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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.
“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”
-- George Orwell
Well, it has been over two years since I first covered IBM's acquisition of the XIV company. Amazingly, I still see a lot of misperceptions out in the blogosphere, especially those regarding double drive failures for the XIV storage system. Despite various attempts to [explain XIV resiliency] and to [dispel the rumors], there are still competitors making stuff up, putting fear, uncertainty and doubt into the minds of prospective XIV clients.
Clients love the IBM XIV storage system! In this economy, companies are not stupid. Before buying any enterprise-class disk system, they ask the tough questions, run evaluation tests, and all the other due diligence often referred to as "kicking the tires". Here is what some IBM clients have said about their XIV systems:
“3-5 minutes vs. 8-10 hours rebuild time...”
-- satisfied XIV client
“...we tested an entire module failure - all data is re-distributed in under 6 hours...only 3-5% performance degradation during rebuild...”
-- excited XIV client
“Not only did XIV meet our expectations, it greatly exceeded them...”
In this blog post, I hope to set the record straight. It is not my intent to embarrass anyone in particular, so instead will focus on a fact-based approach.
Fact: IBM has sold THOUSANDS of XIV systems
XIV is "proven" technology with thousands of XIV systems in company data centers. And by systems, I mean full disk systems with 6 to 15 modules in a single rack, twelve drives per module. That equates to hundreds of thousands of disk drives in production TODAY, comparable to the number of disk drives studied by [Google], and [Carnegie Mellon University] that I discussed in my blog post [Fleet Cars and Skin Cells].
Fact: To date, no customer has lost data as a result of a Double Drive Failure on XIV storage system
This has always been true, both when XIV was a stand-alone company and since the IBM acquisition two years ago. When examining the resilience of an array to any single or multiple component failures, it's important to understand the architecture and the design of the system and not assume all systems are alike. At it's core, XIV is a grid-based storage system. IBM XIV does not use traditional RAID-5 or RAID-10 method, but instead data is distributed across loosely connected data modules which act as independent building blocks. XIV divides each LUN into 1MB "chunks", and stores two copies of each chunk on separate drives in separate modules. We call this "RAID-X".
Spreading all the data across many drives is not unique to XIV. Many disk systems, including EMC CLARiiON-based V-Max, HP EVA, and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) USP-V, allow customers to get XIV-like performance by spreading LUNs across multiple RAID ranks. This is known in the industry as "wide-striping". Some vendors use the terms "metavolumes" or "extent pools" to refer to their implementations of wide-striping. Clients have coined their own phrases, such as "stripes across stripes", "plaid stripes", or "RAID 500". It is highly unlikely that an XIV will experience a double drive failure that ultimately requires recovery of files or LUNs, and is substantially less vulnerable to data loss than an EVA, USP-V or V-Max configured in RAID-5. Fellow blogger Keith Stevenson (IBM) compared XIV's RAID-X design to other forms of RAID in his post [RAID in the 21st Centure].
Fact: IBM XIV is designed to minimize the likelihood and impact of a double drive failure
The independent failure of two drives is a rare occurrence. More data has been lost from hash collisions on EMC Centera than from double drive failures on XIV, and hash collisions are also very rare. While the published worst-case time to re-protect from a 1TB drive failure for a fully-configured XIV is 30 minutes, field experience shows XIV regaining full redundancy on average in 12 minutes. That is 40 times less likely than a typical 8-10 hour window for a RAID-5 configuration.
A lot of bad things can happen in those 8-10 hours of traditional RAID rebuild. Performance can be seriously degraded. Other components may be affected, as they share cache, connected to the same backplane or bus, or co-dependent in some other manner. An engineer supporting the customer onsite during a RAID-5 rebuild might pull the wrong drive, thereby causing a double drive failure they were hoping to avoid. Having IBM XIV rebuild in only a few minutes addresses this "human factor".
In his post [XIV drive management], fellow blogger Jim Kelly (IBM) covers a variety of reasons why storage admins feel double drive failures are more than just random chance. XIV avoids load stress normally associated with traditional RAID rebuild by evenly spreading out the workload across all drives. This is known in the industry as "wear-leveling". When the first drive fails, the recovery is spread across the remaining 179 drives, so that each drive only processes about 1 percent of the data. The [Ultrastar A7K1000] 1TB SATA disk drives that IBM uses from HGST have specified 1.2 million hours mean-time-between-failures [MTBF] would average about one drive failing every nine months in a 180-drive XIV system. However, field experience shows that an XIV system will experience, on average, one drive failure per 13 months, comparable to what companies experience with more robust Fibre Channel drives. That's innovative XIV wear-leveling at work!
Fact: In the highly unlikely event that a DDF were to occur, you will have full read/write access to nearly all of your data on the XIV, all but a few GB.
Even though it has NEVER happened in the field, some clients and prospects are curious what a double drive failure on an XIV would look like. First, a critical alert message would be sent to both the client and IBM, and a "union list" is generated, identifying all the chunks in common. The worst case on a 15-module XIV fully loaded with 79TB data is approximately 9000 chunks, or 9GB of data. The remaining 78.991 TB of unaffected data are fully accessible for read or write. Any I/O requests for the chunks in the "union list" will have no response yet, so there is no way for host applications to access outdated information or cause any corruption.
(One blogger compared losing data on the XIV to drilling a hole through the phone book. Mathematically, the drill bit would be only 1/16th of an inch, or 1.60 millimeters for you folks outside the USA. Enough to knock out perhaps one character from a name or phone number on each page. If you have ever seen an actor in the movies look up a phone number in a telephone booth then yank out a page from the phone book, the XIV equivalent would be cutting out 1/8th of a page from an 1100 page phone book. In both cases, all of the rest of the unaffected information is full accessible, and it is easy to identify which information is missing.)
If the second drive failed several minutes after the first drive, the process for full redundancy is already well under way. This means the union list is considerably shorter or completely empty, and substantially fewer chunks are impacted. Contrast this with RAID-5, where being 99 percent complete on the rebuild when the second drive fails is just as catastrophic as having both drives fail simultaneously.
Fact: After a DDF event, the files on these few GB can be identified for recovery.
Once IBM receives notification of a critical event, an IBM engineer immediately connects to the XIV using remote service support method. There is no need to send someone physically onsite, the repair actions can be done remotely. The IBM engineer has tools from HGST to recover, in most cases, all of the data.
Any "union" chunk that the HGST tools are unable to recover will be set to "media error" mode. The IBM engineer can provide the client a list of the XIV LUNs and LBAs that are on the "media error" list. From this list, the client can determine which hosts these LUNs are attached to, and run file scan utility to the file systems that these LUNs represent. Files that get a media error during this scan will be listed as needing recovery. A chunk could contain several small files, or the chunk could be just part of a large file. To minimize time, the scans and recoveries can all be prioritized and performed in parallel across host systems zoned to these LUNs.
As with any file or volume recovery, keep in mind that these might be part of a larger consistency group, and that your recovery procedures should make sense for the applications involved. In any case, you are probably going to be up-and-running in less time with XIV than recovery from a RAID-5 double failure would take, and certainly nowhere near "beyond repair" that other vendors might have you believe.
Fact: This does not mean you can eliminate all Disaster Recovery planning!
To put this in perspective, you are more likely to lose XIV data from an earthquake, hurricane, fire or flood than from a double drive failure. As with any unlikely disaster, it is best to have a disaster recovery plan than to hope it never happens. All disk systems that sit on a single datacenter floor are vulnerable to such disasters.
For mission-critical applications, IBM recommends using disk mirroring capability. IBM XIV storage system offers synchronous and asynchronous mirroring natively, both included at no additional charge.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes two movies come out that seem eerily similar to each other, released by different studios within months or weeks of each other? My sister used to review film scripts for a living, she would read ten of them and have to pick her top three favorites, and tells me that scripts for nearly identical concepts came all the time. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
1994: [Wyatt Earp] and [Tombstone] were Westerns recounting the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tombstone, Arizona is near Tucson, and the gunfight is recreated fairly often for tourists.
1998: [Armageddon] and [Deep Impact] were a pair of disaster movies dealing with a large rock heading to destroy all life on earth. I was in Mazatlan, Mexico to see the latter, dubbed in Spanish as "Impacto Profundo".
1998: [A Bug's Life] and [Antz] were computer-animated tales of the struggle of one individual ant in an ant colony.
2000: [Mission to Mars] and [Red Planet] were sci-fi pics exploring what a manned mission to our neighboring planet might entail.
This is different than copy-cat movies that are re-made or re-imagined many years later based on the previous successes of an original. Ever since my blog post [VPLEX: EMC's Latest Wheel is Round] in 2010 comparing EMC's copy-cat product that came our seven years after IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC), I've noticed EMC doesn't talk about VPLEX that much anymore.
This week, IBM announced [XIV Gen3 Solid-State Drive support] and our friends over at EMC announced [VFCache SSD-based PCIe cards]. Neither of these should be a surprise to anyone who follows the IT industry, as IBM had announced its XIV Gen3 as "SSD-Ready" last year specifically for this purpose, and EMC has been touting its "Project Lightning" since last May.
Fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC has a blog post [VFCache means Very Fast Cache indeed] that provides additional detail. Chuck claims the VFCache is faster than popular [Fusion-IO PCIe cards] available for IBM servers. I haven't seen the performance spec sheets, but typically SSD is four to five times slower than the DRAM cache used in the XIV Gen3. The VFCache's SSD is probably similar in performance to the SSD supported in the IBM XIV Gen3, DS8000, DS5000, SVC, N series, and Storwize V7000 disk systems.
Nonetheless, I've been asked my opinions on the comparison between these two announcements, as they both deal with improving application performance through the use of Solid-State Drives as an added layer of read cache.
(FTC Disclosure: I am both a full-time employee and stockholder of the IBM Corporation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this blog post as a paid celebrity endorsement of IBM servers and storage systems. This blog post is based on my interpretation and opinions of publicly-available information, as I have no hands-on access to any of these third-party PCIe cards. I have no financial interest in EMC, Fusion-IO, Texas Memory Systems, or any other third party vendor of PCIe cards designed to fit inside IBM servers, and I have not been paid by anyone to mention their name, brands or products on this blog post.)
The solutions are different in that IBM XIV Gen3 the SSD is "storage-side" in the external storage device, and EMC VFCache is "server-side" as a PCI Express [PCIe] card. Aside from that, both implement SSD as an additional read cache layer in front of spinning disk to boost performance. Neither is an industry first, as IBM has offered server-side SSD since 2007, and IBM and EMC have offered storage-side SSD in many of their other external storage devices. The use of SSD as read cache has already been available in IBM N series using [Performance Accelerator Module (PAM)] cards.
IBM has offered cooperative caching synergy between its servers and its storage arrays for some time now. The predecessor to today's POWER7-based were the iSeries i5 servers that used PCI-X IOP cards with cache to connect i5/OS applications to IBM's external disk and tape systems. To compete in this space, EMC created their own PCI-X cards to attach their own disk systems. In 2006, IBM did the right thing for our clients and fostered competition by entering in a [Landmark agreement] with EMC to [license the i5 interfaces]. Today, VIOS on IBM POWER systems allows a much broader choice of disk options for IBM i clients, including the IBM SVC, Storwize V7000 and XIV storage systems.
Can a little SSD really help performance? Yes! An IBM client running a [DB2 Universal Database] cluster across eight System x servers was able to replace an 800-drive EMC Symmetrix by putting eight SSD Fusion-IO cards in each server, for a total of 64 Solid-State drives, saving money and improving performance. DB2 has the Data Partitioning Feature that has multi-system DB2 configurations using a Grid-like architecture similar to how XIV is designed. Most IBM System x and BladeCenter servers support internal SSD storage options, and many offer PCIe slots for third-party SSD cards. Sadly, you can't do this with a VFCache card, since you can have only one VFCache card in each server, the data is unprotected, and only for ephemeral data like transaction logs or other temporary data. With multiple Fusion-IO cards in an IBM server, you can configure a RAID rank across the SSD, and use it for persistent storage like DB2 databases.
Here then is my side-by-side comparison:
IBM XIV Gen3 SSD Caching
Selected x86-based models of Cisco UCS, Dell PowerEdge, HP ProLiant DL, and IBM xSeries and System x servers
All of these, plus any other blade or rack-optimized server currently supported by XIV Gen3, including Oracle SPARC, HP Titanium, IBM POWER systems, and even IBM System z mainframes running Linux
Operating System support
Linux RHEL 5.6 and 5.7, VMware vSphere 4.1 and 5.0, and Windows 2008 x64 and R2.
All of these, plus all the other operating systems supported by XIV Gen3, including AIX, IBM i, Solaris, HP-UX, and Mac OS X
FCP and iSCSI
Vendor-supplied driver required on the server
Yes, the VFCache driver must be installed to use this feature.
No, IBM XIV Gen3 uses native OS-based multi-pathing drivers.
External disk storage systems required
None, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so in theory the benefits are the same whether you use this VFCache card in front of EMC storage or IBM storage
XIV Gen3 is required, as the SSD slots are not available on older models of IBM XIV.
Shared disk support
No, VFCache has to be disabled and removed for vMotion to take place.
Yes! XIV Gen3 SSD caching shared disk supports VMware vMotion and Live Partition Mobility.
Support for multiple servers
An advantage of the XIV Gen3 SSD caching approach is that the cache can be dynamically allocated to the busiest data from any server or servers.
Support for active/active server clusters
Aware of changes made to back-end disk
No, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so any changes to the data on the box itself are not communicated back to the VFCache card itself to invalidate the cache contents.
None identified. However, VFCache only caches blocks 64KB or smaller, so any sequential processing with larger blocks will bypass the VFCache.
Yes! XIV algorithms detect sequential access and avoid polluting the SSD with these blocks of data.
Number of SSD supported
One, which seems odd as IBM supports multiple Fusion-IO cards for its servers. However, this is not really a single point of failure (SPOF) as an application experiencing a VFCache failure merely drops down to external disk array speed, no data is lost since it is only read cache.
6 to 15 (one per XIV module) for high availability.
Pin data in SSD cache
Yes, using split-card mode, you can designate a portion of the 300GB to serve as Direct-attached storage (DAS). All data written to the DAS portion will be kept in SSD. However, since only one card is supported per server and the data is unprotected, this should only be used for ephemeral data like logs and temp files.
No, there is no option to designate an XIV Gen3 volume to be SSD-only. Consider using Fusion-IO PCIe card as a DAS alternative, or another IBM storage system for that requirement.
Pre-sales Estimating tools
Yes! CDF and Disk Magic tools are available to help cost-justify the purchase of SSD based on workload performance analysis.
IBM has the advantage that it designs and manufactures both servers and storage, and can design optimal solutions for our clients in that regard.
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.
A client asked me to explain "Nearline storage" to them. This was easy, I thought, as I started my IBM career on DFHSM, now known as DFSMShsm for z/OS, which was created in 1977 to support the IBM 3850 Mass Storage System (MSS), a virtual storage system that blended disk drives and tape cartridges with robotic automation. Here is a quick recap:
Online storage is immediately available for I/O. This includes DRAM memory, solid-state drives (SSD), and always-on spinning disk, regardless of rotational speed.
Nearline storage is not immediately available, but can be made online quickly without human intervention. This includes optical jukeboxes, automated tape libraries, as well as spin-down massive array of idle disk (MAID) technologies.
Offline storage is not immediately available, and requires some human intervention to bring online. This can include USB memory sticks, CD/DVD optical media, shelf-resident tape cartridges, or other removable media.
Sadly, it appears a few storage manufacturers and vendors have been misusing the term "Nearline" to refer to "slower online" spinning disk drives. I find this [June 2005 technology paper from Seagate], and this [2002 NetApp Press Release], the latter of which included this contradiction for their "NearStore" disk array. Here is the excerpt:
"Providing online access to reference information—NetApp nearline storage solutions quickly retrieve and replicate reference and archive information maintained on cost-effective storage—medical images, financial models, energy exploration charts and graphs, and other data-intensive records can be stored economically and accessed in multiple locations more quickly than ever"
Which is it, "online access" or "nearline storage"?
If a client asked why slower drives consume less energy or generate less heat, I could explain that, but if they ask why slower drives must have SATA connections, that is a different discussion. The speed of a drive and its connection technology are for the most part independent. A 10K RPM drive can be made with FC, SAS or SATA connection.
I am opposed to using "Nearlne" just to distinguish between four-digit speeds (such as 5400 or 7200 RPM) versus "online" for five-digit speeds (10,000 and 15,000 RPM). The difference in performance between 10K RPM and 7200 RPM spinning disks is miniscule compared to the differences between solid-state drives and any spinning disk, or the difference between spinning disk and tape.
I am also opposed to using the term "Nearline" for online storage systems just because they are targeted for the typical use cases like backup, archive or other reference information that were previously directed to nearline devices like automated tape libraries.
Can we all just agree to refer to drives as "fast" or "slow", or give them RPM rotational speed designations, rather than try to incorrectly imply that FC and SAS drives are always fast, and SATA drives are always slow? Certainly we don't need new terms like "NL-SAS" just to represent a slower SAS connected drive.
From New York, Rolf went to London, Paris, Madrid, Morocco, Cairo, South Africa, Bangkok Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and then back to United States. I was hoping to run into him while I was in Australia and New Zealand last month, but our schedules did not line up.
Travelingwithout baggage is more than just a convenience, it is a metaphor for the philosophy that we should keep only what we need, and leave behind what we don't. This was the approach taken by IBM in the design of the IBM Storwize V7000 midrange disk system.
The IBM Storwize V7000 disk system consists of 2U enclosures. Controller enclosures have dual-controllers and drives. Expansion enclosures have just drives. Enclosures can have either 24 smaller form factor (SFF) 2.5-inch drives, or twelve larger 3.5-inch drives. A controller enclosure can be connected up to nine expansion enclosures.
The drives are all connected via 6 Gbps SAS, and come in a variety of speeds and sizes: 300GB Solid-State Drive (SSD); 300GB/450GB/600GB high-speed 10K RPM; and 2TB low-speed 7200 RPM drives. The 12-bay enclosures can be intermixed with 24-bay enclosures on the same system, and within an enclosure different speeds and sizes can be intermixed. A half-rack system (20U) could hold as much as 480TB of raw disk capacity.
This new system, freshly designed entirely within IBM, competes directly against systems that carry a lot of baggage, including the HDS AMS, HP EVA, an EMC CLARiiON CX4 systems. Instead, we decided to keep the what we wanted from our other successful IBM products.
Inspired by our successful XIV storage system, IBM has developed a web-based GUI that focuses on ease-of-use. This GUI uses the latest HTML5 and dojo widgets to provide an incredible user experience.
Borrowed from our IBM DS8000 high-end disk systems, state-of-the-art device adapters provide 6 Gbps SAS connectivity with a variety of RAID levels: 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10.
From our SAN Volume Controller, the embedded [ SVC 6.1 firmware] provides all of the features and functions normally associated with enterprise-class systems, including Easy Tier sub-LUN automated tiering between Solid-State Drives and Spinning disk, thin provisioning, external disk virtualization, point-in-time FlashCopy, disk mirroring, built-in migration capability, and long-distance synchronous and asynchronous replication.
Finally, the various "internal NDA" that kept me from publishing this sooner have expired, so now I have the long-awaited [Inside System Storage: Volume II], documenting IBM's transformation in its storage strategy, including behind-the-scenes commentary about IBM's acquisitions of XIV and Diligent. Available initially in paperback form. I am still working on the hard cover and eBook editions.
For those who have not yet read my first book, Inside System Storage: Volume I, it is still available from my publisher Lulu, in [hard cover], [paperback] and [eBook] editions.
IBM System Storage DS8800
A lesson IBM learned long ago was not to make radical changes to high-end disk systems, as clients who run mission-critical applications are more concerned about reliability, availability and serviceability than they are performance or functionality. Shipping any product before it was ready meant painfully having to fix the problems in the field instead.
(EMC apparently is learning this same lesson now with their VMAX disk system. Their Engenuity code from Symmetrix DMX4 was ported over to new CLARiiON-based hardware. With several hundred boxes in the field, they have already racked up over 150 severity 1 problems, roughly half of these resulted in data loss or unavailability issues. For the sake of our mutual clients that have both IBM servers and EMC disk, I hope they get their act together soon.)
To avoid this, IBM made incremental changes to the successful design and architecture of its predecessors. The new DS8800 shares 85 percent of the stable microcode from the DS8700 system. Functions like Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, and Metro/Global Mirror, are compatible with all of the previous models of the DS8000 series, as well as previous models of the IBM Enterprise Storage Server (ESS) line.
The previous models of DS8000 series were designed to take in cold air from both front and back, and route the hot air out the top, known as chimney design. However, many companies are re-arranging their data centers into separate cold aisles and hot aisles. The new DS8800 has front-to-back cooling to help accommodate this design.
My colleague Curtis Neal would call the rest of this a "BFD" announcement, which of course stands for "Bigger, Faster and Denser". The new DS8800 scales-up to more drives than its DS8700 predecessor, and can scale-out from a single-frame 2-way system to a multi-frame 4-way system. IBM has upgraded to faster 5GHz POWER6+ processors, with dual-core 8 Gbps FC and FICON host adapters, 8 Gbps device adapters, and 6 Gbps SAS connectivity to smaller form factor (SFF) 2.5-inch SAS drives. IBM Easy Tier will provide sub-LUN automated tiering between Solid-State Drives and spinning disk. The denser packaging with SFF drives means that we can pack over 1000 drives in only three frames, compared to five frames required for the DS8700.
The [IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller] software release v6.1 brings Easy Tier sub-LUN automated tiering to the rest of the world. IBM Easy Tier moves the hottest, most active extents up to Solid-State Drives (SSD) and moves the coldest, least active down to spinning disk. This works whether the SSD is inside the SVC 2145-CF8 nodes, or in the managed disk pool.
Tired of waiting for EMC to finally deliver FAST v2 for your VMAX? It has been 18 months since they first announced that someday they would have sub-LUN automatic tiering. What is taking them so long? Why not virtualize your VMAX with SVC, and you can have it sooner!
SVC 6.1 also upgrades to a sexy new web-based GUI, which like the one for the IBM Storwize V7000, is based on the latest HTML5 and dojo widget standards. Inspired by the popular GUI from the IBM XIV Storage System, this GUI has greatly improved ease-of-use.
If you store your VMware bits on external SAN or NAS-based disk storage systems, this post is for you. The subject of the post, VM Volumes, is a potential storage management game changer!
Fellow blogger Stephen Foskett mentioned VM Volumes in his [Introducing VMware vSphere Storage Features] presentation at IBM Edge 2012 conference. His session on VMware's storage features included VMware APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), VMware Array Storage Awareness (VASA), vCenter plug-ins, and a new concept he called "vVol", now more formally known as VM Volumes. This post provides a follow-up to this, describing the VM Volumes concepts, architecture, and value proposition.
"VM Volumes" is a future architecture that VMware is developing in collaboration with IBM and other major storage system vendors. So far, very little information about VM Volumes has been released. At VMworld 2012 Barcelona, VMware highlights VM Volumes for the first time and IBM demonstrates VM Volumes with the IBM XIV Storage System (more about this demo below). VM Volumes is worth your attention -- when it becomes generally available, everyone using storage arrays will have to reconsider their storage management practices in a VMware environment -- no exaggeration!
But enough drama. What is this all about?
(Note: for the sake of clarity, this post refers to block storage only. However, the VM Volumes feature applies to NAS systems as well. Special thanks to Yossi Siles and the XIV development team for their help on this post!)
The VM Volumes concept is simple: VM disks are mapped directly to special volumes on a storage array system, as opposed to storing VMDK files on a vSphere datastore.
The following images illustrate the differences between the two storage management paradigms.
You may still be asking yourself: bottom line, how will I benefit from VM Volumes?
Well, take a VM snapshot for example. With VM Volumes, vSphere can simply offload the operation by invoking a hardware snapshot of the hardware volume. This has significant implications:
VM-Granularity: Only the right VMs are copied (with datastores, backing up or cloning individual-VM portions of hardware snapshot of a datastore would require more complex configuration, tools and work)
Hardware Offload: No ESXi server resources are consumed
XIV advantage: With XIV, snapshots consume no space upfront and are completed instantly.
Here's the first takeaway: With VM Volumes, advanced storage services (which cost a lot when you buy a storage array), will become available at an individual VM level. In a cloud world, this means that applications can be provisioned easily with advanced storage services, such as snapshots and mirroring.
Now, let's take a closer look at another relevant scenario where VM Volumes will make a lot of difference - provisioning an application with special mirroring requirements:
VM Volumes case: The application is ordered via the private cloud portal. The requestor checks a box requesting an asynchronous mirror. He changes the default RPO for his needs. When the request is submitted, the process wraps up automatically: Volumes are created on one of the storage arrays, configured with a mirror and RPO exactly as specified. A few minutes later, the requestor receives an automatic mail pointing to the application virtual machine.
Datastores case #1: As may be expected, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does not exist. As a result, the automated workflow sets a pending status on the request, creates an urgent ticket to a VMware administrator and aborts. When the VMware admin handles that ticket, she re-assigns the ticket to the storage administrator, asking for a new volume which is mirrored with the special RPO, and mapped to the right ESXi cluster. The next day, the volume is created; the ticket is re-assigned to the storage admin, with the new LUN being pointed to. The VMware administrator follows and creates the datastore on top of it. Since the automated workflow was aborted, the admin re-assigns the ticket to the cloud administrator, who sometime later completes the application provisioning manually.
Datastores case #2: Luckily for the requestor, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does exist. However, that particular datastore is consuming space from a high performance XIV Gen3 system with SSD caching, while the application does not require that level of performance, so the workflow requires a storage administrator approval. The approval is given to save time, but the storage administrator opens a ticket for himself to create a new volume on another array, as well as a follow-up ticket for the VMware admin to create a new datastore using the new volume and migrate the application to the other datastore. In this case, provisioning was relatively rapid, but required manual follow up, involving the two administrators.
Here's the second takeaway: With VM Volumes, management is simplified, and end-to-end automation is much more applicable. The reason is that there are no datastores. Datastores physically group VMs that may otherwise be totally unrelated, and require close coordination between storage and VMware administrators.
Now, the above mainly focuses on the VMware or cloud administrator perspective. How does VM Volumes impact storage management?
VM's are the new hosts: Today, storage administrators have visibility of physical hosts in their management environment. In a non-virtualized environment, this visibility is very helpful. The storage administrator knows exactly which applications in a data center are storage-provisioned or affected by storage management operations because the applications are running on well-known hosts. However, in virtualized environments the association of an application to a physical host is temporary. To keep at least the same level of visibility as in physical environments, VMs should become part of the storage management environment, like hosts. Hosts are still interesting, for example to manage physical storage mapping, but without VM visibility, storage administrators will know less about their operation than they are used to, or need to. VM Volumes enables such visibility, because volumes are provided to individual VMs. The XIV VM Volumes demonstration at VMworld Barcelona, although experimental, shows a view of VM volumes, in XIV's management GUI.
Here's a screenshot:
That's not all!
Storage Profiles and Storage Containers: A Storage Profile is a vSphere specification of a set of storage services. A storage profile can include properties like thin or thick provisioning, mirroring definition, snapshot policy, minimum IOPS, etc.
Storage administrators define a portfolio of supported storage services, maintained as a set of storage profiles, and published (via VASA integration) to vSphere.
VMware or cloud administrators define the required storage profiles for specific applications
VMware and storage administrators need to coordinate the typical storage requirements and the automatically-available storage services. When a request to provision an application is made, the associated storage profiles are matched against the published set of available storage profiles. The matching published profiles will be used to create volumes, which will be bound to the application VMs. All that will happen automatically.
Note that when a VM is created today, a datastore must be specified. With VM Volumes, a new management entity called Storage Container (also known as Capacity Pool) replaces the use of datastore as a management object. Each Storage Container exposes a subset of the available storage profiles, as appropriate. The storage container also has a capacity quota.
Here are some more takeaways:
New way to interface vSphere and storage management: Storage administrators structure and publish storage services to vSphere via storage profiles and storage containers.
Automated provisioning, out of the box: The provisioning process automatically matches application-required storage profiles against storage profiles available from the specified storage containers. There is no need to build custom scripts and custom processes to automate storage provisioning to applications
The XIV advantage:
XIV services are very simple to define and publish. The typical number of available storage profiles would be low. It would also be easy to define application storage profiles.
XIV provides consistent high performance, up to very high capacity utilization levels, without any maintenance. As a result, automated provisioning (which inherently implies less human attention) will not create an elevated risk of reduced performance.
Note: A storage vendor VASA provider is required to support VM Volumes, storage profiles, storage containers and automated provisioning. The IBM Storage VASA provider runs as a standalone service that needs to be deployed on a server.
To summarize the VM Volumes value proposition:
Streamline cloud operation by providing storage services at VM and application level, enabling end-to-end provisioning automation, and unifying VMware and storage administration around volumes and VMs.
Increase storage array ROI, improve vSphere scalability and response time, and reduce cloud provisioning lag, by offloading VM-level provisioning, failover, backup, storage migration, storage space recycling, monitoring, and more, to the storage array, using advanced storage operations such as mirroring and snapshots.
Simplify the adoption of VM Volumes using XIV, with smaller and simpler sets of storage profiles. Apply XIV's supreme fast cloning to individual VMs, and keep automation risks at bay with XIV's consistent high performance.
Until you can get your hands on a VM Volumes-capable environment, the VMware and IBM developer groups will be collaborating and working hard to realize this game-changing feature. The above information is definitely expected to trigger your questions or comments, and our development teams are eager to learn from them and respond. Enter your comments below, and I will try to answer them, and help shape the next post on this subject. There's much more to be told.
Here I am, day 11 of a 17-day business trip, on my last leg of the trip this week, in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I have been flooded with requests to give my take on EMC's latest re-interpretation of storage virtualization, VPLEX.
I'll leave it to my fellow IBM master inventor Barry Whyte to cover the detailed technical side-by-side comparison. Instead, I will focus on the business side of things, using Simon Sinek's Why-How-What sequence. Here is a [TED video] from Garr Reynold's post
[The importance of starting from Why].
Let's start with the problem we are trying to solve.
Problem: migration from old gear to new gear, old technology to new technology, from one vendor to another vendor, is disruptive, time-consuming and painful.
Given that IT storage is typically replaced every 3-5 years, then pretty much every company with an internal IT department has this problem, the exception being those companies that don't last that long, and those that use public cloud solutions. IT storage can be expensive, so companies would like their new purchases to be fully utilized on day 1, and be completely empty on day 1500 when the lease expires. I have spoken to clients who have spent 6-9 months planning for the replacement or removal of a storage array.
A solution to make the data migration non-disruptive would benefit the clients (make it easier for their IT staff to keep their data center modern and current) as well as the vendors (reduce the obstacle of selling and deploying new features and functions). Storage virtualization can be employed to help solve this problem. I define virtualization as "technology that makes one set of resources look and feel like a different set of resources, preferably with more desirable characteristics.". By making different storage resources, old and new, look and feel like a single type of resource, migration can be performed without disrupting applications.
Before VPLEX, here is a breakdown of each solution:
Non-disruptive tech refresh, and a unified platform to provide management and functionality across heterogeneous storage.
Non-disruptive tech refresh, and a unified platform to provide management and functionality between internal tier-1 HDS storage, and external tier-2 heterogeneous storage.
Non-disruptive tech refresh, with unified multi-pathing driver that allows host attachment of heterogeneous storage.
New in-band storage virtualization device
Add in-band storage virtualization to existing storage array
New out-of-band storage virtualization device with new "smart" SAN switches
SAN Volume Controller
HDS USP-V and USP-VM
For IBM, the motivation was clear: Protect customers existing investment in older storage arrays and introduce new IBM storage with a solution that allows both to be managed with a single set of interfaces and provide a common set of functionality, improving capacity utilization and availability. IBM SAN Volume Controller eliminated vendor lock-in, providing clients choice in multi-pathing driver, and allowing any-to-any migration and copy services. For example, IBM SVC can be used to help migrate data from an old HDS USP-V to a new HDS USP-V.
With EMC, however, the motivation appeared to protect software revenues from their PowerPath multi-pathing driver, TimeFinder and SRDF copy services. Back in 2005, when EMC Invista was first announced, these three software represented 60 percent of EMC's bottom-line profit. (Ok, I made that last part up, but you get my point! EMC charges a lot for these.)
Back in 2006, fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) suggested that SVC was just a [bump in the wire] which could not possibly improve performance of existing disk arrays. IBM showed clients that putting cache(SVC) in front of other cache(back end devices) does indeed improve performance, in the same way that multi-core processors successfully use L1/L2/L3 cache. Now, EMC is claiming their cache-based VPLEX improves performance of back-end disk. My how EMC's story has changed!
So now, EMC announces VPLEX, which sports a blend of SVC-like and Invista-like characteristics. Based on blogs, tweets and publicly available materials I found on EMC's website, I have been able to determine the following comparison table. (Of course, VPLEX is not yet generally available, so what is eventually delivered may differ.)
Scalable, 1 to 4 node-pairs
One size fits all, single pair of CPCs
SVC-like, 1 to 4 director-pairs
Works with any SAN switches or directors
Required special "smart" switches (vendor lock-in)
SVC-like, works with any SAN switches or directors
Broad selection of IBM Subsystem Device Driver (SDD) offered at no additional charge, as well as OS-native drivers Windows MPIO, AIX MPIO, Solaris MPxIO, HP-UX PV-Links, VMware MPP, Linux DM-MP, and comercial third-party driver Symantec DMP.
Limited selection, with focus on priced PowerPath driver
Invista-like, PowerPath and Windows MPIO
Read cache, and choice of fast-write or write-through cache, offering the ability to improve performance.
No cache, Split-Path architecture cracked open Fibre Channel packets in flight, delayed every IO by 20 nanoseconds, and redirected modified packets to the appropriate physical device.
SVC-like, Read and write-through cache, offering the ability to improve performance.
Space-Efficient Point-in-Time copies
SVC FlashCopy supports up to 256 space-efficient targets, copies of copies, read-only or writeable, and incremental persistent pairs.
Like Invista, No
Remote distance mirror
Choice of SVC Metro Mirror (synchronous up to 300km) and Global Mirror (asynchronous), or use the functionality of the back-end storage arrays
No native support, use functionality of back-end storage arrays, or purchase separate product called EMC RecoverPoint to cover this lack of functionality
Limited synchronous remote-distance mirror within VPLEX (up to 100km only), no native asynchronous support, use functionality of back-end storage arrays
Provides thin provisioning to devices that don't offer this natively
Like Invista, No
SVC Split-Cluster allows concurrent read/write access of data to be accessed from hosts at two different locations several miles apart
I don't think so
PLEX-Metro, similar in concept but implemented differently
Non-disruptive tech refresh
Can upgrade or replace storage arrays, SAN switches, and even the SVC nodes software AND hardware themselves, non-disruptively
Tech refresh for storage arrays, but not for Invista CPCs
Tech refresh of back end devices, and upgrade of VPLEX software, non-disruptively. Not clear if VPLEX engines themselves can be upgraded non-disruptively like the SVC.
Heterogeneous Storage Support
Broad support of over 140 different storage models from all major vendors, including all CLARiiON, Symmetrix and VMAX from EMC, and storage from many smaller startups you may not have heard of
Invista-like. VPLEX claims to support a variety of arrays from a variety of vendors, but as far as I can find, only DS8000 supported from the list of IBM devices. Fellow blogger Barry Burke (EMC) suggests [putting SVC between VPLEX and third party storage devices] to get the heterogeneous coverage most companies demand.
Back-end storage requirement
Must define quorum disks on any IBM or non-IBM back end storage array. SVC can run entirely on non-IBM storage arrays
HP SVSP-like, requires at least one EMC storage array to hold metadata
SVC 2145-CF8 model supports up to four solid-state drives (SSD) per node that can treated as managed disk to store end-user data
Invista-like. VPLEX has an internal 30GB SSD, but this is used only for operating system and logs, not for end-user data.
In-band virtualization solutions from IBM and HDS dominate the market. Being able to migrate data from old devices to new ones non-disruptively turned out to be only the [tip of the iceberg] of benefits from storage virtualization. In today's highly virtualized server environment, being able to non-disruptively migrate data comes in handy all the time. SVC is one of the best storage solutions for VMware, Hyper-V, XEN and PowerVM environments. EMC watched and learned in the shadows, taking notes of what people like about the SVC, and decided to follow IBM's time-tested leadership to provide a similar offering.
EMC re-invented the wheel, and it is round. On a scale from Invista (zero) to SVC (ten), I give EMC's new VPLEX a six.
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!
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.
"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.
Wrapping up my coverage of the annual [2010 System Storage Technical University], I attended what might be perhaps the best session of the conference. Jim Nolting, IBM Semiconductor Manufacturing Engineer, presented the new IBM zEnterprise mainframe, "A New Dimension in Computing", under the Federal track.
The zEnterprises debunks the "one processor fits all" myth. For some I/O-intensive workloads, the mainframe continues to be the most cost-effective platform. However, there are other workloads where a memory-rich Intel or AMD x86 instance might be the best fit, and yet other workloads where the high number of parallel threads of reduced instruction set computing [RISC] such as IBM's POWER7 processor is more cost-effective. The IBM zEnterprise combines all three processor types into a single system, so that you can now run each workload on the processor that is optimized for that workload.
IBM zEnterprise z196 Central Processing Complex (CPC)
Let's start with the new mainframe z196 central processing complex (CPC). Many thought this would be called the z11, but that didn't happen. Basically, the z196 machine has a maximum 96 cores versus z10's 64 core maximum, and each core runs 5.2GHz instead of z10's cores running at 4.7GHz. It is available in air-cooled and water-cooled models. The primary operating system that runs on this is called "z/OS", which when used with its integrated UNIX System Services subsystem, is fully UNIX-certified. The z196 server can also run z/VM, z/VSE, z/TPF and Linux on z, which is just Linux recompiled for the z/Architecture chip set. In my June 2008 post [Yes, Jon, there is a mainframe that can help replace 1500 servers], I mentioned the z10 mainframe had a top speed of nearly 30,000 MIPS (Million Instructions per Second). The new z196 machine can do 50,000 MIPS, a 60 percent increase!
The z196 runs a hypervisor called PR/SM that allows the box to be divided into dozens of logical partitions (LPAR), and the z/VM operating system can also act as a hypervisor running hundreds or thousands of guest OS images. Each core can be assigned a specialty engine "personality": GP for general processor, IFL for z/VM and Linux, zAAP for Java and XML processing, and zIIP for database, communications and remote disk mirroring. Like the z9 and z10, the z196 can attach to external disk and tape storage via ESCON, FICON or FCP protocols, and through NFS via 1GbE and 10GbE Ethernet.
IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX)
There is a new frame called the zBX that basically holds two IBM BladeCenter chassis, each capable of 14 blades, so total of 28 blades per zBX frame. For now, only select blade servers are supported inside, but IBM plans to expand this to include more as testing continues. The POWER-based blades can run native AIX, IBM's other UNIX operating system, and the x86-based blades can run Linux-x86 workloads, for example. Each of these blade servers can run a single OS natively, or run a hypervisor to have multiple guest OS images. IBM plans to look into running other POWER and x86-based operating systems in the future.
If you are already familiar with IBM's BladeCenter, then you can skip this paragraph. Basically, you have a chassis that holds 14 blades connected to a "mid-plane". On the back of the chassis, you have hot-swappable modules that snap into the other side of the mid-plane. There are modules for FCP, FCoE and Ethernet connectivity, which allows blades to talk to each other, as well as external storage. BladeCenter Management modules serve as both the service processor as well as the keyboard, video and mouse Local Console Manager (LCM). All of the IBM storage options available to IBM BladeCenter apply to zBX as well.
Besides general purpose blades, IBM will offer "accelerator" blades that will offload work from the z196. For example, let's say an OLAP-style query is issued via SQL to DB2 on z/OS. In the process of parsing the complicated query, it creates a Materialized Query Table (MQT) to temporarily hold some data. This MQT contains just the columnar data required, which can then be transferred to a set of blade servers known as the Smart Analytics Optimizer (SAO), then processes the request and sends the results back. The Smart Analytics Optimizer comes in various sizes, from small (7 blades) to extra large (56 blades, 28 in each of two zBX frames). A 14-blade configuration can hold about 1TB of compressed DB2 data in memory for processing.
IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager
You can have up to eight z196 machines and up to four zBX frames connected together into a monstrously large system. There are two internal networks. The Inter-ensemble data network (IEDN) is a 10GbE that connects all the OS images together, and can be further subdivided into separate virtual LANs (VLAN). The Inter-node management network (INMN) is a 1000 Mbps Base-T Ethernet that connects all the host servers together to be managed under a single pane of glass known as the Unified Resource Manager. It is based on IBM Systems Director.
By integrating service management, the Unified Resource Manager can handle Operations, Energy Management, Hypervisor Management, Virtual Server Lifecycle Management, Platform Performance Management, and Network Management, all from one place.
IBM Rational Developer for System z Unit Test (RDz)
But what about developers and testers, such as those Independent Software Vendors (ISV) that produce mainframe software. How can IBM make their lives easier?
Phil Smith on z/Journal provides a history of [IBM Mainframe Emulation]. Back in 2007, three emulation options were in use in various shops:
Open Mainframe, from Platform Solutions, Inc. (PSI)
FLEX-ES, from Fundamental Software, Inc.
Hercules, which is an open source package
None of these are viable options today. Nobody wanted to pay IBM for its Intellectual Property on the z/Architecture or license the use of the z/OS operating system. To fill the void, IBM put out an officially-supported emulation environment called IBM System z Professional Development Tool (zPDT) available to IBM employees, IBM Business Partners and ISVs that register through IBM Partnerworld. To help out developers and testers who work at clients that run mainframes, IBM now offers IBM Rational Developer for System z Unit Test, which is a modified version of zPDT that can run on a x86-based laptop or shared IBM System x server. Based on the open source [Eclipse IDE], the RDz emulates GP, IFL, zAAP and zIIP engines on a Linux-x86 base. A four-core x86 server can emulate a 3-engine mainframe.
With RDz, a developer can write code, compile and unit test all without consuming any mainframe MIPS. The interface is similar to Rational Application Developer (RAD), and so similar skills, tools and interfaces used to write Java, C/C++ and Fortran code can also be used for JCL, CICS, IMS, COBOL and PL/I on the mainframe. An IBM study ["Benchmarking IDE Efficiency"] found that developers using RDz were 30 percent more productive than using native z/OS ISPF. (I mention the use of RAD in my post [Three Things to do on the IBM Cloud]).
What does this all mean for the IT industry? First, the zEnterprise is perfectly positioned for [three-tier architecture] applications. A typical example could be a client-facing web-server on x86, talking to business logic running on POWER7, which in turn talks to database on z/OS in the z196 mainframe. Second, the zEnterprise is well-positioned for government agencies looking to modernize their operations and significantly reduce costs, corporations looking to consolidate data centers, and service providers looking to deploy public cloud offerings. Third, IBM storage is a great fit for the zEnterprise, with the IBM DS8000 series, XIV, SONAS and Information Archive accessible from both z196 and zBX servers.
Now an avid reader of my blog has brought this to my attention. Apparently,
EMC has been showing customers a presentation
[Accelerating Storage Transformation with VMAX and VPLEX] with false and misleading comparison claims between IBM DS8000, HDS VSP and EMC VMAX 40K disk system performance.
(FTC Disclosure: This would be a good time to remind my readers that I work for IBM and own IBM stock. I do not endorse any of the EMC or HDS products mentioned in this post, and have no financial affiliation or investments directly with either EMC nor HDS. I am basing my information solely on the presentation posted on the internet and other sources publicly available, and not on any misrepresentations from EMC speakers at the various conferences where these charts might have been shown.)
The problem with misinformation is that it is not always obvious. The EMC presentation is quite pretty and professional-looking. It is the typical slick, attention-getting, low-content, over-simplified marketing puffery you have come to expect from EMC. There are two slides in particular that I have issue with.
This first graphic implies that IBM and HDS are nearly tied in performance, but that EMC VMAX 40K has nearly triple that bandwidth. Overall the slide has very little detail. That makes it difficult to determine what exactly is being claimed and whether a fair comparison is being made.
The title claims that VMAX 40K is "#1 in High Bandwidth Apps". Only three disk systems are shown so the claim appears to be relative to only the three systems. The wording "High Bandwidth Apps" is confusing considering the cited numbers are for disk systems and no application is identified. By comparison, IBM SONAS can drive up to 105 GB/sec sequential bandwidth, nearly double what EMC claims for its VMAX 40K, so EMC is certainly not even close to #1.
Is the workload random or sequential? That is not easy to determine. The use of "GB/s" along with the large block size of 128KB implies the I/O workload is sequential, which is great for some workloads like high performance computing, technical computing and video broadcasts. Random workloads, on the other hand, are usually measured in I/Os per second (IOPS) with a block size ranging 4KB to 64KB. (I am assuming the 128K blocks refers to 128KB block size, and not reading the same block of cache 128,000 times.)
The slide states "Maximum Sustainable RRH Bandwidth 128K Blocks". The acronym "RRH" is not defined; but I suspect this refers to "random read hits". For random workloads, 100 percent random read hits from cache represents one corner of the infamous "four corners" test. Real-world workloads have a mix of reads and writes, and a mix of cache hits and cache misses. It is also unclear whether the hits are from standard data cache or from internal buffers in adapters (perhaps accessing the same blocks repeatedly) or something else. So is this really for a random workload, or a sequential workload?
(The term "Hitachi Math" was coined by an EMC blogger precisely to slam Hitachi Data Systems for their blatant use of four-corners results, claiming that spouting ridiculously large, but equally unrealistic, 100 percent random read hit results don't provide any useful information. I agree. There are much better industry-standard benchmarks available, such as SPC-1 for random workloads, SPC-2 for sequential workloads, and even benchmarks for specific applications, that represent real-world IT environments. To shame HDS for their use of four-corners results, only for EMC themselves to use similar figures in their own presentation is truly hypocritical of them!)
The IBM system is identified as "DS8000". DS8000 is a generic family name that applies to multiple generations of systems first introduced in 2004. The specific model is not identified, but that is critical information. Is this a first generation DS8100, or the latest DS8800, or something in between?
The slide says "Full System Configs", but that is not defined and configuration details are not identified. Configuration details, also critical information in assessing system performance capabilities, are not specified. If the EMC box costs seven times more than IBM or HDS, would you really buy it to get 3x more performance? Is the EMC packed with the maximum amount of SSD? Were there any SSD in the IBM or HDS boxes to match?
The source of the claimed IBM DS8000 performance numbers is not identified. Did they run their own tests? While I cannot tell, the VMAX may have been configured with 64 Fibre Channel 8Gbps host connections. In that case each channel is theoretically capable of supporting about 800 MB/s at 100% channel utilization. Multiplying 64 x 800MB/s = 51.2GB/s, so did EMC just do the performance comparison on the back of a napkin, assuming there are no other bottlenecks in the system? Even then, I would not round up 51.2 to 52!
Response times were not identified. For random I/Os, response time is a very important metric. It is possible that the Symmetrix was operating with some resources at 100% utilization to get the highest GB/s result, but that would likely make I/O response times unacceptable for real-world random I/O workloads.
IBM and HDS have both published Storage Performance Council [SPC] industry-standard performance benchmarks. EMC has not published any SPC benchmarks for VMAX systems. If EMC is interested in providing customers with audited, detailed performance information along with detailed configuration information, all based on benchmarks designed to represent real-world workloads, EMC can always publish SPC benchmark results as IBM and other vendors have done. In past blog fights, EMC resorts to the excuse that SPC isn't perfect, but can they really argue that vague and unrealistic claims cited in its presentation are better?
The second graphic is so absurd, you would think it came directly from Larry Ellison at an Oracle OpenWorld keynote session. EMC is comparing a configuration with VMAX 40K plus an EMC VFCache host-side flash memory cache card to a configuration with an IBM and HDS disk system without host-side flash memory cache also configured. The comparison is clearly apples-to-oranges. Other disk system configuration details are also omitted.
FAST VP is EMC's name for its sub-volume drive tiering feature, comparable to IBM Easy Tier and Hitachi's Dynamic Tiering. The graph implies that IBM and HDS can only achieve a modest increment improvement from their sub-volume tiering. I beg to differ. I have seen various cases where a small amount of SSD on IBM DS8000 series can drastically improve performance 200 to 400 percent.
The "DBClassify" shown on the graph is a tool run as part of an EMC professional services offering called Database Performance Tiering Assessment, makes recommendations for storing various database objects on different drive tiers based on object usage and importance. Do you really need to pay for professional services? With IBM Easy Tier, you just turn it on, and it works. No analysis required, no tools, no professional services, and no additional charge!
VFCache is an optional product from EMC that currently has no integration whatsoever with VMAX. A fair comparison would have included a host-side flash memory cache (from any vendor) when the IBM or HDS storage system was configured. Or leave it out altogether and just focus on the sub-volume tiering comparison.
Keep in mind that EMC's VFCache supports only selected x86-based hosts. IBM has published a [Statement of Direction] indicating that it will also offer this for Power systems running AIX and Linux host-side flash memory cache integrated with DS8000 Easy Tier.
I feel EMC's claims about IBM DS8000 performance are vague and misleading. EMC appears to lack the kind of technical marketing integrity that IBM strives to attain.
Since EMC is not able or willing to publish fair and meaningful performance comparisons, it is up to me to set the record straight and point out EMC's failings in this matter.
Reminder: It's not to late to register for my Webcast "Solving the Storage Capacity Crisis" on Tuesday, September 25. See my blog post [Upcoming events in September] to register!
Continuing my rant from Monday's post [Time for a New Laptop], I got my new laptop Wednesday afternoon. I was hoping the transition would be quick, but that was not the case. Here were my initial steps prior to connecting my two laptops together for the big file transfer:
Document what my old workstation has
Back in 2007, I wrote a blog post on how to [Separate Programs from Data]. I have since added a Linux partition for dual-boot on my ThinkPad T60.
Windows XP SP3 operating system and programs
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4
My Documents and other data
I also created a spreadsheet of all my tools, utilities and applications. I combined and deduplicated the list from the following sources:
Control Panel -> Add/Remove programs
Start -> Programs panels
Program taskbar at bottom of screen
The last one was critical. Over the years, I have gotten in the habit of saving those ZIP or EXE files that self-install programs into a separate directory, D:/Install-Files, so that if I had to unintsall an application, due to conflicts or compatability issues, I could re-install it without having to download them again.
So, I have a total of 134 applications, which I have put into the following rough categories:
AV - editing and manipulating audio, video or graphics
Files - backup, copy or manipulate disks, files and file systems
Browser - Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome
Communications - Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime
Connect - programs to connect to different Web and Wi-Fi services
Demo - programs I demonstrate to clients at briefings
Drivers - attach or sync to external devices, cell phones, PDAs
Games - not much here, the basic solitaire, mindsweeper and pinball
Help Desk - programs to diagnose, test and gather system information
Projects - special projects like Second Life or Lego Mindstorms
Lookup - programs to lookup information, like American Airlines TravelDesk
Meeting - I have FIVE different webinar conferencing tools
Office - presentations, spreadsheets and documents
Platform - Java, Adobe Air and other application runtime environments
Player - do I really need SIXTEEN different audio/video players?
Printer - print drivers and printer management software
Scanners - programs that scan for viruses, malware and adware
Tools - calculators, configurators, sizing tools, and estimators
Uploaders - programs to upload photos or files to various Web services
Backup my new workstation
My new ThinkPad T410 has a dual-core i5 64-bit Intel processor, so I burned a 64-bit version of [Clonezilla LiveCD] and booted the new system with that. The new system has the following configuration:
Windows XP SP3 operating system, programs and data
There were only 14.4GB of data, it took 10 minutes to backup to an external USB disk. I ran it twice: first, using the option to dump the entire disk, and the second to dump the selected partition. The results were roughly the same.
Run Workstation Setup Wizard
The Workstation Setup Wizard asks for all the pertinent location information, time zone, userid/password, needed to complete the installation.
I made two small changes to connect C: to D: drive.
Changed "My Documents" to point to D:\Documents which will move the files over from C: to D: to accomodate its new target location. See [Microsoft procedure] for details.
Edited C:\notes\notes.ini to point to D:\notes\data to store all the local replicas of my email and databases.
Install Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS
My plan is to run Windows and Linux guests through virtualization. I decided to try out Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS, affectionately known as Lucid Lynx, which can support a variety of different virtualization tools, including KVM, VirtualBox-OSE and Xen. I have two identical 15GB partitions (sda2 and sda3) that I can use to hold two different systems, or one can be a subdirectory of the other. For now, I'll leave sda3 empty.
Take another backup of my new workstation
I took a fresh new backup of paritions (sda1, sda2, sda6) with Clonezilla.
The next step involved a cross-over Ethernet cable, which I don't have. So that will have to wait until Thursday morning.
Wrapping up my week's theme of storage optimization, I thought I would help clarify the confusion between data reduction and storage efficiency. I have seen many articles and blog posts that either use these two terms interchangeably, as if they were synonyms for each other, or as if one is merely a subset of the other.
Data Reduction is LOSSY
By "Lossy", I mean that reducing data is an irreversible process. Details are lost, but insight is gained. In his paper, [Data Reduction Techniques", Rajana Agarwal defines this simply:
"Data reduction techniques are applied where the goal is to aggregate or amalgamate the information contained in large data sets into manageable (smaller) information nuggets."
Data reduction has been around since the 18th century.
Take for example this histogram from [SearchSoftwareQuality.com]. We have reduced ninety individual student scores, and reduced them down to just five numbers, the counts in each range. This can provide for easier comprehension and comparison with other distributions.
The process is lossy. I cannot determine or re-create an individual student's score from these five histogram values.
This next example, complements of [Michael Hardy], represents another form of data reduction known as ["linear regression analysis"]. The idea is to take a large set of data points between two variables, the x axis along the horizontal and the y axis along the vertical, and find the best line that fits. Thus the data is reduced from many points to just two, slope(a) and intercept(b), resulting in an equation of y=ax+b.
The process is lossy. I cannot determine or re-create any original data point from this slope and intercept equation.
In this last example, from [Yahoo Finance], reduces millions of stock trades to a single point per day, typically closing price, to show the overall growth trend over the course of the past year.
The process is lossy. Even if I knew the low, high and closing price of a particular stock on a particular day, I would not be able to determine or re-create the actual price paid for individual trades that occurred.
Storage Efficiency is LOSSLESS
By contrast, there are many IT methods that can be used to store data in ways that are more efficient, without losing any of the fine detail. Here are some examples:
Thin Provisioning: Instead of storing 30GB of data on 100GB of disk capacity, you store it on 30GB of capacity. All of the data is still there, just none of the wasteful empty space.
Space-efficient Copy: Instead of copying every block of data from source to destination, you copy over only those blocks that have changed since the copy began. The blocks not copied are still available on the source volume, so there is no need to duplicate this data.
Archiving and Space Management: Data can be moved out of production databases and stored elsewhere on disk or tape. Enough XML metadata is carried along so that there is no loss in the fine detail of what each row and column represent.
Data Deduplication: The idea is simple. Find large chunks of data that contain the same exact information as an existing chunk already stored, and merely set a pointer to avoid storing the duplicate copy. This can be done in-line as data is written, or as a post-process task when things are otherwise slow and idle.
When data deduplication first came out, some lawyers were concerned that this was a "lossy" approach, that somehow documents were coming back without some of their original contents. How else can you explain storing 25PB of data on only 1PB of disk?
(In some countries, companies must retain data in their original file formats, as there is concern that converting business documents to PDF or HTML would lose some critical "metadata" information such as modificatoin dates, authorship information, underlying formulae, and so on.)
Well, the concern applies only to those data deduplication methods that calculate a hash code or fingerprint, such as EMC Centera or EMC Data Domain. If the hash code of new incoming data matches the hash code of existing data, then the new data is discarded and assumed to be identical. This is rare, and I have only read of a few occurrences of unique data being discarded in the past five years. To ensure full integrity, IBM ProtecTIER data deduplication solution and IBM N series disk systems chose instead to do full byte-for-byte comparisons.
Compression: There are both lossy and lossless compression techniques. The lossless Lempel-Ziv algorithm is the basis for LTO-DC algorithm used in IBM's Linear Tape Open [LTO] tape drives, the Streaming Lossless Data Compression (SLDC) algorithm used in IBM's [Enterprise-class TS1130] tape drives, and the Adaptive Lossless Data Compression (ALDC) used by the IBM Information Archive for its disk pool collections.
Last month, IBM announced that it was [acquiring Storwize. It's Random Access Compression Engine (RACE) is also a lossless compression algorithm based on Lempel-Ziv. As servers write files, Storwize compresses those files and passes them on to the destination NAS device. When files are read back, Storwize retrieves and decompresses the data back to its original form.
As with tape, the savings from compression can vary, typically from 20 to 80 percent. In other words, 10TB of primary data could take up from 2TB to 8TB of physical space. To estimate what savings you might achieve for your mix of data types, try out the free [Storwize Predictive Modeling Tool].
So why am I making a distinction on terminology here?
Data reduction is already a well-known concept among specific industries, like High-Performance Computing (HPC) and Business Analytics. IBM has the largest marketshare in supercomputers that do data reduction for all kinds of use cases, for scientific research, weather prediction, financial projections, and decision support systems. IBM has also recently acquired a lot of companies related to Business Analytics, such as Cognos, SPSS, CoreMetrics and Unica Corp. These use data reduction on large amounts of business and marketing data to help drive new sources of revenues, provide insight for new products and services, create more focused advertising campaigns, and help understand the marketplace better.
There are certainly enough methods of reducing the quantity of storage capacity consumed, like thin provisioning, data deduplication and compression, to warrant an "umbrella term" that refers to all of them generically. I would prefer we do not "overload" the existing phrase "data reduction" but rather come up with a new phrase, such as "storage efficiency" or "capacity optimization" to refer to this category of features.
IBM is certainly quite involved in both data reduction as well as storage efficiency. If any of my readers can suggest a better phrase, please comment below.
Are you tired of hearing about Cloud Computing without having any hands-on experience? Here's your chance. IBM has recently launched its IBM Development and Test Cloud beta. This gives you a "sandbox" to play in. Here's a few steps to get started:
Generate a "key pair". There are two keys. A "public" key that will reside in the cloud, and a "private" key that you download to your personal computer. Don't lose this key.
Request an IP address. This step is optional, but I went ahead and got a static IP, so I don't have to type in long hostnames like "vm353.developer.ihost.com".
Request storage space. Again, this step is optional, but you can request a 50GB, 100GB and 200GB LUN. I picked a 200GB LUN. Note that each instance comes with some 10 to 30GB storage already. The advantage to a storage LUN is that it is persistent, and you can mount it to different instances.
Start an "instance". An "instance" is a virtual machine, pre-installed with whatever software you chose from the "asset catalog". These are Linux images running under Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) which is based on Linux's kernel virtual machine (KVM). When you start an instance, you get to decide its size (small, medium, or large), whether to use your static IP address, and where to mount your storage LUN. On the examples below, I had each instance with a static IP and mounted the storage LUN to /media/storage subdirectory. The process takes a few minutes.
So, now that you are ready to go, what instance should you pick from the catalog? Here are three examples to get you started:
IBM WebSphere sMASH Application Builder
Base OS server to run LAMP stack
Next, I decided to try out one of the base OS images. There are a lot of books on Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (LAMP) which represents nearly 70 percent of the web sites on the internet. This instance let's you install all the software from scratch. Between Red Hat and Novell SUSE distributions of Linux, Red Hat is focused on being the Hypervisor of choice, and SUSE is focusing on being the Guest OS of choice. Most of the images on the "asset catalog" are based on SLES 10 SP2. However, there was a base OS image of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.4, so I chose that.
To install software, you either have to find the appropriate RPM package, or download a tarball and compile from source. To try both methods out, I downloaded tarballs of Apache Web Server and PHP, and got the RPM packages for MySQL. If you just want to learn SQL, there are instances on the asset catalog with DB2 and DB2 Express-C already pre-installed. However, if you are already an expert in MySQL, or are following a tutorial or examples based on MySQL from a classroom textbook, or just want a development and test environment that matches what your company uses in production, then by all means install MySQL.
This is where my SSH client comes in handy. I am able to login to my instance and use "wget" to fetch the appropriate files. An alternative is to use "SCP" (also part of PuTTY) to do a secure copy from your personal computer up to the instance. You will need to do everything via command line interface, including editing files, so I found this [VI cheat sheet] useful. I copied all of the tarballs and RPMs on my storage LUN ( /media/storage ) so as not to have to download them again.
Compiling and configuring them is a different matter. By default, you login as an end user, "idcuser" (which stands for IBM Developer Cloud user). However, sometimes you need "root" level access. Use "sudo bash" to get into root level mode, and this allows you to put the files where they need to be. If you haven't done a configure/make/make install in awhile, here's your chance to relive those "glory days".
In the end, I was able to confirm that Apache, MySQL and PHP were all running correctly. I wrote a simple index.php that invoked phpinfo() to show all the settings were set correctly. I rebooted the instance to ensure that all of the services started at boot time.
Rational Application Developer over VDI
This last example, I started an instance pre-installed with Rational Application Developer (RAD), which is a full Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Java and J2EE applications. I used the "NX Client" to launch a virtual desktop image (VDI) which in this case was Gnome on SLES 10 SP2. You might want to increase the screen resolution on your personal computer so that the VDI does not take up the entire screen.
From this VDI, you can launch any of the programs, just as if it were your own personal computer. Launch RAD, and you get the familiar environment. I created a short Java program and launched it on the internal WebSphere Application Server test image to confirm it was working correctly.
If you are thinking, "This is too good to be true!" there is a small catch. The instances are only up and running for 7 days. After that, they go away, and you have to start up another one. This includes any files you had on the local disk drive. You have a few options to save your work:
Copy the files you want to save to your storage LUN. This storage LUN appears persistent, and continues to exist after the instance goes away.
Take an "image" of your "instance", a function provided in the IBM Developer and Test Cloud. If you start a project Monday morning, work on it all week, then on Friday afternoon, take an "image". This will shutdown your instance, and backup all of the files to your own personal "asset catalog" so that the next time you request an instance, you can chose that "image" as the starting point.
Another option is to request an "extension" which gives you another 7 days for that instance. You can request up to five unique instances running at the same time, so if you wanted to develop and test a multi-host application, perhaps one host that acts as the front-end web server, another host that does some kind of processing, and a third host that manages the database, this is all possible. As far as I can tell, you can do all the above from either a Windows, Mac or Linux personal computer.
Getting hands-on access to Cloud Computing really helps to understand this technology!
Continuing on the [IBM Storage Launch of February 9], John Sing has offered to write the following guest post about the [announcement] of IBM Scale Out Network Attached Storage [IBM SONAS]. John and I have known each other for a while, traveled the world to work with clients and speak at conferences. He is an Executive IT Consultant on the SONAS team.
Guest Post written by John Sing, IBM San Jose, California
What is IBM SONAS? It’s many things, so let’s start with this list:
It’s IBM’s delivery of a productized, pre-packaged Scale Out NAS global virtual file server, delivered in a easy-to-use appliance
IBM’s solution for large enterprise file-based storage requirements, where massive scale in capacity and extreme performance is required, especially for today’s modern analytics-based Competitive Advantage IT applications
Scales to many petabytes of usable storage and billions of files in a single global namespace
Provides integrated central management, central deployment of petabyte levels of storage
Modular commercial-off-the-shelf [COTS] building blocks. I/O, storage, network capacity scale independently of each other. Up to 30 interface nodes and 60 storage nodes, in an IBM General Parallel File System [GPFS]-based cluster. Each 10Gb CEE interface node port is capable of streaming at 900 MB/sec
Files are written in block-sized chunks, striped over as many multiple disk drives in parallel – aggregating throughput on a massive scale (both read and write), as well as providing auto-tuning, auto-balancing
Functionality delivered via one program product, IBM SONAS Software, which provides all of above functions, along with clustered CIFS, NFS v2/v3 with session auto-failover, FTP, high availability, and more
IBM SONAS makes automated tiered storage achievable and realistic at petabyte levels:
Integrated high performance parallel scan engine capable of identifying files at over 10 million files per minute per node
Integrated parallel data movement engine to physically relocate the data within tiered storage
And we’re just scratching the surface. IBM has plans to deploy additional protocols, storage hardware options, and software features.
However, the real question of interest should be, “who really needs that much storage capacity and throughput horsepower?”
The answer may surprise you. IMHO, the answer is: almost any modern enterprise that intends to stay competitive. Hmmm…… Consider this: the reason that IT exists today is no longer to simply save cost (that may have been true 10 years ago). Everyone is reducing cost… but how much competitive advantage is purchased through “let’s cut our IT budget by 10% this year”?
Notice that in today’s world, there are (many) bright people out there, changing our world every day through New Intelligence Competitive Advantage analytics-based IT applications such as real time GPS traffic data, real time energy monitoring and redirection, real time video feed with analytics, text analytics, entity analytics, real time stream computing, image recognition applications, HDTV video on demand, etc. Think of how GPS industry, cell phone / Twitter / Facebook, iPhone and iPad applications, as examples, are creating whole new industries and markets almost overnight.
Then start asking yourself, “What's behind these Competitive Advantage IT applications – as they are the ones that are driving all my storage growth? Why do they need so much storage? What do those applications mean for my storage requirements?”
To be “real-time”, long-held IT paradigms are being broken every day. Things like “data proximity”: we can no longer can extract terabytes of data from production databases and load them to a data warehouse – where’s the “real-time” in that? Instead, today’s modern analytics-based applications demand:
Multiple processes and servers (sometimes numbering in the 100s) simultaneously ….
Running against hundreds of terabytes of data of live production data, streaming in from expanding number of smarter sensors, input devices, users
Producing digital image-intensive results that must be programatically sent to an ever increasing number of mobile devices in geographically dispersed storage
Requiring parallel performance levels, that used to be the domain only of High Performance Computing (HPC)
This is a major paradigm shift in storage – and that is the solution and storage capabilities that IBM SONAS is designed to address. And of course, you should be able to save significant cost through the SONAS global virtual file server consolidation and virtualization as well.
Certainly, this topic warrants more discussion. If you found it interesting, contact me, your local IBM Business Partner or IBM Storage rep to discuss Competitive Advantage IT applications and SONAS further.
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.
I've gotten suggestions to upgrade the memory and disk storage, and how to fine-tune the Microsoft Windows XP operating system. Others suggested replacing the OS with Linux, and to use the Cloud to avoid some of the storage space limitations.
But first, I have to mention the latest in our series of "Enterprise Systems" videos. The first was being [Data Ready]. The second was being [Security Ready]. The now the third in the series: the 3-minute
[Cloud Ready] video.
So I decided to try different Cloud-oriented Operating Systems, to see if any would be a good fit. Here is what I found:
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM and own IBM stock. This blog post is not meant to endorse one OS over another. I have financial interests in, and/or have friends and family who work at some of the various companies mentioned in this post. Some of these companies also have business relationships with IBM.)
Jolicloud and Joli OS 1.2
I gave this OS a try. This is based on Linux, but with an interesting approach. First, you have to be on-line all the time, and this OS is designed for 15-25 year-olds who are on social media websites like Facebook. By having a Jolicloud account, you can access this from any browser on any system, or run the Joli OS operating system, or buy the already pre-installed Jolibook netbook computer.
The Joli OS 1.2 LiveCD ran fine on my T410 with 4GB or RAM, giving me a chance to check it out, but sadly did not run on grandma's Thinkpad R31 with 384MB of RAM. According to the [Jolicloud specifications], Joli OS should run in as little as 384MB of RAM and 2GB of disk storage space, but it didn't for me.
Google Chrome and Chromium OS Vanilla
Like the Jolibook, Google has come out with a $249 Chromebook laptop that runs their "Chrome OS". This is only available via OEM install on desginated hardware, but the open source version is available called Chromium OS. These are also based on Linux.
Rather than compiling from source, Hexxeh has made nightly builds available. You can download [Chromium OS Vanilla] zip file, unzip the image file, and copy it to a 4GB USB memory stick. The compressed image is about 300MB, but uncompressed about 2.5GB, so too big to fit on a CD. The image on the USB stick is actually two partitions, and cannot be run from DVD either.
If you don't have a 4GB USB stick handy, and want to see what all the fuss is about, just install the Google Chrome browser on your Windows or Linux system, and then maximize the browser window. That's it. That is basically what Chromium OS is all about.
Files can be stored locally, or out on your Google Drive. Documents can be edited using "Google Docs" in the Cloud. You can run in "off-line" mode, for example, read your Gmail notes when not connected to the Internet. Music and video files can be played using the "Files" app.
If you really need to get out of the browser, you can hit the right combination of keys to get to the "crosh" command line shell.
Like Joli OS, I was able to run this from my Thinkpad T410 with 4GB of RAM, but not on grandma's Thinkpad R31. It appears that Chromium requires at least 1GB of RAM to run properly.
Android for x86
While researching the Chromium OS, I found that there is an open source community porting [Android to the x86] platform. Android is based on Linux, and would allow your laptop or netbook to run very much like a smartphone or tablet. Most of the apps available to Android should work here as well.
Unfortunately, the project has focused only on selected hardware:
ASUS Eee PCs/Laptops
Viewsonic Viewpad 10
Dell Inspiron Mini Duo
Lenovo ThinkPad x61 Tablet
I tried running the Thinkpad x61 version on both my Thinkpad T410 and grandma's Thinkpad R31, but with no success.
Peppermint OS Three
Next up was Peppermint OS, which claims to be a blend of Linux Mint, Lubuntu, and Xfce, but with a "twist" of aspiring to be a Cloud-oriented OS.
Rather than traditional apps to write documents or maintain a calendar, this OS offers a "Single-Site Browser" (SSB) experience, where you can configure "apps" by pointing to their respective URL. For documents, launch GWoffice, the client for Google Docs. For calendar, launch Google Calendar.
Most Linux distros have both a number and a project name associated with them. For example, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS is known as "Lucid Lynx". The Peppermint OS team avoided this by just calling their latest version "Three" which serves as both its number and its name.
The browser is Chromium, similar to Google Chrome OS above, and uses the "DuckDuckGo" search engine. This is how the Peppermint OS folks make their money to defray the costs of this effort.
Peppermint OS claims to run in systems as little as 192MB or RAM, and only 4GB of disk space. The LiveCD ran well on both my Thinkpad T410, as well as grandma's Thinkpad R31. More importantly, when I installed on the hard drive, it ran well.
The music app "Guayadeque" that came pre-installed was awful. It couldn't play MP3 music out-of-the-box. I had to install the Codec plugins from various "ubuntu-restricted-extras" libraries. I also installed the music app "Rhythmbox", and that worked great. Time from power-on to first-note was less than 2 minutes! However, the problems with the Guayadeque gave me the impression this OS might not be ready for primetime.
I contacted grandma to ask if she has Wi-Fi in her home, and sure enough, she doesn't. Her PC upstairs is direct attached to the cable modem. So, while the Cloud suggestion was worthy of investigation, I will continue to pursue other options that do not require being connected. I certainly do not want to spend any time and effort getting Wi-Fi installed there.
Continuing my coverage of the IBM Dynamic Infrastructure Executive Summit at the Fairmont Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, we had a day full main-tent sessions. Here is a quick recap of the sessions presented in the morning.
Leadership and Innovation on a Smarter Planet
Todd Kirtley, IBM General Manager of the western United States, kicked off the day. He explained that we are now entering the Decade of Smart: smarter healthcare, smarter energy, smarter traffic systems, and smarter cities, to name a few. One of those smarter cities is Dubuque, Iowa, nicknamed the Masterpiece of the Mississippi river. Mayor Roy Boul of Dubuque spoke next on his testimonial on working with IBM. I have never been to Dubuque, but it looks and sounds like a fun place to visit. Here is the [press release] and a two-minute [video].
Smarter Systems for a Smarter Planet
Tom Rosamillia, IBM General Manager of the System z mainframe platform, presented on smarter systems. IBM is intentionally designing integrated systems to redefine performance and deliver the highest possible value for the least amount of resource. The five key focus areas were:
Enabling massive scale
Organizing vast amounts of data
Turning information into insight
Increasing business agility
Managing risk, security and compliance
The Future of Systems
Ambuj Goyal, IBM General Manager of Development and Manufacturing, presented the future of systems. For example, reading 10 million electricity meters monthly is only 120 million transactions per year, but reading them daily is 3.65 billion, and reading them every 15 minutes will result in over 350 billion transactions per year. What would it take to handle this? Beyond just faster speeds and feeds, beyond consolidation through virtualization and multi-core systems, beyond pre-configured fit-for-purpose appliances, there will be a new level for integrated systems. Imagine a highly dense integration with over 3000 processors per frame, over 400 Petabytes (PB) of storage, and 1.3 PB/sec bandwidth. Integrating software, servers and storage will make this big jump in value possible.
POWERing your Planet
Ross Mauri, IBM General Manager of Power Systems, presented the latest POWER7 processor server product line. The IBM POWER-based servers can run any mix of AIX, Linux and IBM i (formerly i5/OS) operating system images. Compared to the previous POWER6 generation, POWER7 are four times more energy efficient, twice the performance, at about the same price. For example, an 8-socket p780 with 64 cores (eight per socket) and 256 threads (4 threads per core) had a record-breaking 37,000 SAP users in a standard SD 2-tier benchmark, beating out 32-socket and 64-socket M9000 SPARC systems from Oracle/Sun and 8-socket Nehalem-EX Fujitsu 1800E systems. See the [SAP benchmark results] for full details. With more TPC-C performance per core, the POWER7 is 4.6 times faster than HP Itanium and 7.5 times faster than Oracle Sun T5440.
This performance can be combined with incredible scalability. IBM's PowerVM outperforms VMware by 65 percent and provides features like "Live Partition Mobility" that is similar to VMware's VMotion capability. IBM's PureScale allows DB2 to scale out across 128 POWER servers, beating out Oracle RAC clusters.
The final speaker in the morning was Greg Lotko, IBM Vice President of Information Management Warehouse solutions. Analytics are required to gain greater insight from information, and this can result in better business outcomes. The [IBM Global CFO Study 2010] shows that companies that invest in business insight consistently outperform all other enterprises, with 33 percent more revenue growth, 32 percent more return on invested (ROI) capital, and 12 times more earnings (EBITDA). Business Analytics is more than just traditional business intelligence (BI). It tries to answer three critical questions for decision makers:
What is happening?
Why is it happening?
What is likely to happen in the future?
The IBM Smart Analytics System is a pre-configured integrated system appliance that combines text analytics, data mining and OLAP cubing software on a powerful data warehouse platform. It comes in three flavors: Model 5600 is based on System x servers, Model 7600 based on POWER7 servers, and Model 9600 on System z mainframe servers.
IBM has over 6000 business analytics and optimization consultants to help clients with their deployments.
While this might appear as "Death by Powerpoint", I think the panel of presenters did a good job providing real examples to emphasize their key points.
Five years ago, I sprayed coffee all over my screen from something I read on a blog post from fellow blogger Hu Yoshida from HDS. You can read what cased my reaction in my now infamous post [Hu Yoshida should know better]. Subsequently, over the years, I have disagreed with Hu on a variety of of topics, as documented in my 2010 blog post [Hu Yoshida Does It Again].
(Apparently, I am not alone, as the process of spraying one's coffee onto one's computer screen while reading other blog posts has been referred to as "Pulling a Tony" or "Doing a Tony" by other bloggers!)
Fortunately, my IBM colleague David Sacks doesn't drink coffee. Last month, David noticed that Hu had posted a graph in a recent blog entry titled [Additional Storage Performance Efficiencies for Mainframes], comparing the performance of HDS's Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) to IBM's DS8000.
For those not familiar with disk performance graphs, flatter is better, lower response time and larger IOPS are always desired. This graph implies that the HDS disk system is astonishingly faster than IBM's DS8000 series disk system. Certainly, the HDS VSP qualifies as a member of the elite [Super High-End club] with impressive SPC benchmark numbers, and is generally recognized as a device that works in IBM mainframe environments. But this new comparison graph is just ridiculous!
(Note: While SPC benchmarks are useful for making purchase decisions, different disk systems respond differently to different workloads. As the former lead architect of DFSMS for z/OS, I am often brought in to consult on mainframe performance issues in complex situations. Several times, we have fixed performance problems for our mainframe clients by replacing their HDS systems with IBM DS8000 series!)
Since Hu's blog entry contained very little information about the performance test used to generate the graph, David submitted a comment directly to Hu's blog asking a few simple questions to help IBM and Hu's readers determine whether the test was fair. Here is David's comment as submitted:
(Disclosure: I work for IBM. This comment is my own.)
I was quite surprised by the performance shown for the IBM DS8000 in the graph in your blog. Unfortunately, you provided very little detail about the benchmark. That makes it rather difficult (to say the least) to identify factors behind the results shown and to determine whether the comparison was a fair one.
Of the little information provided, an attribute that somewhat stands out is that the test appears to be limited to a single volume at least, that's my interpretation of "LDEV: 1*3390-3"? IBM's internal tests for this kind of case show far better response time and I/Os per second than the graph you published.
Here are a few examples of details you could provide to help readers determine whether the benchmark was fair and whether the results have any relevance to their environment.
What DS8000 model was the test run on? (the DS8000 is a family of systems with generations going back 8 years. The latest and fastest model is the DS8800.)
What were the hardware and software configurations of the DS8000 and VSP systems, including the number and speed of performance-related components?
What were the I/O workload characteristics (e.g., read:write ratio and block size(s))?
What was the data capacity of each volume? (Allocated and used capacity.)
What were the cache sizes and cache hit ratios for each system? (The average I/O response times under 1.5 milliseconds for each system imply the cache hit ratios were relatively high.)
How many physical drives were volumes striped across in each system?"
Unlike my blog on IBM, HDS bloggers like Hu are allowed to reject or deny comments before they appear on his blog post. We were disappointed that HDS never posted David's comment nor responded to it. That certainly raises questions about the quality of the comparison.
So, perhaps this is yet another case of [Hitachi Math], a phrase coined by fellow blogger Barry Burke from EMC back in 2007 in reference to outlandish HDS claims. My earliest mention was in my blog post [Not letting the Wookie Win].
By the way, since the test was about z/OS Extended Address Volumes (EAV), it is worth mentioning that IBM's DS8700 and DS8800 support 3390 volume capacities up to 1 TB each, while the HDS VSP is limited to only 223 GB per volume. Larger volume capacities help support ease-of-growth and help reduce the number of volumes storage administrators need to manage; that's just one example of how the DS8000 series continues to provide the best storage system support for z/OS environments.
Personally, I am all for running both IBM and HDS boxes side-by-side and publishing the methodology, the workload characteristics, the configuration details, and the results. Sunshine is always the best disinfectant!
Well it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means.. IBM announcements! Today, IBM announces that next Monday marks the 60th anniversary of first commercial digital tape storage system! I am on the East coast this week visiting clients, but plan to be back in Tucson in time for the cake and fireworks next Monday.
1925 - masking tape (which 3M sold under its newly announced Scotch® brand)
1930 - clear cellulose-based tape (today, when people say Scotch tape, they usually are referring to the cellulose version)
1935 - Allgemeine Elektrizitatsgesellschaft (AEG) presents Magnetophon K1, audio recording on analog tape
1942 - Duct tape
1947 - Bing Crosby adopts audio recording for his radio program. This eliminated him doing the same program live twice per day, perhaps the first example of using technology for "deduplication".
According to the IBM Archives the [IBM 726 tape drive was formally announced May 21, 1952]. It was the size of a refrigerator, and the tape reel was the size of a large pizza. The next time you pull a frozen pizza from your fridge, you can remember this month's celebration!
When I first joined IBM in 1986, there were three kinds of IBM tape. The round reel called 3420, and the square cartridge called 3480, and the tubes that contained a wide swath of tape stored in honeycomb shelves called the [IBM 3850 Mass Storage System].
My first job at IBM was to work on DFHSM, which was specifically started in 1977 to manage the IBM 3850, and later renamed to the DFSMShsm component of the DFSMS element of the z/OS operating system. This software was instrumental in keeping disk and tape at high 80-95 percent utilization rates on mainframe servers.
While visiting a client in Detroit, the client loved their StorageTek tape automation silo, but didn't care for the StorageTek drives inside were incompatible with IBM formats. They wanted to put IBM drives into the StorageTek silos. I agreed it was a good idea, and brought this back to the attention of development. In a contentious meeting with management and engineers, I presented this feedback from the client.
Everyone in the room said IBM couldn't do that. I asked "Why not?" The software engineers I spoke to already said they could support it. With StorageTek at the brink of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I argued that IBM drives in their tape automation would ease the transition of our mainframe customers to an all-IBM environment.
Was the reason related to business/legal concerns, or was their a hardware issue? It turned out to be a little of both. On the business side, IBM had to agree to work with StorageTek on service and support to its mutual clients in mixed environments. On the technical side, the drive had to be tilted 12 degrees to line up with the robotic hand. A few years later, the IBM silo-compatible 3592 drive was commercially available.
Rather than put StorageTek completely out of business, it had the opposite effect. Now that IBM drives can be put in StorageTek libraries, everyone wanted one, basically bringing StorageTek back to life. This forced IBM to offer its own tape automation libraries.
In 1993, I filed my first patent. It was for the RECYCLE function in DFHSM to consolidate valid data from partial tapes to fresh new tapes. Before my patent, the RECYCLE function selected tapes alphabetically, by volume serial (VOLSER). My patent evaluated all tapes based on how full they were, and sorted them least-full to most-full, to maximize the return of cartridges.
Different tape cartridges can hold different amounts of data, especially with different formats on the same media type, with or without compression, so calculating the percentage full turned out to be a tricky algorithm that continues to be used in mainframe environments today.
The patent was popular for cross-licensing, and IBM has since filed additional patents for this invention in other countries to further increase its license revenue for intellectual property.
In 1997, IBM launched the IBM 3494 Virtual Tape Server (VTS), the first virtual tape storage device, blending disk and tape to optimal effect. This was based off the IBM 3850 Mass Storage Systems, which was the first virtual disk system, that used 3380 disk and tape to emulate the older 3350 disk systems.
In the VTS, tape volume images would be emulated as files on a disk system, then later moved to physical tape. We would call the disk the "Tape Volume Cache", and use caching algorithms to decide how long to keep data in cache, versus destage to tape. However, there were only a few tape drives, and sometimes when the VTS was busy, there were no tape drives available to destage the older images, and the cache would fill up.
I had already solved this problem in DFHSM, with a function called pre-migration. The idea was to pre-emptively copy data to tape, but leave it also on disk, so that when it needed to be destaged, all we had to do was delete the disk copy and activate the tape copy. We patented using this idea for the VTS, and it is still used in the successor models of IBM Sysem Storage TS7740 virtual tape libraries today.
Today, tape continues to be the least expensive storage medium, about 15 to 25 times less expensive, dollar-per-GB, than disk technologies. A dollar of today's LTO-5 tape can hold 22 days worth of MP3 music at 192 Kbps recording. A full TS1140 tape cartridge can hold 2 million copies of the book "War and Peace".
(If you have not read the book, Woody Allen took a speed reading course and read the entire novel in just 20 minutes. He summed up the novel in three words: "It involves Russia." By comparison, in the same 20 minutes, at 650MB/sec, the TS1140 drive can read this novel over and over 390,000 times.)
If you have your own "war stories" about tape, I would love to hear them, please consider posting a comment below.
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!
Happy Winter Solstice everyone! The Mayan calendar flipped over yesterday, and everything continued as normal.
The next date to watch out for is ... drumroll please ... April 8, 2014. This is the date Microsoft has decided to [drop support for Windows XP].
While many large corporations are actively planning to get off Windows XP, there are still many homes and individuals that are running on this platform.
When [Windows XP] was introduced in 2001, it could support systems with as little as 64MB of RAM. Nowadays, the latest versions of Windows now requires a minimum of 1GB for 32-bit systems, with 2GB or 3GB recommended.
That leaves Windows XP users on older hardware few choices:
Continue to run Windows XP, but without support (and hope for the best)
Upgrade their hardware with more RAM (and possibly more disk space) needed to run a newer level of Windows
Install a different operating system like Linux
Put the hardware in the recycle bin, and buy a new computer
Here is a personal example. A long time ago, I gave my sister a Thinkpad R31 laptop so that she could work from home. When she got a newer one, she passed this down to her daughter for doing homework. When my neice got a newer one, she passed this old laptop to her grandma.
Grandma is fairly happy with her modern PC running Windows XP. She plays all kinds of games, scans photographs, sends emails, listens to music on iTunes, and even uses Skype to talk to relatives. Her problem is that this PC is located upstairs, in her bedroom, and she wanted something portable that she could play music downstairs when she is playing cards with her friends.
"Why not use the laptop you have?" I asked. Her response: "It runs very slow. Perhaps it has a virus. Can you fix that?" I was up for the challenge, so I agreed.
(The Challenge: Update the Thinkpad R31 so that grandma can simply turn it on, launch iTunes or similar application, and just press a "play" button to listen to her music. It will be plugged in to an electrical outlet wherever she takes it, and she already has her collection of MP3 music files. My hope is to have something that is (a) simple to use, (b) starts up quickly, and (c) will not require a lot of on-going maintenance issues.)
Here are the relevant specifications of the Thinkpad R31 laptop:
The system was pre-installed with Windows XP, but was terribly down-level. I updated to Windows XP SP3 level, downloaded the latest anti-virus signatures, and installed iTunes. A full scan found no viruses. All this software takes up 14GB, leaving less than 6GB for MP3 music files.
The time it took from hitting the "Power-on" button to hearing the first note of music was over 14 minutes! Unacceptable!
If you can suggest what my next steps should be, please comment below or send me an email!
Am I dreaming? On his Storagezilla blog, fellow blogger Mark Twomey (EMC) brags about EMC's standard benchmark results, in his post titled [Love Life. Love CIFS.]. Here is my take:
A Full 180 degree reversal
For the past several years, EMC bloggers have argued, both in comments on this blog, and on their own blogs, that standard benchmarks are useless and should not be used to influence purchase decisions. While we all agree that "your mileage may vary", I find standard benchmarks are useful as part of an overall approach in comparing and selecting which vendors to work with, and which architectures or solution approaches to adopt, and which products or services to deploy. I am glad to see that EMC has finally joined the rest of the planet on this. I find it funny this reversal sounds a lot like their reversal from "Tape is Dead" to "What? We never said tape was dead!"
Impressive CIFS Results
The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) has developed a series of NFS benchmarks, the latest, [SPECsfs2008] added support for CIFS. So, on the CIFS side, EMC's benchmarks compare favorably against previous CIFS tests from other vendors.
On the NFS side, however, EMC is still behind Avere, BlueArc, Exanet, and IBM/NetApp. For example, EMC's combination of Celerra gateways in front of V-Max disk systems resulted in 110,621 OPS with overall response time of 2.32 milliseconds. By comparison, the IBM N series N7900 (tested by NetApp under their own brand, FAS6080) was able to do 120,011 OPS with 1.95 msec response time.
Even though Sun invented the NFS protocol in the early 1980s, they take an EMC-like approach against standard benchmarks to measure it. Last year, fellow blogger Bryan Cantrill (Sun) gives his [Eulogy for a Benchmark]. I was going to make points about this, but fellow blogger Mike Eisler (NetApp) [already took care of it]. We can all learn from this. Companies that don't believe in standard benchmarks can either reverse course (as EMC has done), or continue their downhill decline until they are acquired by someone else.
(My condolences to those at Sun getting laid off. Those of you who hire on with IBM can get re-united with your former StorageTek buddies! Back then, StorageTek people left Sun in droves, knowing that Sun didn't understand the mainframe tape marketplace that StorageTek focused on. Likewise, many question how well Oracle will understand Sun's hardware business in servers and storage.)
What's in a Protocol?
Both CIFS and NFS have been around for decades, and comparisons can sometimes sound like religious debates. Traditionally, CIFS was used to share files between Windows systems, and NFS for Linux and UNIX platforms. However, Windows can also handle NFS, while Linux and UNIX systems can use CIFS. If you are using a recent level of VMware, you can use either NFS or CIFS as an alternative to Fibre Channel SAN to store your external disk VMDK files.
The Bigger Picture
There is a significant shift going on from traditional database repositories to unstructured file content. Today, as much as [80 percent of data is unstructured]. Shipments this year are expected to grow 60 percent for file-based storage, and only 15 percent for block-based storage. With the focus on private and public clouds, NAS solutions will be the battleground for 2010.
So, I am glad to see EMC starting to cite standard benchmarks. Hopefully, SPC-1 and SPC-2 benchmarks are forthcoming?