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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Specialist for the IBM System Storage product line at the
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For the longest time, people thought that humans could not run a mile in less than four minutes. Then, in 1954, [Sir Roger Bannister] beat that perception, and shortly thereafter, once he showed it was possible, many other runners were able to achieve this also. The same is being said now about the IBM Watson computer which appeared this week against two human contestants on Jeopardy!
(2014 Update: A lot has happened since I originally wrote this blog post! I intended this as a fun project for college students to work on during their summer break. However, IBM is concerned that some businesses might be led to believe they could simply stand up their own systems based entirely on open source and internally developed code for business use. IBM recommends instead the [IBM InfoSphere BigInsights] which packages much of the software described below. IBM has also launched a new "Watson Group" that has [Watson-as-a-Service] capabilities in the Cloud. To raise awareness to these developments, IBM has asked me to rename this post from IBM Watson - How to build your own "Watson Jr." in your basement to the new title IBM Watson -- How to replicate Watson hardware and systems design for your own use in your basement. I also took this opportunity to improve the formatting layout.)
Often, when a company demonstrates new techology, these are prototypes not yet ready for commercial deployment until several years later. IBM Watson, however, was made mostly from commercially available hardware, software and information resources. As several have noted, the 1TB of data used to search for answers could fit on a single USB drive that you buy at your local computer store.
Take a look at the [IBM Research Team] to determine how the project was organized. Let's decide what we need, and what we don't in our version for personal use:
Do we need it for personal use?
Yes, That's you. Assuming this is a one-person project, you will act as Team Lead.
Yes, I hope you know computer programming!
No, since this version for personal use won't be appearing on Jeopardy, we won't need strategy on wager amounts for the Daily Double, or what clues to pick next. Let's focus merely on a computer that can accept a question in text, and provide an answer back, in text.
Yes, this team focused on how to wire all the hardware together. We need to do that, although this version for personal use will have fewer components.
Optional. For now, let's have this version for personal use just return its answer in plain text. Consider this Extra Credit after you get the rest of the system working. Consider using [eSpeak], [FreeTTS], or the Modular Architecture for Research on speech sYnthesis [MARY] Text-to-Speech synthesizers.
Yes, I will explain what this is, and why you need it.
Yes, we will need to get information for personal use to process
Yes, this team developed a system for parsing the question being asked, and to attach meaning to the different words involved.
No, this team focused on making IBM Watson optimized to answer in 3 seconds or less. We can accept a slower response, so we can skip this.
(Disclaimer: As with any Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project, I am not responsible if you are not happy with your version for personal use I am basing the approach on what I read from publicly available sources, and my work in Linux, supercomputers, XIV, and SONAS. For our purposes, this version for personal use is based entirely on commodity hardware, open source software, and publicly available sources of information. Your implementation will certainly not be as fast or as clever as the IBM Watson you saw on television.)
Step 1: Buy the Hardware
Supercomputers are built as a cluster of identical compute servers lashed together by a network. You will be installing Linux on them, so if you can avoid paying extra for Microsoft Windows, that would save you some money. Here is your shopping list:
Three x86 hosts, with the following:
64-bit quad-core processor, either Intel-VT or AMD-V capable,
8GB of DRAM, or larger
300GB of hard disk, or larger
CD or DVD Read/Write drive
Computer Monitor, mouse and keyboard
Ethernet 1GbE 4-port hub, and appropriate RJ45 cables
Surge protector and Power strip
Local Console Monitor (LCM) 4-port switch (formerly known as a KVM switch) and appropriate cables. This is optional, but will make it easier during the development. Once your implementation is operational, you will only need the monitor and keyboard attached to one machine. The other two machines can remain "headless" servers.
Step 2: Establish Networking
IBM Watson used Juniper switches running at 10Gbps Ethernet (10GbE) speeds, but was not connected to the Internet while playing Jeopardy! Instead, these Ethernet links were for the POWER7 servers to talk to each other, and to access files over the Network File System (NFS) protocol to the internal customized SONAS storage I/O nodes.
The implementation will be able to run "disconnected from the Internet" as well. However, you will need Internet access to download the code and information sources. For our purposes, 1GbE should be sufficient. Connect your Ethernet hub to your DSL or Cable modem. Connect all three hosts to the Ethernet switch. Connect your keyboard, video monitor and mouse to the LCM, and connect the LCM to the three hosts.
Step 3: Install Linux and Middleware
To say I use Linux on a daily basis is an understatement. Linux runs on my Android-based cell phone, my laptop at work, my personal computers at home, most of our IBM storage devices from SAN Volume Controller to XIV to SONAS, and even on my Tivo at home which recorded my televised episodes of Jeopardy!
For this project, you can use any modern Linux distribution that supports KVM. IBM Watson used Novel SUSE Linux Enterprise Server [SLES 11]. Alternatively, I can also recommend either Red Hat Enterprise Linux [RHEL 6] or Canonical [Ubuntu v10]. Each distribution of Linux comes in different orientations. Download the the 64-bit "ISO" files for each version, and burn them to CDs.
Graphical User Interface (GUI) oriented, often referred to as "Desktop" or "HPC-Head"
Command Line Interface (CLI) oriented, often referred to as "Server" or "HPC-Compute"
Guest OS oriented, to run in a Hypervisor such as KVM, Xen, or VMware. Novell calls theirs "Just Enough Operating System" [JeOS].
For this version for personal use, I have chosen a [multitier architecture], sometimes referred to as an "n-tier" or "client/server" architecture.
Host 1 - Presentation Server
For the Human-Computer Interface [HCI], the IBM Watson received categories and clues as text files via TCP/IP, had a [beautiful avatar] representing a planet with 42 circles streaking across in orbit, and text-to-speech synthesizer to respond in a computerized voice. Your implementation will not be this sophisticated. Instead, we will have a simple text-based Query Panel web interface accessible from a browser like Mozilla Firefox.
Host 1 will be your Presentation Server, the connection to your keyboard, video monitor and mouse. Install the "Desktop" or "HPC Head Node" version of Linux. Install [Apache Web Server and Tomcat] to run the Query Panel. Host 1 will also be your "programming" host. Install the [Java SDK] and the [Eclipse IDE for Java Developers]. If you always wanted to learn Java, now is your chance. There are plenty of books on Java if that is not the language you normally write code.
While three little systems doesn't constitute an "Extreme Cloud" environment, you might like to try out the "Extreme Cloud Administration Tool", called [xCat], which was used to manage the many servers in IBM Watson.
Host 2 - Business Logic Server
Host 2 will be driving most of the "thinking". Install the "Server" or "HPC Compute Node" version of Linux. This will be running a server virtualization Hypervisor. I recommend KVM, but you can probably run Xen or VMware instead if you like.
Host 3 - File and Database Server
Host 3 will hold your information sources, indices, and databases. Install the "Server" or "HPC Compute Node" version of Linux. This will be your NFS server, which might come up as a question during the installation process.
Technically, you could run different Linux distributions on different machines. For example, you could run "Ubuntu Desktop" for host 1, "RHEL 6 Server" for host 2, and "SLES 11" for host 3. In general, Red Hat tries to be the best "Server" platform, and Novell tries to make SLES be the best "Guest OS".
My advice is to pick a single distribution and use it for everything, Desktop, Server, and Guest OS. If you are new to Linux, choose Ubuntu. There are plenty of books on Linux in general, and Ubuntu in particular, and Ubuntu has a helpful community of volunteers to answer your questions.
Step 4: Download Information Sources
You will need some documents for your implementation to process.
IBM Watson used a modified SONAS to provide a highly-available clustered NFS server. For this version, we won't need that level of sophistication. Configure Host 3 as the NFS server, and Hosts 1 and 2 as NFS clients. See the [Linux-NFS-HOWTO] for details. To optimize performance, host 3 will be the "official master copy", but we will use a Linux utility called rsync to copy the information sources over to the hosts 1 and 2. This allows the task engines on those hosts to access local disk resources during question-answer processing.
We will also need a relational database. You won't need a high-powered IBM DB2. Your implementation can do fine with something like [Apache Derby] which is the open source version of IBM CloudScape from its Informix acquisition. Set up Host 3 as the Derby Network Server, and Hosts 1 and 2 as Derby Network Clients. For more about structured content in relational databases, see my post [IBM Watson - Business Intelligence, Data Retrieval and Text Mining].
Linux includes a utility called wget which allows you to download content from the Internet to your system. What documents you decide to download is up to you, based on what types of questions you want answered. For example, if you like Literature, check out the vast resources at [FullBooks.com]. You can automate the download by writing a shell script or program to invoke wget to all the places you want to fetch data from. Rename the downloaded files to something unique, as often they are just "index.html". For more on wget utility, see [IBM Developerworks].
Step 5: The Query Panel - Parsing the Question
Next, we need to parse the question and have some sense of what is being asked for. For this we will use [OpenNLP] for Natural Language Processing, and [OpenCyc] for the conceptual logic reasoning. See Doug Lenat presenting this 75-minute video [Computers versus Common Sense]. To learn more, see the [CYC 101 Tutorial].
Unlike Jeopardy! where Alex Trebek provides the answer and contestants must respond with the correct question, we will do normal Question-and-Answer processing. To keep things simple, we will limit questions to the following formats:
Who is ...?
Where is ...?
When did ... happen?
What is ...?
Host 1 will have a simple Query Panel web interface. At the top, a place to enter your question, and a "submit" button, and a place at the bottom for the answer to be shown. When "submit" is pressed, this will pass the question to "main.jsp", the Java servlet program that will start the Question-answering analysis. Limiting the types of questions that can be posed will simplify hypothesis generation, reduce the candidate set and evidence evaluation, allowing the analytics processing to continue in reasonable time.
Step 6: Unstructured Information Management Architecture
The "heart and soul" of IBM Watson is Unstructured Information Management Architecture [UIMA]. IBM developed this, then made it available to the world as open source. It is maintained by the [Apache Software Foundation], and overseen by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards [OASIS].
Basically, UIMA lets you scan unstructured documents, gleam the important points, and put that into a database for later retrieval. In the graph above, DBs means 'databases' and KBs means 'knowledge bases'. See the 4-minute YouTube video of [IBM Content Analytics], the commercial version of UIMA.
Starting from the left, the Collection Reader selects each document to process, and creates an empty Common Analysis Structure (CAS) which serves as a standardized container for information. This CAS is passed to Analysis Engines , composed of one or more Annotators which analyze the text and fill the CAS with the information found. The CAS are passed to CAS Consumers which do something with the information found, such as enter an entry into a database, update an index, or update a vote count.
(Note: This point requires, what we in the industry call a small matter of programming, or [SMOP]. If you've always wanted to learn Java programming, XML, and JDBC, you will get to do plenty here. )
If you are not familiar with UIMA, consider this [UIMA Tutorial].
Step 7: Parallel Processing
People have asked me why IBM Watson is so big. Did we really need 2,880 cores of processing power? As a supercomputer, the 80 TeraFLOPs of IBM Watson would place it only in 94th place on the [Top 500 Supercomputers]. While IBM Watson may be the [Smartest Machine on Earth], the most powerful supercomputer at this time is the Tianhe-1A with more than 186,000 cores, capable of 2,566 TeraFLOPs.
To determine how big IBM Watson needed to be, the IBM Research team ran the DeepQA algorithm on a single core. It took 2 hours to answer a single Jeopardy question! Let's look at the performance data:
Number of cores
Time to answer one Jeopardy question
Single IBM Power750 server
< 4 minutes
Single rack (10 servers)
< 30 seconds
IBM Watson (90 servers)
< 3 seconds
The old adage applies, [many hands make for light work]. The idea is to divide-and-conquer. For example, if you wanted to find a particular street address in the Manhattan phone book, you could dispatch fifty pages to each friend and they could all scan those pages at the same time. This is known as "Parallel Processing" and is how supercomputers are able to work so well. However, not all algorithms lend well to parallel processing, and the phrase [nine women can't have a baby in one month] is often used to remind us of this.
Fortuantely, UIMA is designed for parallel processing. You need to install UIMA-AS for Asynchronous Scale-out processing, an add-on to the base UIMA Java framework, supporting a very flexible scale-out capability based on JMS (Java Messaging Services) and ActiveMQ. We will also need Apache Hadoop, an open source implementation used by Yahoo Search engine. Hadoop has a "MapReduce" engine that allows you to divide the work, dispatch pieces to different "task engines", and the combine the results afterwards.
Host 2 will run Hadoop and drive the MapReduce process. Plan to have three KVM guests on Host 1, four on Host 2, and three on Host 3. That means you have 10 task engines to work with. These task engines can be deployed for Content Readers, Analysis Engines, and CAS Consumers. When all processing is done, the resulting votes will be tabulated and the top answer displayed on the Query Panel on Host 1.
Step 8: Testing
To simplify testing, use a batch processing approach. Rather than entering questions by hand in the Query Panel, generate a long list of questions in a file, and submit for processing. This will allow you to fine-tune the environment, optimize for performance, and validate the answers returned.
There you have it. By the time you get your implementation fully operational, you will have learned a lot of useful skills, including Linux administration, Ethernet networking, NFS file system configuration, Java programming, UIMA text mining analysis, and MapReduce parallel processing. Hopefully, you will also gain an appreciation for how difficult it was for the IBM Research team to accomplish what they had for the Grand Challenge on Jeopardy! Not surprisingly, IBM Watson is making IBM [as sexy to work for as Apple, Google or Facebook], all of which started their business in a garage or a basement with a system as small as this version for personal use.
From New York, Rolf went to London, Paris, Madrid, Morocco, Cairo, South Africa, Bangkok Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and then back to United States. I was hoping to run into him while I was in Australia and New Zealand last month, but our schedules did not line up.
Travelingwithout baggage is more than just a convenience, it is a metaphor for the philosophy that we should keep only what we need, and leave behind what we don't. This was the approach taken by IBM in the design of the IBM Storwize V7000 midrange disk system.
The IBM Storwize V7000 disk system consists of 2U enclosures. Controller enclosures have dual-controllers and drives. Expansion enclosures have just drives. Enclosures can have either 24 smaller form factor (SFF) 2.5-inch drives, or twelve larger 3.5-inch drives. A controller enclosure can be connected up to nine expansion enclosures.
The drives are all connected via 6 Gbps SAS, and come in a variety of speeds and sizes: 300GB Solid-State Drive (SSD); 300GB/450GB/600GB high-speed 10K RPM; and 2TB low-speed 7200 RPM drives. The 12-bay enclosures can be intermixed with 24-bay enclosures on the same system, and within an enclosure different speeds and sizes can be intermixed. A half-rack system (20U) could hold as much as 480TB of raw disk capacity.
This new system, freshly designed entirely within IBM, competes directly against systems that carry a lot of baggage, including the HDS AMS, HP EVA, an EMC CLARiiON CX4 systems. Instead, we decided to keep the what we wanted from our other successful IBM products.
Inspired by our successful XIV storage system, IBM has developed a web-based GUI that focuses on ease-of-use. This GUI uses the latest HTML5 and dojo widgets to provide an incredible user experience.
Borrowed from our IBM DS8000 high-end disk systems, state-of-the-art device adapters provide 6 Gbps SAS connectivity with a variety of RAID levels: 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10.
From our SAN Volume Controller, the embedded [ SVC 6.1 firmware] provides all of the features and functions normally associated with enterprise-class systems, including Easy Tier sub-LUN automated tiering between Solid-State Drives and Spinning disk, thin provisioning, external disk virtualization, point-in-time FlashCopy, disk mirroring, built-in migration capability, and long-distance synchronous and asynchronous replication.
Finally, the various "internal NDA" that kept me from publishing this sooner have expired, so now I have the long-awaited [Inside System Storage: Volume II], documenting IBM's transformation in its storage strategy, including behind-the-scenes commentary about IBM's acquisitions of XIV and Diligent. Available initially in paperback form. I am still working on the hard cover and eBook editions.
For those who have not yet read my first book, Inside System Storage: Volume I, it is still available from my publisher Lulu, in [hard cover], [paperback] and [eBook] editions.
IBM System Storage DS8800
A lesson IBM learned long ago was not to make radical changes to high-end disk systems, as clients who run mission-critical applications are more concerned about reliability, availability and serviceability than they are performance or functionality. Shipping any product before it was ready meant painfully having to fix the problems in the field instead.
(EMC apparently is learning this same lesson now with their VMAX disk system. Their Engenuity code from Symmetrix DMX4 was ported over to new CLARiiON-based hardware. With several hundred boxes in the field, they have already racked up over 150 severity 1 problems, roughly half of these resulted in data loss or unavailability issues. For the sake of our mutual clients that have both IBM servers and EMC disk, I hope they get their act together soon.)
To avoid this, IBM made incremental changes to the successful design and architecture of its predecessors. The new DS8800 shares 85 percent of the stable microcode from the DS8700 system. Functions like Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, and Metro/Global Mirror, are compatible with all of the previous models of the DS8000 series, as well as previous models of the IBM Enterprise Storage Server (ESS) line.
The previous models of DS8000 series were designed to take in cold air from both front and back, and route the hot air out the top, known as chimney design. However, many companies are re-arranging their data centers into separate cold aisles and hot aisles. The new DS8800 has front-to-back cooling to help accommodate this design.
My colleague Curtis Neal would call the rest of this a "BFD" announcement, which of course stands for "Bigger, Faster and Denser". The new DS8800 scales-up to more drives than its DS8700 predecessor, and can scale-out from a single-frame 2-way system to a multi-frame 4-way system. IBM has upgraded to faster 5GHz POWER6+ processors, with dual-core 8 Gbps FC and FICON host adapters, 8 Gbps device adapters, and 6 Gbps SAS connectivity to smaller form factor (SFF) 2.5-inch SAS drives. IBM Easy Tier will provide sub-LUN automated tiering between Solid-State Drives and spinning disk. The denser packaging with SFF drives means that we can pack over 1000 drives in only three frames, compared to five frames required for the DS8700.
The [IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller] software release v6.1 brings Easy Tier sub-LUN automated tiering to the rest of the world. IBM Easy Tier moves the hottest, most active extents up to Solid-State Drives (SSD) and moves the coldest, least active down to spinning disk. This works whether the SSD is inside the SVC 2145-CF8 nodes, or in the managed disk pool.
Tired of waiting for EMC to finally deliver FAST v2 for your VMAX? It has been 18 months since they first announced that someday they would have sub-LUN automatic tiering. What is taking them so long? Why not virtualize your VMAX with SVC, and you can have it sooner!
SVC 6.1 also upgrades to a sexy new web-based GUI, which like the one for the IBM Storwize V7000, is based on the latest HTML5 and dojo widget standards. Inspired by the popular GUI from the IBM XIV Storage System, this GUI has greatly improved ease-of-use.
Happy Winter Solstice everyone! The Mayan calendar flipped over yesterday, and everything continued as normal.
The next date to watch out for is ... drumroll please ... April 8, 2014. This is the date Microsoft has decided to [drop support for Windows XP].
While many large corporations are actively planning to get off Windows XP, there are still many homes and individuals that are running on this platform.
When [Windows XP] was introduced in 2001, it could support systems with as little as 64MB of RAM. Nowadays, the latest versions of Windows now requires a minimum of 1GB for 32-bit systems, with 2GB or 3GB recommended.
That leaves Windows XP users on older hardware few choices:
Continue to run Windows XP, but without support (and hope for the best)
Upgrade their hardware with more RAM (and possibly more disk space) needed to run a newer level of Windows
Install a different operating system like Linux
Put the hardware in the recycle bin, and buy a new computer
Here is a personal example. A long time ago, I gave my sister a Thinkpad R31 laptop so that she could work from home. When she got a newer one, she passed this down to her daughter for doing homework. When my neice got a newer one, she passed this old laptop to her grandma.
Grandma is fairly happy with her modern PC running Windows XP. She plays all kinds of games, scans photographs, sends emails, listens to music on iTunes, and even uses Skype to talk to relatives. Her problem is that this PC is located upstairs, in her bedroom, and she wanted something portable that she could play music downstairs when she is playing cards with her friends.
"Why not use the laptop you have?" I asked. Her response: "It runs very slow. Perhaps it has a virus. Can you fix that?" I was up for the challenge, so I agreed.
(The Challenge: Update the Thinkpad R31 so that grandma can simply turn it on, launch iTunes or similar application, and just press a "play" button to listen to her music. It will be plugged in to an electrical outlet wherever she takes it, and she already has her collection of MP3 music files. My hope is to have something that is (a) simple to use, (b) starts up quickly, and (c) will not require a lot of on-going maintenance issues.)
Here are the relevant specifications of the Thinkpad R31 laptop:
The system was pre-installed with Windows XP, but was terribly down-level. I updated to Windows XP SP3 level, downloaded the latest anti-virus signatures, and installed iTunes. A full scan found no viruses. All this software takes up 14GB, leaving less than 6GB for MP3 music files.
The time it took from hitting the "Power-on" button to hearing the first note of music was over 14 minutes! Unacceptable!
If you can suggest what my next steps should be, please comment below or send me an email!
Have you ever noticed that sometimes two movies come out that seem eerily similar to each other, released by different studios within months or weeks of each other? My sister used to review film scripts for a living, she would read ten of them and have to pick her top three favorites, and tells me that scripts for nearly identical concepts came all the time. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
1994: [Wyatt Earp] and [Tombstone] were Westerns recounting the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tombstone, Arizona is near Tucson, and the gunfight is recreated fairly often for tourists.
1998: [Armageddon] and [Deep Impact] were a pair of disaster movies dealing with a large rock heading to destroy all life on earth. I was in Mazatlan, Mexico to see the latter, dubbed in Spanish as "Impacto Profundo".
1998: [A Bug's Life] and [Antz] were computer-animated tales of the struggle of one individual ant in an ant colony.
2000: [Mission to Mars] and [Red Planet] were sci-fi pics exploring what a manned mission to our neighboring planet might entail.
This is different than copy-cat movies that are re-made or re-imagined many years later based on the previous successes of an original. Ever since my blog post [VPLEX: EMC's Latest Wheel is Round] in 2010 comparing EMC's copy-cat product that came our seven years after IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC), I've noticed EMC doesn't talk about VPLEX that much anymore.
This week, IBM announced [XIV Gen3 Solid-State Drive support] and our friends over at EMC announced [VFCache SSD-based PCIe cards]. Neither of these should be a surprise to anyone who follows the IT industry, as IBM had announced its XIV Gen3 as "SSD-Ready" last year specifically for this purpose, and EMC has been touting its "Project Lightning" since last May.
Fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC has a blog post [VFCache means Very Fast Cache indeed] that provides additional detail. Chuck claims the VFCache is faster than popular [Fusion-IO PCIe cards] available for IBM servers. I haven't seen the performance spec sheets, but typically SSD is four to five times slower than the DRAM cache used in the XIV Gen3. The VFCache's SSD is probably similar in performance to the SSD supported in the IBM XIV Gen3, DS8000, DS5000, SVC, N series, and Storwize V7000 disk systems.
Nonetheless, I've been asked my opinions on the comparison between these two announcements, as they both deal with improving application performance through the use of Solid-State Drives as an added layer of read cache.
(FTC Disclosure: I am both a full-time employee and stockholder of the IBM Corporation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this blog post as a paid celebrity endorsement of IBM servers and storage systems. This blog post is based on my interpretation and opinions of publicly-available information, as I have no hands-on access to any of these third-party PCIe cards. I have no financial interest in EMC, Fusion-IO, Texas Memory Systems, or any other third party vendor of PCIe cards designed to fit inside IBM servers, and I have not been paid by anyone to mention their name, brands or products on this blog post.)
The solutions are different in that IBM XIV Gen3 the SSD is "storage-side" in the external storage device, and EMC VFCache is "server-side" as a PCI Express [PCIe] card. Aside from that, both implement SSD as an additional read cache layer in front of spinning disk to boost performance. Neither is an industry first, as IBM has offered server-side SSD since 2007, and IBM and EMC have offered storage-side SSD in many of their other external storage devices. The use of SSD as read cache has already been available in IBM N series using [Performance Accelerator Module (PAM)] cards.
IBM has offered cooperative caching synergy between its servers and its storage arrays for some time now. The predecessor to today's POWER7-based were the iSeries i5 servers that used PCI-X IOP cards with cache to connect i5/OS applications to IBM's external disk and tape systems. To compete in this space, EMC created their own PCI-X cards to attach their own disk systems. In 2006, IBM did the right thing for our clients and fostered competition by entering in a [Landmark agreement] with EMC to [license the i5 interfaces]. Today, VIOS on IBM POWER systems allows a much broader choice of disk options for IBM i clients, including the IBM SVC, Storwize V7000 and XIV storage systems.
Can a little SSD really help performance? Yes! An IBM client running a [DB2 Universal Database] cluster across eight System x servers was able to replace an 800-drive EMC Symmetrix by putting eight SSD Fusion-IO cards in each server, for a total of 64 Solid-State drives, saving money and improving performance. DB2 has the Data Partitioning Feature that has multi-system DB2 configurations using a Grid-like architecture similar to how XIV is designed. Most IBM System x and BladeCenter servers support internal SSD storage options, and many offer PCIe slots for third-party SSD cards. Sadly, you can't do this with a VFCache card, since you can have only one VFCache card in each server, the data is unprotected, and only for ephemeral data like transaction logs or other temporary data. With multiple Fusion-IO cards in an IBM server, you can configure a RAID rank across the SSD, and use it for persistent storage like DB2 databases.
Here then is my side-by-side comparison:
IBM XIV Gen3 SSD Caching
Selected x86-based models of Cisco UCS, Dell PowerEdge, HP ProLiant DL, and IBM xSeries and System x servers
All of these, plus any other blade or rack-optimized server currently supported by XIV Gen3, including Oracle SPARC, HP Titanium, IBM POWER systems, and even IBM System z mainframes running Linux
Operating System support
Linux RHEL 5.6 and 5.7, VMware vSphere 4.1 and 5.0, and Windows 2008 x64 and R2.
All of these, plus all the other operating systems supported by XIV Gen3, including AIX, IBM i, Solaris, HP-UX, and Mac OS X
FCP and iSCSI
Vendor-supplied driver required on the server
Yes, the VFCache driver must be installed to use this feature.
No, IBM XIV Gen3 uses native OS-based multi-pathing drivers.
External disk storage systems required
None, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so in theory the benefits are the same whether you use this VFCache card in front of EMC storage or IBM storage
XIV Gen3 is required, as the SSD slots are not available on older models of IBM XIV.
Shared disk support
No, VFCache has to be disabled and removed for vMotion to take place.
Yes! XIV Gen3 SSD caching shared disk supports VMware vMotion and Live Partition Mobility.
Support for multiple servers
An advantage of the XIV Gen3 SSD caching approach is that the cache can be dynamically allocated to the busiest data from any server or servers.
Support for active/active server clusters
Aware of changes made to back-end disk
No, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so any changes to the data on the box itself are not communicated back to the VFCache card itself to invalidate the cache contents.
None identified. However, VFCache only caches blocks 64KB or smaller, so any sequential processing with larger blocks will bypass the VFCache.
Yes! XIV algorithms detect sequential access and avoid polluting the SSD with these blocks of data.
Number of SSD supported
One, which seems odd as IBM supports multiple Fusion-IO cards for its servers. However, this is not really a single point of failure (SPOF) as an application experiencing a VFCache failure merely drops down to external disk array speed, no data is lost since it is only read cache.
6 to 15 (one per XIV module) for high availability.
Pin data in SSD cache
Yes, using split-card mode, you can designate a portion of the 300GB to serve as Direct-attached storage (DAS). All data written to the DAS portion will be kept in SSD. However, since only one card is supported per server and the data is unprotected, this should only be used for ephemeral data like logs and temp files.
No, there is no option to designate an XIV Gen3 volume to be SSD-only. Consider using Fusion-IO PCIe card as a DAS alternative, or another IBM storage system for that requirement.
Pre-sales Estimating tools
Yes! CDF and Disk Magic tools are available to help cost-justify the purchase of SSD based on workload performance analysis.
IBM has the advantage that it designs and manufactures both servers and storage, and can design optimal solutions for our clients in that regard.
Wrapping up my coverage of the annual [2010 System Storage Technical University], I attended what might be perhaps the best session of the conference. Jim Nolting, IBM Semiconductor Manufacturing Engineer, presented the new IBM zEnterprise mainframe, "A New Dimension in Computing", under the Federal track.
The zEnterprises debunks the "one processor fits all" myth. For some I/O-intensive workloads, the mainframe continues to be the most cost-effective platform. However, there are other workloads where a memory-rich Intel or AMD x86 instance might be the best fit, and yet other workloads where the high number of parallel threads of reduced instruction set computing [RISC] such as IBM's POWER7 processor is more cost-effective. The IBM zEnterprise combines all three processor types into a single system, so that you can now run each workload on the processor that is optimized for that workload.
IBM zEnterprise z196 Central Processing Complex (CPC)
Let's start with the new mainframe z196 central processing complex (CPC). Many thought this would be called the z11, but that didn't happen. Basically, the z196 machine has a maximum 96 cores versus z10's 64 core maximum, and each core runs 5.2GHz instead of z10's cores running at 4.7GHz. It is available in air-cooled and water-cooled models. The primary operating system that runs on this is called "z/OS", which when used with its integrated UNIX System Services subsystem, is fully UNIX-certified. The z196 server can also run z/VM, z/VSE, z/TPF and Linux on z, which is just Linux recompiled for the z/Architecture chip set. In my June 2008 post [Yes, Jon, there is a mainframe that can help replace 1500 servers], I mentioned the z10 mainframe had a top speed of nearly 30,000 MIPS (Million Instructions per Second). The new z196 machine can do 50,000 MIPS, a 60 percent increase!
The z196 runs a hypervisor called PR/SM that allows the box to be divided into dozens of logical partitions (LPAR), and the z/VM operating system can also act as a hypervisor running hundreds or thousands of guest OS images. Each core can be assigned a specialty engine "personality": GP for general processor, IFL for z/VM and Linux, zAAP for Java and XML processing, and zIIP for database, communications and remote disk mirroring. Like the z9 and z10, the z196 can attach to external disk and tape storage via ESCON, FICON or FCP protocols, and through NFS via 1GbE and 10GbE Ethernet.
IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX)
There is a new frame called the zBX that basically holds two IBM BladeCenter chassis, each capable of 14 blades, so total of 28 blades per zBX frame. For now, only select blade servers are supported inside, but IBM plans to expand this to include more as testing continues. The POWER-based blades can run native AIX, IBM's other UNIX operating system, and the x86-based blades can run Linux-x86 workloads, for example. Each of these blade servers can run a single OS natively, or run a hypervisor to have multiple guest OS images. IBM plans to look into running other POWER and x86-based operating systems in the future.
If you are already familiar with IBM's BladeCenter, then you can skip this paragraph. Basically, you have a chassis that holds 14 blades connected to a "mid-plane". On the back of the chassis, you have hot-swappable modules that snap into the other side of the mid-plane. There are modules for FCP, FCoE and Ethernet connectivity, which allows blades to talk to each other, as well as external storage. BladeCenter Management modules serve as both the service processor as well as the keyboard, video and mouse Local Console Manager (LCM). All of the IBM storage options available to IBM BladeCenter apply to zBX as well.
Besides general purpose blades, IBM will offer "accelerator" blades that will offload work from the z196. For example, let's say an OLAP-style query is issued via SQL to DB2 on z/OS. In the process of parsing the complicated query, it creates a Materialized Query Table (MQT) to temporarily hold some data. This MQT contains just the columnar data required, which can then be transferred to a set of blade servers known as the Smart Analytics Optimizer (SAO), then processes the request and sends the results back. The Smart Analytics Optimizer comes in various sizes, from small (7 blades) to extra large (56 blades, 28 in each of two zBX frames). A 14-blade configuration can hold about 1TB of compressed DB2 data in memory for processing.
IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager
You can have up to eight z196 machines and up to four zBX frames connected together into a monstrously large system. There are two internal networks. The Inter-ensemble data network (IEDN) is a 10GbE that connects all the OS images together, and can be further subdivided into separate virtual LANs (VLAN). The Inter-node management network (INMN) is a 1000 Mbps Base-T Ethernet that connects all the host servers together to be managed under a single pane of glass known as the Unified Resource Manager. It is based on IBM Systems Director.
By integrating service management, the Unified Resource Manager can handle Operations, Energy Management, Hypervisor Management, Virtual Server Lifecycle Management, Platform Performance Management, and Network Management, all from one place.
IBM Rational Developer for System z Unit Test (RDz)
But what about developers and testers, such as those Independent Software Vendors (ISV) that produce mainframe software. How can IBM make their lives easier?
Phil Smith on z/Journal provides a history of [IBM Mainframe Emulation]. Back in 2007, three emulation options were in use in various shops:
Open Mainframe, from Platform Solutions, Inc. (PSI)
FLEX-ES, from Fundamental Software, Inc.
Hercules, which is an open source package
None of these are viable options today. Nobody wanted to pay IBM for its Intellectual Property on the z/Architecture or license the use of the z/OS operating system. To fill the void, IBM put out an officially-supported emulation environment called IBM System z Professional Development Tool (zPDT) available to IBM employees, IBM Business Partners and ISVs that register through IBM Partnerworld. To help out developers and testers who work at clients that run mainframes, IBM now offers IBM Rational Developer for System z Unit Test, which is a modified version of zPDT that can run on a x86-based laptop or shared IBM System x server. Based on the open source [Eclipse IDE], the RDz emulates GP, IFL, zAAP and zIIP engines on a Linux-x86 base. A four-core x86 server can emulate a 3-engine mainframe.
With RDz, a developer can write code, compile and unit test all without consuming any mainframe MIPS. The interface is similar to Rational Application Developer (RAD), and so similar skills, tools and interfaces used to write Java, C/C++ and Fortran code can also be used for JCL, CICS, IMS, COBOL and PL/I on the mainframe. An IBM study ["Benchmarking IDE Efficiency"] found that developers using RDz were 30 percent more productive than using native z/OS ISPF. (I mention the use of RAD in my post [Three Things to do on the IBM Cloud]).
What does this all mean for the IT industry? First, the zEnterprise is perfectly positioned for [three-tier architecture] applications. A typical example could be a client-facing web-server on x86, talking to business logic running on POWER7, which in turn talks to database on z/OS in the z196 mainframe. Second, the zEnterprise is well-positioned for government agencies looking to modernize their operations and significantly reduce costs, corporations looking to consolidate data centers, and service providers looking to deploy public cloud offerings. Third, IBM storage is a great fit for the zEnterprise, with the IBM DS8000 series, XIV, SONAS and Information Archive accessible from both z196 and zBX servers.
Now an avid reader of my blog has brought this to my attention. Apparently,
EMC has been showing customers a presentation
[Accelerating Storage Transformation with VMAX and VPLEX] with false and misleading comparison claims between IBM DS8000, HDS VSP and EMC VMAX 40K disk system performance.
(FTC Disclosure: This would be a good time to remind my readers that I work for IBM and own IBM stock. I do not endorse any of the EMC or HDS products mentioned in this post, and have no financial affiliation or investments directly with either EMC nor HDS. I am basing my information solely on the presentation posted on the internet and other sources publicly available, and not on any misrepresentations from EMC speakers at the various conferences where these charts might have been shown.)
The problem with misinformation is that it is not always obvious. The EMC presentation is quite pretty and professional-looking. It is the typical slick, attention-getting, low-content, over-simplified marketing puffery you have come to expect from EMC. There are two slides in particular that I have issue with.
This first graphic implies that IBM and HDS are nearly tied in performance, but that EMC VMAX 40K has nearly triple that bandwidth. Overall the slide has very little detail. That makes it difficult to determine what exactly is being claimed and whether a fair comparison is being made.
The title claims that VMAX 40K is "#1 in High Bandwidth Apps". Only three disk systems are shown so the claim appears to be relative to only the three systems. The wording "High Bandwidth Apps" is confusing considering the cited numbers are for disk systems and no application is identified. By comparison, IBM SONAS can drive up to 105 GB/sec sequential bandwidth, nearly double what EMC claims for its VMAX 40K, so EMC is certainly not even close to #1.
Is the workload random or sequential? That is not easy to determine. The use of "GB/s" along with the large block size of 128KB implies the I/O workload is sequential, which is great for some workloads like high performance computing, technical computing and video broadcasts. Random workloads, on the other hand, are usually measured in I/Os per second (IOPS) with a block size ranging 4KB to 64KB. (I am assuming the 128K blocks refers to 128KB block size, and not reading the same block of cache 128,000 times.)
The slide states "Maximum Sustainable RRH Bandwidth 128K Blocks". The acronym "RRH" is not defined; but I suspect this refers to "random read hits". For random workloads, 100 percent random read hits from cache represents one corner of the infamous "four corners" test. Real-world workloads have a mix of reads and writes, and a mix of cache hits and cache misses. It is also unclear whether the hits are from standard data cache or from internal buffers in adapters (perhaps accessing the same blocks repeatedly) or something else. So is this really for a random workload, or a sequential workload?
(The term "Hitachi Math" was coined by an EMC blogger precisely to slam Hitachi Data Systems for their blatant use of four-corners results, claiming that spouting ridiculously large, but equally unrealistic, 100 percent random read hit results don't provide any useful information. I agree. There are much better industry-standard benchmarks available, such as SPC-1 for random workloads, SPC-2 for sequential workloads, and even benchmarks for specific applications, that represent real-world IT environments. To shame HDS for their use of four-corners results, only for EMC themselves to use similar figures in their own presentation is truly hypocritical of them!)
The IBM system is identified as "DS8000". DS8000 is a generic family name that applies to multiple generations of systems first introduced in 2004. The specific model is not identified, but that is critical information. Is this a first generation DS8100, or the latest DS8800, or something in between?
The slide says "Full System Configs", but that is not defined and configuration details are not identified. Configuration details, also critical information in assessing system performance capabilities, are not specified. If the EMC box costs seven times more than IBM or HDS, would you really buy it to get 3x more performance? Is the EMC packed with the maximum amount of SSD? Were there any SSD in the IBM or HDS boxes to match?
The source of the claimed IBM DS8000 performance numbers is not identified. Did they run their own tests? While I cannot tell, the VMAX may have been configured with 64 Fibre Channel 8Gbps host connections. In that case each channel is theoretically capable of supporting about 800 MB/s at 100% channel utilization. Multiplying 64 x 800MB/s = 51.2GB/s, so did EMC just do the performance comparison on the back of a napkin, assuming there are no other bottlenecks in the system? Even then, I would not round up 51.2 to 52!
Response times were not identified. For random I/Os, response time is a very important metric. It is possible that the Symmetrix was operating with some resources at 100% utilization to get the highest GB/s result, but that would likely make I/O response times unacceptable for real-world random I/O workloads.
IBM and HDS have both published Storage Performance Council [SPC] industry-standard performance benchmarks. EMC has not published any SPC benchmarks for VMAX systems. If EMC is interested in providing customers with audited, detailed performance information along with detailed configuration information, all based on benchmarks designed to represent real-world workloads, EMC can always publish SPC benchmark results as IBM and other vendors have done. In past blog fights, EMC resorts to the excuse that SPC isn't perfect, but can they really argue that vague and unrealistic claims cited in its presentation are better?
The second graphic is so absurd, you would think it came directly from Larry Ellison at an Oracle OpenWorld keynote session. EMC is comparing a configuration with VMAX 40K plus an EMC VFCache host-side flash memory cache card to a configuration with an IBM and HDS disk system without host-side flash memory cache also configured. The comparison is clearly apples-to-oranges. Other disk system configuration details are also omitted.
FAST VP is EMC's name for its sub-volume drive tiering feature, comparable to IBM Easy Tier and Hitachi's Dynamic Tiering. The graph implies that IBM and HDS can only achieve a modest increment improvement from their sub-volume tiering. I beg to differ. I have seen various cases where a small amount of SSD on IBM DS8000 series can drastically improve performance 200 to 400 percent.
The "DBClassify" shown on the graph is a tool run as part of an EMC professional services offering called Database Performance Tiering Assessment, makes recommendations for storing various database objects on different drive tiers based on object usage and importance. Do you really need to pay for professional services? With IBM Easy Tier, you just turn it on, and it works. No analysis required, no tools, no professional services, and no additional charge!
VFCache is an optional product from EMC that currently has no integration whatsoever with VMAX. A fair comparison would have included a host-side flash memory cache (from any vendor) when the IBM or HDS storage system was configured. Or leave it out altogether and just focus on the sub-volume tiering comparison.
Keep in mind that EMC's VFCache supports only selected x86-based hosts. IBM has published a [Statement of Direction] indicating that it will also offer this for Power systems running AIX and Linux host-side flash memory cache integrated with DS8000 Easy Tier.
I feel EMC's claims about IBM DS8000 performance are vague and misleading. EMC appears to lack the kind of technical marketing integrity that IBM strives to attain.
Since EMC is not able or willing to publish fair and meaningful performance comparisons, it is up to me to set the record straight and point out EMC's failings in this matter.
Reminder: It's not to late to register for my Webcast "Solving the Storage Capacity Crisis" on Tuesday, September 25. See my blog post [Upcoming events in September] to register!
Can Structured Query Language [SQL] be considered a storage protocol?
Several months ago, I was asked to review a book on SQL, titled appropriately enough "The Complete Idiot's Guide to SQL", by Steven Holzner, Ph.D. As a published author myself, I get a lot of these requests, and I agreed in this case, given that SQL was invented by IBM, and is a good fundamental skill to have for Business Analytics and Database Management.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM but was not part of the SQL development team. I was provided a copy of this book for free to review it. I was not paid to mention this book, nor told what to write. I do not know the author personally nor anyone that works for his publicist. All of my opinions of the book in this blog post are my own.)
Despite an agreed-upon standard for SQL, each relational database management system (RDBMS) has decided to customize it for their own purposes. First, SQL can be quite wordy, so some RDBMS have made certain keywords optional. Second, RDBMS offer extra features by adding keywords or programming language extentions, options or parameters above and beyond what the SQL standard calls for. Third, the SQL standard has changed over the years, and some RDBMS have opted to keep some backward compatibility with their prior releases. Fourth, some RDBMS want to discourage people from easily porting code from one RDBMS to another, known in the industry as vendor lock-in.
Throughout my career, I have managed various databases, including Informix, DB2, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL Server, so I am quite familiar with the differences in SQL and the problems and implications that arise.
Most authors who want to write about SQL typically make a choice between (a) stick to the SQL standard, and expect the reader to customize the examples to their particular DBMS; or (b) stick to a single RDBMS implemenation, and offer examples that may not work on other RDBMS.
I found the book "The Complete Idiot's Guide to SQL" covered the basics quite well, but with an odd twist. The basics include creating databases and tables, defining columns, inserting and deleting rows, updating fields, and performing queries or joins. The odd twist is that Steven does not make the typical choice above, but rather shows how the various DBMS are different than standard SQL syntax, with actual working examples for different RDBMS.
You might be thinking to yourself that only an idiot would work in a place that had to require knowledge of multiple RDBMS. The sad truth is that most of the medium and large companies I speak to have two or more in production. This is either through acquisitions, or in some cases, individual business units or departments implementing their own via the [Shadow IT].
(For those who want to learn SQL and try out the examples in this book, IBM offers a free version of DB2 called [DB2-C Express] that runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and Solaris.)
Last week, while I was in Russia for the [Edge Comes to You] event, I was interviewed by a journalist from [Storage News] on various topics. One question stuck me as strange. He asked why I did not mention IBM's acquisition of Netezza in my keynote session about storage. I had to explain that Netezza was not in the IBM System Storage product line, it is in a different group, under Business Analytics, where it belongs.
While it is true that Netezza can store data, because it has storage components inside, the same could also be said about nearly every other piece of IT equipment, from servers with internal disk, to digital cameras, smart phones and portable music players. They can all be considered storage devices, but doing so would undermine what differentiates them from one another.
Which brings me back to my original question: Should we consider SQL to be a storage protocol? For the longest time, IT folks only considered block-based interfaces as storage protocols, then we added file-based interfaces like CIFS and NFS, and we also have object-based interfaces, such as IBM's Object Access Method (OAM) and the System Storage Archive Manager (SSAM) API. Could SQL interfaces be the next storage protocol?
Let me know what you think on this. Leave a comment below.
Tonight PBS plans to air Season 38, Episode 6 of NOVA, titled [Smartest Machine On Earth]. Here is an excerpt from the station listing:
"What's so special about human intelligence and will scientists ever build a computer that rivals the flexibility and power of a human brain? In "Artificial Intelligence," NOVA takes viewers inside an IBM lab where a crack team has been working for nearly three years to perfect a machine that can answer any question. The scientists hope their machine will be able to beat expert contestants in one of the USA's most challenging TV quiz shows -- Jeopardy, which has entertained viewers for over four decades. "Artificial Intelligence" presents the exclusive inside story of how the IBM team developed the world's smartest computer from scratch. Now they're racing to finish it for a special Jeopardy airdate in February 2011. They've built an exact replica of the studio at its research lab near New York and invited past champions to compete against the machine, a big black box code -- named Watson after IBM's founder, Thomas J. Watson. But will Watson be able to beat out its human competition?"
Like most supercomputers, Watson runs the Linux operating system. The system runs 2,880 cores (90 IBM Power 750 servers, four sockets each, eight cores per socket) to achieve 80 [TeraFlops]. TeraFlops is the unit of measure for supercomputers, representing a trillion floating point operations. By comparison, Hans Morvec, principal research scientist at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) estimates that the [human brain is about 100 TeraFlops]. So, in the three seconds that Watson gets to calculate its response, it would have processed 240 trillion operations.
Several readers of my blog have asked for details on the storage aspects of Watson. Basically, it is a modified version of IBM Scale-Out NAS [SONAS] that IBM offers commercially, but running Linux on POWER instead of Linux-x86. System p expansion drawers of SAS 15K RPM 450GB drives, 12 drives each, are dual-connected to two storage nodes, for a total of 21.6TB of raw disk capacity. The storage nodes use IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS) to provide clustered NFS access to the rest of the system. Each Power 750 has minimal internal storage mostly to hold the Linux operating system and programs.
When Watson is booted up, the 15TB of total RAM are loaded up, and thereafter the DeepQA processing is all done from memory. According to IBM Research, "The actual size of the data (analyzed and indexed text, knowledge bases, etc.) used for candidate answer generation and evidence evaluation is under 1TB." For performance reasons, various subsets of the data are replicated in RAM on different functional groups of cluster nodes. The entire system is self-contained, Watson is NOT going to the internet searching for answers.
Continuing this week's coverage of IBM's 3Q announcements, today it's all about storage for our mainframe clients.
IBM System Storage DS8700
IBM is the leader in high-end disk attached to mainframes, with the IBM DS8700 being our latest model in a long series of successful products in this space. Here are some key features:
Full Disk Encryption (FDE), which I mentioned in my post [Different Meanings of the word "Protect"]. FDE are special 15K RPM Fibre Channel drives that include their own encryption chip, so that IBM DS8700 can encrypt the data at rest without impacting performance of reads or writes. The encryption keys are managed by IBM Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM).
Easy Tier, which I covered in my post [DS8700 Easy Tier Sub Lun Automatic Migration] which offers what EMC promised but has yet to deliver, the ability to have CKD volumes and FBA LUNs to straddle the fence between Solid State Drives (SSD) and spinning disk. For example, a 54GB CKD volume could have 4GB on SSD and the remaining 50GB on spinning drives. The hottest extents are moved automatically to SSD, and the coldest moved down to spinning disk. To learn more about Easy Tier, watch my [7-minute video] on IBM [Virtual Briefing Center].
z/OS Distributed Data Backup (zDDB), announced this week, provides the ability for a program running on z/OS to backup data written by distributed operating systems like Windows or UNIX stored in FBA format. In the past, to backup FBA LUNs involved a program like IBM Tivoli Storage Manager client to read the data natively, send it over Ethernet LAN to a TSM Server, which could run on the mainframe and use mainframe resources. This feature eliminates the Ethernet traffic by allowing a z/OS program to read the FBA blocks through standard FICON channels, which can then be written to z/OS disk or tape resources. Here is the [Announcement Letter] for more details.
One program that takes advantage of this new zDDB feature already is Innovation's [FDRSOS], which I pronounce "fudder sauce". If you are an existing FDRSOS customer, now is a good time to get rid of any EMC or HDS disk and replace with the new IBM DS8700 system.
IBM System Storage TS7680 ProtecTIER Deduplication Gateway for System z
When it comes to virtual tape libraries that attach to mainframes, the two main players are IBM TS7700 series and Oracle StorageTek Virtual Storage Manager (VSM). However, mainframe clients with StorageTek equipment are growing frustrated over Oracle's lack of commitment for mainframe-attachable storage. To make matters worse, Oracle recently missed a key delivery date for their latest enterprise tape drive.
What's new this week is that IBM now supports native IP-based asynchronous replication of virtual tapes at distance, from one TS7680 to another TS7680. This replaces the method of replication using the back end disk features. The problem with using disk replication is that all the virtual tapes will be copied over. Instead, the ProtecTIER administrator can decide which subset of virtual tapes should be replicated to the remote site, and that can reduce both storage requirements as well as bandwidth costs. See the [Announcement Letter] for more details.
Are you tired of hearing about Cloud Computing without having any hands-on experience? Here's your chance. IBM has recently launched its IBM Development and Test Cloud beta. This gives you a "sandbox" to play in. Here's a few steps to get started:
Generate a "key pair". There are two keys. A "public" key that will reside in the cloud, and a "private" key that you download to your personal computer. Don't lose this key.
Request an IP address. This step is optional, but I went ahead and got a static IP, so I don't have to type in long hostnames like "vm353.developer.ihost.com".
Request storage space. Again, this step is optional, but you can request a 50GB, 100GB and 200GB LUN. I picked a 200GB LUN. Note that each instance comes with some 10 to 30GB storage already. The advantage to a storage LUN is that it is persistent, and you can mount it to different instances.
Start an "instance". An "instance" is a virtual machine, pre-installed with whatever software you chose from the "asset catalog". These are Linux images running under Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) which is based on Linux's kernel virtual machine (KVM). When you start an instance, you get to decide its size (small, medium, or large), whether to use your static IP address, and where to mount your storage LUN. On the examples below, I had each instance with a static IP and mounted the storage LUN to /media/storage subdirectory. The process takes a few minutes.
So, now that you are ready to go, what instance should you pick from the catalog? Here are three examples to get you started:
IBM WebSphere sMASH Application Builder
Base OS server to run LAMP stack
Next, I decided to try out one of the base OS images. There are a lot of books on Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (LAMP) which represents nearly 70 percent of the web sites on the internet. This instance let's you install all the software from scratch. Between Red Hat and Novell SUSE distributions of Linux, Red Hat is focused on being the Hypervisor of choice, and SUSE is focusing on being the Guest OS of choice. Most of the images on the "asset catalog" are based on SLES 10 SP2. However, there was a base OS image of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 5.4, so I chose that.
To install software, you either have to find the appropriate RPM package, or download a tarball and compile from source. To try both methods out, I downloaded tarballs of Apache Web Server and PHP, and got the RPM packages for MySQL. If you just want to learn SQL, there are instances on the asset catalog with DB2 and DB2 Express-C already pre-installed. However, if you are already an expert in MySQL, or are following a tutorial or examples based on MySQL from a classroom textbook, or just want a development and test environment that matches what your company uses in production, then by all means install MySQL.
This is where my SSH client comes in handy. I am able to login to my instance and use "wget" to fetch the appropriate files. An alternative is to use "SCP" (also part of PuTTY) to do a secure copy from your personal computer up to the instance. You will need to do everything via command line interface, including editing files, so I found this [VI cheat sheet] useful. I copied all of the tarballs and RPMs on my storage LUN ( /media/storage ) so as not to have to download them again.
Compiling and configuring them is a different matter. By default, you login as an end user, "idcuser" (which stands for IBM Developer Cloud user). However, sometimes you need "root" level access. Use "sudo bash" to get into root level mode, and this allows you to put the files where they need to be. If you haven't done a configure/make/make install in awhile, here's your chance to relive those "glory days".
In the end, I was able to confirm that Apache, MySQL and PHP were all running correctly. I wrote a simple index.php that invoked phpinfo() to show all the settings were set correctly. I rebooted the instance to ensure that all of the services started at boot time.
Rational Application Developer over VDI
This last example, I started an instance pre-installed with Rational Application Developer (RAD), which is a full Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Java and J2EE applications. I used the "NX Client" to launch a virtual desktop image (VDI) which in this case was Gnome on SLES 10 SP2. You might want to increase the screen resolution on your personal computer so that the VDI does not take up the entire screen.
From this VDI, you can launch any of the programs, just as if it were your own personal computer. Launch RAD, and you get the familiar environment. I created a short Java program and launched it on the internal WebSphere Application Server test image to confirm it was working correctly.
If you are thinking, "This is too good to be true!" there is a small catch. The instances are only up and running for 7 days. After that, they go away, and you have to start up another one. This includes any files you had on the local disk drive. You have a few options to save your work:
Copy the files you want to save to your storage LUN. This storage LUN appears persistent, and continues to exist after the instance goes away.
Take an "image" of your "instance", a function provided in the IBM Developer and Test Cloud. If you start a project Monday morning, work on it all week, then on Friday afternoon, take an "image". This will shutdown your instance, and backup all of the files to your own personal "asset catalog" so that the next time you request an instance, you can chose that "image" as the starting point.
Another option is to request an "extension" which gives you another 7 days for that instance. You can request up to five unique instances running at the same time, so if you wanted to develop and test a multi-host application, perhaps one host that acts as the front-end web server, another host that does some kind of processing, and a third host that manages the database, this is all possible. As far as I can tell, you can do all the above from either a Windows, Mac or Linux personal computer.
Getting hands-on access to Cloud Computing really helps to understand this technology!
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.
If you store your VMware bits on external SAN or NAS-based disk storage systems, this post is for you. The subject of the post, VM Volumes, is a potential storage management game changer!
Fellow blogger Stephen Foskett mentioned VM Volumes in his [Introducing VMware vSphere Storage Features] presentation at IBM Edge 2012 conference. His session on VMware's storage features included VMware APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), VMware Array Storage Awareness (VASA), vCenter plug-ins, and a new concept he called "vVol", now more formally known as VM Volumes. This post provides a follow-up to this, describing the VM Volumes concepts, architecture, and value proposition.
"VM Volumes" is a future architecture that VMware is developing in collaboration with IBM and other major storage system vendors. So far, very little information about VM Volumes has been released. At VMworld 2012 Barcelona, VMware highlights VM Volumes for the first time and IBM demonstrates VM Volumes with the IBM XIV Storage System (more about this demo below). VM Volumes is worth your attention -- when it becomes generally available, everyone using storage arrays will have to reconsider their storage management practices in a VMware environment -- no exaggeration!
But enough drama. What is this all about?
(Note: for the sake of clarity, this post refers to block storage only. However, the VM Volumes feature applies to NAS systems as well. Special thanks to Yossi Siles and the XIV development team for their help on this post!)
The VM Volumes concept is simple: VM disks are mapped directly to special volumes on a storage array system, as opposed to storing VMDK files on a vSphere datastore.
The following images illustrate the differences between the two storage management paradigms.
You may still be asking yourself: bottom line, how will I benefit from VM Volumes?
Well, take a VM snapshot for example. With VM Volumes, vSphere can simply offload the operation by invoking a hardware snapshot of the hardware volume. This has significant implications:
VM-Granularity: Only the right VMs are copied (with datastores, backing up or cloning individual-VM portions of hardware snapshot of a datastore would require more complex configuration, tools and work)
Hardware Offload: No ESXi server resources are consumed
XIV advantage: With XIV, snapshots consume no space upfront and are completed instantly.
Here's the first takeaway: With VM Volumes, advanced storage services (which cost a lot when you buy a storage array), will become available at an individual VM level. In a cloud world, this means that applications can be provisioned easily with advanced storage services, such as snapshots and mirroring.
Now, let's take a closer look at another relevant scenario where VM Volumes will make a lot of difference - provisioning an application with special mirroring requirements:
VM Volumes case: The application is ordered via the private cloud portal. The requestor checks a box requesting an asynchronous mirror. He changes the default RPO for his needs. When the request is submitted, the process wraps up automatically: Volumes are created on one of the storage arrays, configured with a mirror and RPO exactly as specified. A few minutes later, the requestor receives an automatic mail pointing to the application virtual machine.
Datastores case #1: As may be expected, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does not exist. As a result, the automated workflow sets a pending status on the request, creates an urgent ticket to a VMware administrator and aborts. When the VMware admin handles that ticket, she re-assigns the ticket to the storage administrator, asking for a new volume which is mirrored with the special RPO, and mapped to the right ESXi cluster. The next day, the volume is created; the ticket is re-assigned to the storage admin, with the new LUN being pointed to. The VMware administrator follows and creates the datastore on top of it. Since the automated workflow was aborted, the admin re-assigns the ticket to the cloud administrator, who sometime later completes the application provisioning manually.
Datastores case #2: Luckily for the requestor, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does exist. However, that particular datastore is consuming space from a high performance XIV Gen3 system with SSD caching, while the application does not require that level of performance, so the workflow requires a storage administrator approval. The approval is given to save time, but the storage administrator opens a ticket for himself to create a new volume on another array, as well as a follow-up ticket for the VMware admin to create a new datastore using the new volume and migrate the application to the other datastore. In this case, provisioning was relatively rapid, but required manual follow up, involving the two administrators.
Here's the second takeaway: With VM Volumes, management is simplified, and end-to-end automation is much more applicable. The reason is that there are no datastores. Datastores physically group VMs that may otherwise be totally unrelated, and require close coordination between storage and VMware administrators.
Now, the above mainly focuses on the VMware or cloud administrator perspective. How does VM Volumes impact storage management?
VM's are the new hosts: Today, storage administrators have visibility of physical hosts in their management environment. In a non-virtualized environment, this visibility is very helpful. The storage administrator knows exactly which applications in a data center are storage-provisioned or affected by storage management operations because the applications are running on well-known hosts. However, in virtualized environments the association of an application to a physical host is temporary. To keep at least the same level of visibility as in physical environments, VMs should become part of the storage management environment, like hosts. Hosts are still interesting, for example to manage physical storage mapping, but without VM visibility, storage administrators will know less about their operation than they are used to, or need to. VM Volumes enables such visibility, because volumes are provided to individual VMs. The XIV VM Volumes demonstration at VMworld Barcelona, although experimental, shows a view of VM volumes, in XIV's management GUI.
Here's a screenshot:
That's not all!
Storage Profiles and Storage Containers: A Storage Profile is a vSphere specification of a set of storage services. A storage profile can include properties like thin or thick provisioning, mirroring definition, snapshot policy, minimum IOPS, etc.
Storage administrators define a portfolio of supported storage services, maintained as a set of storage profiles, and published (via VASA integration) to vSphere.
VMware or cloud administrators define the required storage profiles for specific applications
VMware and storage administrators need to coordinate the typical storage requirements and the automatically-available storage services. When a request to provision an application is made, the associated storage profiles are matched against the published set of available storage profiles. The matching published profiles will be used to create volumes, which will be bound to the application VMs. All that will happen automatically.
Note that when a VM is created today, a datastore must be specified. With VM Volumes, a new management entity called Storage Container (also known as Capacity Pool) replaces the use of datastore as a management object. Each Storage Container exposes a subset of the available storage profiles, as appropriate. The storage container also has a capacity quota.
Here are some more takeaways:
New way to interface vSphere and storage management: Storage administrators structure and publish storage services to vSphere via storage profiles and storage containers.
Automated provisioning, out of the box: The provisioning process automatically matches application-required storage profiles against storage profiles available from the specified storage containers. There is no need to build custom scripts and custom processes to automate storage provisioning to applications
The XIV advantage:
XIV services are very simple to define and publish. The typical number of available storage profiles would be low. It would also be easy to define application storage profiles.
XIV provides consistent high performance, up to very high capacity utilization levels, without any maintenance. As a result, automated provisioning (which inherently implies less human attention) will not create an elevated risk of reduced performance.
Note: A storage vendor VASA provider is required to support VM Volumes, storage profiles, storage containers and automated provisioning. The IBM Storage VASA provider runs as a standalone service that needs to be deployed on a server.
To summarize the VM Volumes value proposition:
Streamline cloud operation by providing storage services at VM and application level, enabling end-to-end provisioning automation, and unifying VMware and storage administration around volumes and VMs.
Increase storage array ROI, improve vSphere scalability and response time, and reduce cloud provisioning lag, by offloading VM-level provisioning, failover, backup, storage migration, storage space recycling, monitoring, and more, to the storage array, using advanced storage operations such as mirroring and snapshots.
Simplify the adoption of VM Volumes using XIV, with smaller and simpler sets of storage profiles. Apply XIV's supreme fast cloning to individual VMs, and keep automation risks at bay with XIV's consistent high performance.
Until you can get your hands on a VM Volumes-capable environment, the VMware and IBM developer groups will be collaborating and working hard to realize this game-changing feature. The above information is definitely expected to trigger your questions or comments, and our development teams are eager to learn from them and respond. Enter your comments below, and I will try to answer them, and help shape the next post on this subject. There's much more to be told.
A reader from New Zealand expressed concern some corporate bloggers were [using the earthquake for marketing]. He lost someone close to him in Christchurch, and is unable to reach a friend living in Japan, so I am sorry for his loss. I plan to be in Australia and New Zealand to teach a Top Gun class May 15-27, so hopefully I will be able to meet him in person when I am down there.
"Earmarking funds is a really good way of hobbling relief organizations and ensuring that they have to leave large piles of money unspent in one place while facing urgent needs in other places. ... Meanwhile, the smaller and less visible emergencies where NGOs can do the most good are left unfunded.
In the specific case of Japan, there's all the more reason not to donate money. Japan is a wealthy country which is responding to the disaster, among other things, by printing hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of new money."
Another reader mentioned that the last surviving American WW-II vet died the same week. WTF? IBM and Japan have been allies for quite a while now, and there is no reason to bring up past wars except to compare the scope and magnitude of the cleanup effort. (Update: Frank Buckles was the last surviving WW-I vet, but also served in WW-II).
Many readers felt that charity begins at home, and there are plenty of worthy causes right here in the USA to donate to instead. Inspired by last year's movie [Waiting for Superman], my girlfriend started a project called [Centers for My Super Stars] for her first grade class on DonorsChoose.org. For those not familiar with this website, DonorsChoose.org uses the cloud to connect school teachers in need of supplies with rich people to donate funds towards these projects. If you want to contribute to her project, [donate here].
"And speaking of class, there just happens to be a baseball team in Sendai, Japan. The Golden Eagles. Their stadium was severely damaged from the earthquake. Wouldn't you think some of them lug nuts who run American baseball would bring the Golden Eagles and their opponents over to the United States when the Japanese season starts -- play some games over here and raise money to help the Japanese? Wouldn't you think they could just once stop that national pastime stuff and help the international pastime?"
As you can see, different readers have different opinions on this. We are all on this world together, and both our economy and our ecology are more interconnected than you might think. Let's build a smarter planet.
Full VMware Vstorage API for Array Integration (VAAI). Back in 2008, VMware announced new vStorage APIs for its vSphere ESX hypervisor: vStorage API for Site Recovery Manager, vStorage API for Data Potection, vStorage API for Multipathing. Last July, VMware added a new API called vStorage API for Array Integration [VAAI] which offers three primitives:
Hardware-assisted Blocks zeroing. Sometimes referred to as "Write Same", this SCSI command will zero out a large section of blocks, presumably as part of a VMDK file. This can then be used to reclaim space on the XIV on thin-provisioned LUNs.
Hardware-assisted Copy. Make an XIV snapshot of data without any I/O on the server hardware.
Hardware-assisted locking. On mainframes, this is call Parallel Access Volumes (PAV). Instead of locking an entire LUN using standard SCSI reserve commands, this primitive allows an ESX host to lock just an individual block so as not to interfere with other hosts accessing other blocks on that same LUN.
Quality of Service (QoS) Performance Classes.
When XIV was first released, it treated all hosts and all data the same, even when deployed for a variety of different applications. This worked for some clients, such as [Medicare y Mucho Más]. They migrated their databases, file servers and email system from EMC CLARiiON to an IBM XIV Storage System. In conjunction with VMware, the XIV provides a highly flexible and scalable virtualized architecture, which enhances the company's business agility.
However, other clients were skeptical, and felt they needed additional "nobs" to prioritize different workloads. The new 10.2.4 microcode allows you to define four different "performance classes". This is like the door of a nightclub. All the regular people are waiting in a long line, but when a celebrity in a limo arrives, the bouncer unclips the cord, and lets the celebrity in. For each class, you provide IOPS and/or MB/sec targets, and the XIV manages to those goals. Performance classes are assigned to each host based on their value to the business.
Offline Initialization for Asynchronous Mirror.
Internally, we called this Truck Mode. Normally, when a customer decides to start using Asynchronous Mirror, they already have a lot of data at the primary location, and so there is a lot of data to send over to the new XIV box at the secondary location. This new feature allows the data to be dumped to tape at the primary location. Those tapes are shipped to the secondary location and restored on the empty XIV. The two XIV boxes are then connected for Asynchronous Mirroring, and checksums of each 64KB block are compared to determine what has changed at the primary during this "tape delivery time". This greatly reduces the time it takes for the two boxes to get past the initial synchronization phase.
IP-based Replication. When IBM first launched the Storwize V7000 last October, people commented that the one feature they felt missing was IP-based replication. Sure, we offered FCP-based replication as most other Enterprise-class disk systems offer today, but many midrange systems also offer IP-based repliation to reduce the need for expensive FCIP routers. [IBM Tivoli Storage FastBack for Storwize V7000] provides IP-based replication for Storwize V7000 systems.
Network Attached Storage
IBM announced two new models of the IBM System Storage N series. The midrange N6240 supports up to 600 drives, replacing the N6040 system. The entry-level N6210 supports up to 240 drives, and replaces the N3600 system. Details for both are available on the latest [data sheet].
IBM Real-Time Compression appliances work with all N series models to provide additional storage efficiency. Last October, I provided the [Product Name Decoder Ring] for the STN6500 and STN6800 models. The STN6500 supports 1 GbE ports, and the STN6800 supports 10GbE ports (or a mix of 10GbE and 1GbE, if you prefer). The IBM versions of these models were announced last December, but some people were on vacation and might have missed it. For more details of this, read the [Resources page], the [landing page], or [watch this video].
IBM System Storage DS3000 series
IBM System Storage [DS3524 Express DC and EXP3524 Express DC] models are powered with direct current (DC) rather than alternating current (AC). The DS3524 packs dual controllers and two dozen small-form factor (2.5 inch) drives in a compact 2U-high rack-optimized module. The EXP3524 provides addition disk capacity that can be attached to the DS3524 for expansion.
Large data centers, especially those in the Telecommunications Industry, receive AC from their power company, then store it in a large battery called an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). For DC-powered equipment, they can run directly off this battery source, but for AC-powered equipment, the DC has to be converted back to AC, and some energy is lost in the conversion. Thus, having DC-powered equipment is more energy efficient, or "green", for the IT data center.
Whether you get the DC-powered or AC-powered models, both are NEBS-compliant and ETSI-compliant.
New Tape Drive Options for Autoloaders and Libraries
IBM System Storage [TS2900 Autoloader] is a compact 1U-high tape system that supports one LTO drive and up to 9 tape cartridges. The TS2900 can support either an LTO-3, LTO-4 or LTO-5 half-height drive.
IBM System Storage [TS3100 and TS3200 Tape Libraries] were also enhanced. The TS3100 can accomodate one full-height LTO drive, or two half-height drives, and hold up to 24 cartridges. The TS3200 offers twice as many drives and space for cartridges.
If we have learned anything from last decade's Y2K crisis, is that we should not wait for the last minute to take action. Now is the time to start thinking about weaning ourselves off Windows XP. IBM has 400,000 employees, so this is not a trivial matter.
Already, IBM has taken some bold steps:
Last July, IBM announced that it was switching from Internet Explorer (IE6) to [Mozilla Firefox as its standard browser]. IBM has been contributing to this open source project for years, including support for open standards, and to make it [more accessible to handicapped employees with visual and motor impairments]. I use Firefox already on Windows, Mac and Linux, so there was no learning curve for me. Before this announcement, if some web-based application did not work on Firefox, our Helpdesk told us to switch back to Internet Explorer. Those days are over. Now, if a web-based application doesn't work on Firefox, we either stop using it, or it gets fixed.
IBM also announced the latest [IBM Lotus Symphony 3] software, which replaces Microsoft Office for Powerpoint, Excel and Word applications. Symphony also works across Mac, Windows and Linux. It is based on the OpenOffice open source project, and handles open-standard document formats (ODF). Support for Microsoft Office 2003 will also run out in the year 2014, so moving off proprietary formats to open standards makes sense.
I am not going to wait for IBM to decide how to proceed next, so I am starting my own migrations. In my case, I need to do it twice, on my IBM-provided laptop as well as my personal PC at home.
Last summer, IBM sent me a new laptop, we get a new one every 3-4 years. It was pre-installed with Windows XP, but powerful enough to run a 64-bit operating system in the future. Here are my series of blog posts on that:
I decided to try out Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 with its KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to run Windows XP as a guest OS. I will try to run as much as I can on native Linux, but will have Windows XP guest as a next option, and if that still doesn't work, reboot the system in native Windows XP mode.
So far, I am pleased that I can do nearly everything my job requires natively in Red Hat Linux, including accessing my Lotus Notes for email and databases, edit and present documents with Lotus Symphony, and so on. I have made RHEL 6.1 my default when I boot up. Setting up Windows XP under KVM was relatively simple, involving an 8-line shell script and 54-line XML file. Here is what I have encountered:
We use a wonderful tool called "iSpring Pro" which merges Powerpoint slides with voice recordings for each page into a Shockwave Flash video. I have not yet found a Linux equivalent for this yet.
To avoid having to duplicate files between systems, I use instead symbolic links. For example, my Lotus Notes local email repository sits on D: drive, but I can access it directly with a link from /home/tpearson/notes/data.
While my native Ubuntu and RHEL Linux can access my C:, D: and E: drives in native NTFS file system format, the irony is that my Windows XP guest OS under KVM cannot. This means moving something from NTFS over to Ext4, just so that I can access it from the Windows XP guest application.
For whatever reason, "Password Safe" did not run on the Windows XP guest. I launch it, but it takes forever to load and never brings up the GUI. Fortunately, there is a Linux version [MyPasswordSafe] that seems to work just fine to keep track of all my passwords.
Personal home PC
My Windows XP system at home gave up the ghost last month, so I bought a new system with Windows 7 Professional, quad-core Intel processor and 6GB of memory. There are [various editions of Windows 7], but I chose Windows 7 Professional to support running Windows XP as a guest image.
Here's is how I have configured my personal computer:
I actually found it more time-consuming to implement the "Virtual PC" feature of Windows 7 to get Windows XP mode working than KVM on Red Hat Linux. I am amazed how many of my Windows XP programs DO NOT RUN AT ALL natively on Windows 7. I now have native 64-bit versions of Lotus Notes and Symphony 3, which will do well enough for me for now.
I went ahead and put Red Hat Linux on my home system as well, but since I have Windows XP running as a guest under Windows 7, no need to duplicate KVM setup there. At least if I have problems with Windows 7, I can reboot in RHEL6 Linux at home and use that for Linux-native applications.
Hopefully, this will position me well in case IBM decides to either go with Windows 7 or Linux as the replacement OS for Windows XP.
Some job titles can be vague. Have you ever given your title to a person at a cocktail party, only to have to explain exactly what you do? With a title like "IBM Master Inventor and Senior Managing Consultant", this happens to me all the time. To help explain what we do at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center (EBC), I use the following analogy.
People who want to see or interact with animals have several options. One option is to go visit the animals in their natural habitat. A more convenient option, however, is to visit the animals in a zoo. Zoos bring together a wide variety of animals, making it convenient to visit all of them at one time.
I did not fully appreciate the advantage of zoos until I took a safari in Kenya, Africa a few years ago. The word safari means "long journey" in Swahili. For two weeks, we drove around in a Land Rover on bumpy roads across the country. The best time to see the animals was early in the morning and late in the afternoon. We would drive around for hours looking for a type animal we had not seen already. Most came to see the so-called "Big Five": Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhinoceros. After two weeks and hundreds of miles, we had seen the "Big Nine" which extends the Big Five to include the Cheetah, Zebra, Giraffe and Hippo, as well as seeing a variety of other, lesser known animals.
When it comes to zoos, there are two kinds.
Self-guided -- offering the basic zoo experience where you are handed a map to visit the animals on your own.
Docent-guided -- offering a richer zoo experience where the docent provides added value, leading visitors around the zoo, answering questions, providing education, and comparing the differences between the animals.
Over the past 15 years, IBM has been consolidating storage development in Tucson, Arizona moving storage-related projects from San Jose, CA, from Rochester, MN, and from Raleigh, NC. Tucson has the largest collection of IBM storage hardware and software development in North America. I am one of the three local "docents", guiding the clients that come to Tucson to visit the developers.
Here are some of the types of developers that our clients ask to interact with:
A was hired into IBM back in 1986 as a Research Scientist. When clients want to hear about IBM's future direction over the next 10-15 years, we bring in someone from IBM Research.
While disk systems may seem no more complicated as arranging books on a shelf, clients often want to talk to hardware engineers related to IBM's tape libraries, especially the IBM System Storage TS3500 library and the High-Density frame that can store multiple cartridges per slot in a spring-loaded manner.
I have a Bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering and Master's degree in Electrical Engineering, so I am able to speak both sides of the hardware/software divide. Software engineers here in Tucson develop the microcode that runs on disk and tape hardware, the various GUI, CLI and SMI-S API interfaces, as well as Tivoli Storage software, especially Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) and Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
IBM Tucson has a huge test lab, and our testers are very familiar with all of the subtle nuances of interoperability between servers, HBAs, switches and storage devices. We have system and function testers for the individual products, ISV testers to validate software compatability, performance testers, and environment testers to verify the storage devices can handle extremes in temperature, humidity, vibration and noise.
IBM has architects for each product line to help decide which features and functions are developed for each product release. While many software engineers have expertise narrowly focused on an individual component, the system architects need to have a broad awareness of the entire environment. Earlier in my career, I was the chief architect for DFSMS, the storage management element of the z/OS mainframe operating sytsem, and chief architect for what we now call Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
Product and Portfolio Managers
Product and Portfolio managers are helpful to explain to clients why IBM invested more in some products than others. I had served as the Portfolio Manager for IBM tape systems. When clients want to talk about the business side of our products, such as pricing, licensing and leasing issues, we bring the product and portfolio managers in.
For some clients, high level executives want to speak to their counterparts at IBM, vice president to vice president, executive to executive. Our local IBM executives often help kick off the briefing in the morning, or provide the executive summary and discuss next steps at the end of the day. Golfing, dinners and drinks, of course, are always a popular scheduing option.
On behalf of the rest of the Tucson EBC, I would like to thank all the developers who have helped us last year with client briefings. There are too many to mention, and most are too humble to let me put their names in this blog. Team, your assistance is very appreciated!
Many IBMers consider Tucson to be the headquarters for storage, and I have heard IBM executives refer to Tucson as the center of the universe for storage products. However, IBM is a global company. Just as zoos do not pretend to be complete collections of animals, IBM storage development is not entirely contained in Tucson. IBM Research for storage is also done in Almaden CA, Yorktown Heights NY, and Haifa, Israel. Hardware development is also done in Japan, Europe and Israel. Tivoli Storage has locations in Beaverton, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, to name a few. IBM is a big company, so if I left your favorite location off the list, let me know in the comments below.
Some clients, sales reps and business partners have complained that Tucson is not the most convenient location to get to. I get that. One rep asked why we don't have briefing centers somewhere more accessible, such as Chicago or Atlanta, both cities offer a major airline hub. As much as I personally enjoy cities like Chicago or Atlanta, people don't visit zoos just to see the docents, they come to see the animals. Having docents located in Chicago or Atlanta, standing sadly in front of empty cages with no animals to interact with, makes no sense at all.
With over 350 days of sunshine per year, Tucson is actually a well-kept secret. Clients who have never been to Tucson discover the wonders of the Sonoran desert. Coyotes chase roadrunners across our parking lot. Several clients who have come to visit us have ended up buying retirement homes here. If you haven't been to Tucson, or it has been a while since your last trip, I encourage you to [schedule a briefing]. The weather right now is ideal!
Did IBM XIV force EMC's hand to announce VMAXe? Let's take a stroll down memory lane.
In 2008, IBM XIV showed the world that it could ship a Tier-1, high-end, enterprise-class system using commodity parts. Technically, prior to its acquisition by IBM, the XIV team had boxes out in production since 2005. EMC incorrectly argued this announcement meant the death of the IBM DS8000. Just because EMC was unable to figure out how to have more than one high-end disk product, doesn't mean IBM or other storage vendors were equally challenged. Both IBM XIV and DS8000 are Tier-1, high-end, enterprise-class storage systems, as are the IBM N series N7900 and the IBM Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS).
In April 2009, EMC followed IBM's lead with their own V-Max system, based on Symmetrix Engenuity code, but on commodity x86 processors. Nobody at EMC suggested that the V-Max meant the death of their other Symmetrix box, the DMX-4, which means that EMC proved to themselves that a storage vendor could offer multiple high-end disk systems. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) would later offer the VSP, which also includes some commodity hardware as well.
In July 2009, analysts at International Technology Group published their TCO findings that IBM XIV was 63 percent less expensive than EMC V-Max, in a whitepaper titled [COST/BENEFIT CASE
FOR IBM XIV STORAGE SYSTEM Comparing Costs for IBM XIV and EMC V-Max Systems]. Not surprisingly, EMC cried foul, feeling that EMC V-Max had not yet been successful in the field, it was too soon to compare newly minted EMC gear with a mature product like XIV that had been in production accounts for several years. Big companies like to wait for "Generation 1" of any new product to mature a bit before they purchase.
To compete against IBM XIV's very low TCO, EMC was forced to either deeply discount their Symmetrix, or counter-offer with lower-cost CLARiiON, their midrange disk offering. An ex-EMCer that now works for IBM on the XIV sales team put it in EMC terms -- "the IBM XIV provides a Symmetrix-like product at CLARiiON-like prices."
(Note: Somewhere in 2010, EMC dropped the hyphen, changing the name from V-Max to VMAX. I didn't see this formally announced anywhere, but it seems that the new spelling is the officially correct usage. A common marketing rule is that you should only rename failed products, so perhaps dropping the hyphen was EMC's way of preventing people from searching older reviews of the V-Max product.)
This month, IBM introduced the IBM XIV Gen3 model 114. The analysts at ITG updated their analysis, as there are now more customers that have either or both products, to provide a more thorough comparison. Their latest whitepaper, titled [Cost/Benefit Case for IBM XIV Systems: Comparing Cost
Structures for IBM XIV and EMC VMAX Systems], shows that IBM maintains its substantial cost savings advantage, representing 69 percent less Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than EMC, on average, over the course of three years.
In response, EMC announced its new VMAXe, following the naming convention EMC established for VNX and VNXe. Customers cannot upgrade VNXe to VNX, nor VMAXe to VMAX, so at least EMC was consistent in that regard. Like the IBM XIV and XIV Gen3, the new EMC VMAXe eliminated "unnecessary distractions" like CKD volumes and FICON attachment needed for the IBM z/OS operating system on IBM System z mainframes. Fellow blogger Barry Burke from EMC explains everything about the VMAXe in his blog post [a big thing in a small package].
So, you have to wonder, did IBM XIV force EMC's hand into offering this new VMAXe storage unit? Surely, EMC sales reps will continue to lead with the more profitable DMX-4 or VMAX, and then only offer the VMAXe when the prospective customer mentions that the IBM XIV Gen3 is 69 percent less expensive. I haven't seen any list or street prices for the VMAXe yet, but I suspect it is less expensive than VMAX, on a dollar-per-GB basis, so that EMC will not have to discount it as much to compete against IBM.
In his last post in this series, he mentions that the amazingly successful IBM SAN Volume Controller was part of a set of projects:
"IBM was looking for "new horizon" projects to fund at the time, and three such projects were proposed and created the "Storage Software Group". Those three projects became know externally as TPC, (TotalStorage Productivity Center), SanFS (SAN File System - oh how this was just 5 years too early) and SVC (SAN Volume Controller). The fact that two out of the three of them still exist today is actually pretty good. All of these products came out of research, and its a sad state of affairs when research teams are measured against the percentage of the projects they work on, versus those that turn into revenue generating streams."
But this raises the question: Was SAN File System just five years too early?
IBM classifies products into three "horizons"; Horizon-1 for well-established mature products, Horizon-2 was for recently launched products, and Horizon-3 was for emerging business opportunities (EBO). Since I had some involvement with these other projects, I thought I would help fill out some of this history from my perspective.
Back in 2000, IBM executive [Linda Sanford] was in charge of IBM storage business and presented that IBM Research was working on the concept of "Storage Tank" which would hold Petabytes of data accessible to mainframes and distributed servers.
In 2001, I was the lead architect of DFSMS for the IBM z/OS operating system for mainframes, and was asked to be lead architect for the new "Horizon 3" project to be called IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center (TPC), which has since been renamed to IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
In 2002, I was asked to lead a team to port the "SANfs client" for SAN File System from Linux-x86 over to Linux on System z. How easy or difficult to port any code depends on how well it was written with the intent to be ported, and porting the "proof-of-concept" level code proved a bit too challenging for my team of relative new-hires. Once code written by research scientists is sufficiently complete to demonstrate proof of concept, it should be entirely discarded and written from scratch by professional software engineers that follow proper development and documentation procedures. We reminded management of this, and they decided not to make the necessary investment to add Linux on System z as a supported operating system for SAN file system.
In 2003, IBM launched Productivity Center, SAN File System and SAN Volume Controller. These would be lumped together with Horizon-1 product IBM Tivoli Storage Manager and the four products were promoted together as the inappropriately-named [TotalStorage Open Software Family]. We actually had long meetings debating whether SAN Volume Controller was hardware or software. While it is true that most of the features and functions of SAN Volume Controller is driven by its software, it was never packaged as a software-only offering.
The SAN File System was the productized version of the "Storage Tank" research project. While the SAN Volume Controller used industry standard Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) to allow support of a variety of operating system clients, the SAN File System required an installed "client" that was only available initially on AIX and Linux-x86. In keeping with the "open" concept, an "open source reference client" was made available so that the folks at Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft could port this over to their respective HP-UX, Solaris and Windows operating systems. Not surprisingly, none were willing to voluntarily add yet another file system to their testing efforts.
Barry argues that SANfs was five years ahead of its time. SAN File System tried to bring policy-based management for information, which has been part of DFSMS for z/OS since the 1980s, over to distributed operating systems. The problem is that mainframe people who understand and appreciate the benefits of policy-based management already had it, and non-mainframe couldn't understand the benefits of something they have managed to survive without.
(Every time I see VMware presented as a new or clever idea, I have to remind people that this x86-based hypervisor basically implements the mainframe concept of server virtualization introduced by IBM in the 1970s. IBM is the leading reseller of VMware, and supports other server virtualization solutions including Linux KVM, Xen, Hyper-V and PowerVM.)
To address the various concerns about SAN File System, the proof-of-concept code from IBM Research was withdrawn from marketing, and new fresh code implementing these concepts were integrated into IBM's existing General Parallel File System (GPFS). This software would then be packaged with a server hardware cluster, exporting global file spaces with broad operating system reach. Initially offered as IBM Scale-out File Services (SoFS) service offering, this was later re-packaged as an appliance, the IBM Scale-Out Network Attached Storage (SONAS) product, and as IBM Smart Business Storage Cloud (SBSC) cloud storage offering. These now offer clustered NAS storage using the industry standard NFS and CIFS clients that nearly all operating systems already have.
Today, these former Horizon-1 products are now Horizon-2 and Horizon-3. They have evolved. Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, GPFS and SAN Volume Controller are all market leaders in their respective areas.
“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”
-- George Orwell
Well, it has been over two years since I first covered IBM's acquisition of the XIV company. Amazingly, I still see a lot of misperceptions out in the blogosphere, especially those regarding double drive failures for the XIV storage system. Despite various attempts to [explain XIV resiliency] and to [dispel the rumors], there are still competitors making stuff up, putting fear, uncertainty and doubt into the minds of prospective XIV clients.
Clients love the IBM XIV storage system! In this economy, companies are not stupid. Before buying any enterprise-class disk system, they ask the tough questions, run evaluation tests, and all the other due diligence often referred to as "kicking the tires". Here is what some IBM clients have said about their XIV systems:
“3-5 minutes vs. 8-10 hours rebuild time...”
-- satisfied XIV client
“...we tested an entire module failure - all data is re-distributed in under 6 hours...only 3-5% performance degradation during rebuild...”
-- excited XIV client
“Not only did XIV meet our expectations, it greatly exceeded them...”
In this blog post, I hope to set the record straight. It is not my intent to embarrass anyone in particular, so instead will focus on a fact-based approach.
Fact: IBM has sold THOUSANDS of XIV systems
XIV is "proven" technology with thousands of XIV systems in company data centers. And by systems, I mean full disk systems with 6 to 15 modules in a single rack, twelve drives per module. That equates to hundreds of thousands of disk drives in production TODAY, comparable to the number of disk drives studied by [Google], and [Carnegie Mellon University] that I discussed in my blog post [Fleet Cars and Skin Cells].
Fact: To date, no customer has lost data as a result of a Double Drive Failure on XIV storage system
This has always been true, both when XIV was a stand-alone company and since the IBM acquisition two years ago. When examining the resilience of an array to any single or multiple component failures, it's important to understand the architecture and the design of the system and not assume all systems are alike. At it's core, XIV is a grid-based storage system. IBM XIV does not use traditional RAID-5 or RAID-10 method, but instead data is distributed across loosely connected data modules which act as independent building blocks. XIV divides each LUN into 1MB "chunks", and stores two copies of each chunk on separate drives in separate modules. We call this "RAID-X".
Spreading all the data across many drives is not unique to XIV. Many disk systems, including EMC CLARiiON-based V-Max, HP EVA, and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) USP-V, allow customers to get XIV-like performance by spreading LUNs across multiple RAID ranks. This is known in the industry as "wide-striping". Some vendors use the terms "metavolumes" or "extent pools" to refer to their implementations of wide-striping. Clients have coined their own phrases, such as "stripes across stripes", "plaid stripes", or "RAID 500". It is highly unlikely that an XIV will experience a double drive failure that ultimately requires recovery of files or LUNs, and is substantially less vulnerable to data loss than an EVA, USP-V or V-Max configured in RAID-5. Fellow blogger Keith Stevenson (IBM) compared XIV's RAID-X design to other forms of RAID in his post [RAID in the 21st Centure].
Fact: IBM XIV is designed to minimize the likelihood and impact of a double drive failure
The independent failure of two drives is a rare occurrence. More data has been lost from hash collisions on EMC Centera than from double drive failures on XIV, and hash collisions are also very rare. While the published worst-case time to re-protect from a 1TB drive failure for a fully-configured XIV is 30 minutes, field experience shows XIV regaining full redundancy on average in 12 minutes. That is 40 times less likely than a typical 8-10 hour window for a RAID-5 configuration.
A lot of bad things can happen in those 8-10 hours of traditional RAID rebuild. Performance can be seriously degraded. Other components may be affected, as they share cache, connected to the same backplane or bus, or co-dependent in some other manner. An engineer supporting the customer onsite during a RAID-5 rebuild might pull the wrong drive, thereby causing a double drive failure they were hoping to avoid. Having IBM XIV rebuild in only a few minutes addresses this "human factor".
In his post [XIV drive management], fellow blogger Jim Kelly (IBM) covers a variety of reasons why storage admins feel double drive failures are more than just random chance. XIV avoids load stress normally associated with traditional RAID rebuild by evenly spreading out the workload across all drives. This is known in the industry as "wear-leveling". When the first drive fails, the recovery is spread across the remaining 179 drives, so that each drive only processes about 1 percent of the data. The [Ultrastar A7K1000] 1TB SATA disk drives that IBM uses from HGST have specified 1.2 million hours mean-time-between-failures [MTBF] would average about one drive failing every nine months in a 180-drive XIV system. However, field experience shows that an XIV system will experience, on average, one drive failure per 13 months, comparable to what companies experience with more robust Fibre Channel drives. That's innovative XIV wear-leveling at work!
Fact: In the highly unlikely event that a DDF were to occur, you will have full read/write access to nearly all of your data on the XIV, all but a few GB.
Even though it has NEVER happened in the field, some clients and prospects are curious what a double drive failure on an XIV would look like. First, a critical alert message would be sent to both the client and IBM, and a "union list" is generated, identifying all the chunks in common. The worst case on a 15-module XIV fully loaded with 79TB data is approximately 9000 chunks, or 9GB of data. The remaining 78.991 TB of unaffected data are fully accessible for read or write. Any I/O requests for the chunks in the "union list" will have no response yet, so there is no way for host applications to access outdated information or cause any corruption.
(One blogger compared losing data on the XIV to drilling a hole through the phone book. Mathematically, the drill bit would be only 1/16th of an inch, or 1.60 millimeters for you folks outside the USA. Enough to knock out perhaps one character from a name or phone number on each page. If you have ever seen an actor in the movies look up a phone number in a telephone booth then yank out a page from the phone book, the XIV equivalent would be cutting out 1/8th of a page from an 1100 page phone book. In both cases, all of the rest of the unaffected information is full accessible, and it is easy to identify which information is missing.)
If the second drive failed several minutes after the first drive, the process for full redundancy is already well under way. This means the union list is considerably shorter or completely empty, and substantially fewer chunks are impacted. Contrast this with RAID-5, where being 99 percent complete on the rebuild when the second drive fails is just as catastrophic as having both drives fail simultaneously.
Fact: After a DDF event, the files on these few GB can be identified for recovery.
Once IBM receives notification of a critical event, an IBM engineer immediately connects to the XIV using remote service support method. There is no need to send someone physically onsite, the repair actions can be done remotely. The IBM engineer has tools from HGST to recover, in most cases, all of the data.
Any "union" chunk that the HGST tools are unable to recover will be set to "media error" mode. The IBM engineer can provide the client a list of the XIV LUNs and LBAs that are on the "media error" list. From this list, the client can determine which hosts these LUNs are attached to, and run file scan utility to the file systems that these LUNs represent. Files that get a media error during this scan will be listed as needing recovery. A chunk could contain several small files, or the chunk could be just part of a large file. To minimize time, the scans and recoveries can all be prioritized and performed in parallel across host systems zoned to these LUNs.
As with any file or volume recovery, keep in mind that these might be part of a larger consistency group, and that your recovery procedures should make sense for the applications involved. In any case, you are probably going to be up-and-running in less time with XIV than recovery from a RAID-5 double failure would take, and certainly nowhere near "beyond repair" that other vendors might have you believe.
Fact: This does not mean you can eliminate all Disaster Recovery planning!
To put this in perspective, you are more likely to lose XIV data from an earthquake, hurricane, fire or flood than from a double drive failure. As with any unlikely disaster, it is best to have a disaster recovery plan than to hope it never happens. All disk systems that sit on a single datacenter floor are vulnerable to such disasters.
For mission-critical applications, IBM recommends using disk mirroring capability. IBM XIV storage system offers synchronous and asynchronous mirroring natively, both included at no additional charge.
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.