Here I am, day 11 of a 17-day business trip, on my last leg of the trip this week, in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I have been flooded with requests to give my take on EMC's latest re-interpretation of storage virtualization, VPLEX.
I'll leave it to my fellow IBM master inventor Barry Whyte to cover the detailed technical side-by-side comparison. Instead, I will focus on the business side of things, using Simon Sinek's Why-How-What sequence. Here is a [TED video] from Garr Reynold's post [The importance of starting from Why].
Let's start with the problem we are trying to solve.
Problem: migration from old gear to new gear, old technology to new technology, from one vendor to another vendor, is disruptive, time-consuming and painful.
Given that IT storage is typically replaced every 3-5 years, then pretty much every company with an internal IT department has this problem, the exception being those companies that don't last that long, and those that use public cloud solutions. IT storage can be expensive, so companies would like their new purchases to be fully utilized on day 1, and be completely empty on day 1500 when the lease expires. I have spoken to clients who have spent 6-9 months planning for the replacement or removal of a storage array.
A solution to make the data migration non-disruptive would benefit the clients (make it easier for their IT staff to keep their data center modern and current) as well as the vendors (reduce the obstacle of selling and deploying new features and functions). Storage virtualization can be employed to help solve this problem. I define virtualization as "technology that makes one set of resources look and feel like a different set of resources, preferably with more desirable characteristics.". By making different storage resources, old and new, look and feel like a single type of resource, migration can be performed without disrupting applications.
Before VPLEX, here is a breakdown of each solution:
For IBM, the motivation was clear: Protect customers existing investment in older storage arrays and introduce new IBM storage with a solution that allows both to be managed with a single set of interfaces and provide a common set of functionality, improving capacity utilization and availability. IBM SAN Volume Controller eliminated vendor lock-in, providing clients choice in multi-pathing driver, and allowing any-to-any migration and copy services. For example, IBM SVC can be used to help migrate data from an old HDS USP-V to a new HDS USP-V.
With EMC, however, the motivation appeared to protect software revenues from their PowerPath multi-pathing driver, TimeFinder and SRDF copy services. Back in 2005, when EMC Invista was first announced, these three software represented 60 percent of EMC's bottom-line profit. (Ok, I made that last part up, but you get my point! EMC charges a lot for these.)
Back in 2006, fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) suggested that SVC was just a [bump in the wire] which could not possibly improve performance of existing disk arrays. IBM showed clients that putting cache(SVC) in front of other cache(back end devices) does indeed improve performance, in the same way that multi-core processors successfully use L1/L2/L3 cache. Now, EMC is claiming their cache-based VPLEX improves performance of back-end disk. My how EMC's story has changed!
So now, EMC announces VPLEX, which sports a blend of SVC-like and Invista-like characteristics. Based on blogs, tweets and publicly available materials I found on EMC's website, I have been able to determine the following comparison table. (Of course, VPLEX is not yet generally available, so what is eventually delivered may differ.)
In-band virtualization solutions from IBM and HDS dominate the market. Being able to migrate data from old devices to new ones non-disruptively turned out to be only the [tip of the iceberg] of benefits from storage virtualization. In today's highly virtualized server environment, being able to non-disruptively migrate data comes in handy all the time. SVC is one of the best storage solutions for VMware, Hyper-V, XEN and PowerVM environments. EMC watched and learned in the shadows, taking notes of what people like about the SVC, and decided to follow IBM's time-tested leadership to provide a similar offering.
EMC re-invented the wheel, and it is round. On a scale from Invista (zero) to SVC (ten), I give EMC's new VPLEX a six.
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Well, I'm back safely from my tour of Asia. I am glad to report that Tokyo, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur are pretty much how I remember them from the last time I was there in each city. I have since been fighting jet lag by watching the last thirteen episodes of LOST season 6 and the series finale.
Recently, I have started seeing a lot of buzz on the term "Storage Federation". The concept is not new, but rather based on the work in database federation, first introduced in 1985 by [A federated architecture for information management] by Heimbigner and McLeod. For those not familiar with database federation, you can take several independent autonomous databases, and treat them as one big federated system. For example, this would allow you to issue a single query and get results across all the databases in the federated system. The advantage is that it is often easier to federate several disparate heterogeneous databases than to merge them into a single database. [IBM Infosphere Federation Server] is a market leader in this space, with the capability to federate DB2, Oracle and SQL Server databases.
Fellow blogger and BFF, Marc Farley (3PAR) has an excellent post [Zeroing in on a definition for federated storage]. Here's an excerpt:
To some extent, IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC), XIV, Scale-Out NAS (SONAS), and Information Archive (IA) offer most, if not all, of these capabilities. EMC claims its VPLEX will be able to offer storage federation, but only with other VPLEX clusters, which brings up a good question. What about heterogenous storage federation? Before anyone accuses me of throwing stones at glass houses, let's take a look at each IBM solution:
Even in an ant colony, there are only a few types of ants, with typically one queen, several males, and lots of workers. But all the ants are red. You don't see colonies that mix between different species of ants. For databases, federation was a way to avoid the much harder task of merging databases from different platforms. For storage, I am surprised people have latched on to the term "federation", given our mixed results in the other "federations" we have formed, which I have conveniently (IMHO) ranked from least effective to most effective:
Given the mixed results with "federation", I think I will avoid using the term for storage, and stick to the original term "scale-out architecture".
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Fellow master inventor and blogger Barry Whyte (IBM) recounts the past 20 years of history in IT storage from his perspective in a series of blog posts. They are certainly worth a read:
In his last post in this series, he mentions that the amazingly successful IBM SAN Volume Controller was part of a set of projects:
"IBM was looking for "new horizon" projects to fund at the time, and three such projects were proposed and created the "Storage Software Group". Those three projects became know externally as TPC, (TotalStorage Productivity Center), SanFS (SAN File System - oh how this was just 5 years too early) and SVC (SAN Volume Controller). The fact that two out of the three of them still exist today is actually pretty good. All of these products came out of research, and its a sad state of affairs when research teams are measured against the percentage of the projects they work on, versus those that turn into revenue generating streams."
But this raises the question: Was SAN File System just five years too early?
IBM classifies products into three "horizons"; Horizon-1 for well-established mature products, Horizon-2 was for recently launched products, and Horizon-3 was for emerging business opportunities (EBO). Since I had some involvement with these other projects, I thought I would help fill out some of this history from my perspective.
Back in 2000, IBM executive [Linda Sanford] was in charge of IBM storage business and presented that IBM Research was working on the concept of "Storage Tank" which would hold Petabytes of data accessible to mainframes and distributed servers.
In 2001, I was the lead architect of DFSMS for the IBM z/OS operating system for mainframes, and was asked to be lead architect for the new "Horizon 3" project to be called IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center (TPC), which has since been renamed to IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
In 2002, I was asked to lead a team to port the "SANfs client" for SAN File System from Linux-x86 over to Linux on System z. How easy or difficult to port any code depends on how well it was written with the intent to be ported, and porting the "proof-of-concept" level code proved a bit too challenging for my team of relative new-hires. Once code written by research scientists is sufficiently complete to demonstrate proof of concept, it should be entirely discarded and written from scratch by professional software engineers that follow proper development and documentation procedures. We reminded management of this, and they decided not to make the necessary investment to add Linux on System z as a supported operating system for SAN file system.
In 2003, IBM launched Productivity Center, SAN File System and SAN Volume Controller. These would be lumped together with Horizon-1 product IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and the four products were promoted together as the inap
The SAN File System was the productized version of the "Storage Tank" research project. While the SAN Volume Controller used industry standard Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) to allow support of a variety of operating system clients, the SAN File System required an installed "client" that was only available initially on AIX and Linux-x86. In keeping with the "open" concept, an "open source reference client" was made available so that the folks at Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft could port this over to their respective HP-UX, Solaris and Windows operating systems. Not surprisingly, none were willing to voluntarily add yet another file system to their testing efforts.
Barry argues that SANfs was five years ahead of its time. SAN File System tried to bring policy-based management for information, which has been part of DFSMS for z/OS since the 1980s, over to distributed operating systems. The problem is that mainframe people who understand and appreciate the benefits of policy-based management already had it, and non-mainframe couldn't understand the benefits of something they have managed to survive without.
(Every time I see VMware presented as a new or clever idea, I have to remind people that this x86-based hypervisor basically implements the mainframe concept of server virtualization introduced by IBM in the 1970s. IBM is the leading reseller of VMware, and supports other server virtualization solutions including Linux KVM, Xen, Hyper-V and PowerVM.)
To address the various concerns about SAN File System, the proof-of-concept code from IBM Research was withdrawn from marketing, and new fresh code implementing these concepts were integrated into IBM's existing General Parallel File System (GPFS). This software would then be packaged with a server hardware cluster, exporting global file spaces with broad operating system reach. Initially offered as IBM Scale-out File Services (SoFS) service offering, this was later re-packaged as an appliance, the IBM Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS) product, and as IBM Smart Business Storage Cloud (SBSC) cloud storage offering. These now offer clustered NAS storage using the industry standard NFS and CIFS clients that nearly all operating systems already have.
Today, these former Horizon-1 products are now Horizon-2 and Horizon-3. They have evolved. Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, GPFS and SAN Volume Controller are all market leaders in their respective areas.
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I gotten several emails expressing worry that I have fallen off the face of th earth. The last two weeks have been educational and eye-opening for me. I can't provide details in my blog, so I will just say that it involved government agencies that IBM refers to as "dark accounts", and that I am now back safely in the USA. Between adjusting to time zone differences, ridiculously long hours, and restricted access to the internet, I was unable to blog lately.
Instead, I will resume my coverage of the [IBM System Storage Technical University 2011]. The "Solutions Expo" runs Monday evening through Wednesday lunch. This is a chance for people to explore all the solutions that are part of IBM's large "eco-system" for IBM System storage and System x products. There were several sponsors for this event.
As is often the case at these conferences, the various booths hand out fun items. The hot items this year were tie-dyed tee-shirts from Qlogic, and propeller beanies from the IBM rack and power systems team. Here is Amanda, one of the bartenders showing off the latter.
After the expo on Tuesday night, my friends at [Texas Memory Systems] held an after-party. Unlike the pens, tee-shirts and keychains at the Expo, these guys had a raffle for real storage products. Here is Erik Eyberg handing out a RamSan PCIe card, valued at $14,000 or so. IBM recently certified the TMS RamSan as External SSD storage for the IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC). The SVC can optimize performance using this for automated sub-LUN tiering with the IBM System Storage Easy Tier feature.
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The expo opened last night. There are so many fantastic demos and product experts. Las Vegas has a Tivoli buzz on right now.
I'm working in the Hands On Labs room. Pulse labs kicked off Sunday. The hot topics included Cloud, Storage, Automation, Asset Management, and BigFix (a company IBM [acquired and products will now be called Tivoli Endpoint Manager])
I'll try to get you a few updates along the way.