I am always blown away with the expertise and insight our Advanced Technical Services team displays. They are our “Go To” guys for driving technology to our field teams and they are the last resort before getting into a development team. For me, they are a well of information and experience that I can use to help build solutions.
Today, I am sitting in the SONAS system training with Mark Taylor. Mark and I have been working together at IBM for a few years and I have the most respect for him. Mark is responsible for supporting the N series and SONAS at IBM along with a few other team members. He has is known for being a stickler on our solution assurance calls and is always finding solutions for our clients.
Our mission this week is to learn more about storage products on a deeper level. Many of the technical sales group has specialty that they focus on. It could be XiV, SONAS, Mid-Tier storage, what ever.This week, when we leave on Friday, we should come away as more rounded technical experts.
I am still amazed at the SONAS product and how powerful it really is, especially compared to other products in the market place. I find it hard to compare to other brands due to great feature set it brings and integration with TSM. No other storage out there is able to provide unstructured NAS data a platform to live on from cradle to grave like SOANS.
This mimics how IBM is doing more solution selling in the marketplace.Our Storage team is partnering with the POWER team and the Software teams to provide customers with a ‘one stop’ solution. If you look just at the SONAS product, it has multiple components all from IBM; X series servers, TSM and GPFS software, XiV storage. We are finding that if we combine these products into a solution based product, customers can solve more issues with the same amount of dollars. I believe this is the future of IBM storage and storage in general.
SONAS does have a couple of points that I would like to see cleaned up. One is the GUI, and the other is its policy writer. From what I can tell, the information in the SONAS GUI is very similar to that of the XiV system. It just has a different look and feel.With the Storwize V7000 getting the ‘XiV’ look and feel, I suspect future releases of SONAS might get the same treatment.As for the policy engine, it’s all based on SQL Query language. If you know how to write it then it’s not an issue but there are some out there that might not be privy to such skills. There are some guidelines and examples that can be used to help setup the policies like moving data from one pool to the next but I suspect people will rely more on their Technical Advisor to help define those rules.
Tomorrow is all about protect tier.I am excited about the hands on and finding how this box can really save people space with their backups.
I was fortunate enough today to talk with a great engineer from IBM about his experience at IBM Tech Fest, Keith Thuerk. Keith is based in the South East and is a FTSS (SE) for IBM and has been helping clients find IBM storage solutions in his area for over two years. He has a strong background in networking and works hard on finding solutions that are creative and fit customer's pain points. This week, Keith and other engineers from the East came together for technical training on IBM storage.
Keith and I talked about training and how important it is to keep up your skills. We also chatted about how social media is changing the marketplace.
Keith is also a blogger for IBM and is tweeting information about IBM storage. You can find his blog, Data Center 7.0 here and follow him on twitter, @kthuerk
The last day of techfest, I was able to sit down with another FTSS from the IBM Storage team. Neil Youshak is a FTSS that covers the south Florida territory (and more). Not only is Neil an awesome engineer, but he is a triathlete and swims with sharks. Thanks to Neil for the time and look for more interviews soon.
First, off I want to say what an awesome year IBM had in storage! We announced several new products and improvements to older ones. SONAS was one of the NAS product of 2010 at IBM. The idea that came from bringing a parallel file system and merging it with commodity parts is brilliant. People have been building these systems for years and having to deal with the issues of interoperability and supportability, can now focus more on making storage work for them. Real Time Compression was also released for the N series product. This was an acquisition that really helps IBM position compression technology in the NAS market. RTC today is an appliance that compresses the data into smaller packages with no performance degrade. I believe we will see more of this technology spread into other aspects of storage line.
The biggest storage announcement was definitely the introduction of a new mid-tier storage device, Storwize V7000. This device is based on the tried and true SVC code base with some new enterprise class features from our DS8000 line. This system has the cool XiV like interface and a very cool form factor and with things like easy-tier and disk virtualzation, the box is going to be hard to beat in 2011.
Second, I want to honor IBM as we celebrate our centennial year of business. The Computing Tabulating Record Company started on June 15, 1911 and while the name has changed and our products and services have changed, but our mission and dedication to our clients remains unchanged. So many of us do not even begin to understand the role IBM has made on our world as it is today. IBM has been well known through most of its recent history as one of the world's largest computer companies and systems integrators. With over 388,000 employees worldwide, IBM is one of the largest and most profitable information technology employers in the world. IBM holds more patents than any other U.S. based technology company and has eight research laboratories worldwide. The company has scientists, engineers, consultants, and sales professionals in over 170 countries. IBM employees have earned Five Nobel Prizes, four Turning Awards, five National Medals of Technology and five National Medals of Science.
Lastly, I want to challenge everyone, IBMers, clients, everyone, to really look at what is going on in the storage space this year. With the explosive growth of data we are seeing people buying unprecedented amounts of storage. Most of the vendors are going to be investing in R & D for storage and coming out with new and time saving features. Clients should challenge their vendors to exceed their requirements not just make them. I also want vendors to look beyond products and start looking the services that help clients make better decisions and support the products they have purchased.
There is a demo coming up on January 20th that will show the integration of N series and VMware. The long awaited Virtual Storage Console and Rapid Cloning will be the highlights of the demo. So what is VSC? It is N series software that enables administrators to manage and monitor storage side attributes of ESX-ESXi hosts. VSC functions as a plugin to vCenter and uses APIs to set and retrieve information from the array.
VSC adds a tab into vCenter and enables the following:
View Status of Storage Controllers
View Status of physical hosts, including versions and overall status
Check for the proper configuration of ESX settings as it applies to:
HBA driver timeouts
Provide the ability to set the appropriate to set the appropriate timeouts on multiple ESX hosts simultaneously with a single mouse click
Launch FilerView from within VSC for storage provisioning
Provides access to mbrtools (mbrscan, mbralign, mbrcreate) to identify and correct partition alignment issues
Ability to set credentials to access storage controllers
Ability to collect diagnostics from the ESX hosts, FC switches and Storage controllers
The hardware doesn't change but it will include both IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center for Disk Midrange Edition and IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager to help round out a complete set of software functions. This is a very cool way of putting together a suite of software that makes sense for this platform. Much like the N series SnapManger suite the flash copy manager can take consistent backups/snapshots of databases and the like. TPC is a monitoring tool that allows admins to view data both historical and real-time.
Another part of the package is IBM services that can come in and help customers with the setup of the hardware and software. Customers are always wanting to bring in new gear and get it up and running as quickly as possible and IBM has the engineers to do just that. This service will provide planning, implementation, configuration, testing and basic skills instruction to help you eliminate the need for in-house resources skilled in the technology and free up your IT staff to focus on other higher priority business initiatives.
This package is not a way for customers to get their V7000 up and running but its a way to monitor and make the system more efficient. The V7000 already has a long list of features that we have taken from our enterprise storage and now we have the tools and means to help make this solution even better.
I keep hearing how great our compression appliance really is and how quick and easy it is to setup. I did some asking around the office and was sent this video. It does look simple and I wish other products had this type of instructional video. If you want more information about RTC, check out the IBM RTC site here. Enjoy the video and if you like this and have a suggestion for another one let me know!
There is an ancient proverb that says " When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.". There is some wisdom in this old saying that we can still apply to today's IT budget and strategy. If you have been keeping up with the news, you would know companies are starting to invest again in their IT hardware and software. This maybe the turn in some of the hardest times in the hardware business. But what are customers really buying and planning to buy with their dollars? What is my bread and what is my lily today? The bread represents nourishment of the body. We have to eat in order to keep going. With out it, we starve and eventually die. This would be the basic part of a business IT strategy. What do you have to do to keep the lights on? I have this conversation with IT planners all the time. People love to do the newest and greatest, but have a smaller understanding or take for granted the things they have to do to keep the business going. The lily is a beautiful and majestic flower. Dating as far back as 1580 B.C., when images of lilies were discovered in a villa in Crete, these majestic flowers have long held a role in ancient mythology. Derived from the Greek word “leiron,” (generally assumed to refer to the white Madonna lily), the lily was so revered by the Greeks that they believed it sprouted from the milk of Hera, the queen of the gods.
The storage market is evolving with the help of cloud storage, unified platforms and consolidation. IT planners and CIOs are dealing with a new way of putting value to these terms and offering their business units a charge back model not only based on data consumption but throughput and retention. The smarter businesses are seeing that running multiple storage platforms with trapped efficiency does not work in today's data center. Storage has to be big, wide and easy to use. Long gone are the days where 10-25 TB were a big deal. We now see systems that start at those levels and go to infinite proportions. Networks are becoming faster and even consolidated with 10/20 gbps driving protocols like FCoE and iSCSI. Backups are being replaced by better replication algorithms that have quality of service levels and automated failover.
NAS storage can take advantage of these technologies that can also help you keep the lights on. Most businesses have some form of NAS storage to help employees share documents, spreadsheets, images, and what nots. There is a movement from the traditional block based systems to unstructured data sets using NAS and these are pushing the market and vendors to come up with better NAS products. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, all push vendors to think about how they do storage.
So how are you planning your IT spending are you going to spend more on things that you have to have or will you spend more on the things that look nice? I suspect in most cases there will be an 80/20 split of bread to lily ratio. But how you classify what is needed and what is 'nice to have' in your IT department will change as your business changes this year. Businesses are putting more demand on IT with fewer resources. Even though there is evidence businesses are spending more the hardware recently, the resources (admins) are still not there. The only way companies will be able to achieve success with such a high demand on storage with out the resources is to have simple, scalable storage that allows single admins to manage multiple petabytes of storage.
IBM is working to help customers achieve this type of new IT department. Cloud is one way, either public or even private, but also from a basic system level. Interfaces that are less complicated like the V7000 or XiV allow admins to move easily with out much training. SONAS offers large scale out NAS storage where storage and throughput can be scaled independently.
This year, take time to figure out what is needed and what will be cool to have in your department. Technology will always change, even if its a change back to what we had 20 years ago (mainframe/virtualization). Keep in mind it might look like a lily today, but will be a loaf soon, where do you want to be when the business needs it.
Netapp, for some reason, has removed the SVC from their interoperability list of storage subsystems under a V series. The development team at Netapp has for months not kept up the development and testing for support on SVC (and other storage platforms). This was no more evident when the Storwize V7000 was announced last year that runs the same code base as the SVC system and Netapp refused to offer any support for the product. The lack of support probably comes from the V series team feeling threaten by the virtualization power of the SVC code. These two systems do have some similar capabilities but we find them in different parts of the data center. The V series / Gateway is more of a host to another storage system. It treats the luns presented to it as disk and then presents another protocol out to another host or client. SVC is more a virtualization engine for all the storage and allows customers to move data around in pools that can cross storage subsystems with out the end user knowing.
With all this said, IBM has stepped up and is continuing support for the N series and Netapp models in front of the SVC or the Storwize V7000. As my fellow IBM blogger "The Storage Buddhist" the place for support is not Netapp, but IBM. I stole this chart from his blog to show the levels of code and models supported.
Today IBM is releasing two new N6200 systems that will be a huge improvement over the existing N6000 systems. The two new systems will show a bump in capacity and performance and more flexibility. For a very crowded midrange market this new N series product set will bridge the gap between entry level and enterprise class systems
One of the biggest issues with the previous 6000 systems was the limited amount of PCI-e slots. The other issue is the lack of more common hardware onboard like SAS and 10gbps ethernet.
The first thing that stands out to me is the footprint of the new system. The older N6000 has a 6 U requirement for an HA pair. The new N6200 is half the size, only occupying 3U for the two HA pair, or a single node with a I/O expansion module, providing an additional four PCI-e cards. Another configuration is two controllers with two expansion modules in a total space of 6U (equal of the older N6000 systems) but with a total of 12 PCI-e slots (vs 8 on the older N6000).
We will recommend using the two slots built into the controller for high performance 10GbE and / or 8 Gb PC adapters. The additional expansion slots in the expansion module can be used for Flash Cache and other connectivity for disks.
The on-board hardware is getting an face lift as well. While the new system sports a 10GbE port this is used mainly for the interconnect and nothing else. This was one of the disappointments I have with this systems, but understand this is how Netapp will accomplish scale out clustering.
FC ports were kept at 4 Gbps but there is two new SAS ports with matching ACP (alternate control path) ports used for off loading some of the traffic from the data path.
One of the unsung updates was in the NVRAM. Instead of using the same memory in the past, we now see an improvement of the memory by using something called Asynchronous DRAM Refresh (ADR). This is a new self-refresh mode in the Intel chipset that allows a portion of the main memory to be backed by an on-board battery. This gives the NVRAM the same high bandwidth as main memory and also simplifies the design of the motherboard.
This gives the new N6200 systems a bump in performance along with the introduction of the new Intel processors. The SPECsfs benchmark on the highest N6200 system showed 101,183 ops at 1.66ms ORT compared to the N6060 showing 60,507 ops and 1.58ms ORT, an improvement of about 70% in SFS throughput.
IBM is introducing the IBM System Storage N6210 Series and the IBM System Storage N6240 Series These new systems replace the IBM N3600 and N6040 Series respectively. GA date is scheduled for January 28, 2011 (N6240) and February 25, 2011(N6210). Here is the slide deck that is published with the release.
I am headed out west to learn more about SONAS and the future of the product. I think there will be lots of good information that I will try to share with you. If you have any question that you want to ask a SONAS developer, let me know as they will all be there!
Day 1: Today, IBM has massed the troops together to learn more about the SONAS product and how the product will look in the near and far future. There is a ton of information they are dumping that I need time to just process it all. Its also nice to meet people from all around the world that have the same mission as I do. I hope to get some interviews tomorrow as well as listening to Sven Ohme talk about performance of the box.
This video is shot in front of the first hard drive, ever. What a testimonial to the IBM innovation. The first words written are..... you gotta watch to find out.
I was driving into the IBM Almaden Research Center and just enjoying the beautiful scenery of the San Jose area. The campus is on top of a hill and surrounded by farm lands. I would really like to have a corner office here, but I don't think I would get much done. So here is my Vlog for this morning and I am hoping to get some interviews on here from some of the presenters and attendees.
One of my favorite TV programs is the BBC show Top Gear. They go through and test cars not only for handling, looks, and cup holders but mainly for power. At the end they run all of the cars through the same test track and get a time. That time then gets recorded on their list of all the cars tested and is celebrated for achievement or scorned at for doing poorly. No matter what the car turns up, they were all treated equally.
Today, IBM is announcing a test done by a certain benchmark called SPECsfs. This has been the yardstick for all NAS vendors wanting to flex their muscles and show how they handle small block I/O. Vendors can bring how ever many drives and tweaks they want but the test itself is very rigid and has to be certified before the results are published. IBM put together a SONAS system consisting of 10 interface nodes and 8 storage pods with all SAS disk. A total of about 900TB of usable disk, and about 1/3 of the maximum SONAS configuration. There was no solid state disk or extra tweaks done just a SONAS system that you could order today. That said, the IBM SONAS set a new world record for performance for a single file system at 403,000 IOPS per second.
Yes you read that right, 403k IOPS in a single file system. If you look at the other vendors they have used multiple file systems to aggregate the performance together in order to achieve a benchmark. Then they tend to use a virtual name space with software that is layered over all of the file systems, but here SONAS is one file system over 900TB with a true global name space. Some issues with multiple file system is they cannot stripe data across the file systems and the load balancing becomes an issue. If you look at the comparison of performance per file system, you can see that IBM is WAY beyond the competitors.
So you maybe asking, "Yeah that's pretty cool but what was the response time?". According to the test, the average response time was 3.23 MS from 0 to 403k IOPs per second. This is extremely good and when you think that was coming from one file system of 900TB, you realize how good that number is compared to other results. There will be tons of vendors trying to debunk how IBM out performed them and how they have better software or better market share but it really boils down to these key points:
An all-spinning SAS disk SONAS configuration, typical of SONAS configurations being installed today
Single file system featuring ease of use, minimum complexity, global load balancing, sharing of resources, proof of scale
903 TB usable capacity is indicative of current real life customer scale out NAS requirements
An environment in which all applications would benefit from the single file system and benefit from the high IOPs and excellent response time
One can clearly correlate the SONAS SPECsfs benchmark with the response time received to a real world application by today’s SONAS
I have included the slide deck for the announcement below. Feel free to check out the information on the SPECsfs website.