Posts Tagged ‘REST’

Sick of the “Commodity Storage” Moniker, Look at IBM’s DS8870

Monday, July 27th, 2015

ibm_system_storage_ds8870I, for one, am sick and tired of folks referring to all storage as commodity kit.  I am tired of hearing how all arrays are all the same, regardless of vendor, when you take away the value-add software that peddlers have elected to join at the hip to a proprietary controller.  That storage arrays are the devil, designed to rip off the consumer by locking him into an endless cycle of warranty and maintenance agreement upgrades that cost as much as the original box.

Oh, wait.  I have said that a lot in my career…usually to diss a box that doesn’t deliver the goods, or maybe to promote some storage virtualization methodology or to contextualize the benefits of some software-defined storage model.

I realize now that it is wrong to paint all storage with the same brush.  The truth is that storage costs way too much for what is typically inside the cabinet.  But, in the case of the latest DS8000 array from IBM, I have to tip my hat to the hardware engineers for the hoops they have taught the old gray mare of DASD to jump through.  The DS8870, together with the new 7.5 firmware version, has proven that you could both lead the horse to water and teach it to fly.

I came to this conclusion at IBM Edge 2015 a month or so back, where I was convinced by a charming IBM marketing maven to give a listen to the DS8800 team about what they were announcing at the show.  I had used DS products in my data centers years ago and tended to think of them as workhorse storage DASD without a lot of flare or sizzle to speak of.  They were always rock solid products, but not to my mind the jewel in the crown of IBM’s tier one-heavy storage line.  But that was my youth talking.

Truth is, the one thing you want from enterprise storage today is rock solid.  After years of consuming sugary feature-laden arrays in the distributed world, we all have Type 2 Diabetes.  A good day is one without sugar swings — a day of level meter readings.  Once you have the Big D, that steady reliable array has a lot of appeal.  No drama, just solid dependability.

To my surprise, even this was not a fully functioning metaphor for the benefits of the DS8870.  This is dependability on steroids, beginning with its hardware engineering and its firmware.  I recorded a couple of IBM smart guys, Eddie Lin and Nick Clayton, to help walk me through latest features of the kit.  Here is that interview.


Thanks to Eddie and Nick for reminding me about the importance of good engineering in the delivery of a solid, high performance, enterprise class storage platform (that actually earns each of those monikers).  Just as important, I commend IBM for continuing its development of great storage kit and especially for its embrace of RESTful management in version 7.5 of the DS firmware.  For anyone who is interested, here is a Redbook from IBM on the DS firmware.

For the record, I was a guest at IBM Edge 2015 and was compensated for delivering five training classes at IBM Technical University at Edge and for participating in live social media activities at the event.  This opinion, however, and my decision to cover the DS8000 technology, was entirely my own.

 

Erik Eyberg Talks IBM Storage Strategy (Repost with corrections)

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

IBM_Edge_Upcoming_ImageThis is a repost of a previously posted interview with Erik Eyeberg, made as a correction to the previous blog that mislabeled Erik as Erik and Eyberg as Eyeberg.  He noted the discrepancy in an email on Friday and was so darned kind about it, my sense of guilt about my oversight was raised to an intolerable level.  We have corrected the incorrect reference both here and in the video clips below and regret the error.

The video interview was shot at Edge 2015.  This was my fourth IBM Edge event, if memory serves, and my third opportunity to get together with Mr. Eyberg, who came over to IBM with the acquisition of his former employer, Texas Memory Systems, and who has in a comparatively short period of time been promoted through the ranks. He has ditched the nerd glasses and hair cut he sported when I first met him for a more Benedict Cumberbatch look (well, that is what my daughters said when we were editing his video interview!), but he is still geek through and through.

And now, his business cards identify him as the Manager of World Wide Enterprise Storage Strategy and Business Development: a hefty title for a truly smart guy who has stepped almost effortlessly into his new and expanded role. It was a great pleasure to chat with him about IBM’s current technology and future directions. Here is part 1 of our interview, in which Eyberg sets the context, then ramps up a discussion of flash storage technology and the fit it is finding within business enterprises.

But wait, there’s more. We venture away from the evangelism of flash technology to discuss in Part 2 of the interview the lingering concerns that many folks (including me) have regarding the oversell of flash as a panacea and the problems created by memory wear and uneven performance. Erik’s point of view is interesting…

Eyberg makes a coherent case for IBM’s diversification in terms of storage offerings between “boxed” (conventional arrays) and “un-boxed” (software-defined storage) offerings. I liked his sensible discussion of unified management and REST near the end of the clip. It is good to know that IBM is still pursuing RESTful management tools for its kit. Look for RESTful management of the DS8000 series array with the release of version 7.5 of the array’s firmware.

On to the final part. Here is where Erik finishes his thoughts on RESTful management and what it will take for everything to be REST enabled for unified management (he seems dubious that this will happen). Then, he and I talk about tape technology, then about the future of storage from IBM’s perspective. Fascinating stuff.

Once again, special thanks to Erik Eyberg for agreeing to this interview (and to Lizbeth Ramirez Letechipia and company for helping me to round up Erik for this interview and for helping to get the clip approved by IBM).

For the record, this is one of several interviews I conducted at IBM Edge in exchange for room, board, transport, and free attendance at the event. I was also compensated for delivering five sessions at Tech Ed as part of the show.sessions at Tech Ed as part of the show.

Eric Eyeberg Talks IBM Storage Strategy at IBM Edge

Friday, May 29th, 2015

IBM_Edge_Upcoming_ImageThis was my fourth IBM Edge event, if memory serves, and my third opportunity to get together with Eric Eyeberg, who came over to IBM with the acquisition of his former employer, Texas Memory Systems, and who has in a comparatively short period of time been promoted through the ranks.  He has ditched the nerd glasses and hair cut he sported when I first met him for a more Benedict Cumberbatch look (well, that is what my daughters said when we were editing his video interview!), but he is still geek through and through.

And now, his business cards identify him as the Manager of World Wide Enterprise Storage Strategy and Business Development:  a hefty title for a truly smart guy who has stepped almost effortlessly into his new and expanded role.  It was a great pleasure to chat with him about IBM’s current technology and future directions.  Here is part 1 of our interview, in which Eyeberg sets the context, then ramps up a discussion of flash storage technology and the fit it is finding within business enterprises.

 

But wait, there’s more.  We venture away from the evangelism of flash technology to discuss in Part 2 of the interview the lingering concerns that many folks (including me) have regarding the oversell of flash as a panacea and the problems created by memory wear and uneven performance.  Eric’s point of view is interesting…

Eyeberg makes a coherent case for IBM’s diversification in terms of storage offerings between “boxed” (conventional arrays) and “un-boxed” (software-defined storage) offerings http://v…gra-professional/.  I liked his sensible discussion of unified management and REST near the end of the clip.  It is good to know that IBM is still pursuing RESTful management tools for its kit.  Look for RESTful management of the DS8000 series array with the release of version 7.5 of the array’s firmware.

On to the final part.  Here is where Eric finishes his thoughts on RESTful management and what it will take for everything to be REST enabled for unified management (he seems dubious that this will happen).  Then, he and I talk about tape technology, then about the future of storage from IBM’s perspective.  Fascinating stuff.

Special thanks to Eric Eyeberg for agreeing to this interview (and to Lizbeth Ramirez Letechipia and company for helping me to round up Eric for this interview and for helping to get the clip approved by IBM).

For the record, this is one of several interviews I conducted at IBM Edge in exchange for room, board, transport, and free attendance at the event.  I was also compensated for delivering five sessions at Tech Ed as part of the show.

LTFS: The Beat Goes On

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

With power flickering on and off as Tropical Storm Debbie whipped my place in Florida with wave after wave of wind and rain this weekend, I found myself on the phone doing scheduled and unscheduled interviews with two genuine experts in tape technology, Matt Starr CTO of Spectra Logic, and Rob Simms CEO of Crossroads Systems.  Thanks, in advance, to both men for sharing some of their personal time to chat with me about the peculiarities, nuances and context of the Linear Tape File System (LTFS).

With a couple of weeks between me and IBM’s Edge Conference, I wanted to hear other voices about the promise and practicality of LTFS, a technology that I am hoping will help us to realize the capacity-per-watt-optimized storage platform that is ideally suited to store seldom accessed user files en masse without costing a lot of money or consuming a lot of energy.

I have since written a two-column arc for ESJ.com that will drop in the next week or two that incorporates what the experts said, plus some great insights offered by the folks from the FujiFilm Recording Media/FujiFilm Medical Systems joint-venture “cloud archiving service” — Permivault — that uses LTFS-enabled storage today.  I hope everyone who shares my interest in this technology will have a read.

To summarize the good news/bad news aspects of the columns:

GOOD

LTFS is real.   But the code itself provides only part of what you need to build the platform I have in mind.  To get to nirvana, we need to build on top of LTFS using a media asset manager, or an archive management system, or a tighly coupled file system namespace.  Otherwise, LTFS is just an interesting way to attach some storage in a manner that mimics a USB key.

Connecting the roof to the foundation is being done today, but the emphasis seems to be on the use of tape for deep archive rather than as a respository for semi-active data.  I don’t mean to split hairs, but archive is not the same as TapeNAS, which is what I want and what I think will resonate with end users horizontally, across industry verticals.  I know, I know:  the Active Archive Alliance is trying to bridge the gap between archive and active storage to create a new category.  That’s all well and fine, and probably just as accurate a description of the TapeNAS repository as what I am advancing.  But TapeNAS doesn’t use the term “archive,” which tends to put people off who see archive as an enormously difficult undertaking that requires resources and time that they just don’t have.  I would like to see TapeNAS used to describe these mass storage platforms because it uses familiar terminology and connotes a plug and play storage platform without the luggage — positive or negative — about archive.

Considerable success is being achieved with the sale of these kits to media & entertainment shops, audio/video pre/post-production houses, video surveillance (is that a vertical market?), but those guys get tape and deal in files that need to stream.  They think of archive differently than your standard run-of-the-mill commercial data center shop.  Go ahead and use archive (or the sexier “media asset management”) in your meetings with Hollywood.  It means something there.  For the rest of us, talk about building a 35TB mass file storage platform costing no more than $26K with a capacity of 30+TB today, growing to 10x that capacity when Barrium Ferrite cartridges hit the street all powered by less energy that what is required by a five disk RAID array.  That will turn up the volume.

NOT SO GOOD

Before you can sell such a kit, however, we need to get over a few hurdles.  IBM seems concerned that someone is going to rip them off — that their “one and only true LTFS” will become Balkanized by the likes of Oracle/Sun/STK if it isn’t formulated as a standard with some sort of certification program.  Unfortunately, they have decided to use “the SNIA” as the court of record for the work.  I find this to be a profoundly questionable choice, given SNIA’s past record in standards dev. (I know, I left off the “the” before SNIA — they hate that!)  Recall SMI-S:  good idea at the beginning, but perverted and ultimately watered down once it fell prey to SNIA-ite politics.  Also, to my knowledge, there are no certification bodies ensuring compliance to any standard.  Just plug fests.  Lots and lots and lots of plug fests.  Going this route might deliver a standard, but it will be quite a ways off in time and we need TapeNAS now.

Device drivers are also an issue.  IBM recommends, of course, its FUSE driver to be used in concert with LTFS.  However, using a proprietary driver set in connection with an open standard seems as silly to me as the way VMware supports RESTful management:  their REST works, but only if you code to a half  dozen proprietary APIs exposed by the hypervisor vendor.  That ain’t RESTful management.  We already see TapeNAS (aka “Active Archive”) advocates like QStar Technologies writing their own device drivers.  I imagine that this trend will continue.  Does it interfere with the valid objective of creating a universal LTFS format with guaranteed support for tapes recorded on anyone’s LTFS kit?  It just might.  So some accord needs to be developed that will allow vendors driver flexibility without corrupting the exchangeability of LTFS formatted tapes from vendor A’s box to vendor B’s.

Finally, there is the issue of vendor enthusiasm to field LTFS mass storage platforms at all.  For vendors already offering disk systems, I wonder how they will regard the “threat” posed by highly capacious and affordable tape solutions for active data.  I had many conversations at Edge with IBM sales droids and channel partners.  Seems like (a) hardly anyone knows about LTFS and (b) their initial worry is that it might cannibalize some of their disk array sales.  Depending on how margins are configured, disk centric salespersons may not like the idea of offering a tape-based mass storage solution, even if it makes sense for the customer.  Let’s not dismiss this potential obstacle to LTFS adoption:  as with government laws, the willingness of the bureaucracies to actually implement and enforce them is the ultimate determinant of success.

For now, with the exception of what I have seen with Crossroads Systems’ StrongBox TapeNAS head, which preintegrates all of the components necessary to put a TapeNAS into play today, everyone else seems to be offering a science fair project approach that DIYers may like, but that certainly lacks appeal to the mainstream IT guy or gal who has no time to cobble together drivers, LTFS software, a head server, and an interface and to perform all of the testing to ensure that it is stable and “enterprise ready.”

Watch this space.

 

Why Xiotech is Important

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Just realized that I haven’t shared a link to a Xiotech segment posted earlier this summer on C-4 Project.org site and cross posted on ESJ.com.  My bad, especially since I have been referring to Xiotech in such glowing terms of late.

This video helps you to understand why. 

While Xiotech has a lot going for it at the hardware level, what really gets me going is the management software approach they have adopted.  The controllers of the new Emprise rigs have a REST protocol stack on them that enables you to monitor and configure and troubleshoot and do virtually anything else you need to do…from your iPAD or iPhone or any other Web Services enabled device.  The video clip on ESJ shows this functionality in action.

Xiotech on an iPAD

Managing storage on your iPAD

But wait, there’s more.

The W3C REST management paradigm isn’t just for hardware from Xiotech.  Those guys have published all of the code openly for use by partners (and competitors even!) to similarly enable their devices and wares for unified management via an open, standards-based approach. Customers can write their own apps, too. 

Look, SMI is an old dog at this point, taking way too much time to engineer into products.  Web Services and REST take just a few weeks to implement and do a better job of unifying management of storage, and potentially network and servers as well, in a common way.  Learn more about the Xiotech approach and download specs and sample code at CoreTeXDeveloper.com.  Here are a couple of teasers.

LINK 1 An example app

LINK 2  The CorTeX API Specification

Guys (and gals), this is one of the most important developments in storage management that I have ever seen.