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 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 )
My books are available on Lulu.com! Order your copies today!
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Back in October, Daryl Pereira asked me for an interview about my blog. I get a lot of these requests, but this one was different. Daryl is on the IBM DeveloperWorks team, and he was going to interview me to for the "Great Mind Challenge". This is a fun competition for a group of about 100 college students from San Jose State University to get them to learn blogging best practices and techniques.
This was the one post that put me into the #1 position, with over 70,000 hits so far and counting, and that does not include all the people who read my blog through feed readers or the various cross-postings on IBM Storage Community and IBM Virtual Briefing Center.
This blog post was part of a series on IBM Watson, the computer that beat two humans on the "Jeapoardy!" television game show. Having worked closely with the IBM Research scientists to understand how IBM Watson worked so that I could blog about it, I thought a good way for readers to appreciate how it was put together was to explain how to assemble a scaled-down version. My inspiration was an article by John Pultorak that explained [how to build your own Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) in your basement].
The blog post series proved to be a big hit. IBM Watson helps to demonstrate many modern computer techniques, including business analytics of Big Data, Cloud Computing, and parallel programming techniques such as Hadoop. Showing that a "Watson Jr." could be built in your basement helped to emphasize that IBM Watson was made from hardware and software that are generally available today.
I am very proud of this blog post. I worked with Moshe Yanai and the rest of the XIV team to be completely accurate and correct to set the right level of expectations. So many false statements and FUD had been thrown out about what would happen if a double drive failure happened during the short 30 minute window of opportunity, and it turns out that in most cases, no data is lost, and in all other cases, the lost data can be easily identified and restored. In most cases, this will be less recovery required than a double drive failure on a traditional RAID-5 disk array.
It was also an opportunity to try out Animoto to create a short and simple video. Normally, when marketing needs a video made, it will cost 25,000 dollars USD or more, and take weeks to produce. I was able to get this video done in just a few hours with no out-of-pocket expenses.
After this post, nearly all FUD in the blogosphere about double drive failures disappeared. More importantly, the XIV sales that quarter (2Q2010) was substantially better than the prior quarter. Many XIV sales reps credit this blog post for that huge bump in XIV sales! I guess this could be the Tony Pearson equivalent of the [Colbert Bump].
In 2009 and 2010, I was the third most influential blogger on IBM's Developerworks, and now in 2011, I have risen to number one position! Internally, we call this "Winning the Devy" (like an Emmy, but for DeveloperWorks bloggers). I would like to thank all my readers for continuing to share in the conversation!
Next week, I will be in Las Vegas for the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. This is the fourth year attending this. For a bit of nostalgia, check out my blog posts from the [2008 event] and the [2009 event].
This week, I will be in Las Vegas for the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. For those on Twitter, follow the conference on hashtag #GartnerDC, and follow me at [@az990tony].
Once again, I will be working the IBM Exhibition Booth of the Solution Showcase, attending keynote and break-out sessions, and meeting with clients and analysts. Today is mostly setting up the booth, getting my registration badge and materials, an orientation meeting for first-timers, and finish off the evening with a networking event to get the party started!
Traffic to and from the hotel was a mess today because of the [Las Vegas Strip at Night Rock-n-Roll Marathon]. The entire Las Vegas Boulevard was blocked off from 2pm to 11pm, causing taxis some headaches getting to and from each hotel. This marathon included a "Stiletto Dash" where women had to run in shoes that had at least three inch heels! (Only in Las Vegas!)
The conference is organized into 8 tracks:
Navigating the Journey to Cloud-Delivered Services
Achieving and Maintaining IT Operational Excellence
Modernizing Your Storage Strategy to Keep Pace with Burgeoning Demand
Ensuring Your Business Continuity Management Plan Reflects Today's Realities and Tomorrow's Challenges
Virtualization: Moving at Light Speed While Leveraging Your Existing Investments
The Future of Servers and Operating Systems
Data Center Modernization: Staying Agile in Chaotic Times
Pervasive Mobility: What Infrastructure and Operations Needs to Know Now
I am glad to see that storage got its own track this year! If you are attending the conference, here are the sessions that IBM is featuring for Monday:
IBM: Watson and Your Data Center
This is a lunch-time talk. Steve Sams, IBM VP of Sites and Facilities, will explain how to leverage Watson-like analytic approaches to provide flexible, cost-effective data center solutions. Analytics can be used to better align IT to the business needs, optimize server, storage and network utilization and improve data center design.
IBM: University of Rochester Medical Center cracks the code on data growth
Rick Haverty, Director of Infrastructure for University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), will discuss how his team built a storage strategy that transformed their environment to bring savings right to their bottom line without sacrificing the speed, criticality and performance requirements of their imaging and EMR systems. I will be there to introduce Rick at the beginning, and then moderate the Q&A after the talk.
Solution Showcase Reception
The Solution Showcase opens up Monday night with a reception, serving food and drinks. Look for the IBM Portable Mobile Data Center (PMDC), the big trailer on the show floor. We also have an exhibit booth, across from the PMDC, to ask questions and talk with various IBM experts. You can look for me and the other experts wearing white lab coats!
This week, I will be in Las Vegas for the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. For those on Twitter, follow the conference on hashtag #GartnerDC, and follow me at [@az990tony]. IBM is a Global Partner and Platinum Sponsor for this event. Here is a recap of some of the Monday morning keynote sessions:
Welcome and Introduction
Monday morning kicked off with a welcome introduction from the conference coordinators. This is the highest attendance for this conference in its 30 year history, with 60 percent of the attending for their first time, and 18 percent only once before. This is the fourth time I am attending. Half of the attendees represent corporations with 20,000 employees or more, the other half from smaller companies and government agencies. The top five industries represented are financial services, public sector, healthcare, manufacturing, and energy.
This conference uses a clever "interactive polling" where hand-held devices can be used to select choices, and results of over 800 voters are presented immediately on the big screen.
For IT budgets, 42 percent plan to increase next year, 32 percent flat, and 26 percent lower, which are similar to the numbers last year. Of nine different IT challenges, the top three were managing storage growth, power/cooling issues, and adopting a Cloud strategy.
Top 10 Trends and how they will impact Data Center IT
The analyst presented top 10 business, technology and societal trends that will impact IT. He added a last-minute eleventh issue that he felt will impact everyone in 2012:
Consumerization and the Tablet. Back in 1997, a GB of flash memory cost $7,992 US dollars, and today that same GB costs only 25 cents. Employees are bringing their own devices to the workplace, and expecting IT support.
Infinite Data Center. You may never have to expand your floorspace again. Improvements in server and storage density can allow you to continually upgrade in place.
Energy Management. Data centers consume 100x more energy than the offices they support. The cost of energy is on part with IT equipment. Energy management is becoming an enterprise-wide discipline. A key performance indicator (KPI) can be "compute per kW" or "compute per Square foot".
Context Awareness. There are hundreds of thousands of apps for Android-based smart phones and iPhones. Context awareness allows an app to help business travelers in airports know what restaurants are nearby, their flight status, and alternate flights available, based entirely on their location.
Hybrid Clouds. By 2013, over 60 percent of cloud adoption will be to redeploy existing apps like email. Some 80 percent of cloud initiatives will be private or hybrid configurations. Customers want "good enough" technology, and thus Cloud will be mostly an augmentation strategy.
Fabric Computing. The opposite of fully-integrated stacks is the notion of having compute, memory and storage joined together via an interconnect fabric with software to manage the entire environment.
IT Complexity. Robert Glass's Law states that for every 25 percent increase in functionality, there is a 100 percent increase in complexity. See Roger Session's whitepaper [The IT Complexity Crisis: Danger and Opportunity] for more on this.
Patterns and Analytics. Big data and business analytics is a key platform. This is expected to grow 60 percent CAGR.
Impact of Virtualization. Virtualizing your environment should be considered a continuous process, not a one-time project. Many companies are running x86 servers at less than 55 percent, which the speaker considers under-utilized. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is a trade-off, may cost more but have other business benefits to consider. The problem is that many IT shops are organized vertially (a server team, storage team, network team) but problems surface horizontally, and there is no "ownership" for the resolution. Some use "tiger teams" to address this. Companies should reward lateral thinking.
Social Media. Of the ommunications on cell phones by college students, 98.4 percent are text messages, and only 1.6 percent voice phone calls. People search Google for "what was", but they search Twitter for "what is". Most of the growth on Twitter are in the 39-52 year-old demographic. The analyst felt that if your company is blocking or restricting access to facebook, twitter, youtube or other social networking sites, then shame on you. I agree!
Flooding in Thailand. Over two million square feet of HDD production space were flooded, and this will impact HDD prices for 2012. Already, a 2TB drive that was selling for $79 at local store is now selling for $190.
How To Get Your CFO's Support For Strategy and Funding
In the first of a series of "mastermind interviews", the analyst interviewed their own CFO Chris Lafond. Ultimately, it is about business results. They have grown annual 15-20 percent, from 250 million in 2003 to 1.3 billion US dollars in 2011 for annual revenue, 4600 employees, doing business in 85 countries. The company is focused on three business areas: Research, Consulting, and Events like this one. Chris does not approve 3-5 year projects, and instead requests projects be broken up into year-long phases. ROI can be very misleading, and he asks instead for benefits and contributions to initiatives.
It is important to keep the horse in front of the cart. Accounting departments should not drive business decisions. For example, companies should not move to the public cloud just so that the accounting department can shift from CAPex to OPex. Try to depreciate as soon as possible. Likewise, green technologies and social responsibility are factors, but not drivers of business decisions. Acquisitions are a natural evolution of the market, so risk mitigation strategies should be in place in case your vendor of choice is acquired by someone you don't like.
For BC/DR planning, the analyst has a single Data Center approach, but Chris indicated that IT is looking to expand this. Their single datacenter for one part of their business was in Florida, and the other in Massachusetts, and both impacted by Hurricanes or Earthquakes recently.
The "lightning round" asked Chris his thoughts, either thumbs up, thumbs down, or neutral, on single ideas or concepts. I liked this part of the interview!
Chargeback? Thumbs down. He doesn't feel you should have internal fighting over charge rates. He prefers showback instead.
BYO Device with stipend? Thumbs down, but inevitable. Giving people a chunk of money to buy their own laptop, smart phone or tablet of choice may wreak havoc on the IT department for support and service.
Telepresence? Thumbs down. Cool, but very expensive. I don't think people are prepared to exploit the benefits of this.
Corporate apps on public "app stores"? Thumbs down. Concerns over security and integration is main issue.
Access to Social Networks? Thumbs up. This is how employees communicate and collaborate. Don't stifle them doing the right things just because you are afraid they might waste 20 minutes on Facebook per day.
Your IT budget? It's up slightly 1-5 percent for 2012.
Cloud? Promising, some challenges related to integration and security.
Chris finished up with a story about an application team that indicated that they would need to make 100 customizations to an off-the-shelf general ledger financial application. Chris and the other executives asked to be presented each and every customization, and he was able to eliminate most of them.
Positive comments I heard from the audience was that these keynotes had real "meat" to them, and not just full of cliches and platitudes that is common for keynote sessions. I would have to agree.
Continuing my coverage of the 30th annual [Data Center Conference]. Here is a recap of the other Monday morning keynote sessions:
Driving Innovation to Achieve Dramatic Improvements
What is Innovation? It is a process that starts with one or more ideas, that results in change, that creates value. Easier said than done!
Innovation drives business growth. The analyst indicated that the IT infrastructure can either be in the way to impede business growth, neutral to enable growth, or contributing to business growth. Companies often find downtime as an inhibitor to business growth. The analyst gave these typical numbers.
Unplanned downtime (hours per year)
Planned Downtime (hours per year)
A big inhibitor to change is "cultural inertia", which states that the way things are prevent what they could be. Change requires both rewards and measures. Employees are often uncomfortable with change. Motivation should be with carrots not sticks.
(I often joke that the only people who are comfortable with change are babies with soiled diapers and prisoners on death row!)
The impedence to change is further amplified by leadership because what got them into their positions was their history of success, and often leaders perpetuate what worked for them in the past.
"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."
--- Peter Drucker
Nothing lasts forever, and companies should not try to avoid the inevitable. Innovators need to see themselves as change agents. the analyst feels that less than 10 percent of IT will adopt innovation to enact dramatic change. The analyst took a poll of the audience asking: Why isn't your IT Infrastructure and Operations more innovative? Over 800 attendees responded. Here were the results:
The analyst suggests treating Innovation like a team sport, with small 2-5 person teams. Search for breakthrough opportunities by setting audacious goals to inspire innovative thinking. What approach are most people doing today? Here are some polling results:
The analyst suggest it is more important to establish a culture of innovation first, and process second. Skunkworks projects are back in favor. IT folks should avoid the worship of so-called "best practices" as a reason to avoid change in trying something different. To think "outside-the-box" you need to get outside the box, or office, or cubicle, or wherever you work that prevents you from interacting with your internal or external customers. Customers can bring great insights on new approaches to take.
One new approach, born in the Cloud and now coming to the Enterprise is the concept of [DevOps], which consists of promoting collaboration between the "Appplication Development" half of IT, with the "Operations" half. If you never had heard of DevOps before, you are not alone, most of the attendees at this conference hadn't either. Here are the poll results:
Some companies have instituted a "Fresh Eyes" program, asking new-hires and early-tenure employees questions like: What surprised you the most when you joined the company? Was there anything that didn't make sense to you? Do you have any ideas to improve the way we do things?
"In a time of crisis we all have the potential to morph up to a new level and do things we never thought possible"
– Stuart Wilde
Why wait for a crisis?
Facebook: Efficient Infrastructure at a Massive Scale
Frank Frankovsky, the Director of Hardware and Design and Supply Chain at Facebook, was sitting right next to me in the audience. I didn't know this until it was his turn to speak, and he jumps up and walks to the stage! For those who live under a rock and/or are over 40 years old, Facebook is a social media site that allows people to maintain personal profiles, share photos, news and messages, play games, and create groups to organize events. They now support over 800 million accounts, a healthy percentage of the 1.9 billion people on the internet today.
Started in 2004, Facebook was originally hosted on standard server and storage hardware in colocation facilities. Facebook saved 38 percent costs by bringing their operations in-house, building their own servers from parts, and using no third-party software. Facebook has the advantage of owning their entire software stack, leveraging open source as much as possible. They even re-wrote their own PHP compiler, which they pronounce "Hip-Hop", short for high-performance-PHP.
Facebook can stand up a new data center in less than 10 months, from breaking ground to serving users. Most of Facebook's data centers sport a PUE less than 1.5, but their newest one in Prineville, Oregon is down to an amazing 1.07 level for a 7.5 Megawatt facility! How did they do it? Here are a few of their tricks:
Use Scale-Out architecture. Having lots of small servers, scattered in various data centers, allows them to survive a server failure, as well as having the luxury to shut down a datacenter when needed for maintenance reasons.
Free Cooling. Instead of air-conditioning, they pump in cold air from the outside, and send the heated exhaust back outdoors. Frank does not believe servers should be treated like humans, so their data centers run uncomfortably hot. The 50-year climate data is used to determine data center locations that have the optimal "free cooling" opportunities.
Eliminate UPS and PDU energy losses. Rather than running 480 VAC power through UPS that represent a 6 to 12 percent loss, and then PDU that introduce another 3 percent loss getting down to 208 or 120 VAC, Frank's team builds servers that feed direclty off the 480 VAC from the power company. For backup power, they use 48VDC batteries. One set of batteries can backup six racks of servers.
Target 6 to 8 KW per rack. Low-density racks are easier to keep cool.
Build their own IT equipment. Rather than buying commercially-available servers, Frank's team builds 1.5 U servers based on Intel "Westmere" chipset. 1.5U allows for larger fan radius than standard 1U pizza box format. (IBM's iDataPlex uses 2U fans for the same reason!) Facebook has a "Vanity free" design philosophy, so no fancy plastic bezels. In most cases, the covers are left off. Most (65 percent) of their servers are web front-ends. They plan new IT equipment based on Intel's "Sandy Bridge" chipset.
Use SATA drives. They buy the largest SATA drives available, directly from manufacturers, in direct-attach storage (DAS) in their servers. Data is organized in a Hadoop cluster, and they have developed their own internal "Haystack" for photo storage. Despite the floods in Thailand, Facebook has secured all the SATA disk they plan to buy for 2012 from their suppliers.
Use Solid-State drives. Their Database tier uses 100 percent Solid-State drives.
Frank is also a founder for the [Open Compute Project], which takes an "Open source" approach to IT hardware.
Facebook does not bother with hypervisors. Instead, they have adapted their own software to make full use of the CPU natively. This eliminates the "I/O Tax" penalty associated with VMware and other hypervisors.
Of course, not everyone owns their entire software stack, and can build their own servers! It was nice to hear how a company without such limitations can innovate to their advantage.