Archive for April, 2012

IBM PureSystems Optimize Storage Too

IBM introduced the PureSystems products as expert integrated systems.  They are appliances, but with a twist. Like other IT appliances, they combined hardware (CPU, storage, network), software, and middleware in a tightly integrated package. Nothing new here. But then IBM optimized the entire system for the various components and added automation driven by expert intelligence in the form of patterns.  This was the twist, the secret sauce—expert intelligent-driven automation combined with top-to-bottom optimization—that promises to separate the PureSystems devices from all the other IT appliances out there. We covered a general discussion of PureSystems a few weeks ago here.

To recap: the result is a system with integrated expertise that combines the flexibility of a general purpose system, the elasticity of cloud, and the simplicity of an appliance. The expectation is that it can fundamentally change both the experience and the economics of IT.

In short, with PureSystems, an organization can get a complete infrastructure stack up and running in hours, not days, weeks, or months. It avoids the need to over-buy and over-provision through intelligent workload elasticity. Highly virtualized and easily extendable, it can accommodate change quickly and easily. In the process, it changes the economics not only of server deployment but of storage too.

Storage is a key element. To make maximum the use of virtual servers PureSystems needs virtualized storage. Virtualized storage makes storage provisioning fast, easy, elastic, and flexible. The built-in expertise transparently boosts storage utilization rates. It automatically pools diverse storage assets and optimizes physical media access for energy efficiency.  It leverages Easy Tier for efficient performance and thin provisioning to keep pace with growing data demands.

To provide the appropriate storage PureSystems includes an optimized Storwize V7000; this is IBM’s premier storage virtualization product. The storage is 100% virtualized and includes capabilities for thin provisioning and snapshots. Mirroring capabilities are optional. Between the expert automation and the GUI storage operations are intuitive and simple. It packs 24 drives in 4 bays in the chassis. By clustering PureSystems together, you can get 950 drives of high capacity virtualized storage.

As a statement of direction, IBM intends to further enhance the integration of server, storage and networking with the introduction of an IBM Flex System storage node. This new storage system will tap the software functional richness of IBM Storwize V7000—including IBM System Storage Easy Tier for automated SSD optimization—while being physically and logically integrated into the IBM PureFlex System. This will allow greater integration of server and storage management to automate and streamline provisioning and lower overall cost.

Attendees at the upcoming IBM Edge 2012 conference, Orlando, June 4-8, get a close up look at PureSystems and the Storwize V7000 storage packed inside.  Five sessions on the new product have been added.  Several are what you would expect, like a PureSystems introductory session.  For storage people two look particularly interesting.

Storage for IBM PureFlex System: PureFlex is the PureSystems IaaS product. This session will go over the storage systems and management included in every IBM PureFlex offering. Although it will mainly focus on Storwize V7000, there are ways to integrate other external IBM storage.

IBM PureFlex System: Scalable Network: This session will focus on the networking element and will include a discussion on architecture, strategy, new product offerings, and a roadmap for networking using the next‐generation platform.  Clustering the appliances and the storage is sure to come up.

This blogger is scheduled to attend the conference June 4-6. For a chance to win free admission to the conference, watch this blog for upcoming posts with the details. And now for the legal stuff:  this post is sponsored, meaning I am being compensated, by the Storage Community for covering IBM’s Edge Conference.  However, the opinions and writing here are my own.

Hope to see you in Orlando.

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IBM PowerLinux Changes the x86 Calculus

With Linux reportedly the fastest growing operating system in the work and 99% of Global 2000 enterprises intending to include open source software in their portfolios by 2015 (up from 73% in 2012), clearly open source Linux has long crossed the adoption chasm and achieved enterprise acceptance. This is an ideal time for IBM to introduce its new PowerLinux servers, which deliver the performance of IBM Power Systems at x86 prices.

The IBM PowerLinux introduction includes two Linux-only models, a 2-socket, 2U rack server (7R2) and a 2-socket compute node (p24L) intended to plug into IBM’s newly introduced PureFlex appliance. Each socket contains 8 POWER7 cores and 256GB of memory, and IBM has tuned the machines for key tasks, like Big Data.  BottomlineIT covered the PureSystems introduction previously here. PureFlex is a computing appliance that accepts a variety of nodes in the form of blades, including PowerLinux as a compute node.

IBM’s goal was to deliver PowerLinux at a cost of acquisition competitive with x86 systems.  For example, the PowerLinux system including POWER7, virtualization (PowerVM), and the Linux open source OS (either Red Hat or SUSE) costs $21,282 (USD). By comparison, a comparable Dell/Intel system (able to handle the same workloads and running VMware vSphere Enterprise 5 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscription and support comes in at $22,650 (USD). A comparable HP/Intel system running VMware vSphere Enterprise 5 and Red Hat subscription and support costs $24,838 (USD). Comparative cost data provided by IBM.  If you don’t want the PowerVM hypervisor, there is the KVM option.

Both the Dell and HP systems run 2-socket, 16-core 2.4GHz ER-2665 Sandy Bridge processors with32GB of memory, two 300GB SAS drives (15k), a 4x1GbE network controller, and a SAS, DVD, RAID storage controller. The PowerLinux system brings a faster 16-core processor (3.55 GHz) while matching the other specifications.

So, in terms of speeds, feeds, and cost, PowerLinux not only meets but exceeds the leading x86 systems for running virtualized Linux workloads. When you look at virtualization for PowerLinux compared to VMware vSphere 5.0, PowerLinux looks even better. PowerLinux handles 16 virtual CPUs per virtual machine vs. 8 for VMware and 4 CPU threads per core vs. 2 for VMware. Throw in the secure hardware-based hypervisor for PowerLinux (PowerVM) vs. VMware’s software-based hypervisor and the PowerLinux machine is the clear winner.

In terms of workloads, one beta user, the University of Hamburg (Germany), compared two PowerLinux machines with ten x86 Linux servers for a big file serving workload. The result: PowerLinux delivered a 50% performance gain and a 30% lower cost of virtual file server acquisition.

If you look at a Big Data analytics workload—another increasingly important workload—the PowerLinux server with 4 threads per core has an immediate advantage over Intel’s 2 threads per core. PowerLinux also can handle parallel file systems across multiple servers using HDFS or the highly optimized IBM GPFS. In short, PowerLinux servers can natively exploit massively parallel processing across Linux clusters, which is what you want for Big Data.

PowerLinux already has been highly tuned by IBM. Should you deploy it as a compute node in the PureFlex appliance, you get the added integration, optimization, and automated expertise (patterns) IBM has packed into that device too.

The appeal of the PowerLinux system is that IBM streamlined it to match or exceed x86 cost and performance objectives. It, indeed, can beat comparable x86 machines running Linux virtualized workloads and do it at less than x86/VMware prices.

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IBM PureSystems Change the IT Cost-Value Equation

How much of your IT budget goes to keeping the systems up and running versus how much you can devote to new business building projects? If yours is like most you probably spend more than 70% of your IT budget keeping the systems running, and most of that gets sucked up by labor. That leaves, at best, about 30% to spend on new initiatives, which is where the company’s next competitive advantage is likely to come from.

To flip the situation around, IBM this week unveiled a family of what it describes as expert integrated systems called PureSystems. The first two are PureFlex and PureApplication. IBM calls these expert systems because it has baked into the system large amounts of automated best practices around the majority of the processes for which most organizations need systems, whether web applications, database applications, or almost anything else a company might do.

These are, according to Rod Adkins, senior vice president in charge of IBM’s Systems and Technology Group, “a new category of business computing that combines server, storage and networking resources along with an array of built-in software patterns and business processes into one highly automated and simple-to-manage machine.” Essentially, IBM is introducing a pre-configured hardware/software appliance, which is not new.

The difference is what IBM added. Beyond the usual middleware and integration it baked in deep expertise. This expertise greatly expertise simplifies the process of setting up and deploying new systems combined with automated operation and workload optimization that leverages the expertise to determine the best ways to configure and deploy each workload. This reduces the labor and time entailed in designing, deploying, configuring, and administering the new systems, which lowers cost and speeds time to value. This is how the new systems change the IT cost-value equation.  Optimization also lowers costs by saving on license fees and conserving IT resources through higher utilization.

IBM estimates that a PureSystems machine can be running in four hours versus weeks if IT wanted to do it itself. IBM calculates PureSystems requires 47% less deployment labor hours and 73% fewer management hours compared to conventional systems.

This isn’t as costly a product as you probably imagine.  The entry PureFlex System starts at $100,000. A recent report put competing integrated hardware/software appliances at $750,000 or more. The entry level PureFlex can handle a midsize organization, and it painlessly scales as the organization grows.

It also changes the way you can think about IT staffing. You will need fewer system administrators. With so much of the IT process automated your people can focus on using IT to support new initiatives, which they can deploy in hours, not days, weeks, or months.

Maybe the most innovative part of PureSystems is the idea of patterns. Patterns are a staple of software development but PureSystems take the idea further.  These patterns are built-in software that encapsulates systems expertise so that the systems can automatically handle basic, time-consuming tasks such as configuration, upgrades, and application requirements. ISVs will offer specialized patterns and there is a toolkit any organization can use to build a custom pattern encapsulating a special process.

PureSystems also builds cloud computing right into the machine, enabling it to be a private cloud out of the box. Organizations can quickly create private, self-service, multi-platform cloud offerings that can scale up and down automatically.

Noted Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president of software and systems: “By tightening the connections between hardware and software, and adding invaluable software know-how, PureSystems is designed to help organizations free up time and money to focus on innovation.”

Other vendors offer specialized combo hardware and software bundles: Oracle has Exadata and Exalogic; NetApp and Cisco offer FlexPod; EMC, Cisco, and VMware collaborated to create VCE, which offers VBlock; and HP offers its converged infrastructure. Each vendor has its supporters. PureSystems, however, delivers expert yet customizable patterns, broad cross-platform capabilities, and the ability to handle whatever new technologies come out in the next decade through an unusually flexible virtualized architecture.

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Low-Cost Fast Path to Private Cloud

The private cloud market—built around a set of virtualized IT resources behind the organization’s firewall—is growing rapidly. Private cloud vendors have been citing the latest Forrester prediction of the private cloud market to growth to more than $15 billion in 2020. Looking at a closer horizon, IDC estimates the private cloud market will grow to $5.8 billion by 2015.

 The appeal of the private cloud comes from its residing on-premise and its ability to leverage existing IT resources wherever possible. Most importantly, the private cloud addresses the concerns of business executives about cloud security and control.

The promise of private clouds is straightforward:  more flexibility and agility from their systems, lower total costs, higher utilization of the hardware, and better utilization of the IT staff. In short organizations want all the benefits of the public cloud computing along with the security of keeping it private behind enterprise firewall.

Private clouds can do this by delivering IT as a service and freeing up IT manpower through self-service automation. The private cloud sounds simple. They don’t, however, come that easily. They require sophisticated virtualization and automation.  “Up-front costs are real, and choosing the right vendor to manage or deploy an environment is equally important,” says senior IDC analyst Katie Broderick.

IBM, however, may change the private cloud financial equation with its newest SmartCloud Entry offering based on IBM System x (x86 servers) and VMware.  The starting price is surprisingly low, under $60,000.

The IBM SmartCloud Entry starts with a flexible, modular design that can be installed quickly. It also can handle integrated management; automated provisioning through a service request catalog, approvals, metering, and billing; and do it all through a consolidated management console, a single pane of glass. The result: the delivery of standardized IT services on the fly and at a lower cost through automation. A business person, according to IBM, can self-provision services through SmartCloud Entry in four mouse clicks,.  something even a VP can handle.

The prerequisite for any private cloud is virtualized systems.  Start by consolidating and virtualizing servers, storage, and networking to reduce operating and capital expenses and streamline systems management. Virtualization is essential to achieve the flexibility and efficiency organizations want from their private cloud. They must virtualize as the first step in IBM’s SmartCloud Entry or any other private cloud.

From there you improve speed and business agility through SmartCloud Entry capabilities like automated service deployment, portal-based self-service provisioning, and simplified administration.  In short you create master images of the desired software, convert the images for use with inexpensive tools like the open source KVM hypervisor, and track the images to ensure compliance and minimize security risks. Finally you can gain efficiency by reducing both the number of images and the storage required for them. From there just deploy the software images on request through end user self-service combined with virtual machine isolation capabilities and project-level user access controls for security.

By doing this—deploying and maintaining the application images, delegating and automating the provisioning, standardizing deployment, and simplifying administration—the organization can cut the time to deliver IT capabilities through a private cloud from months to 2-3 days, actually to just hours in some cases. This is what enables business agility—the ability to respond to changes fast—with reduced costs through a more efficient operation.

At $60k the IBM x86 SmartCloud Entry offering is a good place to start although IBM has private cloud offerings for Linux and Power Systems as well. But all major IT vendors are targeting private clouds though few can deliver as much of the stack as IBM. Microsoft offers a number of private cloud solutions here. HP provides a private cloud solution for Oracle, here, while Oracle has an advanced cluster file system for private cloud storage here.  NetApp, primarily a storage vendor, has partnered with others to deliver a variety of NetApp private cloud solutions for VMware, Hyper-V, SAP, and more.

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