This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to IBM Systems, storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor, Senior IT Architect and Event Content Manager for [IBM Systems for IBM Systems Technical University] events. With over 30 years with IBM Systems, Tony is frequent traveler, speaking to clients at events throughout the world.
Lloyd Dean is an IBM Senior Certified Executive IT Architect in Infrastructure Architecture. Lloyd has held numerous senior technical roles at IBM during his 19 plus years at IBM. Lloyd most recently has been leading efforts across the Communication/CSI Market as a senior Storage Solution Architect/CTS covering the Kansas City territory. In prior years Lloyd supported the industry accounts as a Storage Solution architect and prior to that as a Storage Software Solutions specialist during his time in the ATS organization.
Lloyd currently supports North America storage sales teams in his Storage Software Solution Architecture SME role in the Washington Systems Center team. His current focus is with IBM Cloud Private and he will be delivering and supporting sessions at Think2019, and Storage Technical University on the Value of IBM storage in this high value IBM solution a part of the IBM Cloud strategy. Lloyd maintains a Subject Matter Expert status across the IBM Spectrum Storage Software solutions. You can follow Lloyd on Twitter @ldean0558 and LinkedIn Lloyd Dean.
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Last week, US President Barack Obama declared September 2011 as "National Preparedness Month". Here is an excerpt of the press release:
Whenever our Nation has been challenged, the American people have responded with faith, courage, and strength. This year, natural disasters have tested our response ability across all levels of government. Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been impacted by recent storms, and we will continue to stand with them in their time of need. This September also marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, which united our country both in our shared grief and in our determination to prevent future generations from experiencing similar devastation. Our Nation has weathered many hardships, but we have always pulled together as one Nation to help our neighbors prepare for, respond to, and recover from these extraordinary challenges.
In April of this year, a devastating series of tornadoes challenged our resilience and tested our resolve. In the weeks that followed, people from all walks of life throughout the Midwest and the South joined together to help affected towns recover and rebuild. In Joplin, Missouri, pickup trucks became ambulances, doors served as stretchers, and a university transformed itself into a hospital. Local businesses contributed by using trucks to ship donations, or by rushing food to those in need. Disability community leaders worked side-by-side with emergency managers to ensure that survivors with disabilities were fully included in relief and recovery efforts. These stories reveal what we can accomplish through readiness and collaboration, and underscore that in America, no problem is too hard and no challenge is too great.
Preparedness is a shared responsibility, and my Administration is dedicated to implementing a "whole community" approach to disaster response. This requires collaboration at all levels of government, and with America's private and nonprofit sectors. Individuals also play a vital role in securing our country. The National Preparedness Month Coalition gives everyone the chance to join together and share information across the United States. Americans can also support volunteer programs through www.Serve.gov, or find tools to prepare for any emergency by visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Ready Campaign website at [www.Ready.gov] or [www.Listo.gov].
In the last few days, we have been tested once again by Hurricane Irene. While affected communities in many States rebuild, we remember that preparedness is essential. Although we cannot always know when and where a disaster will hit, we can ensure we are ready to respond. Together, we can equip our families and communities to be resilient through times of hardship and to respond to adversity in the same way America always has -- by picking ourselves up and continuing the task of keeping our country strong and safe.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2011 as National Preparedness Month. I encourage all Americans to recognize the importance of preparedness and observe this month by working together to enhance our national security, resilience, and readiness.
IBM has several webinars to help you prepare for upcoming disasters.
Today, September 8, at 4pm EDT, IBM is hosting a [CloudChat on Business Resilience] will focus on resiliency and continuity in the cloud—a timely topic considering the recent weather events on the East Coast of the U.S. This chat will include Richard Cocchiara, IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO, IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services (@RichCocchiara1) and Patrick Corcoran, Global Business Development, IBM Business Continuity and Resiliency Services (@PatCorcoranIBM).
Don't think you can afford Disaster Recovery planning? Next week, September 13, I will be joined with a few other experts on freeing up much needed funds from your tight IT budget, by being more efficient. The Webinar [Taming Data Growth Made Easy] is part of IBM's "IT Budget Killer" series.
Lastly, on September 21, IBM will have the Webinar [Planning for Disaster Recovery in a Power Environment: Best Practices to Protect Your Data]. This will cover principal lessons learned from disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the World Trade Center, local and regional considerations for Disaster Recovery Planning, planning Recovery Time Objectives (RTOs), and best practices for automation, mirroring and multiple Site Operational Efficiencies. A customer case study from University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) will help reinforce the concepts, with a discussion on how a major hospital ensures Business Continuity via Contingency Planning using IBM Power Systems. The speakers in clude Steve Finnes, World Wide Offering Manager for IBM Power Systems, Vic Peltz, Consulting IT Architect for WW Business Continuance Technical Marketing, and Rick Haverty, Director of IT Infrastructure at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).
Hopefully, you will find these webinars useful and informative!
This week, I am in Orlando, Florida presenting, blogging and tweeting at the IBM Edge conference. The first day began with opening main tent sessions. Deon Newman, IBM VP of Marketing, was the emcee. The four-person [Bella Electric Strings] rocked the house with some electric violins.
Game Change on a Smarter Planet: A New Era in IT
Rod Adkins, IBM Senior VP for the Systems and Technology Group, presented IBM's Smarter Computing strategy. For those not familiar with this, a little context might help.
Back in 2008, IBM launched its corporate-wide strategy called "Smarter Planet", which focused on solving the world's biggest problems through the effective use of Information Technology. To get there, everything needs to be instrumented to monitor and gather information, interconnected with centralized processing, and analyzed through intelligent algorithms.
Over the past few years, this general approach has been made more specific to tackle problems in particular industries. Detailed approaches like Smarter Cities, Smarter Energy, Smarter Education, Smarter Retail, Smarter Water and Smarter Food, are a few examples of this.
As IBM pursued solutions in each of these areas, clients realized they needed some guidance on the underlying IT infrastructure needed to deploy these solutions. Last year, IBM launched the Smarter Computing, which I [explained in great detail in my blog post last March].
Designed for the Data - to be fair, IBM systems have always been designed for the data. When the System/360 first came out, the bulk of data was stored in structured databases, so systems were designed for this. Today, over 80 percent of data is unstructured, not in a database, so the design and approach for systems today must reflect that new reality. For example, Big Data analytics is often used against spreadsheets, documents, social media feeds, and other unstructured sources.
Workload-Optimized Systems - There are two ways to have a workload-optimized system. The first is to start with general purpose components and tune them, and the second is to integrate expertise into the design.
Managed with Cloud technologies - Cloud computing has introduced new levels of standardization, automation and virtualization.
Rod wrapped up his session discussing the IBM PureSystems family of expert-integrated systems that IBM announced in April. This includes the PureFlex infrastructure system and the PureApplication platform system.
A New Approach to Storage
Brian Truskowski, IBM General Manager for System Storage and Networking, presented IBM's new approach to storage to support Smarter Computing environments.
Efficient by Design - Storage needs to be designed for the data, to store it efficiently, and be able to scale in the expected growth, driven by trends such as Big Data analytics.
Self-Optimizing - Storage needs to be self-optimizing for their particular application workloads, to avoid manual performance tuning efforts. Policies to handle Qualities of Service help optimize performance and costs based on business requirements.
Cloud Agile - Storage needs to be part of a virtualized environment, managed by Cloud technologies. This includes working seemlessly in environments with server hypervisors, storage hypervisors, virtual LANs, SANs and tape libraries.
With this new approach, clients will be able to increase competitiveness, while reducing both capital and operational expenses.
Yoni Cohen is the founder and CEO of Snowball Studios. They started with five artists, and grew to 60 people in a few years to take on bigger projects. They produce digital animation for television shows and commercials.
Despite their small size, they have a dedicated "IT" department. In addition to developing in-house tools for the artists to produce animation, they also were tasked to find the best storage solutions. Files storing 3D video can be quite large. After exhausting research into all the storage options, they chose IBM, and complemented this with the Real-Time Compression appliance for their NAS environments.
The results were stunning. A project that took 417GB before took only 148GB. a 64 percent data footprint reduction! He found he got this 3x reduction across his environment.
University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC)
University of Rochester is in New York state, about 60 miles east of Buffalo, and 90 miles from Toronto across Lake Ontario. Six years ago, Rick Haverty joined URMC as the Director of Infrastructure services, managing 130 of the 300 IT personnel at the Medical Center. I met Rick last year, when he presented at the [IBM Storage Innovation Executive Summit] in New York City. Last December, I co-presented with Rick on a session for SONAS at the [Data Center Conference].
URMC has DS8000, DS5000, XIV, SONAS, Storwize V7000 and is in the process of deploying Storwize V7000 Unified. He presented how he has used these for his Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA). For Rick, the IT Infrastructure has become the new "dial tone", everyone expects it to work 100 percent of the time.
For those not familiar with VNA, Rick has 36 different departments, and each was storing archives of their medical images in separate silos of storage. Using software from [Acuo Technologies], he was able to have all 36 different PACS systems store data onto a single storage repository. The side benefit is that all medical images are now readily available to the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system.
Main Tent for Technical Edge
After the opening session, the folks in Technical Edge moved to a different room for the main tent session. Mike Kuhn, IBM VP of Systems Lab Services, was the emcee. There were three guest speakers:
Clod Barrera, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Chief Technical Strategist for IBM System Storage, presented on storage trends and directions, and how this will influence workload-optimized systems, Cloud computing, Easy Tier, and Active Cloud Engine.
Jeff Jonas, IBM Fellow and Chief Scientist for IBM Entity Analytics, presented "Fantasy Analytics" which explained his work in the Business Analytics. He used "jigsaw puzzles" as an analogy to help explain for the type of work he is researching.
Dan McMillan, Chief Comedy Officer of his own company, was formerly an engineer, but now stand-up comedian. He poked fun at the IT industry, how things have changed since he was an engineer, and his ideal "Universal Business Translator".
Well, another week has gone by, and I am now back from my grand "Digital IBMer" trip to Europe! Here's what the second week involved.
Prague, Czech Republic
The cold and rainy weather followed us from Berlin! We were able to go to the old castle, light a candle for a friend in the hospital at the St. Vitus Cathedral, and walk across the famous Charles Bridge to go see the Astronomical Clock.
We stayed in the "Blind Eye" hostel, which was an awesome place, with friendly and helpful staff.
The weather was much nicer in Vienna, giving us a chance to see the palace and surrounding gardens. In front of the palace was an "Easter Market" where booths sold various arts and crafts, as well as delicious food and drink. I had a slab of ham, a pile of mustard, and a cup of [Glühwein], a hot drink made from mulled red wine.
I met several people at the hostel Ruthensteiner, from the UK, Argentina and Spain, and we all went out drinking at a Polish pub down the street.
The next morning we walked through the city center. We learned that this week leading up to Easter Sunday--known as Semana Santa in some countries--was also "Spring Break" for many students, which explained why we were starting to have a harder time finding hostels to stay at.
Salzburg means "City of Salt" and the salt mines in the area allowed the landlords to get rich. If you have seen the movie [The Sound of Music] then you already know how beautiful Salzburg is. The castle was incredible, and was used for military purposes until 1861, when it was opened to the public.
Inside the castle is an awesome museum for [Marionettes], which are puppets controlled from above by strings, still used in productions today.
Unable to find a youth hostel, we stayed in the lovely Alderhof Pension Hotel. It was quiet and well-situated near the main train station.
At Munich, we decide to take [Sandeman's "New Europe" free guided city walking tour]. It is free, in that the tour guides work entirely for tips. Tours were available in English or Spanish. This was about three hours long, and we gladly tipped heavily for such an informational tour of everything from the Glockenspiel to the Residenz palace. One stop on the tour was to see the main "Beer Garden" where rows and rows of people enjoying beer in the beautiful weather.
While in Munich, I was invited to see a sneak preview of the movie [Iron Sky], a campy, politically-incorrect, low-budget sci-fi comedy made in Europe with a mix of English language dialogue, and German language dialogue with English subtitles. The year is 2018, a woman that looks a lot like Sarah Palin is now president of the United States, and Nazis that have set up a moon-based space station back in 1945 are ready to attack. If you liked the movies "White Chicks" and "Battlefield Earth", then you might enjoy this one as well. You may need to know a bit about the history of the third Reich, the operas of Wagner, and the movie [The Great Dictator] by Charlie Chaplin, to make sense of some of the inside jokes.
We visited Heidelberg on [Good Friday and the place was a ghost town. The streets were nearly empty, and the tourist shops didn't open until 10am. Despite this, we managed to take the funicular train up the mountain to visit the castle, visit an interesting Pharmacy Museum, see the world's largest wine barrel, have a traditional German lunch, and take pictures of the old stone bridge.
We got back to Frankfurt and left Saturday morning to fly back to the United States.
We managed to visit 11 cities in six different countries over the course of 16 days. I was able to learn quite a lot about the use of mobile apps to book hotels and find the appropriate trains to get around each country, take advantage of social media to determine what to see and do, and the use of cloud to store my photos, videos and notes along the way.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means? IBM Announcements!
IBM ProtecTIER TS7650G model DD6 supports File System Interface (FSI)
The IBM ProtecTIER Data Deduplication appliance (TS7620) and gateway (TS7650G) support three protocols used by major backup software products:
VTL - Virtual Tape Library. Originally, backup software products were designed exclusively to work with tape drives and libraries. To introduce disk-based storage and data deduplication, the easiest way was for disk-based systems to pretend to be a tape library. Hence, "Virtual Tape Library" acts just like a physical tape library.
OST - OpenStorage Technology API, a proprietary interface used exclusively by the Veritas NetBackup software to talk to disk-based backup repositories.
FSI - File System Interface, which are your familiar NAS interfaces like NFS and SMB (formerly known as CIFS). Some backup software like Commvault Simpana are optimized for NAS storage pools.
In the past, FSI was limited to the single-controller models. This is because having an active/active file system sharing was very complicated to implement.
In the new DD6 dual-controller model, you can now run two independent FSI instances, each controller owns its own set of files. To learn more, see the IBM Press Release [IBM ProtecTIER DD6 supports FSI].
IBM TS3000 System Console enhancements
The Tape Storage System Console (TSSC) is a console that allows administrators to manage up to 24 systems in tape libraries (such as TS3500 and TS4500) and virtual tape systems (such as TS7720T and TS7650G). The new features include:
Error-initiated problem reporting, often called "Call Home" support, with staged, error-specific data gathering for support
Automatic wellness checking
Remote services such as remote monitoring support and call-in capability with authenticated access through a modem or broadband, including file transfers and multiple connections with attached systems
IBM offers two sets of products for entry-level and midrange disk systems:
Storwize V7000 and V5000 products are optimized for random-access workloads like Virtual Machines (VMs), Databases, Email and other Online Transaction Processing (OLTP).
The DCS3860 and DCS3700 are optimized for sequential throughput, like video streaming, batch processing or big data analytics.
Prior to this announcement, the DCS3700 and DCS3860 supported 4TB and 6TB Nearline 7200 rpm drives, and 800GB and 1.6TB Solid-State Drives (SSD). Obviously, it doesn't make sense to offer SSD on sequential-oriented solutions. To align better with this worldview, IBM is discontinuing the SSD options, and adding a new 8TB Nearline drive option.
IBM Spectrum Control Advanced Edition and IBM Virtual Storage Center
Earlier in my career, I was the chief architect of what is now called IBM Spectrum Control. If you still have IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (TPC) Standard Edition V4.x products, you can now migrate to IBM Spectrum Control Advanced Edition V5.2 by ordering a trade-up part number through Passport Advantage.
IBM Virtual Storage Center (VSC) Entry uses a per-TB pricing model. This is a discounted version of VSC "Classic" for those with four or fewer SAN Volume Controller (SVC) node pairs, and 500 TB or less managed storage capacity per enterprise.
I love Hollywood movies where the main character joins the [Witness Protection Program]! For those not familiar, this is when a person witnesses a horrible or obscene crime. To protect the witness from the criminals, the US Government would change your name, create a new identity, and move you to a new city until the trial is over. While this hides the witness from the bad guys, it also means losing touch with all your friends and family.
I mention this because every time IBM renames an existing product, modifies the code to meet IBM standards, translate to other international languages, and all the other activities needed to [assimilates the product into the IBM "Borg"], it is very similar to joining the Witness Protection Program.
(Internally, we refer to this renaming and assimilating as "blue-washing", not to be confused with the traditional definition of "bluewash" -- To tout a corporation's commitment to social responsibility, and to use this perception for public relations and economic gain; to present a humanitarian front in this manner, which IBM also does. See this article [Sesame Workshop and IBM Watson Team Up to Advance Early Childhood Education] for an example.)
Last November 2015, [IBM acquired Cleversafe] for $1.3 Billion US dollars because Cleversafe has the brand name recognition as the #1 Object Storage vendor the past two years in a row (2014 and 2015). Unfortunately, Cleversafe has "witnessed" a huge rise in obscene profits and revenues, and is now joining the "Witness Protection Program".
Renaming Cleversafe software, pre-built appliance hardware, and related cloud services to [IBM Cloud Object Storage System] is like someone acquiring the Coca-Cola company and renaming their namesake soft drink product to "Brown Carbonated Sugar Liquid", which adults might shorten to "Bro-Carbo" and the kids would nickname "Sugar-Liq".
(FCC Disclosure: I work for IBM. This blog post can be considered a "paid celebrity endorsement" for IBM Storage products. I have no financial interest in the Coca-Cola Company, CBS Television, Paramount Pictures, or Warner Bros. I have no knowledge of any IBM's future plans in acquiring any beverage-based manufacturing or bottling companies. I use Coca-Cola® merely as a well-recognized brand for illustrative purposes.)
Honestly, I don't know if "IBM Cloud Object Storage System version 3.8" offers any new features over "Cleversafe 3.7", or if the numbering change was just to help avoid confusion with existing v3.7 clients.
The IBM 3592 Tape Controller Model C07 which provides FICON access for mainframe attachment did not meet the Restriction of Hazardous Substances [RoHS] directive. This is the directive to not have lead-based paint or other hazardous substances in the paint, plastic or other materials in IT equipment.
IBM had a tough business choice. Either fix it, or stop selling it. Our mainframe clients just don't use physical tape anymore. Instead, IBM offers IBM Virtual Tape Systems (TS7720, TS7720T and TS7740) as well as the IBM ProtecTIER TS7650G Mainframe Edition.
In journalism, this is called [burying the lede]. IBM has combined the world's fastest storage, IBM FlashSystem 900, with IBM FlashSystem® A9000/A9000R Software V12.0, based on IBM Spectrum Accelerate and XIV v11 software technology.
This new software has many of the features you love from IBM Spectrum Accelerate and XIV, but adds excellent data footprint reduction. First, we eliminate repeated patterns, then apply data deduplication, and finally apply advanced compression.
This combination works great for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Virtual Machines for traditional applications, and even databases. Since this applies to all data, the models are priced based on their "effective capacity" based on 5.26x reduction. Different data dedupes or compresses at different rates. Your mileage may vary.
Two models were announced:
FlashSystem A9000 - This is an 8U rack-optimized solution that has three 2U x86 servers combined with a 2U drawer of FlashSystem 900 with a nice bezel on the front. This can fit into any standard 19 inch rack. Since FlashSystem offers 1.2TB, 2.9TB and 5.7TB IBM Microlatency modules, the FlashSystem A9000 is offered in 60TB, 150TB and 300TB effective capacities. Performance is at least 250 microsecond latency, up to 4.5 GB/sec throughput and 50,000 IOPS.
FlashSystem A9000R - The "R" on the end refers to "Rack". Instead of something that slides into an existing rack, the A9000R is a free-standing 19-inch wide rack with two to six flash enclosures. Each flash enclosure will have two x86 servers running the IBM FlashSystem A900R Software v12.0, and one FlashSystem 900 drawer. IBM offers both 150TB and 300TB effective capacity per flash enclosure, based on the 2.9TB and 5.7TB IBM Microlatency modules. Performance is at least 250 microseconds, up to 18 GB/sec throughput and 2 million IOPS.
Some have called these new models the "All-Flash" version of XIV, in much the same way that the FlashSystem V9000 is the all-Flash version of SVC. That is a reasonable analogy.
I almost sprayed coffee all over my screen when I read this post from fellow blogger from EMC Mark Twomey on his StorageZilla blog titled [Dead End]. In it he implies that you should only consider storage technologies based on x86 technologies such as those from Intel, not other CPU technologies like POWER or MIPS.
When IBM first came out with the SAN Volume Controller in 2003, we were able to show that adding Intel-based SVC nodes can improve the performance and functionality of POWER-based DMX boxes from EMC. EMC salesmen often retorted with "Yes, but do you really want to risk your mission-critical data going through an Intel-based processor solution?" This FUD implied that Intel had a bad reputation for quality and reliability. The original Symmetrix were based on Motorolla 68000's but they modernized to use IBM's POWER chips in their later models. EMC's previous attempt to use Intel technology was their EMC Invista, a commercial failure. It is no surprise then that EMC DMX customers are scared to death to move their mission critical data over to Intel-based V-max.
I have found the primary reason people fear Intel-based solutions is their experience with poorly-written Windows programs. There were enough of these poorly-written Windows programs that everyone has either personal experience, or knows someone who has, and that was enough.
It reminds me of the time I was in Vac, Hungary, giving a lab tour to a set of prospective clients where we manufacture the DS8000 series and SAN Volume Controller. Rows and rows of beautiful Hungarian women sliding disk drives in place, and big hefty Hungarian beefcake moving the finished units to their appropriate places. The head of the facility explained all about the hardware technology, how we check and double check all of the equipment individually, and together as a system. One client stated "Yes, but how often are problems from the hardware? We find nearly all of our problems on disk systems from whichever storage vendor we buy from are in the microcode." It's true.
Both Intel-based processors and POWER-based processors have all the technological functions needed to run storage systems. The difference is all in the microcode. So, if you are looking for safe and stable microcode, the IBM System Storage DS8700 continues its POWER-based tradition for compatibility with previous models. For those that demand x86-based units, the IBM SAN Volume Controller has been around since 2003, the XIV Storage System has been in production since 2005, and our IBM N series are also Intel-based, running Version 7 of the ONTAP operating system.
This week I am at the Data Center Conference 2009 in Las Vegas. There are some 1700 people registered this year for this conferece, representing a variety of industries like Public sector, Services, Finance, Healthcare and Manufacturing. A survey of the attendees found:
55 percent are at this conference for the first time.
18 percent once before, like me
15 percent two or three times before
12 percent four or more times before
Plans for 2010 IT budgets were split evenly, one third planning to spend more, one third planning to spend about the same, and the final third looking to cut their IT budgets even further than in 2009. The biggest challenges were Power/Cooling/Floorspace issues, aligning IT with Business goals, and modernizing applications. The top three areas of IT spend will be for Data Center facilities, modernizing infrastructure, and storage.
There are six keynote sessions scheduled, and 66 breakout sessions for the week. A "Hot Topic" was added on "Why the marketplace prefers one-stop shopping" which plays to the strengths of IT supermarkets like IBM, encourages HP to acquire EDS and 3Com, and forces specialty shops like Cisco and EMC to form alliances.
Day 2 began with a series of keynote sessions. Normally when I see "IO" or "I/O", I immediately think of input/output, but here "I&O" refers to Infrastructure and Operations.
Business Sensitivity Analysis leads to better I&O Solutions
The analyst gave examples from Alan Greenspan's biography to emphasize his point that what this financial meltdown has caused is a decline in trust. Nobody trusts anyone else. This is true between people, companies, and entire countries. While the GDP declined 2 percent in 2009 worldwide, it is expected to grow 2 percent in 2010, with some emerging markets expected to grow faster, such as India (7 percent) and China (10 percent). Industries like Healthcare, Utilities and Public sector are expected to lead the IT spend by 2011.
While IT spend is expected to grow only 1 to 5 percent in 2010, there is a significant shift from Capital Expenditures (CapEx) to Operational Expenses (OpEx). Five years ago, OpEx used to represent only 64 percent of IT budget in 2004, but today represents 76 percent and growing. Many companies are keeping their aging IT hardware longer in service, beyond traditional depreciation schedules. The analyst estimated over 1 million servers were kept longer than planned in 2009, and another 2 million will be kept longer in 2010.
An example of hardware kept too long was the November 17 delay of 2000 some flights in the United States, caused by a failed router card in Utah that was part of the air traffic control system. Modernizing this system is estimated to cost $40 billion US dollars.
Top 10 priorities for the CIO were Virtualization, Cloud Computing, Business Intelligence (BI), Networking, Web 2.0, ERP applications, Security, Data Management, Mobile, and Collaboration. There is a growth in context-aware computing, connecting operational technologies with sensors and monitors to feed back into IT, with an opportunity for pattern-based strategy. Borrowing a concept from the military, "OpTempo" allows a CIO to speed up or slow down various projects as needed. By seeking out patterns, developing models to understand those patterns, and then adapting the business to fit those patterns, a strategy can be developed to address new opportunities.
Infrastructure and Operations: Charting the course for the coming decade
This analyst felt that strategies should not just be focused looking forward, but also look left and right, what IBM calls "adjacent spaces". He covered a variety of hot topics:
65 percent of energy running x86 servers is doing nothing. The average x86 running only 7 to 12 percent CPU utilization.
Virtualization of servers, networks and storage are transforming IT to become on big logical system image, which plays well with Green IT initiatives. He joked that this is what IBM offered 20 years ago with Mainframe "Single System Image" sysplexes, and that we have come around full circle.
One area of virtualization are desktop images (VDI). This goes back to the benefits of green-screen 3270 terminals of the mainframe era, eliminating the headaches of managing thousands of PCs, and instead having thin clients rely heavily on centralized services.
The deluge in data continues, as more convenient access drives demand for more data. The anlyst estimates storage capacity will increase 650 percent over the next five years, with over 80 percent of this unstructured data. Automated storage tiering, ala Hierarchical Storage Manager (HSM) from the mainframe era, is once again popular, along with new technologies like thin provisioning and data deduplication.
IT is also being asked to do complex resource tracking, such as power consumption. In the past IT and Facilities were separate budgets, but that is beginning to change.
The fastest growing social nework was Twitter, with 1382 percent growth in 2009, of which 69 percent of new users that joined this year were 39 to 51 years old. By comparison, Facebook only grew by 249 percent. Social media is a big factor both inside and outside a company, and management should be aware of what Tweets, Blogs, and others in the collective are saying about you and your company.
The average 18 to 25 year old sends out 4000 text messages per month. In 24 hours, more text messages are sent out than people on the planet (6.7 billion). Unified Communications is also getting attention. This is the idea that all forms of communication, from email to texts to voice over IP (VoIP), can be managed centrally.
Smart phones and other mobile devices are changing the way people view laptops. Many business tasks can be handled by these smaller devices.
It costs more in energy to run an x86 server for three years than it costs to buy it. The idea of blade servers and componentization can help address that.
Mashups and Portals are an unrecognized opportunity. An example of a Mashup is mapping a list of real estate listings to Google Maps so that you can see all the listings arranged geographically.
Lastly, Cloud Computing will change the way people deliver IT services. Amusingly, the conference was playing "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell, which has the [lyrics about clouds]
Unlike other conferences that clump all the keynotes at the beginning, this one spreads the "Keynote" sessions out across several days, so I will cover the rest over separate posts.
Based on this success, and perhaps because I am also fluent in Spanish, I was asked to help with Proyecto Ceibal, the team for OLPC Uruguay. Normally theXS school server resides at the school location itself, so that even if the internet connection is disrupted or limited, the school kids can continue to access each other and the web cache content until internet connection is resumed.However, with a diverse developmentteam with people in United States, Uruguay, and India, we first looked to Linux hosting providers that wouldagree to provide free or low-cost monthly access. We spent (make that "wasted") the month of May investigating.Most that I talked to were not interested in having a customized Linux kernel on non-standard hardware on their shop floor, and wanted instead to offer their own standard Linux build on existing standard servers, managed by theirown system administrators, or were not interested in providing it for free. Since the XS-163 kernel is customizedfor the x86 architecture, it is one of those exceptions where we could not host it on an IBM POWER or mainframe as a virtual guest.
This got picked up as an [idea] for the Google's[Summer of Code] and we are mentoring Tarun, a 19-year-old student to actas lead software developer. However, summer was fast approaching, and we wanted this ready for the next semester. In June, our project leader, Greg, came up with a new plan. Build a machine and have it connected at an internet service provider that would cover the cost of bandwidth, and be willing to accept this with remote administration. We found a volunteer organization to cover this -- Thank you Glen and Vicki!
We found a location, so the request to me sounded simple enough: put together a PC from commodity parts that meet the requirements of the customizedLinux kernel, the latest release being called [XS-163]. The server would have two disk drives, three Ethernet ports, and 2GB of memory; and be installed with the customized XS-163 software, SSHD for remote administration, Apache web server, PostgreSQL database and PHP programming language.Of course, the team wanted this for as little cost as possible, and for me to document the process, so that it could be repeated elsewhere. Some stretch goals included having a dual-boot with Debian 4.0 Etch Linux for development/test purposes, an alternative database such as MySQL for testing, a backup procedure, and a Recover-DVD in case something goes wrong.
Some interesting things happened:
The XS-163 is shipped as an ISO file representing a LiveCD bootable Linux that will wipe your system cleanand lay down the exact customized software for a one-drive, three-Ethernet-port server. Since it is based on Red Hat's Fedora 7 Linux base, I found it helpful to install that instead, and experiment moving sections of code over.This is similar to geneticists extracting the DNA from the cell of a pit bull and putting it into the cell for a poodle. I would not recommend this for anyone not familiar with Linux.
I also experimented with modifying the pre-built XS-163 CD image by cracking open the squashfs, hacking thecontents, and then putting it back together and burning a new CD. This provided some interesting insight, but in the end was able to do it all from the standard XS-163 image.
Once I figured out the appropriate "scaffolding" required, I managed to proceed quickly, with running versionsof XS-163, plain vanilla Fedora 7, and Debian 4, in a multi-boot configuration.
The BIOS "raid" capability was really more like BIOS-assisted RAID for Windows operating system drivers. This"fake raid" wasn't supported by Linux, so I used Linux's built-in "software raid" instead, which allowed somepartitions to be raid-mirrored, and other partitions to be un-mirrored. Why not mirror everything? With two160GB SATA drives, you have three choices:
No RAID, for a total space of 320GB
RAID everything, for a total space of 160GB
Tiered information infrastructure, use RAID for some partitions, but not all.
The last approach made sense, as a lot of of the data is cache web page images, and is easily retrievable fromthe internet. This also allowed to have some "scratch space" for downloading large files and so on. For example,90GB mirrored that contained the OS images, settings and critical applications, and 70GB on each drive for scratchand web cache, results in a total of 230GB of disk space, which is 43 percent improvement over an all-RAID solution.
While [Linux LVM2] provides software-based "storage virtualization" similar to the hardware-based IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC), it was a bad idea putting different "root" directories of my many OS images on there. With Linux, as with mostoperating systems, it expects things to be in the same place where it last shutdown, but in a multi-boot environment, you might boot the first OS, move things around, and then when you try to boot second OS, it doesn'twork anymore, or corrupts what it does find, or hangs with a "kernel panic". In the end, I decided to use RAIDnon-LVM partitions for the root directories, and only use LVM2 for data that is not needed at boot time.
While they are both Linux, Debian and Fedora were different enough to cause me headaches. Settings weredifferent, parameters were different, file directories were different. Not quite as religious as MacOS-versus-Windows,but you get the picture.
During this time, the facility was out getting a domain name, IP address, subnet mask and so on, so I testedwith my internal 192.168.x.y and figured I would change this to whatever it should be the day I shipped the unit.(I'll find out next week if that was the right approach!)
Afraid that something might go wrong while I am in Tokyo, Japan next week (July 7-11), or Mumbai, India the following week (July 14-18), I added a Secure Shell [SSH] daemon that runs automaticallyat boot time. This involves putting the public key on the server, and each remote admin has their own private key on their own client machine.I know all about public/private key pairs, as IBM is a leader in encryption technology, and was the first todeliver built-in encryption with the IBM System Storage TS1120 tape drive.
To have users have access to all their files from any OS image required that I either (a) have identical copieseverywhere, or (b) have a shared partition. The latter turned out to be the best choice, with an LVM2 logical volumefor "/home" directory that is shared among all of the OS images. As we develop the application, we might findother directories that make sense to share as well.
For developing across platforms, I wanted the Ethernet devices (eth0, eth1, and so on) match the actual ports they aresupposed to be connected to in a static IP configuration. Most people use DHCP so it doesn't matter, but the XSsoftware requires this, so it did. For example, "eth0" as the 1 Gbps port to the WAN, and "eth1/eth2" as the two 10/100 Mbps PCI NIC cards to other servers.Naming the internet interfaces to specific hardware ports wasdifferent on Fedora and Debian, but I got it working.
While it was a stretch goal to develop a backup method, one that could perform Bare Machine Recovery frommedia burned by the DVD, it turned out I needed to do this anyways just to prevent me from losing my work in case thingswent wrong. I used an external USB drive to develop the process, and got everything to fit onto a single 4GB DVD. Using IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) for this seemed overkill, and [Mondo Rescue] didn't handle LVM2+RAID as well as I wanted, so I chose [partimage] instead, which backs up each primary partition, mirrored partition, or LVM2 logical volume, keeping all the time stamps, ownerships, and symbolic links in tact. It has the ability to chop up the output into fixed sized pieces, which is helpful if you are goingto burn them on 700MB CDs or 4.7GB DVDs. In my case, my FAT32-formatted external USB disk drive can't handle files bigger than 2GB, so this feature was helpful for that as well. I standardized to 660 GiB [about 692GB] per piece, sincethat met all criteria.
The folks at [SysRescCD] saved the day. The standard "SysRescueCD" assigned eth0, eth1, and eth2 differently than the three base OS images, but the nice folks in France that write SysRescCD created a customized[kernel parameter that allowed the assignments to be fixed per MAC address ] in support of this project. With this in place, I was able to make a live Boot-CD that brings up SSH, with all the users, passwords,and Ethernet devices to match the hardware. Install this LiveCD as the "Rescue Image" on the hard disk itself, and also made a Recovery-DVD that boots up just like the Boot-CD, but contains the 4GB of backup files.
For testing, I used Linux's built-in Kernel-based Virtual Machine [KVM]which works like VMware, but is open source and included into the 2.6.20 kernels that I am using. IBM is the leadingreseller of Vmware and has been doing server virtualization for the past 40 years, so I am comfortable with thetechnology. The XS-163 platform with Apache and PostgreSQL servers as a platform for [Moodle], an open source class management system, and the combination is memory-intensive enough that I did not want to incur the overheads running production this manner, but it wasgreat for testing!
With all this in place, it is designed to not need a Linux system admin or XS-163/Moodle expert at the facility. Instead, all we need is someone to insert the Boot-CD or Recover-DVD and reboot the system if needed.
Just before packing up the unit for shipment, I changed the IP addresses to the values they need at the destination facility, updated the [GRUB boot loader] default, and made a final backup which burned the Recover-DVD. Hopefully, it works by just turning on the unit,[headless], without any keyboard, monitor or configuration required. Fingers crossed!
So, thanks to the rest of my team: Greg, Glen, Vicki, Tarun, Marcel, Pablo and Said. I am very excited to bepart of this, and look forward to seeing this become something remarkable!
Today was the "First Ever Live Virtual Virtualization Tech Fair" sponsored by IBM and VMware. This was a 1-day event hosted by Unisfair.
The day included presentations done at a conference call, along with exhibition booths.
We had an exhibition booth exclusively for "storage virtualization" featuring our IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (disk virtualization) and IBM System Storage TS7520 Virtualization Engine (a virtual tape library, or VTL).
People who were logged in were represented in silhouette form. When someone walked into the booth, our army of "booth reps" were able to chat with them and answer their questions. They could also peruse the various online materials we made available about each product.
Here are some of my observations:
A lot of questions were related to IBM's support for VMware. Although VMware is now currently owned by EMC, pending a spin-off IPO, IBM is its biggest reseller, given IBM's vast experience in server virtualization. Ironically, IBM's SAN Volume Controller supports VMware better than EMC's own storage virtualization product, Invista.
People also familiar with Second Life thought this 2-D "silhouette" version eliminated the need to configure and dress up your avatar as is required in participating in Second Life events. However, being only ableto chat, send e-mail and show web pages seemed less immersive than what Second Life can offer.
This event generated over 60 leads. We will pass on the contact information to the appropriate sales team.
Congratulations to my colleague and close friend, Harley Puckett, who celebrated his 25th anniversary of service here at IBM. This is known internally as joining the "Quarter Century Club" or QCC. This is not just a figure of speech, the members of this club hold get-togethers and barbeques throughout the year.
Here is Harley welcoming Ken Hannigan and others he worked with back in Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) software development.
Our manager, Bill Terry, presenting Harley with a plaque.
Continuing this week's theme of doing important things without leaving town, I present our results foran exciting project I started earlier this year.
For seven weeks, my coworker Mark Haye and I voluntarily led a class of students here in Tucson, Arizona in an after-school pilot project to teach the ["C" programming language] using [LEGO® Mindstorms® NXT robots]. The ten students, boys and girls ages 9 to 14 years old, were already part of the FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] program, and participated in FIRST Lego League[FLL] robot competitions.Since the students were already familiar building robots, and programming them with a simple graphical system of connecting blocks that perform actions. However, to compete in the next level of robot competitions, FIRST Tech Challenge [FTC],we need to leave this simple graphical programming behind, and upgrade to more precise "C" programming.
Mark is a software engineer for IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and has participated in FLL competitions over the past nine years. This week, he celebrates his 25th anniversary at IBM, and I celebrate my 23rd. The teacher, Ms. Ackerman, and the students referred to us as "Coach Mark" and "Coach Tony".
This was the first time I had worked with LEGO NXT robots. For those not familiar with these robots, you can purchase a kit at your localtoy store. In addition to regular LEGO bricks, beams, and plates, there are motors, wheels, and sensors. A programmable NXT brick has three outputs (marked A,B, and C) to control three motors, and four inputs (marked 1,2,3,4) to receive values from sensors. Programs are written and compiled on laptops and then downloaded to the NXT programmable brick through an USB cable, or wirelessly via Bluetooth.
In the picture shown, an image of the Mars planetary surface is divided into a grid with thick black lines.A light sensor between the front two wheels of the robot is over the black line.
We used the [RobotC programming firmware] and integrated development environment (IDE) from [Carnegie Mellon University].The idea of this pilot was to see how well the students could learn "C". With only a few hours after class on each Wednesday, could we teach young students "C" programming in just seven weeks?
My contribution? I have taught both high school and college classes, and spent over 15 years programming for IBM, so Mark asked me to help.We started with a basic lesson plan:
A brief history of the "C" language
Understanding statements and syntax
Setting motor speed and direction
Compiling and downloading your first program
Understanding the "while" loop
Retrieving input sensor values
Understanding the "if-then-else" statement
Defining variables with different data types
Manipulating string variables
Writing a program for the robot to track along a black line on a white background.
Understanding local versus global scope variables
Writing a program for a robot to count black lines as it crosses them.
Perform left turns, right turns, and to cross a specific number of lines on a grid pattern to move the robot to a specific location.
Weeks 6 and 7
Mission Impossible: come up with a challenge to make the robot do something that would be difficult to accomplish using the previous NXT visual programming language.
At the completion of these seven weeks, I sat down to interview "Coach Mark"on his thoughts on this pilot project.
This is a practical programming skill. The "C" language is used throughout the world to program everything from embedded systems to operating systems, and even storage software. This would allow the robots to handle more precise movements, more accurate turns, and more complicated missions.
Can kids learn "C" in only seven weeks?
Part of the pilot project was to see how well the students could understand the material. They were already familiar with building the robots, and understood the basics of programming sensors and motors, so we were hoping this was a good foundation to work from. Some kids managed very well, others struggled.
Did everything go according to plan?
The first two weeks went well, turning on motors and having robots move forward and backward were easy enough. We seemed to lose a few students on week 3, and things got worse from there. However, several of the students truly surprised us and managed to implement very complicated missions. We were quite pleased with the results.
What kind of problems did the kids encounter?
Touch sensor required loops waiting for pressing. Motors did not necessarily turn as expected until more advanced methods were used. Making 90 degree left and right turns accurately was more difficult than expected.
Any funny surprises?
Yes, we had a Challenge Map representing the Mars planetary surface from a previous FLL competition that was dark red and divided into squares with thick black lines. An active light sensor returns a value of "0" (complete darkness) to "100" (bright white).However, the Mars surface had craters that were dark enough to be misinterpreted as a black line causing some unusual results. This required some enhanced programming techniques to resolve.
Did robots help or hurt the teaching process?
I think they helped. Rather than writing programs that just display "Hello World!" on a computer screen, the students can actually see robots move, and either do what they expect, or not!
And when the robots didn't do what they were expected to?
The students got into "debug" mode. They were already used to doing this from previous FLL competitions, but with RobotC, you can leave the USB cable connected (or use wireless Bluetooth) and actually gather debugging information while the robot is running, to see the value of sensors and other variables and help determine why things are not working properly.
Any applicability to the real world of storage?
We have robots in the IBM System Storage TS3500 tape library. These robots scan bar code labels, pull tapes out of shelves and mount them into drives.The programming skills are the same needed for storage software, suchas IBM Tivoli Storage Manager or IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
The world is becoming smarter, instrumented with sensors, interconnected over a common network, and intelligent enough to react and respond correctly. The lessons of reading sensor values and moving motors can be considered the first step in solutions that help to make a smarter planet.