IBM Spectrum Scale – Built For Efficiency, Optimized For Speed

The pioneers in the cloud movement have blazed a new trail when it comes to physical infrastructure. I briefly discussed their Pets vs Cattle approach in my post Introducing IBM Spectrum Storage – Inside Perspective. These guys thought about the scale, performance, and cost requirements that would be driven by workloads like cloud, analytic, mobile, social, and Big Data, and they decided that traditional infrastructures had to change. IBM Spectrum Scale Built for efficiency Optimized for speedWe needed a new way of doing things that utilized much lower cost common building blocks with almost unlimited increments in scalability. Something built for efficiency and optimized for speed. A software defined storage layer that crafts these common storage building blocks into massively scalable and deeply capable storage systems is IBM Spectrum Scale.

To do the job, this layer of storage software must have a couple of important attributes.

  1. Software defined storage has to cobble together common building blocks into a reliable storage system that quickly delivers data to workloads over a variety of protocols. The technology behind IBM Spectrum Scale began in IBM research over 20 years ago and earned its stripes with some of the most demanding scientific, digital media, and Big Data workloads on the planet. IBM Spectrum Scale common building blocksToday, it’s the software defined storage layer behind many of the 500 most powerful computer systems in the world. With the rise of cloud, analytic, mobile, and social workloads, we have been adapting additional file and object protocols to this extreme scale and performance. IBM Spectrum Scale can now deliver data over POSIX, NFS, a Hadoop connector and the OpenStack Swift object interface with more protocols being added regularly. I’ll talk about block protocols in future posts on IBM Spectrum Virtualize and IBM Spectrum Accelerate.
  2. Software defined storage has to deliver the kind of data management and security capabilities required to keep common building block infrastructures running efficiently. Snapshots, replication and encryption have become table stakes. IT managers now look for distinguishing characteristics like sophisticated tiering policies that can take disk-based data and move it ‘up’ to Flash storage or Flash cache on the computer where the workload is running, and ‘down’ to tape and the cloud. You can find all these capabilities in IBM Spectrum Scale and that’s good, but they are capabilities that have a somewhat single-site feel to them. “My data is here on-premises – make a snapshot, encrypt it, move it to another tier”. The cloud adds a more global dimension to storage. IBM Spectrum Scale AFMIBM Spectrum Scale capitalizes on this idea buy enabling IT managers to connect Spectrum Scale instances across an enterprise or around the world to create a single inventory of data with policies that define the location and flow of files – moving the right data to the right place at the right time [Learn more here]. Importantly, because this global namespace can house something like 9 quintillion files (did I mention high scale?) for varying workloads with different data management needs, IBM Spectrum Scale enables IT managers to apply data management and security policies to individual sets of files.

As the public cloud pioneers observed, a key is the ability to utilize common building block storage hardware. I’ll give you a practical example. IBM Spectrum Scale is software defined storage available as software, appliance or cloud service. IBM Elastic Storage ServerAn example appliance is the IBM Elastic Storage Server which combines Spectrum Scale software with dense, low cost, common building block disk drawers. The Elastic Storage Server also includes IBM Spectrum Scale RAID, a software implementation of declustered RAID where RAID is done at a block level as opposed to a disk level. As disks continue to get larger, traditional RAID begins to struggle and rebuild times can be measured in hours or days. IBM Spectrum Scale RAID measures rebuild times in minutes. Think about the implications for IT managers – a massively scalable and deeply capable storage system without a SAN or RAID controller, just software defined storage and a pile of dense JBOD drawers.  There is indeed a big shift taking place in the storage market.

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Introducing IBM Spectrum Storage – Inside Perspective

Blank Direction GuideEvery once in a long while there are discoveries that, well, change everything. Stuff like discovering the earth isn’t flat, it’s round. People talked about that possibility for centuries but it wasn’t until a Ferdinand Magellan expedition stepped out and circumnavigated the globe that everything changed. In some ways, today’s announcement of IBM® Spectrum Storage™  has done the same thing for the idea of software defined storage.

A good deal of the change we are experiencing in IT can be traced back to the advent of cloud computing. The pioneers in the cloud movement were public cloud providers like Amazon, RackSpace and SoftLayer. When compared to traditional IT infrastructures used by most private enterprises, these guys approached infrastructure in a completely new way. Microsoft engineer William Baker is credited for famously describing these two differing approaches as Pets vs Cattle. The analogy goes something like this:

In a traditional infrastructure, you think of machines as pets. You give them names and care for their well-being. When they get ill, you nurse them back to health. In a cloud infrastructure, you think of your machines as cattle. You give them numbers because they are all identical, and when one gets ill, you shoot it and get another cow.

The observation public cloud providers made was that cloud infrastructures should use cattle.

 

BOOM!  

 

 

From that point, the industry transition was on. Common building block hardware was on the rise. The ideas of availability and recovery, of scale and performance were being built into software rather than depending on a more expensive physical infrastructure to provide it.  Newer workloads for mobile, social, analytics and Big Data were being built with an expectation of software defined cattle infrastructure. For IT managers, it represented a big move that was going to take some re-thinking. For vendors like IBM who clients trust to help them through transitions like this, it represented an opportunity to focus.

compass 2014In 2014, you may have noticed a number of really bold moves IBM made that were all, in some way, tied to this transition. IBM’s System x server division joined Lenovo accelerating their journey toward becoming the #1 provider of x86 building block hardware. The OpenPOWER Foundation was established making IBM’s POWER microprocessor architecture and software available to open development. This is helping the industry build advanced server, networking, storage and graphics technology aimed at delivering more choice, control and flexibility to developers of next-generation cloud data centers. And GLOBALFOUNDRIES announced their intention to acquire IBM’s commercial semiconductor technology business allowing IBM to better focus on fundamental semiconductor research and the development of systems that will be used with the new cloud workloads. Innovation AheadCoupled with these moves, IBM has directed its considerable innovation in areas of client value where we excel, one of those being Software Defined Storage.

The industry has been talking about the idea of software defined storage for a while. For that matter, I’ve been talking about software defined storage for a while. But compared to today, this was all sort of like people talking about the world being round. Analysts proposed concepts, some vendors marketed their visions, there were even a few fairly successful point products…until today. Today, somebody stepped out and actually delivered the first comprehensive family of software defined storage offerings that can centrally manage yottabytes of data on more than 300 different storage devices – whether SAN and NAS “pet” infrastructure or common building block “cattle” infrastructure…  and everything changed.

The leaderAlready recognized as the #1 provider of software defined storage platforms, IBM’s introduction of IBM Spectrum Storage incorporates more than 700 patents and is 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. In coming weeks, I’ll be highlighting the members of the IBM Spectrum Storage software defined family.

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