Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2018, Tony celebrates his 32th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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Well, it's Tuesday again, and that means IBM announcements! Today we had a major launch, with so many products, services and offerings
that I can't fit them all into a single post, so I will split them up into several posts to give the attention they deserve. So, in this
post, I will focus on just the networking gear.
IBM Converged Switch B32
The "Converged" part of this switch refers to Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE), which is just a lossless Ethernet that meets certain standards to allow Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) that are still being discussed between Brocade and Cisco. Thankfully, IBM demanded both Brocade and Cisco stick to open agreed-upon standards, and the rest of the world gets to benefit from IBM's leadership in keeping everything as open and non-proprietary as possible.
The B32 ("B" because it was made by Brocade) starts with 24 10Gb Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) ports, and then you can add eight Fibre Channel ports, for a total of 32 ports, hence the name B32. These are designed to be Top-of-Rack (TOR) switches. Basically, instead of having expensive optical cables for Ethernet and/or Fibre Channel out of each server, you have cheap twinax copper cables connecting the server's Converged Network Adapters (CNA) to this TOR switch, and then you can have the 10Gb Ethernet go to your regular Ethernet LAN, and your 8Gbps FC traffic go to your regular FC SAN. In other words, the CNA serves both the role of an Ethernet Network Interface Card (NIC) as well as a Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapter (HBA) card.
(You might see 8Gbps Fibre Channel represented as 8/4/2 or 2/4/8, this is just to remind you that these 8Gb FC ports can auto-negotiate down to 2Gbps and 4Gbps legacy hardware, but not 1Gbps. If you are still using 1Gbps FC, you need 4Gpbs SFP transceivers instead, shown often as 1/2/4 or 4/2/1.)
New SSN-16 module for Cisco directors and switches
When I present SAN gear to sales reps, I often get the question, "What is the difference between a switch and a director?" My quick and simple answer is that switches have fixed ports, but directors have slots that you can slide in different blades or expansion modules. The Cisco MDS9500 series are directors with slots, the three models provide a hint to their capacity. The last two digits represent the number of total slots, but the first two slots are already taken. In other words, model 9513 has 11 slots, model 9509 has seven slots, and model 9506 has four slots. You can have a 48-port blade in a slot, so in theory, you can have a maximum of 528 ports on the biggest model 9513.
However, if you want FCIP for disaster recovery, or I/O Acceleration (IOA) for remote e-vaulting tape libraries, you need a special 18/4 blade. This has 18 FC ports, four 1GbE ports and a special service processor that speaks FCIP or IOA. If you wanted two service processors for FCIP and two for IOA, you would need four of these blades, and that takes up slots that could have been used for 48-port blades instead. The solution? The new SSN-16 has sixteen 1GbE ports and four service processors, so with one slot, you can handle the FCIP and IOA processing that you previously used four cards, giving you three slots back to use with higher port-density cards.
Even better, you can put this new SSN-16 in the Cisco 9222i. The model 9222i is a "hybrid" switch with 22 fixed ports (18 FC ports, four fixed 1GbE ports, and a service processor, so basically the fixed port version of the 18/4 blade above), but it also has one slot! That one slot can be used for the SSN-16 to give you added FCIP or IOA capability.
For our mainframe clients, the FICON package includes four 24-port FICON blades and 96 SFP 4Gbps transceivers to fully populate them. Here is the IBM [Press Release].
Cisco Nexus 5000 series for IBM System Storage
The Cisco Nexus 5000 series is Cisco's entry into the Converged Enhanced Ethernet world, although Cisco sometimes refers to this as Data Center Ethernet (DCE), IBM will continue to use CEE when referring to either Brocade and Cisco gear. These are also Top-of-Rack aggregators that support CNA connections over cheaper twinax copper wires. Model 5010 has 10 ports that can be configured for either 1GbE or 10Gb CEE, 10 ports that are 10Gb CEE, and a slot for an expansion module. The Model 5020 has basically twice as much of everything, including two slots instead of one. Since 10Gb Ethernet does not auto-negotiate down to 1GbE, half the ports can be configured to run 1GbE instead. Frankly, that can be seen as wasting your precious Nexus ports with 1GbE connections, so you might find a 1GbE-to-10GbE aggregator that combines a dozen or more 1GbE to a few 10GbE links instead.
Today's announcement is that in addition to 10GbE and 4Gbps FC expansion modules, there is now an expansion module that supports 8Gbps Fibre Channel. Here is the IBM [Press Release].
Whether you choose Brocade or Cisco, nearly all of IBM System Storage disk and tape products can work today with Converged Enhanced Ethernet environments, either directly using iSCSI, NFS or CIFS, or using the FCoE methodology.
As you can see, it took me a whole post just to cover just our networking gear announcements, and I haven't even covered our disk, tape and cloud storage offerings. I'll get to these in later posts.
The marketshare data for external disk systems has been released by IDC for 4Q09. Overall, the market dropped 0.7 percent, comparing 4Q09 versus 4Q08. While EMC was quick to remind everyone that they were able to [maintain their #1 position] in the storage subset of "external disk systems", with the same 23.7 percent marketshare they had back in 4Q08 and revenues that were essentially flat, the real story concerns the shifts in the marketplace for the other major players. IBM grew revenue 9 percent, putting it nearly 5 points of marketshare ahead of HP. HP revenues dropped 7 percent, moving it further behind. Not mentioned in the [IBM Press Release] were NetApp and Dell, neck and neck for fourth place, with NetApp gaining 16.8 percent in revenues, while Dell dropped 13.5 percent. Both NetApp and Dell now have about 8 percent marketshare each. These top five storage vendors represent nearly 70 percent of the marketshare.
Given that HP is IBM's number one competitor, not just in storage but all things IT, this was a major win. Bob Evans from InformationWeek interviews my fifth-line manager, IBM executive Rod Adkins [IBM Claims Hardware Supremacy] where he shares his views and opinions about HP, Oracle-Sun, Cisco and Dell.
I'll add my two cents on what's going on:
Shift in Servers causes Shift in Storage
Hundreds of customers are moving away from HP and Sun over to IBM servers, and with it, are chosing IBM's storage offerings as well. IBM's rock-solid strategy (which I outlined in my post [Foundations and Flavorings]) has helped explain the different products and how they are positioned. HP's use of Itanium processors, and Sun's aging SPARC line, are both reasons enough to switch to IBM's lastest POWER7 processors, running AIX, IBM i (formerly i5/OS) and Linux operating systems.
Thunder in the Clouds
Some analysts predict that by 2013, one out of five companies won't even have their own IT assets. IBM supports all flavors of private, public and hybrid cloud computing models. IBM has its own strong set of offerings, is also the number one reseller of VMware, and has cloud partnerships with both Google and Amazon. HP and Microsoft have recently formed an alliance, but they have different takes on cloud computing. HP wants to be the "infrastructure" company, but Microsoft wants to focus on its ["three screens and a public cloud"] strategy. Microsoft has decided not to make its Azure Cloud operating system available for private cloud deployments. By contrast, IBM can start you with a private cloud, then help you transition to a hybrid cloud, and finally to a public cloud.
In the latest eX5 announcement, IBM's x86-based servers can run 78 percent more virtual machines per VMware license dollar. This will give IBM an advantage as HP shifts from Itanium to an all x86-based server line.
Network Attached Storage
There seems to be a shift away from FC and iSCSI towards NAS and FCoE storage networking protocols. This bodes bad for HP's acquisition of LeftHand, and Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic. IBM's SONAS for large deployments, and N series for smaller deployments, will compete nicely against HP's StorageWorks X9000 system.
Storage on Paper no longer Eco-friendly
HP beats IBM when you include consumer products like printers, which some might consider "Storage on Paper". At IBM, we often joke that 96 percent of HP's profits come from over-priced ink cartridges. With the latest focus on the environment, people are printing less. I have been printing less myself, setting my default printer to generate a PDF file instead. There are several tools available for this, including [CutePDF] and [BullZip]. As IBM employees switch from Microsoft Office to IBM's [Lotus Symphony], it has built-in "export-to-PDF" capability as well. People are also going to their local OfficeMax or CartridgeWorld to get their cartridges refilled, rather than purchase new ones. That has to be hurting HP's bottom line.
Don't Forget About Storage Management
The leading storage management suites today are IBM's Tivoli Storage Productivity Center and EMC's Control Center. HP's Storage Essentials doesn't quite beat either of these, and management software is growing in importance to more and more customers.
They say "Great Minds think alike" and that imitation is "the sincerest form of flattery." Both of these quotes came to mind when I read fellow blogger Chuck Hollis' (EMC) excellent April 7th blog post [The 10 Big Ideas That Are Shaping IT Infrastructure Today]. Not surprisingly, some of his thoughts are similar to those I had presented two weeks ago in my March 22nd post [Cloud Computing for Accountants]. Here are two charts that caught my eye:
On page 13 of my deck, I had an old black and white photo of telephone operators, as part of a section on the history of selecting "cloud" as the iconic graphic to represent all networks. Chuck has this same graphic on his chart titled "#1 The Industrialization of IT Infrastructure".
Looks like Chuck and I use the same "stock photo" search facility!
On page 45 on my deck, I had a list of major "arms dealers" that deliver the hardware and software components needed to build Cloud Computing. Chuck has a similar chart, titled "#2 The Consolidation of the IT Industry", but with some interesting differences.
Let's look at some of the key differences:
The left-to-right order is slightly different. I chose a 1-2-4-2-1 symmetrical pattern purely on aesthetic reasons. My presentation was to a bunch of accountants, and so I was trying not to make it sound like an "Infomercial" for IBM products and offerings. My sequence is roughly chronological, in that Oracle announced its intention to acquire Sun, then Cisco, VMware and EMC announced their VCE coalition, followed closely by Cisco, VMware and NetApp announcing they work together well also, followed by [HP extended alliance with Microsoft] on Jan 13, 2010. As the IT marketplace is maturing, more and more customers are looking for an IBM-like one-stop shopping experience, and certainly various "mini-mall" alliances have formed to try to compete in this space.
I had HP and Microsoft in the same column, referring only to the above-mentioned January announcement. HP is all about private cloud hardware infrastructures, but Microsoft is all about "three screens and the public cloud", so not sure how well this alliance will work out from a Cloud Computing perspective. This was not to imply that the other stacks don't work well with Microsoft software. They all do. Perhaps to avoid that controversy, Chuck chose to highlight HP's acquisition of EDS services instead.
I used the vendor logos in their actual colors. Notice that the colors black, blue and red occur most often. These happen to be the three most popular ballpoint pen ink colors found on the very same paper documents these computer companies are trying to eliminate. Paper-less office, anyone? Chuck chose instead to colorize each stack with his own color scheme. While blue for IBM and orange for Sun Microsystems make some sense, it is not clear if he chose green for Cisco/VMware/EMC for any particular reason. Perhaps he was trying to subtly imply that the VCE stack is more energy efficient? Or maybe the green refers to money to indicate that the VCE stack is the most expensive? Either way, I would pit IBM's server/storage/software stack up against anything of comparable price from these other stacks in any energy efficiency bake-off.
What about the Cisco/VMware/NetApp combination? All three got together to assure customers this was a viable combination. IBM is the number one reseller of VMware, and VMware runs great with IBM's N series NAS storage, so I do not dispute Cisco's motivation here. It makes sense for Cisco to two-time EMC in this manner. Why should Cisco limit itself to a single storage supplier? Et tu VMware? Having VMware chose NetApp over its parent company EMC was a bit of a shock. No surprise that Chuck left NetApp out of his chart.
No love for Dell? I give Dell credit for their work with Virtual Desktop Images (VDI), and for embracing Ubuntu Linux for their servers. Dell's acquisitions of EqualLogic iSCSI-based disk systems and Perot Systems for services are also worth noting. Dell used to resell some of EMC's gear, but perhaps that relationship continues to fade away, as I [predicted back in 2007]. Chuck's decision to leave Dell off his chart speaks volumes to where this relationship stands, and where it is going.
Perhaps we are all in just one big ["echo chamber"], as we are all coming up with similar observations, talking to similar customers, and reviewing similar market analyst reports. I am glad, at least this time, that Chuck and I for the most part agree where the marketplace is going. We live in interesting times!
Mastering the art of stretching out a week-long event into two weeks' worth of blog posts, I continue my
coverage of the [Data Center 2010 conference], Tuesday afternoon I attended several sessions that focused on technologies for Cloud Computing.
(Note: It appears I need to repeat this. The analyst company that runs this event has kindly asked me not to mention their name on this blog, display any of their logos, mention the names of any of their employees, include photos of any of their analysts, include slides from their presentations, or quote verbatim any of their speech at this conference. This is all done to protect and respect their intellectual property that their members pay for. The pie charts included on this series of posts were rendered by Google Charting tool.)
Converging Storage and Network Fabrics
The analysts presented a set of alternative approaches to consolidating your SAN and LAN fabrics. Here were the choices discussed:
Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) - This requires 10GbE with Data Center Bridging (DCB) standards, what IBM refers to as Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE). Converged Network Adapters (CNAs) support FC, iSCSI, NFS and CIFS protocols on a single wire.
Internet SCSI (iSCSI) - This works on any flavor of Ethernet, is fully routable, and was developed in the 1990s by IBM and Cisco. Most 1GbE and all 10GbE Network Interface Cards (NIC) support TCP Offload Engine (TOE) and "boot from SAN" capability. Native suppot for iSCSI is widely available in most hypervisors and operating systems, including VMware and Windows. DCB Ethernet is not required for iSCSI, but can be helpful. Many customers keep their iSCSI traffic in a separate network (often referred to as an IP SAN) from the rest of their traditional LAN traffic.
Network Attached Storage (NAS) - NFS and CIFS have been around for a long time and work with any flavor of Ethernet. Like iSCSI, DCB is not required but can be helpful. NAS went from being for files only, to be used for email and database, and now is viewed as the easiest deployment for VMware. Vmotion is able to move VM guests from one host to another within the same LAN subnet.
Infiniband or PCI extenders - this approach allows many servers to share fewer number of NICs and HBAs. While Infiniband was limited in distance for its copper cables, recent advances now allow fiber optic cables for 150 meter distances.
Interactive poll of the audience offered some insight on plans to switch from FC/FICON to Ethernet-based storage:
Interactive poll of the audience offered some insight on what portion storage is FCP/FICON attached:
Interactive poll of the audience offered some insight on what portion storage is Ethernet-attached:
Interactive poll of the audience offered some insight on what portion of servers are already using some Ethernet-attached storage:
Each vendor has its own style. HP provides homogeneous solutions, having acquired 3COM and broken off relations with Cisco. Cisco offers tight alliances over closed proprietary solutions, publicly partnering with both EMC and NetApp for storage. IBM offers loose alliances, with IBM-branded solutions from Brocade and BNT, as well as reselling arrangements with Cisco and Juniper. Oracle has focused on Infiniband instead for its appliances.
The analysts predict that IBM will be the first to deliver 40 GbE, from their BNT acquisition. They predict by 2014 that Ethernet approaches (NAS, iSCSI, FCoE) will be the core technology for all but the largest SANs, and that iSCSI and NAS will be more widespread than FCoE. As for cabling, the analysts recommend copper within the rack, but fiber optic between racks. Consider SAN management software, such as IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center.
The analysts felt that the biggest inhibitor to merging SAN and LANs will be organizational issues. SAN administrators consider LAN administrators like "Cowboys" undisciplined and unwilling to focus on 24x7 operational availability, redundancy or business continuity. LAN administrators consider SAN administrators as "Luddites" afraid or unwilling to accept FCoE, iSCSI or NAS approaches.
Driving Innovation through Innovation
Mr. Shannon Poulin from Intel presented their advancements in Cloud Computing. Let's start with some facts and predictions:
There are over 2.5 billion photos on Facebook, which runs on 30,000 servers
30 billion videos viewed every month
Nearly all Internet-connected devices are either computers or phones
An additional billion people on the Internet
Cars, televisions, and households will also be connected to the Internet
The world will need 8x more network bandwidth, 12x more storage, and 20x more compute power
To avoid confusion between on-premise and off-premise deployments, Intel defines "private cloud" as "single tenant" and "public cloud" as "multi-tenant". Clouds should be
automated, efficient, simple, secure, and interoperable enough to allow federation of resources across providers. He also felt that Clouds should be "client-aware" so that it know what devices it is talking to, and optimizes the results accordingly. For example, if watching video on a small 320x240 smartphone screen, it makes no sense for the Cloud server to push out 1080p. All devices are going through a connected/disconnected dichotomy. They can do some things while disconnected, but other things only while connected to the Internet or Cloud provider.
An internal Intel task force investigated what it would take to beat MIPS and IBM POWER processors and found that their own Intel chips lacked key functionality. Intel plans to address some of their shortcomings with a new chip called "Sandbridge" sometime next year. They also plan a series of specialized chips that support graphics processing (GPU), network processing (NPU) and so on. He also mentioned Intel released "Tukwilla" earlier this year, the latest version of Itanium chip. HP is the last major company to still use Itanium for their servers.
Shannon wrapped up the talk with a discussion of two Cloud Computing initiatives. The first is [Intel® Cloud Builders], a cross-industry effort to build Cloud infrastructures based on the Intel Xeon chipset. The second is the [Open Data Center Alliance], comprised of leading global IT managers who are working together to define and promote data center requirements for the cloud and beyond.
The analysts feel that we need to switch from thinking about "boxes" (servers, storage, networks) to "resources". To this end, they envision a future datacenter where resources are connected to an any-to-any fabric that connects compute, memory, storage, and networking resources as commodities. They feel the current trend towards integrated system stacks is just a marketing ploy by vendors to fatten their wallets. (Ouch!)
A new concept to "disaggregate" caught my attention. When you make cookies, you disaggregate a cup of sugar from the sugar bag, a teaspoon of baking soda from the box, and so on. When you carve a LUN from a disk array, you are disaggregating the storage resources you need for a project. The analysts feel we should be able to do this with servers and network resources as well, so that when you want to deploy a new workload you just disaggregate the bits and pieces in the amounts you actually plan to use and combine them accordingly. IBM calls these combinations "ensembles" of Cloud computing.
Very few workloads require "best-of-breed" technologies. Rather, this new fabric-based infrastructure recognizes the reality that most workloads do not. One thing that IT Data Center operations can learn from Cloud Service Providers is their focus on "good enough" deployment.
This means however that IT professionals will need new skill sets. IT administrators will need to learn a bit of application development, systems integration, and runbook automation. Network adminis need to enter into 12-step programs to stop using Command Line Interfaces (CLI). Server admins need to put down their screwdrivers and focus instead on policy templates.
Whether you deploy private, public or hybrid cloud computing, the benefits are real and worth the changes needed in skill sets and organizational structure.
Continuing my post-week coverage of the [Data Center 2010 conference], Wendesday afternoon included a mix of sessions that covered storage and servers.
Enabling 5x Storage Efficiency
Steve Kenniston, who now works for IBM from recent acquisition of Storwize Inc, presented IBM's new Real-Time Compression appliance. There are two appliances, one handles 1 GbE networks, and the other supports mixed 1GbE/10GbE connectivity. Files are compressed in real-time with no impact to performance, and in some cases can improve performance because there is less data written to back-end NAS devices. The appliance is not limited to IBM's N series and NetApp, but is vendor-agnostic. IBM is qualifying the solution with other NAS devices in the market. The compression can compress up to 80 percent, providing a 5x storage efficiency.
Townhall - Storage
The townhall was a Q&A session to ask the analysts their thoughts on Storage. Here I will present the answer from the analyst, and then my own commentary.
Are there any gotchas deploying Automated Storage Tiering?
Analyst: you need to fully understand your workload before investing any money into expensive Solid-State Drives (SSD).
Commentary: IBM offers Easy Tier for the IBM DS8000, SAN Volume Controller, and Storwize V7000 disk systems. Before buying any SSD, these systems will measure the workload activity and IBM offers the Storage Tier Advisory Tool (STAT) that can help identify how much SSD will benefit each workload. If you don't have these specific storage devices, IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center for Disk can help identify disk performance to determine if SSD is cost-justified.
Wouldn't it be simpler to just have separate storage arrays for different performance levels?
Analyst: No, because that would complicate BC/DR planning, as many storage devices do not coordinate consistency group processing from one array to another.
Commentary: IBM DS8000, SAN Volume Controller and Storwize V7000 disk systems support consistency groups across storage arrays, for those customers that want to take advantage of lower cost disk tiers on separate lower cost storage devices.
Can storage virtualization play a role in private cloud deployments?
Analyst: Yes, by definition, but today's storage virtualization products don't work with public cloud storage providers. None of the major public cloud providers use storage virtualization.
Commentary: IBM uses storage virtualization for its public cloud offerings, but the question was about private cloud deployments. IBM CloudBurst integrated private cloud stack supports the IBM SAN Volume Controller which makes it easy for storage to be provisioned in the self-service catalog.
Can you suggest one thing we can do Monday when we get back to the office?
Analyst: Create a team to develop a storage strategy and plan, based on input from your end-users.
Commentary: Put IBM on your short list for your next disk, tape or storage software purchase decision. Visit
[ibm.com/storage] to re-discover all of IBM's storage offerings.
What is the future of Fibre Channel?
Analyst 1: Fibre Channel is still growing, will go from 8Gbps to 16Gbps, the transition to Ethernet is slow, so FC will remain the dominant protocol through year 2014.
Analyst 2: Fibre Channel will still be around, but NAS, iSCSI and FCoE are all growing at a faster pace. Fibre Channel will only be dominant in the largest of data centers.
Commentary: Ask a vague question, get a vague answer. Fibre Channel will still be around for the next five years.
However, SAN administrators might want to investigate Ethernet-based approaches like NAS, iSCSI and FCoE where appropriate, and start beefing up their Ethernet skills.
Will Linux become the Next UNIX?
Linux in your datacenter is inevitable. In the past, Linux was limited to x86 architectures, and UNIX operating systems ran on specialized CPU architectures: IBM AIX on POWER7, Solaris on SPARC, HP-UX on PA-RISC and Itanium, and IBM z/OS on System z Architecture, to name a few. But today, Linux now runs on many of these other CPU chipsets as well.
Two common workloads, Web/App serving and DBMS, are shifting from UNIX to Linux. Linux Reliability, Availability and Serviceability (RAS) is approaching the levels of UNIX. Linux has been a mixed blessing for UNIX vendors, with x86 server margins shrinking, but the high-margin UNIX market has shrunk 25 percent in the past three years.
UNIX vendors must make the "mainframe argument" that their flavor of UNIX is more resilient than any OS that runs on Intel or AMD x86 chipsets. In 2008, Sun Solaris was the number #1 UNIX, but today, it is IBM AIX with 40 percent marketshare. Meanwhile HP has focused on extending its Windows/x86 lead with a partnership with Microsoft.
The analyst asks "Are the three UNIX vendors in it for the long haul, or are they planning graceful exits?" The four options for each vendor are:
Milk it as it declines
Accelerate the decline by focusing elsewhere
Impede the market to protect margins
Re-energize UNIX base through added value
Here is the analyst's view on each UNIX vendor.
IBM AIX now owns 40 percent marketshare of the UNIX market. While the POWER7 chipset supports multiple operating systems, IBM has not been able to get an ecosystem to adopt Linux-on-POWER. The "Other" includes z/OS, IBM i, and other x86-based OS.
HP has multi-OS Itanium from Intel, but is moving to Multi-OS blades instead. Their "x86 plus HP-UX" strategy is a two-pronged attack against IBM AIX and z/OS. Intel Nehalem chipset is approaching the RAS of Itanium, making the "mainframe argument" more difficult for HP-UX.
Before Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, Oracle was focused on Linux as a UNIX replacement. After the acquisition, they now claim to support Linux and Solaris equally. They are now focused on trying to protect their rapidly declining install base by keeping IBM and HP out. They will work hard to differentiate Solaris as having "secret sauce" that is not in Linux. They will continue to compete head-on against Red Hat Linux.
An interactive poll of the audience indicated that the most strategic Linux/UNIX platform over the next next five years was Red Hat Linux. This beat out AIX, Solaris and HP-UX, as well as all of the other distributions of Linux.
The rooms emptied quickly after the last session, as everyone wanted to get to the "Hospitality Suites".