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Wrapping up my week's coverage of the IBM Pulse 2011 conference, I have had several people ask me to explain IBM's latest initiative, Smarter Computing, which IBM launched this week at this conference. Having led the IT industry through the Centralized Computing era and the Distributed Computing era, IBM is now well-positioned to help companies, governments and non-profit organizations to enter the new Smarter Computing era, focused on insight and discovery.
Thousands of IT professionals
Effiicent, but only the largest companies and governments had them
Millions of office workers
Personal computers (PC)
Innovative, extending the reach to small and medium-sized businesses, but resulted in server sprawl and increased TCO
Billions of people
Smart phones and other handheld devices
Efficient and Innovative, combining the best of centralized and distributed computing
1952 to 1980
1981 to 2010
2011 and beyond
To help clients with this transition, IBM's Smarter Computing initiative has three main components. This is a corporate-wide strategy, with systems, software and services all working together to realize results.
The first component is Big Data. This combines three different sources of data:
Traditional structured data in OLTP databases and OLAP data warehouses, using data management solutions like DB2 and IBM Netezza.
Unstructured data, including text documents, images, audio, and video, processed with massive parallelism using IBM BigInsights and Apache Hadoop.
Real-Time Analytics Processing (RTAP) of incoming data, including video surveillance, social media, RFID chips, smart meters, and traffic control systems, processed with IBM InfoSphere Streams
Of course, Big Data will bring new opportunities on the storage front, which I will save for a future post!
Rather than general purpose IT equipment, we have now the scale and scope to specialize with systems optimized for particular workloads, the second component of the Smarter Computing initiative. Of course, IBM has been delivering integrated stacks of systems, software and services for decades now, but it is important to remind people of this, as IBM now has a spate of competitors all trying to follow IBM's lead in this arena.
As with Big Data, the focus on Optimized Systems has impacted IBM's strategy on storage as well. I'll save that discussion for a future post as well!
I am glad that nearly all of the storage vendors have standardized to a common definition for Cloud, the third component of Smarter Computing, which shows that this concept has matured:
Cloud computing is a pay-per-use model for enabling network access to a pool of computing resources that can be provisioned and released rapidly with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. -- U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology [nist.gov]
Of course, Cloud is just an evolution of IBM's Service Bureau business of the 1960s and 1970s, renting out time-sharing on mainframe systems, Grid Computing of the 1980s, and Application Service Providers that popped up in the 1990s. While the [butchers, bakers and candlestick makers] that IBM competes against might focus their efforts on just private cloud or just public cloud, IBM recognizes the reality is that different clients will need different solutions. Rather than rip-and-replace, IBM will help clients transition to cloud via inclusive solutions that adopt a hybrid approach:
Traditional enterprise with private cloud deployments, using solutions like IBM CloudBurst, SONAS and Information Archive
Traditional enterprise with public cloud services to handle seasonable peaks, providing offsite resiliency, and solutions for a mobile workforce
Hybrid clouds that blend private and public cloud services, to handle seasonal peak workloads, remote and branch offices
IBM's emphasis on IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Tivoli and Maximo products will play well in this space to provide integrated service management across traditional and cloud deployments. This is why IBM decided to launch Smarter Computing initiative at Pulse 2011 conference, the industry's premiere conference on intergrated service management.
The IBM Watson that competed on Jeopardy! is an excellent example of all three components of Smarter Computing at work.
IBM Watson was able to respond to Jeopardy! clues within three seconds, processing a combination of database searches with DB2 and text-mining analytics of unstructured data with IBM BigInsights.
IBM Watson combined servers, software and storage into an integrated supercomputer that was optimized for one particular workload: playing Jeopardy!
IBM Watson used many technologies prevalent in private and public cloud computing systems, storing its data on a modified version of SONAS for storage, using xCat administration tools, networking across 10GbE Ethernet, and massive parallel processing through lots of PowerVM guest images.
IBM Storage Strategy for the Smarter Computing Era
I presented this session on Thursday morning. It is a session I give frequently at the IBM Tucson Executive Briefing Center (EBC). IBM launched [Smarter Computing initiative at IBM Pulse conference]. My presentation covered the role of storage in Business Analytics, Workload Optimized Systems, and Cloud Computing.
Layer 8: Cloud Computing and the new IT Delivery Model
Ed Batewell, IBM Field Technical Support Specialist, presented this overview on Cloud Computing. The "Layer 8" is a subtle reference to the [7-layer OSI Model] for networking protocols. Ed cites insights from the [2011 IBM Global CIO Survey]. Of the 3000 companies surveyed, 60 percent plan to use or deploy clouds. In USA, 70 percent of CIOs have significant plans for cloud within the next 3-5 years. These numbers are double the statistics gleamed from the 2009 Global CIO survey. Clouds are one of IBM's big four initiatives, expecting to generate $7 Billion USD annual revenues by 2015.
IBM is recognized in the industry as one of "Big 5" vendors (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon round out the rest). As such, IBM has contributed to the industry a set of best practices known as the [Cloud Computing Reference Architect (36-page document)]. As is typical for IBM, this architecture is end-to-end complete, covering the three main participants for successful cloud deployments:
Consumers: the people and systems that use cloud computing services
Providers: the people, infrastructure and business operations needed to deliver IT services to consumers
Developers: the people and their development tools that create apps and platforms for cloud computing
IBM is working hard to eliminate all barriers to adoption for Cloud Computing. [Mirage image management] can patch VM images offline to address "Day 0" viruses. [Hybrid Cloud Integrator can help integrate new Cloud technologies to legacy applications. [IBM Systems Director VMcontrol] can manage VM images from z/VM on the mainframe, to PowerVM on UNIX servers, to VMware, Microsoft, Xen and KVM for x86 servers. IBM's [Cloud Service Provider Platform (CSP2)] is designed for Telecoms to offer Cloud Computing services. IBM CloudBurst is a "Cloud-in-a-Can" optimized stack of servers, storage and switches that can be installed in five days and comes in various "tee-shirt sizes" (Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large), depending on how many VMs you want to run.
Ed mentioned that companies trying to build their own traditional IT applications and environments, in an effort to compete against the cost-effective Clouds, reminded him of Thomas Thwaites' project of building a toaster from scratch. You can watch the [TED video, 11 minutes]:
An interesting project is [Reservoir] which IBM is working with other industry leaders to develop a way to seamlessly migrate VMs from one location to another, globally, without requiring shared storage, SAN zones or Ethernet subnets. This is similar to how energy companies buy and sell electricity to each other, as needed, or the way telecommunications companies allow roaming acorss each others networks.
IBM System Networking - Convergence
Jeff Currier, IBM Executive Consultant for the new IBM System Networking group, presented this session on Network Convergence. Storage is expected to grow 44x, from 0.8 [Zettabytes] in 2009, to 35 Zetabytes by the year 2020. The role of the network is growing in importance. IBM refers to this converged loss-less Ethernet network as "Convergence Enhanced Ethernet" (CEE), which Cisco uses the term "Data Center Ethernet" (DCE), and the rest of the industry uses "Data Center Bridging" (DCB).
To make this happen, we need to replace Spanning Tree Protocol [STP] that eliminates walking in circles in a multi-hop network configuration, with a new Layer 2 Multipathing (L2MP) protocol. The two competing for the title are Shortest Path Bridging (IEEE 802.1aq) and Transparent Interconnect of Lots of Links (IETF TRILL).
All roads lead to Ethernet. While FCoE has not caught on as fast as everyone hoped, iSCSI has benefited from all the enhancements to the Ethernet standard. iSCSI works in both lossy and lossless versions of Ethernet, and seems to be the preferred choice for new greenfield deployments for Small and Medium sized Businesses (SMB). Larger enterprises continue to use Fibre Channel (FCP and FICON), but might use single-hop FCoE from the servers to top-of-rack switches. Both iSCSI and FCoE scale well, but FCoE is considered more efficient.
IBM has a strategy, and is investing heavily in these standards, technologies, and core competencies.
Continuing my week in Washington DC for the annual [2010 System Storage Technical University], here is my quick recap of the keynote sessions presented Monday morning. Marlin Maddy, Worldwide Technical Events Executive for IBM Systems Lab Services and Training, served as emcee.
Jim Northington, IBM System x Business Line Executive, covered the IT industry's "Love/Hate Relationship" with x86 platform. Many of the physical limitations that were previously a pain on this platform are now addressed, through a combination of IBM's new innovative eX5 architecture and virtualization technologies.
Jim also presented the [IBM CloudBurst] solution. IBM CloudBurst is one of the many "Integrated Systems" designed to help simplify deployment. Based on IBM BladeCenter, the IBM CloudBurst is basically a Private Cloud rack for those that are ready to deploy in their own data center.
Jim feels that server virtualization on x86 platforms is still in its infancy. IBM calls it the 70/30 rule: 70 percent of x86 workloads are running virtualized on 30 percent of the physical servers.
Maria Azua, IBM Vice President of Cloud Computing Enablement, presented on Cloud Computing. Technology is being adopted at faster rates. It took 40 years for radio to get 60 million listeners, 20 years for 60 million television viewers, 3 years to get 60 million surfers on the Internet, but it only took 4 months to get 60 million players on Farmville!
Maria covered various aspects of Cloud Computing: virtualization images, service catalog, provisioning elasticity, management and billing services, and virtual networks. With Cloud Computing, the combination of virtualization technologies, standardization, and automation can reduce costs and improve flexibility.
We've seen this happen before. Telcos transitioned from human operators to automated digital switches. Manufacturers went from having small teams of craftsmen to assembly lines of robots. Banks went from long lines of bank tellers to short lines at the ATM.
Maria said that companies are faced with three practical choices:
Do-it-Yourself, buy the servers, storage and switches and connect everything together.
Purchase pre-installed "integrated systems" to simplify deployment.
Subscribe to Cloud computing, allowing a service provider do all this for you.
In countries where network access is not ubiquitous, IBM has developed tools for the cloud that work in "offline" mode. IBM has also developed or modified tools to run better in the cloud. Launching a computer instance from the cloud from the service catalog is so easy to do, your 5-year-old child can do this!
Want to see Cloud Computing in action? Check out [Innovation.ed.gov], which is run in the IBM cloud, for the US Department of Education's website to foster innovation.
Whether you adopt public, private or a hybrid cloud computing approach, Maria suggests you take time to plan, test your applications for standardization, examine all risks, and explore new workloads that might be good candidates. Otherwise, moving to the cloud might just mean "More mess for less". Maria provided a list of applications that IBM considers good fit for Cloud Computing today.
I heard several audience members indicate that this is the first time someone finally explained Cloud Computing to them in a way that made sense!
Maria Boonie is the IBM Director for IBM Worldwide Training and Technical Conferences. She indicated that there were 1500 attendees this week crossing both the System Storage and System x conferences at this hotel. There are 35 vendors that have sponsored this event, and they will be at the "Solutions Center" being held Monday through Wednesday this week.
She took this opportunity to plug IBM's latest education offerings, including Guaranteed-to-Run implementation classes, and Instructor-Led Online (ILO) technical classes.
Brian Truskowski is IBM General Manager for System Storage and Networking. I used to directly report to him in a previous role, and a few years ago he used to be the IBM CIO that helped with IBM's internal IT transformation.
Brian indicates that the previous approach to growth was to "Just Buy More", but this has some unintended consequences. He argued that companies need to adopt one or more of the following approaches to growth:
Stop storing so much - reduce data footprint using storage efficiency capabilities like data deduplication and compression
Store more with what is already on the floor - improve storage utilization with technologies like storage virtualization and thin provisioning
Move data to the right place - implement automated tiering, such as "Flash & Stash" between Solid-state drives and spinning disk, and/or Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) between disk and tape. Studies at some clients have found over 70 percent of data has not beed touched in the last 90 days
This time of dramatic change is the result of a "perfect storm" of influences, including the rising costs and risks associated with losing data, the increased need to index and search data, the desire for "Business Analytics", and the expectation for 100 percent up-time. This is driving IBM to offer hyper-efficient backup, Continuous Data Availability, and Smart Archive solutions.
The case study of SPRINT is a good example. SPRINT is a Telecommunications provider for cell phone users. They were challenged with 35 percent utilization, 165 storage arrays from six different vendors, and an expected 100 percent increase in their IT maintenance costs. After implementing IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) and Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (TPC) to manager 2.9 PB of data, SPRINT increased their utilization to 82 percent, reduced down to 70 storage arrays from only three vendors, and reduced their maintenance costs by 57 percent. Today, SPRINT now manages over 5 PB of data with SVC and TPC, have reduced their power and cooling by 3.5 million KWh, representing $320,000 USD in savings.
Roland Hagan is the IBM Vice President for the System x server platform. He talked about the "IT Conundrum" that represents a vicious cycle of "IT Sprawl", "Untrusted Data" and "Inflexible IT" that seem to feed each other. IBM is trying to change behavior, from thinking and dealing with physical boxes representing servers, storage and network gear, to a more holistic view focused on workloads, shared resource pools, independent scaling, and automated management.
IBM is leading the server marketplace, in part because of clever things IBM is doing, especially in developing the eX5 chipset that surrounds x86 commondity processors, and in part because of actions or decisions the competition have taken:
It doesn't break IBM's heart that Oracle decided to drop software support of their database on Itanium, which focued entirley against HP. Oracle runs on IBM servers better than Oracle/Sun or HP servers today, so it does not impact us, other than IBM has had a lot of people leaving HP to switch over to IBM.
HP has taken on a new CEO and reduced their R&D budget, causing them to be late-to-market on some of their offerings.
Dell continues to focus on the small and medium sized customer, and have not really broken into the "Enterprise".
Newcomer Cisco has some great technology that only seems to be adoptable in "Green Field" situations, as it does not integrate well with existing data center infrastructures.
The combination of ex5 chip-set architecture, Max5 memory expansion capabilities and Virtual Network Interface Cards (NICs), provide for a very VM-aware platform. For those who are not ready to fully adopt an integrated stack like IBM CloudBurst, IBM offers the Tivoli Service Automation software on its own, and a new [IBM BladeCenter Foundation for Cloud] as stepping stones to get there.
There are certainly more attendees here than last year, which reflects either the change in location (Orlando, Florida rather than Washington DC) as well as the economic recovery. I'm looking forward to an excellent week!
In his blog post, [The Lure of Kit-Cars], fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) uses an excellent analogy delineating the differences between kit-cars you build from parts, versus fully-integrated systems that you can drive off the car dealership showroom lot. The analogy holds relatively well, as IT departments can also build their infrastructure from parts, or you can get fully-integrated systems from a variety of vendors.
Is this what your data center looks like?
Certainly, this debate is not new. In my now infamous 2007 post [Supermarkets and Specialty Shops], I explained that there were clients that preferred to get their infrastructure from a single IT supermarket, like IBM or HP, while others were lured into thinking that buying separate parts from butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and other specialty shops was somehow a better idea.
Chuck correctly explains that in the early years of the automobile industry, before major car manufacturers had mass-production assembly lines, putting a car together from parts was the only way cars were made. Today, only the few most avid enthusiasts build cars this way. The majority get cars from a single seller and drive away. In my post [Resolving the Identity Crisis], I postulated that EMC appeared to be trying to shed itself of the "disk-only specialty shop" image and over to be more like IBM. Not quite a full IT Supermarket, but perhaps more like a [Trader Joe's] premium-priced retailer.
(If you find that EMC's focus on integrated systems appears to be a 180-degree about-face from their historical focus on selling individual best-of-breed products, see my previous discussion of Chuck's contradictions in my blog post: [Is Storage the Next Confusopoly].)
While companies like EMC might be making this transition, there is a lot of resistance and inertia from the customer marketplace. I agree with Chuck, companies should not be building kit-cars or IT infrastructures from parts, certainly not from parts sold from different vendors. In my post [Talking about Solutions not Products], I explained how difficult it was to change behavior. CIOs, IT directors and managers need to think differently about their infrastructure. Let's take a quick look at some choices:
Following Chuck's argument, it makes no sense to build a "kit-car" combining Oracle/Sun servers with EMC storage. Oracle would argue it makes more sense to run on integrated systems, business logic on their "Exalogic" system, and database processing on their "Exadata". Benchmark after benchmark, however, IBM is able to demonstrate that Oracle applications and databases run faster on IBM systems. Customers that want to run Oracle applications can run either on a full Oracle stack, or a full IBM stack, and both do better than a kit-car including EMC parts.
HP has been working hard to keep up with IBM in this area. With their their partnership with Microsoft, and acquisitions of EDS, 3Com and 3PAR, they can certainly make a case for getting a full HP stack rather than a kit-car mixing HP servers with EMC disk storage. The problem is that HP is focused on a converged infrastructure for private cloud computing, but Microsoft is focused on Azure and public cloud computing. It will be interesting when these two big companies sort this out. Definitely watch this space.
If you squint your eyes and focus on the part of the world that only has x86 machines, then Dell can be seen as an IT supermarket. In my post about [Entry-Level iSCSI Offerings], I discuss how Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic was a signal that it was trying to get away from selling EMC specialty shop products, and building up its own set of offerings internally.
Cisco is new on the server scene, but has already made quite a splash. Here, I have to agree with Chuck's logic: the only time it makes sense to buy EMC disk storage at all is when it is part of an integrated "V-block". This is not really an IT supermarket situation, instead you park your car at the "Acadia Mini-Mall" and get what you need from Trader Joe's, Cisco UCS, and VMware stores.
But wait, if what you want is running VMware on Cisco servers, you might be better off with IBM System Storage N series or NetApp storage. In his blog post about [Enhanced Secure Multi-Tenancy], fellow Blogger Val Bercovici (NetApp) provides a convincing argument of why Cisco and VMware run better on an "N-block" rather than a "V-block". IBM N series provides A-SIS deduplication, and IBM Real-time Compression can provide additional capacity and performance improvements. That might be true, but whether you get your storage from EMC, NetApp or IBM, to me, you are still working with three different vendors in any case.
Of course, following Chuck's logic, it makes more sense for people with IBM servers, whether they be mainframes, POWER systems or x86 machines, to integrate these with IBM storage, IBM software and IBM services. IBM is the leading reseller of VMware, but also has a lot of business with Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix Xen, Linux KVM, PowerVM, PR/SM and z/VM. While IBM has market leading servers, disk and tape systems, to compete for those RFP bids that just ask for one component or another, it prefers to sell fully-integrated systems, which IBM has been doing successfully since the 1950s.
Back in 2007, I mentioned how IBM's fully-integrated InfoSphere Balanced Warehouse [Trounced HP and Sun]. For business analytics, IBM offers the fully-integrated [IBM Smart Analytics Systems]. Today, IBM expanded its line of fully-integrated private cloud service delivery platforms with the announcement of the [IBM CloudBurst for on Power Systems], which does for POWER7 what the IBM CloudBurst for System x, Oracle Exalogic, or Acadia's V-block, do for x86.
IBM estimates that private clouds built on Power systems can be up to 70 percent less expensive than stand alone x86 servers.
Before he earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, my father was a car mechanic. I spent much of my teenage years covered in grease, helping my father assembling cars, lifting engines, and rebuilding carburetors. Certainly this was good father-son time, and I certainly did learn something in the process. Like the automobile industry, the IT industry has matured, and it makes no financial sense to build your own IT infrastructure from parts from different vendors.
For a test drive of the industry's leading integrated IT systems, see your IBM sales rep or IBM Business Partner.