Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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Wrapping up my coverage of the 2013 IT Security and Storage Expo in Belgium, I noticed some interesting things in the other booths.
The EMC booth had a whiteboard so that clients could do some one-on-one collaboration. All of their cocktail waitresses were wearing sharp pin-stripe coats with matching mini-skirts.
Another booth had a "virtual graffiti wall". Using a "digital spraycan", you could write on the wall. I am not sure what connection this had with anything the company had to offer, but perhaps they also wanted to collaborate with attendees on solutions. In either case, it was very cool, and brought a lot of traffic.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM. I was not paid to mention any of the other companies, their products or people on this blog post. Mentioning other companies is not to be considered an endorsement of any kind.)
There were some interesting costumes. Leila from [Aerohive] wearing a "bee costume" complete with black wings. Hans from STS in a bright orange business suit. (Orange is the national color of Belgium). Sophie from Fortinet handed out champagne. The plastic glassware were cones that snapped onto her tray, but they had no flat bottom to rest your glass down, so you had to hold it the entire time until you finished drinking it. The Homer Simpson sticker eating the Apple logo shows the Belgians have a sense of humor!
The NetApp booth had a huge banner claiming that "Data OnTap" was the #1 storage OS. Obviously Windows, AIX, Solaris and Linux aren't consider "storage Operating Systems" per se. Is NetApp claiming they outsell FreeNAS, the only other storage OS that I can think of?
While IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT easily won the "Best Looking Big Booth" award, I have to give the "Best Looking Small Booth" award to my friends at Hitachi Data Systems. Like EMC, the Hitachi team did not have any equipment on the floor, but they made use of their tiny space by having a Japanese theme, with cocktail waitresses in kimonos.
Continuing my coverage of the IT Security and Storage Expo in Brussels, Belgium, we had a nice reception Wednesday evening.
Clara handed out Ceasar Chicken salads. Joelle handed out small rolled up pieces of duck.
Ilsa is an IBM expert in System x, VMware and the PureSystems family on hand to help with the demos and any client questions. I.R.I.S.-ICT employee Ans is only in her 20's, but is recognized as one of Belgium's leading experts in System z mainframe. I used to be the lead architect for DFSMS on z/OS, so we had plenty to talk about.
Of course, the best time for the press to ask for interviews is during the reception, where everyone is relaxed and ready to speak. I am "media-trained" which allows me to speak to the press about IBM matters. I do a lot of these interviews either over the phone, or on camera.
I took a picture to capture the typical setup. Mandy on the left is asking me questions, while camera operator Lisa focuses on my body language. The trick is to spend 80 percent of the time focused on your interviewer, and then 20 percent looking into the camera for strategic pauses. If Mandy decides to use any of the footage, she will be sending me the YouTube video link!
Hans and Sophie from Veeam stopped by the IBM booth to say hello. (See 2010 Aug 27 blog post comparing Veeam to Tivoli Storage Manager). These two DJ's kept the IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT booth hopping.
Belgium is a small country, and many of the IT storage people know each other. This made for quite the party! Our group closed up the booth around 8:30pm and we went over to join their friends at Arrow and Huawei. Here is Maiva from Huawei.
Continuing my coverage of the IT Security and Storage Expo in Brussels, Belgium, we had some great storage solutions on display at the IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT booth.
Here my IBM colleague Tom Provost is showing the front of the "Smarter Office" solution. The second photo gives the view from behind. While I always explained the solution from the front of the box, many of the more technical attendees at this conference wanted to inspect the ports in the back.
This sound-isolated 11U solution combines the following:
The [IBM Storwize V3700] with 300GB small-form-factor (SFF) drives provides shared storage for the servers.
Two [IBM System x3550 M4 servers] that can run VMware, Hyper-V or Linux KVM server hypervisor software for your Windows and/or Linux applications. These are two socket servers that can have up to 16 x86 cores each.
A Juniper EX2200 switch to network the servers and storage together.
A Local Console Manager (LCM) with rackable keyboard, video, and mouse.
In this next example, the IBM team combined a BladeCenter S chassis that can hold six blade servers, with a Storwize V7000 Unified which offers FCP, iSCSI, FCoE, NFS, CIFS, HTTPS, SCP and FTP block and file protocols.
If those configurations are too small for your needs, consider the Flex System chassis or full PureFlex system frame. The rack-mountable 10U chassis can hold the Flex System V7000 and 10 compute notes. The PureFlex frame can hold up to four of these chasses.
IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT also had an IBM XIV Gen3 and a TS3500 Tape library on display.
Continuing my coverage of the IT Security and Storage Expo in Brussels, Belgium, here is my post on the presentations I gave during the week.
There were four presentations each day. Of the five rooms, I was assigned one room in which to give all of my presentations, room 3. My room was quite large, with sixty seats.
It is a good idea for public speakers to understand Dutch, French, German and English in Belgium. In recognition of the fact that Belgians are multi-lingual, I started each session with "Goede Middag, Bon Jour and Good Afternoon!" and ended each with "Dank U, Merci and Thank you for attending!"
12:00 to 12:30pm
What is big data? Architectures and Practical Use Cases
What is big data? Architectures and Practical Use Cases (repeat)
12:45 to 1:15pm
An IBM Storage solution for small and mid-size business? The Storwize V3700!
An IBM Storage solution for small and mid-size business? The Storwize V3700! (repeat)
1:30 to 2:00pm
A New Generation of Storage Tiering
A New Generation of Storage Tiering (repeat)
2:15 to 2:45pm
Replication for High Availability, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
Storage, Server and Network in one Flexible and Integrated solution! The PureSystems family
The sessions were all half-hour slots. The only presentation that I had a challenge getting down to 30 minutes was my session on "New Generation of Storage Tiering" in which I was asked to cover Easy Tier sub-LUN automated tiering, Server-to-Storage cooperative caching, Texas Memory Systems, hierarchical storage Management (HSM), Active Cloud Engine, and SmartCloud Storage!
Helping me out were three local IBM interns. From left to right: Joelle, Clara and Bryan. I hadn't noticed that there were only short breaks between sessions, all of this time consumed with one-on-one discussions with clients, so the interns were kind enough to fetch me snacks and drinks.
Joelle and Bryan speak Dutch, which is similar to the local Flemish language. Clara speaks French, which came in handy for translations.
I would like to thank my room monitors: Jolijn, Ella and Chloe. All three are local college students hired by the conference for the two days to scan name badges and count bodies in seats.
(I had to ask Jolijn to write her name on a piece of paper because it is Dutch and I had no clue how to spell it for this blog post.)
While it might appear that room 3 was "The Tony Pearson Show -- all Tony, all the time!" there were actually worthwhile sessions in the other rooms. Fellow blogger Jon Toigo [known for his DrunkenData blog] presented "Storage Infrastruggle 2013 -- Containing Storage Costs without Sacrificing Access, Protection or Management". My IBM colleague Ron Riffe presented a vendor-neutral look at Storage Hypervisors.
If the attendees wanted copies of my presentations, they were directed to get their name badge scanned at the IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT booth, all the way at the other end of the hall, and my presentations would be emailed to them.
(For those who have missed it, you can find all five of my presentations uploaded to the [IBM Expert Network] on Slideshare.)
Finally, I would like to thank my IBM colleagues who helped me develop and review my presentations: Brigitte Van Den Eynde, Joe Hayward, Jeff Jonas, Tom Deutsch, Chris Saul, Marisol Diaz, Iliana Garcia, Harley Puckett, Jack Arnold, and Steve McKinney.
The Belgium IT Security and Storage Expo was a great success!
(I am back to the USA in Portland, Oregon this week, so these posts relate to last week.)
However, that wasn't to say I didn't encounter a few challenges during my week in Belgium. The first was getting to the venue. The Belgium Expo is a large complex of buildings to the north of the city. The local IBM team suggested I go to the facility a day in advance so that I would be able to see where it was and how to get there.
I was staying in the center of town, in Place Rogier section. I had many transportation options:
Take a taxi. It was raining this week, so finding a taxi was difficult.
Take the bus. The Bus #260 goes directly from my hotel to the Belgium Expo, but only goes once an hour.
Take the metro. The metro operates frequently, and the Haysel stop is right in front of the Belgium Expo complex.
Upon arrival to the building complex, I was unsure of which building I needed to be in. Standing in front of the beautiful Building 5, I found this legend that provided the answer: Building 8. In front of Building 12 was a map that showed where Building 8 was located on the campus.
For this event, IBM joined forces with IBM Business Partner I.R.I.S-ICT to have a fabulous booth, with plenty of experts and equipment demos. As is often the case, the team had to work late into the night to get all the equipment set up, all the podiums and counters constructed, and the demos fully operational.
Apparently, I was not the only one to have troubles finding the place, so I did not feel alone. Some with cars drove around the complex several times before figuring out which parking lot to park in. Others parked at the first spot they found, and still ended up walking as much as I did.
For future reference, If you plan to attend any event at the Belgium Expo, either (a) ask for more explicit directions, and (b) plan to do lots of walking!
Sadly, only 70 percent of doctors in the United States use Electronic Medical Record [EMR] systems. My own Primary Care Physician has made the switch, and told me he how much he loves having ready access to the information he needs. EMR systems reduce costs, help manage risk, and improve healthcare outcomes. It is no surprise that the U.S. government has taken a [stick-and-carrot approach] to encourage doctors to use them.
A frequent topic at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center where I work is how to make the most use of IT for healthcare and life sciences. For much of 2011 and 2012, I was also one of the technical advocates assigned to Wellpoint Insurance, in support of their adoption of IBM Watson technology for healthcare.
Well, it was Tuesday again, and we had quite a lot of announcements here at IBM this week!
Over 1,800 clients attended the [Live February 5 webcast]! The announcements were all part of IBM's SmartCloud Storage portfolio. Here are the highlights:
STN7800 Real-time Compression Appliance
Back in October 2010, IBM announced the acquisition of Storwize, Inc., renaming its NAS-compression units to the IBM Real-time Compression appliances. Some folks were confused, so I had a blog post [IBM Storwize Product Name Decoder Ring].
IBM initially offered two models:
The [STN6500 model] had 16 Ethernet ports 1GbE (16x1GbE) and a pair of four-core processors.
The [STN6800 model] had either eight 10GbE ports (8x10GbE), or four 10GbE plus eight 1GbE ports (4x10GbE+8x1GbE). It has a pair of six-core processors.
Now, IBM offers the [STN7800 model], which can replace either of the ones above, offering 16x1GbE, 8x10GbE, and 4x10GbE+8x1GBE port configurations. It has a pair of eight-core processors to handle more robust Cloud Storage environments. See [Announcement Letter 113-012] for more details.
New XIV Gen3 model 214
With its awesome support for VMware, the XIV is often chosen for Cloud storage. The new XIV model 214 now offers up to a dozen 10GbE ports, or you can stay with the 22 1GbE ports available on previous models. These can be used for iSCSI host attachment and/or IP-based replication.
IBM strives to make each new model of every storage device more energy efficient than the last.
The new XIV model is no exception. The original XIV, introduced in 2008, consumed 8.4 kVA fully loaded. The XIV Gen 3 model 114 consumed 7.0 kVA. This new model 214 consumes only 5.9 kVA!
It has been almost three years since my now infamous post [Double Drive Failure Debunked: XIV Two Years Later]. Back then, the XIV offered only 1TB and 2TB drives, with rebuild time for 1TB drive of less than 30 minutes, and for 2TB less than 60 minutes.
The new XIV Gen3 software 11.2 release, available for both the 114 and 214 models, can now rebuild a 2TB drive in less than 26 minutes, and a 3TB drive in less than 39 minutes. There is also support specific to Windows Server 2012 including thin provisioning, MSCS, VSS, and Hyper-V. See [Announcement Letter 113-013] for more details.
SmartCloud Storage Access
IBM is the first major storage vendor to offer a product of this kind, so understanding it may be a bit difficult.
The concept is simple. Rather than having end-users having to ask IT every time they need some storage space, IBM created a self-service portal that frees up the IT department to work on more important transformational projects.
This is basically what people can do with "Public Cloud" storage service providers, so basically IBM is now giving you the capability with your "Private Cloud" storage deployment.
Here is the sequence of events. End users point their favorite web browser to the self-service portal, and login using their credentials stored in your Active Directory or LDAP server database.
Once validated, the end-user now can request new storage space, expanding their existing space, or returning the space to the IT department. For new storage requests, users can have a choice of storage classes, -- such as Gold, Silver and Bronze-- defined in the Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (TPC), either stand-alone or in the SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center.
But wait! Do you want to give every end-user a blank check to provision their own storage? Most IT staff are horrified at the thought.
Knowing this, IBM has included an option to put in an approval process, based on the end-user and the amount of capacity requested. The approver can be the cloud administrator, or someone delegated for approvals, known as an environment owner.
For some users, policies may restrict the storage classes as well. For example, Fred can only have Silver or Bronze, but not Gold.
Once the approval is obtained, TPC then issues the appropriate commands to the appropriate SONAS or Storwize V7000 Unified device. SmartCloud Storage Access can do this for thousands of storage devices across dozens of geographically dispersed locations.
Before, the Cloud Admin had to configure storage pools of managed disks, define file systems, dole out file sets to hundreds or thousands of users with hard quotas, and then configure shares based on the protocols required, like CIFS, NFS, HTTPS, etc.
With SmartCloud Storage Access, the Cloud admin still defines the pools and file systems, but then lets the self-service capability of the software to create the file sets, set the quotas and configure shares with the appropriate protocols. This greatly reduces the work on the IT staff, and greatly improves the turn-around time for end-user requests to get exactly what they want, when they need it.
The next time you withdraw money from an ATM machine, fill up your gas tank at the self-service gas station, then serve your own salad at the salad bar and fill up your own soft drink at the fast food restaurant, you will realize and appreciate that SmartCloud Storage Access is a brilliant move for the IT staff.
Cloud administrators, environment owners, and end-users can all use SmartCloud Storage Access to monitor and report on storage usage.
(What does this have to do with Storage? When IBM got back into networking in a big way, they had to decide whether to combine it with one of the existing groups, or form its own group. IBM decided to merge networking with storage, which makes sense since the primary purpose of most networks is to access or transmit information stored somewhere else.)
Last April, the Wharton School and the Institute for the Future convened a one-day [After Broadband] workshop in San Francisco, California, that brought together a group of leading technologists, entrepreneurs, academics and policymakers to explore the future of broadband over the next decade.
Today is the last day of 2012, so it is only fitting to end the year looking forward to the future!
While I have been accused of being a historian, I consider myself a bit of a futurist. Since 2006, I have been blogging about the future of technology, including Cloud, Big Data, and the explosion of information. As a consultant for the IBM Executive Briefing Center, I present to clients IBM's future plans, strategies, and product roadmaps.
(Fellow blogger Mark Twomey on his Storagezilla blog has a humorous post titled [Stuff your Predictions], expressing his disdain for articles this time of year that predict what the next 12 months will bring. Don't worry, this is not one of those posts!)
What exactly is a futurist? Biologists study biology. Techologists study technology. But a person can't simply time-travel to the future, read the newspaper, make observations, take notes, and then go back in time to share his findings.
Here seem to be the key differences between Historians vs. Futurists:
There is only one past.
There are many possible futures.
Only six percent of humanity are alive today, so historians must study history through the writings, tools, and remains of those that have passed on.
Futurists study the past and the present, looking for patterns and trends.
Search for insight.
Search for foresight.
Framework to explain what happened and why.
Framework to express what is possible, probable, and perhaps even preferable.
A common framework for both is the concept of the various "Ages" that humanity has been through:
Around 200,000 years ago, in the middle of what archaeologists refer to as the [Paleolithic Era], man walked upright and used tools made of stone to hunt and gather food. Humans were nomadic and travelled in tribes to follow the herds of animals as they migrated season to season. The History Channel had a great eight-hour series called [Mankind: The Story of All of Us] that started here, and worked all the way up to modern times.
About 10,000 years ago, humans got tired of chasing after their meals, and settled down, growing their food instead. Grains like wheat, rice, and corn became staples of most diets around the world. Civilization evolved, and people traded what they grew or made in exchange for items they needed or wanted.
About 300 years ago, humans developed machines to help do things, and even to help build other machines. While farmers harnessed oxen to plow fields, and horses to speed up travel and communication, these were all based on muscle power.
Machines like the steam engine were powered by coal, petroleum, or natural gas. Today, one gallon of gasoline can do the work of 600 man-hours of human muscle power, or [move a ton of freight 400 miles].
Cities grew up with skyscrapers of steel, connected by trains, planes and automobiles. Communications with the telegraph, telephone, radio and television replaced sending message on horseback.
The forces that drove humanity to the Industrial age clashed with the culture and identity established during the Agricultural age. I highly recommend futurist Thomas Friedman's book [The Lexus and the Olive Tree] that covers these conflicts.
When exactly did the Information age begin? Did it start with Guttenberg's muscle-powered [Printing Press] in the year 1450, or the first punched card in 1725?
Futurist [Alvin Toffler] published his book The Third Wave in 1980. He coined the phrase "Third Wave" to describe the transition from the Industrial age to the Information age.
While IBM mainframes were processing information in the 1950's, many people associate the Information Age with the IBM Personal Computer (1981) or the World Wide Web (1991). Over 100 years ago, IBM started out in the Industrial age, with business machines like meat scales and cheese slicers. IBM led the charge into the Information Age, and continues that leadership today.
In any case, value went from atoms to bits. Computers and mobile devices transfer bits of data, information and ideas, from nearly anyplace on the planet to another, in seconds.
Ideas and content are now king, rather than land, buildings, machines and raw materials of the Industrial age. In 1975, less than 20 percent of a business assets were intangible. By 2005, over 80 percent is.
While the Industrial age was dominated by left-brain thinking, the Information Age requires the creativity of right-brain thinking. I highly recommend Daniel Pink's book, [A Whole New Mind] that covers this in detail.
"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed!" -- William Gibson (1993)
The problem with looking back through history as a series of "Ages" is that they really didn't start and end on specific days. The Agricultural age didn't end on a particular Sunday evening, with the Industrial age starting up the following Monday morning.
There are still people on the planet today in the Stone age. On my last visit to Kenya, I met a nomadic tribe that still lives this way. Huts were temporarily constructed from sticks and mud, and abandoned when it was time to move on.
A short-sighted charity built a one-room school house for them, hoping to convince the tribe that staying in one place for education was more important than hunting and gathering food in a nomadic lifestyle. Some stayed and starved.
In the United States, about 2 percent of Americans grow food for the rest of us, with enough left over to make ethanol and give food aid to other countries.
Sadly, the Standard American Diet continues to be foods mostly processed from wheat, rice and corn, even though our human genetic make-up has not yet evolved from a "Paleolithic" mix of [meats, nuts and berries].
There are still people on the planet today in the Industrial age. American schools are still geared to teach children for Industrial age jobs, but still take "summer vacation" to work in the fields of the Agricultural age? Seth Godin's book [Stop Stealing Dreams] is a great read on what we should do about this.
Wrapping up my series on a [Laptop for Grandma], I finally have something that I think meets all of my requirements! Special thanks to Guidomar and the rest of my readers who sent in suggestions!
I could have called this series "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". The [Cloud-oriented choices] weren't bad per se, but expected persistent Internet connection. The [Low-RAM choices] were not ugly per se, but had limited application options. The ones below were good, in that they helped me decide what would be just right for grandma.
Linux Mint 9
One of my readers, Guidomar, suggested Linux Mint Xfce. At LinuxFest Northwest 2012, Bryan Lunduke indicated that [Linux Mint] is the fastest growing Linux in popularity. You can watch his 43-minute presentation of [Why Linux Sucks!] on YouTube.
The latest version is Mint 14, but that has grown so big it has to be installed on a DVD, as it will no longer fit on a 700MB CD-ROM. Since I don't have a DVD drive on this Thinkpad R31, I dropped down to the latest Gnome edition that did fit on a LiveCD, which was Mint 9.
(In retrospect, I could have used the [PLoP Boot Manager CD], and installed the latest Linux Mint 14 from USB memory stick! My concern was that if a distribution didn't fit on a CD-ROM, it was expecting a more modern computer overall, and thus would probably require more than 384MB or RAM as well.)
Linux Mint is actually a variant of Ubuntu, which means that it can tap into the thousands of applications already available. Mint 9 is based on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.
One of the nice features of Linux Mint is that there are versions with full [Codecs] installed. A codec is a coder/decoder software routine that can convert a digital data stream or signal, such as for audio or video data. Many formats are proprietary, so codecs are generally not open source, and often not included in most Linux distros. They can be installed manually by the Linux administrator. Windows and Mac OS are commercially sold and don't have this problem, as Microsoft and Apple take care of all the licensing issues behind the scenes.
The installation went smooth. It would have gladly set up a dual-boot with Windows for me, but instead I opted to wipe the disk clean and install fresh for each Linux distribution I tried.
Running it was a different matter. The screen would go black and crash. There just wasn't enough memory.
Since [Peppermint OS] was partially based on Lubuntu, I thought I would give [Lubuntu 12.04] a try. The difference is that Peppermint OS is based on Xfce (as is Xubuntu), but Lubuntu claims to have a smaller memory footprint using Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment (LXDE). This version claims to run in 384MB, which is what I have on grandma's Thinkpad R31.
There are two installers. The main installer requires more than 512MB to run, so I used the alternate text-based Installer-only CD, which needs only 192MB.
The LXDE GUI is simple and straightforward. As with Peppermint OS, I did have to install the Codec plugins. However, the time-to-first-note was less than two minutes, so we can count this as a success!
Linux Mint 12 LXDE edition
Circling back to Linux Mint, I realized that my problem up above was chosing the wrong edition. Apparently, Linux Mint comes in various editions, the main edition I had selected was based on Gnome which requires at least 512MB of RAM.
Other editions are based on KDE, xFCE and LXDE. Linux Mint 9 LXDE requires only 192MB of RAM, and the newer Linux Mint 12 LXDE requires only 256MB. I choose the latter, and the install went pretty much the same as Mint and Lubuntu above.
The music player that comes pre-installed is called [Exaile], which supports playlists, audio CDs, and a variety of other modern features, so no reason to install Rhythmbox or anything else. Grandma can even rip her existing audio CDs to import her music into MP3 format. Time-to-first-note was about two minutes.
The best part: the OS only takes up about 4GB of disk, leaving about 15GB for MP3 music files!
Lubuntu and Linux Mint LXDE were similar, but I decided to go with the latter because I like that they do not force version upgrades. This is a philosophical difference. Ubuntu likes to keep everyone on the latest supported releases, so will often remind you its time to upgrade. Linux Mint prefers to take an if-it-aint-broke-don't-fix-it approach that will be less on-going maintenance for me.
A few finishing touches to make the system complete:
A nice wallpaper from [InterfaceLift]. This website has high-res photography that are just stunning.
Power management with screen-saver settings to a nice pink background with white snowflakes falling.
A small collection of her MP3 music pre-loaded so that she would have something to listen to while she learns how to rip CDs and copy over the rest of her music.
Icons on the main desktop for Exaile, My Computer, Home Directory, and the Welcome Screen.
Larger Font size, to make it easier to read.
Update settings that only look for levels "1" and "2". There are five levels, but "1" and "2" are considered the safest, tested versions. Also, an update is only done if it does not involve installing or removing other packages. This should offer some added stability.
I considered installing [ClamAV] for anti-virus protection, but since this laptop will not be connected to the Internet, I decided not to burn up CPU cycles. I also considered installing [Team Viewer] which would allow me remote access to her system if anything should every fail. However, since she does not have Wi-Fi at home, and lives only a few minutes across town, I decided to leave this off.
Once again, I want to thank all of my readers for their suggestions! I learned quite a lot on this journey, and am glad that I have something that I am proud to present to grandma: boots quickly enough, simple to use, and does not require on-going maintenance!
Continuing my series on a [Laptop for Grandma], I thought I would pursue some of the "low-RAM" operating system choices. Grandma's Thinkpad R31 has only 384MB of RAM.
All of the ones below are based on Linux. For those who aren't familiar with installing or running the Linux operating system, here are some helpful tips:
Most Linux distributors allow you to download an ISO file for free. These can be either (a) burned to a CD, (b) burned to a DVD, or (c) written to a USB memory stick.
The ISO can be either a "LiveCD/LiveDVD" version, an installation program, or a combination of the two. The "Live" version allows you to boot up and try out the operating system without modifying the contents of your hard drive. Windows and Mac OS users can try out Linux without impact to their existing environment. Some Linux distributions offer both a full LiveCD+Installer version, as well as an alternate text-based Installer-only version. The latter often requires less RAM to use.
When installing, it is best to have the laptop plugged in to an electrical outlet, and hard-wired to the internet in case it needs to download the latest drivers for your particular hardware.
A CD can hold only 700MB. Many of the newer Linux distributions exceed that, requiring a DVD or USB stick instead. If your laptop has an older optical drive, it may not be able to read DVD media. Some older optical drives can only read CD's, not burn them. In my case, I burned the CDs on another machine, and then used them on grandma's Thinkpad R31.
To avoid burning "a set of coasters" when trying out multiple choices, consider using rewriteable optical media, or the USB option. If you don't like it, you can re-use for something else.
The program [Unetbootin] can take most ISO files and write them to a bootable USB stick. On my Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 laptop, I had to also install p7zip and p7zip-plugins first.
The BIOS on some older machines, like my grandma's Thinkpad R31, cannot boot from USB. The [PLoP Boot Manager] allows you to first boot from floppy or CD-ROM, and then allows you to boot from the USB. This worked great on my grandma's system. The PLoP Boot Manager is also available on the [Ultimate Boot CD].
While I am a big fan of SUSE, Red Hat, and Ubuntu, these all require more RAM than available on grandma's laptop. Here are some Low-RAM alternatives I tried:
Damn Small Linux 4.11 RC2
The Damn Small Linux [DSL] project was dormant since 2008, but has a fresh new release for 2012. This baby can run in as little 16MB or RAM! If you have 128MB of RAM or more, the OS can run entirely from RAM, providing much faster performance.
Of course, there are always trade-offs, and in this case, apps were chosen for their size and memory footprint, not necessarily for their user-friendliness and eye candy. For example, the xMMS plays MP3 music, but I did not find it as friendly as iTunes or Rhythmbox.
Boot time is fast. From hitting the power-on button to playing the first note of MP3 music was about 1 minute.
Installing DSL Linux on the hard drive converts it into a Debian distribution, which then allows more options for applications.
Next up was [MacPup]. The latest version is 529, based on Pupply Linux 5.2.60 Precise, compatible with Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin. While traditional Puppy Linux clutters the screen with apps, the MacPup tries to have the look-and-feel of the MacOS by having a launcher tray at the bottom center of the screen.
Both MacPup and Puppy Linux can run in very small amounts of RAM and disk space. Like DSL above, you can opt to run MacPup entirely in 128MB of RAM. Unfortunately, the trade-off is a lack of application choices.
Installation to the hard drive was quite involved, certainly not for the beginner. First, you have to use Gparted to partition the disk. I created a 19GB (sda1) for my files, and 700MB (sda5) for swap. I had troubles with "ext4" file system, so re-formatted to "ext3". Second, you have to copy the files over from the LiveCD using the "Puppy Universal Installer". Third, you have to set up the Bootloader. Grub didn't work, so I installed Grub4Dos instead.
The music app is called "Alsa Player", and I was able to drag the icon into the startup tray. time-to-first-note was just over 1 minute. Fast, but not as "simple-to-use" as I would like.
SliTaz 4.0 claims to be able to run in as little as 48MB of RAM and 100MB of disk space. Time-to-first-note was similar to MacPup, but I didn't care for the TazPanel for setup, and the TazPkg for installing a limited set of software packages. I could not get Wi-Fi working at all on SliTaz, and just gave up trying.
All three of these ran on grandma's Thinkpad R31, and all three could play MP3 music. However, I was concerned that they were not as simple to use as grandma would like, and I would be concerned the amount of time and effort I might have to spend if things go wrong.
Tomorrow, according to the [Mayan calendar], the end of the 5,125 year cycle rolls over, so it only makes sense to party like it's 1999!
Of course, if you were in the IT industry 13 years ago, you may remember similar hoopla around [Year 2000] when the Gregorian calendar rolled over from "99" to "00". Some of us were asked to work right up to the last day of 1999, and be on-call the first week of 2000, just in case! Tomorrow may prove to be more or less a repeat of that.
Fortunately, there was plenty of other reasons to celebrate these past few weeks.
Birthdays in December Party
The IBM Tucson employees and contractors of building 9070 got together for a combination party, celebrating both the end of 2012 and for three people with birthdays in December: my former manager Bill, my colleague Kris, and myself. Here is our birthday cake! Afterwards, we allVacation movie.
(Note: This was sponsored by my third-line manager, David Gelardi, who one way or another, is responsible for all the IBMers in this building. Thank you David! )
This will be the last year for us to do this, as we are planning to move over to join the employees of building 9032 next year!
IBM Club Event
The IBM Club had its final event at [Golf N' Stuff] family fun park. Over 700 IBM employees and their family members came to eat breakfast burritos and play miniature golf and other games. It had rained earlier in the morning, so the go-kart track was wet, and the staff were trying to dry with leaf blowers. The rest of the park was fully operational, and the weather cleared up nicely. Mo, Rafael and I played golf but the turf was still wet in a few spots. There were also video games, bumper boats, and batting cages.
IBM volunteers dressed up as fictional characters for the kids to take pictures with.
I was proud to be a member of the seven-person IBM Club board for 2012. When I was nominated, I didn't think I stood a chance to be elected, as I was running against five or six other well-qualified candidates, but somehow it happened. I am glad to have been part of the 19-year tradition of the IBM Club history.
(Note: I didn't campaign for this position, but many IBMers in Tucson knew that I had previously owned and managed Tucson Fun & Adventures that organized 15-25 events every month for hundreds of single adults in the Tucson area. This might have helped my chances for election a bit!)
Next year, the IBM Club transitions to the more-efficient "Club Central" model, which is both board-less and cash-less. Instead of a seven-person board organizing events that are fully-funded or partially-subsidized by IBM, events will now be organized by IBM volunteers who post the details on Facebook. All participants simply pay for the events they attend directly to the venue or facility involved.
While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] has put out videos and press releases these past 10 days to assure us [there will be a 2013], this shouldn't stop anyone from having a good time! If you did anything special to celebrate the end of the Mayan Calendar, please comment below!
In my last blog post [Full Disk Encryption for Your Laptop] explained my decisions relating to Full-Disk Encryption (FDE) for my laptop. Wrapping up my week's theme of Full-Disk Encryption, I thought I would explain the steps involved to make it happen.
Last April, I switched from running Windows and Linux dual-boot, to one with Linux running as the primary operating system, and Windows running as a Linux KVM guest. I have Full Disk Encryption (FDE) implemented using Linux Unified Key Setup (LUKS).
Here were the steps involved for encrypting my Thinkpad T410:
Step 0: Backup my System
Long-time readers know how I feel about taking backups. In my blog post [Separating Programs from Data], I emphasized this by calling it "Step 0". I backed up my system three ways:
Backed up all of my documents and home user directory with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager.
Backed up all of my files, including programs, bookmarks and operating settings, to an external disk drive (I used rsync for this). If you have a lot of bookmarks on your browser, there are ways to dump these out to a file to load them back in the later step.
Backed up the entire hard drive using [Clonezilla].
Clonezilla allows me to do a "Bare Machine Recovery" of my laptop back to its original dual-boot state in less than an hour, in case I need to start all over again.
Step 1: Re-Partition the Drive
"Full Disk Encryption" is a slight misnomer. For external drives, like the Maxtor BlackArmor from Seagate (Thank you Allen!), there is a small unencrypted portion that contains the encryption/decryption software to access the rest of the drive. Internal boot drives for laptops work the same way. I created two partitions:
A small unencrypted partition (2 GB) to hold the Master Boot Record [MBR], Grand Unified Bootlloader [GRUB], and the /boot directory. Even though there is no sensitive information on this partition, it is still protected the "old way" with the hard-drive password in the BIOS.
The rest of the drive (318GB) will be one big encrypted Logical Volume Manager [LVM] container, often referred to as a "Physical Volume" in LVM terminology.
Having one big encrypted partition means I only have to enter my ridiculously-long encryption password once during boot-up.
Step 2: Create Logical Volumes in the LVM container
I create three logical volumes on the encrypted physical container: swap, slash (/) directory, and home (/home). Some might question the logic behind putting swap space on an encrypted container. In theory, swap could contain sensitive information after a system [hybernation]. I separated /home from slash(/) so that in the event I completely fill up my home directory, I can still boot up my system.
Step 3: Install Linux
Ideally, I would have lifted my Linux partition "as is" for the primary OS, and a Physical-to-Virtual [P2V] conversion of my Windows image for the guest VM. Ha! To get the encryption, it was a lot simpler to just install Linux from scratch, so I did that.
Step 4: Install Windows guest KVM image
The folks in our "Open Client for Linux" team made this step super-easy. Select Windows XP or Windows 7, and press the "Install" button. This is a fresh install of the Windows operating system onto a 30GB "raw" image file.
(Note: Since my Thinkpad T410 is Intel-based, I had to turn on the 'Intel (R) Virtualization Technology' option in the BIOS!)
There are only a few programs that I need to run on Windows, so I installed them here in this step.
Step 5: Set up File Sharing between Linux and Windows
In my dual-boot set up, I had a separate "D:" drive that I could access from either Windows or Linux, so that I would only have to store each file once. For this new configuration, all of my files will be in my home directory on Linux, and then shared to the Windows guest via CIFS protocol using [samba].
In theory, I can share any of my Linux directories using this approach, but I decide to only share my home directory. This way, any Windows viruses will not be able to touch my Linux operating system kernels, programs or settings. This makes for a more secure platform.
Step 6: Transfer all of my files back
Here I used the external drive from "Step 0" to bring my data back to my home directory. This was a good time to re-organize my directory folders and do some [Spring cleaning].
Step 7: Re-establish my backup routine
Previously in my dual-boot configuration, I was using the TSM backup/archive client on the Windows partition to backup my C: and D: drives. Occasionally I would tar a few of my Linux directories and storage the tarball on D: so that it got included in the backup process. With my new Linux-based system, I switched over to the Linux version of TSM client. I had to re-work the include/exclude list, as the files are different on Linux than Windows.
One of my problems with the dual-boot configuration was that I had to manually boot up in Windows to do the TSM backup, which was disruptive if I was using Linux. With this new scheme, I am always running Linux, and so can run the TSM client any time, 24x7. I made this even better by automatically scheduling the backup every Monday and Thursday at lunch time.
There is no Linux support for my Maxtor BlackArmor external USB drive, but it is simple enough to LUKS-encrypt any regular external USB drive, and rsync files over. In fact, I have a fully running (and encrypted) version of my Linux system that I can boot directly from a 32GB USB memory stick. It has everyting I need except Windows (the "raw" image file didn't fit.)
I can still use Clonezilla to make a "Bare Machine Recovery" version to restore from. However, with the LVM container encrypted, this renders the compression capability worthless, and so takes a lot longer and consumes over 300GB of space on my external disk drive.
Backing up my Windows guest VM is just a matter of copying the "raw" image file to another file for safe keeping. I do this monthly, and keep two previous generations in case I get hit with viruses or "Patch Tuesday" destroys my working Windows image. Each is 30GB in size, so it was a trade-off between the number of versions and the amount of space on my hard drive. TSM backup puts these onto a system far away, for added protection.
Step 8: Protect your Encryption setup
In addition to backing up your data, there are a few extra things to do for added protection:
Add a second passphrase. The first one is the ridiculously-long one you memorize faithfully to boot the system every morning. The second one is a ridiculously-longer one that you give to your boss or admin assistant in case you get hit by a bus. In the event that your boss or admin assistant leaves the company, you can easily disable this second passprhase without affecting your original.
Backup the crypt-header. This is the small section in front that contains your passphrases, so if it gets corrupted, you would not be able to access the rest of your data. Create a backup image file and store it on an encrypted USB memory stick or external drive.
If you are one of the lucky 70,000 IBM employees switching from Windows to Linux this year, Welcome!
Earlier this year, IBM mandated that every employee provided a laptop had to implement Full-Disk Encryption for their primary hard drive, and any other drive, internal or external, that contained sensitive information. An exception was granted to anyone who NEVER took their laptop out of the IBM building. At IBM Tucson, we have five buildings, so if you are in the habit of taking your laptop from one building to another, then encryption is required!
The need to secure the information on your laptop has existed ever since laptops were given to employees. In my blog post [Biggest Mistakes of 2006], I wrote the following:
"Laptops made the news this year in a variety of ways. #1 was exploding batteries, and #6 were the stolen laptops that exposed private personal information. Someone I know was listed in one of these stolen databases, so this last one hits close to home. Security is becoming a bigger issue now, and IBM was the first to deliver device-based encryption with the TS1120 enterprise tape drive."
Not surprisingly, IBM laptops are tracked and monitored. In my blog post [Using ILM to Save Trees], I wrote the following:
"Some assets might be declared a 'necessary evil' like laptops, but are tracked to the n'th degree to ensure they are not lost, stolen or taken out of the building. Other assets are declared "strategically important" but are readily discarded, or at least allowed to [walk out the door each evening]."
Unfortunately, dual-boot environments won't cut it for Full-Disk Encryption. For Windows users, IBM has chosen Pretty Good Privacy [PGP]. For Linux users, IBM has chosen Linux Unified Key Setup [LUKS]. PGP doesn't work with Linux, and LUKS doesn't work with Windows.
For those of us who may need access to both Operating Systems, we have to choose. Select one as the primary OS, and run the other as a guest virtual machine. I opted for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 as my primary, with LUKS encryption, and Linux KVM to run Windows as the guest.
I am not alone. While I chose the Linux method voluntarily, IBM has decided that 70,000 employees must also set up their systems this way, switching them from Windows to Linux by year end, but allowing them to run Windows as a KVM guest image if needed.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons:
LUKS allows for up to 8 passphrases, so you can give one to your boss, one to your admin assistant, and in the event they leave the company, you can disable their passphrase without impacting anyone else or having to memorize a new one. PGP on Windows supports only a single passphrase.
Linux is a rock-solid operating system. I found that Windows as a KVM guest runs better than running it natively in a dual-boot configuration.
Linux is more secure against viruses. Most viruses run only on Windows operating systems. The Windows guest is well isolated from the Linux operating system files. Recovering from an infected or corrupted Windows guest is merely re-cloning a new "raw" image file.
Linux has a vibrant community of support. I am very impressed that anytime I need help, I can find answers or assistance quickly from other Linux users. Linux is also supported by our help desk, although in my experience, not as well as the community offers.
Employees that work with multiple clients can have a separate Windows guest for each one, preventing any cross-contamination between systems.
Linux is different from Windows, and some learning curve may be required. Not everyone is happy with this change.
(I often joke that the only people who are comfortable with change are babies with soiled diapers and prisoners on death row!)
Implementation is a full re-install of Linux, followed by a fresh install of Windows.
Not all software required for our jobs at IBM runs on Linux, so a Windows guest VM is a necessity. If you thought Windows ran slowly on a fully-encrypted disk, imagine how much slower it runs as a VM guest with limited memory resources.
In theory, I could have tried the Windows/PGP method for a few weeks, then gone through the entire process to switch over to Linux/LUKS, and then draw my comparisons that way. Instead, I just chose the Linux/LUKS method, and am happy with my decision.
For the past three decades, IBM has offered security solutions to protect against unauthorized access. Let's take a look at three different approaches available today for the encryption of data.
Approach 1: Server-based
Server-based encryption has been around for a while. This can be implemented in the operating system itself, such as z/OS on the System z mainframe platform, or with an applicaiton, such as IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for backup and archive.
While this has the advantage that you can selectively encrypt individual files, data sets, or columns in databases, it has several drawbacks. First, you consume server resources to perform the encryption. Secondly, as I mention in the video above, if you only encrypt selected data, the data you forget to, or choose not to, encrypt may result in data exposure. Third, you have to manage your encryption keys on a server-by-server basis. Fourth, you need encryption capability in the operating system or application. And fifth, encrypting the data first will undermine any storage or network compression capability down-line.
Approach 2: Network-based
Network-based solutions perform the encryption between the server and the storage device. Last year, when I was in Auckland, New Zealand, I covered the IBM SAN32B-E4 switch in my presentation [Understanding IBM's Storage Encryption Options]. This switch receives data from the server, encrypts it, and sends it on down to the storage device.
This has several advantages over the server-based approach. First, we offload the server resources to the switch. Second, you can encrypt all the files on the volume. You can select which volumes get encrypted, so there is still the risk that you encrypt only some volumes, and not others, and accidently expose your data. Third, the SAN32B-E4 can centralized the encryption key management to the IBM Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM). This is also operating system and application agnostic. However, network-based encryption has the same problem of undermining any storage device compression capability, and often has a limit on the amount of data bandwidth it can process. The SAN32B-E4 can handle 48 GB/sec, with a turbo-mode option to double this to 96 GB/sec.
Approach 3: Device-based
Device-based solutions perform the encryption at the storage device itself. Back in 2006, IBM was the first to introduce this method on its [TS1120 tape drive]. Later, it was offered on Linear Tape Open (LTO-4) drives. IBM was also first to introduce Full Disk Encryption (FDE) on its IBM System Storage DS8000. See my blog post [1Q09 Disk Announcements] for details.
As with the network-based approach, the device-based method offloads server resources, allows you to encrypt all the files on each volume, can centrally manage all of your keys with TKLM, and is agnostic to operating system and application used. The device can compress the data first, then encrypt, resulting in fewer tape cartridges or less disk capacity consumed. IBM's device-based approach scales nicely. IBM has an encryption chip is placed in each tape drive or disk drive. No matter how many drives you have, you will have all the encryption horsepower you need to scale up.
Not all device-based solutions use an encryption chip per drive. Some of our competitors encrypt in the controller instead, which operates much like the network-based approach. As more and more disk drives are added to your storage system, the controller may get overwhelmed to perform the encryption.
The need for security grows every year. Enterprise Systems are Security-ready to protect your most mission critical application data.