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.
Last week, fellow IBMer Ron Riffe started his three-part series on the Storage Hypervisor. I discussed Part I already in my previous post [Storage Hypervisor Integration with VMware]. We wrapped up the week with a Live Chat with over 30 IT managers, industry analysts, independent bloggers, and IBM storage experts.
"The idea of shopping from a catalog isn’t new and the cost efficiency it offers to the supplier isn’t new either. Public storage cloud service providers seized on the catalog idea quickly as both a means of providing a clear description of available services to their clients, and of controlling costs. Here’s the idea… I can go to a public cloud storage provider like Amazon S3, Nirvanix, Google Storage for Developers, or any of a host of other providers, give them my credit card, and get some storage capacity. Now, the “kind” of storage capacity I get depends on the service level I choose from their catalog.
Most of today’s private IT environments represent the complete other end of the pendulum swing – total customization. Every application owner, every business unit, every department wants to have complete flexibility to customize their storage services in any way they want. This expectation is one of the reasons so many private IT environments have such a heavy mix of tier-1 storage. Since there is no structure around the kind of requests that are coming in, the only way to be prepared is to have a disk array that could service anything that shows up. Not very efficient… There has to be a middle ground.
Private storage clouds are a little different. Administrators we talk to aren’t generally ready to let all their application owners and departments have the freedom to provision new storage on their own without any control. In most cases, new capacity requests still need to stop off at the IT administration group. But once the request gets there, life for the IT administrator is sweet!
Here comes the request from an application owner for 500GB of new “Database” capacity (one of the options available in the storage service catalog) to be attached to some server. After appropriate approvals, the administrator can simply enter the three important pieces of information (type of storage = “Database”, quantity = 500GB, name of the system authorized to access the storage) and click the “Go” button (in TPC SE it’s actually a “Run now” button) to automatically provision and attach the storage. No more complicated checklists or time consuming manual procedures.
A storage hypervisor increases the utilization of storage resources, and optimizes what is most scarce in your environment. For Linux, UNIX and Windows servers, you typically see utilization rates of 20 to 35 percent, and this can be raised to 55 to 80 percent with a storage hypervisor. But what is most scarce in your environment? Time! In a competitive world, it is not big animals eating smaller ones as much as fast ones eating the slow.
Want faster time-to-market? A storage hypervisor can help reduce the time it takes to provision storage, from weeks down to minutes. If your business needs to react quickly to changes in the marketplace, you certainly don't want your IT infrastructure to slow you down like a boat anchor.
Want more time with your friends and family? A storage hypervisor can migrate the data non-disruptively, during the week, during the day, during normal operating hours, instead of scheduling down-time on an evenings and weekends. As companies adopt a 24-by-7 approach to operations, there are fewer and fewer opportunities in the year for scheduled outages. Some companies get stuck paying maintenance after their warranty expires, because they were not able to move the data off in time.
Want to take advantage of the new Solid-State Drives? Most admins don't have time to figure out what applications, workloads or indexes would best benefit from this new technology? Let your storage hypervisor automated tiering do this for you! In fact, a storage hypervisor can gather enough performance and usage statistics to determine the characteristics of your workload in advance, so that you can predict whether solid-state drives are right for you, and how much benefit you would get from them.
Want more time spent on strategic projects? A storage hypervisor allows any server to connect to any storage. This eliminates the time wasted to determine when and how, and let's you focus on the what and why of your more strategic transformational projects.
If this sounds all too familiar, it is similar to the benefits that one gets from a server hypervisor -- better utilization of CPU resources, optimizing the management and administration time, with the agility and flexibility to deploy new technologies in and decommission older ones out.
"Server virtualization is a fairly easy concept to understand: Add a layer of software that allows processing capability to work across multiple operating environments. It drives both efficiency and performance because it puts to good use resources that would otherwise sit idle.
Storage virtualization is a different animal. It doesn't free up capacity that you didn't know you had. Rather, it allows existing storage resources to be combined and reconfigured to more closely match shifting data requirements. It's a subtle distinction, but one that makes a lot of difference between what many enterprises expect to gain from the technology and what it actually delivers."
Jon Toigo on his DrunkenData blog brings back the sanity with his post [Once More Into the Fray]. Here is an excerpt:
"What enables me to turn off certain value-add functionality is that it is smarter and more efficient to do these functions at a storage hypervisor layer, where services can be deployed and made available to all disk, not to just one stand bearing a vendor’s three letter acronym on its bezel. Doesn’t that make sense?
I think of an abstraction layer. We abstract away software components from commodity hardware components so that we can be more flexible in the delivery of services provided by software rather than isolating their functionality on specific hardware boxes. The latter creates islands of functionality, increasing the number of widgets that must be managed and requiring the constant inflation of the labor force required to manage an ever expanding kit. This is true for servers, for networks and for storage.
Can we please get past the BS discussion of what qualifies as a hypervisor in some guy’s opinion and instead focus on how we are going to deal with the reality of cutting budgets by 20% while increasing service levels by 10%. That, my friends, is the real challenge of our times."
Did you miss out on last Friday's Live Chat? We are doing it again this Friday, covering parts I and II of Ron's posts, so please join the conversation! The virtual dialogue on this topic will continue in another [Live Chat] on September 30, 2011 from 12 noon to 1pm Eastern Time.
It's Tuesday, and that means more IBM announcements!
I haven't even finished blogging about all the other stuff that got announced last week, and here we are with more announcements. Since IBM's big [Pulse 2010 Conference] is next week, I thought I would cover this week's announcement on Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) v6.2 release. Here are the highlights:
Client-Side Data Deduplication
This is sometimes referred to as "source-side" deduplication, as storage admins can get confused on which servers are clients in a TSM client-server deployment. The idea is to identify duplicates at the TSM client node, before sending to the TSM server. This is done at the block level, so even files that are similar but not identical, such as slight variations from a master copy, can benefit. The dedupe process is based on a shared index across all clients, and the TSM server, so if you have a file that is similar to a file on a different node, the duplicate blocks that are identical in both would be deduplicated.
This feature is available for both backup and archive data, and can also be useful for archives using the IBM System Storage Archive Manager (SSAM) v6.2 interface.
Simplified management of Server virtualization
TSM 6.2 improves its support of VMware guests by adding auto-discovery. Now, when you spontaneously create a new virtual machine OS guest image, you won't have to tell TSM, it will discover this automatically! TSM's legendary support of VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) now eliminates the manual process of keeping track of guest images. TSM also added support of the Vstorage API for file level backup and recovery.
While IBM is the #1 reseller of VMware, we also support other forms of server virtualization. In this release, IBM adds support for Microsoft Hyper-V, including support using Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS).
Automated Client Deployment
Do you have clients at all different levels of TSM backup-archive client code deployed all over the place? TSM v6.2 can upgrade these clients up to the latest client level automatically, using push technology, from any client running v5.4 and above. This can be scheduled so that only certain clients are upgraded at a time.
Simultaneous Background Tasks
The TSM server has many background administrative tasks:
Migration of data from one storage pool to another, based on policies, such as moving backups and archives on a disk pool over to a tape pools to make room for new incoming data.
Storage pool backup, typically data on a disk pool is copied to a tape pool to be kept off-site.
Copy active data. In TSM terminology, if you have multiple backup versions, the most recent version is called the active version, and the older versions are called inactive. TSM can copy just the active versions to a separate, smaller disk pool.
In previous releases, these were done one at a time, so it could make for a long service window. With TSM v6.2, these three tasks are now run simultaneously, in parallel, so that they all get done in less time, greatly reducing the server maintenance window, and freeing up tape drives for incoming backup and archive data. Often, the same file on a disk pool is going to be processed by two or more of these scheduled tasks, so it makes sense to read it once and do all the copies and migrations at one time while the data is in buffer memory.
Enhanced Security during Data Transmission
Previous releases of TSM offered secure in-flight transmission of data for Windows and AIX clients. This security uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) with 256-bit AES encryption. With TSM v6.2, this feature is expanded to support Linux, HP-UX and Solaris.
Improved support for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications
I remember back when we used to call these TDPs (Tivoli Data Protectors). TSM for ERP allows backup of ERP applications, seemlessly integrating with database-specific tools like IBM DB2, Oracle RMAN, and SAP BR*Tools. This allows one-to-many and many-to-one configurations between SAP servers and TSM servers. In other words, you can have one SAP server backup to several TSM servers, or several SAP servers backup to a single TSM server. This is done by splitting up data bases into "sub-database objects", and then process each object separately. This can be extremely helpful if you have databases over 1TB in size. In the event that backing up an object fails and has to be re-started, it does not impact the backup of the other objects.
Wrapping up my coverage of the Data Center Conference 2009, the week ends with a celebration. This year we had six "Hospitality Suites" sponsored by various different vendors. Each suite has its own theme, decorations and entertainment. The first suite was VMware's "Cloud 9 Ultra Lounge" which offered blue cotton candy martinis. IBM is the leading reseller of VMware.
When the red martini liquid was poured on top of the blue cotton candy, the result was a nasty muddish brown grey color. The guy on the left chose to get the martini without the blue cotton candy. We joked that this is perhaps a good metaphor for cloud computing in general. It looks good on paper, until you actually put it all together and realize it does not look as blue and puffy as you were expecting. However, it tasted good!
Next suite was sponsored by Cisco, one of IBM's storage networking partners. Cisco also decorated in blue, as the guy Jake in the middle demonstrates.
Next suite was sponsored by Brocade, our supplier for IBM-branded networking gear. They went with a red-and-black color scheme. Sadly, many of my pictures inside involved straight jackets and unicycles, so not appropriate for this blog. However, it was easy to remember that they were talking about their "extraordinary networks". Makes you want to help out Brocade by contacting your nearest IBM storage sales rep and buy yourself a SAN768B or two.
Somewhere along the way, we picked up Hawaiian leis at the "Margaritaville" Hospitality Suite, compliments of sponsor APC by Schneider Electric. We had the best "Filet Mignon" appetizers at "Club Dedupe" by our competitor DataDomain, and some fun with my friends over at Computer Associates' "Top Gun" suite. Pictured at right are Paula Koziol with Christian Barrera from Argentina. A good time was had by all.
A lot was announced this week, so I decided to break it up into several separate posts. This is part 3 in my 3-part series, focusing on our Tivoli Storage products.
To read the rest of the series, see:
The latest release of FlashCopy Manager now supports NetApp and IBM N series storage devices. This provides application-aware snapshots, coordinated with applications like SAP, DB2 and Oracle.
FlashCopy Manager now integrates with Metro and Global Mirror capabilities, so that application-consistent copies are available at remote sites for disaster recovery, or to off-load the FlashCopy destination copy from disk to Tivoli Storage Manager storage pools.
Tivoli Storage Manager v6.4
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager is part of IBM's Unifed Recovery Management. Here are some highlights:
Enhanced Reporting. Cognos reporting to monitor backup and archive environments.
TSM for ERP. I remember when these were called "Tivoli Data Protection" modules. We still refer to them as "TDPs". The TSM for ERP provides backup capability for SAP environments, and this latest release adds support for in-memory SAP HANA databases.
TSM for Virtualization Environments IBM TSM is famous for its patented "Progressive Incremental Backup" which is far more efficient than full+incrementals or full+differentials. IBM now extends this method to VM images. With people consolidating more and more VMs onto fewer host servers, TSM-VE now offers multiple backup streams in parallel. TSM-VE can now take application-aware backups of Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, and Active Directory running in VMs. TSM-VE will also support vApp and VM templates. If it takes you [a day and a half to build a VMware template], you would want to make sure all that work was backed up, right?
Enhanced Security. Complex password support and improved user authentication and management by integration with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP)
This week, I am in Taipei, teaching Top Gun class. There was concern that another typhoon would hit the island of Taiwan later this week, but it looks like it is now headed for Hong Kong instead.
Elsewhere in the world, there are several events going on next week, so I thought I would bring them to your attention.
ECTY - South Africa
Next week, Jerry Kluck, IBM Global Sales Executive for Storage Optimization and Integration Services, will be the keynote speaker at "Edge Comes to You" (ECTY) conference in South Africa. This is a one-day event, similar to the [ECTY event in Moscow, Russia] that I spoke at last June.
Here is the schedule for South Africa next week:
Monday, August 20, 2012 - Johannesburg
Wednesday, August 22, 2012 - Cape Town
(I have been to both Jo'burg and Cape Town back in 1994. A month after Apartheid had just ended, I was part of a small group of IBMers sent to re-establish IBM's business operations there. I would have liked to have attended the events next week, not just to hear Jerry speak, but also to see how much the country has changed over the past 18 years, but I could not get a work permit in time.)
If you are interested in attending either of these next week, contact your local IBM Business Partner or sales rep to attend.
Forrester's Total Economic Impact Study of Virtualized Storage
Virtualized storage can help organizations stretch their storage investment dollar and storage administration and management resources. Jon Erickson from Forrester Research will review the latest findings from IBM SAN Volume Control (SVC) users studied as part of the recently completed Forrester Total Economic Impact Study of IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller.
Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Time: 10:00 AM PDT / 1:00 PM EDT
Duration: 60 minutes
Among the findings, users were able to:
Avoid the capital cost of additional storage
Increase IT productivity
Provide greater end user data availability
The second presenter is Chris Saul, IBM Storage Virtualization Manager, who will explain how SVC can manage heterogeneous disk from a single point of control, autonomously manage tiered disk storage and can store up to five times as much data on your existing disk using IBM Real-time Compression.
Not all virtualization solutions are created equal! That's true for storage virtualization, like the SAN Volume Controller mentioned above, and it's true for server virtualization as well.
This webcast discusses the real-world impact on businesses that deploy IBM's PowerVM®
virtualization technology as compared to those using Oracle® VM for SPARC (OVM SPARC), Microsoft® Hyper-V, VMware® vSphere or other competing products.
Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Time: 10:00 AM PDT / 1:00 PM EDT
Duration: 60 minutes
This webcast will include findings from a [Solitaire Interglobal] study of over 61,000 customer sites on the value of virtualization from a business perspective and how IBM's PowerVM provides real business value.
Other key discussion points that will be covered during this webcast include:
Behavioral characteristics of server virtualization technologies that were examined and analyzed from survey participant's environments
How IT colleagues were able to obtain a faster time-to-market for business initiatives when using IBM PowerVM
Why the learning curve time for PowerVM is as much as 2.58 times faster than for other offerings
Why VM reboot comparisons for PowerVM vs competitive platforms resulted in downtime of 5.5 times less than with other options
A TCO reduction of up to 71.4% for PowerVM compared to alternative options
This webcast will also feature an in-depth discussion on the IBM PowerVM solution from an IBM product expert who will share the unique virtualization features available when PowerVM is utilized within the IBM Power Systems™ environment.
Those that prefer to work with one-stop shopping of an IT Supermarket, with companies like IBM, HP and Dell who offer a complete set of servers, storage, switches, software and services, what we call "The Five S's".
Those that perfer shopping for components at individual specialty shops, like butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers, hoping that this singular focus means the products are best-of-breed in the market. Companies like HDS for disk, Quantum for tape, and Symantec for software come to mind.
My how the IT landscape for vendors has evolved in just the past five years! Cisco starts to sell servers, and enters a "mini-mall" alliance with EMC and VMware to offer vBlock integrated stack of server, storage and switches with VMware as the software hypervisor. For those not familiar with the concept of mini-malls, these are typically rows of specialty shops. A shopper can park their car once, and do all their shopping from the various shops in the mini-mall. Not quite "one-stop" shopping of a supermarket, but tries to address the same need.
("Who do I call when it breaks?" -- The three companies formed a puppet company, the Virtual Computing Environment company, or VCE, to help answer that question!)
Among the many things IBM has learned in its 100+ years of experience, it is that clients want choices. Cisco figured this out also, and partnered with NetApp to offer the aptly-named FlexPod reference architecture. In effect, Cisco has two boyfriends, when she is with EMC, it is called a Vblock, and when she is with NetApp, it is called a FlexPod. I was lucky enough to find this graphic to help explain the three-way love triangle.
Did this move put a strain on the relationship between Cisco and EMC? Last month, EMC announced VSPEX, a FlexPod-like approach that provides a choice of servers, and some leeway for resellers to make choices to fit client needs better. Why limit yourself to Cisco servers, when IBM and HP servers are better? Is this an admission that Vblock has failed, and that VSPEX is the new way of doing things? No, I suspect it is just EMC's way to strike back at both Cisco and NetApp in what many are calling the "Stack Wars". (See [The Stack Wars have Begun!], [What is the Enterprise Stack?], or [The Fight for the Fully Virtualized Data Center] for more on this.)
(FTC Disclosure: I am both an employee and shareholder of IBM, so the U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this post a paid, celebrity endorsement of the IBM PureFlex system. IBM has working relationships with Cisco, NetApp, and Quantum. I was not paid to mention, nor have I any financial interest in, any of the other companies mentioned in this blog post. )
Last month, IBM announced its new PureSystems family, ushering in a [new era in computing]. I invite you all to check out the many "Paterns of Expertise" available at the [IBM PureSystems Centre]. This is like an "app store" for the data center, and what I feel truly differentiates IBM's offerings from the rest.
The trend is obvious. Clients who previously purchased from specialty shops are discovering the cost and complexity of building workable systems from piece-parts from separate vendors has proven expensive and challenging. IBM PureFlex™ systems eliminate a lot of the complexity and effort, but still offer plenty of flexibility, choice of server processor types, choice of server and storage hypervisors, and choice of various operating systems.
Well, it's Wednesday, and you know what that means... IBM Announcements!
(Actually most IBM announcements are on Tuesdays, but IBM gave me extra time to recover from my trip to Europe!)
Today, IBM announced [IBM PureSystems], a new family of expert-integrated systems that combine storage, servers, networking, and software, based on IBM's decades of experience in the IT industry. You can register for the [Launch Event] today (April 11) at 2pm EDT, and download the companion "Integrated Expertise" event app for Apple, Android or Blackberry smartphones.
(If you are thinking, "Hey, wait a minute, hasn't this been done before?" you are not alone. Yes, IBM introduced the System/360 back in 1964, and the AS/400 back in 1988, so today's announcement is on scheduled for this 24-year cycle. Based on IBM's past success in this area, others have followed, most recently, Oracle, HP and Cisco.)
Initially, there are two offerings:
IBM PureFlex™ System
IBM PureFlex is like IaaS-in-a-box, allowing you to manage the system as a pool of virtual resources. It can be used for private cloud deployments, hybrid cloud deployments, or by service providers to offer public cloud solutions. IBM drinks its own champagne, and will have no problem integrating these into its [IBM SmartCloud] offerings.
To simplify ordering, the IBM PureFlex comes in three tee-shirt sizes: Express, Standard and Enterprise.
IBM PureFlex is based on a 10U-high, 19-inch wide, standard rack-mountable chassis that holds 14 bays, organized in a 7 by 2 matrix. Unlike BladeCenter where blades are inserted vertically, the IBM PureFlex nodes are horizontal. Some of the nodes take up a single bay (half-wide), but a few are full-wide, take up two bays, the full 19-inch width of the chassis. Compute and storage snap in the front, while power supplies, fans, and networking snap in the back. You can fit up to four chassis in a standard 42U rack.
Unlike competitive offerings, IBM does not limit you to x86 architectures. Both x86 and POWER-based compute nodes can be mixed into a single chassis. Out of the box, the IBM PureFlex supports four operating systems (AIX, IBM i, Linux and Windows), four server hypervisors (Hyper-V, Linux KVM, PowerVM, and VMware), and two storage hypervisors (SAN Volume Controller and Storwize V7000).
There are a variety of storage options for this. IBM will offer SSD and HDD inside the compute nodes themselves, direct-attached storage nodes, and an integrated version of the Storwize V7000 disk system. Of course, every IBM System Storage product is supported as external storage. Since Storwize V7000 and SAN Volume Controller support external virtualization, many non-IBM devices will be supported automatically as well.
Networking is also optimized, with options for 10Gb and 40Gb Ethernet/FCoE, 40Gb and 56Gb Infiniband, 8Gbps and 16Gbps Fibre Channel. Much of the networking traffic can be handled within the chassis, to minimize traffic on external switches and directors.
For management, IBM offers the Flex System Manager, that allows you to manage all the resources from a single pane of glass. The goal is to greatly simplify the IT lifecycle experience of procurement, installation, deployment and maintenance.
IBM PureApplication™ System
IBM PureApplication is like PaaS-in-a-box. Based on the IBM PureFlex infrastructure, the IBM PureApplication adds additional software layers focused on transactional web, business logic, and database workloads. Initially, it will offer two platforms: Linux platform based on x86 processors, Linux KVM and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL); and a UNIX platform based on POWER7 processors, PowerVM and AIX operating system. It will be offered in four tee-shirt sizes (small, medium, large and extra large).
In addition to having IBM's middleware like DB2 and WebSphere optimized for this platform, over 600 companies will announce this week that they will support and participate in the IBM PureSystems ecosystem as well. Already, there are 150 "Patterns of Expertise" ready to deploy from IBM PureSystem Centre, a kind of a "data center app store", borrowing an idea used today with smartphones.
By packaging applications in this manner, workloads can easily shift between private, hybrid and public clouds.
If you are unhappy with the inflexibility of your VCE Vblock, HP Integrity, or Oracle ExaLogic, talk to your local IBM Business Partner or Sales Representative. We might be able to buy your boat anchor off your hands, as part of an IBM PureSystems sale, with an attractive IBM Global Financing plan.
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.
This week I was aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California! This was a business event organized by [Key Info Systems], a valued IBM Business Partner. Key Info resells IBM servers, storage and switches.
The Queen Mary retired in 1967, and has been converted into a hotel and events venue. The locals just parked their car and walked on board, but I got to stay Tuesday through Thursday in one of the cabins. It was long and narrow, with round windows! There were four dials for the bathtub: Cold Salt, Hot Fresh, Cold Fresh, and Hot Salt.
Stepping on the boat was like walking back in time through history! If you decide to go see it, check out the [Art Deco bar at the front of the Promenade deck. The ship is still in the water, but is permanently docked. It is sectioned off to prevent the ocean waves from affecting it, so we did not have the nauseous moving back and forth normally associated with cruise ships.
(It is with a bit of irony that we are on the Queen Mary just days after the tragedy of the [Costa Concordia], the largest Italian cruise ship that ran aground near Isola de Giglio. The captain will have to explain how he [fell into a lifeboat] before he had a chance to wait for everyone else to get safely off the shipwreck. He was certainly no [Captain Sulley]! I am thankful that most of the 4,200 people survived the incident.)
Lief Morin, Founder and Chief Executive for Key Info Systems, kicked off the meeting with highlights of 2011 successes. I have known Lief for years, as Key Info comes to the Tucson EBC on a frequent basis. This event was designed to give his sellers an update of what is the latest for each product line, and what to look forward to in the next 12-18 months.
The next speaker was from Vision Solutions that provides High Availability solutions for IBM i on Power Systems. In 2010, their company nearly doubled in size with the acquisition of Double-Take, which provides data replication for x86 servers running Windows, Linux, VMware, Hyper-V and other hypervisors. The capabilities of Double-Take sounded similar to what IBM offers with [Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack] and [Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments].
Dinner at Sir Winston's
Rather than take the "Ghosts and Legends" tour, I opted for dinner at the Queen Mary's signature restaurant, Sir Winston's. This is a fancy place, so dress accordingly. If you want the Raspberry soufflé, order it early as it takes 30 minutes to prepare!
[Storwize V7000], including the new Storwize V7000 Unified configuration
Storage is an important part of the Key Info Systems revenue stream, so I was glad to have lots of questions and interactions from the audience.
Murder Mystery Dinner
The acting troupe from [Dinner Detective] put on quite the show for us! With all that is going on in the world, it is good to laugh out loud every now and then.
In other murder mystery dinners I have participated in, each person is assigned a "character" and given a script of what to say and when to say it. This was different, we got to pick our own characters. I chose "Doctor Watson", from the Sherlock Holmes series. Several attendees thought it was a double meaning with [IBM Watson], the computer that figured out the clues on Jeopardy! television game show, and has since been [put to work at Wellpoint] to help out the Healthcare industry.
After the "murder" happened, two actors portraying policemen selected members of the audience to answer questions. We didn't get a script of what to say, so everyone had to "ad lib". I was singled out as a suspect, and had fun playing along in character. One of the attendees afterwards said he was impressed that I was able to fabricate such amusing and elaborate responses to their personal and embarassing questions. As a public speaker for IBM, I have had a lot of practice thinking quickly on my feet.
Fibre Channel and Ethernet Switches
The next two speakers gave us an update on Fibre Channel and Ethernet switches, and their thoughts on the inevitability of Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). One of the exciting new developments is the [Brocade Network Subscription] which creates a flexible pay-per-use Ethernet port rental model for customers. This is especially timely given the Financial Accounting Standards Board proposed [FASB Change 13] that affects operating leases in the balance sheet.
With the Brocade Network Subscription, you pay monthly for the ports you are using. Need more ports, Brocade will install the added gear. Use fewer ports, Brocade will take the equipment back. There is no term endpoint or residual value like tradtional leasing, so when you are done using the equipment, give it back any time. This is ideal for companies that may need to have a lot of Ethernet ports for the next 2-3 years, but then plan to taper down, and don't want to get stuck with a long-term commitment or capital depreciation.
The last speaker was from VMware. IBM is the #1 reseller of VMware, and VMware commands an impressive 81 percent marketshare in the x86 virtualization space. The speaker presented VMware's strategy going forward, which aligns well with IBM's own strategy, to help companies Cloud-enable their existing IT infrastructures, in preparation for eventual moves to Hybrid or Public cloud deployments.
Special thanks to Lief Morin for sponsoring this event, Raquel Hernandez from IBM for coordinating my travel, and Pete, Christina and Kendrell from Key Info Systems for organizing the activities!