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IBM refreshes its SVC and storage array products

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May 12, 2014

IBM has refreshed its SVC (SAN Volume Controller) and Storwize storage array products, providing doubled processing power, boosting compression as well as increasing Storwize capacity to around 4 PB.

There are two detailed blogs about the new hardware and software, one from inventor Barry Whyte and the other from Tony Pearson, also an IBM inventor.

Pearson ventures this claim-- “Having sold over 55,000 systems and managing over 1.6 Exabytes of data, IBM continues to be the Number One leader in storage virtualisation solutions.”

That’s a claim that will be evaluated and probably denied by EMC, HDS and NetApp, and probably HP as well, but we'll have to see about that.

The Storwize family of products looks like this:

  • SAN Volume Controller (SVC)
  • Storwize V7000
  • Storwize V7000 Unified
  • Flex System V7000
  • Storwize V5000
  • Storwize V3700
  • V3500
  • SVC refresh
  • The SVC 2145-DH8 follows on from the previous 2145-CG8 product, which came in a 1U X86 server node enclosures, with each needing cache protection as well.

    So we now have a 2U device which contains two hot-swap batteries instead of the separate UPS. It also has a new engine featuring:

  • Dual socket 8 core Xeon CPU based on the Ivy Bridge core design and additional 32 GB RAM
  • One or two compression cards with Intel QuickAssist chip to speed compression and replace previous SW-only compression
  • The ability to attach up to 48 SSDs via 12 Gigs SAS cables instead of having four smaller SSDs inside the node as before
  • Up to six Hardware Interface Cards (HICs) that provide either 8 Gigs FCP, 10 Gigs iSCSI/FCoE, or SAS plus 3 x 1 GigE ports for iSCSI and admin
  • Overall, IBM is the first array supplier to bring Intel’s Quick Assist chip to market.

    The 48 SSDs are inserted into a separate 2U shelf, based on the new Storwize 12 Gigs SAS expansion enclosure, which provides up to 38.4 TB of flash storage for an SVC IO group.

    The old 2145-CG8 SVC can be upgraded to the new product or it can be added in to an existing SVC cluster if needed.

    Whyte says-- "The DH8 provides around 2x the IOPs and up to 3x the GB/sec of the CG8. Watch out for some new SPC benchmarks to prove this soon."

    In other IT news

    Yet another company is making a bet that platform-as-a-services clouds are the future and Amazon Web Services' infrastructure-as-a-service technology is the past.

    This time its VMware's subsidiary Pivotal which has launched a "Pivotal Web Services" cloud based on its own Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service to take on equivalent services from Google (App Engine), Amazon (AWS Elastic Beanstalk), Salesforce (Heroku), and Microsoft (Azure).

    PWS runs on top of CloudFoundry 6 (CF 6), which is a PaaS service with open source elements. PaaS's allows developers less control over underlying infrastructure but claim to make application deployment significantly easier.

    CF is written in Go (its predecessor was made in Ruby), and Pivotal says this gives it greater and faster performance.

    Initially though, the PaaS supports apps written in Ruby, Node.js., and Java, but developers can add their own applications and runtimes by building "Custom Buildpacks".

    "Overall, Buildpacks are a convenient way of packaging framework and/or runtime support for your applications," Pivotal explains.

    "For example, by default, Cloud Foundry does not support Python, or a Python framework like Django. Using a buildpack for Python and Django would allow you to add support for these at the deployment stage," added Pivotal.

    Buildpacks are one of the keys to Pivotal's overall technology strategy, which sees the company take a different approach from those of its rivals.

    Pricing has been designed to be substantially lower than its competitors, with Pivotal's pricing for its service working out to about $10.80 per month versus Amazon's $35.27.

    Though the company's comparison isn't exactly correct as it stands now, as AWS's "Elastic Load Balancer" has different characteristics to its "HTTP Routing and Balancing", it serves as a good rough estimate for where the service fits.

    PWS also comes with a "Services Marketplace", which means that people can easily integrate and pay for additional technology such as ClearDB's MySQL Database or SendGrid for email delivery, or a MongoDB-as-a-Service technology from MongoLab, and so on.

    But overall, Pivotal Web Services is a serious bet by VMware that it can succeed in a cloud world. The main emphasis of the company is on-premises installs wrapped in a pricy package of consultation.

    It's also worth remembering that we've been here before-- both Google and Microsoft's early cloud services were both platform-as-a-service systems, and they failed to make the companies significant sums of money.

    Both have since developed infrastructure-as-a-service platforms as part of a Plan B for greater revenue.

    In other IT news

    IBM has released a new Phase Change Memory product research and demo effort-- a hybrid PCM/NAND server flash card that has at least twelve times lower latency than an enterprise PCIe flash card.

    The hybrid card completed 99.9 percent of write requests within 240 microseconds, equal to 1 millionth of a second. A consumer-class SSD took 275 times longer before it started writing the data in the test IBM used.

    Phase Change Memory (PCM) uses a chemical state change (from amorphous to crystalline) in a chalcogenide alloy, with the differing resistance levels of the two states signalling a binary 1 or 0.

    The change in state is caused by controlled heating. PCM has been trumpeted as a follow-on technology to NAND, which is running out of acceptable error rates and endurance as cell geometry shrinks below 16 nm.

    PCM cells can be written or reprogrammed to at least 106 times. The performance and price characteristics of PCM lie between DRAM and NAND.

    But overall, producing PCM has been problematic at the best of times, partly because it has a relatively high write latency, and so this IBM Research demonstration is significant.

    Ioannis Koltsidas, a semiconductor memory boffin at IBM's Zurich labs, in conjunction with colleagues there and at the University of Patras, built a hybrid PCIe card furnished with both NAND and PCM and tested its performance.

    They called it a Prototype Storage Subsystem (PSS). Micron P5Q 128 Mbit PCM chips were used with 90nm technology nodes. These were commercially available when the project started at the end of 2012.

    The write time for a sector I/O (512B + 64B) was 1.15 msecs with the read time being 75.24 µsecs so it's a tad asymmetrical.

    More sub-banks on the card make for a better write performance while more sub-channels improve the read performance.

    Source: IBM.

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