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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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Use more efficient disk media, such as high-capacity SATA disk drives
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.
VMware is a great product, and IBM is its top reseller. But in addition to VMware, there are other solutions for the x86-based servers, like Xen and Microsoft Virtual Server. IBM's System p, System i, and System z product lines all support logical partitioning.
To compare the energy effectiveness of server virtualization, consider a metric that can apply across platforms. For example, for an e-mail server, consider watts per mailbox. If you have, say, 15,000 users, you can calculate how many watts you are consuming to manage their mailboxes on your current environment, and compare that with running them on VMware, or logical partitions on other servers. Some people find it surprising that it is often more cost-effective, and power-efficient, to run workloads on mainframe logical partitions (LPARs) than a stack of x86 servers running VMware.
More efficient Media
SATA and FATA disks support higher capacities, and run at slower RPM speeds, thus using fewer watts per terabyte.A terabyte stored on 73GB high-speed 15K RPM drives consumes more watts than the same terabyte stored using 500GB SATA.Chuck correctly identifies that tape is more power-efficient than disk, but then argues that paper is more power-efficient than tape. But paper is not necessarily more efficient than tape.
ESG analyst Steve Duplessie divides up data betweenDynamic vs. Persistent. The best place to put dynamic data is on disk, and here is where evaluation of FC/SAS versus SATA/FATA comes into play.Persistent data, on the other hand, can be stored on paper, microfiche, optical or tape media. All of these shelf-resident media consume no electricity, nor generate any heat that would require additional cooling.
A study by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory titled High-Tech Means High-Efficiency: The Business Case for Energy Management in High-Tech Industries indicates thatData centers consume 15 to 100 times more energy per square foot than traditional office space. Storing persistent data in traditional office space can save a huge amount of energy. Steve Duplessie feels the ratio of dynamic to persistent data is 1:10 today, but is likely to grow to 1:100 in the near future, raising the demand for energy-efficient storage of persistent data ever more important to our environment.
Data centers consume nearly 5000 Megawatts in the USA alone, 14000 Megawatts worldwide. To put that in perspective, the country of Hungary I was in last week can generate up to 8000 Megawatts for the entire country (and they were using 7400 Megawatts last week as a result of their current heat wave, causing them grave concern).
Back in the 1990's, one of the insurance companies IBM worked with kept data on paper in manila folders, and armiesof young adults in roller skates were dispatched throughout the large warehouses of shelves to get the appropriate folder in response to customer service inquiries. Digitizing this paper into electronic format greatly reduced the need for this amount of warehouse space, as well as improved the time to retrieve the data.
A typical file storage box (12 inch x 12 inch x 18 inch) containing typed pages single-spaced, double-sided, 12 point font could hold perhaps 100MB. The same box could hold a hundred or more LTO or 3592 tape cartridges, each storing hundreds of GB of information. That's a million-to-one improvement of space-efficiency, and from a watts-per-TB basis, translates to substantial improvement in standard office air conditioning and lighting conditions.
To learn more about IBM's Project Big Green, watch thisintroductory video which used Second Life for the animation.
The concept that there should be a linear "Storage Administrators per TB" rule-of-thumb has been around for a while.Back in 1992, I went to visit a customer in Germany who had FIVE storage admins for 90 GB (yes, GB, not TB) disk array.I told them they only needed 3 admins, but they cited German laws that prohibited "overtime" work on evenings and weekends.
Later, in 1996, I visited an insurance company in Ohio to talk about IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. They had TWO admins to manage 7TB on their mainframe, and another 45 people managing the 7TB across their distributed systems running Linux, UNIX, and Windows. My first question, why TWO? Only one would be needed for the mainframe, but they responded that they back each other up when one takes a 2-week vacation. My second question to the rest of the audience was... "When was the last time you guys took a 2-week vacation?"
Today, admins manage many TBs of storage. But TBs are turning out not to be a fair ruler to estimate the number of admins you need. It's a moving target, and other factors have more influence that sheer quantity of data.Let's take a look at some of those factors, which we call "the three V's":
Variety of information types
In the beginning, there were just flat text files. In today's world, we have structured databases, semi-structured e-mail systems, hypertext documents, composite applications, audio and video formats that require streaming, and so on. Variety adds to the complexity of the environment. Different data requires different treatment, different handling, and perhaps even different storage technologies.
Volume of data
Data on disk and tape is growing 60% year on year. It's growing on paper also. It's growing on film like photos and X-rays. The problem is not the amount, but the rate of growth. Imagine if population and traffic in your city or town increased 60% in one year, most likely people would suffer because most governments just aren't prepared for that level of growth.
Velocity of change
Back in the 1950's and 1960's, people only had to make updates once a year, scheduling time during holidays. Now, people are making changes every month, sometimes every weekend. One customer we spoke with recently said they do about 8000 changes PER WEEKEND!
So, the key is that there is no simple rule-of-thumb. Fewer admins are need per TB on mainframe than distributed systems data. Fewer admins per TB are needed when you deploy productivity software, like IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center. Fewer admins per TB are needed when you deploy storage virtualization, like IBM SAN Volume Controller or IBM virtual tape libraries.
IBM doesn't publicly report subset numbers on individual product lines, but we are growing, albeit single-digit growth, on the high-end with our IBM System Storage DS8000 and DS6000 series products. Single digit growth is not "booming", but it is what we expected in this space, so it is not like we are"feeling the chill" as Robin stated.Obviously, if the U.S. market overall is doing poorly, then it must be from something else. IBM's success appears to be from organic growth in our Asia and Europe markets, and taking marketshare away from the top two contenders, EMC and HDS. Here are my thoughts why:
EMC is remodeling its kitchen
Not happy with its status as #1 disk hardware specialty shop, EMC is admirably trying to redefine itself as an ["information infrastructure"] company, buying up software companies and introducing new storage services. [Byte and Switch] reports onEMC's recent acquisitions:
EMC is the latest vendor to pin its colors to the SaaS mast, revealing its plan to offer SaaS-based archiving services during its recent Innovation Day in Boston.
EMC gave another clear indication of its SaaS intentions last month, when it spent $76 million to acquire online backup specialist Mozy.
IBM has offered[Managed Storage Services] foryears through our Global Technology Services (GTS) division. Gartner recognized IBM as the #1 leader in storageservices, with three times more revenues than EMC in this space.
As with a restaurant that is remodeling its kitchen, it can expect a temporary drop inrevenue. If it is done right, customers will come back to a bigger brighter restaurant. If not, the restaurant re-opens as a much smaller lesser version of itself. Recent events this year might incent EMC to get that kitchen done quickly:
A recent [class-action lawsuit]might result in having EMC's "86 percent male" sales force goes to sexual harassment sensitivity training, takingtime away from selling high-end storage arrays in the field. Analysts consider "high-end" boxes as those costingover $300,000 US dollars. Because of the money involved, there is a lot of competition for high-end storage, so face-to-face time with prospective customers is crucial to making the sale.Anytime any vendor is mentioned in a lawsuit (andcertainly IBM has had its share in the past, as Chuck Hollis correctly points out in the comment below), priorities get shifted, and there is potential dip in revenues.
Dell acquires EMC's rival EqualLogic. Dell resold EMC midrange storage, like CLARiiON, so this should notimpact their high-end storage sales. While Dell will be allowed to sell EMC until 2011, this new acquisition mightmean Dell leads with the EqualLogic offerings, and that could potentially reduce EMC revenues in the midrange space.
IBM went through a similar phase in the 1990's, redefining itself from an "IT Technology" company, intoa "Systems, Software and Services" company. These transitions can't be done in a quarter, or even a year, theytake several years. IBM lost business to EMC in the 1990s, but is back with a stronger portfolio in the 2000's, and so IBM's kitchen remodeling effort appears to be paying off. We will see what happens with EMC in a few years.
HDS puts on the white lab coats
Meanwhile, HDS appears interested in taking over as #1 disk hardware specialty shop.For years, Hitachi was the stereotypical JCM (Japanese IBM-compatible manufacturer) that made well-engineered"me, too" storage arrays. They would see what innovators like IBM and EMC were doing, and copy them. Recently,however, they seemed to have changed strategy, introducing new featuresand functions on their high-end USP-V device, like[Dynamic Provisioning].
The problem is that customers don't want to feel like [Guinea pigs] in an experimental lab, especially withmission-critical data that they trust to their most-available, most-reliable high-end disk storage systems.Like IBM and EMC and the rest of the major storage vendors, Hitachi has top-notch engineers making quality products, but new features scare people, and so there is a lag in the adoption of new technologies.
In our youth, we might have preferred beer with recent born-on dates, and tequila aged less than 90 days. But as weget older, we switch to drinks like wine and whiskey, aged years, not weeks. The same is true for themarketplace. New start-ups and other "early adopters"might be willing to try fresh new features and functions on their storage systems, but more established enterprises prefer storage with more mature and stable microcode.Storage admins want to leave at the end of the day, knowing that the data will still be there the next morning. In tough financial times, many established companies want the technological equivalent to ["comfort food"], nothing spicy or exotic, but simplehearty fare that fills the belly and keeps you satisfied.
Recognizing this, IBM often introduces new features and functions on its midrange lines first, and position them accordingly. Once customers are comfortable with the concepts, IBM then can consider moving them into the high-end lines. For example, dynamic volume expansion was introduced on the DS4000 and SAN Volume Controller first, and once proven safe and effective, brought over to the DS8000 series. This strategy has served us well.
Well those are my theories. If you have a different explanation of why storage vendors are not doing well in thehigh-end, drop me a comment!
HealthAlliance Hospital has implemented an IBM System Storage Grid Medical Archive Solution (GMAS) to make patient records available to clinicians anytime, anywhere. IBM has a [Case Study] on this implementation.Here is an excerpt from the IBM [Press Release]:
HealthAlliance Hospital, a member of UMass Memorial Health Care, serves the communities of north-central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire with acute care facilities, a cancer center, outpatient physical therapy facilities and a remote home health agency. As an investment in continued high-quality patient care, the hospital has implemented a picture archiving and communication system (PACS) from Siemens Medical Solutions so that it can move toward digital health records while eliminating traditional paper and film.
HealthAlliance is now able to make all of their data, including PACS images, available instantly, using the IBM GMAS, a cross-IBM offering comprised of storage, software, servers and services. The GMAS solution provides hospitals, clinics, research institutions and pharmaceutical companies with an automated and resilient enterprise storage archive for delivering medical images, patient records and other critical healthcare reference information on demand.
"Fast, easy access to diagnostic images is a priority," said Rick Mohnk, Vice President and Chief Information Officer of HealthAlliance. "Being paperless not only helps our staff improve their productivity and the quality of patient care, but also lowers our costs and improves our competitiveness. The IBM GMAS has helped us stay competitive and offer the leading edge technology that attracts top physicians to our staff and keeps patients feeling comfortable and well cared for."
Normally when you read or hear the term "grid", you might think of supercomputers, but in this case we are talking about information that is accessible from different interconnected locations. I've mentioned GMAS before in my posts [Blocks, Files and Content Addressable Storage and What Happened to CAS?] but I thought I would provide more detail on the elements of the solution.
Medical imaging equipment are called "modalities", which is just fancy hospital talk for "method of treatment".These have Ethernet connections designed to write to any storage with a CIFS or NFS interface. For example, press the button on the "X-ray" machine, and the digitized version of the X-ray is stored as a file to whatever NAS storage on the other end.
[Picture Archiving and Communication System] refer to the application and the computer equipment to manage these medical images, often stored in a DICOM format and indexed with HL7 metadata headers. There are many PACS vendors, GE Medical Systems, Siemens Medical, Agfa, Fuji, Philips, Kodak, Stentor, Emageon, Brit Systems, Mckesson, Amicus, Cerner, Medweb and Teramedica, to name a few. Many PACS providers embedded specific storage as part of their solution, but now are starting to realize that they need to be part of a larger storage infrastructure.
IBM System Storage [Multi-Level Grid Access Manager] is softwareon IBM System x servers that manages access across the grid of inter-connected hospitals, clinics and imaging facilities. It provides the NFS and CIFS interfaces to the modalities, and places the data into a GPFS file system on DS4000 series disk.
GPFS and DS4000 series disk
IBM [General Parallel File System] has all the Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) capabilities to move data from one disk storage level to another, automates deletion based on expiration date, and can provide concurrent access from multiple requesters.The IBM System Storage DS4000 series disk products can support both high-speed FC disk as well as low-cost SATA disk.For large medical images, the SATA disk is often a good fit. The advantage of GPFS is that you can have policies todecide which images are placed on FC disk, and which on SATA, and then later move these files based on access reference. Images that are accessed the most frequently can be on FC disk, and those that haven't been accessed in a while on SATA disk.
TSM space management
IBM [Tivoli Storage Manager for Space Management] supports moving files out of the GPFS file system and onto tape, based on policies. For example,keep the most recent 18 months on disk, and anything older than that gets moved to tape. This is similar to themigrate/recall technology used in DFSMShsm on the mainframe.
Tape Library automation
Before GMAS, paper and film images had to be retrieved manually from shelves and filing cabinets. The massive amountsof data being stored, and for such long periods of time, makes it impractical to store all of it on disk. With tape automation, any medical image more than 18 months old can be retrieved in minutes. Patients with an appointment can have all of their medical images retrieved in bulk the night before. Emergency room patients can have previous images retrieved while admission clerks check for insurance coverage and perform triage.
Images archived on the IBM GMAS are accessible in numerous ways. For example, all clinicians can access GMAS through hospital record system, which provides complete paperless and filmless access to the patient record including medical images, lab results, radiology reports, and pharmacy records. Medical workers at any location can also access the grid using their Web browsers. This allows each employee to use the display systems they are already familiar with.
Unlike disk-only based NAS systems, IBM's blended disk-and-tape approach makes this a much more cost-effective solution.For more details on IBM GMAS, read this 6-page[Frost & Sullivan whitepaper].
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.
Last July, IBM and EMC traded blog postings over SPC-1 benchmark results. Fellow EMC bloggerChuck Hollis wrote his post [Does Anyone Take The SPC Seriously?]. Here is an excerpt:
I think most storage users have figured this out. We've never done an SPC test, and probably will never do one. Anyone is free, however, to download the SPC code, lash it up to their CLARiiON, and have at it.
I responded with [Getting Under EMC Skin], and then followed up with a series explaining IBM SVC and SPC benchmarks here:
So what is the good news?Yesterday, our friends at NetApp took up Chuck's challenge and posted results on their FAS3040 as well as their EMC CLARiiON devices. IBM sells the FAS3040 under the name IBM System Storage N5300 disk system. Knowing that NetApp maintains excellent performance when it is doing point-in-time copies, NetApp ran both with and without on both boxes. I include DS4700 and DS4800 as well for comparison purposes, but only have them without FlashCopy running.
NetApp FAS3040 (IBM N5300)
NetApp FAS3040 (IBM N5300)
EMC CLARiiON CX3-40
IBM DS4700 Express
EMC CLARiiON CX3-40
One would expect some performance degradation with a box running point-in-time copies at the same time it is reading and writing data, but NetApp/IBM N5300 does not degrade by much, but EMC's drops a significant amount.
So what is the bad news? Last October, I welcomed HDS USP-V to the [Super High-End Club], but now we need to invite Texas Memory Systems as well.In 2006, I posted [Hybrid, Solid State and the future of RAID], and poked fun at Texas Memory Systems using the slogan "World's Fastest Storage", which at the time that honor belonged to IBM SAN Volume Controller instead.The VP of Texas Memory Systems, Woody Hutsell, explained the only reason their solid-state disk system, RAMSAN-320, didn't have faster results is that they didn't have the fastest IBM server to run against it. It may not surprise you that nearly everyone's SPC benchmarks use IBM servers because IBM has the fastest servers as well. I didn't have a million-dollar System p UNIX server to send Woody for this, but it looks like they have finally gotten one, and a new RAMSAN-400 device, as they have posted their latest results.
Texas Memory Systems RAMSAN-400
IBM SAN Volume Controller 4.2
EMC doesn't publish numbers for their Symmetrix box, despite their announcement of faster SSD drives. They claim that SSD drives make their overall disk system performance faster, but without SPC benchmarks, we will never know. If you have a Symmetrix, this YouTube video may help you decide where it belongs:
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.
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 benchmarksrepresenting typical business workloads, I thought, "Do I really want to blog about this,and sound like a broken record, repeating my various statements of the past of how great SVC is?" It's like reminding people that IBM hashad the most US patents than any other company, every year, for the past 14 years.
(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.
Many people have asked me if there was any logic with the IBM naming convention of IBM Systems branded servers. Here's your quick and easy cheat sheet:
System x -- "x" for cross-platform architecture. Technologies from our mainframe and UNIX servers were brought into chips that sit next to the Intel or AMD processors to provide a more reliable x86 server experience. For example, some models have a POWER processor-based Remote Supervisor Adapter (RSA).
System p -- "p" for POWER architecture.
System z -- "z" for Zero-downtime, zero-exposures. Our lawyers prefer "near-zero", but this is about as close as you get to ["six-nines" availability] in our industry, with the highest level of security and encryption, no other vendor comes close, so you get the idea.
But what about the "i" for System i? Officially, it stands for "Integrated" in that it could integrate different applications running on different operating systems onto a [COMMON] platform. Options were available to insert Intel-based processor cards that ran Windows, or attach special cables that allowed separate System x servers running Windows to attach to a System i. Both allowed Windows applications to share the internal LAN and SAN inside the System i machine. Later, IBM allowed [AIX on System i] and [Linux on Power] operating systems to run as well.
From a storage perspective, we often joked that the "i" stood for "island", as most System i machines used internal disk, or attached externally to only a fewselected models of disk from IBM and EMC that had special support for i5/OS using a special, non-standard 520-byte disk block size. This meant only our popular IBM System Storage DS6000 and DS8000 series disk systems were available. This block size requirement only applies to disk. For tape, i5/OS supports both IBM TS1120 and LTO tape systems. For the most part,System i machines stood separate from the mainframe, and the rest of the Linux, UNIX and Windows distributed serverson the data center floor.
Often, when I am talking to customers, they ask when will product xyz be supported on System z or System i?I explained that IBM's strategy is not to make all storage devices connect via ESCON/FICON or support non-standard block sizes, but rather to get the servers to use standard 512-byte block size, Fibre Channel and other standard protocols.(The old adage applies: If you can't get Mohamed to move to the mountain, get the mountain to move to Mohamed).
On the System z mainframe, we are 60 percent there, allowing three of the five operating systems (z/VM, z/VSE and Linux) to access FCP-based disk and tape devices. (Four out of six if you include [OpenSolaris for the mainframe])But what about System i? As the characters on the popular television show [LOST] would say: It's time to get off the island!
Last week, IBM announced the new [i5/OS V6R1 operating system] with features that will greatly improve the use of external storage on this platform. Check this out:
POWER6-based System i 570 model server
Our latest, most powerful POWER processor brought to the System i platform. The 570 model will be the first in the System i family of servers to make use of new processing technology, using up to 16 (sixteen!) POWER6 processors (running at 4.7GHZ) in each machine.The advantage of the new processors is the increased commercial processing workload (CPW) rating, 31 percent greater than the POWER5+ version and 72 percent greater than the POWER5 version. CPW is the "MIPS" or "TeraFlops" rating for comparing System i servers.Here is the[Announcement Letter].
Fibre Channel Adapter for System i hardware
That's right, these are [Smart IOAs], so an I/O Processor (IOP) is no longer required! You can even boot the Initial Program Load (IPL) direclty from SAN-attached tape.This brings System i to the 21st century for Business Continuity options.
Virtual I/O Server (VIOS)
[VirtualI/O Server] has been around for System p machines, but now available on System i as well. This allows multiplelogical partitions (LPARs) to access resources like Ethernet cards and FCP host bus adapters. In the case of storage, the VIOS handles the 520-byte to 512-byte conversion, so that i5/OS systems can now read and write to standard FCP devices like the IBM System Storage DS4800 and DS4700 disk systems.
IBM System Storage DS4000 series
Initially, we have certified DS4700 and DS4800 disk systems to work with i5/OS, but more devices are in plan.This means that you can now share your DS4700 between i5/OS and your other Linux, UNIX and Windowsservers, take advantage of a mix of FC and SATA disk capacities, RAID6 protection, and so on.
To call [IBM PowerVM] the "VMware for the POWER architecture" would not do it quite justice. In combination with VIOS, IBM PowerVM is able to run a variety of AIX, Linux and i5/OS guest images.The "Live Partition Mobility" feature allows you to easily move guest images from one system to another, while they are running, just like VMotion for x86 machines.
And while we are on the topic of x86, PowerVM is also able to represent a Linux-x86 emulation base to run x86-compiled applications. While many Linux applications could be re-complied from source code for the POWER architecture "as is", others required perhaps 1-2 percent modification to port them over, and that was too much for some software development houses. Now, we can run most x86-compiled Linux application binaries in their original form on POWER architecture servers.
BladeCenter JS22 Express
The POWER6-based [JS22 Express blade] can run i5/OS, taking advantage of PowerVM and VIOS to access all of the BladeCenterresources. The BladeCenter lets you mix and match POWER and x86-based blades in the same chassis, providing theultimate in flexibility.
Some people find it surprising that it is often more cost-effective, and power-efficient, to run workloads on mainframe logical partitions (LPARs) than a stack of x86 servers running VMware.
Perhaps they won't be surprised any more. Here is an article in eWeek that explains how IBM isreducing energy costs 80% by consolidating 3,900 rack-optimized servers to 33 IBM System z mainframe servers, running Linux, in its own data centers. Since 1997, IBM has consolidated its 155 strategic worldwide data center locations down to just seven.
I am very pleased that IBM has invested heavily into Linux, with support across servers, storage, software andservices. Linux is allowing IBM to deliver clever, innovative solutions that may not be possible with other operating systems. If you are in storage, you should consider becoming more knowledgeable in Linux.
The older systems won't just end up in a landfill somewhere. Instead, the details are spelled out inthe IBM Press Release:
As part of the effort to protect the environment, IBM Global Asset Recovery Services, the refurbishment and recycling unit of IBM, will process and properly dispose of the 3,900 reclaimed systems. Newer units will be refurbished and resold through IBM's sales force and partner network, while older systems will be harvested for parts or sold for scrap. Prior to disposition, the machines will be scrubbed of all sensitive data. Any unusable e-waste will be properly disposed following environmentally compliant processes perfected over 20 years of leading environmental skill and experience in the area of IT asset disposition.
Whereas other vendors might think that some operational improvements will be enough, such as switching to higher-capacity SATA drives, or virtualizing x86 servers, IBM recognizes that sometimes more fundamental changes are required to effect real changes and real results.