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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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A lot was announced yesterday, so I decided to break it up into several separate posts. This is part 2 in my 3-part series, focusing on: Storwize V7000 Unified, LTO-6 tape, and the SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center.
The Storwize V7000 Unified is a product that consists of a 2U-high Storwize V7000 control enclosure that provides block-based access, combined with two 2U-high File Modules that provide file-based NAS protocols: CIFS, NFS, HTTPS, SCP and FTP. The problem was that when it was introduced, it was based on Storwize V7000 v6.3, so when the Storwize V7000 v6.4 features were announced last June, they did not apply to the Storwize V7000 Unified.
That is all fixed now, so the Storwize V7000 Unified now supports the full v6.4 features, including Real-time Compression for both file and block-based access to primary data, and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) for block access.
The two File Modules are no longer limited to a single Storwize V7000 control enclosure, you can now connect to up to four control enclosures clustered together. Combined with up to nine expansion enclosures for additional disk raises the total maximum to 960 drives.
If you don't already have an Active Directory or LDAP server, the Storwize V7000 Unified now offers an embedded LDAP server, for smaller deployments that want to reduce the number of servers they need to purchase for a complete solution.
Like the [IBM XIV Gen3 storage system], both the Storwize V7000 and V7000 Unified now also support the OpenStack Nova-volume interface.
Lastly, if you have a Storwize V7000 v6.4, you can upgrade it to a Storwize V7000 Unified by simply adding the two File Modules. This can be done in the field.
IBM LTO-6 for tape libraries and drives
IBM introduces the sixth generation of Linear Tape Open (LTO-6) drives, which can be used as stand-alone IBM TS1060 drives, or in IBM tape libraries. As with previous models of LTO, the LTO-6 can read two older generations (LTO-4 and LTO-5) tape media, and can write to previous generation (LTO-5) tape media. You can buy the LTO-6 drives now, and use the older media until LTO-6 tape cartridges are available (hopefully later this year!)
My friend, Brad Johns, from Brad Johns Consulting, has a great post on this [LTO-6 Announcement]. While you expect the new drives to be faster with a denser tape media format, the key advantage to the LTO-6 is that it improves the compression algorithm, from the previous 2:1 to the new 2.5:1 compression ratio:
Thus, with the improved compression, the LTO-6 is 40 percent faster, with double the tape cartridge density. This can reduce backup times by 30 percent, increase the amount of data that sits in your automated tape libraries, and reduce the courier costs sending tapes off-site.
IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center v5.1
Last year, IBM coined the phrase "Storage Hypervisor" to refer to the underlying technology in the IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) and Storwize V7000 disk systems.
At the IBM Edge conference last June, my colleague Mike Griese presented [SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center]. Back then, it was a pilot program (beta test), and this week, IBM announces that it will be formally available as a product.
The idea was simple: take the basic storage hypervisor, and add the necessary software to make it a complete solution.
If all of your disk is currently virtualized behind IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC), or you want to put all of your data behind SVC, then SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center is for you. Basically, for one per-TB price, you get all of the following:
The software features of SAN Volume Controller v6.4, including FlashCopy, Metro Mirror and Global Mirror.
The full advanced features of IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center v5.1, including the Storage Analytics Engine that does "Right-Tiering", recommending which LUNs should be moved entirely from one disk system to another, based on policies and access patterns.
IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager v3.2 which manages FlashCopy with full coordination with applications, including Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, DB2, Oracle, SAP, and VMware. This ensures that the FlashCopy destination copies are clean, eliminating the need to run backout or redo logs to correct any incomplete units of work.
If this combination sounds familiar, it was based on IBM's previous attempt called [Rapid Application Storage] which combined the Storwize V7000 with Tivoli Storage Productivity Center Midrange Edition and FlashCopy Manager.
The key difference is that SmartCloud VSC does not include the SVC hardware itself, you buy this separately. If you want Real-time Compression, that is charged separately for the subset of TB of the volumes that you select for compression.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means! IBM Announcements!
Today, IBM announced its latest IBM Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM) 2.0 version. Here's a quick recap:
Centralized Key Management
Centralized and simplified encryption key management through Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager's lifecycle of creation, storage, rotation, and protection of encryption keys and key serving through industry standards. TKLM is available to manage the encryption keys for LTO-4, LTO-5, TS1120 and TS1130 tape drives enabled for encryption, as well as DS8000 and DS5000 disk systems using Full Disk Encryption (FDE) disk drives.
Partitioning of Access Control for Multitenancy
Access control and partitioning of the key serving functions, including end-to-end authentication of encryption clients and security of exchange of encryption keys, such that groups of devices have different sets of encryption keys with different administrators. This enables [multitenancy] or multilayer security of a shared infrastructure using encryption as an enforcement mechanism for access control. As Information Technology shifts from on-premises to the cloud, multitenancy will become growingly more important.
Support for KMIP 1.0 Standard
Support for the new key management standard, Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP), released through the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards [OASIS]. This new standard enables encryption key management for a wide variety of devices and endpoints. See the
[22-page KMIP whitepaper] for more information.
As much as I like to poke fun at Oracle, with hundreds of their Sun/StorageTek clients switching over to IBM tape solutions every quarter, I have to give them kudos for working cooperatively with IBM to come up with this KMIP standard that we can both support.
Support for non-IBM devices from Emulex, Brocade and LSI
Support for IBM self-encrypting storage offerings as well as suppliers of IT components which support KMIP, including a number of supported non-IBM devices announced by business partners such as Emulex, Brocade, and LSI. KMIP support permits you to deploy Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager without having to worry about being locked into a proprietary key management solution. If you are a client with multiple "Encryption Key Management" software packages, now is a good time to consolidate onto IBM TKLM.
Role-based access control for administrators that allows multiple administrators with different roles and permissions to be defined, helping increase the security of sensitive key management operations and better separation of duties. For example, that new-hire college kid might get a read-only authorization level, so that he can generate reports, and pack the right tapes into cardboard boxes. Meanwhile, for that storage admin who has been running the tape operations for the past ten years, she might get full access. The advantage of role-based authorization is that for large organizations, you can assign people to their appropriate roles, and you can designate primary and secondary roles in case one has to provide backup while the other is out of town, for example.
My colleagues, Harley Puckett (left) and Jack Arnold (right) were highlighted in today's Arizona Daily Star, our local newspaper, as part of an article on IBM's success and leadership in the IT storage industry. At 1400 employees here in Tucson, IBM is Southern Arizona's 36th largest employer.
Highlighted in the article:
DS8700 with the new Easy Tier feature
TS7650 ProtecTIER virtual tape library with data deduplication capability
LTO-5 tape and the new Long Term File System (LTFS)
XIV with the new 2TB drive, for a maximum per-rack usable capacity of 161 TB.
The weather has warmed up here in Tucson so I started my Spring Cleaning early this year and unearthed from my garage a [Bankers Box] full of floppy diskettes.
IBM invented the floppy disk back in 1971, and continued to make improvements and enhancements through the 1980s and 1990s. It will be one of the many inventions celebrated as part of IBM's Centennial (100-year) anniversary. Here is an example [T-shirt]
IBM needed a way to send out small updates and patches for microcode of devices out in client locations. IBM had drives that could write information, and sent out "read-only" drives to the customer locations to receive these updates. These were flexible plastic circles with a magnetic coating, and placed inside a square paper sleeve. Imagine a floppy disk the size of a piece of standard paper. The 8-inch floppy fit conveniently in a manila envelope, sendable by standard mail, and could hold nearly 80KB of data.
I've been using floppies for the past thirty years. Here's some of my fondest memories:
While still in high school, my friend Franz Kurath and I formed "Pearson Kurath Systems", a software development firm. We wrote computer programs to run on UNIX and Personal Computers for small businesses here in Tucson. Whenever we developed a clever piece of code, a subroutine or procedure, we would save it on a floppy disk and re-use it for our next project. We wrote in the BASIC language, and our databases were simple Comma-Separated-Variable (CSV) flat files.
The 5.25-inch floppies we used could hold 360KB, and were flexible like the 8-inch models. Later versions of these 5.25-inch floppies would be able to hold as much as 1.2MB of data. We would convert single-sided floppies into double-sided ones by cutting out a notch in the outer sleeve. Covering up the notches would mark them as read-only.
The 3.5-inch floppies were introduced with a hard plastic shell, with the selling point that you can slap on a mailing label and postage and send it "as is" without the need for a separate envelope. These new 3.5-inch floppies would carry "HD" for high density 720KB, and double-sided versions could hold 1.44MB of data. The term "diskette" was used to associate these new floppies with [hard-shelled tape cassettes]. Sliding a plastic tab would allow floppies to be marked "read-only". IBM has the patent on this clever invention.
Continuing our computer programming business in college, Franz and I took out a bank loan to buy our first Personal Computer, for over $5000 dollars USD. Until then, we had to use equipment belonging to each client. The banks we went to didn't understand why we needed a computer, and suggested we just track our expenses on traditional green-and-white ledger paper. Back then, peronsal computers were for balancing your checkbook, playing games and organizing your collection of cooking recipies. But for us, it was a production machine. A computer with both 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch drives could copy files from one format to another as needed. The boost in productivity paid for itself within months.
Apple launched its Macintosh computer in 1984, with a built-in 3.5-inch disk drive as standard equipment. Here is a YouTube video of an [astronaut ejecting a floppy disk] from an Apple computer in space.
In my senior year at the University of Arizona, my roommate Dave had borrowed my backpack to hold his lunch for a bike ride. He thought he had taken everything out, but forgot to remove my 3.5-inch floppy diskette containing files for my senior project. By the time he got back, the diskette was covered in banana pulp. I was able to rescue my data by cracking open the plastic outer shell, cleaning the flexible magnetic media in soapy water, placing it back into the plastic shell of a second diskette, and then copied the data off to a third diskette.
After graduating from college, Franz and I went our separate ways. I went to work for IBM, and Franz went to work for [Chiat/Day], the advertising agency famous for the 1984 Macintosh commercial. We still keep in touch through Facebook.
At IBM, I was given a 3270 terminal to do my job, and would not be assigned a personal computer until years later. Once I had a personal computer at home and at work, the floppy diskette became my "briefcase". I could download a file or document at work, take it home, work on it til the wee hours of the morning, and then come back the next morning with the updated effort.
To help prepare me for client visits and public speaking at conferences, IBM loaned me out to local schools to teach. This included teaching Computer Science 101 at Pima Community College. When asked by a student whether to use "disc" or "disk", I wrote a big letter "C" on the left side of the chalkboard, and a big letter "K" on the right side. If it is round, I told the students while pointing at the letter "C", like a CD-ROM or DVD, use "disc". If it has corners, pointing to corners of the letter "K", like a floppy diskette or hard disk drive, use "disk".
On one of my business trips to visit a client, we discovered the client had experienced a problem that we had just recently fixed. Normally, this would have meant cutting a Program Trouble Fix (PTF) to a 3480 tape cartridge at an IBM facility, and send it to the client by mail. Unwilling to wait, I offered to download the PTF onto a floppy diskette on my laptop, upload it from a PC connected to their systems, and apply it there. This involved a bit of REXX programming to deal with the differences between ASCII and EBCDIC character sets, but it worked, and a few hours later they were able to confirm the fix worked.
In 1998, Apple would signal the begining of the end of the floppy disk era, announcing their latest "iMac" would not come with an internal built-in floppy drive. David Adams has a great article on this titled [The iMac and the Floppy Drive: A Conspiracy Theory]. You can get external floppy drives that connect via USB, so not having an internal drive is no longer a big deal.
While teaching a Top Gun class to a mix of software and hardware sales reps, one of the students asked what a "U" was. He had noticed "2U" and "3U" next to various products and wondered what that was referring to. The "U" represents the [standard unit of measure for height of IT equipment in standard racks]. To help them visualize, I explained that a 5.25-inch floppy disk was "3U" in size, and a 3.5-inch floppy diskette was "2U". Thus, a "U" is 1.75 inches, the thinnest dimension on a two-by-four piece of lumber. Servers that were only 1U tall would be referred to as "pizza boxes" for having similar dimensions.
Every year, right around November or so, my friends and family bring me their old computers for me to wipe clean. Either I would re-load them with the latest Ubuntu Linux so that their kids could use it for homework, or I would donate it to charity. Last November, I got a computer that could not boot from a CD-ROM, forcing me to build a bootable floppy. This gave me a chance to check out the various 1-disk and 2-disk versions of Linux and other rescue disks. I also have a 3-disk set of floppies for booting OS/2 in command line mode.
So while this unexpected box of nostalgia derailed my efforts to clean out my garage this weekend, it did inspire me to try to get some of the old files off them and onto my PC hard drive. I have already retrieved some low-res photographs, some emails I sent out, and trip reports I wrote. While floppy diskettes were notorious for being unreliable, and this box of floppies has been in the heat and cold for many Arizonan summers and winters, I am amazed that I was able to read the data off most of them so far, all the way back to data written in 1989. While the data is readable, in most cases I can't render it into useful information. This brings up a few valuable lessons:
Backups are not Archives
Some of the files are in proprietary formats, such as my backups for TurboTax software. I would need a PC running a correct level of Windows operating system, and that particular software, just to restore the data. TurboTax shipped new software every year, and I don't know how forward or backward-compatible each new release was.
Another set of floppies are labeled as being in "FDBACK" format. I have no idea what these are. Each floppy has just two files, "backup.001" and "control.001", for example.
Backups are intended solely to protect against unexpected loss from broken hardware or corrupted data. If you plan to keep data as archives for long-term retention, use archive formats that will last a long time, so that you can make sense of them later.
Operating System Compatibility
Windows 7 and all of my favorite flavors of Linux are able to recognize the standard "FAT" file system that nearly all of my floppies are written in. Sadly, I have some files that were compressed under OS/2 operating system using software called "Stacker". I may have to stand up an OS/2 machine just to check out what is actually on those floppies.
You can't judge a book by its cover
Floppies were a convenient form of data interchange. Sometimes, I reused commercially-labeled floppies to hold personal files. So, just because a floppy says "America On-Line (AOL) version 2.5 Installation", I can't just toss it away. It might actually contain something else entirely. This means I need to mount each floppy to check on its actual contents.
So what will I do with the floppies I can't read, can't write, and can't format? I think I will convert them into a [retro set of coasters], to protect my new living room furniture from hot and cold beverages.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means! IBM announcements!
Today, I am in New York visiting clients. The weather is a lot nicer than I expected. Here is a picture of the Hudson River through some trees with leaves turning color. Something we don't see in Tucson! Our cactus and pine trees stay green year-round!
The announcements today center around the IBM PureSystems family of expert integrated systems. The PureFlex is based on Flex System components. The Flex System chassis is 10U high that hold 14 bays, consisting of 7 rows by 2 columns. Computer and Storage nodes fit in the front, and switches, fans and power supplies in the back. Here is a quick recap:
IBM Flex System Compute Nodes
The x220 Compute Node is a single-bay low-power 2-socket x86 server. The x440 Compute Node is a powerful double-bay (1 row, 2 columns). The p260 Compute Node is a single-bay server based on the latest POWER7+ CPU processor.
IBM Flex System Expansion Nodes
Do you remember those old movies where a motorcycle would have a sidecar that could hold another passenger, or extra cargo? IBM introduces "Expansion Nodes" for the x200 series single-bay Compute nodes. The idea here is that in a single column, you have one bay for the Compute node, and then on the side in the next bay (same column) you have an Expanions node. There are two choices:
Storage Expansion Node allows you to have eight additional drives
PCIe Expansion Node allows to to have four PCIe cards, which could include the SSD-based PCIe cards from IBM's recent acquisition, Texas Memory Systems.
There are times where one or two internal drives are just not enough storage for a single server, and these expanion nodes could just be the perfect solution for some use cases.
IBM Flex System V7000 Storage Node
I saved the best for last! The Flex System V7000 Storage Node is basically the IBM Storwize V7000 repackaged to fit into the Flex System chassis. This means that in the front of the chassis, the Flex System V7000 takes up four bays (2 rows by 2 columns). In the back of the chassis are the power supplies, fans and switches.
The new Flex System V7000 supports everything the Storwize V7000 does except the upgrade to "Unified" through file modules. For those who want to have Storwize V7000 Unified in their PureFlex systems, IBM will continue to offer the outside-the-chassis original Storwize V7000 that can have two file modules added for NFS, CIFS, HTTPS, FTP and SCP protocol support.
IBM Flex System Converged Network Switch
The Converged Network Switch provide Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) directly from the chassis. This eliminates the need for a separate "Top-of-Rack" switch, and allows the new Flex System V7000 Storage Node to externally virtualize FCoE-based disk arrays.
Patterns of Expertise for Infrastructure
The original patterns of expertise focused on the PureApplication Systems. Now IBM has added some for the Infrastructure on PureFlex systems.
IBM has sold over 1,000 Flex System and PureFlex systems, across 40 different countries around the world, since their introduction a few months ago in April! These latest enhancements will help solidify IBM's industry leadership,
Can Structured Query Language [SQL] be considered a storage protocol?
Several months ago, I was asked to review a book on SQL, titled appropriately enough "The Complete Idiot's Guide to SQL", by Steven Holzner, Ph.D. As a published author myself, I get a lot of these requests, and I agreed in this case, given that SQL was invented by IBM, and is a good fundamental skill to have for Business Analytics and Database Management.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM but was not part of the SQL development team. I was provided a copy of this book for free to review it. I was not paid to mention this book, nor told what to write. I do not know the author personally nor anyone that works for his publicist. All of my opinions of the book in this blog post are my own.)
Despite an agreed-upon standard for SQL, each relational database management system (RDBMS) has decided to customize it for their own purposes. First, SQL can be quite wordy, so some RDBMS have made certain keywords optional. Second, RDBMS offer extra features by adding keywords or programming language extentions, options or parameters above and beyond what the SQL standard calls for. Third, the SQL standard has changed over the years, and some RDBMS have opted to keep some backward compatibility with their prior releases. Fourth, some RDBMS want to discourage people from easily porting code from one RDBMS to another, known in the industry as vendor lock-in.
Throughout my career, I have managed various databases, including Informix, DB2, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server, so I am quite familiar with the differences in SQL and the problems and implications that arise.
Most authors who want to write about SQL typically make a choice between (a) stick to the SQL standard, and expect the reader to customize the examples to their particular DBMS; or (b) stick to a single RDBMS implemenation, and offer examples that may not work on other RDBMS.
I found the book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to SQL" covered the basics quite well, but with an odd twist. The basics include creating databases and tables, defining columns, inserting and deleting rows, updating fields, and performing queries or joins. The odd twist is that Steven does not make the typical choice above, but rather shows how the various DBMS are different than standard SQL syntax, with actual working examples for different RDBMS.
You might be thinking to yourself that only an idiot would work in a place that had to require knowledge of multiple RDBMS. The sad truth is that most of the medium and large companies I speak to have two or more in production. This is either through acquisitions, or in some cases, individual business units or departments implementing their own via the [Shadow IT].
(For those who want to learn SQL and try out the examples in this book, IBM offers a free version of DB2 called [DB2-C Express] that runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and Solaris.)
Last week, while I was in Russia for the [Edge Comes to You] event, I was interviewed by a journalist from [Storage News] on various topics. One question stuck me as strange. He asked why I did not mention IBM's acquisition of Netezza in my keynote session about storage. I had to explain that Netezza was not in the IBM System Storage product line, it is in a different group, under Business Analytics, where it belongs.
While it is true that Netezza can store data, because it has storage components inside, the same could also be said about nearly every other piece of IT equipment, from servers with internal disk, to digital cameras, smart phones and portable music players. They can all be considered storage devices, but doing so would undermine what differentiates them from one another.
Which brings me back to my original question: Should we consider SQL to be a storage protocol? For the longest time, IT folks only considered block-based interfaces as storage protocols, then we added file-based interfaces like CIFS and NFS, and we also have object-based interfaces, such as IBM's Object Access Method (OAM) and the System Storage Archive Manager (SSAM) API. Could SQL interfaces be the next storage protocol?
Let me know what you think on this. Leave a comment below.
If we have learned anything from last decade's Y2K crisis, is that we should not wait for the last minute to take action. Now is the time to start thinking about weaning ourselves off Windows XP. IBM has 400,000 employees, so this is not a trivial matter.
Already, IBM has taken some bold steps:
Last July, IBM announced that it was switching from Internet Explorer (IE6) to [Mozilla Firefox as its standard browser]. IBM has been contributing to this open source project for years, including support for open standards, and to make it [more accessible to handicapped employees with visual and motor impairments]. I use Firefox already on Windows, Mac and Linux, so there was no learning curve for me. Before this announcement, if some web-based application did not work on Firefox, our Helpdesk told us to switch back to Internet Explorer. Those days are over. Now, if a web-based application doesn't work on Firefox, we either stop using it, or it gets fixed.
IBM also announced the latest [IBM Lotus Symphony 3] software, which replaces Microsoft Office for Powerpoint, Excel and Word applications. Symphony also works across Mac, Windows and Linux. It is based on the OpenOffice open source project, and handles open-standard document formats (ODF). Support for Microsoft Office 2003 will also run out in the year 2014, so moving off proprietary formats to open standards makes sense.
I am not going to wait for IBM to decide how to proceed next, so I am starting my own migrations. In my case, I need to do it twice, on my IBM-provided laptop as well as my personal PC at home.
Last summer, IBM sent me a new laptop, we get a new one every 3-4 years. It was pre-installed with Windows XP, but powerful enough to run a 64-bit operating system in the future. Here are my series of blog posts on that:
I decided to try out Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 with its KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to run Windows XP as a guest OS. I will try to run as much as I can on native Linux, but will have Windows XP guest as a next option, and if that still doesn't work, reboot the system in native Windows XP mode.
So far, I am pleased that I can do nearly everything my job requires natively in Red Hat Linux, including accessing my Lotus Notes for email and databases, edit and present documents with Lotus Symphony, and so on. I have made RHEL 6.1 my default when I boot up. Setting up Windows XP under KVM was relatively simple, involving an 8-line shell script and 54-line XML file. Here is what I have encountered:
We use a wonderful tool called "iSpring Pro" which merges Powerpoint slides with voice recordings for each page into a Shockwave Flash video. I have not yet found a Linux equivalent for this yet.
To avoid having to duplicate files between systems, I use instead symbolic links. For example, my Lotus Notes local email repository sits on D: drive, but I can access it directly with a link from /home/tpearson/notes/data.
While my native Ubuntu and RHEL Linux can access my C:, D: and E: drives in native NTFS file system format, the irony is that my Windows XP guest OS under KVM cannot. This means moving something from NTFS over to Ext4, just so that I can access it from the Windows XP guest application.
For whatever reason, "Password Safe" did not run on the Windows XP guest. I launch it, but it takes forever to load and never brings up the GUI. Fortunately, there is a Linux version [MyPasswordSafe] that seems to work just fine to keep track of all my passwords.
Personal home PC
My Windows XP system at home gave up the ghost last month, so I bought a new system with Windows 7 Professional, quad-core Intel processor and 6GB of memory. There are [various editions of Windows 7], but I chose Windows 7 Professional to support running Windows XP as a guest image.
Here's is how I have configured my personal computer:
I actually found it more time-consuming to implement the "Virtual PC" feature of Windows 7 to get Windows XP mode working than KVM on Red Hat Linux. I am amazed how many of my Windows XP programs DO NOT RUN AT ALL natively on Windows 7. I now have native 64-bit versions of Lotus Notes and Symphony 3, which will do well enough for me for now.
I went ahead and put Red Hat Linux on my home system as well, but since I have Windows XP running as a guest under Windows 7, no need to duplicate KVM setup there. At least if I have problems with Windows 7, I can reboot in RHEL6 Linux at home and use that for Linux-native applications.
Hopefully, this will position me well in case IBM decides to either go with Windows 7 or Linux as the replacement OS for Windows XP.
In my presentations in Australia and New Zealand, I mentioned that people were re-discovering the benefits of removable media. While floppy diskettes were convenient way of passing information from one person to another, they unfortunately did not have enough capacity. In today's world, you may need Gigabytes or Terabytes of re-writeable storage with a file system interface that can easily be passed from one person to another. In this post, I explore three options.
(FCC Disclaimer: I work for IBM, and IBM has no business relationship with Cirago at the time of this writing. Cirago has not paid me to mention their product, but instead provided me a free loaner that I promised to return to them after my evaluation is completed. This post should not be considered an endorsement for Cirago's products. List prices for Cirago and IBM products were determined from publicly available sources for the United States, and may vary in different countries. The views expressed herein may not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of either IBM or Cirago.)
I took a few photos so you can see what exactly this device looks like. Basically, it is a plastic box that holds a single naked disk drive. It has four little rubber feet so that it does not slip on your desk surface.
The inside is quite simple. The power and SATA connections match those of either a standard 3.5 inch drive, or the smaller form factor (SFF) 2.5 inch drive. However, to my dismay, it does not handle EIDE drives which I have a ton of. After taking apart six different computer systems, I found only one had SATA drives for me to try this unit out with.
The unit comes with a USB cable and AC/DC power adapter. In my case, I found the USB 3.0 cable too short for my liking. My tower systems are under my desk, but I like keeping docking stations like this on the top of the desk, within easy reach, but that wasn't going to happen because the USB cable was not long enough.
Instead, I ended up putting it half-way in between, behind my desk, sitting on another spare system. Not ideal, but in theory there are USB-extension cables that probably could fix this.
Here it is with the drive inside. I had a 3.5 inch Western Digital [1600AAJS drive] 160 GB, SATA 3 Gbps, 8 MB Cache, 7200 RPM.
To compare the performance, I used a dual-core AMD [Athlon X2] system that I had built for my 2008 [One Laptop Per Child] project. To compare the performance, I ran with the drive externally in the Cirago docking station, then ran the same tests with the same drive internally on the native SATA controller. Although the Cirago documentation indicated that Windows was required, I used Ubuntu Linux 10.04 LTS just fine, using the flexible I/O [fio] benchmarking tool against an ext3 file system.
Sequential Write - a common use for external disk drive is backup.
Random read - randomly read files ranging from 5KB to 10MB in size.
Random mixed - randomly read/write files (50/50 mix) ranging from 5KB to 10MB in size.
Random Mixed (50/50)
Latency (msec) read
Latency (msec) write
Bandwidth (KB/s) read
Bandwidth (KB/s) write
For sequential write, the Cirago performed well, only about 15 percent slower than native SATA. For random workloads, however, it was 30-40 percent slower. If you are wondering why I did not get USB 3.0 speeds, there are several factors involved here. First, with overheads, 5 Gbps USB 3.0 is expected to get only about 400 MB/sec. My SATA 2.0 controller maxes out at 375 MB/sec, and my USB 2.0 ports on my system are rated for 57 MB/sec, but with overheads will only get 20-25 MB/sec. Most spinning drives only get 75 to 110 MB/sec. Even solid-state drives top out at 250 MB/sec for sustained activity. Despite all that, my internal SATA drive only got 16 MB/sec, and externally with the Cirago 14 MB/sec in sustained write activity.
Here is the mess that is inside my system. The slot for drive 2 was blocked by cables, memory chips and the heat sink for my processor. It is possible to damage a system just trying to squeeze between these obstacles.
However, the point of this post is "removable media". Having to open up the case and insert the second drive and wire it up to the correct SATA port was a pain, and certainly a more difficult challenge than the average PC user wishes to tackle.
Price-wise, the Cirago lists for $49 USD, and the 160GB drive I used lists for $69, so the combination $118 is about what you would pay for a fully integrated external USB drive. However, if you had lots of loose drives, then this could be more convenient and start to save you some money.
IBM RDX disk backup system
Another problem with the Cirago approach is that the disk drives are naked, with printed circuit board (PCB) exposed. When not in the docking station, where do you put your drive? Did you keep the [anti-static ESD bag] that it came in when you bought it? And once inside the bag, now what? Do you want to just stack it up in a pile with your other pieces of equipment?
To solve this, IBM offers the RDX backup system. These are fully compatible with other RDX sytems from Dell, HP, Imation, NEC, Quantum, and Tandberg Data. The concept is to have a docking station that takes removable, rugged plastic-coated disk-enclosed cartridges. The docking station can be part of the PC itself, similar to how CD/DVD drives are installed, or as a stand-alone USB 2.0 system, capable of processing data up to 25 MB/sec.
The idea is not new, about 10 years ago we had [Iomega "zip" drives] that offered disk-enclosed cartridges with capacities of 100, 250 and 750MB in size. Iomega had its fair share of problems with the zip drive, which were ranked in 2006 as the 15th worst technology product of all time, and were eventually were bought out by EMC two years later (as if EMC has not had enough failures on its own!)
The problem with zip drives was that they did not hold as much as CD or DVD media, and were more expensive. By comparison, IBM RDX cartridges come in 160GB to 750GB in size, at list prices starting at $127 USD.
IBM LTO tape with Long-Term File System
Removable media is not just for backup. Disk cartridges, like the IBM RDX above, had the advantage of being random access, but most tape are accessed sequentially. IBM has solved this also, with the new IBM Long Term File System [LTFS], available for LTO-5 tape cartridges.
With LFTS, the LTO-5 tape cartridge now can act as a super-large USB memory stick for passing information from one person to the next. The LTO-5 cartridge can handle up to 3TB of compressed data at up to SAS speeds of 140 MB/sec. An LTO-5 tape cartridge lists for only $87 USD.
The LTO-5 drives, such as the IBM [TS2250 drive] can read LTO-3, LTO-4 and LTO-5cartridges, and can write LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges, in a manner that is fully compatible with LTO drives from HP or Quantum. LTO-3, LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges are available in WORM or rewriteable formats. LTO-4 and LTO-5 cartridges can be encrypted with 256-bit AES built-in encryption. With three drive manufacturers, and seven cartridge manufacturers, there is no threat of vendor lock-in with this approach.
These three options offer various trade-offs in price, performance, security and convenience. Not surprisingly, tape continues to be the cheapest option.
As we get to larger and larger flash and spinning disk drives, a common question I get is whether to use RAID-5 versus RAID-6. Here is my take on the matter.
A quick review of basic probability statistics
Failure rates are based on probabilities. Take for example a traditional six-sided die, with numbers one through six represented as dots on each face. What are the chances that we can roll the die several times in a row, that we will have no sixes ever rolled? You might think that if there is a 1/6 (16.6 percent) chance to roll a six, then you would guarantee hit a six after six rolls. That is not the case.
# of Rolls
Probability of no sixes (percent)
So, even after 24 rolls, there is more than 1 percent chance of not rolling a six at all. The formula is (1-1/6) to the 24th power.
Let's say that rolling one to five is success, and rolling a six is a failure. Being successful requires that no sixes appear in a sequence of events. This is the concept I will use for the rest of this post. If you don't care for the math, jump down to the "Summary of Results" section below.
Error Correcting Codes (ECC) and Unreadable Read Errors (URE)
When I speak to my travel agent, I have to provide my six-character [Record Locator] code. Pronouncing individual letters can be error prone, so we use a "spelling alphabet".
The International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, sometimes known as the [NATO phonetic alphabet], has 26 code words assigned to the 26 letters of the English alphabet in alphabetical order as follows: Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliett, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu.
Foxtrot Golf Mike Oscar Victor Whiskey
Foxtrot Gold Mine Oscar Vector Whisker
Boxcart Golf Miko Boxcart Victor Whiskey
Having five or so characters to represent a single character may seem excessive, but you can see that this can be helpful when communications link has static, or background noise is loud, as is often the case at the airport!
If spelling words are misheard, either (a) they are close enough like "Gold" for "Golf", or "Whisker" for "Whiskey", that the correct word is known, or (b) not close enough, such that "Boxcart" could refer to either "Foxtrot" or "Oscar" that we can at least detect that the failure occurred.
For data transfers, or data that is written, and later read back, the functional equivalent is an Error Correcting Code [ECC], used in transmission and storage of data. Some basic ECC can correct a single bit error, and detect double bit errors as failures. More sophisticated ECC can correct multiple bit errors up to a certain number of bits, and detect most anything worse.
When reading a block, sector or page of data from a storage device, if the ECC detects an error, but is unable to correct the bits involved, we call this an "Unrecoverable Read Error", or URE for short.
Bit Error Rate (BER)
Different storage devices have different block, sector or page sizes. Some use 512 bytes, 4096 bytes or 8192 bytes, for example. To normalize likelihood of errors, the industry has simplified this to a single bit error rate or BER, represented often as a power of 10.
Bit Error Rate per read (BER)
Consumer HDD (PC/Laptops)
Enterprise 15k/10k/7200 rpm
Solid-State and Flash
IBM TS1150 tape
In other words, the chance that a bit is unreadable on optical media is 1 in 10 trillion (1E13), on enterprise 15k drives is 1 in 10 quadrillion, and on LTO-7 tape is 1 in 10 quintillion.
There are eight bits per byte, so reading 1 GB of data is like rolling the die eight billion times. The chance of successfully reading 1GB on DVD, then would be (1 - 1/1E13) to the 8 billionth power, or 99.92 percent, or conversely a 0.08 percent chance of failure.
In this paper, Google had studied drive failure using an "Annual Failure Rate" or AFR. Here are two graphs from this paper:
This first graph shows AFR by age. Some drives fail in their first 3-6 months, often called "infant mortality". Then they are fairly reliable for a few years, down to 1.7 percent, then as they get older, they start to fail more often, up to 8.3 percent.
This second graph factors in how busy the drives are. Dividing the drive set into quartiles, "Low" represents the least busy drives (the bottom quartile), "Medium" represents the median two quartiles, and "High" represents the busiest drives, the top quartile. Not surprisingly, the busiest drives tend to fail more often than medium-busy drives.
Given an AFR, what are the chances a drive will fail in the next hour? There are 8,766 hours per year, so the success of a drive over the course of a year is like rolling the die 8,766 times. This allows us to calculate a "Drive Error Rate" or DER:
Drive Error Rate per hour (DER)
For example, an AFR=3 drive has a 1 in 287,800 chance of failing in a particular hour. The probability this drive will fail in the next 24 hours would be like rolling the die 24 times. The formula is (1-1/287,800) to the 24th power, resulting in a failure rate of roughly 0.008 percent.
Let's take a typical RAID-5 rank with 600GB drives at 15K rpm, in a 7+P RAID-5 configuration.
During normal processing, if a URE occurs on a individual drive, RAID comes to the rescue. The system can rebuild the data from parity, and correct the broken block of data.
When a drive fails, however, we don't have this rescue, so a URE that occurs during the rebuild process is catastrophic. How likely is this? Data is read from the other seven drives, and written to a spare empty drive. At 8 bits per byte, reading 4200 GB of data is rolling the die 33.6 trillion times. The formula is then (1-1/E16) to the 33.6 trillionth power, or approximately 0.372 percent chance of URE during the rebuild process.
The time to perform the rebuild depends heavily on the speed of the drive, and how busy the RAID rank is doing other work. Under heavy load, the rebuild might only run at 25 MB/sec, and under no workload perhaps 90 MB/sec. If we take a 60 MB/sec moderate rebuild rate, then it would take 10,000 seconds or nearly 3 hours. The chance that any of the seven drives fail during these three hours, at AFR=10 rolling the DER die (7 x 3) 21 times, results in a 0.025 percent chance of failure.
It is nearly 15 times more likely to get a URE failure than a second drive failure. A rebuild failure would happen with either of these, with a probability of 0.397 percent.
The situation gets worse with higher capacity Nearline drives. Let's do a RAID-5 rank with 6TB Nearline drives at 7200 rpm, in a 7+P configuration. The likelihood of URE reading 42 TB of data, is rolling the die 336 trillion times, or approximately 3.66 percent chance of URE failure. Yikes!
The time to rebuild is also going to take longer. A moderate rebuild rate might only be 30 MB/sec, so that rebuilding a 6TB drive would take 55 hours. The chance that one of the other seven drives fail, assuming again AFR=10, during these 55 hours results in a 0.462 percent.
This time, a URE failure is nearly eight times more likely than a double drive failure. The chance of a rebuild failure is 4.12 percent. Good thing you backed up to tape or object storage!
The math can be done easily using modern spreadsheet software. The URE failure rate is based on the quantity of data read from the remaining drives, so a 4+P with 600GB drives is the same as 8+P with 300GB drives. Both read 2.4 TB of data to recalculate from parity. The Double Drive failure rate is based on the number of drives being read times the number of hours during the rebuild. Slower, higher capacity drives take longer to rebuild. However, in both the 15K and 7200rpm examples, the chance of a URE failure was 8 to 15 times more likely than double drive failure.
Many of the problems associated with RAID-5 above can be mitigated with RAID-6.
After a single drive fails, any URE during rebuild can be corrected from parity. However, if a second drive fails during the rebuild process, then a URE on the remaining drives would be a problem.
Let's start with the 600GB 15k drives in a 6+P+Q RAID-6 configuration. The chance of a second drive failing is 0.0252 percent, as we calculated above. The likelihood of a URE is then based on the remaining six drives, 3600 GB of data. Doing the math, that is 0.0319 percent chance. So, the change of a URE during RAID-6 failure is the probability of both occurring, roughly 0.0000806 percent. Far more reliable than RAID-5!
Likewise, we can calculate the probability of a triple drive failure. After the second drive fails, the likelihood of a third drive at AFR=10, results in 0.00000546 percent.
Combining these, the chance of failure of rebuild is 0.000861 percent.
Switching to 6 TB Nearline drives, in a 6+P+Q RAID-6 configuration, we can do the math in the same manner. The likelihood of URE and two drives failing is 0.0145 percent, and for triple drive failure is 0.00183 percent. Chance of rebuild failure is 0.0163 percent.
Summary of Results
Putting all the results in a table, we have the following:
RAID-5 rebuild failure (percent)
RAID-6 rebuild failure (percent)
600GB 15K rpm
6 TB 7200rpm
Hopefully, I have shown you how to calculate these yourself, so that you can plug in your own drive sizes, rebuild rates, and other parameters to convince yourself of this.
In all cases, RAID-6 drastically reduced the probability of rebuild failure. With modern cache-based systems, the write-penalty associated with additional parity generally does not impact application performance. As clients transition from faster 15K drives to slower, higher capacity 10K and 7200 rpm drives, I highly recommend using RAID-6 instead of RAID-5 in all cases.
This week I am in Moscow, Russia for today's "Edge Comes to You" event. Although we had over 20 countries represented at the Edge2012 conference in Orlando, Florida earlier this month, IBM realizes that not everyone can travel to the United States. So, IBM has created the "Edge Comes to You" events where a condensed subset of the agenda is presented. Over the next four months, these events are planned in about two dozen other countries.
This is my first time in Russia, and the weather was very nice. With over 11 million people, Moscow is the 6th largest city in the world, and boasts having the largest community of billionaires. With this trip, I have now been to all five of the so-called BRICK countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and Korea) in the past five years!
The venue was the [Info Space Transtvo Conference Center] not far from the Kremlin. While Barack Obama was making friends with Vladimir Putin this week at the G2012 Summit in Mexico, I was making friends with the lovely ladies at the check-in counter.
If it looks like some of the letters are backwards, that is not an illusion. The Russian language uses the [Cyrillic alphabet]. The backwards N ("И"), backwards R ("Я"), the number 3 ("З), and what looks like the big blue staple logo from Netapp ("П"), are actually all characters in this alphabet.
Having spent eight years in a fraternity during college, I found these not much different from the Greek alphabet. Once you learn how to pronounce each of the 33 characters, you can get by quite nicely in Moscow. I successfully navigated my way through Moscow's famous subway system, and ordered food on restaurant menus.
The conference coordinators were Tatiana Eltekova (left) and Natalia Grebenshchikova (right). Business is booming in Russia, and IBM just opened ten new branch offices throughout the country this month. So these two ladies in the marketing department have been quite busy lately.
I especially liked all the attention to detail. For example, the signage was crisp and clean, and the graphics all matched the Powerpoint charts of each presentation.
Moscow is close to the North pole, similar in latitude as Juneau, Alaska; Edinburgh, Scottland; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Stockholm, Sweden.
As a result, it is daylight for nearly 18 hours a day. The first part of the day, from 8:00am to 4:30pm, was "Technical Edge", a condensed version of the 4.5 day event in Orlando, Florida. I gave three of the five keynote presentations:
Game Change on a Smarter Planet: A New Era in IT, discussing Smarter Computing and Expert-Integrated systems, based on what Rod Adkins presented in Orlando.
A New Approach to Storage, explaining IBM Smarter Storage for Smarter Computing, IBM's new approach to the way storage is designed and deployed for our clients
IBM Watson: How it Works and What it Means for Society Beyond Winning Jeopardy! explaining how IBM Watson technologies are being used in Healthcare and Financial Services, based on what I presented in Orlando.
(Note: I do not speak Russian fluently enough to give a technical presentation, so I did then entire presentation in English, and had real-time translators convert to Russian for me. The audience wore headphones. However, I was able to sprinkly a few Russian phrases, such as "доброе утро", "Я не понимаю по-русский" and "спасибо".)
After the keynote sessions, I was interviewed by a journalist for [Storage News] magazine. The questions covered a variety of topics, from the implications of [Big Data analytics] to the future of storage devices that employ [Phase Change Memory]. I look forward to reading the article when it gets published!
The afternoon had break-out sessions in three separate rooms. Each room hosted seven topics, giving the attendees plenty to choose from for each time slot. I presented one of these break-out sessions, Big Data Cloud Storage Technology Comparison. The title was already printed in all the agendas, so we went with it, but I would have rather called it "Big Data Storage Options". In this session, I explained Hadoop, InfoSphere BigInsights, internal and external storage options.
I spent some time comparing Hadoop File System (HDFS) with IBM's own General Parallel File System (GPFS) which now offers Hadoop interfaces in a Shared-Nothing Cluster (SNC) configuration. IBM GPFS is about twice as fast as HDFS for typical workloads.
At the end of the Technical Edge event, there was a prize draw. Business cards were drawn at random, and three lucky attendees won a complete four-volume set of my book series "Inside System Storage"! Sadly, these got held up in customs, so we provided a "certificate" to redeem them for the books when they arrive to the IBM office.
The second part of the day, from 5:00pm to 8pm, was "Executive Edge", a condensed version of the 2 day event in Orlando, designed for CIOs and IT leaders. Having this event in the evening allowed busy executives to come over after they spend the day in the office. I presented IBM Storage Strategy in the Smarter Computing Era, similar to my presentation in Orlando.
Both events were well-attended. Despite fighting jet lag across 11 time zones, I managed to hang in there for the entire day. I got great feedback and comments from the attendees. I look forward to hearing how the other "Edge Comes to You" events fare in the other countries. I would like to thank Tatiana and Natalia for their excellent work organizing and running this event!