Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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This week I am in beautiful Las Vegas for the Data Center 2010 Conference. While the conference officially starts Monday, I arrived on Sunday to help set up the IBM Booth (Booth "Z").
(Note: This is my third year attending this conference. IBM is a platinum sponsor for this event. The analyst company that runs this event has kindly asked me not to mention their name on this blog, display any of their logos, mention the names of any of their employees, include photos of any of their analysts, include slides from their presentations, or quote verbatim any of their speech at this conference. This is all done to protect and respect their intellectual property that their members pay for. This is all documented in a lengthy document in case I forget. So, if the picture of the conference backpack appears lopped off at the top, this was done intentionally to comply with their request. The list of sponsors at this event represents a "who's who" of the IT industry.)
The pre-conference orientation is for people who are first-timers, or for those who have not attended this conference in a while. The conference includes 7 keynote presentations and 68 sessions organized into seven "tracks" plus one "virtual track" which crosses the other seven:
Servers and Operating Systems
Cost Optimization "Virtual Track"
Each session is further classified as foundational versus advanced, business versus technical, and practical versus strategic.
The speaker also presented some unique methodologies that will be used this week, including "Magic Quadrant", "MarketScope", "Hype Cycle" and "IT Market Clock" which provide graphical representation to help attendees better understand the conference materials.
The Welcome Reception was sponsored by VCE, formerly known as Acadia, the coalition comprised of VMware, Intel, Cisco and EMC. I joked that this should be "VICE" so that Intel does not feel left out.
While we enjoyed drinks and snacks, we listened to live music from the all-violin band [Phat Strad].
The CEO of VCE, Michael Capellas, recognized me from across the room and came over to ask me how IBM was doing. We had a nice friendly chat about the IT industry and the economy.
Continuing my post-week coverage of the [Data Center 2010 conference], we had receptions on the Show floor. This started at the Monday evening reception and went on through a dessert reception Wednesday after lunch. I worked the IBM booth, and also walked around to make friends at other booths.
Here are my colleagues at the IBM booth. David Ayd, on the left, focuses on servers, everything from IBM System z mainframes, to POWER Systems that run IBM's AIX version of UNIX, and of course the System x servers for the x86 crowd. Greg Hintermeister, on the right, focuses on software, including IBM Systems Director and IBM Tivoli software. I covered all things storage, from disk to tape. For attendees that stopped by the booth expressing interest in IBM offerings, we gave out Starbucks gift cards for coffee, laptop bags, 4GB USB memory sticks and copies of my latest book: "Inside System Storage: Volume II".
Across the aisle were our cohorts from IBM Facilities and Data Center services. They had the big blue Portable Modular Data Center (PMDC). Last year, there were three vendors that offered these: IBM, SGI, and HP. Apparently, IBM won the smack-down, as IBM has returned victorious, as SGI only had the cooling portion of their "Ice Cube" and HP had no container whatsoever.
IBM's PMDC is fully insulated so that you can use it in cold weather below 50 degrees F like Alaska, to the hot climates up to 150 degrees F like Iraq or Afghanistan, and everything in between. They come in three lengths, 20, 40 and 53 feet, and can be combined and stacked as needed into bigger configurations. The systems include their own power generators, cooling, water chillers, fans, closed circuit surveillance, and fire suppression. Unlike the HP approach, IBM allows all the equipment to be serviced from the comfort inside.
This is Mary, one of the 200 employees secunded to the new VCE. Michael Capellas, the CEO of VCE, offered to give a hundred dollars to the [Boys and Girls Club of America], a charity we both support, if I agreed to take this picture. The Boys and Girls Club inspires and enables young people to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens, so it was for a good cause.
The show floor offers attendees a chance to see not just the major players in each space, but also all the new up-and-coming start-ups.
Continuing my post-week coverage of the [Data Center 2010 conference], Wednesday evening we had six hospitality suites. These are fun informal get-togethers sponsored by various companies. I present them in the order that I attended them.
Intel - The Silver Lining
Intel called their suite "The Silver Lining". Magician Joel Bauer wowed the crowds with amazing tricks.
Intel handed out branded "Snuggies". I had to explain to this guy that he was wearing his backwards.
i/o - Wrestling with your Data Center?
New-comer "i/o" named their suite "Wrestling with your Data Center?" They invited attendees frustrated with their data centers to don inflated Sumo Wrestling suits.
APC by Schneider Electric - Margaritaville
This will be the last year for Margaritaville, a theme that APC has used now for several years at this conference.
Cisco - Fire and Ice
Cisco had "Fire and Ice" with half the room decorated in Red for fire, and White for ice.
This is Ivana, welcoming people to the "Ice" side.
This is Peter, on the "Fire" side. Cisco tried to have opposites on both sides, savory food on one side, sweets on the other.
CA Technologies - Can you Change the Game?
CA Technologies offered various "sports games", with a DJ named "Coach".
Compellent - Get "Refreshed" at the Fluid Data Hospitality Suite
Compellent chose a low-key format, "lights out" approach with a live guitarist. They had hourly raffles for prizes, but it was too dark to read the raffle ticket numbers.
Of the six, my favorite was Intel. The food was awesome, the Snuggies were hilarious, and the magician was incredibly good. I would like to think Intel for providing me super-secret inside access to their Cloud Computing training resources and for the Snuggie!
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".