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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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[R&D Magazine] recently conducted a survey that prompted readers to identify the world's most successful Research and Development (R&D) companies. The results are in: IBM was recognized as the best R&D company in the world when several different categories were evaluated, including:
R&D spending as a percentage of revenue
the number of patents
new products in development
The survey considered additional information on more than 130 companies such as data on intellectual property, community service and financial growth trends. Readers were also asked five distinct questions, including the following:
Where would you like to work based on their R&D?
What companies have the most improved R&D in the past five years?
What companies are the leaders in R&D?
Which company's R&D has the strongest influence on society?
Which company's R&D is the most proactive in high tech challenges?
Since it is often 5-15 years between when a scientist in one of our many research labs comes up with a clever idea, to when it is a market success, it is good to have external recognition for the R&D efforts we are doing right now.Here is a link to a [four-page PDF] of the magazine article.
Take for example IBM's recent breakthrough in Silicon photonics. Supercomputers that consist of thousands of individual processing nodes, typically running Linux on dual-core or quad-core processors, connected by miles of copper wires could one day fit into a laptop PC. And while today’s supercomputers can use the equivalent energy required to power hundreds of homes, these future tiny supercomputers-on-a-chip would expend the energy of a light bulb, so this solution is more "green" for the environment.According to the [IBM Press Release]:
The breakthrough -- known in the industry as a silicon Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulator -- performs the function of converting electrical signals into pulses of light. The IBM modulator is 100 to 1,000 times smaller in size compared to previously demonstrated modulators of its kind, paving the way for many such devices and eventually complete optical routing networks to be integrated onto a single chip. This could significantly reduce cost, energy and heat while increasing communications bandwidth between the cores more than a hundred times over wired chips.
“Work is underway within IBM and in the industry to pack many more computing cores on a single chip, but today’s on-chip communications technology would overheat and be far too slow to handle that increase in workload,” said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president, Science and Technology, IBM Research. “What we have done is a significant step toward building a vastly smaller and more power-efficient way to connect those cores, in a way that nobody has done before.”
Today, one of the most advanced chips in the world -- IBM’s Cell processor which powers the Sony Playstation 3 -- contains nine cores on a single chip. The new technology aims to enable a power-efficient method to connect hundreds or thousands of cores together on a tiny chip by eliminating the wires required to connect them. Using light instead of wires to send information between the cores can be 100 times faster and use 10 times less power than wires.
Well, I'm back from my vacation from Bali and Singapore, and am glad to seethat my fellow blogger BarryB [aka Storage Anarchist] also had a chance to take a break to exotic locations.
Next Thursday, in the USA, is [Thanksgiving holiday], so this will give me a chance to catch up on my email and read everyone's blog posts and product announcements.
The following week, December 2-5, I'll be attending the 27th annual [Data Center Conference] at the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. IBM is a Premier and Platinum sponsor for this event.Look for me in one of the many break-out sessions, one-on-oneexecutive meetings, or IBM's "booth 20" at the solution center. Our team will be showingoff IBM's XIV, SVC and TotalStorage Productivity Center offerings, aswell as explaining IBM Information Infrastructure and the rest of theNew Enterprise Data Center strategy.
I'm glad this is the final day of the IBM Systems Technical Conference (STC08) here in Los Angeles.While I enjoyed the conference, one quickly reaches saturation point with all the information presented.
XIV Architecture Overview
Before this conference, many of the attendees didn't understandIBM's strategy, didn't understand Web 2.0 and Digital archive workloads,and didn't understand why IBM acquired XIV to offer "yet another disk systemthat servers LUNs to distributed server platforms." Brian Shermanchanged all that!
Brian Sherman, IBM Advanced Technical Support (ATS), is part of the exclusive dedicated XIVtechnical team to install these boxes at client locations, so he is very knowledgeable with the technical aspects of the architecture. He presented what the current XIV-branded model that clients can purchase now in select countries, and what the IBM-branded model will change when available worldwide.
Those who missed my earlier series on XIV can find them here:
Beyond this, Brian gave additional information on how thin provisioning, storage pools, disk mirroring, consistency groups, management consoles, and microcode updates are implemented.
N series and VMware Deep Dive
Norm Bogard, IBM Advanced Technical Support, presented why the IBM N series makes such great disk storage for VMware
deployments. This wasclearly labeled as a "deep dive", so anyone who got lost in all of theacronyms could not blame Norm for misrepresentation.
IBM has been doing server virtualization for over 40 years, so it makes sense thatit happens to be the number one reseller of VMware offerings.VMware ESX server is a hypervisor that runs on x86 host, and provides an emulationlayer for "guest Operating Systems". Each guest can hvae one or more virtualdisks, which are represented by VMware as VMDK files. VMware ESX server acceptsread/write requests from the guests, and forwards them on to physical storage.Many of VMware's most exciting features requires storage to be external to thehost machine. [VMotion]allows guests to move from one host to another, [Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS)]allows a set of hosts to load-balance the guestsacross the hosts, and [High Availability (HA)] allows the guests on a failed hostto be resurrected on a surviving host. All of these require external disk storage.
ESX server allows up to 256 LUNs, attached via FCP and/or iSCSI, and up to 32 NFS mount points. Across LUNs, ESX server uses VMFS file system, which is a clusteredfile system like IBM GPFS that allows multiple hosts to access the same LUNs.ESX server has its own built-in native multipathing driver, and even provides FCP-iSCSIand iSCSI multipathing. In other words, you can have a LUN on an IBM System Storage N series thatis attached over both FCP and iSCSI, so if the SAN switch or HBA fails, ESX servercan failover to the iSCSI connection.
ESX server can use NFS protocol to access the VMDK files instead. While the default is only 8 NFS mount points, you can increase this to 32 mount points. NAS can takeadvantage of Link Aggregate Control Protocol [LACP] groups, what some call "trunking" or "EtherChannel". This is the ability to consolidate multiple streams onto fewer inter-switch Ethernet links, similar to what happens on SAN switches.For the IBM N series, IBM recommends a "fixed" path policy, rather than "most recently used".
IBM recommends disabling SnapShot schedules, and setting the Snap reserve to 0 percent.Why? A snapshot of an ESX server datastore has the VMDK files of many guests, all of which would have had to quiesce or stop to make the data "crash consistent" for theSnapshot of the datastore to even make any sense. So, if you want to take Snapshots, itshould be something you coordinate with the ESX server and its guest OS images, and notscheduled by the N series itself.
If you are running NFS protocol to N series, you can turn off the "accesstime" updates. In normal file systems, when you read a file, it updates the"access time" in the file directory. This can be useful if you are looking forfiles that haven't been read in a while, such as software that migrates infrequentlyaccessed files to tape. Assuming you are not doing that on your N series, you might as well turnoff this feature, and reduce the unnecessary write activity to the IBM N series box.
ESX server can also support "thin provisioning" on the IBM N series. There isa checkbox for "space reserved". Checked means "thick provisioning" and uncheckedmeans "thin provisioning". If you decide to use "thin provisioning" with VMware,you should consider setting AutoSize to automatically increase your datastorewhen needed, and to auto-delete-snap your oldest snapshots first.
The key advantage of using NFS rather than FCP or iSCSI is that it eliminates theuse of the VMFS file system. IBM N series has the WAFL file system instead, andso you don't have to worry about VMFS partition alignment issue. Most VMDK aremisaligned, so the performance is sub-optimal. If you can align each VMDK to a32KB or 64KB boundary (depending on guest OS), then you can get better performance.WAFL does this for you automatically, but VMFS does not. For Windows guests, use "Windows PE" to configurecorrectly-aligned disks. For UNIX or Linux guests, use "fdisk" utility.
What Industry Analysts are saying about IBM
Vic Peltz gave a presentation highlighting the accolades from securities analysts, IT analysts, and newsagencies about IBM and IBM storage products. For example, analysts like that IBM offersmany of the exciting new technologies their clients are demanding, like "thin provisioning", RAID-6 double-drive protection,SATA and Solid State Disk (SSD) drive technology.Analysts also like that IBM is open to non-IBM heterogeneous environments. Whereas EMC Celerra gateways supportonly EMC disk, IBM N series gateways and IBM SAN Volume Controller support a mix of IBM and non-IBM equipment.
Analysts also like IBM's "datacenter-wide" approach to issues like security and "Green IT". Rather than focusingon these issues with individual point solutions, IBM attacks these challenges with a complete"end-to-end" solution approach. A typical 25,000 square foot data center consumes $2.6 million dollars USD in power andcooling today, and IBM has proven technologies to reduce this cost in half. IBM's DS8000 on average consume26.5 to 27.8 percent less electricity than a comparable EMC DMX-4 disk system. IBM's tape systemsconsume less energy than comparable Sun or HP models.
IBM iDataPlex product technical presentation
Vallard Benincosa, IBM Technical Sales Specialist, presented the recently-announced [IBM System x iDataPlex].This is designed for our clients that have thousands of x86 servers, that buy servers "racks at a time", tosupport Web 2.0 and digital archive workloads. The iDataPlex is designed for efficient power and cooling,rapid scalability, and usable server density.
iDataPlex is such a radical design departure, that it might be difficult to describe in words.Most racks take up two floor tiles, each tile is 2 foot by 2 foot square. In that space, a traditionalrack would have servers that were 19 inches wide slide in horizontally, with flashing lights and hot-swappabledisks in the front, and all the power supply, fans and networking connections in the back. Even with IBM BladeCenter,you have chassis in these racks, and then servers slide in vertically in the front, and all of the power supply, fanand networking connections in the back. To access these racks, you have to be able to open the door on boththe front and back. And the cooling has to go through at least 26.5 inches from the front of the equipment to the back.
iDataPlex turns the rack sideways. Instead of two feet wide, and four feet deep, it is four feet wide, and two feet deep.This gives you two 19 inch columns to slide equipment into, and the air only has to travel 15 inches from frontto back. Less distance makes cooling more efficient.
Next, iDataPlex makes only thing in the back the power cord, controlled by an intelligent power distribution unit (iPDU) so you can turnthe power off without having to physically pull the plug. Everything else is serviced from the front door.This means that the back door can now be an optional "Rear Door Heat Exchanger" [RDHX] that is filled with running water to makecooling the rack extremely efficient. Water from a cooler distirubtion unit (CDU) can power about threeto four RDHX doors.
Let's say you wanted to compare traditional racks with iDataPlex for 84 servers. You can put 42 "1U" serversin two racks each, each rack requires 10 kVA (kilo-volt-amps) so you give it two 8.6 kVA feeds each, that is fourfeeds, and at $1500-2000 dollars USD per month, will cost you $6000-8000. The iDataPlex you can fit 84 serversin one 20 kVA rack, with only three 8.6 kVA feeds, saving you $1500-2000 dollars USD per month.
Fans are also improved. Fan efficiency is based on their diameter, so small fans in 1U servers aren't as effective as iDataPlex's 2U fans, saving about 12-49W per server. Whereas typical 1U server racks spend 10-20percent of their energy on the fans, the iDataPlex spends only about 1 percent, saving 8 to 36 kWH per year per rack.
Each 2U chassis snaps into a single power supply and a bank of 2U fans. A "Y"power cord allows you to have one cord for two power supplies. A chassis can hold either two small server "flexnodes"or one big "flexnode". An iDataPlex rack can hold up to 84 small servers or 42 big servers. Since each "Y" cord can power up to four "flexnode" servers, you greatly reduce the number of PDU sockets taken,leaving some sockets available for traditional 1U switches.
The small "flexnode" server can have one 3.5 inch HDD, or two 2.5 inch HDD, either SAS or SATA, and the big "flexnode" can have twice these.If you need more storage, there is a 2U chassis that holds five 3.5 inch HDD or eight 2.5 inch HDD. These areall "simple-swappable" (servers must be powered down to pull out the drives). For hot-swappable drives, a 3Uchassis with twelve 3.5 inch SAS or SATA drives.
The small "flexnode" server has one [PCI Express] slot, the big servers have two. Thesecould be used for [Myrinet] clustering. With only 25W power,the PCI Express slots cannot support graphics cards.
The iDataPlex is managed using the "Extreme Cluster Administration Toolkit" [XCAT]. This is an open source project under Eclipse that IBM contributes to.
Finally was the concept of "pitch". This is the distance from the center of one "cold aisle" to the next "cold aisle".On typical data centers, a pitch is 9 to 11 tiles. With the iDataPlex it is only three tiles when using the RDHX doors, or six tiles without. Most data centers run out of power and cooling before they run out of floor space, so having more dense equipmentdoesn't help if it doesn't also use less electricity.Since the iDataPlex uses 40 percent less power and cooling, you can pack more racks persquare foot of an existing data center floor with the existing power and cooling available. That is what IBM calls "usable density"!
What Did You Say? Effective Questioning and Listening Techniques
Maria L. Anderson, IBM Human Resources Learning, gave this "professional development" talk. I deal with different clients every week, so I fully understand that there is a mix of art and science incrafting the right questions and listening to the responses.The focus was on howto ask better questions and improve the understanding and communication during consultative engagements. Thisinvolves the appropriate mix of closed and open-ended questions, exchanging or prefacing as needed. This wasa good overview of the ERIC technique (Explore, Refine, Influence, and Confirm).
Well, that wraps up my week here in Los Angeles.Special thanks to my two colleagues, Jack Arnold and Glenn Hechler, both from the Tucson Executive Briefing Center,who helped me prepare and review my presentations!
"IBM says revenue for its mainframe business rose 32% in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, easily outpacing overall sales growth of 13%.A big driver was February's launch of IBM's next-generation mainframe line, the z10, its first big upgrade since 2004. IBM spent about $1.5 billion on the new line.
With their power and size, mainframes have some unique advantages over (distributed) servers. Many companies cobble together many servers, powered by industry standard chips made by Intel (INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices, (AMD) to do jobs that were once the province of mainframes. IBM, too, sells such servers.
IBD: Can you tell me more about this business?
Gelardi: Traditionally, the mainframe was the back-office powerhouse for batch and transactional processing — sort of the thing behind banks, the thing behind retailers, the thing behind insurance companies.
It's the thing that, if you screw this up, you just gave your whole business away. The new thing, which is really sort of the second driver of growth, is the introduction of Linux (an open-source operating system popular with some servers) on the mainframe. Z-Linux (IBM's Linux mainframe software) is where we have been able to drive substantially new workloads to the mainframe.
IBD: Why is the mainframe business important to IBM?
Gelardi: It's a very differentiated product environment where we feel very confident that we can say to a client, look, we built this thing from the casters all the way up; the software stack, all the way up. We've built into this a level of performance and scalability and efficiency. We're very, very confident that we can resolve any issue (for customers).
Let me give you an example. If I take (1,500 Intel) servers . . . and put them on a single mainframe, I'll have no performance problems whatsoever. But I'm taking all of that workload that was on 1,500 separate servers and consolidating them on one mainframe. While it may be a million-dollar machine and up, it's actually cheaper than those 1,500 servers.
IBD: What are some big drivers for your clients today?
Gelardi: Energy. If you look at a workload on a previous generation mainframe, z9, for the equivalent performance on a z10, I'm going to use 15% less energy for the same amount of performance.
Look at the (physical data-center space) in the industry. The question used to be, "How much space do you want?" The question now is, "How much energy are you going to consume?" It's more efficient to manage the work loads inside the larger (mainframe).
IBD: So, you're saying that using a mainframe addresses these modern problems better than servers?
IBD: Is it hard to convince people of that?
Gelardi: It's a legitimate question for clients who never had a mainframe. There are a few. (In those cases) it will probably be more complicated (to convince them).
However, a year or so ago we put out a press release about an entertainment (company). Their story was, "We're going to build a new gaming environment." Long story short, they said, "Why not use the mainframe?" There are new clients coming to the mainframe.
IBD: Do mainframes help other IBM businesses?
Gelardi: Clearly. I have very broad coverage. We are the server vendor. We have the storage capacity; we have the operating environment; we have the software stack, (including) Websphere, Tivoli, DB2. We have the services capabilities. We have the consulting capability. You can sort of go on. It becomes an ecosystem that is really valuable to the company at large.
IBD: What mainframe customers were active in the second quarter?
Gelardi: Interesting enough (given the state of the industry), the financial services sector was very strong. That was particularly true in the Americas and in Europe. We have a pretty broad spread (of users), but there is no question that financial services is a core market."
IBM offers a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than HP or Sun can offer. For more about the IBM System z10 EC, see my posts last month: