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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Well, it was Tuesday again, and we had quite a lot of announcements here at IBM this week!
Over 1,800 clients attended the [Live February 5 webcast]! The announcements were all part of IBM's SmartCloud Storage portfolio. Here are the highlights:
STN7800 Real-time Compression Appliance
Back in October 2010, IBM announced the acquisition of Storwize, Inc., renaming its NAS-compression units to the IBM Real-time Compression appliances. Some folks were confused, so I had a blog post [IBM Storwize Product Name Decoder Ring].
IBM initially offered two models:
The [STN6500 model] had 16 Ethernet ports 1GbE (16x1GbE) and a pair of four-core processors.
The [STN6800 model] had either eight 10GbE ports (8x10GbE), or four 10GbE plus eight 1GbE ports (4x10GbE+8x1GbE). It has a pair of six-core processors.
Now, IBM offers the [STN7800 model], which can replace either of the ones above, offering 16x1GbE, 8x10GbE, and 4x10GbE+8x1GBE port configurations. It has a pair of eight-core processors to handle more robust Cloud Storage environments. See [Announcement Letter 113-012] for more details.
New XIV Gen3 model 214
With its awesome support for VMware, the XIV is often chosen for Cloud storage. The new XIV model 214 now offers up to a dozen 10GbE ports, or you can stay with the 22 1GbE ports available on previous models. These can be used for iSCSI host attachment and/or IP-based replication.
IBM strives to make each new model of every storage device more energy efficient than the last.
The new XIV model is no exception. The original XIV, introduced in 2008, consumed 8.4 kVA fully loaded. The XIV Gen 3 model 114 consumed 7.0 kVA. This new model 214 consumes only 5.9 kVA!
It has been almost three years since my now infamous post [Double Drive Failure Debunked: XIV Two Years Later]. Back then, the XIV offered only 1TB and 2TB drives, with rebuild time for 1TB drive of less than 30 minutes, and for 2TB less than 60 minutes.
The new XIV Gen3 software 11.2 release, available for both the 114 and 214 models, can now rebuild a 2TB drive in less than 26 minutes, and a 3TB drive in less than 39 minutes. There is also support specific to Windows Server 2012 including thin provisioning, MSCS, VSS, and Hyper-V. See [Announcement Letter 113-013] for more details.
SmartCloud Storage Access
IBM is the first major storage vendor to offer a product of this kind, so understanding it may be a bit difficult.
The concept is simple. Rather than having end-users having to ask IT every time they need some storage space, IBM created a self-service portal that frees up the IT department to work on more important transformational projects.
This is basically what people can do with "Public Cloud" storage service providers, so basically IBM is now giving you the capability with your "Private Cloud" storage deployment.
Here is the sequence of events. End users point their favorite web browser to the self-service portal, and login using their credentials stored in your Active Directory or LDAP server database.
Once validated, the end-user now can request new storage space, expanding their existing space, or returning the space to the IT department. For new storage requests, users can have a choice of storage classes, -- such as Gold, Silver and Bronze-- defined in the Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (TPC), either stand-alone or in the SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center.
But wait! Do you want to give every end-user a blank check to provision their own storage? Most IT staff are horrified at the thought.
Knowing this, IBM has included an option to put in an approval process, based on the end-user and the amount of capacity requested. The approver can be the cloud administrator, or someone delegated for approvals, known as an environment owner.
For some users, policies may restrict the storage classes as well. For example, Fred can only have Silver or Bronze, but not Gold.
Once the approval is obtained, TPC then issues the appropriate commands to the appropriate SONAS or Storwize V7000 Unified device. SmartCloud Storage Access can do this for thousands of storage devices across dozens of geographically dispersed locations.
Before, the Cloud Admin had to configure storage pools of managed disks, define file systems, dole out file sets to hundreds or thousands of users with hard quotas, and then configure shares based on the protocols required, like CIFS, NFS, HTTPS, etc.
With SmartCloud Storage Access, the Cloud admin still defines the pools and file systems, but then lets the self-service capability of the software to create the file sets, set the quotas and configure shares with the appropriate protocols. This greatly reduces the work on the IT staff, and greatly improves the turn-around time for end-user requests to get exactly what they want, when they need it.
The next time you withdraw money from an ATM machine, fill up your gas tank at the self-service gas station, then serve your own salad at the salad bar and fill up your own soft drink at the fast food restaurant, you will realize and appreciate that SmartCloud Storage Access is a brilliant move for the IT staff.
Cloud administrators, environment owners, and end-users can all use SmartCloud Storage Access to monitor and report on storage usage.
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.
Well it's Wednesday, and you know what that means... IBM Announcements.
(Normally, announcements are on Tuesdays, but we moved this one over to Wednesday to line up with our big launch event in Pinehurst, NC. )
A lot was announced today, so I decided to break it up into several separate posts. I will start with our Enterprise Systems: DS8870, TS7700 Release 3, and XIV Gen3.
Enterprise systems are the servers, storage and software at the core of an enterprise IT infrastructure. Enterprise systems enable a private cloud infrastructure at enterprise scale, with flexible service delivery models that provide dynamic efficiency for resource and workload management. They make sure critical data is always available across the enterprise, making it accessible in new ways so that actionable insights can be derived from advanced and operational analytics. They also provide ultimate security, ensuring the integrity of critical data while mitigating risk and providing assured compliance.
IBM System Storage DS8870® disk system
This new storage system is the next generation in IBM's DS8000 series, based on IBM's POWER7 chipset. Each CEC can have 2, 4, 8 or 16 cores. Like the DS8800, you can have a mix of 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch disk drives of different speeds and capacities, up to 1,536 drives in a four-frame configuration. The maximum cache is now 1TB usable. The combination of faster chipset and more cache can triple performance for some workloads!
All DS8870s ship standard with all Full Disk Encryption (FDE-capable) drives. The problem in the past was that people would buy DS8000 with non-FDE drives, and then later want to activate encryption, and discovered that they have to swap out their drives with those with the encryption chip built in. Now, all drives on the DS8870 will have the encryption chip. This also allows Easy Tier sub-volume automated tiering to move encrypted data between all media types.
Flash optimization with DS8000 Easy Tier can improve performance up to 3 times with 3% of data on solid-state storage. Easy Tier is easy to deploy and runs automatically.
Support of the American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) T10 Data Integrity Field (DIF) standard. This is a feature that the mainframe has had for years, and is now being extended to distributed operating systems. The concept is simple. When sending data between server and storage, generate a checksum at the source, and then validate the checksum at the target. When you write a block of data, the server generates the checksum, and the DS8870 validates the checksum on arrival. When you read the data back, the DS8870 generates the checksum, and the server validates it on arrival. This ensures that data was not corrupted in between. There is a great write-up on IBM developerWorks: [End-to-end data protection using T10 standard data integrity field].
Energy Efficient. The DS8870 consumes less energy than its predecessor, the DS8800. For example, a fully-configured four-frame DS8870 with 1,536 disk drives consumes only 23.2kW, compared to the same number of drives in a DS8800 consumed 26.3 kW. By comparison, the DS8700 with five frames and 1,024 drives consumed 29.2kW.
Support for new System z load balancing algorithm. System z Workload Manager now interacts with the DS8870 I/O Priority Manager to optimize designated Quality of Service (QoS) levels. We have also the fastest operational analytics solution with DB2 list Prefetch cache optimization with DS8870 High Performance FICON (zHPF) integration. This solution increases DB2 query performance up to 11 times with disk, and up to 60 times with solid-state drives (SSD). File scans are up to 30 percent faster using DS8870 zHPF support for sequential access methods (QSAM, BPAM, and BSAM).
VMware vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) support. Why should the IBM DS8800 series support VMware when IBM already offers great VMware support with SAN Volume Controller (SVC), Storwize V7000 and XIV storage sytsems? Good question. This was hotly debated between development and marketing. Several DS8000 customers have already added SVC to provide full VMware VAAI support. As a consultant, I am neither development nor marketing, but felt it necessary to weigh in on my opinion on this. The DS8000 is a consolidation platform. According to one analyst survey, 22 percent of companies run on a single disk platform, so for DS8000 to be the one, it needs to support VMware and exploit these special APIs.
Six Nines Availability. Critical enterprise systems need to deliver continuous data availability, or very close to it. IBM solutions can help deliver up to six “nines” of availability, or 99.9999 percent when combining DS8000 Metro Mirror and GDPS Hyperswap. That's less than 30 seconds of downtime per year.
The TS7700 Release 3 represents a refresh to our existing virtual tape libraries. These are mainframe-only, offered in two models: TS7720 is a disk-only device, and the TS7740 is a blended disk-and-tape solution.
Industry standard hardware encryption. This applies to user data stored on the TS7700 system cache (disk), and for data transferred between TS7700 systems. This is especially important for regulations, like Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). In previous models, the data would not be encrypted until it was moved off disk and written to tape. Now, it is encrypted the minute in lands on the disk cache, and stays encrypted as it is replicated from one TS7700 to another in the grid.
Up to 4 Million logical volume capacity. This is twice the previous support.
More physical capacity for TS7720 systems. The maximum capacity for the disk-only model is raised from 440TB to 620TB, representing a 40 percent increase.
My latest book "Inside System Storage: Volume V" is now available!
I have published my fifth volume in my "Inside System Storage" series! Currently, it is only available in Paperback. My editor, Susan Pollard, is hoping to have the eBook and Hardcover versions ready for Cyber Monday. The foreword was written by my Dr. Sondra Ashmore.
You can order this, and all my other books, in all formats, directly from my [Author Spotlight] page. The paperback will also be available soon from other online booksellers, search for ISBN 978-1-300-26223-7.
Improved Scalability. A new Multi-system Manager (MSM) server reduces the operational complexity for large and multi-site XIV deployments. Previously, admins connected directly to XIV boxes. If you had 10 admins logged in, then every XIV box was managing 10 admin conversations. The new MSM acts as a go-between. The admins connect to the MSM, and the MSM connects to the XIV boxes. The MSM polls and caches the status of each XIV, greatly increasing the number of XIV boxes that an admin can manage.
Enhanced User Interface. A new Multi-system Manager server reduces the operational complexity for large and multi-site XIV deployments. We also added support for IPsec and US. Government (USGv6) certification for admistering the XIV over IPv6 networks. The XIV Mobile Dashboard app for iPhone and iPad is spiffed up. Finally, the GUI has been internationalized and translated to the Japanese language.
Enhanced Integration for Cloud. For OpenStack, XIV now offers a Nova-volume driver which provides persistent storage to OpenStack compute nodes. The Nova task force is now looking to move storage into its own project called Cinder. For VMware, XIV has full support for Site Recovery Manager (SRM) v4.1 and v5.0 releases. XIV now also supports the Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, which can manage Hyper-V, VMware and Citrix XenServer hypervisors.
Smaller entry point. The original XIV supported 1TB and 2TB drives, with the smallest offering being 27TB usable. When IBM introduced the XIV Gen3, the two choices were 2TB and 3TB disk drives. Unfortunately, this meant that the initial entry model was now 55TB in size, and each additional module would be more expensive as well. IBM is now going to offer 1TB support for XIV Gen3 for a lower price point, these are actually 2TB drives with half the capacity turned off.
This week I am in Orlando, Florida for the IBM Edge conference. Thursday evening after all the other sessions, we had a Free-for-All, a Q&A panel across all storage topics, moderated by Scott Drummond. The conference officially ends at noon tomorrow, but for many, this is the last session, as people fly out Friday morning. Here are the questions and the panel responses during the session.
When will IBM unify their storage management between Mainframe z/OS and the distributed systems platforms?
IBM offers a Change and Configuration Management Data Base (CCMDB) for this purpose with appropriate collectors from z/OS and distributed systems, but hasn't sold well.
When will IBM devices have RESTful interfaces?
Both IBM Systems Director and IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (TPC) offer RESTful APIs. IBM Systems Director can manage z/VM and Linux on System z, as well as Power Systems and x86 based distributed systems. Since October 2008, IBM's Project Zero introduced RESTful interfaces to PHP and Groovy software running on WebSphere sMash environments. We have not heard much about this since 2008.
Will IBM TPC support NPIV on Power Systems?
TPC 5.1 has toleration support for this, showing the first port connection discovered, but not all connections, and we expect to retrofit this toleration to TPC 4.2.2 Fixpack 2. Hopefully, we will have full support in a future release.
We would like TPC for Replication to run on Linux for System z. We do not run z/OS at the disaster recovery site location.
Submit an IBM Request for Enhancement [RFE] for this. We have TPC for Replication on z/OS, as well as the distributed systems version that runs on Windows, Linux and AIX.
We have enhancements we would like to see for XIV and SONAS also, can we use the RFE process for this also?
Yes, submit the requirements for our review.
We heard the Statement of Direction that there would be storage integrated into the PureSystems. What exactly does that mean?
The PureSystems family of expert-integrated systems is based on a new chassis that has a front part, a midplane, and a back-part. All IBM System Storage products that support x86 and Power Systems can work with PureSystems. However, IBM does not yet offer storage that fits in the front part of the PureFlex chassis, but the Statement of Direction indicates that we intend to offer that option. Until then, the IBM Storwize V7000 is the storage of choice that can be put into the PureSystems rack, but outside the individual chasses.
We see some features like Real-Time Compression being put into the SAN Volume Controller (SVC), and other features put into the back-end devices. How are we supposed to make sense of this?
IBM's new pilot program, the SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center, to bring these all together. In general, we have design teams of system architects that determine which features go in which products, and prioritize accordingly.
We heard the IBM Executives during the opening session indicate that IBM's strategy involves supporting Big Data, but I haven't seen any storage that supports native Hadoop interfaces. Did I miss something?
First, I want to emphasize that Big Data is more than just MapReduce workloads. IBM offers Streams and BigInsights software to handle text, as well as Business Intelligence and Data Warehouse solutions for structured data. IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS) has a Shared-Nothing-Cluster (SNC) mode with Hadoop interfaces that runs twice as fast as Hadoop's native HDFS file system. The storage products we recommend for Big Data are the SONAS and the DCS3700 disk systems, as both are optimized for the sequential workloads Big Data represents.
Everytime we upgrade our SVC, we review the list for SDDPCM multi-pathing and see that we need to upgrade our back-end DS8000 microcode up to recommended levels. Can we get a list of combinations that work from other customers?
The advantage of storage hypervisors like SVC is that we can separate the multi-pathing driver from the back-end managed disk systems. You only need the SDDPCM to support the SVC, not the back-end devices. For the most part, SVC has not dropped support for any level of previously supported OS or multi-pathing software.
On SVC, when we migrate volumes (vDisks) from one storage pool to another, we would like to throttle this process during FlashCopy.
Yes, we had several requests like this, which is why we now recommend using Volume Mirorring to perform migrations. In fact the GUI wizard uses Volume Mirroring by default when migrations are performed. As for throttling, IBM has implemented "I/O Priority Manager" that offers Quality of Service classes for DS8000 and XIV Gen3, and might consider porting this to other products in our portfolio.
Sizing systems is an art. I just need to know if the DS8000 is running hot. Can we have the equivalent of "red lines" for our disk systems similar to automobile engines?
Storage Optimizer was added to TPC 4.2 to help in this area, identifying heat-maps for IBM DS8000, DS6000, DS5000, DS4000, SVC and Storwize V7000. We recommend you look at the performance violation reports.
How can we evaluate the characteristics of our workloads?
Yes, TPC can do this.
When we are replacing non-IBM storage with IBM, we don't have good tools to evaluate the non-IBM equipment. What is IBM doing for this?
IBM's Disk Magic modeling tool can take inputs from a variety of sources, including iostat from the servers themselves. You can also install a 90-day trial of TPC to help with this.
We really like EMC's "Grab" program, does IBM have one also?
Updating the Host Attachment Kit (HAK) for AIX is quite painful for the SVC. We prefer the method employed for the XIV.
Thanks for the feedback.
For SVC, we need to correlate disk with VMware and VIOS. Can we get vSCSI information on VIOS?
TPC 5.1 has this support, and we believe it has been retrofitted to TPC 4.2.2 Fixpack 2, coming out this month.
Currently, with SVC, when volumes are part of a Global Mirror (GM) session, we need to cancel GM, expand the source volume, expand the target volume, then restart GM. We would like this to be fully automated and non-disruptive.
Sounds like a great requirement to submit for the RFE process.
Can we get an RSS Feed for the RFE community.
Yes, you can subscribe to it. You can also set up "Watch Lists".
Thanks to all of the IBM experts on the panel for their participation at this event!
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.