Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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(As IBM is focused on its transformation from a "Systems, Software and Services" company to a "Cognitive Solutions and Cloud Platform" company, it seems appropriate to highlight my 1,000 blog post on the concept of cognitive solutions.)
A lot of people ask me to explain what exactly does IBM mean by "cognitive", which is a fair question. Let's start with the [Dictionary definition]:
of or relating to cognition; concerned with the act or process of knowing, perceiving, etc.
of or relating to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning, as contrasted with emotional and volitional processes.
What exactly does IBM mean by Cognitive? IBM has taken this definition, and focused on four key strategic areas:
In the summer of 1981, I spent a summer debugging a "Pascal" compiler at the University of Texas at Austin. I wasn't told that was what I was doing. Rather, I was tasked with writing sample Pascal programs that would demonstrate the features and capabilities of the language.
Every day, I would come up with a concept of a program, punch up the cards, run it through the CDC hopper, and verify that it would work properly. If I didn't have it working by lunch, I would take it to the "help desk", they would look it over, and tell me how to fix it after I got back.
Most of the time, it was a mistake in my software. A few times, however, it was a flaw in the compiler itself. My programs were basically test cases, and the Pascal Compiler development team was fixing or enhancing the compiler code every time I had a problem.
Compilers basically work by parsing the program text, looking for fixed keywords that are entered in a specifically prescribed order to make sense. Other keywords may represent data types, variables, constants or pre-defined macros.
But compilers are not cognitive. Cognitive solutions can understand natural language, and have to handle all the ambiguity of words not being in the correct order, or different words having different meanings.
As an Electrical Engineer, I had to take many classes on classical analog signal processing. In fact, all computers have some amount of analog components, where threshold processing is used to differentiate a zero (0) from a one (1).
For example, if a "zero" value was represented by 1 volt, and a "one" value by 5 volts, then you can set a threshold at 3 volts. Any voltage less than 3 would be considered a "zero" value, and anything 3 volts or greater a "one" value.
But threshold processing is not cognitive. Cognitive solutions also use thresholds, but their thresholds are dynamically determined, through advanced analytics and statistical mathematical models, and may adjust up and down as needed, based on machine learning over time.
IBM Research is proud to have developed the world's most advanced caching algorithms for its storage systems. Cache memory is very fast, but also very expensive, so offered in limited quantities. Caching algorithms decide which blocks of data should remain in cache, and which should be kicked out.
Ideally, a block in read cache would be kicked out precisely after the last time it was read, with little or no expectation for being read again anytime soon. Likewise, a block in write cache would be destaged to persistent storage precisely after the last time it was updated, with little or no expectation for being updated again anytime soon.
Traditional approach is "Least Recently Used" or [LRU]. Cache entries that were read recently or updated recently, would be placed on the top of the list, and the least referenced would be at the bottom of the list. When space is needed in cache, the entries at the bottom of the list would be kicked out.
IBM's [Adaptive Cache Algorithm outperforms LRU]. For example, on a workstation disk drive workload, at 16MB cache, LRU delivers a hit ratio of 4.24 percent while ARC achieves a hit ratio of 23.82 percent, and, for a SPC1 benchmark, at 4GB cache, LRU delivers a hit ratio of 9.19 percent while ARC achieves a hit ratio of 20 percent.
But caching algorithms, including IBM's Adaptive Cache, are not cognitive. These algorithms respond pragmatically based on the current state of the cache. Cognitive solutions learn, and improve with usage. This is often referred to as "Machine Learning".
The human-computer interface (HCI) has much room for improvement in a variety of areas.
Take for example a snack vending machine. In college, we had assignments to simulate the computing logic of these. We had to interact with the buyer, receive coins entered into the slot--nickels, dimes and quarters representing 5, 10 and 25 cents--determine a total monetary balance, and then dispense snacks of various prices and return an appropriate amount of change, if any. There is even a [greedy algorithm] designed to optimize how the change is returned.
But vending machines are not cognitive. Like the caching algorithms, vending machines interact based on fixed programmatic logic, treating all buyers in the same manner. Cognitive solutions can interact with different users in different ways, customized to their needs, and these interactions can improve over time, based on machine learning.
IBM is exploring the use of Cognitive Solutions in a variety of different industries, from Healthcare to Retail, Financial Services to Manufacturing, and more.
(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 presented at the "IBM Technical University" event in beautiful Atibaia, Brazil. Here is my recap of the event.
Marcelo Porto, IBM General Manager for Brazil and Client Unit Executive for Retail
What a great way to start a conference! Marcelo asked if everyone was comfortable? Everyone cheered in the affirmative.
He then said "Well, not for long. We will take you out of your comfort zone! You will disrupt yourself, and disrupt your companies. You will learn about new technologies and solutions that will make you very uncomfortable."
He explained how everything is virtual, specifically the three companies Airbnb, Waze, Uber. All of these three have new transformational business models, and he suggested all companies should follow suit.
He then said people need to be focused on four things:
Adopting an "agile attitude"
Act like you own the company
Don't cling to the past
Have the courage to re-invent yourself and your company
Frank Koja, IBM Vice President for Sales, Enterprise Systems Hardware
(Managers and business leaders could probably raise this percentage considerably if they talked to their employees before making decisions, but that's another blog post!)
Frank showed a video of an IBM client, Plenty of Fish (POF). This is a worldwide dating site with three million POF members in Brazil. They now process over 30,000 requests and/or messages per minute. FlashSystem connected to 30 servers makes that possible.
OpenPower consortium started with just 5 companies in 2014 for technology collaboration. Today, 250 members across 26 countries in six continents collaborate to make POWER technology as ubiquitous a commodity as Intel x86.
Frank then switched to "Business models" innovation. Out of the audience of about 800 people, only 10 raised their hands that have heard of Blockchain (he asked IBMers not to raise their hands, as all IBMers have heard of Blockchain!).
Frank feels that Blockchain is the most disruptive innovation since Internet banking. Blockchain affects supply chain, finance, insurance, shipping logistics, customs inspections, and government registrations.
A video showed a woman from Everledger, which uses Blockchain for shipping diamonds. IBM offers Blockchain on LinuxOne mainframe servers.
Hybrid Cloud is point of no return, including Local, Dedicated and Public clouds. Frank feels we need to cloudify all business processes.
Mauro Angelo, IBM Enterprise Strategy & Industry Solutions Director
Mauro explained that ideas are turned into inventions, and inventions are put to good use to bring forth innovations.
If your business is not cognitive you are a full era behind. Machine learning is not knew. IBM DeepBlue beat Grandmaster in Chess tournament back in 1997.
Mauro then focused on eight specific trends:
Systems of Engagement (SoE)
This is the combination of Mobile applications and Social business. IBM invited the first smartphone, the Simon, back in 1994. Apple's iPhone came later in 2007. Pokemon Go is example of augmented reality.
Cloud offers new service and location models. IBM [SoftLayer], [Bluemix], and [Kenexa] are a few examples.
There have been a lot of enhancements in this space, including Natural Language Processing (NLP), visual recognition, even smell recognition. Cognitive solutions can also identify the appropriate context, such as GPS location. And Cognitive solutions can interact with users to ask for clarifications. It can process "Big Data", the collection of non-structured data that normal Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) do not touch. Finally, they can learn, something often referred to as "Machine Learning".
In 2011, IBM Watson beat two humans at the TV show game Jeopardy! Today, [Dino, a toy from CogniToys] provides Watson-like capabilities to children.
Mauro got one for his daughter. She naturally interacts with toy. "How much does an elephant weigh?" she asks. "It depends on the elephant, but a fully grown elephant weighs more than 2,000 kilos" it responds. That's cool.
Wearables like Fitbit can track blood pressure, minutes of exercise, total steps walked. IBM helped Under Armour company develop an app in this space.
Eliminates middlemen or trusted third party (TTP). The hotel chain, Hilton, is testing out a robot called Pepper, which can use Blockchain to book tennis courts.
These are technologies thinner than a strand of hair, measured in nanometers. The focus is to develop stronger, lighter materials, and macromolecules for life sciences for medicine delivery.
Mass customization meets personalization and fast design prototypes. This is not just limited to plastic, but also metal, paper, wood, biomaterials, ceramics, food, and even cement.
Cement? That's right. A Chinese company prints houses using a cement 3D printer. In a country of over one billion people, this company has figured out how to build houses without human laborers.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Olli, a 12-person self-driving bus, is the brainchild of Local Motors. They are testing it out in National Harbor, and hope to roll it out to cities like Copenhagen, Miami, and Las Vegas.
Luis Liguori, IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO for IBM Brazil
What does IBM mean by "Digital transformation?" What separates success from failure? Developed countries from less developed countries?
Is it culture? Whether people focus on the long term, or just the short term? Does the culture encourage you to foresee the future, and adapt accordingly? Does the culture encourage you to be brave and bold? Do you hide behind Business case return on investments (ROI)? Does your culture consider conflict to be good or bad? The answer: Good!
Does your company have a purpose? When humans no longer serve purpose, they die. The same is true for companies. He said the secret to success is the four "R's" -- Relevant, Resources, Reputation and Rigor.
For example, in 1996, the Kodak was ranked the 4th largest, it filed bankruptcy in 2012 because it was no longer relevant.
Consider Samsung. Samsung has lost its reputation with the latest "Samsung Galaxy Note7" fiasco of exploding batteries!
Airbnb is an example of Digital Transformation. Who knew that there were lots of people who wanted to rent out their bedrooms and bathrooms to strangers!
Luis feels that successful companies are either born digital, or transforming to digital. Industries are merging. Lines are blurring between industries. The latest acquisition between AT&T and Time Warner is an example.
Cognitive brings intelligence to decision making. For example, Watson health has been put to task to focus on Leukemia. In one case, Watson was able to [pinpoint a rare form of Leukemia] that had misdiagnosed and being treated incorrectly with little effect.
Why cognitive? Because human beings cannot read or remember as well as computers. There are thousands of peer-reviewed articles published every day. People are afraid to act to avoid mistakes. Computers are fearless.
Did you know that Brazil celebrates "Black Friday"? There is no "Thanksgiving" in Brazil, but retailers liked the idea of having people stand outside in the middle of the night to start their Christmas shopping! A few years ago, there were [a few problems], but in most recent years, it has shown to help [boost retail sales.] Based on these initial purchases, Watson can be used to help drive the rest of the Christmas retail season.
Watson can analyze personality based on social media writings. The world will be taken over by digital natives. The last century was focused inward, or "ego-centric", but in this 21st century, we will be focused outward, towards a complete "ecosystem".
Who are your competitors? Are they the companies that make products and services similar to yours? No! They are the companies that are competing for your customer's time and attention.
While I speak English and Spanish fluently, my Brazilian Portuguese is terribly rusty. We had several rooms with a pair of real-time translators. I presented the following:
Software Defined Storage -- Why? What? How?
The Pendulum Swings Back -- Understanding Converged and Hyperconverged Environments
IBM Spectrum Scale for File and Object Storage
IBM Storage integration with OpenStack
Introduction to IBM Cloud Object Storage System and its Applications (powered by Cleversafe)
IBM's Cloud Storage Options
All of my sessions were well received, and well attended!
Photo by Dominique Salomon,
IBM Certified IT Specialist
On Wednesday night, we had a nice pool-side reception. Beers, Caiparinhas, and Caiparoskies. Caiparinhas combine a sugarcane juice-based distilled alcohol called cachaça with muddled limes and added sugar. Caiparoskies combined vodka with muddled kiwi fruit.
(Many of the IBMers from United States skipped this event to get dinner early, so they could then come back in time to watch the third and final US Presidential Debate. Because of the time zone changes, this didn't start til 11:00pm, so they could have easily attended the event and had dinner, with plenty of time to spare!)
There was also a live band! This three part band had two guitarists and one lead singer. The lead singer also did maracas and drums while singing. They covered both English and Portuguese language songs.
Rodrigo Giaffredo, IBM Engagement Catalyst
Rodrigo gave the closing session. Wearing jeans and sneakers, he reminded me of the casual storytelling style of Jeff Jonas. He organized his stories around four points:
Consider the battle between Twitter vs. Pownce in 2007. Twitter won because it offered better ways to limit what you read, or who you communicate to, through methods like Hashtags, groups, etc.
Henry Ford disrupted transportation. He realized that Time and space is money. However, as he famously said "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses!"
Today the challenge is processing data faster. The company that is able to process faster has economic advantage.
Strong ideas focus on user needs. Weak ideas are tactical and features. Consider the [Hippo Roller]. For centuries, African women and children carried water from far away wells either on their hands on or their heads. Much of it would fall out during the long walks. The Hippo Roller holds 90 liters (about 24 gallons) and rolls easily over rough terrain.
Rodrigo showed an graph. On the y-axis was "Importance" and the x-axis "Feasibility". Solutions in the upper right corner are obvious choices. Solutions in the upper left, important but not very feasible, are considered "big bets". Solutions in the lower right, feasible but not very important, he labeled "amenities".
Most designers, architects and developers know that the later the error is found, the more expensive it is to fix. A prototype is worth a thousand meetings.
Take the company Zappos, which sells shoes online over the Internet. The founder, Nick Swinmurn, tried to get investors, getting a typical response: "What are you drinking?" (In USA, we would ask what are you smoking, but this is the way the Brazilians say it.)
With no investors, Nick built a simple website, took pictures of shoes, and fulfilled orders by purchasing the shoes from local San Francisco retailers and shipping them to the clients.
Nick started this in 1999, and finally got some $20 Million USD in funding in 2004. His simple prototype allowed him to focus on post sales support. Zappos was recognized as having the best call center, moving his operations to Las vegas, NV.
Consider the challenges of urban mobility.
Both methods eventually result in a car, but the agile prototypes allow for more effective experimental milestones.
As for Zappos, its prototype proved successful. Amazon acquired them for $1.2 Billion USD in 2009.
It is that simple: Understand, explore, prototype, and evaluate. IBM has adopted "Design Thinking" across its development organizations to better meet the needs of the marketplace.
Overall, it was a delightful event. It is nearly summer down in the Southern hemisphere, so a bit warm and humid. The attendees were all looking forward to a turn-around in the Brazilian economy, and the business opportunities that brings.
Last Thursday, Dec 15, I had the pleasure to present to 162 clients and IBM Business Partners, followed by the premiere showing of [Rogue One, a Star Wars movie]!
(FCC Disclosure: I work for IBM. This blog post can be considered a "paid celebrity endorsement" for IBM products and services. I have no financial interest in Lucasfilm Ltd, or its parent company Disney, LEGO company, or any competitor mentioned in this post.. I was not compensated to review this film or mention it on my blog. All graphics from the film used in this blog and related presentation were publicly available under the U.S. "fair use" doctrine. There are no spoilers in this blog, so keep reading!)
This event was a collaboration between:
Arrow, one of IBM's distributors
Corus360, an IBM Business Partner
Regal Medlock 18, a theater with comfy seats with a bar that serves beer and wine
As a public speaker for IBM, I get to travel all over the world, and throughout the United States. This trip wraps up my travel for 2016, with 34 weeks on the road!
Normally, when I am asked to present, I am given a list of products or topics to cover. This time, I was just given the title "Has Your Data Gone Rogue? -- Using IBM Flash and solutions to obtain enhanced business insights" and the suggestion to keep within the theme of Star Wars.
I had 45 minutes to cover whatever I thought would be something of interest to the clients in the audience, which spanned a variety industries from Healthcare and Financial services, to Retail and Manufacturing.
I turned to mind-mapping software to brainstorm some ideas. On my smartphone, I use an app called [SimpleMind], and on my laptop, I use [View Your Mind (vym)]. Here is what I came up with:
I arrived to the theater early to setup and mingle with the clients in the lobby. The sponsors that organized this event had gifts to raffle off, including two drones, and three Star Wars themed LEGO sets.
I was told to be done by 7:30pm. It turns out that the movie is streamed electronically, rather than having the actual media distributed physically to the theaters, as a way to prevent piracy.
My PowerPoint charts were in 16:9 format to fill the screen. This was perhaps the biggest screen I had ever presented on! I look so tiny in comparison!
IBM has been a leader in all-flash arrays for the past three years in a row, and as an IBM Business Partner, Corus360 has been one of our top sellers in the Southeastern United States. IBM offers a wide array of choices, from DS8000 to FlashSystem to the new [IBM DeepFlash Elastic Storage Server (ESS)].
Rebels are inquisitive. IBM is considered number one in Analytics. For every type of question, IBM has analytics to help answer. Here are some examples:
What is happening? -- Descriptive Analytics
Why did this happen? -- Diagnostic Analytics
What might happen next? -- Predictive Analytics
What actions should we take? -- Prescriptive Analytics
I focused on the use of Hadoop and Spark with the [IBM Spectrum Scale] software pre-installed on the DeepFlash ESS device. The DeepFlash ESS combines powerful POWER8 servers with the DeepFlash 150, a 3U high JBOF that holds up to 64 solid-state boards 8TB each, optimized for analytics of unstructured data content.
Spectrum Scale is supported on any open source distribution of Hadoop and Spark, and is an optional add-on to [IBM BigInsights]. [IBM HDFS Transparency Connector] has 100 percent compatibility, allowing Hadoop and Spark analytics programs run directly without modification.
To provide valuable insight to the storage environment itself, IBM offers IBM Spectrum Control. The newest edition is [IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights], a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that charges on a monthly per-capacity basis. Perfect for the Rebel Alliance on a tight budget and schedule!
The Galactic Empire has a different set of problems. They are behind schedule, having worked on the Death Star for the past 20 years, and upper management is growing impatient. A major test is imminent to prove its progress.
To speed development and test efforts, IBM offers a variety of FlashSystem products:
IBM FlashSystem 900
the World's Fastest Storage®, roughly 5 to 10 times faster than competitors based on commodity Solid State Drives (SSD) like Dell EMC XtremIO and PureStorage.
IBM FlashSystem V9000
adds the robust functionality of IBM Spectrum Virtualize, with Real-time Compression, Thin Provisioning, FlashCopy snapshots, and remote mirroring. Like the IBM SAN Volume Controller and Storwize family of products, the FlashSystem V9000 can virtualize almost 400 different storage devices from a variety of vendors.
IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R
add the robust functionality of IBM Spectrum Accelerate, offering Real-time compression and data deduplication, making it ideal for Cloud, Virtual Machine and Virtual Desktop deployments.
As we learned in earlier episodes I to III of the Star Wars saga, a big problem was too many clones. IBM Spectrum Storage family has introduced the newest member: IBM Spectrum Copy Data Management. This software creates and catalogs data base clones to help with development and test efforts, reducing the number of rogue copies.
Lastly, the Empire must keep its secrets safe and protected. I covered the basics of data-at-rest encryption, the use of symmetric and asymmetric keys, [IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager (SKLM), and how these are deployed on IBM flash, disk and tape products.
Then, we watched the movie. I found it quite entertaining!
IBM is in a transition from being a "Systems, Software and Services" company, to become the leading "Cognitive Solutions and Cloud Platform" company. IBM has been in this transformation for the past three years or so, and [over 40 percent of its revenue] now comes from these strategic initiatives.
The purpose of AI and cognitive systems developed and applied by the IBM company is to augment human intelligence. Our technology, products, services and policies will be designed to enhance and extend human capability, expertise and potential. Our position is based not only on principle but also on science.
Cognitive systems will not realistically attain consciousness or independent agency. Rather, they will increasingly be embedded in the processes, systems, products and services by which business and society function -- all of which will and should remain within human control.
For cognitive systems to fulfill their world-changing potential, it is vital that people have confidence in their recommendations, judgments and uses. Therefore, the IBM company will make clear:
When and for what purposes AI is being applied in the cognitive solutions we develop and deploy.
The major sources of data and expertise that inform the insights of cognitive solutions, as well as the methods used to train those systems and solutions.
The principle that clients own their own business models and intellectual property and that they can use AI and cognitive systems to enhance the advantages they have built, often through years of experience. We will work with our clients to protect their data and insights, and will encourage our clients, partners and industry colleagues to adopt similar practices.
The economic and societal benefits of this new era will not be realized if the human side of the equation is not supported. This is uniquely important with cognitive technology, which augments human intelligence and expertise and works collaboratively with humans.
Therefore, the IBM company will work to help students, workers and citizens acquire the skills and knowledge to engage safely, securely and effectively in a relationship with cognitive systems, and to perform the new kinds of work and jobs that will emerge in a cognitive economy.
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!
Fellow blogger Chris Mellor from The Register has an interesting post titled [It's a ratchet: Old storage guard face incoming tech squeeze]. Chris opines that the big traditional storage vendors -- which he refers to as the "old guard": Dell EMC, HDS, HPE, IBM and NetApp -- are being squeezed out by startups with new technologies.
Last week, I saw the play [Fiddler on the Roof], a musical production by Arizona Theater Company (ATC), and thought of various parallels with Chris's post.
For those not familiar, the story centers around a father named Tevye and his wife trying to stick to tradition, with five daughters who are open to breaking with tradition to get married. The family lives in a small rural town, back in a time long ago when people were persecuted for their religious and ethnic background. Aren't you glad we live in [more enlightened times]!
Back to Chris Mellor, he writes in his post:
"This old guard has so far failed to squash newcomers in the all-flash array, hyperscale, object and software-defined storage areas. This is despite the established firms adopting these technologies and acquiring some startups."
Should the old guard try to squash newcomers? Often, these startups provide much needed innovations that move the IT industry forward.
In the play, Tevye wants to stick to tradition, whereby the town's matchmaker would find a husband for each daughter, and he, as father of each bride, would then provide his permission and blessing to the match.
Obviously, these startups are neither asking the old guard for their permission nor their blessing. While I can't speak for the rest of the "old guard", IBM is leading in these various spaces. Let's look at each of these new trends.
All-Flash Arrays (AFA)
The category of "All-Flash Arrays" include both purpose-built hardware as well as traditional devices based on solid-state drives (SSD). While the R&D investment needed for purpose-built hardware can limit this to some of the largest vendors, nearly any startup can slap commodity SSD into traditional HDD controllers and call it AFA.
IBM offers the world's fastest AFA, and has been a leader in the AFA category for the past three years, investing over $1 Billion USD on its FlashSystem, DS8000, Elastic Storage Server (ESS), SVC and Storwize product families.
Software-Defined Storage (SDS)
While the definition for SDS is still in a bit of flux, IDC has tried to identify three characteristics:
Storage software stack that can be installed on commodity resources (x86 hardware, hypervisors, or cloud) and/or off-the-shelf computing hardware
SDS should offer a full suite of storage services
Federation between the underlying persistent data placement resources to enable data mobility of its tenants between these resources
IBM has been ranked [Number 1 in Software Defined Storage] for several years now, investing over $1 Billion USD in its IBM Spectrum Storage family. This collection of software is implemented in a variety of offerings, including pre-built systems, software that you can deploy on commodity off-the-shelf servers, and in the Cloud.
Object storage breaks tradition with block and file-based storage solutions. Rather than reading and writing files using POSIX, NFS or SMB protocols, objects are accessed via HTTP GET and PUT requests. The two most common protocols are Amazon S3 and OpenStack Swift.
Object storage is ideal for static and stable data that either never changes, or changes infrequently. A lot of new workloads are based on unstructured data that falls in this category, such as Big Data Analytics, High-performance Computing (HPC), and active archives.
In the latest IDC Marketscape, [IBM is ranked #1 in Object Storage]. IBM has actually three software-defined storage offerings that support Object access methods. IBM Spectrum Scale, IBM Spectrum Archive and IBM Cloud Object storage System. The latter from 2015 acquisition of Cleversafe.
"Hyperscale leverages commodity servers and a software-defined approach, scaling the resources needed for applications and storage separately. As storage needs grow, companies can add servers running software-defined storage (SDS) to the storage tier to expand capacity... Data is automatically distributed across the entire cluster of storage servers as new nodes are added to the system... With hyperscale, .. cluster nodes network together to form a storage resource pool."
This breaks from the tradition of dual-controller high-end arrays, which scale-up, rather than scale-out. IBM offers its IBM Spectrum Accelerate, IBM Spectrum Scale, and IBM Cloud Object Storage System to fill this hyperscale requirement.
In the play, Tevye realizes the world is changing all around him, he can either fight these changes and stick to tradition, or accept that he must change also, and move on. After 105 years, IBM continues to lead the IT industry, primarily by adopting new trends and technologies, moving to new business opportunities as they present themselves.
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 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, Storwize 5639-SV1, FlashSystem V9000 models
RAS and performance enhancements for distributed RAID (DRAID)
Flexibility with iSCSI virtualization support for XIV® Gen 3, Spectrum Accelerate, FlashSystem A9000 and FlashSystem A9000R arrays.
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 the 10-core [Intel Broadwell] processor, which IBM has clocked at up to 45 percent performance improvement. 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 in 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 FlashSystem V9000 can attach up to 20 expansion enclosures over 12Gb SAS connections. Each 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 other storage arrays, similar to SAN Volume Controller. This provides tiering options that match well with the FlashSystem 900 inside using IBM's Easy Tier auto-tiering capability.
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.
Edge will be different in many ways this year. The past few years we had separate "Executive Edge" for C-level executives, "Winning Edge" for IBM Business Partners, and "Technical Edge" for server, network and storage administrators.
This year, all 1,000 sessions are combined back into one, but with clever hints in the titles. The words "General Session", "Outthink" or "Cognitive" are used to indicate C-level executive talks. Those that use the terms "Winning" or "Community" target IBM Business Partners, Managed Service Providers and Cloud Service Providers. Those that mention z Systems, POWER servers, or Storage solutions, often adding the term "Deep-Dive", are technical.
(Unlike other sessions that might appeal to one portion of the audience or another, mine are suitable for everyone, from C-level executives and IBM Business Partners to storage administrators. To help people find them under the new naming scheme, I have added "Tony Pearson Presents", or words to that effect.)
About 260 breakout sessions relate to IBM Storage, but there are only 20 or so time slots, so obviously you can't see them all in person.
I strongly suggest you pick about three to five topics per time slot, so that you are not overwhelmed by the dozens of choices during the event. This allows you to make a quick decision on which one you finally decide on during each time slot.
Occasionally, a session might get canceled, postponed, or be so full of attendees that nobody else is allowed in, so having three to five topics selected allows you to chose an alternate.
Here is my schedule for next week at Edge 2016.
Trends & Directions: The Future of Storage in the Cloud and Cognitive Era
All Flash is Not Created Equal: Tony Pearson Contrasts IBM FlashSystem and SSD
MGM Grand - Studio 9
Solution EXPO: Reception
Edge at Night: Poolside Reception and Concert "Train"
Tony Pearson Presents IBM Cloud Object Storage System and Its Applications
MGM Grand - Room 114
The Pendulum Swings Back: Tony Pearson Explains Converged and Hyperconverged Environments
MGM Grand - Room 113
Solution EXPO: Reception
Tony Pearson Presents IBM's Cloud Storage Options
MGM Grand - Room 116
My colleagues Dave Dabney or Adam Bergren will be located at the WW Systems Client Centers Booth 125 of the Solution EXPO.
If you are active in Social Media, consider using the hashtags #IBMedge, #IBMstorage, and #IBMcloud. You can follow me on Twitter, my handle is @az990tony
For those interested in a one-on-one meeting with me, over breakfast, lunch or dinner, or some other time, I have several slots still available. Fill out a request form on BriefingSource at: [https://briefingsource.dst.ibm.com/]
As I have mentioned before, I started this blog on September 1, 2006 as part of IBM's big ["50 Years of Disk Systems Innovation"] campaign. IBM introduced the first commercial disk system on September 13, 1956 and so the 50th anniversary was in 2006. That means this month, IBM celebrates the "Diamond" anniversary, 60 years of Disk Systems!
For those who missed it, IBM announced last Tuesday encryption capability for the TS1120 drive, our enterprise tape drive that read and write 3592 cartridges. Do you need special cartridges for this? No! Use the sames ones you have already been using!
You can read more about it www.ibm.com/storage/tape."
Short and sweet, but it got me started, and I ended up writing 21 blog posts that first month. You can read blog posts from all 10 years by looking at the left panel of my blog under "Archive".
While traditional disk and tape storage are still very important and relevant in today's environment, IBM has also expanded into other technologies:
In 2012, IBM [acquired Texas Memory Systems]. In 2014, IBM shipped 62PB, more Flash capacity than any other vendor. In 2015, continued its #1 status, shipping 170PB of Flash, again, more than any other vendor.
IBM has flash everywhere, from the advanced FlashSystem 900, V9000, A9000 and A9000R models, to other all-flash array and hybrid flash-and-disk systems a with various sets of features and functions to meet a variety of workload requirements.
The DS8888 all-flash array, and the DS8886 and DS8884 hybrid flash-and-disk systems round out the latest in the DS8000 storage systems family. SAN Volume Controller and Storwize family of products, based on IBM Spectrum Virtualize software, also have all-flash array and hybrid configurations. The most recent being the Gen2+ models of Storwize V7000F and V5030F. The latest solution is the DeepFlash 150 models, designed for analytics and unstructured data.
Between internally-developed IBM Spectrum Scale and IBM Spectrum Archive, and IBM's [acquisition of Cleversafe], IBM is ranked #1 in Object Storage. IBM Cloud Object Storage System, IBM's new name for Cleversafe's flagship product, is available as software-only, pre-built systems, or in the IBM SoftLayer cloud.
Software-Defined Storage (SDS) with IBM Spectrum Storage
Last year, IBM re-branded its various storage software products under the "IBM Spectrum Storage" family. Earlier this year, IBM announced the new [IBM Spectrum Storage Suite license] which makes it even easier to procure, either with a perpetual software license, elastic monthly licensing, or utility license that combines some of each.
IBM is ranked #1 in Software-Defined Storage, with over 40 percent marketshare, offering solutions as Software-only, pre-built systems, and in IBM SoftLayer cloud.
Last week, I presented at the "IBM TechU Comes to You" event in beautiful Nairobi, Kenya. This was a three-day event, so here is my recap of Day 1, Tuesday Aug 2, 2016.
Opening Keynote Session
Once again, Marlin Maddy, IBM Manager of Worldwide Systems Technical Events, served as master of ceremonies. He arrived into Nairobi just a few hours earlier, and we were worried that one of us might have to jump in and take over if he had any delays in his flight schedule. Fortunately, he arrived and did a great job welcoming the audience.
Eric Jaoko, chief manager of Kenya's Rural Electrification Agency [REA], presented next. Back in 1973, the Kenyan government wanted to have all of its rural areas offering electrical service. Some 30 years later, in 2002, only 4 percent of the rural areas had achieved this. In 2006, the Kenyan government formed this new REA agency to accelerate the progress. By 2008, nearly 25 percent of rural areas were electrified. Currently (2016), they are now at 68 percent, including all primary schools (more than 20,000 across the country).
Eric mentioned that this success was in part to their partnership with IBM for Information Technology. REA switched from Oracle to SAP applications on IBM Power systems with IBM Storwize V7000, resulting in lower costs, less power consumption, easier to deploy and manage, redundancy and high availability, scalability and high speed access to critical data. Not surprisingly, IBM's leadership in "Mobility" plays another key role, since these areas are rural and often connected only by cellular phone service.
REA employees both AIX and Linux on POWER operating systems, and uses OpenStack to manage both the servers and storage components. PowerVM, PowerVC and PowerHA complete the solution to provide a more robust environment. REA found it was very easy to clone their SAP systems, which made it very easy to test software upgrades without impacting their production environments.
The next speaker was IBM's own Glenn Anderson, IBM z Systems Consultant and Worldwide Technical Events Content Manager. His talk was titled "Think Outside the Cubicle" to emphasize that there are changes underfoot in the IT industry. Rather than focusing on IT as a cost to be reduced, enlightened CEOs are discovering that IT can be used to optimize value for their organization.
One trend that has changed drastically is what IBM refers to as "Systems of Engagement". To better connect with clients, customers and suppliers, organizations now create conversations on social media channels, listen and react to those conversations, building communities that allow them to better understand and serve their markets.
Another trend was "Two-speed IT", often called "Bimodal IT", which indicates that some projects should have "fast-track" status, streamlining the process of design, development and deployment for new innovations. This is in contrast to traditional "slower" projects for mission critical "Systems of Record" operations, like databases and Online Transaction Processing (OLTP).
His last trend he covered was this notion of "Cognitive Business", the use of self-learning, natural language processing to assist in business decision making. Glenn compared the old way as a static map that indicated "You Are Here". The new way was more like GPS, which indicated where you are, where you want to be, and the steps to get there.
(You might ask "Why do business leaders need such assistance?" First, business executives cannot ingest and comprehend the vast amount of data they need to make correct decisions, causing them to make less-than-optimal choices with limited information. Second, business leaders are often only on the job a few years, moving around from one opportunity to another, and do not build the experience background that a computer that can ingest millions of documents can achieve much more quickly. Third, business leaders often are prone to bias, surrounding themselves with ["yes-men"], unwilling to accept any information that contradicts their world view. Computers do not have that bias, and are capable in finding insights, trends and patterns that business leaders might not have considered.)
Software Defined Storage -- What? Why? How?
I was honored to be asked to be the keynote kick-off for the IBM Storage track of this conference. There is still much confusion over the concept of Software Defined Storage (SDS). While there are many different positions on this, IBM has adopted the IDC definition, which requires all three criteria to be met:
Solutions based on Industry-standard, off-the-shelf components.
Solutions that offer the complete set of storage features and functions, such as point-in-time copies, data footprint reduction, technical refresh migration, and remote replication.
Solutions that are offered in multiple ways, such as software-only, pre-built systems using industry-standard off-the-shelf components, and cloud-based services.
IBM's SDS offerings include all of the IBM Spectrum Storage family available as software-only, pre-built systems like SAN Volume Controller and XIV Gen3, and cloud-based services like IBM Cloud Managed Backup and Archive, and IBM Cloud Object Storage System (formerly Cleversafe).
IBM ranks #1 in SDS marketplace, with over 40 percent marketshare. The advantage of IBM's approach is that it does not require a complete rip-and-replace of existing IT infrastructure. IBM solutions can work with your existing servers and storage that you have already in place! This allows for a smooth and graceful transition.
Cloud Computing Concepts and the Role of Infrastructure
This session was covered by Mack Kigada, IBM Executive Consultant for the "Executive Advisory Practice" portion of Systems Lab Services. Frankly, I think this should have been classified as a "Cross-Brand" rather than other "Storage", as it showed not just storage but also how servers and OpenStack participate in a complete Hybrid Cloud solution.
The new IBM FlashSystem A9000 GUI
This session was presented by Dominique Salomon, IBM Certified IT Specialist Storage and European New Technology Introduction Leader. He works at the IBM Montpelier Briefing Center in France, a sister organization to the IBM Tucson Executive Briefing Center that I work in.
When IBM was ready to launch its newest FlashSystem offering, which combines the low-latency IBM FlashCore technology from IBM FlashSystem 900 with the IBM Spectrum Accelerate software from XIV, they had to decide what Graphical User Interface [GUI] to deploy it with. The IBM development team had narrowed it down to three options:
Use the IBM XIV Gen3 GUI, which is installed client code that runs on a handful of select operating systems. This GUI is nine years old.
Adopt and modify the browser-based GUI used by all of the other IBM Storage systems like DS8000 and SAN Volume Controller. By using HTML5, AJAX and Dojo widgets, this newer approach eliminates Operating System and Java dependencies, and can run on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. However, this technology is four years old.
Deploy a new GUI, adopting the latest techniques and methods, offering a new, simpler way to manage the new device.
The development team decided on the third option, and so Dominique spent the first half hour explaining what the IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R systems are, and then the last half showing a live demo connecting back to his systems in Montpelier, France.
IBM XIV, Spectrum Accelerate and the new IBM FlashSystem A9000
This session was covered by Maurice "Mo" McCullough, IBM Storage Technical Content Leader for IBM Systems Worldwide Technical Events. In retrospect, he admitted that he should have scheduled this session before Dominique's session above, which would have reduced the amount of time and questions Dominique spent explaining the IBM FlashSystem A9000 and more time showing the new GUI.
Mo first covered the newest model of the XIV Gen3 pre-built system, the model 314. It has double the cache memory and double the processing cores to drastically improve Real-time compression. Then, he explained IBM Spectrum Accelerate, available as either software you can deploy on your own x86 servers on-premises, or in cloud-based servers from IBM SoftLayer. Finally, Mo covered the A9000 and A9000R, the newest members of the IBM FlashSystem family that share features and capabilities with the XIV Gen3 and Spectrum Accelerate offerings.
Tuesday evening we had a welcome reception for all the attendees, staff and speakers. This was a great time to relax and meet everyone on a social level.
Two years ago, the folks at University of Toronto asked me to help their graduate students build a "Watson" running entirely on IBM SoftLayer to see if this would be a worthwhile class project. Needless to say, it was more difficult than they expected, but we managed to pull it off during that summer, able to answer a handful of simple questions from a single page corpus.
Last month, [Industry Leaders Establish Partnership on AI], combining the talents from Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft, to form a non-profit to explore best practices and ethical questions related to Watson and other Artificial Intelligence applications.
Since data is at the core of any Artificial Intelligence, IBM is pleased to announce today that IBM Cloud Object Storage System is now available on IBM SoftLayer. This is based on the Cleversafe technology IBM acquired last year.
While other cloud service providers have offered data storage in the cloud, this new offering also allows hybrid configurations with geographically dispersed erasure coding. Unlike RAID which protects against the loss of one or two drives, erasure coding can protect against a larger number of concurrent failures. For example, using an Information Dispersal Algorithm of "7+5", where seven pieces of data are encoded on twelve independent disks, the system can lose up to five disk drives without losing any data.
Click graphic to view larger
Combining this with Geographically Dispersed Configuration across three or more sites means that you can lose an entire data center, four of the twelve disks, and still have instant full access to all of your data from eight drives at the other locations. In the graphic, you see two on-premise data centers combined with a third location in IBM SoftLayer.
This week, I am in Las Vegas for [Edge 2016], IBM's Premiere IT Infrastructure conference of the year.
Day 4, the last day of the conference, is only a partial day, and many people opted to leave on Wednesday evening, or Thursday morning instead. The breakfast and lunch meals had fewer people than the previous days. Here is my recap of day 4 Thursday breakout sessions.
Building Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Next-Generation Workloads
Supermicro is more than happy to customize these, upgrading the CPU, RAM, disk or networking connectivity as needed. This solution is roughly half the price of Nutanix, and offers a better Next-Business-Day/9am-to-5pm support package .
The last time I was in Las Vegas, I presented this topic at [IBM Interconnect conference]. Back then, I was given only 20 minutes, was placed on the Solutions Expo showroom floor, competing with the noise and traffic of attendees going to lunch.
This time, it was much better, a large room, and a bigger-than-expected audience given that it was scheduled on Thursday morning.
Cloud storage comes in four flavors: persistent, ephemeral, hosted, and reference. The first two I refer to as "Storage for the Computer Cloud" and the latter two I refer to as "Storage as the Storage Cloud".
I also explained the differences between block, file and object access, and why different Cloud storage types use different access methods. I wrapped up the session covering the various storage solutions that IBM offers for all four Cloud Storage types.
IBM Storwize and IBM FlashSystem with VersaStack versus NetApp FlexPod
Norm Patten, part of the IBM Competitive Project Office Storage Team, presented a competitive comparison between VersaStack with IBM storage, versus FlexPod with NetApp storage.
Commodity Solid State Drives (SSD) and Shingled Magnetic Recording [SMR] offer low-cost, high-capacity storage.
However, they have their own set of problems, so IBM is developing software that can be included in IBM Spectrum Accelerate, Spectrum Scale, and Spectrum Virtualize to optimize their utility.
The concept of Log-Structured Array has been around since 1988. The IBM RAMAC Virtual Array back in the 1990s used it. NetApp's Write-Anywhere File System (WAFL) is an implementation of the [Log-Structured File System] general concept.
SALSA combines Log-Structured Array with enhancements borrowed from the IBM FlashSystem design, that I covered in my Monday and Wednesday presentations, to enhance write endurance by as much as 4.6 times!
This was an NDA session, so I cannot blog any of the details.
World-class Flash-optimized Data Reduction and Efficiency with IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R
Tomer Carmeli, IBM Offering Manager for the A9000 and A9000R presented. He presented an overview of these models on Monday, so this session was focused on the data footprint reduction technologies.
Basically, it is a three step process. First, all "standard patterns" are removed. IBM has identified some 260 standard patterns that are 8KB in length, such as all zeros, all ones, or all spaces, and replaces these blocks immediately with a pattern token.
Second, [SHA-1] 20-byte hash codes are computed on 8KB pieces on a rolling 4KB alignment boundary. In other words, if a 64KB block of data is written, bytes 0-to-8KB are hashed an compared to existing hash codes. If no match, then bites 4KB-to-12KB are hashed, and so on. This approach nearly doubles the likelihood of finding duplicates. When a block match is found, the algorithm can replacing them with pointer and reference count.
Third, any unique data that still remains is compressed using Lempel-Ziv algorithm. This is done using the [Intel® QuickAssist]. This co-processor can compress data 20 times faster than software algorithms running on general-purpose x86 processors.
Do you want an estimate of how much "reduction ratio" you may achieve? IBM has developed two estimator tools to help. The first tool is a complete scan for data expected to be dedupe-friendly. It is a slow process, taking 8 hours per TB. This would be ideal for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or backup copies.
The second tool is the infamous [Comprestimator] that IBM has had for awhile to help estimate compression savings for IBM Spectrum Virtualize storage solutions like SVC, Storwize and FlashSystem V9000. This tool is very fast, looking at only a statistically-valid subset of the data.
The results of both tools are merged, and the result is within five percent accuracy. This allows IBM to offer guidance on which data to place on these new A9000 and A9000R models, as well as offer a "reduction ratio" guarantee.
A client asked me why I bother to attend other sessions, when I probably know most of the material they present. I explained that I can always learn from others. I can honestly say that I learned something new and useful at every session I attended.
This week, I am in Las Vegas for [Edge 2016], IBM's Premiere IT Infrastructure conference of the year. In previous years, this conference was held in May, June or July, but this year, it was moved back to September, to coincide with the 60th Anniversary of IBM Disk Systems.
I have arrived safely to Las Vegas, and checked in at Edge 2016 Conferenece Registration.
This year, the Solutions EXPO opens early, on Sunday with a reception. This gives people a chance to go to booth #330 to make appointments for one-on-one with various IBM Executives!
I was able to catch up with co-workers I have not seen in a while! There is a whole section on IBM storage products such as the IBM DS8888 All-Flash Array, as well as software products like IBM Spectrum Protect and IBM Spectrum Control.
On Monday, my session "All Flash is Not Created Equal: Tony Pearson Contrasts IBM FlashSystem and SSD" has moved from the tiny room to a much larger room "Studio A". There was a lot of demand for this session, so I have agreed to present this again, as a repeat session, on Wednesday.