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A client asked me to explain "Nearline storage" to them. This was easy, I thought, as I started my IBM career on DFHSM, now known as DFSMShsm for z/OS, which was created in 1977 to support the IBM 3850 Mass Storage System (MSS), a virtual storage system that blended disk drives and tape cartridges with robotic automation. Here is a quick recap:
Sadly, it appears a few storage manufacturers and vendors have been misusing the term "Nearline" to refer to "slower online" spinning disk drives. I find this [June 2005 technology paper from Seagate], and this [2002 NetApp Press Release], the latter of which included this contradiction for their "NearStore" disk array. Here is the excerpt:
Which is it, "online access" or "nearline storage"?
If a client asked why slower drives consume less energy or generate less heat, I could explain that, but if they ask why slower drives must have SATA connections, that is a different discussion. The speed of a drive and its connection technology are for the most part independent. A 10K RPM drive can be made with FC, SAS or SATA connection.
I am opposed to using "Nearlne" just to distinguish between four-digit speeds (such as 5400 or 7200 RPM) versus "online" for five-digit speeds (10,000 and 15,000 RPM). The difference in performance between 10K RPM and 7200 RPM spinning disks is miniscule compared to the differences between solid-state drives and any spinning disk, or the difference between spinning disk and tape.
I am also opposed to using the term "Nearline" for online storage systems just because they are targeted for the typical use cases like backup, archive or other reference information that were previously directed to nearline devices like automated tape libraries.
Can we all just agree to refer to drives as "fast" or "slow", or give them RPM rotational speed designations, rather than try to incorrectly imply that FC and SAS drives are always fast, and SATA drives are always slow? Certainly we don't need new terms like "NL-SAS" just to represent a slower SAS connected drive.
The marketshare data for external disk systems has been released by IDC for 4Q09. Overall, the market dropped 0.7 percent, comparing 4Q09 versus 4Q08. While EMC was quick to remind everyone that they were able to [maintain their #1 position] in the storage subset of "external disk systems", with the same 23.7 percent marketshare they had back in 4Q08 and revenues that were essentially flat, the real story concerns the shifts in the marketplace for the other major players. IBM grew revenue 9 percent, putting it nearly 5 points of marketshare ahead of HP. HP revenues dropped 7 percent, moving it further behind. Not mentioned in the [IBM Press Release] were NetApp and Dell, neck and neck for fourth place, with NetApp gaining 16.8 percent in revenues, while Dell dropped 13.5 percent. Both NetApp and Dell now have about 8 percent marketshare each. These top five storage vendors represent nearly 70 percent of the marketshare.
Given that HP is IBM's number one competitor, not just in storage but all things IT, this was a major win. Bob Evans from InformationWeek interviews my fifth-line manager, IBM executive Rod Adkins [IBM Claims Hardware Supremacy] where he shares his views and opinions about HP, Oracle-Sun, Cisco and Dell. I'll add my two cents on what's going on:
To learn more about IBM results 4Q09 and full-year 2009, see [Quarterly Earnings].
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Continuing my series of posts on the IBM Storage launch of February 9, I cover some new disk options.
Next week, I'll continue to chip away, bit by bit, at this huge storage launch.
Continuing my coverage of last week's Data Center Conference 2009, my last breakout session of the week was an analyst presentation on Solid State Drive (SSD) technology. There are two different classes of SSD, consumer grade multi-level cell (MLC) running currently at $2 US dollars per GB, and Enterprise grade single-level cell (SLC) running at $4.50 US dollars per GB. Roughly 80 to 90 percent of the SSD is used in consumer use cases, such as digital cameras, cell phones, mobile devices, USB sticks, camcorders, media players, gaming devices and automotive.
While the two classes are different, the large R&D budgets spent on consumer grade MLC carry forward to help out enterprise grade SLC as well. SLC means there is a single level for each cell, so each cell can only hold a single bit of data, a one or a zero. MLC means the cell can hold multiple levels of charge, each representing a different value. Typically MLC can hold 3 to 4 bits of data per cell.
Back in 1997, SLC Enterprise Grade SSD cost roughly $7870 per GB. By 2013, Consumer Grade 4-bit MLC is expected to be only 24 cents per GB. Engineers are working on trade-offs between endurance cycles and retention periods. FLASH management software is the key differentiator, such as clever wear-leveling algorithms.
SSD is 10-15 times more expensive than spinning hard disk drives (HDD), and this price difference is expected to continue for a while. This is because of production volumes. In 4Q09, manufacturers will manufacturer 50 Exabytes of HDD, but only 2 Exabytes of SSD. The analyst thinks that SSD will only be roughly 2 percent of the total SAN storage deployed over the next few years.
How well did the audience know about SSD technology?
SSD does not change the design objectives of disk systems. We want disk systems that are more scalable and have higher performance. We want to fully utilize our investment. We want intelligent self-management similar to caching algorithms. We want an extensible architecture.
What will happen to fast Fibre Channel drives? Take out your Mayan calendar. Already 84mm 10K RPM drives are end of life (EOL) in 2009. The analyst expects 67mm and 70mm 10K drives will EOL in 2010, and that 15K will EOL by 2012. A lot of this is because HDD performance has not kept up with CPU advancements, resulting in an I/O bottleneck. SSD is roughly 10x slower than DRAM, and some architectures use SSD as a cache extension. The IBM N series PAM II card and Sun 7000 series being two examples.
Let's take a look at a disk system with 120 drives, comparing 73GB HDD's versus 32GB SSD's.
There are various use cases for SSD. These include internal DAS, stand-alone Tier 0 storage, replace or complement HDD in disk arrays, and as an extension of read cache or write cache. The analyst believes there will be mixed MLC/SLC devices that will allow for mixed workloads. His recommendations: