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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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In case you haven't noticed, IBM System Storage makes most of their announcements on Tuesdays. IBM announced a lot today, so here is a quick run-down.
Cisco storage networking products
IBM continues to resell Cisco switches and directors, but now can offer these with a 1-year IBM warranty.
The entry-level Cisco 9124offers 8 to 24 ports. For IBM BladeCenter, IBM now offers the Cisco10-port and 20-port modules that slide into the back of the chassis, and are functionally equivalent to the 9124.The original BladeCenter came with a 16-port module with 14 internal, but only 2 external, which severely hamperedbandwidth connectivity to external storage. These new modules provide more external ports to relieve that constraint.
The midrange Cisco9200switches have two models, both with 16 fixed ports, with the option for a blade that can provide 12, 24 or 48 additional ports. The 9216A has 16 FCP ports, and the 9216i has 14 FCP ports, and 2 GbE ports to act as a router, such as toconnect to a remote location for business continuity using Metro Mirror or Global Mirror.
The enterprise-class Cisco 9500directors can support up to 528 ports.
TS3400 Tape Library
The new TS3400library is a small entry-level size library, supporting the enterprise-class TS1120 drive, providing interoperabilitywith the larger tape libraries, with all the support for tape encryption.
In addition to Linux, Unix, and WIndows, the TS1120 can now be connected to System i servers. In the past, the only IBMtape available to System i were the LTO models. There are a lot of businesses that need to comply with government regulations that are looking for tape encryption, and now IBM has made it accessible to more clients.
300GB drives at 15K RPM
The DS8000 can now support new drives with 300GB capacity at 15,000 RPM (15K). These can be up to 30 percent faster than the 10,000 RPM drives for typical workloads.
IBM continues its market leadership with these new set of features and offerings!
From the photo, the marketing people staggered the various components to give it a stylized [Dagwood Sandwich] effect. I can assure you that these are just standard 19-inch rack components that fit into 6U of space in standard IT racks.
Starting top to bottom, we have the first FlashSystem V840 Control Enclosure, its 1U-high UPS, a second FlashSystem V840 Control Enclosure and its UPS, and finally a 2U-high FlashSystem V840 Storage Enclosure.
You can have up to a dozen Flash modules, either 2TB or 4TB size, for a maximum of 40TB usable RAID-protected capacity. These can be protected with AES 256-bit encryption. The FlashSystem modules are front-loaded, and slide in and out for easy maintenance.
The system is fully redundant and hot-swappable with concurrent code load to ensure high availability.
(Update: In the comments, readers thought that this was nothing more than just a two-node SVC with FlashSystem 840. There are differences, so I have added the following table.)
SVC with FlashSystem 840
Cabling from controllers to storage
Through SAN fabric ports
Direct attach from V840 Controllers to V840 Storage Enclosures
Call Home Support
GUI screen branding
The system is fully VMware-certified, supporting VAAI interfaces, and an SRA for VMware's Site Recovery Manager (SRM). With Real-time Compression, you can get up to 80 percent capacity savings for workloads like Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). That in effect gives you up to 5x (200TB) of virtual capacity in 6U of rack space!
You can either keep it as an All-Flash array, or you can virtualize external IBM and non-IBM disk systems, and use the Flash capacity in the Storage Enclosure for IBM's Easy Tier automated sub-volume tiering and data migration. With or without external storage, the FlashSystem V840 can provide local and remote mirroring and point-in-time copies.
It seems I have been on the road non-stop for the past nine weeks! On my flights, I often find myself sitting next to a young adult who is flying for the first time. Many of these young adults formed their fear of flying a decade ago, in their teenage years, during the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Some are just now trying to face those fears.
(What does any of this have to do with storage? Actually, there are similar fears for enabling various storage efficiency functions like data deduplication, thin provisioning and compression, so work with me here!)
Flying from Seattle down to Los Angeles, I sat next to Michele (shown in the picture on the left). She was facing her fear of flying overseas by taking seven months off to visit Japan, China, Thailand, Laos, Ireland, England and various countries in continental Europe. Wow! She was joining up with her friend Brittney in Los Angeles, and the two will be travelling together. Since I had been to nearly every country she was planning to visit, I gave her a list of survival phrases and cultural guidance.
Flying from Los Angeles to Tucson, I sat next to Alex on his first day of flying adventures. He flew from Jacksonville, to Dallas, to Los Angeles, to finally Tucson to pick up his fiancée. He met her in Florida, but her father was re-assigned to Fort Huachuca Army Base near Tucson, Arizona. He kept in touch with his bride-to-be, and now faced his fear of flying to go pick her up and bring her back for the wedding. This was the first time he had been west of the Mississippi river.
On a short 18-minute flight from Tucson to Phoenix, I sat next to Rachel, a college student at the University of Arizona, on her way to visit her folks in Santa Ana, California. She immediately apologized to me for not wearing pants. What I mistook for bikini bottoms were actually stretchy exercise shorts she wears to play [Lacrosse]. She had sprained her ankle, then went [AMA] to wear high-heeled shoes on a girl's weekend to Las Vegas, only to trip and break her ankle completely. Her foot was in a cast, thus preventing her from driving her car, or, as it turned out, wear any pants.
Returning from a briefing in Poughkeepsie, on the short flight from Stewart Airport to Philadelphia, I sat next to Krista (shown in the picture on the right), who formerly was a [Bacardi Girl], but now decided she wants to do something more meaningful in her life than handing out prizes and free samples of spiced rum. She decided to go visit her friend in Charlotte, North Carolina, but did not want to drive 15 hours to get there. She faced her fears of flying to avoid driving by herself all that distance. She didn't know what she wanted to do with her life, so I suggested she get a Myers-Briggs profile analysis, and perhaps determine her strengths using Gallup's [Strengths Finder 2.0]. This might help her find a career choice that best fits her interests.
As is often the case, many fears are unfounded. Statistically, flying is safer than being on the road in car. As a result of facing their fears, they all got to meet me, and be one step closer to accomplishing their life goals.
What do all of these have in common? They all faced their fear of flying, either because their situation forced them to, something more important drove them to, or they felt it was just time to do it. Good for them!
If you have recently faced your fears and came out ahead, let me know in the comments below!
The study surveyed 5,676 leaders from various industries, education, and government agencies responsible for workforce development and labor/workforce policy. This was a truly global survey, with respondents from North and South America, the Nordics, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia.
A gloomy picture for the future
The survey paints a gloomy picture for the future. The majority of industry executives struggle to keep their workforce skills current, in light of rapidly changing technological advancements.
Only 55 percent of the respondents felt the current education system, from grade school up to university, were adequate to ensure lifelong learning and skills development. Most blamed inadequate investment from private industry in addressing these issues.
Any problem can be solved if (a) everyone agrees what the problem is, and (b) everyone feels it is high enough priority to solve. The study found there was a disparity of what the problem is, what the priorities are, and who should solve it.
In the book Class Counts: Education, Inequality, and the Shrinking Middle Class, the author Allan Ornstein argues ".. the debate centers on whether the government should take a backseat or manage the economy, whether a free market should prevail or whether we should redefine or tinker with market forces..."
Which workplace skills are in short supply?
Can we at least agree on which workplace skills are in short supply?
Not surprisingly, Industry leaders ranked the top three skills required:
Technical core capabilities for Science, Technology Engineering and Math [STEM]
Basic computer and software/application skills
Fundamental core capabilities around reading, writing and arithmetic (often called [the three Rs])
These are all "hard skills", referring to the knowledge, skills and competencies to perform specific tasks. Nearly 75 percent of corporate training budgets are focused on hard skills.
Government leaders, on the other hand, especially those that are responsible for labor/workforce policy, ranked the top three skills:
Ability to communicate effectively in a business context
Willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change
Ability to work effectively in team environments
These would all be classified as "soft skills", referring to the people skills, social skills, communication and emotional intelligence to effectively navigate the environment and work well with others.
In fact, these government leaders felt that STEM, computer skills and "the three Rs" ranked the lowest requirements in their priority.
"Unless managers have forgotten everything they learned in Econ 101, they should recognize that one way to fill a vacancy is to offer qualified job seekers a compelling reason to take the job. Higher pay, better benefits, and more accommodating work hours are usually good reasons for job applicants to prefer one employment offer over another."
"... the long-hours pandemic is a symptom of the tech and design sectors' badge-of-honor-martyr-complex. ... part of the reason that women can't have it all is that American business has grown this time-macho culture, a relentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more all-nighters, ... the classic 40-hour work week have trained us to measure our labor by the number of hours we log,... However, this mindset is dead wrong when applied to today's professionals. The value ... isn't the time they spend, but the value they create through their knowledge."
IT jobs require creativity and focus. In a feature article titled [Why you should work 4 hours a day, according to science], Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, looks at the work habits of highly accomplished creative people through history and finds that they all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost superhuman capacity to focus.
Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work. The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.
Encouraging more students to develop the skills early
While we all agree that employers should raise salaries, offer better benefits, and fix their morally-corrupt culture of working too many hours, that only addresses part of the problem, the demand half of the equation. We also need to get kids to learn the hard and soft skills needed at an early age.
Do students have what it takes to work in the IT industry? John Rampton lists the [15 Characteristics of a Good Programmer]. Most are soft skills, with my favorites being: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris.
In his book Why Good People Can't Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It, Peter Cappelli advises corporations to take a more proactive role:
"... a huge part of the so-called skills gap actually springs from weak employer efforts to promote internal training for either current employees or future hires ... It makes no sense for the employers, as consumers of skills, to remain an arm's-length distance from the schools that produce those skills..."
The major stakeholders, from industry to education to government, should partner together. For example, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system will be the first in the United States to [require all students to take computer science] in high school, starting with the class graduating in 2020. Grants and training are being provided by IT industry giants like Google and Microsoft.
IBM is also doing its part with [a new education paradigm], called Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools [P-TECH]. Normal high school is typically four years (grades 9 to 12), but P-TECH is a system of innovative public schools spanning grades 9 to 14 that bring together the best elements of high school, college, and career. The additional two years (grades 13 and 14) of community college can help teach the soft and hard skills needed for particular jobs in IT.
After the six years, students graduate with a no-cost associates degree in applied science, engineering, computers and related disciplines, along with the skills and knowledge they need to continue their studies or step easily into well paying, high potential jobs in the IT arena for multiple industries.
The paradigm has grown from one school in 2011 to 60 schools by September 2016, with over 300 large and small companies affiliated with P-TECH schools serving thousands of students.
So the future may not be as gloomy as predicted. Problems can be addressed if everyone works together to solve them. In the mean time, I will be taking the rest of the year off for long-overdue vacation. Perhaps I will go hike mountains and take naps, as Alex suggests above.
One of the differences between IBM and the other storage vendors is that IBM is also in the business of middleware, application-aware backup software, and advanced copy services. This allows IBM to put togethersolutions that work to address specific challenges for our clients.
IBM has written a whitepaper on a cleverVSS Snapshot Backup for Exchange using IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and the point-in-time copy capabilities of IBM System Storage disk systems.
A problem in the past was that each vendor's point-in-time copy method had its own unique proprietary interface.Microsoft Developed Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) as a common interface front-end to resolve this concern.IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Mail can invoke standard VSS interfaces, and this in turn can invoke FlashCopyon the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller, DS8000 series, or DS6000 series disk system.
You might be thinking: Wouldn't it have been less effort to just have TSM for Mail invoke IBM proprietary interfaces,rather than having to put full VSS support into TSM for mail, and then full VSS support into IBM's various disksystems? Perhaps, but IBM doesn't decide to do things because it is the cheapest way, we focus on what is theright way, and in this case, customers now have more choices, then can use TSM for Mail with IBM or non-IBM disksystems that support the VSS interface, and IBM disk systems can be employed into other uses for VSS snapshot.
Of course, we would like our clients to consider both TSM and IBM System Storage disk systems for a combined solution,not because they are required to make the solution work, but because both are best-of-breed, and whitepapers likethis show how they can provide synergy working together.
There's some good discussion in the comments section over at Robin Harris' StorageMojo blog for hispost [Building a 1.8 Exabyte Data Center].To summarize, a student is working on a research archive and asked Robin Harris for his opinion. The archive will consist of 20-40 million files averaging 90 GB in size each, for a total of 1800 PB or 1.8 EB. By comparison, anIBM DS8300 with five frames tops out at 512TB, so it would take nearly 3600 of these to hold 1.8 EB. While this might seem like a ridiculous amount of data, I think the discussion is valid as our world is certainly headed in that direction.
IBM works with a lot of research firms, and the solution is to put most of this data on tape, with just enough disk for specific analysis. Robin mentions a configurion with Sun Fire 4540 disk systems (aka Thumper). Despite Sun Microsystems' recent [$1.7 Billion dollar quarterly loss], I think even the experts at Sun would recommend a blended disk-and-tape solution for this situation.
Take for example IBM's Scale Out File Services [SoFS] which today handles 2-3 billion files in a single global file system, so 20-40 million would present no problem. SoFS supports a mix of disk and tape, with built-in movement, so that files that were referenced would automatically be moved to disk when needed, and moved back to tape when no longer required, based on policies set by the administrator. Depending on the analysis, you may only need 1 PB or less of disk to perform the work, which can easily be accomplished with a handful of disk systems, such as IBM DS8300 or IBM XIV, for example.
The rest would be on tape. Let's consider using the IBM TS3500 with [S24 High Density] frames. A singleTS3500 tape library with fifteen of these HD frames could hold 45PB of data, assuming 3:1 compression on 1TB-size 3592 cartridges. You wouldneed 40 (forty) of these libraries to get to the full 1800 PB required, and these could hold even more as higher capacity cartridges are developed. IBM has customers with over 40 tape libraries today (not all with these HD frames, of course), but the dimensions and scale that IBM is capable lies within this scope.
(For LTO fans, fifteen S54 frames would hold 32PB of data, assuming 2:1 compression on 800GB-size LTO-4 cartridges.so you would need 57 libraries instead of 40 in the above example.)
This blended disk-and-tape approach would drastically reduce the floorspace and electricity requirements when compared against all-disk configurations discussed in the post.
People are rediscovering tape in a whole new light. ComputerWorld recently came out with an 11-page Technology Brief titled [The Business Value of Tape Storage],sponsored by Dell. (Note: While Dell is a competitor to IBM for some aspects of their business, they OEM their tape storage systems from IBM, so in that respect, I can refer to them as a technology partner.) Here are some excerpts from the ComputerWorld brief:
For IT managers, the question isnot whether to use tape, but whereand how to best use tape as part of acomprehensive, tiered storage architecture.In the modern storage architecture,tape plays a role not onlyin data backup, but also in long-termarchiving and compliance.
“Long-term archiving is the primaryreason any company shoulduse tape these days,” says MikeKarp, senior analyst at EnterpriseManagement Associates in Boulder,Colo. Companies are increasinglylikely to use disk in conjunctionwith tape for backup, but for long-termarchiving needs, tape remainsunbeatable.
After factoring inacquisition costs of equipment andmedia, as well as electricity and datacenter floor space, Clipper Groupfound that the total cost of archivingsolutions based on SATA disk, theleast expensive disk, was up to 23times more expensive than archivingsolutions involving tape. Calculatingenergy costs for the competing approaches,the costs for disk jumpedto 290 times that of tape.
“Tape isalways the winner anywhere costtrumps anything else,” says Karp.No matter how the cost is figured,tape is less expensive.
Beyond IT familiarity with tape,analysts point to other reasons whyorganizations will likely keep tapein their IT storage infrastructures.Energy savings, for example, is themost recent reason to stick withtape. “The economics of tape arepretty compelling, especially whenyou figure in the cost of power,”Schulz says.
So, whether you are planning for an Exabyte-scale data center, or merely questioning the logic of a disk-for-everything storage approach, you might want to consider tape. It's "green" for the environment, and less expensive on your budget.
Once again it's Tuesday, which means IBM announcement day!
Today IBM announced [two new DS3400 SAN Express Models]. These two new models will replace the IBM System Storage DS3400 SAN Express Kit model 41U and 42U to be withdrawn from marketing today. The DS3000 series of scalable, flexible, and affordable storage solutions support IBM System x, System p, and BladeCenter servers.
Two new IBM System Storage DS3400 SAN Express Kits are being introduced that provide the parts needed to setup and configure a SAN with the exception of a SAN switch that can be ordered separately. The IBM System Storage DS3400 SAN Express Kits contain Emulex EZPilot software that enables automated installation and configuration of the SAN components. IBM System Storage DS3400 SAN Express Kits models 41S and 42S and Emulex EZPilot software work in conjunction with the IBM TotalStorage SAN16B-2 Express Model Switch which comes with eight ports and eight 4 Gbps SFPs. The EZPilot software can support configurations with either one or two SAN16B-2 switches.
The 41S is a single-controller model DS3400 with two HBA cards and four cables. The 42S is the dual-controller model with two HBA cards and eight cables.
Soon, the U.S. is switching on-air television signals from analog to digital format. The switch-over happensFebruary 17, 2009. According to the [Federal Communications Commission], Americans haveuntil this Monday, March 31, to request up to two 40-dollar coupons towards the purchase of digital-to-analog converter boxesso that the on-air digital signals can be used with existing analog-only television equipment.
(For my readers outside the United States, a bit of background explanation may be necessary. Americans consider access to television a self-evident and unalienable right.According to a Pew Research report[Luxury or Necessity?] 64 percent of Americansconsider a television set a necessity, and 33 percent consider paid providers, like cable or satellite, a necessity.Even prisoners in U.S. jails are allowed to watch television!)
Taking advantage of the "Y2K crisis" like nature of this 2/17/2009 deadline, paid providers have been advertisingthat this deadline only applies to on-air customers. Those who have cable or satellite can continue to use theiranalog equipment. I have been a subscriber for Cox Cable for some time, and my parents recently made the switchas well. Two weeks ago, however, my parents called me in a panic. Cox Cable chose to move one channel, TurnerClassic Movies (TCM), over from their analog line-up over to their digital line-up. They thought this wasn't goingto happen until 2/17/2009! They asked me to investigate and provide them alternative options.
I spoke to a Cox Cable representative.
Did Turner force Cox Cable to do this? Did they digitize their entire collection of movies? No, Cox Cable is choosing to send the TCM signal over the digital bandwidth, and they are converted back to analog by their set-top box.
Do customers who now get one less channel get a discount? No, same price, less service.
Why move a single channel over? Eventually, everything is going digital, and this is a small "baby step" to getpeople to switch over.
But TCM is a collection of grainy, black-and-white movies from the 1950s and 1960s, it is probably the channelthat gets the least benefit to convert to digital. Why choose TCM specifically? TCM is "commercial-free" so providesno additional revenue opportunity. Moving this to digital frees up an analog channel to run a new "on demand" servicethat could generate additional revenue for Cox Cable.
What would it take in terms of additional cost and equipment to watch the TCM in digital?A set-top digital box from Cox Cable, which costs one-time 10 dollars to install by a professional technician, plus 11 dollars per month for the extra "service" provided.
Do I need a High-Def television set or other equipment? No, the digital signal for TCM is standard format, so no HD equipment required.
I currently split my cable signal, so that I can watch one channel and record another, or record two separate channels at the same time, using a standard format VCR and Tivo, can I continue to do this with the digital set-top box? Yes, absolutely.
I decided to give it a try, and a technician was scheduled to perform the installation last Sunday, which was Easter holiday for some people. The technician was able to connect the set-top box directly to my television set, but thesignal is converted to a single "Channel 3", forcing the use of a separate Cox Cable remote control unit to set the channel on the set-top box. He set the set-top box to TCM (channel 199) and showed that the TCM channel was now available again.
How would my VCR or Tivo record anything? You have to set the set-top box manually to the appropriate channel desired, then set the VCR or Tivo to record "Channel 3".
How would I record one channel while watching another? That does not appear possible with this set-top box. If we split before entering the set-top box, then that equipment would get the analog channels only, not TCM.
How about recording two different channels concurrently? No way.
I feel bad for the technician. He spent two hours on his Easter Sunday to install service that I was told by theirsales rep would work with my equipment, only to find out it won't and he ended up having to take it all back out andcancel the work order. He doesn't even get paid overtime for this.
So, I am back to where I was before, analog channels minus the TCM channel. However, the lesson is clear, eventuallyeverything is going to digital, and people may not realize what this means to them.
Can you believe it is September already? We have a number upcoming events that you might be interested in.
IBM Smarter Analytics by Design
Join the first of our 'Smarter Analytics by Design' virtual events to learn more from leading industry analyst IDC on how analytics can help you solve business challenges, and the capabilities you'll need to be successful in this ever-changing landscape. You'll also hear real case examples from AXTEL and Miami-Dade County and the results of their analytics approaches.
Webcast: IBM Smarter Analytics by Design Date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 Time: 1:00 pm ET / 12:00 pm CT / 10:00 am PT
Dan Vessett and Jean Bozman, International Data Corporation (IDC)
Gaspar Rivera Del Valle, AXTEL, Monterrey, Mexico
Adrienne DiPrima, Rosario Fiallos, Jaci Newmark, Miami-Dade County, South Florida
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.
Webcast: Solving the Storage Capacity Crisis Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 Time: 12:00 pm ET / 10:00 am CT / 09:00 am PT
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:
IBM is bringing back and expanding its Mini Briefing program to Oracle OpenWorld.
What is a Mini-Briefing you might ask? It is a small, customized briefing by the Executive Briefing Centers, held nearby a related conference, allowing conference attendees to take 1-2 hours out of their schedule to speak to IBM experts. These are intended to answer the question: Why choose IBM for your Oracle (and other) workloads?
Event: IBM Mini-Briefings Location: San Francisco Marriott Marquis, 55 Fourth Street, very close to the Moscone Center Dates: Monday through Wednesday, October 1-3, 2012
Last year, the Austin Executive Briefing Center had a room full of experts to help customers learn about IBM hardware to run Oracle applications. This year, IBM is back in San Francisco, with subject matter experts representing Power Systems, System x servers, PureSystems, Storage and System z mainframes.
Subject Matter Experts:
Pat O'Rourke, Austin Briefing Center, Power Systems
Dennis Wunder, Poughkeepsie Briefing Center, System z mainframes
Steve Loeschorn, Raleigh Briefing Center, System x servers
Curtis Neal, Tucson Briefing Center, Storage
Of course, IBM will also have a booth presence on the main Oracle OpenWorld showroom floor. Sadly, I will not be there myself this year. Please stop by and visit my colleagues!
To sign up for a Mini-Briefing at Oracle OpenWorld, for any or all of the topics above, visit the new [IBM STG Austin EBC] website.
I hope you can participate in one or more of these events!
For those who want to meet me in person, there are two opportunities coming up in December.
Data Center Conference, December 1-4
Once again, I will be blogging from Ceasar's Palace Las Vegas at this year's [Data Center Conference 2009]! Last year's conference was a blast, and this one looks to be quite exciting. IBM is again a premier sponsor. Scheduled to speak are the following IBM executives:
Helene Armitage, the new General Manager of System Software, on "IT-Wide Virtualization, A Prerequisite for a Truly Dynamic Infrastructure"
Steve Sams, the VP of Sites and Facilities, on "Data Center Actions Your CFO Will Love"
Barry Rudolph, the VP of System Storage, on "Meeting the Information Infrastructure Challenge"
We will also have an IBM booth at the Solutions Showcase, showing off the latest in Cloud Computing,
Service Management, Information Infrastructure, and Workload-optimized systems. You will be able to schedule one-on-one sessions with IBM executives and subject matter experts. Best of all, we will have on display a Portable Modular Data Center [PMDC] that can hold a fully operational data center in a standard [20 foot shipping container].
IBM Virtualization and Consolidation Briefing, December 15
This is being done "open house" style. If you can get yourself to the IBM Tucson Executive Briefing Center, IBM will provide you breakfast, a series of presentations, lunch, and then even more presentations. Your stomach and brain will be full by the end of the day. Here is a list of the presentations:
For the past three decades, IBM has offered security solutions to protect against unauthorized access. Let's take a look at three different approaches available today for the encryption of data.
Approach 1: Server-based
Server-based encryption has been around for a while. This can be implemented in the operating system itself, such as z/OS on the System z mainframe platform, or with an applicaiton, such as IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for backup and archive.
While this has the advantage that you can selectively encrypt individual files, data sets, or columns in databases, it has several drawbacks. First, you consume server resources to perform the encryption. Secondly, as I mention in the video above, if you only encrypt selected data, the data you forget to, or choose not to, encrypt may result in data exposure. Third, you have to manage your encryption keys on a server-by-server basis. Fourth, you need encryption capability in the operating system or application. And fifth, encrypting the data first will undermine any storage or network compression capability down-line.
Approach 2: Network-based
Network-based solutions perform the encryption between the server and the storage device. Last year, when I was in Auckland, New Zealand, I covered the IBM SAN32B-E4 switch in my presentation [Understanding IBM's Storage Encryption Options]. This switch receives data from the server, encrypts it, and sends it on down to the storage device.
This has several advantages over the server-based approach. First, we offload the server resources to the switch. Second, you can encrypt all the files on the volume. You can select which volumes get encrypted, so there is still the risk that you encrypt only some volumes, and not others, and accidently expose your data. Third, the SAN32B-E4 can centralized the encryption key management to the IBM Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM). This is also operating system and application agnostic. However, network-based encryption has the same problem of undermining any storage device compression capability, and often has a limit on the amount of data bandwidth it can process. The SAN32B-E4 can handle 48 GB/sec, with a turbo-mode option to double this to 96 GB/sec.
Approach 3: Device-based
Device-based solutions perform the encryption at the storage device itself. Back in 2006, IBM was the first to introduce this method on its [TS1120 tape drive]. Later, it was offered on Linear Tape Open (LTO-4) drives. IBM was also first to introduce Full Disk Encryption (FDE) on its IBM System Storage DS8000. See my blog post [1Q09 Disk Announcements] for details.
As with the network-based approach, the device-based method offloads server resources, allows you to encrypt all the files on each volume, can centrally manage all of your keys with TKLM, and is agnostic to operating system and application used. The device can compress the data first, then encrypt, resulting in fewer tape cartridges or less disk capacity consumed. IBM's device-based approach scales nicely. IBM has an encryption chip is placed in each tape drive or disk drive. No matter how many drives you have, you will have all the encryption horsepower you need to scale up.
Not all device-based solutions use an encryption chip per drive. Some of our competitors encrypt in the controller instead, which operates much like the network-based approach. As more and more disk drives are added to your storage system, the controller may get overwhelmed to perform the encryption.
The need for security grows every year. Enterprise Systems are Security-ready to protect your most mission critical application data.
Just as light bulbs burn out eventually after repeatedly being turned on and off, Flash does not last forever either.
A set of transistors can represent a single bit of informaiton (Single-level cell, or SLC for short), or multiple bits (Multi-level Cell, MLC). MLC typically refers to two bits, with a new "Triple-level cell" or TLC technology, able to store three bits per set of transistors.
SLC is faster and can endure more "Program-erase" write cycles, but MLC is less expensive to manufacture and therefore used in most consumer products, like digital cameras, smart phones, music players and USB memory sticks. To learn more on this, see this 6-page IBM whitepaper on [Comparison of NAND Flash Technologies Used in Solid-State Storage].
In between, "Enterprise MLC" (or eMLC for short) refers specifically to a different grade of chips IBM gets from the flash manufacturer. eMLC chips use a similar MLC bit arrangement, but are typically selected from higher bins, and most importantly have much longer program-erase cycle times which yield greater chip endurance, at the expense of long data retention when power is off (but seriously, when is anything off for very long in a data center?)
As a result, eMLC has 10x the endurance of regalar MLC, approaching parity with SLC at half the cost!
In the IBM FlashSystem, DRAM cache is used to buffer the writes first, then written out to the Flash. This helps to further improve the endurance.
For enterprise reliability, each Flash chip on the IBM FlashSystem has Error Correcting Codes (ECC), and then each set of 10 chips is placed in a 9+P RAID-5 configuration.
The chips are sub-divided into 16 planes. In the event a cell fails, the data for that plane can be reconstructed from parity, and written to spare space on the other planes of that same chip set. That plane is then reformated as an 8+P RAID-5, bypassing the failed plane.
In this manner, a cell failure only results in losing a small portion of one chip. If the same plane fails another failure on another chip, it will drop down to 7+P, 6+P, 5+P, and finally 4+P. This is known as "Variable Stripe RAID" or VSR for short.
IBM FlashSystem can survive over 1,000 such cell failures without an outage. By comparison, a single cell failure on an SSD often marks the entire drive as a failure.
But wait, there's more. Why stop at just RAID-5 across 10 chips. The chips are organized into modules, and IBM FlashSystem can perform RAID-5 across modules, in a 10+P+S RAID-5 configuration. This is referred to as "Two dimensional RAID" or 2D-RAID for short.
Even if you lost an entire module, the system will automatically rebuild on the spare module, and you can replace the bad one non-disruptively.
Many use cases for all-Flash arrays do not require such high levels of Enterprise reliability. Several of the all-Flash competitors have adopted a "design-for-failure" approach common among Cloud Service Providers like Amazon Web Services.
The idea is to assume that the data stored on them is just a copy from some other storage media. In the event of a Flash failure, it can easily be restored from a mirrored copy or backup.
For the IBM FlashSystem, The newer 800 series are based on eMLC, ideal for the majority of business applications, databases and virtual machine images placed on all-Flash arrays. The older 700 series are based on more expensive SLC, designed specifically for sustained write-intensive workloads.
Within each series, the "tens" models (710, 810) offer RAID-0 striping across ECC and VSR protected modules. For higher levels of availability, the "twenties" models (720, 820) offer ECC, VSR and 2D-RAID protection.
While some might be familiar with mashups that combine public Web 2.0 sources of information, enterprise mashups go one step further, integrating withthe "information infrastructure" of your data center. It's not just enough to deliver theright information to the right person at the right time, it has to bein the right format, in a manner that can be readily understood andacted upon. Enterprise mashups can help.
Yesterday's announcement that IBM had acquired XIV to offer storage for Web 2.0 applicationsprompted a lot of discussion in both the media and the blogosphere. Several indicated thatit was about time that one of the major vendors stepped forward to provide this, and it madesense that IBM, the leader in storage hardware marketshare, would be the first. Others were perhaps confused on what is unique with Web 2.0 applications. What has changed?
I'll use this graphic to help explain how we have transitioned through three eras of storage.
The first era: Server-centric
In the 1950s, IBM introduced both tape and disk systems into a very server-centric environment.Dumb terminals and dumb storage devices were managed entirely by the brains inside the server.These machines were designed for Online Transaction Processing (OLTP), everywhere from bookingflights on airlines to handling financial transfers.
The second era: Network-centric
In the 1980s and 1990s, dumb terminals were replaced with smarter workstations and personalcomputers; and dumb storage were replaced with smarter storage controllers. Local Area Networks (LANs)and Storage Area Networks (SANs) allowed more cooperative processing between users, servers andstorage. However, servers maintained their role as gatekeepers. Users had to go through aspecific server or server cluster to access the storage they had access to. These servers continuedtheir role in OLTP, but also manage informational databases, file sharing and web serving.
The third era: Information-centric
Today, we are entering a third era. Servers are no longer the gatekeepers. Smart workstationsand personal computers are now supplemented with even more intelligent handheld devices, Blackberryand iPhones, for example. Storage is more intelligent too, with some being able to offer file sharingand web serving directly, without the need of an intervening server. The roles of servers have changed,from gatekeepers, to ones that focuses on crunching the numbers, and making information presentableand useful.
Here is where Web 2.0 applications, digital media and archives fits in. These are focused on unstructured data that don't require relational database management systems. So long as the useris authorized, subscribed and/or has made the appropriate payment, she can access the information. With the appropriate schemes in place, information can now be mashed-up in a variety of ways, combined with other information that can render insights and help drive new innovations.
Of course, we will still have databases and online transaction processing to book our flights andtransfer our funds, but this new era brings in new requirements for information storage, and newarchitectures that help optimize this new approach.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and that means more IBM announcements!
Today, IBM announced the enhanced IBM System Storage DS3200 disk system.It is in our DS3000 series, the DS3200 is SAS-attach, DS3300 is iSCSI-attach, and DS3400 is FC-attach. All of them support up to 48 drives, which can be a mix of SAS and SATA drives.
The DS3200 supports the following operating environments (see IBM's [Interop Matrix] for details):
Linux (both Linux-x86 and Linux on POWER)
With today's announcements, the DS3200 can be used to boot from, as well as contain data. This is ideal to combine with IBM BladeCenter. With the IBM BladeCenter you can have 14 blades, either x86 or POWER based processors, attached to a DS3200 via SAS switch modules in the back of the chassis.
Let's take an example of how this can be used for a Scale-Out File Services[SoFS] deployment.
First, we start with servers. We can have either three [IBM System x3650] servers, but this would use up all six of the direct-attach ports. Instead, we'll choose the [BladeCenter H chassis], with three HS21 blades for SoFS, and that leaves us with eleven empty blade slots we could put in a management node, or other blades to run applications.
SAS connectivity modules
The IBM BladeCenter [SAS Connectivity Module] allows the blade servers to connect to a DS3200. Two of them fit right in the back of the BladeCenter chassis, providing full redundancy without consuming additional rack space.
DS3200 and EXP3000 expansion drawers
We'll have one DS3200 controller with twelve internal drives, and three expansion EXP3000 drawers with twelve drives each, for a total of 48 drives. Using 1TB SATA, this would be 48 TB raw capacity.
The end result? You get a 48TB NAS scalable storage solution, supporting up to 7500 concurrent CIFS and NFS users, with up to 700 MB/sec with large block transfers. By using BladeCenter, you can expand performance by adding more blades to the Chassis, or have some blades running SAP or Oracle RAC have direct read/write access to the SoFS data.
Just another example on how IBM can bring together all the components of a solution to provide customer value!
There is a difference between improving "energy efficiency" versus reducing "power consumption".
Let's consider the average 100 watt light bulb, of which 5 watts generate the desired feature (light), and 95 percent generated as undesired waste (heat). In this case, it would be 5 percent efficient. If you delivered a new light bulb that generated 3 watts of light for only 30 watts of energy, then you would have an offering that was more energy efficient (10 percent instead of 5 percent) and use 70 percent less power (30 watts instead of 100 watts). This new "dim bulb" would not be as bright as the original, but has other desirable energy qualities.
Nearly all of the output of data center equipment results in heat.In The Raised Floor blog [It's Too Darn Hot!], Will Runyon explains how IBM researcher Bruno Michel in Zurich has developed new ways to cool chips with water shot through thousands of nozzles, much like capillaries in the human body. This is just one of many developments that are part of IBM's [Project Big Green]
But what if the desired feature is heat, and the undesired feature is light?In the case of Hasbro's toy[Easy-Bake Oven],a 100W incadescent light bulb is used to bake small cakes. This is generating 95W of desired heat, and onlywasting 5 percent as light (unused inside the oven). That makes this little toy 95 percent energy efficient, butconsumes as much energy as any other 100W light bulb lamp or fixture in your house. With manufacturing switchingfrom incadescent to compact flourescent bulbs, this toy oven may not be around much longer.
While we all joke that it is just a matter of time before our employers make us ride stationary bicycles attached to generators to power our monstrous data centers, 23-year old student Daniel Sheridan designeda see-saw for kids in Africa to play on that generates electricity for nearby schools. [Dan won the "mostinnovative product" at the Enterprise Festival].
Another approach is to improve efficiency by converting previously undesirable outcomes to desirable. Brian Bergstein has a piece in Forbes titled["Heat From Data Center to Warm a Pool"].Here's an excerpt:
"In a few cases, the heat produced by the computers is used to warm nearby offices. In what appears to be a first, the town pool in Uitikon, Switzerland, outside Zurich, will be the beneficiary of the waste heat from a data center recently built by IBM Corp. (nyse: IBM) for GIB-Services AG.
As in all data centers, air conditioners will blast the computers with chilly air - to keep the machines from exceeding their optimum temperature of around 70 degrees - and pump hot air out.
Usually, the hot air is vented outdoors and wasted. In the Uitikon center, it will flow through heat exchangers to warm water that will be pumped into the nearby pool. The town covered the cost of some of the connecting equipment but will get to use the heat for free."
I see a business opportunity here. Next to every data center lamenting about their power and cooling, build a state-of-the-art fitness center for the employees and nearby townspeople. Exercise on a stationary bicyclegenerating electricity, while your kids play on the see-saw generating electricity, and then afterwards thewhole family can take a dip in the heated swimming pool. And if the company subscribes to the notion of a Results-Oriented Work Environment [ROWE],it could encourage its employees to take "fitness" breaks throughout the day, rather than having everyone there in the early morning or late evening hours, leveling out the energy generated.
IBM announced the industry's first corporate-led initiative to enable clients to earn energy efficiency certificates for reducing the energy needed to run their data centers.For the first time, this provides a way for businesses to attain a certified measurement of their energy use reduction, a key, emerging business metric. The certificates can be traded for cash on the growing energy efficiency certificate market or otherwise retained to demonstrate reductions in energy use and associated CO2 emissions. The Efficiency Certificates initiative engages Neuwing Energy Ventures, a leading verifier of energy efficiency projects and marketer of energy efficiency certificates.
How it works:
The Neuwing Energy assessments are a two-part evaluation to 1) determine the initial energy draw from the data center or IT equipment identified for consolidation based on industry accepted energy estimates for the servers in use and the power and cooling profiles of the data center, and 2) a second review of energy draw after steps are taken that are designed to reduce energy consumption.
Neuwing Energy will issue customers an Efficiency Certificate for the total megawatt-hours of energy no longer needed to power and cool their data center or operate IT equipment. Neuwing Energy will keep a portion of each customer's earned certificates or charge a per MWH saved fee in exchange for the assessment.
Customers can trade earned Efficiency Certificates on the energy efficiency certificate market or they can retain their certificates, using them to demonstrate reductions in energy use and associated CO2 emissions.
IBM intends to make the Efficiency Certificates program available across its entire line of server and storage offerings.
Continuing my week's theme on the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] foundation, I successfully managedto emulate my XO on another system.
Part of what is attractive of the XO laptop is the hardware, the high-resolution200dpi screen, the clever screen that rotates and folds flat into an eBook reader,and the water-tight, dust-proof keyboard. The other part is the software, howthey managed to pack an entire operating system, with useful applications, intoa 1GB NAND flash drive.
The drawback for developers like me is the risk of changing something that breaks the system. For example, my first attempt to create my own activityresulted in a blank space in my action bar, and my journal went into someinfinite loop, blinking as if it were still loading for minutes on end. I fixed it by deleting out the activity I created and rebooting.
To get around this, I successfully ran the disk-image under Linux's Virtual Machinesoftware called Qemu. This is an open source offering, with a proprietary add-onaccelerator called Kqemu. Here were the steps involved:
Base Operating System
Qemu is now available to run on Linux, Windows and OS X-Intel. I have an Ubuntu 7.04"Feisty Faun" version of Linux installed on my system from a project I did last year, so decided to use that.
Normally, "apt-get install qemu" would be enough, but I wanted to get the latest release, so I downloaded the [0.9.0 version]tarball of compiled binaries. Note that trying to compile Qemu from source requiresa downlevel gcc-3.x compiler, and my attempts to do this failed. The compiled binariesworked fine.
The Kqemu author hasn't packaged this for distribution, so I download the source code anddid my own compiles. You can do the "configure-make-install" using the regular gcc 4.1compiler and it went smoothly.
Getting Kqemu active was bit of a challenge. I had to make sense of Nando Florestan's[Installing Kqumu in Ubuntu] article,and the subsequent comments that followed.
There is a tiny [8MB Linux image]that should be used to verify the Kqemu is activated correctly.
The Disk Image
As with other development efforts, there are the older stable versions, and the bleedingedge development versions. I chose the 650 Build from the [Ship.2 stable versions], whichmatches the version on my XO laptop. The image comes as a *.bz2, which is a highly-compressedfile. Using "Bunzip2", the 221MB file expands to something like 932MB.
I renamed the resulting file to "build650.img"
Once I got all this done, I then made a simple script "launch" in my /home/tpearson/bin directory:
Then "launch build650.img" was all I needed to run the emulation. The full-screen mode helpsemulate the view on XO laptop. I was able to change the jabber server to "xochat.org" and see otherXO laptops online on my neighborhood view.
When running under Qemu, you can't just press Ctrl-Alt-something. For example, Ctrl-Alt-Erase onthe XO reboots the Sugar interface. However, do this on a Linux system, and it reboots your nativeX interface, blowing away everything.Instead, you press Ctrl-Alt-2 to get to the Qemu console, designated by (qemu) prompt,and then type:
Press "Ctrl-Alt-1" followed by "Ctrl-Alt" to get back to the emulated XO screen.
With this emulation, I am more likely to try new things, change files around, edit system files,and so on, without worrying about rendering my actual XO laptop unusable. Once debugged, I canthen work on moving them over to my XO, one at a time.
Now an avid reader of my blog has brought this to my attention. Apparently,
EMC has been showing customers a presentation
[Accelerating Storage Transformation with VMAX and VPLEX] with false and misleading comparison claims between IBM DS8000, HDS VSP and EMC VMAX 40K disk system performance.
(FTC Disclosure: This would be a good time to remind my readers that I work for IBM and own IBM stock. I do not endorse any of the EMC or HDS products mentioned in this post, and have no financial affiliation or investments directly with either EMC nor HDS. I am basing my information solely on the presentation posted on the internet and other sources publicly available, and not on any misrepresentations from EMC speakers at the various conferences where these charts might have been shown.)
The problem with misinformation is that it is not always obvious. The EMC presentation is quite pretty and professional-looking. It is the typical slick, attention-getting, low-content, over-simplified marketing puffery you have come to expect from EMC. There are two slides in particular that I have issue with.
This first graphic implies that IBM and HDS are nearly tied in performance, but that EMC VMAX 40K has nearly triple that bandwidth. Overall the slide has very little detail. That makes it difficult to determine what exactly is being claimed and whether a fair comparison is being made.
The title claims that VMAX 40K is "#1 in High Bandwidth Apps". Only three disk systems are shown so the claim appears to be relative to only the three systems. The wording "High Bandwidth Apps" is confusing considering the cited numbers are for disk systems and no application is identified. By comparison, IBM SONAS can drive up to 105 GB/sec sequential bandwidth, nearly double what EMC claims for its VMAX 40K, so EMC is certainly not even close to #1.
Is the workload random or sequential? That is not easy to determine. The use of "GB/s" along with the large block size of 128KB implies the I/O workload is sequential, which is great for some workloads like high performance computing, technical computing and video broadcasts. Random workloads, on the other hand, are usually measured in I/Os per second (IOPS) with a block size ranging 4KB to 64KB. (I am assuming the 128K blocks refers to 128KB block size, and not reading the same block of cache 128,000 times.)
The slide states "Maximum Sustainable RRH Bandwidth 128K Blocks". The acronym "RRH" is not defined; but I suspect this refers to "random read hits". For random workloads, 100 percent random read hits from cache represents one corner of the infamous "four corners" test. Real-world workloads have a mix of reads and writes, and a mix of cache hits and cache misses. It is also unclear whether the hits are from standard data cache or from internal buffers in adapters (perhaps accessing the same blocks repeatedly) or something else. So is this really for a random workload, or a sequential workload?
(The term "Hitachi Math" was coined by an EMC blogger precisely to slam Hitachi Data Systems for their blatant use of four-corners results, claiming that spouting ridiculously large, but equally unrealistic, 100 percent random read hit results don't provide any useful information. I agree. There are much better industry-standard benchmarks available, such as SPC-1 for random workloads, SPC-2 for sequential workloads, and even benchmarks for specific applications, that represent real-world IT environments. To shame HDS for their use of four-corners results, only for EMC themselves to use similar figures in their own presentation is truly hypocritical of them!)
The IBM system is identified as "DS8000". DS8000 is a generic family name that applies to multiple generations of systems first introduced in 2004. The specific model is not identified, but that is critical information. Is this a first generation DS8100, or the latest DS8800, or something in between?
The slide says "Full System Configs", but that is not defined and configuration details are not identified. Configuration details, also critical information in assessing system performance capabilities, are not specified. If the EMC box costs seven times more than IBM or HDS, would you really buy it to get 3x more performance? Is the EMC packed with the maximum amount of SSD? Were there any SSD in the IBM or HDS boxes to match?
The source of the claimed IBM DS8000 performance numbers is not identified. Did they run their own tests? While I cannot tell, the VMAX may have been configured with 64 Fibre Channel 8Gbps host connections. In that case each channel is theoretically capable of supporting about 800 MB/s at 100% channel utilization. Multiplying 64 x 800MB/s = 51.2GB/s, so did EMC just do the performance comparison on the back of a napkin, assuming there are no other bottlenecks in the system? Even then, I would not round up 51.2 to 52!
Response times were not identified. For random I/Os, response time is a very important metric. It is possible that the Symmetrix was operating with some resources at 100% utilization to get the highest GB/s result, but that would likely make I/O response times unacceptable for real-world random I/O workloads.
IBM and HDS have both published Storage Performance Council [SPC] industry-standard performance benchmarks. EMC has not published any SPC benchmarks for VMAX systems. If EMC is interested in providing customers with audited, detailed performance information along with detailed configuration information, all based on benchmarks designed to represent real-world workloads, EMC can always publish SPC benchmark results as IBM and other vendors have done. In past blog fights, EMC resorts to the excuse that SPC isn't perfect, but can they really argue that vague and unrealistic claims cited in its presentation are better?
The second graphic is so absurd, you would think it came directly from Larry Ellison at an Oracle OpenWorld keynote session. EMC is comparing a configuration with VMAX 40K plus an EMC VFCache host-side flash memory cache card to a configuration with an IBM and HDS disk system without host-side flash memory cache also configured. The comparison is clearly apples-to-oranges. Other disk system configuration details are also omitted.
FAST VP is EMC's name for its sub-volume drive tiering feature, comparable to IBM Easy Tier and Hitachi's Dynamic Tiering. The graph implies that IBM and HDS can only achieve a modest increment improvement from their sub-volume tiering. I beg to differ. I have seen various cases where a small amount of SSD on IBM DS8000 series can drastically improve performance 200 to 400 percent.
The "DBClassify" shown on the graph is a tool run as part of an EMC professional services offering called Database Performance Tiering Assessment, makes recommendations for storing various database objects on different drive tiers based on object usage and importance. Do you really need to pay for professional services? With IBM Easy Tier, you just turn it on, and it works. No analysis required, no tools, no professional services, and no additional charge!
VFCache is an optional product from EMC that currently has no integration whatsoever with VMAX. A fair comparison would have included a host-side flash memory cache (from any vendor) when the IBM or HDS storage system was configured. Or leave it out altogether and just focus on the sub-volume tiering comparison.
Keep in mind that EMC's VFCache supports only selected x86-based hosts. IBM has published a [Statement of Direction] indicating that it will also offer this for Power systems running AIX and Linux host-side flash memory cache integrated with DS8000 Easy Tier.
I feel EMC's claims about IBM DS8000 performance are vague and misleading. EMC appears to lack the kind of technical marketing integrity that IBM strives to attain.
Since EMC is not able or willing to publish fair and meaningful performance comparisons, it is up to me to set the record straight and point out EMC's failings in this matter.
Reminder: It's not to late to register for my Webcast "Solving the Storage Capacity Crisis" on Tuesday, September 25. See my blog post [Upcoming events in September] to register!
I'm down here in Australia, where the government is a bit stalled for the past two weeks at the moment, known formally as being managed by the [Caretaker government]. Apparently, there is a gap between the outgoing administration and the incoming administration, and the caretaker government is doing as little as possible until the new regime takes over. They are still counting votes, including in some cases dummy ballots known as "donkey votes", the Australian version of the hanging chad. Three independent parties are also trying to decide which major party they will support to finalize the process.
While we are on the topic of a government stalled, I feel bad for the state of Virginia in the United States. Apparently, one of their supposedly high-end enterprise class EMC Symmetrix DMX storage systems, supporting 26 different state agencies in Virginia, crashed on August 25th and now more than a week later, many of those agencies are still down, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Taxation and Revenue.
Many of the articles in the press on this event have focused on what this means for the reputation of EMC. Not surprisingly, EMC says that this failure is unprecedented, but really this is just one in a long series of failures from EMC. It reminds me of the last time EMC had a public failure with a dual-controller CLARiiON a few months ago that stopped another company from their operations. There is nothing unique in the physical equipment itself, all IT gear can break or be taken down by some outside force, such as a natural disaster. The real question, though, is why haven’t EMC and the State Government been able to restore operations many days after the hardware was fixed?
In the Boston Globe, Zeus Kerravala, a data storage analyst at Yankee Group in Boston, is quoted as saying that such a high-profile breakdown could undermine EMC’s credibility with large businesses and government agencies. “I think it’s extremely important for them,’’ said Kerravala. “When you see a failure of this magnitude, and their inability to get a customer like the state of Virginia up and running almost immediately, all companies ought to look at that and raise their eyebrows.’’
Was the backup and disaster recovery solution capable of the scale and service level requirements needed by vital state
agencies? Had they tested their backups to ensure they were running correctly, and had they tested their recovery plans? Were they monitoring the success of recent backup operations?
Eventually, the systems will be back up and running, fines and penalties will be paid, and perhaps the guy who chose to go with EMC might feel bad enough to give back that new set of golf clubs, or whatever ridiculously expensive gift EMC reps might offer to government officials these days to influence the purchase decision making process.
(Note: I am not accusing any government employee in particular working at the state of Virginia of any wrongdoing, and mention this only as a possibility of what might have happened. I am sure the media will dig into that possibility soon enough during their investigations, so no sense in me discussing that process any further.)
So what lessons can we learn from this?
Lesson 1: You don't just buy technology, you also are choosing to work with a particular vendor
IBM stands behind its products. Choosing a product strictly on its speeds and feeds misses the point. A study IBM and Mercer Consulting Group conducted back in 2007 found that only 20 percent of the purchase decision for storage was from the technical capabilities. The other 80 percent were called "wrapper attributes", such as who the vendor was, their reputation, the service, support and warranty options.
Lesson 2: Losing a single disk system is a disaster, so disaster recovery plans should apply
IBM has a strong Business Continuity and Recovery Services (BCRS) services group to help companies and government agencies develop their BC/DR plans. In the planning process, various possible incidents are identified, recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) and then appropriate action plans are documentede on how to deal with them. For example, if the state of Virginia had an RPO of 48 hours, and an RTO of 5 days, then when the failure occurred on August 25, they could have recovered up to August 23 level data(48 hours prior to the incident) and be up and running by August 30 (five days after the incident). I don't personally know what RPO and RTO they planned for, but certainly it seems like they missed it by now already.
Lesson 3: BC/DR Plans only work if you practice them often enough
Sadly, many companies and government agencies make plans, but never practice them, so they have no idea if the plans will work as expected, or if they are fundamentally flawed. Just as we often have fire drills that force everyone to stop what they are doing and vacate the office building, anyone with an IT department needs to practice BC/DR plans often enough so that you can ensure the plan itself is solid, but also so that the people involved know what to do and their respective roles in the recovery process.
Lesson 4: This can serve as a wake-up call to consider Cloud Computing as an alternative option
Are you still doing IT in your own organization? Do you feel all of the IT staff have been adequately trained for the job? If your biggest disk system completely failed, not just a minor single or double drive failure, but a huge EMC-like failure, would your IT department know how to recover in less than five days? Perhaps this will serve as a wake-up call to consider alternative IT delivery options. The advantage of big Cloud Service Providers (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, SalesForce.com and of course, IBM) is that they are big enough to have worked out all the BC/DR procedures, and have enough resources to switch over to in case any individual disk system fails.