Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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My XO laptop arrived Friday, December 21, this was from the [Give 1 Get 1 (G1G1)] program fromthe One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation. The program continuesto the end of this month (December 31).
Here are my first impressions.
Setup was Easy
Open the box, put in battery, and plug in the adapter. Enter your name and choose your favorite color for your stick figurine. No passwords, no parameters. Software is pre-installed and ready to use.
The four pages of instructions included how to open the unit (not intuitive), where the various connection ports are located, what the home screen and neighborhood screen look like, safety warnings, and a nice letter from Nicholas Negroponte with an 800 phone number and website in case more help is needed.
Connecting to the internet was the first thing I did. The neighborhood screen shows all the Wi-Fi access points. It recognized mineand three others. I clicked on mine, entered my WEP key, and was connected.
This is a Linux operating system running the Sugar user interface.There are four screens:
Neighborhood - shows all Wi-Fi access points
Friends - shows all other XO laptops nearby, in my case I am all alone
Home - your stick figurine with all the applications you can choose from are represented as icons at the bottom, just like OS X on my Mac Mini, or the launchpad on my Windows XP. Left panel for clipboard items.
Application - Applications run in full-screen mode
Four buttons across the top allow you to jump to any screen instantly.Everything else is single left-click. No double-clicks or right-clicks.
A circle on the home screen designates which applications are running, and how much of the available 256MB RAM they are consuming. This makes it easy to seeif you can run more applications or need to shut something down. Youcan jump to any application, or shut it down, from this view.
Shutting down the XO is done by clicking your stick figurine,and choosing shutdown.
I fired up the browser. The default 'home page' offers some help offline, as well as links to online resources and a google search bar. The full-color 1200x900 is very easy to read. You can hit ctrl+plus to make the fonts bigger. In bright sunlight, the screen turns automatically to greyscale.The built-in browser is easy enough to use, with standard back, forward, re-load, and bookmark buttons. The URL entry field also shows the pages title. It doesn't have tabs to see multiple pages at the same time, but I was able to fire up a second instance of the browser, so thatI could alt-tab back and forth between the two web sites.
There are so many applications that they don't all fit on the bottom of the screen.Left and right tab buttons will display the next set. I don't know if it is possible to re-order the icons, but I can certainly see some applications appealing to different ages, and perhaps re-ordering them into age-specific groups might be helpful.
Basic applications include the Abiword word processor, a PDF viewer, a simple paint program, calculator, chat, and news RSS feed reader; TamTam music to play and edit compositions; and some learn-to-program-a-computer software including Pippy, Etoys, and TurtleArt.
The 'record' program lets you take 640x480 pictures with the built-in camera, up to 45 seconds of video and audio recording. The picture abovewas taken with my XO, and edited online using [snipshot.com]. Another program can be usedto make video calls to another computer, similar to Skype or IBM Lotus Sametime.
The XO has built-in microphone and speakers, but also microphone and speaker ports, as well as three USB ports, and a slot for an SD memory card.
The QWERTY keyboard is designed for small children hands, I found myself using my two index fingers in a hunt-and-peck style. People who use Blackberry's or other hand-held devices might be able to use their two thumbs instead. Also, I am not used to a touchpad as the pointing device. My other laptops have a red knob between the G/H/B keys that acts like a joystick. So, I decided to attach my Apple keyboard/mouse to one USB port, which allows me faster typing and better resolution with my mouse.
I also inserted a 1GB SD card into the slot. Getting to the SD slot was challenging--you have to rotate the screen 90 degrees so that the lower right corner is over the laptop handle. It appears I need to purchase some tweasers to get my SD card back out, so until then, it will remain there as permanent addition to my XO.
A terminal application provides a command line interface into Linux.
The 'vi' editor is installed, in case I need to make changes to fstab or anythingelse in my /etc directory.
There is no S-video or VGA port. However, a teacher could probably fold thislaptop up in e-book mode and lay it flat on an [overhead projector] since the screen can handle bright sunlight in black-and-white mode.
The Journal and the Clipboard
There are no folders or subdirectories here. The journal acts as your desktop, holding all the files you have referenced, sorted in chronological order with the most recent on top. The journal application is started automatically when you boot up.My SD card is shown as a separate entry at the bottom right corner, but I have access only to files on my top-level directory on the card. The journal allows you to drag and drop between the system and the SD flash card.The list can be filtered by file type and application, so finding things is easy.You can also copy anything in the journal to the clipboard, appearing on the leftpanel of the home screen. You can then launch or paste this into other applications.
Pressing Alt-1 takes a 1200x900 snapshot of the current screen, and puts it into the journal.On websites that allow you to upload a file, including GMAIL, snipshot.com, etc. the browse button brings up the journal. So, for example, you could take a snapshot of the current webpage or paint creation, and send it as an attachment to someone via GMAIL. Google has an XO-enabled version of GMAIL that you can download from the OLPC activities page.
This entire post, including the picture above, was done with the XO laptop itself. I am impressed with the thought that went into this design, and I see great potential here. The interface adequately hides the Linux operating system for those who just want to use the computer, but makes it readily accessible for those who want to learn more about the Linux operating system and computer programming.
Well, tomorrow is the Winter solstice, at least for those of us in the Northern hemisphere of the planet.As often happens, I have more vacation days left than I can physically take before they evaporateat the end of the year, so next week I will be off, going to see movies like the new["Golden Compass"]or perhaps read the latest book from [Richard Dawkins].
Next week, I suspect some of the kids on my block will be playing with radio-controlled cars orplanes. If you are not familiar with these, here's a [video on BoingBoing]that shows Carl Rankin's flying machines that he made out of household materials.
Which brings me to the thought of scalability. For the most part, the physics involvedwith cars, planes, trains or sailboats apply at the toy-size level as well as the real-world level. One human operator can drive/manage/sail one vehicle. While I have seen a chess master play seven opponents on seven chess boards concurrently, itwould be difficult for a single person to fly seven radio-controlled airplanes at the same time.
How can this concept be extended to IT administrators in the data center? They have to deal withhundreds of applications running on thousands of distributed servers.In a whitepaper titled [Single System Image (SSI)], the threeauthors write:
A single system image (SSI) is the property of a systemthat hides the heterogeneous and distributed nature of theavailable resources and presents them to users and applicationsas a single unified computing resource.
IBM has some offerings that can help towards this goal.
Even in the case where yourvehicle is being pulled by eight horses--(or eight reindeer?)--a single operator can manage it, holding the reins in both hands. In the same manner,IBM has spent a lot of investment and research into supercomputers, where hundreds of individualservers all work together towards a common task. The operator submits a math problem, for example,and the "system system image" takes care of the rest, dividing the work up into smaller chunksthat are executed on each machine.
When done with IBM mainframes, it is called a Parallel Sysplex. The world's largest business workloadsare processed by mainframes, and connecting several together and working in concert makes this possible.In this case, the tasks are typically just single transactions, no need to divide them up further, justbalance the workload across the various machines, with shared access to a common database and storageinfrastructure so they can all do the work equally.
Last August, in my post [Fundamental Changes for Green Data Centers], I mentioned that IBM consolidated 3900 Intel-based servers onto 33 mainframes. This not only saves lots of electricity, but makes it much easier for the IT administratorsto manage the environment.
Parallel Sysplex configurations often require thousands of disk volumes, which would have been quitea headache dealing with them individually. With DFSMS, IBM was able to create "storage groups" wherea few groups held the data. You might have reasons to separate some data from others, put them inseparate groups. An IT administrator could handle a handful of storage groups much easier than thousandsof disk volumes. As businesses grow, there would be more data in each storage group, but the numberof storage groups remains flat, so an IT administrator could manage the growth easily.
IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC) is able to accomplish this for other distributed systems.All of the physical disk space assigned to an SVC cluster is placed into a handful of "managed diskgroups". As the system grows in capacity, more space is added to each managed disk group, but few IT administrators can continue to manage this easily.
The new IBM System Storage Virtual File Manager (VFM) is able to aggregate file systems into one globalname space, again simplifying heterogeneous resources into a single system image. End users have a singledrive letter or mount point to deal with, rather than many to connect to all the disparate systems.
Lastly we get to the actual management aspect of it all. Wouldn't it be nice if your entire data centercould be managed by a hand-held device with two joysticks and a couple of buttons? We're not quite there yet, but last October we announced the [IBM System Storage Productivity Center (SSPC)]. This is a master consolethat has a variety of software pre-installed to manage your IBM and non-IBM storage hardware, includingSAN fabric gear, disk arrays and even tape libraries. It lets the storage admin see the entire data centeras a single system image, displaying the topology in graphical view that can be drilled down using semanticzooming to look at or manage a particular device or component.
Customers are growing their storage capacity on average 60 percent per year. They could do this by havingmore and more things to deal with, and gripe about the complexity, or they can try to grow theirsingle system image bigger, with interfaces and technologies that allow the existing IT staff to manage.
As we wrap up the year, people's thoughts turn to archive anddata retention.
The [Robert Frances Group] have put out a research paper titled Optimizing Data Retention and Archiving - November 2007 that helps IT executives understand the cost differences for a disk-only archive approach versus disk/tape archive approach and how an [IBM System Storage DR550] offering can help address the long-term storage archive requirements with a world-class storage strategy that reduces cost, improves efficiency and supports compliance. Here is an excerpt:
Ongoing legal, audit, and regulatory requirementswill continue to drive IT groups to improvearchive policies, processes, strategy, andefficiency. The choice of which technologies touse will have a profound impact on the success ofsuch efforts, since technologies like the DR550embody many aspects of the strategy, processes,and policies that must be decided upon. When itcomes to tape, IBM's DR550 is unique inproviding that support. Competitors tout disk-onlysolutions as the wave of the future, but researchindicates otherwise. The most basic benefits arecost and mobility, and despite the various vendorproclamations to the contrary, tape is still only afraction of the cost of disk and will remain so inthe foreseeable future.
This paper is yet another nail in the coffin of EMC Centera.In his post [Anyone Naughty on Your List…], Jon W Toigo points to an eBay fire sale of an EMC Centera Gen 4.
There has never been a better time to switch from EMC Centera to theIBM System Storage DR550.
This is a reasonable question. Since Invista 2.0 came out months ago in August, and Invista 2.1 is rumored to be out by end of this month, why put out a press release now, rather than just wait a few weeks? Thesignificant part of this announcement was that EMC finally has their first customer reference.To be fair, getting a customer to agree to be a reference is difficult for any vendor. Some non-profitsand government agencies have rules against it, and some corporations just don't want to be bothered byjournalists, or take phone calls from other prospective customers. I suspect EMC wanted to put the good folks from Purdue University in front of the cameras and microphones before they:
In Moore's terminology, Purdue University would be a "technology enthusiast", interested in exploring the technologyof the EMC Invista. Universities by their very nature often see themselves as early adopters, willing to take big risks in hopes to reap big rewards. The chasm happens later, when there are a lot of early adopters, all willing to be reference accounts. The mainstream market--shown here as pragmatists, conservatives, and skeptics-- are unwillingto accept reference claims from early adopters, searching instead for moderate gains from minimal risks. They prefer references from customers that are similar in size and industry. Whether a vendor can get a product to cross this chasm is the focus of the book.
Why "SAN" virtualization?
Technically, Invista is "storage" virtualization, not "SAN" virtualization. Virtualizationis any technology that makes one set of resources look and feel like a different setof resources, preferably with more desirable characteristics. You can virtualizeservers, SANs, and storage resources.
Virtual SAN (VSAN) technology, supported bythe Cisco MDS 9500 Series Multilayer Director Switch, partitions a single physical SAN into multipleVSANs, allowing different business functions and requirements to share a common physical infrastructure.
How does Invista advance Cisco's VSAN functionality? It doesn't, but that doesn't makethe title a falsehood, or the press release by association full of lies.If you read the entire press release, EMCcorrectly states that Invista is "storage" virtualization. Some storagevirtualization products, like EMC Invista and IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC), require a SAN as a platform for which to perform their magic.Marketing people might use the term "SAN" torefer not just the network gear that provides the plumbing, but also to include the storage devices that are attached to the SAN. In that light, theuse of "SAN virtualization" can be understood in the title.
More importantly, it appears that EMC no longer requires that you purchase new SAN equipment from themwith Invista. When the Invista first came out, it cost over a quarter-million US dollars to cover thecost of the intelligent switches, but with the price drop to $100K, I imagine this means theyassume everyone has an appropriately-supported intelligent switch already deployed.
Why this architecture?
In his post [Storage Virtualization and Invista 2.0], EMC blogger ChuckH does a fair job explaining why EMC went in this direction for Invista, and how it is different thanother storage virtualization products.
Most storage virtualization products are cache-based. The world's first disk storagevirtualization product, the IBM 3850 Mass Storage System, introduced in 1974, and thefirst tape virtualization product, the IBM 3494 Virtual tape Server, introduced in 1997, bothused disk cache in front of tape storage. Later virtualization products, like IBM SVC and HDS USP-V, use DRAM memory cache in front of disk storage, but the concept is the same.People are comfortable with cache-based solutions, because the technology is matureand well proven in the marketplace, and excited and delighted that these can offer the following features in a mixed heterogeneous disk environment:
instantaneous point-in-time copy
None of these features are provided by Invista, as there is no cache in the switch. Instead,Invista is a "packet cracker"; it cracks open each FCP packet, inspects and modifies the contents, then passes theFCP packet along to the appropriate storage device. This process slows down each read andwrite by some amount, perhaps 20 microseconds. The disadvantage of slowing down every readand write is offset by having other benefits, like non-disruptive data migration.
To compensate for Invista's inability to provide these features,EMC offers a second solution called EMC RecoverPoint, which is an in-band cache-based appliancesimilar in design to SVC, but maps all virtual disks one-to-one to physical disks. It offersremote distance asynchronous mirroring between heterogeneous devices.EMC supports RecoverPoint in front of Invista, but if you are considering buying bothto get the combined set of features, you might as well buy an IBM SVC or HDS USP-V instead,in one system, rather than two, which is much less complicated. IBM SVC and HDS USP-Vhave both "crossed the chasm" having sold thousands of units to every type and size of customer.
Hopefully, this answers the questions you might have about EMC Invista.
Last year, I covered Chris Anderson's book [The Long Tail]. This year, Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired.com, has an upcoming book titled Free, the past and future of a radical price. Chris talked about his book here at Nokia World 2007 conference, and the [46-minute video] is worth watching.He asks the big question "What if certain resources were free?" This could be electricity, bandwidth, or storage capacity. He explores how this changes the world, and createsopportunities for new business models. However, many people are stuck in a "scarcity" modeland treat nearly-free resources as expensive, and find themselves doing traditional things thatdon't work anymore. Chris mentions [Second Life] as aneconomy where many resources are free, and seeing how people respond to that.Rather than focusing on making money, new businesses are focused on gainingattention and building their reputation. Here are some example business models:
Cross-subsidy: give away the razors, sell the razor blades; or give away cell phones and sell minutes
Ad-Supported: magazines and newspapers sell for less than production costs
Freemium: 99% use the free version, but a handful pay extra for something more
Digital economics: give away digital music to promote concert tours
Free-sample marketing: give away samples to get word-of-mouth advertising
Gift economy: give people an opportunity and platform to contribute like Wikipedia
Nick Carr writes a post [Dominating the Cloud], indicatingthat IBM, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon are the five computing giants to watch, as they are more efficient atconverting electricity into computing than anyone else. Last month, I mentioned IBM and Google partnership on cloud computing in my post[Innovationthat matters: cell phones and cloud computing].Nick's upcoming book titled[The Big Switch] looks into "Utility Computing",comparing the change of companies generating their own electricity to using an electric grid, to the recent developments of cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS). Amazon's latest "SimpleDB" online databaseis cited as an example.
Last, but not least, Seth Godin writes in his post [Meatballs and Permeability] about the bits-vs-atoms issue, what Chris Anderson above refers to as the new digital economy. The idea here is that value carried electronically as bits (digital documents, for example) have completely different economics than value carried as atoms (physical objects), andrequires new marketing techniques. Methods from traditional marketing will not be effective in this new age.Here is a [review] of Seth's new book Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing Out of Sync?
All three of these books seem to be covering the same phenomenon, just from different viewpoints. I lookforward to reading them.