Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
My books are available on Lulu.com! Order your copies today!
Safe Harbor Statement: The information on IBM products is intended to outline IBM's general product direction and it should not be relied on in making a purchasing decision. The information on the new products is for informational purposes only and may not be incorporated into any contract. The information on IBM products is not a commitment, promise, or legal obligation to deliver any material, code, or functionality. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for IBM products remains at IBM's sole discretion.
Tony Pearson is a an active participant in local, regional, and industry-specific interests, and does not receive any special payments to mention them on this blog.
Tony Pearson receives part of the revenue proceeds from sales of books he has authored listed in the side panel.
Tony Pearson is not a medical doctor, and this blog does not reference any IBM product or service that is intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, prevention or monitoring of a disease or medical condition, unless otherwise specified on individual posts.
Continuing my series on a [Laptop for Grandma], I thought I would pursue some of the "low-RAM" operating system choices. Grandma's Thinkpad R31 has only 384MB of RAM.
All of the ones below are based on Linux. For those who aren't familiar with installing or running the Linux operating system, here are some helpful tips:
Most Linux distributors allow you to download an ISO file for free. These can be either (a) burned to a CD, (b) burned to a DVD, or (c) written to a USB memory stick.
The ISO can be either a "LiveCD/LiveDVD" version, an installation program, or a combination of the two. The "Live" version allows you to boot up and try out the operating system without modifying the contents of your hard drive. Windows and Mac OS users can try out Linux without impact to their existing environment. Some Linux distributions offer both a full LiveCD+Installer version, as well as an alternate text-based Installer-only version. The latter often requires less RAM to use.
When installing, it is best to have the laptop plugged in to an electrical outlet, and hard-wired to the internet in case it needs to download the latest drivers for your particular hardware.
A CD can hold only 700MB. Many of the newer Linux distributions exceed that, requiring a DVD or USB stick instead. If your laptop has an older optical drive, it may not be able to read DVD media. Some older optical drives can only read CD's, not burn them. In my case, I burned the CDs on another machine, and then used them on grandma's Thinkpad R31.
To avoid burning "a set of coasters" when trying out multiple choices, consider using rewriteable optical media, or the USB option. If you don't like it, you can re-use for something else.
The program [Unetbootin] can take most ISO files and write them to a bootable USB stick. On my Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 laptop, I had to also install p7zip and p7zip-plugins first.
The BIOS on some older machines, like my grandma's Thinkpad R31, cannot boot from USB. The [PLoP Boot Manager] allows you to first boot from floppy or CD-ROM, and then allows you to boot from the USB. This worked great on my grandma's system. The PLoP Boot Manager is also available on the [Ultimate Boot CD].
While I am a big fan of SUSE, Red Hat, and Ubuntu, these all require more RAM than available on grandma's laptop. Here are some Low-RAM alternatives I tried:
Damn Small Linux 4.11 RC2
The Damn Small Linux [DSL] project was dormant since 2008, but has a fresh new release for 2012. This baby can run in as little 16MB or RAM! If you have 128MB of RAM or more, the OS can run entirely from RAM, providing much faster performance.
Of course, there are always trade-offs, and in this case, apps were chosen for their size and memory footprint, not necessarily for their user-friendliness and eye candy. For example, the xMMS plays MP3 music, but I did not find it as friendly as iTunes or Rhythmbox.
Boot time is fast. From hitting the power-on button to playing the first note of MP3 music was about 1 minute.
Installing DSL Linux on the hard drive converts it into a Debian distribution, which then allows more options for applications.
Next up was [MacPup]. The latest version is 529, based on Pupply Linux 5.2.60 Precise, compatible with Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin. While traditional Puppy Linux clutters the screen with apps, the MacPup tries to have the look-and-feel of the MacOS by having a launcher tray at the bottom center of the screen.
Both MacPup and Puppy Linux can run in very small amounts of RAM and disk space. Like DSL above, you can opt to run MacPup entirely in 128MB of RAM. Unfortunately, the trade-off is a lack of application choices.
Installation to the hard drive was quite involved, certainly not for the beginner. First, you have to use Gparted to partition the disk. I created a 19GB (sda1) for my files, and 700MB (sda5) for swap. I had troubles with "ext4" file system, so re-formatted to "ext3". Second, you have to copy the files over from the LiveCD using the "Puppy Universal Installer". Third, you have to set up the Bootloader. Grub didn't work, so I installed Grub4Dos instead.
The music app is called "Alsa Player", and I was able to drag the icon into the startup tray. time-to-first-note was just over 1 minute. Fast, but not as "simple-to-use" as I would like.
SliTaz 4.0 claims to be able to run in as little as 48MB of RAM and 100MB of disk space. Time-to-first-note was similar to MacPup, but I didn't care for the TazPanel for setup, and the TazPkg for installing a limited set of software packages. I could not get Wi-Fi working at all on SliTaz, and just gave up trying.
All three of these ran on grandma's Thinkpad R31, and all three could play MP3 music. However, I was concerned that they were not as simple to use as grandma would like, and I would be concerned the amount of time and effort I might have to spend if things go wrong.
In my last blog post [Full Disk Encryption for Your Laptop] explained my decisions relating to Full-Disk Encryption (FDE) for my laptop. Wrapping up my week's theme of Full-Disk Encryption, I thought I would explain the steps involved to make it happen.
Last April, I switched from running Windows and Linux dual-boot, to one with Linux running as the primary operating system, and Windows running as a Linux KVM guest. I have Full Disk Encryption (FDE) implemented using Linux Unified Key Setup (LUKS).
Here were the steps involved for encrypting my Thinkpad T410:
Step 0: Backup my System
Long-time readers know how I feel about taking backups. In my blog post [Separating Programs from Data], I emphasized this by calling it "Step 0". I backed up my system three ways:
Backed up all of my documents and home user directory with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager.
Backed up all of my files, including programs, bookmarks and operating settings, to an external disk drive (I used rsync for this). If you have a lot of bookmarks on your browser, there are ways to dump these out to a file to load them back in the later step.
Backed up the entire hard drive using [Clonezilla].
Clonezilla allows me to do a "Bare Machine Recovery" of my laptop back to its original dual-boot state in less than an hour, in case I need to start all over again.
Step 1: Re-Partition the Drive
"Full Disk Encryption" is a slight misnomer. For external drives, like the Maxtor BlackArmor from Seagate (Thank you Allen!), there is a small unencrypted portion that contains the encryption/decryption software to access the rest of the drive. Internal boot drives for laptops work the same way. I created two partitions:
A small unencrypted partition (2 GB) to hold the Master Boot Record [MBR], Grand Unified Bootlloader [GRUB], and the /boot directory. Even though there is no sensitive information on this partition, it is still protected the "old way" with the hard-drive password in the BIOS.
The rest of the drive (318GB) will be one big encrypted Logical Volume Manager [LVM] container, often referred to as a "Physical Volume" in LVM terminology.
Having one big encrypted partition means I only have to enter my ridiculously-long encryption password once during boot-up.
Step 2: Create Logical Volumes in the LVM container
I create three logical volumes on the encrypted physical container: swap, slash (/) directory, and home (/home). Some might question the logic behind putting swap space on an encrypted container. In theory, swap could contain sensitive information after a system [hybernation]. I separated /home from slash(/) so that in the event I completely fill up my home directory, I can still boot up my system.
Step 3: Install Linux
Ideally, I would have lifted my Linux partition "as is" for the primary OS, and a Physical-to-Virtual [P2V] conversion of my Windows image for the guest VM. Ha! To get the encryption, it was a lot simpler to just install Linux from scratch, so I did that.
Step 4: Install Windows guest KVM image
The folks in our "Open Client for Linux" team made this step super-easy. Select Windows XP or Windows 7, and press the "Install" button. This is a fresh install of the Windows operating system onto a 30GB "raw" image file.
(Note: Since my Thinkpad T410 is Intel-based, I had to turn on the 'Intel (R) Virtualization Technology' option in the BIOS!)
There are only a few programs that I need to run on Windows, so I installed them here in this step.
Step 5: Set up File Sharing between Linux and Windows
In my dual-boot set up, I had a separate "D:" drive that I could access from either Windows or Linux, so that I would only have to store each file once. For this new configuration, all of my files will be in my home directory on Linux, and then shared to the Windows guest via CIFS protocol using [samba].
In theory, I can share any of my Linux directories using this approach, but I decide to only share my home directory. This way, any Windows viruses will not be able to touch my Linux operating system kernels, programs or settings. This makes for a more secure platform.
Step 6: Transfer all of my files back
Here I used the external drive from "Step 0" to bring my data back to my home directory. This was a good time to re-organize my directory folders and do some [Spring cleaning].
Step 7: Re-establish my backup routine
Previously in my dual-boot configuration, I was using the TSM backup/archive client on the Windows partition to backup my C: and D: drives. Occasionally I would tar a few of my Linux directories and storage the tarball on D: so that it got included in the backup process. With my new Linux-based system, I switched over to the Linux version of TSM client. I had to re-work the include/exclude list, as the files are different on Linux than Windows.
One of my problems with the dual-boot configuration was that I had to manually boot up in Windows to do the TSM backup, which was disruptive if I was using Linux. With this new scheme, I am always running Linux, and so can run the TSM client any time, 24x7. I made this even better by automatically scheduling the backup every Monday and Thursday at lunch time.
There is no Linux support for my Maxtor BlackArmor external USB drive, but it is simple enough to LUKS-encrypt any regular external USB drive, and rsync files over. In fact, I have a fully running (and encrypted) version of my Linux system that I can boot directly from a 32GB USB memory stick. It has everyting I need except Windows (the "raw" image file didn't fit.)
I can still use Clonezilla to make a "Bare Machine Recovery" version to restore from. However, with the LVM container encrypted, this renders the compression capability worthless, and so takes a lot longer and consumes over 300GB of space on my external disk drive.
Backing up my Windows guest VM is just a matter of copying the "raw" image file to another file for safe keeping. I do this monthly, and keep two previous generations in case I get hit with viruses or "Patch Tuesday" destroys my working Windows image. Each is 30GB in size, so it was a trade-off between the number of versions and the amount of space on my hard drive. TSM backup puts these onto a system far away, for added protection.
Step 8: Protect your Encryption setup
In addition to backing up your data, there are a few extra things to do for added protection:
Add a second passphrase. The first one is the ridiculously-long one you memorize faithfully to boot the system every morning. The second one is a ridiculously-longer one that you give to your boss or admin assistant in case you get hit by a bus. In the event that your boss or admin assistant leaves the company, you can easily disable this second passprhase without affecting your original.
Backup the crypt-header. This is the small section in front that contains your passphrases, so if it gets corrupted, you would not be able to access the rest of your data. Create a backup image file and store it on an encrypted USB memory stick or external drive.
If you are one of the lucky 70,000 IBM employees switching from Windows to Linux this year, Welcome!
Earlier this year, IBM mandated that every employee provided a laptop had to implement Full-Disk Encryption for their primary hard drive, and any other drive, internal or external, that contained sensitive information. An exception was granted to anyone who NEVER took their laptop out of the IBM building. At IBM Tucson, we have five buildings, so if you are in the habit of taking your laptop from one building to another, then encryption is required!
The need to secure the information on your laptop has existed ever since laptops were given to employees. In my blog post [Biggest Mistakes of 2006], I wrote the following:
"Laptops made the news this year in a variety of ways. #1 was exploding batteries, and #6 were the stolen laptops that exposed private personal information. Someone I know was listed in one of these stolen databases, so this last one hits close to home. Security is becoming a bigger issue now, and IBM was the first to deliver device-based encryption with the TS1120 enterprise tape drive."
Not surprisingly, IBM laptops are tracked and monitored. In my blog post [Using ILM to Save Trees], I wrote the following:
"Some assets might be declared a 'necessary evil' like laptops, but are tracked to the n'th degree to ensure they are not lost, stolen or taken out of the building. Other assets are declared "strategically important" but are readily discarded, or at least allowed to [walk out the door each evening]."
Unfortunately, dual-boot environments won't cut it for Full-Disk Encryption. For Windows users, IBM has chosen Pretty Good Privacy [PGP]. For Linux users, IBM has chosen Linux Unified Key Setup [LUKS]. PGP doesn't work with Linux, and LUKS doesn't work with Windows.
For those of us who may need access to both Operating Systems, we have to choose. Select one as the primary OS, and run the other as a guest virtual machine. I opted for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 as my primary, with LUKS encryption, and Linux KVM to run Windows as the guest.
I am not alone. While I chose the Linux method voluntarily, IBM has decided that 70,000 employees must also set up their systems this way, switching them from Windows to Linux by year end, but allowing them to run Windows as a KVM guest image if needed.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons:
LUKS allows for up to 8 passphrases, so you can give one to your boss, one to your admin assistant, and in the event they leave the company, you can disable their passphrase without impacting anyone else or having to memorize a new one. PGP on Windows supports only a single passphrase.
Linux is a rock-solid operating system. I found that Windows as a KVM guest runs better than running it natively in a dual-boot configuration.
Linux is more secure against viruses. Most viruses run only on Windows operating systems. The Windows guest is well isolated from the Linux operating system files. Recovering from an infected or corrupted Windows guest is merely re-cloning a new "raw" image file.
Linux has a vibrant community of support. I am very impressed that anytime I need help, I can find answers or assistance quickly from other Linux users. Linux is also supported by our help desk, although in my experience, not as well as the community offers.
Employees that work with multiple clients can have a separate Windows guest for each one, preventing any cross-contamination between systems.
Linux is different from Windows, and some learning curve may be required. Not everyone is happy with this change.
(I often joke that the only people who are comfortable with change are babies with soiled diapers and prisoners on death row!)
Implementation is a full re-install of Linux, followed by a fresh install of Windows.
Not all software required for our jobs at IBM runs on Linux, so a Windows guest VM is a necessity. If you thought Windows ran slowly on a fully-encrypted disk, imagine how much slower it runs as a VM guest with limited memory resources.
In theory, I could have tried the Windows/PGP method for a few weeks, then gone through the entire process to switch over to Linux/LUKS, and then draw my comparisons that way. Instead, I just chose the Linux/LUKS method, and am happy with my decision.
Well, it's Wednesday, and you know what that means... IBM Announcements!
(Actually most IBM announcements are on Tuesdays, but IBM gave me extra time to recover from my trip to Europe!)
Today, IBM announced [IBM PureSystems], a new family of expert-integrated systems that combine storage, servers, networking, and software, based on IBM's decades of experience in the IT industry. You can register for the [Launch Event] today (April 11) at 2pm EDT, and download the companion "Integrated Expertise" event app for Apple, Android or Blackberry smartphones.
(If you are thinking, "Hey, wait a minute, hasn't this been done before?" you are not alone. Yes, IBM introduced the System/360 back in 1964, and the AS/400 back in 1988, so today's announcement is on scheduled for this 24-year cycle. Based on IBM's past success in this area, others have followed, most recently, Oracle, HP and Cisco.)
Initially, there are two offerings:
IBM PureFlex™ System
IBM PureFlex is like IaaS-in-a-box, allowing you to manage the system as a pool of virtual resources. It can be used for private cloud deployments, hybrid cloud deployments, or by service providers to offer public cloud solutions. IBM drinks its own champagne, and will have no problem integrating these into its [IBM SmartCloud] offerings.
To simplify ordering, the IBM PureFlex comes in three tee-shirt sizes: Express, Standard and Enterprise.
IBM PureFlex is based on a 10U-high, 19-inch wide, standard rack-mountable chassis that holds 14 bays, organized in a 7 by 2 matrix. Unlike BladeCenter where blades are inserted vertically, the IBM PureFlex nodes are horizontal. Some of the nodes take up a single bay (half-wide), but a few are full-wide, take up two bays, the full 19-inch width of the chassis. Compute and storage snap in the front, while power supplies, fans, and networking snap in the back. You can fit up to four chassis in a standard 42U rack.
Unlike competitive offerings, IBM does not limit you to x86 architectures. Both x86 and POWER-based compute nodes can be mixed into a single chassis. Out of the box, the IBM PureFlex supports four operating systems (AIX, IBM i, Linux and Windows), four server hypervisors (Hyper-V, Linux KVM, PowerVM, and VMware), and two storage hypervisors (SAN Volume Controller and Storwize V7000).
There are a variety of storage options for this. IBM will offer SSD and HDD inside the compute nodes themselves, direct-attached storage nodes, and an integrated version of the Storwize V7000 disk system. Of course, every IBM System Storage product is supported as external storage. Since Storwize V7000 and SAN Volume Controller support external virtualization, many non-IBM devices will be supported automatically as well.
Networking is also optimized, with options for 10Gb and 40Gb Ethernet/FCoE, 40Gb and 56Gb Infiniband, 8Gbps and 16Gbps Fibre Channel. Much of the networking traffic can be handled within the chassis, to minimize traffic on external switches and directors.
For management, IBM offers the Flex System Manager, that allows you to manage all the resources from a single pane of glass. The goal is to greatly simplify the IT lifecycle experience of procurement, installation, deployment and maintenance.
IBM PureApplication™ System
IBM PureApplication is like PaaS-in-a-box. Based on the IBM PureFlex infrastructure, the IBM PureApplication adds additional software layers focused on transactional web, business logic, and database workloads. Initially, it will offer two platforms: Linux platform based on x86 processors, Linux KVM and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL); and a UNIX platform based on POWER7 processors, PowerVM and AIX operating system. It will be offered in four tee-shirt sizes (small, medium, large and extra large).
In addition to having IBM's middleware like DB2 and WebSphere optimized for this platform, over 600 companies will announce this week that they will support and participate in the IBM PureSystems ecosystem as well. Already, there are 150 "Patterns of Expertise" ready to deploy from IBM PureSystem Centre, a kind of a "data center app store", borrowing an idea used today with smartphones.
By packaging applications in this manner, workloads can easily shift between private, hybrid and public clouds.
If you are unhappy with the inflexibility of your VCE Vblock, HP Integrity, or Oracle ExaLogic, talk to your local IBM Business Partner or Sales Representative. We might be able to buy your boat anchor off your hands, as part of an IBM PureSystems sale, with an attractive IBM Global Financing plan.
Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. here is a recap of Wednesday breakout sessions.
Aging Data: The Challenges of Long-Term Data Retention
The analyst defined "aging data" to be any data that is older than 90 days. A quick poll of the audience showed the what type of data was the biggest challenge:
In addition to aging data, the analyst used the term "vintage" to refer to aging data that you might actually need in the future, and "digital waste" being data you have no use for. She also defined "orphaned" data as data that has been archived but not actively owned or managed by anyone.
You need policies for retention, deletion, legal hold, and access. Most people forget to include access policies. How are people dealing with data and retention policies? Here were the poll results:
The analyst predicts that half of all applications running today will be retired by 2020. Tools like "IBM InfoSphere Optim" can help with application retirement by preserving both the data and metadata needed to make sense of the information after the application is no longer available. App retirement has a strong ROI.
Another problem is that there is data growth in unstructured data, but nobody is given the responsibility of "archivist" for this data, so it goes un-managed and becomes a "dumping ground". Long-term retention involves hardware, software and process working together. The reason that purpose-built archive hardware (such as IBM's Information Archive or EMC's Centera) was that companies failed to get the appropriate software and process to complete the solution.
Cloud computing will help. The analyst estimates that 40 percent of new email deployments will be done in the cloud, such as IBM LotusLive, Google Apps, and Microsoft Online365. This offloads the archive requirement to the public cloud provider.
A case study is University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute that has three tiers for their storage: 136TB of fast storage for scratch space, 600TB of slower disk for project space, and 640 TB of tape for long-term retention.
What are people using today to hold their long-term retention data? Here were the poll results:
Bottom line is that retention of aging data is a business problem, techology problem, economic problem and 100-year problem.
A Case Study for Deploying a Unified 10G Ethernet Network
Brian Johnson from Intel presented the latest developments on 10Gb Ethernet. Case studies from Yahoo and NASA, both members of the [Open Data Center Alliance] found that upgrading from 1Gb to 10Gb Ethernet was more than just an improvement in speed. Other benefits include:
45 percent reduction in energy costs for Ethernet switching gear
80 percent fewer cables
15 percent lower costs
doubled bandwidth per server
Ruiping Sun, from Yahoo, found that 10Gb FCoE achieved 920 MB/sec, which was 15 percent faster than the 8Gb FCP they were using before.
IBM, Dell and other Intel-based servers support Single Root I/O Virtualization, or SR-IOV for short. NASA found that cloud-based HPC is feasible with SR-IOV. Using IBM General Parallel File System (GPFS) and 10Gb Ethernet were able to replace a previous environment based on 20 Gbps DDR Infiniband.
While some companies are still arguing over whether to implement a private cloud, an archive retention policy, or 10Gb Ethernet, other companies have shown great success moving forward!
Since the [IBM System Storage Technical University 2011] runs concurrently with the System x Technical University, attendees are allowed to mix-and-match. I attended several presentations regarding server virtualization and hypervisors.
Matt Archibald is an IT Management Consultant in IBM's Systems Agenda Delivery team. He started with a history of hypervisors, from IBM's early CP/CMS in 1967, through the latest VMware Vsphere 5 just announced.
He explained that there are three types of Hypervisor architectures today:
Type 1 - often referred to as "Bare Metal" runs directly on the server host hardware, and allows different operating system virtual machines to run as guests. IBM's System z [PR/SM] and [PowerVM] as well as the popular VMware ESXi are examples of this type.
Type 2 - often referred to as "Hosted" runs above an existing operating system, and allows different operating system virtual machines to run as guests. The popular [Oracle/Sun VirtualBox] is an example of this type.
OS Containers - runs above an existing operating system base, and allows multiple "guests" that all run the same operating system as the base. This affords some isolation between applications. [Parallels Virtuozzo Containers] is an example of this type.
The dominant architecture is Type 1. For x86, IBM is the number one reseller of VMware. VMware recently announced [Vsphere 5], which changes its licensing model from CPU-based to memory-based. For example, a virtual machine with 32 virtual CPUs and 1TB of virtual RAM (VRAM) would cost over $73,000 per year to license the VMware "Enterprise Plus" software. The only plus-side to this new licensing is that the "memory" entitlement transfers during Disaster Recovery to the remote location.
"Xen is dead." was the way Matt introduced the section discussing Hybrid Type-1 hypervisors like Xen and Hyper-V. These run bare-metal, but require networking and storage I/O to be processed by a single bottleneck partition referred to as "Dom 0". As such, this hybrid approach does not scale well on larger multi-sock host servers. So, his Xen-is-dead message was referring to all Hybrid-based Hypervisors including Hyper-V, not just those based on Xen itself.
The new up-and-comer is "Linux KVM". Last year, in my blog post about [System x KVM solutions], I mentioned the confusion over KVM acronym used with two different meanings. Many people use KVM to refer to Keyboard-Video-Mouse switches that allow access to multiple machines. IBM has renamed these switches to Local Console Managers (LCM) and Global Console Manager (GCM). This year, the System x team have adopted the use of "Linux KVM" to refer to the second meaning, the [Kernel-based Virtual Machine] hypervisor.
Linux KVM is not a product, but an open-source project. As such, it is built into every Linux kernel. Red Hat has created two specific deliverables under the name Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV):
RHEV-H, a tiny ESXi-like bare-metal hypervisor that fits in 78MB, making it small enough to be on a USB stick, CD-rom or memory chip.
RHEV-M, a vCenter-like management software to manage multiple virtual machines across multiple hosts.
Personally, I run RHEL 6.1 with KVM on my IBM laptop as my primary operating system, with a Windows XP guest image to run a few Windows-specific applications.
A complaint of the current RHEV 2.2 release from Linux fanboys is that RHEV-M requires a Windows server, and uses Windows Powershell for scripting. The next release of RHEV is likely to provide a Linux-based option for management server.
Of the various hypervisors evaluated, KVM appears to be poised to offer the best scalability for multi-socket host machines. The next release is expected to support up to 4096 threads, 64TB of RAM, and over 2000 virtual machines. Compare that to VMware Vsphere 5 that supports only 160 threads, 2TB of RAM and up to 512 virtual machines.
Linux KVM Overview
Matt also presented a session focused on Linux KVM. While IBM is the leading reseller of VMware for the x86 server platform, it has chosen Linux KVM to run all of its internal x86 Cloud Computing facilities, as it can offer 40 to 80 percent savings, based on Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
Linux KVM can run unmodified Windows and Linux guest operating systems as guest images with less than 5 percent overhead. Since KVM is built into the Linux kernel, any certification testing automatically benefits KVM as well. KVM takes advantage of modern CPU extensions like Intel's VT and AMD's AMD-V.
For high availability, in the event that a host fails, KVM can restart the guest images on other KVM hosts. RHEV offers "prioritized restart order" which allows mision-critical images to be started before less important ones.
RHEV also provides "Virtual Desktop Infrastructure", known as VDI. This allows a lightweight client with a browser to access an OS image running on a KVM host. Matt was able to demonstrate this with Firefox browser running on his Android-based Nexus One smartphone.
RHEV also adds features that make it ideal for cloud deployments, including hot-pluggable CPU, network and storage; service Level Agreement monitoring for CPU, memory and I/O resources; storage live migrations to move the raw image files while guests are running; and a self-service user portal.
IBM has been doing server virtualization for decades. When I first started at IBM in 1986, I was doing z/OS development and testing on z/VM guest images. Later, around 1999, I started working with the "Linux on z" team, running multiple Linux images under PR/SM and z/VM. While the server virtualization solutions most people are familiar with (VMware, Hyper-V, Xen) have only been around the last five years or so, IBM has a much deeper and robust understanding and long heritage. This helps to set IBM apart from the competition when helping clients.
(FTC Disclosure: I do not work or have any financial investments in ENC Security Systems. ENC Security Systems did not paid me to mention them on this blog. Their mention in this blog is not an endorsement of either their company or any of their products. Information about EncryptStick was based solely on publicly available information and my own personal experiences. My friends at ENC Security Systems provided me a full-version pre-loaded stick for this review.)
The EncryptStick software comes in two flavors, a free/trial version, and the full/paid version. The free trial version has [limits on capacity and time] but provides enough glimpse of the product to decide before you buy the full version. You can download the software yourself and put in on your own USB device, or purchase the pre-loaded stick that comes with the full-version license.
Whichever you choose, the EncryptStick offers three nice protection features:
Encryption for data organized in "storage vaults", which can be either on the stick itself, or on any other machine the stick is connected to. That is a nice feature, because you are not limited to the capacity of the USB stick.
Encrypted password list for all your websites and programs.
A secure browser, that prevents any key-logging or malware that might be on the host Windows machine.
I have tried out all three functions and everything works as advertised. However, there is always room for improvement, so here are my suggestions.
The first problem is that the pre-loaded stick looks like it is worth a million dollars. It is in a shiny bronze color with "EncryptStick" emblazoned on it. This is NOT subtle advertising! This 8GB capacity stick looks like it would be worth stealing solely on being a nice piece of jewelry, and then the added bonus that there might be "valuable secrets" just makes that possibility even more likely.
If you want to keep your information secure, it would help to have "plausible deniability" that there is nothing of value on a stick. Either have some corporate logo on it, of have the stick look like a cute animal, like these pig or chicken USB sticks.
It reminds me how the first Apple iPod's were in bright [Mug-me White]. I use black headphones with my black iPod to avoid this problem.
Of course, you can always install the downloadable version of EncryptStick software onto a less conspicuous stick if you are concerned about theft. The full/paid version of EncryptStick offers an option for "lost key recovery" which would allow you to backup the contents of the stick and be able to retrieve them on a newly purchased stick in the event your first one is lost or stolen.
Imagine how "unlucky" I felt when I notice that I had lost my "rabbits feet" on this cute animal-themed USB stick.
I sense trouble for losing the cap on my EncryptStick as well. This might seem trivial, but is a pet-peeve of mine that USB sticks should plan for this. Not only is there nothing to keep the cap on (it slides on and off quite smoothly), but there is no loop to attach the cap to anything if you wanted to.
Since then, I got smart and try to look for ways to keep the cap connected. Some designs, like this IBM-logoed stick shown above, just rotate around an axle, giving you access when you need it, and protection when it is folded closed.
Alternatively, get a little chain that allows you to attach the cap to the main stick. In the case of the pig and chicken, the memory section had a hole pre-drilled and a chain to put through it. I drilled an extra hole in the cap section of each USB stick, and connected the chain through both pieces.
(Warning: Kids, be sure to ask for assistance from your parents before using any power tools on small plastic objects.)
The EncryptStick can run on either Microsoft Windows or Mac OS. The instructions indicate that you can install both versions of download software onto a single stick, so why not do that for the pre-loaded full version? The stick I have had only the Windows version pre-loaded. I don't know if the Windows and Mac OS versions can unlock the same "storage vaults" on the stick.
Certainly, I have been to many companies where either everyone runs Windows or everyone runs Mac OS. If the primary target audience is to use this stick at work in one of those places, then no changes are required. However, at IBM, we have employees using Windows, Mac OS and Linux. In my case, I have all three! Ideally, I would like a version of EncryptStick that I could take on trips with me that would allow me to use it regardless of the Operating System I encountered.
Since there isn't a Linux-version of EncryptStick software, I decided to modify my stick to support booting Linux. I am finding more and more Linux kiosks when I travel, especially at airports and high-traffic locations, so having a stick that works both in Windows or Linux would be useful. Here are some suggestions if you want to try this at home:
Use fdisk to change the FAT32 partition type from "b" to "c". Apparently, Grub2 requires type "c", but the pre-loaded EncryptStick was set to "b". The Windows version of EncryptStick> seems to work fine in either mode, so this is a harmless change.
Install Grub2 with "grub-install" from a working Linux system.
Once Grub2 is installed, you can boot ISO images of various Linux Rescue CDs, like [PartedMagic] which includes the open-source [TrueCrypt] encryption software that you could use for Linux purposes.
This USB stick could also be used to help repair a damaged or compromised Windows system. Consider installing [Ophcrack] or [Avira].
Certainly, 8GB is big enough to run a full Linux distribution. The latest 32-bit version of [Ubuntu] could run on any 32-bit or 64-bit Intel or AMD x86 machine, and have enough room to store an [encrypted home directory].
Since the stick is formatted FAT32, you should be able to run your original Windows or Mac OS version of EncryptStick with these changes.
Depending on where you are, you may not have the luxury to reboot a system from the USB memory stick. Certainly, this may require changes to the boot sequence in the BIOS and/or hitting the right keys at the right time during the boot sequence. I have been to some "Internet Cafes" that frown on this, or have blocked this altogether, forcing you to boot only from the hard drive.
Well, those are my suggestions. Whether you go on a trip with or without your laptop, it can't hurt to take this EncryptStick along. If you get a virus on your laptop, or have your laptop stolen, then it could be handy to have around. If you don't bring your laptop, you can use this at Internet cafes, hotel business centers, libraries, or other places where public computers are available.
This week, IBM celebrates its Centennial, 100 years since its incorporation on June 16, 1911.
A few months ago, the Tucson Executive Briefing Center ordered its latest IBM System Storage [DS8800] to be on display for demos. This was manufactured in Vác, Hungary (about an hour north of Budapest), and was going to be shipped over to the United States.
However, Sam Palmisano, IBM Chairman and CEO, was in Hannover, Germany for the [CeBIT conference] and wanted this DS8800 to be re-directed to Germany first for this event. He was kind enough to sign it for us. Brian Truskowski, IBM General Manager for Storage, and Rod Adkins, IBM Senior Vice President for IBM Systems Technolgoy Group (and my fifth-line manager), also signed this as well!
I am pleased to say this "signed" DS8000 has arrived to Tucson. This is the latest model in a family of market-leading high-end enterprise-class disk systems designed to attach to all computers, including System z mainframes, POWER systems running AIX and IBM i, as well as servers running HP-UX, Solaris, Linux or Windows.
For more on IBM's other innovations over the past 100 years, check out the [Icons of Progress], which includes these storage innovations:
IBM announced that it will offer [three free months of IBM Smart Business Cloud] computing and storage services to government agencies, charitable non-profit organizations, and other organizations involved with reconstruction resulting from the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan and the northern Pacific region.
With traditional communications down, and many data centers incapacitated, Cloud Computing can be a great way to resume operations. According to the announcement, organizations can submit their requests now until April 30, and the program will run until July 31, 2011. Options include:
Virtual machine images running 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Linux or Windows.
60GB to 2 TB of disk storage per instance.
Options for various IBM middleware (DB2, Informix, Lotus, and WebSphere)
Rational Application Lifecycle Management and Tivoli Monitoring software
The offer also includes [LotusLive] Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for email and online collaboration. For more about LotusLive, see this [Red Paper].
It's Tuesday again, and that means one thing.... IBM Announcements! On the heels of [last week's announcements], IBM announced some additional products of interest to storage administrators.
IBM Information Archive
Back in 2008, IBM [unveiled the Information Archive]. This storage solution provides automated policy-based tiering between disk and tape, with non-erasable non-rewriteable enforcement to protect against unethical tampering of data. The initial release supported [both files and object storage], with support for different collections, each with its own set of policies for management. However, it only supported NFS initially for the file protocol. Today, IBM announces the addition of CIFS protocol support, which will be especially helpful in healthcare and life sciences, as much of the medical equipment is designed for CIFS protocol storage.
Also, Information Archive will now provide a full index and search feature capability to help with e-Discovery. Searches and retrievals can be done in the background without disrupting applications or the archiving operations.
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments V6.2 extends capabilities that currently exist in IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. TSM backup/archive clients run fine on guest operating systems, but now this new extension improves backup for VMware environments. TSM provides incremental block-level backups utilizing VMware's vStorage APIs for Data Protection and Changed Block Tracking features.
To minimize impact to the VMware host, TSM for VE make use of non-disruptive snapshots and offload the backup processing to a vStorage backup server. This supports file-level recovery, volume-level recovery, and full VM recovery. Of course, since it is based on TSM v6, you get advanced storage efficiency features such as compression and deduplication to minimize consumption of disk storage pools.
IBM Tivoli Monitor has been extended to support virtual servers, including VMware, Linux KVM, and Citrix XenServer. This can help with capacity planning, performance monitoring, and availability. Tivoli Monitor will help you understand the relationships between physical and virtual resources to help isolate problems to the correct resource, reducing the time it takes for debug issues between servers and storage. See the
Next week is [IBM Pulse2011 Conference] in Las Vegas, February 27 to March 2. Sorry, I don't plan to be there this year. It is looking to be a great conference, with fellow inventor Dean Kamen as the keynote speaker. For a blast from the past, read my blog posts from Pulse2008 [Main Tent sessions] and [Breakout sessions].
For the longest time, people thought that humans could not run a mile in less than four minutes. Then, in 1954, [Sir Roger Bannister] beat that perception, and shortly thereafter, once he showed it was possible, many other runners were able to achieve this also. The same is being said now about the IBM Watson computer which appeared this week against two human contestants on Jeopardy!
(2014 Update: A lot has happened since I originally wrote this blog post! I intended this as a fun project for college students to work on during their summer break. However, IBM is concerned that some businesses might be led to believe they could simply stand up their own systems based entirely on open source and internally developed code for business use. IBM recommends instead the [IBM InfoSphere BigInsights] which packages much of the software described below. IBM has also launched a new "Watson Group" that has [Watson-as-a-Service] capabilities in the Cloud. To raise awareness to these developments, IBM has asked me to rename this post from IBM Watson - How to build your own "Watson Jr." in your basement to the new title IBM Watson -- How to replicate Watson hardware and systems design for your own use in your basement. I also took this opportunity to improve the formatting layout.)
Often, when a company demonstrates new techology, these are prototypes not yet ready for commercial deployment until several years later. IBM Watson, however, was made mostly from commercially available hardware, software and information resources. As several have noted, the 1TB of data used to search for answers could fit on a single USB drive that you buy at your local computer store.
Take a look at the [IBM Research Team] to determine how the project was organized. Let's decide what we need, and what we don't in our version for personal use:
Do we need it for personal use?
Yes, That's you. Assuming this is a one-person project, you will act as Team Lead.
Yes, I hope you know computer programming!
No, since this version for personal use won't be appearing on Jeopardy, we won't need strategy on wager amounts for the Daily Double, or what clues to pick next. Let's focus merely on a computer that can accept a question in text, and provide an answer back, in text.
Yes, this team focused on how to wire all the hardware together. We need to do that, although this version for personal use will have fewer components.
Optional. For now, let's have this version for personal use just return its answer in plain text. Consider this Extra Credit after you get the rest of the system working. Consider using [eSpeak], [FreeTTS], or the Modular Architecture for Research on speech sYnthesis [MARY] Text-to-Speech synthesizers.
Yes, I will explain what this is, and why you need it.
Yes, we will need to get information for personal use to process
Yes, this team developed a system for parsing the question being asked, and to attach meaning to the different words involved.
No, this team focused on making IBM Watson optimized to answer in 3 seconds or less. We can accept a slower response, so we can skip this.
(Disclaimer: As with any Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project, I am not responsible if you are not happy with your version for personal use I am basing the approach on what I read from publicly available sources, and my work in Linux, supercomputers, XIV, and SONAS. For our purposes, this version for personal use is based entirely on commodity hardware, open source software, and publicly available sources of information. Your implementation will certainly not be as fast or as clever as the IBM Watson you saw on television.)
Step 1: Buy the Hardware
Supercomputers are built as a cluster of identical compute servers lashed together by a network. You will be installing Linux on them, so if you can avoid paying extra for Microsoft Windows, that would save you some money. Here is your shopping list:
Three x86 hosts, with the following:
64-bit quad-core processor, either Intel-VT or AMD-V capable,
8GB of DRAM, or larger
300GB of hard disk, or larger
CD or DVD Read/Write drive
Computer Monitor, mouse and keyboard
Ethernet 1GbE 4-port hub, and appropriate RJ45 cables
Surge protector and Power strip
Local Console Monitor (LCM) 4-port switch (formerly known as a KVM switch) and appropriate cables. This is optional, but will make it easier during the development. Once your implementation is operational, you will only need the monitor and keyboard attached to one machine. The other two machines can remain "headless" servers.
Step 2: Establish Networking
IBM Watson used Juniper switches running at 10Gbps Ethernet (10GbE) speeds, but was not connected to the Internet while playing Jeopardy! Instead, these Ethernet links were for the POWER7 servers to talk to each other, and to access files over the Network File System (NFS) protocol to the internal customized SONAS storage I/O nodes.
The implementation will be able to run "disconnected from the Internet" as well. However, you will need Internet access to download the code and information sources. For our purposes, 1GbE should be sufficient. Connect your Ethernet hub to your DSL or Cable modem. Connect all three hosts to the Ethernet switch. Connect your keyboard, video monitor and mouse to the LCM, and connect the LCM to the three hosts.
Step 3: Install Linux and Middleware
To say I use Linux on a daily basis is an understatement. Linux runs on my Android-based cell phone, my laptop at work, my personal computers at home, most of our IBM storage devices from SAN Volume Controller to XIV to SONAS, and even on my Tivo at home which recorded my televised episodes of Jeopardy!
For this project, you can use any modern Linux distribution that supports KVM. IBM Watson used Novel SUSE Linux Enterprise Server [SLES 11]. Alternatively, I can also recommend either Red Hat Enterprise Linux [RHEL 6] or Canonical [Ubuntu v10]. Each distribution of Linux comes in different orientations. Download the the 64-bit "ISO" files for each version, and burn them to CDs.
Graphical User Interface (GUI) oriented, often referred to as "Desktop" or "HPC-Head"
Command Line Interface (CLI) oriented, often referred to as "Server" or "HPC-Compute"
Guest OS oriented, to run in a Hypervisor such as KVM, Xen, or VMware. Novell calls theirs "Just Enough Operating System" [JeOS].
For this version for personal use, I have chosen a [multitier architecture], sometimes referred to as an "n-tier" or "client/server" architecture.
Host 1 - Presentation Server
For the Human-Computer Interface [HCI], the IBM Watson received categories and clues as text files via TCP/IP, had a [beautiful avatar] representing a planet with 42 circles streaking across in orbit, and text-to-speech synthesizer to respond in a computerized voice. Your implementation will not be this sophisticated. Instead, we will have a simple text-based Query Panel web interface accessible from a browser like Mozilla Firefox.
Host 1 will be your Presentation Server, the connection to your keyboard, video monitor and mouse. Install the "Desktop" or "HPC Head Node" version of Linux. Install [Apache Web Server and Tomcat] to run the Query Panel. Host 1 will also be your "programming" host. Install the [Java SDK] and the [Eclipse IDE for Java Developers]. If you always wanted to learn Java, now is your chance. There are plenty of books on Java if that is not the language you normally write code.
While three little systems doesn't constitute an "Extreme Cloud" environment, you might like to try out the "Extreme Cloud Administration Tool", called [xCat], which was used to manage the many servers in IBM Watson.
Host 2 - Business Logic Server
Host 2 will be driving most of the "thinking". Install the "Server" or "HPC Compute Node" version of Linux. This will be running a server virtualization Hypervisor. I recommend KVM, but you can probably run Xen or VMware instead if you like.
Host 3 - File and Database Server
Host 3 will hold your information sources, indices, and databases. Install the "Server" or "HPC Compute Node" version of Linux. This will be your NFS server, which might come up as a question during the installation process.
Technically, you could run different Linux distributions on different machines. For example, you could run "Ubuntu Desktop" for host 1, "RHEL 6 Server" for host 2, and "SLES 11" for host 3. In general, Red Hat tries to be the best "Server" platform, and Novell tries to make SLES be the best "Guest OS".
My advice is to pick a single distribution and use it for everything, Desktop, Server, and Guest OS. If you are new to Linux, choose Ubuntu. There are plenty of books on Linux in general, and Ubuntu in particular, and Ubuntu has a helpful community of volunteers to answer your questions.
Step 4: Download Information Sources
You will need some documents for your implementation to process.
IBM Watson used a modified SONAS to provide a highly-available clustered NFS server. For this version, we won't need that level of sophistication. Configure Host 3 as the NFS server, and Hosts 1 and 2 as NFS clients. See the [Linux-NFS-HOWTO] for details. To optimize performance, host 3 will be the "official master copy", but we will use a Linux utility called rsync to copy the information sources over to the hosts 1 and 2. This allows the task engines on those hosts to access local disk resources during question-answer processing.
We will also need a relational database. You won't need a high-powered IBM DB2. Your implementation can do fine with something like [Apache Derby] which is the open source version of IBM CloudScape from its Informix acquisition. Set up Host 3 as the Derby Network Server, and Hosts 1 and 2 as Derby Network Clients. For more about structured content in relational databases, see my post [IBM Watson - Business Intelligence, Data Retrieval and Text Mining].
Linux includes a utility called wget which allows you to download content from the Internet to your system. What documents you decide to download is up to you, based on what types of questions you want answered. For example, if you like Literature, check out the vast resources at [FullBooks.com]. You can automate the download by writing a shell script or program to invoke wget to all the places you want to fetch data from. Rename the downloaded files to something unique, as often they are just "index.html". For more on wget utility, see [IBM Developerworks].
Step 5: The Query Panel - Parsing the Question
Next, we need to parse the question and have some sense of what is being asked for. For this we will use [OpenNLP] for Natural Language Processing, and [OpenCyc] for the conceptual logic reasoning. See Doug Lenat presenting this 75-minute video [Computers versus Common Sense]. To learn more, see the [CYC 101 Tutorial].
Unlike Jeopardy! where Alex Trebek provides the answer and contestants must respond with the correct question, we will do normal Question-and-Answer processing. To keep things simple, we will limit questions to the following formats:
Who is ...?
Where is ...?
When did ... happen?
What is ...?
Host 1 will have a simple Query Panel web interface. At the top, a place to enter your question, and a "submit" button, and a place at the bottom for the answer to be shown. When "submit" is pressed, this will pass the question to "main.jsp", the Java servlet program that will start the Question-answering analysis. Limiting the types of questions that can be posed will simplify hypothesis generation, reduce the candidate set and evidence evaluation, allowing the analytics processing to continue in reasonable time.
Step 6: Unstructured Information Management Architecture
The "heart and soul" of IBM Watson is Unstructured Information Management Architecture [UIMA]. IBM developed this, then made it available to the world as open source. It is maintained by the [Apache Software Foundation], and overseen by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards [OASIS].
Basically, UIMA lets you scan unstructured documents, gleam the important points, and put that into a database for later retrieval. In the graph above, DBs means 'databases' and KBs means 'knowledge bases'. See the 4-minute YouTube video of [IBM Content Analytics], the commercial version of UIMA.
Starting from the left, the Collection Reader selects each document to process, and creates an empty Common Analysis Structure (CAS) which serves as a standardized container for information. This CAS is passed to Analysis Engines , composed of one or more Annotators which analyze the text and fill the CAS with the information found. The CAS are passed to CAS Consumers which do something with the information found, such as enter an entry into a database, update an index, or update a vote count.
(Note: This point requires, what we in the industry call a small matter of programming, or [SMOP]. If you've always wanted to learn Java programming, XML, and JDBC, you will get to do plenty here. )
If you are not familiar with UIMA, consider this [UIMA Tutorial].
Step 7: Parallel Processing
People have asked me why IBM Watson is so big. Did we really need 2,880 cores of processing power? As a supercomputer, the 80 TeraFLOPs of IBM Watson would place it only in 94th place on the [Top 500 Supercomputers]. While IBM Watson may be the [Smartest Machine on Earth], the most powerful supercomputer at this time is the Tianhe-1A with more than 186,000 cores, capable of 2,566 TeraFLOPs.
To determine how big IBM Watson needed to be, the IBM Research team ran the DeepQA algorithm on a single core. It took 2 hours to answer a single Jeopardy question! Let's look at the performance data:
Number of cores
Time to answer one Jeopardy question
Single IBM Power750 server
< 4 minutes
Single rack (10 servers)
< 30 seconds
IBM Watson (90 servers)
< 3 seconds
The old adage applies, [many hands make for light work]. The idea is to divide-and-conquer. For example, if you wanted to find a particular street address in the Manhattan phone book, you could dispatch fifty pages to each friend and they could all scan those pages at the same time. This is known as "Parallel Processing" and is how supercomputers are able to work so well. However, not all algorithms lend well to parallel processing, and the phrase [nine women can't have a baby in one month] is often used to remind us of this.
Fortuantely, UIMA is designed for parallel processing. You need to install UIMA-AS for Asynchronous Scale-out processing, an add-on to the base UIMA Java framework, supporting a very flexible scale-out capability based on JMS (Java Messaging Services) and ActiveMQ. We will also need Apache Hadoop, an open source implementation used by Yahoo Search engine. Hadoop has a "MapReduce" engine that allows you to divide the work, dispatch pieces to different "task engines", and the combine the results afterwards.
Host 2 will run Hadoop and drive the MapReduce process. Plan to have three KVM guests on Host 1, four on Host 2, and three on Host 3. That means you have 10 task engines to work with. These task engines can be deployed for Content Readers, Analysis Engines, and CAS Consumers. When all processing is done, the resulting votes will be tabulated and the top answer displayed on the Query Panel on Host 1.
Step 8: Testing
To simplify testing, use a batch processing approach. Rather than entering questions by hand in the Query Panel, generate a long list of questions in a file, and submit for processing. This will allow you to fine-tune the environment, optimize for performance, and validate the answers returned.
There you have it. By the time you get your implementation fully operational, you will have learned a lot of useful skills, including Linux administration, Ethernet networking, NFS file system configuration, Java programming, UIMA text mining analysis, and MapReduce parallel processing. Hopefully, you will also gain an appreciation for how difficult it was for the IBM Research team to accomplish what they had for the Grand Challenge on Jeopardy! Not surprisingly, IBM Watson is making IBM [as sexy to work for as Apple, Google or Facebook], all of which started their business in a garage or a basement with a system as small as this version for personal use.
If we have learned anything from last decade's Y2K crisis, is that we should not wait for the last minute to take action. Now is the time to start thinking about weaning ourselves off Windows XP. IBM has 400,000 employees, so this is not a trivial matter.
Already, IBM has taken some bold steps:
Last July, IBM announced that it was switching from Internet Explorer (IE6) to [Mozilla Firefox as its standard browser]. IBM has been contributing to this open source project for years, including support for open standards, and to make it [more accessible to handicapped employees with visual and motor impairments]. I use Firefox already on Windows, Mac and Linux, so there was no learning curve for me. Before this announcement, if some web-based application did not work on Firefox, our Helpdesk told us to switch back to Internet Explorer. Those days are over. Now, if a web-based application doesn't work on Firefox, we either stop using it, or it gets fixed.
IBM also announced the latest [IBM Lotus Symphony 3] software, which replaces Microsoft Office for Powerpoint, Excel and Word applications. Symphony also works across Mac, Windows and Linux. It is based on the OpenOffice open source project, and handles open-standard document formats (ODF). Support for Microsoft Office 2003 will also run out in the year 2014, so moving off proprietary formats to open standards makes sense.
I am not going to wait for IBM to decide how to proceed next, so I am starting my own migrations. In my case, I need to do it twice, on my IBM-provided laptop as well as my personal PC at home.
Last summer, IBM sent me a new laptop, we get a new one every 3-4 years. It was pre-installed with Windows XP, but powerful enough to run a 64-bit operating system in the future. Here are my series of blog posts on that:
I decided to try out Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 with its KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to run Windows XP as a guest OS. I will try to run as much as I can on native Linux, but will have Windows XP guest as a next option, and if that still doesn't work, reboot the system in native Windows XP mode.
So far, I am pleased that I can do nearly everything my job requires natively in Red Hat Linux, including accessing my Lotus Notes for email and databases, edit and present documents with Lotus Symphony, and so on. I have made RHEL 6.1 my default when I boot up. Setting up Windows XP under KVM was relatively simple, involving an 8-line shell script and 54-line XML file. Here is what I have encountered:
We use a wonderful tool called "iSpring Pro" which merges Powerpoint slides with voice recordings for each page into a Shockwave Flash video. I have not yet found a Linux equivalent for this yet.
To avoid having to duplicate files between systems, I use instead symbolic links. For example, my Lotus Notes local email repository sits on D: drive, but I can access it directly with a link from /home/tpearson/notes/data.
While my native Ubuntu and RHEL Linux can access my C:, D: and E: drives in native NTFS file system format, the irony is that my Windows XP guest OS under KVM cannot. This means moving something from NTFS over to Ext4, just so that I can access it from the Windows XP guest application.
For whatever reason, "Password Safe" did not run on the Windows XP guest. I launch it, but it takes forever to load and never brings up the GUI. Fortunately, there is a Linux version [MyPasswordSafe] that seems to work just fine to keep track of all my passwords.
Personal home PC
My Windows XP system at home gave up the ghost last month, so I bought a new system with Windows 7 Professional, quad-core Intel processor and 6GB of memory. There are [various editions of Windows 7], but I chose Windows 7 Professional to support running Windows XP as a guest image.
Here's is how I have configured my personal computer:
I actually found it more time-consuming to implement the "Virtual PC" feature of Windows 7 to get Windows XP mode working than KVM on Red Hat Linux. I am amazed how many of my Windows XP programs DO NOT RUN AT ALL natively on Windows 7. I now have native 64-bit versions of Lotus Notes and Symphony 3, which will do well enough for me for now.
I went ahead and put Red Hat Linux on my home system as well, but since I have Windows XP running as a guest under Windows 7, no need to duplicate KVM setup there. At least if I have problems with Windows 7, I can reboot in RHEL6 Linux at home and use that for Linux-native applications.
Hopefully, this will position me well in case IBM decides to either go with Windows 7 or Linux as the replacement OS for Windows XP.
Continuing my post-week coverage of the [Data Center 2010 conference], Wendesday afternoon included a mix of sessions that covered storage and servers.
Enabling 5x Storage Efficiency
Steve Kenniston, who now works for IBM from recent acquisition of Storwize Inc, presented IBM's new Real-Time Compression appliance. There are two appliances, one handles 1 GbE networks, and the other supports mixed 1GbE/10GbE connectivity. Files are compressed in real-time with no impact to performance, and in some cases can improve performance because there is less data written to back-end NAS devices. The appliance is not limited to IBM's N series and NetApp, but is vendor-agnostic. IBM is qualifying the solution with other NAS devices in the market. The compression can compress up to 80 percent, providing a 5x storage efficiency.
Townhall - Storage
The townhall was a Q&A session to ask the analysts their thoughts on Storage. Here I will present the answer from the analyst, and then my own commentary.
Are there any gotchas deploying Automated Storage Tiering?
Analyst: you need to fully understand your workload before investing any money into expensive Solid-State Drives (SSD).
Commentary: IBM offers Easy Tier for the IBM DS8000, SAN Volume Controller, and Storwize V7000 disk systems. Before buying any SSD, these systems will measure the workload activity and IBM offers the Storage Tier Advisory Tool (STAT) that can help identify how much SSD will benefit each workload. If you don't have these specific storage devices, IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center for Disk can help identify disk performance to determine if SSD is cost-justified.
Wouldn't it be simpler to just have separate storage arrays for different performance levels?
Analyst: No, because that would complicate BC/DR planning, as many storage devices do not coordinate consistency group processing from one array to another.
Commentary: IBM DS8000, SAN Volume Controller and Storwize V7000 disk systems support consistency groups across storage arrays, for those customers that want to take advantage of lower cost disk tiers on separate lower cost storage devices.
Can storage virtualization play a role in private cloud deployments?
Analyst: Yes, by definition, but today's storage virtualization products don't work with public cloud storage providers. None of the major public cloud providers use storage virtualization.
Commentary: IBM uses storage virtualization for its public cloud offerings, but the question was about private cloud deployments. IBM CloudBurst integrated private cloud stack supports the IBM SAN Volume Controller which makes it easy for storage to be provisioned in the self-service catalog.
Can you suggest one thing we can do Monday when we get back to the office?
Analyst: Create a team to develop a storage strategy and plan, based on input from your end-users.
Commentary: Put IBM on your short list for your next disk, tape or storage software purchase decision. Visit
[ibm.com/storage] to re-discover all of IBM's storage offerings.
What is the future of Fibre Channel?
Analyst 1: Fibre Channel is still growing, will go from 8Gbps to 16Gbps, the transition to Ethernet is slow, so FC will remain the dominant protocol through year 2014.
Analyst 2: Fibre Channel will still be around, but NAS, iSCSI and FCoE are all growing at a faster pace. Fibre Channel will only be dominant in the largest of data centers.
Commentary: Ask a vague question, get a vague answer. Fibre Channel will still be around for the next five years.
However, SAN administrators might want to investigate Ethernet-based approaches like NAS, iSCSI and FCoE where appropriate, and start beefing up their Ethernet skills.
Will Linux become the Next UNIX?
Linux in your datacenter is inevitable. In the past, Linux was limited to x86 architectures, and UNIX operating systems ran on specialized CPU architectures: IBM AIX on POWER7, Solaris on SPARC, HP-UX on PA-RISC and Itanium, and IBM z/OS on System z Architecture, to name a few. But today, Linux now runs on many of these other CPU chipsets as well.
Two common workloads, Web/App serving and DBMS, are shifting from UNIX to Linux. Linux Reliability, Availability and Serviceability (RAS) is approaching the levels of UNIX. Linux has been a mixed blessing for UNIX vendors, with x86 server margins shrinking, but the high-margin UNIX market has shrunk 25 percent in the past three years.
UNIX vendors must make the "mainframe argument" that their flavor of UNIX is more resilient than any OS that runs on Intel or AMD x86 chipsets. In 2008, Sun Solaris was the number #1 UNIX, but today, it is IBM AIX with 40 percent marketshare. Meanwhile HP has focused on extending its Windows/x86 lead with a partnership with Microsoft.
The analyst asks "Are the three UNIX vendors in it for the long haul, or are they planning graceful exits?" The four options for each vendor are:
Milk it as it declines
Accelerate the decline by focusing elsewhere
Impede the market to protect margins
Re-energize UNIX base through added value
Here is the analyst's view on each UNIX vendor.
IBM AIX now owns 40 percent marketshare of the UNIX market. While the POWER7 chipset supports multiple operating systems, IBM has not been able to get an ecosystem to adopt Linux-on-POWER. The "Other" includes z/OS, IBM i, and other x86-based OS.
HP has multi-OS Itanium from Intel, but is moving to Multi-OS blades instead. Their "x86 plus HP-UX" strategy is a two-pronged attack against IBM AIX and z/OS. Intel Nehalem chipset is approaching the RAS of Itanium, making the "mainframe argument" more difficult for HP-UX.
Before Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, Oracle was focused on Linux as a UNIX replacement. After the acquisition, they now claim to support Linux and Solaris equally. They are now focused on trying to protect their rapidly declining install base by keeping IBM and HP out. They will work hard to differentiate Solaris as having "secret sauce" that is not in Linux. They will continue to compete head-on against Red Hat Linux.
An interactive poll of the audience indicated that the most strategic Linux/UNIX platform over the next next five years was Red Hat Linux. This beat out AIX, Solaris and HP-UX, as well as all of the other distributions of Linux.
The rooms emptied quickly after the last session, as everyone wanted to get to the "Hospitality Suites".
In my presentations in Australia and New Zealand, I mentioned that people were re-discovering the benefits of removable media. While floppy diskettes were convenient way of passing information from one person to another, they unfortunately did not have enough capacity. In today's world, you may need Gigabytes or Terabytes of re-writeable storage with a file system interface that can easily be passed from one person to another. In this post, I explore three options.
(FCC Disclaimer: I work for IBM, and IBM has no business relationship with Cirago at the time of this writing. Cirago has not paid me to mention their product, but instead provided me a free loaner that I promised to return to them after my evaluation is completed. This post should not be considered an endorsement for Cirago's products. List prices for Cirago and IBM products were determined from publicly available sources for the United States, and may vary in different countries. The views expressed herein may not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of either IBM or Cirago.)
I took a few photos so you can see what exactly this device looks like. Basically, it is a plastic box that holds a single naked disk drive. It has four little rubber feet so that it does not slip on your desk surface.
The inside is quite simple. The power and SATA connections match those of either a standard 3.5 inch drive, or the smaller form factor (SFF) 2.5 inch drive. However, to my dismay, it does not handle EIDE drives which I have a ton of. After taking apart six different computer systems, I found only one had SATA drives for me to try this unit out with.
The unit comes with a USB cable and AC/DC power adapter. In my case, I found the USB 3.0 cable too short for my liking. My tower systems are under my desk, but I like keeping docking stations like this on the top of the desk, within easy reach, but that wasn't going to happen because the USB cable was not long enough.
Instead, I ended up putting it half-way in between, behind my desk, sitting on another spare system. Not ideal, but in theory there are USB-extension cables that probably could fix this.
Here it is with the drive inside. I had a 3.5 inch Western Digital [1600AAJS drive] 160 GB, SATA 3 Gbps, 8 MB Cache, 7200 RPM.
To compare the performance, I used a dual-core AMD [Athlon X2] system that I had built for my 2008 [One Laptop Per Child] project. To compare the performance, I ran with the drive externally in the Cirago docking station, then ran the same tests with the same drive internally on the native SATA controller. Although the Cirago documentation indicated that Windows was required, I used Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS just fine, using the flexible I/O [fio] benchmarking tool against an ext3 file system.
Sequential Write - a common use for external disk drive is backup.
Random read - randomly read files ranging from 5KB to 10MB in size.
Random mixed - randomly read/write files (50/50 mix) ranging from 5KB to 10MB in size.
Random Mixed (50/50)
Latency (msec) read
Latency (msec) write
Bandwidth (KB/s) read
Bandwidth (KB/s) write
For sequential write, the Cirago performed well, only about 15 percent slower than native SATA. For random workloads, however, it was 30-40 percent slower. If you are wondering why I did not get USB 3.0 speeds, there are several factors involved here. First, with overheads, 5 Gbps USB 3.0 is expected to get only about 400 MB/sec. My SATA 2.0 controller maxes out at 375 MB/sec, and my USB 2.0 ports on my system are rated for 57 MB/sec, but with overheads will only get 20-25 MB/sec. Most spinning drives only get 75 to 110 MB/sec. Even solid-state drives top out at 250 MB/sec for sustained activity. Despite all that, my internal SATA drive only got 16 MB/sec, and externally with the Cirago 14 MB/sec in sustained write activity.
Here is the mess that is inside my system. The slot for drive 2 was blocked by cables, memory chips and the heat sink for my processor. It is possible to damage a system just trying to squeeze between these obstacles.
However, the point of this post is "removable media". Having to open up the case and insert the second drive and wire it up to the correct SATA port was a pain, and certainly a more difficult challenge than the average PC user wishes to tackle.
Price-wise, the Cirago lists for $49 USD, and the 160GB drive I used lists for $69, so the combination $118 is about what you would pay for a fully integrated external USB drive. However, if you had lots of loose drives, then this could be more convenient and start to save you some money.
IBM RDX disk backup system
Another problem with the Cirago approach is that the disk drives are naked, with printed circuit board (PCB) exposed. When not in the docking station, where do you put your drive? Did you keep the [anti-static ESD bag] that it came in when you bought it? And once inside the bag, now what? Do you want to just stack it up in a pile with your other pieces of equipment?
To solve this, IBM offers the RDX backup system. These are fully compatible with other RDX sytems from Dell, HP, Imation, NEC, Quantum, and Tandberg Data. The concept is to have a docking station that takes removable, rugged plastic-coated disk-enclosed cartridges. The docking station can be part of the PC itself, similar to how CD/DVD drives are installed, or as a stand-alone USB 2.0 system, capable of processing data up to 25 MB/sec.
The idea is not new, about 10 years ago we had [Iomega "zip" drives] that offered disk-enclosed cartridges with capacities of 100, 250 and 750MB in size. Iomega had its fair share of problems with the zip drive, which were ranked in 2006 as the 15th worst technology product of all time, and were eventually were bought out by EMC two years later (as if EMC has not had enough failures on its own!)
The problem with zip drives was that they did not hold as much as CD or DVD media, and were more expensive. By comparison, IBM RDX cartridges come in 160GB to 750GB in size, at list prices starting at $127 USD.
IBM LTO tape with Long-Term File System
Removable media is not just for backup. Disk cartridges, like the IBM RDX above, had the advantage of being random access, but most tape are accessed sequentially. IBM has solved this also, with the new IBM Long Term File System [LTFS], available for LTO-5 tape cartridges.
With LFTS, the LTO-5 tape cartridge now can act as a super-large USB memory stick for passing information from one person to the next. The LTO-5 cartridge can handle up to 3TB of compressed data at up to SAS speeds of 140 MB/sec. An LTO-5 tape cartridge lists for only $87 USD.
The LTO-5 drives, such as the IBM [TS2250 drive] can read LTO-3, LTO-4 and LTO-5cartridges, and can write LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges, in a manner that is fully compatible with LTO drives from HP or Quantum. LTO-3, LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges are available in WORM or rewriteable formats. LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges can be encrypted with 256-bit AES built-in encryption. With three drive manufacturers, and seven cartridge manufacturers, there is no threat of vendor lock-in with this approach.
These three options offer various trade-offs in price, performance, security and convenience. Not surprisingly, tape continues to be the cheapest option.
Well, it's that Back-To-School time again! Mo's thirteen-year-old reluctantly enters the eight grade, still upset the summer ended so abruptly. Richard's nephew returns to the University of Arizona for another year. Natalie has chosen to move to Phoenix and pursue a post-grad degree at Arizona State University. They all have two things in common, they all want a new computer, and they are all on a budget.
Fellow blogger Bob Sutor (IBM) pointed me to an excellent article on [How to Build Your Own $200 PC], which reminded me of the [XS server I built] for my 2008 Google Summer of Code project with the One Laptop per Child organization. Now that the project is over, I have upgraded it to Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS, known as Lucid Lynx. Building your own PC with your student is a great learning experience in itself. Of course, this is just the computer itself, you still need to buy the keyboard, mouse and video monitor separately, if you don't already have these.
If you are not interested in building a PC from scratch, consider taking an old Windows-based PC and installing Linux to bring it new life. Many of the older PCs don't have enough processor or memory to run Windows Vista or the latest Windows 7, but they will all run Linux.
(If you think your old system has resale value, try checking out the ["trade-in estimator"] at the BestBuy website to straighten out your misperception. However, if you do decide to sell your system, consider replacing the disk drive with a fresh empty one, or wipe the old drive clean with one of the many free Linux utilities. Jason Striegel on Engadget has a nice [HOWTO Erase your old hard disk drive] article. If you don't have your original manufacturer's Windows installation discs, installing Linux instead may help keep you out of legal hot water.)
Depending on what your school projects require, you want to make sure that you can use a printer or scanner with your Linux system. Don't buy a printer unless it is supported by Linux. The Linux Foundation maintains a [Printer Compatability database]. Printing was one of the first things I got working for my Linux-based OLPC laptop, which I documented in my December 2007 post [Printing on XO Laptop with CUPS and LPR] and got a surprising following over at [OLPC News].
To reduce paper, many schools are having students email their assignments, or use Cloud Computing services like Google Docs. Both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University use Google Docs, and the students I have talked with love the idea. Whether they use a Mac, Linux or Windows PC, all students can access Google Docs through their browser. An alternative to Google Docs is Windows Live Skydrive, which has the option to upload and edit the latest Office format documents from the Firefox browser on Linux. Both offer you the option to upload GBs of files, which could be helpful transferring data from an old PC to a new one.
Lastly, there are many free video games for Linux, for when you need to take a break from all that studying. Ever since IBM's [36-page Global Innovation Outlook 2.0] study showed that playing video games made you a better business leader, I have been encouraging all students that I tutor or mentor that playing games is a more valuable use of your time than watching television. IBM considers video games the [future of learning]. Even the [Violent Video Games are Good for Kids]. It is no wonder that IBM provides the technology that runs all the major game platforms, including Microsoft Xbox360, Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation.
(FTC disclosure: I work for IBM. IBM has working relationships with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. I use both Google Docs and Microsoft Live Skydrive for personal use, and base my recommendations purely on my own experience. I own stock in IBM, Google and Apple. I have friends and family that work at Microsoft. I own an Apple Mac Mini and Sony PlayStation. I was a Linux developer earlier in my IBM career. IBM considers Linux a strategic operating system for both personal and professional use. IBM has selected Firefox as its standard browser internally for all employees. I run Linux both at home and at the office. I graduated from the University of Arizona, and have friends who either work or take classes there, as well as at Arizona State University.)
Linux skills are marketable and growing more in demand. Linux is used in everything from cellphones to mainframes, as well as many IBM storage devices such as the IBM SAN Volume Controller, XIV and ProtecTIER data deduplication solution. In addition to writing term papers, spreadsheets and presentations with OpenOffice, your Linux PC can help you learn programming skills, web design, and database administration.
To all the students in my life, I wish you all good things in the upcoming school year!
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.
By combining multiple components into a single "integrated system", IBM can offer a blended disk-and-tape storage solutions. This provides the best of both worlds, high speed access using disk, while providing lower costs and more energy efficiency with tape. According to a study by the Clipper Group, tape can be 23 times less expensive than disk over a 5 year total cost of ownership (TCO).
I've also covered Hierarchical Storage Management, such as my post [Seven Tiers of Storage at ABN Amro], and my role as lead architect for DFSMS on z/OS in general, and DFSMShsm in particular.
However, some explanation might be warranted in the use of these two terms in regards to SONAS. In this case, ILM refers to policy-based file placement, movement and expiration on internal disk pools. This is actually a GPFS feature that has existed for some time, and was tested to work in this new configuration. Files can be individually placed on either SAS (15K RPM) or SATA (7200 RPM) drives. Policies can be written to move them from SAS to SATA based on size, age and days non-referenced.
HSM is also a form of ILM, in that it moves data from SONAS disk to external storage pools managed by IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. A small stub is left behind in the GPFS file system indicating the file has been "migrated". Any reference to read or update this file will cause the file to be "recalled" back from TSM to SONAS for processing. The external storage pools can be disk, tape or any other media supported by TSM. Some estimate that as much as 60 to 80 percent of files on NAS have low reference and should be stored on tape instead of disk, and now SONAS with HSM makes that possible.
This distinction allows the ILM movement to be done internally, within GPFS, and the HSM movement to be done externally, via TSM. Both ILM and HSM movement take advantage of the GPFS high-speed policy engine, which can process 10 million files per node, run in parallel across all interface nodes. Note that TSM is not required for ILM movement. In effect, SONAS brings the policy-based management features of DFSMS for z/OS mainframe to all the rest of the operating systems that access SONAS.
HTTP and NIS support
In addition to NFS v2, NFS v3, and CIFS, the SONAS v1.1.1 adds the HTTP protocol. Over time, IBM plans to add more protocols in subsequent releases. Let me know which protocols you are interested in, so I can pass that along to the architects designing future releases!
SONAS v1.1.1 also adds support for Network Information Service (NIS), a client/server based model for user administration. In SONAS, NIS is used for netgroup and ID mapping only. Authentication is done via Active Directory, LDAP or Samba PDC.
SONAS already had synchronous replication, which was limited in distance. Now, SONAS v1.1.1 provides asynchronous replication, using rsync, at the file level. This is done over Wide Area Network (WAN) across to any other SONAS at any distance.
Interface modules can now be configured with either 64GB or 128GB of cache. Storage now supports both 450GB and 600GB SAS (15K RPM) and both 1TB and 2TB SATA (7200 RPM) drives. However, at this time, an entire 60-drive drawer must be either all one type of SAS or all one type of SATA. I have been pushing the architects to allow each 10-pack RAID rank to be independently selectable. For now, a storage pod can have 240 drives, 60 drives of each type of disk, to provide four different tiers of storage. You can have up to 30 storage pods per SONAS, for a total of 7200 drives.
An alternative to internal drawers of disk is a new "Gateway" iRPQ that allows the two storage nodes of a SONAS storage pod to connect via Fibre Channel to one or two XIV disk systems. You cannot mix and match, a storage pod is either all internal disk, or all external XIV. A SONAS gateway combined with external XIV is referred to as a "Smart Business Storage Cloud" (SBSC), which can be configured off premises and managed by third-party personnel so your IT staff can focus on other things.
See the Announcement Letters for the SONAS [hardware] and [software] for more details.
For those who are wondering how this positions against IBM's other NAS solution, the IBM System Storage N series, the rule of thumb is simple. If your capacity needs can be satisfied with a single N series box per location, use that. If not, consider SONAS instead. For those with non-IBM NAS filers that realize now that SONAS is a better approach, IBM offers migration services.
Both the Information Archive and the SONAS can be accessed from z/OS or Linux on System z mainframe, from "IBM i", AIX and Linux on POWER systems, all x86-based operating systems that run on System x servers, as well as any non-IBM server that has a supported NAS client.
Continuing my saga for my [New Laptop], I have gotten all my programs operational, and now it is a good time to re-evaluate how I organize my data. You can read my previous posts on this series: [Day 1], [Day 2], [Day 3].
I started my career at IBM developing mainframe software. The naming convention was simple, you had 44 character dataset names (DSN), which can be divided into qualifiers separated by periods. Each qualifier could be up to 8 characters long. The first qualifier was called the "high level qualifier" (HLQ) and the last one was the "low level qualifier" (LLQ). Standard naming conventions helped with ownership and security (RACF), catalog management, policy-based management (DFSMS), and data format identification. For example:
In the first case, we see that the HLQ is "PROD" for production, the application is PAYROLL and this file holds job control language (JCL). The LLQ often identified the file type. The second can be a version for testing a newer version of this application. The third represents user data, in which case my userid PEARSON would have my own written TEST JCL. I have seen successful naming conventions with 3, 4, 5 and even 6 qualifiers. The full dataset name remains the same, even if it is moved from one disk to another, or migrated to tape.
(We had to help one client who had all their files with single qualifier names, no more than 8 characters long, all in the Master Catalog (root directory). They wanted to implement RACF and DFSMS, and needed help converting all of their file names and related JCL to a 4-qualifer naming convention. It took seven months to make this transformation, but the client was quite pleased with the end result.)
While the mainframe has a restrictive approach to naming files, the operating systems on personal computers provide practically unlimited choices. File systems like NTFS or EXT3 support filenames as long as 254 characters, and pathnames up to 32,000 characters. The problem is that when you move a file from one disk to another, or even from one directory structure to another, the pathname will change. If you rely on the pathname to provide critical information about the meaning or purpose of a file, that could get lost when moving the files around.
I found several websites that offered organization advice. On The Happiness Project blog, Gretchen Rubin [busts 11 myths] about organization. On Zenhabits blog, Leo Babauta offers [18 De-cluttering tips].
Peter Walsh's [Tip No. 185] suggests using nouns to describe each folder. Granted these are about physical objects in your home or office, but some of the concepts can apply to digital objects on your disk drive.
"Use the computer’s sorting function. Put “AAA” (or a space) in front of the names of the most-used folders and “ZZZ” (or a bullet) in front of the least-used ones, so the former float to the top of an alphabetical list and the latter go to the bottom."
Personally, I hate spaces anywhere in directory and file names, and the thought of putting a space at the front of one to make it float to the top is even worse. Rather than resorting to naming folders with AAA or ZZZ, why not just limit the total number of files or directories so they are all visible on the screen. I often sort by date to access my most frequently-accessed or most-recently-updated files.
Of all the suggestions I found, Peter Walsh's "Use Nouns" seemed to be the most useful. Wikipedia has a fascinating article on [Biological Classification]. Certainly, if all living things can be put into classifications with only seven levels, we should not need more than seven levels of file system directory structure either! So, this is how I decided to organize my files on my new Thinkad T410:
Windows XP operating system programs and applications. I have structured this so that if I had to replace my hard disk entirely while traveling, I could get a new drive and restore just the operating system on this drive, and a few critical data files needed for the trip. I could then do a full recovery when I was back in the office. If I was hit with a virus that prevented Windows from booting up, I could re-install the Windows (or Linux) operating system without affecting any of my data.
This will be for my most active data, files and databases. I have the Windows "My Documents" point to D:\Documents directory. Under Archives, I will keep files for events that have completed, projects that have finished, and presentations I used that year. If I ever run out of space on my disk drive, I would delete or move off these archives first. I have a single folder for all Downloads, which I can then move to a more appropriate folder after I decide where to put them. My Office folder holds administrative items, like org charts, procedures, and so on.
As a consultant, many of my files relate to Events, these could be Briefings, Conferences, Meetings or Workshops. These are usually one to five days in duration, so I can hold here background materials for the clients involved, agendas, my notes on what transpired, and so on. I keep my Presentations separately, organized by topic. I also am involved with Projects that might span several months or ongoing tasks and assignments. I also keep my Resources separately, these could be templates, training materials, marketing research, whitepapers, and analyst reports.
A few folders I keep outside of this structure on the D: drive. [Evernote] is an application that provides "folksonomy" tagging. This is great in that I can access it from my phone, my laptop, or my desktop at home. Install-files are all those ZIP and EXE files to install applications after a fresh Windows install. If I ever had to wipe clean my C: drive and re-install Windows, I would then have this folder on D: drive to upgrade my system. Finally, I keep my Lotus Notes database directory on my D: drive. Since these are databases (NSF) files accessed directly by Lotus Notes, I saw no reason to put them under the D:\Documents directory structure.
This will be for my multimedia files. These don't change often, are mostly read-only, and could be restored quickly as needed.
I'll give this new re-organization a try. Since I have to take a fresh backup to Tivoli Storage Manager anyways, now is the best time to re-organize the directory structure and update my dsm.opt options file.
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.
My how time flies. This week marks my 24th anniversary working here at IBM. This would have escaped me completely, had I not gotten an email reminding me that it was time to get a new laptop. IBM manages these on a four-year depreciation schedule, and I received my current laptop back in June 2006, on my 20th anniversary.
When I first started at IBM, I was a developer on DFHSM for the MVS operating system, now called DFSMShsm on the z/OS operating system. We all had 3270 [dumb terminals], large cathode ray tubes affectionately known as "green screens", and all of our files were stored centrally on the mainframe. When Personal Computers (PC) were first deployed, I was assigned the job of deciding who got them when. We were getting 120 machines, in five batches of 24 systems each, spaced out over the next two years. I was assigned the job of recommending who should get a PC during the first batch, the second batch, and so on. I was concerned that everyone would want to be part of the first batch, so I put out a survey, asking questions on how familiar they were with personal computers, whether they owned one at home, were familiar with DOS or OS/2, and so on.
It was actually my last question that helped make the decision process easy:
How soon do you want a Personal Computer to replace your existing 3270 terminal?
As late as possible
I had five options, and roughly 24 respondents checked each one, making my job extremely easy. Ironically, once the early adopters of the first batch discovered that these PC could be used for more than just 3270 terminal emulation, many of the others wanted theirs sooner.
Back then, IBM employees resented any form of change. Many took their new PC, configured it to be a full-screen 3270 emulation screen, and continued to work much as they had before. My mentor, Jerry Pence, would print out his mails, and file the printed emails into hanging file folders in his desk credenza. He did not trust saving them on the mainframe, so he was certainly not going to trust storing them on his new PC. One employee used his PC as a door stop, claiming he will continue to use his 3270 terminal until they take it away from him.
Moving forward to 2006, I was one of the first in my building to get a ThinkPad T60. It was so new that many of the accessories were not yet available. It had Windows XP on a single-core 32-bit processor, 1GB RAM, and a huge 80GB disk drive. The built-in 1GbE Ethernet went unused for a while, as we had 16 Mbps Token Ring network.
I was the marketing strategist for IBM System Storage back then, and needed all this excess power and capacity to handle all my graphic-intense applications, like GIMP and Second Life.
Over the past four years, I made a few slight improvements. I partitioned the hard drive to dual-boot between Windows and Linux, and created a separate partition for my data that could be accessed from either OS. I increased the memory to 2GB and replaced the disk with a drive holding 120GB capacity.
A few years ago, IBM surprised us by deciding to support Windows, Linux and Mac OS computers. But actually it made a lot of sense. IBM's world-renown global services manages the help-desk support of over 500 other companies in addition to the 400,000 employees within IBM, so they already had to know how to handle these other operating systems. Now we can choose whichever we feel makes us more productive. Happy employees are more productive, of course. IBM's vision is that almost everything you need to do would be supported on all three OS platforms:
Access your email, calendar, to-do list and corporate databases via Lotus Notes on either Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Corporate databases store our confidential data centrally, so we don't have to have them on our local systems. We can make local replicas of specific databases for offline access, and these are encrypted on our local hard drive for added protection. Emails can link directly to specific entries in a database, so we don't have huge attachments slowing down email traffic. IBM also offers LotusLive, a public cloud offering for companies to get out of managing their own email Lotus Domino repositories.
Create presentations, documents and spreadsheets on either Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Lotus Symphony is based on open source OpenOffice and is compatible with Microsoft Office. This allows us to open and update directly in Microsoft's PPT, DOC and XLS formats.
Many of the corporate applications have now been converted to be browser-accessible. The Firefox browser is available on Windows, Linux and Mac OS. This is a huge step forward, in my opinion, as we often had to download applications just to do the simplest things like submit our time-sheet or travel expense reimbursement. I manage my blog, Facebook and Twitter all from online web-based applications.
The irony here is that the world is switching back to thin clients, with data stored centrally. The popularity of Web 2.0 helped this along. People are using Google Docs or Microsoft OfficeOnline to eliminate having to store anything locally on their machines. This vision positions IBM employees well for emerging cloud-based offerings.
Sadly, we are not quite completely off Windows. Some of our Lotus Notes databases use Windows-only APIs to access our Siebel databases. I have encountered PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets that just don't render correctly in Lotus Symphony. And finally, some of our web-based applications work only in Internet Explorer! We use the outdated IE6 corporate-wide, which is enough reason to switch over to Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers. I have to put special tags on my blog posts to suppress YouTube and other embedded objects that aren't supported on IE6.
So, this leaves me with two options: Get a Mac and run Windows on the side as a guest operating system, or get a ThinkPad to run Windows or Windows/Linux. I've opted for the latter, and put in my order for a ThinkPad 410 with a dual-core 64-bit i5 Intel processor, VT-capable to provide hardware-assistance for virtualization, 4GB of RAM, and a huge 320GB drive. It will come installed with Windows XP as one big C: drive, so it will be up to me to re-partition it into a Windows/Linux dual-boot and/or Windows and Linux running as guest OS machine.
(Full disclosure to make the FTC happy: This is not an endorsement for Microsoft or against Apple products. I have an Apple Mac Mini at home, as well as Windows and Linux machines. IBM and Apple have a business relationship, and IBM manufactures technology inside some of Apple's products. I own shares of Apple stock, I have friends and family that work for Microsoft that occasionally send me Microsoft-logo items, and I work for IBM.)
I have until the end of June to receive my new laptop, re-partition, re-install all my programs, reconfigure all my settings, and transfer over my data so that I can send my old ThinkPad T60 back. IBM will probably refurbish it and send it off to a deserving child in Africa.
If you have an old PC or laptop, please consider donating it to a child, school or charity in your area. To help out a deserving child in Africa or elsewhere, consider contributing to the [One Laptop Per Child] organization.
Well, it feels like Tuesday and you know what that means... "IBM Announcement Day!" Actually, today is Wednesday, but since Monday was Memorial Day holiday here in the USA, my week is day-shifted. Yesterday, IBM announced its latest IBM FlashCopy Manager v2.2 release. Fellow blogger, Del Hoobler (IBM) has also posted something on this out atthe [Tivoli Storage Blog].
IBM FlashCopy Manager replaces two previous products. One was called Tivoli Storage Manager for Copy Services, the other was called Tivoli Storage Manager for Advanced Copy Services. To say people were confused between these two was an understatement, the first was for Windows, and the second was for UNIX and Linux operating systems. The solution? A new product that replaces both of these former products to support Windows, UNIX and Linux! Thus, IBM FlashCopy Manager was born. I introduced this product back in 2009 in my post [New DS8700 and other announcements].
IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager provides what most people with "N series SnapManager envy" are looking for: application-aware point-in-time copies. This product takes advantage of the underlying point-in-time interfaces available on various disk storage systems:
FlashCopy on the DS8000 and SAN Volume Controller (SVC)
Snapshot on the XIV storage system
Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) interface on the DS3000, DS4000, DS5000 and non-IBM gear that supports this Microsoft Windows protocol
For Windows, IBM FlashCopy Manager can coordinate the backup of Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server. The new version 2.2 adds support for Exchange 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2. This includes the ability to recover an individual mailbox or mail item from an Exchange backup. The data can be recovered directly to an Exchange server, or to a PST file.
For UNIX and Linux, IBM FlashCopy Manager can coordinate the backup of DB2, SAP and Oracle databases. Version 2.2 adds support specific Linux and Solaris operating systems, and provides a new capability for database cloning. Basically, database cloning restores a database under a new name with all the appropriate changes to allow its use for other purposes, like development, test or education training. A new "fcmcli" command line interface allows IBM FlashCopy Manager to be used for custom applications or file systems.
A common misperception is that IBM FlashCopy Manager requires IBM Tivoli Storage Manager backup software to function. That is not true. You have two options:
In Stand-alone mode, it's just you, the application, IBM FlashCopy Manager and your disk system. IBM FlashCopy Manager coordinates the point-in-time copies, maintains the correct number of versions, and allows you to backup and restore directly disk-to-disk.
Unified Recovery Management with Tivoli Storage Manager
Of course, the risk with relying only on point-in-time copies is that in most cases, they are on the same disk system as the original data. The exception being virtual disks from the SAN Volume Controller. IBM FlashCopy Manager can be combined with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager so that the point-in-time copies can be copied off to a local or remote TSM server, so that if the disk system that contains both the source and the point-in-time copies fails, you have a backup copy from TSM. In this approach, you can still restore from the point-in-time copies, but you can also restore from the TSM backups as well.
IBM FlashCopy Manager is an excellent platform to connect application-aware fucntionality with hardware-based copy services.
It seems everyone is talking about stacks, appliances and clouds.
On StorageBod, fellow blogger Martin Glassborow has a post titled [Pancakes!] He feels that everyone from Hitachi to Oracle is turning into the IT equivalent of the International House of Pancakes [IHOP] offering integrated stacks of software, servers and storage.
Cisco introduced its "Unified Computing System" about a year ago, [reinventing the datacenter with an all-Ethernet approach]. Cisco does not offer its own hypervisor software nor storage, so there are two choices. First, Cisco has entered a joint venture, called Acadia, with VMware and EMC, to form the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) coalition. The resulting stack was named Vblock, which one blogger had hyphenated as Vb-lock to raise awareness to the proprietary vendor lock-in nature of this stack. Second, Cisco, VMware and NetApp had a similar set of [Barney press releases] to announce a viable storage alternative to those not married to EMC.
"Only when it makes sense. Oracle/Sun has the better argument: when you know exactly what you want from your database, we’ll sell you an integrated appliance that will do exactly that. And it’s fine if you roll your own.
But those are industry-wide issues. There are UCS/VCE specific issue as well:
Cost. All the integration work among 3 different companies costs money. They aren’t replacing existing costs – they are adding costs. Without, in theory, charging more.
Lock-in. UCS/Vblock is, effectively, a mainframe with a network backplane.
Barriers to entry. Are there any? Cisco flagged hypervisor bypass and large memory support as unique value-add – and neither seems any more than a medium-term advantage.
BOT? Build, Operate, Transfer. In theory Vblocks are easier and faster to install and manage. But customers are asking that Acadia BOT their new Vblocks. The customer benefit over current integrator practice? Lower BOT costs? Or?
Price. The 3 most expensive IT vendors banding together?
Longevity. Industry “partnerships” don’t have a good record of long-term success. Each of these companies has its own competitive stresses and financial imperatives, and while the stars may be aligned today, where will they be in 3 years? Unless Cisco is piloting an eventual takeover."
Fellow blogger Bob Sutor (IBM) has an excellent post titled
[Appliances and Linux]. Here is an excerpt:
"In your kitchen you have special appliances that, presumably, do individual things well. Your refrigerator keeps things cold, your oven makes them hot, and your blender purees and liquifies them. There is room in a kitchen for each of these. They work individually but when you are making a meal they each have a role to play in creating the whole.
You could go out and buy the metal, glass, wires, electrical gadgets, and so on that you would need to make each appliance but it is is faster, cheaper, and undoubtably safer to buy them already manufactured. For each device you have a choice of providers and you can pay more for additional features and quality.
In the IT world it is far more common to buy the bits and pieces that make up a final solution. That is, you might separately order the hardware components, the operating system, and the applications, and then have someone put them all together for you. If you have an existing configuration you might add more blades or more storage devices.
You don’t have to do this, however, in every situation. Just from a hardware perspective, you can buy a ready-made machine just waiting for the on switch to be flicked and the software installed. Conversely, you might get a pre-made software image with operating system and applications in place, ready to be provisioned to your choice of hardware. We can get even fancier in that the software image might be deployable onto a virtual machine and so be a ready made solution runnable on a cloud.
Thus in the IT world we can talk about hardware-only appliances, software-only appliances (often called virtual software appliances), and complete hardware and software combinations. The last is most comparable to that refrigerator or oven in your kitchen."
If your company was a restaurant, how many employees would you have on hand to produce your own electricity from gas generators, pump your own water from a well, and assemble your own toasters and blenders from wires and motors? I think this is why companies are re-thinking the way they do their own IT.
Rather than business-as-usual, perhaps a mix of pre-configured appliances, consisting of software, server and storage stacked to meet a specific workload, connected to public cloud utility companies, might be the better approach. By 2013, some analysts feel that as many as 20 percent of companies might not even have a traditional IT datacenter anymore.
“By employing techniques like virtualization, automated management, and utility-billing models, IT managers can evolve the internal datacenter into a ‘private cloud’ that offers many of the performance, scalability, and cost-saving benefits associated with public clouds. Microsoft provides the foundation for private clouds with infrastructure solutions to match a range of customer sizes, needs and geographies.
The public cloud:
“Cloud computing is expanding the traditional web-hosting model to a point where enterprises are able to off-load commodity applications to third-party service providers (hosters) and, in the near future, the Microsoft Azure Services Platform. Using Microsoft infrastructure software and Web-based applications, the public cloud allows companies to move applications between private and public clouds.”
Finally, I saw this from fellow blogger, Barry Burke(EMC), aka the Storage Anarchist, titled [a walk through the clouds] which is really a two-part post.
The first part describes a possible future for EMC customers written by EMC employee David Meiri, envisioning a wonderful world with "No more Metas, Hypers, BIN Files...."
The vision is a pleasant one, and not far from reality. While EMC prefers to use the term "private cloud" to refer to both on-premises and off-premises-but-only-your-employees-can-VPN-to-it-and-your-IT-staff-still-manages-it flavors, the overall vision is available today from a variety of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers.
A good analogy for "private cloud" might be a corporate "intranet" that is accessible only within the company's firewall. This allowed internal websites where information to be disseminated to employees could be posted, using standard HTML and standard web browsers that are already deployed on most PCs and workstations. Web pages running on an intranet can easily be moved to an external-facing website without too much rework or trouble.
The second part has Barry claiming that EMC has made progress towards a "Virtual Storage Server" that might be announced at next month's EMC World conference.
When people hear "Storage Virtualization" most immediately think of the two market leaders, IBM SAN Volume Controller and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) Universal Storage Platform (USP) products. Those with a tape bent might throw in IBM's TS7000 virtual tape libraries or Oracle/Sun's Virtual Storage Manager (VSM). And those focused on software-only solutions might recall Symantec's Veritas Volume Manager (VxVM), DataCore's SANsymphony, or FalconStor's IPStor products.
But what about EMC's failed attempt at storage virtualization, the Invista? After five years of failing to deliver value, EMC has so far only publicised ONE customer reference account, and I estimate that perhaps only a few dozen actual customers are still running on this platform. Compare that to IBM selling tens of thousands of SAN Volume Controllers, and HDS selling thousands of their various USP-V and USP-VM products, and you quickly realize that EMC has a lot of catching up to do. EMC's first delivered Invista about 18 months after IBM SAN Volume Controller, similar to their introduction of Atmos being 18 months after our Scale-Out File Services (SoFS) and their latest CLARiiON-based V-Max coming out 18 months after IBM's XIV storage system.
So what will EMC's Invista follow-on "Virtual Storage Server" product look like? No idea. It might be another five years before you actually hear about a customer using it. But why wait for EMC to get their act together?
IBM offers solutions TODAY that can make life as easy as envisioned here. IBM offers integrated systems sold as ready-to-use appliances, customized "stacks" that can be built to handle particular workloads, residing on-premises or hosted at an IBM facility, and public cloud "as-a-service" offerings on the IBM Cloud.
They say "Great Minds think alike" and that imitation is "the sincerest form of flattery." Both of these quotes came to mind when I read fellow blogger Chuck Hollis' (EMC) excellent April 7th blog post [The 10 Big Ideas That Are Shaping IT Infrastructure Today]. Not surprisingly, some of his thoughts are similar to those I had presented two weeks ago in my March 22nd post [Cloud Computing for Accountants]. Here are two charts that caught my eye:
On page 13 of my deck, I had an old black and white photo of telephone operators, as part of a section on the history of selecting "cloud" as the iconic graphic to represent all networks. Chuck has this same graphic on his chart titled "#1 The Industrialization of IT Infrastructure".
Looks like Chuck and I use the same "stock photo" search facility!
On page 45 on my deck, I had a list of major "arms dealers" that deliver the hardware and software components needed to build Cloud Computing. Chuck has a similar chart, titled "#2 The Consolidation of the IT Industry", but with some interesting differences.
Let's look at some of the key differences:
The left-to-right order is slightly different. I chose a 1-2-4-2-1 symmetrical pattern purely on aesthetic reasons. My presentation was to a bunch of accountants, and so I was trying not to make it sound like an "Infomercial" for IBM products and offerings. My sequence is roughly chronological, in that Oracle announced its intention to acquire Sun, then Cisco, VMware and EMC announced their VCE coalition, followed closely by Cisco, VMware and NetApp announcing they work together well also, followed by [HP extended alliance with Microsoft] on Jan 13, 2010. As the IT marketplace is maturing, more and more customers are looking for an IBM-like one-stop shopping experience, and certainly various "mini-mall" alliances have formed to try to compete in this space.
I had HP and Microsoft in the same column, referring only to the above-mentioned January announcement. HP is all about private cloud hardware infrastructures, but Microsoft is all about "three screens and the public cloud", so not sure how well this alliance will work out from a Cloud Computing perspective. This was not to imply that the other stacks don't work well with Microsoft software. They all do. Perhaps to avoid that controversy, Chuck chose to highlight HP's acquisition of EDS services instead.
I used the vendor logos in their actual colors. Notice that the colors black, blue and red occur most often. These happen to be the three most popular ballpoint pen ink colors found on the very same paper documents these computer companies are trying to eliminate. Paper-less office, anyone? Chuck chose instead to colorize each stack with his own color scheme. While blue for IBM and orange for Sun Microsystems make some sense, it is not clear if he chose green for Cisco/VMware/EMC for any particular reason. Perhaps he was trying to subtly imply that the VCE stack is more energy efficient? Or maybe the green refers to money to indicate that the VCE stack is the most expensive? Either way, I would pit IBM's server/storage/software stack up against anything of comparable price from these other stacks in any energy efficiency bake-off.
What about the Cisco/VMware/NetApp combination? All three got together to assure customers this was a viable combination. IBM is the number one reseller of VMware, and VMware runs great with IBM's N series NAS storage, so I do not dispute Cisco's motivation here. It makes sense for Cisco to two-time EMC in this manner. Why should Cisco limit itself to a single storage supplier? Et tu VMware? Having VMware chose NetApp over its parent company EMC was a bit of a shock. No surprise that Chuck left NetApp out of his chart.
No love for Dell? I give Dell credit for their work with Virtual Desktop Images (VDI), and for embracing Ubuntu Linux for their servers. Dell's acquisitions of EqualLogic iSCSI-based disk systems and Perot Systems for services are also worth noting. Dell used to resell some of EMC's gear, but perhaps that relationship continues to fade away, as I [predicted back in 2007]. Chuck's decision to leave Dell off his chart speaks volumes to where this relationship stands, and where it is going.
Perhaps we are all in just one big ["echo chamber"], as we are all coming up with similar observations, talking to similar customers, and reviewing similar market analyst reports. I am glad, at least this time, that Chuck and I for the most part agree where the marketplace is going. We live in interesting times!
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!
Last week, I presented "An Introduction to Cloud Computing" for two hours to the local Institute of Management Accountants [IMA] for their Continuing Professional Education [CPE]. Since I present IBM's leadership in Cloud Storage offerings, I have had to become an expert in Cloud Computing overall. The audience was a mix of bookkeepers, accountants, auditors, comptrollers, CPAs, and accounting teachers.
Here is a sample of the questions I took during and after my presentation:
If I need to shut down host machine, I lose all my virtual machines as well?
No, it is possible to seemlessly move virtual machines from one host to another. If you need to shut down a host machine, move all the VMs to other hosts, then you can shut down the empty host without impacting business.
Does the SaaS provider have to build their own app, can they not buy an app and then rent it out?
Yes, but they won't have competitive differentiation, and the software development they buy from will want a big cut of the action. SaaS developers that build their own applications can keep more of the profits for themselves.
How do backups work in cloud computing? Do I have to contact someone at the cloud computing company to find the backup tape?
Large datacenters often keep the most recent backups on disk, and older versions on tape in automated tape libraries that can fetch your backup in less than 2 minutes. Because of this, there is no need to talk to anyone, you can schedule or invoke your own backups, and often perform the recovery yourself using self-service tools.
Last month, my sister tried to rent a car during the week the Tucson Gem Show, but they were out of cars she wanted to drive. Could this happen with Cloud Computing?
Not likely. With rental cars, the cars have to be physically in Tucson to rent them. Rental companies could have brought cars down from Phoenix to satisfy demand. With Cloud Computing, it is all accessible over the global network, you are not limited to the cloud providers nearest you.
Is there a reason why Amazon Web Services (AWS) charges more for a Windows image than a Linux image?
Yes, Amazon and Microsoft have a patent cross-licensing agreement where Amazon pays Microsoft for the priveledge of offering Windows-based images on their EC2 cloud infrastructure. It just makes business sense to pass those costs onto the consumer. Linux is a free open source operating system, and is often the better choice.
So if we rent a machine from Amazon, they send it to my accounting office? What exactly am I getting for 12 cents per hour?
No. The computer remains in their datacenter. You get a virtual machine that runs 1.2Ghz Intel processor, with 1700MB of RAM, and 160GB of hard disk space, with Windows operating system running on it, comparable to a machine you can get at the local BestBuy, but instead of it running in the next room, it is running in a datacenter somewhere else in the United States with electricity and air conditioning.
You access it remotely from your desktop or laptop PC.
Why would I ever rent more than one computer?
It depends on your workload. For example, Derek Gottfrid at the New York Times needed to convert 11 million articles from TIFF format to PDF format so that he could put them up on the web. This would have taken him months using a single computer, so he rented 100 computers and got the entire stack converted in 24 hours, for a cost of about $240. See the articles [Self-Service, Prorated, Super Computing] and [TimesMachine] for details.
What about throughput? Won't I need to run cables from my accounting office to this cloud computing data center?
You will need connectivity, most likely from connections provided by your local telephone or cable company, or through the Internet. Certainly, there can be cases where direct privately-owned fiber optic cables, known as "dark fiber", can directly connect consumers to local Cloud service providers, for added security.
What about medical records? Will Cloud Computing help the Healthcare industry?
Yes, hospitals are finding that digitizing their records greatly reduces costs. IBM offers the Grid Medical Archive Solution [GMAS] as a private cloud storage solution to store X-ray images and other electronic medical records on disk and tape, and these records can be accessed from multiple hospitals and clinics, wherever the doctor or patient happens to be.
The advantage of personal computers was individualization, I could put on my own choices of software, and customize my own settings, won't we lose this with Cloud Computing?
Yes, customized software and settings cost companies millions of dollars with help desk calls. Cloud Computing attempts to provide some standardization, reducing the amount of effort to support IT operations.
Won't putting all the computers into a big datacenter make them more vulnerable to hackers?
Security is a well-known concern, but this is being addressed with encryption, access control lists, multi-tenancy isolation, and VPN connections.
My daughter has a BlackBerry or iPod or something, and when we mentioned that someone in Phoenix wore a monkey suit to avoid photo-radar speed cameras, she was able to pull up a picture on her little hand-held thing, is this the future?
Yes, mobile phones and other hand-held devices now have internet access to take advantage of Cloud Computing services. People will be able to access the information they need from wherever they happen to be. (You can see the picture here: [Man Dons Mask for Speed-Camera Photos])
IBM offers a variety of Cloud Computing services, as well as customized solutions and integrated systems that can be deployed on-premises behind your corporate firewall. To learn more, go to [ibm.com/cloud].
The second speaker was local celebrity Dan Ryan presenting the financials for the upcoming [Rosemont Copper] mining operations. Copper is needed for emerging markets, such as hybrid vehicles and wind turbines. Copper is a major industry in Arizona.