I was on my way down to Miami today and was talking to the gentleman sitting next to me about storage technology and the conversation turned to how everyone is scrambling to be in the cloud business. He had heard multiple vendors come in and start talking about cloud technology and how it was going to save him money, time and effort. This gentleman worked for a retail chain that has multiple district offices through out the eastern US and headquarters in Atlanta. He has multiple technologies all helping him keep the business running but nothing planned and as the company grew, they simply cookie cut the previous installation and planted it into the new office. Each office would also replicate back to HQ and that would be the main repository for backups/restores. I would guess there are thousands of companies out there with similar setups.
So instead of going into how he could leverage cloud storage technology, I asked him what were his problems and listened. They basically came down to this:
1. Multiple independent islands of storage that are aging, causing his support contracts to go up.
2. Backups take way to long and systems are slowing down as they get closer to 'capacity'.
3. Future growth was expensive as every time they added a new capacity, they had to add entire systems.
Now they were not cutting edge technolgy leaders nor were they wanting to be, but he needed a way to solve some of these traditional storage problems. He didn't want to go out and buy a new large system that would take forever to get in and while it may solve his problems, it would bring in even more issues. What he needed is less overhead and more throughput.
We sat there for a while thinking, we didn't say much until I offered this tidbit, "So what does cloud mean to you?" After a nice laugh, he stated that he really didn't know and the more he read, the more 'cloudy' became the answer.
There are many interpretations about what cloud really is and it differs between storage vendors. If there is a true declination of what cloud storage really could be, I think it could be defined using NAS technology. NAS lends to be a kinder and gentler protocol set and the need is growing leaps and bounds. Our traditional way of adding more systems and creating more independent silos works for smaller environment but it does not scale when clients want large disk pools of storage under one umbrella. There are ways of making volumes span in to large pools but the underlying storage is still made up smaller components that are typically active/active/passive nodes, even the best load balance will not help if you are overloading that system.
There are ways to find a balance between the same old way and going out and dropping tons of cash on huge storage gear. Find a system that will grow and scale as your storage needs do. Think of ways to keep everything under one umbrella (name space for example) and also try to solve issues that you are having today with real technology and not work arounds.
With NAS technology, we will always be at the mercy of the backup target whether its disk or tape. No matter if we are taking snapshots or ndmp backups, we have to write that out to some target to have a restore point. This is your basic strategy on how to do a backup/restore, why not consider using different types of disks to create a tier and offload disks to slower pools as the data gets 'older'. A few vendors have said there is no need for tiering, mainly because their systems can't take advantage of this and therefore they shun those who do. ILM tiering can help you achieve not only higher utilization rates with the storage but it puts the data that is accessed more frequently on faster disk, and moves the rest away to makes more room. Why pay for fast disk if the data on it is not being accessed frequently?
Future expansion has always been tough for administrators, they tend to over buy on controller size and skimp on the disk. Systems like SONAS from IBM allows you to grow both in storage capacity and server throughput; independently. If a customer needs more storage but doesn't need the additional throughput, why force him to add more controllers? SONAS systems can scaled up to 30 storage servers and 14.4 PB of spinning disk all under one name space. No more having multiple nodes with their own names; this storage is called Accounting1, Accouting2 .... etc. They are called Storage and everyone gets the benefit of having all of the nodes, not just one system.
By the time we had gone through all of this, our flight was landing. It was a great talk and both of us gained a different perceptive on how cloud is perceived. If any of you want to find out more information about the IBM Cloud strategy or SONAS go to the following links:
SONAS by IBM
There is an ancient proverb that says " When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.". There is some wisdom in this old saying that we can still apply to today's IT budget and strategy. If you have been keeping up with the news, you would know companies are starting to invest again in their IT hardware and software. This maybe the turn in some of the hardest times in the hardware business. But what are customers really buying and planning to buy with their dollars?
What is my bread and what is my lily today? The bread represents nourishment of the body. We have to eat in order to keep going. With out it, we starve and eventually die. This would be the basic part of a business IT strategy. What do you have to do to keep the lights on? I have this conversation with IT planners all the time. People love to do the newest and greatest, but have a smaller understanding or take for granted the things they have to do to keep the business going.
The lily is a beautiful and majestic flower. Dating as far back as 1580 B.C., when images of lilies were discovered in a villa in Crete, these majestic flowers have long held a role in ancient mythology. Derived from the Greek word “leiron,” (generally assumed to refer to the white Madonna lily), the lily was so revered by the Greeks that they believed it sprouted from the milk of Hera, the queen of the gods.
The storage market is evolving with the help of cloud storage, unified platforms and consolidation. IT planners and CIOs are dealing with a new way of putting value to these terms and offering their business units a charge back model not only based on data consumption but throughput and retention. The smarter businesses are seeing that running multiple storage platforms with trapped efficiency does not work in today's data center. Storage has to be big, wide and easy to use.
Long gone are the days where 10-25 TB were a big deal. We now see systems that start at those levels and go to infinite proportions. Networks are becoming faster and even consolidated with 10/20 gbps driving protocols like FCoE and iSCSI. Backups are being replaced by better replication algorithms that have quality of service levels and automated failover.
NAS storage can take advantage of these technologies that can also help you keep the lights on. Most businesses have some form of NAS storage to help employees share documents, spreadsheets, images, and what nots. There is a movement from the traditional block based systems to unstructured data sets using NAS and these are pushing the market and vendors to come up with better NAS products. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, all push vendors to think about how they do storage.
So how are you planning your IT spending are you going to spend more on things that you have to have or will you spend more on the things that look nice? I suspect in most cases there will be an 80/20 split of bread to lily ratio. But how you classify what is needed and what is 'nice to have' in your IT department will change as your business changes this year. Businesses are putting more demand on IT with fewer resources. Even though there is evidence businesses are spending more the hardware recently, the resources (admins) are still not there. The only way companies will be able to achieve success with such a high demand on storage with out the resources is to have simple, scalable storage that allows single admins to manage multiple petabytes of storage.
IBM is working to help customers achieve this type of new IT department. Cloud is one way, either public or even private, but also from a basic system level. Interfaces that are less complicated like the V7000 or XiV allow admins to move easily with out much training. SONAS offers large scale out NAS storage where storage and throughput can be scaled independently.
This year, take time to figure out what is needed and what will be cool to have in your department. Technology will always change, even if its a change back to what we had 20 years ago (mainframe/virtualization). Keep in mind it might look like a lily today, but will be a loaf soon, where do you want to be when the business needs it.
RichardSwain 060000VQ8G Tags:  ibm video cloud #ibm100 think 100_years_of_ibm_in_100_s... watson history bigdata centennial punchcard fractals 17,631 Views
If you haven't heard (get from under that rock) IBM is turning 100 this year and the company is having an awesome time celebrating our longevity. From technical advances, the Apollo program to blazing trails through race and gender equality, IBM has and IS doing the job for all of the world. The company has changed in so many ways and has to adapt in ways only IBMers can but we have survived and thrived.
Find more information about our centennial celebration here.
Here is a great 100 second video of all the cool and great things IBM has done over the last 100 years.
RichardSwain 060000VQ8G Tags:  netapp nseries ibmstorage ftc nas unified storage privacy ibm cloud 7,853 Views
Last week at the IBM Technical Conference I was able to spend some time with a couple of friends discussing technology. It is always interesting to hear their take on where the storage market is going and what lays ahead in the future. As my Netapp pal and I were chatting about the messaging around unified architecture, we both noted that unified to one perceptive is disjointed to another.
IBM and Netapp have been using the term unified for its NAS/SAN device for about 5 years now. The idea is to share a common code base on the same hardware to increase functionality and usability of that storage. Other vendors have gone similar routes using multiple code bases and/or hardware but I see that as a NAS gateway in front of SAN storage system.
This has been very successful in data centers both large and small. But the idea of how we manage storage is changing. Virtualization is changing the idea of how and even where our data may be stored. The term cloud is something of a marketing term but I like the term Storage Utility better. Utility companies such as electric, water, sewer and even cable provide a product to its consumers and storage utility vendors could do the same.
Most people are not concerned about process companies take to make water drinkable or how electricity is generated as long as it is safe, reliable and easy for them to consume. Storage as a Utility is no different, it is only when the storage is offline or hacked in by outsiders the consumers are concerned. There are laws that govern utilities and the FTC has put some privacy laws together to help consumers but I believe we can take it a little further (a blog for another time).
As our data is changing from traditional spinning drives in our data center to a storage utility, we will need some type of bridge that will ease the pain of transition. The main reason people do not adapt new technology is because the transition is often too painful and the benefit of new technology is less than the need to move. Whether it is a software package that helps move data or a hardware device, it will have to give access to both file based data and object based data. This will allow for users to read the files as needed no matter what their connectivity or location. It could also be used to help drive efficiencies up buy allowing data to move from file based (high cost) to object based (lower cost) environments.
Today there are some vendors who have early versions of this type of unified solution. They are bridging the gap between what we have today in private data centers and the future of public utility storage. This is very early in the transition but with this type of technology, we will be able to adapt and provide a better way of storing data. Will it still be called a unified solution? Only the marketing people can tell us that.
Labor day has come and gone and so has all of the holidays between now and Thanksgiving. This is only augmented with the hope that your favorite football team (both American football and what we call Soccer) has a great weekend match and you get to celebrate with the beverage of your choice.
During your work-week, which can and sometimes does include weekends, all you hear is no more money to do the things you have to do to keep the business running. If you have kept up with squeezing more out your systems with virtualization that’s great but your network is now overtaxed. The staff that used to take care of certain aspects of the day to day running of your data center has been let go and their job has been ‘given’ to you with no thought of compensating you for the extra tasks.
The Earth is warming, the weather is out of control and the price of gas is so high that you decide to bike to work to help save the planet. You spend more time on the road commuting and look like you need a shower when you get to work after dodging traffic all morning. Your coffee is priced higher now because the coffee house wants to use Fair Trade coffee from farmers in a county you have never been. And your dog is on anti-depressing meds because you are not home as much and he can’t go out in the yard because of the killer bees migrating north from Mexico.
Our lives seem to be getting more complicated and it’s nice when we find things that not only help us but are easy to use. When you come across these items they make such an impression that you like to tell others about your great fortunes. I came by a solution that was very easy to use and the value was so great that at first I didn’t believe the whole story.
About a year ago, I was asked to help out on the Storewize/Real Time Compression (RTC) team as it transitioned into the IBM portfolio. I met with the engineers and sales people and all had wonderful things to say about the technology. I listened but was hesitant to drink all of the kool aid they were pouring.
A year later I am very much a believer of the RTC technology and think it really could be a game changer in the market. If you keep up with IDC, Gartner and the other analyst, they all point to compression of the data as being one of the larger items for handling future growth. There are a lot of vendors that claim they can compress data but it’s not all done the same.
One of the things that stood out from day one is the idea of using LZ compression in real time to compress data instead of deduplication. Coming from a N series (*Netapp) background I understood how deduplication works and where it was useful. But this was compression which is a different ball game. Now we are able to shrink the storage footprint that wasn’t exactly the same as before. Given that Netapp has issues with block size and offsets, this is exactly what is needed in the market.
The next question I always get and one I had was “That’s great, you can compress data with the best, but whats the overhead?”. I waited a long time to see what the performance numbers were going to be and found an astonishing outcome. The RTC appliance made a performance improvement on the overall solution. It does help by adding cache and adding processing to the serving of data but it also improves the performance of the system by having to process less data.
For example, if a system has to save 100GB of data with no compression, then all of the data has to be laid out on the disk, that sping for 100GB of data, cache, CPUs, I/O ports all have to work harder to save 100GB of data. But if we get 2:1 or 3:1 compression ratios, then all of the components have to work less. No longer are they working to save 100GB of data but 50GB or 25GB or data. This allows the system to process more data and have cycles to respond quicker to I/O requests (IE lower latency).
So the final thing is always the question of how hard is this to install. Is there a period of time that you have to wait or have 5 IBM technicians to install it. All I have to say is its easy. So easy that there is a good YouTube video that goes through the entire process of unpacking to racking to compressing data. I think the video speaks for itself:
So if you are back at work today and find your life swirling around you like a hurricane, stop and be reassured there is a few things out there that still can make your life a little easier. It doesn’t make the killer bees go away but maybe it will give you peace of mind that your storage doesn’t run out in the near future.
RichardSwain 060000VQ8G Tags:  nas ibm trainer" sonas "tom chris_mellor cloud ddn storage 10,526 Views
I just read the blogs from Chris Mellor from the Register and Tom Trainer Network Computing and thought how insightful are these two outsiders about the inner workings of IBM.
First off, yes IBM is no longer selling the DCS9900, a DDN OEM rebranded system in the very large IBM storage portfolio. There is no question that this product is no longer available after the October 15 date.
Second, the DCS 3700 is already part of our portfolio and is now an OEM box from Netapp/Engenio/LSI. The density of this system is the same as the DCS 9900 and makes sense to use the DCS 3700 as a replacement for the DCS9900.
Third, Tom’s blog about SONAS being a monolithic NAS storage is very skewed. SONAS is a very flexible in the way we can scale both storage and the throughput with out affecting either variable. Most “scale out” systems you have to scale both in order to keep up with demand. SONAS uses some of the best technology on the market with a huge amount of throughput.
His statement about IBM dropping DDN from SONAS is un-true and goes to show how much research Tom put into writing this blog. I am sure Tom is looking out to write a non-biased blog for Network Computing but maybe those days at HDS are still making a big influence in his ability to look at announcement letter and make a extrapolations about other products.
Finally, If HDS thought BlueArc was so great, why didn’t they buy them back when they could have gotten the company for a better deal? Has the product changed THAT much since 2006? I wish HDS only the best for dealing with the transition and getting that product under the HDS umbrella.
If you do your homework and base your assumptions on facts instead of conjecture, you will find SONAS is a solid platform in the enterprise NAS market. SONAS has proven it can be the market leader with a low cost to performance ratio and will only get better as time goes on.
RichardSwain 060000VQ8G Tags:  cloud v7000 storage unified sonas san ace gpfs nas 5 Comments 41,574 Views
Storwize V7000 Unified, A marriage of SAN and NAS
Storwize V7000 and the IBM NAS software were married Wednesday, October 12, 2012 at midnight at IBM Storage chapel in San Jose, California. The Reverend Rod Adkins officiated. Following the ceremony, the bride’s parents hosted a reception at the Almaden Research Center.
The bride comes from the NAS family who were in attendance. She also has ties with the Tivoli and GPFS families deep within the storage community. There were family members from the X series family who were at the ceremony.
The groom comes from a long line of storage products. XiV, DS8800 and SVC were all part of the festivities and supported the groom throughout entire day.
The couple will honeymoon Redwood City, California with a visit to the Storage Performance Council.
After long anticipation, IBM is now in the unified storage market with the introduction of the Storwize V7000 Unified (SV7kU?). The system stands as small as 6U of rack space and can flex up to four clustered systems (via RPQ) supporting internal SAS, SATA or virtualized external disk from other vendors.
The V7000 Unified is a midrange disk system that will allow new V7000 or existing V7000 customers the ability to integrate their NAS workload into the system. Using the standard V7000 shelf, IBM has added two 3650m3 servers with the IBM NAS software stack to complete a unified architecture.
A new GUI that ingrates the NAS portion of the software is now available that will combine management for both technologies with a few mouse clicks. Setup of the system stays the same with the simplified USB key approach. Customers have reported that between the USB key installation and the wizard driven alerts, the V7000 has been one of the easiest systems to install and configure. IBM decided to keep these features in the enhanced GUI.
V7000 Unified will support NFS/CIFS/FTP/HTTPs/SCP protocols in addition to block functions FCP and iSCSI. It will also support file replication and file level snapshots for business continuity in addition to existing block functions.
Another function in the V7000 Unified that will help customers is the introduction of the IBM Active Cloud Engine. What is it? Think of it as a very smart, very fast robot – that never sleeps – keeping your cloud storage neat, tidy and running smoothly. Think Rosie the robot from The Jetsons.
This engine is a policy driven engine that will help improve the storage efficiency by automatically placing, moving and deleting files to the appropriate storage. The efficiency gain comes from storing the files where they should be with out an administrator manually moving them. As data is gets older, the engine can move the file to another location where the price per TB is less and even delete the file if necessary.
The movement is done seamlessly and the end user does not have any idea their data has moved. Another aspect of the engine is identifying files for backups or replication to a DR location. As the data ages, the data continues the life cycle through the data center without storage administrators intervention.
Data can be moved from internal disk to external virtualized disk and even to tape. The diagram below shows the movement from file creation to 180 days old and off to deduped tape.
The policy can be created from a wizard in the V7000 Unified GUI by creating thresholds and start times. Customers can also exclude certain files by different file attributes like size or last accessed. For the more advanced customer, an edit feature of the policy is allowed.
Another question people are asking is about the relationship with Netapp and how will this product effect the N series product line. IBM is expanding the midrange storage portfolio by offering both the new V7000 Unified along with our N series products to focus on different client needs.
N series continues to be IBM’s offering focused on clients who have a primary need for NAS optimized (file) workloads. Existing N series clients with growing data requirements will continue to require additional N series disk drives, expansion units, and new systems to meet their needs.
IBM Storwize V7000 Unified will particularly appeal to clients who have a primary need for storage to support block optimized workloads with additional needs to consolidate file workloads for greater efficiency (unified storage). Storwize V7000 Unified is also targeted to clients that can benefit from the unique capabilities of IBM Active Cloud Engine or to clients that already are using Storwize V7000 or SONAS.
Just like in real life, we have seen other marriages come and go but this one seems to be different. The V7000 Unified is using the best of the storage portfolio and bringing value to the customer. IBM is also leveraging the investments made over 10 years of innovation; Virtualization, Easy Tier, Simplified GUI, Active Cloud Engine and is producing a product that will accomplish the lowering total cost of ownership.
As goes with the tradition of the bride to have good-luck:
“Something old, something new, something borrowed,
something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe."
(You can find this poem in Leslie Jones' book "Happy is the Bride the Sun Shines On."). We find the IBM version of this offering good luck with the following:
Something Old: 4,500 V7000 systems sold last year
Something New: Active Cloud Engine
Something Borrowed: Storage Virtualization
Something Blue: Storwize V7000 Unified, a true IBM organic product
I am still looking for the sixpence but feel free to mail us one and we will attach it to the bezel of each controller.