There are few times that I look at what a company markets as the 'Next big thing' in the storage world and get the same reaction I got when I started learning about the SONAS product. There is already some technical details in the announcement and in Tony's blog from a few days ago so I wont go into that today, but I will go over how this product really makes a paradigm shift in the NAS storage world.
Traditionally NAS storage is looked as the little brother to the bigger systems of SAN. SAN systems tend to be the athletes of the storage high school with their matching letter jackets and oversized girth. All the while, NAS was the band geeks, some frail and thin and some over sized but always in large numbers and not very organized. NAS technology was born from the need to share data over he company and as the amount of information grew so did the servers, network bandwidth and backups. SAN storage is still the big guy on campus but the people that track trends for our industry say NAS has become just as important as the large databases, ERP systems and the like.
If you look at how we have stored NAS data, it has been on single file systems that had local disk drives shared out over a single 10/100 mb network. As storage systems became more advanced, we saw people using clustering, snapshots, thin provision, de-duplication and replication to help keep our companies communicating. When we needed more throughput or more storage we added a server or added disks which created islands of unshared power.
If you look at 2009 and one of the hottest buzz words in the storage market, it was cloud computing. Having a large source of power in one area to pull resources from without having to provision new equipment. We also saw more and more clients looking at NAS protocols as the Ethernet could support faster speeds than traditional fibre channel. A huge amount of you have been looking at and moving your virtual environments to NFS to help cut down on administration overhead and to take advantage of the CNA technology.
With a higher demand for NAS technology, comes the burden of being able to scale at the same rate the storage, network and throughput increases. Older NAS systems allowed clients to increase the amount of storage but once you reach the critical mass the system allowed you had to purchase another clustered system. This creates multiple islands of storage pools that have be managed, provisioned and backed up. Not a great solution for companies that are growing and have fewer administrators to do the work.
Now, IBM has a product that allows our NAS clients to grow and scale as their companies grow. SONAS is a highly scable NAS that works like a cloud. The underlying technology, GPFS, is the same found in some of the fastest computers in the world. SONAS uses a method of scaling in both storage and throughput by adding storage pods (60 SATA or SAS disks) or interface modules (x3650 servers) like Lego blocks. All of this is managed by a central command module that allows a client to have full control over the entire system no matter how much storage or servers are in the system.
So the "Next big thing" in my opinion is here today and IBM is using the best of the best of IBM research for it's clients. The SONAS solution is designed from the ground up as a true blue NAS storage solution. Look for future SONAS blogs on GPFS, creating an ILM strategy and more.
The old adage of faster, smaller, cheaper has been revived in the N series product line. This week (officially) IBM released the information around the highly anticipated OEM re-brand of Netapp's FAS 2040; the N3400. This system has a small 2U form factor but delivers higher performance than its beefier brother the N3600. If you want to see a full comparison of the three boxes, click here for more information.
IBM has three systems that round out the entry level or departmental storage platform. The N3600, the N3300 and now the N3400. All three are based on internal drives with some expansion to a few shelves as needed. The N3600 comes with 20 internal drives and the smaller N3300 and N3400 comes with only 12 internal disks and can expand to a maximum capacity of 136TB. There are two controllers that allow administrators to have a high availability solution for low cost. This makes the system more attractive as it also supports FCP, iSCSI, CIFS and NFS all from one platform.
The N3400 does have a few things I want to point out:
All of these help set this box up for an important role within your datacenter. If you compare this system with other storage systems in the market, you find the new N3400 is well stacked and can compete even with larger mid-tier systems. This box is ideal for our SMB clients who really need the all in one system with the horsepower to keep up with a growing company. The system is a long way from the first entry level system IBM decided to roll out, the N3700. If the two were to be compared the N3700 would be a 'Happy Meal' and the N3400 would be a super sized 2lb Angus burger with fries and shake, maybe even an apple pie.
This new system is considered ideal for both Windows consolidation and virtual environments alike. With the additional ports the system does leverage a larger life span as the new EXN 3000 SAS shelves are becoming more of the standard for the N series product line. The system on the other hand does not support 10GBPS cards or FCoE as the N3600 does. But as all N series systems support the same Data Ontap code, the robust system uses the same commands, interface and is built on the same technology as the other N60x0 and N7X000 lines.
Overall, this is an enhanced refresh of the exisitng N3300 with more ability to scale with currently technologies. The performance will be more than the N3600 which begs the question of the need for the N3300/N3600 systems. I suspect as Data Ontap 8 becomes general available from Netapp, there will be more entry level storage devices released.
For more information on the N3400 and all other N series related information, follow this link or contact your local IBM Storage Rep.
In answer to your requests for IBM N series demos, Andrew Grimes will be delivering a demo on Thursday, March 11th. This Introduction to IBM N series will be followed by a brief and informative demonstration of how N series delivers storage efficiency with disaster recovery solutions. This is your opportunity to demonstrate N series features and ease-of-use to your customers and prospects, plus get some assistance in closing business this quarter. All attendees who fill out the post-event survey will be entered into a drawing for a free Apple iPod.
WHEN: Thursday, March 11th, 10-11:30am CST.
PRESENTED BY: Andrew Grimes
Click here to REGISTER TODAY!
The topics that will be discussed during this N series presentation are:
1. Simplifying Data Management
2. Storage Efficiency
3. Protecting mission critical business applications (Oracle, Exchange, SQL, VMware & SAP) better than our competitors
4. Most importantly, see how we recover these applications in a matter of minutes!
Sorry Bill, there is a new question burning in our minds today. There seems to be a lot of buzz lately about tiering your data storage and who can and who can not, why and how but not alot of people are talking about when to tier your storage. Netapp has indicated they are not as concerned with a tiering approach and this is true for the IBM XiV product. Others like 3par and IBM' SONAS has it built in for clients to move data from one pool to the next. But how does one gauge this old standard of giving the best to the most demanding and the least to the dregs of our storage footprint?
This weekend I was working on moving some of my winter clothes and spring/summer clothes in and out of my closet and into containers. Last Fall I purchased a few plastic containers that sealed so I could put my short sleeve golf shirts away and some of my shorts. Here in North Carolina, we can get a mild day and it is nice to have a short sleeve shirt to wear. On these days I would go back to the containers and dig through the nicely folded items until I found the shirt I wanted. Sometimes I had to go through multiple containers because I had forgotten which one I had put it in a few months ago. This weekend when I pulled out the containers they were in a mess, nothing was folded and it took me more time trying to figure out what was what as they all were mixed up. I then wondered what if I bought a bigger container and instead of using multiple ones, I could use one large container to store all of my winter clothes? What would the issues be, would I have enough space to store the container? Would there be someway of indexing the clothing inside to quickly find what I was looking for? Was there a way to put some clothes that I would need in case of cool day in a separate container just in case I needed them?
There seemed to be more issues with just using one larger container than I thought. It would be easy to dump all the clothes into the larger bin and claim victory but that did not help me down the road. I needed a system, something to help me consolidate efficiently while still giving me access to those things I used on occasion. I also had to keep in mind the space I was going to use in my storage area. I didn't want to buy one large container and not be able to get it in the space I already had allocated. I needed a flexible system, maybe a few boxes that had labels and I could get to quickly if I needed something inside.
Take a look at some of the noise some of the storage vendors are making about data storage consolidation. Most of them are telling you we can come in and take your smaller boxes and dump the data into one big box. While that helps on saving you space and might keep you from administrating multiple storage devices, you need to look at the downside of just having one big pool of disks. A large storage system that is replacing multiple smaller systems will need more cache and processor power to handle the same load as before. If you want to move data around to different tiers of disks or tape, can you achieve that with the new system?
I started down the road of buying the biggest container I could find but decided against it as it would be too much trouble to find things. Your data storage systems need to be flexible enough to have multiple storage pools so that data that is able to move off faster disk and make room for data that is accessed more frequently. This not only allows your clients to have better response times on files they frequently use, but it tells you how much 'real' data people are using in your data center. The other issue I had was I needed some type of labeling systeming or an index to tell me where the shirts were and were was my ski jacket, etc. Your data is much the same, you need to keep up with where data lives in the storage system. As our storage systems get larger, we need save the meta file data easily and keep it in a table so we can run queries against it.
There is also last part of moving my clothes around that I hated the most, the purge. I went through and found the shirts that had been worn too many times or may not fit the same as when I bought them originally. I packed these in a cheap cardboard box and took them to a donation place. This is the same as getting rid of old data in your system. Old data that is not being accessed is costing you money. You not only have to pay the environmental cost of keeping those bits spinning, but its taking up room where new data could reside therefore costing you money to expand. True archive and purging of data will be needed for any system large or small. Make sure you find a system that is easy to work with and automates this process based on policy.
In the end, if you are looking at consolidation of your data storage, there are multiple things you will need to find out about a system. Just because a bigger container can replace multiple smaller containers may not give you the flexibility needed to meet your changing needs. For more information on a better way to consolidate your storage platform and moving your data, check out the information on SONAS and TSM.
I was on my way down to Miami today and was talking to the gentleman sitting next to me about storage technology and the conversation turned to how everyone is scrambling to be in the cloud business. He had heard multiple vendors come in and start talking about cloud technology and how it was going to save him money, time and effort. This gentleman worked for a retail chain that has multiple district offices through out the eastern US and headquarters in Atlanta. He has multiple technologies all helping him keep the business running but nothing planned and as the company grew, they simply cookie cut the previous installation and planted it into the new office. Each office would also replicate back to HQ and that would be the main repository for backups/restores. I would guess there are thousands of companies out there with similar setups.
So instead of going into how he could leverage cloud storage technology, I asked him what were his problems and listened. They basically came down to this:
1. Multiple independent islands of storage that are aging, causing his support contracts to go up.
2. Backups take way to long and systems are slowing down as they get closer to 'capacity'.
3. Future growth was expensive as every time they added a new capacity, they had to add entire systems.
Now they were not cutting edge technolgy leaders nor were they wanting to be, but he needed a way to solve some of these traditional storage problems. He didn't want to go out and buy a new large system that would take forever to get in and while it may solve his problems, it would bring in even more issues. What he needed is less overhead and more throughput.
We sat there for a while thinking, we didn't say much until I offered this tidbit, "So what does cloud mean to you?" After a nice laugh, he stated that he really didn't know and the more he read, the more 'cloudy' became the answer.
There are many interpretations about what cloud really is and it differs between storage vendors. If there is a true declination of what cloud storage really could be, I think it could be defined using NAS technology. NAS lends to be a kinder and gentler protocol set and the need is growing leaps and bounds. Our traditional way of adding more systems and creating more independent silos works for smaller environment but it does not scale when clients want large disk pools of storage under one umbrella. There are ways of making volumes span in to large pools but the underlying storage is still made up smaller components that are typically active/active/passive nodes, even the best load balance will not help if you are overloading that system.
There are ways to find a balance between the same old way and going out and dropping tons of cash on huge storage gear. Find a system that will grow and scale as your storage needs do. Think of ways to keep everything under one umbrella (name space for example) and also try to solve issues that you are having today with real technology and not work arounds.
With NAS technology, we will always be at the mercy of the backup target whether its disk or tape. No matter if we are taking snapshots or ndmp backups, we have to write that out to some target to have a restore point. This is your basic strategy on how to do a backup/restore, why not consider using different types of disks to create a tier and offload disks to slower pools as the data gets 'older'. A few vendors have said there is no need for tiering, mainly because their systems can't take advantage of this and therefore they shun those who do. ILM tiering can help you achieve not only higher utilization rates with the storage but it puts the data that is accessed more frequently on faster disk, and moves the rest away to makes more room. Why pay for fast disk if the data on it is not being accessed frequently?
Future expansion has always been tough for administrators, they tend to over buy on controller size and skimp on the disk. Systems like SONAS from IBM allows you to grow both in storage capacity and server throughput; independently. If a customer needs more storage but doesn't need the additional throughput, why force him to add more controllers? SONAS systems can scaled up to 30 storage servers and 14.4 PB of spinning disk all under one name space. No more having multiple nodes with their own names; this storage is called Accounting1, Accouting2 .... etc. They are called Storage and everyone gets the benefit of having all of the nodes, not just one system.
By the time we had gone through all of this, our flight was landing. It was a great talk and both of us gained a different perceptive on how cloud is perceived. If any of you want to find out more information about the IBM Cloud strategy or SONAS go to the following links:
SONAS by IBM
and emerging markets; expanding its customer base in storage in particular has been a big
You can find the full write up here:
I was working with a company today that had 5 storage vendors supplying gear for their data center. They were interested in SONAS not only for the scalability but for the idea that we could consolidate their storage footprint from 5 vendors to 1 with out having to sacrifise performance. Now must vendors would say, sure we can rip and replace all of the storage there and replace it with their own, but can they do it to the same scale (both horizontal and vertical), with a high performance engine like GPFS, one global names space and one single management tool? The customer was really impressed by our solution as is very interested in how we can help him go from 40+ racks of storage down to 13 and increase his efficiency.
The idea is to use multiple teirs to put meta data on the faster disk, data that is being accessed currently on a medium speed and then 'near to archive on slow, fat disk. Currently they have no way of moving data between their 5 different systems. This causes them to keep running into issues where they are buying expensive disk to run applications/databases where they have data that is stagnant or non as important on the existing fast disks. SONAS will allow them to create pools of storage (tiers) and policies to move the data between the pools. Then with the HSM integration, the data can be archived off to tape until needed down the road.
From a cost perceptive, the cost associated with the size and speed of the disk match their purpose with out them having to manually move the data themselves. With IT departments that have a huge growth in storage and are not hiring more admins, this makes sense. They can set the policies up front and not have to worry about some old file sitting on a expensive SAS disk. The other expense savings is in support contracts. The reduction from five support contracts to one will save customers money, and allows them to have one place to get all of their support.
I can not wait to start work on this account as it looks like we will be putting in a great system and helping a client save money.