Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Architect for the IBM Storage product line at the
IBM Systems Client Experience Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2016, Tony celebrates his 30th year anniversary with IBM Storage. He is
author of the Inside System Storage series of books. This blog is for the open exchange of ideas relating to storage and storage networking hardware, software and services.
(Short URL for this blog: ibm.co/Pearson )
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If you store your VMware bits on external SAN or NAS-based disk storage systems, this post is for you. The subject of the post, VM Volumes, is a potential storage management game changer!
Fellow blogger Stephen Foskett mentioned VM Volumes in his [Introducing VMware vSphere Storage Features] presentation at IBM Edge 2012 conference. His session on VMware's storage features included VMware APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), VMware Array Storage Awareness (VASA), vCenter plug-ins, and a new concept he called "vVol", now more formally known as VM Volumes. This post provides a follow-up to this, describing the VM Volumes concepts, architecture, and value proposition.
"VM Volumes" is a future architecture that VMware is developing in collaboration with IBM and other major storage system vendors. So far, very little information about VM Volumes has been released. At VMworld 2012 Barcelona, VMware highlights VM Volumes for the first time and IBM demonstrates VM Volumes with the IBM XIV Storage System (more about this demo below). VM Volumes is worth your attention -- when it becomes generally available, everyone using storage arrays will have to reconsider their storage management practices in a VMware environment -- no exaggeration!
But enough drama. What is this all about?
(Note: for the sake of clarity, this post refers to block storage only. However, the VM Volumes feature applies to NAS systems as well. Special thanks to Yossi Siles and the XIV development team for their help on this post!)
The VM Volumes concept is simple: VM disks are mapped directly to special volumes on a storage array system, as opposed to storing VMDK files on a vSphere datastore.
The following images illustrate the differences between the two storage management paradigms.
You may still be asking yourself: bottom line, how will I benefit from VM Volumes?
Well, take a VM snapshot for example. With VM Volumes, vSphere can simply offload the operation by invoking a hardware snapshot of the hardware volume. This has significant implications:
VM-Granularity: Only the right VMs are copied (with datastores, backing up or cloning individual-VM portions of hardware snapshot of a datastore would require more complex configuration, tools and work)
Hardware Offload: No ESXi server resources are consumed
XIV advantage: With XIV, snapshots consume no space upfront and are completed instantly.
Here's the first takeaway: With VM Volumes, advanced storage services (which cost a lot when you buy a storage array), will become available at an individual VM level. In a cloud world, this means that applications can be provisioned easily with advanced storage services, such as snapshots and mirroring.
Now, let's take a closer look at another relevant scenario where VM Volumes will make a lot of difference - provisioning an application with special mirroring requirements:
VM Volumes case: The application is ordered via the private cloud portal. The requestor checks a box requesting an asynchronous mirror. He changes the default RPO for his needs. When the request is submitted, the process wraps up automatically: Volumes are created on one of the storage arrays, configured with a mirror and RPO exactly as specified. A few minutes later, the requestor receives an automatic mail pointing to the application virtual machine.
Datastores case #1: As may be expected, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does not exist. As a result, the automated workflow sets a pending status on the request, creates an urgent ticket to a VMware administrator and aborts. When the VMware admin handles that ticket, she re-assigns the ticket to the storage administrator, asking for a new volume which is mirrored with the special RPO, and mapped to the right ESXi cluster. The next day, the volume is created; the ticket is re-assigned to the storage admin, with the new LUN being pointed to. The VMware administrator follows and creates the datastore on top of it. Since the automated workflow was aborted, the admin re-assigns the ticket to the cloud administrator, who sometime later completes the application provisioning manually.
Datastores case #2: Luckily for the requestor, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does exist. However, that particular datastore is consuming space from a high performance XIV Gen3 system with SSD caching, while the application does not require that level of performance, so the workflow requires a storage administrator approval. The approval is given to save time, but the storage administrator opens a ticket for himself to create a new volume on another array, as well as a follow-up ticket for the VMware admin to create a new datastore using the new volume and migrate the application to the other datastore. In this case, provisioning was relatively rapid, but required manual follow up, involving the two administrators.
Here's the second takeaway: With VM Volumes, management is simplified, and end-to-end automation is much more applicable. The reason is that there are no datastores. Datastores physically group VMs that may otherwise be totally unrelated, and require close coordination between storage and VMware administrators.
Now, the above mainly focuses on the VMware or cloud administrator perspective. How does VM Volumes impact storage management?
VM's are the new hosts: Today, storage administrators have visibility of physical hosts in their management environment. In a non-virtualized environment, this visibility is very helpful. The storage administrator knows exactly which applications in a data center are storage-provisioned or affected by storage management operations because the applications are running on well-known hosts. However, in virtualized environments the association of an application to a physical host is temporary. To keep at least the same level of visibility as in physical environments, VMs should become part of the storage management environment, like hosts. Hosts are still interesting, for example to manage physical storage mapping, but without VM visibility, storage administrators will know less about their operation than they are used to, or need to. VM Volumes enables such visibility, because volumes are provided to individual VMs. The XIV VM Volumes demonstration at VMworld Barcelona, although experimental, shows a view of VM volumes, in XIV's management GUI.
Here's a screenshot:
That's not all!
Storage Profiles and Storage Containers: A Storage Profile is a vSphere specification of a set of storage services. A storage profile can include properties like thin or thick provisioning, mirroring definition, snapshot policy, minimum IOPS, etc.
Storage administrators define a portfolio of supported storage services, maintained as a set of storage profiles, and published (via VASA integration) to vSphere.
VMware or cloud administrators define the required storage profiles for specific applications
VMware and storage administrators need to coordinate the typical storage requirements and the automatically-available storage services. When a request to provision an application is made, the associated storage profiles are matched against the published set of available storage profiles. The matching published profiles will be used to create volumes, which will be bound to the application VMs. All that will happen automatically.
Note that when a VM is created today, a datastore must be specified. With VM Volumes, a new management entity called Storage Container (also known as Capacity Pool) replaces the use of datastore as a management object. Each Storage Container exposes a subset of the available storage profiles, as appropriate. The storage container also has a capacity quota.
Here are some more takeaways:
New way to interface vSphere and storage management: Storage administrators structure and publish storage services to vSphere via storage profiles and storage containers.
Automated provisioning, out of the box: The provisioning process automatically matches application-required storage profiles against storage profiles available from the specified storage containers. There is no need to build custom scripts and custom processes to automate storage provisioning to applications
The XIV advantage:
XIV services are very simple to define and publish. The typical number of available storage profiles would be low. It would also be easy to define application storage profiles.
XIV provides consistent high performance, up to very high capacity utilization levels, without any maintenance. As a result, automated provisioning (which inherently implies less human attention) will not create an elevated risk of reduced performance.
Note: A storage vendor VASA provider is required to support VM Volumes, storage profiles, storage containers and automated provisioning. The IBM Storage VASA provider runs as a standalone service that needs to be deployed on a server.
To summarize the VM Volumes value proposition:
Streamline cloud operation by providing storage services at VM and application level, enabling end-to-end provisioning automation, and unifying VMware and storage administration around volumes and VMs.
Increase storage array ROI, improve vSphere scalability and response time, and reduce cloud provisioning lag, by offloading VM-level provisioning, failover, backup, storage migration, storage space recycling, monitoring, and more, to the storage array, using advanced storage operations such as mirroring and snapshots.
Simplify the adoption of VM Volumes using XIV, with smaller and simpler sets of storage profiles. Apply XIV's supreme fast cloning to individual VMs, and keep automation risks at bay with XIV's consistent high performance.
Until you can get your hands on a VM Volumes-capable environment, the VMware and IBM developer groups will be collaborating and working hard to realize this game-changing feature. The above information is definitely expected to trigger your questions or comments, and our development teams are eager to learn from them and respond. Enter your comments below, and I will try to answer them, and help shape the next post on this subject. There's much more to be told.
IBM has announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Texas Memory Systems, Inc. (TMS), a privately held Houston, Texas-based company with about 100 employees, that focuses on solid-state flash optimized systems and solutions, including the RamSan family of external rack-mounted storage, as well as PCIe cards for internal storage that fit inside servers.
I've mentioned Solid-State Drive storage quite a few times over the past few years in this blog, which included some great interactions with my friends over at Texas Memory Systems. Here's a quick look:
In my now infamous blog post [Hybrid, Solid State and the future of RAID], I resort to a deck of [Tarot cards] in an effort to fight [writer's block] responding to query about combining solid-state with spinning disk. In the original post, I poked fun at Texas Memory Systems having the slogan "World's Fastest Storage". Woody Hutsell, then VP of marketing for Texas Memory Systems, explained that the reason that TMS did not have faster benchmark results was because it did not have a million dollars to buy the fastest IBM UNIX server.
In my post [Good News and Bad News], I mentioned that Texas Memory Systems has an impressive SPC benchmark result. The Storage Performance Council [SPC] publishes the benchmarking industry standard by which all block-based storage devices are measured. It looks like the TMS performance test department finally got the million-dollar IBM server they needed for this.
My colleagues in marketing were not amused, afraid that mentioning small companies like TMS would give them a huge boost in marketing awareness, above and beyond what TMS could do on their own modest marketing budget, similar to the [Colbert Bump]. I could call it the Pearson Bump. If you first heard of Texas Memory Systems from my blog, or bought TMS products based on my discussion, please post a comment below!
IBM made history as the first major storage vendor to [break the 1 million IOPS barrier with Solid State Disk]. The project was known as "Quicksilver", and was able to demonstrate that a product like SAN Volume Controller with Solid-State Drives (SSD) can indeed provide a significant boost in performance to external disk arrays. The IBM 2145-CF8 and 2145-CG8 models allow up to four SSD in each node. I was asked not to blog the entire month of August, so that our upcoming September announcements would get more notice, but I couldn't resist covering Quicksilver. The original post had mentioned Texas Memory Systems, but were later removed to avoid the "Pearson Bump".
In my post [Day 2 IBM Storage University - Solutions Expo - TMS After-party], I mentioned that I attended the TMS after-party. Texas Memory Systems had just been qualified as Solid-State Drive (SSD) storage behind the IBM SAN Volume Controller, and the two products work extremely well together for IBM Easy Tier, the sub-volume automated tiering capability to optimize storage performance. I was able to catch up with my friend Erik Eyberg, and meet CEO and Founder Holly Frost.
Nearly half (43 percent) of IT decision makers say they have plans to use SSD technology in the future or are already using it in their datacenter. Solid-state can refer to both volatile Random Access Memory (RAM) and non-volatile Flash, and Texas Memory Systems has built solutions around both types. The survey question referred to non-volatile Flash Solid-State Drives (SSD) that do not require a battery to keep the data from fading away after the power goes out. Nearly all storage in the datacenter has volatile Random Access Memory (RAM).
Speeding delivery of data was the motivation behind 75 percent of respondents who plan to use or already use SSD technology. I would have thought this would have been 100 percent, but the other options included reduced energy consumption, and improved drive reliability, which are both also true with Solid-State Drives.
However, for those who were not using SSD today, the major factor was cost, according to 71 percent of respondents. On a Dollar-per-GB basis, Solid-State Drives continue to be anywhere from 10 to 25 times more expensive spinning disk. Last year's tsunami in Japan, and the floods in Thailand, have caused spinning disk prices to rise to cover component shortages, thereby shrinking the price gap between SSD and spinning disk.
Nearly half (48 percent) say they plan on increasing storage investments in the area of virtualization, cloud (26 percent) and flash memory/solid state (24 percent) and analytics (22 percent).
The old adage applies "You can't please everyone. Presidents can't. Prostitutes can't. Nobody can." I am reminded of that as I fielded a variety of interesting comments and emails about, of all things, my choice of order of things in recent blog posts.
Certainly, there are times when the order of things matters greatly. In my now-infamous blog post [Sock Sock Shoe Shoe], I use a scene from a popular 1970's television show to explain why compression should be done before encryption.
In my case, I put things in the order that I felt made sense to me, but not everyone agrees. Here are three recent examples:
In my blog post [Two IBMers Earn Their Retirement], I congratulated two of my colleagues on their retirement. Since their retirement happened on the same day, I decided to mention Mark Doumas first, and Jim Rymarczyk second.
However, one of my readers, who I will assume is a member of the unofficial "Jim Rymarczyk fan club", felt that I should have listed Jim first, as Jim served IBM for 44 years, and Mark only 32 years.
Really? I realize that movie stars insist on having their name listed first on the poster, but neither of these guys would be confused with George Clooney!
So, to Jim and all his fans out there, I assure you I did not mean this as a slight in any way. I have updated the post to indicate that the ordering was strictly alphabetical by last name.
In my blog post [IBM Announcements for February 2012], I presented tape products first, and disk second. Normally, I cover them alphabetically, disk first, then tape. However, I was asked to promote tape this year in preparation for the upcoming 60th anniversary of tape, so I mentioned the tape announcements first, and the disk second.
The feedback from the XIV community was swift. Many felt that I [buried the lede] in not mentioning the XIV Gen3 SSD caching first.
(Note: For those not familiar with the phrase used in journalism, 'burying the lede' refers to the failure to mention the most interesting or attention grabbing elements of a story in the first paragraph. In American news journalism, it is spelled "lede" and elsewhere it is spelled "lead". Major US dictionaries apparently accept both spellings for this phrase.)
Technically, my lead paragraph stated clearly that: "This week we have announcements for both disk and tape, but since 2012 is the 60th Diamond Anniversary for tape, I will start with tape systems first."
So, while I don't claim to be a journalist by any means, I think the lead paragraph accurately reflected that I would talk about both disk and tape products in the rest of the blog post, and if a reader didn't care to learn more about tape could bypass those sections and go directly to the section on disk instead.
I have had my head handed to me on a platter so many times here at IBM that I am considering installing a zipper around my neck. My friends in XIV land insisted that I write a secondary post about XIV Gen3 SSD caching that had no mention of tape whatsoever. One suggestion was to compare and contrast XIV Gen3 SSD caching with EMC's announcement for VFCache. The result was my blog post [IBM XIV Gen3 SSD Caching versus EMC VFCache].
What could go wrong with an apples-to-orange comparison of two different storage products sprinkled with a small amount of FUD against a major competitor?
I had two complaints on this one. First, is the order of products in my side-by-side table of comparisons. I put EMC VFCache in the left column, and IBM XIV Gen3 SSD caching in the right. I meant nothing sinister by this. Alphabetically, EMC comes before IBM, and VFCache comes before XIV. Chronologically, EMC's announcement came out on Monday, and IBM's announcement came out the following day.
(Note: The term [sinster] comes from the Latin word sinistra meaning "left hand". In the Middle Ages it was believed that when a person was writing with their left hand they were possessed by the Devil. Left-handed people were therefore considered to be evil. My poor mother was born left-handed and was forced as a child to write with her right hand to be accepted by society.)
Apparently, an unwritten convention within IBM is that comparison tables always have the newer product on the left column, followed by one or more older products to the right, or the IBM product on the left column, with one or more competitive alternatives to the right.
The second complaint came from a reader in the comments section: "... I think [what] you're doing is trying to ride EMC's release for your own marketing, did you really need to? XIV is an excellent array; adding SSD Cache to the Gen3 takes it further, Moshe would be fuming (which I think is a good thing), can you just stick to that and not ride someone else's wave?"
Both announcements relate to reducing latency of read IOPS through the use of Solid State Drives. That both companies would announce these were no surprise to any employee at either company, as both IBM and EMC have been talking about their intent to do so last year. IBM's announcement of XIV SSD Gen3 caching was certainly not in response to EMC's VFCache announcement, and I doubt EMC rushed out their VFCache announcement the day before as a pre-emptive strike against IBM's announcement of the XIV Gen3 SSD Caching feature.
(Note: I don't know her personally, but she has thousands of followers!)
There you have it. I will gladly fix false or misleading information, but I am not going to re-arrange the order of things just to please some readers, only to have other readers complain that they liked it better in the original order. As always, feel free to comment on any of this in the section below.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes two movies come out that seem eerily similar to each other, released by different studios within months or weeks of each other? My sister used to review film scripts for a living, she would read ten of them and have to pick her top three favorites, and tells me that scripts for nearly identical concepts came all the time. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
1994: [Wyatt Earp] and [Tombstone] were Westerns recounting the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tombstone, Arizona is near Tucson, and the gunfight is recreated fairly often for tourists.
1998: [Armageddon] and [Deep Impact] were a pair of disaster movies dealing with a large rock heading to destroy all life on earth. I was in Mazatlan, Mexico to see the latter, dubbed in Spanish as "Impacto Profundo".
1998: [A Bug's Life] and [Antz] were computer-animated tales of the struggle of one individual ant in an ant colony.
2000: [Mission to Mars] and [Red Planet] were sci-fi pics exploring what a manned mission to our neighboring planet might entail.
This is different than copy-cat movies that are re-made or re-imagined many years later based on the previous successes of an original. Ever since my blog post [VPLEX: EMC's Latest Wheel is Round] in 2010 comparing EMC's copy-cat product that came our seven years after IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC), I've noticed EMC doesn't talk about VPLEX that much anymore.
This week, IBM announced [XIV Gen3 Solid-State Drive support] and our friends over at EMC announced [VFCache SSD-based PCIe cards]. Neither of these should be a surprise to anyone who follows the IT industry, as IBM had announced its XIV Gen3 as "SSD-Ready" last year specifically for this purpose, and EMC has been touting its "Project Lightning" since last May.
Fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC has a blog post [VFCache means Very Fast Cache indeed] that provides additional detail. Chuck claims the VFCache is faster than popular [Fusion-IO PCIe cards] available for IBM servers. I haven't seen the performance spec sheets, but typically SSD is four to five times slower than the DRAM cache used in the XIV Gen3. The VFCache's SSD is probably similar in performance to the SSD supported in the IBM XIV Gen3, DS8000, DS5000, SVC, N series, and Storwize V7000 disk systems.
Nonetheless, I've been asked my opinions on the comparison between these two announcements, as they both deal with improving application performance through the use of Solid-State Drives as an added layer of read cache.
(FTC Disclosure: I am both a full-time employee and stockholder of the IBM Corporation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this blog post as a paid celebrity endorsement of IBM servers and storage systems. This blog post is based on my interpretation and opinions of publicly-available information, as I have no hands-on access to any of these third-party PCIe cards. I have no financial interest in EMC, Fusion-IO, Texas Memory Systems, or any other third party vendor of PCIe cards designed to fit inside IBM servers, and I have not been paid by anyone to mention their name, brands or products on this blog post.)
The solutions are different in that IBM XIV Gen3 the SSD is "storage-side" in the external storage device, and EMC VFCache is "server-side" as a PCI Express [PCIe] card. Aside from that, both implement SSD as an additional read cache layer in front of spinning disk to boost performance. Neither is an industry first, as IBM has offered server-side SSD since 2007, and IBM and EMC have offered storage-side SSD in many of their other external storage devices. The use of SSD as read cache has already been available in IBM N series using [Performance Accelerator Module (PAM)] cards.
IBM has offered cooperative caching synergy between its servers and its storage arrays for some time now. The predecessor to today's POWER7-based were the iSeries i5 servers that used PCI-X IOP cards with cache to connect i5/OS applications to IBM's external disk and tape systems. To compete in this space, EMC created their own PCI-X cards to attach their own disk systems. In 2006, IBM did the right thing for our clients and fostered competition by entering in a [Landmark agreement] with EMC to [license the i5 interfaces]. Today, VIOS on IBM POWER systems allows a much broader choice of disk options for IBM i clients, including the IBM SVC, Storwize V7000 and XIV storage systems.
Can a little SSD really help performance? Yes! An IBM client running a [DB2 Universal Database] cluster across eight System x servers was able to replace an 800-drive EMC Symmetrix by putting eight SSD Fusion-IO cards in each server, for a total of 64 Solid-State drives, saving money and improving performance. DB2 has the Data Partitioning Feature that has multi-system DB2 configurations using a Grid-like architecture similar to how XIV is designed. Most IBM System x and BladeCenter servers support internal SSD storage options, and many offer PCIe slots for third-party SSD cards. Sadly, you can't do this with a VFCache card, since you can have only one VFCache card in each server, the data is unprotected, and only for ephemeral data like transaction logs or other temporary data. With multiple Fusion-IO cards in an IBM server, you can configure a RAID rank across the SSD, and use it for persistent storage like DB2 databases.
Here then is my side-by-side comparison:
IBM XIV Gen3 SSD Caching
Selected x86-based models of Cisco UCS, Dell PowerEdge, HP ProLiant DL, and IBM xSeries and System x servers
All of these, plus any other blade or rack-optimized server currently supported by XIV Gen3, including Oracle SPARC, HP Titanium, IBM POWER systems, and even IBM System z mainframes running Linux
Operating System support
Linux RHEL 5.6 and 5.7, VMware vSphere 4.1 and 5.0, and Windows 2008 x64 and R2.
All of these, plus all the other operating systems supported by XIV Gen3, including AIX, IBM i, Solaris, HP-UX, and Mac OS X
FCP and iSCSI
Vendor-supplied driver required on the server
Yes, the VFCache driver must be installed to use this feature.
No, IBM XIV Gen3 uses native OS-based multi-pathing drivers.
External disk storage systems required
None, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so in theory the benefits are the same whether you use this VFCache card in front of EMC storage or IBM storage
XIV Gen3 is required, as the SSD slots are not available on older models of IBM XIV.
Shared disk support
No, VFCache has to be disabled and removed for vMotion to take place.
Yes! XIV Gen3 SSD caching shared disk supports VMware vMotion and Live Partition Mobility.
Support for multiple servers
An advantage of the XIV Gen3 SSD caching approach is that the cache can be dynamically allocated to the busiest data from any server or servers.
Support for active/active server clusters
Aware of changes made to back-end disk
No, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so any changes to the data on the box itself are not communicated back to the VFCache card itself to invalidate the cache contents.
None identified. However, VFCache only caches blocks 64KB or smaller, so any sequential processing with larger blocks will bypass the VFCache.
Yes! XIV algorithms detect sequential access and avoid polluting the SSD with these blocks of data.
Number of SSD supported
One, which seems odd as IBM supports multiple Fusion-IO cards for its servers. However, this is not really a single point of failure (SPOF) as an application experiencing a VFCache failure merely drops down to external disk array speed, no data is lost since it is only read cache.
6 to 15 (one per XIV module) for high availability.
Pin data in SSD cache
Yes, using split-card mode, you can designate a portion of the 300GB to serve as Direct-attached storage (DAS). All data written to the DAS portion will be kept in SSD. However, since only one card is supported per server and the data is unprotected, this should only be used for ephemeral data like logs and temp files.
No, there is no option to designate an XIV Gen3 volume to be SSD-only. Consider using Fusion-IO PCIe card as a DAS alternative, or another IBM storage system for that requirement.
Pre-sales Estimating tools
Yes! CDF and Disk Magic tools are available to help cost-justify the purchase of SSD based on workload performance analysis.
IBM has the advantage that it designs and manufactures both servers and storage, and can design optimal solutions for our clients in that regard.
Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means! IBM Announcements! Typically, IBM System Storage has three to five major product launches per year. Making announcements every Tuesday would have been two frequent, and having one big announcement every two or three years would be too far apart. Worldwide combined revenues for storage hardware and software grew double digits last year, comparing full-year 2011 to the prior 2010 year, and I am sure that 2012 will also be a good year for IBM as well! This week we have announcements for both disk and tape, but since 2012 is the 60th Diamond Anniversary for tape, I will start with tape systems first.
TS1140 support for JA/JJ tape cartridges
The TS1140 enterprise tape drive was announced at the [Storage Innovation Executive Summit] last May. It supported a new E07 format on three different new tape cartridges. Models "JC" was 4.0TB standard re-writeable tapes, "JY" was 4.0TB WORM tapes, and "JK" were 500GB economy tapes that were less expensive, but offered faster random access.
Generally, IBM has adopted an N-2 read, N-1 write [backward compatibility]. This means that the TS1140 could read E05 and E06 formatted tapes on JB and JX media, and could write E06 format on JB and JX media. However, there are a lot of older JA and JJ media, especially as part of TS7740 environments, so IBM now supports TS1140 drives to read J1A formatted JA and JJ media. This is not just for TS7740 environments, any TS1140 in stand-alone or tape library configurations will support this as well.
TS7700 R2.1 enhancements
IBM is a leader in tape virtualization with or without physical tape as back-end media. There are two hardware models of the [IBM Virtualization Engine TS7700 family] for the IBM System z mainframe. These virtual libraries are referred to as "clusters" in IBM literature.
The TS7740 Virtual Tape Library supports putting virtual tape images on disk first, then move less-active data to physical tape, which I covered in my blog post [IBM Announcements - July 2007].
A unique feature of the TS7700 series is support for a Grid configuration, which allows up to six different TS7700 clusters to be grouped into a single instance image. These clusters can be in local or remote locations, connected via WAN or LAN connections.
R2.1 is the latest software release of this successful IBM's TS7700 series.
True Sync Mode Copy. Before R2.1, the TS7700 offered "immediate mode copy". An application would write to a virtual tape, and when it was done with the tape and performed an unmount, the TS7700 would then replicate the tape contents to a secondary cluster on the grid. With True Sync Mode, data contents are replicated per implicit or explicit SYNC points. This is another IBM first in the IT tape industry.
Remote Mount Fail-over. When you have two or more TS7700 clusters in a grid configuration, you can do remote mounts. We've added fail-over multi-pathing up to four paths, so that if a link to a remote cluster is down, it will try one of the others instead.
Parallel Copies and Pre-Migration. On of my 19 patents is for the pre-migration feature for the IBM 3494 Virtual Tape Server (VTS) that carries forward into the TS7700, and is also used in the SONAS and Information Archive products. However, when the grid architecture was introduced, the engineers decided not to allow pre-migration and copies to secondary clusters to occur concurrently. Now these two operations can be done in parallel.
Merge two grids into one grid. Now that we can support up to six clusters into a single grid, we have people with 2-cluster and 3-cluster grids looking to merge them into one. Of course, all the logical and physical volume serials (VOLSER) must be unique!
Accelerate off JA/JJ Media. There are a lot of older JA and JJ media still in TS7700 libraries. This feature allows customers to speed up the transition to newer physical tape media.
Copy Export to E06 format on JB media. This one is clever, and I have to say I would have never thought about it. Let's say you have a TS7740 with TS1140 drives, but you want to export some virtual tapes to physical media to be sent to someone who only has a TS7740 connected with older TS1130 drives. These older drives can't read new JC media nor make sense of the E07 format. This feature will let you export to older JB media in E06 format so that it will be fully readable at the new location on the TS1130 drives.
Copy Export Merge service offering. Thanks to mergers and acquisitions, it is sometimes necessary to split off a portion of data from a TS7700 grid. In the past, IBM supported sending this export to a completely empty TS7700 library, but this new service offerings allows the export to be merged into an existing TS7700 that already contains data.
LTFS-SDE support for Mac OS X 10.7 Lion
How do people still not yet know about the Linear Tape File System [LTFS]? I mentioned this in my blogs back in 2010 in [April], [September], and [November]. Last year, LTFS was the [NAB Show Pick Hits Award] and an [Emmy] for revolutionizing the use of digital tape in Television broadcasting.
In layman's terms, the Single Drive Edition [LTFS-SDE] allows a tape cartridge to be treated like USB memory stick. It is supported on the LTO5 tape drives for systems running various levels of Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Prior to this announcement, IBM supported Snow Leopard (10.5.6) and Leopard (10.6), and now supports Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" release.
IBM first introduced Solid-State Drives (SSD) back in 2007 where it made sense the most, in [drive-for-drive replacements on blade servers in the IBM BladeCenter]. Blade servers typically only have a single drive, and SSD are both faster and use less energy on a drive-for-drive comparison, so this provided immediate benefit. Today, SSD are available on a variety of System x and POWER system servers.
In 2008, IBM rocked the world by being the first to reach [1 Million IOPS with Project Quicksilver]. This was an all-SSD configuration which many considered unrealistic (at the time), but it showed the potential for solid state drives.
When the [XIV Gen3 was Announced - July 2011], each module included an 1.8-inch "SSD-Ready" slot in the back. IBM made a Statement of Direction that IBM would someday offer SSD drives to put in these slots. Today's announcement is that IBM has finalized the qualification process, so now XIV Gen3 clients can have 400GB of usable non-volatile SSD read cache added to each module. This SSD can be added to existing XIV Gen3 boxes in the field, or it can be factory-installed in new shipments. If you have a 15-module XIV, that's 6TB of additional read cache! This SSD is entirely managed by the XIV Gen3, so you won't have to spend weeks reading manuals or specifying configuration parameters.
When you carve volumes on the XIV, you now have an option to enable or disable use of the SSD cache for each volume. Since XIV is being used in private and public cloud deployments, this offers the ability to offer premium performance at premium prices. The use of SSD is complementary to IBM XIV Quality of Service (QoS) performance levels, which are determined by host instead.
Well, that's the first major IBM System Storage launch of 2012. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.