High-end Enterprise Storage: IBM FlashSystem 9200 and 9200R

3 minute read

Rapid deployment of new applications combined with crazy fast growth in the amount of data being operated on is pushing enterprises of all shapes and sizes into territory that can only be described as the most demanding of environments. 

The radically simple idea IBM has introduced is that, with Spectrum Virtualize and Storage Insights, all the IBM FlashSystem storage from entry enterprise through to high-end enterprise, and all the other block storage you might have from other vendors, and the block storage you might use on multiple public clouds can all behave in a consistent manner. In my post Elegant flexibility – IBM Spectrum Virtualize and the SAN Volume Controller, I explored how this works with the block storage you may already have from multiple vendors. In this post I’m going to introduce IBM FlashSystem high-end enterprise storage and a few more of the consistent software capabilities Spectrum Virtualize and Storage Insights can bring across your hybrid multicloud. 

Meet the IBM FlashSystem 9200 and 9200R, enterprise storage systems designed for the most demanding environments.

These systems are simply fast. 

With its end-to-end NVMe throughput advantage, IBM FlashSystem 9200 sets a new standard in I/O performance density, the measure of work done per rack unit spent. A FlashSystem 9200 can deliver over 2.2 million I/O’s per second per rack unit — twelve times better than the current generation of some competitors. The IBM FlashSystem 9200 can also deliver faster business decisions with 70 microsecond latency — thirty percent faster than the current generation of other competitors. And for gigabytes per second, a scaled-out IBM FlashSystem 9200 can deliver a stunning 180GB/s — much faster than competitive alternatives(1). 

Like all storage based on Spectrum Virtualize…

  • These systems are simply efficient

    Making efficient use of available storage capacity can have a profound impact on client budgets. This is where data reduction comes in. Data reduction can come in two forms. First is the hardware-accelerated compression in IBM FlashCore modules. This is ideal for performance sensitive applications that can still benefit from data reduction. There is also software data reduction where Spectrum Virtualize applies several techniques including deduplication, compression, thin provisioning, zero detect, and SCSI Unmap. And it can do this in a consistent manner for all the block storage in your datacenter regardless of your choice in hardware vendors. 

    To help size systems correctly, IBM guarantees capacity savings of up to a 5-to-1 ratio, based on a profile of a your workload. If it is not practical to work with IBM to collect data and run reports on your workloads, you can take advantage of a self-certified guarantee of 2:1 data reduction. 
  • These systems are simple to secure

    Encryption can come in two forms. First is the U.S. Government computer security standard FIPS 140-2 validated encryption that can be enabled with IBM FlashCore modules. This is tamper-resistant hardware encryption for your most sensitive data. There is also software encryption that can be extended system-wide and in a consistent manner to all the other block storage in your datacenter regardless of your choice in hardware vendors.  There’s also choice in how to take care of your encryption keys – either with a physical USB key in the system or with an enterprise key manager like IBM Security Key Lifecycle Manager or Gemalto SafeNet KeySecure.

Check back for the next post where I’ll introduce Midrange Enterprise Storage from IBM and a few more of the Spectrum Virtualize capabilities found across the hybrid multicloud. 

(1) Competitive performance comparisons taken from these third-party and vendor sources for DellEMC link, link; NetApp link; Pure link, link; that were publicly available as of the date of this post.

Elegant flexibility – IBM Spectrum Virtualize and the SAN Volume Controller

4 minute read

Elegant flexibility

Strategic storage choices are more about the software than the hardware it happens to be running on at the moment. Do you agree?

In my post Change in the storage industry is coming – and it’s good! I shared why I think there is a trend toward radical simplification starting in the storage industry. IBM started the trend and others are sure to follow in bids to remain competitive. I’m continuing the discussion on what IBM has done. For other available posts in the series, look here.

With its February 2020 announcement of Storage Made Simple for Hybrid Multicloud, IBM introduced a strategic storage software platform, IBM Spectrum Virtualize, and an AI-infused management service, IBM Storage Insights, that operate on a family of enterprise storage systems spanning from entry to midrange to high-end, all engineered with the best from IBM Enterprise Design Thinking(1) to deliver great customer experiences. Spectrum Virtualize and Storage Insights can also be applied to over 500 heterogeneous on-premises storage systems and multiple public clouds to give IT managers consistency in storage operations across their hybrid multicloud. 

Discussions about storage systems and their capabilities are often compartmentalized – here’s one storage system and what it does, here’s another storage system and what it does differently, etc. The radically simple idea IBM has introduced is that, with Spectrum Virtualize and Storage Insights, all the IBM FlashSystem storage from entry enterprise through to high-end enterprise, and all the other block storage you might have from other vendors, and the block storage you might use on multiple public clouds can all behave in a consistent manner. It’s an elegant approach. To keep these posts consumable in length, I’m going to introduce one of the platforms and a few of the consistent software capabilities in each post. A good place to start is with the IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC)

Meet the IBM SAN Volume Controller with Spectrum Virtualize

Now in its tenth generation, clients have been deploying Spectrum Virtualize on SVC for over a decade to bring the power of a strategic software foundation to over 500 on-premises storage systems from a wide mix of vendors. If you are interested in modernizing the storage you already have, this is a starting point. 

Like all storage based on Spectrum Virtualize…

  • These systems make your storage simple to scale.

    One of the enemies of storage efficiency is stranded pools of capacity.  And an enemy of operational efficiency is a heterogeneous storage infrastructure. SAN Volume Controller helps defeat both enemies.

    A single SAN Volume Controller cluster can combine up to 32 petabytes of storage capacity from over 500 different heterogeneous storage systems into a single pool of capacity. That capacity is presented as a single system, has a single point of management, and importantly a single set of APIs and procedures. Think of that for a moment. You have the freedom to maintain heterogeneous storage infrastructure, creating a little healthy competition between vendors, without the operational headaches that usually follow. And you can apply advanced features like encryption, data reduction, enhanced high-availability, and connection to the cloud across all your storage even if its an older model that predates that sort of capability. Then, when it comes time to add more capacity or shift your vendor strategy, no big deal. Just insert the new and remove the old. Your data can be migrated without disruption and your operations remain consistent. It’s that simple. 
SAN Volume Controller makes your storage simple to scale
  • These systems make your storage simply operationally resilient.

    Ensuring your data stays available to your applications is the primary function of storage. When you are operating storage with Spectrum Virtualize, you’re covered. In fact, for the most stringent requirements, IBM guarantees it.

    Regardless of your choice in storage hardware vendors, Spectrum Virtualize offers a consistent approach to traditional 2-site and 3-site replication configurations using your choice of synchronous or asynchronous data communication. There is also IBM Hyperswap. When properly deployed by IBM Lab Services, IBM will guarantee 100% data availability. That’s not five-9’s (99.999%) or six-9’s (99.9999%), it’s 100% availability. 

    Finally, Spectrum Virtualize running on the SVC offers unique enhanced high-availability (HA) configurations that deliver zero-impact failover between two to four sites and the possibility of fifth-site replication that can include public cloud. 
SAN Volume Controller makes your storage simply operationally resilient

Check back for the next post where I’ll introduce FlashSystem high-end enterprise storage and a few more of the Spectrum Virtualize capabilities found across the hybrid multicloud. 

What do you think? Are strategic storage choices more about the software than the hardware it happens to be running on at the moment? Join the conversation – leave a comment!

(1) IBM Enterprise Design Thinking is a best practice that IBM teaches and certifies practitioners on across the industry. It is the method we use to ensure our offerings deliver great experiences to our customers.

Change in the storage industry is coming – and it’s good!

3 minute read

Let me make a prediction. As an IT manager, you are about to see a wave of actions by storage vendors to consolidate and simplify their portfolios. Pendulums swing, and for too long the storage industry has been swinging toward extreme customization – delivering a crowded field of individual storage platforms for only subtly different use cases. Got a slightly different scalability requirement – introduce a new platform. Need some new function – pop out a new higher-end platform. Find a new niche in availability or performance requirements – deliver a new platform and charge more for it. Your smaller customers need a smaller entry point – offer a feature depleted platform for less money. You get the picture. 

There’s a practical challenge for IT managers with all this.

Most enterprises posses many different use cases. They have mission critical transaction processing workloads, Big Data and analytic workloads, departmental DevOps, some social and mobile workloads, etc. Even if an IT manager has a single supplier purchasing strategy (which most don’t), they are faced with several differing platforms from that single supplier. “Differing how?” you ask. Well, in most cases, each of these platforms have a different approach to management and troubleshooting, different APIs for automation, and different paths to the cloud. And that means different skill and training requirements for the IT staff charged with operations.

Storage platform complexity c. 1H2020

There’s also a practical challenge for the vendors.

Each of these platforms often represents a separate development team and set of business tradeoffs. Think about it. Pick the vendor(s) you happen to buy from at the moment and consider a function like multi-site replication for example. As a vendor, you have enterprise customers who could take advantage of that capability from the entry to the high-end, but you can’t afford to separately develop it on every one of your platforms so you only offer it on your high-end stuff and charge your customers more. Or maybe you’re trying to work out a path to the cloud for your clients so they can leverage the cloud as a disaster recovery target, or for DevOps, or for AI and analytic services, or as an air-gap to help with cyber resiliency. Delivering those things requires an approach to replicating or snapshotting data from on-premises to the cloud. As you let out a big sigh, you realize you have to build that capability separately for each of your different platforms and that’s expensive. So, in most cases, you pick the subset of your portfolio you’ll be offering it on and just don’t offer it on the rest. 

Watch Dave Vellante (SiliconANGLE theCUBE) and Ed Walsh (IBM) discuss storage complexity

For the vendor, this kind of complexity drives up cost and slows down innovation.  Of course I’m not privy to all the business conversations different vendors have, but I can only imagine that some of these dynamics have contributed to vendors doing silly things like offering multiple cost-tiers of hardware but not delivering any automated way for their clients to tier data from one of those platforms to another. How difficult it must be for a sales person to make a big deal about some new low-cost hardware platform in their lineup… and then have to tell their customer that it’s up to them to figure out how to manually get the right data to that platform at the right time. 

For the IT manager, it makes every purchase a complex headache, and ongoing operations more difficult than it has to be.

That’s why I’m confident predicting that IT managers are about to see a wave of actions by storage vendors to consolidate and simplify their portfolios. IBM started the trend with its February 2020 announcement of Storage Made Simple for Hybrid Multicloud and other vendors are sure to follow if they hope to remain competitive. IBM now offers a single software stack, Spectrum Virtualize, on enterprise systems from entry to high-end, on multiple public clouds, and across over 500 heterogeneous on-premises storage systems.

Follow this series of posts on the IBM announcement

What do you think? Are you ready for a more simplified set of choices from the storage industry? Join the conversation – leave a comment!

Software Defined Storage Use Case – Block SAN Storage for Traditional Workloads

In my last post, IBM Spectrum Storage Suite – Revolutionizing How IT Managers License Software Defined Storage, I introduced a simple and predictable licensing model for most all the storage needs an IT manager might have. That’s a pretty big concept if you think about all the storage use cases an IT manager has to deal with.

  • Block SAN storage for traditional workloadsIBM Spectrum Storage Suite Symbol
  • File storage for analytic or Big Data workloads
  • Object storage for cloud and mobile workloads
  • Scale-out block storage for VMware datastores
  • Storage for housing archive or backup copies

Just to name a few… The idea behind software defined storage is that an IT manager optimizes storage hardware capacity purchases for performance, environmentals (like power and space consumption), and cost. Then he ‘software defines’ that capacity into something useful – something that meets the needs of whatever particular use case he is trying to deal with. But is that really possible under a single, predictable software defined storage license? The best way I can think of to answer the question is to look at several of the most common use cases we see with our clients.

Perhaps the most widely deployed enterprise use case today is block SAN storage for the traditional workloads that all our businesses are built on – databases, email systems, ERP, customer relationship management and the like. Most IT managers know exactly what kind of storage capabilities they need to deploy for this use case. It’s stuff like:

Here’s the thing… This use case has been evolving for years and most IT managers have it deployed. The problem isn’t that the capabilities don’t exist. The problem is that the capabilities are most often tied directly to a specific piece of hardware. If you like a particular capability, the only way to get it is to buy that vendors hardware. It’s a hardware-defined model and you were locked in. With IBM Spectrum Storage, IBM has securely unboxed with software defined. All the capabilities I just mentioned can be accomplished with one IBM Spectrum Storage Suite software license and you have complete flexibility to pick whatever hardware vendor or tier you like. The idea of software defined changes everything. With the software securely unboxed from the hardware, you really are free to choose whatever hardware you want from most any vendor you like. And since the software can stay the same even while hardware is changing, it means you don’t experience any operational or procedural tax when you make those changes.

All of the capabilities mentioned above for addressing this Block SAN storage for traditional workloads use case can be accomplished with one IBM Spectrum Storage Suite software license. This may be the most widely deployed use case today, but it’s not the fastest growing use case. In my next posts, I’ll continue looking at the wide variety of use cases that are covered by the simple, predictable IBM Spectrum Storage Suite software defined storage license.

Are you interested in taking the first step with software defined storage? Contact your IBM Business Partner or sales representative. And join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite – Revolutionizing How IT Managers License Software Defined Storage

About a year age IBM shook up the software defined storage world with IBM Spectrum Storage.  It was the industry’s first complete family of software defined storage offerings that could drive cost efficiency and total management across most all the needs an IT manager might have:

IBM Spectrum Storage Family Tall

  • Software defined storage for traditional workloads like database, email and ERP systems as well as new-gen workloads like analytic, mobile, Big Data, cloud and Cognitive business.
  • Capabilities needed for primary data as well as backup or archive copies.
  • Access via block, file and object protocols.
  • Operating on heterogeneous storage hardware from most any vendor – traditional SAN storage infrastructure as well as newer scale out infrastructure with storage-rich servers.
  • …all nicely integrated with a consistent set of interfaces and vocabulary.

 

In a world where much of this type of capability had been tied to some piece of hardware – hardware defined storage – IBM had securely unboxed storage and forever changed storage economics. In the last year, over 2,000 brand new clients have started with IBM Spectrum Storage. Through those conversations, we’ve learned two important things about how enterprises are approaching software defined storage – things that have led us to revolutionize how software defined storage is licensed.

  1. CFO’s are exasperated with the unpredictability of storage and storage software licensing. IT managers generally have a good feel for what type of capabilities they need to accomplish the use cases they want. But have you ever paused to think about how confusing it must be for them to figure out exactly how much software they need to license? Think about it from the perspective of someone not using IBM Spectrum Storage.
    • SAN Virtualization software can be licensed starting with a per frame base and then adding a per TB managed
    • Storage Resource Management software can be licensed per system and per tiered-TB
    • Backup software can be licensed per operating platform or application and then adding a per TB
    • Data stores for Virtual Machines can be licensed per server and per VM
    • Deduplication software can be licensed per system
    • …and the list can go on. If the IT manager can figure out how much of this stuff he wants at a given point in time, how is a CFO supposed to predict future costs?
  2. IT managers are dealing with transition in storage infrastructure. What software they need can shift rapidly. Most IT managers reading this post are responsible for estates of SAN storage. For the traditional workloads that our businesses are built on, this has been the dominant storage infrastructure approach for years. But there is a transition well underway. Who hasn’t been impacted by newer mobile and cloud workloads? What company or organization isn’t looking to make better use of Big Data and analytic workloads? These applications are being built to take advantage of a different kind of storage infrastructure, one that is characterized by direct-attach JBODs and fields of servers with lots of internal capacity, and really none of it connected to a SAN. IDC data suggests that IT managers are now purchasing more TB’s of this type of storage than they are SAN storage, and the trend isn’t likely to ever change. In many enterprises, the capacity mix is shifting from traditional SAN to newer storage-rich servers. The transition presents a challenge in storage software licensing. When physical infrastructure shifts from big SAN-attached storage systems to scale-out storage-rich servers, the types of capabilities needed don’t change dramatically, but the specific vendor software packages change a lot. Instead of a virtualizer for block SAN storage, an IT manager might need to shift toward offerings that software-define his field of storage-rich servers into something useful like performance optimized file storage for analytics, an integrated VMware block data store, or cost optimized object storage for backup and archive. This is all new and the rate of change is unknown – and that presents a challenge. Flexibility is paramount.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite SymbolWith IBM Spectrum Storage Suite, IT managers now have a simple and predictable licensing model for the entire IBM Spectrum Storage family. Its straightforward per-TB pricing relates costs to the amount of storage capacity being software-defined, regardless of use case. That makes it easy for IT managers to grow and transition how they use storage, and for CFOs to predict costs. And with the Suite, clients can save up to 40% compared with licensing all capabilities separately.

Consider a typical enterprise starting with its existing SAN storage infrastructure but rapidly growing a new kind of infrastructure for new workloads. In most datacenters this transition is coming, but few really understand how fast or exactly which use cases will emerge. There’s going to be some experimentation and rapid change.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite evolving use case 1Attempting to navigate the next few years using a’ la carte licenses of point products from multiple vendors is going to be difficult. In fact, CFO’s are going to push back against the unpredictability and may ration what software can be licensed. That can slow down innovation. IBM Spectrum Storage Suite offers cost predictability and frees IT managers to exploit any IBM Spectrum Storage capability required to get the job done.

IBM Spectrum Storage Suite evolving use case 2Let’s suppose you are an IT manager at the front end of this picture. You’ve deployed Block SAN storage for traditional workloads as your first IBM Spectrum Storage Suite use case. Now you want to explore another use case. Well, with IBM Spectrum Storage Suite you already own entitlement to all capabilities in the IBM Spectrum Storage family, so you are free to download any of the software you like. To help you quickly adopt the additional use cases your business may need, IBM Spectrum Storage Suite licensing offers the ability to perform extended tests in an evaluation sandbox proving ground without additional charge. So go ahead, experiment with your next use case. Prove it, become familiar with it, pay for it when it’s deployed for productive use.

Are you interested in taking the first step with software defined storage? Contact your IBM Business Partner or sales representative. And join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #softwaredefined

How software defined is changing storage economics

About a year ago, IBM’s bold move into software defined storage changed how IT looks at storage. The introduction of IBM Spectrum Storage incorporated more than 700 patents and was backed by plans to invest more than $1 billion over the next five years toward propelling the use of software defined storage in any form – as software, appliance or cloud service.

To better understand why this is redefining the economics of storage and helping IT optimize cost, performance and security, consider some of what IBM Spectrum Storage is bringing to the IT landscape.

Introducing…
In February, IBM introduced the IBM Spectrum Storage family, the first comprehensive family of software defined storage offerings that can centrally manage yottabytes of data on more than 300 different storage devices.
(Related: Introducing IBM Spectrum Storage – Inside Perspective)

Efficiency and speed
As workloads like cloud, analytic, mobile, social, and Big Data began affecting scale, performance and cost requirements, it became clear that traditional IT infrastructures had to change. Software defined can be used with common building block storage to construct file and object systems built for efficiency and optimized for speed.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Scale – Built for Efficiency, Optimized for Speed)

Implemented in minutes
The same dynamic is also at work in the block storage that dominates today’s enterprise datacenters. The genius of software defined storage is that the complete set of enterprise storage capabilities available on high end arrays is now available for IT managers to leverage on common building block hardware.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Accelerate – Enterprise Storage in Minutes)

SAN storage efficiency doubled
Despite the rapid growth in newer cloud, analytic, mobile, social and big data workloads, more than half of the worldwide spend is still on traditional SAN storage, the choice for more traditional workloads like transaction systems, email, supply chain, HR and virtual servers. Software defined storage can help IT managers gain a great deal of efficiency in this part of the data center.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Virtualize – Traditional SAN Storage at Twice the Efficiency)

Intelligent analytics
Whether it’s the traditional workloads we have all grown up with or the new generation workloads, it’s well understood that there is a mismatch between data growth and the budgets that are allocated to deal with the problem. Software defined storage can provide IT managers with intelligent analytics for managing storage.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Control – Intelligent Analytics for Managing Storage)

Dramatic cost reduction
A looming question for many IT managers is just how efficiently the job of data protection can be done. They want to minimize the budget for data copies so they can shift investment to new business growth initiatives. Software defined storage can be, on average, 38 percent more efficient.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Protect – Crash Diet for Your Data Protection Budget)

Ultra-low cost and flexibility
Data growth is being fueled by new workloads and their seemingly insatiable need for data to process. But in many enterprises, even more of the data growth is the result of simply keeping data around – stuff like regulatory archives you have to keep and asset archives you just want to keep. Software defined storage can balance the convenience of online access with ultra-low cost and flexibility.
(Related: IBM Spectrum Archive – Ultra-low Cost Storage for Retaining Data)

How is software defined changing your approach to storage? Connect with me on Twitter at @RonRiffe, and join the conversation with #IBMStorage and #SoftwareDefined.

Originally posted June 1, 2015 on the IBM SmarterComputing blog

She’s Married! A Daddy’s Speech

Friday Night at the reception for our daughter’s wedding, I had the opportunity to do something every father should have the privilege of experiencing. I got to stand at the front of a ballroom and tell the story of my child. As I scanned the audience it was like watching the movie of our lives. Every face held a happy memory. When I was done speaking, several folks encouraged me to write down what was just said. So here you go…

Before I start, I just want to say a personal THANK YOU to my sweet wife Staci, who has invested a tremendous amount of time, and energy, and emotion into making this a perfect evening for Brenna and Austin. Nicely done sweetheart!

Riffe Pennington 3Riffe Pennington 4Riffe Pennington 1Riffe Pennington 2

With that, I can now officially say “welcome to the after party!”

I haven’t yet had the privilege of meeting each of you, but those of you who I know and who I have met so far have reconfirmed for me that God has indeed been good to Brenna and Austin. For all of their lives He has surrounded them with family, and friends, and mentors, and teachers who have helped to mold and shape them into the extraordinary couple they are today. Thank you for investing in their lives. And thank you for being here to share this evening with them!

I have something important I want to say about Austin. To get there though, I need to first paint you a picture of Brenna. It will take three quick stories. But before I start, Staci asked me to read this statement.

“The views and opinions expressed in this speech are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the entire wedding party. The author is getting along in years, some events and timelines may have become jumbled. Audience interested in exact historical accuracy should consult with the author’s wife. The author is also the daddy of his baby girl, most memories are colored by an understandable bias.”

Brenna has always been a very obedient and respectful child. She was that child… you know the cabinet in the kitchen with all the pots and pans. We told her “don’t get in that” and she was like “okay…”. We never had to put the child safety locks on anything. She was just that kind of a child.  Brenna preschoolWhen she was little, still preschool age, she started using some phrase that wasn’t very becoming of a young lady. Staci and I were talking recently trying to remember what that phrase was – for the life of us we can’t remember. Whatever it was, we were trying to break her of the habit. So we had told her… “Brenna, the next time you say that, we are going to wash your mouth out with soap.” Sometime after that threat, we were busy getting dinner ready in the kitchen when we heard her use the phrase again. I looked at her and sort of sternly said. “Brenna Anne, what did we tell you about using that phrase”. She immediately ducked her little head and apologized… I was satisfied so we went back to fixing dinner. It wasn’t just a few moments later that I heard her in the hall bathroom gagging. We ran around the corner to find her standing there on her little stool holding a bar of soap and rubbing it on her tongue… I know… worst parent ‘ever’ award right here!

When she was in the later years of elementary school, around that time when boys are miraculously cured of their coodies, we sat Brenna down and sort of laid out some rules for dating. Brenna middle schoolNo boyfriends right now… No holding hands until middle school… No kissing until high school… True to her character, she accepted and respected what we had told her.  You can imagine my surprise on that last day of 8th grade when I learned she had… had her first kiss. I said “Brenna, you know what we talked about. No kissing until high school” to which she answered… with a BIG smile on her face… “Daddy, middle school was over three hours ago, I am in high school!”…   Note to self… must be more specific!

When it came time for her to go to college, we were quite pleased that she chose Texas A&M University.  Brenna collegeAnd not just because it’s the alma mater of her parents. Staci and I have worked with students in our church long enough to know that all too often, when high school kids head off to college, many of them leave their faith at home. Texas A&M is not only a very conservative university, it also has one of the largest on-campus Christian movements in the nation.  So before Brenna left, we told her two things. First, surround yourself with Christian girl friends who will encourage you in your faith and who will keep you accountable in your walk with the Lord.  The ladies in the wedding party standing behind me are who Brenna surrounded herself with. Several of them are from a club she joined called Aggie Sisters for Christ. All of them have encouraged her in her faith and kept her accountable.

Brenna and her inner circle “Girls, thank you for being her inner circle!”…   She had done exactly what we asked her to.

The second thing we said was, “if you decide to date – when you decide to date, look for a guy whose heart is after the Lord, somebody who at least has the potential to someday lead his home spiritually.”

The summer before her Junior year – notice I didn’t say it was ‘after her Sophomore year’ because that had been over for at least three hours… not gonna make that mistake again… — anyway, before her Junior year, she decided to go with our church as a sponsor to children’s camp. Brenna is an elementary education major and I’m thinking… “elementary education major… week at children’s camp… seems like a good match.” When she came home, I asked how her week with the little kids was. She said “Oh daddy, it was great, I found a boyfriend!”…  Now, I did remind her that she was a 20 year old woman and there were laws against her dating grade school kids. To which she said “Daddy, he’s not in grade school, he’s already a teenager!”… I’m thinking “Oh, gooooood…” Now this particular children’s camp is down in the general vicinity of College Station TX where Texas A&M is so I’m hoping maybe this ‘already a teenager’ is ‘already a teenager’ enough to be an underclassman at Texas A&M who just has a summer job at the camp. So, with my fingers crossed, I asked “What school does he go to?”… “The University of Texas!”… (for readers who don’t know, the University of Texas Longhorns are the oldest and deepest rival of the Texas A&M Aggies. Just listen to the Aggie War Hymn)

TAMU vs UTAt that point I can’t contain myself any more. “What the…? I send you to Texas A&M University where there are 50,000 full grown men who are good Aggies and you come home with a teenage longhorn from a children’s camp?!?”  She says “Daddy, you didn’t say anything about how old he had to be or what school he needed to come from…”

“… Daddy… what you said was… find a man after God’s own heart… A man who will lead me… and lead our home… and lead our children in pursuit of the Lord… You know me daddy, I did what you said… His name is Austin Pennington.”

Proverbs 23:24 says “The father of a godly child has cause for joy.”  Amen to that!

“Brian and Jennifer (parents of the groom), thank you for raising your son to be a friend of God! Staci and I… with Austin, our hearts are full!”

“Austin, do you remember what we talked about the night you asked Staci and me for permission to marry Brenna? Well, it’s time dude. About an hour ago, you became the spiritual leader of a brand new household. I want you to choose this day whom you will serve!”

“Brenna, your momma and I pretty much said all the words we know to say to you last night. But if, by some miracle, you missed it, we want you to know that it continues to be the high privilege of our lives to be known as your parents. You have done well baby girl!”

“A man after God’s heart… A woman of grace… Brenna & Austin PenningtonI want you to now go build a home centered on the Lord. Be a beacon to a world that desperately needs to see an example of a lifelong, God honoring marriage.”

With that, I’ll welcome you again and thank you for sharing this evening with Brenna and Austin. Let me pray for us and thank God for all He has done, then we can get on with enjoying the evening!