This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to IBM Systems, storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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.
Tony Pearson's books are available on Lulu.com! Order your copies today!
Safe Harbor Statement: The information on IBM products is intended to outline IBM's general product direction and it should not be relied on in making a purchasing decision. The information on the new products is for informational purposes only and may not be incorporated into any contract. The information on IBM products is not a commitment, promise, or legal obligation to deliver any material, code, or functionality. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for IBM products remains at IBM's sole discretion.
Tony Pearson is a an active participant in local, regional, and industry-specific interests, and does not receive any special payments to mention them on this blog.
Tony Pearson receives part of the revenue proceeds from sales of books he has authored listed in the side panel.
Tony Pearson is not a medical doctor, and this blog does not reference any IBM product or service that is intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, prevention or monitoring of a disease or medical condition, unless otherwise specified on individual posts.
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:
What constitutes a building?
A building is a structure intended for continuous human occupancy, as opposed to the dozens ofradio and television broadcasting towers which measure over 600 meters in height. The Petronas Twin Towers is occupied by a variety of business tenants and would qualify as a building. Radio and Television towers are not intended for occupation, and should not be considered.
Where do you start measuring, and where do you stop?
Since 1969, the height was generally based on a building's height from the sidewalk level of the main entrance to the architectural top of the building. The "architectural top" included towers, spires (but not antennas), masts or flagpoles. Should the measurements be only to the top to the highest inhabitable floor?
What if the building has many more floors below ground level? What if the building exists in a body of water, should sidewalk level equate to water level, and at low tide or high tide? (Laugh now, but this might happen sooner than you think!)
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:
People and companies are willing to pay more to be a tenant in tall towers, affording a luxurious bird's-eyeview to impress friends, partners and clients, and so the rankings can influence purchase or leasing prices of floorspace in these buildings.
Architects and engineers involved in building these structures want to list these on their resume.These buildings are an impressive feat of engineering, and the teams involved collaborate in a global mannerto accomplish them. If an architecture or engineeering company can build the world's tallest building, you can trust themto build one for you. The rankings can help drive revenues in generating demand for services and offerings.
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.
"The murals in restaurants are on par with the food in museums." --- Peter De Vries
The quote above applies to blogs as well. Those about competitive products of which the blogger has little to no hands-on experience tend to be terribly misleading or technically inaccurate. We saw this last month as Sun Microsystems' Jeff Savit tried to discuss the IBM System z10 EC mainframe.
This time, it comes from EMC bloggers discussing NetApp equipment, and by association, IBM System Storage N series gear.I was going to comment on the ridiculous posts by fellow bloggers from EMC about SnapLock compliance feature on the NetApp, but my buddies at NetApp had already done this for me, saving me the trouble.
The hysterical nature of writing from EMC, and the calm responses from NetApp, speak volumes about the culturesof both companies.
The key point is that none of the "Non-erasable, Non-Rewriteable" (NENR) storage out there are certified as compliant by any government agency on the planet. Governments just aren't in the business of certifying such things. The best you can get is a third-party consultant, such as [Cohasset Associates], to help make decisions that are best for each particular situation.
In addition to SnapLock on N series, IBM offers the [IBM System Storage DR550], WORM tape and optical systems, all of which have been deemed compliant to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC 17a-4] federal regulations by Cohasset Associates. For medical patient records and images like X-rays, IBM offers the Grid Medical Archive Solution [GMAS]designed to meet the requirements of the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act[HIPAA].For other government or industry regulations, consult with your legal counsel.
Chris Anderson, of Wired magazine, wrote a great article called The Long Tail.
This article became a book by the same name published earlier this year, and I just discovered it on a recent visit to Second Life. A lot of IBMers are now alsoSecond Lifers, and I suspect it is just a matter of time before we are conductingour customer briefings there, and getting our year-end bonuses paid directly in Linden bucks.(Those of you not familiar with Second Life can watch this 3-minute video fromthe folks at Text100)
Anyways, the Long Tail describes the new economy of entertainment thanks to digitalstorage. Here are some of the key insights.
In the past, entertainment was all about hits: hit songs, hit movies,hit novels, and this was primarily because of the economic realities restricted byphysical space. Chris writes: "An average movie theater will not show a film unless it can attract at least 1,500 people over a two-week run; that's essentially the rent for a screen. An average record store needs to sell at least two copies of a CD per year to make it worth carrying; that's the rent for a half inch of shelf space."
Things have changed. To drive the point home, Robbie Vann-Adibe (CEO of eCast), poses the trick question"What percentage of the top 10,000 titles in any online media store (Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, or any other) will rent or sell at least once a month?" The answer will surprise you. Write down your guess first, then go read here. His digital jukeboxes are able to play from a list of150,000 songs, not the few hundred you'd find at the Tap Room which is rated as having the best jukebox in Tucson.
The phenomenon is not just limited to music. "Take books," Chris writes, "The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are..."
This has incredible implications for the storage industry. For one, content providers are going to dig deep into their archives to digitize and deliver "long tail" offerings. If they don't have a deep archive, many will start to build one. Second, the need to search through that large volume of content will become more critical. Classifying and indexing with the appropriate tags and metadata will be an important task.
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.howstuffworks.com that cover a wide range of topics.
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.
This week is Thanksgiving holiday in the USA, so I thought a good theme would be things I am thankful for.
I'll start with saying that I am thankful EMC has finally announcedAtmos last week. This was the "Maui" part of the Hulk/Maui rumors we heard over a year ago. To quickly recap, Atmos is EMC's latest storage offeringfor global-scale storage intended for Web 2.0 and Digital Archive workloads. Atmos can be sold as just software, or combined with Infiniflex,EMC's bulk, high-density commodity disk storage systems. Atmos supports traditionalNFS/CIFS file-level access, as well as SOAP/REST object protocols.
I'm thankful for various reasons, here's a quick list:
It's hard to compete against "vaporware"
Back in the 1990s, IBM was trying to sell its actual disk systems against StorageTek's rumored "Iceberg" project. It took StorageTek some four years to get this project out,but in the meantime, we were comparing actual versus possibility. The main feature iswhat we now call "Thin Provisioning". Ironically, StorageTek's offering was not commercially successful until IBM agreed to resell this as the IBM RAMAC Virtual Array (RVA).
Until last week, nobody knew the full extent of what EMC was going to deliver on the many Hulk/Maui theories. Severalhinted as to what it could have been, and I am glad to see that Atmos falls short of those rumored possibilities. This is not to say that Atmos can't reach its potential, and certainly some of the design is clever, such as offering native SOAP/REST access.
Instead, IBM now can compare Atmos/Infiniflex directly to the features and capabilities of IBM's Scale Out File Services [SoFS], which offers a global-scale multi-site namespace with policy-based data movement, IBM System Storage Multilevel Grid Access Manager[GAM] that manages geographical distrubuted information,and IBM [XIV Storage System] that offers high-density bulk storage.
Web 2.0 and Digital Archive workloads justify new storage architectures
When I presented SoFS and XIV earlier this year, I mentioned they were designed forthe fast-growing Web 2.0 and Digital Archive workloads that were unique enough to justify their own storage architectures. One criticism was that SoFS appeared to duplicate what could be achieved with dozens of IBM N series NAS boxes connected with Virtual File Manager (VFM). Why invent a new offering with a new architecture?
With the Atmos announcement, EMC now agrees with IBM that the Web 2.0 and DigitalArchive workloads represent a unique enough "use case" to justify a new approach.
New offerings for new workloads will not impact existing offerings for existing workloads
I find it amusing that EMC is quickly defending that Atmos will not eat into its DMXbusiness, which is exactly the FUD they threw out about IBM XIV versus DS8000 earlier this year. In reality, neither the DS8000 nor the DMX were used much for Web 2.0 andDigital Archive workloads in the past. Companies like Google, Amazon and others hadto either build their own from piece parts, or use low-cost midrange disk systems.
Rather, the DS8000 and DMX can now focus on the workloads they were designed for,such as database applications on mainframe servers.
Cloud-Oriented Storage (COS)
Just when you thought we had enough terminology already, EMC introduces yet another three-letter acronym [TLA]. Kudos to EMC for coining phrases to help move newconcepts forward.
Now, when an RFP asks for Cloud-oriented storage, I am thankful this phrase will help serve as a trigger for IBM to lead with SoFS and XIV storage offerings.
Digital archives are different than Compliance Archives
EMC was also quick to point out that object-storage Atmos was different from theirobject-storage EMC Centera. The former being for "digital archives" and the latter for"compliance archives". Different workloads, Different use cases, different offerings.
Ever since IBM introduced its [IBM System Storage DR550] several years ago, EMC Centera has been playing catch-up to match IBM'smany features and capabilities. I am thankful the Centera team was probably too busy to incorporate Atmos capabilities, so it was easier to make Atmos a separate offering altogether. This allows the IBM DR550 to continue to compete against Centera's existingfeature set.
Micro-RAID arrays, logical file and object-level replication
I am thankful that one of the Atmos policy-based feature is replicating individualobjects, rather than LUN-based replication and protection. SoFS supports this forlogical files regardless of their LUN placement, GAM supports replication of files and medical images across geographical sites in the grid, and the XIV supports this for 1MBchunks regardless of their hard disk drive placement. The 1MB chunk size was basedon the average object size from established Web 2.0 and DigitalArchive workloads.
I tried to explain the RAID-X capability of the XIV back in January, under muchcriticism that replication should only be done at the LUN level. I amthankful that Marc Farley on StorageRap coined the phrase[Micro-RAID array] to helpmove this new concept further. Now, file-level, object-level and chunk-level replication can be considered mainstream.
Much larger minimum capacity increments
The original XIV in January was 51TB capacity per rack, and this went up to 79TB per rack for the most recent IBM XIV Release 2 model. Several complained that nobody would purchase disk systems at such increments. Certainly, small and medium size businessesmay not consider XIV for that reason.
I am thankful Atmos offers 120TB, 240TB and 360TB sizes. The companies that purchasedisk for Web 2.0 and Digital Archive workloads do purchase disk capacity in these large sizes. Service providers add capacity to the "Cloud" to support many of theirend-clients, and so purchasing disk capacity to rent back out represents revenue generating opportunity.
Renewed attention on SOAP and REST protocols
IBM and Microsoft have been pushing SOA and Web Services for quite some time now.REST, which stands for [Representational State Transfer] allows static and dynamic HTML message passing over standard HTTP.SOAP, which was originally [Simple Object Access Protocol], and then later renamed to "Service Oriented Architecture Protocol", takes this one step further, allowingdifferent applications to send "envelopes" containing messages and data betweenapplications using HTTP, RPC, SMTP and a variety of other underlying protocols.Typically, these messages are simple text surrounded by XML tags, easily stored asfiles, or rows in databases, and served up by SOAP nodes as needed.
It's hard to show leadership until there are followers
IBM's leadership sometimes goes unnoticed until followerscreate "me, too!" offerings or establish similar business strategies. IBM's leadership in Cloud and Grid computing is no exception.Atmos is the latest me-too product offering in this space, trying pretty muchto address the same challenges that SoFS and XIV were designed for.
So, perhaps EMC is thankful that IBM has already paved the way, breaking throughthe ice on their behalf. I am thankful that perhaps I won't have to deal with as much FUD about SoFS, GAM and XIV anymore.