Last month, I had the pleasure to help train Watson in its latest mission, to help answer questions from sellers, this are not just for the IBM feet on the street, but also for IBM distributors and IBM Business Partners as well.
In their post [Workers Spend Too Much Time Searching for Information], Cottrill Research explains the problem all too well. Here is an excerpt:
"... [survey by SearchYourCloud] revealed 'workers took up to 8 searches to find the right document and information.' Here are a few other statistics that help tell the tale of information overload and wasted time spent searching for correct information -- either external or internal:
- 'According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours every day -- 9.3 hours per week, on average -- searching and gathering information. Put another way, businesses hire 5 employees but only 4 show up to work; the fifth is off searching for answers, but not contributing any value.' Source: [Time Searching for Information]
- '19.8 percent of business time -- the equivalent of one day per working week -- is wasted by employees searching for information to do their job effectively,' according to Interact. Source: [A Fifth of Business Time is Wasted]
- IDC data shows that 'the knowledge worker spends about 2.5 hours per day, or roughly 30 percent of the workday, searching for information ... 60 percent [of company executives] felt that time constraints and lack of understanding of how to find information were preventing their employees from finding the information they needed.' Source: [Information: The Lifeblood of the Enterprise]."
In the early days of the Internet, before search engines like Google or Bing, I competed in [Internet Scavenger Hunts]. A dozen or more contestants would be in a room, and would be given a list of 20 questions to find answers for. Each of us would then hunt down answers on the Internet. The person to find the most documented answers before time runs out wins. It was quite the challenge!
Over the years, I have honed my skills as a [Search Ninja]. With over 30 years of experience in IBM Storage, many sellers come to me for answers. Sometimes sellers are just too lazy to look for the answers themselves, too busy trying to meet client deadlines, or too green to know where to look.
A good portion of my 60-hour week is spent helping sellers find the answers they are looking for. Sometimes I dig into the [SSIC], product data sheets, or various IBM Redbooks.
Other times, I would confer with experts, engineers and architects in particular development teams. Often, I learn something new myself. In a few cases, I have turned some questions into ideas for blog posts!
It was no surprise when I was asked to help train Watson for the new "Systems SmartSeller" tool. This will be a tool that runs on smartphones or desktops to help answer questions that sellers might need to respond to RFP or other client queries.
The premise was simple. Treat Watson as a student at "Cognitive University" taking classes from dozens of IBM professors, in a series of semesters, or "phases".
Phase I involved building the "Corpus", the set of documents related to z Systems, POWER systems, Storage and SDI solutions; and a "Grading Tool" that would be used as the Graphical User Interface. I was not involved in phase I.
Phase II was where I came in. Hundreds of questions are categorized by product area. I worked on 500 questions for storage. For each question, Watson had up to eleven different responses, typically a paragraph from the Corpus. My job as a professor was to grade the responses to some 500 storage questions:
|★ (one star)
||Irrelevant, answer not even storage-related
|★★ (two stars)
||Relevant, at least it is storage-related, but does not answer the question, or answers it poorly
|★★★ (three stars)
||Relevant, adequately answers the question
|★★★★ (four stars)
||Relevant, answers the question well
Most of the answers were either 1-star (not storage related) or 2-star (mentioned storage, but poor response). I would search through the existing Corpus looking for a better answer, and at best found only 3-star responses, which I would add to the list and grade as a 3-star response.
I then searched the Internet for better answers. Once I found a good match, I would type up a 4-star response, add it to the list, and point it to the appropriate resources on the Web.
Other professors, who were also looking at these questions, would then get to grade my suggested responses as well. Watson would learn based on the consensus of how appropriate and accurate each response was graded.
I don't know where the Cognitive University team got some of the questions, but they were quite representative of the ones I get every week. In some cases, the seller didn't understand the question he heard from the client, making it difficult for me to figure out what they were actually asking for.
It reminds me of that parlor game ["Telephone" or "Chinese Whispers"], in which one person whispers a message to the ear of the next person through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. I have actually played this at an IBM event in China!
Watson needs to parse the question into nouns and verbs, and use that Natural Linguistic Programming (NLP) to then search the Corpus for appropriate answer. I determined three challenges for Watson in this case:
- The questions are not always fully formed sentences. For example, "Object storage?" Is this asking what is object storage in general, or rather what does IBM offer in this area?
- The questions often do not spell the names of products correctly, or use informal abbreviations. "Can Store-wise V7 do RtC?" is a typical example, short for "Can the IBM Storwize V7000 storage controller perform Real-time Compression?"
- The questions ask what is planned in the future. "When will IBM offer feature x in product y?" I am sorry, but Watson is not [Zoltar, the fortune teller]!
I managed to grade the responses in the two weeks we were given. Part of my frustration was the grading tool itself was a bit buggy, and I spent some time trying to track down some of its flaws.
The next phase is in late January and February. This will give the Cognitive University team a chance to update the Corpus, improve the grading interface, and find more professors and different set of questions. I volunteered the most recent four years' worth of my blog posts to be added to the Corpus.
Maybe this tool will help me turn my 60-hour week back to the 40-hour week it should be!
technorati tags: IBM, Watson, Cottrill Research, SearchYourCloud, McKinsey, IDC, Google, Bing, Search Ninja, Internet Scavenger Hunts, SSIC, Telephone Game, Chinese Whispers, NLP, RFP, Storwize, RtC, Zoltar, Cognitive University
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
(OK, yes, today is Friday, but I was busy getting married on Tuesday, so IBM pushed the announcements out one day to Wednesday, and technically I am writing this blog post during my honeymoon vacation, so the IBM marketing team and my new wife both cut me some slack. Work/Life balance is all about compromises, right?)
- IBM DS8880 Storage System
The IBM DS8880 comes in three models, the DS8884 entry level, the DS8886 enterprise level, and the DS8888 all-flash array. IBM offers 1, 2, 3 and 4 year warranties.
The new High Performance Flash Enclosure (HPFE) Gen2 delivers more capacity than Gen1. The 2U flash enclosures are configured in pairs with each enclosure supporting up to twenty-four 2.5-inch flash cards in capacities 400 GB, 800 GB, 1.6 TB and 3.2 TB.
The HPFE Gen2 are currently available for both the DS8884 and DS8886 models. The maximum flash capacity for the DS8886 increases from 96 TB to 614.4 TB, delivering reduced storage costs through lesser cost per IOPS with this new flash enclosure. IBM has made a statement of direction to offer these HPFE Gen2 on the DS8888 as well.
To improve security, IBM DS8880 now supports customer-defined digital certificates for authentication, and configurable Hardware Management Console (HMC) firewall support.
For IBM's mainframe clients, IBM now offers "Extents-level" space release support for z/OS®, DSCLI (Command Line Interface) support for z/OS environment, and FICON® Information Unit (IU) pacing improvements.
My blog post [Re-Evaluating RAID-5 and RAID-6 for slower larger drives] helped to convince upper management to make RAID-6 the default protection level in R8.2 release.
To learn more, see [ IBM DS8880 storage family delivers a series of flash-enclosure models] press release.
- IBM Spectrum Virtualize™ V7.8
IBM Spectrum Virtualize™ V7.8 delivers support for the latest SAN Volume Controller, FlashSystem V9000 and Storwize® product family, and adds new software functionality and improvements
In conjunction with [IBM Spectrum Copy Data Management], Spectrum Virtualize v7.8 offers flexible data protection with transparent cloud tiering to leverage the cloud as FlashCopy targets and restore these snapshots from the cloud on select platforms.
In my September blog post [IBM Edge 2016 Day 3 Wednesday Breakout Sessions] I gave a quick recap of how IBM Spectrum Virtualize offers data-at-rest encryption for both internal and external drives.
However, the encryption keys are kept on USB thumb drives, which are either left in the USB ports on the back of the hardware, or locked away in a safe, only to be retrieved as needed when rebooting the systems or upgrading the firmware.
Now, IBM Spectrum Virtualize v7.8 supports the IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager (SKLM) to manage encryption keys. IBM continues to support USB thumb drives if you prefer, but SKLM is used to manage keys for most of the rest of IBM products, and provides centralized management.
To learn more, see [ IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software V7.8] press release.
- IBM SAN Volume Controller and Storwize
The SVC and Storwize models can directly attach via 12Gb SAS to expansion drawers. At the time, we supported 2U-high 12-bay that support Large Form Factor (LFF) 3.5-inch Nearline (7200 rpm) drives, and 2U-high 24-bay that support the Small Form Factor (SFF) 2.5-inch drives (SSD, 15K, 10K and 7200 rpm).
With Spectrum Virtualize v7.8, IBM now offers a third option, the 5U-high 92-bay that supports both LFF and SFF drives. This new expansion can be attached to Storwize V5000 Gen2, Storwize V7000 (models 524/Gen2 and 624/Gen2+), and SVC (models DH8 and SV1).
For the 12-bay and 92-bay, IBM now supports 10TB capacity 3.5-inch Nearline drives. For the 24-bay and 92-bay, IBM now supports 7.68 TB and 15.36 TB capacity Solid State Drives (SSD).
For those concerned about the phrase "lower endurance" in the press release, let me explain. SSD have a bit of extra capacity included. If you write the full capacity of the drive every day for a year, you will "burn up" about one percent of the capacity.
To handle ten "Full Drive Writes per Day" (10 FDWP) over the course of five years, IBM adds 50 percent extra spare capacity above the 400 GB, 800 GB, 1.6 TB and 3.2 TB capacities. So, a 400GB full-endurance drive is really 600 GB inside. These were sometimes referred to as "Enterprise" SSD.
For the larger device sizes, the IT industry has determined that 1 FDWP is sufficient, so instead of 50 percent spare capacity, IBM adds only 5 percent extra. The 7.68 TB is really 8.06 TB inside. These were earlier referred to as "Read-Intensive" SSD. These come in 1.92 TB, 3.84 TB, 7.68 TB and 15.36 TB capacities.
IBM is also offering non-disruptive model conversions. Storwize V5010 can now be converted to V5020, and V5020 can be converted to V5030. The Storwize V7000 Model 524 (Gen2) can be converted to model 624 (Gen2+).
To learn more, see [ IBM SAN Volume Controller and Storwize family high-density expansion] press release.
- IBM FlashSystem V9000
The IBM FlashSystem V9000 will also support its own version of 5U-high, 92-bay, but to simplify ordering, will only support the following drive types:
- High-capacity, archival-class Nearline disk drives in 8 TB and 10 TB 7,200 rpm
- Flash drives in 1.92 TB, 3.84 TB, 7.68 TB, and 15.36 TB
To learn more, see [ IBM FlashSystem V9000 HD Expansion Enclosure Model 92F] press release.
- IBM DeepFlash Elastic Storage Server (ESS)
The DeepFlash 150 is the perfect JBOF addition to the ESS family. The current ESS models had either 2U-high 24-drive bays, or 4U-high 60-drive bays. This new model is 3U-high with 64 high-capacity (8 TB) Board Solid State Drives (BSSD).
The ESS includes all the features of IBM Spectrum Scale, including both 8+2 and 8+3 Erasure Coding data protection. This provides file and object access to data, including POSIX compliance for Windows, Linux and AIX operating systems, as well as HDFS-compliant access for big data analytics.
To learn more, see [IBM DeepFlash Elastic Storage Server] landing page.
By now, there are multitude news articles on these announcements, so I recommend you go look for them.
technorati tags: IBM, DS8880, DS8884, DS8886, High Performance Flash Enclosure, HPFE, DSCLI, FICON, Spectrum Virtualize, Data-at-Rest Encryption, Spectrum Copy Data Management, Transparent Cloud Tiering, SAS, NL-SAS, LFF, SFF, FDWP, FlashSystem V9000, DeepFlash 150, DeepFlash ESS, Elastic Storage Server, Erasure Coding, Widows, Linux, AIX, BSSD
SAP HANA is an in-memory, relational database management system supported on Linux for x86 and POWER servers. The "HANA" acronym is short for "High-Performance Analytic Appliance" software. By keeping the data in memory, analytics and queries can be performed much faster than from traditional disk repositories.
Server memory, however, is volatile storage, so the data needs to be stored on persistent storage such as flash or disk drives. SAP has certified several configurations, some involve IBM Spectrum Scale solutions. I will use the following graphic to explain the three configurations.
- Linux on x86-64 with Spectrum Scale FPO
With SAP HANA on Lenovo x86-64 servers, SAP has certified internal flash or disk drives running IBM Spectrum Scale in "File Placement Optimization" (FPO) mode. FPO provides a shared-nothing architecture that matches the SAP HANA architecture. IBM Spectrum Protect can backup this configuration, providing data protection and disaster recovery support.
- Linux on POWER with Elastic Storage Server
With SAP HANA on POWER servers, SAP has certified external Elastic Storage Server (ESS). Not only is POWER the better platform to run SAP HANA than x86-64, but Elastic Storage Server offers excellent erasure coding to provide excellent rebuild times and storage efficiency.
The ESS is a pre-built system that combines IBM Spectrum Scale software with server and storage hardware. IBM Spectrum Protect can also backup this configuration, providing data protection and disaster recovery support.
- Block-level Storage over Storage Area Network (SAN)
Various IBM block-level devices are support for SAP HANA on both Linux on x86-64 and Linux on POWER. Unfortunately, SAP only has certified (to date) the use of the XFS file system. The problem many clients mention about this configuration is the lack of end-to-end backup and disaster recovery. This is solved by the Spectrum Scale configurations in the previous two examples.
Other combinations, such as SAP HANA on POWER with Spectrum Scale FPO, or on x86-64 servers with Elastic Storage Serer, are either not SAP-certified, or not directly supported by SAP without their approval.
IBM and SAP have worked closely together for many years, and I am glad to see SAP HANA and IBM Spectrum Scale based solutions continue this tradition.
technorati tags: IBM, SAP, SAP HANA, x86, x86-64, Linux, POWER, Spectrum Scale, FPO, Elastic Storage Server, ESS, Spectrum Protect, Disaster Recovery
Well it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM announcements!
(For those wondering where I went in July, then perhaps the better question should be "where didn't I go?". I started in Boston, MA, then Iceland, England, Hungary, Romania, Qatar, Kenya, Dubai UAE, and finally Seattle, WA. Whew! This week, I am visiting clients in Tennessee.)
Today, IBM launches a whole set of updated offerings based on the IBM Spectrum Virtualize software code base.
- IBM Spectrum Virtualize v7.7.1 software-only offering
Like the rest of the IBM Spectrum Storage family of products, IBM Spectrum Virtualize can now be purchased as software only, allowing you to install it on your own x86 servers, rather than purchasing pre-built systems from IBM.
The software license comes in two flavors. The traditional "perpetual license" allows you to move the software from one x86 server to another. Say after 4 years, you have depreciated the server, or the hardware components fail, and you want to get a newer server. This is the same perpetual license that clients with IBM SAN Volume Controller and Storwize family have enjoyed since 2003.
The other is a "monthly license", which allows you to stand up your own "SVC" using your own x86 servers, for a period of months needed for a development/test project, disaster recovery, or some other purpose. After the project is over, you can discontinue the license, and re-purpose the x86 servers for something else. This is especially handy for Managed Service Providers (MSP) and Cloud Service Providers (CSP), but certainly can prove useful in traditional datacenters as well. The "monthly licensing" option is also available for IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) as well.
The software license is based on Tebibyte [TiB]. For those not familiar with international standards, here is a comparison table:
||Always decimal, 10 to the 12th power
||Always binary, 2 to the 40th power
For more information, read the [IBM Spectrum Virtualize Software-only Announcement Letter].
- IBM SAN Volume Controller Model SV1
The new SV1 model is based on two 8-core [Intel Broadwell] processors, which IBM has clocked at up to 30 percent performance improvement over the DH8 model. It also offers up to 256GB of cache memory per node, which sadly only the first 64GB are usable at the current software level. Someday, a future release of software will address all 256GB of memory.
The IBM SAN Volume Controller now offers "Enterprise Class Support" as an option. In the past, the SVC was a "customer setup" box, similar to midrange and entry-level products. Now, you can upgrade your support to match that of IBM DS8000 and XIV enterprise class offerings. This means that IBM experts will maintain your microcode levels for you.
For more information, read the [IBM SAN Volume Controller SV1 Announcement Letter], and the [Enterprise Class Service Announcement Letter]..
- New software features
The v7.7.1 also provides new features for existing SVC, Storwize and FlashSystem V9000 products. Here are a few:
- Manageability with CLI support for host groups
- Scalability with support for up to 10,000 virtual disks, depending on the model; and up to 20 Expansion Enclosures on SVC 2145 DH8 and SV1 models, and the FlashSystem V9000
- RAS and performance enhancements for distributed RAID (DRAID)
- Flexibility with iSCSI virtualization support for XIV Gen3, IBM Spectrum Accelerate, FlashSystem A9000 and FlashSystem A9000R arrays
For more information, read the [IBM Spectrum Virtualize v7.7.1 Features Announcement Letter].
- IBM Storwize V7000 Gen2+ Model 624
The new 624 model is based on a single 10-core Intel Broadwell processor, which IBM has clocked at up to 45 percent performance improvement over the previous model. It also offers up to 128GB of cache memory per system, 64GB per node, double what came standard on the 524 model!
Why "Gen2+"? Moving from an 8-core Haswell to a 10-core Broadwell CPU, and doubling the cache memory didn't seem to be enough "architectural change" to justify calling it a "Gen3", so marketing decided on Gen2+ instead.
For more information, read the [Storwize V7000 Announcement Letter].
- IBM FlashSystem V9000
I refer to the IBM FlashSystem V9000 as my "Superman" product. When Superman dons on his glasses he becomes "Clark Kent", mild-mannered newspaper reporter. But behind the glasses, he is always Superman! Likewise, the FlashSystem V9000 is an all-flash array with an impressive set of features, but take off the fancy bezel, and you find that it is a pair of fully-loaded SAN Volume Controllers (which we call "Control Enclosures AC3") and a FlashSystem 900 drawer of the world's fastest flash storage.
The new FlashSystem V9000 is based on the new SV1 models of SVC. Each V9000 can attach up to 20 expansion enclosures over 12Gb SAS connections. The expansion enclosure can hold either 24 of the smaller 2.5-inch drives, or 12 of the larger 3.5-inch drives. Of course, the FlashSystem V9000 can also virtualize any of almost 400 different kinds of storage arrays, from all the major vendors, similar to SAN Volume Controller. This provides tiering options that match well with the FlashSystem 900 inside.
For more information, read the [FlashSystem V9000 Announcement Letter].
- IBM Storwize V7000F and V5030F all-flash array models
The FlashSystem V9000 was originally going to be called the Storwize V9000, but the FlashSystem folks wanted to keep all of the "FlashCore" technology under one name. In perhaps a bit retaliation, or maybe sibling rivalry, the Storwize team added the letter "F" to refer to the All-flash models of the Storwize V7000F and V5030F.
The "flash" in the V7000F and V5030F are just Solid-state drives, not nearly as fast as the cards in the FlashSystem models. The drives come in 1.92TB and 3.84TB capacities. You might see these rounded up to 2TB and 4TB on some presentations, but IBM officially never likes to exaggerate.
For more information, read the [Storwize All-Flash Announcement Letter], and the [New Flash Drive Options Announcement Letter].
technorati tags: IBM, SAN Volume Controller, SVC, Storwize, FlashSystem V9000, All-flash Array
Can you believe it has been a year already since IBM announced VersaStack?
In my May 2012 blog post, [EMC Strikes Back], I poked fun at the fact that Cisco had two
girlfriends "significant others": EMC and NetApp.
Cisco originally partnered with EMC to create a converged system called Vblock which combined Cisco UCS servers and switches with EMC storage. The partnership between VMware, Cisco and EMC was dubbed Virtual Computing Environment (VCE).
However, Cisco then partnered with NetApp to create Flexpod, a converged system that combined Cisco UCS servers and switches with NetApp storage. Many of my clients felt that Flexpod was an improvement over Vblock.
A lot has happened since then. In 2014, [drastically reduced its investment in VCE]. Last year, Dell then spent $67 Billion dollars to effectively take EMC out of the storage business. While this was a huge birthday present for IBM, not everyone is happy to see EMC fade away. Whitney Garcia has a great article titled [Crying at the Dell-EMC wedding: Why VCE customers should consider alternatives].
Before VersaStack, IBM had its own converged system, PureSystems, which combined IBM POWER and x86 servers with IBM storage. The x86 server portion of this business was sold off to Lenovo, but IBM continues to sell POWER-only and blended x86-and-POWER PureFlex systems, as well as PureApplication and PureData systems.
The [VersaStack] collaboration between IBM and Cisco offers an alternative to Vblock and Flexpod converged systems. Cisco is a leader in x86 blades and networking switches, and IBM is #1 in Flash and Software Defined Storage, including Storage Virtualization. VersaStack gives you the best of both worlds!
The VersaStack has Cisco Validated Designs for use with IBM's Spectrum Virtualize products:
- FlashSystem V9000
- Storwize V7000
- Storwize V7000 Unified
- Storwize V5000
This week, February 11, 2016, 12pm EDT, IBM and Cisco are hosting a webinar on VersaStack. Join us for the one year anniversary of VersaStack in a discussion with IBM, Cisco and VersaStack customers.
The speakers will be discussing VersaStack progress to date and the value VersaStack brings to client workloads. Topics of discussion will include how VersaStack can lower TCO, administrative overhead, reduce downtime and improve resource utilization, and allow for business innovation. The speakers include:
- Jonathan Cox, Medicat, Director, Technology Services
- Susan Martens, IBM, Director, VersaStack Sales, North America
- Kent Hixson, Cisco, Sales Business Development Manager
Here is the [Registration Link] to participate. Hope you can make it!
technorati tags: IBM, Cisco, EMC, VCE, VMware, Vblock, NetApp, Flexpod, VersaStack, #VersaStack, POWER, x86, Lenovo, PureSystems, PureFlex, PureApplication, PureData, Whitney Garcia, Jonathan Cox, Susan Martens, Kent Hixson, FlashSystem V9000, Storwize V7000, Storwize V7000 Unified, Storwize V5000, Medicat