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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor, Senior IT Architect and Event Content Manager for [IBM Systems for IBM Systems Technical University] events. With over 30 years with IBM Systems, Tony is frequent traveler, speaking to clients at events throughout the world.
Lloyd Dean is an IBM Senior Certified Executive IT Architect in Infrastructure Architecture. Lloyd has held numerous senior technical roles at IBM during his 19 plus years at IBM. Lloyd most recently has been leading efforts across the Communication/CSI Market as a senior Storage Solution Architect/CTS covering the Kansas City territory. In prior years Lloyd supported the industry accounts as a Storage Solution architect and prior to that as a Storage Software Solutions specialist during his time in the ATS organization.
Lloyd currently supports North America storage sales teams in his Storage Software Solution Architecture SME role in the Washington Systems Center team. His current focus is with IBM Cloud Private and he will be delivering and supporting sessions at Think2019, and Storage Technical University on the Value of IBM storage in this high value IBM solution a part of the IBM Cloud strategy. Lloyd maintains a Subject Matter Expert status across the IBM Spectrum Storage Software solutions. You can follow Lloyd on Twitter @ldean0558 and LinkedIn Lloyd Dean.
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For those in the US, a comedian named Carlos Mencia has a great TV show, Mind of Menciaand one of my favorite segments is "Why the @#$% is this news!" where he goes about showingblatantly obvious things that were reported in various channels.
So, when I saw that IBM once again, for the third year in a row, has the fastest disk system,the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC), based on widely-accepted industry benchmarksrepresenting typical business workloads, I thought, "Do I really want to blog about this,and sound like a broken record, repeating my various statements of the past of how great SVC is?" It's like reminding people that IBM hashad the most US patents than any other company, every year, for the past 14 years.
(Last year, I received comments fromWoody Hutsell, VP of Texas Memory Systems,because I pointed out that their "World's Fastest Storage"® cache-only system, was not as fast as IBM's SVC.You can ready my opinions, and the various comments that ensued, hereand here. )
That all changed when EMC uber-blogger Chuck Hollis forgot his own Lessons in Marketingwhen heposted his rantDoes Anyone Take The SPC Seriously?That's like asking "Does anyone take book and movie reviews seriously?" Of course they do!In fact, if a movie doesn't make a big deal of its "Two thumbs up!" rating, you know it did not sitwill with the reviewers. It's even more critical for books. I guess this latest news from SPC reallygot under EMC's skin.
For medium and large size businesses, storage is expensive, and customers want to do as much research as possible ahead of time to make informed decisions. A lot of money is at stake, and often, once you choose a product, you are stuckwith that vendor for many years to come, sometimes paying software renewals after only 90 days, and hardware maintenance renewals after only a year when the warranty runs out.
Customers shopping for storage like the idea of a standardized test that is representative, so they can compare one vendor's claims with another. The Storage Performance Council (SPC), much like the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC-C) for servers, requires full disclosure of the test environment so people can see what was measured and make their own judgement on whether or not it reflects their workloads. Chuck pours scorn on SPC but I think we should point to TPC-C as a great success story and ask why he thinks the same can't happen for storage? Server performance is also a complicatedsubject, but people compare TPC-C and TPC-H benchmarks all the time.
Note:This blog post has been updated. I am retracting comments that were unfair generalizations. The next two paragraphs are different than originally posted.
Chuck states that "Anyone is free, however, to download the SPC code, lash it up to their CLARiiON, and have at it." I encourage every customer to do this with whatever disk systems they already have installed. Judge for yourself how each benchmark compares to your experience with your application workload, and consider publishing the results for the benefit of others, or at least send me the results, so that I can understand better all of these"use cases" that Chuck talks about so often. I agree that real-world performance measurements using real applications and real data are always going to be more accurate and more relevant to that particular customer. Unfortunately, there are little or no such results made public. They are noticeably absent. With thousands of customers running with storage from all the major storage vendors, as well as storage from smaller start-up companies, I would expect more performance comparison data to be readily available.
In my opinion, customers would benefit by seeing the performance results obtained by others. SPC benchmarks help to fill this void, to provide customers who have not yet purchased the equipment, and are looking for guidance of which vendors to work with, and which products to put into their consideration set.
Truth is, benchmarks are just one of the many ways to evaluate storage vendors and their products. There are also customer references, industry awards, and corporate statements of a company's financial health, strategy and vision.Like anything, it is information to weigh against other factors when making expensive decisions. And I am sure the SPC would be glad to hear of any suggestions for a third SPC-3 benchmark, if the first two don't provide you enough guidance.
So, if you are not delighted with the performance you are getting from your storage now, or would benefit by having even faster I/O, consider improving its performance by adding SAN Volume Controller. SVC is like salt or soy sauce, it makes everything taste better. IBM would be glad to help you with a try-and-buy or proof-of-concept approach, and even help you compare the performance, before and after, with whatever gear you have now. You might just be surprised how much better life is with SVC. And if, for some reason, the performance boost you experience for your unique workload is only 10-30% better with SVC, you are free to tell the world about your disappointment.
Wrapping up my week's discussion on Business Continuity, I've had lots of interest in myopinion stated earlier this week that it is good to separate programs from data, and thatthis simplifies the recovery process, and that the Windows operating system can fit in a partition as small asthe 15.8GB solid state drive we just announced for BladeCenter. It worked for me, and I will use this post to show you how to get it done.
Disclaimer: This is based entirely on what I know and have experienced with my IBM Thinkpad T60 running Windows XP, and is meant as a guide. If you are running with different hardware or different operating system software, some steps may vary.
(Warning: Windows Vista apparently handles data, Dual Boot, andPartitions differently. These steps may not work for Vista)
For this project, I have a DVD/CD burner in my Ultra-Bay, a stack of black CDs and DVDs, and a USB-attached 320GB external disk drive.
I like to backup the master boot record to one file, and then the rest of the C: drive to a series of 690MB compressed chunks. These can be directed to the USB-attached drive, and then later burned onto CDrom, or pack 6 files per DVD.Most USB-attached drives are formatted to FAT32 file system, which doesn't support any chunks greater than 2GB, so splitting these up into 690MB is well below that limit.
You can learn more about these commands here and here.
Step 1 - Defrag your C: drive
From Windows, right-click on your Recycle Bin and select "Empty Recycle Bin".
Click Start->Programs->Accessories->System Tools->Disk Defragmenter. Select C: drive and push the Analyze button. You will see a bunch of red, blue and white vertical bars. If there are any greenbars, we need to fix that. The following worked for me:
Right-click "My Computer" and select Properties. Select Advanced, then press "Settings" buttonunder Performance. Select Advanced tab and press the "Change" button under Virtual Memory.Select "No Paging File" and press the "Set" button. Virtual memory lets you have many programs open, moving memory back and forth between your RAM and hard disk.
Click Start->Control Panel->Performance and Maintenance->Power Options. On the Hibernate tab,make sure the "Enable Hibernation" box is un-checked. I don't use Hibernate, as it seems likeit takes just as long to come back from Hibernation as it does to just boot Windows normally.
Reboot your system to Windows.
If all went well, Windows will have deleted both pagefile.sys and hiberfil.sys, the twomost common unmovable files, and free up 2GB of space. You can run just fine without either of these features, but if you want them back, we will put them back on Step 6 below.
Go back to Disk Defragmenter, verify there are no green bars, andproceed by pressing the "Defragment" button. If there are still some green bars,you can proceed cautiously (you can always restore from your backup right?), or seek professional help.
Step 2 - Resize your C: drive
When the defrag is done, we are ready to re-size your file system. This can be done with commercial software like Partition Magic.If you don't have this, you can use open source software. Burn yourself the Gparted LiveCD.This is another Linux LiveCD, and is similar to Partition Magic.
Either way, re-size the C: drive smaller. In theory, you can shrink it down to 15GB if this is a fresh install of Windows, and there is no data on it. If you have lots of data, and the drive wasnearly full, only resize the C: drive smaller by 2GB. That is how much we freed upfrom the unmovable files, so that should be safe.
You could do steps 2 and 3 while you are here, but I don't recommend it. Just re-size C:press the "Apply" button, reboot into Windows, and verify everything starts correctly before going to the next step.
Step 3 - Create Extended Paritition and Logical D: drive
You can only have FOUR partitions, either Primary for programs, or Extended for data. However, theExtended partition can act as a container of one or more logical partitions.
Get back into Partition Magic or Gparted program, and in the unused space freed up from re-sizing inthe last step, create a new extended/logical partition. For now, just have one logical inside theextended, but I have co-workers who have two logical partitions, D: for data, and E: for their e-mailfrom Lotus Notes. You can always add more logical partitions later.
I selected "NTFS" type for the D: drive. In years past, people chose the older FAT32 type, but this has some limitations, but allowed read/write capability from DOS, OS/2, and Linux.Windows XP can only format up to 32GB partitions of FAT32, and each file cannot be bigger than 2GB.I have files bigger than that. Linux can now read/write NTFS file systems directly, using the new NTFS-3Gdriver, so that is no longer an issue.
Step 4 - Format drive D: as NTFS
Just because you have told your partitioning program that D: was NTFS type, you stillhave to put a file system on it.
Click Start->Control Panel->Performance and Maintenance->Computer Management. Under Storage, select Disk Management. Right-click your D: drive and choose format.Make sure the "Perform Quick Format" box is un-checked, so that it peforms slowly.
Step 5 - Move data from C: to D: drive
Create two directories, "D:\documents" and "D:\notes\data", either through explorer, or in a commandline window with "MKDIR documents notes\data" command.
Move files from c:\notes\data to d:\notes\data, and any folder in your "My Documents" over to d:\documents.
(If you have more data than the size of the D: drive, copy over what you can, run another defrag, resize your C: drive even smaller with Partition Magic or Gparted, Reboot, verify Windows is still working,resize your D: bigger, and repeat the process until you have all of your data moved over.)
To inform Lotus Notes that all of your data is now on the D: drive, use NOTEPAD to edit notes.ini and change the Directory line to "Directory=D:\notes\data". If you have a special signature file, leave it in C:\notes directory.
Once all of your data is moved over to D:\documents, right-click on "My Documents" and select Properties. Change the target to "D:\documents" and press "Move" button. Now, whenever you select "My Documents", youwill be on your D: drive instead.
Step 6 - Take A Fresh Backup
If you use IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, now would be a good time to re-evaluate your "dsm.opt" file that listswhat drives and sub-directories to backup. Take a backup, and verify your data is being backed up correctly.
With the USB-attached, backup both C: and D: drives. I leave my USB drive back in Tucson. For a backup copywhile traveling, go to IBM Rescue and Recovery and take a C:-only backup to DVD. Make sure D: drive box is un-checked. Now, if I ever need to reinstall Windows, because of file system corruption or virus, I can do this from my one bootable CD plus 2 DVDs, which I can easily carry with me in my laptop bag, leaving all my data on the D: drive in tact.
In the worst case, if I had to re-format the whole drive or get a replacement disk, I can restore C: and thenrestore the few individual data files I need from IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, or small USB key/thumbdrive,delaying a full recovery until I return to Tucson.
Lastly, if you want, reactivate "Virtual Memory" and "Hibernation" features that we disabled in Step 1.
As with Business Continuity in the data center, planning in this manner can help you get back "up and running"quickly in the event of a disaster.
Continuing this week's theme on Business Continuity, I will use this post to discuss this week'sIBM solid state disk announcement.This new offering provides a new way to separate programs from data, to help minimizedowntime and outages normally associated with disk drive failures.
Until now, the method most people used to minimize the amount of data on internalstorage was to use disk-less servers with Boot-Over-SAN, however, not all operating systems, and not all disk systems, supported this.
Windows, however, is not supported, because of the small 4GB size and USB protocol limitations. For Windows, you would add a SAS drive, you boot from this hard drive, and use the 4GB Flash drive for data only.
So what's new this time? Here's a quick recap of July 17 announcement. For the IBM BladeCenter HS21 XM blade servers, new models of internal "disk" storage:
Single drive model
A single 15.8GB solid-state disk drive, based on SATA protocol. In addition to theLinux operating systems mentioned above, the capacity and SATA protocols allowsyou to boot 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 2003 Server R2, with plans in placeto other platforms in the future, such as VMware. I am able to run my laptop Windows with only 15GB of C: drive, separating my data to a separate D: partition, so this appears to be a reasonable size.
Dual drive model
The dual drive fits in the space of a single 2.5-inch HDD drive bay.You can combine these in either RAID 0 or RAID 1 mode.
RAID 0 gives you a total of 31.6GB, but is riskier. If you lose either drive,you lose all your data. Michael Horowitz of Cnet covers the risks of RAID zerohere andhere.However, if you are just storing your operating system and application, easily re-loadable from CD or DVD in the case of loss, then perhaps that is a reasonable risk/benefit trade-off.
RAID 1 keeps the capacity at 15.8GB, but provides added protection. If you loseeither drive, the server keeps running on the surviving drive, allowing you to schedule repair actions when convenient and appropriate. This would be the configuration I would recommend for most applications.
Until recently, solid state storage was available at a price premium only. Flash prices have dropped 50% annually while capacities have doubled. This trend is expected to continue through 2009.
According to recent studies from Google and Carnegie Mellon, hard drives fail more oftenthan expected. By one account, conventional hard disk drives internal to the server account for as much as 20-50% of component replacements.IBM analysis indicates that the replacement rate of a solid state drive on a typical blade server configuration is only about 1% per year, vs. 3% or more mentionedin the these studies for traditional disk drives.
Flash drives use non-volatile memory instead of moving parts, so less likely to break down during high external environmental stress conditions, like vibration and shock, or extreme temperature ranges (-0C° to +70°C) that would make traditional hard disks prone to failure.This is especially important for our telecommunications clients, who are always looking for solutions that are NEBS Level 3 compliant.
As with any SATA drive, performance depends on workload.Solid state drives perform best as OS boot devices, taking only a few secondslonger to boot an OS than from a traditional 73GB SAS drive. Flash drives also excel in applications featuring random read workloads, such as web servers. For random and sequential write workloads, use SAS drives instead for higher levels of performance.
Part of IBM's Project Big Green, these flash drives are very energy efficient. Thanks to sophisticated power management software, the power requirement of the solid state drive can be 95 percent better than that of a traditional 73GB hard disk drive. These 15.8GB drives use only 2W per drive versus as much as 10W per 2.5” hard drive and 16W per 3.5” hard drive. The resulting power savings can be up to 1,512 watts per server rack, with 50% heat reduction.
So, even though this is not part of the System Storage product line, I am very excitedfor IBM. To find out if this will work in your environment, go to the IBM Server Provenwebsite that lists compatability with hardware, applications and middleware, or review the latest Configuration and Options Guide (COG).
Continuing this week's theme on Business Continuity, I thought I would explore more on the identification of scenarios to help drive appropriate planning. As I mentioned in my last post, this should be done first.
A recent post in Anecdote talks about the long list of cognitive biases which affect business decision making. This list is a good explanation of why so many people have a difficult time identifying appropriate recovery scenarios as the basis for Business Continuity planning. Their "cognitive biases" get in the way.
Again, using my IBM Thinkpad T60 laptop as an example, here are a variety of different scenarios:
Corrupted File System
Some file systems are more fragile than others. If your NTFS file system gets corrupted, you might be able to run
CHKDSK C: /F
but this just puts damaged blocks into dummy files, it doesn't really repair your files back to their pre-damage level.All kinds of things can damage the file system, including viruses, software defects, and user error.
I keep my programs and data in separate file systems. C: has my Windows operating system and applications, and D: holds my pure data. If one file system is corrupted, the other one might be in tact, mitigating the risk.
Hard Disk Crash
Hopefully, you will have temporary read/write errors to provide warning prior to a complete failure. In theory, if I kept a spare hard disk in my laptop bag, I could swap out the bad drive with the good drive. I don't have that. The three times that I have had a disk failure all occurred while I was in Tucson.
Instead, I keep the few files I need for my trip on a separate USB key, and carry bootable Live CD, which allows you to boot entirely from CDrom drive, either to run applications, or perform rescue operations.
The latest one that I am trying out is Ubuntu Linux, which has OpenOffice 2.2 that can read/write PowerPoint, Word, and Excel spreadsheets; Firefox web browser; Gimp graphics software; and a variety of other applications, all in a 700MB CDrom image. I even have been able to get Wireless (Wi-Fi) working with it, and the process to create your own customized Live CD with the your own application packages is fairly straightforward. Combined with a writeable USB key, you can actually get work done this way. Special thanks to IBM blogger Bob Sutor for pointing me to this.
(If you have a DVD-RAM drive, there are bigger Live CDs from SUSE and RedHat Fedora that provide even more applications)
Laptop Shell Failure
This might catch some people by surprise. I have had the keyboard, LCD screen, or some essential port/plug fail on my laptop. The disk drive and CDrom drive work fine, but unless you have another "laptop" to stick them into, they don't help you recover. This can also happen if the motherboard fails, or the battery is unable to hold a charge.
IBM provides a 24-hour turn around fix. Basically, IBM sends me a laptop shell, no drive, no CDrom, with instructions to move the disk drive and CDrom drive from your broken shell, to the new shell, then send the bad shell back in the same shipping box.
Here, again, I am thankful that I keep my key files on an USB key. Often I travel with other IBMers, and can borrow their laptop to make presentations, check my e-mail, or other work, until I can get my replacement shell. In you are travelling outside the US, you might be able to move your disk drive into a colleague's laptop, access the data, copy it to your USB key or burn a copy on CD or DVD.
In a data center, many outages are really "failures to access data", but the data is safe. For example, power outages, network outages, and so on, can prevent people from using their IT systems, but the data is safe when these are re-established.
At times, I have been temporarily separated from my laptop. Three examples:
A higher level executive had technical difficulties with his laptop, and usurped mine instead.
A colleague forgot his power supply for his laptop, and borrowed my laptop instead. (I wish there were a standard for laptop power plug connectors)
Customs agents confiscate your laptop, give you a receipt, and eventually you get it back.
In all cases, I was glad that no "recovery" was required, and that the few files I needed were on my USB key. A few times, I was able to get by on the machines available at the nearest Internet Cafe, in the meantime.
With some imagination, you can recognize that this scenario is similar to the previous one for laptop shell failure.Here is a good example that you can identify different scenarios, and then later discover they have similar properties in terms of recovery, and can be treated as one.
Laptops are stolen every day. Luckily, I've only had this happen twice to me in my career at IBM, and I managed to get a replacement soon enough. The key lesson here is to keep your USB key and recovery media in separate luggage.I know it is more convenient to keep all computer-related stuff in one place, but a thief is going to take your whole laptop bag, to make sure that all cables and power supplies are included, and is not going to leave anything behind. That would just slow them down.
In each case, some brainstorming, or personal experience, can help identify scenarios, identify what makes them unique from a recovery perspective, and plan accordingly. If you looking to create or upgrade your Business Continuity plan, give IBM a call, we can help!
This week and next I am touring Asia, meeting with IBM Business Partners and sales repsabout our July 10 announcements.
Clark Hodge might want to figure out where I am, given the nuclearreactor shutdowns from an earthquake in Japan. His theory is that you can follow my whereabouts just by following the news of major power outages throughout the world.
So I thought this would be a good week to cover the topic of Business Continuity, which includes disaster recovery planning. When making Business Continuity plans, I find it best to work backwards. Think of the scenarios that wouldrequire such recovery actions to take place, then figure out what you need to have at hand to perform the recovery, and then work out the tasks and processes to make sure those things are created and available when and where needed.
I will use my IBM Thinkpad T60 as an example of how this works. Last week, I was among several speakers making presentations to an audience in Denver, and this involved carrying my laptop from the back of the room, up to the front of the room, several times. When I got my new T60 laptop a year ago, it specifically stated NOT to carry the laptop while the disk drive was spinning, to avoid vibrations and gyroscopic effects. It suggested always putting the laptop in standby, hibernate or shutdown mode, prior to transportation, but I haven't gotten yet in the habit of doing this. After enough trips back and forth, I had somehow corrupted my C: drive. It wasn't a complete corruption, I could still use Microsoft PowerPoint to show my slides, but other things failed, sometimes the fatal BSOD and other times less drastically. Perhaps the biggest annoyance was that I lost a few critical DLL files needed for my VPN software to connect to IBM networks, so I was unable to download or access e-mail or files inside IBM's firewall.
Fortunately, I had planned for this scenario, and was able to recover my laptop myself, which is important when you are on the road and your help desk is thousands of miles away. (In theory, I am now thousands of miles closer to our help desk folks in India and China, but perhaps further away from those in Brazil.) Not being able to respond to e-mail for two days was one thing, but no access for two weeks would have been a disaster! The good news: My system was up and running before leaving for the trip I am on now to Asia.
Following my three-step process, here's how this looks:
Step 1: Identify the scenario
In this case, my scenario is that the file system the runs my operating system is corrupted, but my drive does not have hardware problems. Running PC-Doctor confirmed the hardware was operating correctly. This can happen in a variety of ways, from errant application software upgrades, malicious viruses, or in my case, picking up your laptop and carrying it across the room while the disk drive is spinning.
Step 2: Figure out what you need at hand
All I needed to do was repair or reload my file sytem. "Easier said than done!" you are probably thinking. Many people use IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) to back up their application settings and data. Corporate include/exclude lists avoid backing up the same Windows files from everyone's machines. This is great for those who sit at the same desk, in the same building, and would be given a new machine with Windows pre-installed as the start of their recovery process. If on the other hand you are traveling, and can't access your VPN to reach your TSM server, you have to do something else. This is often called "Bare Metal Restore" or "Bare Machine Recovery", BMR for short in both cases.
I carry with me on business trips bootable rescue compact discs, DVDs of full system backup of my Windows operating system, and my most critical files needed for each specific trip on a separate USB key. So, while I am on the road, I can re-install Windows, recover my applications, and copy over just the files I need to continue on my trip, and then I can do a more thorough recovery back in the office upon return.
Step 3: Determine the tasks and processes
In addition to backing up with IBM TSM, I also use IBM Thinkvantage Rescue and Recovery to make local backups. IBM Rescue and Recovery is provided with IBM Thinkpad systems, and allows me to backup my entire system to an external 320GB USB drive that I can leave behind in Tucson, as well as create bootable recovery CD and DVDs that I can carry with me while traveling.
The problem most people have with a full system backup is that their data changes so frequently, they would have to take backups too often, or recover "very old" data. Most Windows systems are pre-formatted as one huge C: drive that mixes programs and data together. However, I follow best practice, separating programs from data. My C: drive contains the Windows operating system, along with key applications, and the essential settings needed to make them run. My D: drive contains all my data. This has the advantage that I only have to backup my C: drive, and this fits nicely on two DVDs. Since I don't change my operating system or programs that often, and monthly or quarterly backup is frequent enough.
In my situation in Denver, only my C: drive was corrupted, so all of my data on D: drive was safe and unaffected.
When it comes to Business Continuity, it is important to prioritize what will allow you to continue doing business, and what resources you need to make that happen. The above concepts apply from laptops to mainframes. If you need help creating or updating your Business Continuity plan, give IBM a call.