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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Specialist for the IBM System Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2011, Tony celebrated his 25th year anniversary with IBM Storage on the same day as the IBM's Centennial. 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. You can also follow him on Twitter @az990tony.
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If you store your VMware bits on external SAN or NAS-based disk storage systems, this post is for you. The subject of the post, VM Volumes, is a potential storage management game changer!
Fellow blogger Stephen Foskett mentioned VM Volumes in his [Introducing VMware vSphere Storage Features] presentation at IBM Edge 2012 conference. His session on VMware's storage features included VMware APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), VMware Array Storage Awareness (VASA), vCenter plug-ins, and a new concept he called "vVol", now more formally known as VM Volumes. This post provides a follow-up to this, describing the VM Volumes concepts, architecture, and value proposition.
"VM Volumes" is a future architecture that VMware is developing in collaboration with IBM and other major storage system vendors. So far, very little information about VM Volumes has been released. At VMworld 2012 Barcelona, VMware highlights VM Volumes for the first time and IBM demonstrates VM Volumes with the IBM XIV Storage System (more about this demo below). VM Volumes is worth your attention -- when it becomes generally available, everyone using storage arrays will have to reconsider their storage management practices in a VMware environment -- no exaggeration!
But enough drama. What is this all about?
(Note: for the sake of clarity, this post refers to block storage only. However, the VM Volumes feature applies to NAS systems as well. Special thanks to Yossi Siles and the XIV development team for their help on this post!)
The VM Volumes concept is simple: VM disks are mapped directly to special volumes on a storage array system, as opposed to storing VMDK files on a vSphere datastore.
The following images illustrate the differences between the two storage management paradigms.
You may still be asking yourself: bottom line, how will I benefit from VM Volumes?
Well, take a VM snapshot for example. With VM Volumes, vSphere can simply offload the operation by invoking a hardware snapshot of the hardware volume. This has significant implications:
VM-Granularity: Only the right VMs are copied (with datastores, backing up or cloning individual-VM portions of hardware snapshot of a datastore would require more complex configuration, tools and work)
Hardware Offload: No ESXi server resources are consumed
XIV advantage: With XIV, snapshots consume no space upfront and are completed instantly.
Here's the first takeaway: With VM Volumes, advanced storage services (which cost a lot when you buy a storage array), will become available at an individual VM level. In a cloud world, this means that applications can be provisioned easily with advanced storage services, such as snapshots and mirroring.
Now, let's take a closer look at another relevant scenario where VM Volumes will make a lot of difference - provisioning an application with special mirroring requirements:
VM Volumes case: The application is ordered via the private cloud portal. The requestor checks a box requesting an asynchronous mirror. He changes the default RPO for his needs. When the request is submitted, the process wraps up automatically: Volumes are created on one of the storage arrays, configured with a mirror and RPO exactly as specified. A few minutes later, the requestor receives an automatic mail pointing to the application virtual machine.
Datastores case #1: As may be expected, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does not exist. As a result, the automated workflow sets a pending status on the request, creates an urgent ticket to a VMware administrator and aborts. When the VMware admin handles that ticket, she re-assigns the ticket to the storage administrator, asking for a new volume which is mirrored with the special RPO, and mapped to the right ESXi cluster. The next day, the volume is created; the ticket is re-assigned to the storage admin, with the new LUN being pointed to. The VMware administrator follows and creates the datastore on top of it. Since the automated workflow was aborted, the admin re-assigns the ticket to the cloud administrator, who sometime later completes the application provisioning manually.
Datastores case #2: Luckily for the requestor, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does exist. However, that particular datastore is consuming space from a high performance XIV Gen3 system with SSD caching, while the application does not require that level of performance, so the workflow requires a storage administrator approval. The approval is given to save time, but the storage administrator opens a ticket for himself to create a new volume on another array, as well as a follow-up ticket for the VMware admin to create a new datastore using the new volume and migrate the application to the other datastore. In this case, provisioning was relatively rapid, but required manual follow up, involving the two administrators.
Here's the second takeaway: With VM Volumes, management is simplified, and end-to-end automation is much more applicable. The reason is that there are no datastores. Datastores physically group VMs that may otherwise be totally unrelated, and require close coordination between storage and VMware administrators.
Now, the above mainly focuses on the VMware or cloud administrator perspective. How does VM Volumes impact storage management?
VM's are the new hosts: Today, storage administrators have visibility of physical hosts in their management environment. In a non-virtualized environment, this visibility is very helpful. The storage administrator knows exactly which applications in a data center are storage-provisioned or affected by storage management operations because the applications are running on well-known hosts. However, in virtualized environments the association of an application to a physical host is temporary. To keep at least the same level of visibility as in physical environments, VMs should become part of the storage management environment, like hosts. Hosts are still interesting, for example to manage physical storage mapping, but without VM visibility, storage administrators will know less about their operation than they are used to, or need to. VM Volumes enables such visibility, because volumes are provided to individual VMs. The XIV VM Volumes demonstration at VMworld Barcelona, although experimental, shows a view of VM volumes, in XIV's management GUI.
Here's a screenshot:
That's not all!
Storage Profiles and Storage Containers: A Storage Profile is a vSphere specification of a set of storage services. A storage profile can include properties like thin or thick provisioning, mirroring definition, snapshot policy, minimum IOPS, etc.
Storage administrators define a portfolio of supported storage services, maintained as a set of storage profiles, and published (via VASA integration) to vSphere.
VMware or cloud administrators define the required storage profiles for specific applications
VMware and storage administrators need to coordinate the typical storage requirements and the automatically-available storage services. When a request to provision an application is made, the associated storage profiles are matched against the published set of available storage profiles. The matching published profiles will be used to create volumes, which will be bound to the application VMs. All that will happen automatically.
Note that when a VM is created today, a datastore must be specified. With VM Volumes, a new management entity called Storage Container (also known as Capacity Pool) replaces the use of datastore as a management object. Each Storage Container exposes a subset of the available storage profiles, as appropriate. The storage container also has a capacity quota.
Here are some more takeaways:
New way to interface vSphere and storage management: Storage administrators structure and publish storage services to vSphere via storage profiles and storage containers.
Automated provisioning, out of the box: The provisioning process automatically matches application-required storage profiles against storage profiles available from the specified storage containers. There is no need to build custom scripts and custom processes to automate storage provisioning to applications
The XIV advantage:
XIV services are very simple to define and publish. The typical number of available storage profiles would be low. It would also be easy to define application storage profiles.
XIV provides consistent high performance, up to very high capacity utilization levels, without any maintenance. As a result, automated provisioning (which inherently implies less human attention) will not create an elevated risk of reduced performance.
Note: A storage vendor VASA provider is required to support VM Volumes, storage profiles, storage containers and automated provisioning. The IBM Storage VASA provider runs as a standalone service that needs to be deployed on a server.
To summarize the VM Volumes value proposition:
Streamline cloud operation by providing storage services at VM and application level, enabling end-to-end provisioning automation, and unifying VMware and storage administration around volumes and VMs.
Increase storage array ROI, improve vSphere scalability and response time, and reduce cloud provisioning lag, by offloading VM-level provisioning, failover, backup, storage migration, storage space recycling, monitoring, and more, to the storage array, using advanced storage operations such as mirroring and snapshots.
Simplify the adoption of VM Volumes using XIV, with smaller and simpler sets of storage profiles. Apply XIV's supreme fast cloning to individual VMs, and keep automation risks at bay with XIV's consistent high performance.
Until you can get your hands on a VM Volumes-capable environment, the VMware and IBM developer groups will be collaborating and working hard to realize this game-changing feature. The above information is definitely expected to trigger your questions or comments, and our development teams are eager to learn from them and respond. Enter your comments below, and I will try to answer them, and help shape the next post on this subject. There's much more to be told.
Last week, fellow IBMer Ron Riffe started his three-part series on the Storage Hypervisor. I discussed Part I already in my previous post [Storage Hypervisor Integration with VMware]. We wrapped up the week with a Live Chat with over 30 IT managers, industry analysts, independent bloggers, and IBM storage experts.
"The idea of shopping from a catalog isn’t new and the cost efficiency it offers to the supplier isn’t new either. Public storage cloud service providers seized on the catalog idea quickly as both a means of providing a clear description of available services to their clients, and of controlling costs. Here’s the idea… I can go to a public cloud storage provider like Amazon S3, Nirvanix, Google Storage for Developers, or any of a host of other providers, give them my credit card, and get some storage capacity. Now, the “kind” of storage capacity I get depends on the service level I choose from their catalog.
Most of today’s private IT environments represent the complete other end of the pendulum swing – total customization. Every application owner, every business unit, every department wants to have complete flexibility to customize their storage services in any way they want. This expectation is one of the reasons so many private IT environments have such a heavy mix of tier-1 storage. Since there is no structure around the kind of requests that are coming in, the only way to be prepared is to have a disk array that could service anything that shows up. Not very efficient… There has to be a middle ground.
Private storage clouds are a little different. Administrators we talk to aren’t generally ready to let all their application owners and departments have the freedom to provision new storage on their own without any control. In most cases, new capacity requests still need to stop off at the IT administration group. But once the request gets there, life for the IT administrator is sweet!
Here comes the request from an application owner for 500GB of new “Database” capacity (one of the options available in the storage service catalog) to be attached to some server. After appropriate approvals, the administrator can simply enter the three important pieces of information (type of storage = “Database”, quantity = 500GB, name of the system authorized to access the storage) and click the “Go” button (in TPC SE it’s actually a “Run now” button) to automatically provision and attach the storage. No more complicated checklists or time consuming manual procedures.
A storage hypervisor increases the utilization of storage resources, and optimizes what is most scarce in your environment. For Linux, UNIX and Windows servers, you typically see utilization rates of 20 to 35 percent, and this can be raised to 55 to 80 percent with a storage hypervisor. But what is most scarce in your environment? Time! In a competitive world, it is not big animals eating smaller ones as much as fast ones eating the slow.
Want faster time-to-market? A storage hypervisor can help reduce the time it takes to provision storage, from weeks down to minutes. If your business needs to react quickly to changes in the marketplace, you certainly don't want your IT infrastructure to slow you down like a boat anchor.
Want more time with your friends and family? A storage hypervisor can migrate the data non-disruptively, during the week, during the day, during normal operating hours, instead of scheduling down-time on an evenings and weekends. As companies adopt a 24-by-7 approach to operations, there are fewer and fewer opportunities in the year for scheduled outages. Some companies get stuck paying maintenance after their warranty expires, because they were not able to move the data off in time.
Want to take advantage of the new Solid-State Drives? Most admins don't have time to figure out what applications, workloads or indexes would best benefit from this new technology? Let your storage hypervisor automated tiering do this for you! In fact, a storage hypervisor can gather enough performance and usage statistics to determine the characteristics of your workload in advance, so that you can predict whether solid-state drives are right for you, and how much benefit you would get from them.
Want more time spent on strategic projects? A storage hypervisor allows any server to connect to any storage. This eliminates the time wasted to determine when and how, and let's you focus on the what and why of your more strategic transformational projects.
If this sounds all too familiar, it is similar to the benefits that one gets from a server hypervisor -- better utilization of CPU resources, optimizing the management and administration time, with the agility and flexibility to deploy new technologies in and decommission older ones out.
"Server virtualization is a fairly easy concept to understand: Add a layer of software that allows processing capability to work across multiple operating environments. It drives both efficiency and performance because it puts to good use resources that would otherwise sit idle.
Storage virtualization is a different animal. It doesn't free up capacity that you didn't know you had. Rather, it allows existing storage resources to be combined and reconfigured to more closely match shifting data requirements. It's a subtle distinction, but one that makes a lot of difference between what many enterprises expect to gain from the technology and what it actually delivers."
Jon Toigo on his DrunkenData blog brings back the sanity with his post [Once More Into the Fray]. Here is an excerpt:
"What enables me to turn off certain value-add functionality is that it is smarter and more efficient to do these functions at a storage hypervisor layer, where services can be deployed and made available to all disk, not to just one stand bearing a vendor’s three letter acronym on its bezel. Doesn’t that make sense?
I think of an abstraction layer. We abstract away software components from commodity hardware components so that we can be more flexible in the delivery of services provided by software rather than isolating their functionality on specific hardware boxes. The latter creates islands of functionality, increasing the number of widgets that must be managed and requiring the constant inflation of the labor force required to manage an ever expanding kit. This is true for servers, for networks and for storage.
Can we please get past the BS discussion of what qualifies as a hypervisor in some guy’s opinion and instead focus on how we are going to deal with the reality of cutting budgets by 20% while increasing service levels by 10%. That, my friends, is the real challenge of our times."
Did you miss out on last Friday's Live Chat? We are doing it again this Friday, covering parts I and II of Ron's posts, so please join the conversation! The virtual dialogue on this topic will continue in another [Live Chat] on September 30, 2011 from 12 noon to 1pm Eastern Time.
A client asked me to explain "Nearline storage" to them. This was easy, I thought, as I started my IBM career on DFHSM, now known as DFSMShsm for z/OS, which was created in 1977 to support the IBM 3850 Mass Storage System (MSS), a virtual storage system that blended disk drives and tape cartridges with robotic automation. Here is a quick recap:
Online storage is immediately available for I/O. This includes DRAM memory, solid-state drives (SSD), and always-on spinning disk, regardless of rotational speed.
Nearline storage is not immediately available, but can be made online quickly without human intervention. This includes optical jukeboxes, automated tape libraries, as well as spin-down massive array of idle disk (MAID) technologies.
Offline storage is not immediately available, and requires some human intervention to bring online. This can include USB memory sticks, CD/DVD optical media, shelf-resident tape cartridges, or other removable media.
Sadly, it appears a few storage manufacturers and vendors have been misusing the term "Nearline" to refer to "slower online" spinning disk drives. I find this [June 2005 technology paper from Seagate], and this [2002 NetApp Press Release], the latter of which included this contradiction for their "NearStore" disk array. Here is the excerpt:
"Providing online access to reference information—NetApp nearline storage solutions quickly retrieve and replicate reference and archive information maintained on cost-effective storage—medical images, financial models, energy exploration charts and graphs, and other data-intensive records can be stored economically and accessed in multiple locations more quickly than ever"
Which is it, "online access" or "nearline storage"?
If a client asked why slower drives consume less energy or generate less heat, I could explain that, but if they ask why slower drives must have SATA connections, that is a different discussion. The speed of a drive and its connection technology are for the most part independent. A 10K RPM drive can be made with FC, SAS or SATA connection.
I am opposed to using "Nearlne" just to distinguish between four-digit speeds (such as 5400 or 7200 RPM) versus "online" for five-digit speeds (10,000 and 15,000 RPM). The difference in performance between 10K RPM and 7200 RPM spinning disks is miniscule compared to the differences between solid-state drives and any spinning disk, or the difference between spinning disk and tape.
I am also opposed to using the term "Nearline" for online storage systems just because they are targeted for the typical use cases like backup, archive or other reference information that were previously directed to nearline devices like automated tape libraries.
Can we all just agree to refer to drives as "fast" or "slow", or give them RPM rotational speed designations, rather than try to incorrectly imply that FC and SAS drives are always fast, and SATA drives are always slow? Certainly we don't need new terms like "NL-SAS" just to represent a slower SAS connected drive.
Here I am, day 11 of a 17-day business trip, on my last leg of the trip this week, in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I have been flooded with requests to give my take on EMC's latest re-interpretation of storage virtualization, VPLEX.
I'll leave it to my fellow IBM master inventor Barry Whyte to cover the detailed technical side-by-side comparison. Instead, I will focus on the business side of things, using Simon Sinek's Why-How-What sequence. Here is a [TED video] from Garr Reynold's post
[The importance of starting from Why].
Let's start with the problem we are trying to solve.
Problem: migration from old gear to new gear, old technology to new technology, from one vendor to another vendor, is disruptive, time-consuming and painful.
Given that IT storage is typically replaced every 3-5 years, then pretty much every company with an internal IT department has this problem, the exception being those companies that don't last that long, and those that use public cloud solutions. IT storage can be expensive, so companies would like their new purchases to be fully utilized on day 1, and be completely empty on day 1500 when the lease expires. I have spoken to clients who have spent 6-9 months planning for the replacement or removal of a storage array.
A solution to make the data migration non-disruptive would benefit the clients (make it easier for their IT staff to keep their data center modern and current) as well as the vendors (reduce the obstacle of selling and deploying new features and functions). Storage virtualization can be employed to help solve this problem. I define virtualization as "technology that makes one set of resources look and feel like a different set of resources, preferably with more desirable characteristics.". By making different storage resources, old and new, look and feel like a single type of resource, migration can be performed without disrupting applications.
Before VPLEX, here is a breakdown of each solution:
Non-disruptive tech refresh, and a unified platform to provide management and functionality across heterogeneous storage.
Non-disruptive tech refresh, and a unified platform to provide management and functionality between internal tier-1 HDS storage, and external tier-2 heterogeneous storage.
Non-disruptive tech refresh, with unified multi-pathing driver that allows host attachment of heterogeneous storage.
New in-band storage virtualization device
Add in-band storage virtualization to existing storage array
New out-of-band storage virtualization device with new "smart" SAN switches
SAN Volume Controller
HDS USP-V and USP-VM
For IBM, the motivation was clear: Protect customers existing investment in older storage arrays and introduce new IBM storage with a solution that allows both to be managed with a single set of interfaces and provide a common set of functionality, improving capacity utilization and availability. IBM SAN Volume Controller eliminated vendor lock-in, providing clients choice in multi-pathing driver, and allowing any-to-any migration and copy services. For example, IBM SVC can be used to help migrate data from an old HDS USP-V to a new HDS USP-V.
With EMC, however, the motivation appeared to protect software revenues from their PowerPath multi-pathing driver, TimeFinder and SRDF copy services. Back in 2005, when EMC Invista was first announced, these three software represented 60 percent of EMC's bottom-line profit. (Ok, I made that last part up, but you get my point! EMC charges a lot for these.)
Back in 2006, fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) suggested that SVC was just a [bump in the wire] which could not possibly improve performance of existing disk arrays. IBM showed clients that putting cache(SVC) in front of other cache(back end devices) does indeed improve performance, in the same way that multi-core processors successfully use L1/L2/L3 cache. Now, EMC is claiming their cache-based VPLEX improves performance of back-end disk. My how EMC's story has changed!
So now, EMC announces VPLEX, which sports a blend of SVC-like and Invista-like characteristics. Based on blogs, tweets and publicly available materials I found on EMC's website, I have been able to determine the following comparison table. (Of course, VPLEX is not yet generally available, so what is eventually delivered may differ.)
Scalable, 1 to 4 node-pairs
One size fits all, single pair of CPCs
SVC-like, 1 to 4 director-pairs
Works with any SAN switches or directors
Required special "smart" switches (vendor lock-in)
SVC-like, works with any SAN switches or directors
Broad selection of IBM Subsystem Device Driver (SDD) offered at no additional charge, as well as OS-native drivers Windows MPIO, AIX MPIO, Solaris MPxIO, HP-UX PV-Links, VMware MPP, Linux DM-MP, and comercial third-party driver Symantec DMP.
Limited selection, with focus on priced PowerPath driver
Invista-like, PowerPath and Windows MPIO
Read cache, and choice of fast-write or write-through cache, offering the ability to improve performance.
No cache, Split-Path architecture cracked open Fibre Channel packets in flight, delayed every IO by 20 nanoseconds, and redirected modified packets to the appropriate physical device.
SVC-like, Read and write-through cache, offering the ability to improve performance.
Space-Efficient Point-in-Time copies
SVC FlashCopy supports up to 256 space-efficient targets, copies of copies, read-only or writeable, and incremental persistent pairs.
Like Invista, No
Remote distance mirror
Choice of SVC Metro Mirror (synchronous up to 300km) and Global Mirror (asynchronous), or use the functionality of the back-end storage arrays
No native support, use functionality of back-end storage arrays, or purchase separate product called EMC RecoverPoint to cover this lack of functionality
Limited synchronous remote-distance mirror within VPLEX (up to 100km only), no native asynchronous support, use functionality of back-end storage arrays
Provides thin provisioning to devices that don't offer this natively
Like Invista, No
SVC Split-Cluster allows concurrent read/write access of data to be accessed from hosts at two different locations several miles apart
I don't think so
PLEX-Metro, similar in concept but implemented differently
Non-disruptive tech refresh
Can upgrade or replace storage arrays, SAN switches, and even the SVC nodes software AND hardware themselves, non-disruptively
Tech refresh for storage arrays, but not for Invista CPCs
Tech refresh of back end devices, and upgrade of VPLEX software, non-disruptively. Not clear if VPLEX engines themselves can be upgraded non-disruptively like the SVC.
Heterogeneous Storage Support
Broad support of over 140 different storage models from all major vendors, including all CLARiiON, Symmetrix and VMAX from EMC, and storage from many smaller startups you may not have heard of
Invista-like. VPLEX claims to support a variety of arrays from a variety of vendors, but as far as I can find, only DS8000 supported from the list of IBM devices. Fellow blogger Barry Burke (EMC) suggests [putting SVC between VPLEX and third party storage devices] to get the heterogeneous coverage most companies demand.
Back-end storage requirement
Must define quorum disks on any IBM or non-IBM back end storage array. SVC can run entirely on non-IBM storage arrays
HP SVSP-like, requires at least one EMC storage array to hold metadata
SVC 2145-CF8 model supports up to four solid-state drives (SSD) per node that can treated as managed disk to store end-user data
Invista-like. VPLEX has an internal 30GB SSD, but this is used only for operating system and logs, not for end-user data.
In-band virtualization solutions from IBM and HDS dominate the market. Being able to migrate data from old devices to new ones non-disruptively turned out to be only the [tip of the iceberg] of benefits from storage virtualization. In today's highly virtualized server environment, being able to non-disruptively migrate data comes in handy all the time. SVC is one of the best storage solutions for VMware, Hyper-V, XEN and PowerVM environments. EMC watched and learned in the shadows, taking notes of what people like about the SVC, and decided to follow IBM's time-tested leadership to provide a similar offering.
EMC re-invented the wheel, and it is round. On a scale from Invista (zero) to SVC (ten), I give EMC's new VPLEX a six.
This week I got a comment on my blog post [IBM Announces another SSD Disk offering!]. The exchange involved Solid State Disk storage inside the BladeCenter and System x server line. Sandeep offered his amazing performance results, but we have no way to get in contact with him. So, for those interested, I have posted on SlideShare.net a quick five-chart presentation on recent tests with various SSD offerings on the eX5 product line here:
IBM has announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Texas Memory Systems, Inc. (TMS), a privately held Houston, Texas-based company with about 100 employees, that focuses on solid-state flash optimized systems and solutions, including the RamSan family of external rack-mounted storage, as well as PCIe cards for internal storage that fit inside servers.
I've mentioned Solid-State Drive storage quite a few times over the past few years in this blog, which included some great interactions with my friends over at Texas Memory Systems. Here's a quick look:
In my now infamous blog post [Hybrid, Solid State and the future of RAID], I resort to a deck of [Tarot cards] in an effort to fight [writer's block] responding to query about combining solid-state with spinning disk. In the original post, I poked fun at Texas Memory Systems having the slogan "World's Fastest Storage". Woody Hutsell, then VP of marketing for Texas Memory Systems, explained that the reason that TMS did not have faster benchmark results was because it did not have a million dollars to buy the fastest IBM UNIX server.
In my post [Good News and Bad News], I mentioned that Texas Memory Systems has an impressive SPC benchmark result. The Storage Performance Council [SPC] publishes the benchmarking industry standard by which all block-based storage devices are measured. It looks like the TMS performance test department finally got the million-dollar IBM server they needed for this.
My colleagues in marketing were not amused, afraid that mentioning small companies like TMS would give them a huge boost in marketing awareness, above and beyond what TMS could do on their own modest marketing budget, similar to the [Colbert Bump]. I could call it the Pearson Bump. If you first heard of Texas Memory Systems from my blog, or bought TMS products based on my discussion, please post a comment below!
IBM made history as the first major storage vendor to [break the 1 million IOPS barrier with Solid State Disk]. The project was known as "Quicksilver", and was able to demonstrate that a product like SAN Volume Controller with Solid-State Drives (SSD) can indeed provide a significant boost in performance to external disk arrays. The IBM 2145-CF8 and 2145-CG8 models allow up to four SSD in each node. I was asked not to blog the entire month of August, so that our upcoming September announcements would get more notice, but I couldn't resist covering Quicksilver. The original post had mentioned Texas Memory Systems, but were later removed to avoid the "Pearson Bump".
In my post [Day 2 IBM Storage University - Solutions Expo - TMS After-party], I mentioned that I attended the TMS after-party. Texas Memory Systems had just been qualified as Solid-State Drive (SSD) storage behind the IBM SAN Volume Controller, and the two products work extremely well together for IBM Easy Tier, the sub-volume automated tiering capability to optimize storage performance. I was able to catch up with my friend Erik Eyberg, and meet CEO and Founder Holly Frost.
Nearly half (43 percent) of IT decision makers say they have plans to use SSD technology in the future or are already using it in their datacenter. Solid-state can refer to both volatile Random Access Memory (RAM) and non-volatile Flash, and Texas Memory Systems has built solutions around both types. The survey question referred to non-volatile Flash Solid-State Drives (SSD) that do not require a battery to keep the data from fading away after the power goes out. Nearly all storage in the datacenter has volatile Random Access Memory (RAM).
Speeding delivery of data was the motivation behind 75 percent of respondents who plan to use or already use SSD technology. I would have thought this would have been 100 percent, but the other options included reduced energy consumption, and improved drive reliability, which are both also true with Solid-State Drives.
However, for those who were not using SSD today, the major factor was cost, according to 71 percent of respondents. On a Dollar-per-GB basis, Solid-State Drives continue to be anywhere from 10 to 25 times more expensive spinning disk. Last year's tsunami in Japan, and the floods in Thailand, have caused spinning disk prices to rise to cover component shortages, thereby shrinking the price gap between SSD and spinning disk.
Nearly half (48 percent) say they plan on increasing storage investments in the area of virtualization, cloud (26 percent) and flash memory/solid state (24 percent) and analytics (22 percent).
The old adage applies "You can't please everyone. Presidents can't. Prostitutes can't. Nobody can." I am reminded of that as I fielded a variety of interesting comments and emails about, of all things, my choice of order of things in recent blog posts.
Certainly, there are times when the order of things matters greatly. In my now-infamous blog post [Sock Sock Shoe Shoe], I use a scene from a popular 1970's television show to explain why compression should be done before encryption.
In my case, I put things in the order that I felt made sense to me, but not everyone agrees. Here are three recent examples:
In my blog post [Two IBMers Earn Their Retirement], I congratulated two of my colleagues on their retirement. Since their retirement happened on the same day, I decided to mention Mark Doumas first, and Jim Rymarczyk second.
However, one of my readers, who I will assume is a member of the unofficial "Jim Rymarczyk fan club", felt that I should have listed Jim first, as Jim served IBM for 44 years, and Mark only 32 years.
Really? I realize that movie stars insist on having their name listed first on the poster, but neither of these guys would be confused with George Clooney!
So, to Jim and all his fans out there, I assure you I did not mean this as a slight in any way. I have updated the post to indicate that the ordering was strictly alphabetical by last name.
In my blog post [IBM Announcements for February 2012], I presented tape products first, and disk second. Normally, I cover them alphabetically, disk first, then tape. However, I was asked to promote tape this year in preparation for the upcoming 60th anniversary of tape, so I mentioned the tape announcements first, and the disk second.
The feedback from the XIV community was swift. Many felt that I [buried the lede] in not mentioning the XIV Gen3 SSD caching first.
(Note: For those not familiar with the phrase used in journalism, 'burying the lede' refers to the failure to mention the most interesting or attention grabbing elements of a story in the first paragraph. In American news journalism, it is spelled "lede" and elsewhere it is spelled "lead". Major US dictionaries apparently accept both spellings for this phrase.)
Technically, my lead paragraph stated clearly that: "This week we have announcements for both disk and tape, but since 2012 is the 60th Diamond Anniversary for tape, I will start with tape systems first."
So, while I don't claim to be a journalist by any means, I think the lead paragraph accurately reflected that I would talk about both disk and tape products in the rest of the blog post, and if a reader didn't care to learn more about tape could bypass those sections and go directly to the section on disk instead.
I have had my head handed to me on a platter so many times here at IBM that I am considering installing a zipper around my neck. My friends in XIV land insisted that I write a secondary post about XIV Gen3 SSD caching that had no mention of tape whatsoever. One suggestion was to compare and contrast XIV Gen3 SSD caching with EMC's announcement for VFCache. The result was my blog post [IBM XIV Gen3 SSD Caching versus EMC VFCache].
What could go wrong with an apples-to-orange comparison of two different storage products sprinkled with a small amount of FUD against a major competitor?
I had two complaints on this one. First, is the order of products in my side-by-side table of comparisons. I put EMC VFCache in the left column, and IBM XIV Gen3 SSD caching in the right. I meant nothing sinister by this. Alphabetically, EMC comes before IBM, and VFCache comes before XIV. Chronologically, EMC's announcement came out on Monday, and IBM's announcement came out the following day.
(Note: The term [sinster] comes from the Latin word sinistra meaning "left hand". In the Middle Ages it was believed that when a person was writing with their left hand they were possessed by the Devil. Left-handed people were therefore considered to be evil. My poor mother was born left-handed and was forced as a child to write with her right hand to be accepted by society.)
Apparently, an unwritten convention within IBM is that comparison tables always have the newer product on the left column, followed by one or more older products to the right, or the IBM product on the left column, with one or more competitive alternatives to the right.
The second complaint came from a reader in the comments section: "... I think [what] you're doing is trying to ride EMC's release for your own marketing, did you really need to? XIV is an excellent array; adding SSD Cache to the Gen3 takes it further, Moshe would be fuming (which I think is a good thing), can you just stick to that and not ride someone else's wave?"
Both announcements relate to reducing latency of read IOPS through the use of Solid State Drives. That both companies would announce these were no surprise to any employee at either company, as both IBM and EMC have been talking about their intent to do so last year. IBM's announcement of XIV SSD Gen3 caching was certainly not in response to EMC's VFCache announcement, and I doubt EMC rushed out their VFCache announcement the day before as a pre-emptive strike against IBM's announcement of the XIV Gen3 SSD Caching feature.
(Note: I don't know her personally, but she has thousands of followers!)
There you have it. I will gladly fix false or misleading information, but I am not going to re-arrange the order of things just to please some readers, only to have other readers complain that they liked it better in the original order. As always, feel free to comment on any of this in the section below.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes two movies come out that seem eerily similar to each other, released by different studios within months or weeks of each other? My sister used to review film scripts for a living, she would read ten of them and have to pick her top three favorites, and tells me that scripts for nearly identical concepts came all the time. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
1994: [Wyatt Earp] and [Tombstone] were Westerns recounting the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tombstone, Arizona is near Tucson, and the gunfight is recreated fairly often for tourists.
1998: [Armageddon] and [Deep Impact] were a pair of disaster movies dealing with a large rock heading to destroy all life on earth. I was in Mazatlan, Mexico to see the latter, dubbed in Spanish as "Impacto Profundo".
1998: [A Bug's Life] and [Antz] were computer-animated tales of the struggle of one individual ant in an ant colony.
2000: [Mission to Mars] and [Red Planet] were sci-fi pics exploring what a manned mission to our neighboring planet might entail.
This is different than copy-cat movies that are re-made or re-imagined many years later based on the previous successes of an original. Ever since my blog post [VPLEX: EMC's Latest Wheel is Round] in 2010 comparing EMC's copy-cat product that came our seven years after IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC), I've noticed EMC doesn't talk about VPLEX that much anymore.
This week, IBM announced [XIV Gen3 Solid-State Drive support] and our friends over at EMC announced [VFCache SSD-based PCIe cards]. Neither of these should be a surprise to anyone who follows the IT industry, as IBM had announced its XIV Gen3 as "SSD-Ready" last year specifically for this purpose, and EMC has been touting its "Project Lightning" since last May.
Fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC has a blog post [VFCache means Very Fast Cache indeed] that provides additional detail. Chuck claims the VFCache is faster than popular [Fusion-IO PCIe cards] available for IBM servers. I haven't seen the performance spec sheets, but typically SSD is four to five times slower than the DRAM cache used in the XIV Gen3. The VFCache's SSD is probably similar in performance to the SSD supported in the IBM XIV Gen3, DS8000, DS5000, SVC, N series, and Storwize V7000 disk systems.
Nonetheless, I've been asked my opinions on the comparison between these two announcements, as they both deal with improving application performance through the use of Solid-State Drives as an added layer of read cache.
(FTC Disclosure: I am both a full-time employee and stockholder of the IBM Corporation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this blog post as a paid celebrity endorsement of IBM servers and storage systems. This blog post is based on my interpretation and opinions of publicly-available information, as I have no hands-on access to any of these third-party PCIe cards. I have no financial interest in EMC, Fusion-IO, Texas Memory Systems, or any other third party vendor of PCIe cards designed to fit inside IBM servers, and I have not been paid by anyone to mention their name, brands or products on this blog post.)
The solutions are different in that IBM XIV Gen3 the SSD is "storage-side" in the external storage device, and EMC VFCache is "server-side" as a PCI Express [PCIe] card. Aside from that, both implement SSD as an additional read cache layer in front of spinning disk to boost performance. Neither is an industry first, as IBM has offered server-side SSD since 2007, and IBM and EMC have offered storage-side SSD in many of their other external storage devices. The use of SSD as read cache has already been available in IBM N series using [Performance Accelerator Module (PAM)] cards.
IBM has offered cooperative caching synergy between its servers and its storage arrays for some time now. The predecessor to today's POWER7-based were the iSeries i5 servers that used PCI-X IOP cards with cache to connect i5/OS applications to IBM's external disk and tape systems. To compete in this space, EMC created their own PCI-X cards to attach their own disk systems. In 2006, IBM did the right thing for our clients and fostered competition by entering in a [Landmark agreement] with EMC to [license the i5 interfaces]. Today, VIOS on IBM POWER systems allows a much broader choice of disk options for IBM i clients, including the IBM SVC, Storwize V7000 and XIV storage systems.
Can a little SSD really help performance? Yes! An IBM client running a [DB2 Universal Database] cluster across eight System x servers was able to replace an 800-drive EMC Symmetrix by putting eight SSD Fusion-IO cards in each server, for a total of 64 Solid-State drives, saving money and improving performance. DB2 has the Data Partitioning Feature that has multi-system DB2 configurations using a Grid-like architecture similar to how XIV is designed. Most IBM System x and BladeCenter servers support internal SSD storage options, and many offer PCIe slots for third-party SSD cards. Sadly, you can't do this with a VFCache card, since you can have only one VFCache card in each server, the data is unprotected, and only for ephemeral data like transaction logs or other temporary data. With multiple Fusion-IO cards in an IBM server, you can configure a RAID rank across the SSD, and use it for persistent storage like DB2 databases.
Here then is my side-by-side comparison:
IBM XIV Gen3 SSD Caching
Selected x86-based models of Cisco UCS, Dell PowerEdge, HP ProLiant DL, and IBM xSeries and System x servers
All of these, plus any other blade or rack-optimized server currently supported by XIV Gen3, including Oracle SPARC, HP Titanium, IBM POWER systems, and even IBM System z mainframes running Linux
Operating System support
Linux RHEL 5.6 and 5.7, VMware vSphere 4.1 and 5.0, and Windows 2008 x64 and R2.
All of these, plus all the other operating systems supported by XIV Gen3, including AIX, IBM i, Solaris, HP-UX, and Mac OS X
FCP and iSCSI
Vendor-supplied driver required on the server
Yes, the VFCache driver must be installed to use this feature.
No, IBM XIV Gen3 uses native OS-based multi-pathing drivers.
External disk storage systems required
None, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so in theory the benefits are the same whether you use this VFCache card in front of EMC storage or IBM storage
XIV Gen3 is required, as the SSD slots are not available on older models of IBM XIV.
Shared disk support
No, VFCache has to be disabled and removed for vMotion to take place.
Yes! XIV Gen3 SSD caching shared disk supports VMware vMotion and Live Partition Mobility.
Support for multiple servers
An advantage of the XIV Gen3 SSD caching approach is that the cache can be dynamically allocated to the busiest data from any server or servers.
Support for active/active server clusters
Aware of changes made to back-end disk
No, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so any changes to the data on the box itself are not communicated back to the VFCache card itself to invalidate the cache contents.
None identified. However, VFCache only caches blocks 64KB or smaller, so any sequential processing with larger blocks will bypass the VFCache.
Yes! XIV algorithms detect sequential access and avoid polluting the SSD with these blocks of data.
Number of SSD supported
One, which seems odd as IBM supports multiple Fusion-IO cards for its servers. However, this is not really a single point of failure (SPOF) as an application experiencing a VFCache failure merely drops down to external disk array speed, no data is lost since it is only read cache.
6 to 15 (one per XIV module) for high availability.
Pin data in SSD cache
Yes, using split-card mode, you can designate a portion of the 300GB to serve as Direct-attached storage (DAS). All data written to the DAS portion will be kept in SSD. However, since only one card is supported per server and the data is unprotected, this should only be used for ephemeral data like logs and temp files.
No, there is no option to designate an XIV Gen3 volume to be SSD-only. Consider using Fusion-IO PCIe card as a DAS alternative, or another IBM storage system for that requirement.
Pre-sales Estimating tools
Yes! CDF and Disk Magic tools are available to help cost-justify the purchase of SSD based on workload performance analysis.
IBM has the advantage that it designs and manufactures both servers and storage, and can design optimal solutions for our clients in that regard.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means! IBM Announcements! Typically, IBM System Storage has three to five major product launches per year. Making announcements every Tuesday would have been two frequent, and having one big announcement every two or three years would be too far apart. Worldwide combined revenues for storage hardware and software grew double digits last year, comparing full-year 2011 to the prior 2010 year, and I am sure that 2012 will also be a good year for IBM as well! This week we have announcements for both disk and tape, but since 2012 is the 60th Diamond Anniversary for tape, I will start with tape systems first.
TS1140 support for JA/JJ tape cartridges
The TS1140 enterprise tape drive was announced at the [Storage Innovation Executive Summit] last May. It supported a new E07 format on three different new tape cartridges. Models "JC" was 4.0TB standard re-writeable tapes, "JY" was 4.0TB WORM tapes, and "JK" were 500GB economy tapes that were less expensive, but offered faster random access.
Generally, IBM has adopted an N-2 read, N-1 write [backward compatibility]. This means that the TS1140 could read E05 and E06 formatted tapes on JB and JX media, and could write E06 format on JB and JX media. However, there are a lot of older JA and JJ media, especially as part of TS7740 environments, so IBM now supports TS1140 drives to read J1A formatted JA and JJ media. This is not just for TS7740 environments, any TS1140 in stand-alone or tape library configurations will support this as well.
TS7700 R2.1 enhancements
IBM is a leader in tape virtualization with or without physical tape as back-end media. There are two hardware models of the [IBM Virtualization Engine TS7700 family] for the IBM System z mainframe. These virtual libraries are referred to as "clusters" in IBM literature.
The TS7740 Virtual Tape Library supports putting virtual tape images on disk first, then move less-active data to physical tape, which I covered in my blog post [IBM Announcements - July 2007].
A unique feature of the TS7700 series is support for a Grid configuration, which allows up to six different TS7700 clusters to be grouped into a single instance image. These clusters can be in local or remote locations, connected via WAN or LAN connections.
R2.1 is the latest software release of this successful IBM's TS7700 series.
True Sync Mode Copy. Before R2.1, the TS7700 offered "immediate mode copy". An application would write to a virtual tape, and when it was done with the tape and performed an unmount, the TS7700 would then replicate the tape contents to a secondary cluster on the grid. With True Sync Mode, data contents are replicated per implicit or explicit SYNC points. This is another IBM first in the IT tape industry.
Remote Mount Fail-over. When you have two or more TS7700 clusters in a grid configuration, you can do remote mounts. We've added fail-over multi-pathing up to four paths, so that if a link to a remote cluster is down, it will try one of the others instead.
Parallel Copies and Pre-Migration. On of my 19 patents is for the pre-migration feature for the IBM 3494 Virtual Tape Server (VTS) that carries forward into the TS7700, and is also used in the SONAS and Information Archive products. However, when the grid architecture was introduced, the engineers decided not to allow pre-migration and copies to secondary clusters to occur concurrently. Now these two operations can be done in parallel.
Merge two grids into one grid. Now that we can support up to six clusters into a single grid, we have people with 2-cluster and 3-cluster grids looking to merge them into one. Of course, all the logical and physical volume serials (VOLSER) must be unique!
Accelerate off JA/JJ Media. There are a lot of older JA and JJ media still in TS7700 libraries. This feature allows customers to speed up the transition to newer physical tape media.
Copy Export to E06 format on JB media. This one is clever, and I have to say I would have never thought about it. Let's say you have a TS7740 with TS1140 drives, but you want to export some virtual tapes to physical media to be sent to someone who only has a TS7740 connected with older TS1130 drives. These older drives can't read new JC media nor make sense of the E07 format. This feature will let you export to older JB media in E06 format so that it will be fully readable at the new location on the TS1130 drives.
Copy Export Merge service offering. Thanks to mergers and acquisitions, it is sometimes necessary to split off a portion of data from a TS7700 grid. In the past, IBM supported sending this export to a completely empty TS7700 library, but this new service offerings allows the export to be merged into an existing TS7700 that already contains data.
LTFS-SDE support for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion
How do people still not yet know about the Linear Tape File System [LTFS]? I mentioned this in my blogs back in 2010 in [April], [September], and [November]. Last year, LTFS was the [NAB Show Pick Hits Award] and an [Emmy] for revolutionizing the use of digital tape in Television broadcasting.
In layman's terms, the Single Drive Edition [LTFS-SDE] allows a tape cartridge to be treated like USB memory stick. It is supported on the LTO5 tape drives for systems running various levels of Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Prior to this announcement, IBM supported Snow Leopard (10.5.6) and Leopard (10.6), and now supports Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" release.
IBM first introduced Solid-State Drives (SSD) back in 2007 where it made sense the most, in [drive-for-drive replacements on blade servers in the IBM BladeCenter]. Blade servers typically only have a single drive, and SSD are both faster and use less energy on a drive-for-drive comparison, so this provided immediate benefit. Today, SSD are available on a variety of System x and POWER system servers.
In 2008, IBM rocked the world by being the first to reach [1 Million IOPS with Project Quicksilver]. This was an all-SSD configuration which many considered unrealistic (at the time), but it showed the potential for solid state drives.
When the [XIV Gen3 was Announced - July 2011], each module included an 1.8-inch "SSD-Ready" slot in the back. IBM made a Statement of Direction that IBM would someday offer SSD drives to put in these slots. Today's announcement is that IBM has finalized the qualification process, so now XIV Gen3 clients can have 400GB of usable non-volatile SSD read cache added to each module. This SSD can be added to existing XIV Gen3 boxes in the field, or it can be factory-installed in new shipments. If you have a 15-module XIV, that's 6TB of additional read cache! This SSD is entirely managed by the XIV Gen3, so you won't have to spend weeks reading manuals or specifying configuration parameters.
When you carve volumes on the XIV, you now have an option to enable or disable use of the SSD cache for each volume. Since XIV is being used in private and public cloud deployments, this offers the ability to offer premium performance at premium prices. The use of SSD is complementary to IBM XIV Quality of Service (QoS) performance levels, which are determined by host instead.
Well, that's the first major IBM System Storage launch of 2012. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. Here is a recap of more of the Tuesday afternoon sessions:
IBM CIOs and Storage
Barry Becker, IBM Manager of Global Strategic Outsourcing Enablement for Data Center Services, presented this session on Storage Infrastructure Optimization (SIO).
A bit of context might help. I started my career in DFHSM which moved data from disk to tape to reduce storage costs. Over the years, I wouuld visit clients, analyze their disk and tape environment, and provide a set of recommendations on how to run their operations better. In 2004, this was formalized into week-long "Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) Assessments", and I spent 18 months in the field training a group of folks on how to perform them. The IBM Global Technology Services team have taken a cross-brand approach, expanding this ILM approach to include evaluations of the application workloads and data types. These SIO studies take 3-4 weeks to complete.
Over the next decade, there will only be 50 percent more IT professionals than we have today, so new approaches will be needed for governance and automation to deal with the explosive growth of information.
SIO deals with both the demand and supply of data growth in five specific areas:
Data reclamation, rationalization and planning
Virtualization and tiering
Backup, business continuity and disaster recovery
Storage process and governance
Archive, Retention and Compliance
The process involves gathering data and interview business, financial and technical stakeholders like storage administrators and application owners. The interviews take less than one hour per person.
Over the past two years, the SIO team has uncovered disturbing trends. A big part of the problem is that 70 percent of data stored on disk has not been accessed in the past 90 days, and is unlikely to be accessed at all in the near future, so would probably be better to store on lower cost storage tiers.
Storage Resource Management (SRM) is also a mess, with over 85 percent of clients having serious reporting issues. Even rudimentary "Showback" systems to report back what every individual, group or department were using resulted in significant improvement.
Archive is not universally implemented mostly because retention requirements are often misunderstood. Barry attributed this to lack of collaboration between storage IT personnel, compliance officers, and application owners. A "service catalog" that identifies specific storage and data types can help address many of these concerns.
The results were impressive. Clients that follow SIO recommendations save on average 20 to 25 percent after one year, and 50 percent after three to five years. Implementing storage virtualization averaged 22 percent lower CAPEX costs. Those that implemented a "service catalog" saved on average $1.9 million US dollars. Internally, IBM's own operations have saved $13 million dollars implementing these recommendations over the past three years.
Reshaping Storage for Virtualization and Big Data
The two analysts presenting this topic acknowledged there is no downturn on the demand for storage. To address this, they recommend companies identify storage inefficiencies, develop better forecasting methodologies, implement ILM, and follow vendor management best practices during acquisition and outsourcing.
To deal with new challenges like virtualization and Big Data, companies must decide to keep, replace or supplement their SRM tools, and build a scalable infrastructure.
One suggestion to get upper management to accept new technologies like data deduplication, thin provisioning, and compression is to refer to them as "Green" technologies, as they help reduce energy costs as well. Thin provisioning can help drive up storage utilization to rates as high as you dare, typically 60 to 70 percent is what most people are comfortable with.
A poll of the audience found that top three initiatives for 2012 are to implement data deduplication, 10Gb Ethernet, and Solid-State drives (SSD).
The analysts explained that there are two different types of cloud storage. The first kind is storage "for" the cloud, used for cloud compute instances (aka Virtual Machines), such as Amazon EBS for EC2. The second kind is storage "as" the cloud, storage as a data service, such as Amazon S3, Azure Blob and AT&T Synaptic.
The analysts feel that cloud storage deployments will be mostly private clouds, bursting as needed to public cloud storage. This creates the need for a concept called "Cloud Storage Gateways" that manage this hybrid of some local storage and some remote storage. IBM's SONAS Active Cloud Engine provides long-distance caching in this manner. Other smaller startups include cTera, Nasuni, Panzura, Riverbed, StorSimple, and TwinStrata.
A variation of this are "storage gateways" for backup and archive providers as a staging area for data to be subsequently sent on to the remote location.
New projects like virtualization, Cloud computing and Big Data are giving companies a new opportunity to re-evaluate their strategies for storage, process and governance.