This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to IBM Systems, storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor, Senior IT Architect and Event Content Manager for [IBM Systems for IBM Systems Technical University] events. With over 30 years with IBM Systems, Tony is frequent traveler, speaking to clients at events throughout the world.
Lloyd Dean is an IBM Senior Certified Executive IT Architect in Infrastructure Architecture. Lloyd has held numerous senior technical roles at IBM during his 19 plus years at IBM. Lloyd most recently has been leading efforts across the Communication/CSI Market as a senior Storage Solution Architect/CTS covering the Kansas City territory. In prior years Lloyd supported the industry accounts as a Storage Solution architect and prior to that as a Storage Software Solutions specialist during his time in the ATS organization.
Lloyd currently supports North America storage sales teams in his Storage Software Solution Architecture SME role in the Washington Systems Center team. His current focus is with IBM Cloud Private and he will be delivering and supporting sessions at Think2019, and Storage Technical University on the Value of IBM storage in this high value IBM solution a part of the IBM Cloud strategy. Lloyd maintains a Subject Matter Expert status across the IBM Spectrum Storage Software solutions. You can follow Lloyd on Twitter @ldean0558 and LinkedIn Lloyd Dean.
Tony Pearson's books are available on Lulu.com! Order your copies today!
Safe Harbor Statement: The information on IBM products is intended to outline IBM's general product direction and it should not be relied on in making a purchasing decision. The information on the new products is for informational purposes only and may not be incorporated into any contract. The information on IBM products is not a commitment, promise, or legal obligation to deliver any material, code, or functionality. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for IBM products remains at IBM's sole discretion.
Tony Pearson is a an active participant in local, regional, and industry-specific interests, and does not receive any special payments to mention them on this blog.
Tony Pearson receives part of the revenue proceeds from sales of books he has authored listed in the side panel.
Tony Pearson is not a medical doctor, and this blog does not reference any IBM product or service that is intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, prevention or monitoring of a disease or medical condition, unless otherwise specified on individual posts.
The developerWorks Connections Platform is now in read-only mode and content is only available for viewing. No new wiki pages, posts, or messages may be added. Please see our FAQ for more information. The developerWorks Connections platform will officially shut down on March 31, 2020 and content will no longer be available. More details available on our FAQ. (Read in Japanese.)
Yesterday morning, the entire country of Colombia suffered their worst black-out (power outage) in 22 years. 98% of the country was out for 4 1/2 hours.This is just 5 months after an outage that hit 25% of the country, December 7, 2006.Ironically, this one happened the week I am here explaining the need for Business Continuity plans to IBM Business Partners from Argentina, Peru, Velenzuela, Ecuador and Colombia. As is oftenthe case, people often need a real example to recognize the need for planning is important.
It reminded me of the Northeast Black-out of 2003 that impacted USA and Canada. I was speaking to a crowd of 800 people at the SHARE conference in Washington D.C. when it happened, and hundreds of pagers and cell-phones went off all at the same time. Although we were outside the effected area and had plenty of lighting, we ended up canceling therest of my talk, and many people left immediately to help execute their business continuity plans.Of course, terrorism was immediately assumed, but a final report showed that it was initiated in Ohiodue to overgrown trees, and then propagated due to a software bug to hundreds of other plants.
According to this morning's Bogota newspaper, "El Tiempo", nobody knows the root cause of yesterday's outage. Immediately, the country's leftist rebels were blamed, but now the leading theory is that it was initiated byoperator error (a technician touching something he shouldn't have), and then propagated by a faulty distribution system.
Another example of the need for a robust and resilient infrastructure, and appropropriate business continuity plans.
Wrapping up my post-week coverage of the [Data Center 2010 conference], I stuck through the end to get my money's worth at this conference. As the morning went on, it became obvious many people booked flights or started their weekends prior to the official 3:15pm ending of the last day.
Strategies for Data Life Cycle Management
I prefer the term "Information Lifecycle Management", but the two analysts presenting decided to use DLM instead. Let's start with the biggest challenge faced by the audience.
The problem is not meeting Service Level Agreements (SLA) but Service Level Expectations. When looking at the real business value of IT, you should link IT strategy to business outcomes and directives, align with your CIO's pet initiatives, and position storage as a technology supporting IT Directors goals. Here were the top five goals:
Curtailing Storage Sprawl
Compliance and e-Discovery
Improving Service Levels for Data Availability and Protection
Moving to Cloud Computing
The analysts reviewed both a "Tops Down" and "Bottoms Up" approach. They recommend what they call an "Enterprise Infomration Archive" (what IBM calls Smart Archive, by the way) that provides a better understanding of all data.
No greater lie has been told than "Storage is Cheap". Currently, only 10 percent of companies hvae a formal "deletion policy", but the analysts predict this will rise to 50 percent by 2013.
The "Bottoms Up" approach is focused on modernizing the data center at the storage technology level. There has been a resurgence in interest in ILM solutions, implementing storage tiers, and storage efficiency features like thin provisioning, data deduplication and real-time compression. Cloud Computing can help off-load this effort to someone else.
ILM provides real business value, such as reduce costs, improve quality of service, and mitigate risks. The analysts felt that if you are not partnering with a storage vendor that offers five essential technologies, you should probably change vendors. What are those five essential technologies? I am glad you asked. Watch this [YouTube video] to find out.
Getting the Most From Your Storage Vendor Relationships
The analyst mentioned there are two kinds of storage vendors. Suppliers that sell you solutions, and Partners that work with you to develop unique functionality. He offered some advice:
Allow vendors to analyze and profile your workloads, such as IOPS, MB/sec bandwidth, average blocksize, and so on.
Review your Service level agreements (SLAs), procedures and asset management strategies
Identify upgrade risks, conversion costs, and unintended consequences
Take advantage of vendor engineers and technical staff for skills transfer, best practices, industry trends, and competitive comparisons
Explore different solutions and approaches
Avoid big pitfalls by negotiating and locking in upgrade and maintenance costs, scheduling conversions, and getting any guarantees in writing.
Asking the audience how they currently interact with their storage vendors:
The analyst's "Do's and Don'ts" were good advice for nearly any kind of business negotiation:
Keep language simple and enforceable
Limit diagnostic time
Be reasonble with rolling time-lines
Design remedies that keep you whole and are implementable in your environment
Make remedies punitive
Use qualitative measures
Rely on vendor's metrics only
Set terms that expire during life of system
Let the vendor provide best practices after installation, set reasonable expectations, schedule regular reviews, and insist on cross-vendor cooperation, have zero tolerance for finger-pointing between vendors. Depreciate storage equipment quickly.
This was the last session of the conference, a workshop to deal with irrational behavior during unexpected events that could disrupt or impact business operations. In the exercise, each table was a fictitious company, and the 7-8 people sitting at each table represented different department heads who had to make recommendations to upper management on how to deal with each disastrous situation presented to us. Decisions had to be made with limited and incomplete information. Each table had to come to a consensus on each action, and a single spokesperson from each table would present the recommendations. Winners of each round got prizes.
Plenty of coffee, not enough juice. Power and Cooling were top of mind. The rooms were cold, designed for people wearing suits I imagine. I enjoyed plenty of hot coffee throughout the event. Everyone complained that their smartphones and iPads were running out of electricity. The conference had "recharge" stations with plugs for all kinds of different phones, but the Micro-USB plugs that I needed for my Samsung Vibrant, and the apple connections needed by everyone else's iPhones and iPads, were always taken. I remember when you could charge your cell phone once a week, because you hardly used it to make calls, and now that they can be used to follow Twitter feeds, surf websites, and other actions between sessions, power runs out quickly.
Information Overload. I was one of those following tweets on the HootSuite app on my Android-based smart phone. I was able to meet some of the people I have exchanged blog comments and tweets. One told me that his tweets was his way of taking notes, so that his trip report would be done when he got back to the office. I used to write trip reports also, before blogging and tweeting.
The mood was positive. Overall, all the rival competitors got along well. I had friendly chats with people from Oracle, HP, Cisco, EMC, VCE, and others. People are overall optimistic that the IT industry is set for economic growth in 2011.
The only people who look forward to change are babies in soiled diapers. My impression is that people who were threatened by Cloud Computing now have a better understanding on what they need to do going forward. Yes, this means learning new skills, re-evaluating your backup/recovery procedures, reviewing your BC/DR contingency plans, and a variety of other changes. Those who don't like frequent change should consider getting out of the IT industry. Just sayin'
I suspect this will be my last post of 2010. I will be taking a much-needed break, celebrating the Winter Solstice. To all my readers, I wish you good times over the next few weeks, and a Happy New Year!
It has always been the case in fast pace technology areas that you can't tell the players without a program card, andthis is especially true for storage.
When analyzing each acquistion move, you need to think of what is driving it. What are the motives?Having been in the storage business 20 years now, and seen my share of acquisitions, both from within IBM,as well as competition, I have come up with the following list of motives.
Although slavery was abolished in the US back in the 1800's, and centuries earlier everywhere else, many acquisitionsseem to be focused on acquiring the people themselves, rather than the products or client list. I have seen statistics such as "We retained 98% of the people!" In reality, these retentions usually involve costly incentives,sign-in bonuses, stock options, and the like. Desptie this, people leave after a few years, often because ofpersonality or "corporate culture" clash. For example, many former STK employees seem to be leaving after their company was acquired by Sun Microsystems.
If you can't beat them, join them. Acquisitions can often be used by one company to raise its ranking in marketshare, eliminating smaller competitors. And now that you have acquired their client list, perhaps you can sellthem more of your original set of products!
Symantec had acquired Veritas, which in turn had acquired a variety of other smaller players, and the end result is that they are now #1 backup software provider, even though none of theirproducts holds a candle to IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager. Meanwhile, EMC acquired Avamar to try to get more into the backup/recovery game, but most analysts still find EMC down in the #4 or #5 place in this category.
Next month,Brocade's acquisition of McData should take effect, furthering its marketshare in SAN switch equipment.
Prior to my current role as "brand market strategist" for System Storage, I was a "portfolio manager" where wetried to make sure that our storage product line investments were balanced. This was a tough job, as the investmentshad to balance the right development investments into different technologies, including patent portfolios.Despite IBM's huge research budget, I am not surprised that some clever inventions of new technologies comefrom smaller companies, that then get acquired once their results appear viable.
The last motive is value shift. This is where companies try to re-invent themselves, or find that they are stuck in acommodity market rut, and wish to expand into more profitable areas.
LSI Logic acquisition of StoreAge is a good exampleof this. Most of the major storage vendors have already shifted to software and services to provide customer value,as predicted in 1990's by Clayton Christensen in his book "The Innovator's Dilemma". The rest are still strugglingto develop the right strategy, but leaning in this general direction.
Hi everyone! It's Sunday, and I have arrived safely to Orlando, Florida. It actually took me 25 hours to get here, due to mechanical problems on the plane, and an unexpected overnight stay in Chicago. My checked bags unfortunately got misplaced in Chicago, and will hopefully arrive later today.
In past years, IBM ran three separate storage events. One for IT executives, one for technical storage administrators, and one for IBM Business Partners. This year, we have combined all three into one event: IBM Edge. There are three distinct venues: Executive Edge is for the CIOs and IT Directors, Technical Edge for the storage administrators, and Winning Edge is for the IBM Business Partners.
I will be spending most of my time at the Technical Edge events. This year, I was on the review board, and spent much of the last three weeks reviewing a good portion of the 249 presentation topics that will be given this week.
If you have never been to IBM storage events in the past, or it has been awhile since your last one, you can review my blog posts from prior years to get familiar. I have them collected here in my January post [Mark your Calendars - Upcoming Events].
Here is my tentative plan for the week, in case you want to find me. The table is color-coded. White for sessions I am merely attending, and yellow for those sessions that I am presenting or participating as part of a panel.
Opening General Session
Bonnet Creek Ballroom
Technical Edge Main Tent
Waldorf Astoria Ballroom
Understanding Your Options for Storing Archive Data to Meet Compliance Challenges
IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center: New Features and Functions
Hamilton & Indian
IBM Watson: How it Works and What it Means for Society Beyond Winning Jeopardy!
Reception and Concert
IBM Building Blocks for Technical Computing
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager as a Cloud Backup Service
IBM SMB Solutions for Cloud
Introducing the IBM SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center
Using Social Media for IBM System Storage Birds of a Feather
Data Footprint Reduction: Understanding IBM Storage Efficiency Options
IBM Active Cloud Engine Implementation on IBM SONAS 1.3 and IBM Storwize V7000 Unified
Introducing VMware vSphere Storage Features
Hamilton & Indian
IBM's Storage Strategy in the Smarter Computing Era
Bonnet Creek Salon
IBM SONAS and the IBM Cloud Storage Taxonomy
Dinner and Concert
IBM Watson: How it Works and What it Means for Society Beyond Winning Jeopardy!
Bonnet Creek Salon
IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center Overview and Update
Bonnet Creek Salon
Encryption and Key Management in the Cloud: The Top 6 Concerns to Ensure a Secure and Reliable Solution
IBM SmartCloud Enterprise -- Object Storage
Hamilton & Indian
Smarter Storage for Smarter Computing
Storage "Free-for-All" moderated by Scott Drummond
How Real-Time Compression Can Maximize Storage Efficiency for Production Applications
Hamilton & Indian
NAS File Systems: Access and Authentication
It's going to be a fun and busy week! I will be tweeting throughout the week. You can follow me on Twitter at [@az990tony]. You can also follow tweets marked #IBMstorage and #IBMedge from others.
Before we started, we asked the first survey question: "How is storage planning conducted in your shop?" Of the various responses, nearly four out of ten responded "Part of an overall IT infrastructure strategy".
Jon Toigo went first, and spent 20 minutes or so laying out the problem as he sees it. Jon travels all over visiting customers struggling with their storage infrastructures, so he gets to hear a lot of this first hand.
I then spent 20 minutes or so presenting IBM's vision, strategy and offerings to help solve these problems. I could speak for hours on this topic, but we kept it short for this one-hour webcast. To learn more, request a visit to the Tucson Executive Briefing Center.
At the end of my talk, we put out the second survey, asking the audience "What is your number one priority with respect to storage operations today?" Over one fourth of the attendees were focused on reducing storage infrastructure cost of ownership by any means possible.
I am glad we saved the last 15 minutes for Q&A, as there were a lot of questions.
The replay is now available. If you attended the event and want to hear it again, or want to share it with your colleagues, or you missed it and want to hear it, then [Register for the Replay].
As we wrap up the year, people's thoughts turn to archive anddata retention.
The [Robert Frances Group] have put out a research paper titled Optimizing Data Retention and Archiving - November 2007 that helps IT executives understand the cost differences for a disk-only archive approach versus disk/tape archive approach and how an [IBM System Storage DR550] offering can help address the long-term storage archive requirements with a world-class storage strategy that reduces cost, improves efficiency and supports compliance. Here is an excerpt:
Ongoing legal, audit, and regulatory requirementswill continue to drive IT groups to improvearchive policies, processes, strategy, andefficiency. The choice of which technologies touse will have a profound impact on the success ofsuch efforts, since technologies like the DR550embody many aspects of the strategy, processes,and policies that must be decided upon. When itcomes to tape, IBM's DR550 is unique inproviding that support. Competitors tout disk-onlysolutions as the wave of the future, but researchindicates otherwise. The most basic benefits arecost and mobility, and despite the various vendorproclamations to the contrary, tape is still only afraction of the cost of disk and will remain so inthe foreseeable future.
This paper is yet another nail in the coffin of EMC Centera.In his post [Anyone Naughty on Your List…], Jon W Toigo points to an eBay fire sale of an EMC Centera Gen 4.
There has never been a better time to switch from EMC Centera to theIBM System Storage DR550.
I am back from lovely Taipei. The IBM Top Gun class went well. Here are a few pictures of things I found interesting while I was there.
On the first day of class, I asked for some coffee. Our lovely class assistant, Ashley, brought me a cup with an interesting paper filter hanging on the edge. I have since learned that there are two drinks never to order in Taiwan: coffee and wine. If you enjoy either, you won't here. Instead, I drank the local "Taiwan Beer" and various types of tea.
Our class was on the 14th floor of the building, and there was this warning sign posted in the elevator. I have no idea what Chinese characters say, but we found the cartoon depictions of elevator dangers amusing. We interpreted the lower left corner to mean "Don't let your evil twin sister push you out of a moving elevator!"
I have to say that the variety of food was excellent. One night, we had dinner at a [Spanish Tapas] restaurant. The Spanish had a settlement on Taiwan island, known as Formosa back then, until driven out by the Dutch in 1642. We also had a traditional Chinese lunch, with dumplings, pickled cabbage, and "Lion's Head" soup.
From the classroom floor, we could see the Taipei 101 building, considered the third [tallest skyscraper in the world]. This wasn't here the last time I was in Taiwan.
On the last day, we were treated to some [Bubble tea], a specialty drink that originated in Taiwan in the 1980's. The straw was unusually thick, about twice as thick as a normal straw. We quickly figured out why. It was so that we could slurp up the brown floating things at the bottom. We didn't realize this until after the first sip. These floaties were actually Boba Tapioca pearls. The tea itself was delicious and sweet.
Special thanks to Joe Ebidia for managing the class, his assistant Ashley, and our local support team Justin and Stewart. I would also like to thank the staff at the Sherwood Hotel.
Today is the last day of 2012, so it is only fitting to end the year looking forward to the future!
While I have been accused of being a historian, I consider myself a bit of a futurist. Since 2006, I have been blogging about the future of technology, including Cloud, Big Data, and the explosion of information. As a consultant for the IBM Executive Briefing Center, I present to clients IBM's future plans, strategies, and product roadmaps.
(Fellow blogger Mark Twomey on his Storagezilla blog has a humorous post titled [Stuff your Predictions], expressing his disdain for articles this time of year that predict what the next 12 months will bring. Don't worry, this is not one of those posts!)
What exactly is a futurist? Biologists study biology. Techologists study technology. But a person can't simply time-travel to the future, read the newspaper, make observations, take notes, and then go back in time to share his findings.
Here seem to be the key differences between Historians vs. Futurists:
There is only one past.
There are many possible futures.
Only six percent of humanity are alive today, so historians must study history through the writings, tools, and remains of those that have passed on.
Futurists study the past and the present, looking for patterns and trends.
Search for insight.
Search for foresight.
Framework to explain what happened and why.
Framework to express what is possible, probable, and perhaps even preferable.
A common framework for both is the concept of the various "Ages" that humanity has been through:
Around 200,000 years ago, in the middle of what archaeologists refer to as the [Paleolithic Era], man walked upright and used tools made of stone to hunt and gather food. Humans were nomadic and travelled in tribes to follow the herds of animals as they migrated season to season. The History Channel had a great eight-hour series called [Mankind: The Story of All of Us] that started here, and worked all the way up to modern times.
About 10,000 years ago, humans got tired of chasing after their meals, and settled down, growing their food instead. Grains like wheat, rice, and corn became staples of most diets around the world. Civilization evolved, and people traded what they grew or made in exchange for items they needed or wanted.
About 300 years ago, humans developed machines to help do things, and even to help build other machines. While farmers harnessed oxen to plow fields, and horses to speed up travel and communication, these were all based on muscle power.
Machines like the steam engine were powered by coal, petroleum, or natural gas. Today, one gallon of gasoline can do the work of 600 man-hours of human muscle power, or [move a ton of freight 400 miles].
Cities grew up with skyscrapers of steel, connected by trains, planes and automobiles. Communications with the telegraph, telephone, radio and television replaced sending message on horseback.
The forces that drove humanity to the Industrial age clashed with the culture and identity established during the Agricultural age. I highly recommend futurist Thomas Friedman's book [The Lexus and the Olive Tree] that covers these conflicts.
When exactly did the Information age begin? Did it start with Guttenberg's muscle-powered [Printing Press] in the year 1450, or the first punched card in 1725?
Futurist [Alvin Toffler] published his book The Third Wave in 1980. He coined the phrase "Third Wave" to describe the transition from the Industrial age to the Information age.
While IBM mainframes were processing information in the 1950's, many people associate the Information Age with the IBM Personal Computer (1981) or the World Wide Web (1991). Over 100 years ago, IBM started out in the Industrial age, with business machines like meat scales and cheese slicers. IBM led the charge into the Information Age, and continues that leadership today.
In any case, value went from atoms to bits. Computers and mobile devices transfer bits of data, information and ideas, from nearly anyplace on the planet to another, in seconds.
Ideas and content are now king, rather than land, buildings, machines and raw materials of the Industrial age. In 1975, less than 20 percent of a business assets were intangible. By 2005, over 80 percent is.
While the Industrial age was dominated by left-brain thinking, the Information Age requires the creativity of right-brain thinking. I highly recommend Daniel Pink's book, [A Whole New Mind] that covers this in detail.
"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed!" -- William Gibson (1993)
The problem with looking back through history as a series of "Ages" is that they really didn't start and end on specific days. The Agricultural age didn't end on a particular Sunday evening, with the Industrial age starting up the following Monday morning.
There are still people on the planet today in the Stone age. On my last visit to Kenya, I met a nomadic tribe that still lives this way. Huts were temporarily constructed from sticks and mud, and abandoned when it was time to move on.
A short-sighted charity built a one-room school house for them, hoping to convince the tribe that staying in one place for education was more important than hunting and gathering food in a nomadic lifestyle. Some stayed and starved.
In the United States, about 2 percent of Americans grow food for the rest of us, with enough left over to make ethanol and give food aid to other countries.
Sadly, the Standard American Diet continues to be foods mostly processed from wheat, rice and corn, even though our human genetic make-up has not yet evolved from a "Paleolithic" mix of [meats, nuts and berries].
There are still people on the planet today in the Industrial age. American schools are still geared to teach children for Industrial age jobs, but still take "summer vacation" to work in the fields of the Agricultural age? Seth Godin's book [Stop Stealing Dreams] is a great read on what we should do about this.
Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. Here is a recap of the other Monday morning keynote sessions:
Driving Innovation to Achieve Dramatic Improvements
What is Innovation? It is a process that starts with one or more ideas, that results in change, that creates value. Easier said than done!
Innovation drives business growth. The analyst indicated that the IT infrastructure can either be in the way to impede business growth, neutral to enable growth, or contributing to business growth. Companies often find downtime as an inhibitor to business growth. The analyst gave these typical numbers.
Unplanned downtime (hours per year)
Planned Downtime (hours per year)
A big inhibitor to change is "cultural inertia", which states that the way things are prevent what they could be. Change requires both rewards and measures. Employees are often uncomfortable with change. Motivation should be with carrots not sticks.
(I often joke that the only people who are comfortable with change are babies with soiled diapers and prisoners on death row!)
The impedence to change is further amplified by leadership because what got them into their positions was their history of success, and often leaders perpetuate what worked for them in the past.
"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."
--- Peter Drucker
Nothing lasts forever, and companies should not try to avoid the inevitable. Innovators need to see themselves as change agents. the analyst feels that less than 10 percent of IT will adopt innovation to enact dramatic change. The analyst took a poll of the audience asking: Why isn't your IT Infrastructure and Operations more innovative? Over 800 attendees responded. Here were the results:
The analyst suggests treating Innovation like a team sport, with small 2-5 person teams. Search for breakthrough opportunities by setting audacious goals to inspire innovative thinking. What approach are most people doing today? Here are some polling results:
The analyst suggest it is more important to establish a culture of innovation first, and process second. Skunkworks projects are back in favor. IT folks should avoid the worship of so-called "best practices" as a reason to avoid change in trying something different. To think "outside-the-box" you need to get outside the box, or office, or cubicle, or wherever you work that prevents you from interacting with your internal or external customers. Customers can bring great insights on new approaches to take.
One new approach, born in the Cloud and now coming to the Enterprise is the concept of [DevOps], which consists of promoting collaboration between the "Appplication Development" half of IT, with the "Operations" half. If you never had heard of DevOps before, you are not alone, most of the attendees at this conference hadn't either. Here are the poll results:
Some companies have instituted a "Fresh Eyes" program, asking new-hires and early-tenure employees questions like: What surprised you the most when you joined the company? Was there anything that didn't make sense to you? Do you have any ideas to improve the way we do things?
"In a time of crisis we all have the potential to morph up to a new level and do things we never thought possible"
– Stuart Wilde
Why wait for a crisis?
Facebook: Efficient Infrastructure at a Massive Scale
Frank Frankovsky, the Director of Hardware and Design and Supply Chain at Facebook, was sitting right next to me in the audience. I didn't know this until it was his turn to speak, and he jumps up and walks to the stage! For those who live under a rock and/or are over 40 years old, Facebook is a social media site that allows people to maintain personal profiles, share photos, news and messages, play games, and create groups to organize events. They now support over 800 million accounts, a healthy percentage of the 1.9 billion people on the internet today.
Started in 2004, Facebook was originally hosted on standard server and storage hardware in colocation facilities. Facebook saved 38 percent costs by bringing their operations in-house, building their own servers from parts, and using no third-party software. Facebook has the advantage of owning their entire software stack, leveraging open source as much as possible. They even re-wrote their own PHP compiler, which they pronounce "Hip-Hop", short for high-performance-PHP.
Facebook can stand up a new data center in less than 10 months, from breaking ground to serving users. Most of Facebook's data centers sport a PUE less than 1.5, but their newest one in Prineville, Oregon is down to an amazing 1.07 level for a 7.5 Megawatt facility! How did they do it? Here are a few of their tricks:
Use Scale-Out architecture. Having lots of small servers, scattered in various data centers, allows them to survive a server failure, as well as having the luxury to shut down a datacenter when needed for maintenance reasons.
Free Cooling. Instead of air-conditioning, they pump in cold air from the outside, and send the heated exhaust back outdoors. Frank does not believe servers should be treated like humans, so their data centers run uncomfortably hot. The 50-year climate data is used to determine data center locations that have the optimal "free cooling" opportunities.
Eliminate UPS and PDU energy losses. Rather than running 480 VAC power through UPS that represent a 6 to 12 percent loss, and then PDU that introduce another 3 percent loss getting down to 208 or 120 VAC, Frank's team builds servers that feed direclty off the 480 VAC from the power company. For backup power, they use 48VDC batteries. One set of batteries can backup six racks of servers.
Target 6 to 8 KW per rack. Low-density racks are easier to keep cool.
Build their own IT equipment. Rather than buying commercially-available servers, Frank's team builds 1.5 U servers based on Intel "Westmere" chipset. 1.5U allows for larger fan radius than standard 1U pizza box format. (IBM's iDataPlex uses 2U fans for the same reason!) Facebook has a "Vanity free" design philosophy, so no fancy plastic bezels. In most cases, the covers are left off. Most (65 percent) of their servers are web front-ends. They plan new IT equipment based on Intel's "Sandy Bridge" chipset.
Use SATA drives. They buy the largest SATA drives available, directly from manufacturers, in direct-attach storage (DAS) in their servers. Data is organized in a Hadoop cluster, and they have developed their own internal "Haystack" for photo storage. Despite the floods in Thailand, Facebook has secured all the SATA disk they plan to buy for 2012 from their suppliers.
Use Solid-State drives. Their Database tier uses 100 percent Solid-State drives.
Frank is also a founder for the [Open Compute Project], which takes an "Open source" approach to IT hardware.
Facebook does not bother with hypervisors. Instead, they have adapted their own software to make full use of the CPU natively. This eliminates the "I/O Tax" penalty associated with VMware and other hypervisors.
Of course, not everyone owns their entire software stack, and can build their own servers! It was nice to hear how a company without such limitations can innovate to their advantage.
Lagasse, Inc. sells janitorial supplies, such as mops, cleaning chemicals, waste receptacles, and garbage can liners. Of the 1000 employees of Lagasse nationwide, about 200 associates were located in New Orleans at their main Headquarters, primary customer care center, and primary IT computing center.
Amazingly, Lagasse did not have a formally documented BCP (Business Continuity Plan) but more of aBCI (Business Continuity Idea). They chose to take a ["donut tire"] approach, putting older previous-generation equipment at their DR site. They knew that in the event of a disaster,they would not be processing as many transactions per second. That was a business trade-offthey could accept.
Evaluating all the different threat scenarios for impact and likelihood, and focused on hurricanes and floods.They had experienced previous hurricanes, learning from each,with the most recent being 2004 Hurricane Ivan and 2005 Hurricane Dennis. From this, they wereable to categorize three levels of DR recovery:
Tier 1 - The most mission-critical, which for them related to picking, packing and shipping products.
Tier 2 - The next most important, focused on maintaining good customer service
Tier 3 - Everything else, including reporting and administrative functions
The time-line of events went as follows:
The US Government issues warning that a hurricane may hit New Orleans
August 27 - 7pm
Lagasse declares a disaster, starts recovery procedures to an existing IT facility in Chicago, owned by their parent company. A temporary "Southeast" Headquarters were set up in Atlanta.Remote call centers were identified in Dallas, Atlanta, San Antonio, and Miami.
August 28 - just after midnight
In just five hours, they recovered their "Tier 1" applications.
August 28 - 7:30pm
In just over 24 hours, they recovered their "Tier 2" applications.
August 29 - 6am
The Hurricane hits land. With 73 levees breached, the city of New Orleans was flooded.
The following week
Lagasse was fully operational, and recorded their second and third best sales days ever.
I was quite impressed with their company's policy for how they treat their employees during a disaster. For many companies, people during a disaster prioritize on their families, not their jobs.If any associate was asked to work during a disaster, the company would take care of:
The safety of their family
The safety of their pets. (In the weeks following this hurricane, I sponsored people in Tucson to go to New Orleans to attend to lost and stray dogs and cats, many of which were left behind when rescuers picked up people from their rooftops.)
Any emergency repairs to secure the home they leave behind
Marshall felt that if you don't know the names of the spouse and kids of your key employees, you are not emotionally-invested enough to be successful during a disaster.
For communications, cell phones were useless. They could call out on them, but anyone with acell phone with 504 area code had difficulty receiving calls, as the calls had to be processedthrough New Orleans. Instead, they used Voice over IP (VoIP) to redirect calls to whichever remote call center each associate went to. Laptops, Citrix, VPN and email were considered powerful tools during this process. They did not have Instant Messaging (IM) at the time.
While the disk and tapes needed to recover Tiers 1 and 2 were already in Chicago, the tapes for Tier 3 were stored locally by a third-party provider. When Lagasse asked for thier DR tapes back, the third-party refused, based on their [force majeure] clause. Force majeure is a common clause in many business contracts to free parties from liabilityduring major disasters.Marshall advised everyone to strike out any "force majeure" clauses out of any future third-party DR protection contracts.
Hurricane Katrina hit the US hard, killing over 1400 people, and America still has not fully recovered. The recovery of thecity of New Orleans has been slow. Massive relocations has caused a deficit of talent inthe area, not just IT talent, but also in the areas of medicine, education and other professions. The result has been degraded social services, encouraging others to relocate as well. Some have called it the "liberation effect", a major event that causespeople to move to a new location or take on a new career in a different field.
On a personal note, I was in New Orleans for a conference the week prior to landfall, and helped clients with their recoveries the weeks after. For more on how IBM Business Continuity Recovery Services (BCRS) helped clients during Hurricane Katrina, see the following [media coverage].