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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It's September, and many students are going back to school. A friend had asked me for advice to give his son as he enters high school. Here were my thoughts.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM. I have not received any compensation from any third parties for the products or services mentioned in this post.)
I highly endorse David Allen's book [Getting Things Done]. Trying to remember all of the homework, tasks and assignments that you need to get done can add unnecessary stress.
The trick is to write these things down. Whether this is on paper, or electronically, David's GTD process works.
Students should learn to become "Search Ninjas" in finding information to complete their homework and tasks. To that end, I recommend using a site like "LastPass" to store unique passwords for each online service.
LastPass is short for "the last password you will ever need to remember", as it stores all of your passwords for banking, social media, and other online resources. One strong password gets you in. This is further strengthened by two-factor authorization, such as using "Google Authenticator". In this manner, to log into your LastPass account, you need both your strong password, as well as access to your smartphone for Google Authenticator to provide a six-digit code to validate your identity.
Writing your thoughts down sometimes requires different approaches. A [mind map] is a hierarchical diagram to help capture thoughts non-linearly. I have seen these used to capture thoughts generated during idea brainstorming sessions. I use them to help me create new PowerPoint presentations.
There are many mind mapping tools available. On my smartphone, I use the [SimpleMind] app. On my Linux laptop, I use [View Your Mind]. Try several out, and pick the one that works best for you.
The trick is to identify which general pattern a specific problem falls under, and use the general solution as the basis for solving it. Part of this approach is to identify all of the inherent contradictions and eliminating or addressing them one by one.
Whenever Rafael complains to me he has a problem to solve, like figuring out how to get the oil changed in his car, I ask him how he would solve it in a video game. He would reply that he would determine what "items" he needed, either to trade or gain entry into a realm, and what sequence of steps needed to happen in what order. I would then explain that life is just like that, except instead of jewels and swords, you are using cash or credit cards!
Not surprisingly, IBM technology can be found in certain models of Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii, and Microsoft Xbox.
Imagine having homework in three different subjects. A student might spend all night on one topic, and never get around to the other two. The [Pomodoro Technique] is surprisingly simple. It focuses on two problems kids have these days: getting started, and staying focused.
The technique divides up the hours available into 25-minute slots, with 5-minute breaks in between. For example, the student might spend the first 25 minutes on math homework, then take 5-minute break playing video games, then 25 minutes reading History, then 5-minute break checking Facebook, then 25 minutes completing an essay for Spanish class. Each 5-minute break helps to clear the mind for the next task.
I use this method at work. Often, I have a variety of tasks facing me, booking flights for my next trip, updating PowerPoint presentations, and writing my next blog post. Breaking up the day into smaller 25-minute segments helps me stay focused.
In Italian, "pomodoro" means tomato, and the 25 minutes was inspired by a 25-minute kitchen timer shaped like a tomato. You certainly don't need a tomato-shaped timer to use this technique, as there are smartphone apps available to do this for you.
High school is a good time to start developing good habits in project management, time management, problem solving and password security.
Do you have any suggestions? Please feel free to contribute in the comment section below!
Last week, September 11-13, I was in Johannesburg for the IBM Technical University! The event was held at the Hyatt Regency in the Rosebank section of town. This event was focused on IBM Systems, including storage, Power systems, and IBM Z mainframe servers. Here is my recap for the third and final day:
What else can you use that data for? Adventures in Data Reuse
Did you know that IBM invented "Copy Data Management" in 1998? I do, of course, since I was one of the inventors! Originally developed for DFSMS on z/OS, there are now copy data management solutions for a multitude of operating systems, databases and applications.
This session covered IBM Spectrum Protect Snapshot, IBM Spectrum Protect Plus, and IBM Spectrum Copy Data Management.
Copies of production data are not just for data protection and disaster recovery. The copies can be reused for other IT or business purposes:
Testing and DevOps - After a copy of production is made, columns of databases containing sensitive, personally-identifiable information (PII) can be masked, scrambled or obfuscated, to keep them out of the prying eyes of testers and developers. IBM Spectrum Copy Data Management offers data masking features.
Reporting and Analytics - Running reports or analytics against production data can drastically impact performance and cache hit rate on storage devices. Making copies to other systems, and running reports and analytics elsewhere makes a lot of sense.
Hybrid Cloud - Why limit your copies to just your own data center? Copies of data can be sent to off-premises to perform DevOps, Reporting and Analytics in the cloud.
Be Persistent in your Journey to Private Cloud
IBM offers persistent storage for IBM Cloud Private deployments. This includes IBM Spectrum Virtualize family of products, Spectrum Accelerate family of products, VersaStack converged systems, and DS8000 systems.
IBM Spectrum Access blueprints are available to deploy persistent storage for IBM Cloud Private software on VersaStack, POWER and IBM Z servers.
IBM Spectrum Connect provides the necessary interfaces for Kubernetes to claim persistent storage for Docker containers.
Is your data center ready for NVMe, NVMe-OF or FC-NVMe? Initiated in 2011, the NVMe standard is relatively young. I covered its short history, why zero-copy protocols like FCP and RDMA can drastically reduce latency, and all the components needed for a complete end-to-end solution.
Inside All-Flash Arrays, you can use standard 12Gbps SAS to connect to SCSI-based Solid-State Drives (SSD), or you can use the much faster PCiE bus at 32Gbps with NVMe-based drives.
NVMe provides for advanced parallelism, since flash is not mechanical, and does not rely on the position of a read/write head over a platter as spinning disks do. Traditional SSD pretend to be spinning disks, so often process one command at a time, to maintain the charade.
NVMe is designed to work only with flash devices, so it uses a streamlined 15 commands, versus the 34 commands in SCSI to handle other storage media.
But having an NVMe-inside All-Flash Array is not the end of the story. Rather than sending all of those SCSI commands across network, only for some to be disregarded when they arrive, you can send the streamlined NVMe commands instead. NVMe over the networks is available now. NVMe-OF offers support for Ethernet and InfiniBand, and FC-NVMe offers support for FCP.
The last stage is application exploitation from the host server. The industry still needs Operating System drivers, multipathing drivers, and applications that take advantage of NVMe. IBM anticipates this will occur later this year, and into 2019.
IBM Storage Infrastructure Optimization (SIO) assessment
Ishmail Shaik, IBM Lab Services, presented an interactive peek of what an SIO entails.
In 2005, I led a series of "Information Lifecycle Management" (ILM) studies for various clients, combining the methods from "disk studies" and "tape studies" that I had performed since the 1980s.
The ultimate win-win scenario, these ILM studies proved successful, not only saving the clients millions of dollars, but often resulting in follow-on sales of IBM storage hardware, software and services.
Over those 18 months, I trained several IBM Systems Lab Services colleagues in the process. These studies formed the basis of "Storage Infrastructure Optimization" assessments launched officially in 2011.
The SIO assessment process has evolved a lot since I was last involved with it. Here are a few of the changes I noticed from his presentation:
Core Modules - No longer just focused on Lifecycle Management, SIO studies offer four additional modules: Modernize & Transform, Business Resiliency, Manage & Control, and New Workloads.
Data Collection - The biggest challenge back then was collecting data to provide recommendations. I managed with in-person interviews and what little tools were available back then, collected into TCO spreadsheets, VISIO diagrams and PowerPoint slides. Today, we have sophisticated data collection tools, including IBM Spectrum Control, Storage Insights, Arxview, and Butterfly.
Engagement Workshop - SIO now has incorporated "Design Thinking" methodology to help clients prioritize findings into a set of short-term, medium-term and long-term recommendations.
The three-day event ended with a closing session, hosted by Mario Franzone.
Last week, September 11-13, I was in Johannesburg for the IBM Technical University! The event was held at the Hyatt Regency in the Rosebank section of town. This event was focused on IBM Systems, including storage, Power systems, and IBM Z mainframe servers. Here is my recap for the second day:
Nutanix 101: Intro to Hyperconverged Infrastructure and Private Cloud on IBM Power Systems
I attended this based on the abstract for this session:
"Learn in this session why IBM has partnered with Nutanix around hyperconvergence, how this architecture can help drive simplicity, performance and cost efficiency into your IT landscape. You will get both a high level overview on Nutanix, as well as how IBM CS Series is using the Nutanix software to deliver a worldclass application platform, followed by a live demo to show you how Nutanix works."
Sadly, I felt the title and abstract were partially misleading.
Rui Gonclaves from Nutanix gave a nice overview of how Nutanix software can help drive simplicity and cost efficiency to x86 server deployments. It supports VMware, Hyper-V and its own version of Linux KVM called the Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV). Its PRISM software helps to provide one-click management convenience for a cluster of x86 servers.
Nutanix considers its software to be the value of the solution, and treats the servers it runs on as mere commodities. By partnering with IBM, Nutanix adds another concubine to its harem. The only subtle reference to the new CS models was an IBM logo among the logos of Lenovo, HP, DellEMC, and Cisco UCS. Rui failed to cover any details of the CS models, nor their advantages over x86 servers.
(IBM, on the other hand, considers its hardware to be the value of the solution, and treats the applications as commodities. IBM Power servers are able to run open source databases like MongoDB and EnterpriseDB better. For example, a 3-node cluster of IBM CS822 servers (22-core models) was able to run more than twice the transactions per second (tps) per dollar than a comparable cluster of 24-core Dell CX630-10 machines.)
Rui finished his presentation 25 minutes early, so there would have been enough time to cover the CS models, or show a live demo, but that didn't happen either.
Save the World! Save your IT Budget with IBM Cloud Object Storage
All of the presenters at this conference were asked to come up with fun and quirky titles for their sessions. Since clients use IBM Cloud Object Storage (COS) to save large repositories of active archives, the phrase "Save the World!" has a double meaning.
IBM has clients with more than 100 PB deployments of IBM Cloud Object Storage, so the idea that you can "Save the world's amount of data" was not too outrageous.
IBM COS is relatively inexpensive, at a total cost of ownership that is up to 70 percent less expensive than traditional disk-based solutions. A lot of your data is probably static, stable, unstructured content ideal for low-cost storage with IBM COS, so the idea that you can save your IT budget wasn't outlandish either.
Discover advanced features & last announcements with IBM Spectrum Virtualize
When I saw this title, I was afraid it might overlap too much with my session "Dip your TOE in our Pool". Instead, Dominique Salomon from the IBM Client Experience Center in Montpelier France, presented a great overview of the basic and advanced features of Spectrum Virtualize family of products.
He cover automated tiering with IBM Easy Tier, data footprint reduction with Thin Provisioning, Compression and Deduplication, as well as Copy Services like FlashCopy and remote mirroring.
How big is your NAS? Sizing, Management, and Deployment
While I had fun coming up with fun and quirky titles for their sessions, their drawback is that it forces people to read the abstracts to understand what will be covered in each session.
In this session, I covered IBM's three main NAS offerings: Spectrum Scale, Spectrum NAS, and IBM Cloud Object Storage with NAS gateways from Ctera Networks, Avere, Panzura, and Nasuni.
The rest of the session was IBM's new File and Object Storage Design Engine (FOS-DE) studio, an online tool to help decide which of the three NAS solutions is the best fit, and rough sketch configuration that meets a client's specific capacity and performance requirements.
The FOS-DE tool is available at no charge to all IBM employees, IBM Business Partners, and prospective clients.
I wasn't planning to give a live demo, but I ended ten minutes early, and had decent Wi-Fi connection, so I was able to demonstrate the FOS-DE studio with the remainder of my time slot.
Nightmares and Dreams: Manage your entire Storage Infrastructure with IBM Spectrum Control and Storage Insights
What keeps you up at night? That was the question that motivated the title of this session. I organized this topic into three segments:
Visibility - Can you even understand your storage infrastructure? IBM Storage Insights is available at no additional charge for IBM block storage devices, and can greatly enhance your visibility into your capacity growth, performance bottlenecks, and other vital insights.
Control - Reporting is not enough, you need to take action? IBM Spectrum Control Standard Edition, Spectrum Connect, and Copy Services Manager can help configure, provision and perform other actions needed to your storage infrastructure.
Automation - As data centers grow, the actions required often overwhelm existing IT staff. IBM Spectrum Control Advanced Edition adds analytics and automation.
Johannesburg is nine hours ahead of my home town in Tucson, Arizona. Jet lag hit me hard this second day, so I opted out of the evening activities, and got some much needed rest.
Last week, September 11-13, I was in Johannesburg for the IBM Technical University! The event was held at the Hyatt Regency in the Rosebank section of town. This event was focused on IBM Systems, including storage, Power systems, and IBM Z mainframe servers. Here is my recap for the first day:
Opening Keynote Session
The conference was opened by a warm welcome from Ronnie Moodley, IBM Executive for Systems Hardware. He explained that we live in a VUCA world. For those who have not heard this term before, it is a four-letter acronym that conflates four different business challenges: [Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity].
Ronnie also mentioned the shifts in marketing, from the "four P's" to the "four E's":
Clients are no longer evaluating individual products, but also services that come with it, the context on how it is used, the identify of users, and other characteristics that provide a complete experience.
With so many free, open-source alternatives, the question is not comparing the prices of competing products, but what do you exchange for choosing one option for another. Often referred to as the total cost of ownership (TCO) or "opportunity cost" in economic terms.
The Internet and cloud technologies now allow people to buy and use products practically anywhere. Having a bricks-and-mortal location on a busy street corner may no longer be a competitive advantage.
Old marketing methods relied on uni-directional promotion from corporate marketing teams. Today, social media, blogs, and word-of-mouth evangelism are providing greater influences on purchase decision.
The second segment was "The World is our Lab", by Kugendran Naidoo, IBM Research South Africa. Unlike some companies that consolidate all of their research to one location, IBM does research across the globe, with two locations in Africa (Nairobi, Kenya and here in Johannesburg, South Africa).
Dr. Naidoo explained that often research leads us into areas we weren't expecting. For example, an algorithm developed to detect black holes in space failed, but it turned out to be useful for detecting Wi-Fi hot spots.
This begins back in 1974, when Stephen Hawking theorized that under certain circumstances, small black holes might "evaporate" — and simultaneously emit radio signals. These hypothesized black holes were about the mass of Mount Everest, and smaller than an atom. Soon after, the physicist and engineer John O'Sullivan tried to find these signals.
If these small black holes were evaporating, they would emit radio signals as they vanished. But because of their great distance from us, these signals would be hard to identify because they would be tiny by the time they arrived, as well being buried in a background of louder 'noise'. Furthermore, this tiny signal would be 'smeared' (turned from a sharp spike into a rounded shape). So he and his colleagues came up with a wonderful mathematical tool to detect these tiny, smeared signals.
As it turned out, they never did find these small black holes.
In 1992, John O'Sullivan was at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia, trying to develop computer networks that communicated without wires.
But there was a big problem. The signals he wanted to detect were tiny, smeared and buried in a background of louder 'noise'. Just like the black hole signals.
By a wonderful coincidence, his black hole mathematics turned out to be the key to Wi-Fi. CSIRO took out patents in Australia in 1992, and in the US in 1996. By 2000, they had some working chips.
Improve your NAS environment in One Day! Introducing IBM Spectrum NAS
IBM has been in the NAS storage business for decades. IBM Spectrum NAS is our most recent software defined storage. This session gave an overview on how Spectrum NAS is designed. This software can be deployed on as few as four nodes in less than an hour, leaving you the rest of the day to migrate your data from other NAS solutions.
IBM Spectrum NAS fills the gap between a single file server and expensive dual-controller models available commercially. A single file server, running perhaps Windows Storage Server or Linux with NFS and Samba, represents a single point of failure (SPOF). Lose the one server, and your department or team loses access to all of those shared files!
At the other extreme, commercial dual-controller NAS devices, such as those from NetApp or DellEMC, are loaded with advanced features and application-specific capabilities. Some people take advantage of these, others don't.
IBM Spectrum NAS is software defined storage that runs on four or more nodes, is highly available, and provides many of the advanced features offered by commercial dual-controller models at roughly half the total cost of ownership.
Dip your TOE in our Pool! iSER and Data Reduction with IBM Spectrum Virtualize
All of the presenters at this conference were asked to come up with fun and quirky titles for their sessions. The title is a bit of wordplay.
When IBM launched its SAN Volume Controller in 2003, I was one of the "Technical Evangelists" that traveled around the world to explain how it works. Today, 15 years later, I am still talking about how great this technology is.
Ethernet network interface cards that have co-processors to offload some of the TCP/IP processing are called TCP-Offload-Engines, or "TOE" cards.
IBM recently announced two new flavors of 25GbE cards, one that supports RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE), and another that supports Internet Wide Area RDMA protocol (iWARP).
To implement data deduplication, the Spectrum Virtualize team refactored the code that handled pools of managed space. The original pools are now referred to as "Legacy Storage Pools", and the new pools are referred to as "Data Reduction Pools".
Fahima Zair, Tony Pearson, and Maria Lancaster
After the sessions, we had a nice evening reception to celebrate the General Availability of the IBM FlashSystem 9100. At events like these, many attendees are local and commute to the event, so I was happy to see many stuck around to have conversations with the experts.
I was able to reconnect with many of my colleagues, including Fahima Zair in charge of our VersaStack relationship with Cisco, and Maria Lancaster from our Storage Marketing team.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements! This week I am in San Francisco, California speaking to clients. A bit colder than Tucson, Arizona!
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM. Special thanks to Mark Larson (IBM SAN team), and both Craig Nelson and Peter Schmelter from Broadcom, for their assistance with this post. I have no personal financial interest in Broadcom. This blog post can be considered a "paid celebrity endorsement" of the IBM products mentioned below.)
Spectrum Control v5.3
Back in 2003, I was the chief architect of Spectrum Control v1, formerly called TotalStorage Productivity Center, and later Tivoli Storage Productivity Center. IBM Spectrum Control is part of the IBM Spectrum Storage Suite.
There are two editions: Standard Edition and Advanced Edition.
(What happened to the other editions? The "Base Edition" is now called IBM Spectrum Connect. The "Spectrum Control Storage Insights" service in the IBM Cloud is now just called IBM Storage Insights and Storage Insights Pro.)
The Standard Edition v5.3 offers the following:
Capacity visualization and management, Performance troubleshooting, Health and performance alerting, Application modeling, and support for VMware data sources
Create, save, and send reports directly in the web UI. The reports can be run now, or scheduled to be run later. When a report is run, it can be sent by email or exported and saved in different file types.
Support IBM FlashSystem 900 AE3 models using compression, and the new IBM FlashSystem 9100
Improved automation of counting the licenses for enclosure-based storage devices
The latest IBM Copy Services Manager (CSM) v6.2 for managing remote mirroring, replacing the previous IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center for Replication.
The Advanced Edition v5.3 provides all of the above, as well as the following.
Tiered storage optimization with intelligent analytics
Service catalog with policy-based provisioning
Self-service provisioning with restricted use logins
Analysis of reclaimable space
Showback and Chargeback reports
Application-based snapshot management using IBM Spectrum Protect Snapshot (formerly known as IBM FlashCopy Manager, FCM)
Clients with v5.2.x version of IBM Spectrum Control can upgrade to this new release.
Clients with IBM Spectrum Virtualize-based appliances can bundle Spectrum Control v5.3 with the latest Spectrum Virtualize v8 code. This bundle is referred to as "IBM Virtual Storage Center", or VSC for short. VSC supports SAN Volume Controller, FlashSystem 9100 and V9000, Storwize V7000 and V5000 models.
IBM's announcement of NVMe-capable FlashSystem 9100 has caused many to re-evaluate their SAN infrastructure. All IBM b-type Gen5 and Gen6 switches and directors are NVMe-ready!
(Last year, Broadcom completed its acquisition of Brocade. I am thankful both start with the letter "B", so we won't have to rename our B-type switches to another letter!)
There are two new products in this announcement. The SAN 128B-6 is a Gen6 switch in a 2U container. The other is a 64-port Blade that fits into existing Gen6 Directors, like the 256B-6 or 512B-6 models.
But the 128B-6 doesn't have 128 standard ports ! It actually has 96 standard ports, plus eight "Q-Flex" ports (that can be used to create a total of 128 ports) . Likewise, the 64-port blades have 16 Q-Flex ports (that can be used to create 64 ports).
What is going on? The Q-Flex ports can actually run four channels in different colors of light over the same fiber optic cable, reducing the wiring mess. These Q-Flex can be used for host or device traffic, but are often used as "Inter-Switch Links" or ISL for short.
All of the standard and Q-Flex ports are 32Gbps, but can are capable of autosensing 4, 8, 16, and 32 Gbps port speedsm depending on the SFPs used , for interoperability with existing servers and storage devices. In the case of Q-Flex, all four colors must be run at the same speed, so a Q-Flex represents either 4x32, 4x16, 4x8 or 4x4 Gbps links. You cannot mix different speeds on a single Q-Flex.
In addition, the 64-port blade also supports 10 GbE, 25 GbE, and 40 GbE using the appropriate QSFP transceivers.