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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To make true advances in any industry or field requires forward thinking—as well as industry insight and experience. It can't be done just by packaging a bag of piece parts and putting a new label on it. But forward thinkers are putting smarter, more powerful technology to uses that were once unimaginable -- either in scale or in progress.
The graphics developed for the IBM Smarter Planet vision are interesting. This one for Infrastructure includes images relating to public utilities, like gas, water and electricity, clouds representing cloud computing, green forests representing the need for energy efficiency and reducing carbon footprint to fight global warming, roads, representing the intricate transportation and traffic systems, highways and city streets that connect us all together, and a printed circuit board, representing the Information Technology that makes all of this possible.
Ironically, I didn't even know I made the final cut until I got three, yes three, separate requests for interviews about it. I already reached the "million hits" milestone. Other people track these things for me, so it will be interesting how much additional traffic my latest [15 minutes of fame] will generate.
Infrastructure is just one of the 25 different areas that IBM's vision for a Smarter Planet is trying to address, including the need for smarter buildings, smarter cities, smarter transportation systems, smarter energy grids, smarter healthcare and public safety, and smarter governments.
In his blog post, [The Lure of Kit-Cars], fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) uses an excellent analogy delineating the differences between kit-cars you build from parts, versus fully-integrated systems that you can drive off the car dealership showroom lot. The analogy holds relatively well, as IT departments can also build their infrastructure from parts, or you can get fully-integrated systems from a variety of vendors.
Is this what your data center looks like?
Certainly, this debate is not new. In my now infamous 2007 post [Supermarkets and Specialty Shops], I explained that there were clients that preferred to get their infrastructure from a single IT supermarket, like IBM or HP, while others were lured into thinking that buying separate parts from butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and other specialty shops was somehow a better idea.
Chuck correctly explains that in the early years of the automobile industry, before major car manufacturers had mass-production assembly lines, putting a car together from parts was the only way cars were made. Today, only the few most avid enthusiasts build cars this way. The majority get cars from a single seller and drive away. In my post [Resolving the Identity Crisis], I postulated that EMC appeared to be trying to shed itself of the "disk-only specialty shop" image and over to be more like IBM. Not quite a full IT Supermarket, but perhaps more like a [Trader Joe's] premium-priced retailer.
(If you find that EMC's focus on integrated systems appears to be a 180-degree about-face from their historical focus on selling individual best-of-breed products, see my previous discussion of Chuck's contradictions in my blog post: [Is Storage the Next Confusopoly].)
While companies like EMC might be making this transition, there is a lot of resistance and inertia from the customer marketplace. I agree with Chuck, companies should not be building kit-cars or IT infrastructures from parts, certainly not from parts sold from different vendors. In my post [Talking about Solutions not Products], I explained how difficult it was to change behavior. CIOs, IT directors and managers need to think differently about their infrastructure. Let's take a quick look at some choices:
Following Chuck's argument, it makes no sense to build a "kit-car" combining Oracle/Sun servers with EMC storage. Oracle would argue it makes more sense to run on integrated systems, business logic on their "Exalogic" system, and database processing on their "Exadata". Benchmark after benchmark, however, IBM is able to demonstrate that Oracle applications and databases run faster on IBM systems. Customers that want to run Oracle applications can run either on a full Oracle stack, or a full IBM stack, and both do better than a kit-car including EMC parts.
HP has been working hard to keep up with IBM in this area. With their their partnership with Microsoft, and acquisitions of EDS, 3Com and 3PAR, they can certainly make a case for getting a full HP stack rather than a kit-car mixing HP servers with EMC disk storage. The problem is that HP is focused on a converged infrastructure for private cloud computing, but Microsoft is focused on Azure and public cloud computing. It will be interesting when these two big companies sort this out. Definitely watch this space.
If you squint your eyes and focus on the part of the world that only has x86 machines, then Dell can be seen as an IT supermarket. In my post about [Entry-Level iSCSI Offerings], I discuss how Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic was a signal that it was trying to get away from selling EMC specialty shop products, and building up its own set of offerings internally.
Cisco is new on the server scene, but has already made quite a splash. Here, I have to agree with Chuck's logic: the only time it makes sense to buy EMC disk storage at all is when it is part of an integrated "V-block". This is not really an IT supermarket situation, instead you park your car at the "Acadia Mini-Mall" and get what you need from Trader Joe's, Cisco UCS, and VMware stores.
But wait, if what you want is running VMware on Cisco servers, you might be better off with IBM System Storage N series or NetApp storage. In his blog post about [Enhanced Secure Multi-Tenancy], fellow Blogger Val Bercovici (NetApp) provides a convincing argument of why Cisco and VMware run better on an "N-block" rather than a "V-block". IBM N series provides A-SIS deduplication, and IBM Real-time Compression can provide additional capacity and performance improvements. That might be true, but whether you get your storage from EMC, NetApp or IBM, to me, you are still working with three different vendors in any case.
Of course, following Chuck's logic, it makes more sense for people with IBM servers, whether they be mainframes, POWER systems or x86 machines, to integrate these with IBM storage, IBM software and IBM services. IBM is the leading reseller of VMware, but also has a lot of business with Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Xen, Linux KVM, PowerVM, PR/SM and z/VM. While IBM has market leading servers, disk and tape systems, to compete for those RFP bids that just ask for one component or another, it prefers to sell fully-integrated systems, which IBM has been doing successfully since the 1950s.
Back in 2007, I mentioned how IBM's fully-integrated InfoSphere Balanced Warehouse [Trounced HP and Sun]. For business analytics, IBM offers the fully-integrated [IBM Smart Analytics Systems]. Today, IBM expanded its line of fully-integrated private cloud service delivery platforms with the announcement of the [IBM CloudBurst for on Power Systems], which does for POWER7 what the IBM CloudBurst for System x, Oracle Exalogic, or Acadia's V-block, do for x86.
IBM estimates that private clouds built on Power systems can be up to 70 percent less expensive than stand alone x86 servers.
Before he earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, my father was a car mechanic. I spent much of my teenage years covered in grease, helping my father assembling cars, lifting engines, and rebuilding carburetors. Certainly this was good father-son time, and I certainly did learn something in the process. Like the automobile industry, the IT industry has matured, and it makes no financial sense to build your own IT infrastructure from parts from different vendors.
For a test drive of the industry's leading integrated IT systems, see your IBM sales rep or IBM Business Partner.
Intelligent block-level disk array that virtualizes both internal and external disk storage
8 Gbps FCP and 1GbE iSCSI
IBM Storwize V7000 disk system
Real-time compression appliance for files
10GbE/1GbE CIFS and NFS
Storwize, now an IBM company
IBM Real-time Compression STN-6800 appliance
1GbE CIFS and NFS
IBM Real-time Compression STN-6500 appliance
If you think this is the first time a company like IBM has pulled shenanigans with product names like this, think again. Here are a few posts that might refresh your memory:
In my September 2006 post, [A brand by any other name...] I explain that I started blogging specifically to promote the new "IBM System Storage" product line name, part of the "IBM Systems" brand resulting from merging the "eServer" and "TotalStorage' brands.
In my January 2007 post, [When Names Change], I explain our naming convention for our disk products, including our DS family, SAN Volume Controller and N series.
In my February 2008 post, [Getting Off the Island], I cover how the x/p/i/z designations came about for our various IBM server product lines.
But what about acquisitions? When [IBM acquired Lotus Development Corporation], it kept the "Lotus" brand. New products that fit the "collaboration" function were put under the Lotus brand. I think most people can accept this approach.
But have we ever seen an existing product renamed to an acquired name?
In my post January 2009 post
[Congratulations to Ken on your QCC Milestone], I mentioned that my colleague Ken Hannigan worked on an internal project initially called "Workstation Data Save Facility" (WDSF) which was changed to "Data Facility Distributed Storage Manager" (DFDSM), then renamed to "ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager" (ADSM), and finally renamed to the name it has today: IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM).
Readers reminded me that [IBM acquired Tivoli Systems, Inc.] in 1996, so TSM could not have been an internally developed product. Ha! Wrong! Let's take a quick history lesson on how this came about:
In the late 1980s, IBM Almaden research had developed a project to backup personal computers and workstations, which they called "Workstation Data Save Facility" or WDSF.
This was turned over to our development team, which immediately discarded the code, and wrote from scratch its replacmeent, called Data Facility Distributed Storage Manager (DFDSM), named similar to the Data Facility products on the mainframe (DFP, DFHSM, DFDSS). As a member of the Data Facility family, DFDSM didn't really fit. The rest processed mainframe data sets, but DFDSM processed Windows and UNIX files. That a version of DFDSM server was available to run on the mainframe was the only connection.
Then, in the early 1990s, there were discussions of possibly splitting IBM into a bunch of smaller "Baby Blues", similar to how [AT&T was split into "Baby Bells"], and how Forbes and Goldman Sachs now want to split Microsoft into [Baby Bills]. IBM considered naming the storage spin-off as ADSTAR, which stood for "Advanced Storage and Retrieval."
Pre-emptively, IBM renamed DFDSM to "ADSTAR Distributed Storage Manager" or ADSM.
Fortunately, in 1993, IBM brought a new sheriff to town, Lou Gerstner, who quickly squashed any plans to split up IBM. He quickly realized that IBM's core strength was building integrated stacks, combining systems, software and services to solve business problems.
In 1996, IBM acquired Tivoli Systems, Inc. to expand its "Systems Management" portfolio, and renamed ADSM over to IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, since "storage management" is an essential part of "systems management". Later, IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center would be renamed to "IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center."
I participated in five months of painful meetings to figure out what to name our new internally-developed midrange disk system. Since it ran SAN Volume Controller software, I pushed for keeping the SVC designation somehow. We considered DS naming convention, but the new midrange product would not fit between our existing DS5000 and DS6000 numbering scheme. A marketing agency we hired came up with nonsensical names, in the spirit of product names like Celerra, Centera and CLARiiON, using name generators like [Wordoid]. Luckily, in the nick of time, IBM acquired Storwize for its compression technology, and decided that Storwize as a name was way better fit than any of the names we came up with already.
However, the new IBM Storwize V7000 midrange product had nothing in common with the appliances acquired from Storwize, the company, so to avoid confusion, the latter products were renamed to [IBM Real-time Compression]. Fellow blogger Steven Kenniston, the Storage Alchemist from Storwize fame now part of IBM from the acquisition, gives his perspective on this in his post [Storwize – What is in a Name, Really?]. While I am often critical of the names and terms IBM uses, I have to say this last set of naming decisions makes a lot of sense to me and I support it wholeheartedly.
This week, Hitachi Ltd. announced their next generation disk storage virtualization array, the Virtual Storage Platform, following on the success of its USP V line. It didn't take long for fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) to comment on this in his blog post [Hitachi's New VSP: Separating The Wheat From The Chaff]. Here are some excerpts:
"Well, we all knew that Hitachi (through HDS and HP) would be announcing some sort of refresh to their high-end storage platform sooner or later.
As EMC is Hitachi's only viable competitor in this part of the market, I think people are expecting me to say something.
If you're a high-end storage kind of person, your universe is basically a binary star: EMC and Hitachi orbiting each other, with the interesting occasional sideshow from other vendors trying to claim relevance in this space."
Chuck implies that neither Hewlett-Packard (HP) nor Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) as vendors provide any value-add from the box manufactured by Hitachi Ltd. so combines them into a single category. I suspect the HP and HDS folks might disagree with that opinion.
When I reminded Chuck that IBM was also a major player in the high-end disk space, his response included the following gem:
"Many of us in the storage industry believe that IBM currently does not field a competitive high-end storage platform. IDC market share numbers bear out this assertion, as you probably know."
While Chuck is certainly entitled to his own beliefs and opinions, believing the world is flat does not make it so. Certainly, I doubt IDC or any other market research firm has put out a survey asking "Do you think IBM offers a competitive high-end disk storage platform?" Of course, if Chuck is basing his opinion on anecdotal conversations with existing EMC customers, I can certainly see how he might have formed this misperception. However, IDC market share numbers don't support Chuck's assertion at all.
There is no industry-standard definition of what is a "high-end" or "enterprise-class" disk system. Some define high-end as having the option for mainframe attachment via ESCON and/or FICON protocol. Others might focus on features, functionality, scalability and high 99.999+ percent availability. Others insist high-end requires block-oriented protocols like FC and iSCSI, rather than file-based protocols like NAS and CIFS.
For the most demanding mission-critical mix of random and sequential workloads, IBM offers the [IBM System Storage DS8000 series] high-end disk system which connects to mainframes and distributed servers, via FCP and FICON attachment, and supports a variety of drive types and RAID levels. The features that HP and HDS are touting today for the VSP are already available on the IBM DS8000, including sub-LUN automatic tiering between Solid-State drives and spinning disk, called [Easy Tier], thin provisioning, wide striping, point-in-time copies, and long distance synchronous and asynchronous replication.
There are lots of analysts that track market share for the IT storage industry, but since Chuck mentions [IDC] specifically, I reviewed the most recent IDC data, published a few weeks ago in their "IDC Worldwide Quarter Disk Storage Tracker" for 2Q 2010, representing April 1 to June 30, 2010 sales. Just in case any of the rankings have changed over time, I also looked at the previous four quarters: 2Q 2009, 3Q 2009, 4Q 2009 and 1Q 2010.
(Note: IDC considers its analysis proprietary, out of respect for their business model I will not publish any of the actual facts and figures they have collected. If you would like to get any of the IDC data to form your own opinion, contact them directly.)
In the case of IDC, they divide the disk systems into three storage classes: entry-level, midrange and high-end. Their definition of "high-end" is external RAID-protected disk storage that sells for $250,000 USD or more, representing roughly 25 to 30 percent of the external disk storage market overall. Here are IDC's rankings of the four major players for high-end disk systems:
By either measure of market share, units (disk systems) or revenue (US dollars), IDC reports that IBM high-end disk outsold both HDS and HP combined. This has been true for the past five quarters. If a smaller start-up vendor has single digit percent market share, I could accept it being counted as part of Chuck's "occasional sideshow from other vendors trying to claim relevance", but IBM high-end disk has consistently had 20 to 30 percent market share over the past five quarters!
Not all of these high-end disk systems are connected to mainframes. According to IDC data, only about 15 to 25 percent of these boxes are counted under their "Mainframe" topology.
Chuck further writes:
"It's reasonable to expect IBM to sell a respectable amount of storage with their mainframes using a protocol of their own design -- although IBM's two competitors in this rather proprietary space (notably EMC and Hitachi) sell more together than does IBM."
The IDC data doesn't support that claim either, Chuck. By either measure of market share, units (disk systems) or revenue (US dollars), IDC reports that IBM disk for mainframes outsold all other vendors (including EMC, HDS, and HP) combined. And again, this has been true for the past five quarters. Here is the IDC ranking for mainframe disk storage:
IBM has over 50 percent market share in this case, primarily because IBM System Storage DS8000 is the industry leader in mainframe-related features and functions, and offers synergy with the rest of the z/Architecture stack.
So Chuck, I am not picking a fight with you or asking you to retract or correct your blog post. Your main theme, that the new VSP presents serious competition to EMC's VMAX high-end disk arrays, is certainly something I can agree with. Congratulations to HDS and HP for putting forth what looks like a viable alternative to EMC's VMAX.
To learn more about IBM's upcoming products, register for next week's webcast "Taming the Information Explosion with IBM Storage" featuring Dan Galvan, IBM Vice President, and Steve Duplessie, Senior Analyst and Founder of Enterprise Storage Group (ESG).
Last week, in Computer Technology Review's article [Tiering: Scale Up? Scale Out? Do Both], Mark Ferelli interviews fellow blogger Hu Yoshida, CTO of Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). Here's an excerpt:
"MF/CTR: A global cache should be required to implement that common pool that you’re talking about going across all tiers.
Hu/HDS: Right. So that is needed to get to all the resources. Now with our system, we can also attach external storage behind it for capacity so that as the storage ages out or becomes less active we can move it to the external storage. They would certainly have less performance capability, but you don’t need it for the stale data that we’re aging down. Right now we’re the only vendor that can provide this type of tiering.
If you look at other people who do virtualization like IBM’s SVC, the SVC has no storage within it because it’s sitting so if you attach any storage behind it, there is some performance degradation because you have this appliance sitting in front. That appliance is also very limited in cache and very limited in the number of storage boards on it. It cannot really provide you additional performance than what is attached behind it. And in fact, it will always degrade what is attached behind it because it’s not storage, where as our USP is storage and it has a global cache and it has thousands of port connections, load balancing and all that. So our front end can enhance existing storage that sits behind it."
This is not the first time I have had to correct Hu and others of misperceptions of IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC). This month marks my four year "blogoversary", and I seem to spend a large portion of my blogging time setting the record straight. Here are just a few of my favorite posts setting the record straight on SVC back in 2007:
Since day 1, SAN Volume Controllers has focused primarily on external storage. Initially, the early models had just battery-protected DRAM cache memory, but the most recent model of the SVC, the 2145-CF8, adds support for internal SLC NAND flash solid state drives. To fully appreciate how SVC can help improve the performance of the disks that are managed, I need to use some visual aids.
In this first chart, we look at a 70/30/50 workload. This indicates that 70 percent of the IOPS are reads, 30 percent writes, and 50 percent can be satisfied as cache hits directly from the SVC. For the reads, this means that 50 percent are read-hits satisfied from SVC DRAM cache, and 50 percent are read-miss that have to get the data from the managed disk, either from the managed disk's own cache, or from the actual spinning drives inside that managed disk array.
For writes, all writes are cache-hits, but some of them will be destaged to the managed disk. Typically, we find that a third of writes are over-written before this happens, so only two-thirds are written down to managed disk.
In this example, the SVC reduced the burden of the managed disk from 100,000 IOPS down to 55,000, which is 35,000 reads and 20,000 writes. Some have argued against putting one level of cache (SVC) in front of another level of cache (managed disk arrays). However, CPU processor designers have long recognized the value of hierarchical cache with L1, L2, L3 and sometimes even L4 caches. The cache-hits on SVC are faster than most disk system's cache-hits.
This is a Ponder curve, mapping millisecond response (MSR) times for different levels of I/O per second, named after the IBM scientist John Ponder that created them. Most disk array vendors will publish similar curves for each of their products. In this case, we see that 100,000 IOPS would cause a 25 millisecond response (MSR) time, but when the load is reduced to 55,000 IOPS, the average response time drops to only 7 msec.
To be fair, the SVC does introduce 0.06 msec of additional latency on read-misses, so let's call this 7.06 msec. This tiny amount of latency could be what Hu Yoshida was referring to when he said there was "some performance degradation". There are other storage virtualization products in the market that do not provide caching to boost performance, but rather just map incoming requests to outgoing requests, and these can indeed slow down every I/O they process. Perhaps Hu was thinking of those instead of IBM's SVC when he made his comments.
Of course, not all workloads are 70/30/50, and not every disk array is driven to its maximum capability, so your mileage may vary. As we slide down the left of the curve where things are flatter, the improvement in performance lowers.
IOPS before SVC
IOPS after SVC
MSR before SVC
MSR after SVC
Hitachi's offerings, including the HDS USP-V, USP-VM and their recently announced Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) sold also by HP under the name P9500, have similar architecture to the SVC and can offer similar benefits, but oddly the Hitachi engineers have decided to treat externally attached storage as second-class citizens instead. Hu mentions data that "ages out or becomes less active we can move it to the external storage." IBM has chosen not to impose this "caste" system onto its design of the SAN Volume Controller.
The SVC has been around since 2003, before the USP-V came to market, and has sold over 20,000 SVC nodes over the past seven years. The SVC can indeed improve performance of managed disk systems, in some cases by a substantial amount. The 0.06 msec latency on read-miss requests represents less than 1 percent of total performance in production workloads. SVC nearly always improves performance, and in the worst case, provides same performance but with added functionality and flexibility. For the most part, the performance boost comes as a delightful surprise to most people who start using the SVC.
To learn more about IBM's upcoming products and how IBM will lead in storage this decade, register for next week's webcast "Taming the Information Explosion with IBM Storage" featuring Dan Galvan, IBM Vice President, and Steve Duplessie, Senior Analyst and Founder of Enterprise Storage Group (ESG).
In my presentations in Australia and New Zealand, I mentioned that people were re-discovering the benefits of removable media. While floppy diskettes were convenient way of passing information from one person to another, they unfortunately did not have enough capacity. In today's world, you may need Gigabytes or Terabytes of re-writeable storage with a file system interface that can easily be passed from one person to another. In this post, I explore three options.
(FCC Disclaimer: I work for IBM, and IBM has no business relationship with Cirago at the time of this writing. Cirago has not paid me to mention their product, but instead provided me a free loaner that I promised to return to them after my evaluation is completed. This post should not be considered an endorsement for Cirago's products. List prices for Cirago and IBM products were determined from publicly available sources for the United States, and may vary in different countries. The views expressed herein may not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of either IBM or Cirago.)
I took a few photos so you can see what exactly this device looks like. Basically, it is a plastic box that holds a single naked disk drive. It has four little rubber feet so that it does not slip on your desk surface.
The inside is quite simple. The power and SATA connections match those of either a standard 3.5 inch drive, or the smaller form factor (SFF) 2.5 inch drive. However, to my dismay, it does not handle EIDE drives which I have a ton of. After taking apart six different computer systems, I found only one had SATA drives for me to try this unit out with.
The unit comes with a USB cable and AC/DC power adapter. In my case, I found the USB 3.0 cable too short for my liking. My tower systems are under my desk, but I like keeping docking stations like this on the top of the desk, within easy reach, but that wasn't going to happen because the USB cable was not long enough.
Instead, I ended up putting it half-way in between, behind my desk, sitting on another spare system. Not ideal, but in theory there are USB-extension cables that probably could fix this.
Here it is with the drive inside. I had a 3.5 inch Western Digital [1600AAJS drive] 160 GB, SATA 3 Gbps, 8 MB Cache, 7200 RPM.
To compare the performance, I used a dual-core AMD [Athlon X2] system that I had built for my 2008 [One Laptop Per Child] project. To compare the performance, I ran with the drive externally in the Cirago docking station, then ran the same tests with the same drive internally on the native SATA controller. Although the Cirago documentation indicated that Windows was required, I used Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS just fine, using the flexible I/O [fio] benchmarking tool against an ext3 file system.
Sequential Write - a common use for external disk drive is backup.
Random read - randomly read files ranging from 5KB to 10MB in size.
Random mixed - randomly read/write files (50/50 mix) ranging from 5KB to 10MB in size.
Random Mixed (50/50)
Latency (msec) read
Latency (msec) write
Bandwidth (KB/s) read
Bandwidth (KB/s) write
For sequential write, the Cirago performed well, only about 15 percent slower than native SATA. For random workloads, however, it was 30-40 percent slower. If you are wondering why I did not get USB 3.0 speeds, there are several factors involved here. First, with overheads, 5 Gbps USB 3.0 is expected to get only about 400 MB/sec. My SATA 2.0 controller maxes out at 375 MB/sec, and my USB 2.0 ports on my system are rated for 57 MB/sec, but with overheads will only get 20-25 MB/sec. Most spinning drives only get 75 to 110 MB/sec. Even solid-state drives top out at 250 MB/sec for sustained activity. Despite all that, my internal SATA drive only got 16 MB/sec, and externally with the Cirago 14 MB/sec in sustained write activity.
Here is the mess that is inside my system. The slot for drive 2 was blocked by cables, memory chips and the heat sink for my processor. It is possible to damage a system just trying to squeeze between these obstacles.
However, the point of this post is "removable media". Having to open up the case and insert the second drive and wire it up to the correct SATA port was a pain, and certainly a more difficult challenge than the average PC user wishes to tackle.
Price-wise, the Cirago lists for $49 USD, and the 160GB drive I used lists for $69, so the combination $118 is about what you would pay for a fully integrated external USB drive. However, if you had lots of loose drives, then this could be more convenient and start to save you some money.
IBM RDX disk backup system
Another problem with the Cirago approach is that the disk drives are naked, with printed circuit board (PCB) exposed. When not in the docking station, where do you put your drive? Did you keep the [anti-static ESD bag] that it came in when you bought it? And once inside the bag, now what? Do you want to just stack it up in a pile with your other pieces of equipment?
To solve this, IBM offers the RDX backup system. These are fully compatible with other RDX sytems from Dell, HP, Imation, NEC, Quantum, and Tandberg Data. The concept is to have a docking station that takes removable, rugged plastic-coated disk-enclosed cartridges. The docking station can be part of the PC itself, similar to how CD/DVD drives are installed, or as a stand-alone USB 2.0 system, capable of processing data up to 25 MB/sec.
The idea is not new, about 10 years ago we had [Iomega "zip" drives] that offered disk-enclosed cartridges with capacities of 100, 250 and 750MB in size. Iomega had its fair share of problems with the zip drive, which were ranked in 2006 as the 15th worst technology product of all time, and were eventually were bought out by EMC two years later (as if EMC has not had enough failures on its own!)
The problem with zip drives was that they did not hold as much as CD or DVD media, and were more expensive. By comparison, IBM RDX cartridges come in 160GB to 750GB in size, at list prices starting at $127 USD.
IBM LTO tape with Long-Term File System
Removable media is not just for backup. Disk cartridges, like the IBM RDX above, had the advantage of being random access, but most tape are accessed sequentially. IBM has solved this also, with the new IBM Long Term File System [LTFS], available for LTO-5 tape cartridges.
With LFTS, the LTO-5 tape cartridge now can act as a super-large USB memory stick for passing information from one person to the next. The LTO-5 cartridge can handle up to 3TB of compressed data at up to SAS speeds of 140 MB/sec. An LTO-5 tape cartridge lists for only $87 USD.
The LTO-5 drives, such as the IBM [TS2250 drive] can read LTO-3, LTO-4 and LTO-5cartridges, and can write LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges, in a manner that is fully compatible with LTO drives from HP or Quantum. LTO-3, LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges are available in WORM or rewriteable formats. LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges can be encrypted with 256-bit AES built-in encryption. With three drive manufacturers, and seven cartridge manufacturers, there is no threat of vendor lock-in with this approach.
These three options offer various trade-offs in price, performance, security and convenience. Not surprisingly, tape continues to be the cheapest option.
Wrapping up my seven-city romp through Australia and New Zealand, the final city was Canberra, which is the capital of Australia. As with Wellington, this meant many of the clients in the audience work in government agencies.
I had not taken any photos of Anna Wells, IBM Storage Sales Leader for ANZ, but I was able to find this caricature of her on a poster from an award she won within IBM.
I also did not have a picture of Robert, my videographer for this trip, who was always behind the camera himself.
The event went smoothly, just like the rest of them. Anna presented IBM's storage strategy and highlighted specific IBM storage solutions.
I had several emails asking if this event was called "Storage Optimisation Breakfast" because it was held in the mornings, or did we actually serve food at these events. The answer is we actually served food, a variation of the [Full English Breakfast], and most of the attendees gobbled it down while Anna spoke.
The fare was quite similar across all seven locations: scrambled or poached eggs, on toast or english muffin, ham/bacon/sausages, potatoes or mushrooms, and half of a baked tomato with bits of something toasted on top.
One morning, for a change, I decided instead to have a bowl of Weet-Bix cereal. Tasted like cardboard. I learned my lesson.
Next, we had Will Quodling, Manager of Infrastructure Operations, at Australia's Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research consists of 3200 staff that strive to encourage the sustainable growth of Australian industries. The Department is committed to developing policies and delivering programs to provide lasting economic benefits ensuring Australia's competitive future, undertakes analysis, and provides services and advice to the business, science and research community. American President, Barack Obama, visited Australia and was interested in adopting a similar concept for the United States.
The department was looking to replace their existing IBM System Storage DS4800 disk systems with something more energy efficient. They selected IBM XIV storage system, with an expected savings of 10kW per year. They are able to run 800 VMware images and 150 VDI workstations using storage on one XIV, replicate the data to a second XIV at a remote location, and have a third XIV for their Web serving environment. They tested out both single drive and full module failures, and experienced better-than-expected rebuild times, with no impact to users, and no impact to performance.
After 17 days without a functioning government, Australia finally selected a prime minister. Her name is Julia Gillard, shown here. She won in part by promising to build a National Broadband Network (NBN) for the entire country, including the rural areas.
[Canberra] is an interesting town, a fully planned community designed in 1913 by Chicago's husband-and-wife architect team of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. The location was selected as being half-way compromise between Australia's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.
I would like to thank all the wonderful people in both Australia and New Zealand for making this a successful trip!
Continuing my romp through Australia and New Zealand, this is city 6 - Wellington, which is the capital of New Zealand. This meant many of the clients in the audience work in government agencies.
Here is my view of Wellington from my hotel room at the Duxton Hotel. I have been to Wellington before, it has that "small town" feel.
The event went smoothly, just like the rest of them. Anna Wells presented IBM's storage strategy and highlighted specific IBM storage solutions.
Replacing Natalie from GPJ Australia is Megan, who coordinated our events in both Auckland and Wellington, NZ.
Next, we had Glen Mitchell again from Telecom NZ, presenting his success story going from an EMC-only environment to a dual IBM-and-EMC mixed environment managed by IBM SAN Volume Controller.
Someone mentioned that my job as public speaker in different cities was akin to "busking". I had no idea what "busking" was, until I was shown two "in the act" in front of a bank. Americans call these "street performers", which shows we appreciate this art form perhaps more than the Kiwis.
Lastly, I covered future trends in storage. This is particularly interesting to government agencies that are particularly interested in reducing costs, managing risks, and improving service delivery.
Lastly, this is Aisel Giumali, IBM storage marketing manager for Australia and New Zealand. She managed my calendar, all of my events and one-on-one client briefings. I could not have handled these past two weeks without her.
Since the first big earthquake on Saturday, there were several smaller aftershocks, including one in Wellington itself. It is a good thing I head back for Australia for the rest of the trip.
While I was in Auckland, New Zealand, for the IBM Storage Optimisation Breakfast series of events, I agreed to also talk at the [Ingram Micro Showcase 2010] held there the same week. David Bird, who was scheduled to speak, was down in Christchurch taking care of his family after the big 7.1 magnitude earthquake.
The marketing team did a great job putting up a "Smarter Planet" ball up near the ceiling. It had to be "enhanced" with some extra black ink to include the outline of the islands of New Zealand.
Basically, I had 25 minutes to present "Future Storage Trends" to a packed room with standing room only. This was a shortened version of my 40-minute talk that I had been already giving at the Storage Optimisation Breakfast events. This presentation was based on three key trends:
There is a shift in the role each storage media type is going to be used for. Rising energy costs, performance and economics are causing the IT industry to re-evaluate their use of solid-state drives, spinning disk, tape cartridge, paper and analog film. IBM Easy Tier and blended disk-and-tape solutions are paving the way for these future trends.
Advancements in commuications technology and bandwidth are driving a convergence of SANs and LANs to a single Data Center Network (DCN) based on Convergence Enhanced Ethernet (CEE). IBM's top-of-rack switches and converged network adapaters (CNA) are the first step in this process.
Cloud Computing is driving new levels of standardization, automation and management that will impact the way internal IT departments will manage their own IT equipment as well. IBM's five different levels of cloud computing offerings, from private cloud to public cloud, provides every individual or company a level of service that is just right.
Here is the IBM booth. As is often the case, we get a prestigious corner booth that maximizes foot traffic to see our solutions.
While walking around, the folks at the Samsung booth notices my Samsung Galaxy S smartphone. These are not yet available in the New Zealand market, so they thought I was a Samsung employee. I explained that I am an American, and that these have been available for weeks now in the states.
The Samsung team then showed me their latest 3D television. Basically, you wear special 3D glasses that sync-up electronically with the TV screen itself to give the appearance of 3D image on anything you play. I believe the TV comes with two pairs of glasses, and additional pairs can be purchased for substantial extra. It works with any movie or TV show, there is no requirement that it be filmed in 3D mode. The 3D-TV automatically analyzes that is moving on the screen, and then makes that item clearer and sharper, and things that are considered background are automatically made fuzzier, out of focus. The effect is really incredible.
One of the storage solutions on display was the entry-level IBM System Storage DS3524 disk system, which is a small 2U high cabinet that holds 24 drives. These are the small form factor 2.5 inch drives. It's amazing we can pack so many drives in such a compact rack-optimized enclosure!
Ingram Micro is one of IBM's technology distributors, and it was good to see it was a well-attended event.
I am now fully a week behind in my coverage of my romp through Australia and New Zealand. Last week was "week 2" of the "Tony and Anna" show! This time we were in Auckland, New Zealand. Anna Wells is from New Zealand originally, so it was good for her to be back in her home country.
Sunday I was able to take the Ferry boat to Devonport, and climb to the top of Mt Victoria, which is only 283 feet above sea level, but still affords spectacular views of Auckland from across the harbour. My hotel, the Auckland Heritage, as well as the IBM building, is about a block or two away from the Sky Tower.
New Zealand shares a lot of traits with Australia, including low unemployment and a healthy economy. Employees feel secure enough in their jobs to invest in real estate, get married and start families. School teachers are well-regarded in society, earning six-figure incomes. Retail stores were filled with shoppers spending [disposable and discretionary income]. What a refreshing difference from the United States! The level of optimism made my skin tingle. I had to file a lot of paperwork for all the work permits and visas for this trip, so I hate to think what it would take to emigrate to either country.
(Of course, the grass always appears greener on the other side. Not everything is perfect in New Zealand. I saw warning signs for toxic sea slugs in their beaches, sales advertising for [Brolly Sheets], and the south island of New Zealand suffered a magnitute 7.1 earthquake near Christchurch on the day I arrived to Auckland on the north island. Over 100,000 homes were damaged, but nobody died, and the entire country rallied support to help out those affected.)
I took this photo of a seagull walking along Cheltenham Beach. I thought it might make for a nice wallpaper for my phone or laptop.
The Storage Optimisation Breakfast at this, the fifth of seven cities, went smoothly. The New Zealand client case study she had planned to show was in the middle of an [RFP], so instead she covered [Edith Cowan University] and [Bunnings Warehouse] from Australia as examples of success stories.
Our next speaker was Glen Mitchell, an IT architect in the Operational Integration, Technology & Shared Services
of Telecom NZ. The Telecom NZ is New Zealand's phone company, recently split up into separate business units, similar to what the US government did to AT&T during the 1974 [Bell System Divestiture].
The change forced Telecom NZ to be more financially responsible. Before, they were using an all-EMC disk environment, managed by HP Enterprise Services (formerly known as EDS). The EMC gear worked as expected and Telecom NZ is happy with EMC as a vendor, but they were uncomfortable with vendor lock-in. Some firmware upgrades on their EMC boxes often forced them to take outages on hundreds of connected servers to install Powerpath updates. After an EMC disk array went off its four-year prepaid warranty, it took another FOUR YEARS to get all 180 servers migrated to another disk array. Keeping a disk array after warranty expires can cost as much as $450K NZD per year, per disk array, in maintenance fees! Ouch! This served as a strong motivator to find a way to migrate data from one disk array to another in a more smooth and timely manner.
The new direction was a dual-vendor environment, keeping some of the midrange EMC gear, and getting new IBM high-end DS8700 gear, resulting in a drastically lower TCO. To make the transition as smooth as possible, Telecom NZ employed IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) to virtualize their entire environment, both EMC and IBM happily being part of shared disk pools. They had originally planned to migrate their entire server environment over in 12 months, but in the first six weeks, they are already at 20 percent, ahead of schedule!
The SAN Volume Controllers will also allow Telecom NZ have Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery protection in a consistent manner across both EMC and IBM equipment between their two main data centers in Auckland and Hamilton.
Remember those trees shown in the movie trilogy "Lord of the Rings"? The trees here in New Zealand are amazing! I'm not an arborist, but I was told this one shown here is a [Morton Bay Fig Tree]. Some of the oldest trees in the world live in New Zealand.
By deploying IBM DS8700 and SAN Volume Controller, Telecom NZ was able to reduce costs, manage risk, and improve service delivery!
Continuing my romp through Australia and New Zealand, the last Storage Optimisation Breakfast of the week was Brisbane, which the locals here refer to as [Brisvegas], probably for all of the nightlife and casinos here.
The IBM office building is conveniently across the street from my hotel, the [Sofitel Brisbane]. The hotel also sits above central station, which allows quick transportation to the airport.
This time, we had a tag team of two people from James Cook University (JCU) to present their success story. First up was Kent Adams, the Director or Information Technology and Resources. JCU is recognized as one of the top 5 percent of Universities worldwide, and as a result, their data storage requirements are growing at 400 percent per year! Their latest purchase put out for RFP was for at least 40TB that could handle at least 20,000 IOPS. The winning solutions was an IBM XIV disk system.
Behind the scenes at all the events this week here in Australia were, from left to right, Natalie from GPJ Australia, the local subsidiary of the George P. Johnson events management we use in the states; Sonia Phillips, IBM Advisory Marketing Lead for Dynamic Infrastructure Optimisation and Cloud Computing, Demand Programs, for Australia and New Zealand; and Monika Lovgren, IBM Marketing and Execution Lead for Workload Optimised Systems for Australia.
The second speaker was Lee Askew, one of the Storage Administrators. Overall, the JCU team have been amazed at how well this box works. When they started it up, they expected to spend the next 24-36 hours formatting RAID ranks, but not with the XIV. It was ready in 2 minutes and they started provisioning storage right away. Their own tests to fail a drive found they can do a full rebuild to redundancy in 9 minutes. It took 8-36 hours on their previous disk array. Failing a full data module took only 75 minutes to bring back to redundancy.
After a long and tiring week, I was able to relax by walking through this beautiful King Edward park near the IBM building. This had a nice variety of plants and flowers, and with the surprise visit of a lizard about the length of my arm that crossed my path.
JCU also uses Asynchronous Mirror to replicate data to another XIV at distance. Again, as with all aspects of IBM XIV, the solution works as advertised. They are well positioned to grow from the 18,000 students they have today, to their target goal of 25,000 students they want to have by 2015.
Worldwide, IBM has done well with colleges and universities, and this was a great example of how partnering with IBM for your IT infrastructure can make a huge difference!
In the first two cities, Adam Beames, system administrator for Tennis Australia, presented. Tennis Australia is most known for running the [Australian Open], the first Grand Slam tennis tourney of the year, but they also run some smaller events, such as the Brisbane International, the Sydney International, the Hobart International, the Davis Cup, the Fed Cup and the Pro Tour. They have 150 full time staff, and another 180 staff contributed from their eight member associations they support.
Of these events, the Australian Open is by far the biggest, with over 9 million unique visitors to the website for the few weeks in January every year. For this, Tennis Australia leverages IBM cloud computing services. The rest of the year, they have deployed their own "private cloud" for running the other events. During the month of January, Tennis Australia grows their staff from 300 to 4500 people.
Adam had been there since 2005, and told how back then they were using beige-colored IBM PC 330 tower servers, on a plastic shelf that was sagging from the weight. This server had six hot-swappable drives, 4.5GB each. There was also a mysterious "blue box" that served as their serial distribution panel, operated by a laptop running Windows 95, with a spare laptop just in case for high-availability.
The situation started to improve in 2008, Tennis Australia brought in BladeCenter H with HS20, HS21 and HS22 blade servers, and x3850 M2 machines for VMware virtual machines, and boot over SAN to an IBM XIV disk system. This allows them to run all of the other tennis events throughout the year. It provided N+1 redundancy, and made the process of provisioning servers and storage simple and efficient.
This is the view of Melbourne from the IBM office. The tall 975 foot building on the left with the golden bumblebees at the base is the famous [Eureka Tower], Melbourne's tallest residential building.
As Paul Harvey would say, at Melbourne we got to hear [the rest of the story] from Chris Yates, the CIO of Tennis Australia. He came on board in November 2007, just six weeks prior to the big Australian Open of January 2008. Witnessing how bad the IT was for the infrastructure, he partnered with IBM to deploy all the solutions that Adam mentioned in the first two cities. The transformation over the past two years has been a phenomenal success, with some of the best recognized international tennis organizations crediting Tennis Australia for some of the best run events.
IBM is also using its [cloud computing services to help the US Open] as well. In both the Australian Open and the US Open, IBM provides a cloud computing capability that allows the operation to scale up dramatically for the tournament. IBM rapidly creates and provisions services on a common infrastructure -- services that are mission-critical to the tennis tournament.
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.
Continuing my romp through Australia and New Zealand, today I presented in Hobart, the second city on my seven-city tour. Hobart is on a separate island called Tasmania, just south of the main Australian continent. The island is heart-shaped, and Hobart is in the lower right ventricle.
Hobart boasts the second deepest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere (yesterday's Sydney Harbour being the first). It is quite cold here, but at least the skies are clear.
I stayed in the [Henry Jones Art Hotel], named after the famous owner of the IXL Jam Company. When I arrived, they presented me with a list of 18 known convicts that shared my last name: PEARSON. I checked and made sure I was not on the list. Then it was explained to me that here in Australia, everyone values their criminal ancestors, as this is how the country was formed. The names were from registry archives from the 19th century.
In keeping with the concept of an art hotel, each of the rooms were unique, which is a nice way of saying that they fit whatever they could into the spaces available. It's been a while since I stayed at a hotel with the phone at one end of the room, but the electrical outlet at the other. The thermostat was hidden in the bathroom, and I had to master some 16 different ropes to put down the shades, as the bright light from the [Cenotaph] was keeping me awake. I was able to take pictures of some of the art sculptures from the balcony.
This was a smaller event than Sydney, with only about two dozen attendees. This makes sense, as Hobart population is only about 250,000 people. Tasmania island hold about 1 million people overall, concentrated mostly along the center line of the island.
As we had done in Sydney, Anna Wells presented IBM strategy and products, Adam Beames, system administrator for Tennis Australia (shown here in the picture at left) presented his experiences transforming their datacenter, and I presented the future trends in storage.
In appreciation for Adam's presentations in Sydney and Hobart, I presented him with a copy of my book, [Inside System Storage: Volume I], available from my publisher, Lulu.com, in paperback, hard cover, and now also in eBook format for those with Kindle, Nook or other digital book readers. See panel at right on this blog for ordering information.
This week and next, I am down under in Australia and New Zealand for a seven-city Storage Optimisation Breakfast series of presentations to clients and prospects. My first city for this seven-city tour was Sydney, Australia.
Here is the view from my room at the [Shangri-La hotel], including the famous [Sydney Opera House] and Circular Quay, from which to take a water taxi or ride the Manly Ferry. [Sydney harbour] is the deepest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere, allowing boats of all sizes to enter. This section of the city is known as "The Rocks".
Sydney is a very modern metropolis. The last time I was in Sydney was in May 2007 to teach an IBM Top Gun class. My post back then on [Dealing with Jet Lag] is as relevant now as it was back then. In addition to being 9 hours off-shifted from last week in Dallas, Texas, I also have to deal with the colder climate, about 40 degrees F cooler down here. The weather is crisp and clear, it is Winter going into Spring down here as the seasons are flipped below the equator.
Many of the buildings are recognizable from the movie ["The Matrix"] which was filmed here. We joked that this seven-city trip was also similar to [The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert], in that both journeys started in Sydney. If you haven't seen the latter, I highly recommend it to get to learn more about Australia as a country.
(Completely useless trivia: Actor Hugo Weaving appeared in both movies. While most people associate him with Australia, where he has lived since 1976, he actually was born in Nigeria, and traveled extensively because his father worked in the computer industry.)
Here I am standing next to our banner.
The line-up for each event is simple. After all the attendees sit down for breakfast, we have the following three sessions:
First, Anna Wells, local IBM Executive for Storage Sales in Australia and New Zealand presents IBM's strategy for storage, and how IBM plans to address Storage Efficiency, Data Protection and Service Delivery. She then highlights various products that are currently available to help meet customer needs, including XIV and the SAN Volume Controller (SVC).
Second, we have a client or two share their success story. We will have different speakers at the different locations.
Third, I present on future trends that will impact the storage marketplace. With only 40 minutes for my section, I decided to focus on just three specific trends, with a mix of some colorful analogies to help emphasize my key points.
We had a great turn-out for our first event in Sydney, lots of clients and prospects came out for this. There is a lot of enthusiasm for IBM's vision, thought leadership, and broad portfolio of storage solutions.
This week I am down under, starting my 7-city Storage Optimisation Breakfast roadshow on Tuesday in Sydney, Australia. I can't be at two places at once, and it seems whenever I am one place, lots of my coworkers are somewhere else at another conference or event. For those at [VMworld 2010] conference in San Francisco this week, IBM is a Platinum Sponsor and hosting a variety of presentations and activities. Here are some things to look forward to:
Session ID SP9638 - Getting the MAX from your Virtualization Investment
Monday 1:30pm, Moscone South Room 309
Speaker: Bob Zuber, IBM System x Program Director
Speaker: Clod Barrera Distinguished Engineer and Chief Technical Strategist
Clod and I just finished Solutions University 2010 in Dallas, and here he is going to VMworld! You already know that virtualization is beneficial. Exploit virtualization to its MAXimum and move beyond virtualization 101 where you have virtualized web, file/print, and DHCP type workloads. Now it is time to take virtualization to the next step and virtualize business infrastructure applications such as ERP, Messaging, CRM, and Database. With IBM solutions you can take the virtualization journey to build a smarter data center through; 1) Consolidation, 2) Management, 3) Automation and 4) Optimization. Attend this session and learn the key considerations for virtualizing mission-critical workloads and the best practices for a virtual data center that delivers a REAL return on your investment.
Session ID TA8065 - Storage Best Practices, Performance Tuning and Troubleshooting
Speaker: Duane Fafard, Senior XIV Storage Architect, IBM
Monday 10:30 AM Moscone South Room 301
Wednesday 03:00 PM Moscone West Room 2005
The industry has solved many of the challenges of virtualization applications by delivering innovative server solutions that automatically migrate load to available resources, but the complete environment requires both the network and the storage to be part of the equation. Designing, managing, and troubleshooting intricate storage environments in today’s age have become more and more complex. This session will discuss storage best practices, performance challenges, and resolving issues in the storage area network using native tools within the environment. With the techniques learned in this session, the storage administrator will be able to use these best practices to design proper storage solutions and pinpoint troubled areas quickly and accurately.
Session ID SS1012 - Expert Panel: How Smarter Systems can Address your Business Challenges
Wednesday, 12-1pm, Room 135
This is IBM's "Super Session". At IBM, we know that all business challenges such as sprawling IT infrastructure, poor performance and rising management costs are solvable on a smarter planet. With Smarter Systems, IBM can help you increase utilization and flexibility, reduce complexity and cost, respond to business changes swiftly and effectively, and enable end-to-end resiliency and security. Alex Yost, Vice President and Business Line Executive for IBM System x and BladeCenter hosts a panel of Virtualization experts:
James Northington, Vice President and Business Line Executive, IBM System x
Donn Bullock, Vice President of Sales, Mainline Information Systems, Inc.
Dylan Larson, Director of Advanced Software and Server Technologies, Intel Data Center Group
Richard, McAniff, Chief Development Officer and Member of the Office of the President, VMware
Siddhartha (Sid) Chatterjee, Ph.D, Vice President, Strategy & Partnerships, IBM Systems Software
David Guzman, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President, Global Technology Solution, Acxiom
Next week is [VMworld 2010], so I thought today would be a good day to write a blog post about reporting and managing virtual guest images.
As the original lead architect for IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, I am no stranger to reporting and management tools. Needless to say, if you have lots of virtual guest images, it makes sense to deploy reporting and management software. I had never heard of Veeam before, but I decided to check out Veeam Reporter 4.0, an enterprise-level reporting solution specifically designed for large Virtual Infrastructure (VI3) and vSphere virtual environments that allows you to automatically discover and collect information about your VMware virtual environment.
Their 90-page User Guide offered these helpful "First Steps" on page 9 which I used as the master plan for my evaluation.
Install Veeam Reporter 4.0
The instructions appeared fairly straightforward: Download [the latest version] of the application. Unpack the downloaded archive and run the VeeamReporter.exe file. Then follow the installation wizard steps. What could go wrong?
I should have known better. Like IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, Veeam Reporter is designed to be installed on its own server-class machine with its own application web server and database. I wasn't going to stand up a new server in our lab just for this contest, so I decided to just install it on my Windows XP SP3, which Veeam had listed as a supported operating system level. I ran into a series of installation issues, including installing IIS, installing SQL server, and installing the SRSS component. I am more familiar with IBM's WebSphere Application Server and DB2 combination used in IBM's own products, and have experience with Apache and MySQL on a standard LAMP stack, so my lack of experience with IIS and SQL server made the installation more difficult. Many thanks to all the support personnel at Veeam, Microsoft, and my internal IT department to finally get all of this working.
It appears you can set this up as a client/server environment, where the Veeam Reporter server runs IIS and SQL Server, and then you have a browser on your client machine point to that server. In my cases, I have client browser and server all on one machine.
Create and run a collection job
This step also seemed fairly standard for reporting tools. Once you launch Veeam Reporter 4.0 for the first time, you need to retrieve data from your virtual infrastructure to be able to generate reports. To start the created collection job, select it and click the Start button on the toolbar. If you have a vCenter server in your VI environment, we recommend that you create a job for it to immediately collect data for all objects in its hierarchy. After that, you will be able to select VI objects that were engaged in the performed job using the Workspace, and generate reports for it.
I signed up for this contest August 7, but step 1 above took me two weeks to resolve all the installation iissues. I wanted to get my blog post entry for the contest BEFORE the start of VMworld. Since I am in Dallas, Texas this week for the IBM Storage Solutions University, I had to go through several firewalls for my laptop to tunnel through and get to my VMware Center back in Tucson.
Click on the graphic above to see larger view.
I was able to create and run a collection job. I have a WMware ESX 3.5 host running five guest images and 14 datastores. This seemed to be enough to evaluate the basic features of this reporting tool. Veeam Reporter let's you run the collection process manually, or set a "periodic" schedule to collect data every hour.
Generate reports manually or create a reporting job
Finally, I get to the fun part: To generate report manually, click the Workspace tab, select a necessary VI object from the tree view, date and collection job session, choose reports and click the Create Report button.
At this point, I am reminded of a famous poem:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
- William Blake
When evaluating products, try to imagine what the reports would look like with hundreds of virtual guest images. Certainly, I can see some potential, even though I had rather limited data to work with. In theory, the tool can create Visio output files, but you need to have Microsoft Visio installed. I have only "Visio Viewer" so I was unable to create any visio files with this product.
The reports can be exported to PDF, Word or Excel formats. Here is an example of an Excel spreadsheet export. While it has 14 bars for the 14 datastores, there are no labels, and the misleading details link in the lower right corner is non-functional. The only way for me to figure out what each referred to was to go back to my vCenter client, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a separate reporting tool.
This same report exported to PDF spanned across four pages, leaving the re-assembly to be done with a pair of scissors and celophane tape.
When you create reports, you can use SRSS or Veeam's internal proprietary format. Only SRSS reports can be put on the dashboard, so I recommend that.
Customize your dashboard
The fourth and final step is to configure your own dashboard: To add reports to the Dashboard, you should first create and save them using Workspace of Veeam Reporter 4.0. Keep in mind that you can add to the Dashboard only saved SSRS-based reports. To customize the Dashboard, click the Dashboard tab and then click the Edit Dashboard button. Customize the layout by dragging blue borders from the right and the bottom of the screen. Then, drag reports from the Reports list and drop them onto the created cells.
The "Free Edition" only allows you to put a single report on the dashboard, so as in step 3, you have to use your imagination of what the potential of the full license would looke like with multiple reports are on a single pane of glass.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM, the leader in server virtualization worldwide, and the number #1 reseller of VMware. In this post, I review [Veeam Reporter 4.0] as my official entry for their blogging contest. IBM and Veeam do not have any business relationshiop that I know of, other than both being VMware business partners, so I am treating them here as an Independent Software Vendor (ISV). Veeam has not compensated me in any manner for this review, this review is not to be taken as an endorsement of Veeam or its products, and I was not provided any full or evaluator license keys. The review is based entirely on my experience using the "Free Edition" available to all for download. None of this blog post was pre-reviewed by anyone from Veeam. IBM, of course, also offers similar software, which I mention below for comparison purposes.)
At this point, you might be thinking, "Doesn't IBM offer something like this?" Of course it does! IBM is the leader in infrastructure reporting, monitoring and management software. Last October, [IBM unveiled IBM Systems Director VMcontrol] software. Not only does IBM Systems Director VMcontrol provide similar support for your VMware environment, it also manages Microsoft Hyper-V and Xen deployments, PowerVM on POWER-based serves, and even z/VM guest images on the System z mainframes. Combined with the rest of the IBM Systems Director, you can manage all of your physical and virtual servers with a single tool from a single pane of glass. How cool is that?
I would like to think Doug Hazelman, Senior Director of Product Strategy at Veeam, for organizing this awesome blogging contest. If you liked this blog post, click here to [vote for me] to get counted for this contest.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means! IBM Announcements!
Today, IBM announced its latest IBM Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM) 2.0 version. Here's a quick recap:
Centralized Key Management
Centralized and simplified encryption key management through Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager's lifecycle of creation, storage, rotation, and protection of encryption keys and key serving through industry standards. TKLM is available to manage the encryption keys for LTO-4, LTO-5, TS1120 and TS1130 tape drives enabled for encryption, as well as DS8000 and DS5000 disk systems using Full Disk Encryption (FDE) disk drives.
Partitioning of Access Control for Multitenancy
Access control and partitioning of the key serving functions, including end-to-end authentication of encryption clients and security of exchange of encryption keys, such that groups of devices have different sets of encryption keys with different administrators. This enables [multitenancy] or multilayer security of a shared infrastructure using encryption as an enforcement mechanism for access control. As Information Technology shifts from on-premises to the cloud, multitenancy will become growingly more important.
Support for KMIP 1.0 Standard
Support for the new key management standard, Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP), released through the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards [OASIS]. This new standard enables encryption key management for a wide variety of devices and endpoints. See the
[22-page KMIP whitepaper] for more information.
As much as I like to poke fun at Oracle, with hundreds of their Sun/StorageTek clients switching over to IBM tape solutions every quarter, I have to give them kudos for working cooperatively with IBM to come up with this KMIP standard that we can both support.
Support for non-IBM devices from Emulex, Brocade and LSI
Support for IBM self-encrypting storage offerings as well as suppliers of IT components which support KMIP, including a number of supported non-IBM devices announced by business partners such as Emulex, Brocade, and LSI. KMIP support permits you to deploy Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager without having to worry about being locked into a proprietary key management solution. If you are a client with multiple "Encryption Key Management" software packages, now is a good time to consolidate onto IBM TKLM.
Role-based access control for administrators that allows multiple administrators with different roles and permissions to be defined, helping increase the security of sensitive key management operations and better separation of duties. For example, that new-hire college kid might get a read-only authorization level, so that he can generate reports, and pack the right tapes into cardboard boxes. Meanwhile, for that storage admin who has been running the tape operations for the past ten years, she might get full access. The advantage of role-based authorization is that for large organizations, you can assign people to their appropriate roles, and you can designate primary and secondary roles in case one has to provide backup while the other is out of town, for example.
Wrapping up my week's theme of storage optimization, I thought I would help clarify the confusion between data reduction and storage efficiency. I have seen many articles and blog posts that either use these two terms interchangeably, as if they were synonyms for each other, or as if one is merely a subset of the other.
Data Reduction is LOSSY
By "Lossy", I mean that reducing data is an irreversible process. Details are lost, but insight is gained. In his paper, [Data Reduction Techniques", Rajana Agarwal defines this simply:
"Data reduction techniques are applied where the goal is to aggregate or amalgamate the information contained in large data sets into manageable (smaller) information nuggets."
Data reduction has been around since the 18th century.
Take for example this histogram from [SearchSoftwareQuality.com]. We have reduced ninety individual student scores, and reduced them down to just five numbers, the counts in each range. This can provide for easier comprehension and comparison with other distributions.
The process is lossy. I cannot determine or re-create an individual student's score from these five histogram values.
This next example, complements of [Michael Hardy], represents another form of data reduction known as ["linear regression analysis"]. The idea is to take a large set of data points between two variables, the x axis along the horizontal and the y axis along the vertical, and find the best line that fits. Thus the data is reduced from many points to just two, slope(a) and intercept(b), resulting in an equation of y=ax+b.
The process is lossy. I cannot determine or re-create any original data point from this slope and intercept equation.
In this last example, from [Yahoo Finance], reduces millions of stock trades to a single point per day, typically closing price, to show the overall growth trend over the course of the past year.
The process is lossy. Even if I knew the low, high and closing price of a particular stock on a particular day, I would not be able to determine or re-create the actual price paid for individual trades that occurred.
Storage Efficiency is LOSSLESS
By contrast, there are many IT methods that can be used to store data in ways that are more efficient, without losing any of the fine detail. Here are some examples:
Thin Provisioning: Instead of storing 30GB of data on 100GB of disk capacity, you store it on 30GB of capacity. All of the data is still there, just none of the wasteful empty space.
Space-efficient Copy: Instead of copying every block of data from source to destination, you copy over only those blocks that have changed since the copy began. The blocks not copied are still available on the source volume, so there is no need to duplicate this data.
Archiving and Space Management: Data can be moved out of production databases and stored elsewhere on disk or tape. Enough XML metadata is carried along so that there is no loss in the fine detail of what each row and column represent.
Data Deduplication: The idea is simple. Find large chunks of data that contain the same exact information as an existing chunk already stored, and merely set a pointer to avoid storing the duplicate copy. This can be done in-line as data is written, or as a post-process task when things are otherwise slow and idle.
When data deduplication first came out, some lawyers were concerned that this was a "lossy" approach, that somehow documents were coming back without some of their original contents. How else can you explain storing 25PB of data on only 1PB of disk?
(In some countries, companies must retain data in their original file formats, as there is concern that converting business documents to PDF or HTML would lose some critical "metadata" information such as modificatoin dates, authorship information, underlying formulae, and so on.)
Well, the concern applies only to those data deduplication methods that calculate a hash code or fingerprint, such as EMC Centera or EMC Data Domain. If the hash code of new incoming data matches the hash code of existing data, then the new data is discarded and assumed to be identical. This is rare, and I have only read of a few occurrences of unique data being discarded in the past five years. To ensure full integrity, IBM ProtecTIER data deduplication solution and IBM N series disk systems chose instead to do full byte-for-byte comparisons.
Compression: There are both lossy and lossless compression techniques. The lossless Lempel-Ziv algorithm is the basis for LTO-DC algorithm used in IBM's Linear Tape Open [LTO] tape drives, the Streaming Lossless Data Compression (SLDC) algorithm used in IBM's [Enterprise-class TS1130] tape drives, and the Adaptive Lossless Data Compression (ALDC) used by the IBM Information Archive for its disk pool collections.
Last month, IBM announced that it was [acquiring Storwize. It's Random Access Compression Engine (RACE) is also a lossless compression algorithm based on Lempel-Ziv. As servers write files, Storwize compresses those files and passes them on to the destination NAS device. When files are read back, Storwize retrieves and decompresses the data back to its original form.
As with tape, the savings from compression can vary, typically from 20 to 80 percent. In other words, 10TB of primary data could take up from 2TB to 8TB of physical space. To estimate what savings you might achieve for your mix of data types, try out the free [Storwize Predictive Modeling Tool].
So why am I making a distinction on terminology here?
Data reduction is already a well-known concept among specific industries, like High-Performance Computing (HPC) and Business Analytics. IBM has the largest marketshare in supercomputers that do data reduction for all kinds of use cases, for scientific research, weather prediction, financial projections, and decision support systems. IBM has also recently acquired a lot of companies related to Business Analytics, such as Cognos, SPSS, CoreMetrics and Unica Corp. These use data reduction on large amounts of business and marketing data to help drive new sources of revenues, provide insight for new products and services, create more focused advertising campaigns, and help understand the marketplace better.
There are certainly enough methods of reducing the quantity of storage capacity consumed, like thin provisioning, data deduplication and compression, to warrant an "umbrella term" that refers to all of them generically. I would prefer we do not "overload" the existing phrase "data reduction" but rather come up with a new phrase, such as "storage efficiency" or "capacity optimization" to refer to this category of features.
IBM is certainly quite involved in both data reduction as well as storage efficiency. If any of my readers can suggest a better phrase, please comment below.
In preparation for my [upcoming trip to Australia and New Zealand], I decided to upgrade my smartphone. My service provider T-Mobile offered me the chance to try out any new phone for 14 days for only ten dollar re-stocking fee. For the past 16 months, I have used the Google G1 phone. This is based on a storage-optimized Android operating system, based on open source Linux, with applications processed in a storage-optimized virtual machine called Dalvik, based on open source Java. According to Wikipedia, Android-based phones have #1 market share [outselling both BlackBerry OS and Apple iOS phones]. There are over 70 different companies using Android, driven away from the proprietary interfaces from Apple, BlackBerry and Microsoft.
Since I was already familiar with the Android operating system, I chose the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant. I liked my G1, but it had only a small amount of internal memory to store applications. The G1 supported an external Micro SDHC card, but this only was used for music and photos. There was no way to install applications on the memory card, so I found myself having to uninstall applications to make room for new ones. By contrast, the Vibrant has 16GB internal memory, plenty of room for all applications, and supports Micro SDHC up to 32GB in size. My model can pre-installed with a 2GB card, of which 1.4GB is consumed by James Cameron's full-length movie Avatar. On the G1, swapping out memory cards was relatively easy. On the Vibrant, you have to take the phone apart to swap out cards, so I won't be doing that very often. I will probably just get a 32GB card and leave it in there permanently.
(FTC disclosure: I work for IBM. IBM has working relationships with Oracle, Google, and lots of other companies. IBM offers its own commercial version of Java related tools. I own stock in IBM, Apple, Google. I have friends and family who work at Microsoft. My review below is based entirely on my own experience of my new Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant phone. Samsung has created different models for different service providers. The T-Mobile Vibrant is an external USB storage device with telephony capabilities, comparable to the AT&T Captivate, Verizon Fascinate, or Sprint Epic 4G. The majority of mobile phones in the world contain IBM technology. This post is not necessarily an endorsement for Samsung over other smartphone manufacturers, nor T-Mobile over other service providers. I provide this information in context of storage optimization, state-of-the-art for smartphones in general, and disputes related to software patents between companies. I hold 19 patents, most of which are software patents.)
When Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, it inherited stewardship of Java. Java is offered in two flavors. Java Standard Edition (SE) for machines that are planted firmly on or below your desk, and Java Micro Edition (ME) for machines that are carried around. Most Java-based phones limit themselves to Java ME, but Google decided to base its smartphones on the more powerful Java SE, but then optimize for the limited storage and computing resources. These two levels of Java have radically different licensing terms and conditions, so Larry Ellison of Oracle cried foul. On The Register, Gavin Clarke has an excellent article with details of the Oracle-vs-Google complaint. Daniel Dilger opines that Oracle [might kill Google’s Android and software patents all at once]. Fellow blogger Mark Twomey (EMC) on his StorageZilla blog, argues that [it's not about Android phones, but Android everything].
My Vibrant is roughly the size of a half-inch stack of 3x5 index cards in my hand. In my humble opinion, the problem is the grey area between mobile phone and the desktop personal computer. Laptops, netbooks, iPads, tablet computers, eBook readers, and smartphones fall somewhere in between. At what point do you stop licensing Java SE and start licensing Java ME instead?
Let's take a look at all the stuff my new Samsung Vibrant can do, and let you decide for yourself. I have 140 applications installed, which I can access alphabetically. I also have up to seven screens which I can fill with application icons and widgets to simplify access. The screen measures about 4 inches diagonally. Click on each image below to see the full 480x800 resolution.
Each screen has five rows. On my first screen, I have the first two rows related to photography. This includes a camera, camcorder, bar-code scanner and visual search engine (Google Goggles). I am not happy with Flickr Droid app in uploading photos, so I might need to find another app for that. Other reviews I read complain that the Vibrant's camera does not have am LED flash for night time shots, and that there is no forward facing camera to do Skype or FaceTime-style videoconferencing. I think it is fine the way it is. An interesting feature of the camera app is that it uses the volume up/down buttons to zoom in and out.
The next two rows related to books and documents. In addition to both Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook eBook readers, I have Dropbox to make it easy to transfer files between all my machines, a camera-scanner that generates PDFs, and ThinkFree, which appears to be based on OpenOffice open source software to create, view and edit WORD documents, EXCEL spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.
My second screen is for music and video entertainment.
The top row is consumed by a single widget for [Pandora], an internet radio station, not to be confused with the Pandora moon that the movie Avatar is based on. I-heart-radio, Slacker, and Last.fm are other internet radio stations. Be careful when roaming in another country, as the $15-per-MB transfer fees can really add up. While the Galaxy S has a built-in FM radio, T-Mobile has decided to disable this feature in its Vibrant model, in favor of internet-based radio stations.
I am glad the Samsung Vibrant uses the same 3.5mm combo audio jack that I mentioned in my blog post about my
[New ThinkPad T410]. This allows me to use the same headset for both my laptop and my cell phone.
For those who use Microsoft Windows Media Player v10 or above, this phone lets you transfer over your songs, playlists and videos via the USB cable in PMC mode. The TED application shows 18-minute videos of lectures at conferences that focus on Technology, Entertainment and Design. MobiTV offers live streaming of popular Television shows, normally ten dollars monthly, but I got a free 30-day trial in the deal.
Screen 3 is focused on travel. I have a 30-day free trial of GoGo, the new Wi-Fi networks on various airlines. Hopefully, I will get to try this out on my upcoming flights. When GoGo is not available, the Extended Controls widget allows me to turn the phone into "Airplane mode", which would allow me to read eBooks and listen to pre-recorded music and videos stored on my phone. Most of the apps on Android are free, but Extended Controls, shown here in the top row, cost me money but well worth it. With this you can customize different size widgets with all the appropriate setting toggles you want. On this one, I can toggle Wi-Fi, Data transfer, GPS positioning, and Airplane mode.
Google Maps, Google Places and Google Sky Map are all well represented here. I also like TripIt, which is a free Software-as-a-Service for managing your trip itenerary, and syncs up with their online website. Currency and Language translation can help on international travel. The standard Alarm Clock also includes Time Zone conversion as well.
My screen 4 is my central home page. There are four buttons on the bottom of the phone: Menu, Home, Back, and Search. Hit the "Home" button on any screen, and it jumps immediately to Screen 4. From here, I can get to any of the other screens with just swiping my finger across the surface. Therefore, I chose to keep this screen simple.
For meetings, I have a big clock, and an Extended Controls widget to set my phone on silent/vibrate mode, and show my battery status. I put icons here for apps that I might need in a hurry, like Camera, Evernote, or Shazam. For those not familiar with Shazam, it will listen to the microphone for whatever song is playing in the background where you are, and it will identify the song's title and artist.
The "Starred" folder lists those five or so contacts that I have marked with a "star" to be on this short list. From here, I can call or send them an SMS text message.
Screen 5 is for office productivity. I have a 2x2 widget from Astrid to list my to-do items. I have a 1x2 widget showing my last call. My calendar syncs up with my Google calendar online.
The Locale widget allows me to change which on-screen keyboard to use. There is the standard Android keyboard which allows voice-to-text input, the Samsung keyboard that offers [XT9 mode], and the new ["Swype"] keyboard that allows you to write words quickly with squiggles swiped across the keyboard. The Swype is incredible accurate when I am typing in English. When I am communicating in Spanish, it gets in the way, spell-checking when it shouldn't.
Screen 6 is for my social media, news and search facilities. I have HootSuite Lite for managing my Twitter and Facebook posts. For news junkies, NPR, USA Today and CNN all offer mobile versions.
I have a selection of browsers, including Opera Mini 5, and Dolphin Browser HD. The latter offers a variety of special add-ons similar to Firefox on a desktop system. I also have specialty search sites, including the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), Fandango for local movie times, and Dex for local phone listings.
Screen 7 is for system administration. The top row is another "Extended Controls" widget, this time to change between 2G and 3G networks, brightness setting, set the the time-out interval for when the screen should automatically shut off, and a "stay awake" to turn off the screen saver altogether.
I can do some really powerful things here. For example, I have an application to let me use secure shell (ssh) to access our systems at work. I also can "tether" my laptop to my Vibrant, for those few times when Wi-Fi is not available, to let my laptop use the phone's signal as a dial-up modem. It is slower than Wi-Fi, but might be just what I need in a pinch.
The bottom row is the same across all seven screens, which you can customize. I left the bottom row in its original default, with options to make phone calls, look up contacts, and send text messages. The bottom right corner launches a list of all applications alphabetically, to access those not on my seven main screens.
Just in case I switch to a local SIM card while abroad in another country, I asked T-mobile to unlock my phone, which they happily did at no additional charge. For example, while I am in Australia, I can either leave my T-Mobile USA chip in the phone, and pay roaming charges per minute, or I can purchase a SIM chip from a local phone company with pre-paid minutes. This often includes unlimited free incoming calls to a local Australian phone number, and voicemail.
Unlocking the phone to use different SIM cards is different than "jailbreaking", a term that refers to Apple's products. For Android phones, jailbreaking is called "rooting", as the process involves getting "root" user access that you normally don't have. The only reason I have found to have my phone "rooted" was to take these lovely screen shots, using the "Screen Shot It" application. This is another application that I paid for. I used the free trial for a few screenshots first to check it out, liked the results, and bought the application.
So, this new smartphone looks like a keeper. I got a screen protector to avoid scratching, and a two-piece case that snaps around the phone to give it more heft. All my chargers are "Mini USB" for my old G1 phone, and this new Vibrant phone is "Micro USB" instead, so I had to order new ones for my car, my office, and for my iGo (tip A97).
This review is more to focus on the fact that the IT industry is changing, and what was traditionally performed on personal computers are now being done on new handheld devices. Android provides a platform for innovation and healthy competition. Let's all hope Oracle and Google can work out their differences amicably.