SoFS combines three key features: a global namespace, a clustered file system, and Information LifecycleManagement (ILM). Let's tackle each one.
- Global Name Space
A long time ago, IBM acquired a company called Transarc that developed Andrew File System (AFS) and DistributedFile System (DFS). These both provided global namespace capability, meaning that all of your files could beaccessible from a single URL file tree. Imagine if you have data centers in Tucson, Austin, Raleigh and Chicago.Normally, to access files from each city, you would have to mount a unique IP address for that location, and thento get to files in a different city, you'd have to mount a second, and so on. But with a global namespace, you could mount a single drive letter Z: and access files simply by using Z:/Tucson/abc or Z:/Austin/xyz. IBM uses its DFS to make this happen.
Just because you have access to a global namespace doesn't give you read/write authority to every file. IBM SoFS has full NTFS Access Control List (ACL) support, so that only those who can read or write data can access the files. A "hide unreadable" feature provideswhat I like to call "parental controls": you don't even get to see on your directly list any file or subdirectory that you don't have access to. For example, if there is a directory with 50 projects, but you only have authority tothree projects, then you only see the three subdirectories related to those projects, and nothing else.
There are other ways to get a global namespace. IBM also offers the IBM System Storage N series Virtual FileManager, Brocade offers Storage/X, and F5 acquired Acopia. These all work by putting a box in front of a set ofindependent NAS storage units, and giving you a single mount point to represent all of the file systems managedbehind the scenes. This however can sometimes be a bottleneck for performance.
- Clustered File System
Often, when you have a lot of data in one place, you are also expected to deliver that data to lots of clientswith relatively good performance. Otherwise, end users revolt and get their own internal direct attach storage.To solve this, you need a clustered architecture that provides access in parallel to the data.
First, we start with a node that is optimized for CIFS and NFS access. We have clocked our node to run CIFS at577 MB/sec, and NFS at 880 MB/sec, through a 10GbE pipe between a single client and a single SoFS node. Comparethat to the 400 MB/sec you get today with 4Gbps FCP, or the 800 MB/sec you will get if you upgrade to 8 GbpsFCP, and quickly you recognize that this is comparable performance for demanding workloads.
Then, you combine multiple nodes together, and have them all be able to read/write any file in the file system, andfront-end that with a load-balancing Virtual IP address (VIPA) that spreads the requests around, and you've gotyourself a lean and mean machine for accessing data.
In 2005, IBM delivered[ASC Purple] with the world's fastest file system. 1536 nodeswere able to access billions of files in the 2 Petabyte of data. The record of 126 GB/sec access to a single filewas set, and has yet to be beaten by any other vendor since.This same file system is used in SoFS, as well as a variety of other IBM storage offerings.
The back-end storage can be SAS or FC-attached, from the DS3200 to our mighty DS8300 Turbo, as well as ourIBM System Storage DCS9550 and SAN Volume Controller (SVC), and a variety of tape libraries.
- Information Lifecycle Management
Lastly, we get to ILM. With SoFS, you can have different tiers of storage, high-speed SAS or FC disk, low-speedFATA and SATA disk, and even tape. Policy-based automation allows you to place any file onto any disk tier whencreated, and other policies can migrate or delete the data trigged by certain threshold, age, or other criteria.The advantage is that this is on a file by file basis, so Z:/Tucson/Project could have a bunch of files, some ofthem on my FC disk, some of them on my SATA, and some on tape. The file path doesn't change when they move, anddifferent files in the same directory can be on different tiers.
Data movement is bi-directional. If you know you will be using a set of files for an upcoming job, say perhapsquarter-end or year-end processing, you can pre-fetch those files from tape and move them to your fastest disk pool.
There is also integrated backup support. Typically, a large NAS environment is difficult to backup. Traditionalmethods take days to scan the directory tree looking for files in need of backup. A single SoFS node can scana billion files in 95 minutes, and 8 nodes in a cluster can scan a billion files in under 15 minutes.
Recovery is even more impressive. When you recover, SoFS brings back the entire directory structure first, withall the file names in place. This would make it appear that all the data is restored, but actually it is still on tape.When you access individual files, it will then drive the recovery of that file, so your applications and end usersbasically determine the priority of the recovery. Traditional methods would wait until every file was restoredbefore letting anyone access the system.
SoFS is part of IBM's [Blue Cloud] initiativethat was launched last November 2007. Of course, IBM isn't the only one competing in this space. HDS has partneredwith BlueArc, HP has acquired PolyServe, and Sun acquired CFS for their Lustre file system. Isilon and Exanet arestart-up companies with some offerings. EMC acquired Rainfinity,and have hinted at a Hulk/Maui project that they might deliver later this year or perhaps in 2009, but by thenmight be a dollar-short and a day-late.
But why wait? IBM SoFS is available today and is orders of magnitude more scalable!
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