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I’ve just returned from the IBM Tivoli Pulse conference in Las Vegas – a meeting of over 4000 customers, partners, and IBM employees. ... There was a lot to digest, but three of the major themes caught my attention, and my imagination. ... First, IBM put a huge push behind their Dynamic Infrastructure initiative. Sounds like so many other automation and autonomic initiatives of the past, right? Well, things are getting better, and “dynamic” is becoming more of a realistic possibility, especially with the emergence of cloud computing and cloud services models. ... Second, a lot of time was spent on IBM’s Service Management Industry Solutions. When I first heard of this, my thought was that IBM was creating solutions for the Service Management industry (i.e. food services, janitorial services, hospitality services). But this is much larger than that – much, much larger. IBM is taking their unique ability to pair business (non-IT) expertise with IT consulting, planning, and technology delivery, and constructing (careful – here comes the “f” word) frameworks for several vertical industry segments. ... IBM is perhaps the only organization in the world that can take this on fully and hope to deliver a meaningful result. But beyond that, this represents a huge opportunity for IT professionals to become the transformation agents within their own organizations, contributing at a whole new level. ... Lastly, I was really impressed by IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative. The primary thought here was that the key to a greener planet is to take inefficiencies out of just about every form of business through the intelligent application and deployment of technology. At first I was thinking this was just another marketing initiative, but in the course of this event, listening to the keynotes and talking to a number of IBM execs, it became apparent that this is a substantial cultural shift within IBM itself. Just think about that for a moment – when 400,000 employees all change their direction and focus, their sheer mass is going to make a noticeable difference. ... Magic (Johnson) gave an excellent talk, and reminded the audience that you should do two things no matter what your job or role. First, service starts with knowing your customers – not just who they are, but what they do and what is important to them. And second – always over-deliver. Go that extra step. Exceed expectations. The boost in loyalty, goodwill, and improved customer relationships will be well worth the effort. Good thoughts to keep with us….
If you missed Pulse 2009, perhaps because your company has put a clamp down on travel expenses, you are in luck! IBM is hosting the "Dynamic Infrastructure Forum" March 3-4, 2009, on your computer. This is an IBM Virtual event, no travel required! [Register Today!]
Now that IBM XIV has proven that 1TB SATA are safe for high-end tier-1 enterprise class use, we extended DS8000 support to include SATA support also. DS8000 supports RAID-6 and RAID-10 for these.
Intelligent Write Caching
IBM Research conducts extensive investigations into improved algorithms for cache management. Intelligent Write Caching boosts performance for both temporal and spatial locality.
Remote Pair FlashCopy®
This allows you to FlashCopy volume A to volume B, with Volume B remotely mirrored to Volume C at a secondary location, via Metro Mirror. This allows you to have a consistent copy of your data at both locations.
IBM was the first in the industry to deliver tape-drive encryption, so it makes sense that IBM is also the first in the industry to deliver disk-drive encryption. These are 15K rpm drives in standard 146GB, 300GB and 450GB capacities. As with tape, encrypting at the disk device eliminates the huge overhead from server-based encryption methods.
Solid State Drive (SSD)
You can also have Solid State Disk drives in your DS8000, in 73GB and 146GB capacities, protected by RAID-5.If you are wondering what data to put on these much-faster drives, IBM has taken the work and worry out by havingintelligence in DB2 to optimize what gets placed on SSD to get the most performance improvement.
IBM System Storage XIV
Continuing the incredible marketplace excitement over its Cloud-Opimized Storage[XIV series], IBM now has announced[new capacity options]. The IBM XIV R2 that we announced last August 2008 was a fixed 15 module configuration. In thenew configurations, you can start with as little as six modules, representing a 40% partial rack of the originalfull model. Here is a table that shows the details:
Useable Capacity (TB)
Fibre Channel Ports
Cache Memory (GB)
IBM System Storage N series
And last, but not least, we have two new models in IBM's[N6000 series].The [N6060]has model A12 (single controller) and model A22 (dual controller). These are disk-less controllers thatyou can configure in either appliance mode or gateway mode. In appliance mode, you can attachdisk drawers such as the EXN1000, EXN2000 or EXN4000. In gateway mode, you attach external disk systems, suchas the IBM DS8000 or XIV above.
It's ruggedized to handle earthquakes. IBM brings a feature that we've had for a while on other disk systems to the N series with a collection of bolts and anchors to secure the rack from physical tremors.
It's instrumented for IBM Active Energy Manager, a component of IBM Systems Director. New iPDUs are designed to help measure and monitor energy management components. As companies get more concerned about thefate of the planet, monitoring energy consumption can help reduce carbon footprint.
I'll cover the rest of the announcements tomorrow!
IBM has launched a new blog, focused on making [a smarter planet]. In my post,[The New Year in Six Words], Idiscussed the part of Sam Palmisano's speech that mentioned a small $30 Billion investmentcould result in 950,000 new jobs. For those who wondered how IBM arrived to that figure,here are two posts:
Wrapping up this week's theme on ways to make the planet smarter, and less confusing, I present IBM's third annual [five in five]. These are five IBM innovations to watch over the next five years, all of which have implications on information storage. Here is a quick [3-minute video] that provides the highlights:
It's Thursday here at the [Data Center Conference] here in Las Vegas. Trying to keep up with all the sessions and activities has been quite challenging. As is often the case, there are more sessions that I want to attend than I physically am able to, so have to pick and choose.
Making the Green Data Center a Reality
The sixth and final keynote was an expert panel session, with Mark Bramfitt from Pacific Gas and Electric [PG&E], and Mark Thiele from VMware.
Mark explained PG&E's incentive program to help data centers be more energyefficient. They have spent $7 million US dollars so far on this, and he has requested another$50 million US dollars over the next three years. One idea was to put "shells" aroundeach pod of 28 or so cabinets to funnel the hot air up to the ceiling, rather than havingthe hot air warm up the rest of the cold air supply.
The fundamental disconnect for a "green" data center is that the Facilities team pay for the electricity, but it is the IT department that makes decisions that impact its use. The PG&E rebates reward IT departments for making better decisions. The best metric available is"Power Usage Effectiveness" or [PUE], which is calculated by dividing total energy consumed in the data center, divided by energy consumed by the IT equipment itself.Typical PUE runs around 3.0 which means for every Watt used for servers, storage or network switches, another 2 Watts are used for power, cooling, and facilities. Companies are tryingto reduce their PUE down to 1.6 or so. The lower the better, and 1.0 is the ideal.The problem is that changing the data center infrastructure is as difficult as replacingthe phone system or your primary ERP application.
While California has [Title 24], stating energy efficiency standards for both residential and commercial buildings, it does notapply to data centers. PG&E is working to add data center standards into this legislation.
The two speakers also covered Data Center [bogeymans], unsubstantiated myths that prevent IT departments fromdoing the right thing. Here are a few examples:
Power cycles - some people believe that x86 servers can typically only handle up to 3000 shutdowns, and so equipment is often left running 24 hours a day to minimize these. Most equipment is kept less than 5 years (1826 days), so turning off non-essential equipment at night, and powering it back on the next morning, is well below this 3000 limit and can greatly reduce kWh.
Dust - many are so concerned about dust that they run extra air-filters which impactsthe efficiency of cooling systems air flow. New IT equipment tolerates dust much betterthan older equipment.
Humidity - Mark had a great story on this one. He said their "de-humidifier" broke,and they never got around to fixing it, and they went years without it, realizing they didn't need to de-humidify.
The session wrapped up with some "low hanging fruit", items that can provide immediate benefit with little effort:
Cold-aisle containment--Why are so few data centers doing this?
Colocation providers need to meter individual clients' energy usage -- IBM offers the instrumentation and software to make this possible
Air flow management--Simply organizing cables under the floor tiles could help this.
Virtualization and Consolidation.
High-efficiency power supplies
Managing IT from a Business Service Perspective
The "other" future of the data center is to manage it as a set of integrated IT services,rather than a collection of servers, storage and switches.IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is widely-accepted as a set of best practices to accomplish this "service management" approach. The presenter from ASG Software Solutions presented their Configuration Management Data Base (CMDB) and application dependency dashboard. Theyhave some customers with as many as 200,000 configuration items (CIs) in their CMDB.
The solution looked similar to the IBM Tivoli software stack presented earlier this yearat the [Pulse conference].Both ASG and IBM "eat their own dog food", or perhaps more accurately "drink their own champagne", using these software products to run their own internal IT operations.
For many, the future of a "green" data center managed as a set of integrated service are years away, but the technologies and products are available today, and there is no reasonto postpone these projects any longer than necessary. For more about IBM's approach togreen data center, see [Energy EfficiencySolutions]. You can also take IBM's[IT Service Management self-assessment] to help determine whichIBM tools you need for your situation.
Well, it's Wednesday, day three at the [Data Center Conference] here in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unlike other conferencesthat concentrate all of their keynote sessions at the front of the agenda,this conference spread them out over several days. They had three on Tuesday, two more Wednesday, and the last one on Thursday. Here are my thoughts on the two keynote sessions on Wednesday.
Top 10 Disruptive Technologies affecting the Data Center
The analyst presented his "top ten" technologies to watch:
Storage Virtualization - I was glad this made top of the list!
Cloud Computing - IBM was recognized for its leadership in this space. Cloud computing brings together new models of acquisition, billing, access, and deployment of new technology.
Servers: Beyond Blades - Currently, distributed servers have fixed CPU, memory and I/O capability, as manufactured at the factory, but what if you can re-assign these resources dynamically? New technologies mightmake this possible.
Virtualization for desktops - not just hosted virtual desktops, the speaker proposed having"portable personalities" that an employee might carry around on a CDrom or USB memory stick, andthen use whatever computer equipment was nearby.
Enterprise Mashups - You know analysts have too much time on their hands when they come up withtheir own eight-layer reference architecture for enterprise adoption of Web 2.0 technologies.
Specialized Systems - These are sometimes called heterogeneous systems, hybrids, or application-specific appliances. Unlike general purposes servers, these are more difficult to re-purpose as your needs change. However, if done right, can provide better performance for specific workloads.
Social Software and Social Networking - A survey of the audience found 18 percent were alreadyusing Mashups in the enterprise, but 65 percent haven't looked at this at all. Because traditionalhierarchically-organized companies can't re-structure their employees fast enough, the use ofsocial software to develop "virtual teams" and "communities of interest" can be an effective wayto get the "wisdom of crowds" from your employees. Rather than just installing this kind of software, the speaker felt it was better to just "plant seeds" and let social networks grow withinthe enterprise.
Unified Communications - Do you use different providers or software for cell phone, land line, wi-fi, internet, Instant Messaging (IM), audio conferencing, video conferencing, and email? The promise of Unified Communications is to bring this all together.
Zones and Pods - In the 1990s, traditional design for data centers tried to anticipate growthover the next 15-20 years, and build accordingly. These did not foresee all the changes in IT.The new best practice is a "pod approach" where you only build what you need for the next 5 to 7years, with the architecture to expand as needed. A traditional 9000-square-foot data center thatsupports 150 "watts-per-square-foot" would cost over $20 million to build, and over $1 million inelectricity every year. A pod alternative might cost less than $12 million to build, and nearlycut electricity costs in half.
Green IT - rapid "green" improvements are being demanded on IT operations, not just forpolitical correctness, but also for cost savings. A survey of the audience found 7 percentwilling to pay a premium price for green solutions, and another 26 percent willing to pay aslightly higher price for green features and attributes.
Don McMillan, Computer Engineer turned Stand Up Comic
Don gave a hilarious look at the IT industry. While most comics that are often hired to entertainthe audience have only a layman's knowledge of what we do, Don has a masters degree in ElectricalEngineering from Stanford and worked at a variety of IT companies, including AT&T Bell Labs andVLSI Technology. You can see more of his bio on his[Technically Funny] Web site.
Here's Don in a [four-minute video] demonstrating the kind of observational humor he performs.
It's good to see a bit of humor at IT conferences. With the pressures of IT staff and managementto manage explosive growth with shrinking budgets, the attendees appreciated the mix of serious with the not-so-serious.
I helped set up the IBM booth at the Solutions Center, third floor, where we will have variousproducts on display, as well as subject matter experts to handle all the questions.
I also went ahead and got my conference badge. While most of my cohorts have purple badges, limiting them to the Solution Centers area, I have a red badge, so that I can attend the variouskeynote and break-out sessions this week.
In keeping with our "green" theme, we have all been given matching light green shirts, and these are 70 percent Bamboo cloth, and 30 percent cotton. They are very comfortable,and sustainable! If you see me, come up and just feel my shirt, go ahead, I won't mind!
Tomorrow, the fun begins with the keynote speakers!
There's some good discussion in the comments section over at Robin Harris' StorageMojo blog for hispost [Building a 1.8 Exabyte Data Center].To summarize, a student is working on a research archive and asked Robin Harris for his opinion. The archive will consist of 20-40 million files averaging 90 GB in size each, for a total of 1800 PB or 1.8 EB. By comparison, anIBM DS8300 with five frames tops out at 512TB, so it would take nearly 3600 of these to hold 1.8 EB. While this might seem like a ridiculous amount of data, I think the discussion is valid as our world is certainly headed in that direction.
IBM works with a lot of research firms, and the solution is to put most of this data on tape, with just enough disk for specific analysis. Robin mentions a configurion with Sun Fire 4540 disk systems (aka Thumper). Despite Sun Microsystems' recent [$1.7 Billion dollar quarterly loss], I think even the experts at Sun would recommend a blended disk-and-tape solution for this situation.
Take for example IBM's Scale Out File Services [SoFS] which today handles 2-3 billion files in a single global file system, so 20-40 million would present no problem. SoFS supports a mix of disk and tape, with built-in movement, so that files that were referenced would automatically be moved to disk when needed, and moved back to tape when no longer required, based on policies set by the administrator. Depending on the analysis, you may only need 1 PB or less of disk to perform the work, which can easily be accomplished with a handful of disk systems, such as IBM DS8300 or IBM XIV, for example.
The rest would be on tape. Let's consider using the IBM TS3500 with [S24 High Density] frames. A singleTS3500 tape library with fifteen of these HD frames could hold 45PB of data, assuming 3:1 compression on 1TB-size 3592 cartridges. You wouldneed 40 (forty) of these libraries to get to the full 1800 PB required, and these could hold even more as higher capacity cartridges are developed. IBM has customers with over 40 tape libraries today (not all with these HD frames, of course), but the dimensions and scale that IBM is capable lies within this scope.
(For LTO fans, fifteen S54 frames would hold 32PB of data, assuming 2:1 compression on 800GB-size LTO-4 cartridges.so you would need 57 libraries instead of 40 in the above example.)
This blended disk-and-tape approach would drastically reduce the floorspace and electricity requirements when compared against all-disk configurations discussed in the post.
People are rediscovering tape in a whole new light. ComputerWorld recently came out with an 11-page Technology Brief titled [The Business Value of Tape Storage],sponsored by Dell. (Note: While Dell is a competitor to IBM for some aspects of their business, they OEM their tape storage systems from IBM, so in that respect, I can refer to them as a technology partner.) Here are some excerpts from the ComputerWorld brief:
For IT managers, the question isnot whether to use tape, but whereand how to best use tape as part of acomprehensive, tiered storage architecture.In the modern storage architecture,tape plays a role not onlyin data backup, but also in long-termarchiving and compliance.
“Long-term archiving is the primaryreason any company shoulduse tape these days,” says MikeKarp, senior analyst at EnterpriseManagement Associates in Boulder,Colo. Companies are increasinglylikely to use disk in conjunctionwith tape for backup, but for long-termarchiving needs, tape remainsunbeatable.
After factoring inacquisition costs of equipment andmedia, as well as electricity and datacenter floor space, Clipper Groupfound that the total cost of archivingsolutions based on SATA disk, theleast expensive disk, was up to 23times more expensive than archivingsolutions involving tape. Calculatingenergy costs for the competing approaches,the costs for disk jumpedto 290 times that of tape.
“Tape isalways the winner anywhere costtrumps anything else,” says Karp.No matter how the cost is figured,tape is less expensive.
Beyond IT familiarity with tape,analysts point to other reasons whyorganizations will likely keep tapein their IT storage infrastructures.Energy savings, for example, is themost recent reason to stick withtape. “The economics of tape arepretty compelling, especially whenyou figure in the cost of power,”Schulz says.
So, whether you are planning for an Exabyte-scale data center, or merely questioning the logic of a disk-for-everything storage approach, you might want to consider tape. It's "green" for the environment, and less expensive on your budget.