Sundry Power Systems i Storage Announcements
July 20, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Life has patterns, and Big Blue tends to be fairly regular. It’s July, so it is reasonable to expect some kind of Power Systems storage announcements. And indeed, last week IBM did make some tweaks to various storage products to bring the i 6.1 platform into the fold as a peer to other operating systems using some of its more sophisticated storage technologies.
Last week, IBM announced support for i 6.1 with the XIV Storage System, the clustered disk arrays that Big Blue acquired when it bought the Israeli company called XIV, which was backed by one of EMC‘s founders, Moshe Yanai, in January 2008.
IBM put the XIV arrays through the Blue engineering paces and relaunched them as the 2810 Model A14 arrays in August 2008, which supported Unix, Linux, and Windows. The 2810 Model A14 arrays are clustered X64 servers with 1 TB SATA drives that use a funky data protection algorithm called RAID X that ate 101 TB of the 180 TB of total capacity in a fully loaded XIV storage server with 180 1 TB drives. The XIV software also includes a whole bunch of features such as synchronous remote mirroring, thin provisioning, data migration, and writeable snapshotting. In February of this year, IBM offered a cut-down XIV array that had 27 TB of usable space instead of the 79 TB of the original unit product. Anyway, the XIV arrays can now be attached to Power Systems machines using i 6.1.
IBM also said last week that its DS5100 and DS5300 disks can be linked to Power-based blade servers running i 6.1, which of course requires that at least one partition on the JS12, JS22, JS23, or JS43 blade server be running the Virtual I/O Server. VIOS is needed because i 6.1 does not have native drivers for disk arrays linked to blade servers and relies on VIOS and its AIX drivers to talk to disks.
In addition to this disk array support, IBM said that its new ProtecTier Appliance Edition V2.3 software for the System Storage TS7650 ProtecTier Deduplication Appliance now supported attachment to the i 6.1 operating system. The ProtecTier dedupe appliance (product number 3958 Model AP1) that looks and smells like a virtual tape library to systems, but has the added benefit of sorting through redundant bits of data and only making one copy of data out to disk, and then tapes if customers want to store data offsite. IBM says that the typical virtual tape library can do something akin to 2 to 1 compression of data, but with the “HyperFactor” dedupe and compress algorithms in the ProtecTier appliance, customers are seeing 25 to 1 compression factors. The ProtecTier appliance was announced back in February with that Dynamic Infrastructure blitz.
On the storage and networking front, IBM is beginning to ship switches from Brocade Communications and Cisco Systems that offer converged Fibre Channel and Ethernet protocols on a single switch, using Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) protocols, to be precise. FCoE and CEE are key elements of Cisco’s “California” Unified Computing System blade servers (more about those here), and as much as IBM probably doesn’t want to sell the standalone versions of the FCoE/CEE switches from Cisco, it has little choice because Cisco is the default networking provider at a lot of shops. But it can also back other switches from other vendors, such as the Brocade FCoE/CEE switches that it began reselling last Friday under its own Converged Switch B32 brand.
CEE takes many of the features that made InfiniBand better than Ethernet (such as lossless data transmission) and weaves them into the Ethernet protocol. FCoE does just what it says: it encapsulates Fibre Channel disk traffic so it can run over 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and because of the CEE enhancements, you can trust that data won’t get lost. You put one converged adapter into the server, link it to the switch, and now you don’t have to run separate Fibre Channel and Ethernet networks.
IBM said last week that beginning on September 11, it will start selling two Cisco converged switches in the Nexus 5000 family. The first is the Nexus 5010, which is a 28-port switch that features 20 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports for network traffic and eight 4 Gb/sec ports out to Fibre Channel-based storage. This switch, which will be sold with the IBM product number 3722-S51, will cost $25,250. The Nexus 5020 doubles up the ports on the Nexus switch–40 of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 16 links out to Fibre Channel storage. The price doubles up, too, to $50,500. It is not clear as I go to press what adapter cards you can use in conjunction with these Cisco switches and Power Systems machines.
The other switch IBM announced last week, the Converged Switch B32, has similar FCoE and CEE functionality, except it comes from Brocade, it supports faster 8 Gb/sec Fibre Channel links, and it is available as of July 17 from Big Blue as product number 3758-B32. This switch comes in a 1U form factor that mounts at the top of the server rack and has 24 of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports and eight of the Fibre Channel links out to storage. It costs $56,400, and is supported on IBM’s Power Systems machines and their various predecessors in the i and p lines, as well as on System x boxes and their predecessors, Unix boxes from Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard, and just about any X64 server running Linux or Windows. The switch can link servers to IBM’s SAN Volume Controller storage virtualization appliance as well as to the Enterprise Storage Server arrays and FastT arrays from days gone by and more recent DS4000, DS6000, and DS8000 disk arrays. A slew of tape drives and libraries can also link to the B32 switch. This is what convergence is all about, after all.