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.
Tony Pearson's books are available on Lulu.com! Order your copies today!
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Tony Pearson is a an active participant in local, regional, and industry-specific interests, and does not receive any special payments to mention them on this blog.
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Tony Pearson is not a medical doctor, and this blog does not reference any IBM product or service that is intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, prevention or monitoring of a disease or medical condition, unless otherwise specified on individual posts.
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BladeCenterservers come in many flavors, including blades with Intel, AMD and POWER chipsets, and can be configured in Grid and SuperComputer configurations. Up to 14 blade servers can fit intoa single 7U-high chassis, making this twice as dense as standard 1U-high rack-mounted servers.
System x, the new "IBM Systems" name for our popular xSeries product line, support Intel and AMD chipsets. These come in both rack-mountedand tower configurations. These also are idea for clustered and SuperComputer configurations.[Read More]
Yesterday (September 7, 2006) the Eclipse Foundation announced that it has approved the creation of the Aperi Storage Management Framework Project.
There's been a lot of confusion out there about Aperi, so I thought I would post some facts and opinions about this exciting new project. A few years ago, I was thelead architect for IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center, IBM's infrastructure management product that helped launch the creation of Aperi.
From the latin word for "open", Aperi is an open source project that aims to simplify the management of storage environments, using the Storage Management Initiative - Specification (SMI-S) open standardto promote interoperability and eliminate complexity in today’s storage environments.
Aperi should provide immediate value upon install with basic storage management capabilities, rather than just simply a collection of components that require costly integration. We've discussed requirements for functions such as:
Resource discovery, monitoring, and reporting
Fabric Topology mapping
Disk / Tape management
Device configuration & LUN assignment
SAN fabric management
Basic asset management
The big confusion most people have is Aperi's relation to SMI-S and the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA)open standards group. The best way to explain this is to go backto your High School SAT college-entrance exams. Remember questions like this?
(The answer: a crumb is to bread like a splinter is to wood.)
Aperi is an implementation of SMI-S standard, similar to MySQL or PostgreSQL areopen standard relational database implementations of Structured Query Language (SQL).These compete with proprietary database implementations such as IBM DB2 Universal Database,Oracle Database, Microsoft SQL Server, or Sybase.
Aperi: SMI-S :: PostgreSQL : Structured Query Language (SQL)
It is often the case that the folks writing the code are different than the folks defining the standards. This is the case between the members of Aperi writing code, and the members of the SNIA writing standards. IBM happens tohave employees writing Aperi code, and other employees helping define SMI-S standards.What can I say, IBM is a big company and a leader in many areas.
A good analogyis how the Apache community has developed an awesome web server, and the Firefox Mozillacommunity have developed an awesome web browser, both of which are implementations of the HTTP/HTML standards adopted by the World Wide Web Consortium. Apache and Firefoxcompete with proprietary implementations, such as Microsoft Internet Information Services(IIS) web server and Internet Explorer web browser.
Aperi: SNIA :: Apache : World Wide Web (WWW) Consortium
With this arrangement, Aperi and the SNIA will have very complementary roles in defining and driving standards across the entire storage market. To that end, Aperi will make extensive use of the SNIA’s Technology Center and SNIA’s “plugfests” to test the interoperability of the Aperi framework with the variety of 3rd-party storage offerings available. By providing a tested implementation of SMI-S, Aperi will drive broader industry availability of SMI-S, as well as offer the many benefits of an industry-backed open source community.
Check out this vote of confidence:
"Eclipse's Aperi Project will further advance the adoption of SNIA's SMI-S, benefiting the entire storage industry and IT community. Furthermore, the SNIA and Aperi will define plans to collaborate on new storage standards, standards testing programs, and storage interoperability programs." --- Wayne M. Adams, chair, SNIA Board of directors
So, both proprietary and open source implementations have their place in the world.Proprietary products are needed for advanced, unique value-add, and opensource projects are for basic support focused on interoperability and flexibility.These can be combined, for example, proprietary "plug-ins" built on an open source base. The more choices the client has, the better.
Storage vendors benefit too. Vendors are tired of being in the "Y.A.C." business, building "Yet Another Configurator" for each new device developed, with basic functionsto carve LUNs, read performance stats, and so on. By shipping Aperi instead, storagevendors like IBM can invest their development dollars in real innovations, things thatmatter for the customer.
When I was a kid, we didn't have online access to anything. Either yourparents were rich and generous and bought you the latest set of encyclopedias, or they were poor or cheap, and you hoofed it to thenearest library.
Now, I rely heavily on Wikipedia, and other wikis, to find information I need.The key here is the ability to find stuff. With the old 27-volume set ofencyclopedias, you had to know what word something would be filed under, andhow to spell it, so that you could find it. Today's search facilities are much moreforgiving. If you guess wrong, you are only a few clicks away from what youwere really looking for, in a Kevin Bacon six-degrees-of-separation kind of way.
Wikipedia is now looked at more often than CNN.com or the New York Times website.Why? It is amazingly good at summarizing a situation in succinct terms, even fornews "as it happens". The recent episode at Heathrow airport a few weeks agoserves as a good example. I was in Washington DC that week, on my way to Miami and Sao Paulo,Brazil, so it is good to have the news I needed, when I needed it.[Read More]
Eventually hardware fails, ... ... eventually software works.
For a solid backup product, consider usingIBM Tivoli Storage Manager.I use it to protect all my data on my laptop. And when switching recently from my old Thinkpad T30 to my newThinkpad T60, used it to transfer my data over as well.[Read More]
There's nothing worse that feeling you made a bad decision.My favorite is buying something, and then finding it at a lower price somewhere else. Or worse,being in a country where you haggle over prices, and finding out that I might havebeen able to haggle further down than what I had paid.
Of course, the solution to making better, more informed decisions, is getting more information.That's what I love about being in the storage business.[Read More]
A lot of people ask me about IBM branding, as we have recently changed brands. In the past we had two separate brands, one for servers (eServer) and one for storage (TotalStorage). These would be fine if we wanted to promote their independence, but customers today want synergy between servers and storage, they want systems that work well together.
Last year, in response to market feedback, we crated a new brand, "IBM Systems" and put all the server and storage product lines under one roof. Over time, we will transition from TotalStorage to System Storage naming. This will occur with new products, and major versions of existing products.
Two other phrases you will hear in the names of our offerings are "Virtualization Engine" and "Express". These are portfolio identifiers. The Virtualization Engine identifier was created to emphasize our leadership in system virtualization, and we have products that span product lines with this identifier.
The Express identifier was created to emphasize our focus on Small and Medium sized business (SMB). It spans not just servers and storage, but across other offerings from other IBM divisions.
Of course, just renaming products and services isn't enough. Systems don't work together just because they have similar names, are covered in similar "Apple white" plastic, or have similar black bezels. Obviously, thoughtful and collaborative design are needed, with the appropriate amounts of engineering and testing. IBM is aligning its server and storage development so that the IBM Systems brand keeps its promise.
The author is wondering whether EMC will try to avoid the fate of Hitachi's mainframebusiness, focusing on "moving into the IBM field" of offering software and services for more complete solutions.
Interestingly, one comment opines that EMC's acquisition of Documentum was "followed" byIBM's acquisition of FileNet, not realizing that IBM already has the leading documentmanagement software (IBM Content Manager).
Another comment cites IBM's recent push of Xen asanother example "following" EMC's acquisition of VMware, again not realizing that IBM has hadLogical Partition (LPAR) capability in its System z, System p and System i server lines formany years.
IBM Senior Certified Executive IT Architect
On April 2nd IBM announced several key enhancements across the Storwize V5000 portfolio.
The models for the V5000 now include V5010E, 5030E and the V5100.
The V5010E includes two single socket Broadwell DE 2.2GHz, 2 core processor canisters. Each canister supports a maximum of 32GB of RAM.
The V5030E includes the Broadwell DE 1.9GHz, 6 core processor in its two canisters. Each canister supports a maximum of 32GB of RAM.
The V5100 boasts a single Skylake 1.7Ghz processor with 8 cores in each canisters. RAM is increased to a total of 576GB for the entire controller, or 288GB maximum per canister.
From a scale out perspective the V5010E model supports a single controller configuration, while the V5030E and V5100 both support up to two controller clusters. This provides for a maximum of 392 drives in the V5010E and a massive 1520 drives in either the V5030E or V5100 dual controller clusters.
While the new lineup for the V5000 is impressive; regarding the quantity of drives, and the storage available per model will blow your mind.
The V5000E & V5100 versions support the following drive types.
Storwize V5000E & V5100 - SAS Drive Support
Tier 1 Flash
High Performance, Enterprise Class Disk Drives
High-Capacity, Archival-Class Nearline Disk Drives
High-Capacity, Archival-Class Nearline Disk Drives
Along with the compute & cache layer enhancements across the V5000 platform, the V5100 receieved a large boost in its storage support. IBM has delivered a solid Flash / Hybrid storage controller player to the markey. In the V5100 model we now support both the Flash Core Modules (FCM) and or NVMe Industry Standard SSD drives. In addition in the expansion drawers you can add even more SAS SSD, 10K and NL-SAS capacity.
The combination of Flash Core Modules and NVMe Industry Standard drives makes the V5100 the perfect low to medium class storage controller.
IBM Flash Core Modules
Industry Standard NVMe Flash Drives
Both the V5010/30E and the V5100 models offer the following on board interface ports per canister:
1x1GbE techport + iSCSI
1x1GbE dedicated tech port
1x1GbE dedicated tech port
1x1GbE iSCSI only rpm
2x10GbE (iSCSI only)
4x10GbE (iSCSI only)
The Storwize V5000E models support 1 additional interface card, or 1 SAS host attachment adapter per canister. The optional interface cards available are:
Storwize V5000 Supported Adapter Cards
4 port 16Gb Fibre Channel only
2 port 25GbE iSCSI only
2 port 12Gb SAS host attach
The Storwize V5100 model also supports 1 host interface card, and also optionally up to two SAS Storage Expansion adapters. The adapter interface cards available for the V5100 are:
Storwize V5000 Supported Adapter Cards
4 port 16Gb Fibre Channel, FC NVMeOF
2 port 25GbE ROCE ISER, iSCSI
2 port 25GbE iWARP ISER, iSCSI
2 port 12Gb SAS to allow SAS Expansions
Regarding the software features for the V5000E and V5100 models, all of the models discussed still include the following features as shown. Specifics on the actual software features is documented below:
Storwize V5000 V5100 Software Features
License Per Enclosure
*Required minimum 32GB RAM
DFSA License Key
DFSA License Key
DFSA License Key (for use on virtual storage)
DRAID - Distributed RAID
DRAID 6 recommended / DRAID 5 supported
DRAID 6 recommended / DRAID 5 supported
DRAID 6 recommended / DRAID 5 supported
TRAID - Traditional RAID
R0, 1 & 10
R0, 1 & 10
R0, 1 & 10
Data Migration Only
Data Migration Only
License Per Enclosure
VVols - Supported with Spectrum Connect
DFSA License Key
DFSA License Key for each IO Group
License Per Enclosure
DFSA License Key
DFSA License Key for each IO Group
License Per Enclosure
Spectrum Virtualize 8.3
DFSA License Key
DFSA License Key for each IO Group
License Per Enclosure
Secure Disable USB Ports
DRP (Data Reduction Pools)
Reviewing this information has been eye awaking and though valuable I have only touched on pieces of this latest update for IBM storage.
For those seeking an even deeper depth of knowledge I refer you to my learned colleague Barry Whites blog,
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
(This week I am in Pennsylvania and New York speaking to clients. The weather this week has not been cooperative!)
Spectrum Protect Plus 10.1.2
Just in time for the upcoming VMworld conference, IBM announces the following features added to Spectrum Protect Plus, a snapshot-based backup software for VMware, Hyper-V and databases.
Data-at-Rest Encryption for local backups stored in the vSnap repository
IBM Db2 support with point-in-time recovery
VMware vSphere 6.7 support
Alerting for backup and restore jobs and storage thresholds limits
Drill-down capabilities for dashboard widgets
Spectrum Protect 8.1.6
IBM also continues to enhance its traditional file-based backup product. Here are some of the features:
Tier data by backup state for container pools. When you have multiple backup versions, the most recent version is called the "active", the older versions are called "inactive" versions. Rarely do you recover inactive versions, so this feature allows them to be migrated off to object or cloud storage.
Ransomware detection for Virtual Environment workloads. This is an enhancement of the "Ransomware detection" introduced earlier this year, but for VMware and Hyper-V images.
IBM DS8882F All-Flash Array
When IBM announced the DS8880, it shocked folks that it changed them from the previous 33-inch wide, to a standard 19-inch width. The IBM Z team followed up with 19-inch wide models of its mainframe servers.
Now, IBM can bring these together. There are two flavors of the new DS8882F:
The "Rackless" model is 17U in height with the optional keyboard/monitor, and can be put into existing 19-inch racks. These can be used with VMware, Linux, Windows, AIX and z/OS.
The "Flex Frame" model, which is 16U, allowing it to fit nicely inside a single-rack IBM Z Z14 ZR1 model, or LinuxOne RockHopper II model. It is 16U instead of 17U because it shares the existing 1U-high keyboard/monitor unit.
Like the DS8888F, DS8886F, and DS8884F models, the new DS8882F uses the High Performance Flash Enclosure (HPFE) gen2 drawers, supporting either high-performance/high-endurance drives (400GB to 3.2TB each), or high-capacity/standard-endurance drives (3.8TB to 15.3 TB each).
The R8.5 release of firmware that accompanies this announcement also supports data-in-flight encryption for Transparent Cloud Tiering. It also supports a new feature called "Safeguarded Copies", up to 500 copies to protect against hackers and ransomware.
IBM Spectrum Access blueprints have been extended to support IBM Z and LinuxOne. These blueprints show how to run IBM Cloud Private with Spectrum Connect with IBM block storage, including IBM DS8880/F, SVC, Storwize and FlashSystem models.
IBM Storage Solutions for Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI)
IBM offers a new blueprint to configure Virtual Desktops with its newly announced IBM FlashSystem 9100 device. The low latency/high IOPS capability of the FlashSystem 9100 is perfect for the type of "boot storms" that are often encountered with VDI deployments.
IBM Spectrum Scale 5.0.2 and Elastic Storage Server
At recent IBM Technical University, I joked that the IBM Elastic Storage Server is only "part of a complete breakfast" because it only supported the NSD POSIX interface. To make it useful in most situations, you needed to buy additional servers outside of the ESS to run Spectrum Scale protocol nodes to provide industry-standard file and object protocols.
Today, IBM announced that you can order a new "IBM Elastic Storage Server Data Server" (5148-22L) which is a POWER server with the Spectrum Scale software pre-installed for protocol node support. It has [similar specifications] to the IBM Elastic Storage Server Management Server (5148-21L).
If you prefer to run Spectrum Scale in the cloud, you can "Bring your own license" (BYOL) to Amazon Web Services.
This week, I was part of an all-day event called "Healthcare and Research Trends & Directions in a Cognitive World" at the IBM Executive Briefing Center (EBC) in Rochester, MN. I was one of many presenters covering Information Technology to improve healthcare outcomes. Todd Stacy, IBM Director Server Sales for US Public Market, served as our emcee.
This was a great day. Special thanks to Kathy Lehr, Trish Froeschle, and Scott Gass for organizing this event! We had clients from a variety of Health Care and Life Science industry backgrounds. I certainly learned a few things myself.
Dr. Michael Weiner, IBM Chief Medical Information Officer, Watson Health, covered some of the real challenges not just facing the United States, but also other countries. On average, healthcare in USA [costs over $10,000 USD per American citizen]! Compare that to only $3,700 USD for the folks in the United Kingdom! In fact, nearly all industrial nations spend between $2,000 and $5,000 per person. Where does all the U.S. money go?
A big challenge is our ever-aging population. Every day, there are 10,000 [Baby Boomers] reaching their 65th birthday, with fewer people in the 25-44 age group to work as nurses to take care of them. About 15 percent of the US population are elderly (over age 65) and this is expected to grow to 20 percent in year 2040. The situation is even worse in Japan, where 25 percent of the population today is elderly, and this is expected to be 40 percent by year 2060.
New Care Models
In some countries, like Australia and Japan, post office workers who spent their time delivering mail, now can stop in to check in on elderly people. As people ship less mail, using social media or email instead, this keeps the postal workers employed, in a manner that provides society value.
The USA enjoys one of the lowest costs for food, but then suffers from an epidemic of obesity, with over 34 percent of Americans are obese. When New York City eliminated Trans Fats, heart attacks dropped considerably.
In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health [HITECH] Act required the digitization of medical information, known as "Meaningful Use", which has greatly influenced healthcare facilities. This was implemented by a combination of incentives and penalties. Now, more than than 92 percent of hospitals in the USA have digitized medical information! The rest are still using paper and Xray film images. Some places were initially exempted, such as Assisted Living Homes for example, so there is still more work to be done.
An advantage of using computer-based solutions like Artificial Intelligence is that it eliminates bias. When a woman walks into an Emergency Room complaining about chest pains, few health staff would consider this a sign of heart attack. When a man does same, health staff considers heart attack as the first diagnosis, at the risk of missing out on other possibilities.
Every year, over a million articles related to healthcare research are published. Who can read all this in a timely manner? IBM Watson! After [winning in Jeopardy], IBM Watson was "sent to medical school" to learn how to assist doctors in diagnosing patients.
Transforming Health Care Data Management with IBM Spectrum Storage
Greg Tevis, IBM Software Defined Storage Architect, and Raj Tandon, IBM Senior Strategist, co-presented this introduction to IBM Spectrum Storage family of products. They covered examples with IBM Spectrum Virtualize, IBM Spectrum Control, IBM Spectrum Protect, IBM Spectrum Scale, IBM Cloud Object Storage, and IBM Copy Data Management. The latter having support directly for EPIC and Cache databases.
Cognitive Imaging Solutions for Healthcare Providers
Jason Crites, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences Data Solutions Leader, and Wayland Vacek, Enterprise Sales Manager for Merge, presented IBM Watson Imaging Clinical Review, from IBM's acquisition of the Merge company. The solution is based on IBM Spectrum Scale as the back-end storage repository.
Merge has been around for more than 20 years, with clinical workflow offerings in Cardiology, Radiology, Orthopedics and Eye care. Often, IBM Watson is able to identify things in medical images that escape the review or radiologists or other medical specialists.
At HIMSS conference earlier this year, The human radiologists were shown a collection of images used to train IBM Watson. The human radiologists only identified 20 percent of the images correctly, while IBM Watson got all of them, every time. In many cases, human radiologists have only a few seconds to look at an Xray image. Computers like IBM Watson are now fast enough to compete directly with human radiologists in the same number of seconds.
Building a Foundation for the Cognitive Era in Healthcare and Life Sciences
Dr. Jane Yu, IBM Systems Architect, Healthcare & Life Sciences, and Dr. Frank Lee, IBM Global Sales Leader, IBM Software Defined Infrastructure & Life Sciences, co-presented this topic. They present five challenges:
Growing data volumes are making it more difficult to manage, process and store this data.
Scientists find themselves spending more than 80 percent of their time manually integrating data from silos, and less than 20 percent of their time doing actual research and deriving insights from their analyses.
Compute- and data-intensive workflows may take days to complete on existing server and storage systems.
IT organizations must keep up with rapidly evolving applications, development frameworks, and databases for preferred. Health care Life Science (HCLS) applications. This includes SAS, Matlab, Hadoop, Spark, NoSQL databases, as well as Deep Learning and Machine Learning workloads.
Scientific integrity and government mandates increasingly require collaboration across organizational boundaries.
In one example, Sidra Medical and Research Center plans to map the genomes of all 250,000 citizens in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. Imagine that processing each Qatari citizen will generate 200 GB of data for this project, resulting in 50 Petabytes (PB) of data!
Combining IBM Spectrum Compute products with IBM Spectrum Scale storage, can help address these challenges.
Modernize & Transform Helathcare with IBM Storage Solutions
Finally, I presented a 90-minute breakout session that covered three solution areas:
Flash storage to speed up medical records and research. Those who have already implemented Electronic Health Records (EHR) for "Meaningful Use" compliance recognize the value this provides to improving healthcare. Adding All-Flash Arrays such as IBM FlashSystem, Storwize V7000F or DS8000F can drastically improve application performance.
Spectrum Scale and IBM Cloud Object Storage for Vendor Neutral Archive. It seems silly that each PACS vendor has its own little island of storage. A better approach is to send all PACS data from various vendors into a "Vendor-Neutral" storage repository. Both IBM Spectrum Scale and IBM Cloud Object Storage System, either linked together or used separately, can be part of a VNA solution.
VersaStack to simplify deployments. VersaStack is a Converged System that combines best-of-breed Cisco servers and switches with best-of-breed IBM storage, pre-cabled, pre-configured, and pre-loaded with all the necessary software to manage the environment as a single entity. This can reduce the time it takes to deploy new medical applications from weeks to just hours.
(Back in 2010, I poked fun at EMC with my post [VPLEX: EMC's Latest Wheel is Round]. I pointed out that EMC's announcement of "new features" that already existed in IBM's SAN Volume Controller. Oops! They did it again!)
Basically, Dell EMC is working on a new "2 Tiers" approach that combines high-performance flash tier with high-capacity object storage. Guess what? IBM already offers this! Why wait?
IBM Spectrum Scale, formerly known as the General Parallel File System (GPFS), supports POSIX, HDFS, OpenStack Swift, Amazon S3, NFS, SMB and iSCSI protocols.
Spectrum Scale can provide this front-end abstraction layer between flash and object storage, including IBM Cloud Object Storage system and IBM Bluemix (formerly SoftLayer) cloud services.
But why limit yourself to just two tiers? IBM Spectrum Scale can also support 15K, 10K and 7200 RPM spinning disk drive tiers, as well as virtual or physical tape tier, the ultimate low-cost high-capacity tier!
Several years ago, IBM coined the phrase "FLAPE" to discuss the two-tier approach of combining Flash with Tape using Spectrum Scale as the front-end abstraction layer.
Perhaps we should call combinations of Flash and Object "FLobject" storage? If the name catches on, you read it here first!
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.
"... [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!
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.
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.
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.
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+).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Storwize V7000 Unified
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
Well it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
(FCC Disclosure: This official launch also includes October 6 announcements. In any case, the usual disclaimer applies: I currently work for IBM, and this blog post can be considered a "paid celebrity endorsement" of the IBM products mentioned below.)
IBM announced various updates to its Spectrum Storage product line. Here is a quick recap.
IBM Spectrum Virtualize 7.6
Spectrum Virtualize is the new name of the "storage hypervisor" code that resides in IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) and Storwize family products. When you buy an SVC, you will license Spectrum Virtualize software on it. It is NOT available separately as software-only that you can install on any other hardware. There are three major improvements:
Software-based Data-at-Rest Encryption
Earlier this year, IBM delivered data-at-rest encryption for the Storwize V7000 and V7000 Unified. This week, IBM extends this support to other storage hypervisors.
Since this feature is based on the Intel processor that supports the Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (AES-NI), it applies only to the newer hardware: SAN Volume Controller 2145-DH8, the Storwize V7000 Gen2, FlashSystem V9000, and VersaStack converged systems that contain these. You can run Spectrum Virtualize v7.6 on older hardware models, but the encryption feature will be disabled.
Basically, by taking advantage of AES-NI commands, IBM can now offer data-at-rest encryption on any virtualized flash or disk arrays, eliminating the need for special "Self-Encrypting Drives", or SED.
The encryption keys are kept on USB memory sticks, that you can either leave in the machine, or stash away in some vault or safe somewhere.
The other improvement is distributed RAID. Distributed RAID has been hugely popular on IBM XIV products, and has since found its way into the DCS3700, DCS3860 and Elastic Storage Server models.
With this new enhancement, storage admins can select "Distributed RAID-5" or "Distributed RAID-6" as alternate choices to traditional RAID ranks.
Why use it? All the drives are now active, eliminating idle spare drives that do nothing collecting dust and cobwebs waiting for an opportunity to spin up, and when they finally are used for a rebuild become a terrible bottleneck. Since all drives are reading and writing, the rebuild rate is an order of magnitude (5 to 10x) faster!
For those clients nervous about large 8TB drives and the number of days it would take to perform a traditional RAID rebuild, this should calm all of your fears.
This is one of those line-items that we have told clients that it was "just around the corner" and "coming soon, watch this space", and finally it is available. For clients using Stretched Cluster or HyperSwap across two buildings, best practices suggests keeping the quorum disk in a third building. This often met having to dedicate a single 2U disk system in a closet somewhere, with expensive Fibre Channel cables connecting to the other two buildings.
To address this, IBM now allows the quorum disk to be based on Internet Protocol (the IP portion of TCP/IP), which can be any bare-metal or virtual machine that is LAN or WAN attached. The "quorum disk" is just a little Java program. This can run on any cloud service provider as well, such as IBM SoftLayer, that both buildings have connectivity.
A minor improvement worth mentioning is that the IBM "Comprestimator" tool that estimates the capacity savings of Real-time Compression is now integrated into Spectrum Virtualize v7.6 command line interface (CLI), allowing you to run the tool on demand, as needed, on any virtual volume.
IBM Spectrum Scale v4.2
IBM plans to offer all of its solutions in any of three flavors: software-only that you can deploy on your own server hardware, pre-built system appliances, and cloud services on IBM SoftLayer, IBM Cloud Managed Services or third-party cloud providers. Spectrum Scale is the software-only flavor, and Elastic Storage Server and Storwize V7000 Unified are pre-built systems based on that software.
File and Object access
IBM published a "Redbook" on how to implement OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3 interfaces to an existing Spectrum Scale deployment. IBM supported it, but it was basically Do-it-Yourself DIY implementation. This has now been resolved, with full integration of OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3 object-protocol interfaces.
(For those unfamiliar with "Object storage", think of it like valet parking for your data. Before working for IBM, I was previously employed as a valet attendant, so I feel qualified to make this analogy.
If you park your car in a 10-story high parking structure, you have to remember where you parked to go find the car again. With valet parking, you hand over the keys to the valet attendant, the car gets parked, and you get a claim stub that you then use to get your car back. In the meantime, you don't know where your car is parked, and you don't care either!
Storing files in volume-level or file-level storage is like that 10-story high parking structure. You have to remember where you put it, which LUN or which sub-directory. With object storage, the system provides a "claim stub" in the form of an Universal Record Identifier, or URI, and simple HTTP commands like GET and POST can be used to upload and download the content.)
Policy-driven Compression and Quality of Service (QoS)
If you want to differentiate the levels of service provided by files and objects stored in your infrastructure, look no further. Simple SQL-like language is used to set up policies that are invoked when needed.
Hadoop Connector for File and Objects
The IBM Hadoop Connector allows Hadoop and Spark analytics applications to treat Spectrum Scale as a 100 percent compatible alternative to Hadoop File Systems (HDFS). Previously, this was only available for files, but now it has been extended to include objects as well.
Advanced Graphical User Interface (GUI)
Based on the award-winning GUI that has been used for IBM XIV, SVC, Storwize and various other members of the IBM System Storage family, IBM announces an HTML5-based web-browser GUI for configuring and managing Spectrum Scale and Elastic Storage Server (ESS).
Storwize V7000 Unified
The "file modules" that run IBM Spectrum Scale will get updated to R1.6 level, which supports SMB 3.0 and NFS 4.0 protocols. SMB support will now include both internal and externally-virtualized storage. You will also be able to use Active File Management to migrate to other Spectrum Scale implementations.
IBM Spectrum Control
As the former chief architect of IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center v1, I have been a big fan of the advancements and evolution of Spectrum Control. IBM offers three levels. The first level is "Basic Edition", entitled at no additional charge for IBM storage hardware clients. The second level is "Standard Edition" which offers configuration, provisioning and performance monitoring. The third level is "Advanced Edition", which includes advanced storage analytics, file-level reporting, storage tiering and data placement optimization.
You can imagine my skepticism when I was told that Spectrum Control was going to be enhanced to support Spectrum Scale. What could it offer? IBM Spectrum Scale already has built-in storage tiering and data placement optimization!
It turns out that having effective "management tools" was the #1 reason clients have stated were needed to implement and deploy Spectrum Scale. Since 1998, back when it was called General Parallel File System, or GPFS, the target market was High Performance Computing (HPC) familiar with Command Line Interfaces (CLI).
But IBM was to broaden the reach of IBM Spectrum Scale, to financial services, health care and life sciences, government and education, and a variety of other industries. They won't tolerate being limited to CLI interfaces.
For clients with multiple Spectrum Scale clusters, Spectrum Control can offer the following:
Visibility across the capacity utilization (file systems, pools, file sets, quotas) and cluster health across all Spectrum Scale clusters in the data center
Ability to specify alerts which are applied across all Spectrum Scale clusters, for things like relative or absolute free space in a file system, or inodes used, nodes going down, etc.
Understand the cross-cluster relationships established by remote cluster mounts, and seamlessly navigate between them
If external SAN storage is used, Spectrum Control shows the correlation between Spectrum Scale Network Shared Disks (NSD) and their corresponding SAN volumes, again with the ability to navigate between them; also it can provide performance monitoring for the volumes backing the NSD
Ability to monitor file capacity usage in the context of applications, by adding Spectrum Scale "file set containers" to application groups defined in Spectrum Control
Compare file system activity across Spectrum Scale clusters, with the ability to drill into file system and node performance charts
Support for object storage on Spectrum Scale, determine which object-enabled clusters are closest to running out of free space
While the basic built-in GUI is great for smaller deployments, if you have a dozen or more Spectrum Scale clusters, or have Spectrum Scale clusters intermixed with traditional block-level and NAS storage devices, then Spectrum Control is for you!
It used to take weeks to deploy the original versions of Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, but now, Spectrum Control is now offered in the cloud, and you can deploy it in as little as 30 minutes.
Want to check it out? You can explore Spectrum Control Storage Insights cloud service as a [Live Demo], or [Start your free trial]! The reporting capabilities of Spectrum Scale are identical between the on-premise version of Spectrum Control, and this cloud service offering.
Here's a great quote from a leading IT industry analyst:
"In multi-petabyte, multivendor installations, overall storage costs of ownership for use of IBM Spectrum Storage solutions averaged 73 percent less than EMC, and 61 percent less than Hitachi equivalents" -- Brian Jeffery, Managing Director, International Technology Group, Naples, FL
As IBM continues its transition from a hardware-oriented company founded over a century ago, manufacturing meat scales and cheese slicers, to one more focused on higher value-add software and services, the Spectrum Storage software family will play a critical role of this transformation!