This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to IBM Systems, storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
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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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This week, I am in beautiful Sao Paulo, Brazil, teaching Top Gun class to IBM Business Partners and sales reps. Traditionally, we have "Tape Thursday" where we focus on our tape systems, from tape drives, to physical and virtual tape libraries. IBM is the number #1 tape vendor, and has been for the past eight years.
(The alliteration doesn't translate well here in Brazil. The Portuguese word for tape is "fita", and Thursday here is "quinta-feira", but "fita-quinta-feira" just doesn't have the same ring to it.)
In the class, we discussed how to handle common misperceptions and myths about tape. Here are a few examples:
Myth 1: Tape processing is manually intensive
In my July 2007 blog post [Times a Million], I coined the phrase "Laptop Mentality" to describe the problem most people have dealing with data center decisions. Many folks extend linearly their experiences using their PCs, workstations or laptops to apply to the data center, unable to comprehend large numbers or solutions that take advantage of the economies of scale.
For many, the only experience dealing with tape was manual. In the 1980s, we made "mix tapes" on little cassettes, and in the 1990s we recorded our favorite television shows on VHS tapes in the VCR. Today, we have playlists on flash or disk-based music players, and record TV shows on disk-based video recorders like Tivo. The conclusion is that tapes are manual, and disk are not.
Manual processing of tapes ended in 1987, with the introduction of a silo-like tape library from StorageTek. IBM quickly responded with its own IBM 3495 Tape Library Data Server in 1992. Today, clients have many tape automation choices, from the smallest IBM TS2900 Tape Autoloader that has one drive and nine cartridges, all the way to the largest IBM TS3500 multiple-library shuttle complex that can hold exabytes of data. These tape automation systems eliminate most of the manual handling of cartridges in day-to-day operations.
Myth 2: Tape media is less reliable than disk media
For any storage media to be unreliable is to return the wrong information that is different than what was originally stored. There are only two ways for this to happen: if you write a "zero" but read back a "one", or write a "one" and read a "zero". This is called a bit error. Every storage media has a "bit error rate" that is the average likelihood for some large amount of data written.
According to the latest [LTO Bit Error rates, 2012 March], today's tape expects only 1 bit error per 10E17 bits written (about 100 Petabytes). This is 10 times more reliable than Enterprise SAS disk (1 bit per 10E16), and 100 times more reliable than Enterprise-class SATA disk (1 bit per 10E15).
Tape is the media used in "black boxes" for airplanes. When an airplane crashes, the black box is retrieved and used to investigate the causes of the crash. In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after take-off. The tapes in the black box sat on the ocean floor for six weeks before being recovered. Amazingly, IBM was able to successfully restore [90 percent of the block data, and 100 percent of voice data].
Analysts are quite upset when they are quoted out of context, but in this case, Gartner never said anything closely similar to this. Nor did the other analysts that Curtis investigated for similar claims. What Garnter did say was that disk provides an attractive alternative storage media for backup which can increase the performance of the recovery process.
Back in the 1990s, Savur Rao and I developed a patent to help backup DB2 for z/OS by using the FlashCopy feature of IBM's high-end disk system. The software method to coordinate the FlashCopy snapshots with the database application and maintain multiple versions was implemented in the DFSMShsm component of DFSMS. A few years later, this was part of a set of patents IBM cross-licensed to Microsoft for them to implement a similar software for Windows called Data Protection Manager (DPM). IBM has since introduced its own version for distributed systems called IBM Tivoli FlashCopy Manager that runs not just on Windows, but also AIX, Linux, HP-UX and Solaris operating systems.
Curtis suspects the "71 percent" citation may have been propogated by an ambitious product manager of Microsoft's Data Protection Manager, back in 2006, perhaps to help drive up business to their new disk-based backup product. Certainly, Microsoft was not the only vendor to disparage tape in this manner.
A few years ago, an [EMC failure brought down the State of Virginia] due to not just a component failure it its production disk system, but then made it worse by failing to recover from the disk-based remote mirror copy. Fortunately, the data was able to be restored from tape over the next four days. If you wonder why nobody at EMC says "Tape is Dead" anymore, perhaps it is because tape saved their butts that week.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM and this post can be considered a paid, celebrity endorsement for all of the IBM tape and software products mentioned on this post. I own shares of stock in both IBM and Google, and use Google's Gmail for my personal email, as well as many other Google services. While IBM, Google and Microsoft can be considered competitors to each other in some areas, IBM has working relationships with both companies on various projects. References in this post to other companies like EMC are merely to provide illustrative examples only, based on publicly available information. IBM is part of the Linear Tape Open (LTO) consortium.)
Myth 4: Vendors and Manufacturers are no longer investing in tape technology
IBM and others are still investing Research and Development (R&D) dollars to improve tape technology. What people don't realize is that much of the R&D spent on magnetic media can be applied across both disk and tape, such as IBM's development of the Giant Magnetoresistance read/write head, or [GMR] for short.
Most recently, IBM made another major advancement with tape with the introduction of the Linear Tape File Systems (LTFS). This allows greater portability to share data between users, and between companies, but treating tape cartridges much like USB memory sticks or pen drives. You can read more in my post [IBM and Fox win an Emmy for LTFS technology]!
Next month, IBM celebrates the 60th anniversary for tape. It is good to see that tape continues to be a vibrant part of the IT industry, and to IBM's storage business!
This week I'm in Argentina, teaching IBM Business Partners and sales reps about the latest System Storage products. Encouraged by my success on my Digital IBMer tour last month in Europe, I decided to get a SIM chip for my smartphone here in Buenos Aires.
I did my homework. There are three major mobile service providers that offer pre-paid GSM-based SIM chips: Claro, Movistar, and Personal. I arrived on Sunday morning, but thanks to the local [blue laws], none of them were open. I was able to walk around and find retail outlets for each within blocks of my hotel.
All three offer voice and SMS text messaging, but online reviews indicated that Movistar offered the best data plan. I was there at 9:30am sharp, the moment the Movistar store opened Monday morning. The lovely young lady behind the counter was quite helpful. She put the SIM chip in my phone, but then told me it might be an hour or two before it was activated. I would receive an SMS text message welcoming me to the Movistar network. She provided my new 12-digit phone number, along with instructions on how to check my balance (*444) or call for technical assistance (*611).
(FTC Disclosure: even though I am not in the United States as I write this, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission rules require that I mention that this blog post is not intended as a paid or celebrity endorsement for any of the cellphone service providers mentioned. I work for IBM, and this post is based entirely on my personal experience.)
Why not just use international roaming available on my US plan? International roaming is quite expensive! I made the mistake of uploading three hi-res photos to Flickr last year in New Zealand to discover this the hard way. Here is a comparison chart:
Voice calls (per minute)
$2.80 pesos (about $0.64 USD)
SMS text (per message sent)
$0.90 pesos (about $0.20 USD)
$10.00 pesos for 1GB across 2 days (about $2.27 USD)
(If your spouse or significant other threatens to leave you if you don't call her every day while out of the country, remind her that divorce attorneys are less expensive than these international roaming rates! Fortunately, all of my friends and family know this and are quite understanding if they don't here from me as often as they would like.)
The SIM chip cost only 30 pesos (about seven bucks). Normally, SIM chips come without credit, but their current promotion included 20 pesos credit for voice calls (enough for 7 minutes of talking), and 200 free SMS text messages.
Six hours later, my phone still was not yet activated. I returned to the store Monday afternoon to ask what was going on. She decided the chip must be bad, gave me a second one, and assigned me a new phone number. I would then have to wait again another hour or two for the welcome message.
Monday evening, a grey window pops up, "Bienvenidos a Movistar" so I thought it was activated, but it wasn't exactly the SMS text message the young lady told me would happen. Sure enough, neither *444 nor *611 worked, giving me voice responses that my phone is not yet activated, and please wait another hour.
Tuesday morning, I am back at the Movistar outlet. The young lady was not happy to see me. She confirmed my second chip was not yet activated, but felt she did nothing wrong. She insisted the problem was either with my phone, or with the Movistar main office, but that she did everything correctly by the book.
(I realize that the sales clerks at these outlet stores don't have a Ph.D. in digital telephony or electrical engineering. I was not angry, nor trying to blame her individually for all of the problems we encountered. Getting a smartphone manufactured in South Korea for the US market to work in Argentina is challenging enough. Given all the difficulties I had last month in Europe, I know it is not limited to Latin America.)
Either way, I told her, if we can't get my phone working, I would like my 30 pesos refunded and promised she would never see me again.
Her response was classic. She would rather not-see me-again because I was delighted with the Movistar service, rather than not-see me-again because we were unable to get it working. She offered to contact the main office to figure out what was going on, and that I should come back in an hour or two. She did not want to lose my business, nor have me go to one of her two main competitors. Now that's customer service!
Tuesday afternoon, I return. She now was instructed on how to do some basic problem determination. We put my new SIM chip into a test phone, and confirmed it was not my phone having problems. The chip did not work in the test phone either. She called the main office, and they were able to activate the chip in the test phone, and then she transferred the chip back to my phone. I asked her to please call my new phone number to confirm it was now working, and I was able to send a quick text message to confirm that was also working. The *444 indcated that my balance was now down to 19.29 pesos. Apparently, it cost me 71 centavos to receive her phone call.
(Just as we were wrapping up, a young man walks in with his phone wanting a SIM chip. None of the Movistar staff spoke English, he did not speak Spanish, but luckily I speak both fluently and was able to translate.
First, we confirmed his phone was still locked, and that he would need to contact his AT&T provider to get an unlock code. He should then come back with the unlock code and his passport to then buy the chip. He didn't understand why Movistar needed his passport for a pre-paid plan, so I had to explain to him at length Argentinian law, the Denied Parties List, the ongoing war against terror and drug trafficking, and how he would have to agree to their Terms and Conditions to use their service, even if there is no ongoing monthly service contract.
He thanked me, promised to return with both his unlock code and passport, and told me my English was "quite good"!)
The next step was to activate my data plan. For this, I would need to buy additional credit. Scratch cards to add credit to your pre-paid phone, referred to locally as "Tarjeta de Recarga", come in 20 and 30-peso denomnations, but are not sold at the Movistar outlet. Instead, the young lady told me to get one at any kiosk or corner convenience store.
As it turns out, not every convenience store offers these cards for Movistar, but after a few blocks, I was able to find one that did. The process is simple: call *444, follow the Spanish-language prompts, scratch off the back of the card, and enter the 16-digit code. I bought a 20-peso card (about $4.50 USD), followed the procedure, and got my confirmation text, indicating that I qualified for 10 extra pesos as a gift for being a new customer, so my new balance was now $49.29 pesos. Woo-hoo!
Now that my phone was armed with enough credit, all I had to do was send an SMS text message containing the word "Datos" to the Movistar phone number 2345. A text message response indicated my data plan was now active. I will have to do this every other day, as the plan is 1GB per 2-day period, but I have enough credit to last me the rest of the week here. To get my phone to detect the new status, I had to turn on data packet traffic, configure and validate the Access Point Name (APN) information, then reboot the phone.
The data plan service is based on the General Packet Radio Service [GPRS] protocol. GPRS is a best-effort service, resulting in variable throughput and latency that depends on the number of other users sharing the service concurrently. Speeds are comparable to dial-up rates, 56 to 114 Kbps.
For those of us spoiled on T-Mobile's 4G speeds in the USA, GPRS is terribly slow. But that's OK. I doubt I will go over the 1GB limit. Overall, I am quite pleased with my success. My phone is fully functional for the week, and all for less than the cost of a single glass of Malbec in the Hilton lobby bar!
Well, it's Wednesday, and you know what that means... IBM Announcements!
(Actually most IBM announcements are on Tuesdays, but IBM gave me extra time to recover from my trip to Europe!)
Today, IBM announced [IBM PureSystems], a new family of expert-integrated systems that combine storage, servers, networking, and software, based on IBM's decades of experience in the IT industry. You can register for the [Launch Event] today (April 11) at 2pm EDT, and download the companion "Integrated Expertise" event app for Apple, Android or Blackberry smartphones.
(If you are thinking, "Hey, wait a minute, hasn't this been done before?" you are not alone. Yes, IBM introduced the System/360 back in 1964, and the AS/400 back in 1988, so today's announcement is on scheduled for this 24-year cycle. Based on IBM's past success in this area, others have followed, most recently, Oracle, HP and Cisco.)
Initially, there are two offerings:
IBM PureFlex™ System
IBM PureFlex is like IaaS-in-a-box, allowing you to manage the system as a pool of virtual resources. It can be used for private cloud deployments, hybrid cloud deployments, or by service providers to offer public cloud solutions. IBM drinks its own champagne, and will have no problem integrating these into its [IBM SmartCloud] offerings.
To simplify ordering, the IBM PureFlex comes in three tee-shirt sizes: Express, Standard and Enterprise.
IBM PureFlex is based on a 10U-high, 19-inch wide, standard rack-mountable chassis that holds 14 bays, organized in a 7 by 2 matrix. Unlike BladeCenter where blades are inserted vertically, the IBM PureFlex nodes are horizontal. Some of the nodes take up a single bay (half-wide), but a few are full-wide, take up two bays, the full 19-inch width of the chassis. Compute and storage snap in the front, while power supplies, fans, and networking snap in the back. You can fit up to four chassis in a standard 42U rack.
Unlike competitive offerings, IBM does not limit you to x86 architectures. Both x86 and POWER-based compute nodes can be mixed into a single chassis. Out of the box, the IBM PureFlex supports four operating systems (AIX, IBM i, Linux and Windows), four server hypervisors (Hyper-V, Linux KVM, PowerVM, and VMware), and two storage hypervisors (SAN Volume Controller and Storwize V7000).
There are a variety of storage options for this. IBM will offer SSD and HDD inside the compute nodes themselves, direct-attached storage nodes, and an integrated version of the Storwize V7000 disk system. Of course, every IBM System Storage product is supported as external storage. Since Storwize V7000 and SAN Volume Controller support external virtualization, many non-IBM devices will be supported automatically as well.
Networking is also optimized, with options for 10Gb and 40Gb Ethernet/FCoE, 40Gb and 56Gb Infiniband, 8Gbps and 16Gbps Fibre Channel. Much of the networking traffic can be handled within the chassis, to minimize traffic on external switches and directors.
For management, IBM offers the Flex System Manager, that allows you to manage all the resources from a single pane of glass. The goal is to greatly simplify the IT lifecycle experience of procurement, installation, deployment and maintenance.
IBM PureApplication™ System
IBM PureApplication is like PaaS-in-a-box. Based on the IBM PureFlex infrastructure, the IBM PureApplication adds additional software layers focused on transactional web, business logic, and database workloads. Initially, it will offer two platforms: Linux platform based on x86 processors, Linux KVM and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL); and a UNIX platform based on POWER7 processors, PowerVM and AIX operating system. It will be offered in four tee-shirt sizes (small, medium, large and extra large).
In addition to having IBM's middleware like DB2 and WebSphere optimized for this platform, over 600 companies will announce this week that they will support and participate in the IBM PureSystems ecosystem as well. Already, there are 150 "Patterns of Expertise" ready to deploy from IBM PureSystem Centre, a kind of a "data center app store", borrowing an idea used today with smartphones.
By packaging applications in this manner, workloads can easily shift between private, hybrid and public clouds.
If you are unhappy with the inflexibility of your VCE Vblock, HP Integrity, or Oracle ExaLogic, talk to your local IBM Business Partner or Sales Representative. We might be able to buy your boat anchor off your hands, as part of an IBM PureSystems sale, with an attractive IBM Global Financing plan.
Well, another week has gone by, and I am now back from my grand "Digital IBMer" trip to Europe! Here's what the second week involved.
Prague, Czech Republic
The cold and rainy weather followed us from Berlin! We were able to go to the old castle, light a candle for a friend in the hospital at the St. Vitus Cathedral, and walk across the famous Charles Bridge to go see the Astronomical Clock.
We stayed in the "Blind Eye" hostel, which was an awesome place, with friendly and helpful staff.
The weather was much nicer in Vienna, giving us a chance to see the palace and surrounding gardens. In front of the palace was an "Easter Market" where booths sold various arts and crafts, as well as delicious food and drink. I had a slab of ham, a pile of mustard, and a cup of [Glühwein], a hot drink made from mulled red wine.
I met several people at the hostel Ruthensteiner, from the UK, Argentina and Spain, and we all went out drinking at a Polish pub down the street.
The next morning we walked through the city center. We learned that this week leading up to Easter Sunday--known as Semana Santa in some countries--was also "Spring Break" for many students, which explained why we were starting to have a harder time finding hostels to stay at.
Salzburg means "City of Salt" and the salt mines in the area allowed the landlords to get rich. If you have seen the movie [The Sound of Music] then you already know how beautiful Salzburg is. The castle was incredible, and was used for military purposes until 1861, when it was opened to the public.
Inside the castle is an awesome museum for [Marionettes], which are puppets controlled from above by strings, still used in productions today.
Unable to find a youth hostel, we stayed in the lovely Alderhof Pension Hotel. It was quiet and well-situated near the main train station.
At Munich, we decide to take [Sandeman's "New Europe" free guided city walking tour]. It is free, in that the tour guides work entirely for tips. Tours were available in English or Spanish. This was about three hours long, and we gladly tipped heavily for such an informational tour of everything from the Glockenspiel to the Residenz palace. One stop on the tour was to see the main "Beer Garden" where rows and rows of people enjoying beer in the beautiful weather.
While in Munich, I was invited to see a sneak preview of the movie [Iron Sky], a campy, politically-incorrect, low-budget sci-fi comedy made in Europe with a mix of English language dialogue, and German language dialogue with English subtitles. The year is 2018, a woman that looks a lot like Sarah Palin is now president of the United States, and Nazis that have set up a moon-based space station back in 1945 are ready to attack. If you liked the movies "White Chicks" and "Battlefield Earth", then you might enjoy this one as well. You may need to know a bit about the history of the third Reich, the operas of Wagner, and the movie [The Great Dictator] by Charlie Chaplin, to make sense of some of the inside jokes.
We visited Heidelberg on [Good Friday and the place was a ghost town. The streets were nearly empty, and the tourist shops didn't open until 10am. Despite this, we managed to take the funicular train up the mountain to visit the castle, visit an interesting Pharmacy Museum, see the world's largest wine barrel, have a traditional German lunch, and take pictures of the old stone bridge.
We got back to Frankfurt and left Saturday morning to fly back to the United States.
We managed to visit 11 cities in six different countries over the course of 16 days. I was able to learn quite a lot about the use of mobile apps to book hotels and find the appropriate trains to get around each country, take advantage of social media to determine what to see and do, and the use of cloud to store my photos, videos and notes along the way.
Has it been a week already? I am here in Europe checking out various options for mobile, social media and cloud on my "Digital IBMer" tour. Here´s where we have been so far...
We landed at the Frankfurt airport, which will serve as our starting and ending point. It is close to Mainz where my IBM colleagues at the Executive Briefing Center for Germany is located. I looked throughout the airport for a SIM chip for my smartphone that worked in all European countries, but nobody had one for sale. We had lunch while we wait for the train to Brussels.
Our next stop was Brussels, capital of Belgium. The Belgians speak Flemish, which is like a Belgian version of Dutch, and French. I don´t speak Flemish nor Dutch, so I have been able to get by on French here. The Hotel Opera was near the central station, but we got off at the Bruxelles-Midi, thinking that Midi meant middle, or central of the city, but is Flemish (er.. make that French) for South instead, so we had a bit of walking to do!
Bruges is only an hour train ride from Brussels and is worth seeing. Our Eurail pass makes it easy just to go from city to city by train. Our particular one allows us first class travel through 23 countries for 15 contiguous days. We had lunch at the central square, and for dessert... Belgian Waffle-on-a-stick! Mine was covered in powdered sugar, and soon the rest of me was also.
Through tweets on Twitter, I was able to meet up with Stef, a local storage administrator and fan of my blog, and go out for beers. Stef was kind enough to lend me a pre-paid SIM chip for my phone that provided data plan while I am in Belgium! Thank you Stef!
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Not surprisingly, Amsterdam is one of my favorite cities. It´s like Las Vegas without casinos. Our hotel, The Bulldog, is conveniently located in the center of town.
I met up with Joanne, a professional cellist (yes, she plays the Cello musical instrument for a living) who took us on a tour of the MuzikGebouw, which is where they hold concerts and events. Using the "Amsterdam City Guide" app from Travel Advisor on my smartphone, we followed one of their suggested self-guided walking tours. We also went to the Rijksmuseum, which is under construction, so only a subset of the art is on display.
From Amsterdam, we took a night train to Copenhagen. This is a 15-hour train ride, no dinner, but they give you breakfast. Men and women are in separate sleeping cars, and I was paired up with a business man, Danny, from Tiawan trying to sell clothing for firefighters.
Until now, I have managed with German, French and English, but I wasn´t sure about Danish, so I brought this "European Phrase Book" that has 14 languages. We stayed at the DanHostel, conveniently located near"Tivoli Park".
We have safely arrived to Berlin. Our train from Copenhagen to Hamburg went on a ferry boat to cross over the water! We are staying at Plus Berlin Hostel,which has a nice indoor swimming pool and dry sauna.
Until now, we have had beautiful sunny weather, but today is cold and dreary. We started out taking photos of all the graffiti in East Berlin we could find, but it started raining, so we changed plans and went to the world famous Pergamonmuseum.
Well, that´s my first week of adventure. Tomorrow, we leave for Prague in the Czech Republic!