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Well, it's Tuesday again, but this time, today we had our third big storage launch of 2009! A lot got announced today as part of IBM's big "Dynamic Infrastructure" marketing campaign. I will just focus on the
disk-related announcements today:
IBM System Storage DS8700
IBM adds a new model to its DS8000 series with the
[IBM System Storage DS8700]. Earlier this month, fellow blogger and arch-nemesis Barry Burke from EMC posted [R.I.P DS8300] on this mistaken assumption that the new DS8700 meant that DS8300 was going away, or that anyone who bought a DS8300 recently would be out of luck. Obviously, I could not respond until today's announcement, as the last thing I want to do is lose my job disclosing confidential information. BarryB is wrong on both counts:
IBM will continue to sell the DS8100 and DS8300, in addition to the new DS8700.
Clients can upgrade their existing DS8100 or DS8300 systems to DS8700.
BarryB's latest post [What's In a Name - DS8700] is fair game, given all the fun and ridicule everyone had at his expense over EMC's "V-Max" name.
So the DS8700 is new hardware with only 4 percent new software. On the hardware side, it uses faster POWER6 processors instead of POWER5+, has faster PCI-e buses instead of the RIO-G loops, and faster four-port device adapters (DAs) for added bandwidth between cache and drives. The DS8700 can be ordered as a single-frame dual 2-way that supports up to 128 drives and 128GB of cache, or as a dual 4-way, consisting of one primary frame, and up to four expansion frames, with up to 384GB of cache and 1024 drives.
Not mentioned explicitly in the announcements were the things the DS8700 does not support:
ESCON attachment - Now that FICON is well-established for the mainframe market, there is no need to support the slower, bulkier ESCON options. This greatly reduced testing effort. The 2-way DS8700 can support up to 16 four-port FICON/FCP host adapters, and the 4-way can support up to 32 host adapters, for a maximum of 128 ports. The FICON/FCP host adapter ports can auto-negotiate between 4Gbps, 2Gbps and 1Gbps as needed.
LPAR mode - When IBM and HDS introduced LPAR mode back in 2004, it sounded like a great idea the engineers came up with. Most other major vendors followed our lead to offer similar "partitioning". However, it turned out to be what we call in the storage biz a "selling apple" not a "buying apple". In other words, something the salesman can offer as a differentiating feature, but that few clients actually use. It turned out that supporting both LPAR and non-LPAR modes merely doubled the testing effort, so IBM got rid of it for the DS8700.
Update: I have been reminded that both IBM and HDS delivered LPAR mode within a month of each other back in 2004, so it was wrong for me to imply that HDS followed IBM's lead when obviously development happened in both companies for the most part concurrently prior to that. EMC was late to the "partition" party, but who's keeping track?
Initial performance tests show up to 50 percent improvement for random workloads, and up to 150 percent improvement for sequential workloads, and up to 60 percent improvement in background data movement for FlashCopy functions. The results varied slightly between Fixed Block (FB) LUNs and Count-Key-Data (CKD) volumes, and I hope to see some SPC-1 and SPC-2 benchmark numbers published soon.
The DS8700 is compatible for Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, and Metro/Global Mirror with the rest of the DS8000 series, as well as the ESS model 750, ESS model 800 and DS6000 series.
New 600GB FC and FDE drives
IBM now offers [600GB drives] for the DS4700 and DS5020 disk systems, as well as the EXP520 and EXP810 expansion drawers. In each case, we are able to pack up to 16 drives into a 3U enclosure.
Personally, I think the DS5020 should have been given a DS4xxx designation, as it resembles the DS4700
more than the other models of the DS5000 series. Back in 2006-2007, I was the marketing strategist for IBM System Storage product line, and part of my job involved all of the meetings to name or rename products. Mostly I gave reasons why products should NOT be renamed, and why it was important to name the products correctly at the beginning.
IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller hardware and software
Fellow IBM master inventory Barry Whyte has been covering the latest on the [SVC 2145-CF8 hardware]. IBM put out a press release last week on this, and today is the formal announcement with prices and details. Barry's latest post
[SVC CF8 hardware and SSD in depth] covers just part of the entire
The other part of the announcement was the [SVC 5.1 software] which can be loaded
on earlier SVC models 8F2, 8F4, and 8G4 to gain better performance and functionality.
To avoid confusion on what is hardware machine type/model (2145-CF8 or 2145-8A4) and what is software program (5639-VC5 or 5639-VW2), IBM has introduced two new [Solution Offering Identifiers]:
5465-028 Standard SAN Volume Controller
5465-029 Entry Edition SAN Volume Controller
The latter is designed for smaller deployments, supports only a single SVC node-pair managing up to
150 disk drives, available in Raven Black or Flamingo Pink.
EXN3000 and EXP5060 Expansion Drawers
IBM offers the [EXN3000 for the IBM N series]. These expansion drawers can pack 24 drives in a 4U enclosure. The drives can either be all-SAS, or all-SATA, supporting 300GB, 450GB, 500GB and 1TB size capacity drives.
The [EXP5060 for the IBM DS5000 series] is a high-density expansion drawer that can pack up to 60 drives into a 4U enclosure. A DS5100 or DS5300
can handle up to eight of these expansion drawers, for a total of 480 drives.
Pre-installed with Tivoli Storage Productivity Center Basic Edition. Basic Edition can be upgraded with license keys to support Data, Disk and Standard Edition to extend support and functionality to report and manage XIV, N series, and non-IBM disk systems.
Pre-installed with Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM). This can be used to manage the Full Disk Encryption (FDE) encryption-capable disk drives in the DS8000 and DS5000, as well as LTO and TS1100 series tape drives.
IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager v2.1
The [IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager V2.1] replaces two products in one. IBM used
to offer IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Copy Services (TSM for CS) that protected Windows application data, and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Advanced Copy Services (TSM for ACS) that protected AIX application data.
The new product has some excellent advantages. FlashCopy Manager offers application-aware backup of LUNs containing SAP, Oracle, DB2, SQL server and Microsoft Exchange data. It can support IBM DS8000, SVC and XIV point-in-time copy functions, as well as the Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) interfaces of the IBM DS5000, DS4000 and DS3000 series disk systems. It is priced by the amount of TB you copy, not on the speed or number of CPU processors inside the server.
Don't let the name fool you. IBM FlashCopy Manager does not require that you use Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) as your backup product. You can run IBM FlashCopy Manager on its own, and it will manage your FlashCopy target versions on disk, and these can be backed up to tape or another disk using any backup product. However, if you are lucky enough to also be using TSM, then there is optional integration that allows TSM to manage the target copies, move them to tape, inventory them in its DB2 database, and provide complete reporting.
Yup, that's a lot to announce in one day. And this was just the disk-related portion of the launch!
Continuing my coverage of last week's Data Center Conference 2009, held Dec 1-4 in Las Vegas, I attended an interesting session related to the battles between Linux, UNIX, Windows and other operating systems. Of course, it is no longer between general purpose operating systems, there are also thin appliances and "Meta OS" such as cloud or Real Time Infrastructure (RTI).
One big development is "context awareness". For the most part, Operating Systems assume they are one-to-one with the hardware they are running on, and Hypervisors like PowerVM, VMware, Xen and Hyper-V have worked by giving OS guests the appearance that this is the case. However, there is growing technology for OS guests to be "aware" they are running as guests, and to be aware of other guests running on the same Hypervisor.
The analyst divided up Operating Systems into three categories:
Operating systems that are typically used to support other OS by offering Web support or other infrastructure. Linux on POWER was an example given.
DBMS/Industry Vertical Applications
Operating systems that are strong for Data Base Management Systems (DBMS) and vertical industry applications. z/OS, AIX, HP-UX, HP NonStop, HP OpenVMS were given as examples.
General Purpose for a variety of applications
Operating systems that can run a range of applications, from Web/Infrastructure, DBMS/Vertical Apps, to others. Windows, Linux x86 and Solaris were offered as examples.
The analyst indicated that what really drove the acceptance or decline of Operating Systems were the applications available. When Software Development firms must choose which OS to support, they typically have to evaluate the different categories of marketplace acceptance:
For developing new applications: Windows-x86 and Linux-x86 are must-haves now
Declining but still valid are UNIX-RISC and UNIX-Itanium platforms
Viable niche are Non-x86 Windows (such as Windows-Itanium) and non-x86 Linux (Linux on POWER, Linux on System z)
Entrenched Legacy including z/OS and IBM i (formerly known as i5/OS or OS/400)
For the UNIX world, there is a three-legged stool. If any leg breaks, the entire system falls apart.
The CPU architecture: Itanium, SPARC and POWER based chipsets
Operating System: AIX, HP-UX and Solaris
Software stacks: SAP, Oracle, etc.
Of these, the analyst consider IBM POWER running AIX to be the safest investment. For those who prefer HP Integrity, consider waiting until "Tukwilla" codename project which will introduce new Itanium chipset in 2Q2010. For Sun SPARC, the European Union (EU) delay could impact user confidence in this platform. The future of SPARC remains now in the hands of Fujitsu and Oracle.
What platform will the audience invest in most over the next 5 years?
45 percent Windows
14 percent UNIX
37 percent Linux
4 percent z/OS
A survey of the audience about current comfort level of Solaris:
10 percent: still consider Solaris to be Strategic for their data center operations and will continue to use it
25 percent: will continue to use Solaris, but in more of a tactical way on a case-by-case basis
30 percent: have already begun migrating away
35 percent: Do not run Solaris
The analyst mentioned Microsoft's upcoming Windows Server 2008 R2, which will run only on 64-bit hardware but support both 32-bit and 64-bit applications. It will provide scalability up to 256 processor cores. Microsoft wants Windows to get into the High Performance Computing (HPC) marketplace, but this is currently dominated by Linux and AIX. The analyst's advice to Microsoft: System Center should manage both Windows and Linux.
Has Linux lost its popularity? The analyst indicated that companies are still running mission critical applications on non-Linux platforms, primarily z/OS, Solaris and Windows. What does help Linux are old UNIX Legacy applications, the existence of OpenSolaris x86, Oracle's Enterprise Linux, VMware and Hyper-V support for Linux, Linux on System z mainframe, and other legacy operating systems that are growing obsolete. One issue cited with Linux is scalability. Performance on systems with more than 32 processor cores is unpredictable. More mature operating systems like z/OS and AIX have stronger support for high-core environments.
A survey of the audience of which Linux or UNIX OS were most strategic to their operations resulted in the following weighted scores:
140 points: Red Hat Linux
71 points: AIX
80 points: Solaris
40 points: HP-UX
41 points: Novell SUSE Linux
19 points: Oracle Enterprise Linux
29 points: Other
The analyst wrapped up with an incredibly useful chart that summarizes the key reasons companies migrate from one OS platform to another:
Reduce Costs, Adopt HPC
DBMS, Complex projects
Availability of Admin Skills
Performance, Mission Critical Applications
Availability of Apps, leave incumbent UNIX server vendor
Consolidation, Reduce Costs
Certainly, all three types of operating system have a place, but there are definite trends and shifts in this marketspace.
"With Cisco Systems, EMC, and VMware teaming up to sell integrated IT stacks, Oracle buying Sun Microsystems to create its own integrated stacks, and IBM having sold integrated legacy system stacks and rolling in profits from them for decades, it was only a matter of time before other big IT players paired off."
Once again we are reminded that IBM, as an IT "supermarket", is able to deliver integrated software/server/storage solutions, and our competitors are scrambling to form their own alliances to be "more like IBM." This week, IBM announced new ordering options for storage software with System x servers, including BladeCenter blade servers and IntelliStation workstations. Here's a quick recap:
IBM Tivoli Storage Manager FastBack v6.1 supports both Windows and Linux! FastBack is a data protection solution for ROBO (Remote Office, Branch Office) locations. It can protect Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, DB2, Oracle applications. FastBack can provide full volume-level recovery, as well as individual file recovery, and in some cases Bare Machine Recovery. FastBack v6.1 can be run stand-alone, or integrated with a full IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) unified recovery management solution.
FlashCopy Manager v2.1
FlashCopy Manager uses point-in-time copy capabilities, such as SnapShot or FlashCopy, to protect application data using an application-aware approach for Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL server, DB2, Oracle, and SAP. It can be used with IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC), DS8000 series, DS5000 series, DS4000 series, DS3000 series, and XIV storage systems. When applicable, FlashCopy manager coordinates its work with Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) interface. FlashCopy Manager can provide data protection using just point-in-time disk-resident copies, or can be integrated with a full IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) unified recovery management solution to move backup images to external storage pools, such as low-cost, energy-efficient tape cartridges.
General Parallel File System (GPFS) v3.3 Multiplatform
GPFS can support AIX, Linux, and Windows! Version 3.3 adds support for Windows 2008 Server on 64-bit chipset architectures from AMD and Intel. Now you can have a common GPFS cluster with AIX, Linux and Windows servers all sharing and accessing the same files. A GPFS cluster can have up to 256 file systems. Each of these file systems can be up to 1 billion files, up to 1PB of data, and can have up to 256 snapshots. GPFS can be used stand-alone, or integrated with a full IBM Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) unified recovery management solution with parallel backup streams.
For full details on these new ordering options, see the IBM [Press Release].
Continuing my coverage of the IBM Dynamic Infrastructure Executive Summit at the Fairmont Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, we had a day full main-tent sessions. Here is a quick recap of the sessions presented in the morning.
Leadership and Innovation on a Smarter Planet
Todd Kirtley, IBM General Manager of the western United States, kicked off the day. He explained that we are now entering the Decade of Smart: smarter healthcare, smarter energy, smarter traffic systems, and smarter cities, to name a few. One of those smarter cities is Dubuque, Iowa, nicknamed the Masterpiece of the Mississippi river. Mayor Roy Boul of Dubuque spoke next on his testimonial on working with IBM. I have never been to Dubuque, but it looks and sounds like a fun place to visit. Here is the [press release] and a two-minute [video].
Smarter Systems for a Smarter Planet
Tom Rosamillia, IBM General Manager of the System z mainframe platform, presented on smarter systems. IBM is intentionally designing integrated systems to redefine performance and deliver the highest possible value for the least amount of resource. The five key focus areas were:
Enabling massive scale
Organizing vast amounts of data
Turning information into insight
Increasing business agility
Managing risk, security and compliance
The Future of Systems
Ambuj Goyal, IBM General Manager of Development and Manufacturing, presented the future of systems. For example, reading 10 million electricity meters monthly is only 120 million transactions per year, but reading them daily is 3.65 billion, and reading them every 15 minutes will result in over 350 billion transactions per year. What would it take to handle this? Beyond just faster speeds and feeds, beyond consolidation through virtualization and multi-core systems, beyond pre-configured fit-for-purpose appliances, there will be a new level for integrated systems. Imagine a highly dense integration with over 3000 processors per frame, over 400 Petabytes (PB) of storage, and 1.3 PB/sec bandwidth. Integrating software, servers and storage will make this big jump in value possible.
POWERing your Planet
Ross Mauri, IBM General Manager of Power Systems, presented the latest POWER7 processor server product line. The IBM POWER-based servers can run any mix of AIX, Linux and IBM i (formerly i5/OS) operating system images. Compared to the previous POWER6 generation, POWER7 are four times more energy efficient, twice the performance, at about the same price. For example, an 8-socket p780 with 64 cores (eight per socket) and 256 threads (4 threads per core) had a record-breaking 37,000 SAP users in a standard SD 2-tier benchmark, beating out 32-socket and 64-socket M9000 SPARC systems from Oracle/Sun and 8-socket Nehalem-EX Fujitsu 1800E systems. See the [SAP benchmark results] for full details. With more TPC-C performance per core, the POWER7 is 4.6 times faster than HP Itanium and 7.5 times faster than Oracle Sun T5440.
This performance can be combined with incredible scalability. IBM's PowerVM outperforms VMware by 65 percent and provides features like "Live Partition Mobility" that is similar to VMware's VMotion capability. IBM's PureScale allows DB2 to scale out across 128 POWER servers, beating out Oracle RAC clusters.
The final speaker in the morning was Greg Lotko, IBM Vice President of Information Management Warehouse solutions. Analytics are required to gain greater insight from information, and this can result in better business outcomes. The [IBM Global CFO Study 2010] shows that companies that invest in business insight consistently outperform all other enterprises, with 33 percent more revenue growth, 32 percent more return on invested (ROI) capital, and 12 times more earnings (EBITDA). Business Analytics is more than just traditional business intelligence (BI). It tries to answer three critical questions for decision makers:
What is happening?
Why is it happening?
What is likely to happen in the future?
The IBM Smart Analytics System is a pre-configured integrated system appliance that combines text analytics, data mining and OLAP cubing software on a powerful data warehouse platform. It comes in three flavors: Model 5600 is based on System x servers, Model 7600 based on POWER7 servers, and Model 9600 on System z mainframe servers.
IBM has over 6000 business analytics and optimization consultants to help clients with their deployments.
While this might appear as "Death by Powerpoint", I think the panel of presenters did a good job providing real examples to emphasize their key points.
Well, it feels like Tuesday and you know what that means... "IBM Announcement Day!" Actually, today is Wednesday, but since Monday was Memorial Day holiday here in the USA, my week is day-shifted. Yesterday, IBM announced its latest IBM FlashCopy Manager v2.2 release. Fellow blogger, Del Hoobler (IBM) has also posted something on this out atthe [Tivoli Storage Blog].
IBM FlashCopy Manager replaces two previous products. One was called Tivoli Storage Manager for Copy Services, the other was called Tivoli Storage Manager for Advanced Copy Services. To say people were confused between these two was an understatement, the first was for Windows, and the second was for UNIX and Linux operating systems. The solution? A new product that replaces both of these former products to support Windows, UNIX and Linux! Thus, IBM FlashCopy Manager was born. I introduced this product back in 2009 in my post [New DS8700 and other announcements].
IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager provides what most people with "N series SnapManager envy" are looking for: application-aware point-in-time copies. This product takes advantage of the underlying point-in-time interfaces available on various disk storage systems:
FlashCopy on the DS8000 and SAN Volume Controller (SVC)
Snapshot on the XIV storage system
Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) interface on the DS3000, DS4000, DS5000 and non-IBM gear that supports this Microsoft Windows protocol
For Windows, IBM FlashCopy Manager can coordinate the backup of Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server. The new version 2.2 adds support for Exchange 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2. This includes the ability to recover an individual mailbox or mail item from an Exchange backup. The data can be recovered directly to an Exchange server, or to a PST file.
For UNIX and Linux, IBM FlashCopy Manager can coordinate the backup of DB2, SAP and Oracle databases. Version 2.2 adds support specific Linux and Solaris operating systems, and provides a new capability for database cloning. Basically, database cloning restores a database under a new name with all the appropriate changes to allow its use for other purposes, like development, test or education training. A new "fcmcli" command line interface allows IBM FlashCopy Manager to be used for custom applications or file systems.
A common misperception is that IBM FlashCopy Manager requires IBM Tivoli Storage Manager backup software to function. That is not true. You have two options:
In Stand-alone mode, it's just you, the application, IBM FlashCopy Manager and your disk system. IBM FlashCopy Manager coordinates the point-in-time copies, maintains the correct number of versions, and allows you to backup and restore directly disk-to-disk.
Unified Recovery Management with Tivoli Storage Manager
Of course, the risk with relying only on point-in-time copies is that in most cases, they are on the same disk system as the original data. The exception being virtual disks from the SAN Volume Controller. IBM FlashCopy Manager can be combined with IBM Tivoli Storage Manager so that the point-in-time copies can be copied off to a local or remote TSM server, so that if the disk system that contains both the source and the point-in-time copies fails, you have a backup copy from TSM. In this approach, you can still restore from the point-in-time copies, but you can also restore from the TSM backups as well.
IBM FlashCopy Manager is an excellent platform to connect application-aware fucntionality with hardware-based copy services.
My how time flies. This week marks my 24th anniversary working here at IBM. This would have escaped me completely, had I not gotten an email reminding me that it was time to get a new laptop. IBM manages these on a four-year depreciation schedule, and I received my current laptop back in June 2006, on my 20th anniversary.
When I first started at IBM, I was a developer on DFHSM for the MVS operating system, now called DFSMShsm on the z/OS operating system. We all had 3270 [dumb terminals], large cathode ray tubes affectionately known as "green screens", and all of our files were stored centrally on the mainframe. When Personal Computers (PC) were first deployed, I was assigned the job of deciding who got them when. We were getting 120 machines, in five batches of 24 systems each, spaced out over the next two years. I was assigned the job of recommending who should get a PC during the first batch, the second batch, and so on. I was concerned that everyone would want to be part of the first batch, so I put out a survey, asking questions on how familiar they were with personal computers, whether they owned one at home, were familiar with DOS or OS/2, and so on.
It was actually my last question that helped make the decision process easy:
How soon do you want a Personal Computer to replace your existing 3270 terminal?
As late as possible
I had five options, and roughly 24 respondents checked each one, making my job extremely easy. Ironically, once the early adopters of the first batch discovered that these PC could be used for more than just 3270 terminal emulation, many of the others wanted theirs sooner.
Back then, IBM employees resented any form of change. Many took their new PC, configured it to be a full-screen 3270 emulation screen, and continued to work much as they had before. My mentor, Jerry Pence, would print out his mails, and file the printed emails into hanging file folders in his desk credenza. He did not trust saving them on the mainframe, so he was certainly not going to trust storing them on his new PC. One employee used his PC as a door stop, claiming he will continue to use his 3270 terminal until they take it away from him.
Moving forward to 2006, I was one of the first in my building to get a ThinkPad T60. It was so new that many of the accessories were not yet available. It had Windows XP on a single-core 32-bit processor, 1GB RAM, and a huge 80GB disk drive. The built-in 1GbE Ethernet went unused for a while, as we had 16 Mbps Token Ring network.
I was the marketing strategist for IBM System Storage back then, and needed all this excess power and capacity to handle all my graphic-intense applications, like GIMP and Second Life.
Over the past four years, I made a few slight improvements. I partitioned the hard drive to dual-boot between Windows and Linux, and created a separate partition for my data that could be accessed from either OS. I increased the memory to 2GB and replaced the disk with a drive holding 120GB capacity.
A few years ago, IBM surprised us by deciding to support Windows, Linux and Mac OS computers. But actually it made a lot of sense. IBM's world-renown global services manages the help-desk support of over 500 other companies in addition to the 400,000 employees within IBM, so they already had to know how to handle these other operating systems. Now we can choose whichever we feel makes us more productive. Happy employees are more productive, of course. IBM's vision is that almost everything you need to do would be supported on all three OS platforms:
Access your email, calendar, to-do list and corporate databases via Lotus Notes on either Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Corporate databases store our confidential data centrally, so we don't have to have them on our local systems. We can make local replicas of specific databases for offline access, and these are encrypted on our local hard drive for added protection. Emails can link directly to specific entries in a database, so we don't have huge attachments slowing down email traffic. IBM also offers LotusLive, a public cloud offering for companies to get out of managing their own email Lotus Domino repositories.
Create presentations, documents and spreadsheets on either Windows, Linux or Mac OS. Lotus Symphony is based on open source OpenOffice and is compatible with Microsoft Office. This allows us to open and update directly in Microsoft's PPT, DOC and XLS formats.
Many of the corporate applications have now been converted to be browser-accessible. The Firefox browser is available on Windows, Linux and Mac OS. This is a huge step forward, in my opinion, as we often had to download applications just to do the simplest things like submit our time-sheet or travel expense reimbursement. I manage my blog, Facebook and Twitter all from online web-based applications.
The irony here is that the world is switching back to thin clients, with data stored centrally. The popularity of Web 2.0 helped this along. People are using Google Docs or Microsoft OfficeOnline to eliminate having to store anything locally on their machines. This vision positions IBM employees well for emerging cloud-based offerings.
Sadly, we are not quite completely off Windows. Some of our Lotus Notes databases use Windows-only APIs to access our Siebel databases. I have encountered PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets that just don't render correctly in Lotus Symphony. And finally, some of our web-based applications work only in Internet Explorer! We use the outdated IE6 corporate-wide, which is enough reason to switch over to Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers. I have to put special tags on my blog posts to suppress YouTube and other embedded objects that aren't supported on IE6.
So, this leaves me with two options: Get a Mac and run Windows on the side as a guest operating system, or get a ThinkPad to run Windows or Windows/Linux. I've opted for the latter, and put in my order for a ThinkPad 410 with a dual-core 64-bit i5 Intel processor, VT-capable to provide hardware-assistance for virtualization, 4GB of RAM, and a huge 320GB drive. It will come installed with Windows XP as one big C: drive, so it will be up to me to re-partition it into a Windows/Linux dual-boot and/or Windows and Linux running as guest OS machine.
(Full disclosure to make the FTC happy: This is not an endorsement for Microsoft or against Apple products. I have an Apple Mac Mini at home, as well as Windows and Linux machines. IBM and Apple have a business relationship, and IBM manufactures technology inside some of Apple's products. I own shares of Apple stock, I have friends and family that work for Microsoft that occasionally send me Microsoft-logo items, and I work for IBM.)
I have until the end of June to receive my new laptop, re-partition, re-install all my programs, reconfigure all my settings, and transfer over my data so that I can send my old ThinkPad T60 back. IBM will probably refurbish it and send it off to a deserving child in Africa.
If you have an old PC or laptop, please consider donating it to a child, school or charity in your area. To help out a deserving child in Africa or elsewhere, consider contributing to the [One Laptop Per Child] organization.
Continuing my rant from Monday's post [Time for a New Laptop], I got my new laptop Wednesday afternoon. I was hoping the transition would be quick, but that was not the case. Here were my initial steps prior to connecting my two laptops together for the big file transfer:
Document what my old workstation has
Back in 2007, I wrote a blog post on how to [Separate Programs from Data]. I have since added a Linux partition for dual-boot on my ThinkPad T60.
Windows XP SP3 operating system and programs
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.4
My Documents and other data
I also created a spreadsheet of all my tools, utilities and applications. I combined and deduplicated the list from the following sources:
Control Panel -> Add/Remove programs
Start -> Programs panels
Program taskbar at bottom of screen
The last one was critical. Over the years, I have gotten in the habit of saving those ZIP or EXE files that self-install programs into a separate directory, D:/Install-Files, so that if I had to unintsall an application, due to conflicts or compatability issues, I could re-install it without having to download them again.
So, I have a total of 134 applications, which I have put into the following rough categories:
AV - editing and manipulating audio, video or graphics
Files - backup, copy or manipulate disks, files and file systems
Browser - Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome
Communications - Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime
Connect - programs to connect to different Web and Wi-Fi services
Demo - programs I demonstrate to clients at briefings
Drivers - attach or sync to external devices, cell phones, PDAs
Games - not much here, the basic solitaire, mindsweeper and pinball
Help Desk - programs to diagnose, test and gather system information
Projects - special projects like Second Life or Lego Mindstorms
Lookup - programs to lookup information, like American Airlines TravelDesk
Meeting - I have FIVE different webinar conferencing tools
Office - presentations, spreadsheets and documents
Platform - Java, Adobe Air and other application runtime environments
Player - do I really need SIXTEEN different audio/video players?
Printer - print drivers and printer management software
Scanners - programs that scan for viruses, malware and adware
Tools - calculators, configurators, sizing tools, and estimators
Uploaders - programs to upload photos or files to various Web services
Backup my new workstation
My new ThinkPad T410 has a dual-core i5 64-bit Intel processor, so I burned a 64-bit version of [Clonezilla LiveCD] and booted the new system with that. The new system has the following configuration:
Windows XP SP3 operating system, programs and data
There were only 14.4GB of data, it took 10 minutes to backup to an external USB disk. I ran it twice: first, using the option to dump the entire disk, and the second to dump the selected partition. The results were roughly the same.
Run Workstation Setup Wizard
The Workstation Setup Wizard asks for all the pertinent location information, time zone, userid/password, needed to complete the installation.
I made two small changes to connect C: to D: drive.
Changed "My Documents" to point to D:\Documents which will move the files over from C: to D: to accomodate its new target location. See [Microsoft procedure] for details.
Edited C:\notes\notes.ini to point to D:\notes\data to store all the local replicas of my email and databases.
Install Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS
My plan is to run Windows and Linux guests through virtualization. I decided to try out Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS, affectionately known as Lucid Lynx, which can support a variety of different virtualization tools, including KVM, VirtualBox-OSE and Xen. I have two identical 15GB partitions (sda2 and sda3) that I can use to hold two different systems, or one can be a subdirectory of the other. For now, I'll leave sda3 empty.
Take another backup of my new workstation
I took a fresh new backup of paritions (sda1, sda2, sda6) with Clonezilla.
The next step involved a cross-over Ethernet cable, which I don't have. So that will have to wait until Thursday morning.
Continuing my saga for my [New Laptop], I have gotten all my programs operational, and now it is a good time to re-evaluate how I organize my data. You can read my previous posts on this series: [Day 1], [Day 2], [Day 3].
I started my career at IBM developing mainframe software. The naming convention was simple, you had 44 character dataset names (DSN), which can be divided into qualifiers separated by periods. Each qualifier could be up to 8 characters long. The first qualifier was called the "high level qualifier" (HLQ) and the last one was the "low level qualifier" (LLQ). Standard naming conventions helped with ownership and security (RACF), catalog management, policy-based management (DFSMS), and data format identification. For example:
In the first case, we see that the HLQ is "PROD" for production, the application is PAYROLL and this file holds job control language (JCL). The LLQ often identified the file type. The second can be a version for testing a newer version of this application. The third represents user data, in which case my userid PEARSON would have my own written TEST JCL. I have seen successful naming conventions with 3, 4, 5 and even 6 qualifiers. The full dataset name remains the same, even if it is moved from one disk to another, or migrated to tape.
(We had to help one client who had all their files with single qualifier names, no more than 8 characters long, all in the Master Catalog (root directory). They wanted to implement RACF and DFSMS, and needed help converting all of their file names and related JCL to a 4-qualifer naming convention. It took seven months to make this transformation, but the client was quite pleased with the end result.)
While the mainframe has a restrictive approach to naming files, the operating systems on personal computers provide practically unlimited choices. File systems like NTFS or EXT3 support filenames as long as 254 characters, and pathnames up to 32,000 characters. The problem is that when you move a file from one disk to another, or even from one directory structure to another, the pathname will change. If you rely on the pathname to provide critical information about the meaning or purpose of a file, that could get lost when moving the files around.
I found several websites that offered organization advice. On The Happiness Project blog, Gretchen Rubin [busts 11 myths] about organization. On Zenhabits blog, Leo Babauta offers [18 De-cluttering tips].
Peter Walsh's [Tip No. 185] suggests using nouns to describe each folder. Granted these are about physical objects in your home or office, but some of the concepts can apply to digital objects on your disk drive.
"Use the computer’s sorting function. Put “AAA” (or a space) in front of the names of the most-used folders and “ZZZ” (or a bullet) in front of the least-used ones, so the former float to the top of an alphabetical list and the latter go to the bottom."
Personally, I hate spaces anywhere in directory and file names, and the thought of putting a space at the front of one to make it float to the top is even worse. Rather than resorting to naming folders with AAA or ZZZ, why not just limit the total number of files or directories so they are all visible on the screen. I often sort by date to access my most frequently-accessed or most-recently-updated files.
Of all the suggestions I found, Peter Walsh's "Use Nouns" seemed to be the most useful. Wikipedia has a fascinating article on [Biological Classification]. Certainly, if all living things can be put into classifications with only seven levels, we should not need more than seven levels of file system directory structure either! So, this is how I decided to organize my files on my new Thinkad T410:
Windows XP operating system programs and applications. I have structured this so that if I had to replace my hard disk entirely while traveling, I could get a new drive and restore just the operating system on this drive, and a few critical data files needed for the trip. I could then do a full recovery when I was back in the office. If I was hit with a virus that prevented Windows from booting up, I could re-install the Windows (or Linux) operating system without affecting any of my data.
This will be for my most active data, files and databases. I have the Windows "My Documents" point to D:\Documents directory. Under Archives, I will keep files for events that have completed, projects that have finished, and presentations I used that year. If I ever run out of space on my disk drive, I would delete or move off these archives first. I have a single folder for all Downloads, which I can then move to a more appropriate folder after I decide where to put them. My Office folder holds administrative items, like org charts, procedures, and so on.
As a consultant, many of my files relate to Events, these could be Briefings, Conferences, Meetings or Workshops. These are usually one to five days in duration, so I can hold here background materials for the clients involved, agendas, my notes on what transpired, and so on. I keep my Presentations separately, organized by topic. I also am involved with Projects that might span several months or ongoing tasks and assignments. I also keep my Resources separately, these could be templates, training materials, marketing research, whitepapers, and analyst reports.
A few folders I keep outside of this structure on the D: drive. [Evernote] is an application that provides "folksonomy" tagging. This is great in that I can access it from my phone, my laptop, or my desktop at home. Install-files are all those ZIP and EXE files to install applications after a fresh Windows install. If I ever had to wipe clean my C: drive and re-install Windows, I would then have this folder on D: drive to upgrade my system. Finally, I keep my Lotus Notes database directory on my D: drive. Since these are databases (NSF) files accessed directly by Lotus Notes, I saw no reason to put them under the D:\Documents directory structure.
This will be for my multimedia files. These don't change often, are mostly read-only, and could be restored quickly as needed.
I'll give this new re-organization a try. Since I have to take a fresh backup to Tivoli Storage Manager anyways, now is the best time to re-organize the directory structure and update my dsm.opt options file.
If we have learned anything from last decade's Y2K crisis, is that we should not wait for the last minute to take action. Now is the time to start thinking about weaning ourselves off Windows XP. IBM has 400,000 employees, so this is not a trivial matter.
Already, IBM has taken some bold steps:
Last July, IBM announced that it was switching from Internet Explorer (IE6) to [Mozilla Firefox as its standard browser]. IBM has been contributing to this open source project for years, including support for open standards, and to make it [more accessible to handicapped employees with visual and motor impairments]. I use Firefox already on Windows, Mac and Linux, so there was no learning curve for me. Before this announcement, if some web-based application did not work on Firefox, our Helpdesk told us to switch back to Internet Explorer. Those days are over. Now, if a web-based application doesn't work on Firefox, we either stop using it, or it gets fixed.
IBM also announced the latest [IBM Lotus Symphony 3] software, which replaces Microsoft Office for Powerpoint, Excel and Word applications. Symphony also works across Mac, Windows and Linux. It is based on the OpenOffice open source project, and handles open-standard document formats (ODF). Support for Microsoft Office 2003 will also run out in the year 2014, so moving off proprietary formats to open standards makes sense.
I am not going to wait for IBM to decide how to proceed next, so I am starting my own migrations. In my case, I need to do it twice, on my IBM-provided laptop as well as my personal PC at home.
Last summer, IBM sent me a new laptop, we get a new one every 3-4 years. It was pre-installed with Windows XP, but powerful enough to run a 64-bit operating system in the future. Here are my series of blog posts on that:
I decided to try out Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 with its KVM-based Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization to run Windows XP as a guest OS. I will try to run as much as I can on native Linux, but will have Windows XP guest as a next option, and if that still doesn't work, reboot the system in native Windows XP mode.
So far, I am pleased that I can do nearly everything my job requires natively in Red Hat Linux, including accessing my Lotus Notes for email and databases, edit and present documents with Lotus Symphony, and so on. I have made RHEL 6.1 my default when I boot up. Setting up Windows XP under KVM was relatively simple, involving an 8-line shell script and 54-line XML file. Here is what I have encountered:
We use a wonderful tool called "iSpring Pro" which merges Powerpoint slides with voice recordings for each page into a Shockwave Flash video. I have not yet found a Linux equivalent for this yet.
To avoid having to duplicate files between systems, I use instead symbolic links. For example, my Lotus Notes local email repository sits on D: drive, but I can access it directly with a link from /home/tpearson/notes/data.
While my native Ubuntu and RHEL Linux can access my C:, D: and E: drives in native NTFS file system format, the irony is that my Windows XP guest OS under KVM cannot. This means moving something from NTFS over to Ext4, just so that I can access it from the Windows XP guest application.
For whatever reason, "Password Safe" did not run on the Windows XP guest. I launch it, but it takes forever to load and never brings up the GUI. Fortunately, there is a Linux version [MyPasswordSafe] that seems to work just fine to keep track of all my passwords.
Personal home PC
My Windows XP system at home gave up the ghost last month, so I bought a new system with Windows 7 Professional, quad-core Intel processor and 6GB of memory. There are [various editions of Windows 7], but I chose Windows 7 Professional to support running Windows XP as a guest image.
Here's is how I have configured my personal computer:
I actually found it more time-consuming to implement the "Virtual PC" feature of Windows 7 to get Windows XP mode working than KVM on Red Hat Linux. I am amazed how many of my Windows XP programs DO NOT RUN AT ALL natively on Windows 7. I now have native 64-bit versions of Lotus Notes and Symphony 3, which will do well enough for me for now.
I went ahead and put Red Hat Linux on my home system as well, but since I have Windows XP running as a guest under Windows 7, no need to duplicate KVM setup there. At least if I have problems with Windows 7, I can reboot in RHEL6 Linux at home and use that for Linux-native applications.
Hopefully, this will position me well in case IBM decides to either go with Windows 7 or Linux as the replacement OS for Windows XP.
IBM announced that it will offer [three free months of IBM Smart Business Cloud] computing and storage services to government agencies, charitable non-profit organizations, and other organizations involved with reconstruction resulting from the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan and the northern Pacific region.
With traditional communications down, and many data centers incapacitated, Cloud Computing can be a great way to resume operations. According to the announcement, organizations can submit their requests now until April 30, and the program will run until July 31, 2011. Options include:
Virtual machine images running 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Linux or Windows.
60GB to 2 TB of disk storage per instance.
Options for various IBM middleware (DB2, Informix, Lotus, and WebSphere)
Rational Application Lifecycle Management and Tivoli Monitoring software
The offer also includes [LotusLive] Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for email and online collaboration. For more about LotusLive, see this [Red Paper].
Yes, it's Tuesday, and that means more IBM Announcements! A lot was announced today, so I have selected an eclectic mix for your enjoyment.
Microsoft Windows support on IBM Mainframes
Last year's announcement of the new IBM zEnterprise included the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extention (zBX) which could run POWER7 and x86 operating systems, but managed by the mainframe's overall Unified Resource Manager. Initially, this was intended for AIX and Linux-x86, but today, IBM [announced a statement of general direction to support Microsoft Windows] on the zBX extension by end of this year. Of course, the standard disclaimer applies: All statements regarding IBM's plans, directions, and intent are subject to change or withdrawal without notice. Any reliance on these statements of general direction is at the relying party's sole risk and will not create liability or obligation for IBM.
New 15K RPM drives for IBM Storwize V7000
Last October, when IBM introduced the Storwize V7000, it offered both large (3.5 inch) and small form factor (2.5 inch) drives. Unfortunately, a few people were upset that there were no 15K RPM drives for the small form factor models. There were SSD and 10K RPM drives, but nothing in between. Today, IBM [announced new 15K RPM drives of 146GB capacity] have been qualified for both the controller and expansion drawers.
New RVU licensing for IBM Tivoli products
IBM [announced it is changing over to this new RVU licensing model], from the previous PVU license, based on processor value units. What is an RVU? An RVU is a unit of measure by which the program can be licensed. RVU Proofs of Entitlement (PoE) are based on the number of units of a specific resource used or managed by the program. This makes sense, resource management software should be charged by the amount of resources you manage, not the size of the server the software runs on. This change also enables running on server virtualization and live movement of VM guest images from one type of host machine to another.
If you are contemplating a visit to an IBM [Executive Briefing Center], then April and May is a great time to come to Tucson. The weather is ideal here. The cold snap appears to be over, and spring is in the air!
Back in Februray, my blog post [A Box Full of Floppies] mentioned that I uncovered some diskettes compressed with OS/2 Stacker. Jokingly, I suggested that I may have to stand up an OS/2 machine just to check out what is actually on those floppies. Each floppy contains only three files: README.STC, STACKER.EXE and a hidden STACKVOL.DSK file. The README.STC explains that the disk is compressed by Stacker, a program developed by [Stac Electronics, Inc.]. The STACKER.EXE would not run on Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. The STACKVOL.DSK is just a huge binary file, like a ZIP file, compressed with [Lempel-Ziv-Stac] algorithm that combines Lempel-Ziv with Huffman coding.
In my follow-up post [Like Sands in an Hourglass], I explained how there are many ways I could have tackled this project. I could either use the Emulation approach and try to build an OS/2 guest image under a hypervisor like VMware, KVM or VirtualBox, or just take the Museum approach and try taking one of my half dozen old machines, wipe it clean and stand up OS/2 on it bare metal. This turned out to be more challenging than I expected. The systems I have that are modern and powerful enough to run hypervisors don't have floppy drives, so I opted for the Museum approach.
(A quick [history of OS/2] might be helpful. IBM and Microsoft jointly developed OS/2 back in 1985. By 1990, Microsoft decided it's own Windows operating system was more popular with the ladies, and decided to break off with IBM. In 1992, IBM release OS/2 version 2.0, touted as "a better DOS than DOS and a better Windows than Windows!" Both parties maintained ownership rights, Microsoft renamed OS/2 to Windows NT. The "NT" stood for New Technology, the basis for all of the enterprise-class Windows servers used today. IBM named its version of OS/2 version 3 and 4 "WARP", with the last version 4.52 released in 2001. In its heyday, OS/2 ran the majority of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), was used for hardware management consoles (HMC), and was used worldwide to run various Railway systems. After 2001, IBM encouraged people to transition from Windows or OS/2 over to Java and Linux. For those that can't or won't leave OS/2, IBM partnered with Serenity Systems to continue OS/2 under the brand [eComStation].)
Working with an IBM [ThinkCentre 8195-E2U Pentium 4 machine] with 640MB RAM and 80GB hard disk, a CD-rom and one 3.5-inch floppy drive, I first discovered that OS/2 is limited to very small amounts of hard disk. There are limits on [file systems and partition sizes] as well as the infamous [1024-cylinder limit] for bootable operating systems. Having a completely empty drive didn't work, as the size of the disk was too big. Carving out a big partition out of this also failed, as it exceeded the various limits. Each time, it felt the partition table was corrupted because the values were so huge. Even modern Disk Partitioning tools ([SysRescueCD] or [PartedMagic]) didn't work, as these create partitions not recognizable to OS/2.
The next obstacle I knew I would encounter would be device drivers. OS/2 comes as a set of three floppy diskettes and a CD-rom. The bootable installation disk was referred to affectionately as "Disk 0", then Disk 1, then Disk 2. Once all drivers have been loaded into memory, then it can start looking at the CDrom, and continue with the installation. In searching for updated drivers, I came across [Updated OS/2 Warp 4 Installation Diskettes] to address problems with newer display monitors. It also addresses the 8.4GB volume limit.
The updates were in the form of EXE files that only execute in a running DOS or OS/2 environment, expanded onto a floppy diskette. It seemed like [Catch-22], I need a working DOS or OS/2 system to run the update programs to create the diskettes, but need the diskettes to build a working system.
To get around this, I decided to take a "scaffolding" approach. Using DOS 6 bootable floppy, I was able to re-partition the drive with FDISK into two small 1.9GB partitions. I have the full five-floppy IBM DOS 6 set, I hid the first partition for OS/2, and install the DOS 6 GUI on the second partition. I went ahead and added a few new subdirectories: BOOT to hold Grub2, PERSONAL to hold the data I decompress from the floppies, and UTILS to hold additional utilities. This little DOS system worked, and I now have new OS/2 "Disk 1" and "Disk 2" for the installation process.
(If you don't have a full set of DOS installation diskettes, you can make due with "FORMAT C: /S" from a [DOS boot disk], and then just copy over all the files from the boot disk to your C: drive. You won't have a nice DOS GUI, but the command line prompt will be enough to proceed.)
Like DOS, OS/2 expects to be installed on the C: drive. I hid the second partition (DOS), and marked the first partition installable and bootable. The OS/2 installation involves a lot of reboots, and the hard drive is not natively bootable in the intermediate stages. This means having to boot from Disk 0, then putting in Disk 1, then disk 2, before continuing the next phase of the installation. I tried to keep the installation as "Plain Vanilla" as possible.
I had to figure out what to include, and what to exclude, and this involved a lot of trial and error. For example, one of the choices was for "external diskette support". Since I had an "internal diskette drive", I didn't think I needed it. But after a full install, I discovered that it would not read or write floppy diskettes, so it appears that I do indeed need this support.
OS/2 supports two different file systems, FAT16 and the High Performance File System (HPFS). Since my partition was only 1.9GB in size, I chose just to use FAT16. HPFS supported larger disk partitions, longer file names, and faster performance, none of which I need for these purposes.
I thought it would be nice to get TCP/IP networking to work with my Ethernet card. However, after many attempts, I decided against this. I needed to focus on my mission, which was to decompress floppy diskettes. It was amusing to see that OS/2 supported all kinds of networking, including Token Ring, System Management, Remote Access, Mobile Access Services, File and Print.
Once all the options are chosen, OS/2 installation then proceeds to unpack and copy all the programs to the C: drive. During this process, IBM had informational splash screens. Here's one that caught my eye, titled "IBM Means Three Things" that listed three reasons to partner with IBM:
Providing global solutions for a small planet
Creating and Applying advanced technologies to improve with which customers run their businesses
Constantly improving customer service with the products and services we provide
You might wonder how these OS/2 splash screens, written over 10 years ago, can appear almost identical to IBM's current [Smarter Planet] campaign. Actually, it is not that odd. IBM has been keeping to these same core principles since 1911, only the words to describe and promote these core values have changed.
To access both OS/2 and DOS partitions, I installed Grand Unified Bootloader [Grub2] on the DOS partition under C:/BOOT/GRUB directory. However, when I boot OS/2, I cannot see the DOS partition. And when I boot DOS, I cannot see the OS/2 partition. Each operating system thinks its C: drive is the only partition on the system.
Now that I had OS/2 running, I was then able to install Stacker from two floppy diskettes. With this installed, I can compress and decompress data on either the hard disk, or on floppy diskettes. Most of the files were flat text documents and digital photos. After copying the data off the compressed disks onto my hard drive, I now can copy them off to a safe place.
To finish this project, I installed Ubuntu Linux on the remaining 76GB of disk space, which can access both the OS/2 and DOS drives FAT16 file systems natively. This allows me to copy files from OS/2 to DOS or vice versa.
Now that I know what data types are on the diskettes, I determined that I could have decompressed the data in just a few steps:
Set up a DOS partition on C: drive
Insert one of the compressed diskettes into the floppy drive
Copy the STACKER.EXE program from the floppy to the C: drive
Run "STACKER A:" to decompress the floppy diskette
However, now that I have a working DOS and OS/2 system, I can possibly review the rest of my floppy diskettes, some of which may require running programs natively on OS/2 or DOS. This brings me to an important lesson. If you are going to keep archive data for long-term retention, you need to choose file formats that can be read by current operating systems and programs. Installing older operating systems and programs to access proprietary formats can be quite time-consuming, and may not always be possible or desirable.
This week, IBM celebrates its Centennial, 100 years since its incorporation on June 16, 1911.
A few months ago, the Tucson Executive Briefing Center ordered its latest IBM System Storage [DS8800] to be on display for demos. This was manufactured in Vác, Hungary (about an hour north of Budapest), and was going to be shipped over to the United States.
However, Sam Palmisano, IBM Chairman and CEO, was in Hannover, Germany for the [CeBIT conference] and wanted this DS8800 to be re-directed to Germany first for this event. He was kind enough to sign it for us. Brian Truskowski, IBM General Manager for Storage, and Rod Adkins, IBM Senior Vice President for IBM Systems Technolgoy Group (and my fifth-line manager), also signed this as well!
I am pleased to say this "signed" DS8000 has arrived to Tucson. This is the latest model in a family of market-leading high-end enterprise-class disk systems designed to attach to all computers, including System z mainframes, POWER systems running AIX and IBM i, as well as servers running HP-UX, Solaris, Linux or Windows.
For more on IBM's other innovations over the past 100 years, check out the [Icons of Progress], which includes these storage innovations:
(FTC Disclosure: I do not work or have any financial investments in ENC Security Systems. ENC Security Systems did not paid me to mention them on this blog. Their mention in this blog is not an endorsement of either their company or any of their products. Information about EncryptStick was based solely on publicly available information and my own personal experiences. My friends at ENC Security Systems provided me a full-version pre-loaded stick for this review.)
The EncryptStick software comes in two flavors, a free/trial version, and the full/paid version. The free trial version has [limits on capacity and time] but provides enough glimpse of the product to decide before you buy the full version. You can download the software yourself and put in on your own USB device, or purchase the pre-loaded stick that comes with the full-version license.
Whichever you choose, the EncryptStick offers three nice protection features:
Encryption for data organized in "storage vaults", which can be either on the stick itself, or on any other machine the stick is connected to. That is a nice feature, because you are not limited to the capacity of the USB stick.
Encrypted password list for all your websites and programs.
A secure browser, that prevents any key-logging or malware that might be on the host Windows machine.
I have tried out all three functions and everything works as advertised. However, there is always room for improvement, so here are my suggestions.
The first problem is that the pre-loaded stick looks like it is worth a million dollars. It is in a shiny bronze color with "EncryptStick" emblazoned on it. This is NOT subtle advertising! This 8GB capacity stick looks like it would be worth stealing solely on being a nice piece of jewelry, and then the added bonus that there might be "valuable secrets" just makes that possibility even more likely.
If you want to keep your information secure, it would help to have "plausible deniability" that there is nothing of value on a stick. Either have some corporate logo on it, of have the stick look like a cute animal, like these pig or chicken USB sticks.
It reminds me how the first Apple iPod's were in bright [Mug-me White]. I use black headphones with my black iPod to avoid this problem.
Of course, you can always install the downloadable version of EncryptStick software onto a less conspicuous stick if you are concerned about theft. The full/paid version of EncryptStick offers an option for "lost key recovery" which would allow you to backup the contents of the stick and be able to retrieve them on a newly purchased stick in the event your first one is lost or stolen.
Imagine how "unlucky" I felt when I notice that I had lost my "rabbits feet" on this cute animal-themed USB stick.
I sense trouble for losing the cap on my EncryptStick as well. This might seem trivial, but is a pet-peeve of mine that USB sticks should plan for this. Not only is there nothing to keep the cap on (it slides on and off quite smoothly), but there is no loop to attach the cap to anything if you wanted to.
Since then, I got smart and try to look for ways to keep the cap connected. Some designs, like this IBM-logoed stick shown above, just rotate around an axle, giving you access when you need it, and protection when it is folded closed.
Alternatively, get a little chain that allows you to attach the cap to the main stick. In the case of the pig and chicken, the memory section had a hole pre-drilled and a chain to put through it. I drilled an extra hole in the cap section of each USB stick, and connected the chain through both pieces.
(Warning: Kids, be sure to ask for assistance from your parents before using any power tools on small plastic objects.)
The EncryptStick can run on either Microsoft Windows or Mac OS. The instructions indicate that you can install both versions of download software onto a single stick, so why not do that for the pre-loaded full version? The stick I have had only the Windows version pre-loaded. I don't know if the Windows and Mac OS versions can unlock the same "storage vaults" on the stick.
Certainly, I have been to many companies where either everyone runs Windows or everyone runs Mac OS. If the primary target audience is to use this stick at work in one of those places, then no changes are required. However, at IBM, we have employees using Windows, Mac OS and Linux. In my case, I have all three! Ideally, I would like a version of EncryptStick that I could take on trips with me that would allow me to use it regardless of the Operating System I encountered.
Since there isn't a Linux-version of EncryptStick software, I decided to modify my stick to support booting Linux. I am finding more and more Linux kiosks when I travel, especially at airports and high-traffic locations, so having a stick that works both in Windows or Linux would be useful. Here are some suggestions if you want to try this at home:
Use fdisk to change the FAT32 partition type from "b" to "c". Apparently, Grub2 requires type "c", but the pre-loaded EncryptStick was set to "b". The Windows version of EncryptStick> seems to work fine in either mode, so this is a harmless change.
Install Grub2 with "grub-install" from a working Linux system.
Once Grub2 is installed, you can boot ISO images of various Linux Rescue CDs, like [PartedMagic] which includes the open-source [TrueCrypt] encryption software that you could use for Linux purposes.
This USB stick could also be used to help repair a damaged or compromised Windows system. Consider installing [Ophcrack] or [Avira].
Certainly, 8GB is big enough to run a full Linux distribution. The latest 32-bit version of [Ubuntu] could run on any 32-bit or 64-bit Intel or AMD x86 machine, and have enough room to store an [encrypted home directory].
Since the stick is formatted FAT32, you should be able to run your original Windows or Mac OS version of EncryptStick with these changes.
Depending on where you are, you may not have the luxury to reboot a system from the USB memory stick. Certainly, this may require changes to the boot sequence in the BIOS and/or hitting the right keys at the right time during the boot sequence. I have been to some "Internet Cafes" that frown on this, or have blocked this altogether, forcing you to boot only from the hard drive.
Well, those are my suggestions. Whether you go on a trip with or without your laptop, it can't hurt to take this EncryptStick along. If you get a virus on your laptop, or have your laptop stolen, then it could be handy to have around. If you don't bring your laptop, you can use this at Internet cafes, hotel business centers, libraries, or other places where public computers are available.
Well, it'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.