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.
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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.
Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior Software Engineer for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services. You can also follow him on Twitter @az990tony.
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Continuing this week's theme on dealing with the global economic meltdown, recession and financial crisis, I found a great video that recaps IBM CEO Sam Palmisano's recommendations to being more competitive in thisenvironment.
In a recent speech to business leaders, Sam outlined what he sees as the four most importantsteps to thriving in the global economy. The highlights can be seen here in this [2-minute video]on IBM's "Forward View" eMagazine.
In addition to creating the Dilbert cartoon, Scott Adams has a blog, which sometimes is quite serious,and other times quite funny. The anticipated 30x cost of "Flash Drives" for Enterprise disk systems reminded meof one of Scott's articles from November 2007 titled [Urge to Simplify].Here's an excerpt:
Now the casinos have people trained, like chickens hoping for pellets, to take money from one machine (the ATM), carry it across a room and deposit in another machine (the slot machine). I believe B.F. Skinner would agree with me that there is room for even more efficiency: The ATM and the slot machine need to be the same machine.
The casinos lose a lot of money waiting for the portly gamblers with respiratory issues to waddle from the ATM to the slot machines. A better solution would be for the losers, euphemistically called “players,” to stand at the ATM and watch their funds be transferred to the hotel, while hoping to somehow “win.” The ATM could be redesigned to blink and make exciting sounds, so it seems less like robbery.
I’m sure this is in the five-year plan. Longer term, people will be trained to set up automatic transfers from their banks to the casinos. People will just fly to Vegas, wander around on the tarmac while the casino drains their bank accounts, then board the plane and fly home. The airlines are already in on this concept, and stopped feeding you sandwiches a while ago.
Perhaps EMC can redesign its DMX-4 to "blink and make exciting sounds" as well. The Flash Drives were designedfor the financial services industry, so those disk systems could be directly connected to make transfers between the appropriate bank accounts.
Continuing my coverage of the [IBM Edge2014 conference], IBM's premiere conference for System Storage and related products, I attended EdgeTalks: Innovation That Impacts Our World that offered a series of inspiring talks styled after the famous [TED] conferences.
Surjit Chana, IBM Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and VP of Strategy for IBM Systems and Technology Group, served as emcee to introduce the speakers.
Ron Finley, Renegade Gardener
Back in 2003, "South Central" was [renamed to South Los Angeles]. But as everyone in IT knows, merely renaming something doesn't fix any of its problems. Ron was tired of seeing empty lots filled with old mattresses, used condoms and discarded tires, and wanted to beautify his immediate surroundings by planting vegetables in his front yard.
Ron's army of volunteers, the [L.A. Green Grounds], filed a petition. As of October 2013, it is now legal to grow food on your parkway in Los Angeles.
Ron explained that South Los Angeles is a [food desert], where it is nearly impossible to get healthy, organic food. He is concerned the "drive-thrus" of fast food restaurants kill more of his neighbors than [drive-by] shootings.
Ron has discovered this problem is not limited to Los Angeles. The American food system is designed to fill you with processed food and chemicals, made worse by a health care system happy to cut you open or prescribe you more chemicals and drugs. Everywhere processed food goes, chronic disease follows. The USA exports obesity to the rest of the world.
"To change a community, and you must first change the composition of the soil." -- Ron Finley
The rise in cancer, diabetes, and childhood cardiac arrests inspired Ron to start the [Ron Finley Project] consisting of community farms, a marketplace that accepts EBT, SNAP and other government food programs, and portable "container cafes" based on standard shipping containers that could be placed near a garden to help sell the food grown locally.
John Wilbanks, Chief Commons Officer at Sage Bionetworks and Senior Fellow in Entrepreneurship for Faster Cures
We live in the age of cheap data. John prefers the term "cheap data" rather than "big data". Mapping the first human genome cost $3 Billion USD, now John can get his own genome mapped for about $1200.
John feels this cheap data changes the way we justify our opinions. From baseball scouts to the analytics demonstrated in the movie [Moneyball]. President Barack Obama used social media to help win elections. And cheap data is coming to health and medicine.
John gave an interesting example. A grad student wanted to study alcoholism among undergraduate students. The traditional method would have been to gather privacy permission slips from volunteers. Instead, he "friended" 4,000 undergraduates, and looked on social media containing the [distinctive color of red beer cups] for photos taken on Monday through Wednesday, indicative of a drinking problem. This innovative approach allowed the grad student to complete his research in less than six weeks.
Cheap data doesn't mean we have wisdom. John explained the wrong way of doing things. There are several machine-learning apps for smartphones to check for melanoma. Take a photo of your suspected mole, and the app will determine if it detects skin cancer, and recommend a biopsy. Incentives to sell apps, and to perform biopsies, result in 90 percent false positive rates. There is no financial incentive to improve accuracy.
Sharing is the innovation that converts cheap data into wisdom. Get the world's smartest people to compete to create wisdom. Collaborating with IBM on Dialogue for Reverse Engineering Assessments and Methods [DREAM] platform, a competition for modeling breast cancer was launched. Requiring all participants to share their code in real-time allowed the accuracy of the model to jump three orders of magnitude in just nine days. Over 60 teams participated. The winning team was awarded an article and cover of [Science Translational Medicine] magazine.
John feels that there are very few genius [data scientists] in the world, and they are isolated, hideously overpaid, managing hedge funds or search engines, but would probably rather be looking for cures for cancer.
Progress is not made if every company only has its own people looking at its own data. John wants data to shared amongst the world's scientists to create wisdom. However collaboration flies in the face of the competition that all the reward systems are based on in health care.
As an experiment, John wanted to make his own genome public. However, that requires "informed consent" for others to use his private health information, and it took him six months of legal and ethical rules to develop a system for him to provide this consent for public use.
In much the same way that gardens and fields were the first [commons] shared by farmers, John feels we need to cultivate the public domain, the "digital commons". This can truly transform medicine and health care.
Peter Singer, Technology Expert and Best-selling Author
The first web page appeared in 1991, and now there are over 30 trillion pages. Over 98 percent of military communications occur over civilian internet communications. The [Internet of Things] adds everything from smart cars to medical devices into the equation.
But along with all the benefits the web has brought society, there are also risks. Every second, nine new pieces of malware are discovered. An astounding 97 percent of Fortune 500 have admitted to being hacked. Over 100 governments have established a cybermilitary force.
(Instead of Powerpoint slides, Peter had a slideshow of his personal collection of the world's best and worst cybersecurity art. Studies show that audiences remember 60 percent more if they are looking at pictures when they hear a speaker.)
While IT folks are good at dealing with both hardware and software, they traditionally don't do well with "wetware", the human side of things. Essential cybersecurity terms and concepts are often misunderstood.
Business leaders over-react to some threats, but completely ignore others. Consider that 70 percent of cybersecurity decisions at companies are made by executives who have no training in cybersecurity. No single MBA program offers cybersecurity courses.
There is a shortage of talent to deal with cybersecurity. Hiring managers are only satisfied with 40 percent of the employees they hire in this Cybersecurity space.
Incentives help explain why some industries like financial services do security well, while others like health care do poorly.
In an effort to find which employees do not take cybersecurity seriously enough, Companies have resorted to sending [phishing] emails to their own employees. Those that click are caught, and must attend mandatory training, or are subject to dismissal. Unfortunately, senior executives are twice as likely to click on phishing emails than the general workforce.
Peter recommends companies focus on resilience. You can never build high enough walls to eliminate threats. Instead, focus on bouncing back after attacks, similar to the anti-bodies in the human body deal with illness.
Ben Franklin said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Peter cited a studied that found proper cyberhygiene would have prevented 94 percent of attacks. The most successful foreign military attack on the U.S. military happened when a soldier saw a memory stick in a parking lot, and was curious enough to connect it to the secure military network to see what it contained.
We need to build an ethic. We teach our kids to cover your mouth when you cough. This does not protect your child in any way, but is an ethic to avoid spreading disease. We need to teach the same ethics related to cybersecurity.
All three were excellent talks focused on innovation. Ron Finley used gardening in otherwise empty urban spaces to help grow people as well as food. John Wilbanks used innovation to help bring the smartest minds to determine models for identifying cancer from genomes. Peter Singer marveled at the innovation of the Internet, and how proper cyberhygiene is needed to keep it secure.
These talks were recorded and available on this [98-minute YouTube video]. For those on Twitter, my handle is @az990tony and the hashtag for this session was #ibmedgetalks.
Continuing my week in Tokyo, Japan, I was going to title this post "Chunks, Extents and Grains", but decidedinstead to use the fairy tale above.
Fellow blogger BarryB from EMC, on his The Storage Anarchist blog, once again shows off his [PhotoShop talents], in his post [the laurel and hardy of thin provisioning]. This time, BarryB depicts fellow blogger and IBM master inventor, Barry Whyte, as Stan Laurel and fellow blogger Hu Yoshida from HDS as Oliver Hardy.
At stake is the comparison in various implementations of thin provisioning among the major storage vendors.On the "thick end", Hu presents his case for 42MB chunks on his post [When is Thin Provisioning Too Thin]. On the "thin end", IBMer BarryW presents the "fine-grained" details of Space-efficient Volumes (SEV), made available with the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC) v4.3, in his series of posts:
BarryB paints both implementations as "extremes" in inefficiency. Some excerpts from his post:
"... Hitachi's "chubby" provisioning is probably more performance efficient with external storage than is the SVC's "thin" approach. But it is still horribly inefficient in context of capacity utilization.
... the "thin extent" size used by Symmetrix Virtual Provisioning is both larger than the largest that SVC uses, and (significantly) smaller than what Hitachi uses."
"free" may be the most expensive solution you can buy...
Before you rush off to put a bunch of SVCs running (free) SEV in front of your storage arrays, you might want to consider the performance implications of that choice. Likewise, for Hitachi's DP, you probably want to understand the impact on capacity utilization that DP will have. DP isn't free, and it isn't very space efficient, either."
BarryB would like you to think that since EMC has chosen an "extent" size between 257KB and 41MB it must therefore be the optimal setting, not too hot, and not too cold. As I mentioned last January in my post[DoesSize Really Matter for Performance?], EMC engineers had not yet decided what that extent size should be, andBarryB is noticeably vague on the current value.According to this [VMware whitepaper],the thin extent size is currently 768 KBin size. Future versions of the EMC Enginuity operating environment may change the thin extent size. (I am sure theEMC engineers are smarter and more decisive than BarryB would lead us to believe!)
BarryB is correct that any thin provisioning implementation is not "free", even though IBM's implementation is offeredat no additional charge. Some writes may be slowed downwaiting for additional storage to be allocated to satisfy the request, and some amount of storage must be set asideto hold the metadata directory to point to all these chunks, extents or grains. For the convenience of not havingto dynamically expand LUNs manually as more space is needed, you will pay both a performance and capacity "price".
However, as they say, the [proof of the pudding is in the eating], or perhaps I should say porridge in this case.Given that the DMX4 is slower than both HDS USP-V and IBM SVC, you won't see EMC publishing industry-standard[SPC benchmarks] using their"thin extent" implementation anytime soon. IBM allows a choice of grain size, from 32KB to 256KB, in an elegantdesign that keeps the metadata directory less than 0.1 to 0.5 percent overhead. I would be surprised if EMC canmake a case to be more efficient than that! The performance tests are stillbeing run, but what I have seen so far, people will be very pleased with the minimal impact from IBM SEV, an acceptable trade-off for improved utilization and reduced out-of-space conditions.
So if you are a client waiting for your EMC equipment to be fully depreciated so you can replace it for faster equipment from IBM or HDS, you can at least improveits performance and capacity utilization today by virtualizing it with IBM SAN Volume Controller.
According to Gartner data (from 2005!), host-based storage accounts for 34 percent of the overall market for external storage, with the remaining 66 percent going to "fabric-attached" (network) storage, expect this share to grow from 66 percent to 77 percent by 2007.What is the current reality? SAN vs. NAS, FC vs iSCSI?
IBM subscribes to a lot of data from different analysts, they all have their methods for collecting this data, from taking surveys of customers to reviewing financial results of each vendor. While theymight not agree entirely, there are some common threads that lead one to believe they represent "reality". Hereare some numbers from an IDC December 2007 report:
Worldwide Disk Storage
While the 32/68 split is similar to the 34/66 split you mentioned before, you can see that external growth isgrowing faster, so internal host-based storage will drop to 25 percent by 2011, with external storage growing to 75 percent, very close to the 77 predicted. Looking at just the externaldisk storage, there are basically three kinds: DAS (direct cable attachment), NAS (file level protocols suchas NFS, CIFS, HTTP and FTP), and SAN (block-level protocols like FC, iSCSI, ESCON and FICON):
Worldwide External Disk Storage
At these rates, fabric-attached (SAN and NAS) will continue to dominate the storage landscape.Looking more closely now at the block-oriented protocols.
Worldwide External Disk Storage
Fibre Channel (FC)
At these rates, iSCSI will overtake FC by 2011. IBM System Storage N series, DS3300 and XIV Nextraall support iSCSI attachment.
Jon Toigo over at DrunkenData offers some additional data from ex-STKer:[Fred Moore Outlook on Storage 2008]. I met Fredat a conference. He had left STK back in 1998, and started his own company called Horison. NeitherJon nor Fred cite the sources of his statistics, but the following comment leads me to assume hehasn't been paying attention closely to the tape market:
With the demise of STK, who will be the leader in the tape industry?
Depending on how old you are, you might remember exactly where you were when a significant eventoccurred, for example the[Space Shuttle Challenger]explosion. For many IBMers, it was the day our friends at Sun Microsystems announced they were [puttingour lead tape competitor out of its misery]. I was in New York that day, but there was still someconfetti on the floor in the halls of the IBM Tucson lab when I got home a few days later. IBM hasbeen the number one market share leader in tape for over the past four years.
Wrapping up my week teaching Top Gun class in Sydney, Australia, I could not resist taking a photo of the cityscape.
Sydney is a beautiful city, and the view from the 13th floor of the IBM Centre at St. Leonards in North Sydney is always worth a picture!
Vic, Scott and I all have engineering backgrounds, so it is easy for us to drop down into the technical weeds in discussing each product and solution. However, the student feedback from both Auckland and Sydney was that some of our material was just too technical.
Do they plan to store and process their data in house? IBM's [focus on Cloud is paying off], and IBM SmartCloud offerings might make a lot of sense for many clients.
Do they plan to centralize their IT? Some companies centralize all of their IT, and others distribute the decision-making to departments, remote office and branch office locations. For the latter, use the ROBO approach to selling.
Do they prefer one-stop shopping? In my now infamous post [Supermarkets and Specialty Shops], I mentioned research that found our clients fall into two camps. Those that favor one-stop shopping from IBM, HP, Cisco, Dell or Oracle, versus those that prefer to buy from the many IT equivalent of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers like EMC, HDS, or NetApp. For those clients that fall in the latter camp, focus on IBM's best-of-breed products.
IT Supermarket competition? The final group are clients that prefer one-stop shopping, but have not yet made up their mind between IBM versus the [IBM wannabees]. Focus on IBM's synergy between storage, servers, software, switches and services.
Last week, we celebrated Joe's birthday in Auckland. This week, it was Vic's turn, so we went to the Garfish restaurant at Manly beach. Here we are with bacon-enhanced oysters.
The four-day class finished Thursday afternoon, and I went out with some of the students to celebrate their graduation. I started with beers at the Cabana, then wine at [the Ivy Room], and finally dinner at Uccello on the rooftop [Pool Club]. Dinner was awesome: pork sausage-stuffed olives to start, roasted chicken with polenta, and finally a capuccino to finish the meal.
I would have never found these places on my own, and the students provided me some interesting feedback about the class and how to improve it.
I am saddened to learn that one of my favorite comedians, [George Carlin],passed away yesterday. He was famous for a skit about "seven words" you could not say on Television.A few of those came to mind in the response I got from my post[Yes, Jon,There is a mainframe that can help replace 1500 x86 servers, which attempted to provide an answerto a simple question about the IBM System z10 Enterprise Class (EC) mainframe.
Jon: So, where is the 1500 number coming from? Tony: I’ll investigate and get back to you.
My post tried to explain how IBM estimated that number. However, my fellow blogger from Sun, Jeff Savit, posted on his blog [No, there isn't a Santa Claus] in response. (If Sun'sshareholders are expecting anything other than a [lump of coal] under the tree this year, they should probablyread Sun's press release about their last [financial results].)A few others contacted me about this also, from a bunch of rather different angles, from reverse-engineering emulation of other company's chipsets to my use of internal codenames. (There are now MORE than seven words I can't type in this blog!) Jon is just trying to gather information, but his [head hurts] from all of this debate.
This week I will try to clarify some of the confusion.
(Note: I have been informed that this week the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has [announced an update] to its
[16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising]. As if it were not obvious enough already, I must emphasize that I work for IBM, IBM provides me all the equipment and related documentation that I need for me to blog about IBM solutions, and that I am paid to blog as part of my job description. Both my boss and I agree I am not paid enough, but that is another matter. Beginning December 1, 2009, all positive mentions of IBM products, solutions and services on this blog might be considered a "celebrity endorsement" by the FTC and others under these new guidelines. Negative mentions of IBM products are probably typos.)
At a conference once, a presenter discussing tips and techniques about public speaking told everyone to be
aware that everyone in the audience is "tuned into radio station WIIFM" (What's In It For Me). If a member of the audience cannot figure out why the information being presented is relevant to them individually, they may not pay attention for long. Likewise, when it comes to archiving data for long term retention, I think we have many people are tuned into KEFM (the Keep Everything Forever methodology). Two classic articles from Drew Robb on the subject are [Can Data Ever Be Deleted?] and [Experts Question 'Keep Everything' Philosophy].
(Note: For those of my readers who do not live in the US, most radio stations start with
the letter "K" if they are on the left half of the country, and "W" if they are on the right half. See
Thomas H. White's [Early Radio History] to learn more.)
Contrary to popular belief, IBM would rather have their clients implement a viable archive strategy than just mindlessly buying more disk and tape for a "Keep Everything Forever" methodology. Keeping all information around forever can be a liability, as data that you store can be used against you in a court of law. It can also make it difficult to find the information that you do need, because the sheer volume of information to sort through makes the process more time consuming.
The problem with most archive storage solutions is that they are inflexible, treating all data the same under a common set of rules. The IBM Information Archive is different. You can have up to three separate "collections".
Each collection can have its own set of policies and rules. You can have a collection that is locked down
for compliance with full Non-Erasable, Non-Rewriteable (NENR) enforcement, and another collection that allows
full read/write/delete capability.
Each collection can consist of either files or objects. Unlike other storage devices that force you to convert files into objects, or objects into files for their own benefit.
IBM Information Archive is scalable enough to support up to a billion of either files or objects per collection.
Each collection can span storage tiers, even across disk and tape resources.
Object collections are accessed using IBM System Storage Archive Manager (SSAM) application programming interface (API). People who use IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) archive or IBM System Storage DR550 are already familiar with this interface. An object can represent the archived slice of a repository, a set of rows from a database, a collection of emails from an individual mailbox user, etc.
File collections can be used for any type of data you would store on a NAS device. This includes databases, email repositories, static Web pages, seismic data, user documents, spreadsheets, presentations, medical images, photos, videos, and so on.
The IBM Information Archive solution was designed to work with a variety of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software, and is part of the overall IBM Smart Archive strategy.
Bruce Allen from BR Allen Associates LLC, an IT technology strategy and consulting firm, has written an excellent 9-page White Paper contrasting IBM and EMC's latest strategies. Here are some key excerpts:
"The term “information infrastructure” is over 40 years old, but its characteristics and requirements in today’s world are quite new indeed. Specifically, federating all storage enterprise wide, consolidating and standardizing onto virtualized, high-capacity media, and enabling dynamic, cloud-ready provisioning are among the major new IT challenges. Moreover, continued explosive storage growth demands that a systematic approach be crafted to address the full spectrum of current and future (information) compliance, availability, retention and security goals. For many customers, this transformation must occur amidst a storage growth rate of 50%-70% CAGR.
...IBM’s Information Infrastructure focus is a core element and foundational pillar in its Dynamic Infrastructure and New Intelligence initiatives, both well defined and tightly coupled to an umbrella vision and strategy called “Smarter Planet.” It is also important to remember that IBM has its own vast, internal infrastructure, and is transforming it in the same manner prescribed to customers. IBM’s increased investment in solution centers and expertise to develop and test drive customer solutions demonstrates its resolve in this area.
...In contrast, storage vendor EMC references information infrastructure as half of its bifurcated strategy,1 with virtualization being the other half. The two are represented by slightly overlapping circles, and interestingly, these two circles essentially mirror the EMC organization. ...Analysis of both the strategy and the organization indicates a continued strong product focus, a stark contrast to IBM’s strategy that puts solutions first and products second.
...IBM’s Information Infrastructure strategy and portfolio takes a more holistic approach and appears to be shifting its own organizations and partners from pure product focus to a true solution orientation that more directly addresses customer needs. ...IBM views these elements as integral to any information-led transformation, but its competitors fall well short in this arena.
...As a system vendor, IBM clearly has a more in-depth set of offerings and a more elegant strategy and vision for providing a dynamic information environment than its competitors. None of the other system vendors have made the strides, or the investments, that IBM has.
...Because of its size and breadth, IBM uniquely has all of the pieces, and also has a vast information infrastructure of its own to build and manage. IBM often uses its internal systems to showcase new capabilities, as shown in these examples:
In an early cloud computing production pilot, IBM was able to reduce costs by managing more than 92,000 worldwide users with one storage cloud and one delivery team. Lessons learned from this deployment helped IBM establish cloud computing requirements for today’s products and services.
In 2009, IBM deployed a unified, centralized customer support portal for all technical support tools and information. The portal unifies all IBM systems, software, and services support sites, including those from recent acquisitions. By leveraging its own portal, database, and storage technology, IBM was able to consolidate multiple support sites into a single portal. The new portal dramatically simplifies the user experience for clients with multiple IBM products, while helping IBM control infrastructure costs.
...a key difference between IBM and EMC is IBM’s orientation to total-solution provisioning, not just for one application at a time, but for the entire set of infrastructure needs that customers have. To ensure this, a clearly articulated strategy and vision keeps IBM’s focus on the bigger picture as it addresses each customer’s requirements.
...Efforts tied to cloud computing have helped vendor organizations to work together better toward composite and integrated solutions, but the vague specifications and lack of immediate revenue keep most vendor sales organizations focused on their respective products. The only other way to address the challenges of integrating people and technology as described above is to put a clear strategy in place with specific tactical goals and objectives. This is where IBM leads the industry in making demonstrable progress in building solutions that achieve the goals of its dynamic infrastructure model and strategy.
...IBM is in a unique position to deliver and support the full information infrastructure “stack” and address all of its clients’ information-centric challenges. The combination of IBM’s storage technology, information management products, aggressive financing, and best-of-breed integrated services supported by world-class expertise and proven experience, provide the building blocks for the world’s strongest information infrastructure portfolio.
Mr. Allen also discusses the successes of two real client examples, Virginia Commonwealth University Health Systems (VCUHS), and INTTRA, the largest multi-carrier e-commerce platform for the ocean shipping industry.
In yesterday's post, [IBM Information Infrastructure launches today], I explained how this strategic initiative fit into IBM's New EnterpriseData Center vision. For those who prefer audio podcasts, here is Marissa Benekos interviewing Andy Monshaw, IBM General Manager of IBM System Storage.
This post will focus on Information Availability, the first of the four-part series this week.
Here's another short 2-minute video, on Information Availability
I am not in marketing department anymore, so have no idea how much IBM spentto get these videos made, but hate for the money to go wasted. I suspect theonly way they will get viewed is if I include them in my blog. I hope youlike them.
As with many IT terms, "availability" might conjure up different meanings for different people.
Some can focus on the pure mechanics of delivering information. An information infrastructure involves all of thesoftware, servers, networks and storage to bring information to the application or end user, so all of the chainsin the link must be highly available: software should not crash, servers should have "five nines" (99.999%) uptime, networks should be redundant, and storage should handle the I/O request with sufficient performance. For tape libraries, the tape cartridge must be available, robotics are needed to fetch the tape, and a drive must be available toread the cartridge. All of these factors represent the continuous operations and high availability features of business continuity.
In addition to the IT equipment, you need to make sure your facilities that support that equipment, such aspower and cooling, are also available.Independent IT analyst Mark Peters from Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) summarizes his shock about the findings in a recent [survey commissioned by Emerson Network Power]on his post [Backing Up Your Back Up]. Here is an excerpt:
"The net take-away is that the majority of SMBs in the US do not have back-up power systems. As regional power supplies get more stretched in many areas, the possibility of power outages increases and obviously many SMBs would be vulnerable. Indeed, while the small business decision makers questioned for the survey ranked such power outages ahead of other threats (fires, government regulation, weather, theft and employee turnover) only 39% had a back-up power system. Yeah, you could say, but anything actually going wrong is unlikely; but apparently not, as 79% of those surveyed had experienced at least one power outage during 2007. Yeah, you might say, but maybe the effects were minor; again, apparently not, since 42% of those who'd had outages had to actually close their businesses during the longest outages. The DoE says power outages cost $80 billion a year and businesses bear 98% of those costs."
Others might be more concerned about outages resulting from planned and unplanned downtime. Storage virtualizationcan help reduce planned downtime, by allowing data to be migrated from one storage device to another withoutdisrupting the application's ability to read and write data. The latest "Virtual Disk Mirroring" (VDM) feature of the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller takes it one stepfurther, providing high-availability even for entry-level and midrange disk systems managed by the SVC.For unplanned downtime, IBM offers a complete range of support, from highly available clusters, two-site and three-site disaster recovery support, and application-aware data protection through IBM Tivoli Storage Manager.
Many outages are caused by human error, and in many cases it is the human factor that prevent quick resolution.Storage admins are unable to isolate the failing component, identify the configuration or provide the appropriateproblem determination data to the technical team ready to offer support and assistance. For this, IBM TotalStorageProductivity Center software, and its hardware-version the IBM System Storage Productivity Center, can helpreduce outage time and increase information availability. It can also provide automation to predict or provideearly warning of impending conditions that could get worse if not taken care of.
But perhaps yet another take on information availability is the ability to find and communicate the right informnationto the right people at the right time. Recently, Google announced a historic milestone, their search engine nowindexes over [One trillion Web pages]!Google and other search engines have changed the level of expectations for finding information. People ask whythey can find information on the internet so quickly, yet it takes weeks for companies to respond to a judge foran e-discovery request.
Lastly, the team at IBM's[Eightbar blog] pointedme to Mozilla Lab's Ubiquity project for their popular FireFox browser. This project aims to help people communicate the information in a more natural way, rather than unfriently URL links on an email. It is still beta, of course, but helps show what "information availability" might be possible in the near future.Here is a 7-minute demonstration:
For those who only read the first and last paragraphs of each post, here is my recap:Information Availability includes Business Continuity and Data Protection to facilitatequick recovery, storage virtualization to maximize performance and minimize planned downtime, infrastructure management and automation to reduce human error, and the ability to find and communicate information to others.
Soon, the U.S. is switching on-air television signals from analog to digital format. The switch-over happensFebruary 17, 2009. According to the [Federal Communications Commission], Americans haveuntil this Monday, March 31, to request up to two 40-dollar coupons towards the purchase of digital-to-analog converter boxesso that the on-air digital signals can be used with existing analog-only television equipment.
(For my readers outside the United States, a bit of background explanation may be necessary. Americans consider access to television a self-evident and unalienable right.According to a Pew Research report[Luxury or Necessity?] 64 percent of Americansconsider a television set a necessity, and 33 percent consider paid providers, like cable or satellite, a necessity.Even prisoners in U.S. jails are allowed to watch television!)
Taking advantage of the "Y2K crisis" like nature of this 2/17/2009 deadline, paid providers have been advertisingthat this deadline only applies to on-air customers. Those who have cable or satellite can continue to use theiranalog equipment. I have been a subscriber for Cox Cable for some time, and my parents recently made the switchas well. Two weeks ago, however, my parents called me in a panic. Cox Cable chose to move one channel, TurnerClassic Movies (TCM), over from their analog line-up over to their digital line-up. They thought this wasn't goingto happen until 2/17/2009! They asked me to investigate and provide them alternative options.
I spoke to a Cox Cable representative.
Did Turner force Cox Cable to do this? Did they digitize their entire collection of movies? No, Cox Cable is choosing to send the TCM signal over the digital bandwidth, and they are converted back to analog by their set-top box.
Do customers who now get one less channel get a discount? No, same price, less service.
Why move a single channel over? Eventually, everything is going digital, and this is a small "baby step" to getpeople to switch over.
But TCM is a collection of grainy, black-and-white movies from the 1950s and 1960s, it is probably the channelthat gets the least benefit to convert to digital. Why choose TCM specifically? TCM is "commercial-free" so providesno additional revenue opportunity. Moving this to digital frees up an analog channel to run a new "on demand" servicethat could generate additional revenue for Cox Cable.
What would it take in terms of additional cost and equipment to watch the TCM in digital?A set-top digital box from Cox Cable, which costs one-time 10 dollars to install by a professional technician, plus 11 dollars per month for the extra "service" provided.
Do I need a High-Def television set or other equipment? No, the digital signal for TCM is standard format, so no HD equipment required.
I currently split my cable signal, so that I can watch one channel and record another, or record two separate channels at the same time, using a standard format VCR and Tivo, can I continue to do this with the digital set-top box? Yes, absolutely.
I decided to give it a try, and a technician was scheduled to perform the installation last Sunday, which was Easter holiday for some people. The technician was able to connect the set-top box directly to my television set, but thesignal is converted to a single "Channel 3", forcing the use of a separate Cox Cable remote control unit to set the channel on the set-top box. He set the set-top box to TCM (channel 199) and showed that the TCM channel was now available again.
How would my VCR or Tivo record anything? You have to set the set-top box manually to the appropriate channel desired, then set the VCR or Tivo to record "Channel 3".
How would I record one channel while watching another? That does not appear possible with this set-top box. If we split before entering the set-top box, then that equipment would get the analog channels only, not TCM.
How about recording two different channels concurrently? No way.
I feel bad for the technician. He spent two hours on his Easter Sunday to install service that I was told by theirsales rep would work with my equipment, only to find out it won't and he ended up having to take it all back out andcancel the work order. He doesn't even get paid overtime for this.
So, I am back to where I was before, analog channels minus the TCM channel. However, the lesson is clear, eventuallyeverything is going to digital, and people may not realize what this means to them.
[Earth Day] is celebrated in many countries on April 22, which marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Others celebrate this on the March equinox.
IBM has finally aggregated everything that we are doing around "Green" initiatives onto a single[IBM Green] landing page. This has everything from IBM's own activities as well as what we sell to our clients.
Also, to mark this occasion, IBM held an internal contest for employees to make videos about Earth Day,the environment, and IT's role in making the situation better. The grand prize winner, and 10 secondprize winners, are available on this [IBM Green Contest - YouTube channel].Of these, I liked "New Life for Old Silicon" (shown here on the left).
IBM also developed [Power Up, the Game], which is theEarth Day Network's "official" game for today's festivities. It's a 3-D game created by IBM Research to help save a fictitious planet - the goal being to help students learn about ecology and climate change. This game is also hoped to motivate young students to get interested in math, scienceand technology.Eightbar has a great post [PowerUp - A serious game out inthe wild] discussing this.Here's also a 3-minute[the making of "Power Up, the game" video] to geta behind-the-scenes look.The game is a downloadable Windows client that then connects to the main servers to run.
Continuing my week's theme on how bad things can get following the "Do-it-yourself" plan, I start with James Rogers' piece in Byte and Switch, titled[Washington Gets E-Discovery Wakeup Call]. Here's an excerpt:
"A court filing today reveals there may be gaps in the backup tapes the White House IT shop used to store email. It appears that messages from the crucial early stages of the Iraq War, between March 1 and May 22, 2003, can't be found on tape. So, far from exonerating the White House staffers, the latest turn of events casts an even harsher light on their email policies.
Things are not exactly perfect elsewhere in the federal government, either. A recent [report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)] identified glaring holes in agencies’ antiquated email preservation techniques. Case in point: printing out emails and storing them in physical files."
You might think that laws requiring email archives are fairly recent. For corporations, they began with laws like Sarbanes-Oxley that the second President Bush signed into law back in 2002. However, it appears that laws for US Presidents to keep their emails were in force since 1993, back when the first President Clinton was in office. (we might as all get used to saying this in case we have a "second" President Clinton next January!)
"The Federal Record Act requires the head of each federal agency to ensure that documents related to that agency's official business be preserved for federal archives. The Watergate-era Presidential Records Act augmented the FRA framework by specifically requiring the president to preserve documents related to the performance of his official duties. A [1993 court decision] held that these laws applied to electronic records, including e-mails, which means that the president has an obligation to ensure that the e-mails of senior executive branch officials are preserved.
In 1994, the Clinton administration reacted to the previous year's court decision by rolling out an automated e-mail-archiving system to work with the Lotus-Notes-based e-mail software that was in use at the time. The system automatically categorized e-mails based on the requirements of the FRA and PRA, and it included safeguards to ensure that e-mails were not deliberately or unintentionally altered or deleted.
When the Bush administration took office, it decided to replace the Lotus Notes-based e-mail system used under the Clinton Administration with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. The transition broke compatibility with the old archiving system, and the White House IT shop did not immediately have a new one to put in its place.
Instead, the White House has instituted a comically primitive system called "journaling," in which (to quote from a [recent Congressional report]) "a White House staffer or contractor would collect from a 'journal' e-mail folder in the Microsoft Exchange system copies of e-mails sent and received by White House employees." These would be manually named and saved as ".pst" files on White House servers.
One of the more vocal critics of the White House's e-mail-retention policies is Steven McDevitt, who was a senior official in the White House IT shop from September 2002 until he left in disgust in October 2006. He points out what would be obvious to anyone with IT experience: the system wasn't especially reliable or tamper-proof."
So we have White House staffers manually creating PST files, and other government agencies printing out their emails and storing them in file cabinets. When I first started at IBM in 1986, before Notes or Exchange existed, we used PROFS on VM on the mainframe, and some of my colleagues printed out their emails and filed them in cabinets. I can understand how government employees, who might have grown up using mainframe systems like PROFS, might have just continued the practice when they switched to Personal Computers.
Perhaps the new incoming White House staff hired by George W. Bush were more familiar with Outlook and Exchange, and ratherthan learning to use IBM Lotus Notes and Domino, found it easier just to switch over. I am not going to debatethe pros and cons of "Lotus Notes/Domino" versus "Microsoft Outlook/Exchange" as IBM has automated email archiving systems that work great for both of these, as well as also for Novell Groupwise. So, taking the benefit of the doubt,when President Bush took over, he tossed out the previous administration's staff, and brought in his own people, andlet them choose the office productivity tools they were most comfortable with.Fair enough, happens every time a new President takes office. No big surprise there.
However, doing this without a clear plan on how to continue to comply with the email archive laws already on the books, and that it continues to be bad several years later, is appalling. I can understand why business are upset in deploying mandated archiving solutions when their own government doesn't have similar automation in place.