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Tony Pearson is a Master Inventor and Senior IT Specialist for the IBM System Storage product line at the
IBM Executive Briefing Center in Tucson Arizona, and featured contributor
to IBM's developerWorks. In 2011, Tony celebrated his 25th year anniversary with IBM Storage on the same day as the IBM's Centennial. 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. You can also follow him on Twitter @az990tony.
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Often, when looking at disk storage it is easy to focus on comparisons to other disk storage, but disruptive technologies cross boundaries. Already we have seen Flash Memory drives on the IBM BladeCenter, replacing traditional disk drives internal to each blade server. They are smaller than regular disk drives, but big enough to hold the operating system to boot from.
The New York Times has an article by John Markoff, Redefining the Architecture of Memory that talks about IBM's research on "Racetrack Memory".The article is a good read, but here are some interesting excerpts:
Now, if an idea that Stuart S. P. Parkin is kicking around in an I.B.M. lab here is on the money, electronic devices could hold 10 to 100 times the data in the same amount of space.
Currently the flash storage chip business is exploding. Used as storage in digital cameras, cellphones and PCs, the commercially available flash drives with multiple memory chips store up to 64 gigabytes of data.
However, flash memory has an Achilles’ heel. Although it can read data quickly, it is very slow at storing it. That has led the industry on a frantic hunt for alternative storage technologies that might unseat flash.
Mr. Parkin’s new approach, referred to as “racetrack memory,” could outpace both solid-state flash memory chips as well as computer hard disks, making it a technology that could transform not only the storage business but the entire computing industry.
But ultimately, the technology may have even more dramatic implications than just smaller music players or wristwatch TVs, said Mark Dean, vice president for systems at I.B.M. Research.“Something along these lines will be very disruptive,” he said. “It will not only change the way we look at storage, but it could change the way we look at processing information. We’re moving into a world that is more data-centric than computing-centric.”
This technology has the potential to break some of the physical limitations that are currently worrying disk drive designers. I look forward to see how this plays out.
Registration for the "Meet the Storage Experts" event in Second Life will close this week fornext week's September 20 event. All IBMers, clients and IBM Business Partners are welcome to attend. We will focus this time on DS3000 and N series disk systems, tape systems,and IBM storage networking gear.
If you miss this one, we plan to have another one in November!
Array-based replication does have drawbacks; all externalised storage becomes dependent on the virtualising array. This makes replacement potentially complex. To date, HDS have not provided tools to seamlessly migrate away from one USP to another (as far as I am aware). In addition, there's the problem of "all your eggs in one basket"; any issue with the array (e.g. physical intervention like fire, loss of power, microcode bug etc) could result in loss of access to all of your data. Consider the upgrade scenario of moving to a higher level of code; if all data was virtualised through one array, you would want to be darn sure that both the upgrade process and the new code are going to work seamlessly...
The final option is to use fabric-based virtualisation and at the moment this means Invista and SVC. SVC is an interesting one as it isn't an array and it isn't a fabric switch, but it does effectively provide switching capabilities. Although I think SVC is a good product, there are inevitably going to be some drawbacks, most notably those similar issues to array-based virtualisation (Barry/Tony, feel free to correct me if SVC has a non-disruptive replacement path).
I would argue that the IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller (SVC) is more like the HDS USP, and less like the Invista. Both SVC and USP provide a common look and feel to the application server, both provide additional cache to external disk, both are able to provide a consistent set of copy services.
IBM designed the SVC so that upgrades can occur non-disruptively. You can replace the hardware nodes, one node at a time, while the SVC system is up and running, without disruption to reading and writing data on virtual disk. You can upgrade the software, one node at a time, while the SVC system is up and running, without disruption to reading and writing data on virtual disk. You can upgrade the firmware on the managed disk arrays behind the SVC, again, without disruption to reading and writing data on virtual disk.
More importantly, SVC has the ultimate "un-do" feature. It is called "image mode". If for any reason you want to take a virtual disk out of SVC management, you migrate over to an "image mode" LUN, and then disconnect it from SVC. The "image mode" LUN can then be used directly, with all the file system data in tact.
I define "virtualization" as technology that makes one set of resources look and feel like a different set of resources with more desirable characteristics. For SVC, the more desirable characteristics include choice of multi-pathing driver, consistent copy services, improved performance, etc. For EMC Invista, the question is "more desirable for whom?" EMC Invista seems more designed to meet EMC's needs, not its customers. EMC profits greatly from its EMC PowerPath multi-pathing driver, and from its SRDF copy services, so it appears to have designed a virtualization offering that:
Continuesthe use of EMC Powerpath as a multi-pathing driver. SVC supports driversthat are provided at no charge to the customer, as well as those built-in to each operating system like MPIO.
and, continuesthe use of Array-based copy services like SRDF of the underlying disk. SVC providesconsistent copy services regardless of storage vendor being managed.
A post from Dan over at Architectures of Control explains the anti-social nature of public benches. City planners, in an effort to discourage homeless people from sleeping on benches in parks or sidewalks, design benches that are so uncomfortableto use, that nobody uses them. These included benches made of metal that are too hot or too cold during certainmonths, benches slanted at an angle that dump you on the ground if you lay down, or benches that have dividers sothat you must be in an upright seated position to use.
This is not a disparagement of split-path switch-based designs. Rather, EMC's specific implementation appears to be designed for it to continuevendor lock-in for its multi-pathing driver, continuevendor lock-in for its copy services when used with EMC disk, and only provide slightly improved data migration capability for heterogeneous storage environments. Other switch-based solutions, such as those from Incipient or StoreAge, had different goals in mind.
Sadly, my IBM colleague BarryW and I have probably spent more words discussing Invista than all eleven EMC bloggers combined this year. While everyone in the industry is impressed how often EMC can sell "me, too" products with an incredibly large marketing budget, EMC appears not to have set aside funds for the Invista.
If a customer could design the ideal "storage virtualization" solution that would provide them the characteristics they desire the most from storage resources, it would not be anything like an Invista. While there are pros and cons between IBM's SVC and HDS's TagmaStore offerings, the reason both IBM and HDS are the market leaders in storage virtualization is because both companies are trying to provide value to the customer, just in different ways, and with different implementations.
When new technologies are introduced to the marketplace, it is normal for customers to be skeptical.
My sister is a mechanical engineer, so when she needs to configure a part or component, she candesign it on the computer, and then use a "Rapid Prototyping Machine"that acts like a 3D printer, to generate a plastic part that matches the specifications. Some machinesdo this by taking a hunk of plastic and cutting it down to the appropriate shape, and others use glue andpowder to assemble the piece.
But not everything is that simple. Harry Beckwith deals with the issue of selling services and software featuresin his book "Selling the Invisible". How do you sell a service before it is performed? How do you sell a softwarefeature based on new technology that the customer is not familiar with?
Our good friends over at NetApp, our technology partners for the IBM System Storage N series, developed a"storage savings estimator" tool that can provide good insight into the benefits of Advanced Single InstanceStorage (A-SIS) deduplication feature.
I decided to run the tool to analyze my own IBM Thinkpad C: drive (Windows operating system and programs) and D: drive ("My Documents" folder containing all my data files) to see how much storage savings thetool would estimate. Here are my results:
WINXP-C-07G (C: drive)Total Number of Directories: 1272Total Number of Files: 56265Total Number of Symbolic Links: 0Total Number of Hard Links: 41996Total Number of 4k Blocks: 2395884Total Number of 512b Blocks: 18944730Total Number of Blocks: 2395884Total Number of Hole Blocks: 290258Total Number of Unique Blocks: 1611792Percentage of Space Savings: 20.61Scan Start Time: Wed Sep 5 14:37:06 2007Scan End Time: Wed Sep 5 14:53:51 2007
WINXP-D-07H (D: drive)Total Number of Directories: 507Total Number of Files: 7242Total Number of Symbolic Links: 0Total Number of Hard Links: 11744Total Number of 4k Blocks: 3954712Total Number of 512b Blocks: 31610595Total Number of Blocks: 3954712Total Number of Hole Blocks: 3204Total Number of Unique Blocks: 3524605Percentage of Space Savings: 10.79Scan Start Time: Wed Sep 5 14:21:16 2007Scan End Time: Wed Sep 5 14:34:30 2007
I am impressed with the results, and have a better understanding of the way A-SIS works. A-SIS looks at every4kB block of data, and creates a "fingerprint", a type of hash code of the contents. If two blocks have different "fingerprints", then the contents are known to be different. If two blocks have the same fingerprint, it is mathematically possible for them to be unique in content, so A-SIS schedules a byte-for-byte comparison to be sure they are indeed the same. This might happen hours after the block is initially written to disk, but is a much safer implementation, and does not slow down the applications writing data.
(In an effort to provide support "real time" as data was being written, earlier versions of deduplication
had to either assume that a hash collision was a match, or take time to perform the byte-for-byte comparisonrequired during the write process. Doing this byte-for-byte comparison when the device is the busiest doingwrite activities causes excessive undesirable load on the CPU.)
The estimator tool runs on any x86-based Laptop, personal computer or server, and can scan direct-attached, SAN-attached, or NAS-attached file systems. If you are a customer shopping around for deduplication, ask your IBM pre-sales technical support, storage sales rep, or IBM Business Partner to analyze your data. Tools like this can help make a simple cost-benefit analysis: the cost of licensing the A-SIS software feature versus the amount of storage savings.
I can't believe I have been blogging for a year now!
I have Jennifer Jones from IBM to thank for getting this started. She was my predecessor in the job I have now, and she was moving on to bigger and better things, and during the transition for me to take over, she suggested that we start a blog, podcast, or similar. While there are many blogs and podcasts inside the firewall of IBM, I wanted something to be accessible to all of our IBM sales team, IBM Business Partners, existing and prospective clients, and to enable comments, to enable two-waycommunication. Podcasts are very one-way, so we chose a blog instead.Getting it set up took a while, convincing our own management that this was worthwhile, and dealing with our legal department on the IBM blogging guidelines of what we can and cannot write about, we finally got it going last year, launching September 1, just in time for our 50 years of disk systems innovation campaign.
It has been a wild ride, a great learning experience, and has proven quite fulfilling for job satisfaction. Here are some observations and lessons I have learned along the way.
Roller is the open source blog server that drives Sun Microsystem's blogs.sun.com employee blogging site, IBM DeveloperWorks blogs that this blog exists on, thousands of internal blogs at IBM Blog Central, the JRoller Java community site, and hundreds of others world-wide.Whereas there might be fancier blog systems elsewhere that I could have chosen, hosting my blog with IBM Developerworksseemed like a good choice. I can access from any web-browser capable machine, and enter my blog posts in nativeHTML, that I develop in the tool itself, or offline with a standard basic text editor like Microsoft Notepad that I can then cut-and-paste back in.
One lesson I learned the hard way was that Roller generates the Permalink URL for each blog post based on the first five words of the title. For that reason, it is important to chose an appropriate and unique title, avoiding the use of punctuation, quotation marks, or pharmaceutical "enhancement products" that might get rejected by SPAM filters.Once chosen, you can't change the title afterwards as it won't match the Permalink anymore.My blog post "Aperi is (enhancement product) for SMI-S" caused no end of grief to our Press Release team.
Writing blog posts in native HTML is not as hard as it sounds. I am limited to hosting a maximum of 24MB of files, and they can only be jpg, jpeg, gif, png, mp3, pdf or ppt format.So, wherever possible, I point to other websites for content.For those new to blogging, I recommendThe Barebones Guide to HTML.
Roller also generates for me a spreadsheet of all my page views for the week. Tracking blog traffic closely is as crazyas checking your company's stock price every day. These "web-stat" e-mails get filed directly into my Bacn folder on Lotus Notes.
In my earlyadvice to bloggers, I mentioned my choice of Bloglines as my RSS feed reader. When I subscribe to a new blog, I specify Full entries, not Partial,which allows me to scan it quickly, but filters out many of the non-text content like videos. It also allowed meto see what my own blog posts looked like from within a reader, so that I can write them appropriately.
I find if valuable to read other blogs, including those written by employees of our toughest competitors. Evenif you don't blog yourself, following blogs can be extremely valuable. Be careful what you leave as comments onother blogs, they may come back to haunt you later.
Currently, I track 55 blogs, some about storage,marketing, Web 2.0 issues, Second Life, Linux, or other areas of interest. I prefer blogs that make only 1-5 postsper week, so blogs like LifeHacker and LifeRemix are off my Bloglines list, but are excellent resourceswhen I am searching for something specific. If you think 55 is a lot of blogs, consider Timothy Ferriss' post onHow RobertScoble reads 622 RSS feeds each morning.
I have quite an international readership, so I have to be careful using American idioms and pop cultural references.For example, in my blog post IBM acquires Softek, I mentioned "shotgun weddings" and had various responses asking what exactly did that mean,all from readers outside the USA. I've learned that sometimes you need to link them to an American Slang dictionary,or Wikipedia encyclopedia entry to explain these terms and phrases.
Technoraticurrently tracks over 100 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. Getting my blogtracked had some issues. You have to join, thenpost a "claim"on your own blog. My mistake was having a case-sensitive URL with a mix of upper and lower case letters, but Technorati prefers all lower case. IBM worked with Technorati to get this resolved.
Del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website -- the primary use is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On del.icio.us, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders.
I use Firefox, Safari, Dillo and Internet Explorer web browsers, so it is nice that I have access to allmy bookmarks in the same consistent manner. When I see content on a website that I might like to reference laterin a blog, I tag it with del.icio.us so that I can get to it later.
Fellow GTD-ers will quickly recognize this acronym, but for the rest of you, it refers to David Allen's book "Getting Things Done®".This is a great book! I learned about it reading other people's blogs, and found it incrediblyuseful helping me organize my time.There are various online tools available to help employ this method. I use Lotus Connections Activitiesfor group projects with co-workers at IBM, and BackPack for projects withmy friends outside of work.
The success of YouTube encouraged IBM to launch IBM TV, a portal for IBM's video and multimedia assets and make it easier for IBM employees, customers, partners and prospects to access and view IBM multimedia. The plan is to have eight anchor episodes per year, professionally hosted by TV personality, Joe Washington, and point to related offers and other resources for viewers to learn more.
Blogging also introduced me to Second Life. I asked around if anyone else within IBM was using Second Life, anddiscovered quite a few. I got invited to join our internal Eightbar group, and participated in various events, including an IBM Holidayparty that I discussed in my blog post"Building a Snowman in Second Life".
In April, we had a launch of our newest products in Second Life, and we plan to have two more Second Life events,September 20 and another in November, staged as "Meet the Experts" question and answer panels.
I wrap up with Facebook. Actually, whereas most of my Web 2.0 efforts have been work-related, I have quite a few friends and family who follow my blog. Several were inspired to start their own blogs, such asPassages from Pamand Barry Whyte on Storage Virtualization. Bridging the gap is Facebook, something I can use to keep tabs on my friends, as well as my storage industry-related contacts.
Wow, that's quite a lot in one year. Well, I am done with my meetings down here in Sao Paulo, Brazil. My colleauges and I are returning tonight to enjoy the long Labor Day weekend.