Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2018, Tony celebrates his 32th 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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Continuing this week's theme on "best of breed", some questions arise: How is this calculated or determined?How is one storage solution "better" than another? Which attributes weigh more heavily in the decision?
Some attributes are directly measurable, like storage performance. For this, gather up a list ofall the storage products you are interested in, go to the [Storage Performance Council website],determine whether SPC-1 or SPC-2more closely matches your application workload, and then choose the best product fromthe benchmarks, discarding any vendors that don't bother to have benchmarks posted.The new SPC-2 benchmark was created, in part, to address new workloads for the Media and Entertainmentindustry. (For a comparison of the two, see my post [SPC benchmarks for Disk System Performance])
However, other attributes, like "easy to manage", are not as straightforward to measure.One client compared the complexity of different solutions by counting the number of cables involved to connect the various parts of each solution. Only external cables were considered. All of the cables inside an IBM SystemStorage DS8000 would not be counted. By this measure, a single IBM System z10 EC mainframe connected to a single IBM DS8000 disk system over a few FICON cables would therefore be "less complicated" than a thousand x86 servers connectedvia FCP SAN switches to dozens of disk systems.
But counting cables only handles the hardware part of the interconnections. You have to also considerthe interconnections between the software, between users, and between IT administrators. It is not alwaysobvious where those connections are, and how to count them into consideration.
This month, IBM introduced the first "Management Complexity Factor" (MCF) for the Media andEntertainment industry. IBM MCF a result of IBM's acquisition of NovusCG, and is an essential part of"Storage Optimization Services" being offered by IBM. Here is an excerpt from the[IBM Press Release]:
"Media companies are facing a double-edged sword with the exponential rise in digital media storage needs, coupled with concerns about optimizing storage to be more efficient," said Steve Canepa, vice president of Media and Entertainment, IBM. "By quickly and cost-effectively analyzing the interconnected IT and storage environments that increasingly comprise media operations, MCF for Media helps our clients identify opportunities for improvement and align their IT and business strategies."
Since 1995, IBM has invested more than $18 billion on public acquisitions, making it the most acquisitive company in the technology industry, based on volume of transactions.
IBM has a strong global focus on the media and entertainment industry across all of its services and products, serving all the major industry segments -- entertainment, publishing, information providers, media networks and advertising.
I had a great weekend, participating in this year's ["World Laughter Day"] yesterday, and preparingfor tonight's festivities, found me pulling out the various packages from "Simply Dinners" from my freezer.
A Tucson-based company, [Simply Dinners] offers an alternative to restaurant eating.My sister went there, assembled a set of freezer-proof plastic bags containingall the right ingredients based on specific recipes, and gave them to me for my birthday, and they have been sitting in my freezer ever since... until last weekend.
My sister was careful to choose items that fit my [Paleolithic Diet] that my nutritionist has me on. However, I was skepticalthat any plastic bag full of frozen groceries would be any better than anything I could assemble on my own.I did, after all, attend "chef school" and do know how to cook well. Each package was intended to be a "dinner for two" but since I am single, was two meals each for me.
So, I decided to try them out, which would also give me more room in my freezer for incoming items, and theycame out very well. The outside of each plastic bag was a label that explained all the steps required to heatthe food. Partially-cooked vegetables were wrapped in foil, and went in for the last 10 minutes of cooking the meat.The process was straightforward, and the meals were delicious, but nothing I could not have done on my own witha recipe and a trip to the grocery store.
The question is whether someone with little or no skills could achieve similar, or acceptable results. I havefriends who are limited to assembling sandwiches from luncheon meats and cheese slices, as anything involvingheat other than simply boiling water is beyond their skills.
The key difference between "cooking for yourself" and "building your own storage" is that you aren't buildingstorage for just yourself. Unless you are a one-person SMB company, you are building storage that all of youremployees and managers count on to do their jobs, and by extension your customers and stockholders count on.
Of course I had to read responses from others before jumping in with my thoughts.Dave Raffo from Storage Soup writes [Sun going down in storage],feeling this is yet another indication that Sun has lost their mind, recounting previous events that supportthat theory.EMC blogger Mark Twomey in his StorageZilla posts [When Open Isn't] felt a littlebit guilty kicking a competitor when down. EMC blogger Chuck Hollis questions the reasons peoplemight be tempted to even try this in his post [Do-it-Yourself Storage]. Here'san excerpt:
I really, really struggle with this concept, I do. Here's why:
Anything I use and get comfortable with -- well, I'm "locked in" to a certain degree. If I use a lot of storage software X; well, I'm sorta locked in, aren't I? Or, if I put my servers-as-storage on a three-year lease, I'm kind of locked in, aren't I?"
(For EMC, vendor lock-in is great when customers are using and comfortable with EMC products, and awful when they use andare comfortable with storage from someone else. But nobody who is "comfortable" with what they have ever complain about"vendor lock-in" do they? It's the ones who are growing uncomfortable and feel trapped in changing. Howinvolved a company's use of EMC's proprietary interfaces are can greatly determine the obstacles in switching toa different vendor.Of course, if you count yourself as someone growing uncomfortable with your existing storage vendor, IBM can help you fix that problem, but that is a subject for another post.)
Worried about "vendor lock-in"? Try "admin lock-in" where you must keep a storage admin around because he or shewas the one that put your storage together. I've seen several companies held hostage by their system adminsfor home-grown scripts that serve as "duct tape for the enterprise".The other issue is whether you have storage admins who have the necessary hardware and software engineering skillsto put suitable storage together. There are some very smart storage admins I know who could, and others that wouldhave a difficult time with this.
No doubt this is promising for the home office. I myself have taken several PCs that were running older versions of Windows,but not powerful enough to upgrade to Windows Vista, wiped them clean, loaded Linux, and configured them from everythingfrom simple browser workstations to full LAMP application server configurations. While this might sound easy, I am a professional hardwareand software engineer with Linux skills.I have no doubt that someone with sufficient engineering and Solaris skills could put together a storage system for home use.
One area where Sun definitely benefits from this "Open Storage" approach is to develop Solaris skills. I have no personal experience with OpenSolaris, but assume that if you learn it, you would be able to switch overto full Solaris quite easily.Today, most people have Windows, Linux and/or MacOS skills coming into the workforce, and this could be Sun's way of getting new fresh faces who understand Solaris commands to replace retiring "baby boomers". The lack of Solaris-knowledgeable admins is perhaps one reason why companies are switching to IBM AIX, Linux or Windows in theirdata center.
Certainly, IBM's strategic choice to support Linuxhas been a great success. People learn Linux on their home systems, and at school, and are able to carry those skillsto Linux running on everything from the smallest IBM blade server to IBM's biggest mainframe.
The videos on Sun for the "recipes" on how to put together various "storage configurations in ten minutes" appear simplerthan last summer's "How to hack an Apple iPhone to switch away from AT&T" procedures.
Continuing my week's theme on how bad things can get following the "Do-it-yourself" plan, I start with James Rogers' piece in Byte and Switch, titled[Washington Gets E-Discovery Wakeup Call]. Here's an excerpt:
"A court filing today reveals there may be gaps in the backup tapes the White House IT shop used to store email. It appears that messages from the crucial early stages of the Iraq War, between March 1 and May 22, 2003, can't be found on tape. So, far from exonerating the White House staffers, the latest turn of events casts an even harsher light on their email policies.
Things are not exactly perfect elsewhere in the federal government, either. A recent [report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO)] identified glaring holes in agencies’ antiquated email preservation techniques. Case in point: printing out emails and storing them in physical files."
You might think that laws requiring email archives are fairly recent. For corporations, they began with laws like Sarbanes-Oxley that the second President Bush signed into law back in 2002. However, it appears that laws for US Presidents to keep their emails were in force since 1993, back when the first President Clinton was in office. (we might as all get used to saying this in case we have a "second" President Clinton next January!)
"The Federal Record Act requires the head of each federal agency to ensure that documents related to that agency's official business be preserved for federal archives. The Watergate-era Presidential Records Act augmented the FRA framework by specifically requiring the president to preserve documents related to the performance of his official duties. A [1993 court decision] held that these laws applied to electronic records, including e-mails, which means that the president has an obligation to ensure that the e-mails of senior executive branch officials are preserved.
In 1994, the Clinton administration reacted to the previous year's court decision by rolling out an automated e-mail-archiving system to work with the Lotus-Notes-based e-mail software that was in use at the time. The system automatically categorized e-mails based on the requirements of the FRA and PRA, and it included safeguards to ensure that e-mails were not deliberately or unintentionally altered or deleted.
When the Bush administration took office, it decided to replace the Lotus Notes-based e-mail system used under the Clinton Administration with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. The transition broke compatibility with the old archiving system, and the White House IT shop did not immediately have a new one to put in its place.
Instead, the White House has instituted a comically primitive system called "journaling," in which (to quote from a [recent Congressional report]) "a White House staffer or contractor would collect from a 'journal' e-mail folder in the Microsoft Exchange system copies of e-mails sent and received by White House employees." These would be manually named and saved as ".pst" files on White House servers.
One of the more vocal critics of the White House's e-mail-retention policies is Steven McDevitt, who was a senior official in the White House IT shop from September 2002 until he left in disgust in October 2006. He points out what would be obvious to anyone with IT experience: the system wasn't especially reliable or tamper-proof."
So we have White House staffers manually creating PST files, and other government agencies printing out their emails and storing them in file cabinets. When I first started at IBM in 1986, before Notes or Exchange existed, we used PROFS on VM on the mainframe, and some of my colleagues printed out their emails and filed them in cabinets. I can understand how government employees, who might have grown up using mainframe systems like PROFS, might have just continued the practice when they switched to Personal Computers.
Perhaps the new incoming White House staff hired by George W. Bush were more familiar with Outlook and Exchange, and ratherthan learning to use IBM Lotus Notes and Domino, found it easier just to switch over. I am not going to debatethe pros and cons of "Lotus Notes/Domino" versus "Microsoft Outlook/Exchange" as IBM has automated email archiving systems that work great for both of these, as well as also for Novell Groupwise. So, taking the benefit of the doubt,when President Bush took over, he tossed out the previous administration's staff, and brought in his own people, andlet them choose the office productivity tools they were most comfortable with.Fair enough, happens every time a new President takes office. No big surprise there.
However, doing this without a clear plan on how to continue to comply with the email archive laws already on the books, and that it continues to be bad several years later, is appalling. I can understand why business are upset in deploying mandated archiving solutions when their own government doesn't have similar automation in place.
He feels I was unfair to accuse EMC of "proprietary interfaces" without spelling out what I was referring to. Here arejust two, along with the whines we hear from customers that relate to them.
EMC Powerpath multipathing driver
Typical whine: "I just paid a gazillion dollars to renew my annual EMC Powerpath license, so you will have to come back in 12 months with your SVC proposal. I just can't see explaining to my boss that an SVC eliminates the need for EMC Powerpath, throwing away all the good money we just spent on it, or to explain that EMC chooses not to support SVC as one of Powerpath's many supported devices."
EMC SRDF command line interface
Typical whine: "My storage admins have written tons of scripts that all invoke EMC SRDF command line interfacesto manage my disk mirroring environment, and I would hate for them to re-write this to use IBM's (also proprietary) command line interfaces instead."
Certainly BarryB is correct that IBM still has a few remaining "proprietary" items of its own. IBM has been in business over 80 years, but it was only the last 10-15 years that IBM made a strategic shift away from proprietary and over to open standards and interfaces. The transformation to "openness" is not yet complete, but we have made great progress. Take these examples:
The System z mainframe - IBM had opened the interfaces so that both Amdahl and Fujitsu made compatible machines.Unlike Apple which forbids cloning of this nature, IBM is now the single source for mainframes because the other twocompetitors could not keep up with IBM's progress and advancements in technology.
Update: Due to legal reasons, the statements referring to Hercules and other S/390 emulators havebeen removed.
The z/OS operating system - While it is possible to run Linux on the mainframe, most people associate the z/OSoperating system with the mainframe. This was opened up with UNIX System Services to satisfy requests from variousgovernments. It is now a full-fledged UNIX operating system, recognized by the [Open Group] that certifies it as such.
As BarryB alludes, the unique interfaces for disk attachment to System z known as Count-Key-Data (CKD) was published so that both EMC and HDS can offer disk systems to compete with IBM's high-end disk offerings. Linux on System zsupports standard Fibre Channel, allowing you to attach an IBM SVC and anyone's storage. Both z/OS and Linux on System z support NAS storage, so IBM N series, NetApp, even EMC Celerra could be used in that case.
The System i itself is still proprietary, but recently IBM announced that it will now support standard block size (512 bytes) instead of the awkward 528 byte blocks that only IBM and EMC support today. That means that any storage vendor will be ableto sell disk to the System i environment.
Advanced copy services, like FlashCopy and Metro Mirror, are as proprietary as the similar offerings from EMCand HDS, with the exception that IBM has licensed them to both EMC and HDS. Thanks to cross-licensing, you can do [FlashCopy on EMC] equipment. Getting all the storage vendors to agree to open standards for these copy services is still workin progress under [SNIA], but at least people who have coded z/OS JCL batchjobs that invoke FlashCopy utilities can work the same between IBM and EMC equipment.
So for those out there who thought that my comment about EMC's proprietary interfaces in any way implied thatIBM did not have any of its own, the proverbial ["pot calling the kettle black"] so to speak, I apologize.
BarryB shows off his [PhotoShop skills] with the graphic below. I take it as a compliment to be compared to anAll-American icon of business success.
TonyP and Monopoly's Mr. Pennybags Separated at Birth?
However, BarryB meant it as a reference back to long time ago when IBMwas a monopoly of the IT industry, which according to [IBM's History], ended in 1973. In other words, IBMstopped being a monopoly before EMC ever existed as a company, and long before I started working for IBM myself.
The anti-trust lawsuit that BarryB mentions happened in 1969, which forced IBM to separate some of the software from its hardware offerings, and prevented IBM from making various acquisitions for years to follow, forcing IBM instead into technology partnerships. I'm glad that's all behind us now!
My theme this week was to focus on "Do-it-Yourself" solutions, such as the "open storage" concept presentedby Sun Microsystems, but it has morphed into a discussion on vendor lock-in. Both deserve a bit of furtherexploration.
There were several reasons offered on why someone might pursue a "Do-it-Yourself" course of action.
Building up skills
In my post [Simply Dinners and Open Storage], I suggested that building a server-as-storage solution based on Sun's OpenSolaris operating system could serve to learn more about [OpenSolaris], and by extension, the Solaris operating system.Like Linux, OpenSolaris is open source and has distributions that run on a variety of chipsets, from Sun's ownSPARC, to commodity x86 and x86-64 hardware. And as I mentioned in my post [Getting off the island], a version of OpenSolaris was even shown to run successfully on the IBM System z mainframe.
"Learning by Doing" is a strong part of the [Constructivism] movement in education. TheOne Laptop Per Child [OLPC] uses this approach. IBM volunteers in Tucson and 40other sites [help young students build robots]constructed from [Lego Mindstorms]building blocks.Edward De Bono uses the term [operacy] to refer to the"skills of doing", preferred over just "knowing" facts and figures.
However, I feel OpenSolaris is late to the game. Linux, Windows and MacOS are all well-established x86-based operating systems that most home office/small office users would be familiar with, and OpenSolaris is positioning itself as "the fourth choice".
In my post[WashingtonGets e-Discovery Wakeup Call], I suggested that the primary motivation for the White House to switch from Lotus Notes over to Microsoft Outlookwas familiarity with Microsoft's offerings. Unfortunately, that also meant abandoning a fully-operational automated email archive system, fora manual do-it-yourself approach copying PST files from journal folders.
Familiarity also explains why other government employees might print out their emails and archive them on paperin filing cabinets. They are familiar with this process, it allows them to treat email in the same manner as they have treated paper documents in the past.
Cost, Control and Unique Requirements
The last category of reasons can often result if what you want is smaller or bigger than what is availablecommercially. There are minimum entry-points for many vendors. If you want something so small that it is notprofitable, you may end up doing it yourself. On the other end of the scale, both Yahoo and Google ended up building their data centers with a do-it-yourself approach, because no commercial solutions were available atthe time. (IBM now offers [iDataPlex], so that has changed!)
While you could hire a vendor to build a customized solution to meet your unique requirements, it might turn outto be less costly to do-it-yourself. This might also provide some added control over the technologies and components employed. However, as EMC blogger Chuck Hollis correctly pointed out for[Do-it-yourself storage],your solution may not be less costly than existingoff-the-shelf solutions from existing storage vendors, when you factor in scalability and support costs.
Of course, this all assumes that storage admins building the do-it-yourself storage have enough spare time to do so. When was the last time your storage admins had spare time of any kind?Will your storage admins provide the 24x7 support you could get from established storage vendors? Will theybe able to fix the problem fast enough to keep your business running?
From this, I would gather that if you have storage admins more familiar with Solaris than Linux, Windows or MacOS,and select commodity x86 servers from IBM, Sun, HP, or Dell, they could build a solution that has less vendor lock-in than something off-the-shelf from Sun. Let's explore the fears of vendor lock-in further.
The storage vendor goes out of business
Sun has not been doing so well, so perhaps "open storage" was a way to warn existing Sun storage customers thatbuilding your own may be the next alternative.The New York Times title of their article says it all:["Sun Microsystems Posts Loss and Plans to Reduce Jobs"]. Sun is a big company, so I don't expect them to close their doors entirely this year,but certainly fear of being locked-in to any storage vendor's solution gets worse if you fear the vendor might go out of business.
The storage vendor will get acquired by a vendor you don't like
We've seen this before. You don't like vendor A, so you buy kit from vendor B, only to have vendor A acquire vendorB after your purchase. Surprise!
The storage vendor will not support new applications, operating systems, or other new equipment
Here the fear is that the decisions you make today might prevent you from choices you want to make in the future.You might want to upgrade to the latest level of your operating system, but your storage vendor doesn't supportit yet. Or maybe you want to upgrade your SAN to a faster bandwidth speed, like 8 Gbps, but your storage vendordoesn't support it yet. Or perhaps that change would require re-writing lots of scripts using the existingcommand line interfaces (CLI). Or perhaps your admins would require new training for the new configuration.
The storage vendor will raise prices or charge you more than you expect on follow-on upgrades
For most monolithic storage arrays, adding additional disk capacity means buying it from the same vendor as the controller. I heard of one company recently who tried to order entry-level disk expansion drawer, at a lower price, solely to move the individual disk drives into a higher-end disk system. Guess what? It didn't work. Most storage vendors would not support such mixed configurations.
If you are going to purchase additional storage capacity to an existing disk system, it should cost no more thanthe capacity price rate of your original purchase. IBM offers upgrades at the going market rate, but not all competitors are this nice. Some take advantage of the vendor lock-in, charging more for upgrades and pocketing the difference as profit.
Vendor lock-in represents the obstacles in switching vendors in the event the vendor goes out of business, failsto support new software or hardware in the data center, or charges more than you are comfortable with. These obstacles can make it difficult to switch storage vendors, upgrade your applications, or meet otherbusiness obligations. IBM SANVolume Controller and TotalStorage Productivity Center can help reduce or eliminate many of these concerns. IBMGlobal Services can help you, as much or as little, as you want in this transformation. Here are the four levelsof the do-it-yourself continuum:
Let me figure it out myself
Tell me what to do
Help me do it
Do it for me
This is the self-service approach. Go to our website, download an [IBM Redbook], figure out whatyou need, and order the parts to do-it-yourself.
IBM Global Business Services can help understand your business requirementsand tell you what you need to meet them.
IBM Global Technology Services can help design, assemble and deploy asolution, working with your staff to ensure skill and knowledge transfer.
IBM Managed Storage Services can manage your storage, on-site at your location, or at an IBM facility. IBM provides a varietyof cloud computing and managed hosting services.
So, if you are currently a Sun server or storage customer concerned about these latest Sun announcements, give IBM a call, we'll help you switch over!
This week I'm in Los Angeles for the Systems Technology Conference (STC '08).We have over 1900 IT professionals attending, of which 1200 IBMers from North America, Latin America,and Asia Pacific regions, as well as another 350 IBM Business Partners. The rest, including me, are world wideor from other areas.
Last January, IBM reorganized its team to be more client-focused. Instead of focused on products, we are nowclient-centric, and have teams to cover our large enterprise systems through direct sales force, business systemsfor sales through our channel business partners, and industry systems for specific areas like deep computing,digital surveillance and retail systems solutions.
In addition to 788 sessions to attend these next four days, we had a few main tent sessions.My third line (my boss' boss' boss) David Gelardi presented Enterprise Systems. This is the group I am in.
Akemi Watanabe presented for Business Systems. Her native language is Japanese, so to do an entire talk inEnglish was quite impressive. Her focus is on SMB accounts, those customers with less than 1000 employeesthat are looking for easy-to-use solutions. She mentioned IBM's new [Blue Business Platform] which includesLotus Foundation Start, an Application Integration Toolkit, and the Global Application Marketplace.
Part of this process is the merger of System p and System i into "POWER" systems, and then offering both midrangeand enterprise versions of these that run AIX, i5/OS and Linux on POWER. It turns out that only 9 percent of ourSystem i customers are only on this platform. Another 87 percent have Windows, so it makes sense to offer i5/OSon BladeCenter, to consolidate Windows servers from HP, Dell or Sun over to IBM.
Meanwhile, IBM's strategy to support Linux has proven successful. 25 percent of x86 servers now run Linux. IBMhas 600 full-time developers for Linux, over 500 of which contributed to the latest 2.6 kernel development. Our ["chiphopper"] program has successfullyported over 900 applications. There are now over 6500 applications that run on Linux applications, on our strategic alliances with Red Hat (RHEL) and Novell (SUSE) distributions of Linux.
Her recommendation to SMB reps: learn POWER systems, BladeCenter, and Linux. I agree!
Mary Coucher presented Industry systems. In addition to the game chips for the Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii,and Microsoft Xbox-360, this segment focuses on Digital Video Surveillance (DVS), Retail Solutions, Healthcare and Life sciences (HCLS), OEM and embedded solutions, and Deep computing. She mentioned our recently announcediDataPlex solution.
IBM is focused on "real-world-aware" applications, which includes traffic, crime, surveillance, fraud, andRFID enablement. These are streams of data that happen real-time, that need to be dealt with now, not later.
Most people know that IBM has the majority of the top 500 supercomputers, but few may not realize that IBMalso has delivered solutions to the top 100 green companies. IBM success is explained in more detail in this[Press Release].
The group split up to four different platform meetings: Storage, Modular, Power, and Mainframe. Barry Rudolphpresented for the Storage platform. He talked about the explosion in information, business opportunities,risk and cost management. IBM has shifted from being product-focused, to the stack of servers and storage,to our latest focus on solutions across the infrastructure. He mentioned our DARPA win for [PERCS] which stands for productive,easy-to-use, reliable computing system.
My session was the first in the morning, at 8:30am, but managed to pack the room full of people. A few looklike they just rolled in from Brocade's special get-together in Casey's Irish Pub the night before.I presented how IBM's storage strategy for the information infrastructure fits into the greater corporate-wide themes.To liven things up, I gave out copies of my book[Inside System Storage: Volume I] to those who asked or answered the toughest questions.
Data Deduplication and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)
IBM Toby Marek compared and contrasted the various data deduplication technologies and products available, andhow to deploy them as the repository for TSM workloads. She is a software engineer for our TSM software product,and gave a fair comparison between IBM System Storage N series Advanced Single Instance Storage (A-SIS), IBMDiligent, and other solutions out in the marketplace.If you are going to combine technologies, then it isbest to dedupe first, then compress, and finally encrypt the data. She also explained about the many cleverways that TSM does data reduction at the client side greatly reduces the bandwidth traffic over the LAN,as well as reducing disk and tape resources for storage. This includes progressive "incremental forever" backup for file selection, incremental backups for databases, and adaptive sub-file backup.Because of these data reduction techniques, you may not get as much benefit as deduplication vendors claim.
The Business Value of Energy Efficiency Data Centers
Scott Barielle did a great job presenting the issues related to the Green IT data center. He is part of IBM"STG Lab Services" team that does energy efficiency studies for customers. It is not unusual for his teamto find potential savings of up to 80 percent of the Watts consumed in a client's data center.
IBM has done a lot to make its products more energy efficient. For example, in the United States, most datacenters are supplied three-phase 480V AC current, but this is often stepped down to 208V or 110V with powerdistribution units (PDUs). IBM's equipment allows for direct connection to this 480V, eliminating the step-downloss. This is available for the IBM System z mainframe, the IBM System Storage DS8000disk system, and larger full-frame models of our POWER-based servers, and will probably be rolled out to someof our other offerings later this year. The end result saves 8 to 14 percent in energy costs.
Scott had some interesting statistics. Typical US data centers only spend about 9 percent of their IT budgeton power and cooling costs. The majority of clients that engage IBM for an energy efficiency study are not tryingto reduce their operational expenditures (OPEX), but have run out, or close to running out, of total kW ratingof their current facility, and have been turned down by their upper management to spend the average $20 million USDneeded to build a new one. The cost of electricity in the USA has risen very slowly over the past 35 years, andis more tied the to fluctuations of Natural Gas than it is to Oil prices.(a recent article in the Dallas News confirmed this:["As electricity rates go up, natural gas' high prices, deregulation blamed"])
Cognos v8 - Delivering Operational Business Intelligence (BI) on Mainframe
Mike Biere, author of the book [BusinessIntelligence for the Enterprise], presented Cognos v8 and how it is being deployed for the IBMSystem z mainframe. Typically, customers do their BI processing on distributed systems, but 70 percent of the world's business data is on mainframes, so it makes sense to do yourBI there as well. Cognos v8 runs on Linux for System z, connecting to z/OS via [Hypersockets].
There are a variety of other BI applications on the mainframe already, including DataQuant,AlphaBlox, IBI WebFocus and SAS Enterprise Business Intelligence. In addition to accessing traditional onlinetransaction processing (OLTP) repositories like DB2, IMS and VSAM, using the [IBM WebSphere ClassicFederation Server], Cognos v8 can also read Lotus databases.
Business Intelligence is traditionally query, reporting and online analytics process (OLAP) for the top 10 to 15 percent of the company, mostly executives andanalysts, for activities like business planning, budgeting and forecasting. Cognos PowerPlay stores numericaldata in an [OLAP cube] for faster processing.OLAP cubes are typically constructed with a batch cycle, using either "Extract, Transfer, Load" [ETL], or "Change Data Capture" [CDC], which playsto the strength of IBM System z mainframe batch processing capabilities.If you are not familiar with OLAP, Nigel Pendse has an article[What is OLAP?] for background information.
Over the past five years, BI is now being more andmore deployed for the rest of the company, knowledge workers tasked with doing day-to-day operations. Thisphenomenom is being called "Operational" Business Intelligence.
IBM Glen Corneau, who is on the Advanced Technical Support team for AIX and System p, presented the IBMGeneral Parellel File System (GPFS), which is available for AIX, Linux-x86 and Linux on POWER.Unfortunately, many of the questions were related to Scale Out File Services (SOFS), which my colleague GlennHechler was presenting in another room during this same time slot.
GPFS is now in its 11th release since its introducing in 1997. All of the IBM supercomputers on the [Top 500 list] use GPFS. The largest deployment of GPFS is 2241 nodes.A GPFS environment can support up to 256 file systems, each file system can have up to 2 billion filesacross 2 PB of storage. GPFS supports "Direct I/O" making it a great candidate for Oracle RAC deployments.Oracle 10g automatically detects if it is using GPFS, and sets the appropriate DIO bits in the stream totake advantage of GPFS features.
Glen also covered the many new features of GPFS, such as the ability to place data on different tiers ofstorage, with policies to move to lower tiers of storage, or delete after a certain time period, all conceptswe call Information Lifecycle Management. GPFS also supports access across multiple locations and offersa variety of choices for disaster recovery (DR) data replication.
Perhaps the only problem with conferences like this is that it can be an overwhelming["fire hose"] of information!
Continuing this week in Los Angeles, I went to some interesting sessions today at theSystems Technical Conference (STC08).
System Storage Productivity Center (SSPC) - Install and Configuration
Dominic Pruitt, an IBM IT specialist in our Advanced Technical Support team, presented SSPC and howto install and configure it. For those confused between the difference of TotalStorage ProductivityCenter and System Storage Productivity Center, the former is pure software that you install on aWindows or Linux server, and the latter is an IBM server, pre-installed with Windows 2003, TotalStorageProductivity Center software, TPCTOOL command line interface, DB2 Universal Database, the DS8000 Element Manager, SVC GUI and CIMOM, and [PuTTY] rLogin/SSH/Telnet terminal application software.
Of course, the problem with having a server pre-installed with a lot of software is that there is alwayssomeone that wants to customize it further. For those who just want to manage their DS8000 disk systems,for example, it is possible to uninstall the SVC GUI, CIMOM and PuTTY, and re-install them later when youchange your mind. As a general rule, it is not wise to mix CIMOMs on the same machine, as it might causeconflicts with TCP ports or Java level requirements, so if you want a different CIMOM than SVC, uninstallthe SVC CIMOM first. For those who have SVC, the SSPC replaces the SVC Master Console, so you can safelyturn off the SVC CIMOM on your existing SVC Master Consoles.
The base level is TotalStorage Productivity Center "Basic Edition", but you can upgrade the Productivity Centerfor Disk, Data and Fabric components with license keys. You can also run Productivity Center for Replication,but IBM recommends adding processor and memory to do this (IBM offers this as an orderable option).Whether you have the TotalStorage software or SSPC hardware, Productivity Center has a cool role-to-groups mapping feature.You can create user groups, either on the Windows server, the Active Directory, or other LDAP, and then map which roles should be assigned to users in each group.
Since Productivity Center manages a variety of different disk systems, it has made anattempt to standardize some terminology. The term "storage pool" refers to an extentpool on the DS8000, or a managed disk group on the SAN Volume Controller. Since the DS8000 can support both mainframe CKD volumes and LUNs for distributed systems, theterm "volume" refers to a CKD volume or LUN, and "disk" refers to the hard disk drive (HDD).
To help people learn Productivity Center, IBM offers single-day "remote workshops"that use Windows Remote Desktop to allow participants to install, customize and usethe software with no travel required.
IBM Integrated Approach to Archiving
Dan Marshall, IBM global program manager for storage and data services on our Global Technology Services team, presented IBM's corporate-wide integration to support archive across systems, software and services.One attendee asked me why I was there, given that "archive" is one of my areas of subject matter expertise that I present often at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center. I find it useful to watch others present the material, even material that I helped to develop, to see a different slant or spin on each talking point.
Archive is one area that brings all parts of IBM together: systems, software and services.Dan provided a look at archive from the services angle, providing an objective unbiasedview of the different software and systems available to solve specific challenges.
Encryption Key Manager (EKM) Design and Implementation
Jeff Ziehm, IBM tape technical sales specialist, presented IBM's EKM software, how it works in a tape environment, and how to deploy it in various environments. Since IBM is allabout being open and non-proprietary, the EKM software runs on Java on a variety ofIBM and non-IBM operating systems. IBM offers "keytool" command line interface (CLI) for the LTO4 and TS1120 tape systems, and "iKeyMan" graphical user interface (GUI) for theTS1120. Since it runs on Java, IBM Business Partners and technical support personneloften just [download and install EKM]onto their own laptops to learn how to use it.
Virtual Tape Update
We had three presenters at this one. First, Jeff Mulliken, formerly from Diligent and now a full IBM employee, presented the current ProtecTier softwarewith the HyperFactor technology, then Abbe Woodcock, IBM tape systems, compared Diligent with IBM's TS7520 and just-announced TS7530virtual tape libraries, and finally Randy Fleenor, IBM tape sales leader, presented IBM's strategy going forward in tape virtualization.
Let's start with Diligent. The ProtecTier software runs on any x86-64 server withat least four cores and the correct Emulex host bus adapter (HBA) cards. Using Red HatEnterprise Linux (RHEL) as a base, the ProtecTier software performs its deduplication entirely in-lineat an "ingest rate" of 400-450 MB/sec. This is all possible using 4GB memory-resident "dictionary table" that can map up to 1 PB of back end physical storage, which could represent as much as 25PB of "nominal" storage. Theserver is then point-to-point or SAN-attached to Fibre Channel disk systems.
As we learned yesterday from Toby Marek's session, there are four ways to performdeduplication:
full-file comparisons. Store only one copy of identical files.
fixed-chunk comparisons. Files are carved up into fixed-size chunks, and each chunkis compared or hashed to existing chunks to eliminate duplicates.
variable-chunk comparisons. Variable-length chunks are hashed or diffed to eliminate duplicate data.
content-aware comparisons. If you knew data was in Powerpoint format, for example,you could compare text, photos or charts against other existing Powerpoint files toeliminate duplicates.
IBM System Storage N series Advanced Single Instance Storage (A-SIS) uses fixed-chunkmethod, and Diligent uses variable-chunk comparisons. Diligent does this using "dataprofiling". For example, let's say most of my photographs are pictures of people, buildings, landscapes, flowers and IT equipment. When I back these up, the Diligentserver "profiles" each, and determines if any existing data have a similar profilethat might have at least 50 percent similar content. Diligent than reads in the data that is mostly likely similar, does a byte-for-byte ["diff" comparison], and creates variable-lengthchunks that are either identical or unique to sections of the existing data. Theunique data is compressed with LZH and written to disk, and the sequential series of pointer segments representing the ingested file is written in a separate section on disk.
That Diligent can represent profiles for 1PB of data in as little as 4GB memory-residentdictionary is incredible. By comparison, 10TB data would require 10 million entries on a content-aware solution, and 1.25 billion entries for one based on hash-codes.
Abbe Woodcock presented the TS7530 tape system that IBM announced on Tuesday. It has some advantages over the current Diligent offering:
Hardware-based compression (TS7520 and Diligent use software-based compression)
1200 MB/sec (faster ingest rate than Diligent)
1.7PB of SATA disk (more disk capacity than Diligent)
Support for i5/OS (Diligent's emulation of ATL P3000 with DLT7000 tapes not supported on IBM's POWER systems running i5/OS)
Ability to attach a real tape library
NDMP backup to tape
tape "shredding" (virtual equivalent of degaussing a physical tape to erase all previously stored data)
Randy Fleenor wrapped up the session telling us IBM's strategy going forward with all of thevirtual tape systems technologies. Until then, IBM is working on "recipes" or "bundles", puttingDiligent software with specific models of IBM System x servers and IBM System Storage DS4000 disk systemsto avoid the "do-it-yourself" problems of its current software-only packaging.
Understanding Web 2.0 and Digital Archive Workloads
I got to present this in the last time slot of the day, just before everyone headed off to the [Westin Bonaventure hotel] for our big fancy barbecue dinner. Like my previous sessionon IBM Strategy, this session was more oriented toward a sales audience, but both garnereda huge turn-out and were well-received by the technical attendees.
This session was requested because these new applications and workloads are what is driving IBM to acquire small start-ups like XIV, deploy Scale-Out File Services (SOFS), and develop the innovative iDataPlex server rack.
The session was fun because it was a mix of explanation of the characteristics ofWeb 2.0 services; my own experience as a blogger and user of Google Docs, FlickR, Second Life andTivo; and an exploration in how database and digital archives will impact thegrowth in computing and storage requirements.
I'll expand on some of these topics in later blog posts.
I'm glad this is the final day of the IBM Systems Technical Conference (STC08) here in Los Angeles.While I enjoyed the conference, one quickly reaches saturation point with all the information presented.
XIV Architecture Overview
Before this conference, many of the attendees didn't understandIBM's strategy, didn't understand Web 2.0 and Digital archive workloads,and didn't understand why IBM acquired XIV to offer "yet another disk systemthat servers LUNs to distributed server platforms." Brian Shermanchanged all that!
Brian Sherman, IBM Advanced Technical Support (ATS), is part of the exclusive dedicated XIVtechnical team to install these boxes at client locations, so he is very knowledgeable with the technical aspects of the architecture. He presented what the current XIV-branded model that clients can purchase now in select countries, and what the IBM-branded model will change when available worldwide.
Those who missed my earlier series on XIV can find them here:
Beyond this, Brian gave additional information on how thin provisioning, storage pools, disk mirroring, consistency groups, management consoles, and microcode updates are implemented.
N series and VMware Deep Dive
Norm Bogard, IBM Advanced Technical Support, presented why the IBM N series makes such great disk storage for VMware
deployments. This wasclearly labeled as a "deep dive", so anyone who got lost in all of theacronyms could not blame Norm for misrepresentation.
IBM has been doing server virtualization for over 40 years, so it makes sense thatit happens to be the number one reseller of VMware offerings.VMware ESX server is a hypervisor that runs on x86 host, and provides an emulationlayer for "guest Operating Systems". Each guest can hvae one or more virtualdisks, which are represented by VMware as VMDK files. VMware ESX server acceptsread/write requests from the guests, and forwards them on to physical storage.Many of VMware's most exciting features requires storage to be external to thehost machine. [VMotion]allows guests to move from one host to another, [Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS)]allows a set of hosts to load-balance the guestsacross the hosts, and [High Availability (HA)] allows the guests on a failed hostto be resurrected on a surviving host. All of these require external disk storage.
ESX server allows up to 256 LUNs, attached via FCP and/or iSCSI, and up to 32 NFS mount points. Across LUNs, ESX server uses VMFS file system, which is a clusteredfile system like IBM GPFS that allows multiple hosts to access the same LUNs.ESX server has its own built-in native multipathing driver, and even provides FCP-iSCSIand iSCSI multipathing. In other words, you can have a LUN on an IBM System Storage N series thatis attached over both FCP and iSCSI, so if the SAN switch or HBA fails, ESX servercan failover to the iSCSI connection.
ESX server can use NFS protocol to access the VMDK files instead. While the default is only 8 NFS mount points, you can increase this to 32 mount points. NAS can takeadvantage of Link Aggregate Control Protocol [LACP] groups, what some call "trunking" or "EtherChannel". This is the ability to consolidate multiple streams onto fewer inter-switch Ethernet links, similar to what happens on SAN switches.For the IBM N series, IBM recommends a "fixed" path policy, rather than "most recently used".
IBM recommends disabling SnapShot schedules, and setting the Snap reserve to 0 percent.Why? A snapshot of an ESX server datastore has the VMDK files of many guests, all of which would have had to quiesce or stop to make the data "crash consistent" for theSnapshot of the datastore to even make any sense. So, if you want to take Snapshots, itshould be something you coordinate with the ESX server and its guest OS images, and notscheduled by the N series itself.
If you are running NFS protocol to N series, you can turn off the "accesstime" updates. In normal file systems, when you read a file, it updates the"access time" in the file directory. This can be useful if you are looking forfiles that haven't been read in a while, such as software that migrates infrequentlyaccessed files to tape. Assuming you are not doing that on your N series, you might as well turnoff this feature, and reduce the unnecessary write activity to the IBM N series box.
ESX server can also support "thin provisioning" on the IBM N series. There isa checkbox for "space reserved". Checked means "thick provisioning" and uncheckedmeans "thin provisioning". If you decide to use "thin provisioning" with VMware,you should consider setting AutoSize to automatically increase your datastorewhen needed, and to auto-delete-snap your oldest snapshots first.
The key advantage of using NFS rather than FCP or iSCSI is that it eliminates theuse of the VMFS file system. IBM N series has the WAFL file system instead, andso you don't have to worry about VMFS partition alignment issue. Most VMDK aremisaligned, so the performance is sub-optimal. If you can align each VMDK to a32KB or 64KB boundary (depending on guest OS), then you can get better performance.WAFL does this for you automatically, but VMFS does not. For Windows guests, use "Windows PE" to configurecorrectly-aligned disks. For UNIX or Linux guests, use "fdisk" utility.
What Industry Analysts are saying about IBM
Vic Peltz gave a presentation highlighting the accolades from securities analysts, IT analysts, and newsagencies about IBM and IBM storage products. For example, analysts like that IBM offersmany of the exciting new technologies their clients are demanding, like "thin provisioning", RAID-6 double-drive protection,SATA and Solid State Disk (SSD) drive technology.Analysts also like that IBM is open to non-IBM heterogeneous environments. Whereas EMC Celerra gateways supportonly EMC disk, IBM N series gateways and IBM SAN Volume Controller support a mix of IBM and non-IBM equipment.
Analysts also like IBM's "datacenter-wide" approach to issues like security and "Green IT". Rather than focusingon these issues with individual point solutions, IBM attacks these challenges with a complete"end-to-end" solution approach. A typical 25,000 square foot data center consumes $2.6 million dollars USD in power andcooling today, and IBM has proven technologies to reduce this cost in half. IBM's DS8000 on average consume26.5 to 27.8 percent less electricity than a comparable EMC DMX-4 disk system. IBM's tape systemsconsume less energy than comparable Sun or HP models.
IBM iDataPlex product technical presentation
Vallard Benincosa, IBM Technical Sales Specialist, presented the recently-announced [IBM System x iDataPlex].This is designed for our clients that have thousands of x86 servers, that buy servers "racks at a time", tosupport Web 2.0 and digital archive workloads. The iDataPlex is designed for efficient power and cooling,rapid scalability, and usable server density.
iDataPlex is such a radical design departure, that it might be difficult to describe in words.Most racks take up two floor tiles, each tile is 2 foot by 2 foot square. In that space, a traditionalrack would have servers that were 19 inches wide slide in horizontally, with flashing lights and hot-swappabledisks in the front, and all the power supply, fans and networking connections in the back. Even with IBM BladeCenter,you have chassis in these racks, and then servers slide in vertically in the front, and all of the power supply, fanand networking connections in the back. To access these racks, you have to be able to open the door on boththe front and back. And the cooling has to go through at least 26.5 inches from the front of the equipment to the back.
iDataPlex turns the rack sideways. Instead of two feet wide, and four feet deep, it is four feet wide, and two feet deep.This gives you two 19 inch columns to slide equipment into, and the air only has to travel 15 inches from frontto back. Less distance makes cooling more efficient.
Next, iDataPlex makes only thing in the back the power cord, controlled by an intelligent power distribution unit (iPDU) so you can turnthe power off without having to physically pull the plug. Everything else is serviced from the front door.This means that the back door can now be an optional "Rear Door Heat Exchanger" [RDHX] that is filled with running water to makecooling the rack extremely efficient. Water from a cooler distirubtion unit (CDU) can power about threeto four RDHX doors.
Let's say you wanted to compare traditional racks with iDataPlex for 84 servers. You can put 42 "1U" serversin two racks each, each rack requires 10 kVA (kilo-volt-amps) so you give it two 8.6 kVA feeds each, that is fourfeeds, and at $1500-2000 dollars USD per month, will cost you $6000-8000. The iDataPlex you can fit 84 serversin one 20 kVA rack, with only three 8.6 kVA feeds, saving you $1500-2000 dollars USD per month.
Fans are also improved. Fan efficiency is based on their diameter, so small fans in 1U servers aren't as effective as iDataPlex's 2U fans, saving about 12-49W per server. Whereas typical 1U server racks spend 10-20percent of their energy on the fans, the iDataPlex spends only about 1 percent, saving 8 to 36 kWH per year per rack.
Each 2U chassis snaps into a single power supply and a bank of 2U fans. A "Y"power cord allows you to have one cord for two power supplies. A chassis can hold either two small server "flexnodes"or one big "flexnode". An iDataPlex rack can hold up to 84 small servers or 42 big servers. Since each "Y" cord can power up to four "flexnode" servers, you greatly reduce the number of PDU sockets taken,leaving some sockets available for traditional 1U switches.
The small "flexnode" server can have one 3.5 inch HDD, or two 2.5 inch HDD, either SAS or SATA, and the big "flexnode" can have twice these.If you need more storage, there is a 2U chassis that holds five 3.5 inch HDD or eight 2.5 inch HDD. These areall "simple-swappable" (servers must be powered down to pull out the drives). For hot-swappable drives, a 3Uchassis with twelve 3.5 inch SAS or SATA drives.
The small "flexnode" server has one [PCI Express] slot, the big servers have two. Thesecould be used for [Myrinet] clustering. With only 25W power,the PCI Express slots cannot support graphics cards.
The iDataPlex is managed using the "Extreme Cluster Administration Toolkit" [XCAT]. This is an open source project under Eclipse that IBM contributes to.
Finally was the concept of "pitch". This is the distance from the center of one "cold aisle" to the next "cold aisle".On typical data centers, a pitch is 9 to 11 tiles. With the iDataPlex it is only three tiles when using the RDHX doors, or six tiles without. Most data centers run out of power and cooling before they run out of floor space, so having more dense equipmentdoesn't help if it doesn't also use less electricity.Since the iDataPlex uses 40 percent less power and cooling, you can pack more racks persquare foot of an existing data center floor with the existing power and cooling available. That is what IBM calls "usable density"!
What Did You Say? Effective Questioning and Listening Techniques
Maria L. Anderson, IBM Human Resources Learning, gave this "professional development" talk. I deal with different clients every week, so I fully understand that there is a mix of art and science incrafting the right questions and listening to the responses.The focus was on howto ask better questions and improve the understanding and communication during consultative engagements. Thisinvolves the appropriate mix of closed and open-ended questions, exchanging or prefacing as needed. This wasa good overview of the ERIC technique (Explore, Refine, Influence, and Confirm).
Well, that wraps up my week here in Los Angeles.Special thanks to my two colleagues, Jack Arnold and Glenn Hechler, both from the Tucson Executive Briefing Center,who helped me prepare and review my presentations!