Safe Harbor Statement: The information on IBM products is intended to outline IBM's general product direction and it should not be relied on in making a purchasing decision. The information on the new products is for informational purposes only and may not be incorporated into any contract. The information on IBM products is not a commitment, promise, or legal obligation to deliver any material, code, or functionality. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for IBM products remains at IBM's sole discretion.
Tony Pearson is a an active participant in local, regional, and industry-specific interests, and does not receive any special payments to mention them on this blog.
Tony Pearson receives part of the revenue proceeds from sales of books he has authored listed in the side panel.
Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Specialist for the IBM System Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2011, Tony celebrated his 25th year anniversary with IBM Storage on the same day as the IBM's Centennial. He is
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.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson
Last Tuesday, we had our official "Grand Opening" for the new Tucson Executive Briefing Center!
We sent out fancy invitations to all the IBM executives who supported this center, local dignitaries from the Tucson and State of Arizona level, and all of the IBM employees on the Tucson campus.
Since our new center is significantly cozier (5700 square feet versus our previous 15,000 square feet), we split the day into two separate events. The first for the IBM executives and local VIPs, and the second for the rest of the IBM employees on campus.
Of course, there is no free lunch. The day started out with a series of speeches. My manager, Doug Davies, was the master of ceremonies to introduce each speaker.
Alistair Symon, IBM Vice President of Enterprise Storage, explained how important storage affects everyone's lives. If you use an ATM machine to withdraw money, for example, you are most probably using IBM System Storage behind the scenes. Nearly all of the IBM disk and tape storage products are designed here in Tucson.
Bruce Wright (shown here) directs the University of Arizona's Office of University Research Parks, serves as CEO of the UA Tech Park, and the founder and president of the Arizona Center for Innovation. Bruce said a few words on how please he was that IBM decided to reverse its July 2011 decision to leave Tucson. The UofA owns all the property, renting back four of the eleven buildings back to IBM, so is effectively our landlord. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of IBM's sale of the technology park to the University.
Tucson Councilwoman Shirley Scott talked about the improtance of high-paying jobs to the local economy. While IBMers in Tucson are paid less than our counterparts in San Jose, Austin, Raleigh or Poughkeepsie, we are certainly [paid more than the average Tucsonan], thus helping to raise the standard of living here.
Dr. Michael Varney, president and CEO of the local Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, praised IBM for its strong reputation in ethics and diversity.
My new second-line manager, Karl Duvalsaint, and my new third-line manager, Doug Dreyer, emphasized the importance of co-locating Briefing Centers in sites that have Research and Development activity. It is important for clients to interact directly with developers, and it is also good for developers to understand directly from clients their needs, preferences and requirements. Worldwide, the IBM Systems and Technology Group has only twelve Executive Briefing Centers, and the Tucson EBC is one of them.
This is not to say that IBM does not have centers in other locations. Our newest client center in Singapore is a shining example. Of course, if they want experts to speak to clients there, they need to be flown in. Doug Dreyer mentioned that IBM plans to launch six such centers in Africa as well.
Next was the ribbon cutting. From left to right, Lee Olguin (our Gunny Sargeant), Tucson Councilwoman Shirley Scott, UofA's Bruce Wright, IBM VP of Program Management Calline Sanchez, My second-line manager Karl Duvalsaint, IBM VP Allistair Simon, my first-line manager Doug Davies, Tucson Chamber of Commerce President Dr. Michael Varney, and my third-line manager Doug Dreyer. We had a member of the local high school band do the drum roll.
Once the ribbon was cut, the IBM Executves and local VIPs were brought in to see the new facility, which has two large rooms, one common dining area, an 800-square foot green data center to showcase our products, our own set of restrooms, a galley to stage up the food and beverage service, and two smaller rooms for private conversations or conference calls. A local high school band provided live music throughout the day.
Wrapping up my coverage of the 2013 IT Security and Storage Expo in Belgium, I noticed some interesting things in the other booths.
The EMC booth had a whiteboard so that clients could do some one-on-one collaboration. All of their cocktail waitresses were wearing sharp pin-stripe coats with matching mini-skirts.
Another booth had a "virtual graffiti wall". Using a "digital spraycan", you could write on the wall. I am not sure what connection this had with anything the company had to offer, but perhaps they also wanted to collaborate with attendees on solutions. In either case, it was very cool, and brought a lot of traffic.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM. I was not paid to mention any of the other companies, their products or people on this blog post. Mentioning other companies is not to be considered an endorsement of any kind.)
There were some interesting costumes. Leila from [Aerohive] wearing a "bee costume" complete with black wings. Hans from STS in a bright orange business suit. (Orange is the national color of Belgium). Sophie from Fortinet handed out champagne. The plastic glassware were cones that snapped onto her tray, but they had no flat bottom to rest your glass down, so you had to hold it the entire time until you finished drinking it. The Homer Simpson sticker eating the Apple logo shows the Belgians have a sense of humor!
The NetApp booth had a huge banner claiming that "Data OnTap" was the #1 storage OS. Obviously Windows, AIX, Solaris and Linux aren't consider "storage Operating Systems" per se. Is NetApp claiming they outsell FreeNAS, the only other storage OS that I can think of?
While IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT easily won the "Best Looking Big Booth" award, I have to give the "Best Looking Small Booth" award to my friends at Hitachi Data Systems. Like EMC, the Hitachi team did not have any equipment on the floor, but they made use of their tiny space by having a Japanese theme, with cocktail waitresses in kimonos.
Continuing my coverage of the IT Security and Storage Expo in Brussels, Belgium, we had a nice reception Wednesday evening.
Clara handed out Ceasar Chicken salads. Joelle handed out small rolled up pieces of duck.
Ilsa is an IBM expert in System x, VMware and the PureSystems family on hand to help with the demos and any client questions. I.R.I.S.-ICT employee Ans is only in her 20's, but is recognized as one of Belgium's leading experts in System z mainframe. I used to be the lead architect for DFSMS on z/OS, so we had plenty to talk about.
Of course, the best time for the press to ask for interviews is during the reception, where everyone is relaxed and ready to speak. I am "media-trained" which allows me to speak to the press about IBM matters. I do a lot of these interviews either over the phone, or on camera.
I took a picture to capture the typical setup. Mandy on the left is asking me questions, while camera operator Lisa focuses on my body language. The trick is to spend 80 percent of the time focused on your interviewer, and then 20 percent looking into the camera for strategic pauses. If Mandy decides to use any of the footage, she will be sending me the YouTube video link!
Hans and Sophie from Veeam stopped by the IBM booth to say hello. (See 2010 Aug 27 blog post comparing Veeam to Tivoli Storage Manager). These two DJ's kept the IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT booth hopping.
Belgium is a small country, and many of the IT storage people know each other. This made for quite the party! Our group closed up the booth around 8:30pm and we went over to join their friends at Arrow and Huawei. Here is Maiva from Huawei.
Continuing my coverage of the IT Security and Storage Expo in Brussels, Belgium, we had some great storage solutions on display at the IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT booth.
Here my IBM colleague Tom Provost is showing the front of the "Smarter Office" solution. The second photo gives the view from behind. While I always explained the solution from the front of the box, many of the more technical attendees at this conference wanted to inspect the ports in the back.
This sound-isolated 11U solution combines the following:
The [IBM Storwize V3700] with 300GB small-form-factor (SFF) drives provides shared storage for the servers.
Two [IBM System x3550 M4 servers] that can run VMware, Hyper-V or Linux KVM server hypervisor software for your Windows and/or Linux applications. These are two socket servers that can have up to 16 x86 cores each.
A Juniper EX2200 switch to network the servers and storage together.
A Local Console Manager (LCM) with rackable keyboard, video, and mouse.
In this next example, the IBM team combined a BladeCenter S chassis that can hold six blade servers, with a Storwize V7000 Unified which offers FCP, iSCSI, FCoE, NFS, CIFS, HTTPS, SCP and FTP block and file protocols.
If those configurations are too small for your needs, consider the Flex System chassis or full PureFlex system frame. The rack-mountable 10U chassis can hold the Flex System V7000 and 10 compute notes. The PureFlex frame can hold up to four of these chasses.
IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT also had an IBM XIV Gen3 and a TS3500 Tape library on display.
Continuing my coverage of the IT Security and Storage Expo in Brussels, Belgium, here is my post on the presentations I gave during the week.
There were four presentations each day. Of the five rooms, I was assigned one room in which to give all of my presentations, room 3. My room was quite large, with sixty seats.
It is a good idea for public speakers to understand Dutch, French, German and English in Belgium. In recognition of the fact that Belgians are multi-lingual, I started each session with "Goede Middag, Bon Jour and Good Afternoon!" and ended each with "Dank U, Merci and Thank you for attending!"
12:00 to 12:30pm
What is big data? Architectures and Practical Use Cases
What is big data? Architectures and Practical Use Cases (repeat)
12:45 to 1:15pm
An IBM Storage solution for small and mid-size business? The Storwize V3700!
An IBM Storage solution for small and mid-size business? The Storwize V3700! (repeat)
1:30 to 2:00pm
A New Generation of Storage Tiering
A New Generation of Storage Tiering (repeat)
2:15 to 2:45pm
Replication for High Availability, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
Storage, Server and Network in one Flexible and Integrated solution! The PureSystems family
The sessions were all half-hour slots. The only presentation that I had a challenge getting down to 30 minutes was my session on "New Generation of Storage Tiering" in which I was asked to cover Easy Tier sub-LUN automated tiering, Server-to-Storage cooperative caching, Texas Memory Systems, hierarchical storage Management (HSM), Active Cloud Engine, and SmartCloud Storage!
Helping me out were three local IBM interns. From left to right: Joelle, Clara and Bryan. I hadn't noticed that there were only short breaks between sessions, all of this time consumed with one-on-one discussions with clients, so the interns were kind enough to fetch me snacks and drinks.
Joelle and Bryan speak Dutch, which is similar to the local Flemish language. Clara speaks French, which came in handy for translations.
I would like to thank my room monitors: Jolijn, Ella and Chloe. All three are local college students hired by the conference for the two days to scan name badges and count bodies in seats.
(I had to ask Jolijn to write her name on a piece of paper because it is Dutch and I had no clue how to spell it for this blog post.)
While it might appear that room 3 was "The Tony Pearson Show -- all Tony, all the time!" there were actually worthwhile sessions in the other rooms. Fellow blogger Jon Toigo [known for his DrunkenData blog] presented "Storage Infrastruggle 2013 -- Containing Storage Costs without Sacrificing Access, Protection or Management". My IBM colleague Ron Riffe presented a vendor-neutral look at Storage Hypervisors.
If the attendees wanted copies of my presentations, they were directed to get their name badge scanned at the IBM and I.R.I.S-ICT booth, all the way at the other end of the hall, and my presentations would be emailed to them.
(For those who have missed it, you can find all five of my presentations uploaded to the [IBM Expert Network] on Slideshare.)
Finally, I would like to thank my IBM colleagues who helped me develop and review my presentations: Brigitte Van Den Eynde, Joe Hayward, Jeff Jonas, Tom Deutsch, Chris Saul, Marisol Diaz, Iliana Garcia, Harley Puckett, Jack Arnold, and Steve McKinney.
The Belgium IT Security and Storage Expo was a great success!
(I am back to the USA in Portland, Oregon this week, so these posts relate to last week.)
However, that wasn't to say I didn't encounter a few challenges during my week in Belgium. The first was getting to the venue. The Belgium Expo is a large complex of buildings to the north of the city. The local IBM team suggested I go to the facility a day in advance so that I would be able to see where it was and how to get there.
I was staying in the center of town, in Place Rogier section. I had many transportation options:
Take a taxi. It was raining this week, so finding a taxi was difficult.
Take the bus. The Bus #260 goes directly from my hotel to the Belgium Expo, but only goes once an hour.
Take the metro. The metro operates frequently, and the Haysel stop is right in front of the Belgium Expo complex.
Upon arrival to the building complex, I was unsure of which building I needed to be in. Standing in front of the beautiful Building 5, I found this legend that provided the answer: Building 8. In front of Building 12 was a map that showed where Building 8 was located on the campus.
For this event, IBM joined forces with IBM Business Partner I.R.I.S-ICT to have a fabulous booth, with plenty of experts and equipment demos. As is often the case, the team had to work late into the night to get all the equipment set up, all the podiums and counters constructed, and the demos fully operational.
Apparently, I was not the only one to have troubles finding the place, so I did not feel alone. Some with cars drove around the complex several times before figuring out which parking lot to park in. Others parked at the first spot they found, and still ended up walking as much as I did.
For future reference, If you plan to attend any event at the Belgium Expo, either (a) ask for more explicit directions, and (b) plan to do lots of walking!
Well, I am back safely from my trip last week to Chicago, and now I am writing this in Madrid, Spain, on my way to Brussels, Belgium for the IT Storage Expo.
For those who have asked how the construction on the new Tucson EBC is going, here are a few pictures I took on Friday. As you can see, it is coming along nicely. The official grand opening will be April 2.
Did you miss IBM Pulse 2013 this week? I wasn't there either, having scheduled visits with clients in Washington DC this week, only to have those meetings cancelled due to the [U.S. sequestration cuts].
Fortunately, there are plenty of videos and materials to review from the event. Here's a [12-minute video] interview between Laura DuBois, Program VP of Storage for industry analyst firm [IDC], and fellow IBM executive Steve "Woj" Wojtowecz, VP of Tivoli Storage and Networking Software.
(Update: Apparently, IBM had not secured re-distribution rights from IDC to post this video prior to my blog post. IBM now has full permission to distribute. My apologies for any inconvenience last week.)
The two discuss client opportunities and requirements for storage clouds and compute clouds. Client cloud storage requirements include backup and archive clouds, file storage clouds, and storage that supports compute cloud environments.
Here are some upcoming events related to IBM Storage!
If you sell IBM and/or Oracle solutions, please join me for IBM Oracle Virtual University 2013!
A few weeks ago, I recorded a session on IBM Storage: Overview, Positioning and How to Sell that will be available on demand starting tomorrow, February 26th, at the IBM Oracle Virtual University 2013.
It's one of 65 new sessions that will help IBM to surround Oracle applications with IBM infrastructure, services and industry solutions. Oracle software, after all, runs best on IBM hardware. Other highlights of Oracle Virtual University include a live executive State of the Alliance session with Q&A, Oracle keynote, updates by Oracle product managers, sessions on PureSystems, Selling IBM into an Oracle environment, Cloud, and much more.
There will be live technical teams on hand throughout launch day to answer your questions in real time, so I hope you can carve out 30 minutes or more on February 26th to take advantage of these available resources.
After helping launch the first Pulse back in 2008, I have sadly not been back since. Last year, I was invited to attend as a last-minute replacement for another speaker, but I was busy [having emergency surgery].
This year's [Pulse 2013] conference looks amazing. It will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Guest Speaker Payton Manning, NFL 4-time MVP football player, and Carrie Underwood, 6-time Grammy award winner, join IBM's Software Group executives and experts on how IBM Tivoli can help optimize your IT infrastructure.
Sadly, once again, I will not be there at Pulse. This time, I will be on the East Coast visiting clients instead, but my on-premise correspondent, Tom Rauchut, has informed me that he will be there. Hopefully, he will provide me something to write about.
Later in March, I will be in Brussels, Belgium for the Storage Expo. This is held March 20-21, at the Brussels-Expo venue. I will be presenting several topics each day, as well as visit clients in the area. This event comes on behalf of IBM Belgium in association with IBM Business Partner IRIS-ICT.
If you plan to participate in any of these events, let me know!
Sadly, only 70 percent of doctors in the United States use Electronic Medical Record [EMR] systems. My own Primary Care Physician has made the switch, and told me he how much he loves having ready access to the information he needs. EMR systems reduce costs, help manage risk, and improve healthcare outcomes. It is no surprise that the U.S. government has taken a [stick-and-carrot approach] to encourage doctors to use them.
A frequent topic at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center where I work is how to make the most use of IT for healthcare and life sciences. For much of 2011 and 2012, I was also one of the technical advocates assigned to Wellpoint Insurance, in support of their adoption of IBM Watson technology for healthcare.
Recently, I spoke with Jarrett Potts, my long-time friend and former IBM colleague, who now works as Director of Strategic Marketing over at STORServer. If you have never heard of STORServer, it is a company that makes purpose-built backup appliances.
What is a Backup Appliance? It is an integrated solution of hardware and software that serves a single purpose: backup and recovery. STORServer Enterprise Backup Appliance (EBA) combines IBM's high-end x86 M4 server, IBM disk and tape storage, and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) backup software.
(Fun Fact: The 2012 IBM year-end financial results were announced last month. IBM not only continues its #1 lead in servers overall, but has the #1 marketshare for high-end x86 servers, market-leading disk and tape storage hardware, and market leading backup software.)
To determine the appropriate size of your backup appliance, the folks at STORServer help you every step of the way. They figure out the number of TB you will backup every day, and even help configure all of the TSM server parameters to achieve the policies that make the most sense for your organization.
The appliance can backup every type of data, from databases and Virtual Machines (VMs) to documents, spreadsheets, and other unstructured data.
Are you then left with a solution too complicated to run yourself? No. The STORServer Console is an easy-to-use GUI for ongoing monitoring and maintenance. Plus, your friends at STORServer are only a phone call away in case you have any questions.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM, and STORSever is an approved IBM Business Partner that uses IBM hardware and software to build their solution. I have no financial interest in STORServer, and was not paid by STORServer to mention their company or products on my blog. This post may be considered a celebrity endorsement of STORServer and its Enterprise Backup Appliances.)
Perhaps my readers feel that I am a bit biased in describing a TSM-based solution, and you want a second opinion. No worries, I understand. In the latest 165-page [2012 DCIG Backup Appliance Buyer's Guide], the STORServer models ranked very high. Here is an excerpt:
"Nowhere is this demand for purpose built appliances more evident than in the rise of purpose
built backup appliances (PBBAs) over the last few years and their anticipated growth rate
going forward. A recent market analysis performed by IDC found that worldwide PBBA revenue totaled $2.4 billion in 2011 which was a 42.4 percent increase over the prior year.
This scoring came into play in preparing this Buyer's Guide
as the STORServer EBA 3100 model scored so highly
overall that it fell outside of the two (2) standard deviations
that DCIG generally uses as a guideline for inclusion and
exclusion of products.
The reason DCIG included this model in this Buyer's Guide
whereas in other situations it might not is that DCIG is
unaware of any other backup appliance(s) from any other
providers that come close to matching the EBA 3100's
software and hardware attributes. As such, DCIG felt it
would be doing STORServer specifically and the market
generally a disservice by not highlighting in this Buyer's
Guide that such a backup appliance existed and was
generally available for purchase."
Backup Appliance Models
STORServer EBA 3100
Symantec NetBackup 5220 Backup Appliance
STORServer EBA 2100
STORServer EBA 1100
STORServer EBA 800
Symantec Backup Exec 3600 Appliance
The STORServer is ideal for small and medium-sized business (SMB), but can scale quite large to handle business growth. If you are currently unhappy with your current backup environment, and feel now is the time to look around for a better way of taking backups, you won't go wrong choosing a solution based on IBM's market-leading server and storage hardware with Tivoli Storage Manager software.
Well, it was Tuesday again, and we had quite a lot of announcements here at IBM this week!
Over 1,800 clients attended the [Live February 5 webcast]! The announcements were all part of IBM's SmartCloud Storage portfolio. Here are the highlights:
STN7800 Real-time Compression Appliance
Back in October 2010, IBM announced the acquisition of Storwize, Inc., renaming its NAS-compression units to the IBM Real-time Compression appliances. Some folks were confused, so I had a blog post [IBM Storwize Product Name Decoder Ring].
IBM initially offered two models:
The [STN6500 model] had 16 Ethernet ports 1GbE (16x1GbE) and a pair of four-core processors.
The [STN6800 model] had either eight 10GbE ports (8x10GbE), or four 10GbE plus eight 1GbE ports (4x10GbE+8x1GbE). It has a pair of six-core processors.
Now, IBM offers the [STN7800 model], which can replace either of the ones above, offering 16x1GbE, 8x10GbE, and 4x10GbE+8x1GBE port configurations. It has a pair of eight-core processors to handle more robust Cloud Storage environments. See [Announcement Letter 113-012] for more details.
New XIV Gen3 model 214
With its awesome support for VMware, the XIV is often chosen for Cloud storage. The new XIV model 214 now offers up to a dozen 10GbE ports, or you can stay with the 22 1GbE ports available on previous models. These can be used for iSCSI host attachment and/or IP-based replication.
IBM strives to make each new model of every storage device more energy efficient than the last.
The new XIV model is no exception. The original XIV, introduced in 2008, consumed 8.4 kVA fully loaded. The XIV Gen 3 model 114 consumed 7.0 kVA. This new model 214 consumes only 5.9 kVA!
It has been almost three years since my now infamous post [Double Drive Failure Debunked: XIV Two Years Later]. Back then, the XIV offered only 1TB and 2TB drives, with rebuild time for 1TB drive of less than 30 minutes, and for 2TB less than 60 minutes.
The new XIV Gen3 software 11.2 release, available for both the 114 and 214 models, can now rebuild a 2TB drive in less than 26 minutes, and a 3TB drive in less than 39 minutes. There is also support specific to Windows Server 2012 including thin provisioning, MSCS, VSS, and Hyper-V. See [Announcement Letter 113-013] for more details.
SmartCloud Storage Access
IBM is the first major storage vendor to offer a product of this kind, so understanding it may be a bit difficult.
The concept is simple. Rather than having end-users having to ask IT every time they need some storage space, IBM created a self-service portal that frees up the IT department to work on more important transformational projects.
This is basically what people can do with "Public Cloud" storage service providers, so basically IBM is now giving you the capability with your "Private Cloud" storage deployment.
Here is the sequence of events. End users point their favorite web browser to the self-service portal, and login using their credentials stored in your Active Directory or LDAP server database.
Once validated, the end-user now can request new storage space, expanding their existing space, or returning the space to the IT department. For new storage requests, users can have a choice of storage classes, -- such as Gold, Silver and Bronze-- defined in the Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (TPC), either stand-alone or in the SmartCloud Virtual Storage Center.
But wait! Do you want to give every end-user a blank check to provision their own storage? Most IT staff are horrified at the thought.
Knowing this, IBM has included an option to put in an approval process, based on the end-user and the amount of capacity requested. The approver can be the cloud administrator, or someone delegated for approvals, known as an environment owner.
For some users, policies may restrict the storage classes as well. For example, Fred can only have Silver or Bronze, but not Gold.
Once the approval is obtained, TPC then issues the appropriate commands to the appropriate SONAS or Storwize V7000 Unified device. SmartCloud Storage Access can do this for thousands of storage devices across dozens of geographically dispersed locations.
Before, the Cloud Admin had to configure storage pools of managed disks, define file systems, dole out file sets to hundreds or thousands of users with hard quotas, and then configure shares based on the protocols required, like CIFS, NFS, HTTPS, etc.
With SmartCloud Storage Access, the Cloud admin still defines the pools and file systems, but then lets the self-service capability of the software to create the file sets, set the quotas and configure shares with the appropriate protocols. This greatly reduces the work on the IT staff, and greatly improves the turn-around time for end-user requests to get exactly what they want, when they need it.
The next time you withdraw money from an ATM machine, fill up your gas tank at the self-service gas station, then serve your own salad at the salad bar and fill up your own soft drink at the fast food restaurant, you will realize and appreciate that SmartCloud Storage Access is a brilliant move for the IT staff.
Cloud administrators, environment owners, and end-users can all use SmartCloud Storage Access to monitor and report on storage usage.
(What does this have to do with Storage? When IBM got back into networking in a big way, they had to decide whether to combine it with one of the existing groups, or form its own group. IBM decided to merge networking with storage, which makes sense since the primary purpose of most networks is to access or transmit information stored somewhere else.)
Last April, the Wharton School and the Institute for the Future convened a one-day [After Broadband] workshop in San Francisco, California, that brought together a group of leading technologists, entrepreneurs, academics and policymakers to explore the future of broadband over the next decade.
Today is the last day of 2012, so it is only fitting to end the year looking forward to the future!
While I have been accused of being a historian, I consider myself a bit of a futurist. Since 2006, I have been blogging about the future of technology, including Cloud, Big Data, and the explosion of information. As a consultant for the IBM Executive Briefing Center, I present to clients IBM's future plans, strategies, and product roadmaps.
(Fellow blogger Mark Twomey on his Storagezilla blog has a humorous post titled [Stuff your Predictions], expressing his disdain for articles this time of year that predict what the next 12 months will bring. Don't worry, this is not one of those posts!)
What exactly is a futurist? Biologists study biology. Techologists study technology. But a person can't simply time-travel to the future, read the newspaper, make observations, take notes, and then go back in time to share his findings.
Here seem to be the key differences between Historians vs. Futurists:
There is only one past.
There are many possible futures.
Only six percent of humanity are alive today, so historians must study history through the writings, tools, and remains of those that have passed on.
Futurists study the past and the present, looking for patterns and trends.
Search for insight.
Search for foresight.
Framework to explain what happened and why.
Framework to express what is possible, probable, and perhaps even preferable.
A common framework for both is the concept of the various "Ages" that humanity has been through:
Around 200,000 years ago, in the middle of what archaeologists refer to as the [Paleolithic Era], man walked upright and used tools made of stone to hunt and gather food. Humans were nomadic and travelled in tribes to follow the herds of animals as they migrated season to season. The History Channel had a great eight-hour series called [Mankind: The Story of All of Us] that started here, and worked all the way up to modern times.
About 10,000 years ago, humans got tired of chasing after their meals, and settled down, growing their food instead. Grains like wheat, rice, and corn became staples of most diets around the world. Civilization evolved, and people traded what they grew or made in exchange for items they needed or wanted.
About 300 years ago, humans developed machines to help do things, and even to help build other machines. While farmers harnessed oxen to plow fields, and horses to speed up travel and communication, these were all based on muscle power.
Machines like the steam engine were powered by coal, petroleum, or natural gas. Today, one gallon of gasoline can do the work of 600 man-hours of human muscle power, or [move a ton of freight 400 miles].
Cities grew up with skyscrapers of steel, connected by trains, planes and automobiles. Communications with the telegraph, telephone, radio and television replaced sending message on horseback.
The forces that drove humanity to the Industrial age clashed with the culture and identity established during the Agricultural age. I highly recommend futurist Thomas Friedman's book [The Lexus and the Olive Tree] that covers these conflicts.
When exactly did the Information age begin? Did it start with Guttenberg's muscle-powered [Printing Press] in the year 1450, or the first punched card in 1725?
Futurist [Alvin Toffler] published his book The Third Wave in 1980. He coined the phrase "Third Wave" to describe the transition from the Industrial age to the Information age.
While IBM mainframes were processing information in the 1950's, many people associate the Information Age with the IBM Personal Computer (1981) or the World Wide Web (1991). Over 100 years ago, IBM started out in the Industrial age, with business machines like meat scales and cheese slicers. IBM led the charge into the Information Age, and continues that leadership today.
In any case, value went from atoms to bits. Computers and mobile devices transfer bits of data, information and ideas, from nearly anyplace on the planet to another, in seconds.
Ideas and content are now king, rather than land, buildings, machines and raw materials of the Industrial age. In 1975, less than 20 percent of a business assets were intangible. By 2005, over 80 percent is.
While the Industrial age was dominated by left-brain thinking, the Information Age requires the creativity of right-brain thinking. I highly recommend Daniel Pink's book, [A Whole New Mind] that covers this in detail.
"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed!" -- William Gibson (1993)
The problem with looking back through history as a series of "Ages" is that they really didn't start and end on specific days. The Agricultural age didn't end on a particular Sunday evening, with the Industrial age starting up the following Monday morning.
There are still people on the planet today in the Stone age. On my last visit to Kenya, I met a nomadic tribe that still lives this way. Huts were temporarily constructed from sticks and mud, and abandoned when it was time to move on.
A short-sighted charity built a one-room school house for them, hoping to convince the tribe that staying in one place for education was more important than hunting and gathering food in a nomadic lifestyle. Some stayed and starved.
In the United States, about 2 percent of Americans grow food for the rest of us, with enough left over to make ethanol and give food aid to other countries.
Sadly, the Standard American Diet continues to be foods mostly processed from wheat, rice and corn, even though our human genetic make-up has not yet evolved from a "Paleolithic" mix of [meats, nuts and berries].
There are still people on the planet today in the Industrial age. American schools are still geared to teach children for Industrial age jobs, but still take "summer vacation" to work in the fields of the Agricultural age? Seth Godin's book [Stop Stealing Dreams] is a great read on what we should do about this.
Wrapping up my series on a [Laptop for Grandma], I finally have something that I think meets all of my requirements! Special thanks to Guidomar and the rest of my readers who sent in suggestions!
I could have called this series "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". The [Cloud-oriented choices] weren't bad per se, but expected persistent Internet connection. The [Low-RAM choices] were not ugly per se, but had limited application options. The ones below were good, in that they helped me decide what would be just right for grandma.
Linux Mint 9
One of my readers, Guidomar, suggested Linux Mint Xfce. At LinuxFest Northwest 2012, Bryan Lunduke indicated that [Linux Mint] is the fastest growing Linux in popularity. You can watch his 43-minute presentation of [Why Linux Sucks!] on YouTube.
The latest version is Mint 14, but that has grown so big it has to be installed on a DVD, as it will no longer fit on a 700MB CD-ROM. Since I don't have a DVD drive on this Thinkpad R31, I dropped down to the latest Gnome edition that did fit on a LiveCD, which was Mint 9.
(In retrospect, I could have used the [PLoP Boot Manager CD], and installed the latest Linux Mint 14 from USB memory stick! My concern was that if a distribution didn't fit on a CD-ROM, it was expecting a more modern computer overall, and thus would probably require more than 384MB or RAM as well.)
Linux Mint is actually a variant of Ubuntu, which means that it can tap into the thousands of applications already available. Mint 9 is based on Ubuntu 10.04 LTS.
One of the nice features of Linux Mint is that there are versions with full [Codecs] installed. A codec is a coder/decoder software routine that can convert a digital data stream or signal, such as for audio or video data. Many formats are proprietary, so codecs are generally not open source, and often not included in most Linux distros. They can be installed manually by the Linux administrator. Windows and Mac OS are commercially sold and don't have this problem, as Microsoft and Apple take care of all the licensing issues behind the scenes.
The installation went smooth. It would have gladly set up a dual-boot with Windows for me, but instead I opted to wipe the disk clean and install fresh for each Linux distribution I tried.
Running it was a different matter. The screen would go black and crash. There just wasn't enough memory.
Since [Peppermint OS] was partially based on Lubuntu, I thought I would give [Lubuntu 12.04] a try. The difference is that Peppermint OS is based on Xfce (as is Xubuntu), but Lubuntu claims to have a smaller memory footprint using Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment (LXDE). This version claims to run in 384MB, which is what I have on grandma's Thinkpad R31.
There are two installers. The main installer requires more than 512MB to run, so I used the alternate text-based Installer-only CD, which needs only 192MB.
The LXDE GUI is simple and straightforward. As with Peppermint OS, I did have to install the Codec plugins. However, the time-to-first-note was less than two minutes, so we can count this as a success!
Linux Mint 12 LXDE edition
Circling back to Linux Mint, I realized that my problem up above was chosing the wrong edition. Apparently, Linux Mint comes in various editions, the main edition I had selected was based on Gnome which requires at least 512MB of RAM.
Other editions are based on KDE, xFCE and LXDE. Linux Mint 9 LXDE requires only 192MB of RAM, and the newer Linux Mint 12 LXDE requires only 256MB. I choose the latter, and the install went pretty much the same as Mint and Lubuntu above.
The music player that comes pre-installed is called [Exaile], which supports playlists, audio CDs, and a variety of other modern features, so no reason to install Rhythmbox or anything else. Grandma can even rip her existing audio CDs to import her music into MP3 format. Time-to-first-note was about two minutes.
The best part: the OS only takes up about 4GB of disk, leaving about 15GB for MP3 music files!
Lubuntu and Linux Mint LXDE were similar, but I decided to go with the latter because I like that they do not force version upgrades. This is a philosophical difference. Ubuntu likes to keep everyone on the latest supported releases, so will often remind you its time to upgrade. Linux Mint prefers to take an if-it-aint-broke-don't-fix-it approach that will be less on-going maintenance for me.
A few finishing touches to make the system complete:
A nice wallpaper from [InterfaceLift]. This website has high-res photography that are just stunning.
Power management with screen-saver settings to a nice pink background with white snowflakes falling.
A small collection of her MP3 music pre-loaded so that she would have something to listen to while she learns how to rip CDs and copy over the rest of her music.
Icons on the main desktop for Exaile, My Computer, Home Directory, and the Welcome Screen.
Larger Font size, to make it easier to read.
Update settings that only look for levels "1" and "2". There are five levels, but "1" and "2" are considered the safest, tested versions. Also, an update is only done if it does not involve installing or removing other packages. This should offer some added stability.
I considered installing [ClamAV] for anti-virus protection, but since this laptop will not be connected to the Internet, I decided not to burn up CPU cycles. I also considered installing [Team Viewer] which would allow me remote access to her system if anything should every fail. However, since she does not have Wi-Fi at home, and lives only a few minutes across town, I decided to leave this off.
Once again, I want to thank all of my readers for their suggestions! I learned quite a lot on this journey, and am glad that I have something that I am proud to present to grandma: boots quickly enough, simple to use, and does not require on-going maintenance!