There is always a part of the business that gets over looked and usually its the people that are in the trenches making things work and keeping those machines going. I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with three great IBM CEs here in the Raleigh NC area. I was impressed with their professionalism and thoroughness while working on the SONAS upgrade. They made sure everything was installed, cabled and tabled according to the documentation. It is one thing to have a great product and lots of features, but it is even more important to have people who can service the system and do it with the highest level of craftsmanship. Thanks guys and gals for everything you do to help make our job easier!
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.
Well the last two days have been crazy with really good sessions, lots of networking with tons of people and great discussions throughout the entire conference. The sessions have been well attended and people are really asking great questions. For the most part, I hear that everyone is learning from the sessions, which I hope they dont get overloaded with so much information.
Today I presented on PAM II technology for the N series system. We disussed the need for large Read Cache systems and how its not only the size of the disks that are driving this need, but also the business requesting for lower return times on data. During this session, the question was brought up about the new acquisition of StorWize and how that would effect the NAS solutions at IBM.
Here is IBM VP of Storage, Doug Balog, talking about the product.
I think its going to be a good product to put in front of our NAS systems and it will drive the heavy read cache systems like PAM II and the huge amounts of cache in the SONAS systems. Speaking of StorWize, I wanted to give everyone a little more information about this product and maybe why IBM purchased them. They provide real time compression technology that will reduce the storage need by compressing the data into images. They have an engine called Random Access Compression Engine (RACE) which is just a compression algorithm that does the conversion with no overhead. The Storwize appliance will work with popular NAS systems, including IBM N series and SONAS, as well as non-IBM NAS systems from EMC, HP, NetApp and others. Storwize real-time compression can provide added value to clients already using data deduplication, thin provisioning and other storage efficiency technologies.
For more information on the StorWize acquisition, go here for the press release.
All this week I will be attending a training event at IBM called Tech Fest. Kind of Comic Con meets IBM Storage University. Technical engineers from all over the country descend upon Washington DC (ok it’s really Gaithersburg) to learn about IBM Storage.
The goal is bring everyone up to speed on the latest products coming out of IBM Storage: SONAS, XiV, DS8800, Storwize V7000, etc. A pure technical deepdive with the R&D teams to get a better understanding of the new storage and features.
Training is essential to keeping a sales force moving forward. Not only to present new ideas to clients but to solve those issues that has been around for years. With out training, people are forced to pick and choose their products they get up to speed on and with a large portfolio of storage at IBM, which can be a huge undertaking. I for one try to keep up with the NAS systems and that is a never ending saga.
One idea I have had in the last few weeks leading up to this is how to simplify the entire IBM Storage portfolio. We have a ton of products that have great features but they seem to cover a certain area in the data center. You need storage virtualization, we have a system that can do that (actually two now with Storwize V7000). You need a high performance box built on all sata technology? We have a system that can do that too. I was really hoping the big wigs at IBM would start simplifying the product line and have the systems be more universal than they are today.
We have a good thing going with the Storwize V7000. If we could put NAS technology in that system, and integrate the XiV interface into our products, we could start simplifying our products. We should have a low end storage, mid and enterprise storage all based on the unified platform. I am sure we can do this as the products are mostly based on commodity parts, it’s just the software integration.
There are definite advantages in simplifying the product line and I bet we can work towards that goal. Besides sales, support and development can be simplified and improved as there would be fewer things to learn. I think there are lots of benefit and some risk.
So this week I am going to be talking to lots of people and getting their opinions on IBM Storage. If you want to follow me on twitter, subscribe to richswainWORK.
A final vlog from the NYC announcement day
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?
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
If there was ever a time for IBM to look at the storage market and come up with a product, today is that time. IBM released a new storage platform called Storwize. If you remember, IBM acquired another business named Storwize but the two do not have anything in common. It's a cool name and I am glad we got to use it!
There is a ton of information coming out about the product and what it can do and how it will help you, but I wanted to take a little different approach to the announcement today. I am going to be doing some live blogging and tweeting about my journey to the announcement in New York City. I will be trying to help everyone who can not make it get a feel for what is going on and hopefully be able to interview some people along the way.
As for now, I will be putting up some video blogs (Vlogs?) and tweeting. If you don't follow me, my account is 'richswainWORK'. IBM will also be using the #ibmstorage hash all day to keep up with everyone's comments and questions so fire away, we have a staff of people just waiting to help.
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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
Here is the audio file from our conversation.
After the general session today, I wanted to update everyone. What a great release session!
Here is an update from my day from the taxi. NY taxis are the worse!
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.
RichardSwain 060000VQ8G 2,125 Views
IBM Edge 2014 Call for Speakers is Open!
Do you have a story that you want to tell? IBM is giving you a chance to tell the world how you are making your business or the industry better. This year we are focused on four areas: Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. These subjects will be the cornerstone of the conference and sessions will be selected on how your business was changed by them.
We want attendees to better understand why its important to move Infrastructure from an afterthought to a strategic mission critical choice, and want presenters to discuss how IBM infrastructure is a unique enabler for growth and innovation. Ideally, a speaker can incorporate how the company's strategic and forward thinking decisions about infrastructure have directly impacted the enterprise's ability to respond effectively to new opportunities, challenges and the demands of growth and innovation. We look forward to inviting customers to speak and will pay for their conference fee as a token of thanks.
If you are interested in speaking and attending Edge, please email me back with some details below and I will get your information into the database for the selection committee.
Please send me your name, company and contact information and the specifics you might include in your project/story including:
What IBM solution components? what is your implementation?
What terms of the decision process did you go through and the impact to your business?
Will you be comfortable including some business impact context?
Is there a tie-in with Cloud, Analytics, Mobile or Social type of workload ?
How has IBM technology helped you run the business better?
If you are interested, please let me know by March 12 as the deadline is next Friday for submissions.
I finally made it to mid-town and decided to take a walk into central park. Such as beautiful place.
Update from RDU