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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Specialist for the IBM System Storage product line at the
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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. You can also follow him on Twitter @az990tony.
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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.
A faithful reader of this blog, Tom, sent me a link to Orson Scott Card's article titled[PROGRAMMERS AS BEES (or, how to kill a software company)]. "Is there any truth in this?" Tom asked?Having worked both sides of this fence as I approach my 22 year anniversary at IBM, I guess I can venturesome opinions on this piece. Let's start with this excerpt:
"The environment that nurtures creative programmers kills management and marketing types - and vice versa."
By this, he means "kills" in the UNIX sense, I imagine, and not the "Grand Theft Auto IV" sense.Different people solve problems differently. Some programmers have the luxury that theycan often focus on a single platform, single chipset, single OS, and so on, but Marketing types are tryingto come up with messaging that appeals to a broad audience, from people with business backgrounds to others with moretechnical backgrounds, and that can be more challenging. For programmers, "creative" is an adjective; formarketers, it's a noun.
"Programming is the Great Game. It consumes you, body and soul. When you're caught up in it, nothing else matters."
True. As a storage consultant, I find myself writing code a lot, from small programs, scripts, and even HTML codefor this blog. When you are in your zone, working on something, one can easily lose track of time.
"Here's the secret that every successful software company is based on: You can domesticate programmers the way beekeepers tame bees. You can't exactly communicate with them, but you can get them to swarm in one place and when they're not looking, you can carry off the honey. You keep these bees from stinging by paying them money. More money than they know what to do with. But that's less than you might think."
I have never tamed bees, but many of my friends who are still programmers are motivated by factors other thanmaximizing their income, such as: friendly co-workers, job security, casual attire, and interesting challenges. A few make more than they know what to do with, the rest have girlfriends"significant others" who solve that problem for them.
"One way or another, marketers get control. But...control of what? Instead of finding assembly lines of productive workers, they quickly discover that their product is produced by utterly unpredictable, uncooperative, disobedient, and worst of all, unattractive people who resist all attempts at management."
False. Either marketing had control in the first place (ala Apple, Inc.) or they never had. "Control of what?" is the key phrase here.
"The shock is greater for the coder, though. He suddenly finds that alien creatures control his life. Meetings, Schedules, Reports. And now someone demands that he PLAN all his programming and then stick to the plan, never improving, never tweaking, and never, never touching some other team's code."
True. But if you don't like surprises, perhaps software engineering is not the right career path for you.
"The hive has been ruined. The best coders leave. And the marketers, comfortable now because they're surrounded by power neckties and they have things under control, are baffled that each new iteration of their software loses market share as the code bloats and the bugs proliferate. Got to get some better packaging. Yeah, that's it."
This one depends. I've seen teams survive and manage, with junior programmers stepping up to backfill leadership roles, and other times, projects are scrapped, or started anew elsewhere. As for marketers, it doesn't take much to get one baffled, does it?
The comic combines the recent popularity in cookbooks to help parents get their children to eat morevegetables, such as Jessica Seinfeld's [Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food], with the popularity of the latest Batman movie, [The Dark Knight]. To be fair, I have not reviewed the recipe book,but certainly being the wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld and mother of his children sufficiently qualifies her to write such a book. I did have the pleasure to see this movie at an IMAX movie theater in Hartford, CT a few weeks ago. I highly recommend it. (See also my friend Pam's awesome [review of this movie]).Some have argued the movie franchise has "gone dark" from the previous Batman movies and may not be appropriatefor children. Hiding vegetables in meals may not the right thing for children either.
Unlike IBM that repeatedly delivers unique and innovative new products to the marketplace, Microsoft pulls theold ["bait and switch"] routine. In a series of hiddencamera interviews, Microsoft asks skeptical people who have never used Microsoft Vista operating system their opinions.As expected, all express concerns of problems they have heard about Microsoft's new OS, from friends, colleagues or Apple television advertisements. On a scale of 0 (won't touch it) to 10 (can't wait to have it), the averageskeptic rated Vista with a paltry 4.4 score.
The Microsoft interviewers then show them the new "Microsoft Mojave" Operating System, and askthese same skeptics for their opinions, of which many (35 out of 140 by one account) express they like it, find this new OS usefuland intuitive. The interviewers then explain that this Mojave OS was nothing more than the existing Vista OS alreadyin the marketplace. The average rating for Mojave OS was a significantly higher 8.5 score.Just like hiding spinach in a meal to get your kids to eat it. They tricked you, and you saidyou liked it!
Perhaps the key take-away is whom should prospective customers listen to when evaluating a new product. Microsoftis reasonable in feeling that customers should not base their opinions about Vista solely on lopsided Apple televisioncommercials. Apple, Inc. is one of Microsoft's primary competitors. I feel, however, that if you have friends or colleagues who have shared with you their hands-on experiences, that indeed should have much higher weighting.
Nothing, of course, beats personal experience. If you want to try out one of IBM's latest products for yourself, please contact your local IBM Business Partner or IBM sales representative.
Next Monday, September 1, 2008, marks my two year "blogoversary" for this blog!
I won't be blogging on Monday, of course, because that is [Labor Day] holiday here in the United States.
(From a Canadian colleague: US is not the only country who celebrates Labor Day on the first weekend in September. Canada also celebrates Labour Day on the first weekend in September. It's the only holiday(other than Christmas/New Years) where we are in sync with US. Our Thanksgiving Days are different as is your July 4 vs our July 1. But for Labour Day we are one with the Borg...)
(From an Australian colleague: each province of Australia has its own day to celebrate Labor Day, see [Australia Public Holidays])
The rest of the world celebrates Labor Day on May 1, but the USA celebrates this on the first Monday of September, which this year lands on September 1.Originally, the day is intended to be a "day off for working citizens", IBM is kind enough to let managers and marketingpersonnel have the day off also. (Not that anyone is going to notice no press releases next Monday, right?)
I started this blog on September 1, 2006 as part of IBM's big["50 Years of Disk Systems Innovation"] campaign. IBM introduced the first commercial disk system on September 13, 1956 and so the 50th anniversary was in 2006. Last year, IBM celebrated the 55th anniversary of tape systems.
Several readers have asked me why I haven't talked about recent current events, such as the Olympic Games in Beijing, or the U.S. National Conventions for the race for U.S. President. I have to remind them of one of the key precepts of IBMblogging guidelines:
8. Respect your audience. Don’t use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in IBM’s workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory - such as politics and religion.
I made subtle references to my senator from Arizona, John McCain, in my post [ILM for my iPod], and to Barack Obama in my post [Searching for matching information]. I don't think anyone would mind that I send a "Happy Birthday!" wish to both of them.Senator McCain turns 72 years old today, and Senator Obama turned 47 years old earlier this month.
And lastly, Tucson itself [celebrates this entire month] its 233rd birthday. That's right,Tucson, the 32nd largest city of the USA, and headquarters for IBM System Storage, is older than the USA itself.While the Tucson area has been continuously inhabited by humans for over 3500 years, it officially became Tucsonon August 20, 1775.
Fellow blogger Justin Thorp has opined that [blogging is like jogging]. Somedays, you are just too busy to do it, and other days, you make time for it, because you know it is important.For the record, it is not my job to blog for IBM, that ended last September 2007. I continue to blog anyways because I have benefited from it, both personally and professionally.I want to thank all of you readers out there for making this blog a great success! Being named one of the top 10 blogs of the IT storage industry by Network World, two back-to-back Brand Impact awards from Liquid Agency, and recently earning a "31" Technorati ranking, has really helped keep me going.
So, I look forward to next month, and beginning my third year on this blog. I am sure there will be lots of surprises and announcements you can all look forward to in the next coming weeks and months that I will have plenty to write about.
Fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC has a post titled[Whither Frankenstorage] causing quite a stir in the [Stor-o-Sphere]. He is not the firstEMC blogger to use this phrase, I credit [BarryB] for coining the term back in September 2008.Frankenstein serves as the ideal icon for EMC's FUD machine. In the novel, Dr. Frankenstein wasattempting to do something nobody else had ever attempted, to create human life from variousdead body parts, a process full of uncertainty and doubt, with frightful results.
Perhaps it was a coincidence that I discussed IBM's storage strategy in my post[Foundations and Flavorings] on January 28, shortly followed by NetApp's announcing V-series gateway [support of Texas Memory Systems' RamSan-500] on February 3. These two events mighthave been the trigger that pushed ChuckH over the edge to put pen to paper, .. finger to keyboard.
Flinging FUD in all directions was ChuckH's not-so-subtle way to remind the world that EMC is the only major storage vendor to not offer a successful storage virtualization product. Withoutfirst-hand experience with well-designed storage virtualization, ChuckH conjectures that a configuration matching intelligent front-ends to reliable back-ends might be more expensive, might be more difficult to manage, or might be harder to support.
(Note: Rest assured, IBM can demonstrate that a modular approach, combining intelligent front-ends to reliableback-ends can help reduce costs, be easier to manage, and be fully supported. Contact yourlocal IBM Business Partner or storage sales rep for details.)
My favorite was from Nigel Poulton's post on[Ruptured Monkey]. Here's an excerpt:
In fact, I'm fairly certain that EMC don't back away from customers who run HP or IBM servers and say "sorry we cant help you here, an end to end HP or IBM solution would be much better for you when it comes to troubleshooting……. putting our storage in would only add extra layers of complexity and make things messy….."
On most other days, ChuckH has well-written, insightful blog posts that show that EMC brings some value to the industry. I could have made a snarky reference to[Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde], or indicate this post proves that nobody at EMC is editing or reviewingChuck's thoughts before they get posted. But it's too late, Chuck already got the message, and added the following to bring the discussion back to civility:
When considering the broad range of storage media service levels available today (flash, FC, SATA, spin-down, etc.) what's the best way to offer these media choices in an array? Is the answer (a) combine smaller arrays from different vendors together behind a virtualization head, or (b) invest the time and effort to build arrays that can directly support all of these media types?
Would anyone like to try a cogent response to the question posed, please?
To address ChuckH's question, Nigel's post gave me the idea to use today's 200th year celebration of [Charles Darwin].
Over millions of years, Charles Darwin argued, evolution results in change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms from one generation to the next.A key component of this is a biological process called [mitosis] that allows a single cell to split and become two cells. In some cases, these individual daughter cells can then specialize to specific functions, such as nerve cells, muscle cells or bone cells. Over time, adaptations that work well carry forward, and thosethat don't get left behind.
I find it interesting that before [On the Origin of Species] was published in 1859, works of fiction like Mary Shelley's[Frankenstein] had monsters being"created", and afterward, monsters were the result of mutation or selective adaptation.
Nigel compares EMC's monolithic approach to placing an intelligent front-end with a reliable back-end as "One man band, where one guy is trying playing all the instruments himself" versus the "Philharmonic Orchestra". I would take it one step further, comparing single-cell organisms to multi-cell life forms.
Innovative companies like Google and Amazon can't wait for a completely integrated solution from a major IT vendor to meet their needs. Why should they? There are open standards, and ways to interconnect the best intelligence into a [dynamic infrastructure®.].You don't need to wait another million years to see which way the IT marketplace considers the better approach. Just look at the last 60 years. Back then, computer systems were all integrated, server, storage, and the wires that connected them were all inside a huge container. Then, mitosis happened, and IBM created external tape storage in 1952, and external disk storage in 1956. Open standards for interfaces allowed third party manufacturers like HDS, StorageTek and EMC to offer plug-compatible storage devices.
On the server side, it didn't take long for functionality in mainframes to split off. Mitosis happened again, with front-end UNIX systems processing incoming data, and mainframes handling the back-end data bases and printing. The client-server era replaced dumb terminals with more intelligent desktops and workstations, and these could handle the front-end processing to display information, with the back-end storage and number-crunching being handled by the UNIX and mainframe systems they connected to.Connections between desktops and servers, and from servers to storage, have also evolved. From thousands of direct-attach cables to networks of switches and directors.
Charles Darwin was particularly interested in cases where evolution happened faster or slower than in other cases. While IBM and Microsoft encouraged third-party innovations on the PC side, Apple resisted mitosis, trying to keep its machines pure single-cell, integrated solutions.For the same reasons that you can't fight the laws of nature, Apple ended up having to support I/O ports to external devices. Thanks to open standards like USB and Firewire, you can connect third-party storage to Apple computers. My little Mac Mini at home has more devices hanging off it than any of my Windows or Linux boxes! And Apple's iPod is successful because its iTunes software runs on both Windows and Mac OS operating systems.
Every time mitosis happens in the IT industry, it opens up opportunities to specialize, to innovate, to adapt to a dynamically changing world. When mitosis is suppressed, you get limiting products and frustratedengineers leaving to form their own start-up companies.But when mitosis is encouraged, you get successful products, solutions and partnerships positioned for a smarter planet.
Continuing my coverage of the IBM Dynamic Infrastructure Executive Summit at the Fairmont Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, we had a day full main-tent sessions. Here is a quick recap of the sessions presented in the morning.
Leadership and Innovation on a Smarter Planet
Todd Kirtley, IBM General Manager of the western United States, kicked off the day. He explained that we are now entering the Decade of Smart: smarter healthcare, smarter energy, smarter traffic systems, and smarter cities, to name a few. One of those smarter cities is Dubuque, Iowa, nicknamed the Masterpiece of the Mississippi river. Mayor Roy Boul of Dubuque spoke next on his testimonial on working with IBM. I have never been to Dubuque, but it looks and sounds like a fun place to visit. Here is the [press release] and a two-minute [video].
Smarter Systems for a Smarter Planet
Tom Rosamillia, IBM General Manager of the System z mainframe platform, presented on smarter systems. IBM is intentionally designing integrated systems to redefine performance and deliver the highest possible value for the least amount of resource. The five key focus areas were:
Enabling massive scale
Organizing vast amounts of data
Turning information into insight
Increasing business agility
Managing risk, security and compliance
The Future of Systems
Ambuj Goyal, IBM General Manager of Development and Manufacturing, presented the future of systems. For example, reading 10 million electricity meters monthly is only 120 million transactions per year, but reading them daily is 3.65 billion, and reading them every 15 minutes will result in over 350 billion transactions per year. What would it take to handle this? Beyond just faster speeds and feeds, beyond consolidation through virtualization and multi-core systems, beyond pre-configured fit-for-purpose appliances, there will be a new level for integrated systems. Imagine a highly dense integration with over 3000 processors per frame, over 400 Petabytes (PB) of storage, and 1.3 PB/sec bandwidth. Integrating software, servers and storage will make this big jump in value possible.
POWERing your Planet
Ross Mauri, IBM General Manager of Power Systems, presented the latest POWER7 processor server product line. The IBM POWER-based servers can run any mix of AIX, Linux and IBM i (formerly i5/OS) operating system images. Compared to the previous POWER6 generation, POWER7 are four times more energy efficient, twice the performance, at about the same price. For example, an 8-socket p780 with 64 cores (eight per socket) and 256 threads (4 threads per core) had a record-breaking 37,000 SAP users in a standard SD 2-tier benchmark, beating out 32-socket and 64-socket M9000 SPARC systems from Oracle/Sun and 8-socket Nehalem-EX Fujitsu 1800E systems. See the [SAP benchmark results] for full details. With more TPC-C performance per core, the POWER7 is 4.6 times faster than HP Itanium and 7.5 times faster than Oracle Sun T5440.
This performance can be combined with incredible scalability. IBM's PowerVM outperforms VMware by 65 percent and provides features like "Live Partition Mobility" that is similar to VMware's VMotion capability. IBM's PureScale allows DB2 to scale out across 128 POWER servers, beating out Oracle RAC clusters.
The final speaker in the morning was Greg Lotko, IBM Vice President of Information Management Warehouse solutions. Analytics are required to gain greater insight from information, and this can result in better business outcomes. The [IBM Global CFO Study 2010] shows that companies that invest in business insight consistently outperform all other enterprises, with 33 percent more revenue growth, 32 percent more return on invested (ROI) capital, and 12 times more earnings (EBITDA). Business Analytics is more than just traditional business intelligence (BI). It tries to answer three critical questions for decision makers:
What is happening?
Why is it happening?
What is likely to happen in the future?
The IBM Smart Analytics System is a pre-configured integrated system appliance that combines text analytics, data mining and OLAP cubing software on a powerful data warehouse platform. It comes in three flavors: Model 5600 is based on System x servers, Model 7600 based on POWER7 servers, and Model 9600 on System z mainframe servers.
IBM has over 6000 business analytics and optimization consultants to help clients with their deployments.
While this might appear as "Death by Powerpoint", I think the panel of presenters did a good job providing real examples to emphasize their key points.
My how time flies. This week marks my 24th anniversary working here at IBM. This would have escaped me completely, had I not gotten an email reminding me that it was time to get a new laptop. IBM manages these on a four-year depreciation schedule, and I received my current laptop back in June 2006, on my 20th anniversary.
When I first started at IBM, I was a developer on DFHSM for the MVS operating system, now called DFSMShsm on the z/OS operating system. We all had 3270 [dumb terminals], large cathode ray tubes affectionately known as "green screens", and all of our files were stored centrally on the mainframe. When Personal Computers (PC) were first deployed, I was assigned the job of deciding who got them when. We were getting 120 machines, in five batches of 24 systems each, spaced out over the next two years. I was assigned the job of recommending who should get a PC during the first batch, the second batch, and so on. I was concerned that everyone would want to be part of the first batch, so I put out a survey, asking questions on how familiar they were with personal computers, whether they owned one at home, were familiar with DOS or OS/2, and so on.
It was actually my last question that helped make the decision process easy:
How soon do you want a Personal Computer to replace your existing 3270 terminal?
As late as possible
I had five options, and roughly 24 respondents checked each one, making my job extremely easy. Ironically, once the early adopters of the first batch discovered that these PC could be used for more than just 3270 terminal emulation, many of the others wanted theirs sooner.
Back then, IBM employees resented any form of change. Many took their new PC, configured it to be a full-screen 3270 emulation screen, and continued to work much as they had before. My mentor, Jerry Pence, would print out his mails, and file the printed emails into hanging file folders in his desk credenza. He did not trust saving them on the mainframe, so he was certainly not going to trust storing them on his new PC. One employee used his PC as a door stop, claiming he will continue to use his 3270 terminal until they take it away from him.
Moving forward to 2006, I was one of the first in my building to get a ThinkPad T60. It was so new that many of the accessories were not yet available. It had Windows XP on a single-core 32-bit processor, 1GB RAM, and a huge 80GB disk drive. The built-in 1GbE Ethernet went unused for a while, as we had 16 Mbps Token Ring network.
I was the marketing strategist for IBM System Storage back then, and needed all this excess power and capacity to handle all my graphic-intense applications, like GIMP and Second Life.
Over the past four years, I made a few slight improvements. I partitioned the hard drive to dual-boot between Windows and Linux, and created a separate partition for my data that could be accessed from either OS. I increased the memory to 2GB and replaced the disk with a drive holding 120GB capacity.
A few years ago, IBM surprised us by deciding to support Windows, Linux and Mac OS computers. But actually it made a lot of sense. IBM's world-renown global services manages the help-desk support of over 500 other companies in addition to the 400,000 employees within IBM, so they already had to know how to handle these other operating systems. Now we can choose whichever we feel makes us more productive. Happy employees are more productive, of course. IBM's vision is that almost everything you need to do would be supported on all three OS platforms:
Access your email, calendar, to-do list and corporate databases via Lotus Notes on either Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Corporate databases store our confidential data centrally, so we don't have to have them on our local systems. We can make local replicas of specific databases for offline access, and these are encrypted on our local hard drive for added protection. Emails can link directly to specific entries in a database, so we don't have huge attachments slowing down email traffic. IBM also offers LotusLive, a public cloud offering for companies to get out of managing their own email Lotus Domino repositories.
Create presentations, documents and spreadsheets on either Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Lotus Symphony is based on open source OpenOffice and is compatible with Microsoft Office. This allows us to open and update directly in Microsoft's PPT, DOC and XLS formats.
Many of the corporate applications have now been converted to be browser-accessible. The Firefox browser is available on Windows, Linux and Mac OS. This is a huge step forward, in my opinion, as we often had to download applications just to do the simplest things like submit our time-sheet or travel expense reimbursement. I manage my blog, Facebook and Twitter all from online web-based applications.
The irony here is that the world is switching back to thin clients, with data stored centrally. The popularity of Web 2.0 helped this along. People are using Google Docs or Microsoft OfficeOnline to eliminate having to store anything locally on their machines. This vision positions IBM employees well for emerging cloud-based offerings.
Sadly, we are not quite completely off Windows. Some of our Lotus Notes databases use Windows-only APIs to access our Siebel databases. I have encountered PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets that just don't render correctly in Lotus Symphony. And finally, some of our web-based applications work only in Internet Explorer! We use the outdated IE6 corporate-wide, which is enough reason to switch over to Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers. I have to put special tags on my blog posts to suppress YouTube and other embedded objects that aren't supported on IE6.
So, this leaves me with two options: Get a Mac and run Windows on the side as a guest operating system, or get a ThinkPad to run Windows or Windows/Linux. I've opted for the latter, and put in my order for a ThinkPad 410 with a dual-core 64-bit i5 Intel processor, VT-capable to provide hardware-assistance for virtualization, 4GB of RAM, and a huge 320GB drive. It will come installed with Windows XP as one big C: drive, so it will be up to me to re-partition it into a Windows/Linux dual-boot and/or Windows and Linux running as guest OS machine.
(Full disclosure to make the FTC happy: This is not an endorsement for Microsoft or against Apple products. I have an Apple Mac Mini at home, as well as Windows and Linux machines. IBM and Apple have a business relationship, and IBM manufactures technology inside some of Apple's products. I own shares of Apple stock, I have friends and family that work for Microsoft that occasionally send me Microsoft-logo items, and I work for IBM.)
I have until the end of June to receive my new laptop, re-partition, re-install all my programs, reconfigure all my settings, and transfer over my data so that I can send my old ThinkPad T60 back. IBM will probably refurbish it and send it off to a deserving child in Africa.
If you have an old PC or laptop, please consider donating it to a child, school or charity in your area. To help out a deserving child in Africa or elsewhere, consider contributing to the [One Laptop Per Child] organization.
In preparation for my [upcoming trip to Australia and New Zealand], I decided to upgrade my smartphone. My service provider T-Mobile offered me the chance to try out any new phone for 14 days for only ten dollar re-stocking fee. For the past 16 months, I have used the Google G1 phone. This is based on a storage-optimized Android operating system, based on open source Linux, with applications processed in a storage-optimized virtual machine called Dalvik, based on open source Java. According to Wikipedia, Android-based phones have #1 market share [outselling both BlackBerry OS and Apple iOS phones]. There are over 70 different companies using Android, driven away from the proprietary interfaces from Apple, BlackBerry and Microsoft.
Since I was already familiar with the Android operating system, I chose the Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant. I liked my G1, but it had only a small amount of internal memory to store applications. The G1 supported an external Micro SDHC card, but this only was used for music and photos. There was no way to install applications on the memory card, so I found myself having to uninstall applications to make room for new ones. By contrast, the Vibrant has 16GB internal memory, plenty of room for all applications, and supports Micro SDHC up to 32GB in size. My model can pre-installed with a 2GB card, of which 1.4GB is consumed by James Cameron's full-length movie Avatar. On the G1, swapping out memory cards was relatively easy. On the Vibrant, you have to take the phone apart to swap out cards, so I won't be doing that very often. I will probably just get a 32GB card and leave it in there permanently.
(FTC disclosure: I work for IBM. IBM has working relationships with Oracle, Google, and lots of other companies. IBM offers its own commercial version of Java related tools. I own stock in IBM, Apple, Google. I have friends and family who work at Microsoft. My review below is based entirely on my own experience of my new Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant phone. Samsung has created different models for different service providers. The T-Mobile Vibrant is an external USB storage device with telephony capabilities, comparable to the AT&T Captivate, Verizon Fascinate, or Sprint Epic 4G. The majority of mobile phones in the world contain IBM technology. This post is not necessarily an endorsement for Samsung over other smartphone manufacturers, nor T-Mobile over other service providers. I provide this information in context of storage optimization, state-of-the-art for smartphones in general, and disputes related to software patents between companies. I hold 19 patents, most of which are software patents.)
When Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, it inherited stewardship of Java. Java is offered in two flavors. Java Standard Edition (SE) for machines that are planted firmly on or below your desk, and Java Micro Edition (ME) for machines that are carried around. Most Java-based phones limit themselves to Java ME, but Google decided to base its smartphones on the more powerful Java SE, but then optimize for the limited storage and computing resources. These two levels of Java have radically different licensing terms and conditions, so Larry Ellison of Oracle cried foul. On The Register, Gavin Clarke has an excellent article with details of the Oracle-vs-Google complaint. Daniel Dilger opines that Oracle [might kill Google’s Android and software patents all at once]. Fellow blogger Mark Twomey (EMC) on his StorageZilla blog, argues that [it's not about Android phones, but Android everything].
My Vibrant is roughly the size of a half-inch stack of 3x5 index cards in my hand. In my humble opinion, the problem is the grey area between mobile phone and the desktop personal computer. Laptops, netbooks, iPads, tablet computers, eBook readers, and smartphones fall somewhere in between. At what point do you stop licensing Java SE and start licensing Java ME instead?
Let's take a look at all the stuff my new Samsung Vibrant can do, and let you decide for yourself. I have 140 applications installed, which I can access alphabetically. I also have up to seven screens which I can fill with application icons and widgets to simplify access. The screen measures about 4 inches diagonally. Click on each image below to see the full 480x800 resolution.
Each screen has five rows. On my first screen, I have the first two rows related to photography. This includes a camera, camcorder, bar-code scanner and visual search engine (Google Goggles). I am not happy with Flickr Droid app in uploading photos, so I might need to find another app for that. Other reviews I read complain that the Vibrant's camera does not have am LED flash for night time shots, and that there is no forward facing camera to do Skype or FaceTime-style videoconferencing. I think it is fine the way it is. An interesting feature of the camera app is that it uses the volume up/down buttons to zoom in and out.
The next two rows related to books and documents. In addition to both Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook eBook readers, I have Dropbox to make it easy to transfer files between all my machines, a camera-scanner that generates PDFs, and ThinkFree, which appears to be based on OpenOffice open source software to create, view and edit WORD documents, EXCEL spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.
My second screen is for music and video entertainment.
The top row is consumed by a single widget for [Pandora], an internet radio station, not to be confused with the Pandora moon that the movie Avatar is based on. I-heart-radio, Slacker, and Last.fm are other internet radio stations. Be careful when roaming in another country, as the $15-per-MB transfer fees can really add up. While the Galaxy S has a built-in FM radio, T-Mobile has decided to disable this feature in its Vibrant model, in favor of internet-based radio stations.
I am glad the Samsung Vibrant uses the same 3.5mm combo audio jack that I mentioned in my blog post about my
[New ThinkPad T410]. This allows me to use the same headset for both my laptop and my cell phone.
For those who use Microsoft Windows Media Player v10 or above, this phone lets you transfer over your songs, playlists and videos via the USB cable in PMC mode. The TED application shows 18-minute videos of lectures at conferences that focus on Technology, Entertainment and Design. MobiTV offers live streaming of popular Television shows, normally ten dollars monthly, but I got a free 30-day trial in the deal.
Screen 3 is focused on travel. I have a 30-day free trial of GoGo, the new Wi-Fi networks on various airlines. Hopefully, I will get to try this out on my upcoming flights. When GoGo is not available, the Extended Controls widget allows me to turn the phone into "Airplane mode", which would allow me to read eBooks and listen to pre-recorded music and videos stored on my phone. Most of the apps on Android are free, but Extended Controls, shown here in the top row, cost me money but well worth it. With this you can customize different size widgets with all the appropriate setting toggles you want. On this one, I can toggle Wi-Fi, Data transfer, GPS positioning, and Airplane mode.
Google Maps, Google Places and Google Sky Map are all well represented here. I also like TripIt, which is a free Software-as-a-Service for managing your trip itenerary, and syncs up with their online website. Currency and Language translation can help on international travel. The standard Alarm Clock also includes Time Zone conversion as well.
My screen 4 is my central home page. There are four buttons on the bottom of the phone: Menu, Home, Back, and Search. Hit the "Home" button on any screen, and it jumps immediately to Screen 4. From here, I can get to any of the other screens with just swiping my finger across the surface. Therefore, I chose to keep this screen simple.
For meetings, I have a big clock, and an Extended Controls widget to set my phone on silent/vibrate mode, and show my battery status. I put icons here for apps that I might need in a hurry, like Camera, Evernote, or Shazam. For those not familiar with Shazam, it will listen to the microphone for whatever song is playing in the background where you are, and it will identify the song's title and artist.
The "Starred" folder lists those five or so contacts that I have marked with a "star" to be on this short list. From here, I can call or send them an SMS text message.
Screen 5 is for office productivity. I have a 2x2 widget from Astrid to list my to-do items. I have a 1x2 widget showing my last call. My calendar syncs up with my Google calendar online.
The Locale widget allows me to change which on-screen keyboard to use. There is the standard Android keyboard which allows voice-to-text input, the Samsung keyboard that offers [XT9 mode], and the new ["Swype"] keyboard that allows you to write words quickly with squiggles swiped across the keyboard. The Swype is incredible accurate when I am typing in English. When I am communicating in Spanish, it gets in the way, spell-checking when it shouldn't.
Screen 6 is for my social media, news and search facilities. I have HootSuite Lite for managing my Twitter and Facebook posts. For news junkies, NPR, USA Today and CNN all offer mobile versions.
I have a selection of browsers, including Opera Mini 5, and Dolphin Browser HD. The latter offers a variety of special add-ons similar to Firefox on a desktop system. I also have specialty search sites, including the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), Fandango for local movie times, and Dex for local phone listings.
Screen 7 is for system administration. The top row is another "Extended Controls" widget, this time to change between 2G and 3G networks, brightness setting, set the the time-out interval for when the screen should automatically shut off, and a "stay awake" to turn off the screen saver altogether.
I can do some really powerful things here. For example, I have an application to let me use secure shell (ssh) to access our systems at work. I also can "tether" my laptop to my Vibrant, for those few times when Wi-Fi is not available, to let my laptop use the phone's signal as a dial-up modem. It is slower than Wi-Fi, but might be just what I need in a pinch.
The bottom row is the same across all seven screens, which you can customize. I left the bottom row in its original default, with options to make phone calls, look up contacts, and send text messages. The bottom right corner launches a list of all applications alphabetically, to access those not on my seven main screens.
Just in case I switch to a local SIM card while abroad in another country, I asked T-mobile to unlock my phone, which they happily did at no additional charge. For example, while I am in Australia, I can either leave my T-Mobile USA chip in the phone, and pay roaming charges per minute, or I can purchase a SIM chip from a local phone company with pre-paid minutes. This often includes unlimited free incoming calls to a local Australian phone number, and voicemail.
Unlocking the phone to use different SIM cards is different than "jailbreaking", a term that refers to Apple's products. For Android phones, jailbreaking is called "rooting", as the process involves getting "root" user access that you normally don't have. The only reason I have found to have my phone "rooted" was to take these lovely screen shots, using the "Screen Shot It" application. This is another application that I paid for. I used the free trial for a few screenshots first to check it out, liked the results, and bought the application.
So, this new smartphone looks like a keeper. I got a screen protector to avoid scratching, and a two-piece case that snaps around the phone to give it more heft. All my chargers are "Mini USB" for my old G1 phone, and this new Vibrant phone is "Micro USB" instead, so I had to order new ones for my car, my office, and for my iGo (tip A97).
This review is more to focus on the fact that the IT industry is changing, and what was traditionally performed on personal computers are now being done on new handheld devices. Android provides a platform for innovation and healthy competition. Let's all hope Oracle and Google can work out their differences amicably.
The weather has warmed up here in Tucson so I started my Spring Cleaning early this year and unearthed from my garage a [Bankers Box] full of floppy diskettes.
IBM invented the floppy disk back in 1971, and continued to make improvements and enhancements through the 1980s and 1990s. It will be one of the many inventions celebrated as part of IBM's Centennial (100-year) anniversary. Here is an example [T-shirt]
IBM needed a way to send out small updates and patches for microcode of devices out in client locations. IBM had drives that could write information, and sent out "read-only" drives to the customer locations to receive these updates. These were flexible plastic circles with a magnetic coating, and placed inside a square paper sleeve. Imagine a floppy disk the size of a piece of standard paper. The 8-inch floppy fit conveniently in a manila envelope, sendable by standard mail, and could hold nearly 80KB of data.
I've been using floppies for the past thirty years. Here's some of my fondest memories:
While still in high school, my friend Franz Kurath and I formed "Pearson Kurath Systems", a software development firm. We wrote computer programs to run on UNIX and Personal Computers for small businesses here in Tucson. Whenever we developed a clever piece of code, a subroutine or procedure, we would save it on a floppy disk and re-use it for our next project. We wrote in the BASIC language, and our databases were simple Comma-Separated-Variable (CSV) flat files.
The 5.25-inch floppies we used could hold 360KB, and were flexible like the 8-inch models. Later versions of these 5.25-inch floppies would be able to hold as much as 1.2MB of data. We would convert single-sided floppies into double-sided ones by cutting out a notch in the outer sleeve. Covering up the notches would mark them as read-only.
The 3.5-inch floppies were introduced with a hard plastic shell, with the selling point that you can slap on a mailing label and postage and send it "as is" without the need for a separate envelope. These new 3.5-inch floppies would carry "HD" for high density 720KB, and double-sided versions could hold 1.44MB of data. The term "diskette" was used to associate these new floppies with [hard-shelled tape cassettes]. Sliding a plastic tab would allow floppies to be marked "read-only". IBM has the patent on this clever invention.
Continuing our computer programming business in college, Franz and I took out a bank loan to buy our first Personal Computer, for over $5000 dollars USD. Until then, we had to use equipment belonging to each client. The banks we went to didn't understand why we needed a computer, and suggested we just track our expenses on traditional green-and-white ledger paper. Back then, peronsal computers were for balancing your checkbook, playing games and organizing your collection of cooking recipies. But for us, it was a production machine. A computer with both 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch drives could copy files from one format to another as needed. The boost in productivity paid for itself within months.
Apple launched its Macintosh computer in 1984, with a built-in 3.5-inch disk drive as standard equipment. Here is a YouTube video of an [astronaut ejecting a floppy disk] from an Apple computer in space.
In my senior year at the University of Arizona, my roommate Dave had borrowed my backpack to hold his lunch for a bike ride. He thought he had taken everything out, but forgot to remove my 3.5-inch floppy diskette containing files for my senior project. By the time he got back, the diskette was covered in banana pulp. I was able to rescue my data by cracking open the plastic outer shell, cleaning the flexible magnetic media in soapy water, placing it back into the plastic shell of a second diskette, and then copied the data off to a third diskette.
After graduating from college, Franz and I went our separate ways. I went to work for IBM, and Franz went to work for [Chiat/Day], the advertising agency famous for the 1984 Macintosh commercial. We still keep in touch through Facebook.
At IBM, I was given a 3270 terminal to do my job, and would not be assigned a personal computer until years later. Once I had a personal computer at home and at work, the floppy diskette became my "briefcase". I could download a file or document at work, take it home, work on it til the wee hours of the morning, and then come back the next morning with the updated effort.
To help prepare me for client visits and public speaking at conferences, IBM loaned me out to local schools to teach. This included teaching Computer Science 101 at Pima Community College. When asked by a student whether to use "disc" or "disk", I wrote a big letter "C" on the left side of the chalkboard, and a big letter "K" on the right side. If it is round, I told the students while pointing at the letter "C", like a CD-ROM or DVD, use "disc". If it has corners, pointing to corners of the letter "K", like a floppy diskette or hard disk drive, use "disk".
On one of my business trips to visit a client, we discovered the client had experienced a problem that we had just recently fixed. Normally, this would have meant cutting a Program Trouble Fix (PTF) to a 3480 tape cartridge at an IBM facility, and send it to the client by mail. Unwilling to wait, I offered to download the PTF onto a floppy diskette on my laptop, upload it from a PC connected to their systems, and apply it there. This involved a bit of REXX programming to deal with the differences between ASCII and EBCDIC character sets, but it worked, and a few hours later they were able to confirm the fix worked.
In 1998, Apple would signal the begining of the end of the floppy disk era, announcing their latest "iMac" would not come with an internal built-in floppy drive. David Adams has a great article on this titled [The iMac and the Floppy Drive: A Conspiracy Theory]. You can get external floppy drives that connect via USB, so not having an internal drive is no longer a big deal.
While teaching a Top Gun class to a mix of software and hardware sales reps, one of the students asked what a "U" was. He had noticed "2U" and "3U" next to various products and wondered what that was referring to. The "U" represents the [standard unit of measure for height of IT equipment in standard racks]. To help them visualize, I explained that a 5.25-inch floppy disk was "3U" in size, and a 3.5-inch floppy diskette was "2U". Thus, a "U" is 1.75 inches, the thinnest dimension on a two-by-four piece of lumber. Servers that were only 1U tall would be referred to as "pizza boxes" for having similar dimensions.
Every year, right around November or so, my friends and family bring me their old computers for me to wipe clean. Either I would re-load them with the latest Ubuntu Linux so that their kids could use it for homework, or I would donate it to charity. Last November, I got a computer that could not boot from a CD-ROM, forcing me to build a bootable floppy. This gave me a chance to check out the various 1-disk and 2-disk versions of Linux and other rescue disks. I also have a 3-disk set of floppies for booting OS/2 in command line mode.
So while this unexpected box of nostalgia derailed my efforts to clean out my garage this weekend, it did inspire me to try to get some of the old files off them and onto my PC hard drive. I have already retrieved some low-res photographs, some emails I sent out, and trip reports I wrote. While floppy diskettes were notorious for being unreliable, and this box of floppies has been in the heat and cold for many Arizonan summers and winters, I am amazed that I was able to read the data off most of them so far, all the way back to data written in 1989. While the data is readable, in most cases I can't render it into useful information. This brings up a few valuable lessons:
Backups are not Archives
Some of the files are in proprietary formats, such as my backups for TurboTax software. I would need a PC running a correct level of Windows operating system, and that particular software, just to restore the data. TurboTax shipped new software every year, and I don't know how forward or backward-compatible each new release was.
Another set of floppies are labeled as being in "FDBACK" format. I have no idea what these are. Each floppy has just two files, "backup.001" and "control.001", for example.
Backups are intended solely to protect against unexpected loss from broken hardware or corrupted data. If you plan to keep data as archives for long-term retention, use archive formats that will last a long time, so that you can make sense of them later.
Operating System Compatibility
Windows 7 and all of my favorite flavors of Linux are able to recognize the standard "FAT" file system that nearly all of my floppies are written in. Sadly, I have some files that were compressed under OS/2 operating system using software called "Stacker". I may have to stand up an OS/2 machine just to check out what is actually on those floppies.
You can't judge a book by its cover
Floppies were a convenient form of data interchange. Sometimes, I reused commercially-labeled floppies to hold personal files. So, just because a floppy says "America On-Line (AOL) version 2.5 Installation", I can't just toss it away. It might actually contain something else entirely. This means I need to mount each floppy to check on its actual contents.
So what will I do with the floppies I can't read, can't write, and can't format? I think I will convert them into a [retro set of coasters], to protect my new living room furniture from hot and cold beverages.