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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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.
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.
Am I dreaming? On his Storagezilla blog, fellow blogger Mark Twomey (EMC) brags about EMC's standard benchmark results, in his post titled [Love Life. Love CIFS.]. Here is my take:
A Full 180 degree reversal
For the past several years, EMC bloggers have argued, both in comments on this blog, and on their own blogs, that standard benchmarks are useless and should not be used to influence purchase decisions. While we all agree that "your mileage may vary", I find standard benchmarks are useful as part of an overall approach in comparing and selecting which vendors to work with, and which architectures or solution approaches to adopt, and which products or services to deploy. I am glad to see that EMC has finally joined the rest of the planet on this. I find it funny this reversal sounds a lot like their reversal from "Tape is Dead" to "What? We never said tape was dead!"
Impressive CIFS Results
The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) has developed a series of NFS benchmarks, the latest, [SPECsfs2008] added support for CIFS. So, on the CIFS side, EMC's benchmarks compare favorably against previous CIFS tests from other vendors.
On the NFS side, however, EMC is still behind Avere, BlueArc, Exanet, and IBM/NetApp. For example, EMC's combination of Celerra gateways in front of V-Max disk systems resulted in 110,621 OPS with overall response time of 2.32 milliseconds. By comparison, the IBM N series N7900 (tested by NetApp under their own brand, FAS6080) was able to do 120,011 OPS with 1.95 msec response time.
Even though Sun invented the NFS protocol in the early 1980s, they take an EMC-like approach against standard benchmarks to measure it. Last year, fellow blogger Bryan Cantrill (Sun) gives his [Eulogy for a Benchmark]. I was going to make points about this, but fellow blogger Mike Eisler (NetApp) [already took care of it]. We can all learn from this. Companies that don't believe in standard benchmarks can either reverse course (as EMC has done), or continue their downhill decline until they are acquired by someone else.
(My condolences to those at Sun getting laid off. Those of you who hire on with IBM can get re-united with your former StorageTek buddies! Back then, StorageTek people left Sun in droves, knowing that Sun didn't understand the mainframe tape marketplace that StorageTek focused on. Likewise, many question how well Oracle will understand Sun's hardware business in servers and storage.)
What's in a Protocol?
Both CIFS and NFS have been around for decades, and comparisons can sometimes sound like religious debates. Traditionally, CIFS was used to share files between Windows systems, and NFS for Linux and UNIX platforms. However, Windows can also handle NFS, while Linux and UNIX systems can use CIFS. If you are using a recent level of VMware, you can use either NFS or CIFS as an alternative to Fibre Channel SAN to store your external disk VMDK files.
The Bigger Picture
There is a significant shift going on from traditional database repositories to unstructured file content. Today, as much as [80 percent of data is unstructured]. Shipments this year are expected to grow 60 percent for file-based storage, and only 15 percent for block-based storage. With the focus on private and public clouds, NAS solutions will be the battleground for 2010.
So, I am glad to see EMC starting to cite standard benchmarks. Hopefully, SPC-1 and SPC-2 benchmarks are forthcoming?
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.
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.
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.
Bill Bauman, IBM System x Field Technical Support Specialist and System x University celebrity, presented the differences between Grid, SOA and Cloud Computing. I thought this was an odd combination to compare and contrast, but his presentation was well attended.
Grid - this is when two or more independently owned and managed computers are brought together to solve a problem. Some research facilities do this. IBM helped four hospitals connect their computers together into a grid to help analyze breast cancer. IBM also supports the [World Community Grid] which allows your personal computer to be connected to the grid and help process calculations.
SOA - SOA, which stands for Service Oriented Architecture, is an approach to building business applications as a combination of loosely-coupled black-box components orchestrated to deliver a well-defined level of service by linking together business processes. I often explain SOA as the the business version of Web 2.0. You can download a free copy of the eBook "SOA for Dummies" at the [IBM Smart SOA] landing page.
Cloud - A Cloud is a dynamic, scalable, expandable, and completely contractible architecture. It may consist of multiple, disparate, on-premise and off-premise hardware and virtualized platforms hosting legacy, fully installed, stateless, or virtualized instances of operating systems and application workloads.
Tom Vezina, IBM Advanced Technical Sales Specialist, presented "Chaos to Cloud Computing". Survey results show that roughly 70 percent of cloud spend will be for private clouds, and 30 percent for public, hybrid or community clouds. Of the key motivations for public cloud, 77 percent or respondents cited reducing costs, 72 percent time to value, and 50 percent improving reliability.
Tom ran over 500 "server utilization" studies for x86 deployments during the past eight years. Of these, the worst was 0.52 percent CPU utilization, the best was 13.4 percent, and the average was 6.8 percent. When IBM mentions that 85 percent of server capacity is idle, it is mostly due to x86 servers. At this rate, it seems easy to put five to 20 guest images onto a machine. However, many companies encounter "VM stall" where they get stuck after only 25 percent of their operating system images virtualized.
He feels the problem is with the fact most Physical-to-Virtual (P2V) migrations are manual efforts. There are tools available like Novell [PlateSpin Recon] to help automate and reduce the total number of hours spent per migration.
System x KVM Solutions
Boy, I walked into this one. Many of IBM's cloud offerings are based on the Linux hypervisor called Kernel-based Virtual Machine [a href="http://www.linux-kvm.org/page/Main_Page">KVM] instead of VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V. However, this session was about the "other KVM": keyboard video and mouse switches, which thankfully, IBM has renamed to Console Managers to avoid confusion. Presenters Ben Hilmus (IBM) and Steve Hahn (Avocent) presented IBM's line of Local Console Managers (LCM) and Global Console Managers (GCM) products.
LCM are the traditional KVM switches that people are familiar with. A single keyboard, video and mouse can select among hundreds of servers to perform maintenance or check on status. GCM adds KVM-over-IP capabilities, which means that now you can access selected systems over the Ethernet from a laptop or personal computer. Both LCM and GCM allow for two-level tiering, which means that you can have an LCM in each rack, and an LCM or GCM that points to each rack, greatly increasing the number of servers that can be managed from a single pane of glass.
Many severs have a "service processor" to manage the rest of the machine. IBM RSA II, HP iLO, and Dell DRAC4 are some examples. These allow you to turn on and off selected servers. IBM BladeCenter offers an Management Module that allows the chassis to be connected to a Console Manager and select a specific blade server inside. These can also be used with VMware viewer, Virtual Network Computing (VNC), or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).
IBM's offerings are unique it that you can have an optical CD/DVD drive or USB external storage attached at the LCM or GCM, and make it look like the storage is attached to the selected server. This can be used to install or upgrade software, transfer log files, and so on. Another great use, and apparently the motivation for having this session in the "Federal Track", is that the USB can be used to attach a reader for a smart card, known as a Common Access Card [CAC] used by various government agencies. This provides two-factor authentication [TFA]. For example, to log into the system, you enter your password (something you know) and swipe your employee badge smart card (something you have). The combination are validated at the selected server to provide access.
I find it amusing that server people limit themselves to server sessions, and storage people to storage sessions. Sometimes, you have to step "outside your comfort zone" and learn something new, something different. Open your eyes and look around a bit. You might just be surprised what you find.
(FTC note: I work for IBM. IBM considers Novell a strategic Linux partner. Novell did not provide me a copy of Platespin Recon, I have no experience using it, and I mention it only in context of the presentation made. IBM resells Avocent solutions, and we use LCM gear in the Tucson Executive Briefing Center.)
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!
I always try to catch a session from Jim Blue, who works in our "SAN Central" center of competency team. This session was a long list of useful hints and tips, based on his many years of experience helping clients.
SAN Zoning works by inclusion, limiting the impact of failing devices. The best approach is to zone by individual initiator port. The default policy for your SAN zoning should be "deny".
Ports should be named to identify who, what, where and how.
While many people know not to mix both disk and tape devices on the same HBA, Jim also recommends not mixing dissimilar disks, test and production, FCP and FICON.
The sweet spot is FOUR paths. Too many paths can impact performance.
When making changes to redundant fabrics, make changes to the first fabric, then allow sufficient time before making the same changes to the other fabric.
Use software tools like Tivoli Storage Productivity Center (Standard Edition) to validate all changes to your SAN fabric.
Do not mix 62.5 and 50.0 micron technology.
Use port caps to disable inactive ports. In one amusing anecdote, he mention that an uncovered port was hit by sunlight every day, sending error messages that took a while to figure out.
Save your SAN configuration to non-SAN storage for backup
Consider firmware about two months old to be stable
Rule of thumb for estimating IOPS: 75-100 IOPS per 7200 RPM drive, 120-150 IOPS per 10K RPM drive, and 150-200 IOPS per 15K RPM drive.
Decide whether your shop is just-in-time or just-in-case provisioning. Just-in-time gets additional capacity on demand as needed, and just-in-case over-provisions to avoid scrambling last minute.
Avoid oversubscribing your inter-switch links (ISL). Aim for around 7:1 to 10:1 ratio.
Don't go cheap on bandwidth between sites for long-distance replication
Next Generation Network Fabrics - Strategy and Innovations
Mike Easterly, IBM Director of Global Field Marketing, presented IBM System Networking strategy, in light of IBM's recent acquisition of Blade Network Technologies (BNT). BNT is used in 350 of the Fortune 500 companies, and is ranked #2 behind Cisco in sales of non-core Ethernet switches (based on number of units sold).
Based on a recent survey, companies are upgrading their Ethernet networks for a variety of reasons:
56 percent for Live Partition Mobility and VMware Vmotion
45 percent for integrated compute stacks, like IBM CloudBurst
43 percent for private, public and hybrid cloud computing deployments
40 percent for network convergences
Many companies adopt a three-level approach, with core directors, distribution switches, and then access switches at the edge that connect servers and storage devices. IBM's BNT allows you to flatten the network to lower latency by collapsing the access and distribution levels into one.
IBM's strategy is to focus on BNT for the access/distribution level, and to continue its strategic partnerships for the core level.
IBM BNT provides better price/performance and lower energy consumption. To help with hot-aisle/cold-aisle rack deployments, IBM BNT provides both F and R models. F models have ports on the front, and R models have ports in the rear.
IBM BNT supports virtual fabric and HW-offload iSCSI traffic, and future-enabled for FCoE. Support for TRILL (transparent interconnect of lots of links) and OpenFlow will be implemented through software updates to the switches.
While Cisco Nexus 1000v is focused on VMware Enterprise Plus, IBM BNT's VMready works with VMware, Hyper-V, Linux KVM, XEN, OracleVM, and PowerVM. This allows single pane of management of VMready and ESX vSwitches.
In preparation for Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE), IBM BNT will provide full 40GbE support sometime next year, and offer switches that support 100GbE uplinks. IBM offers extended length cables, including passive SFP+ DAC at 8.5 meters, and 10Gbase-T Cat7 cables up to 100 meters.
Inter-datacenter Workload Mobility with VMware vSphere and SAN Volume Controller (SVC)
This session was co-presented between Bill Wiegand, IBM Advanced Technical Services, and Rawley Burbridge, IBM VMware and midrange storage consultant. IBM is the leader in storage virtualization product (SVC), and is the leading reseller of VMware.
Like MetroCluster on IBM N series, or EMC's VPLEX Metro, the IBM SAN Volume Controller can support a stretched cluster across distance that allows virtual machines to move seamlessly from one datacenter to another. This is a feature IBM introduced with SVC 5.1 back in 2009. This can be used for PowerVM Live Partition Mobility, VMware vMotion, and Hyper-V Quick Migration.
SVC stretched cluster can help with both Disaster Avoidance and Disaster Recovery. For Disaster Avoidance, in anticipation of an outage, VMs can be moved to the secondary datacenter. For Disaster Recover, additional automation, such as VMware High Availability (HA) is needed to restart the VMs at the secondary datacenter.
IBM stretched cluster is further improved with a feature called Volume Mirroring (formerly vDisk Mirroring) which creates two physical copies of one logical volume. To the VMware ESX hosts, there is only one volume, regardless of which datacenter it is in. The two physical copies can be on any kind of managed disk, as there is no requirement or dependency of copy services on the back-end storage arrays.
Another recent improvement is the idea of spreading the three quorum disks to three different locations or "failure domains". One in each data center, and a third one in a separate building, somewhere in between the other two, perhaps.
Of course, there are regional disasters that could affect both datacenters. For this reason, SVC stretched cluster volumes can be replicated to a third location up to 8000 km away. This can be done with any back-end disk arrays, as again there is not requirement for copy services from the managed devices. SVC takes care of it all.
Networking is going to be very important for a variety of transformational projects going forward in the next five years.
The marketshare data for external disk systems has been released by IDC for 4Q09. Overall, the market dropped 0.7 percent, comparing 4Q09 versus 4Q08. While EMC was quick to remind everyone that they were able to [maintain their #1 position] in the storage subset of "external disk systems", with the same 23.7 percent marketshare they had back in 4Q08 and revenues that were essentially flat, the real story concerns the shifts in the marketplace for the other major players. IBM grew revenue 9 percent, putting it nearly 5 points of marketshare ahead of HP. HP revenues dropped 7 percent, moving it further behind. Not mentioned in the [IBM Press Release] were NetApp and Dell, neck and neck for fourth place, with NetApp gaining 16.8 percent in revenues, while Dell dropped 13.5 percent. Both NetApp and Dell now have about 8 percent marketshare each. These top five storage vendors represent nearly 70 percent of the marketshare.
Given that HP is IBM's number one competitor, not just in storage but all things IT, this was a major win. Bob Evans from InformationWeek interviews my fifth-line manager, IBM executive Rod Adkins [IBM Claims Hardware Supremacy] where he shares his views and opinions about HP, Oracle-Sun, Cisco and Dell.
I'll add my two cents on what's going on:
Shift in Servers causes Shift in Storage
Hundreds of customers are moving away from HP and Sun over to IBM servers, and with it, are chosing IBM's storage offerings as well. IBM's rock-solid strategy (which I outlined in my post [Foundations and Flavorings]) has helped explain the different products and how they are positioned. HP's use of Itanium processors, and Sun's aging SPARC line, are both reasons enough to switch to IBM's lastest POWER7 processors, running AIX, IBM i (formerly i5/OS) and Linux operating systems.
Thunder in the Clouds
Some analysts predict that by 2013, one out of five companies won't even have their own IT assets. IBM supports all flavors of private, public and hybrid cloud computing models. IBM has its own strong set of offerings, is also the number one reseller of VMware, and has cloud partnerships with both Google and Amazon. HP and Microsoft have recently formed an alliance, but they have different takes on cloud computing. HP wants to be the "infrastructure" company, but Microsoft wants to focus on its ["three screens and a public cloud"] strategy. Microsoft has decided not to make its Azure Cloud operating system available for private cloud deployments. By contrast, IBM can start you with a private cloud, then help you transition to a hybrid cloud, and finally to a public cloud.
In the latest eX5 announcement, IBM's x86-based servers can run 78 percent more virtual machines per VMware license dollar. This will give IBM an advantage as HP shifts from Itanium to an all x86-based server line.
Network Attached Storage
There seems to be a shift away from FC and iSCSI towards NAS and FCoE storage networking protocols. This bodes bad for HP's acquisition of LeftHand, and Dell's acquisition of EqualLogic. IBM's SONAS for large deployments, and N series for smaller deployments, will compete nicely against HP's StorageWorks X9000 system.
Storage on Paper no longer Eco-friendly
HP beats IBM when you include consumer products like printers, which some might consider "Storage on Paper". At IBM, we often joke that 96 percent of HP's profits come from over-priced ink cartridges. With the latest focus on the environment, people are printing less. I have been printing less myself, setting my default printer to generate a PDF file instead. There are several tools available for this, including [CutePDF] and [BullZip]. As IBM employees switch from Microsoft Office to IBM's [Lotus Symphony], it has built-in "export-to-PDF" capability as well. People are also going to their local OfficeMax or CartridgeWorld to get their cartridges refilled, rather than purchase new ones. That has to be hurting HP's bottom line.
Don't Forget About Storage Management
The leading storage management suites today are IBM's Tivoli Storage Productivity Center and EMC's Control Center. HP's Storage Essentials doesn't quite beat either of these, and management software is growing in importance to more and more customers.