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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor, Senior IT Architect and Event Content Manager for [IBM Systems for IBM Systems Technical University] events. With over 30 years with IBM Systems, Tony is frequent traveler, speaking to clients at events throughout the world.
Lloyd Dean is an IBM Senior Certified Executive IT Architect in Infrastructure Architecture. Lloyd has held numerous senior technical roles at IBM during his 19 plus years at IBM. Lloyd most recently has been leading efforts across the Communication/CSI Market as a senior Storage Solution Architect/CTS covering the Kansas City territory. In prior years Lloyd supported the industry accounts as a Storage Solution architect and prior to that as a Storage Software Solutions specialist during his time in the ATS organization.
Lloyd currently supports North America storage sales teams in his Storage Software Solution Architecture SME role in the Washington Systems Center team. His current focus is with IBM Cloud Private and he will be delivering and supporting sessions at Think2019, and Storage Technical University on the Value of IBM storage in this high value IBM solution a part of the IBM Cloud strategy. Lloyd maintains a Subject Matter Expert status across the IBM Spectrum Storage Software solutions. You can follow Lloyd on Twitter @ldean0558 and LinkedIn Lloyd Dean.
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This month (September, 2006) marks our 50th anniversary of the disk system. The first disk system was the 350 Disk Storage Unit, designed to attach to the IBM 305 RAMAC mainframe computer, both introduced to the world in September, 1956.
The weather has warmed up here in Tucson so I started my Spring Cleaning early this year and unearthed from my garage a [Bankers Box] full of floppy diskettes.
IBM invented the floppy disk back in 1971, and continued to make improvements and enhancements through the 1980s and 1990s. It will be one of the many inventions celebrated as part of IBM's Centennial (100-year) anniversary. Here is an example [T-shirt]
IBM needed a way to send out small updates and patches for microcode of devices out in client locations. IBM had drives that could write information, and sent out "read-only" drives to the customer locations to receive these updates. These were flexible plastic circles with a magnetic coating, and placed inside a square paper sleeve. Imagine a floppy disk the size of a piece of standard paper. The 8-inch floppy fit conveniently in a manila envelope, sendable by standard mail, and could hold nearly 80KB of data.
I've been using floppies for the past thirty years. Here's some of my fondest memories:
While still in high school, my friend Franz Kurath and I formed "Pearson Kurath Systems", a software development firm. We wrote computer programs to run on UNIX and Personal Computers for small businesses here in Tucson. Whenever we developed a clever piece of code, a subroutine or procedure, we would save it on a floppy disk and re-use it for our next project. We wrote in the BASIC language, and our databases were simple Comma-Separated-Variable (CSV) flat files.
The 5.25-inch floppies we used could hold 360KB, and were flexible like the 8-inch models. Later versions of these 5.25-inch floppies would be able to hold as much as 1.2MB of data. We would convert single-sided floppies into double-sided ones by cutting out a notch in the outer sleeve. Covering up the notches would mark them as read-only.
The 3.5-inch floppies were introduced with a hard plastic shell, with the selling point that you can slap on a mailing label and postage and send it "as is" without the need for a separate envelope. These new 3.5-inch floppies would carry "HD" for high density 720KB, and double-sided versions could hold 1.44MB of data. The term "diskette" was used to associate these new floppies with [hard-shelled tape cassettes]. Sliding a plastic tab would allow floppies to be marked "read-only". IBM has the patent on this clever invention.
Continuing our computer programming business in college, Franz and I took out a bank loan to buy our first Personal Computer, for over $5000 dollars USD. Until then, we had to use equipment belonging to each client. The banks we went to didn't understand why we needed a computer, and suggested we just track our expenses on traditional green-and-white ledger paper. Back then, peronsal computers were for balancing your checkbook, playing games and organizing your collection of cooking recipies. But for us, it was a production machine. A computer with both 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch drives could copy files from one format to another as needed. The boost in productivity paid for itself within months.
Apple launched its Macintosh computer in 1984, with a built-in 3.5-inch disk drive as standard equipment. Here is a YouTube video of an [astronaut ejecting a floppy disk] from an Apple computer in space.
In my senior year at the University of Arizona, my roommate Dave had borrowed my backpack to hold his lunch for a bike ride. He thought he had taken everything out, but forgot to remove my 3.5-inch floppy diskette containing files for my senior project. By the time he got back, the diskette was covered in banana pulp. I was able to rescue my data by cracking open the plastic outer shell, cleaning the flexible magnetic media in soapy water, placing it back into the plastic shell of a second diskette, and then copied the data off to a third diskette.
After graduating from college, Franz and I went our separate ways. I went to work for IBM, and Franz went to work for [Chiat/Day], the advertising agency famous for the 1984 Macintosh commercial. We still keep in touch through Facebook.
At IBM, I was given a 3270 terminal to do my job, and would not be assigned a personal computer until years later. Once I had a personal computer at home and at work, the floppy diskette became my "briefcase". I could download a file or document at work, take it home, work on it til the wee hours of the morning, and then come back the next morning with the updated effort.
To help prepare me for client visits and public speaking at conferences, IBM loaned me out to local schools to teach. This included teaching Computer Science 101 at Pima Community College. When asked by a student whether to use "disc" or "disk", I wrote a big letter "C" on the left side of the chalkboard, and a big letter "K" on the right side. If it is round, I told the students while pointing at the letter "C", like a CD-ROM or DVD, use "disc". If it has corners, pointing to corners of the letter "K", like a floppy diskette or hard disk drive, use "disk".
On one of my business trips to visit a client, we discovered the client had experienced a problem that we had just recently fixed. Normally, this would have meant cutting a Program Trouble Fix (PTF) to a 3480 tape cartridge at an IBM facility, and send it to the client by mail. Unwilling to wait, I offered to download the PTF onto a floppy diskette on my laptop, upload it from a PC connected to their systems, and apply it there. This involved a bit of REXX programming to deal with the differences between ASCII and EBCDIC character sets, but it worked, and a few hours later they were able to confirm the fix worked.
In 1998, Apple would signal the begining of the end of the floppy disk era, announcing their latest "iMac" would not come with an internal built-in floppy drive. David Adams has a great article on this titled [The iMac and the Floppy Drive: A Conspiracy Theory]. You can get external floppy drives that connect via USB, so not having an internal drive is no longer a big deal.
While teaching a Top Gun class to a mix of software and hardware sales reps, one of the students asked what a "U" was. He had noticed "2U" and "3U" next to various products and wondered what that was referring to. The "U" represents the [standard unit of measure for height of IT equipment in standard racks]. To help them visualize, I explained that a 5.25-inch floppy disk was "3U" in size, and a 3.5-inch floppy diskette was "2U". Thus, a "U" is 1.75 inches, the thinnest dimension on a two-by-four piece of lumber. Servers that were only 1U tall would be referred to as "pizza boxes" for having similar dimensions.
Every year, right around November or so, my friends and family bring me their old computers for me to wipe clean. Either I would re-load them with the latest Ubuntu Linux so that their kids could use it for homework, or I would donate it to charity. Last November, I got a computer that could not boot from a CD-ROM, forcing me to build a bootable floppy. This gave me a chance to check out the various 1-disk and 2-disk versions of Linux and other rescue disks. I also have a 3-disk set of floppies for booting OS/2 in command line mode.
So while this unexpected box of nostalgia derailed my efforts to clean out my garage this weekend, it did inspire me to try to get some of the old files off them and onto my PC hard drive. I have already retrieved some low-res photographs, some emails I sent out, and trip reports I wrote. While floppy diskettes were notorious for being unreliable, and this box of floppies has been in the heat and cold for many Arizonan summers and winters, I am amazed that I was able to read the data off most of them so far, all the way back to data written in 1989. While the data is readable, in most cases I can't render it into useful information. This brings up a few valuable lessons:
Backups are not Archives
Some of the files are in proprietary formats, such as my backups for TurboTax software. I would need a PC running a correct level of Windows operating system, and that particular software, just to restore the data. TurboTax shipped new software every year, and I don't know how forward or backward-compatible each new release was.
Another set of floppies are labeled as being in "FDBACK" format. I have no idea what these are. Each floppy has just two files, "backup.001" and "control.001", for example.
Backups are intended solely to protect against unexpected loss from broken hardware or corrupted data. If you plan to keep data as archives for long-term retention, use archive formats that will last a long time, so that you can make sense of them later.
Operating System Compatibility
Windows 7 and all of my favorite flavors of Linux are able to recognize the standard "FAT" file system that nearly all of my floppies are written in. Sadly, I have some files that were compressed under OS/2 operating system using software called "Stacker". I may have to stand up an OS/2 machine just to check out what is actually on those floppies.
You can't judge a book by its cover
Floppies were a convenient form of data interchange. Sometimes, I reused commercially-labeled floppies to hold personal files. So, just because a floppy says "America On-Line (AOL) version 2.5 Installation", I can't just toss it away. It might actually contain something else entirely. This means I need to mount each floppy to check on its actual contents.
So what will I do with the floppies I can't read, can't write, and can't format? I think I will convert them into a [retro set of coasters], to protect my new living room furniture from hot and cold beverages.
A lot of people ask me about IBM branding, as we have recently changed brands. In the past we had two separate brands, one for servers (eServer) and one for storage (TotalStorage). These would be fine if we wanted to promote their independence, but customers today want synergy between servers and storage, they want systems that work well together.
Last year, in response to market feedback, we crated a new brand, "IBM Systems" and put all the server and storage product lines under one roof. Over time, we will transition from TotalStorage to System Storage naming. This will occur with new products, and major versions of existing products.
Two other phrases you will hear in the names of our offerings are "Virtualization Engine" and "Express". These are portfolio identifiers. The Virtualization Engine identifier was created to emphasize our leadership in system virtualization, and we have products that span product lines with this identifier.
The Express identifier was created to emphasize our focus on Small and Medium sized business (SMB). It spans not just servers and storage, but across other offerings from other IBM divisions.
Of course, just renaming products and services isn't enough. Systems don't work together just because they have similar names, are covered in similar "Apple white" plastic, or have similar black bezels. Obviously, thoughtful and collaborative design are needed, with the appropriate amounts of engineering and testing. IBM is aligning its server and storage development so that the IBM Systems brand keeps its promise.
With all the announcements we had in June, it is easy for some of the more subtle enhancements to get overlooked. While I was at Orlando for the IBM Edge conference, I was able to blog about some of the key featured announcements. Then, later, when I got back from Orlando to Tucson, I was able to then blog about [More IBM Storage Announcements]. For IBM's Scale-Out Network Attach Storage (SONAS), I had simply:
"SONAS v1.3.2 adds support for management by the newly announced IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center v5.1 release. Also, IBM now officially supports Gateway configurations that have the storage nodes connected to XIV or Storwize V7000 disk systems. These gateway configurations offer new flexible choices and options for our ever-expanding set of clients."
In my defense, IBM numbers its software releasees with version.release.modification, so 1.3.2 is Version 1, Release 3, Modification 2. Generally, modification announcements don't get much attention. The big announcement for v1.3.0 of SONAS happened last October, see my blog post [October 2011 Announcements - Part I] or
the nice summary post [IBM Scale-out Network Attached Storage 1.3.0] from fellow blogger Roger Luethy.
Here is a diagram showing the three configurations of SONAS.
I have covered the SONAS Appliance model in depth in previous blogs, with options for fast and slow disk speeds, choice of RAID protection levels, a collection of enterprise-class software features provided at no additional charge, and interfaces to support a variety of third party backup and anti-virus checking software.
The basics haven't changed. The SONAS appliance consists of 2 to 32 interface nodes, 2 to 60 storage nodes, and up to 7,200 disk drives. The maximum configuration takes up 17 frames and holds 21.6PB of raw disk capacity, which is about 17PB usable space when RAID6 is configured. An interface nodes has one or two hex-core processors with up to 144GB of RAM to offer up to 3.5GB/sec performance each. This makes IBM SONAS the fastest performing and most scalable disk system in IBM's System Storage product line.
I thought I would go a bit deeper on the gateway models. These models support up to ten storage nodes, organized in pairs. The key difference is that instead of internal disk controllers, the storage nodes connect to external disk systems. There is enough space in the base SONAS rack to hold up to six interface nodes, or you can add a second rack if you need more interface nodes for increased performance.
SONAS with XIV gateway
XIV offers a clever approach to storage that allows for incredibly fast access to data on relatively slow 7200 RPM drives. By scattering data across all drives and taking advantage of parallel processing, rebuild times for a failed 3TB drive are less than 75 minutes. Compare that to typical rebuild times for 3TB drives that could take as much as 9-10 hours under active I/O loads!
In the configuration, each pair of storage nodes can connect to external SAN Fabric switches that then connect to one or two XIV storage systems. How simple is that? These can be the original XIV systems that support 1TB and 2TB drives, or the new XIV Gen3 systems that support 400GB Solid-state drives (SSD) and 3TB spinning disk drives. In both cases, you can acquire additional storage capacity as little as 12 drives at a time (one XIV module holds 12 drives).
The maximum configuration of ten XIV boxes could hold 1,800 drives. At 3TB drive per drive, that would be 2.4PB usable capacity.
The SONAS with XIV gateway does not require the XIV devices to be dedicated for SONAS purposes. Rather, you can assign some XIV storage space for the SONAS, and the rest is available for other servers. In this manner, SONAS just looks like another set of Linux-based servers to the XIV storage system. This in effect gives you "Unified Storage", with a full complement of NAS protocols from the SONAS side (NFS, CIFS, FTP, HTTPS, SCP) as well as block-based protocols directly from the XIV (FCP, iSCSI).
SONAS with Storwize V7000 gateway
The other gateway offering is the SONAS with Storwize V7000. Like the SONAS with XIV gateway model, you connect a pair of SONAS storage nodes to 1 or 2 Storwize V7000 disk systems. However, you do not need a SAN Fabric switch in between. You can instead connect the SONAS storage nodes directly to the Storwize V7000 control enclosures.
To acquire additional storage capacity, you can purchase a single drive at a time. That's right. Not 12 drives, or 60 drives, at a time, but one at a time. The Storwize V7000 supports a wide range of SSD, SAS and NL-SAS drives at different sizes, speeds and capacities. The drives can be configured into various RAID protection levels: RAID 0, 1, 3, 5, 6 and 10.
Each Storwize V7000 control enclosure can have up to nine expansion drawers. If you choose the 2.5-inch 24-bay models, you can have up to 480 drives per storage node pair, for a total of 2,400 drives. If you choose the 3.5-inch 12-bay models, you can have up to 240 drives per node pair, 1,200 drives total. At 3TB per drive, this could be 3.6PB of raw capacity. The usable PB would depend on which RAID level you selected. Of course, you don't have to limit yourself all to one size or the other. Feel free to mix 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drawers to provide different storage pool capabilities.
All three SONAS configurations support Active Cloud Engine. This is a collection of features that differentiate SONAS from the other scale-out NAS wannabees in the marketplace:
Policy-driven Data Placement -- Different files can be directed to different storage pools. You no longer have to associate certain file systems to certain storage technologies.
High-speed Scan Engine -- SONAS can scan 10 million files per minute, per node. These scans can be used to drive data migration, backups, expirations, or replications, for example. It is over 100 times faster than traditional walk-the-directory-tree approaches employed by other NAS solutions.
Policy-driven Migration -- You can migrate files from one storage pool to another, based on age, days since last reference, size, and other criteria. The files can be moved from disk to disk, or move out of SONAS and stored on external media, such as tape or a virtual tape library. A lot of data stored on NAS systems is dormant, with little or no likelihood of being looked at again. Why waste money keeping that kind of data on expensive disk? With SONAS, you can move those files to tape can save lots of money. The files are stubbed in the SONAS file system, so that an access request to a file will automatically trigger a recall to fetch the data from tape back to the SONAS system.
Policy-driven Expiration -- SONAS can help you keep your system clean, by helping you decide what files should be deleted. This is especially useful for things like logs and traces that tend to just hang around until some deletes them manually.
WAN Caching -- This allows one SONAS to act as a "Cloud Storage Gateway" for another SONAS at a remote location connected by Wide Area Network (WAN). Let's say your main data center has a large SONAS repository of files, and a small branch office has a smaller SONAS. This allows all locations to have a "Global" view of the all the interconnected SONAS systems, with a high-speed user experience for local LAN-based access to the most recent and frequently used files.
If you want to learn more, see the [IBM SONAS landing page]. Next week, I will be across the Pacific Ocean in [Taipei], to teach IBM Top Gun class to sales reps and IBM Business Partners. "Selling SONAS" will be one of the topics I will be covering!