Happy New Year!
This year I resolve to be more consistent in my blogging, and my goal is to give you one to five entries per week, every week, based on the advice from Glenn Wolsey, Jennette Banks, and others.On some weeks, I will have a running theme, so rather than super-long entries to cover everything I can think of on a topic, make the entries short and readable. This week is a good time to review last year's "New Year's Resolutions" and to make new ones for 2007. I will discuss actions that companies can adopt for their data centers.
A common resolution is to lose weight, as in this Dilbert comic. Last year, I resolved to lose weight in 2006, and am delighted with myself that I lost eight pounds. When people ask for the secret of my success, I whisper in their ear "Eat less, exercise more." In general, people (and companies) know what to do, but just don't do it, which Pfeffer and Sutton document in their book The Knowing-Doing Gap. In my case, it involved lifestyle change: I exercised at a gym three times per week in Tucson, with a personal trainer, and revamped my diet.
Not everyone subscribes to the "eat less exercise more" philosophy. For example, Ric Watson argues in his blog that you can eat fewer calories, but eat more in actual volume, by choosing the right foods. This brings up the issues of "metrics" that most data centers are familiar with. Last year, I read the book "You: On a Diet" which explains that it is better to focus on "waist reduction" as measured in inches around your mid-section at the belly button, than "weight reduction" as measured in pounds. This year, I resolve to get down to 35 inches by the end of 2007.
The problem with measuring "weight" is that you are weighing bones, muscle and fat. A person can gain ten pounds of muscle, lose ten pounds of fat, and the scale would indicate no progress. The same problem occurs in data centers. How many TB of data do you have? Storage admins can easily tell you, but can they tell how much of this is bone (data needed for operating infrastructure), muscle (data used in daily operations that generates revenue) or fat (obsolete or orphaned data)?
We at IBM often state that "Information Lifecycle Management (ILM)" is more lifestyle change than a "fad diet". Figuring out what data you should capture in the first place, where to place it, when to move it, and when to get rid of it, is more important that just buying different tiers of storage hardware. So, for those looking to make new data center resolutions, I suggest the following actions:
- Re-evaluate the metrics you now use, and determine if they are helpful in making decisions and taking action.
- Come up with new ones that are more focused to solve the issues you face.
- Consider storage infrastructure software, such as IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center, to help you gather the information about your SAN, disk and tape systems, calculate the metrics, and automate the appropriate actions.
If you don't know where to start with ILM, certainly IBM can point you to the right solutions,best practices, techniques, and whitepaper.
technorati tags: Glenn Wosley, Jennette Banks, New Years resolutions, weight reduction, Diet, ILM, Information Lifecycle Management, IBM, TotalStorage Productivity Center
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, yesterday was this year's Winter Solstice
, representingthe shortest amount of daylight between sunrise and sunset. So today, I thought I would blog on my thoughtsof managing scarcity.
Earlier in my career, I had the pleasure to serve as "administrative assistant" to Nora Denzel for the week at a storage conference. My job was to make her look good at the conference, which if you know Nora, doesn't take much. Later, she left IBM to work at HP, and I gotto hear her speak at a conference, and the one thing that I remember most was her statement that thewhole point of "management" was to manage scarcity, as in not enough money in the budget,not enough people to implement change, or not enough resources to accomplish a task.(Nora, I have no idea where you are today, so if you are reading this, send me a note).
Of course, the flip-side to this is that resources that are in abundance are generallytaken for granted. Priorities are focused on what is most scarce. Let's examine some of theresources involved in an IT storage environment:
- Capacity - while everyone complains that they are "running out of space", the truth is that most external disk attached to Linux, UNIX, or Windows systems contain only 20-40% data. Many years ago, I visitedan insurance company to talk about a new product called IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. This company had 7TB of disk on their mainframe,and another 7TB of disk scattered on various UNIX and Windows machines. In the room were TWO storage admins for
the mainframe, and 45 storage admins for the distributed systems. My first question was "why so many people forthe mainframe, certainly one of you could manage all of it yourself, perhaps on Wednesday afternoons?" Their response was that they acted as eachother's backup, in case one goes on vacation for two weeks. My follow-up question to the rest of the audience was:"When was the last time you took two weeks vacation?" Mainframes fill their disk and tape storage comfortablyat over 80-90% full of data, primarily because they have a more mature, robust set of management software, likeDFSMS.
- Labor - by this I mean skilled labor able to manage storage for a corporation. Some companies I have visitedkeep their new-hires off production systems for the first two years, working only on test or development systemsonly until then. Of course, labor is more expensive in some countries than others. Last year, I was doing a whiteboard session on-site for a client in China, and the last dry-erase pen ran out of ink. I asked for another pen, and they instead sent someone to go re-fill it. I asked wouldn't it be cheaper just to buy another pen, and they said "No, labor is cheap, but ink is expensive." Despite this, China does complain that there is a shortage of askilled IT labor force, so if you are looking for a job, start learning Mandarin.
- Power and Cooling - Most data centers are located on raised floors, with large trunks of electrical power and hugeair conditioning systems to deal with all the heat generated from each machine. I have visited the data centers ofclients that are forced now to make decisions on storage based on power and cooling consumption, because the coststo upgrade their aging buildings are too high. Leading the charge is IBM, with technology advancements in chips, cards, and complete systems that use less power, and generate less heat. While energy is still fairly cheap in the grand scheme of things, fears ofGlobal Warmingand declining oil supplies, the costs ofpower and cooling have gotten some news lately. In 1956, Hubbert predicted US would reach peak oil supplies by1965-1970 (it happened in 1971), and this year Simmonsestimated that world-wide oil production began its decline already in 2005. Smart companies like Google have movedtheir server farms to places like Oregon in the Pacific Northwest for cheaper hydroelectric power.
- Bandwidth - Last year IBM introduced 4Gbps Fibre Channel and FICON SAN networking gear, along with the servers and storage needed to complete the solution. 4Gbps equates to about 400 MB/sec in data throughput. By comparison, iSCSI is typically run on 1Gbps Ethernet, but has so much overheads that you only get abour 80 MB/sec. Next year, we may see both 8 Gbps SAN, and 10 GbE iSCSI, to provide 800 MB/sec throughputs. My experience is that the SAN is not the bottleneck, instead people run out of bandwidth at the server or storage end first. They may not have a million dollars to buy the fastest IBM System p5 servers, or may not have enough host adapters at the storage system end.
- Floorspace - I end with floorspace because it reminds me that many "shortages" are temporary or artificially created. Floorspace is only in short supply because you don't want to knock down a wall, or build a new building, to handle your additional storage requirements.In 1997, Tihamer Toth-Fejel wrote an article for the National Space Society newsletter that estimated that ...Everybody on Earth could live comfortably in the USA on only 15% of our land area, with a population density between that of Chicago and San Francisco. Using agricultural yields attained widely now, the rest of the U.S. would be sufficient to grow enough food for everyone. The rest of the planet, 93.7% of it, would be completely empty.Of course, back in 1997 the world population was only 5.9 billion, and this year it is over 6.5 billion.
This last point brings me back to the concept of food, and I am not talking about doughnuts in the conference room, or pizza while making year-end storage upgrades. I'm talking aboutthe food you work so hard to provide for yourself and your family. The folks at Oxfam came up with a simpleanalogy. If 20 people sit down at your table, representing the world’s population:
- 3 would be served a gourmet, multi-course meal, while sitting at decorated table and a cushioned chair.
- 5 would eat rice and beans with a fork and sit on a simple cushion
- 12 would wait in line to receive a small portion of rice that they would eat with their hands while sitting on the floor.
So for those of you planning a special meal next Monday, be thankful you are one of the lucky three, and hopefulthat IBM will continue to lead the IT industry to help out the other seventeen.
Happy Winter Solstice!
technorati tags: IBM, Northern, Hemisphere, Winter, Solstice, Nora+Denzel, Oxfam, scarcity, Linux, UNIX, Windows, TSM, Tivoli+Storage+Manager, storage, admins, global+warming, climate+change, peak+oil, National+Space+Society, special, meal
Last week, in my posting on Toshiba's latest 1.8" drive
, Robert Pearson asks:
You may not be the right person to ask but I am asking everyone so "How do you see hybrid disk drives?"
(For the record, I am not immediately related to Robert. At onepoint, "Pearson" was the 12th most common surname in the USA, but now doesn't even make the Top 100.)
Robert, I would like to encourage you and everyone else to ask questions, don't worry if I am the wrong person to ask, asprobably I know the right person within IBM. Some people have called me the "Kevin Bacon" of Storage,as I am often less than six degrees away from the right person, having worked in IBM Storage for over 20 years.
For those not familiar with hybrid drives, there is a good write-up in Wikipedia.
Unfortunately, most of the people I would consult on this question, such as those from Market Intelligence or Research, are on vacation for the holidays, so, Robert, I will have to rely on my trusted 78-card Tarot deck and answer you with a five-card throw.
- Your first card, Robert, is the Hermit. This card represents "introspection". The best I/O is no I/O, which means that if applications can keep the information they need inside server memory, you can avoid the bus bandwidth limitations to going to external storage devices. Where external storage makes sense is when data is shared between servers, or when the single server is limited to a set amount of internal memory. So, consider maxing out the memory in your server first (IBM would be glad to sell you more internal memory!!!), then consider outside solid-state or hybrid devices. Windows for example has an architectural limit of 4GB.
- Your second card, Robert, is the Four of Cups, representing "apathy".On the card, you see three cups together, with the fourth cup being delivered from a cloud. This reminds me thatwe have three storage tiers already (memory,disk,tape), and introducing a fourth tier into the mix may not garnermuch excitement. For the mainframe, IBM introduced a Solid-State Device, call the Coupling Facility, which can be accessed from multipleSystem z servers. It is used heavily by DFSMS and DB2 to hold shared information. However, given some customer's apathytowards Information Lifecycle Management which includes "tiered storage", introducing yet another tier that forcespeople to decide what data goes where may be another challenge.
- Your third card, Robert, is the Chariot, which represents "Speed, Determination,and Will". In some cases, solid state disk are faster for reading, but can be slower for writing. In the case of ahybrid drive, where the memory acts as a front-end cache, read-hits would be faster, but read-misses might be slower.While the idea of stopping the drives during inactivity will reduce power consumption, spinning up and slowing downthe disk may incur additional performance penalties. At the time of this post, the fastest disk system remains the IBM SAN Volume Controller, based on SPC-1 and SPC-2 benchmarks in excess of those published for other devices.
- Your fourth card, Robert, is the Eight of Pentacles, which represents"Diligence, Hard work". The pentacles are coins with five-sided stars on them, and this often represents money.Our research team has projected that spinning disk will continue to be a viable and profitable storage media for at least anothereight years.
- Your fifth and last card, Robert, is the World, which normallyrepresents "Accomplishment", but since it is turned upside down, the meaning is reversed to "Limitation". Some Hybriddisks, and some types of solid state memory in general, do have limitations in the number of write cycles they can handle. For thoseunhappy with the frequency and slowness for rebuilds on SATA disk may find similar problems with hybrid drives.For that reason, businesses may not trust using hybrid drives for their busiest, mission-critical applications, but certainlymight use it for archive data with lower write-cycle requirements.
The tarot cards are never wrong, but certainly interpretations of the cards can be.
technorati tags: Robert Pearson, Kevin Bacon, IBM, storage, Tarot, card, deck, Hermit, Four-of-Cups, Coupling Facility, Chariot, SAN Volume Controller, SVC, SPC-1, SPC-2, benchmarks, Texas Memory Systems, Eight-of-Pentacles, World, Hybrid, SATA
On SearchStorage.com, my buddy Tony Asaro recaps the latest Storage Acquisition Frenzy
It has always been the case in fast pace technology areas that you can't tell the players without a program card, andthis is especially true for storage.
When analyzing each acquistion move, you need to think of what is driving it. What are the motives?Having been in the storage business 20 years now, and seen my share of acquisitions, both from within IBM,as well as competition, I have come up with the following list of motives.
Although slavery was abolished in the US back in the 1800's, and centuries earlier everywhere else, many acquisitionsseem to be focused on acquiring the people themselves, rather than the products or client list. I have seen statistics such as "We retained 98% of the people!" In reality, these retentions usually involve costly incentives,sign-in bonuses, stock options, and the like. Desptie this, people leave after a few years, often because ofpersonality or "corporate culture" clash. For example, many former STK employees seem to be leaving after their company was acquired by Sun Microsystems.
If you can't beat them, join them. Acquisitions can often be used by one company to raise its ranking in marketshare, eliminating smaller competitors. And now that you have acquired their client list, perhaps you can sellthem more of your original set of products!
Symantec had acquired Veritas, which in turn had acquired a variety of other smaller players, and the end result is that they are now #1 backup software provider, even though none of theirproducts holds a candle to IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager. Meanwhile, EMC acquired Avamar to try to get more into the backup/recovery game, but most analysts still find EMC down in the #4 or #5 place in this category.
Next month,Brocade's acquisition of McData should take effect, furthering its marketshare in SAN switch equipment.
Prior to my current role as "brand market strategist" for System Storage, I was a "portfolio manager" where wetried to make sure that our storage product line investments were balanced. This was a tough job, as the investmentshad to balance the right development investments into different technologies, including patent portfolios.Despite IBM's huge research budget, I am not surprised that some clever inventions of new technologies comefrom smaller companies, that then get acquired once their results appear viable.
- Value Shift
The last motive is value shift. This is where companies try to re-invent themselves, or find that they are stuck in acommodity market rut, and wish to expand into more profitable areas.
LSI Logic acquisition of StoreAge is a good exampleof this. Most of the major storage vendors have already shifted to software and services to provide customer value,as predicted in 1990's by Clayton Christensen in his book "The Innovator's Dilemma". The rest are still strugglingto develop the right strategy, but leaning in this general direction.
I hope that provides some insight.[Read More]
Last week, Steve Jobs demonstrated the latest evidence that theinmates are running the asylum
over at Apple
I wasn't at the event, but thought it would be good to explain some basic concepts ofInformation Lifecycle Management (ILM),using the files on my iPod as an example. (Disclosure: IBM makes the technology inside many of Apple's computers, and so IBMers get to buy Appleproducts at employee prices. I own a Mac Mini based on IBM's POWER4 processor, and an iPod Photo 60GB model).
I have 20,000 MP3 music files, representing 106GB of data. This fits nicely on my 250GB external disk system attached to my Mac Mini, but won't all fit on my little 60GB iPod. I needed a way to decide what music I keep on bothmy iPod and Mac Mini, and which I keep only on my Mac Mini. When I am traveling, I am able to listen only to the musicin the first group, but when I am at home, I am able to listen to all my music in both groups.(Another disclosure: I use my Tivo connected to my LAN to play all my MP3 music through my home stereo system.I had my entire house wired with Cat5 to make this possible.)
Apple's iTunes software lets me decide which MP3 files are copied to my iPod using "playlists". A playlist is a list of songs. Fixed playlists are created manually, each song copied to its list in a specific order. Smart playlists are createdautomatically, via policy. I give it the criteria, and it finds the songs for me. If I import a new music CD,none of the songs will be added to any fixed playlists, but could be added to my smart playlists if I set the policiescorrectly. Apple iTunes supports both "include" and "exclude" methodologies.
I use primarily smart playlists, based on genre and rating. I have tried to keep the number of genre down to a small manageable list:
- Rhythm & Blues
- Hip Hop
Of course, what I have for genre may not match what's in theGracenote
database, so I sometimes have to makeupdates to match my convention. I've picked these based on my different "applications" for my music. For example, I listen to Ambient music to help me fall asleep on airplanes, but Rock when I exercise at the gym.
Next, I use the ratings from one to five stars. The advantage to the rating is that I can change them on-the-fly directly on my iPod. All other "metadata" has to be entered only from the keyboard of my Mac Mini.
|*||Files for Mac Mini only, not copied to my iPod|
|**||Non-mix, copied to my iPod, but typically spoken words, such as language lessons|
|***||Mix, music to include in my music mixes|
|****||Keep on my iPod, but re-evaluate|
So, I have five smart playlists, "One Star", "Two Stars", etc. for each rating, and have decidedto keep only the 2, 3, 4 and 5 star songs on my iPod, by simply putting check marks on those playlists to copythem over. I have about 50 songs with 5 stars, and 8000 with 3 stars, and the rest in the other categories,leaving me a few GB to spare.
I also have playlists for each genre, "Rock mix", "Pop Mix", "Ambient Mix", etc. where I have selected thosethat match the genre, AND have 3, 4 or 5 stars. In this manner, I can listen to a mix. If I find a song mis-classified for that genre, I change it to four stars, which serves as myreminder to re-evaluate when I am back at home on my Mac Mini. If I don't want a song in my mix, I just lowerit to 2 stars. I want it off my iPod altogether, I lower it to one star.
This method is simple enough, and allows me to enjoy my music right away, and more effectively, without having to wait for completely finishing my classification process.
Next week, I'm traveling to Africa (purely vacation, not related to my job, my senator, or myinvolvement in anycharitable organizations). My Canon camera has only a 1GB IBM Microdrive, but I am able to offloadmy pictures to my iPod, connected via USB cable, and review the pictures on the little 2-inch screen. By simply "unchecking" my 2-star and 3-starplaylists, and checking only those mixes I plan to take with me, I was able to clear 17GB of space, plenty ofroom for all my photos of elephants and giraffes, but still plenty of music to listen to. Thanks to my simple methodology, I was able to do this with minimal effort, and willhave no problem putting all my music back when I return.
When evaluating an ILM process, many people are overwhelmed by their fear of the classification process, when in reality it doesn't have to be so complicated.
Is there an "iTunes" for the storage in your datacenter? Yes! It's called IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center. It can help you list and classify all the files in your IT environment,including files in your internal disks inside the servers, your NAS and SAN external disk systems, across both IBM and non-IBM hardware.It's a good thing to consider as part of your overall ILM strategy.
technorati tags: Apple, Steve Jobs, inmates, running, asylum, IBM, information, lifecycle, management, iPod, music, genre, star, rating, iTunes, datacenter, TotalStorage, Productivity Center, NAS, SAN, ILM