Comment (1) Visits (22487)
Well it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means.. IBM announcements! Today, IBM announces that next Monday marks the 60th anniversary of first commercial digital tape storage system! I am on the East coast this week visiting clients, but plan to be back in Tucson in time for the cake and fireworks next Monday.
Note that I said first commercial tape system as tape itself, in various forms, [has been around since 4000 B.C.]. A little historical context might help:
According to the IBM Archives the [IBM 726 tape drive was formally announced May 21, 1952]. It was the size of a refrigerator, and the tape reel was the size of a large pizza. The next time you pull a frozen pizza from your fridge, you can remember this month's celebration!
When I first joined IBM in 1986, there were three kinds of IBM tape. The round reel called 3420, and the square cartridge called 3480, and the tubes that contained a wide swath of tape stored in honeycomb shelves called the [IBM 3850 Mass Storage System].
My first job at IBM was to work on DFHSM, which was specifically started in 1977 to manage the IBM 3850, and later renamed to the DFSMShsm component of the DFSMS element of the z/OS operating system. This software was instrumental in keeping disk and tape at high 80-95 percent utilization rates on mainframe servers.
While visiting a client in Detroit, the client loved their StorageTek tape automation silo, but didn't care for the StorageTek drives inside were incompatible with IBM formats. They wanted to put IBM drives into the StorageTek silos. I agreed it was a good idea, and brought this back to the attention of development. In a contentious meeting with management and engineers, I presented this feedback from the client.
Everyone in the room said IBM couldn't do that. I asked "Why not?" The software engineers I spoke to already said they could support it. With StorageTek at the brink of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I argued that IBM drives in their tape automation would ease the transition of our mainframe customers to an all-IBM environment.Was the reason related to business/legal concerns, or was their a hardware issue? It turned out to be a little of both. On the business side, IBM had to agree to work with StorageTek on service and support to its mutual clients in mixed environments. On the technical side, the drive had to be tilted 12 degrees to line up with the robotic hand. A few years later, the IBM silo-compatible 3592 drive was commercially available.
Rather than put StorageTek completely out of business, it had the opposite effect. Now that IBM drives can be put in StorageTek libraries, everyone wanted one, basically bringing StorageTek back to life. This forced IBM to offer its own tape automation libraries.
In 1993, I filed my first patent. It was for the RECYCLE function in DFHSM to consolidate valid data from partial tapes to fresh new tapes. Before my patent, the RECYCLE function selected tapes alphabetically, by volume serial (VOLSER). My patent evaluated all tapes based on how full they were, and sorted them least-full to most-full, to maximize the return of cartridges.
Different tape cartridges can hold different amounts of data, especially with different formats on the same media type, with or without compression, so calculating the percentage full turned out to be a tricky algorithm that continues to be used in mainframe environments today.
The patent was popular for cross-licensing, and IBM has since filed additional patents for this invention in other countries to further increase its license revenue for intellectual property.
In 1997, IBM launched the IBM 3494 Virtual Tape Server (VTS), the first virtual tape storage device, blending disk and tape to optimal effect. This was based off the IBM 3850 Mass Storage Systems, which was the first virtual disk system, that used 3380 disk and tape to emulate the older 3350 disk systems.
In the VTS, tape volume images would be emulated as files on a disk system, then later moved to physical tape. We would call the disk the "Tape Volume Cache", and use caching algorithms to decide how long to keep data in cache, versus destage to tape. However, there were only a few tape drives, and sometimes when the VTS was busy, there were no tape drives available to destage the older images, and the cache would fill up.
I had already solved this problem in DFHSM, with a function called pre-migration. The idea was to pre-emptively copy data to tape, but leave it also on disk, so that when it needed to be destaged, all we had to do was delete the disk copy and activate the tape copy. We patented using this idea for the VTS, and it is still used in the successor models of IBM Sysem Storage TS7740 virtual tape libraries today.
Today, tape continues to be the least expensive storage medium, about 15 to 25 times less expensive, dollar-per-GB, than disk technologies. A dollar of today's LTO-5 tape can hold 22 days worth of MP3 music at 192 Kbps recording. A full TS1140 tape cartridge can hold 2 million copies of the book "War and Peace".
(If you have not read the book, Woody Allen took a speed reading course and read the entire novel in just 20 minutes. He summed up the novel in three words: "It involves Russia." By comparison, in the same 20 minutes, at 650MB/sec, the TS1140 drive can read this novel over and over 390,000 times.)
If you have your own "war stories" about tape, I would love to hear them, please consider posting a comment below.
--- Charles Dudley Warner
In my September 2007 post [Supermarkets and Specialty Shops], I explain that there are two kinds of clients:
My how the IT landscape for vendors has evolved in just the past five years! Cisco starts to sell servers, and enters a "mini-mall" alliance with EMC and VMware to offer vBlock integrated stack of server, storage and switches with VMware as the software hypervisor. For those not familiar with the concept of mini-malls, these are typically rows of specialty shops. A shopper can park their car once, and do all their shopping from the various shops in the mini-mall. Not quite "one-stop" shopping of a supermarket, but tries to address the same need.
("Who do I call when it breaks?" -- The three companies formed a puppet company, the Virtual Computing Environment company, or VCE, to help answer that question!)
Among the many things IBM has learned in its 100+ years of experience, it is that clients want choices. Cisco figured this out also, and partnered with NetApp to offer the aptly-named FlexPod reference architecture. In effect, Cisco has two boyfriends, when she is with EMC, it is called a Vblock, and when she is with NetApp, it is called a FlexPod. I was lucky enough to find this graphic to help explain the three-way love triangle.
Did this move put a strain on the relationship between Cisco and EMC? Last month, EMC announced VSPEX, a FlexPod-like approach that provides a choice of servers, and some leeway for resellers to make choices to fit client needs better. Why limit yourself to Cisco servers, when IBM and HP servers are better? Is this an admission that Vblock has failed, and that VSPEX is the new way of doing things? No, I suspect it is just EMC's way to strike back at both Cisco and NetApp in what many are calling the "Stack Wars". (See [The Stack Wars have Begun!], [What is the Enterprise Stack?], or [The Fight for the Fully Virtualized Data Center] for more on this.)
(FTC Disclosure: I am both an employee and shareholder of IBM, so the U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this post a paid, celebrity endorsement of the IBM PureFlex system. IBM has working relationships with Cisco, NetApp, and Quantum. I was not paid to mention, nor have I any financial interest in, any of the other companies mentioned in this blog post. )
Chris Mellor and Timothy Prickett Morgan at The Register have a great series of posts exploring this new development: [EMC VSPEX storage torpedo could sink FlexPods], [El Reg hurls EMC onto the rack, drills into VSPEX], [We were right: EMC's VSPEX will take on FlexPods], and [How EMC stuffs channel cakeholes with VSPEX recipes].
Last month, IBM announced its new PureSystems family, ushering in a [new era in computing]. I invite you all to check out the many "Paterns of Expertise" available at the [IBM PureSystems Centre]. This is like an "app store" for the data center, and what I feel truly differentiates IBM's offerings from the rest.
The trend is obvious. Clients who previously purchased from specialty shops are discovering the cost and complexity of building workable systems from piece-parts from separate vendors has proven expensive and challenging. IBM PureFlex™ systems eliminate a lot of the complexity and effort, but still offer plenty of flexibility, choice of server processor types, choice of server and storage hypervisors, and choice of various operating systems.
There is still time to enroll for [IBM Edge], a conference focused on storage, to be held June 4-8 in Orlando, Florida. There is an early-bird discount until May 6!
I will be there all week! Here are the seven sessions I will be presenting at the Technical Edge side of the event:
I hope to see you all there!
technorati tags: IBM, Edge, Archive, Social Media, BOF, Data Footprint Reduction, Strategy, Smarter Planet, Smarter Computing, SONAS, Cloud, Taxonomy, Tivoli Storage, Productivity Center, TPC, IBM Watson
Comment (1) Visits (20604)
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:
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:
(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!