Last week at the IBM Technical Conference I was able to
spend some time with a couple of friends discussing technology.It is always interesting to hear their take
on where the storage market is going and what lays ahead in the future. As my Netapp pal and I were chatting about the
messaging around unified architecture, we both noted that unified to one
perceptive is disjointed to another.
IBM and Netapp have been using the term unified for its NAS/SAN device for about 5 years now.The
idea is to share a common code base on the same hardware to increase
functionality and usability of that storage. Other vendors have gone similar routes using
multiple code bases and/or hardware but I see that as a NAS gateway in front of
SAN storage system.
This has been very successful in data centers both large and
small. But the idea of how we manage
storage is changing.Virtualization is
changing the idea of how and even where our data may be stored. The term cloud is something of a marketing
term but I like the term Storage Utility better. Utility companies such as electric, water,
sewer and even cable provide a product to its consumers and storage utility
vendors could do the same.
Most people are not concerned about process companies take
to make water drinkable or how electricity is generated as long as it is safe,
reliable and easy for them to consume. Storage
as a Utility is no different, it is only when the storage is offline or hacked
in by outsiders the consumers are concerned. There are laws that govern utilities and the FTC has put some privacy laws together to help consumers but I believe we can
take it a little further (a blog for another time).
As our data is changing from traditional spinning drives in
our data center to a storage utility, we will need some type of bridge that
will ease the pain of transition. The
main reason people do not adapt new technology is because the transition is
often too painful and the benefit of new technology is less than the need to
move. Whether it is a software package
that helps move data or a hardware device, it will have to give access to both file
based data and object based data. This
will allow for users to read the files as needed no matter what their connectivity
or location. It could also be used to
help drive efficiencies up buy allowing data to move from file based (high
cost) to object based (lower cost) environments.
Today there are some vendors who have early versions of this
type of unified solution. They are bridging
the gap between what we have today in private data centers and the future of
public utility storage. This is very
early in the transition but with this type of technology, we will be able to
adapt and provide a better way of storing data. Will it still be called a unified solution?
Only the marketing people can tell us that.
IBM released a new Data Ontap version last Friday along with some other minor releases but more about those later. Data Ontap 8 7mode was the first release of a new 64-bit architecture that will allow N series customers to take advantage of larger aggregates. A little history. Back about 8 years ago, Netapp purchased a company named Spinnaker for the use of their 64 bit code, global name space and some other odds and ends. For the most part, Netapp has been re-branding this code as their GX platform allowing customers who want the feature set to purchase it aside from their Data Ontap base. GX was not a heavy seller as it was complicated to install and much more pricey than the other brand and Netapp decided to co-mingle the two code streams into one. At first glance this sounds like a good idea. The Data Ontap code definitely had some limitations (small aggregates sizes, limited growth and no global name space) but the merging of the two streams was harder than Netapp imagined. This was shown by Netapp promising a release of the new merged code for over years and finally a release was available for testing. There were many bugs (as RC code can be) but Netapp worked through the majority of them to produce a stepping stone release of the merged code called 7 mode. The developers used bits and pieces of the GX code to get the 64-bit architecture allowing customers to build larger aggregates, up to 100TB in size. This was really important as the release of the 2 TB Sata drives were coming and the limitation of 16TB in an aggregate would of killed any performance on the system. With only 8 2TB drives in the aggregate, the maximum IOPs throughput would be limited to about 400 IOPS per 16TB of drive space, not a good ratio at all. Therefor having a larger aggregate size allows them to put up to 50 2TB drives achieving a more respectable 2500 IOPS per aggregate. Now that we have the 7 mode available, there are some upsides and some downsides. First, as stated above, the aggregate sizes have increased tremendously. Allowing for more data disks in the aggregate increases the amount of IOPs the filer can pool. On the downside of this news, we see that you can not simply flip a switch and increase an aggregate created in the old 32-bit code to a new 64-bit aggregate. Customers will have to create a new aggregate after upgrading to the 7-mode version of Data Ontap 8 and then migrate with some restore method (think DR restore from backup) on to the new space. You can not mirror the two as SnapMirror can only mirror between like for like aggregates (32-bit to 32-bit and 64-bit to 64-bit). No big deal if you are new customer or if the filer is a new addition to the filer farm, but for those existing customers I believe this will be a lot tougher. If you do not have the drive space to create a new 100TB or less aggregate, you will have to either wait to buy more disks or do a manual backup (not snapshot), destroy the existing aggregate, and build a new aggregate on the 64-bit code, then restore. This is and the fact this is the first release of the new code family, will be why customers will not adopt the new code very quickly. There are also some other gotchas like no support for Performance Accelerator Cards (PAMII), no real interoperability between the two code bases and more. When I was an administrator, I hated having to read the release notes for the 'fine print gotchas' but in this case I encourage everyone to read the notes thoroughly and perhaps engaging your local IBM Storage engineer to help you access if you are a good candidate to upgrade or not. The fact this is a stepping stone to the full code line does help customers that need to move to the 64-bit architecture today without slowing down Netapp's development team. They are working on the next release of Data Ontap 8 called cluster mode. This will be the code that allows customers to cluster more than one pair of systems under one global name space. I suspect this will be a great addition to the Data Ontap code line and will give Netapp more traction in the larger enterprise business. There were also some firmware releases for the EXN3000 shelf on Friday as well. For more information on what was released, visit www.ibm.com support page
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.
May 9th has been a target on my calendar for some
time now. Inside of IBM, we have been
waiting for this day to come so we could talk about the new things being
released in the storage platform. It
almost feels like Christmas morning with a bunch of new presents under the
tree. Each gift has inside something
that is either really cool or something very useful.The only difference is your Aunt Matilda and
her little dog is not coming over for brunch.
Under the IBM tree today is a slew of presents for almost the
entire storage platform. I will
concentrate on just the IBM NAS ones but if you are interested in knowing what
is going on elsewhere, you can find more information at the main website.
SONAS must have been a good boy because there are plenty of
gifts for him under the tree this morning. Not only did he find presents under the tree
but there were a few little things in his stocking. Here is what Santa brought:
hardware update on the X3650 nodes. Just like before, the SONAS system uses
the impressive workhorse but now it uses the more powerful M3 class with a
six core Xeon Intel 2.66GHz processor. It has 24GB of DDR3 RAM with the option
to increase to a total of 144 GB of DDR3 RAM per interface node. Also new with the X3650 is the option to
include a second processor to double the amount of cores to 12 total per
under the tree is new support for not only XiV but now SONAS supports the
SVC and V7000 as disk subsystems. This
is a huge gift because now SONAS can support tons of other storage under
the awesome virtualization of the SVC code. V7000 support is also interesting as that
platform has the virtualization code from SVC but also support its own
drive architecture including solid state drives.
same category of sweaters, SONAS gets a little smaller rack extender.In the past IBM has used a 16 inch
extender in order to accommodate the large 60 drive disk enclosure.That
has now been trimmed down to only 8 inches and 0 for the gateway model and
RXC rack that houses only interface nodes.
gets a new file system upgrade to GPFS 3.4 PTF4. This will provide a significant performance
improvement over the R1.1.1x release. The updated file system handles small
file and random I/O a lot more efficiently. With this update we now use the role of
manager nodes instead of interface nodes to gain more flexibility in how
we track data in cache.
gifts SONAS received were new support for NDMP, Anti-virus support, use of
both 10GbE ports on the same CNA and some power updates for the EU countries.
And along with all of that, there
is a new performance monitoring package called Perfcol that collects more
information for analysis.
This SONAS release is labeled R1.2 and can be obtained by
contacting the technical advisor assigned to you.
Santa was also at the N series house and dropped off a few
gifts.A new N6270 to replace the
N6070.This new system is in line with
the N6200 series with larger amounts of RAM and processors.Just like the smaller N6240, there is an
expansion controller where customers can add more PCI control cards like HBAs,
10GbE or even FCoE.A new disk shelf was
also released which uses the smaller 2.5 inch drives with improved back end
And over at the Real Time Compression house they got new
support for EMC Celerra.
Over all a very busy time of year for IBM (and Santa) as
these were just a fraction of the Storage announcements today.Also today is the IBM Storage Executive
Summit in New York City.My friend and
fellow blogger Tony Pearson is covering this great event and will be updating
his blog and twitter feed.If you were
not able to make it to NYC for the event, feel free to tweet him your questions
@az990tonyYou can also send questions
to our IBM Storage feed at @ibmstorage
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.
Every year IBM puts on a conference for all of our clients, business partners and strategic partners.
This conference has both Storage and X series sessions along with key note speakers from the top management at IBM.
People come from all over the world to this conference looking for the
'how to' answers and whats to come with the product lines. There is also a solution center that houses all of the products along with our sponsors. This year our top platinum sponsors are Cisco, Intel and Netapp. Other sponsors include Brocade, Emulex, Fuision-IO, VMWare, Red Hat and SUSE.
I plan to be working in the solution center at the SONAS booth talking
to clients about the benefits of SONAS and how it fits into their
environments. If you are wanting to stop by here are the hours that I will be there:
Monday, July 18th Solution Center Open 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM ( w/Networking Drinks) Tuesday, July 19th Sponsor / Exhibitor Only Lunch 11:15 AM – 11:45 AM Solution Center Open 11:45 AM – 1:00 PM (Coffee & Dessert served in the Solution Center) Solution Center Open 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM ( w/Networking Drinks) Wednesday, July 20th Sponsor / Exhibitor Only Lunch 11:15 AM – 11:45 AM Solution Center Open 11:45 AM – 1:00 PM (Coffee & Dessert served in the Solution Center)
I also will be presenting a few sessions on NAS technology here at the conference. Most of my sessions will be a look at what IBM is doing with SONAS, N series and Real Time Compression.
I have a NAS 101 class that I really love doing because there are so
many people that have a misconception of what NAS is today. In my N
series update session we will be talking about the latest release on
N6270 and the EXP 3500 as well as a peek at the R23 release coming in a
few weeks. The other two sessions I am doing are a little off the topic of NAS but around social media and using www.ibm.com for help.
Tony Pearson, John Sing and Ian Wright will be joining me on a panel to
discuss the roles we play in social media and what each of us thinks of
the future of social media. The support session is something that
a client suggested to me out of their frustration of how to find
documents on our support pages. Here is a list of sessions and times that I will be presenting:
7/18 - 1:00 sSN14 Storage Networking (NAS - SAN) NAS 101: An Introduction to Network Attached Storage 7/19 - 10:30 sSN15 Storage Networking (NAS - SAN) NAS @ IBM 7/19 - 1:00 sSN18 Storage Networking (NAS - SAN) IBM N series: What's New? 7/20 - 1:00 sGE10 General Tips and Tricks on Searching for Support Answers on ibm.com 7/20 - 5:30 sGE61 General Using Social Media in System Storage 7/21 - 10:30 sSN18 Storage Networking (NAS - SAN) IBM N series: What's New?
7/21 - 2:30 sSN15 Storage Networking (NAS - SAN) NAS @ IBM
you are at the conference feel free to come to any of my sessions and I
would love to hear from you about the IBMNAS blog or any of my social
media outlets. We are using the following hashtag for the
conference all week if you want to follow what is going on via twitter
Now available is the IBM System Storage N series with VMware
Redbooks are a great way of learning a new technology or a
reference for configuration.I have used
them for years not just in storage but for X series servers and for software
like TSM.The people that write the
books spend a great deal of time putting them together and I believe most of
them are written by volunteers.
This is the third edition of this Redbook and if you have
read this before here are some of the changes:
-Latest N series model and feature information.
-Updated the IBM Redbook to reflect VMware vSphere 4.1
-Information for Virtual Storage Console 2.x has been added
This book on N series and VMware goes through the introduction
of both the N series systems and VMware vSphere.There are sections on installing the systems,
deploying the LUNs and recovery.After
going through this Redbook, you will have a better understanding of a complete
and protected VMware system.If you need
help with how to size your hardware there is a section for you. If you are
looking to test how to run VMs over NFS, its in there too!
One of the biggest issues with virtual systems is making
sure you have proper alignment between the system block and the storage
array.This will negatively impact the
system by a factor of 2 in most random reads/writes as two blocks will be
required for one request.To avoid this
costly mistake or to correct VMs you have already setup a section in the book
called Partition alignment walks you through the entire process of correctly
setting the alignment or fixing the older systems correctly.
Another area that I will point out is the use of
deduplication, compression and cloning to drive the efficiency of the storage higher.These software features allow customers to
store more systems on the storage array than if they used traditional hard
drives.Also there is how to use
snapshots for cloning, mirrors for Site Recovery Manager and long term storage
aka Snapvaults.At the end of the book
are some examples of scripts one might use for snapshots in hot backup modes.
Whether you are a seasoned veteran or newbie to the VMware scene,
there is a great guide that will help you from start to finish setting up your
vSphere environment.The information is
there, use the search feature or sit down on a Friday with a high-lighter,
which ever fits your style and learn a little about using a N series system
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
you expect more out of your storage? IBM thinks you should and is
putting their money where their mouth is. In the past it has gone under
different names like STG University and Storage Symposium, but now IBM
has revamped its premier storage conference. The big announcement came
today with much fanfare that included a new website, some videos and
bunch of hype on twitter. A three part conference for executives, gear
heads and business partners there is something for everyone. But what
will be different tham years in the past? I think IBM looked around how
other vendors use conferences to help pump up its customer base
(VMWorld, EMCwhatever) and decided to put some hype in the conference.
of this as a great place to go and network, learn and have a good
time. The conference will be in Orlando and there will be tons of time
to sit in class rooms and learn about the latest technologies but there
will be sessions where IBM will be pulling in our top execs and analysts
to tell you where IBM is going in the storage world.
Executive Edge will feature different speakers from Jeff Jonas, Aviad
Offer and IT Finance expert Calvin Braunstein. This track will take
executives through new announcements, deep dives on technical platforms,
one on one sessions with IBM Execs and some great entertainment. This
is a new feature of the conference as in the past it was more geared
towards the technical teams.
Of course the Executive Edge will be
limited so talk to your local storage sales person to get a chance to be
a part of this special event. There will be time to bring in your team
and have special sessions and round tables with the IBM engineers who
can help you find your way down this path of crazy storage growth. And
there is a golf course on site which I have heard is very nice. Bring
your clubs or rent them, I am sure there will be plenty of us out there
so find a partner and have a good time.
More importantly IBM is
making the effort to step up the event and have it on par with the other
IBM conferences like Pulse. The technical portion will have over 250
sessions on storage related topics. You will also get road-map
information from the product teams as well as a chance to become a
certified technician. One area that has been expanding is our hands on
labs and this year we will have the biggest one yet. You will be able
to come in to the labs and actually see our storage systems and have a
chance to 'test drive' them.
Early bird registration is open now
and you can sign up today. The conference will be in sunny Orlando
Florida at the Waldorf Astoria and Hilton Orlando at Bonnet Creek. The
event starts on June 4th and runs to the 8th. You can follow the
conference on twitter @IBMEdge and use the hashtag #ibmedge For the conference website go here
My friend and colleague Ian Wright has put together an awesome You Tube video of the V7000 with the Flash Copy manager software. Ian has made several videos of the V7000 including a tour of the GUI, how to do things and now this. Ian says in an email to me earlier: "The video starts out with a restore of an accidentally deleted email (but not a restore of the spam that was deleted) and goes on to show recovering an accidentally deleted database. Both are actions that I think should resonate with customers using these applications."
I thought this was an awesome example of the V7000 and the Rapid Application Storage Solution that was release a few months back. Please take a few minutes to go through the video and give Ian some feedback.
My father is a retired teacher but loves to work with his hands. I
can remember very early on in my up bringing, him teaching me that it is
good to measure twice and cut once. Whether it was building a deck or
just a bird house the point was it took more time to cut something wrong
and then has to re-cut the board shorter or even wastes the old board
and cut a whole new one.
When I was preparing for this article I remember having to learn that
lesson the hard way and how much effort really is put into that second
cut. The problem in the storage industry is the misaligned partitions
from a move of a 512 byte sector to a new 4096 byte sector. This has to
be one of the bigger performance issues with virtualized systems and
Disk drives in the past had a limit on the number of sectors to 512
bytes. This was ok when you had a 315 MB drive because the number of
512 byte blocks was not nearly as large as what is in a 3 TB drive of
today’s’ systems. Newer versions of Windows and Linux will transfer the
4096 data block that match the native hard disk drive sector size. But
during migrations even new systems can have an issue.
There is also something called 512 byte sector emulation which is
where a 4k sector on the hard disk is remapped to 8 512 byte sectors.
Each read and write would be done in eight 512 byte sectors.
When the older OS is created or migrated, it may or may not align the
first block in the eight block group with the beginning of the 4k
sector. This causes misalignment of a one block segment. As the reads
and writes are laid down on the disks the misalignment of the logical
sectors from the physical sectors mean the 8 512 byte blocks now occupy 2
This now forces the disk to perform an additional read and/or write
to two physical 4k sectors. It has been documented that sector
misalignment can cause a reduction in write performance of at least 30%
for a 7200 RPM hard drive.
This issue is only magnified when adding other file systems on top of
this misalignment. When using a hyper visor like VMWare or Hyper-V,
the virtual image can be misaligned and cause even further performance
There are hundreds of articles and blogs written on how to check for
you disk alignment. A simple Google search of the words “disk sector
alignment” and you will find this has been a very popular topic.
Different applications will have different ways of checking and possibly
realigning the sectors.
One application that can help you identify and fix these is a tool
called the Pargon Alignment tool. This tool is easy to use and will
automatically determine if a drive’s partitions are misaligned. If
there is misalignment the utility then properly realigns the existing
partitions including boot partitions to the 4k sector boundaries.
I came across this tool when looking for something to help N series
customers who have misalignment issues in virtual systems. One of the
biggest things I saw as an advantage was this tool can align partitions
while the OS is running and does not require the snapshots to be
removed. It also can align multiple VMDKs within a single virtual
In the end, your alignment will effect how much disk space you have,
how much you can dedupe and the overall performance of your storage
system. It pays to check this before you start having issues and if you
are already seeing problems I hope this can help.
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!
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.