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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Specialist for the IBM System Storage product line at the
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( I cannot take credit for coining the new term "bleg". I saw this term firstused over on the [FreakonomicsBlog]. If you have not yet read the book "Freakonomics", I highly recommend it! The authors' blog is excellent as well.)
For this comparison, it is important to figure out how much workload a mainframe can support, how much an x86 cansupport, and then divide one from the other. Sounds simple enough, right? And what workload should you choose?IBM chose a business-oriented "data-intensive" workload using Oracle database. (If you wanted instead a scientific"compute-intensive" workload, consider an [IBM supercomputer] instead, the most recent of which clocked in over 1 quadrillion floating point operations per second, or PetaFLOP.) IBM compares the following two systems:
Sun Fire X2100 M2, model 1220 server (2-way)
IBM did not pick a wimpy machine to compare against. The model 1220 is the fastest in the series, with a 2.8Ghz x86-64 dual-core AMD Opteron processor, capable of running various levels of Solaris, Linux or Windows.In our case, we will use Oracle workloads running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.All of the technical specifications are available at the[Sun Microsystems Sun Fire X1200] Web site.I am sure that there are comparable models from HP, Dell or even IBM that could have been used for this comparison.
IBM z10 Enterprise Class mainframe model E64 (64-way)
This machine can run a variety of operating systems also, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). The E64 has four "multiple processor modules" called"processor books" for a total of 77 processing units: 64 central processors, 11 system assist processors (SAP) and 2 spares. That's right, spare processors, in case any others gobad, IBM has got your back. You can designate a central processor in a variety of flavors. For running z/VM and Linux operating systems, the central processors can be put into "Integrated Facility for Linux" (IFL) mode.On IT Jungle, Timothy Patrick Morgan explains the z10 EC in his article[IBM Launches 64-Way z10 Enterprise Class Mainframe Behemoth]. For more information on the z10 EC, see the 110-page [Technical Introduction], orread the specifications on the[IBM z10 EC] Web site.
In a shop full of x86 servers, there are production servers, test and development servers, quality assuranceservers, standby idle servers for high availability, and so on. On average, these are only 10 percent utilized.For example, consider the following mix of servers:
125 Production machines running 70 percent busy
125 Backup machines running idle ready for active failover in case a production machine fails
1250 machines for test, development and quality assurance, running at 5 percent average utilization
While [some might question, dispute or challenge thisten percent] estimate, it matches the logic used to justify VMware, XEN, Virtual Iron or other virtualization technologies. Running 10 to 20 "virtual servers" on a single physical x86 machine assumes a similar 5-10 percent utilization rate.
Note: The following paragraphs have been revised per comments received.
Now the math. Jon, I want to make it clear I was not involved in writing the press release nor assisted with thesemath calculations. Please, don't shoot the messenger! Remember this cartoon where two scientists in white lab coats are writing mathcalculations on a chalkboard, and in the middle there is "and then a miracle happens..." to continue the rest ofthe calculations?
In this case, the miracle is the number that compares one server hardware platform to another. I am not going to bore people with details like the number of concurrent processor threads or the differencesbetween L1 and L3 cache. IBM used sophisticated tools and third party involvement that I am not allowed to talk about, and I have discussed this post with lawyers representing four (now five) different organizations already,so for the purposes of illustration and explanation only, I have reverse-engineered a new z10-to-Opteron conversion factor as 6.866 z10 EC MIPS per GHz of dual-core AMD Opteron for I/O-intensive workloads running only 10 percent average CPU utilization. Business applications that perform a lot of I/O don't use their CPU as much as other workloads.For compute-intensive or memory-intensive workloads, the conversion factor may be quite different, like 200 MIPS per GHz, as Jeff Savit from Sun Microsystems points out in the comments below.
Keep in mind that each processor is different, and we now have Intel, AMD, SPARC, PA-RISC and POWER (and others); 32-bit versus 64-bit; dual-core and quad-core; and different co-processor chip sets to worry about. AMD Opteron processors come in different speeds, but we are comparing against the 2.8GHz, so 1500 times 6.866 times 2.8 is 28,337. Since these would be running as Linux guestsunder z/VM, we add an additional 7 percent overhead or 2,019 MIPS. We then subtract 15 percent for "smoothing", whichis what happens when you consolidate workloads that have different peaks and valleys in workload, or 4,326 MIPS.The end is that we need a machine to do 26,530 MIPS. Thanks to advances in "Hypervisor" technological synergy between the z/VM operating system and the underlying z10 EC hardware, the mainframe can easily run 90 percent utilized when aggregating multiple workloads, so a 29,477 MIPS machine running at 90 percent utilization can handle these 26,530 MIPS.
N-way machines, from a little 2-way Sun Fire X2100 to the might 64-way z10 EC mainframe, are called "Symmetric Multiprocessors". All of the processors or cores are in play, but sometimes they have to taketurns, wait for exclusive access on a shared resource, such as cache or the bus. When your car is stopped at a red light, you are waiting for your turn to use the shared "intersection". As a result, you don't get linear improvement, but rather you get diminishing returns. This is known generically as the "SMP effect", and in IBM documentsthis as [Large System Performance Reference].While a 1-way z10 EC can handle 920 MIPS, the 64-way can only handle30,657 MIPS. The 29,477 MIPS needed for the Sun x2100 workload can be handled by a 61-way, giving you three extraprocessors to handle unexpected peaks in workload.
But are 1500 Linux guest images architecturally possible? A long time ago, David Boyes of[Sine Nomine Associates] ran 41,400 Linux guest images on a single mainframe using his [Test Plan Charlie], and IBM internallywas able to get 98,000 images, and in both cases these were on machines less powerful than the z10 EC. Neitherof these were tests ran I/O intensive workloads, but extreme limits are always worth testing. The 1500-to-1 reduction in IBM's press release is edge-of-the-envelope as well, so in production environments, several hundred guest images are probably more realistic, and still offer significant TCO savings.
The z10 EC can handle up to 60 LPARs, and each LPAR can run z/VM which acts much like VMware in allowing multipleLinux guests per z/VM instance. For 1500 Linux guests, you could have 25 guests each on 60 z/VM LPARs, or 250 guests on each of six z/VM LPARs, or 750 guests on two LPARs. with z/VM 5.3, each LPAR can support up to 256GB of memory and 32 processors, so you need at least two LPAR to use all 64 engines. Also, there are good reasons to have different guests under different z/VM LPARs, such as separating development/test from production workloads. If you had to re-IPLa specific z/VM LPAR, it could be done without impacting the workloads on other LPARs.
To access storage, IBM offers N-port ID Virtualization (NPIV). Without NPIV, two Linux guest images could not accessthe same LUN through the same FCP port because this would confuse the Host Bus Adapter (HBA), which IBM calls "FICON Express" cards. For example, Linux guest 1 asks to read LUN 587 block 32 and this is sent out a specific port, to a switch, to a disk system. Meanwhile, Linux guest 2 asks to read LUN 587 block 49. The data comes back to the z10 EC with the data, gives it to the correct z/VM LPAR, but then what? How does z/VM know which of the many Linux guests to give the data to? Both touched the same LUN, so it is unclear which made the request. To solve this, NPIV assigns a virtual "World Wide Port Name" (WWPN), up to 256 of them per physical port, so you can have up to 256 Linux guests sharing the same physical HBA port to access the same LUN.If you had 250 guests on each of six z/VM LPARs, and each LPAR had its own set of HBA ports, then all 1500 guestscould access the same LUN.
Yes, the z10 EC machines support Sysplex. The concept is confusing, but "Sysplex" in IBM terminology just means that you can have LPARs either on the same machine or on separate mainframes, all sharing the same time source, whether this be a "Sysplex Timer" or by using the "Server Time Protocol" (STP). The z10 EC can have STP over 6 Gbps Infiniband over distance. If you wantedto have all 1500 Linux guests time stamp data identically, all six z/VM LPARs need access to the shared time source. This can help in a re-do or roll-back situation for Oracle databases to complete or back-out "Units of Work" transactions. This time stamp is also used to form consistency groups in "z/OS Global Mirror", formerly called "XRC" for Extended Remote Distance Copy. Currently, the "timestamp" on I/O applies only to z/OS and Linux and not other operating systems. (The time stamp is done through the CDK driver on Linux, and contributed back to theopen source community so that it is available from both Novell SUSE and Red Hat distributions.)To have XRC have consistency between z/OS and Linux, the Linux guests would need to access native CKD volumes,rather than VM Minidisks or FCP-oriented LUNs.
Note: this is different than "Parallel Sysplex" which refers to having up to 32 z/OS images sharing a common "Coupling Facility" which acts as shared memory for applications. z/VM and Linux do not participate in"Parallel Sysplex".
As for the price, mainframes list for as little as "six figures" to as much as several million dollars, but I have no idea how much this particular model would cost. And, of course, this is just the hardware cost. I could not find the math for the $667 per server replacement you mentioned, so don't have details on that.You would need to purchase z/VM licenses, and possibly support contracts for Linux on System z to be fully comparable to all of the software license and support costs of the VMware, Solaris, Linux and/or Windows licenses you run on the x86 machines.
This is where a lot of the savings come from, as a lot of software is licensed "per processor" or "per core", and so software on 64 mainframe processors can be substantially less expensive than 1500 processors or 3000 cores.IBM does "eat its own cooking" in this case. IBM is consolidating 3900 one-application-each rack-mounted serversonto 30 mainframes, for a ratio of 130-to-1 and getting amazingly reduced TCO. The savings are in the followingareas:
Hardware infrastructure. It's not just servers, but racks, PDUs, etc. It turns out to be less expensive to incrementally add more CPU and storage to an existing mainframe than to add or replace older rack-em-and-stack-emwith newer models of the same.
Cables. Virtual servers can talk to each other in the same machine virtually, such as HiperSockets, eliminatingmany cables. NPIV allows many guests to share expensive cables to external devices.
Networking ports. Both LAN and SAN networking gear can be greatly reduced because fewer ports are needed.
Administration. We have Universities that can offer a guest image for every student without having a majorimpact to the sys-admins, as the students can do much of their administration remotely, without having physicalaccess to the machinery. Companies uses mainframe to host hundreds of virtual guests find reductions too!
Connectivity. Consolidating distributed servers in many locations to a mainframe in one location allows youto reduce connections to the outside world. Instead of sixteen OC3 lines for sixteen different data centers, you could have one big OC48 line instead to a single data center.
Software licenses. Licenses based on servers, cores or CPUs are reduced when you consolidate to the mainframe.
Floorspace. Generally, floorspace is not in short supply in the USA, but in other areas it can be an issue.
Power and Cooling. IBM has experienced significant reduction in power consumption and cooling requirementsin its own consolidation efforts.
All of the components of DFSMS (including DFP, DFHSM, DFDSS and DFRMM) were merged into a single product "DFSMS for z/OS" and is now an included element in the base z/OS operating system. As a result of these, customers typically have 80 to 90 percent utilization on their mainframe disk. For the 1500 Linux guests, however, most of the DFSMS features of z/OS do not apply. These functions were not "ported over" to z/VM nor Linux on any platform.
Instead, the DFSMS concepts have been re-implemented into a new product called "Scale-Out File Services" (SOFS) which would provide NAS interfaces to a blendeddisk-and-tape environment. The SOFS disk can be kept at 90 percent utilization because policies can place data, movedata and even expire files, just like DFSMS does for z/OS data sets. SOFS supports standard NAS protocols such as CIFS,NFS, FTP and HTTP, and these could be access from the 1500 Linux guests over an Ethernet Network Interface Card (NIC), which IBM calls "OSA Express" cards.
Lastly, IBM z10 EC is not emulating x86 or x86-64 interfaces for any of these workloads. No doubt IBM and AMD could collaborate together to come up with an AMD Opteron emulator for the S/390 chipset, and load Windows 2003 right on top of it, but that would just result in all kinds of emulation overhead.Instead, Linux on System z guests can run comparable workloads. There are many Linux applications that are functionally equivalent or the same as their Windows counterparts. If you run Oracle on Windows, you could runOracle on Linux. If you run MS Exchange on Windows, you could run Bynari on Linux and let all of your Outlook Expressusers not even know their Exchange server had been moved! Linux guest images can be application servers, web servers, database servers, network infrastructure servers, file servers, firewall, DNS, and so on. For nearly any business workload you can assign to an x86 server in a datacenter, there is likely an option for Linux on System z.
Hope this answers all of your questions, Jon. These were estimates based on basic assumptions. This is not to imply that IBM z10 EC and VMware are the only technologies that help in this area, you can certainly find virtualization on other systems and through other software.I have asked IBM to make public the "TCO framework" that sheds more light on this.As they say, "Your mileage may vary."
For more on this series, check out the following posts:
If in your travels, Jon, you run into someone interested to see how IBM could help consolidate rack-mounted servers over to a z10 EC mainframe, have them ask IBM for a "Scorpion study". That is the name of the assessment that evaluates a specific clientsituation, and can then recommend a more accurate estimate configuration.
Continuing this week in Los Angeles, I went to some interesting sessions today at theSystems Technical Conference (STC08).
System Storage Productivity Center (SSPC) - Install and Configuration
Dominic Pruitt, an IBM IT specialist in our Advanced Technical Support team, presented SSPC and howto install and configure it. For those confused between the difference of TotalStorage ProductivityCenter and System Storage Productivity Center, the former is pure software that you install on aWindows or Linux server, and the latter is an IBM server, pre-installed with Windows 2003, TotalStorageProductivity Center software, TPCTOOL command line interface, DB2 Universal Database, the DS8000 Element Manager, SVC GUI and CIMOM, and [PuTTY] rLogin/SSH/Telnet terminal application software.
Of course, the problem with having a server pre-installed with a lot of software is that there is alwayssomeone that wants to customize it further. For those who just want to manage their DS8000 disk systems,for example, it is possible to uninstall the SVC GUI, CIMOM and PuTTY, and re-install them later when youchange your mind. As a general rule, it is not wise to mix CIMOMs on the same machine, as it might causeconflicts with TCP ports or Java level requirements, so if you want a different CIMOM than SVC, uninstallthe SVC CIMOM first. For those who have SVC, the SSPC replaces the SVC Master Console, so you can safelyturn off the SVC CIMOM on your existing SVC Master Consoles.
The base level is TotalStorage Productivity Center "Basic Edition", but you can upgrade the Productivity Centerfor Disk, Data and Fabric components with license keys. You can also run Productivity Center for Replication,but IBM recommends adding processor and memory to do this (IBM offers this as an orderable option).Whether you have the TotalStorage software or SSPC hardware, Productivity Center has a cool role-to-groups mapping feature.You can create user groups, either on the Windows server, the Active Directory, or other LDAP, and then map which roles should be assigned to users in each group.
Since Productivity Center manages a variety of different disk systems, it has made anattempt to standardize some terminology. The term "storage pool" refers to an extentpool on the DS8000, or a managed disk group on the SAN Volume Controller. Since the DS8000 can support both mainframe CKD volumes and LUNs for distributed systems, theterm "volume" refers to a CKD volume or LUN, and "disk" refers to the hard disk drive (HDD).
To help people learn Productivity Center, IBM offers single-day "remote workshops"that use Windows Remote Desktop to allow participants to install, customize and usethe software with no travel required.
IBM Integrated Approach to Archiving
Dan Marshall, IBM global program manager for storage and data services on our Global Technology Services team, presented IBM's corporate-wide integration to support archive across systems, software and services.One attendee asked me why I was there, given that "archive" is one of my areas of subject matter expertise that I present often at the Tucson Executive Briefing Center. I find it useful to watch others present the material, even material that I helped to develop, to see a different slant or spin on each talking point.
Archive is one area that brings all parts of IBM together: systems, software and services.Dan provided a look at archive from the services angle, providing an objective unbiasedview of the different software and systems available to solve specific challenges.
Encryption Key Manager (EKM) Design and Implementation
Jeff Ziehm, IBM tape technical sales specialist, presented IBM's EKM software, how it works in a tape environment, and how to deploy it in various environments. Since IBM is allabout being open and non-proprietary, the EKM software runs on Java on a variety ofIBM and non-IBM operating systems. IBM offers "keytool" command line interface (CLI) for the LTO4 and TS1120 tape systems, and "iKeyMan" graphical user interface (GUI) for theTS1120. Since it runs on Java, IBM Business Partners and technical support personneloften just [download and install EKM]onto their own laptops to learn how to use it.
Virtual Tape Update
We had three presenters at this one. First, Jeff Mulliken, formerly from Diligent and now a full IBM employee, presented the current ProtecTier softwarewith the HyperFactor technology, then Abbe Woodcock, IBM tape systems, compared Diligent with IBM's TS7520 and just-announced TS7530virtual tape libraries, and finally Randy Fleenor, IBM tape sales leader, presented IBM's strategy going forward in tape virtualization.
Let's start with Diligent. The ProtecTier software runs on any x86-64 server withat least four cores and the correct Emulex host bus adapter (HBA) cards. Using Red HatEnterprise Linux (RHEL) as a base, the ProtecTier software performs its deduplication entirely in-lineat an "ingest rate" of 400-450 MB/sec. This is all possible using 4GB memory-resident "dictionary table" that can map up to 1 PB of back end physical storage, which could represent as much as 25PB of "nominal" storage. Theserver is then point-to-point or SAN-attached to Fibre Channel disk systems.
As we learned yesterday from Toby Marek's session, there are four ways to performdeduplication:
full-file comparisons. Store only one copy of identical files.
fixed-chunk comparisons. Files are carved up into fixed-size chunks, and each chunkis compared or hashed to existing chunks to eliminate duplicates.
variable-chunk comparisons. Variable-length chunks are hashed or diffed to eliminate duplicate data.
content-aware comparisons. If you knew data was in Powerpoint format, for example,you could compare text, photos or charts against other existing Powerpoint files toeliminate duplicates.
IBM System Storage N series Advanced Single Instance Storage (A-SIS) uses fixed-chunkmethod, and Diligent uses variable-chunk comparisons. Diligent does this using "dataprofiling". For example, let's say most of my photographs are pictures of people, buildings, landscapes, flowers and IT equipment. When I back these up, the Diligentserver "profiles" each, and determines if any existing data have a similar profilethat might have at least 50 percent similar content. Diligent than reads in the data that is mostly likely similar, does a byte-for-byte ["diff" comparison], and creates variable-lengthchunks that are either identical or unique to sections of the existing data. Theunique data is compressed with LZH and written to disk, and the sequential series of pointer segments representing the ingested file is written in a separate section on disk.
That Diligent can represent profiles for 1PB of data in as little as 4GB memory-residentdictionary is incredible. By comparison, 10TB data would require 10 million entries on a content-aware solution, and 1.25 billion entries for one based on hash-codes.
Abbe Woodcock presented the TS7530 tape system that IBM announced on Tuesday. It has some advantages over the current Diligent offering:
Hardware-based compression (TS7520 and Diligent use software-based compression)
1200 MB/sec (faster ingest rate than Diligent)
1.7PB of SATA disk (more disk capacity than Diligent)
Support for i5/OS (Diligent's emulation of ATL P3000 with DLT7000 tapes not supported on IBM's POWER systems running i5/OS)
Ability to attach a real tape library
NDMP backup to tape
tape "shredding" (virtual equivalent of degaussing a physical tape to erase all previously stored data)
Randy Fleenor wrapped up the session telling us IBM's strategy going forward with all of thevirtual tape systems technologies. Until then, IBM is working on "recipes" or "bundles", puttingDiligent software with specific models of IBM System x servers and IBM System Storage DS4000 disk systemsto avoid the "do-it-yourself" problems of its current software-only packaging.
Understanding Web 2.0 and Digital Archive Workloads
I got to present this in the last time slot of the day, just before everyone headed off to the [Westin Bonaventure hotel] for our big fancy barbecue dinner. Like my previous sessionon IBM Strategy, this session was more oriented toward a sales audience, but both garnereda huge turn-out and were well-received by the technical attendees.
This session was requested because these new applications and workloads are what is driving IBM to acquire small start-ups like XIV, deploy Scale-Out File Services (SOFS), and develop the innovative iDataPlex server rack.
The session was fun because it was a mix of explanation of the characteristics ofWeb 2.0 services; my own experience as a blogger and user of Google Docs, FlickR, Second Life andTivo; and an exploration in how database and digital archives will impact thegrowth in computing and storage requirements.
I'll expand on some of these topics in later blog posts.
My session was the first in the morning, at 8:30am, but managed to pack the room full of people. A few looklike they just rolled in from Brocade's special get-together in Casey's Irish Pub the night before.I presented how IBM's storage strategy for the information infrastructure fits into the greater corporate-wide themes.To liven things up, I gave out copies of my book[Inside System Storage: Volume I] to those who asked or answered the toughest questions.
Data Deduplication and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)
IBM Toby Marek compared and contrasted the various data deduplication technologies and products available, andhow to deploy them as the repository for TSM workloads. She is a software engineer for our TSM software product,and gave a fair comparison between IBM System Storage N series Advanced Single Instance Storage (A-SIS), IBMDiligent, and other solutions out in the marketplace.If you are going to combine technologies, then it isbest to dedupe first, then compress, and finally encrypt the data. She also explained about the many cleverways that TSM does data reduction at the client side greatly reduces the bandwidth traffic over the LAN,as well as reducing disk and tape resources for storage. This includes progressive "incremental forever" backup for file selection, incremental backups for databases, and adaptive sub-file backup.Because of these data reduction techniques, you may not get as much benefit as deduplication vendors claim.
The Business Value of Energy Efficiency Data Centers
Scott Barielle did a great job presenting the issues related to the Green IT data center. He is part of IBM"STG Lab Services" team that does energy efficiency studies for customers. It is not unusual for his teamto find potential savings of up to 80 percent of the Watts consumed in a client's data center.
IBM has done a lot to make its products more energy efficient. For example, in the United States, most datacenters are supplied three-phase 480V AC current, but this is often stepped down to 208V or 110V with powerdistribution units (PDUs). IBM's equipment allows for direct connection to this 480V, eliminating the step-downloss. This is available for the IBM System z mainframe, the IBM System Storage DS8000disk system, and larger full-frame models of our POWER-based servers, and will probably be rolled out to someof our other offerings later this year. The end result saves 8 to 14 percent in energy costs.
Scott had some interesting statistics. Typical US data centers only spend about 9 percent of their IT budgeton power and cooling costs. The majority of clients that engage IBM for an energy efficiency study are not tryingto reduce their operational expenditures (OPEX), but have run out, or close to running out, of total kW ratingof their current facility, and have been turned down by their upper management to spend the average $20 million USDneeded to build a new one. The cost of electricity in the USA has risen very slowly over the past 35 years, andis more tied the to fluctuations of Natural Gas than it is to Oil prices.(a recent article in the Dallas News confirmed this:["As electricity rates go up, natural gas' high prices, deregulation blamed"])
Cognos v8 - Delivering Operational Business Intelligence (BI) on Mainframe
Mike Biere, author of the book [BusinessIntelligence for the Enterprise], presented Cognos v8 and how it is being deployed for the IBMSystem z mainframe. Typically, customers do their BI processing on distributed systems, but 70 percent of the world's business data is on mainframes, so it makes sense to do yourBI there as well. Cognos v8 runs on Linux for System z, connecting to z/OS via [Hypersockets].
There are a variety of other BI applications on the mainframe already, including DataQuant,AlphaBlox, IBI WebFocus and SAS Enterprise Business Intelligence. In addition to accessing traditional onlinetransaction processing (OLTP) repositories like DB2, IMS and VSAM, using the [IBM WebSphere ClassicFederation Server], Cognos v8 can also read Lotus databases.
Business Intelligence is traditionally query, reporting and online analytics process (OLAP) for the top 10 to 15 percent of the company, mostly executives andanalysts, for activities like business planning, budgeting and forecasting. Cognos PowerPlay stores numericaldata in an [OLAP cube] for faster processing.OLAP cubes are typically constructed with a batch cycle, using either "Extract, Transfer, Load" [ETL], or "Change Data Capture" [CDC], which playsto the strength of IBM System z mainframe batch processing capabilities.If you are not familiar with OLAP, Nigel Pendse has an article[What is OLAP?] for background information.
Over the past five years, BI is now being more andmore deployed for the rest of the company, knowledge workers tasked with doing day-to-day operations. Thisphenomenom is being called "Operational" Business Intelligence.
IBM Glen Corneau, who is on the Advanced Technical Support team for AIX and System p, presented the IBMGeneral Parellel File System (GPFS), which is available for AIX, Linux-x86 and Linux on POWER.Unfortunately, many of the questions were related to Scale Out File Services (SOFS), which my colleague GlennHechler was presenting in another room during this same time slot.
GPFS is now in its 11th release since its introducing in 1997. All of the IBM supercomputers on the [Top 500 list] use GPFS. The largest deployment of GPFS is 2241 nodes.A GPFS environment can support up to 256 file systems, each file system can have up to 2 billion filesacross 2 PB of storage. GPFS supports "Direct I/O" making it a great candidate for Oracle RAC deployments.Oracle 10g automatically detects if it is using GPFS, and sets the appropriate DIO bits in the stream totake advantage of GPFS features.
Glen also covered the many new features of GPFS, such as the ability to place data on different tiers ofstorage, with policies to move to lower tiers of storage, or delete after a certain time period, all conceptswe call Information Lifecycle Management. GPFS also supports access across multiple locations and offersa variety of choices for disaster recovery (DR) data replication.
Perhaps the only problem with conferences like this is that it can be an overwhelming["fire hose"] of information!
This week I'm in Los Angeles for the Systems Technology Conference (STC '08).We have over 1900 IT professionals attending, of which 1200 IBMers from North America, Latin America,and Asia Pacific regions, as well as another 350 IBM Business Partners. The rest, including me, are world wideor from other areas.
Last January, IBM reorganized its team to be more client-focused. Instead of focused on products, we are nowclient-centric, and have teams to cover our large enterprise systems through direct sales force, business systemsfor sales through our channel business partners, and industry systems for specific areas like deep computing,digital surveillance and retail systems solutions.
In addition to 788 sessions to attend these next four days, we had a few main tent sessions.My third line (my boss' boss' boss) David Gelardi presented Enterprise Systems. This is the group I am in.
Akemi Watanabe presented for Business Systems. Her native language is Japanese, so to do an entire talk inEnglish was quite impressive. Her focus is on SMB accounts, those customers with less than 1000 employeesthat are looking for easy-to-use solutions. She mentioned IBM's new [Blue Business Platform] which includesLotus Foundation Start, an Application Integration Toolkit, and the Global Application Marketplace.
Part of this process is the merger of System p and System i into "POWER" systems, and then offering both midrangeand enterprise versions of these that run AIX, i5/OS and Linux on POWER. It turns out that only 9 percent of ourSystem i customers are only on this platform. Another 87 percent have Windows, so it makes sense to offer i5/OSon BladeCenter, to consolidate Windows servers from HP, Dell or Sun over to IBM.
Meanwhile, IBM's strategy to support Linux has proven successful. 25 percent of x86 servers now run Linux. IBMhas 600 full-time developers for Linux, over 500 of which contributed to the latest 2.6 kernel development. Our ["chiphopper"] program has successfullyported over 900 applications. There are now over 6500 applications that run on Linux applications, on our strategic alliances with Red Hat (RHEL) and Novell (SUSE) distributions of Linux.
Her recommendation to SMB reps: learn POWER systems, BladeCenter, and Linux. I agree!
Mary Coucher presented Industry systems. In addition to the game chips for the Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii,and Microsoft Xbox-360, this segment focuses on Digital Video Surveillance (DVS), Retail Solutions, Healthcare and Life sciences (HCLS), OEM and embedded solutions, and Deep computing. She mentioned our recently announcediDataPlex solution.
IBM is focused on "real-world-aware" applications, which includes traffic, crime, surveillance, fraud, andRFID enablement. These are streams of data that happen real-time, that need to be dealt with now, not later.
Most people know that IBM has the majority of the top 500 supercomputers, but few may not realize that IBMalso has delivered solutions to the top 100 green companies. IBM success is explained in more detail in this[Press Release].
The group split up to four different platform meetings: Storage, Modular, Power, and Mainframe. Barry Rudolphpresented for the Storage platform. He talked about the explosion in information, business opportunities,risk and cost management. IBM has shifted from being product-focused, to the stack of servers and storage,to our latest focus on solutions across the infrastructure. He mentioned our DARPA win for [PERCS] which stands for productive,easy-to-use, reliable computing system.
My theme this week was to focus on "Do-it-Yourself" solutions, such as the "open storage" concept presentedby Sun Microsystems, but it has morphed into a discussion on vendor lock-in. Both deserve a bit of furtherexploration.
There were several reasons offered on why someone might pursue a "Do-it-Yourself" course of action.
Building up skills
In my post [Simply Dinners and Open Storage], I suggested that building a server-as-storage solution based on Sun's OpenSolaris operating system could serve to learn more about [OpenSolaris], and by extension, the Solaris operating system.Like Linux, OpenSolaris is open source and has distributions that run on a variety of chipsets, from Sun's ownSPARC, to commodity x86 and x86-64 hardware. And as I mentioned in my post [Getting off the island], a version of OpenSolaris was even shown to run successfully on the IBM System z mainframe.
"Learning by Doing" is a strong part of the [Constructivism] movement in education. TheOne Laptop Per Child [OLPC] uses this approach. IBM volunteers in Tucson and 40other sites [help young students build robots]constructed from [Lego Mindstorms]building blocks.Edward De Bono uses the term [operacy] to refer to the"skills of doing", preferred over just "knowing" facts and figures.
However, I feel OpenSolaris is late to the game. Linux, Windows and MacOS are all well-established x86-based operating systems that most home office/small office users would be familiar with, and OpenSolaris is positioning itself as "the fourth choice".
In my post[WashingtonGets e-Discovery Wakeup Call], I suggested that the primary motivation for the White House to switch from Lotus Notes over to Microsoft Outlookwas familiarity with Microsoft's offerings. Unfortunately, that also meant abandoning a fully-operational automated email archive system, fora manual do-it-yourself approach copying PST files from journal folders.
Familiarity also explains why other government employees might print out their emails and archive them on paperin filing cabinets. They are familiar with this process, it allows them to treat email in the same manner as they have treated paper documents in the past.
Cost, Control and Unique Requirements
The last category of reasons can often result if what you want is smaller or bigger than what is availablecommercially. There are minimum entry-points for many vendors. If you want something so small that it is notprofitable, you may end up doing it yourself. On the other end of the scale, both Yahoo and Google ended up building their data centers with a do-it-yourself approach, because no commercial solutions were available atthe time. (IBM now offers [iDataPlex], so that has changed!)
While you could hire a vendor to build a customized solution to meet your unique requirements, it might turn outto be less costly to do-it-yourself. This might also provide some added control over the technologies and components employed. However, as EMC blogger Chuck Hollis correctly pointed out for[Do-it-yourself storage],your solution may not be less costly than existingoff-the-shelf solutions from existing storage vendors, when you factor in scalability and support costs.
Of course, this all assumes that storage admins building the do-it-yourself storage have enough spare time to do so. When was the last time your storage admins had spare time of any kind?Will your storage admins provide the 24x7 support you could get from established storage vendors? Will theybe able to fix the problem fast enough to keep your business running?
From this, I would gather that if you have storage admins more familiar with Solaris than Linux, Windows or MacOS,and select commodity x86 servers from IBM, Sun, HP, or Dell, they could build a solution that has less vendor lock-in than something off-the-shelf from Sun. Let's explore the fears of vendor lock-in further.
The storage vendor goes out of business
Sun has not been doing so well, so perhaps "open storage" was a way to warn existing Sun storage customers thatbuilding your own may be the next alternative.The New York Times title of their article says it all:["Sun Microsystems Posts Loss and Plans to Reduce Jobs"]. Sun is a big company, so I don't expect them to close their doors entirely this year,but certainly fear of being locked-in to any storage vendor's solution gets worse if you fear the vendor might go out of business.
The storage vendor will get acquired by a vendor you don't like
We've seen this before. You don't like vendor A, so you buy kit from vendor B, only to have vendor A acquire vendorB after your purchase. Surprise!
The storage vendor will not support new applications, operating systems, or other new equipment
Here the fear is that the decisions you make today might prevent you from choices you want to make in the future.You might want to upgrade to the latest level of your operating system, but your storage vendor doesn't supportit yet. Or maybe you want to upgrade your SAN to a faster bandwidth speed, like 8 Gbps, but your storage vendordoesn't support it yet. Or perhaps that change would require re-writing lots of scripts using the existingcommand line interfaces (CLI). Or perhaps your admins would require new training for the new configuration.
The storage vendor will raise prices or charge you more than you expect on follow-on upgrades
For most monolithic storage arrays, adding additional disk capacity means buying it from the same vendor as the controller. I heard of one company recently who tried to order entry-level disk expansion drawer, at a lower price, solely to move the individual disk drives into a higher-end disk system. Guess what? It didn't work. Most storage vendors would not support such mixed configurations.
If you are going to purchase additional storage capacity to an existing disk system, it should cost no more thanthe capacity price rate of your original purchase. IBM offers upgrades at the going market rate, but not all competitors are this nice. Some take advantage of the vendor lock-in, charging more for upgrades and pocketing the difference as profit.
Vendor lock-in represents the obstacles in switching vendors in the event the vendor goes out of business, failsto support new software or hardware in the data center, or charges more than you are comfortable with. These obstacles can make it difficult to switch storage vendors, upgrade your applications, or meet otherbusiness obligations. IBM SANVolume Controller and TotalStorage Productivity Center can help reduce or eliminate many of these concerns. IBMGlobal Services can help you, as much or as little, as you want in this transformation. Here are the four levelsof the do-it-yourself continuum:
Let me figure it out myself
Tell me what to do
Help me do it
Do it for me
This is the self-service approach. Go to our website, download an [IBM Redbook], figure out whatyou need, and order the parts to do-it-yourself.
IBM Global Business Services can help understand your business requirementsand tell you what you need to meet them.
IBM Global Technology Services can help design, assemble and deploy asolution, working with your staff to ensure skill and knowledge transfer.
IBM Managed Storage Services can manage your storage, on-site at your location, or at an IBM facility. IBM provides a varietyof cloud computing and managed hosting services.
So, if you are currently a Sun server or storage customer concerned about these latest Sun announcements, give IBM a call, we'll help you switch over!
I had a great weekend, participating in this year's ["World Laughter Day"] yesterday, and preparingfor tonight's festivities, found me pulling out the various packages from "Simply Dinners" from my freezer.
A Tucson-based company, [Simply Dinners] offers an alternative to restaurant eating.My sister went there, assembled a set of freezer-proof plastic bags containingall the right ingredients based on specific recipes, and gave them to me for my birthday, and they have been sitting in my freezer ever since... until last weekend.
My sister was careful to choose items that fit my [Paleolithic Diet] that my nutritionist has me on. However, I was skepticalthat any plastic bag full of frozen groceries would be any better than anything I could assemble on my own.I did, after all, attend "chef school" and do know how to cook well. Each package was intended to be a "dinner for two" but since I am single, was two meals each for me.
So, I decided to try them out, which would also give me more room in my freezer for incoming items, and theycame out very well. The outside of each plastic bag was a label that explained all the steps required to heatthe food. Partially-cooked vegetables were wrapped in foil, and went in for the last 10 minutes of cooking the meat.The process was straightforward, and the meals were delicious, but nothing I could not have done on my own witha recipe and a trip to the grocery store.
The question is whether someone with little or no skills could achieve similar, or acceptable results. I havefriends who are limited to assembling sandwiches from luncheon meats and cheese slices, as anything involvingheat other than simply boiling water is beyond their skills.
The key difference between "cooking for yourself" and "building your own storage" is that you aren't buildingstorage for just yourself. Unless you are a one-person SMB company, you are building storage that all of youremployees and managers count on to do their jobs, and by extension your customers and stockholders count on.
Of course I had to read responses from others before jumping in with my thoughts.Dave Raffo from Storage Soup writes [Sun going down in storage],feeling this is yet another indication that Sun has lost their mind, recounting previous events that supportthat theory.EMC blogger Mark Twomey in his StorageZilla posts [When Open Isn't] felt a littlebit guilty kicking a competitor when down. EMC blogger Chuck Hollis questions the reasons peoplemight be tempted to even try this in his post [Do-it-Yourself Storage]. Here'san excerpt:
I really, really struggle with this concept, I do. Here's why:
Anything I use and get comfortable with -- well, I'm "locked in" to a certain degree. If I use a lot of storage software X; well, I'm sorta locked in, aren't I? Or, if I put my servers-as-storage on a three-year lease, I'm kind of locked in, aren't I?"
(For EMC, vendor lock-in is great when customers are using and comfortable with EMC products, and awful when they use andare comfortable with storage from someone else. But nobody who is "comfortable" with what they have ever complain about"vendor lock-in" do they? It's the ones who are growing uncomfortable and feel trapped in changing. Howinvolved a company's use of EMC's proprietary interfaces are can greatly determine the obstacles in switching toa different vendor.Of course, if you count yourself as someone growing uncomfortable with your existing storage vendor, IBM can help you fix that problem, but that is a subject for another post.)
Worried about "vendor lock-in"? Try "admin lock-in" where you must keep a storage admin around because he or shewas the one that put your storage together. I've seen several companies held hostage by their system adminsfor home-grown scripts that serve as "duct tape for the enterprise".The other issue is whether you have storage admins who have the necessary hardware and software engineering skillsto put suitable storage together. There are some very smart storage admins I know who could, and others that wouldhave a difficult time with this.
No doubt this is promising for the home office. I myself have taken several PCs that were running older versions of Windows,but not powerful enough to upgrade to Windows Vista, wiped them clean, loaded Linux, and configured them from everythingfrom simple browser workstations to full LAMP application server configurations. While this might sound easy, I am a professional hardwareand software engineer with Linux skills.I have no doubt that someone with sufficient engineering and Solaris skills could put together a storage system for home use.
One area where Sun definitely benefits from this "Open Storage" approach is to develop Solaris skills. I have no personal experience with OpenSolaris, but assume that if you learn it, you would be able to switch overto full Solaris quite easily.Today, most people have Windows, Linux and/or MacOS skills coming into the workforce, and this could be Sun's way of getting new fresh faces who understand Solaris commands to replace retiring "baby boomers". The lack of Solaris-knowledgeable admins is perhaps one reason why companies are switching to IBM AIX, Linux or Windows in theirdata center.
Certainly, IBM's strategic choice to support Linuxhas been a great success. People learn Linux on their home systems, and at school, and are able to carry those skillsto Linux running on everything from the smallest IBM blade server to IBM's biggest mainframe.
The videos on Sun for the "recipes" on how to put together various "storage configurations in ten minutes" appear simplerthan last summer's "How to hack an Apple iPhone to switch away from AT&T" procedures.
Jon Toigo over at DrunkenData writes in his post[A Wink and a Nod] about thebenefits of the new IBM System z10 Enterprise Class mainframe. Here's an excerpt about storage:
"The other key point worth making about this scenario is that storage behind a z10 must conform to IBM DASD rules. That means no more BS standards wars between knuckle-draggers in the storage world who continue to mitigate the heterogeneous interoperability and manageability of distributed systems storage using proprietary lock in technologies designed as much to lock in the consumer and lock out the competition as to deliver any real value. That has got to be worth something."
For z/OS and TPF operating systems, disk must support CCW commands over ESCON or FICON connections, or NFS commandsover the Local Area Network. However, most of the workloads that are being ported over from x86 platforms willprobably be running Linux on System z images, and as such Linux supports both CCW and SCSI protocols, the latterover native FCP connections through a Storage Area Network (SAN) or via iSCSI over the Local Area Network. Many SAN directors support both FCP and FICON, and the z10 also supports both 1Gbps and 10Gbps Ethernet, so you may not have to invest in any new networking gear.
The best part is that you may not have to migrate your data. The IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller is supported for Linux on System z, and with "image mode" you can leave the data in its original format on its original disk array. Many file systems are now supported by Linux, including Windows NTFS with the latest NTFS-3G driver.
If your data is already on NAS storage, such as the IBM System Storage N series disk systems, then the IBM z10can access it directly, from z/OS, z/VM or Linux.
Have lots of LTO tape data? Linux on System z supports LTO as well.
Jon continues his rant with a question about porting Microsoft Windows applications. Here's another excerpt:
"For one, what do we do with all the Microsoft servers. There is no Redmond-sanctioned approach to my knowledge for virtualizing Microsoft SQL Server or Exchange Server in a mainframe partition."
Yes, it is possible to run Windows on a mainframe through emulation, but I feel that's the wrong approach. Instead, the focus should be on running "functionally equivalent" programs on the native mainframe operating systems, and again Linuxis often the best choice for this. Switching from Windows to Linux may not be "Redmond-sanctioned", but it getsthe job done.
Instead of SQL Server, consider something functionally equivalent like IBM's DB2 Universal Database, or perhaps an open source database like MySQL, PostgreSQL or Apache Derby. Well-written applications use standard SQL calls, so ifthe application does not try to use unique, proprietary features of MS SQL Server, you are in good shape.
In my discussion last November on [Microsoft Exchange email server], I mentioned that Bynari makes a functionally equivalent email server on Linux that works with your existing Microsoft Outlook clients. Your end-users wouldn't know you migrated to a mainframe! (well, they might notice their email runs faster)
So if your data center has three or more racks of Sun, Dell or HP "pizza box" or "blade" x86 servers, chances are you can migrate the processing over to a shiny new IBM z10 EC mainframe, save some money in the process, without too much impact to your existing Ethernet, SAN or storage system infrastructure. IBM can even help you dispose of the oldx86 machines so that their toxic chemicals don't end up in any landfill.
IPv4, IPv6, Wireless Mesh networking? No problem! You know linux networking inside and out
Extensive knowledge of BIND, DHCPD, Squid, Apache, security, etc.
Experience working with [Moodle] would be most excellent (it is basically a PHP web application that maintains MySQL databases for lesson plans, homework assignments and other school related information)
Adept with Python scripting or could learn it quickly. OLPC has standardized on Python for scripting (although knowledge in Perl and PHP won't hurt either)
You look to implement a practical solution that less skilled sysadmins can easily maintain over a cooler but more complicated solution.
You play well with others. You don’t alienate collaborators with rude e-mails that assert your technical superiority (even though you are)
Your primary concern is meeting the educational needs of kids and teachers. Your rate technical awesomeness a distant second to meeting those critical needs.
I've been working with Dev, Bryan and Sulochan for the past three months (remotely here from Tucson, AZ)but we've come to a point where we need on-site expertise. I will continue to provide remote support.
Given the number of readers who have contacted me over the past year looking for an IT job (or a different job because they are not happy where they are), this could be an amazing experience.
However, I have to assume his real question is ... "what is the quick and easy way for me to build a lightweight database app like Microsoft Access that I can distribute as a standalone executable?"
To which I would say "Lotus has a program called Approach, which is part of Lotus SmartSuite, which some people still use. However, a lot of the focus in IBM now centers around the lightweight Cloudscape database which IBM acquired from Informix, which is now known as the [open source project called Derby]. Many IBM and Lotus products, such as Lotus Expeditor use the JDBC connection to Derby, which allows you to use Windows, Linux, Flash, etc. ... with no vendor lock in".
I am familiar with Cloudscape, and I evaluated it as a potential database for IBM TotalStorage Productivity Center, when I was the lead architect defining the version 1 release. It runs entirely on Java, which is both a plus and minus. Plus in that it runs anywhere Java runs, but a minus in that it is not optimized for high performance or large scalability. Because of this, we decided instead on using the full commercial DB2 database instead for Productivity Center.
Not to be undone, my colleagues over at DB2 offered a different alternative, [DB2 Express-C], which runs on a variety of Windows, Linux-x86, and Linux on POWER platforms. It is "free" as in beer, not free as in speech, which means you can download and use it today at no charge, and even ship products with it included, but you are not allowed to modify and distribute altered versions of it, as you can with "free as in speech" open source code, as in the case of Derby above (see [Apache License 2.0"] for details).
As I see it, DB2 Express-C has two key advantages. First, if you like the free version, you can purchase a "support contract" for those that need extra hand-holding, or are using this as part of a commercial business venture. Second,for those who do prefer vendor lock-in, it is easyto upgrade Express-C to the full IBM DB2 database product, so if you are developing a product intended for use with DB2, you can develop it first with DB2 Express-C, and migrate up to full DB2 commercial version when you are ready.
This is perhaps more information than you probably expected for such a simple question. Meanwhile, I am stilltrying to figure out MySQL as part of my [OLPC volunteer project].
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.
While many are just becoming familiar with the end-user interfaces of Web 2.0, from blogs and wikis to FaceBook and FlickR, fewer may be familiar with the "information infrastructure" of servers and storagebehind the scenes.
Last year, I bought an XO laptop under the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] foundation's Give-1-Get-1 program and posted my impressions on this blog. One in particular, my post[Printingon XO laptop with CUPS and LPR] showed how to print from the XO laptop over to a network-attached printer.This caught the attention of the OLPC development team, who asked me tohelp them with another project as a volunteer. Before accepting, I had to learn what skills they were really looking for, especially since I do notconsider myself an expert in neither printing nor networking.
(Unlike a regular 9-to-5 job where most people just try to look busy for eight hours a day, doingvolunteer work means being ready to ["roll up your sleeves"] and actuallyaccomplish something. This applies to any kind of volunteer work, from hammering nails for [Habitat for Humanity] to sorting cans at the [Community Food Bank].Best Buy uses the phrase "Results Oriented Work Environment" [ROWE] to describetheir latest program, modeled in part after the mobile workforce policies of Web2.0-enlightened companiesIBM and Sun, but that is perhaps a topic for another blog post!)
Apparently, to support a school full of students with XO laptops, it would be nice to have a few serversthat provide support to manage the class lesson plans, make reading materials and other content available,and keep track of results. What they need is an "information infrastructure"! They decided on two specific servers:
School Server -- this would run a popular class management system called [Moodle]
Library Server -- a server for a digital library collection, based on Fedora Commons[16-minute video]
In keeping with OLPC philosophy to use free and open source software[FOSS], both servers are based on the [LAMP] platform. LAMP is an acronym for thecombined software bundle of Linux, Apache, MySQL and a Programming language like PHP. The "XS" team working onthe school server wanted me to build a LAMP server and install Moodle to help test the configuration, determinewhat other software is required, and perhaps develop a backup/recovery scenario. Basically, they needed someone with Linux skills to put some hardware and software together.
(I am no stranger to Linux. Back in the 1990s, I was part of the Linux for S/390 team, led the effort to createthe infamous "compatible disk layout" (CDL) that allows z/OS to access ESCON and FICON-attached Linux volumes,took my LPI certification exam, and led a team to validate FCP drivers for our disk and tape storage systems. For an IBMer to volunteer foran Open Source community project, you have to take an "open source" class and get management approval to reviewfor any possible "conflicts of interest". I got this all taken care of, and accepted to help the XS team.)
Building a test environment is similar to baking a cake. You have a recipe, utensils, and ingredients. Here'sa bit of description of each of the ingredients:
Like Windows, the Linux operating system comes in different flavors to run on handhelds, desktops and servers. For servers, IBM tends to focus on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Eneterprise Server (SLES). However, the XS team decidedinstead to use [Fedora 7], a community-supported version from Red Hat. Earlier versions of Fedora were known as "Fedora Core", but apparently with version 7, the word "Core" has been dropped. Fedora 7 can be used in either desktop or server mode.
[Apache] is web server software, and half of all web servers on the internet use it. It competes head-on against Micorosofts Internet Information Services (IIS) serverprovided in Windows 2003. The Apache name is partly from thefact that its origins were "a patchy" variant of the NCSA HTTPd 1.3 codebase. Thepopular [IBM HTTP Server] is poweredby Apache, with added support to the rest of the IBM WebSphere software portfolio. The XS team chose Apache v2as the web server platform.
[MySQL] is a relational database management system (RDBMS) software, similar to commercial products like IBM DB2 Universal Database, Oracle DB, or Microsoft SQL Server. The SQL stands for Structured Query Language, developed by IBM in the early 1970s as a standard languageto update and query database tables. MySQL comes in two flavors, MySQL Enterprise for commercial use, and MySQLCommunity, which is community-supported. There are over 10 million instances of MySQL running websites on the internet, which helps explain why Sun Microsystems agreed to acquire MySQL AB company last month.The XS team decided on MySQL 5.0 as the database platform.
To make HTML pages dynamic, including the possibility to add or query database contents, requires programming.A variety of web scripting languages were developed, all starting with the letter "P" to claim to be the programming part of the LAMP platform, including [PHP], Perl, and Python. Later, new programming language frameworks have been developed that do not start with the letter "P", like [Ruby on Rails]. PHP is short for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor which explains that it pre-processes HTML during web serving,looking for special tags indicating PHP code, allowing programming logic to insert HTML content, such as information extracted from a database.While Python is the language that runs the Sugar interface on the XO laptops, the XS team decided onPHP v5 as the programming language for the server.
As for utensils, you only need a few utilities
A simple text editor: I go old-school and use the classic "vi" (to learn this editor, see the["Cheat Sheet" method] on IBM Developerworks)
secure socket shell (SSH): this allows you to access one server from another
browser access to the internet: when you encounter problems, get error messages, or whatever, it pays to know how to search for things with Google
As for a recipe, the Moodle website spells out some unique details and parameters. For the base LAMP platform,I chose to follow the book [Fedora 7 Unleashed] that has specific chapters on setting up SSH, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Squid and so on. The resultingconfiguration looks like this:
Here were the sequence of events:
I took an old PC that I wasn't using anymore, backed up the Windows system, and installed Linux on top. Thebook above had a Fedora 7 DVD on the back jacket, but I used the [OLPC LiveCD] that had some values pre-configured.
Set the IP address static. I set mine to 192.168.0.77 which nobody sees except my other systems.
My school server is "headless" which means it does not have its own keyboard, video or mouse. It also runs only to Linux run level 3, command line interface only, no graphics.I was able toshare using a KVM switch], but this meant having to remember something on one screen while I was switching over to the other. My Windows XP system has mybrowser connection to the internet to follow instructions or read error messages, so I need that up all thetime. To get around this, on my Windows XP system,I generated SSH public and private keys, copied the public key over to my new Linux system, and used [OpenSSH for Windows] to connect over. Now, on one screen,I have my Windows XP Firefox browser, and a separate command line window that is accessing my Linux schoolserver.
With SSH up and running, I can now use "vi" to edit files, and issue commands to install or activatethe remaining software. First up, Apache. I got this working, and from Windows XP, verified that going to"http://192.168.0.77" showed the Apache test screen.
I installed PHP, and tested it with a simple short index.php file.
I installed MySQL, setup the base "installation databases", and created a test database. Here is whereyou might want to set a password for the MySQL root user, but I chose to do that later for now.
I installed Moodle. It was smart enough to check that Apache, PHP, and MySQL were operational, andapparently I missed a few special "PHP" modules that had to be linked in. I was able to find them, downloadthem, and get them installed.
I brought up Moodle, created a "class category" of SCIENCE and a new class "Chemistry 101", and it allworked.
I also activated Squid, which is a web proxy cache server that stores web pages for faster access.
Another idea was to activate Samba, to provide CIFS file and print sharing, but I decided to put this off.
I got all of this done last Saturday, start to finish. Now the fun begins. We are going to run throughsome tests, document the procedures, and try to get a system up and running in a remote school in Nepal. Fornow, I have only one XO laptop to simulate what the student sees, and one laptop that can represent eithera teacher's Windows-based laptop, or run QEMU and emulate a second XO laptop.For tuning, I might go through the procedures mentioned on IBM Developerworks "Tuning LAMP"[Part 1, Part 2,Part 3].
For those in the server or storage industry that need to understand Web 2.0 information infrastructure better,building a LAMP server like this can be quite helpful.
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.
Continuing my week's theme on the XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] foundation, I successfully managedto emulate my XO on another system.
Part of what is attractive of the XO laptop is the hardware, the high-resolution200dpi screen, the clever screen that rotates and folds flat into an eBook reader,and the water-tight, dust-proof keyboard. The other part is the software, howthey managed to pack an entire operating system, with useful applications, intoa 1GB NAND flash drive.
The drawback for developers like me is the risk of changing something that breaks the system. For example, my first attempt to create my own activityresulted in a blank space in my action bar, and my journal went into someinfinite loop, blinking as if it were still loading for minutes on end. I fixed it by deleting out the activity I created and rebooting.
To get around this, I successfully ran the disk-image under Linux's Virtual Machinesoftware called Qemu. This is an open source offering, with a proprietary add-onaccelerator called Kqemu. Here were the steps involved:
Base Operating System
Qemu is now available to run on Linux, Windows and OS X-Intel. I have an Ubuntu 7.04"Feisty Faun" version of Linux installed on my system from a project I did last year, so decided to use that.
Normally, "apt-get install qemu" would be enough, but I wanted to get the latest release, so I downloaded the [0.9.0 version]tarball of compiled binaries. Note that trying to compile Qemu from source requiresa downlevel gcc-3.x compiler, and my attempts to do this failed. The compiled binariesworked fine.
The Kqemu author hasn't packaged this for distribution, so I download the source code anddid my own compiles. You can do the "configure-make-install" using the regular gcc 4.1compiler and it went smoothly.
Getting Kqemu active was bit of a challenge. I had to make sense of Nando Florestan's[Installing Kqumu in Ubuntu] article,and the subsequent comments that followed.
There is a tiny [8MB Linux image]that should be used to verify the Kqemu is activated correctly.
The Disk Image
As with other development efforts, there are the older stable versions, and the bleedingedge development versions. I chose the 650 Build from the [Ship.2 stable versions], whichmatches the version on my XO laptop. The image comes as a *.bz2, which is a highly-compressedfile. Using "Bunzip2", the 221MB file expands to something like 932MB.
I renamed the resulting file to "build650.img"
Once I got all this done, I then made a simple script "launch" in my /home/tpearson/bin directory:
Then "launch build650.img" was all I needed to run the emulation. The full-screen mode helpsemulate the view on XO laptop. I was able to change the jabber server to "xochat.org" and see otherXO laptops online on my neighborhood view.
When running under Qemu, you can't just press Ctrl-Alt-something. For example, Ctrl-Alt-Erase onthe XO reboots the Sugar interface. However, do this on a Linux system, and it reboots your nativeX interface, blowing away everything.Instead, you press Ctrl-Alt-2 to get to the Qemu console, designated by (qemu) prompt,and then type:
Press "Ctrl-Alt-1" followed by "Ctrl-Alt" to get back to the emulated XO screen.
With this emulation, I am more likely to try new things, change files around, edit system files,and so on, without worrying about rendering my actual XO laptop unusable. Once debugged, I canthen work on moving them over to my XO, one at a time.
Wrapping up this week's theme on the XO laptop, I decided to take on thechallenge of printing. I managed to print from my XO laptop to my laserjet printer.I checked the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] website,and found there is no built-in support for printers, but there have been several peopleasking how to print from the XO, so here are the steps I did to make it happen.
(Note: I did all of these steps successfully on my Qemu-emulated system first, and then performed them on my XO laptop)
Step 1: Determine if you have an acceptable printer
The XO laptop can only connect to a printer via USB cable or over the network.Check your printer to see if it supports either of these two options. In my case, my printer is connected to my Linksys hub that offers Wi-Fi in my home.
The XO runs a modified version of Red Hat's Fedora 7, so we need to also determineif the printer is supported on Linux.Check the [Open Printing Database]for the level of support. This database has come up with the following ranking system.Printers are categorized according to how well they work under Linux and Unix. The ratings do not pertain to whether or not the printer will be auto-recognized or auto-configured, but merely to the highest level of functionality achieved.
Perfectly - everything the printer can do is working also under Linux
Mostly - work almost perfectly - funny enhanced resolution modes may be missing, or the color is a bit off, but nothing that would make the printouts not useful
Partially - mostly don't work; you may be able to print only in black and white on a color printer, or the printouts look horrible
Paperweight - These printers don't work at all. They may work in the future, but don't count on it
If your printer only supports a parallel cable connection, or does not have a high enough ranking above, go buy another printer. The [Linux Foundation] websiteoffers a list of suggested printers and tutorials.
In my case, I have a Brother HL5250-DN black-and-white laserjet printer connected over a network to Windows XP, OS X and my other Linux systems. It is rated as supporting Linux perfectly, so I decided to use this for my XO laptop.
Step 2: Install Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS)
Technically, Linux is not UNIX, but for our purposes, close enough. Start the Terminalactivity, use "su" to change to root, and then use "yum" to install CUPS. Yum will automatically determine what other packages are needed, in this case paps and tmpwatch. Once installed, use "/usr/sbin/cupsd" to get the CUPS daemon started, and add this to the end ofrc.local so that it gets started every time you reboot.
Click graphic on the left to see larger view
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ subash-3.2# yum install cups...Total download size = 3.0 MIs this OK [y/N]? y
To download the appropriate drivers, you may need a browser that can handle file downloads. I have triedto do this with the built-in Browse activity (aka Gecko) but encountered problems. I have both Opera and Firefox installed, but I will focus on Opera for this effort.I also installed the older220.127.116.11 version of the Flash player (worked better than the latest 18.104.22.168 version) and Java JRE.Follow the OLPC Wiki instructions for [Opera, Adobe Flash,and Sun Java] installation, thenverify with the following [Java and Flash] testers.
Step 4: Download drivers and packages unique for your printer
In my case, I used Opera to get to the [Brother Linux Driver Homepage], and downloaded the RPM's for LPR and CUPS wrapper. These are the ones listed under "Drivers for Red Hat, Mandrake (Mandriva), SuSE". I saved these under "/home/olpc" directory.
By default, the root user has no password. However, you will need it to be something for later steps,so here is the process to create a root password. I set mine to "tony" which normallywould be considered too simple a password, but ignore those messages and continue.We will remove it in step 8 (below) to put things back to normal.
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ subash-3.2# passwdChanging password for user root.New UNIX password: tonyBAD PASSWORD: it is too shortRetype new UNIX password: tonypasswd: all authentication tokens updated successfullybash-3.2# exit[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$
Step 6: Launch CUPS administration
Here I followed the instructions in Robert Spotswood's [Printing In Linux with CUPS] tutorial.Launch the Opera browser, and enter "http://localhost:631/admin" as the URL. The localhostrefers to the laptop itself, and 631 is the special port that CUPS listens to from browsers. You can alsouse 127.0.0.1 as a shortcut for "localhost", and can be used interchangeably.
In my case, it detected both of my networked printers, so I selected the HL5250DN, entered thelocation of my PPD file "/usr/share/cups/model/HL5250DN.ppd" that was created in Step 4. I set the URI to "lpd://192.168.0.75/binary_p1" per the instructions [Network Setting in CUPS based Linux system] in the Brother FAQ page. I chage the page size from "A4" to "Letter".I set this printer as the default printer. When it asks for userid and password, that is whereyou would enter "root" for the user, and "tony" or whatever you decided to set your root password to.
Select "Print a Test Page" to verify that everything is working.
Step 7: Printing actual files
Sadly, I don't know Opera well enough to know how to print from there. So, I went over to my trustedFirefox browser. Select File->Page Setup to specify the settings, File->Print Preview tosee what it will look like, and then File->Print to send it to the printer.
To print the file "out.txt" that is in your /home/olpc directory, for example, enter"file:///home/olpc/out.txt" as the URL of the firefox browser. This will show the file,which you can then print to your printer. I had to specify 200% scaling otherwise the fontswere too small to read.
Step 8: Remove the "root" password
If you want to remove the root password, here are the steps.
[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$ suPassword: tonybash-3.2# passwd -d rootRemoving password for user root.passwd: Successbash-3.2# exit[olpc@xo-10-CC-6F ~]$
Now the problem is that there is no way to print stuff from any of the Sugar activities. The best place toput in print support would be the Journal activity. Along the bottom where the mounted USB keys arelocated could be an icon for a printer, and dragging a file down to the printer ojbect could cause it tobe send to the printer.
The alternative is to write some scripts invocable from the Terminal activity to determine what isin the journal, and send them to LPR with the appropriate parameters.
I did not have time to do either of these, but perhaps someone out there can take on that as a project.
My XO laptop arrived Friday, December 21, this was from the [Give 1 Get 1 (G1G1)] program fromthe One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation. The program continuesto the end of this month (December 31).
Here are my first impressions.
Setup was Easy
Open the box, put in battery, and plug in the adapter. Enter your name and choose your favorite color for your stick figurine. No passwords, no parameters. Software is pre-installed and ready to use.
The four pages of instructions included how to open the unit (not intuitive), where the various connection ports are located, what the home screen and neighborhood screen look like, safety warnings, and a nice letter from Nicholas Negroponte with an 800 phone number and website in case more help is needed.
Connecting to the internet was the first thing I did. The neighborhood screen shows all the Wi-Fi access points. It recognized mineand three others. I clicked on mine, entered my WEP key, and was connected.
This is a Linux operating system running the Sugar user interface.There are four screens:
Neighborhood - shows all Wi-Fi access points
Friends - shows all other XO laptops nearby, in my case I am all alone
Home - your stick figurine with all the applications you can choose from are represented as icons at the bottom, just like OS X on my Mac Mini, or the launchpad on my Windows XP. Left panel for clipboard items.
Application - Applications run in full-screen mode
Four buttons across the top allow you to jump to any screen instantly.Everything else is single left-click. No double-clicks or right-clicks.
A circle on the home screen designates which applications are running, and how much of the available 256MB RAM they are consuming. This makes it easy to seeif you can run more applications or need to shut something down. Youcan jump to any application, or shut it down, from this view.
Shutting down the XO is done by clicking your stick figurine,and choosing shutdown.
I fired up the browser. The default 'home page' offers some help offline, as well as links to online resources and a google search bar. The full-color 1200x900 is very easy to read. You can hit ctrl+plus to make the fonts bigger. In bright sunlight, the screen turns automatically to greyscale.The built-in browser is easy enough to use, with standard back, forward, re-load, and bookmark buttons. The URL entry field also shows the pages title. It doesn't have tabs to see multiple pages at the same time, but I was able to fire up a second instance of the browser, so thatI could alt-tab back and forth between the two web sites.
There are so many applications that they don't all fit on the bottom of the screen.Left and right tab buttons will display the next set. I don't know if it is possible to re-order the icons, but I can certainly see some applications appealing to different ages, and perhaps re-ordering them into age-specific groups might be helpful.
Basic applications include the Abiword word processor, a PDF viewer, a simple paint program, calculator, chat, and news RSS feed reader; TamTam music to play and edit compositions; and some learn-to-program-a-computer software including Pippy, Etoys, and TurtleArt.
The 'record' program lets you take 640x480 pictures with the built-in camera, up to 45 seconds of video and audio recording. The picture abovewas taken with my XO, and edited online using [snipshot.com]. Another program can be usedto make video calls to another computer, similar to Skype or IBM Lotus Sametime.
The XO has built-in microphone and speakers, but also microphone and speaker ports, as well as three USB ports, and a slot for an SD memory card.
The QWERTY keyboard is designed for small children hands, I found myself using my two index fingers in a hunt-and-peck style. People who use Blackberry's or other hand-held devices might be able to use their two thumbs instead. Also, I am not used to a touchpad as the pointing device. My other laptops have a red knob between the G/H/B keys that acts like a joystick. So, I decided to attach my Apple keyboard/mouse to one USB port, which allows me faster typing and better resolution with my mouse.
I also inserted a 1GB SD card into the slot. Getting to the SD slot was challenging--you have to rotate the screen 90 degrees so that the lower right corner is over the laptop handle. It appears I need to purchase some tweasers to get my SD card back out, so until then, it will remain there as permanent addition to my XO.
A terminal application provides a command line interface into Linux.
The 'vi' editor is installed, in case I need to make changes to fstab or anythingelse in my /etc directory.
There is no S-video or VGA port. However, a teacher could probably fold thislaptop up in e-book mode and lay it flat on an [overhead projector] since the screen can handle bright sunlight in black-and-white mode.
The Journal and the Clipboard
There are no folders or subdirectories here. The journal acts as your desktop, holding all the files you have referenced, sorted in chronological order with the most recent on top. The journal application is started automatically when you boot up.My SD card is shown as a separate entry at the bottom right corner, but I have access only to files on my top-level directory on the card. The journal allows you to drag and drop between the system and the SD flash card.The list can be filtered by file type and application, so finding things is easy.You can also copy anything in the journal to the clipboard, appearing on the leftpanel of the home screen. You can then launch or paste this into other applications.
Pressing Alt-1 takes a 1200x900 snapshot of the current screen, and puts it into the journal.On websites that allow you to upload a file, including GMAIL, snipshot.com, etc. the browse button brings up the journal. So, for example, you could take a snapshot of the current webpage or paint creation, and send it as an attachment to someone via GMAIL. Google has an XO-enabled version of GMAIL that you can download from the OLPC activities page.
This entire post, including the picture above, was done with the XO laptop itself. I am impressed with the thought that went into this design, and I see great potential here. The interface adequately hides the Linux operating system for those who just want to use the computer, but makes it readily accessible for those who want to learn more about the Linux operating system and computer programming.
[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.
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.
In his blog Rough Type, Nick Carr asks Where is my CloudBook?and points to John Markoff's 2-part series in the New York Times on computing in the clouds.(Read it here: Part 1, Part 2)
At first, I thought he meant computing while in an airplane, but instead, he is talking about computing on a laptop or other hand-held device that does not have an internal disk drive, no installedoperating system, no internal data storage. Instead, the idea is that you boot from a CD, accessyour data, and even some of your programs, over the internet. John used an Ubuntu Linux LiveCD in his example.
This week, I am in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and was "in the clouds" for over 10 hours flying from Dallas to here.The one time I am guaranteed "off-line" from the internet is on the plane, and I spend enough time on planesthat I am able to get work done despite being "disconnected".
The same reasons people want to get out of having a disk drive on their laptop, are the reasons data centersare getting out of internal disk on their servers.
disks crash, and typically are not protected in any RAID configuration on most laptops
operating systems get infected with viruses and malware
storage on one server is generally inaccessible to every other server
Booting from CD is especially clever. No more worrying about fixing your Windows registry, viruses,corrupted operating system files, or the cruft that accumulates on your C: drive that slowsyou down. The CD is the sameevery time, so it is like running your system with a freshly installed operating system every day.
The need for central repositories of data harkens back to the years of the IBM mainframe. Of course, whatmade sense back then continues to make sense now. The old 3270 terminals stored no data, and instead merelyprovided keyboard input and display text screen output to the vast amount of data stored on the central system.Today, the inputs are different, using your finger or mouse instead to point to what you want, sliding itacross to make things happen, and the output may now include photos, audio and video, but the concept isstill the same.
I carry my Ubuntu Linux LiveCD with me on every business trip. Combined with externally rewriteable media,such as a USB key, you can get work done even when you are in an airplane, and upload it whenyou are back on the net.
The IBM Storage and Storage Networking Symposium concludes today. As typical for manysuch conferences, it ended at noon, so that people can catch airline flights.
TS1120 Tape Encryption - Customer Experiences
Jonathan Barney had implemented many deployments of tape encryption, and shared hisexperiences at two customer locations.
The first company had decided to implement their EKM servers on dedicated 64-bitWindows servers. They had three sites, one in Chicago, Alphareta, and New York City,each with two EKM servers. Each library had a single TS3500 tape library, and pointedto four EKM servers, two local, and two remote.
The clever trick was managing the keystore. They decided that EKM-1 was their trustedsource, made all changes to that, and then copied it to the other five EKM servers.His team deployed one site at a time, which turned out to be ok, but he would notrecommend it. Better to design your complete solution, and make sure that all librariescan access all EKM servers.
This company decided to have a single key-label/key-pair for all three locations, but change it every 6 months. You have to keep the old keys for as long as you have tapesencrypted with those keys, perhaps 10-20 years.The customer found the IBM encryption implementation "elegant" and it can be easily replicated to a fourth site if needed.
The second company had both z/OS and Sun Solaris. Initially they planned to have botha hardware-based keystore on System z, and software-based keystore on Sun, but they realized that System z version was so much more secure and reliable, that it made nosense to have anything on the Sun Solaris platform.
On System z, they had two EKM images, and used VIPA to ensure load balancing fromthe library. Tapes written from z/OS used DFSMS Data Class to determine which tapesare encrypted and which aren't. All Tapes written from Sun Solaris were encryptied, written to a separate logical library partition of the TS3500, which in turn contactedthe System z for the EKM management to provide the keys to use for the encryption.
The "gotcha" for this case was that when they tested Disaster Recovery, they had torecover the two EKM servers first, before any other restores could take place, and thistook way too long. Instead, they developed a scaled-down 10-volume "rescue recovery" z/OS image that would contain the RACF database and all EKM related software to actas the keystore during a disaster recovery. Anytime they make updates, they only haveto dump 10 volumes to tape. Restore time is down to only 2 hours.
He gave this advice to deploy tape encryption:
Some third party z/OS security products, like Computer Associates Top Secret orACF2, require some PTFs to work with the EKM. The latest IBM RACF is good to go.
Getting IP support from IOS to OMVS requires IPL.
At one customer, an OMVS monitor software program killed the EKM because it wasn'tin their list of "acceptable Java programs". They updated the list and EKM ran fine.
DO not update EKM properties file while EKM is running. EKM keeps a lot of stuffin memory, and when it is recycled, copies this back to the EKM properties file, reversing any changes you may have done. It is best to shut down EKM, update theproperties file, then start up EKM back up again. This is why you should always haveat least two EKM servers for redundancy.
TSM for Linux on System z
Randy Larson from our Tivoli group presented this session.There is a lot of interest in deploying IBM Tivoli Storage Manager backup and archivesoftware on Linux for System z. Many customers are already invested in a mainframeinfrastructure, may have TSM for z/OS or z/VM, and want the newer features and functions that are available for TSM on Linux.
TSM has special support for Lotus Domino, Oracle, DB2 and WebSphere Application Servers.TSM clients can send backup data to a TSM server internally via Hipersockets, a virtualLAN feature on the System z platform that uses shared memory to emulate TCP/IP stack.
One of the big questions is whether to run Linux as guests under z/VM, or natively onLPAR. The general deployment is to carve an LPAR and run Linux natively untilyour server and storage administration staff have taken z/VM training classes. Oncetrained, they can easily move native LPAR images to z/VM guests. Unlike VMware that takesa hefty 40% overhead on x86 platforms to manage guests, z/VM only takes 5-10% overhead.
For the TSM database and disk storage pools, Randy recommends FC/SCSI disk, with ext3 file system, combined with LVM2 into logical volumes. ECKD disk and reiserfsworks too. Avoid use of z/VM minidisks. Under LVM2, consider 32KB stripes for the TSM database, and 256KB stripes for the disk storage pools. For multipathing, usefailover rather than multibus method. Read IC45459 before you activate "directio".
The TSM for Linux on z is very much like the TSM on AIX or Windows, and not like theTSM for z/OS. For tape, TSM for Linux on z does not support ESCON/FICON attached tape,you need to use FC/SCSI attached tape and tape libraries. TSM owns the library anddrives it uses, so give it a logical library partition separate from z/OS. ForSun/StorageTek customers, TSM works with or without the Gersham Enterprise Distrbu-Tape(EDT) software. Use the IBM-provided drivers for IBM tape. For non-IBM tape, TSM providessome drivers that you can use instead.
That wraps up my week. This was a great conference! If you missed it, look for the one in Montpelier, France this October. Check out the list of IBM Technical Conferencesto find others that might interest you.
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.