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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Specialist for the IBM System Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2011, Tony celebrated his 25th year anniversary with IBM Storage on the same day as the IBM's Centennial. 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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I didn't really have a theme this week, still recovering from jet-lag from my travels through Japan, Australia, China.
Gary Diskman has an amusing blog entry about a Funny disaster recovery job posting. It is not clear if he is being completely tongue-in-cheek, or a bit cynical. However, it rings true that you get what you measure, and some managers look for easy metrics, even if there are unintended consequences.
Western medicine works this way. Rather than paying your doctor to keep you healthy, you pay him per visit, to get refills on prescriptions, check-ups on medical conditions, surgeries and so on. While Eastern medicine is focused on keeping people healthy, Western medicine profits more from resolving "situations".
I have seen similar situations on the "health" of the data center. In one case, the admins were measured on how quickly they bring back up their web-servers after a crash. They had this process down to a science, because they were measured on how quickly they resolved the situation. I suggested switching from Windows to Linux, a much more reliable operating system for web-serving, and showed examples of web-servers running Linux that have been up for 1000 days or more. Management changed the metrics to "average up-time in days" and magically the re-boots all but disappeared, thanks to Linux, but also thanks in part to shifting the incentive structure. Perhaps some of those earlier situations were "artificially created"?
Back in the 1980s, I was working on a small software project that was about 5000 lines of code. In those days, testers were measured by the number of "successful" testcases that ran without incident. Testcases that uncovered an error were labeled as "failures" to be re-run after the developers fixed the code. When I declared my code ready for test, the test team ran 110 testcases, all successfully, and they were all rewarded for meeting their schedule. I, on the other hand, did not accept these results, met with them and told them I would give them $100 each if they could find a bug in my code in the next week. Nobody writes 5000 lines of code without some error along the way, not even me. (As one author put it, more people have left earth's gravity to orbit the planet than have written perfect code that did not require subsequent review or testing. It's so true. Good software is difficult to write.)
The test team accepted the challenge, and found 6 problems, more than I expected, but at least I felt more confident of the code quality after fixing these. As I suspected, the unintended consequence of counting "successful" testcases was that testers would write the most simple, basic, least-likely-to-challenge-boundaries testcases to ensure they meet their numbers. My experiment was costly to me, but more importantly was a wake-up call for the test management, and they realized they needed to re-evaluate their test procedures, metrics and terminology. This was a long time ago, and I am glad to see that the overall "software engineering" practice has matured much over the past 20 years.
So, my advice is to determine metrics that have the intended consequences you want, while avoiding any negative unintented consequences that might undermine your eventual success. People will quickly figure out how to maximize the results, and if you can align their goals to company goals, then everybody benefits.
Well, I'll be blogging from Mexico next week (yes, it is a business trip!). Enjoy the weekend.
On the news today, they mentioned it was "Happy Pi Day". Today is the 14th day of the 3rd month, and "pi" is about 3.14159, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. So, in Tucson it is celebrated on 3/14, at 1:59pm MST.
The ratio has a lot to do with storage.
Tape wrapped around a hub. Tape is thin, but not completely, so wrapping hundreds of meters on tape results in a change in diameter of the spool. This impacts the rotational velocity needed to get the linear meters-per-second on the tape media consistent as the diameter changes when you wind down from a full spindle toward the hub. IBM has variable speed motors and other clever technologies to handle this adjustment.
Disks spin at consistent speeds, but tracks on the outside edge travel faster across the head than the inside tracks.Currently, the top speeds for disk are 15000 Revolutions per minute (RPM). As faster rotational speeds are investigated, the researchers find they need to make the diameters smaller to compensate.
The diameters of disks were based on "U", the unit height of standard 19" racks. A "U" is 1.75 inches, and standard floppy diskettes were 5.25 inch (3U) and 3.5 inch (2U). For those who have a difficult time remember how many inches a "U" is, it is the height of a standard two-by-four (2x4) piece of lumber.
The value of "pi" has been calculated to over a billion significant digits. Here is a cuteapplet to use if you ever need the value to any level of accuracy.
ESG Analyst, Tony Asaro, talks about the many small storage startups having aBillion Dollar Impact on the storage system industry. Tony has counted over50 storage system vendors that are now in the marketplace. Is it really that many?Most of the time, the media only focus on the top seven major players, but I agree that big players like IBM should take trends about small startups like this seriously.
EMC Blogger Chuck Hollis suggests that this trend might be the start of a squeeze play, where top players and new upstarts squeeze out the middle playerslike Sun and HDS, in his postDesperate Times In Storage Land?
(His statement that IDC and Gartner have listed EMC as number one in "almost all"market segments is perhaps a bit misleading. IBM is number one in overall storage hardware, as wellas leading in tape drives, tape libraries, tape virtualization, and for that matter,disk virtualization. I don't know if IDC or Gartner count EMC Disk Library in the "tape virtualization" category, or if either analyst distinguishes between "cache-based" versus "switch-based" disk virtualization as separate categories.Perhaps Chuck should have qualified this to say "almost all of themarket segments that EMC does business in," which of course is better than the othervendors in the middle.)
This week I was in Palm Springs in meetings with clients, prospects, business partners and IBM sales reps.
Tuesday consisted of "outdoor meetings", but the high winds caused some people to arrive late, and others to land in the various sand traps and water hazards. A "welcome reception" event allowed everyone to socialize and get to know the IBM experts and executives. Two of my colleagues, Mike Stanek and Dave Wyatt, were with me also in Australia last week, and so the three of us were discussing recovery from jet lag.
Wednesday was organized as a main tent event, where everyone met into one large room to hear our strategy,latest set of offerings, and customer testimonials. This was done indoors, of course, which was a good thing as the winds were now gusting up to 50 miles per hour, knocking over windmills and making the local news.
Here's a quick sample from the testimonials:
An insurance company virtualized their IBM DS8000, DS4000, ESS 800 and EMC DMX3 high-end disk with theIBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller and got higher availability and performance. Data migrationefforts that used to take six(6) hours of admin time now took less than one hour, and with no system downtime.They have a total of 350TB virtualized under SVC now, but plan to extend this for a variety of other projects.
A bank presented their success using "Global Mirror" (IBM's asynchronous two-site replication disk mirroring capability).Their previous "business continuity" plan was called 2-20-24 for 2 sites that were 20 miles apart and recovery time objective (RTO) of 24 hours. With the events of Hurricane Katrina, this was considered inadequate, and a new2-200-6 plan was requested, across 200 miles with a recovery time objective of only 6 hours. The chose to deploythis one application at a time, to learn and grow by experience in each phase. They started with Microsoft Exchange e-mail application running under VMware on BladeCenter servers, and wereable to recover remotely within 1 hour. They are now looking to refine and automate the recovery process, perhapswith IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center for Replication and Geographically Dispersed Open Clusters (GDOC).
A healthcare provider presented their success with tiered storage, managing a 475TB mix of IBM DS8000, DS6000,DS4000 and HP EVA disk arrays. The key was having centralized storage management from IBM, which allowedthem to shrink provisioning time from 3 weeks average, to now 96% of their storage provisioning requests are completedin less than 1 week. Moving data between storage tiers was non-disruptive, and the significantcosts savings greatly justified the change in "mindset" that required some training on the new environment.
Thursday we offered a series of "workshops" on specific topics. These were interactive sessions to discuss installation, design and deployment of various solutions. The event ended early enough so that people couldreturn home, or go to the practice range, which reminded me of this inspiring video on How to play golf as well as Tiger Woods.
The event got great reviews, and I look forward to the next one. Until then, enjoy the weekend!
Continuing this week's theme on Storage Area Networks, today I thought I would talkabout the various terms we use for our equipment.
One area of confusion are the adjectives "entry-level", "midrange" and "enterprise-class".What do these mean? Well, as in the case of disk and tape, these three are all relative terms that are a combination of "small, medium, large" as well as "good, better, best".
Entry-level switches are typically only a maximum of 8-16 ports.Ports can connect the switch to a server, a storage device, or another switch.These are sometimes called "edge" switches, as they might be found in the mostremote sections of an office campus, remote branches, or other isolated areasoutside the primary data center.
Midrange switches typically have a maximum of 32-64 ports.More ports on a single switch means fewer switches (and fewer cables) to manage.
These are called "directors" to distinguish them from entry-level and midrange offerings.Directors have a maximum of 140-528 ports, and because so many devices or switches can beconnected to them, they need to be extremely reliable. Directors are designed for 24x7operation, with the ability to make most upgrades and configuration changes while the boxis running (often referred to as "non-disruptive upgrades"). Availability is typically better than "five nines", or 99.999 percent, which means that the box will be up 99.999 percent of the time, or conversely, will be down lessthan 5 minutes per year.
If you are asking yourself "which size is right for my company?" or "is my company big enoughfor a director?" you are asking the wrong questions! Instead, determine a SAN configurationthat meets your workload, and then decide the components for that design.
McData coined a phrase called "core/edge" design that is considered today as "Best Practice" throughout the industry.A good write-up can be found here at SearchStorage.com. Basically, you put your big beefy "core" directors in the center of the room, and then surround it with midrange switches, that then these connect to "edge" switches, that then connect to the servers and storage near them. As you grow, this design can easilyscale to grow with you.
So, if you need help implementing a SAN for the first time, or upgrading the one you have,call IBM, we can help!
In his blog, Paul Gillin agrees with Time Magazine's Person of the Year choice of "all of us", those of us who use the World Wide Web to do business or have fun, and to those who contribute to the internet by creating content, such as people who blog or create websites.
So, in continuing my theme this week to recap the best and worst of last year, I list my personal "tech highlights" of 2006.
Programming my Tivo Remotely.
Last September, I realized on a 3-week business trip that I had not programmed my Tivo to record the premieres of each of the new season's television shows. If you miss the first few weeks, it might be difficult to make sense of the rest of the season. Fortunately, I was able to program my Tivo remotely through the internet.
Purchasing TV shows on iTunes
Despite this, I had a repeat episode of "House" record instead of a new episode of
Still unable to make sense of what was going on in the TV show "Heroes", I was able to read the "wiki" which explained all the subtle imagery and background implied.
Using Linux to rescue lost Windows data
My disk drive failed on my laptop, and although I had most of my data backed up with Tivoli Storage Manager prior to my business trip, I had some files that I acquired or updated during the business trip. Thankfully, there are Linux "LiveCD" images that allow you to access your Windows files. You boot these LiveCD images from your CD drive, so there is no installation of Linux on the hard drive itself. If you travel as much as I do, consider bringing along some Linux CDs to get you out of trouble.
Connecting my home entertainment system to my Mac
I now have an 802.1g (54Mb) wireless hub which allows my Tivo to connect wirelessly to the internet to get daily updates, but also allows me to play all my music stored on my Mac through my home entertainment system, and I can also listen to thousands of radio stations through "Live365.com". My favorite station is "Depeche Mode Inspired" which plays songs by Depeche Mode, as well as cover versions by a variety of others.
Learning to Blog
Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to blog, and this year has been a good learning experience. IBM has a fairly healthy blogging policy, but nonetheless, say the wrong thing and I could be in serious trouble. Fortunately, that hasn't happened, and I am glad to see a fairly open exchange of ideas among the set of bloggers that discuss storage issues.
Building a Snowman in Second Life
I have been a member of Second Life now since November, but it wasn't until I entered a competition to build avirtual snowman last week that the potential of this new interface became obvious to me. There is still lots to learn, but at least now I see value in spending more time and effort learning more about it.
Getting an all-in-one printer/scanner to work with both my Mac and IBM PC
I didn't think it could be done, but here it is, my all-in-one Printer/Scanner works correctly, seemlessly, from both my Windows PC and my Mac Mini, and I have it on my home network so my laptop can use it also, wirelessly!
Using Google Language Tools to translate materials to Portuguese
I speak several languages, enough to order food in restaurants and to get around through various modes of transportation, but translation for a technical audience is more challenging. A class we normally conduct in pure English was taken to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and although most students know some amount of English, we thought it would be good to translate the test questions to Brazillian Portuguese. I took the questions and ran them through a number of translation services websites, and had local IBMers review the results. The winner was Google language tools, which required hardly any edits to the generated text. The class was a big success.
Digital Cameras and CD Burners
As I travelled from Brazil to Bolivia last August, I met a young back-packer who was on her way to Peru, but was staying in La Paz for a few days. We had a great time together, and I was able to transfer the digital photos from my Canon PowerShot digital camera into my laptop and burn her a CD to take with her to Peru.
Painting my Dining Room table
After Halloween, I accidently left my pumpkin jack-o-lantern on my kitchen table as I left for a trip, and when I got back, it had decomposed and left a terrible stain on the wood surface. After sanding the table, I determined that the best course of action was just to paint the surface. I could have just painted it a solid color, or maybe a faux finish with two colors, but instead, chose to copy a famous painting, "Le Cafe" by Alberto Magnelli. I was able to scan this into my computer, resize it, and then project the image onto my table, to then outline the image and paint. I know I would not have been able to do this free-hand.
I am sure there are other triumphs I had throughout the year, but these are the first the come to mind.
A Brief History of SVC and Storwize Family: What, How and Why?
Fellow IBM Master Inventor [and blogger] Barry Whyte gave an excellent session on the past 10 years of development history for IBM SAN Volume Controller and the rest of the Storwize Family based on its binary code. The SAN Volume Controller represents the start of a movement, what is now called "Software-Defined Storage", with a layer of abstraction that completely hides the differences between different back-end devices. The Storwize family is the most successful Software-defined Storage solution in the IT industry!
IBM Cloud Storage Architectures
IBM Clod Barrera presented an updated version of his "Cloud Storage Architecture" pitch from a technical and strategic viewpoint. From 2011 to 2015, external storage spend is increasing 25 percent for public cloud, and 17 percent for private cloud deployments, and that is not including all of the Do-it-yourselfers like Facebook who build their own storage devices from piece parts.
This year, Clod has expanded his "Cloud Storage Taxonomy" to six different categories:
OLTP/transactional, typically block-based
General purpose storage
Ephemeral storage that exists only while a specific virtual machine (VM) is running
Analytics, which tends to be more sequential than random in I/O pattern
IBM is a platinum sponsor of OpenStack, and is proud to have hundreds of contributors assigned to improve this open source initiative.
IBM Linear Tape File System - Enterprise Edition
IBM Ed Childers presented the latest announcement on Linear Tape File System [LTFS]. For a quick recap, IBM first introduced LTFS Standard Drive Edition [LTFS-SDE] in April 2010, which allowed workstations attached to single tape drives to use cartridges much like USB memory sticks. Then, IBM introduced LTFS Library Edition [LTFS-LE] which allows an entire tape library to be mounted as a file system, with each resident tape cartridge listed as a sub-directory.
Now, IBM has LTFS Enterprise Edition, which combines disk-based General Parallel File System [GPFS] with LTFS-LE, resulting in a combined hybrid disk-and-tape file system.
To provide a client's perspective, Konstantin Arnold with Biozentrum, the Life Sciences Research department of the University of Basel, Switzerland and SIB Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics presented some shocking information on their data growth. Biozentrum studies 3D protein folding, with information from the Worldwide Protein Data Bank [PDB] and [UniProt], which combines protein information from Swiss-Prot with manually annotations and TrEMBL computationally analyzed and automatically annotated entries.
Combining lab data, proteomics, deep-sequencing, imaging and high-content analysis, their storage requirements has grown exponentially, from less than 50 TB in 2009, to over 350TB in 2013. With the need to have such a large repository of unstructured data, it made sense to use LTFS-EE for this project!
IBMers presented the use of SAN Volume Controller (SVC) in a "stretch cluster" for a production environment at a bank in the Middle East. Before going into the technical details of the solution, they explained the challenges of running a bank under Sharia law. For example, Sharia law does not allow charging interest rates on borrowed money, but banks can charge fees for services. Debit cards are automatically denied at shops that are "black-listed" such as liquor stores, that are not consistent with the precepts of the Islamic religion.
The SVC implementation was rather straight-forward. IBM has offered Stretch Cluster since 2009 with version 5.1, but it only gained popularity years later when VMware pointed out that this can be used for datacenter to datacenter vMotion activity. The IBM team tested this out with a short 500 meter distance locally, before stretching it out to two locations now implemented. They have three SVC nodes managing 60TB of managed disk capacity at each data center, made up from a mix of DS8870, Storwize V7000 and DS3950 disk systems.
To demonstrate the robustness of the solution, the client requested that the IBM team demonstrate various recovery scenarios while running live in production mode! As you would expect, IBM SVC successfully handled every one.
IBM Cloud Storage with OpenStack and IBM System Storage
IBM Michael Factor presented this overview of OpenStack, and how IBM already supports various aspects of the open source initiative with products like SAN Volume Controller, XIV, and Storwize V7000.
This was the best overview of OpenStack I had heard. IBM is a platinum sponsor of this open source initiative, managed by the [OpenStack Foundation]. In traditional open source fashion, bi-annual releases are given alphabetically-ascending names. The last release was named Folsom, the current release is Grizzly, and the next release planned will be named Havana.
OpenStack is designed to manage your data center or cloud across four capabilities: Compute, Network, Storage and Shared Services. For Compute, the "Nova" project focuses on managing running VM instances, and "Glance" manages VM images that can be launched. The "Networking" project focuses on providing network connectivity. This was formerly called "Quantum", but Quantum (the company) felt there might be some confusion, so it was renamed to just "Networking".
For Storage, there are two projects, "Cinder" and "Swift". Cinder refers to persistent, external block storage, accessible via iSCSI or Fibre Channel. IBM's SAN Volume Controller, XIV and Storwize V7000 already support the Cinder API interface. Swift is focused on "object storage", which can provide an alternative way of storing information for cloud-based applications. SNIA's Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI) is working with OpenStack to bring object storage into the mainstream.
With the Cinder API, applications can create volumes, take snapshots, set quotas, and attach these volumes to VM instances.
I realize there is a big time gap between this post and my last. Where have I been? "Where haven't I been?"... might be the better question! After my week at Edge, I flew from Las Vegas to Sao Paulo, Brazil where various protests delayed my departure, then visited clients in the Midwestern USA, then London to watch a bit of tennis. From there, I flew to Athens, Greece (and yes, more protests!), took some overdue time-off on the beach on various Greek islands, then taught a Storage Top Gun class in Bangalore, India. So, yes, I have been quite busy. I will try to catch up on typing up all my notes from the IBM Edge conference over the next few weeks!
Wrapping up this week's theme on Cloud Computing, I finish with an IBM announcement for two new products to help clients build private cloud environments from their existing Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) deployments.
IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance -- a new hardware appliance that provides access to software virtual images and patterns that can be used as is or easily customized, and then securely deployed, managed and maintained in a private cloud.
IBM WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition -- a version of IBM WebSphere Application Server software optimized to run in a virtualized hardware server environments such as VMware, and comes preloaded in WebSphere Cloudburst.
With more than 7,000 customer implementations worldwide, IBM is the SOA market leader. Of course, both of these products above can be used with IBM System Storage solutions, including Cloud-Optimized Storage offerings like Grid Medical Archive Solution (GMAS), Grid Access Manager software, Scale-Out File Services (SoFS), and the IBM XIV disk system.
IBM is part of the "Cloud Computing 5" major vendors pushing the envelope (the other four are Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo). In fact, IBM has a number of initiatives that allow customers to leverage IBM software in a cloud. IBM is working in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc. to make IBM software available in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). WebSphere sMash, Informix Dynamic Server, DB2, and WebSphere Portal with Lotus Web Content Management Standard Edition are available today through a "pay as you go" model for both development and production instances. In addition to those products, IBM is also announcing the availability of IBM Mashup Center and Lotus Forms Turbo for development and test use in Amazon EC2, and intends to add WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere eXtreme Scale to these offerings.
For more about IBM's leadership in Cloud Computing, see the IBM [Press Release].
Over 4,000 issues of your favorite magazine now sit, ready for you to search and savor, on an 80GB incredibly lightweight and travel-friendly drive. This high-performance, brushed-aluminum Hard Drive measures only 3x5-inch and can easily fit inside a purse or briefcase so show it off to your tech-savvy friends and co-workers. Plus, there is plenty of extra room on the drive for future updates. Simply install The Complete New Yorker Program (installation CD provided), then connect the drive to a USB port on your Computer and have instant access to every article, poem, short story, and cartoon including every advertisement that has appeared in the magazine since 1925.
System Requirements: Windows 2000 or XP, Mac OS X 10.3 or higher, USB 2.0 port, CD-ROM drive, 750 MB of free hard drive space, 1024 x 768 minimum screen Resolution
The 750MB of disk space required on your system probably contains the indexing/metadata search system to find articles by subject, title or author. Linux is not listed, and if 750MB of disk space are required to run the program, then perhaps this system won't work with Linux at all.
The system claims that there is extra room on the disk to ingest future issues of the magazine. I wonder why they didn't put the indexing/metadata search software on the drive itself, so that it would be self-contained, rather than having a separate installation CD.
I think this is a sign of our times. The New Yorker magazine has taken the archives that they keep anyways, and made them available in bulk, in a handy disk drive delivery system. I know several people who keep boxes and boxes of back issues of all kinds of magazines, and this certainly is an improvement.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means! IBM Announcements!
Starting today, April 1, 2014, the IBM Executive Briefing Centers (EBC) are adopting a new self-hosted model. In the past, each briefing was assigned a "Briefing Host", a member of the EBC staff, who acted as [master of ceremonies] for the day (or more) for the clients. At some locations, if there were three rooms, there would be three or more briefing hosts so that concurrent briefings could be held.
However, the method does not scale. Having a person per briefing means that you are limited to the number of total concurrent briefings. Inspired by self-service provisioning and scalability of the Cloud, IBM has adopted a new methodology.
In the new model, the visiting client rep, sales rep, or IBM Business Partner will be handed instructions and a map. This will include the agenda, the schedule, biographies of each speaker, the locations of the nearest restrooms, and so on.
I can take partial credit for the idea. In 2012, I made the analogy that having briefing centers at each development lab made a lot of sense, because it allowed clients to interact directly with the engineers and executives that made development decisions. I also made the analogy that having a fully-staffed EBC was like a fire department, whether you have five briefings per month, or fifty, you need a team that is ready, staying abreast of the latest technological changes.
In my post, [Like animals in the zoo], I argued there are two kinds of zoos, the self-guided kind, where visitors are handed a map, versus the docent-guided kind, where a member of the zoo staff introduces you to each animal.
The EBC briefing hosts in this analogy were the docents, and the animals that people came to visit were the engineers and executives.
As for the fire department, IBM management flipped the analogy around. They argued that many smaller communities had "volunteer fire departments", eliminating the need to keep full-time employees doing nothing but playing cards and sliding down brass poles in between fire fighting sessions. When a fire happens, phones calls are made, and this will help get everyone notified to get involved.
In my past 28 years at IBM, I have to say that you know you have good analogies when they can be used in both directions. The zoo analogy was used to prevent management from consolidating all of the EBC staff to Austin, TX. The fire department analogy helped us keep all of our lab equipment to run demonstrations.
The new self-hosted model will address both scheduling and scalability issues. We often had two-day and three-day briefings, and scheduling the rooms, and the briefing managers, based on their availability, was quite challenging.
There are three advantages to the new method:
A coordinator will merely assign rooms, no longer worrying if a briefing host is available for those days. Now, each EBC location can run at full capacity, limited only by real estate and floor space.
Subject matter experts, like myself, that often did double-duty serving as briefing hosts as needed, will have more free time. I personally will be doing more "outbound briefings" to attend conferences and visit clients at their location, eliminating the time I need to be in Tucson to host "inbound" briefings.
The awkward silence that happens when the client rep, sales or IBM Business Partner invites all the clients and presenters, but forgets to invite the briefing host, is completely eliminated.