Despite having business meetings every day I was here in Moscow, I managed to do a bit of sightseeing. June is a good month to visit Russia, as there are nearly 18 hours of daylight to see things. Some things are outdoors, and not constrained to normal business hours.
Near my hotel, the [Crowne Plaza at the World Trade Center], was a cute little park called "Ulista 1905 Goda". It is always nice to see large cities set aside space for nature. There were plenty of park benches to sit and enjoy. The word Ulista simply means "Street" in Russian language, and 1905 refers to the year of historical importance.
The [1905 Russian Revolution] was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies, including sailors aboard the battleship Potemkin. Alexander Adrianov became Moscow's first official mayor. The revolution led to the establishment of the State Duma of the Russian Empire, the multi-party system, and the Russian Constitution of 1906, ending the reign of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia.
Walking from my hotel towards the direction of the Kremlin, I managed to find the [Old Arbat street], which has been around since the 15th century. This was considered a prestigious area of town, home to many artists, academics and politicians. Today, it is pedestrian-only, no cars allowed, with various souvenir shops and restaurants.
There is a lot to see around the Red Square to see. The [Kremlin] is a walled castle with an [Armoury Chamber] and various other cathedrals and government buildings to see inside. A ticket for the Armoury Chamber will set you back 700 rubles (about 22 bucks). [Lenin's Masoleum] is free of charge, but only open for three hours on weekdays, from 10:00am to 1:00pm, so plan accordingly.
Returning back to the hotel from the event venue on Wednesday, I walked past the [Cathedral of Christ the Saviour] on my way to the Kropotskinskaya subway station. It is actually across the river from the Red Square. Built in 1860, it is considered the tallest Orthodox church in the world at 344 feet. The domes are electroplated in gold.
I found the taxis to be ridiculously expensive here in Moscow, so I took to the subway instead. If fellow filmmaker John Waters can [hitchhike across the state of Ohio], I can certainly be adventurous and ride the Moscow Metro.
The Moscow Metro is second most used rapid transit system in the world (the first being the one in Tokyo). As a result, the subway can get quite crowded, but I found being squashed into a carload of Russian supermodels to be quite tolerable. The price is a bargain at only 28 rubles per ride (less than a dollar), with unlimited transfers.
While the Metro is a great way to get around the city, it is also a destination in itself, as the system was built in 1935 and has historical architectures that you can only see underground. At the [Ploshchad Revolyutsii station], for example, there is a whole collection of bronze statues of men and women in different work roles. For the statue of the frontier guard, many people rub the dog's nose for good luck that it has become bright and shiny.
Dispel quickly the notion that you need to eat traditional Russian food while in Moscow. A bowl of Borsch (a watery soup made from beets) and a plate of Beef Stroganof set me back 50 bucks! Apparently, restaurants know that only tourists ask for "traditional Russian food", so the prices are set accordingly.
I had to find less expensive eats to stay within my per diem meal limits. Where do the locals eat? Russia is a modern country, with plenty of Burger King, Wendy's, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks.
No visit to any foreign country would be complete without at least eating one meal at McDonald's. Before working for IBM, I did software engineering for McDonald's, so as a former employee, I try to visit at least one McDonald's in every country. They have restaurants in over 120 countries, so I have a ways to go yet.
A meal consisting of a "Royal" quarter-pounder with cheese, large fries and a Coke was only 214 rubles, less than seven dollars. The meat patty was medium rare, just like I make at home. You just can't get that in the States where everything has to be overcooked to avoid food-bourne illnesses. The fries were a bit over-salted, but the Coke struck just the right balance of syrup and carbonation.
Moscow is home to many museums and art galleries. The [State Tretyakov Gallery] focuses on sculptures and oil paintings from Russian artists, named after a Russian merchant who dontated his collection to get it started.
Plan a good two hours to see everything. There were many guided tour groups when I was there, which slowed me down getting through the large crowds of old people.There were over 50 rooms, with subject matter ranging from portraits, ships, and buildings, to piles of dead bodies in battle scenes. I especially liked the unique styles of [Mikhail Vrubel] and [Vasily Vereshchagin]. In many of the rooms, there were laminated placards in large-type English that explained the pieces on display.
My last stop was the [Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU)]. This served two purposes. First, it is situated up on a hill so that you can see a great view of the rest of the city. Second, there were street vendors selling souvenirs, including the ever-popular [Matryoshka dolls], military hats, keychains, and refrigerator magnets.
In other countries, I have found going to the movies as an interesting way to see the locals in action. Foreign movies are shown here in their original language, with either Russian subtitles for the locals or headphones to hear the Russian dubbed audio track. Sadly, I did not have time to do that this week. This poster, depicting the latest Disney movie "Brave", indicates that it opens this weekend.
As always, from a sightseeing perspective, I try to leave a few things un-done, so I have reason to come back. If you know of any other exciting things to see or do in Moscow, please put that in the comments below so that I can consider it for my next trip! I would like to thank my IBM Russia colleagues Rimma Vladimirova and Sunil Bagai for their suggestions and assistance.
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Can Structured Query Language [SQL] be considered a storage protocol?
Several months ago, I was asked to review a book on SQL, titled appropriately enough "The Complete Idiot's Guide to SQL", by Steven Holzner, Ph.D. As a published author myself, I get a lot of these requests, and I agreed in this case, given that SQL was invented by IBM, and is a good fundamental skill to have for Business Analytics and Database Management.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM but was not part of the SQL development team. I was provided a copy of this book for free to review it. I was not paid to mention this book, nor told what to write. I do not know the author personally nor anyone that works for his publicist. All of my opinions of the book in this blog post are my own.)
Despite an agreed-upon standard for SQL, each relational database management system (RDBMS) has decided to customize it for their own purposes. First, SQL can be quite wordy, so some RDBMS have made certain keywords optional. Second, RDBMS offer extra features by adding keywords or programming language extentions, options or parameters above and beyond what the SQL standard calls for. Third, the SQL standard has changed over the years, and some RDBMS have opted to keep some backward compatibility with their prior releases. Fourth, some RDBMS want to discourage people from easily porting code from one RDBMS to another, known in the industry as vendor lock-in.
Throughout my career, I have managed various databases, including Informix, DB2, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server, so I am quite familiar with the differences in SQL and the problems and implications that arise.
Most authors who want to write about SQL typically make a choice between (a) stick to the SQL standard, and expect the reader to customize the examples to their particular DBMS; or (b) stick to a single RDBMS implemenation, and offer examples that may not work on other RDBMS.
I found the book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to SQL" covered the basics quite well, but with an odd twist. The basics include creating databases and tables, defining columns, inserting and deleting rows, updating fields, and performing queries or joins. The odd twist is that Steven does not make the typical choice above, but rather shows how the various DBMS are different than standard SQL syntax, with actual working examples for different RDBMS.
You might be thinking to yourself that only an idiot would work in a place that had to require knowledge of multiple RDBMS. The sad truth is that most of the medium and large companies I speak to have two or more in production. This is either through acquisitions, or in some cases, individual business units or departments implementing their own via the [Shadow IT].
(For those who want to learn SQL and try out the examples in this book, IBM offers a free version of DB2 called [DB2-C Express] that runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and Solaris.)
Last week, while I was in Russia for the [Edge Comes to You] event, I was interviewed by a journalist from [Storage News] on various topics. One question stuck me as strange. He asked why I did not mention IBM's acquisition of Netezza in my keynote session about storage. I had to explain that Netezza was not in the IBM System Storage product line, it is in a different group, under Business Analytics, where it belongs.
While it is true that Netezza can store data, because it has storage components inside, the same could also be said about nearly every other piece of IT equipment, from servers with internal disk, to digital cameras, smart phones and portable music players. They can all be considered storage devices, but doing so would undermine what differentiates them from one another.
Which brings me back to my original question: Should we consider SQL to be a storage protocol? For the longest time, IT folks only considered block-based interfaces as storage protocols, then we added file-based interfaces like CIFS and NFS, and we also have object-based interfaces, such as IBM's Object Access Method (OAM) and the System Storage Archive Manager (SSAM) API. Could SQL interfaces be the next storage protocol?
Let me know what you think on this. Leave a comment below.
Photo by Amy Claxton, in Paris, Texas
Happy Fourth of July everyone! For my readers outside the U.S.A, this Wednesday marks America's [Independence Day]. Celebrations include parades during the day, and fireworks at night.
A long time ago, the IBM Tucson lab decided to close down the entire week, forcing everyone to take a week of their allotted vacation, so as to perform maintenance on the air conditioners and other equipment. Since then, many IBMers in Tucson have adopted this week as a good time to get out of town.
Most years, I head over to San Diego, California. This year, however, I will be taking a cruise on the Caribbean.
Robert LeBlanc, IBM Senior Vice President for Middleware, gave a keynote presentation at the Red Hat Summit. Here is the [26-minute YouTube video]:
I am running Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6.2 as my primary laptop operating system. Most of IBM's products, like Lotus Notes for email, run natively on Linux for the desktop. I have a Windows XP running as a Linux KVM guest to run a few third-party software that we are still using.
Mark your calendars! Next month, IBM's Midsize Insider is hosting me as a speaker for a Webcast: [Storage Management with IBM], on August 7th, 12pm EDT. Midsize Insider is a valuable repository of expert content tailored for small-to-midsized business owners and IT decision makers.
The problems that used to keep storage managers awake at night -- power, cooling and physical footprint -- are being successfully addressed by technology, but a more vexing issue still remains: How to get more out of the limited supply of skilled storage management professionals.
Demand for storage capacity continues to grow far faster than the pool of people to manage it. With no end in sight to data growth, businesses need to apply technology and practices that distribute management responsibility to the people who need storage, and multiply the volumes of storage that skilled professionals can handle.In this presentation, in this session, I will cover best practices and new tools that are enabling leaps in productivity, in three main areas:
To sign up for this event, go to the [IBM WebCast Registration Page]!
Update: This event has been re-scheduled to September 25, 2012. Here is the [Registration Page]
Next week we have two events related to Infrastructure for midsize businesses!
On Monday, August 6th, 1pm EDT, we have a TweetChat to cover "IT Infrastructure Improvements for Midsize Businesses." You can join at [htt
On Tuesday, August 7th, 12pm EDT, IBM's Midsize Insider is hosting me as a speaker for a Webcast: [Storage Management with IBM]. Midsize Insider is a valuable repository of expert content tailored for small-to-midsized business owners and IT decision makers.
To sign up for this event, go to the [IBM WebCast Registration Page]!
Sorry folks. Due to scheduling conflict, today's Webcast "Solving the Storage Capacity Crisis -- Tools and Practices for Effective Management" has been postponed to September.
The new date is set for September 25. Here is the new [Registration Page]. Even if you were registered for the original one, you will need to register for this one.
With all the announcements we had in June, it is easy for some of the more subtle enhancements to get overlooked. While I was at Orlando for the IBM Edge conference, I was able to blog about some of the key featured announcements. Then, later, when I got back from Orlando to Tucson, I was able to then blog about [More IBM Storage Announcements]. For IBM's Scale-Out Network Attach Storage (SONAS), I had simply:
"SONAS v1.3.2 adds support for management by the newly announced IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center v5.1 release. Also, IBM now officially supports Gateway configurations that have the storage nodes connected to XIV or Storwize V7000 disk systems. These gateway configurations offer new flexible choices and options for our ever-expanding set of clients."
In my defense, IBM numbers its software releasees with vers
Here is a diagram showing the three configurations of SONAS.
I have covered the SONAS Appliance model in depth in previous blogs, with options for fast and slow disk speeds, choice of RAID protection levels, a collection of enterprise-class software features provided at no additional charge, and interfaces to support a variety of third party backup and anti-virus checking software.
The basics haven't changed. The SONAS appliance consists of 2 to 32 interface nodes, 2 to 60 storage nodes, and up to 7,200 disk drives. The maximum configuration takes up 17 frames and holds 21.6PB of raw disk capacity, which is about 17PB usable space when RAID6 is configured. An interface nodes has one or two hex-core processors with up to 144GB of RAM to offer up to 3.5GB/sec performance each. This makes IBM SONAS the fastest performing and most scalable disk system in IBM's System Storage product line.
I thought I would go a bit deeper on the gateway models. These models support up to ten storage nodes, organized in pairs. The key difference is that instead of internal disk controllers, the storage nodes connect to external disk systems. There is enough space in the base SONAS rack to hold up to six interface nodes, or you can add a second rack if you need more interface nodes for increased performance.
All three SONAS configurations support Active Cloud Engine. This is a collection of features that differentiate SONAS from the other scale-out NAS wannabees in the marketplace:
If you want to learn more, see the [IBM SONAS landing page]. Next week, I will be across the Pacific Ocean in [Taipei], to teach IBM Top Gun class to sales reps and IBM Business Partners. "Selling SONAS" will be one of the topics I will be covering!
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Every year, I teach hundreds of sellers how to sell IBM storage products. I have been doing this since the late 1990s, and it is one task that has carried forward from one job to another as I transitioned through various roles from development, to marketing, to consulting.
As you can see from this photo, Taipei is a large city with just row after row of buildings. The metropolitan area has about seven million people, and I saw lots of construction for more on my ride in from the airport.
The student body consists of IBM Business Partners and field sales reps eager to learn how to become better sellers. Typically, some of the students might have just been hired on, just finished IBM Sales School, a few might have transferred from selling other product lines, while others are established storage sellers looking for a refresher on the latest solutions and technologies.
I am part of the teach team comprised of seven instructors from different countries. Here is what the week entails for me:
These are the solution areas I present most often as a consultant at the IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson, so I can provide real-life stories of different client situations to help illustrate my examples.
To learn more about a Top Gun class in your area, see the [Top Gun class schedule].
The weather here in Taipei calls for rain every day! I was able to take this photo on Sunday morning while it was still nice and clear, but later in the afternoon, we had quite the downpour. I am glad I brought my raincoat!
technorati tags: IBM, Sales Training, Top Gun, Taipei, Taiwan, NAS, SONAS, disk, virtualization, unified+storage, SAN Volume Controller, SVC, Storwize V7000, Storwize V7000 Unified, Infrastructure Management, Tivoli Storage, Productivity Center, TPC, Unified Recovery Management, TSM, FlashCopy, FCM
This week, I am in Taipei, teaching Top Gun class. There was concern that another typhoon would hit the island of Taiwan later this week, but it looks like it is now headed for Hong Kong instead.
Elsewhere in the world, there are several events going on next week, so I thought I would bring them to your attention.
I am back from lovely Taipei. The IBM Top Gun class went well. Here are a few pictures of things I found interesting while I was there.
On the first day of class, I asked for some coffee. Our lovely class assistant, Ashley, brought me a cup with an interesting paper filter hanging on the edge. I have since learned that there are two drinks never to order in Taiwan: coffee and wine. If you enjoy either, you won't here. Instead, I drank the local "Taiwan Beer" and various types of tea.
Our class was on the 14th floor of the building, and there was this warning sign posted in the elevator. I have no idea what Chinese characters say, but we found the cartoon depictions of elevator dangers amusing. We interpreted the lower left corner to mean "Don't let your evil twin sister push you out of a moving elevator!"
I have to say that the variety of food was excellent. One night, we had dinner at a [Spanish Tapas] restaurant. The Spanish had a settlement on Taiwan island, known as Formosa back then, until driven out by the Dutch in 1642. We also had a traditional Chinese lunch, with dumplings, pickled cabbage, and "Lion's Head" soup.
From the classroom floor, we could see the Taipei 101 building, considered the third [tallest skyscraper in the world]. This wasn't here the last time I was in Taiwan.
On the last day, we were treated to some [Bubble tea], a specialty drink that originated in Taiwan in the 1980's. The straw was unusually thick, about twice as thick as a normal straw. We quickly figured out why. It was so that we could slurp up the brown floating things at the bottom. We didn't realize this until after the first sip. These floaties were actually Boba Tapioca pearls. The tea itself was delicious and sweet.
Special thanks to Joe Ebidia for managing the class, his assistant Ashley, and our local support team Justin and Stewart. I would also like to thank the staff at the Sherwood Hotel.
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:
Last year, IBM published the results of the [2011 IBM IT Decision Makers Survey]. Some of the key findings:
Earlier this week, Jon Erickson from Forrester Reserch, and Chris Saul from IBM, co-presented a webcast on the economic impact of using SAN Volume Controller for storage virtualization. The event was co-sponsored by IBM, InformationWeek, and UBM TechWeb, The Global Leader in Business Technology Media, a Division of UBM LLC. Jon spoke first, covering the cost savings and financial benefits of using SAN Volume Controller in your environment. His analysis shows a payback period of only 18 months!
Chris Saul (IBM) then covered the latest features introduced last June for SAN Volume Controller v6.4 release. Many of these features are available on older hardware models of SAN Volume Controller. One of the most exciting features is Real-time Compression.
The Real-time Compression benefits can vary by the type of data compressed. Some data compresses only 20% savings. Other data compresses 80% or more. The best way to find out how much Compression would benefit your environment is to run the [IBM Comprestimator Tool] that runs against your own data!
If you are constantly battling out-of-space conditions, and would like to make extra room on your existing storage devices, your dreams have come true!
Well it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means! IBM Announcements!
For nearly 50 years, IBM has been leading the IT industry with its mainframe servers. Today, IBM announced its 12th generation mainframe in its [System z product family], the IBM zEnterprise EC12, or zEC12 for short. I joined IBM in 1986, and my first job was to work on DFHSM for the MVS operating system. The product is now known as DFSMShsm as part of the Data Facility Storage Management System, and the operating systems went through several name changes: MVS/ESA, OS/390, and lately z/OS. I was the lead architect for DFSMS up until 2001. I then switched to be part of the team that brought Linux to the mainframe. Both of these experiences come in handy as I deal with mainframe storage clients at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center.
Let's take a look at some recent developments over the past few years.
If you currently have a z10 or z196, then it can be upgraded to zEC12. The zEC12 can attach to up to four zBX model 003 frames that can run AIX, Microsoft Windows and Linux-x86. If you currently have zBX model 002 frames, these can be upgraded to model 003.
The key enhancements reflect the three key initiatives:
For more on this announcement, check out the [zEnterprise EC12 Announcement Letter].
With all of the distractions this week, from the Republican National Convention in Florida, to the Tropical Storm Isaac that hit New Orleans on the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I thought I would continue this week's theme on the IBM zEnterprise EC12.
In the whitepaper [The IBM zEnterprise EC12: A Technology/Strategy Review], the folks at Clabby Analytics answer three questions:
In my last post [IBM Announces zEnterprise EC12 mainframe server], I covered the first two, so in this post, I will focus on the cost advantages.
In the whitepaper [The Surprising Technology Economics of Mainframe vs. Distributed Servers], Robin Worldwide compares the IT costs for typical units of work. On average, mainframes are 29 percent less expensive than distributed servers. Here are some examples:
In the whitepaper [Total Economic Impact of IBM System z], Forrester Research interviews the executives of five existing mainframe clients, and through in-depth analysis of their deployments, is able to present a "composite" company with an IT-staff of 4,500 employees. The result is impressive: deploying an IBM System z had an ROI of 199 percent. That is a payback period of less than five months!
A finish this post with a quick [6-minute Youtube video], featuring my colleage, Nick Sardino. Nick and I have worked together in the past at various conferences and conventions.