the game, you might have done better than the contestant that won the game. However, check how much added time you took to do those Internet searches. The average winner only questions half of the answers and only gets 80 percent of them correctly.
If you are really brave, take the [Jeopardy Online Test]. If you do this homework assignment, feel free to post your insights in the comments below.
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.
As time progresses, things change, sometimes for the better in the right direction, sometimes a step backwards, and sometimes just different enough to be annoying. I wrote my blog post about [A Box Full of Floppies] a week ago, and posted in Monday. Let's take a look at how time and change impacted that one post.
The weather has warmed up here in Tucson so I started my Spring Cleaning early this year...
If there is ever a good time to brag about how beautiful the weather here in Tucson, it would be when everyone else in the country is digging themselves out of piles of snow. When my friends on Twitter were complaining how cold it was in Scottland, Ireland, Canada, or the East Coast of the United States, I would remind them that I am wearing a tee-shirt and shorts. I played golf for a week last December!
Sadly, a few days after my post, Tucson had the coldest days of February, breaking records set back in the year 1899. Water pipes were frozen, outdoor plants have suffered, and over 14,000 homes and businesses were shut off from natural gas. The 1,400-plus employees at the IBM Tucson facility have been asked to telecommute until restroom facilities can be restored to working order.
While we should all pay more attention to [climate change], this latest chill is probably just a seasonal flucation thanks to [La Niña] that happens every 10-15 years.
Here is a YouTube video of an astronaut ejecting a floppy disk...
Back in 2009, YouTube decided to [stop supporting Internet Explorer 6 (IE6)] to view its videos. However, that is what most IBMers were on, and this posted a problem when I embedded a video on my blog. To get around that, my friends at Microsoft provided special "conditional HTML tags" that allows me to suppress YouTube videos when viewed from Internet Explorer. The video shows up for those using Chrome, Opera, Firefox or other browsers, but is suppressed for IE users, and that allowed IBM employees to at least read the text.
Fortunately, last July, IBM decided to switch from IE6 over to Mozilla Firefox as the standard browser, so I thought this would no longer be an issue.
Unfortunately, my friends at YouTube have done it again. They changed the generated embed code from using "object" tags to "iframe" which messes up blogs written in various blogging systems, including Lotus Connections that I have here on DeveloperWorks, as well as WordPress. The new method is intended to either promote the new HTML5 standard, or to piss off [iPhone users]. In any case, several readers found they could not read my entire post about floppies because the "iframe" prevented the rest of the post to be shown. I have since reverted back to the old "object" tags and re-posted for everyone's benefit.
I may have to stand up an OS/2 machine just to check out what is actually on those floppies...
For any data that you keep for long term retention, it is important that you be able to access the data in a meaningful way when you need it. IBM has identified five ways that this can be done:
Museum approach -- keep old servers, storage and applications around. In my case, I have computers that can handle 3.5-inch floppy diskettes, but no hardware to read my Zip cartridges or 5.25-inch floppies.
Emulation approach -- emulating old systems with new systems. I remember the first CD players had "tape cassette" attachements so they can be used in car stereos.
Migration approach -- migrating data and applications to new technology. This is what most businesses do. For example, if you keep archives through IBM Tivoli Storage Manager or DFSMShsm, the software will migrate data from old tapes to new tapes as part of its tape reclamation process.
Descriptive approach -- including sufficiently descriptive metadata, such as with HTML or XML tags, that would enable future rendering.
Ecapsulation approach -- encapsulate the data, metadata and related application logic for future processing. While the "descriptive" approach might help display the contents of proprietary formats, the encapsulation approach would include application logic, perhaps written in Java, that could be used to actually operate built-in macros, pivot tables, or other active features of a document or database.
IBM Research is working closely with industry standards groups, like the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards [OASIS], to help promote the use of open standards for long-term retention.
For my readers who follow American Football, enjoy the [SuperBowl]!
The weather has warmed up here in Tucson so I started my Spring Cleaning early this year and unearthed from my garage a [Bankers Box] full of floppy diskettes.
IBM invented the floppy disk back in 1971, and continued to make improvements and enhancements through the 1980s and 1990s. It will be one of the many inventions celebrated as part of IBM's Centennial (100-year) anniversary. Here is an example [T-shirt]
IBM needed a way to send out small updates and patches for microcode of devices out in client locations. IBM had drives that could write information, and sent out "read-only" drives to the customer locations to receive these updates. These were flexible plastic circles with a magnetic coating, and placed inside a square paper sleeve. Imagine a floppy disk the size of a piece of standard paper. The 8-inch floppy fit conveniently in a manila envelope, sendable by standard mail, and could hold nearly 80KB of data.
I've been using floppies for the past thirty years. Here's some of my fondest memories:
While still in high school, my friend Franz Kurath and I formed "Pearson Kurath Systems", a software development firm. We wrote computer programs to run on UNIX and Personal Computers for small businesses here in Tucson. Whenever we developed a clever piece of code, a subroutine or procedure, we would save it on a floppy disk and re-use it for our next project. We wrote in the BASIC language, and our databases were simple Comma-Separated-Variable (CSV) flat files.
The 5.25-inch floppies we used could hold 360KB, and were flexible like the 8-inch models. Later versions of these 5.25-inch floppies would be able to hold as much as 1.2MB of data. We would convert single-sided floppies into double-sided ones by cutting out a notch in the outer sleeve. Covering up the notches would mark them as read-only.
The 3.5-inch floppies were introduced with a hard plastic shell, with the selling point that you can slap on a mailing label and postage and send it "as is" without the need for a separate envelope. These new 3.5-inch floppies would carry "HD" for high density 720KB, and double-sided versions could hold 1.44MB of data. The term "diskette" was used to associate these new floppies with [hard-shelled tape cassettes]. Sliding a plastic tab would allow floppies to be marked "read-only". IBM has the patent on this clever invention.
Continuing our computer programming business in college, Franz and I took out a bank loan to buy our first Personal Computer, for over $5000 dollars USD. Until then, we had to use equipment belonging to each client. The banks we went to didn't understand why we needed a computer, and suggested we just track our expenses on traditional green-and-white ledger paper. Back then, peronsal computers were for balancing your checkbook, playing games and organizing your collection of cooking recipies. But for us, it was a production machine. A computer with both 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch drives could copy files from one format to another as needed. The boost in productivity paid for itself within months.
Apple launched its Macintosh computer in 1984, with a built-in 3.5-inch disk drive as standard equipment. Here is a YouTube video of an [astronaut ejecting a floppy disk] from an Apple computer in space.
In my senior year at the University of Arizona, my roommate Dave had borrowed my backpack to hold his lunch for a bike ride. He thought he had taken everything out, but forgot to remove my 3.5-inch floppy diskette containing files for my senior project. By the time he got back, the diskette was covered in banana pulp. I was able to rescue my data by cracking open the plastic outer shell, cleaning the flexible magnetic media in soapy water, placing it back into the plastic shell of a second diskette, and then copied the data off to a third diskette.
After graduating from college, Franz and I went our separate ways. I went to work for IBM, and Franz went to work for [Chiat/Day], the advertising agency famous for the 1984 Macintosh commercial. We still keep in touch through Facebook.
At IBM, I was given a 3270 terminal to do my job, and would not be assigned a personal computer until years later. Once I had a personal computer at home and at work, the floppy diskette became my "briefcase". I could download a file or document at work, take it home, work on it til the wee hours of the morning, and then come back the next morning with the updated effort.
To help prepare me for client visits and public speaking at conferences, IBM loaned me out to local schools to teach. This included teaching Computer Science 101 at Pima Community College. When asked by a student whether to use "disc" or "disk", I wrote a big letter "C" on the left side of the chalkboard, and a big letter "K" on the right side. If it is round, I told the students while pointing at the letter "C", like a CD-ROM or DVD, use "disc". If it has corners, pointing to corners of the letter "K", like a floppy diskette or hard disk drive, use "disk".
On one of my business trips to visit a client, we discovered the client had experienced a problem that we had just recently fixed. Normally, this would have meant cutting a Program Trouble Fix (PTF) to a 3480 tape cartridge at an IBM facility, and send it to the client by mail. Unwilling to wait, I offered to download the PTF onto a floppy diskette on my laptop, upload it from a PC connected to their systems, and apply it there. This involved a bit of REXX programming to deal with the differences between ASCII and EBCDIC character sets, but it worked, and a few hours later they were able to confirm the fix worked.
In 1998, Apple would signal the begining of the end of the floppy disk era, announcing their latest "iMac" would not come with an internal built-in floppy drive. David Adams has a great article on this titled [The iMac and the Floppy Drive: A Conspiracy Theory]. You can get external floppy drives that connect via USB, so not having an internal drive is no longer a big deal.
While teaching a Top Gun class to a mix of software and hardware sales reps, one of the students asked what a "U" was. He had noticed "2U" and "3U" next to various products and wondered what that was referring to. The "U" represents the [standard unit of measure for height of IT equipment in standard racks]. To help them visualize, I explained that a 5.25-inch floppy disk was "3U" in size, and a 3.5-inch floppy diskette was "2U". Thus, a "U" is 1.75 inches, the thinnest dimension on a two-by-four piece of lumber. Servers that were only 1U tall would be referred to as "pizza boxes" for having similar dimensions.
Every year, right around November or so, my friends and family bring me their old computers for me to wipe clean. Either I would re-load them with the latest Ubuntu Linux so that their kids could use it for homework, or I would donate it to charity. Last November, I got a computer that could not boot from a CD-ROM, forcing me to build a bootable floppy. This gave me a chance to check out the various 1-disk and 2-disk versions of Linux and other rescue disks. I also have a 3-disk set of floppies for booting OS/2 in command line mode.
So while this unexpected box of nostalgia derailed my efforts to clean out my garage this weekend, it did inspire me to try to get some of the old files off them and onto my PC hard drive. I have already retrieved some low-res photographs, some emails I sent out, and trip reports I wrote. While floppy diskettes were notorious for being unreliable, and this box of floppies has been in the heat and cold for many Arizonan summers and winters, I am amazed that I was able to read the data off most of them so far, all the way back to data written in 1989. While the data is readable, in most cases I can't render it into useful information. This brings up a few valuable lessons:
Backups are not Archives
Some of the files are in proprietary formats, such as my backups for TurboTax software. I would need a PC running a correct level of Windows operating system, and that particular software, just to restore the data. TurboTax shipped new software every year, and I don't know how forward or backward-compatible each new release was.
Another set of floppies are labeled as being in "FDBACK" format. I have no idea what these are. Each floppy has just two files, "backup.001" and "control.001", for example.
Backups are intended solely to protect against unexpected loss from broken hardware or corrupted data. If you plan to keep data as archives for long-term retention, use archive formats that will last a long time, so that you can make sense of them later.
Operating System Compatibility
Windows 7 and all of my favorite flavors of Linux are able to recognize the standard "FAT" file system that nearly all of my floppies are written in. Sadly, I have some files that were compressed under OS/2 operating system using software called "Stacker". I may have to stand up an OS/2 machine just to check out what is actually on those floppies.
You can't judge a book by its cover
Floppies were a convenient form of data interchange. Sometimes, I reused commercially-labeled floppies to hold personal files. So, just because a floppy says "America On-Line (AOL) version 2.5 Installation", I can't just toss it away. It might actually contain something else entirely. This means I need to mount each floppy to check on its actual contents.
So what will I do with the floppies I can't read, can't write, and can't format? I think I will convert them into a [retro set of coasters], to protect my new living room furniture from hot and cold beverages.
In keeping with the spirit to be a more kinder, gentler 2011, I decided last week to refrain from being the rain on someone else's parade that occurs immediately before, during or after a competitor's announcement or annual conference, and let EMC have their few moments in the spotlight last week. This of course allows me more time to learn about the announcements and reflect on marketplace reactions. Here's a quick look at the [EMC Press Release]:
A new VNXe disk system
Of the 41 new storage technologies and products EMC announced last week, the VNXe is EMC's "me-too" product to compete against other low-end disk systems like the IBM System Storage DS3524 and N3000 series. It looks truly new, developed organically from the ground up, with a new architecture, new OS. It comes in either the 2U-high VNXe3100 or the 3U-high VNXe3300. These employ 3.5-inch SAS drives to provide Ethernet-based NFS, CIFS and iSCSI host attachment. The $10K USD price tag appears to be for the hardware only. As is typical for EMC, they charge software features in bundles or "suites", so the actual TCO will be much higher. I have not seen any announcements whether Dell plans to resell either the VNXe nor the VNX models, now that they have acquired Compellent.
A new VNX disk system
Despite having a similar name as the VNXe, the VNX appears to be a re-hash of the Celerra/CLARiiON mess that EMC has been selling already, based on the old FLARE and DART operating systems of these older disk systems. This scales from 75 to 1000 SAS drives. While EMC calls the VNX "unified", it currently is only available in block-only and file-only models, with a future promise from EMC that they will offer a combined block-and-file version sometime in the future. EMC claims that the VNX will be faster than the predecessors, so hopefully that means EMC has joined the rest of the planet and will publish SPC-1 and SPC-2 benchmarks to back up that claim. They can compare against the SPC-1 benchmarks that our friends at NetApp ran against EMC CLARiiON.
New software for the VMAX
A long time ago, EMC announced they would provide non-disruptive automated tiering. Their first delivery "FAST V1" handled entire LUNs at a time. EMC now has finally "FAST VP" which we expected was going to be called "FAST V2", which provides sub-LUN automated tiering between Solid-state and spinning disk drives.. Meanwhile, IBM has been delivering "Easy Tier" on the IBM System Storage DS8000 series, SAN Volume Controller, and Storwize V7000 disk systems.
Data Domain Archiver
Competing against IBM, HP and Oracle in the tape arena, EMC's latest addition to the Data Domain family is designed for the long-term retention of backups? Archives of backups? Backups are short-lived, protecting against the unexpected loss from hardware failure or data corruption. Keeping backups as "archives" is generally a bad mistake, as it makes it hard to e-Discover the data you need when you need it, and may not have the appropriate hardware tor restore these old backups when you do find them.
I will have to dig deeper into all of these different technologies in separate posts in the future.
If we have learned anything from last decade's Y2K crisis, is that we should not wait for the last minute to take action. Now is the time to start thinking about weaning ourselves off Windows XP. IBM has 400,000 employees, so this is not a trivial matter.
Already, IBM has taken some bold steps:
Last July, IBM announced that it was switching from Internet Explorer (IE6) to [Mozilla Firefox as its standard browser]. IBM has been contributing to this open source project for years, including support for open standards, and to make it [more accessible to handicapped employees with visual and motor impairments]. I use Firefox already on Windows, Mac and Linux, so there was no learning curve for me. Before this announcement, if some web-based application did not work on Firefox, our Helpdesk told us to switch back to Internet Explorer. Those days are over. Now, if a web-based application doesn't work on Firefox, we either stop using it, or it gets fixed.
IBM also announced the latest [IBM Lotus Symphony 3] software, which replaces Microsoft Office for Powerpoint, Excel and Word applications. Symphony also works across Mac, Windows and Linux. It is based on the OpenOffice open source project, and handles open-standard document formats (ODF). Support for Microsoft Office 2003 will also run out in the year 2014, so moving off proprietary formats to open standards makes sense.
I am not going to wait for IBM to decide how to proceed next, so I am starting my own migrations. In my case, I need to do it twice, on my IBM-provided laptop as well as my personal PC at home.
Last summer, IBM sent me a new laptop, we get a new one every 3-4 years. It was pre-installed with Windows XP, but powerful enough to run a 64-bit operating system in the future. Here are my series of blog posts on that:
I decided to try out Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 with its KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to run Windows XP as a guest OS. I will try to run as much as I can on native Linux, but will have Windows XP guest as a next option, and if that still doesn't work, reboot the system in native Windows XP mode.
So far, I am pleased that I can do nearly everything my job requires natively in Red Hat Linux, including accessing my Lotus Notes for email and databases, edit and present documents with Lotus Symphony, and so on. I have made RHEL 6.1 my default when I boot up. Setting up Windows XP under KVM was relatively simple, involving an 8-line shell script and 54-line XML file. Here is what I have encountered:
We use a wonderful tool called "iSpring Pro" which merges Powerpoint slides with voice recordings for each page into a Shockwave Flash video. I have not yet found a Linux equivalent for this yet.
To avoid having to duplicate files between systems, I use instead symbolic links. For example, my Lotus Notes local email repository sits on D: drive, but I can access it directly with a link from /home/tpearson/notes/data.
While my native Ubuntu and RHEL Linux can access my C:, D: and E: drives in native NTFS file system format, the irony is that my Windows XP guest OS under KVM cannot. This means moving something from NTFS over to Ext4, just so that I can access it from the Windows XP guest application.
For whatever reason, "Password Safe" did not run on the Windows XP guest. I launch it, but it takes forever to load and never brings up the GUI. Fortunately, there is a Linux version [MyPasswordSafe] that seems to work just fine to keep track of all my passwords.
Personal home PC
My Windows XP system at home gave up the ghost last month, so I bought a new system with Windows 7 Professional, quad-core Intel processor and 6GB of memory. There are [various editions of Windows 7], but I chose Windows 7 Professional to support running Windows XP as a guest image.
Here's is how I have configured my personal computer:
I actually found it more time-consuming to implement the "Virtual PC" feature of Windows 7 to get Windows XP mode working than KVM on Red Hat Linux. I am amazed how many of my Windows XP programs DO NOT RUN AT ALL natively on Windows 7. I now have native 64-bit versions of Lotus Notes and Symphony 3, which will do well enough for me for now.
I went ahead and put Red Hat Linux on my home system as well, but since I have Windows XP running as a guest under Windows 7, no need to duplicate KVM setup there. At least if I have problems with Windows 7, I can reboot in RHEL6 Linux at home and use that for Linux-native applications.
Hopefully, this will position me well in case IBM decides to either go with Windows 7 or Linux as the replacement OS for Windows XP.