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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Specialist for the IBM System Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2011, Tony celebrated his 25th year anniversary with IBM Storage on the same day as the IBM's Centennial. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services. You can also follow him on Twitter @az990tony.
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Well, it's Tuesday again, and that means more IBM announcements!
Today, IBM announced the enhanced IBM System Storage DS3200 disk system.It is in our DS3000 series, the DS3200 is SAS-attach, DS3300 is iSCSI-attach, and DS3400 is FC-attach. All of them support up to 48 drives, which can be a mix of SAS and SATA drives.
The DS3200 supports the following operating environments (see IBM's [Interop Matrix] for details):
Linux (both Linux-x86 and Linux on POWER)
With today's announcements, the DS3200 can be used to boot from, as well as contain data. This is ideal to combine with IBM BladeCenter. With the IBM BladeCenter you can have 14 blades, either x86 or POWER based processors, attached to a DS3200 via SAS switch modules in the back of the chassis.
Let's take an example of how this can be used for a Scale-Out File Services[SoFS] deployment.
First, we start with servers. We can have either three [IBM System x3650] servers, but this would use up all six of the direct-attach ports. Instead, we'll choose the [BladeCenter H chassis], with three HS21 blades for SoFS, and that leaves us with eleven empty blade slots we could put in a management node, or other blades to run applications.
SAS connectivity modules
The IBM BladeCenter [SAS Connectivity Module] allows the blade servers to connect to a DS3200. Two of them fit right in the back of the BladeCenter chassis, providing full redundancy without consuming additional rack space.
DS3200 and EXP3000 expansion drawers
We'll have one DS3200 controller with twelve internal drives, and three expansion EXP3000 drawers with twelve drives each, for a total of 48 drives. Using 1TB SATA, this would be 48 TB raw capacity.
The end result? You get a 48TB NAS scalable storage solution, supporting up to 7500 concurrent CIFS and NFS users, with up to 700 MB/sec with large block transfers. By using BladeCenter, you can expand performance by adding more blades to the Chassis, or have some blades running SAP or Oracle RAC have direct read/write access to the SoFS data.
Just another example on how IBM can bring together all the components of a solution to provide customer value!
Fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC has a post titled[Whither Frankenstorage] causing quite a stir in the [Stor-o-Sphere]. He is not the firstEMC blogger to use this phrase, I credit [BarryB] for coining the term back in September 2008.Frankenstein serves as the ideal icon for EMC's FUD machine. In the novel, Dr. Frankenstein wasattempting to do something nobody else had ever attempted, to create human life from variousdead body parts, a process full of uncertainty and doubt, with frightful results.
Perhaps it was a coincidence that I discussed IBM's storage strategy in my post[Foundations and Flavorings] on January 28, shortly followed by NetApp's announcing V-series gateway [support of Texas Memory Systems' RamSan-500] on February 3. These two events mighthave been the trigger that pushed ChuckH over the edge to put pen to paper, .. finger to keyboard.
Flinging FUD in all directions was ChuckH's not-so-subtle way to remind the world that EMC is the only major storage vendor to not offer a successful storage virtualization product. Withoutfirst-hand experience with well-designed storage virtualization, ChuckH conjectures that a configuration matching intelligent front-ends to reliable back-ends might be more expensive, might be more difficult to manage, or might be harder to support.
(Note: Rest assured, IBM can demonstrate that a modular approach, combining intelligent front-ends to reliableback-ends can help reduce costs, be easier to manage, and be fully supported. Contact yourlocal IBM Business Partner or storage sales rep for details.)
My favorite was from Nigel Poulton's post on[Ruptured Monkey]. Here's an excerpt:
In fact, I'm fairly certain that EMC don't back away from customers who run HP or IBM servers and say "sorry we cant help you here, an end to end HP or IBM solution would be much better for you when it comes to troubleshooting……. putting our storage in would only add extra layers of complexity and make things messy….."
On most other days, ChuckH has well-written, insightful blog posts that show that EMC brings some value to the industry. I could have made a snarky reference to[Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde], or indicate this post proves that nobody at EMC is editing or reviewingChuck's thoughts before they get posted. But it's too late, Chuck already got the message, and added the following to bring the discussion back to civility:
When considering the broad range of storage media service levels available today (flash, FC, SATA, spin-down, etc.) what's the best way to offer these media choices in an array? Is the answer (a) combine smaller arrays from different vendors together behind a virtualization head, or (b) invest the time and effort to build arrays that can directly support all of these media types?
Would anyone like to try a cogent response to the question posed, please?
To address ChuckH's question, Nigel's post gave me the idea to use today's 200th year celebration of [Charles Darwin].
Over millions of years, Charles Darwin argued, evolution results in change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms from one generation to the next.A key component of this is a biological process called [mitosis] that allows a single cell to split and become two cells. In some cases, these individual daughter cells can then specialize to specific functions, such as nerve cells, muscle cells or bone cells. Over time, adaptations that work well carry forward, and thosethat don't get left behind.
I find it interesting that before [On the Origin of Species] was published in 1859, works of fiction like Mary Shelley's[Frankenstein] had monsters being"created", and afterward, monsters were the result of mutation or selective adaptation.
Nigel compares EMC's monolithic approach to placing an intelligent front-end with a reliable back-end as "One man band, where one guy is trying playing all the instruments himself" versus the "Philharmonic Orchestra". I would take it one step further, comparing single-cell organisms to multi-cell life forms.
Innovative companies like Google and Amazon can't wait for a completely integrated solution from a major IT vendor to meet their needs. Why should they? There are open standards, and ways to interconnect the best intelligence into a [dynamic infrastructure®.].You don't need to wait another million years to see which way the IT marketplace considers the better approach. Just look at the last 60 years. Back then, computer systems were all integrated, server, storage, and the wires that connected them were all inside a huge container. Then, mitosis happened, and IBM created external tape storage in 1952, and external disk storage in 1956. Open standards for interfaces allowed third party manufacturers like HDS, StorageTek and EMC to offer plug-compatible storage devices.
On the server side, it didn't take long for functionality in mainframes to split off. Mitosis happened again, with front-end UNIX systems processing incoming data, and mainframes handling the back-end data bases and printing. The client-server era replaced dumb terminals with more intelligent desktops and workstations, and these could handle the front-end processing to display information, with the back-end storage and number-crunching being handled by the UNIX and mainframe systems they connected to.Connections between desktops and servers, and from servers to storage, have also evolved. From thousands of direct-attach cables to networks of switches and directors.
Charles Darwin was particularly interested in cases where evolution happened faster or slower than in other cases. While IBM and Microsoft encouraged third-party innovations on the PC side, Apple resisted mitosis, trying to keep its machines pure single-cell, integrated solutions.For the same reasons that you can't fight the laws of nature, Apple ended up having to support I/O ports to external devices. Thanks to open standards like USB and Firewire, you can connect third-party storage to Apple computers. My little Mac Mini at home has more devices hanging off it than any of my Windows or Linux boxes! And Apple's iPod is successful because its iTunes software runs on both Windows and Mac OS operating systems.
Every time mitosis happens in the IT industry, it opens up opportunities to specialize, to innovate, to adapt to a dynamically changing world. When mitosis is suppressed, you get limiting products and frustratedengineers leaving to form their own start-up companies.But when mitosis is encouraged, you get successful products, solutions and partnerships positioned for a smarter planet.
Earlier this year, IBM mandated that every employee provided a laptop had to implement Full-Disk Encryption for their primary hard drive, and any other drive, internal or external, that contained sensitive information. An exception was granted to anyone who NEVER took their laptop out of the IBM building. At IBM Tucson, we have five buildings, so if you are in the habit of taking your laptop from one building to another, then encryption is required!
The need to secure the information on your laptop has existed ever since laptops were given to employees. In my blog post [Biggest Mistakes of 2006], I wrote the following:
"Laptops made the news this year in a variety of ways. #1 was exploding batteries, and #6 were the stolen laptops that exposed private personal information. Someone I know was listed in one of these stolen databases, so this last one hits close to home. Security is becoming a bigger issue now, and IBM was the first to deliver device-based encryption with the TS1120 enterprise tape drive."
Not surprisingly, IBM laptops are tracked and monitored. In my blog post [Using ILM to Save Trees], I wrote the following:
"Some assets might be declared a 'necessary evil' like laptops, but are tracked to the n'th degree to ensure they are not lost, stolen or taken out of the building. Other assets are declared "strategically important" but are readily discarded, or at least allowed to [walk out the door each evening]."
Unfortunately, dual-boot environments won't cut it for Full-Disk Encryption. For Windows users, IBM has chosen Pretty Good Privacy [PGP]. For Linux users, IBM has chosen Linux Unified Key Setup [LUKS]. PGP doesn't work with Linux, and LUKS doesn't work with Windows.
For those of us who may need access to both Operating Systems, we have to choose. Select one as the primary OS, and run the other as a guest virtual machine. I opted for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 as my primary, with LUKS encryption, and Linux KVM to run Windows as the guest.
I am not alone. While I chose the Linux method voluntarily, IBM has decided that 70,000 employees must also set up their systems this way, switching them from Windows to Linux by year end, but allowing them to run Windows as a KVM guest image if needed.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons:
LUKS allows for up to 8 passphrases, so you can give one to your boss, one to your admin assistant, and in the event they leave the company, you can disable their passphrase without impacting anyone else or having to memorize a new one. PGP on Windows supports only a single passphrase.
Linux is a rock-solid operating system. I found that Windows as a KVM guest runs better than running it natively in a dual-boot configuration.
Linux is more secure against viruses. Most viruses run only on Windows operating systems. The Windows guest is well isolated from the Linux operating system files. Recovering from an infected or corrupted Windows guest is merely re-cloning a new "raw" image file.
Linux has a vibrant community of support. I am very impressed that anytime I need help, I can find answers or assistance quickly from other Linux users. Linux is also supported by our help desk, although in my experience, not as well as the community offers.
Employees that work with multiple clients can have a separate Windows guest for each one, preventing any cross-contamination between systems.
Linux is different from Windows, and some learning curve may be required. Not everyone is happy with this change.
(I often joke that the only people who are comfortable with change are babies with soiled diapers and prisoners on death row!)
Implementation is a full re-install of Linux, followed by a fresh install of Windows.
Not all software required for our jobs at IBM runs on Linux, so a Windows guest VM is a necessity. If you thought Windows ran slowly on a fully-encrypted disk, imagine how much slower it runs as a VM guest with limited memory resources.
In theory, I could have tried the Windows/PGP method for a few weeks, then gone through the entire process to switch over to Linux/LUKS, and then draw my comparisons that way. Instead, I just chose the Linux/LUKS method, and am happy with my decision.
Many people have asked me if there was any logic with the IBM naming convention of IBM Systems branded servers. Here's your quick and easy cheat sheet:
System x -- "x" for cross-platform architecture. Technologies from our mainframe and UNIX servers were brought into chips that sit next to the Intel or AMD processors to provide a more reliable x86 server experience. For example, some models have a POWER processor-based Remote Supervisor Adapter (RSA).
System p -- "p" for POWER architecture.
System z -- "z" for Zero-downtime, zero-exposures. Our lawyers prefer "near-zero", but this is about as close as you get to ["six-nines" availability] in our industry, with the highest level of security and encryption, no other vendor comes close, so you get the idea.
But what about the "i" for System i? Officially, it stands for "Integrated" in that it could integrate different applications running on different operating systems onto a [COMMON] platform. Options were available to insert Intel-based processor cards that ran Windows, or attach special cables that allowed separate System x servers running Windows to attach to a System i. Both allowed Windows applications to share the internal LAN and SAN inside the System i machine. Later, IBM allowed [AIX on System i] and [Linux on Power] operating systems to run as well.
From a storage perspective, we often joked that the "i" stood for "island", as most System i machines used internal disk, or attached externally to only a fewselected models of disk from IBM and EMC that had special support for i5/OS using a special, non-standard 520-byte disk block size. This meant only our popular IBM System Storage DS6000 and DS8000 series disk systems were available. This block size requirement only applies to disk. For tape, i5/OS supports both IBM TS1120 and LTO tape systems. For the most part,System i machines stood separate from the mainframe, and the rest of the Linux, UNIX and Windows distributed serverson the data center floor.
Often, when I am talking to customers, they ask when will product xyz be supported on System z or System i?I explained that IBM's strategy is not to make all storage devices connect via ESCON/FICON or support non-standard block sizes, but rather to get the servers to use standard 512-byte block size, Fibre Channel and other standard protocols.(The old adage applies: If you can't get Mohamed to move to the mountain, get the mountain to move to Mohamed).
On the System z mainframe, we are 60 percent there, allowing three of the five operating systems (z/VM, z/VSE and Linux) to access FCP-based disk and tape devices. (Four out of six if you include [OpenSolaris for the mainframe])But what about System i? As the characters on the popular television show [LOST] would say: It's time to get off the island!
Last week, IBM announced the new [i5/OS V6R1 operating system] with features that will greatly improve the use of external storage on this platform. Check this out:
POWER6-based System i 570 model server
Our latest, most powerful POWER processor brought to the System i platform. The 570 model will be the first in the System i family of servers to make use of new processing technology, using up to 16 (sixteen!) POWER6 processors (running at 4.7GHZ) in each machine.The advantage of the new processors is the increased commercial processing workload (CPW) rating, 31 percent greater than the POWER5+ version and 72 percent greater than the POWER5 version. CPW is the "MIPS" or "TeraFlops" rating for comparing System i servers.Here is the[Announcement Letter].
Fibre Channel Adapter for System i hardware
That's right, these are [Smart IOAs], so an I/O Processor (IOP) is no longer required! You can even boot the Initial Program Load (IPL) direclty from SAN-attached tape.This brings System i to the 21st century for Business Continuity options.
Virtual I/O Server (VIOS)
[VirtualI/O Server] has been around for System p machines, but now available on System i as well. This allows multiplelogical partitions (LPARs) to access resources like Ethernet cards and FCP host bus adapters. In the case of storage, the VIOS handles the 520-byte to 512-byte conversion, so that i5/OS systems can now read and write to standard FCP devices like the IBM System Storage DS4800 and DS4700 disk systems.
IBM System Storage DS4000 series
Initially, we have certified DS4700 and DS4800 disk systems to work with i5/OS, but more devices are in plan.This means that you can now share your DS4700 between i5/OS and your other Linux, UNIX and Windowsservers, take advantage of a mix of FC and SATA disk capacities, RAID6 protection, and so on.
To call [IBM PowerVM] the "VMware for the POWER architecture" would not do it quite justice. In combination with VIOS, IBM PowerVM is able to run a variety of AIX, Linux and i5/OS guest images.The "Live Partition Mobility" feature allows you to easily move guest images from one system to another, while they are running, just like VMotion for x86 machines.
And while we are on the topic of x86, PowerVM is also able to represent a Linux-x86 emulation base to run x86-compiled applications. While many Linux applications could be re-complied from source code for the POWER architecture "as is", others required perhaps 1-2 percent modification to port them over, and that was too much for some software development houses. Now, we can run most x86-compiled Linux application binaries in their original form on POWER architecture servers.
BladeCenter JS22 Express
The POWER6-based [JS22 Express blade] can run i5/OS, taking advantage of PowerVM and VIOS to access all of the BladeCenterresources. The BladeCenter lets you mix and match POWER and x86-based blades in the same chassis, providing theultimate in flexibility.
I can't believe I have been blogging for a year now!
I have Jennifer Jones from IBM to thank for getting this started. She was my predecessor in the job I have now, and she was moving on to bigger and better things, and during the transition for me to take over, she suggested that we start a blog, podcast, or similar. While there are many blogs and podcasts inside the firewall of IBM, I wanted something to be accessible to all of our IBM sales team, IBM Business Partners, existing and prospective clients, and to enable comments, to enable two-waycommunication. Podcasts are very one-way, so we chose a blog instead.Getting it set up took a while, convincing our own management that this was worthwhile, and dealing with our legal department on the IBM blogging guidelines of what we can and cannot write about, we finally got it going last year, launching September 1, just in time for our 50 years of disk systems innovation campaign.
It has been a wild ride, a great learning experience, and has proven quite fulfilling for job satisfaction. Here are some observations and lessons I have learned along the way.
Roller is the open source blog server that drives Sun Microsystem's blogs.sun.com employee blogging site, IBM DeveloperWorks blogs that this blog exists on, thousands of internal blogs at IBM Blog Central, the JRoller Java community site, and hundreds of others world-wide.Whereas there might be fancier blog systems elsewhere that I could have chosen, hosting my blog with IBM Developerworksseemed like a good choice. I can access from any web-browser capable machine, and enter my blog posts in nativeHTML, that I develop in the tool itself, or offline with a standard basic text editor like Microsoft Notepad that I can then cut-and-paste back in.
One lesson I learned the hard way was that Roller generates the Permalink URL for each blog post based on the first five words of the title. For that reason, it is important to chose an appropriate and unique title, avoiding the use of punctuation, quotation marks, or pharmaceutical "enhancement products" that might get rejected by SPAM filters.Once chosen, you can't change the title afterwards as it won't match the Permalink anymore.My blog post "Aperi is (enhancement product) for SMI-S" caused no end of grief to our Press Release team.
Writing blog posts in native HTML is not as hard as it sounds. I am limited to hosting a maximum of 24MB of files, and they can only be jpg, jpeg, gif, png, mp3, pdf or ppt format.So, wherever possible, I point to other websites for content.For those new to blogging, I recommendThe Barebones Guide to HTML.
Roller also generates for me a spreadsheet of all my page views for the week. Tracking blog traffic closely is as crazyas checking your company's stock price every day. These "web-stat" e-mails get filed directly into my Bacn folder on Lotus Notes.
In my earlyadvice to bloggers, I mentioned my choice of Bloglines as my RSS feed reader. When I subscribe to a new blog, I specify Full entries, not Partial,which allows me to scan it quickly, but filters out many of the non-text content like videos. It also allowed meto see what my own blog posts looked like from within a reader, so that I can write them appropriately.
I find if valuable to read other blogs, including those written by employees of our toughest competitors. Evenif you don't blog yourself, following blogs can be extremely valuable. Be careful what you leave as comments onother blogs, they may come back to haunt you later.
Currently, I track 55 blogs, some about storage,marketing, Web 2.0 issues, Second Life, Linux, or other areas of interest. I prefer blogs that make only 1-5 postsper week, so blogs like LifeHacker and LifeRemix are off my Bloglines list, but are excellent resourceswhen I am searching for something specific. If you think 55 is a lot of blogs, consider Timothy Ferriss' post onHow RobertScoble reads 622 RSS feeds each morning.
I have quite an international readership, so I have to be careful using American idioms and pop cultural references.For example, in my blog post IBM acquires Softek, I mentioned "shotgun weddings" and had various responses asking what exactly did that mean,all from readers outside the USA. I've learned that sometimes you need to link them to an American Slang dictionary,or Wikipedia encyclopedia entry to explain these terms and phrases.
Technoraticurrently tracks over 100 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. Getting my blogtracked had some issues. You have to join, thenpost a "claim"on your own blog. My mistake was having a case-sensitive URL with a mix of upper and lower case letters, but Technorati prefers all lower case. IBM worked with Technorati to get this resolved.
Del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website -- the primary use is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On del.icio.us, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders.
I use Firefox, Safari, Dillo and Internet Explorer web browsers, so it is nice that I have access to allmy bookmarks in the same consistent manner. When I see content on a website that I might like to reference laterin a blog, I tag it with del.icio.us so that I can get to it later.
Fellow GTD-ers will quickly recognize this acronym, but for the rest of you, it refers to David Allen's book "Getting Things Done®".This is a great book! I learned about it reading other people's blogs, and found it incrediblyuseful helping me organize my time.There are various online tools available to help employ this method. I use Lotus Connections Activitiesfor group projects with co-workers at IBM, and BackPack for projects withmy friends outside of work.
The success of YouTube encouraged IBM to launch IBM TV, a portal for IBM's video and multimedia assets and make it easier for IBM employees, customers, partners and prospects to access and view IBM multimedia. The plan is to have eight anchor episodes per year, professionally hosted by TV personality, Joe Washington, and point to related offers and other resources for viewers to learn more.
Blogging also introduced me to Second Life. I asked around if anyone else within IBM was using Second Life, anddiscovered quite a few. I got invited to join our internal Eightbar group, and participated in various events, including an IBM Holidayparty that I discussed in my blog post"Building a Snowman in Second Life".
In April, we had a launch of our newest products in Second Life, and we plan to have two more Second Life events,September 20 and another in November, staged as "Meet the Experts" question and answer panels.
I wrap up with Facebook. Actually, whereas most of my Web 2.0 efforts have been work-related, I have quite a few friends and family who follow my blog. Several were inspired to start their own blogs, such asPassages from Pamand Barry Whyte on Storage Virtualization. Bridging the gap is Facebook, something I can use to keep tabs on my friends, as well as my storage industry-related contacts.
Wow, that's quite a lot in one year. Well, I am done with my meetings down here in Sao Paulo, Brazil. My colleauges and I are returning tonight to enjoy the long Labor Day weekend.
(FTC Disclosure: I do not work or have any financial investments in ENC Security Systems. ENC Security Systems did not paid me to mention them on this blog. Their mention in this blog is not an endorsement of either their company or any of their products. Information about EncryptStick was based solely on publicly available information and my own personal experiences. My friends at ENC Security Systems provided me a full-version pre-loaded stick for this review.)
The EncryptStick software comes in two flavors, a free/trial version, and the full/paid version. The free trial version has [limits on capacity and time] but provides enough glimpse of the product to decide before you buy the full version. You can download the software yourself and put in on your own USB device, or purchase the pre-loaded stick that comes with the full-version license.
Whichever you choose, the EncryptStick offers three nice protection features:
Encryption for data organized in "storage vaults", which can be either on the stick itself, or on any other machine the stick is connected to. That is a nice feature, because you are not limited to the capacity of the USB stick.
Encrypted password list for all your websites and programs.
A secure browser, that prevents any key-logging or malware that might be on the host Windows machine.
I have tried out all three functions and everything works as advertised. However, there is always room for improvement, so here are my suggestions.
The first problem is that the pre-loaded stick looks like it is worth a million dollars. It is in a shiny bronze color with "EncryptStick" emblazoned on it. This is NOT subtle advertising! This 8GB capacity stick looks like it would be worth stealing solely on being a nice piece of jewelry, and then the added bonus that there might be "valuable secrets" just makes that possibility even more likely.
If you want to keep your information secure, it would help to have "plausible deniability" that there is nothing of value on a stick. Either have some corporate logo on it, of have the stick look like a cute animal, like these pig or chicken USB sticks.
It reminds me how the first Apple iPod's were in bright [Mug-me White]. I use black headphones with my black iPod to avoid this problem.
Of course, you can always install the downloadable version of EncryptStick software onto a less conspicuous stick if you are concerned about theft. The full/paid version of EncryptStick offers an option for "lost key recovery" which would allow you to backup the contents of the stick and be able to retrieve them on a newly purchased stick in the event your first one is lost or stolen.
Imagine how "unlucky" I felt when I notice that I had lost my "rabbits feet" on this cute animal-themed USB stick.
I sense trouble for losing the cap on my EncryptStick as well. This might seem trivial, but is a pet-peeve of mine that USB sticks should plan for this. Not only is there nothing to keep the cap on (it slides on and off quite smoothly), but there is no loop to attach the cap to anything if you wanted to.
Since then, I got smart and try to look for ways to keep the cap connected. Some designs, like this IBM-logoed stick shown above, just rotate around an axle, giving you access when you need it, and protection when it is folded closed.
Alternatively, get a little chain that allows you to attach the cap to the main stick. In the case of the pig and chicken, the memory section had a hole pre-drilled and a chain to put through it. I drilled an extra hole in the cap section of each USB stick, and connected the chain through both pieces.
(Warning: Kids, be sure to ask for assistance from your parents before using any power tools on small plastic objects.)
The EncryptStick can run on either Microsoft Windows or Mac OS. The instructions indicate that you can install both versions of download software onto a single stick, so why not do that for the pre-loaded full version? The stick I have had only the Windows version pre-loaded. I don't know if the Windows and Mac OS versions can unlock the same "storage vaults" on the stick.
Certainly, I have been to many companies where either everyone runs Windows or everyone runs Mac OS. If the primary target audience is to use this stick at work in one of those places, then no changes are required. However, at IBM, we have employees using Windows, Mac OS and Linux. In my case, I have all three! Ideally, I would like a version of EncryptStick that I could take on trips with me that would allow me to use it regardless of the Operating System I encountered.
Since there isn't a Linux-version of EncryptStick software, I decided to modify my stick to support booting Linux. I am finding more and more Linux kiosks when I travel, especially at airports and high-traffic locations, so having a stick that works both in Windows or Linux would be useful. Here are some suggestions if you want to try this at home:
Use fdisk to change the FAT32 partition type from "b" to "c". Apparently, Grub2 requires type "c", but the pre-loaded EncryptStick was set to "b". The Windows version of EncryptStick> seems to work fine in either mode, so this is a harmless change.
Install Grub2 with "grub-install" from a working Linux system.
Once Grub2 is installed, you can boot ISO images of various Linux Rescue CDs, like [PartedMagic] which includes the open-source [TrueCrypt] encryption software that you could use for Linux purposes.
This USB stick could also be used to help repair a damaged or compromised Windows system. Consider installing [Ophcrack] or [Avira].
Certainly, 8GB is big enough to run a full Linux distribution. The latest 32-bit version of [Ubuntu] could run on any 32-bit or 64-bit Intel or AMD x86 machine, and have enough room to store an [encrypted home directory].
Since the stick is formatted FAT32, you should be able to run your original Windows or Mac OS version of EncryptStick with these changes.
Depending on where you are, you may not have the luxury to reboot a system from the USB memory stick. Certainly, this may require changes to the boot sequence in the BIOS and/or hitting the right keys at the right time during the boot sequence. I have been to some "Internet Cafes" that frown on this, or have blocked this altogether, forcing you to boot only from the hard drive.
Well, those are my suggestions. Whether you go on a trip with or without your laptop, it can't hurt to take this EncryptStick along. If you get a virus on your laptop, or have your laptop stolen, then it could be handy to have around. If you don't bring your laptop, you can use this at Internet cafes, hotel business centers, libraries, or other places where public computers are available.
Well, it feels like Tuesday and you know what that means... "IBM Announcement Day!" Actually, today is Wednesday, but since Monday was Memorial Day holiday here in the USA, my week is day-shifted. Yesterday, IBM announced its latest IBM FlashCopy Manager v2.2 release. Fellow blogger, Del Hoobler (IBM) has also posted something on this out atthe [Tivoli Storage Blog].
IBM FlashCopy Manager replaces two previous products. One was called Tivoli Storage Manager for Copy Services, the other was called Tivoli Storage Manager for Advanced Copy Services. To say people were confused between these two was an understatement, the first was for Windows, and the second was for UNIX and Linux operating systems. The solution? A new product that replaces both of these former products to support Windows, UNIX and Linux! Thus, IBM FlashCopy Manager was born. I introduced this product back in 2009 in my post [New DS8700 and other announcements].
IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager provides what most people with "N series SnapManager envy" are looking for: application-aware point-in-time copies. This product takes advantage of the underlying point-in-time interfaces available on various disk storage systems:
FlashCopy on the DS8000 and SAN Volume Controller (SVC)
Snapshot on the XIV storage system
Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) interface on the DS3000, DS4000, DS5000 and non-IBM gear that supports this Microsoft Windows protocol
For Windows, IBM FlashCopy Manager can coordinate the backup of Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server. The new version 2.2 adds support for Exchange 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2. This includes the ability to recover an individual mailbox or mail item from an Exchange backup. The data can be recovered directly to an Exchange server, or to a PST file.
For UNIX and Linux, IBM FlashCopy Manager can coordinate the backup of DB2, SAP and Oracle databases. Version 2.2 adds support specific Linux and Solaris operating systems, and provides a new capability for database cloning. Basically, database cloning restores a database under a new name with all the appropriate changes to allow its use for other purposes, like development, test or education training. A new "fcmcli" command line interface allows IBM FlashCopy Manager to be used for custom applications or file systems.
A common misperception is that IBM FlashCopy Manager requires IBM Tivoli Storage Manager backup software to function. That is not true. You have two options:
In Stand-alone mode, it's just you, the application, IBM FlashCopy Manager and your disk system. IBM FlashCopy Manager coordinates the point-in-time copies, maintains the correct number of versions, and allows you to backup and restore directly disk-to-disk.
Unified Recovery Management with Tivoli Storage Manager
Of course, the risk with relying only on point-in-time copies is that in most cases, they are on the same disk system as the original data. The exception being virtual disks from the SAN Volume Controller. IBM FlashCopy Manager can be combined with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager so that the point-in-time copies can be copied off to a local or remote TSM server, so that if the disk system that contains both the source and the point-in-time copies fails, you have a backup copy from TSM. In this approach, you can still restore from the point-in-time copies, but you can also restore from the TSM backups as well.
IBM FlashCopy Manager is an excellent platform to connect application-aware fucntionality with hardware-based copy services.
Well, it's Wednesday, and you know what that means... IBM Announcements!
(Actually most IBM announcements are on Tuesdays, but IBM gave me extra time to recover from my trip to Europe!)
Today, IBM announced [IBM PureSystems], a new family of expert-integrated systems that combine storage, servers, networking, and software, based on IBM's decades of experience in the IT industry. You can register for the [Launch Event] today (April 11) at 2pm EDT, and download the companion "Integrated Expertise" event app for Apple, Android or Blackberry smartphones.
(If you are thinking, "Hey, wait a minute, hasn't this been done before?" you are not alone. Yes, IBM introduced the System/360 back in 1964, and the AS/400 back in 1988, so today's announcement is on scheduled for this 24-year cycle. Based on IBM's past success in this area, others have followed, most recently, Oracle, HP and Cisco.)
Initially, there are two offerings:
IBM PureFlex™ System
IBM PureFlex is like IaaS-in-a-box, allowing you to manage the system as a pool of virtual resources. It can be used for private cloud deployments, hybrid cloud deployments, or by service providers to offer public cloud solutions. IBM drinks its own champagne, and will have no problem integrating these into its [IBM SmartCloud] offerings.
To simplify ordering, the IBM PureFlex comes in three tee-shirt sizes: Express, Standard and Enterprise.
IBM PureFlex is based on a 10U-high, 19-inch wide, standard rack-mountable chassis that holds 14 bays, organized in a 7 by 2 matrix. Unlike BladeCenter where blades are inserted vertically, the IBM PureFlex nodes are horizontal. Some of the nodes take up a single bay (half-wide), but a few are full-wide, take up two bays, the full 19-inch width of the chassis. Compute and storage snap in the front, while power supplies, fans, and networking snap in the back. You can fit up to four chassis in a standard 42U rack.
Unlike competitive offerings, IBM does not limit you to x86 architectures. Both x86 and POWER-based compute nodes can be mixed into a single chassis. Out of the box, the IBM PureFlex supports four operating systems (AIX, IBM i, Linux and Windows), four server hypervisors (Hyper-V, Linux KVM, PowerVM, and VMware), and two storage hypervisors (SAN Volume Controller and Storwize V7000).
There are a variety of storage options for this. IBM will offer SSD and HDD inside the compute nodes themselves, direct-attached storage nodes, and an integrated version of the Storwize V7000 disk system. Of course, every IBM System Storage product is supported as external storage. Since Storwize V7000 and SAN Volume Controller support external virtualization, many non-IBM devices will be supported automatically as well.
Networking is also optimized, with options for 10Gb and 40Gb Ethernet/FCoE, 40Gb and 56Gb Infiniband, 8Gbps and 16Gbps Fibre Channel. Much of the networking traffic can be handled within the chassis, to minimize traffic on external switches and directors.
For management, IBM offers the Flex System Manager, that allows you to manage all the resources from a single pane of glass. The goal is to greatly simplify the IT lifecycle experience of procurement, installation, deployment and maintenance.
IBM PureApplication™ System
IBM PureApplication is like PaaS-in-a-box. Based on the IBM PureFlex infrastructure, the IBM PureApplication adds additional software layers focused on transactional web, business logic, and database workloads. Initially, it will offer two platforms: Linux platform based on x86 processors, Linux KVM and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL); and a UNIX platform based on POWER7 processors, PowerVM and AIX operating system. It will be offered in four tee-shirt sizes (small, medium, large and extra large).
In addition to having IBM's middleware like DB2 and WebSphere optimized for this platform, over 600 companies will announce this week that they will support and participate in the IBM PureSystems ecosystem as well. Already, there are 150 "Patterns of Expertise" ready to deploy from IBM PureSystem Centre, a kind of a "data center app store", borrowing an idea used today with smartphones.
By packaging applications in this manner, workloads can easily shift between private, hybrid and public clouds.
If you are unhappy with the inflexibility of your VCE Vblock, HP Integrity, or Oracle ExaLogic, talk to your local IBM Business Partner or Sales Representative. We might be able to buy your boat anchor off your hands, as part of an IBM PureSystems sale, with an attractive IBM Global Financing plan.
Despite this, or perhaps because of this, over 30 percent of IBM's Linux server revenue is onnon-x86 platforms, avoiding the XenSource vs. VMware decision altogether. Both System z (traditional mainframe servers) and System p (traditional UNIX servers) are able to run many Linux images in a fully virtualized manner, without VMware or XenSource.
In addition to dominating the gaming world, producing chips for the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft Xbox 360, IBM also dominates the world of Linux and UNIX servers. Today, IBM announced its new POWER7 processor, and a line of servers that use this technology. Here is a quick [3-minute video] about the POWER7.
While others might be [Dancing on Sun's grave], IBM instead is focused on providing value to the marketplace. Here is another quick [2-minute video] about why thousands of companies have switched from Sun, HP and Dell over to IBM.
[R&D Magazine] recently conducted a survey that prompted readers to identify the world's most successful Research and Development (R&D) companies. The results are in: IBM was recognized as the best R&D company in the world when several different categories were evaluated, including:
R&D spending as a percentage of revenue
the number of patents
new products in development
The survey considered additional information on more than 130 companies such as data on intellectual property, community service and financial growth trends. Readers were also asked five distinct questions, including the following:
Where would you like to work based on their R&D?
What companies have the most improved R&D in the past five years?
What companies are the leaders in R&D?
Which company's R&D has the strongest influence on society?
Which company's R&D is the most proactive in high tech challenges?
Since it is often 5-15 years between when a scientist in one of our many research labs comes up with a clever idea, to when it is a market success, it is good to have external recognition for the R&D efforts we are doing right now.Here is a link to a [four-page PDF] of the magazine article.
Take for example IBM's recent breakthrough in Silicon photonics. Supercomputers that consist of thousands of individual processing nodes, typically running Linux on dual-core or quad-core processors, connected by miles of copper wires could one day fit into a laptop PC. And while today’s supercomputers can use the equivalent energy required to power hundreds of homes, these future tiny supercomputers-on-a-chip would expend the energy of a light bulb, so this solution is more "green" for the environment.According to the [IBM Press Release]:
The breakthrough -- known in the industry as a silicon Mach-Zehnder electro-optic modulator -- performs the function of converting electrical signals into pulses of light. The IBM modulator is 100 to 1,000 times smaller in size compared to previously demonstrated modulators of its kind, paving the way for many such devices and eventually complete optical routing networks to be integrated onto a single chip. This could significantly reduce cost, energy and heat while increasing communications bandwidth between the cores more than a hundred times over wired chips.
“Work is underway within IBM and in the industry to pack many more computing cores on a single chip, but today’s on-chip communications technology would overheat and be far too slow to handle that increase in workload,” said Dr. T.C. Chen, vice president, Science and Technology, IBM Research. “What we have done is a significant step toward building a vastly smaller and more power-efficient way to connect those cores, in a way that nobody has done before.”
Today, one of the most advanced chips in the world -- IBM’s Cell processor which powers the Sony Playstation 3 -- contains nine cores on a single chip. The new technology aims to enable a power-efficient method to connect hundreds or thousands of cores together on a tiny chip by eliminating the wires required to connect them. Using light instead of wires to send information between the cores can be 100 times faster and use 10 times less power than wires.
Well, it's Tuesday again, which means IBM announcement day. With our [big launches] we had this year, there might be some confusion on IBM terminology on how announcements are handled.Basically, there are three levels:
Technology demonstrations show IBM's leadership, innovation and investment direction, without having to detail a specificproduct offering.Last month's[Project Quicksilver], for example, demonstrated the ability to handle over 1 million IOPS with Solid State Disk.IBM is committed to develop solid state storage to create real-world uses across a broad range of applications, middleware, and systems offerings.
A preview announcement does entail a specific product offering, but may not necessarily include pricing, packagingor specific availability dates.
An announcement also entails a specific product offering, and does include pricing, packaging and specific availability dates.
With our September 8 launch of the IBM Information Infrastructure strategic initiative, there were a mix of all three of these. Many of the preview announcements will be followed up with full announcements later this year. Today, the IBM Tivoli Advanced Backup andRecovery for z/OS v2.1 was announced.
Note: If you don't use z/OS on a System z mainframe, you can stop reading now.
As many of my loyal readers know, I was lead architect for DFSMS until 2001, and so functions related to DFSMS and z/OS are very near and dear to my heart. For Business Continuity, IBM created Aggregate Backup andRecovery Support (ABARS) as part of the DFSMShsm component. This feature created a self-contained backupimage from data that could be either on disk or tape, including migrated data. In the event of a disaster,an ABARS backup image can be used to bring back just the exact programs and data needed for a specific application, speeding up the recovery process, and allowing BC/DR plans to prioritize what is most important.
To help manage ABARS, IBM has partnered with [Mainstar Software Corporation]to offer a product that helps before, during and after the ABARS processing.
ABARS requires the storage admin to have a "selection list" of data sets to process as an aggregate.IBM Tivoli Advanced Backup and Recovery for z/OS includes Mainstar® ASAP™ to help identify the appropriatedata sets for specific applications, using information from job schedulers, JCL, and SMF records.
ABARS has two simple commands: ABACKUP to produce the backup image, and ARECOVER to recover it. However, ifyou have hundreds of aggregates, and each aggregate has several backups, you may need some help identifyingwhich image to recover from.IBM Tivoli Advanced Backup and Recovery for z/OS includes Mainstar® ABARS Manager™ to present a list ofinformation, making it easy to choose from. To help prep the ICF Catalogs, there is a CATSCRUB feature for either"empty" or "full" catalog recovery at the recovery site.
The fact that storage admins may not be intimately familiar with the applications they are backing up is a commonsource of human error. IBM Tivoli Advanced Backup and Recovery for z/OS includes Mainstar® All/Star™ to help validate that the data setsprocessed by ABACKUP are complete, to support any regulatory audit or application team verification.This critical data tracking/inventory reporting not only identifies what isn't backed up, so you can ensure that you are not missing critical data, but also can identify which data sets are being backed up multiple times by more than one utility, so you can reduce the occurrence of redundant backups.
With v2.1 of Tivoli Advanced Backup and Recovery for z/OS, IBM has integrated Tivoli Enterprise Portal (TEP)support. This allows you to access these functions through IBM Tivoli Monitor v6 GUI on a Linux, UNIX or Windowsworkstation. IBM Tivoli Monitor has full support to integrate Web 2.0, multi-media and frames. This meansthat any other product that can be rendered in a browser can be embedded and supported with launch-in-contextcapability.
(If you have not separately purchased a license to IBM Tivoli Monitoring V6.2, don't worry, you can obtainthe TEP-based function by acquiring a no-charge, limited use license to IBM Tivoli MonitoringServices on z/OS, V6.2.)
In addition to supporting IBM's many DFSMS backup methods, from ABARS to IDCAMS to IEBGENER, IBM Tivoli Advanced Backup and Recovery v2.1 can also support third-party products from Innovation Data Processing and Computer Associates.
As many people re-discover the mainframe as the cost-effective platform that it has always been, migratingapplications back to the mainframe to reduce costs, they need solutions that work across both mainframe anddistributed systems during this transition. IBM Tivoli Advanced Backup and Recovery for z/OS can help.
Well it's Tuesday, and ["election day"] here in the USA, and again IBM has more announcements.
IBM announced [IBM Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager v1.0] (TKLM) to manage encryption keys. This provides a graphical interface to manage encryption keys, including retention criteria when sharing keys with other companies.
TKLM is supported on AIX, Solaris, Windows, Red Hat and SUSE Linux. IBM plans to offer TKLM forz/OS in 2009. TKLM can be used with Firefox or Internet Explorer web browser. This will include the Encryption Key Manager (EKM) that IBM offered initially to support encryption keys for the TS1120, TS1130, and LTO-4 drives.
While this is needed today for tape, IBM positions this software to also manage the encryption keys for "Full Drive Encryption" (FDE) disk drive modules (DDM) in IBM disk systems in 2009.
Last week, I got the following comment from Bob Swann:
I am looking for the IBM VM Poster or a picture of the IBM VM "Catch the Wave"
Do you know where I might find it?
Well, Bob, I made some phone calls. The company that published these posters no longer exists, butI found a coworker at the Poughkeepsie Briefing Center who still had the poster on his wall, and he was kind enough to take a picture of it for you.
VM: The Wave of the Future (click thumbnail at left to see larger image)
Some may recognize this as a [mash-up] using as a base the famous Japanese 10-inch by 15-inch block print[The Great Wave off Kanagawa] byartist [Katsushika Hokusai]. I had this as my laptop'swallpaper screen image until last year when I was presenting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was told that it reminded people about the horrible tsunami caused by the [Indian Ocean earthquake] back in 2004.I was actually scheduled to fly the last week of December 2004 to Jakarta, Indonesia, but at the last minute ourclient team changed plans. I would have been on route over the Pacific ocean when the tsunami hit, and probably stranded over there for weeks or months until the airports re-opened.
The Wave theme was in part to honor the IBM users group called World Alliance VSE VM and Linux (WAVV) which is havingtheir next meeting [April 18-22, 2008] in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I presentedat this conference back in 1996 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, as part of the IBM Linux for S/390 team. It started onthe Sunday that Wisconsin switched their clocks for [DaylightSaving Time], and the few of us from Arizona or other places that don't both with this, all showed up forbreakfast an hour early.
When I was in Australia last year, I was told the wave that sports fans do, by raising their hands in coordinatedsequence, was called the [Mexican Wave]in most other countries. When I was there, Melbourne was trying to outlaw this practice at their cricket matches.
The "wave" represents a powerful metaphor, from z/VM operating system on System z mainframes to VMware and Xenon Intel-based processor machines, as the direction of virtualization that we are heading for future data centers.The Mexican wave represents a glimpse of what humans can accomplish with collaboration on a globalscale. It can also represent the tidal wave of data arising from nearly 60 percent annual growth instorage capacity. (I had to mention storage eventually, to avoid being completely off-topic on this post!)
I hope this is the graphic you were looking for Bob. If anyone else has wave-themed posters they would like to contribute, please post a comment below.
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!
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 Watson Jr.:
Do we need it for Watson Jr.?
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 Watson Jr. 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 Watson Jr. will have fewer components.
Optional. For now, let's have Watson Jr. 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 Watson Jr. 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 Watson Jr. 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, Watson Jr. is based entirely on commodity hardware, open source software, and publicly available sources of information. Your Watson Jr. 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 Watson Jr. 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 Watson Jr. 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 Watson Jr., 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 Watson Jr. 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 Watson Jr. to process.
IBM Watson used a modified SONAS to provide a highly-available clustered NFS server. For Watson Jr., 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. Watson Jr. 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 Watson Jr. 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 Watson Jr..