Continuing my business trip through Asia, I have left Chengdu, China, and am now in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
On Sunday, a colleague and I went to the famous Petronas Twin Towers, which a few years ago were officially the tallestbuildings in the world. If you get there early enough in the day, and wait in line for a few hours, you can get a ticket permitting you to go up to the "Skybridge" on the 41st floor that connects the two buildings. The views are stunning, and I am glad to have done this.(If you are afraid of heights, get cured by facing your fears with skydiving)
You would think that a question as simple as "Which is the tallest building in the world?" could easily be answered, given that buildings remain fixed in one place and do not drastically shrink or get taller over time or weather conditions, and the unit of height, the "meter", is an officially accepted standard in all countries, defined as the distance traveled by light in absolute vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.
The controversy stems around two key areas of dispute:
To bring some sanity to these comparisons, the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has tried to standardize the terms and definitions to makecomparisons between buildings fair. Why does all this matter whose building is tallest? It matters in twoways:
What does any of this have to do with storage? Two weeks ago, IBM and the Storage Performance Councilanswered the question "Which is the fastest disk system?" with apress release. Customers thatcare about performance of their most mission critical applications are often willing to pay a premium to run theirapplications on the fastest disk system, and the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller, built through aglobal collaboration of architects and engineers across several countries, is (in my opinion at least) an impressive feat of storage engineering.
EMC bloggerChuck Hollis was the first to question the relevance of these results, and I failed to "turn the other cheek" and responded accordingly. The blogosphere erupted, with more opinions piled on by others, many from EMC andIBM, found in comments on these posts or other blogs, some have since been retracted or deleted, while othersremain for historical purposes.
At the heart of all this opinionated debate, lies a few areas of exploration:
I will try to address some of these issues in a series of posts this week.
technorati tags: IBM, KL, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Petronas, Twin Towers, SkyBridge, tallest, building, structure, tower, fasted, disk, system, SVC, SAN Volume Controller, EMC, Chuck Hollis, SPC, Storage Performance Council
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For those in the US, a comedian named Carlos Mencia has a great TV show, Mind of Menciaand one of my favorite segments is "Why the @#$% is this news!" where he goes about showingblatantly obvious things that were reported in various channels.
So, when I saw that IBM once again, for the third year in a row, has the fastest disk system,the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC), based on widely-accepted industry benc
(Last year, I received comments fromWoody Hutsell, VP of Texas Memory Systems,because I pointed out that their "World's Fastest Storage"® cache-only system, was not as fast as IBM's SVC.You can ready my opinions, and the various comments that ensued, hereand here. )
That all changed when EMC uber-blogger Chuck Hollis forgot his own Lessons in Marketingwhen heposted his rantDoes Anyone Take The SPC Seriously?That's like asking "Does anyone take book and movie reviews seriously?" Of course they do!In fact, if a movie doesn't make a big deal of its "Two thumbs up!" rating, you know it did not sitwill with the reviewers. It's even more critical for books. I guess this latest news from SPC reallygot under EMC's skin.
For medium and large size businesses, storage is expensive, and customers want to do as much research as possible ahead of time to make informed decisions. A lot of money is at stake, and often, once you choose a product, you are stuckwith that vendor for many years to come, sometimes paying software renewals after only 90 days, and hardware maintenance renewals after only a year when the warranty runs out.
Customers shopping for storage like the idea of a standardized test that is representative, so they can compare one vendor's claims with another. The Storage Performance Council (SPC), much like the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC-C) for servers, requires full disclosure of the test environment so people can see what was measured and make their own judgement on whether or not it reflects their workloads. Chuck pours scorn on SPC but I think we should point to TPC-C as a great success story and ask why he thinks the same can't happen for storage? Server performance is also a complicatedsubject, but people compare TPC-C and TPC-H benchmarks all the time.
Note: This blog post has been updated. I am retracting comments that were unfair generalizations. The next two paragraphs are different than originally posted.
Chuck states that "Anyone is free, however, to download the SPC code, lash it up to their CLARiiON, and have at it." I encourage every customer to do this with whatever disk systems they already have installed. Judge for yourself how each benchmark compares to your experience with your application workload, and consider publishing the results for the benefit of others, or at least send me the results, so that I can understand better all of these"use cases" that Chuck talks about so often. I agree that real-world performance measurements using real applications and real data are always going to be more accurate and more relevant to that particular customer. Unfortunately, there are little or no such results made public. They are noticeably absent. With thousands of customers running with storage from all the major storage vendors, as well as storage from smaller start-up companies, I would expect more performance comparison data to be readily available.
In my opinion, customers would benefit by seeing the performance results obtained by others. SPC benchmarks help to fill this void, to provide customers who have not yet purchased the equipment, and are looking for guidance of which vendors to work with, and which products to put into their consideration set.
Truth is, benchmarks are just one of the many ways to evaluate storage vendors and their products. There are also customer references, industry awards, and corporate statements of a company's financial health, strategy and vision.Like anything, it is information to weigh against other factors when making expensive decisions. And I am sure the SPC would be glad to hear of any suggestions for a third SPC-3 benchmark, if the first two don't provide you enough guidance.
So, if you are not delighted with the performance you are getting from your storage now, or would benefit by having even faster I/O, consider improving its performance by adding SAN Volume Controller. SVC is like salt or soy sauce, it makes everything taste better. IBM would be glad to help you with a try-and-buy or proof-of-concept approach, and even help you compare the performance, before and after, with whatever gear you have now. You might just be surprised how much better life is with SVC. And if, for some reason, the performance boost you experience for your unique workload is only 10-30% better with SVC, you are free to tell the world about your disappointment.
technorati tags: Carlos Mencia, Mind of Mencia, IBM, system, storage, SVC, SAN Volume Controller, Storage Performance Council,SPC, benchmarks, Texas Memory Systems, Woody Hutsell, EMC, Chuck Hollis, movie, book, reviews, awards, salt, soy sauce
Continuing this week's theme on Business Continuity, I will use this post to discuss this week'sIBM solid state disk announcement.This new offering provides a new way to separate programs from data, to help minimizedowntime and outages normally associated with disk drive failures.
Until now, the method most people used to minimize the amount of data on internalstorage was to use disk-less servers with Boot-Over-SAN, however, not all operating systems, and not all disk systems, supported this.
Windows, however, is not supported, because of the small 4GB size and USB protocol limitations. For Windows, you would add a SAS drive, you boot from this hard drive, and use the 4GB Flash drive for data only.
So what's new this time? Here's a quick recap of July 17 announcement. For the IBM BladeCenter HS21 XM blade servers, new models of internal "disk" storage:
Until recently, solid state storage was available at a price premium only. Flash prices have dropped 50% annually while capacities have doubled. This trend is expected to continue through 2009.
Flash drives use non-volatile memory instead of moving parts, so less likely to break down during high external environmental stress conditions, like vibration and shock, or extreme temperature ranges (-0C° to +70°C) that would make traditional hard disks prone to failure.This is especially important for our telecommunications clients, who are always looking for solutions that are NEBS Level 3 compliant.
Last year, I mentioned that flash drives could provide only a limited number of write and erase cycles, but today's new advances in wear-leveling algorithms have nearly eliminated this limitation.
As with any SATA drive, performance depends on workload.Solid state drives perform best as OS boot devices, taking only a few secondslonger to boot an OS than from a traditional 73GB SAS drive. Flash drives also excel in applications featuring random read workloads, such as web servers. For random and sequential write workloads, use SAS drives instead for higher levels of performance.
So, even though this is not part of the System Storage product line, I am very excitedfor IBM. To find out if this will work in your environment, go to the IBM Server Provenwebsite that lists compatability with hardware, applications and middleware, or review the latest Configuration and Options Guide (COG).
technorati tags: IBM, Business, Continuity, solid, state, flash, disk, drive, announcement, blade, server, BladeCenter, H21, XM, 4GB, Flash, Memory, Device, USB2.0, Linux, RedHat, RHEL, Novell, SUSE, SLES, Windows, Project, Big Green, SATA, SAS, energy, efficient, efficiency, performance, NEBS, telecommunications, boot-over-SAN, Google, Carnegie Mellon, study, Vmware
This week and next I am touring Asia, meeting with IBM Business Partners and sales repsabout our July 10 announcements.
Clark Hodge might want to figure out where I am, given the nuclearreactor shutdowns from an earthquake in Japan. His theory is that you can follow my whereabouts just by following the news of major power outages throughout the world.
So I thought this would be a good week to cover the topic of Business Continuity, which includes disaster recovery planning. When making Business Continuity plans, I find it best to work backwards. Think of the scenarios that wouldrequire such recovery actions to take place, then figure out what you need to have at hand to perform the recovery, and then work out the tasks and processes to make sure those things are created and available when and where needed.
I will use my IBM Thinkpad T60 as an example of how this works. Last week, I was among several speakers making presentations to an audience in Denver, and this involved carrying my laptop from the back of the room, up to the front of the room, several times. When I got my new T60 laptop a year ago, it specifically stated NOT to carry the laptop while the disk drive was spinning, to avoid vibrations and gyroscopic effects. It suggested always putting the laptop in standby, hibernate or shutdown mode, prior to transportation, but I haven't gotten yet in the habit of doing this. After enough trips back and forth, I had somehow corrupted my C: drive. It wasn't a complete corruption, I could still use Microsoft PowerPoint to show my slides, but other things failed, sometimes the fatal BSOD and other times less drastically. Perhaps the biggest annoyance was that I lost a few critical DLL files needed for my VPN software to connect to IBM networks, so I was unable to download or access e-mail or files inside IBM's firewall.
Fortunately, I had planned for this scenario, and was able to recover my laptop myself, which is important when you are on the road and your help desk is thousands of miles away. (In theory, I am now thousands of miles closer to our help desk folks in India and China, but perhaps further away from those in Brazil.) Not being able to respond to e-mail for two days was one thing, but no access for two weeks would have been a disaster! The good news: My system was up and running before leaving for the trip I am on now to Asia.
Following my three-step process, here's how this looks:
technorati tags: IBM, July, announcements, earthquake, Japan, nuclear reactor, power, outage, business, continuity, disaster, recovery, plan, plans, planning, IBM, Thinkpad, T60, laptop, Windows, Denver, BSOD, VPN, India, China, Brazil, help desk, Asia, Tivoli, Storage, Manager, TSM, BMR, external, USB, bootable, CD, DVD, separating, programs, data, Clark Hodge[Read More]
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It's Tuesday, which means IBM makes its announcements. We had several for the IBM System Storage product line. Here's a quick recap.
I'm off to Denver, Colorado this week. I hope it is cooler there than it is down here in Tucson, Arizona.
technorati tags: IBM, disk, system, storage, SAS, FC, DS3000, DS3200, DS3400, EXP3000, NAS, EXN1000, tape, virtualization, library, TS7740, grid, Copy Export, throughput, TS3400, TS3200, mainframe, LTO, Ultrium, Cisco, MDS, 9124, Express, Advantage, DS4000, DS4700, TS3200, GAM, Grid Archive Manager, 3996, optical, WORM, Denver, Colorado, Tucson, Arizona, announcements[Read More]
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Avi Bar-Zeeb of RealityPrime has an interesting post aboutHow Google Earth [really] Works.Normally, people who are very knowledgeable in a topic have a hard time describing concepts in basic terms. Avi was one of the co-founders of Keyhole, the company that built the predecessor for Google Earth, and also worked with Linden Lab for its 3D rendering it its virtual world, so he certainly knows what he is talking about. While he sometimes drops down into techno-talk about patents, the post overall is a good read.
It is perhaps human nature to be curious on how things are put together and how they function, leading to the popularity of web sites like www.
Many things can be used without understanding their internal inner workings. You can put on a pair of blue jeans without knowing how the cotton was made into denim fabric; lace up your favorite pair of running shoes without understanding the chemical make-up of the plastic that cushions your feet; or drink a glass of beer after your five mile run without knowing how alcohol is processed by your liver.
For technology, however, some people insist they need to know how it works in order for them to get the most use of it. When shopping for a car, for example, a guy might look under the hood, and ask questions about how the engine works, while his wife sits inside the vehicle, counting cup holders and making sure the radio has all the right buttons.
Not all technology suffers from need-to-know-itis. For example, the Apple iPod music player and the Canon PowerShot digital camera, are both just disk systems that read and write data, with knobs and dials on one end, and ports for connectivity on the other. Everyone just asks how to use their controls, and might read the manual to understand how to connect the cables. Few people who use these devices ask how they work before they buy them.
Other disk systems, the kind designed for data centers for the medium and large enterprise, apparently aren't there yet. Storage admins who might happily own both an iPod player and a PowerShot camera, insist they need to know how the technologies inside various storage offerings work. Is this just curiosity talking? Or are there some tasks like configuration, tuning, and support that just can't be done without this knowledge? Does knowing the inner workings somehow make the job more enjoyable, easier, or performed with less stress?
I'm curious what you think, send me a comment on this.
technorati tags: Avi Bar-Zeeb, Google, Earth, cotton, demin, plastic, shoes, beer, alcohol, liver, IBM, disk, system, storage, technology, Apple, iPod, music, player, Canon, PowerShot, digital, camera[Read More]
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Chris Evans over at Storage Architect posts aboutHardware Replacement Lifecycle Update, on how storage virtualization can helpwith storage hardware replacemement. He makes two points that I would like to comment on.
In a typical four year lifecycle of storage arrays, it might take six months or so to fill up the box, and might takeas much as a year at the end to move the data out to other equipment. SVC can greatly reduce both of these, so that you can take immediate advantage of new equipment as soon as possible, and keep using it for close to the full four years,migrating weeks or days before your lease expires.
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NetworkWorld has compiled interlude with storage videos, a follow up to last year's Yikes! Exploding Servers.
I've blogged about some of these videos already, but since there are probably a few out there buying the brand new Apple iPhone looking for YouTube videos to play on them, these links might provide some exam Next week has "Fourth of July" Independence Day holiday in the USA smack in the middle of the week, so I suspect the blogosphereto quiet down a bit. So whether you are working next week or not, in the USA or elsewhere, take some time to enjoy your friends and family.
Next week has "Fourth of July" Independence Day holiday in the USA smack in the middle of the week, so I suspect the blogosphereto quiet down a bit. So whether you are working next week or not, in the USA or elsewhere, take some time to enjoy your friends and family.
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Chuck Hollis makes some excellent points about Green Data Center Goes Marketing Mainstream. He does a great job summarizing EMC's strategy in this area:
Both are great recommendations, but why limit yourself to what EMC offers? Your x86-based machines are only a subset of your servers,and disk is only a subset of your storage. IBM takes a more holistic approach, looking at the entire data center.
technorati tags: IBM, EMC, Chuck Hollis, VMware, FC, SAS, SATA, FATA, disk, storage, logical partition, energy, power, cooling, Steve Duplessie, dynamic, persistent, data, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, megawatt, paper, optical, microfiche, LTO, 3592, Project Big Green, Secondlife[Read More]
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I'm in the Malev lounge at the Budapest Airport, waiting for my flight to return back to Tucson.
Back in the late 1980's and early 1990's, I was one of the architects for DFSMS on z/OS, and customers always asked, "What is the clip level?", in other words, how big does a customer have to be to take advantage of DFSMS. We worked it out that if you had more than 100GB of disk data, DFSMS is worthwhile. DFSMS is now just standard by default, as everyone now easily has more than 100GB of data.
Later, in the late 1990's, I worked on Linux for System z. Again, customers asked how many Linux guest images would justify deploying applications on a mainframe. We worked it out to about 10 images. 10 Linux logical partitions, or Linux guests under z/VM was enough to cost justify the entire investment.
So what is the "clip level" for SANs? How many servers does an SMB need to have to justify deploying a SAN? IBM announced the new BladeCenter S designed specifically for mid-sized companies, 100 to 1000 employees, typically running 25 to 45 servers. However, I suspect companies as small as 7-10 servers would probably benefit from deploying an FC or IP SAN.
What do you think? Send me a comment on how many servers should be the clip level.