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.
The developerWorks Connections Platform is now in read-only mode and content is only available for viewing. No new wiki pages, posts, or messages may be added. Please see our FAQ for more information. The developerWorks Connections platform will officially shut down on March 31, 2020 and content will no longer be available. More details available on our FAQ. (Read in Japanese.)
While the rest of Americans were glued to their televisions watching President Obama explain his plan for recovery, my colleagues and Ihad dinner with clients from Canada.
One in particular claimed her father was known as the kingpin of[Flin Flon]. She lives in Ontario now, but she grew up in this smallmining town in Manitoba made famous for winning a government contractto grow crops for medicinal purposes.
Shown at left is the town's mascott, Flinty. Yes, apparently thetown was named after a fictional character of a paperback novel.
Of course, in conversations with clients, it is best to avoid topics like politics or drugs,but the intersection of government health care and implications on IT can't be disregarded.Since Canada has a more efficient healthcare process, the government enjoys a lower costper citizen. President Obama has suggested that the United States should adopt reforms to make the American system more efficient, including electronic medical records.
Not surprisingly, [smarter healthcare] is part of IBM's latest set of strategic initiatives.Digitizing medical information has a variety of benefits:
Information isn't stranded on islands
If there is any situation that needs to deliver the right information, to the right people,at the right time, healthcare is certainly one of them. Having the right information canhelp reduce medical mistakes.
Physicians spend time with their patients, not paperwork
I personally know some doctors here in Tucson, and they are the first to admit that theywould prefer to focus on their core strengths, which they spent many years in medical school,and leave the administrative details to someone else. Focusing on core strengths is acommon theme for successful businesses, and this is no different.
Expertise needs no passport
Medical emergencies do not always happen near the hospital or clinic that your medical records are stored at.An exciting feature of digital information is that it is easy to transport to where it isneeded, unlike paper records or X-ray film.
To learn more about IBM's strategy and vision, see IBM's[Smarter Planet] Web site.
Stephen Colbert, of The Colbert Report, explains the name changes in recent mergers of the Telecommunications industry. A discussion on "changing names" and how that impacts storage seems like a good way to wrap up the week's theme on naming conventions.
Name changes are sometimes painful, but often times done for a purpose, such as to promote a family. In the US, when a man and woman marries, the woman often changes her family name to match her husband, and the kids all adopt the father's family name. I say "often" because there are times where the woman keeps her name, or adds to it in a hyphenated way. ABC News reported that a Man Fights to Take Wife's Name in Marriage. KipEsquire, a lawyer, writes about it in his blogA stitch in haste.
IT industry changes the names of products that people knew as something else. Other times, they re-use an existing name, when really it is or should be different from the original. Last year, I took on the job of helping transition from our brand "TotalStorage" to the "System Storage" product line under the new "IBM Systems" brand. I help decide what stays the same name or what changes, when it should change, and how to announce that change.
On the disk side, IBM renamed Fibre Array Storage Technology, or FAStT, which was pronounced exactly like "fast", to DS4000 series. This was a big improvement, as people couldn't seem to spell it properly, with variations like "FastT". Nor could people pronounce it properly, saying "fast-tee" instead. The advantage of "DS" is that it is both easy to spell, and easy to pronounce. The DS4000 series continues to be "fast", providing excellent performance for its midrange price category.
IBM's Enterprise Storage Server (ESS) line went from model E10, to F20, to 750 and 800. When IBM came out with its replacement, the IBM TotalStorage DS8000, some people asked why it wasn't named the ESS 900, for example. The DS8000 is quite different internally, new hardware design and implementation, but is highly compatible with the ESS line, and shares much of the same functionality from microcode. Last year, it was replaced by the IBM System Storage DS8000 Turbo. Again, newer hardware, so it was easy to justify the new name change from "TotalStorage" to "System Storage".
Renaming a product risks losing its certifications and awards. For example, IBM spent a lot of time and money getting the OS/390 operating system certified as a "UNIX" platform. When it was renamed to z/OS, IBM had to do it all over again. Learning from this experience, IBM decided not to rename the SAN Volume Controllerto a new designation like "DS5750", as it enjoys the "number one" spot on both the SPC-1 and SPC-2 performance benchmarks, and is recognized as the leader in the disk storage virtualization marketplace. Renaming this product would mean losing that collateral.
IBM's "other disk systems" the N series posed another set of challenges. The current DS line already has entry-level (DS3000), midrange (DS4000) and enterprise-class (DS6000 and DS8000) products. The OEM agreement that IBM has with Network Appliance (NetApp) resulted in a new set of entry-level, midrange, and enterprise-class products. But these didn't fit nicely into the DS3000-to-DS8000 continuum. Instead, IBM decided to go with N series, using N3000 for entry-level, N5000 for midrange, and N7000 for enterprise-class. These are different than the numbers used by NetApp for their comparable, but not identical, offerings.
On the tape side, IBM decided to name the tape drives TS1000 and TS2000 range, tape libraries and automation with a TS3000 range, and tape virtualization to the TS7000 range. A lot of tape products already had 3000 numbering that had to change to fit this new scheme. This is why IBM's popular 3592 tape drive was renamed to the TS1120. The replacement to the 3494 Virtual Tape Server was named TS7700 Virtualization Engine.
Obviously, you can't change the names of products that are currently in the field, but what about existing software with minor updates? IBM decided to leave "TotalStorage Produtivity Center" under the "TotalStorage" brand until it has a significant version upgrade. Many people say "TPC" as a convenient acronym when referring to this product, but TPC is a registered trademark of the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) to refer to its "Tournament Players Club".
How can anyone confuse "managing storage" with "playing golf"? One activity is full of frustration that takes years or decades to master, involving the need to understand a variety of equipment and techniques to use each properly to accomplish your goals; and the other is an enjoyable activity, immediately productive in front of a single pane of glass managing all of your DAS, SAN and NAS storage, from reporting on your files and databases to managing storage networks and tape libraries.
Continuing this week in Los Angeles, I went to some interesting sessions today at theSystems Technical Conference (STC08).
System Storage Productivity Center (SSPC) - Install and Configuration
Dominic Pruitt, an IBM IT specialist in our Advanced Technical Support team, presented SSPC and howto install and configure it. For those confused between the difference of TotalStorage ProductivityCenter and System Storage Productivity Center, the former is pure software that you install on aWindows or Linux server, and the latter is an IBM server, pre-installed with Windows 2003, TotalStorageProductivity Center software, TPCTOOL command line interface, DB2 Universal Database, the DS8000 Element Manager, SVC GUI and CIMOM, and [PuTTY] rLogin/SSH/Telnet terminal application software.
Of course, the problem with having a server pre-installed with a lot of software is that there is alwayssomeone that wants to customize it further. For those who just want to manage their DS8000 disk systems,for example, it is possible to uninstall the SVC GUI, CIMOM and PuTTY, and re-install them later when youchange your mind. As a general rule, it is not wise to mix CIMOMs on the same machine, as it might causeconflicts with TCP ports or Java level requirements, so if you want a different CIMOM than SVC, uninstallthe SVC CIMOM first. For those who have SVC, the SSPC replaces the SVC Master Console, so you can safelyturn off the SVC CIMOM on your existing SVC Master Consoles.
The base level is TotalStorage Productivity Center "Basic Edition", but you can upgrade the Productivity Centerfor Disk, Data and Fabric components with license keys. You can also run Productivity Center for Replication,but IBM recommends adding processor and memory to do this (IBM offers this as an orderable option).Whether you have the TotalStorage software or SSPC hardware, Productivity Center has a cool role-to-groups mapping feature.You can create user groups, either on the Windows server, the Active Directory, or other LDAP, and then map which roles should be assigned to users in each group.
Since Productivity Center manages a variety of different disk systems, it has made anattempt to standardize some terminology. The term "storage pool" refers to an extentpool on the DS8000, or a managed disk group on the SAN Volume Controller. Since the DS8000 can support both mainframe CKD volumes and LUNs for distributed systems, theterm "volume" refers to a CKD volume or LUN, and "disk" refers to the hard disk drive (HDD).
To help people learn Productivity Center, IBM offers single-day "remote workshops"that use Windows Remote Desktop to allow participants to install, customize and usethe software with no travel required.
IBM Integrated Approach to Archiving
Dan Marshall, IBM global program manager for storage and data services on our Global Technology Services team, presented IBM's corporate-wide integration to support archive across systems, software and services.One attendee asked me why I was there, given that "archive" is one of my areas of subject matter expertise that I present often at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center. I find it useful to watch others present the material, even material that I helped to develop, to see a different slant or spin on each talking point.
Archive is one area that brings all parts of IBM together: systems, software and services.Dan provided a look at archive from the services angle, providing an objective unbiasedview of the different software and systems available to solve specific challenges.
Encryption Key Manager (EKM) Design and Implementation
Jeff Ziehm, IBM tape technical sales specialist, presented IBM's EKM software, how it works in a tape environment, and how to deploy it in various environments. Since IBM is allabout being open and non-proprietary, the EKM software runs on Java on a variety ofIBM and non-IBM operating systems. IBM offers "keytool" command line interface (CLI) for the LTO4 and TS1120 tape systems, and "iKeyMan" graphical user interface (GUI) for theTS1120. Since it runs on Java, IBM Business Partners and technical support personneloften just [download and install EKM]onto their own laptops to learn how to use it.
Virtual Tape Update
We had three presenters at this one. First, Jeff Mulliken, formerly from Diligent and now a full IBM employee, presented the current ProtecTier softwarewith the HyperFactor technology, then Abbe Woodcock, IBM tape systems, compared Diligent with IBM's TS7520 and just-announced TS7530virtual tape libraries, and finally Randy Fleenor, IBM tape sales leader, presented IBM's strategy going forward in tape virtualization.
Let's start with Diligent. The ProtecTier software runs on any x86-64 server withat least four cores and the correct Emulex host bus adapter (HBA) cards. Using Red HatEnterprise Linux (RHEL) as a base, the ProtecTier software performs its deduplication entirely in-lineat an "ingest rate" of 400-450 MB/sec. This is all possible using 4GB memory-resident "dictionary table" that can map up to 1 PB of back end physical storage, which could represent as much as 25PB of "nominal" storage. Theserver is then point-to-point or SAN-attached to Fibre Channel disk systems.
As we learned yesterday from Toby Marek's session, there are four ways to performdeduplication:
full-file comparisons. Store only one copy of identical files.
fixed-chunk comparisons. Files are carved up into fixed-size chunks, and each chunkis compared or hashed to existing chunks to eliminate duplicates.
variable-chunk comparisons. Variable-length chunks are hashed or diffed to eliminate duplicate data.
content-aware comparisons. If you knew data was in Powerpoint format, for example,you could compare text, photos or charts against other existing Powerpoint files toeliminate duplicates.
IBM System Storage N series Advanced Single Instance Storage (A-SIS) uses fixed-chunkmethod, and Diligent uses variable-chunk comparisons. Diligent does this using "dataprofiling". For example, let's say most of my photographs are pictures of people, buildings, landscapes, flowers and IT equipment. When I back these up, the Diligentserver "profiles" each, and determines if any existing data have a similar profilethat might have at least 50 percent similar content. Diligent than reads in the data that is mostly likely similar, does a byte-for-byte ["diff" comparison], and creates variable-lengthchunks that are either identical or unique to sections of the existing data. Theunique data is compressed with LZH and written to disk, and the sequential series of pointer segments representing the ingested file is written in a separate section on disk.
That Diligent can represent profiles for 1PB of data in as little as 4GB memory-residentdictionary is incredible. By comparison, 10TB data would require 10 million entries on a content-aware solution, and 1.25 billion entries for one based on hash-codes.
Abbe Woodcock presented the TS7530 tape system that IBM announced on Tuesday. It has some advantages over the current Diligent offering:
Hardware-based compression (TS7520 and Diligent use software-based compression)
1200 MB/sec (faster ingest rate than Diligent)
1.7PB of SATA disk (more disk capacity than Diligent)
Support for i5/OS (Diligent's emulation of ATL P3000 with DLT7000 tapes not supported on IBM's POWER systems running i5/OS)
Ability to attach a real tape library
NDMP backup to tape
tape "shredding" (virtual equivalent of degaussing a physical tape to erase all previously stored data)
Randy Fleenor wrapped up the session telling us IBM's strategy going forward with all of thevirtual tape systems technologies. Until then, IBM is working on "recipes" or "bundles", puttingDiligent software with specific models of IBM System x servers and IBM System Storage DS4000 disk systemsto avoid the "do-it-yourself" problems of its current software-only packaging.
Understanding Web 2.0 and Digital Archive Workloads
I got to present this in the last time slot of the day, just before everyone headed off to the [Westin Bonaventure hotel] for our big fancy barbecue dinner. Like my previous sessionon IBM Strategy, this session was more oriented toward a sales audience, but both garnereda huge turn-out and were well-received by the technical attendees.
This session was requested because these new applications and workloads are what is driving IBM to acquire small start-ups like XIV, deploy Scale-Out File Services (SOFS), and develop the innovative iDataPlex server rack.
The session was fun because it was a mix of explanation of the characteristics ofWeb 2.0 services; my own experience as a blogger and user of Google Docs, FlickR, Second Life andTivo; and an exploration in how database and digital archives will impact thegrowth in computing and storage requirements.
I'll expand on some of these topics in later blog posts.
Of these, fellow blogger Marc Farley suggested for me "Tony Late for Dinner Pearson", which is fair, I guess, given that I often work late to make sure my blog posts are well written, and sometimes that means I am the last to leave the building.
Full Disclosure: I've known Marc for a while now, we have attended events together and even were co-speakers on a conference call for customers.
Perhaps more disturbing is that, for the most part, the storage blogosphere is entirely dominated by men. Where are the women bloggers for storage?
'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' --- George Santayana
This last week of 2006 seems like a good time to recap the past year, and review the upcoming new year.That said, a good start is PC World's Top 21 Tech Screwups of 2006.
Laptops made the news this year in a variety of ways. #1 was exploding batteries,and #6 were the stolen laptops that exposed private personal information. Someone I knowwas listed in one of these stolen databases, so this last one hits close to home. Securityis becoming a bigger issue now, and IBM was the first to deliver device-based encryptionwith the TS1120 enterprise tape drive.
IBM makes the chips used in all the major game consoles: Microsoft's Xbox 360, Nintendo's Wii,and Sony's PlayStation 3. Being all based on IBM technology doesn'tmake the games interoperable or compatible, and in the case of Sony, it made #8 for being incompatible with their own PlayStation 2.Sadly, Nintendo's Wii had its own set of problems, and I found this parody of asafety video on YouTubeyou might enjoy.
Microsoft had #5 (not understanding the holiday shopping season ends in December), #12 (not understanding people who use PCs prefer privacy), and #17 (not understanding how people useMP3 music players). At least they delivered their latest Xbox with minimal problems.As an engineer, taking on a market strategy role involved reading books and taking classeson marketing. I learned that it is all about understanding the marketplace well enoughso that your prospects "know, like, and trust" your company. Perhaps Microsoft should take a refresher course.
A few companies showed off their brilliant customer service. Comcast is representedin a video on #7, and AOL in a taped phone conversation on #15. Many of our clients areafraid of vendor lock-in, and how difficult it might be to undo the deployment of new storagetechnology. Fortunately, IBM is committed to open standards, making it easier for our clientsto make the right choice and feel good about it.
Hopefully, we can all learn from the mistakes of others, and not repeat them in 2007.
In an effort to deal with "Great Depression 2.0", US President Barack Obama invited IBM Chairman Sam Palmisano and dozen other CEOs to the White House yesterday to talk about the economic stimulus package.
Barack's response was insightful on his thoughts on this. Here are someexcerpts:
"A few moments ago, I met with some of the leading business executives in the country. And it was a sober meeting because these companies and the workers they employ are going through times more trying than any we've seen in a long, long while. ... And yet, even as we discussed the seriousness of this challenge, we left our meeting confident that we can turn our economy around. ... But these executives also understand that without wise leadership in Washington, even the best-run businesses can't do as well as they might. ... And that is why I hope to sign an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan into law in the next few weeks. And most of the money we're investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job creation, generating or saving 3 (million) to 4 million new jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country. ... But even as this plan puts Americans back to work, it will also make the critical investments in alternative energy, in safer roads, better health care and modern schools that will lay the foundation for long-term growth and prosperity, and will invest in broadband and emerging technologies, like the ones imagined and introduced to the world by people like Sam and so many of the CEOs here today, because that's how America will retain and regain its competitive edge in the 21st century. ... We will invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public on the Internet and will be informed by independent experts whenever possible. And we will launch a sweeping effort to root out waste, inefficiency and unnecessary spending in our government. And every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars, by going to a new website to [recovery.gov], because I firmly believe what Justice Louis Brandeis once said, that sunlight is the best disinfectant. ... In the end, the answer to our economic troubles rests less in my hands or in the hands of our legislators than it does with America's workers and the businesses that employ them. They are the ones whose efforts and ideas will determine our economic destiny, just as they always have. For in the end, it's businesses, large and small, that generate the jobs, provide the salaries and serve as the foundation on which the American people's lives and dreams depend. All we can do, those of us here in Washington, is to help create a favorable climate in which workers can prosper, businesses can thrive and our economy can grow."
I certainly find Sam's efforts and Barack's responsiveness encouraging.
My session was the first in the morning, at 8:30am, but managed to pack the room full of people. A few looklike they just rolled in from Brocade's special get-together in Casey's Irish Pub the night before.I presented how IBM's storage strategy for the information infrastructure fits into the greater corporate-wide themes.To liven things up, I gave out copies of my book[Inside System Storage: Volume I] to those who asked or answered the toughest questions.
Data Deduplication and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)
IBM Toby Marek compared and contrasted the various data deduplication technologies and products available, andhow to deploy them as the repository for TSM workloads. She is a software engineer for our TSM software product,and gave a fair comparison between IBM System Storage N series Advanced Single Instance Storage (A-SIS), IBMDiligent, and other solutions out in the marketplace.If you are going to combine technologies, then it isbest to dedupe first, then compress, and finally encrypt the data. She also explained about the many cleverways that TSM does data reduction at the client side greatly reduces the bandwidth traffic over the LAN,as well as reducing disk and tape resources for storage. This includes progressive "incremental forever" backup for file selection, incremental backups for databases, and adaptive sub-file backup.Because of these data reduction techniques, you may not get as much benefit as deduplication vendors claim.
The Business Value of Energy Efficiency Data Centers
Scott Barielle did a great job presenting the issues related to the Green IT data center. He is part of IBM"STG Lab Services" team that does energy efficiency studies for customers. It is not unusual for his teamto find potential savings of up to 80 percent of the Watts consumed in a client's data center.
IBM has done a lot to make its products more energy efficient. For example, in the United States, most datacenters are supplied three-phase 480V AC current, but this is often stepped down to 208V or 110V with powerdistribution units (PDUs). IBM's equipment allows for direct connection to this 480V, eliminating the step-downloss. This is available for the IBM System z mainframe, the IBM System Storage DS8000disk system, and larger full-frame models of our POWER-based servers, and will probably be rolled out to someof our other offerings later this year. The end result saves 8 to 14 percent in energy costs.
Scott had some interesting statistics. Typical US data centers only spend about 9 percent of their IT budgeton power and cooling costs. The majority of clients that engage IBM for an energy efficiency study are not tryingto reduce their operational expenditures (OPEX), but have run out, or close to running out, of total kW ratingof their current facility, and have been turned down by their upper management to spend the average $20 million USDneeded to build a new one. The cost of electricity in the USA has risen very slowly over the past 35 years, andis more tied the to fluctuations of Natural Gas than it is to Oil prices.(a recent article in the Dallas News confirmed this:["As electricity rates go up, natural gas' high prices, deregulation blamed"])
Cognos v8 - Delivering Operational Business Intelligence (BI) on Mainframe
Mike Biere, author of the book [BusinessIntelligence for the Enterprise], presented Cognos v8 and how it is being deployed for the IBMSystem z mainframe. Typically, customers do their BI processing on distributed systems, but 70 percent of the world's business data is on mainframes, so it makes sense to do yourBI there as well. Cognos v8 runs on Linux for System z, connecting to z/OS via [Hypersockets].
There are a variety of other BI applications on the mainframe already, including DataQuant,AlphaBlox, IBI WebFocus and SAS Enterprise Business Intelligence. In addition to accessing traditional onlinetransaction processing (OLTP) repositories like DB2, IMS and VSAM, using the [IBM WebSphere ClassicFederation Server], Cognos v8 can also read Lotus databases.
Business Intelligence is traditionally query, reporting and online analytics process (OLAP) for the top 10 to 15 percent of the company, mostly executives andanalysts, for activities like business planning, budgeting and forecasting. Cognos PowerPlay stores numericaldata in an [OLAP cube] for faster processing.OLAP cubes are typically constructed with a batch cycle, using either "Extract, Transfer, Load" [ETL], or "Change Data Capture" [CDC], which playsto the strength of IBM System z mainframe batch processing capabilities.If you are not familiar with OLAP, Nigel Pendse has an article[What is OLAP?] for background information.
Over the past five years, BI is now being more andmore deployed for the rest of the company, knowledge workers tasked with doing day-to-day operations. Thisphenomenom is being called "Operational" Business Intelligence.
IBM Glen Corneau, who is on the Advanced Technical Support team for AIX and System p, presented the IBMGeneral Parellel File System (GPFS), which is available for AIX, Linux-x86 and Linux on POWER.Unfortunately, many of the questions were related to Scale Out File Services (SOFS), which my colleague GlennHechler was presenting in another room during this same time slot.
GPFS is now in its 11th release since its introducing in 1997. All of the IBM supercomputers on the [Top 500 list] use GPFS. The largest deployment of GPFS is 2241 nodes.A GPFS environment can support up to 256 file systems, each file system can have up to 2 billion filesacross 2 PB of storage. GPFS supports "Direct I/O" making it a great candidate for Oracle RAC deployments.Oracle 10g automatically detects if it is using GPFS, and sets the appropriate DIO bits in the stream totake advantage of GPFS features.
Glen also covered the many new features of GPFS, such as the ability to place data on different tiers ofstorage, with policies to move to lower tiers of storage, or delete after a certain time period, all conceptswe call Information Lifecycle Management. GPFS also supports access across multiple locations and offersa variety of choices for disaster recovery (DR) data replication.
Perhaps the only problem with conferences like this is that it can be an overwhelming["fire hose"] of information!
My theme this week was to focus on "Do-it-Yourself" solutions, such as the "open storage" concept presentedby Sun Microsystems, but it has morphed into a discussion on vendor lock-in. Both deserve a bit of furtherexploration.
There were several reasons offered on why someone might pursue a "Do-it-Yourself" course of action.
Building up skills
In my post [Simply Dinners and Open Storage], I suggested that building a server-as-storage solution based on Sun's OpenSolaris operating system could serve to learn more about [OpenSolaris], and by extension, the Solaris operating system.Like Linux, OpenSolaris is open source and has distributions that run on a variety of chipsets, from Sun's ownSPARC, to commodity x86 and x86-64 hardware. And as I mentioned in my post [Getting off the island], a version of OpenSolaris was even shown to run successfully on the IBM System z mainframe.
"Learning by Doing" is a strong part of the [Constructivism] movement in education. TheOne Laptop Per Child [OLPC] uses this approach. IBM volunteers in Tucson and 40other sites [help young students build robots]constructed from [Lego Mindstorms]building blocks.Edward De Bono uses the term [operacy] to refer to the"skills of doing", preferred over just "knowing" facts and figures.
However, I feel OpenSolaris is late to the game. Linux, Windows and MacOS are all well-established x86-based operating systems that most home office/small office users would be familiar with, and OpenSolaris is positioning itself as "the fourth choice".
In my post[WashingtonGets e-Discovery Wakeup Call], I suggested that the primary motivation for the White House to switch from Lotus Notes over to Microsoft Outlookwas familiarity with Microsoft's offerings. Unfortunately, that also meant abandoning a fully-operational automated email archive system, fora manual do-it-yourself approach copying PST files from journal folders.
Familiarity also explains why other government employees might print out their emails and archive them on paperin filing cabinets. They are familiar with this process, it allows them to treat email in the same manner as they have treated paper documents in the past.
Cost, Control and Unique Requirements
The last category of reasons can often result if what you want is smaller or bigger than what is availablecommercially. There are minimum entry-points for many vendors. If you want something so small that it is notprofitable, you may end up doing it yourself. On the other end of the scale, both Yahoo and Google ended up building their data centers with a do-it-yourself approach, because no commercial solutions were available atthe time. (IBM now offers [iDataPlex], so that has changed!)
While you could hire a vendor to build a customized solution to meet your unique requirements, it might turn outto be less costly to do-it-yourself. This might also provide some added control over the technologies and components employed. However, as EMC blogger Chuck Hollis correctly pointed out for[Do-it-yourself storage],your solution may not be less costly than existingoff-the-shelf solutions from existing storage vendors, when you factor in scalability and support costs.
Of course, this all assumes that storage admins building the do-it-yourself storage have enough spare time to do so. When was the last time your storage admins had spare time of any kind?Will your storage admins provide the 24x7 support you could get from established storage vendors? Will theybe able to fix the problem fast enough to keep your business running?
From this, I would gather that if you have storage admins more familiar with Solaris than Linux, Windows or MacOS,and select commodity x86 servers from IBM, Sun, HP, or Dell, they could build a solution that has less vendor lock-in than something off-the-shelf from Sun. Let's explore the fears of vendor lock-in further.
The storage vendor goes out of business
Sun has not been doing so well, so perhaps "open storage" was a way to warn existing Sun storage customers thatbuilding your own may be the next alternative.The New York Times title of their article says it all:["Sun Microsystems Posts Loss and Plans to Reduce Jobs"]. Sun is a big company, so I don't expect them to close their doors entirely this year,but certainly fear of being locked-in to any storage vendor's solution gets worse if you fear the vendor might go out of business.
The storage vendor will get acquired by a vendor you don't like
We've seen this before. You don't like vendor A, so you buy kit from vendor B, only to have vendor A acquire vendorB after your purchase. Surprise!
The storage vendor will not support new applications, operating systems, or other new equipment
Here the fear is that the decisions you make today might prevent you from choices you want to make in the future.You might want to upgrade to the latest level of your operating system, but your storage vendor doesn't supportit yet. Or maybe you want to upgrade your SAN to a faster bandwidth speed, like 8 Gbps, but your storage vendordoesn't support it yet. Or perhaps that change would require re-writing lots of scripts using the existingcommand line interfaces (CLI). Or perhaps your admins would require new training for the new configuration.
The storage vendor will raise prices or charge you more than you expect on follow-on upgrades
For most monolithic storage arrays, adding additional disk capacity means buying it from the same vendor as the controller. I heard of one company recently who tried to order entry-level disk expansion drawer, at a lower price, solely to move the individual disk drives into a higher-end disk system. Guess what? It didn't work. Most storage vendors would not support such mixed configurations.
If you are going to purchase additional storage capacity to an existing disk system, it should cost no more thanthe capacity price rate of your original purchase. IBM offers upgrades at the going market rate, but not all competitors are this nice. Some take advantage of the vendor lock-in, charging more for upgrades and pocketing the difference as profit.
Vendor lock-in represents the obstacles in switching vendors in the event the vendor goes out of business, failsto support new software or hardware in the data center, or charges more than you are comfortable with. These obstacles can make it difficult to switch storage vendors, upgrade your applications, or meet otherbusiness obligations. IBM SANVolume Controller and TotalStorage Productivity Center can help reduce or eliminate many of these concerns. IBMGlobal Services can help you, as much or as little, as you want in this transformation. Here are the four levelsof the do-it-yourself continuum:
Let me figure it out myself
Tell me what to do
Help me do it
Do it for me
This is the self-service approach. Go to our website, download an [IBM Redbook], figure out whatyou need, and order the parts to do-it-yourself.
IBM Global Business Services can help understand your business requirementsand tell you what you need to meet them.
IBM Global Technology Services can help design, assemble and deploy asolution, working with your staff to ensure skill and knowledge transfer.
IBM Managed Storage Services can manage your storage, on-site at your location, or at an IBM facility. IBM provides a varietyof cloud computing and managed hosting services.
So, if you are currently a Sun server or storage customer concerned about these latest Sun announcements, give IBM a call, we'll help you switch over!
Continuing this week's theme of New Year's Resolutions for the data center, today we'll talk about one that people don't always think about on a personal level, that is to hone your tools and skills.
A long time ago, I used to be a regular speaker at the SHARE user group conference. One of the most attended sessions was Sam Golob presenting the latest CBT Tape set of tools. Over time, this large collection of "mainframe shareware" was handed out on 3480 tape cartridges, then on CDs, and finally made downloadable off the web.Sam's main point, which I remember to this day, was that everyone who has a job should figure out what tools they use, keep those tools functioning properly, and learn to use them well.
Later, I took some cooking classes at a culinary school. Among other things, we learned:
A sharp knife is safer and easier to use than a dull one, resulting in fewer accidents
Knowing what you are doing is the difference between food that is "simply awful" to that which is "awfully simple" to prepare.
A well trained chef can prepare most meals with just a sharp knife and wooden spoon.
The same could be said about software tools. What tools do you use in your job? Do you feel you know how to take full advantage of their power and capabilities?If you develop software, do you know all the features for your debugging tools? If you develop advertising or marketing materials, do you know all the features of your photo or video editing software? If you manage storage in a data center, do you know all the tools for managing your storage area network (SAN), disk systems, tape libraries, and reporting tools to identify all of your files and databases across your entire IT environment?I would not be surprised if you could replace a whole mess of tools with just one, such as the IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center.
I am Tony Pearson, IBM brand marketing strategy, located in Tucson, Arizona. I have degrees in Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering from the University of Arizona. Over the past 20 years, I have worked in a variety of storage roles, including development projects, product and portfolio management, testing, field support, and now bring that technical experience to marketing.
There are a lot of things to discuss related to storage, and I am never short of opinions. As such, the standard IBM disclaimer applies: “The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of IBM or IBM management.”
I have invited other IBMers to post their opinions, and when they do, their opinions may not necessarily match mine either.
This is an open two-way conversation between IBM, Business Partners, Independent Software Vendors, prospects and existing clients. I encourage everyone to post comments about our products, services, and marketing efforts.