For those in the US, a comedian named Carlos Mencia has a great TV show, Mind of Mencia
and one of my favorite segments is "Why the @#$% is this news!" where he goes about showingblatantly obvious things that were reported in various channels.
So, when I saw that IBM once again, for the third year in a row, has the fastest disk system,the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC), based on widely-accepted industry benchmarksrepresenting typical business workloads, I thought, "Do I really want to blog about this,and sound like a broken record, repeating my various statements of the past of how great SVC is?" It's like reminding people that IBM hashad the most US patents than any other company, every year, for the past 14 years.
(Last year, I received comments fromWoody Hutsell, VP of Texas Memory Systems,because I pointed out that their "World's Fastest Storage"® cache-only system, was not as fast as IBM's SVC.You can ready my opinions, and the various comments that ensued, hereand here. )
That all changed when EMC uber-blogger Chuck Hollis forgot his own Lessons in Marketingwhen heposted his rantDoes Anyone Take The SPC Seriously?That's like asking "Does anyone take book and movie reviews seriously?" Of course they do!In fact, if a movie doesn't make a big deal of its "Two thumbs up!" rating, you know it did not sitwill with the reviewers. It's even more critical for books. I guess this latest news from SPC reallygot under EMC's skin.
For medium and large size businesses, storage is expensive, and customers want to do as much research as possible ahead of time to make informed decisions. A lot of money is at stake, and often, once you choose a product, you are stuckwith that vendor for many years to come, sometimes paying software renewals after only 90 days, and hardware maintenance renewals after only a year when the warranty runs out.
Customers shopping for storage like the idea of a standardized test that is representative, so they can compare one vendor's claims with another. The Storage Performance Council (SPC), much like the Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC-C) for servers, requires full disclosure of the test environment so people can see what was measured and make their own judgement on whether or not it reflects their workloads. Chuck pours scorn on SPC but I think we should point to TPC-C as a great success story and ask why he thinks the same can't happen for storage? Server performance is also a complicatedsubject, but people compare TPC-C and TPC-H benchmarks all the time.
Note: This blog post has been updated. I am retracting comments that were unfair generalizations. The next two paragraphs are different than originally posted.
Chuck states that "Anyone is free, however, to download the SPC code, lash it up to their CLARiiON, and have at it." I encourage every customer to do this with whatever disk systems they already have installed. Judge for yourself how each benchmark compares to your experience with your application workload, and consider publishing the results for the benefit of others, or at least send me the results, so that I can understand better all of these"use cases" that Chuck talks about so often. I agree that real-world performance measurements using real applications and real data are always going to be more accurate and more relevant to that particular customer. Unfortunately, there are little or no such results made public. They are noticeably absent. With thousands of customers running with storage from all the major storage vendors, as well as storage from smaller start-up companies, I would expect more performance comparison data to be readily available.
In my opinion, customers would benefit by seeing the performance results obtained by others. SPC benchmarks help to fill this void, to provide customers who have not yet purchased the equipment, and are looking for guidance of which vendors to work with, and which products to put into their consideration set.
Truth is, benchmarks are just one of the many ways to evaluate storage vendors and their products. There are also customer references, industry awards, and corporate statements of a company's financial health, strategy and vision.Like anything, it is information to weigh against other factors when making expensive decisions. And I am sure the SPC would be glad to hear of any suggestions for a third SPC-3 benchmark, if the first two don't provide you enough guidance.
So, if you are not delighted with the performance you are getting from your storage now, or would benefit by having even faster I/O, consider improving its performance by adding SAN Volume Controller. SVC is like salt or soy sauce, it makes everything taste better. IBM would be glad to help you with a try-and-buy or proof-of-concept approach, and even help you compare the performance, before and after, with whatever gear you have now. You might just be surprised how much better life is with SVC. And if, for some reason, the performance boost you experience for your unique workload is only 10-30% better with SVC, you are free to tell the world about your disappointment.
technorati tags: Carlos Mencia, Mind of Mencia, IBM, system, storage, SVC, SAN Volume Controller, Storage Performance Council,SPC, benchmarks, Texas Memory Systems, Woody Hutsell, EMC, Chuck Hollis, movie, book, reviews, awards, salt, soy sauce
I'm glad to be back home in Tucson for a few weeks. All of these conferences kept mefrom reading up with what was going on in the blogosphere.
A few of us at IBM found it odd that EMC would announce their new Geographically Dispersed Disaster Restart (GDDR) the weekBEFORE their "EMC World" conference. Why not announce all of the stuff all at once instead at the conference?Were they worried that the admission that "Maui" software is still many months awaythat much of a negative stigma? The decision probably went something like this:
EMCer #1: GDDR is finally ready, should we announce now, or wait ONE week to make it part of the thingswe announce at EMC World?
EMCer #2: We are not announcing much at EMC World and what people really want us to talk about, Maui, wearen't delivering for a while. Why can't people understand we are company of hardware engineers, not software programmers! So, better not be associated with that quagmire at all.
EMCer #1: Yes, boss, I see your point. We'll announce this week then.
My fellow blogger and intellectual sparring partner, Barry Burke, on his Storage Anarchist blog, posted [are you wasting money on your mainframe dr solution?"] to bringup the GDDR announcement. The key difference is that IBM GDPS works withIBM, EMC and HDS equipment, being the fair-and-balanced folks that IBM clientshave come to expect, but it appears EMC GDDR works only with EMC equipment.Because GDDR does less, it also costs less. I can accept that. You get whatyou pay for. Of course, IBM does have a variety of protection levels, one probably will meet your budget and your business continuity needs.
To correct Barry's misperception, companies that buy IBM mainframe servers do have a choice.They can purchase their operating system from IBM, get their Linux or OpenSolarisfrom someone else like Red Hat or Novell, or build their own OS distribution fromreadily available open source. And unlike other servers that might require at leastone OS partition from the vendor, IBM mainframes can run 100 percent Linux.GDPS supports a mix of OS data. z/OS and Linux data can all be managed by GDPS.Companies that own mainframes know this. I can forgive the misperception from Barry,as EMC is focused on distributed servers instead, and many in their company may not have muchexposure to mainframe technology, or have ever spoken to mainframe customers.
But what almost had me fall out of my chair was this little nugget from his post:
"If you're an IBM mainframe customer, you are - by definition - IBM's profit stream."
Honestly, is there anyone out there that does not realize that IBM is a for-profitcorporation? In contrast, Barry would like his readers to believe that EMC is selling GDDR at cost, andthat EMC is a non-profit organization. While IBM has been delivering actual solutions thatour clients want, EMC continues to rumor that someday they might get around to offering something worthwhile.In the last six months, the shareholders have interpreted both strategies for what they really are,and the stock prices reflect that:
(courtesy of [finance.yahoo.com])
(Disclosure: I own IBM stock. I do not own EMC stock. Stock price comparisonsby Yahoo were based on publicly reported information. The colors blue and red to represent IBM and EMC, respectively, were selected by Yahoo graph-making facility. The color red does not necessarily imply EMC is losing money or having financial troubles.)
Of course, I for one would love to help Barry's dream of EMC non-profitability come true. If anyone has any suggestions how we can help EMC approach this goal, please post a comment below.
technorati tags: IBM, GDPS, EMC, GDDR, Maui, EMC World, HDS, Yahoo Finance, stock price, non-profit, strategy, shareholders
While HDS blogger Hu Yoshida and IBM blogger Barry Whyte make a [great case for why you should buy IBM SAN Volume Controller
], my favorite arch-nemesis and fellow blogger BarryB on his Storage Anarchist
blog feels the SVC is "blue spray paint".
BarryB's latest round of red-meat rhetoric is his amusing post [This is like déjà vu all over again], titled after a [quote from Yogi Berra].BarryB pokes fun at Andy Monshaw's commentsin Chris Preimesberger's eWeek article [IBM's Big Storage Picture], andmy post ealier this week about Sun's "Open Storage" initiative [Simply Dinners and Open Storage from Sun], as if the two were somehow connected.
He feels I was unfair to accuse EMC of "proprietary interfaces" without spelling out what I was referring to. Here arejust two, along with the whines we hear from customers that relate to them.
- EMC Powerpath multipathing driver
Typical whine: "I just paid a gazillion dollars to renew my annual EMC Powerpath license, so you will have to come back in 12 months with your SVC proposal. I just can't see explaining to my boss that an SVC eliminates the need for EMC Powerpath, throwing away all the good money we just spent on it, or to explain that EMC chooses not to support SVC as one of Powerpath's many supported devices."
- EMC SRDF command line interface
Typical whine: "My storage admins have written tons of scripts that all invoke EMC SRDF command line interfacesto manage my disk mirroring environment, and I would hate for them to re-write this to use IBM's (also proprietary) command line interfaces instead."
Certainly BarryB is correct that IBM still has a few remaining "proprietary" items of its own. IBM has been in business over 80 years, but it was only the last 10-15 years that IBM made a strategic shift away from proprietary and over to open standards and interfaces. The transformation to "openness" is not yet complete, but we have made great progress. Take these examples:
- The System z mainframe - IBM had opened the interfaces so that both Amdahl and Fujitsu made compatible machines.Unlike Apple which forbids cloning of this nature, IBM is now the single source for mainframes because the other twocompetitors could not keep up with IBM's progress and advancements in technology.
Update: Due to legal reasons, the statements referring to Hercules and other S/390 emulators havebeen removed.
- The z/OS operating system - While it is possible to run Linux on the mainframe, most people associate the z/OSoperating system with the mainframe. This was opened up with UNIX System Services to satisfy requests from variousgovernments. It is now a full-fledged UNIX operating system, recognized by the [Open Group] that certifies it as such.
- As BarryB alludes, the unique interfaces for disk attachment to System z known as Count-Key-Data (CKD) was published so that both EMC and HDS can offer disk systems to compete with IBM's high-end disk offerings. Linux on System zsupports standard Fibre Channel, allowing you to attach an IBM SVC and anyone's storage. Both z/OS and Linux on System z support NAS storage, so IBM N series, NetApp, even EMC Celerra could be used in that case.
- The System i itself is still proprietary, but recently IBM announced that it will now support standard block size (512 bytes) instead of the awkward 528 byte blocks that only IBM and EMC support today. That means that any storage vendor will be ableto sell disk to the System i environment.
- Advanced copy services, like FlashCopy and Metro Mirror, are as proprietary as the similar offerings from EMCand HDS, with the exception that IBM has licensed them to both EMC and HDS. Thanks to cross-licensing, you can do [FlashCopy on EMC] equipment. Getting all the storage vendors to agree to open standards for these copy services is still workin progress under [SNIA], but at least people who have coded z/OS JCL batchjobs that invoke FlashCopy utilities can work the same between IBM and EMC equipment.
So for those out there who thought that my comment about EMC's proprietary interfaces in any way implied thatIBM did not have any of its own, the proverbial ["pot calling the kettle black"] so to speak, I apologize.
BarryB shows off his [PhotoShop skills] with the graphic below. I take it as a compliment to be compared to anAll-American icon of business success.
|TonyP and Monopoly's Mr. Pennybags|
Separated at Birth?
However, BarryB meant it as a reference back to long time ago when IBMwas a monopoly of the IT industry, which according to [IBM's History
], ended in 1973. In other words, IBMstopped being a monopoly before EMC ever existed as a company, and long before I started working for IBM myself.
The anti-trust lawsuit that BarryB mentions happened in 1969, which forced IBM to separate some of the software from its hardware offerings, and prevented IBM from making various acquisitions for years to follow, forcing IBM instead into technology partnerships. I'm glad that's all behind us now!
technorati tags: HDS, Hu Yoshida, IBM, Barry Whyte, SVC, BarryB, Storage Anarchist, blue, spray paint, red-meat rhetoric, Yogi Berra, Andy Monshaw, Chris Preimesberger, eWeek, Open storage, Sun, proprietary interfaces, mainframe, z/OS, UNIX, Open+Group, CKD, NAS, NetApp, Photoshop
The technology industry is full of trade-offs. Take for example solar cells that convert sunlight to electricity. Every hour, more energy hits the Earth in the form of sunlight than the entire planet consumes in an entire year. The general trade-off is between energy conversion efficiency versus abundance of materials:
- Get 9-11 percent efficiency using rare materials like indium (In), gallium (Ga) or cadmium (Cd).
- Get only 6.7 percent efficiency using abundant materials like copper (Cu), tin (Sn), zinc (Zn), sulfur (S), and selenium (Se)
IBM has eliminated this trade-off with a record-setting breakthrough last week, demonstrating 9.6 percent efficiency [thin film solar cells using earth-abundant materials].
A second trade-off is exemplified by EMC's recent GeoProtect announcement. This appears similar to the geographic dispersal method introduced by a company called [CleverSafe]. The trade-off is between the amount of space to store one or more copies of data and the protection of data in the event of disaster. Here's an excerpt from fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) titled ["Cloud Storage Evolves"]:
"Imagine a average-sized Atmos network of 9 nodes, all in different time zones around the world. And imagine that we were using, say, a 6+3 protection scheme.
The implication is clear: any 3 nodes could be completely lost: failed, destroyed, seized by the government, etc.
-- and the information could be completely recovered from the surviving nodes."
For organizations worried about their information falling into the wrong hands (whether criminal or government sponsored!), any subset of the nodes would yield nothing of value -- not only would the information be presumably encrypted, but only a few slices of a far bigger picture would be lost.
Seized by the government? falling into the wrong hands? Is EMC positioning ATMOS as "Storage for Terrorists"? I can certainly appreciate the value of being able to protect 6PB of data with only 9PB of storage capacity, instead of keeping two copies of 6PB each, the trade-off means that you will be accessing the majority of your data across your intranet, which could impact performance. But, if you are in an illicit or illegal business that could have a third of your facilities "seized by the government", then perhaps you shouldn't house your data centers there in the first place. Having two copies of 6PB each, in two "friendly nations", might make more sense.
(In reality, companies often keep way more than just two copies of data. It is not unheard of for companies to keep three to five copies scattered across two or three locations. Facebook keeps SIX copies of photographs you upload to their website.)
ChuckH argues that the governments that seize the three nodes won't have a complete copy of the data. However, merely having pieces of data is enough for governments to capture terrorists. Even if the striping is done at the smallest 512-byte block level, those 512 bytes of data might contain names, phone numbers, email addresses, credit cards or social security numbers. Hackers and computer forensics professionals take advantage of this.
You might ask yourself, "Why not just encrypt the data instead?" That brings me to the third trade-off, protection versus application performance. Over the past 30 years, companies had a choice, they could encrypt and decrypt the data as needed, using server CPU cycles, but this would slow down application processing. Every time you wanted to read or update a database record, more cycles would be consumed. This forced companies to be very selective on what data they encrypted, which columns or fields within a database, which email attachments, and other documents or spreadsheets.
An initial attempt to address this was to introduce an outboard appliance between the server and the storage device. For example, the server would write to the appliance with data in the clear, the appliance would encrypt the data, and pass it along to the tape drive. When retrieving data, the appliance would read the encrypted data from tape, decrypt it, and pass the data in the clear back to the server. However, this had the unintended consequences of using 2x to 3x more tape cartridges. Why? Because the encrypted data does not compress well, so tape drives with built-in compression capabilities would not be able to shrink down the data onto fewer tapes.
(I covered the importance of compressing data before encryption in my previous blog post
[Sock Sock Shoe Shoe].)
Like the trade-off between energy efficiency and abundant materials, IBM eliminated the trade-off by offering compression and encryption on the tape drive itself. This is standard 256-bit AES encryption implemented on a chip, able to process the data as it arrives at near line speed. So now, instead of having to choose between protecting your data or running your applications with acceptable performance, you can now do both, encrypt all of your data without having to be selective. This approach has been extended over to disk drives, so that disk systems like the IBM System Storage DS8000 and DS5000 can support full-disk-encryption [FDE] drives.
Certainly, something to think about!
technorati tags: , sunlight, solar cells, electricity, indium, gallium, cadmium, copper, tin, zinc, sulfur, selenium, thin+film, efficiency, EMC, Chuck Hollis, GeoProtect, Cleversafe, governement, seizure, Facebook, terrorists, encryption, forensics, hackers, protection, performance, disk, tape
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.)
The reaction was notas much a blogfight and more of a [dog pile]. Defending NetApp were[Alex McDonald],[Kostadis Roussos], and [Stephen Foskett, Pack Rat]. On the HDS front, we have [Tony Asaro]. My fellow blogger from IBM took his swing with [How Quickly We Forget].And finally, pointing out EMC's hypocrisy, overall, was [James Or] from Storage Monkeys.
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.
Happy Valentines Day, Chuck!
technorati tags: EMC, Chuck Hollis, frankenstorage, Frankenstein, FUD, IBM, NetApp, TMS, V-series, RamSan-500, storage virtualization, FC, SATA, Charles Darwin, HDS, StorageTek, Microsoft, Apple, UNIX, Linux, Windows, iPod, iTunes, mitosis, Invista, EDL, NX4, Centera, Valentines Day, dynamic infrastructure, smarter planet