EDGE 2014 Conference
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  Posted June 16th, 2014 by Zdenko  in Edmonton, Travel | No comments yet.

Technology review

By: Zdenko Kahlina

I was in Vegas again… for IBM Edge Conference
I hope you didn’t look for me at my office the week of May 19th. I was at IBM Edge Technical conference, happening at the Sands Expo conference center and Venetian Hotel in sunny Las Vegas. This event was a storage focused user conference organized by giant of IT industry – IBM.

DSCN4495Zdenko in front of Venetian Hotel and Casino resort in Las Vegas

Conference insights
I was heading to Vegas with my expectations high. I have been to several Edge events since they were initiated and I have never been disappointed by the quality of the show, the content of the presentations, the knowledge of the participants, or the style of the entertainment. This year, I was also excited to see Sheryl Crow, as she was one of the featured acts in the entertainment category.

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IBM Edge has grown to more than 4,200 attendees and 55 countries representing 22 industries. Industry best practices. There were more than 550 technical sessions for all levels of professionals taught by IBM engineers, leading product experts, clients and other experts. There were classes even on Sunday and many hands-on labs were available during the conference. Conferences of this size and scale are not held in Canada. Although they are held in other world-wide destinations, the US locations are the closest available to canadians.

DSCN4503Zdenko in front of daily conference schedule

Victoria day in Vegas
Open to all Canadian Clients and Business Partners, IBM was a host to Victoria day celebrations in Vegas. On Sunday evening (before the conference) IBM organized Dinner at Buddy V’s Restaurant at The Venetian Resort. I was surprised to see more than 200 Canadians attending this event. IBM invited some of the industry’s top analysts and press at an invitation-only reception. Thank you guys for the invitation! I would have never imagined this many Canadians were attending the conference. Good food (and beer) was served during the event as people were socializing and exchanging their professional experiences.

DSCN4520Private party at ‘Buddy’s restaurant for Canadians.

During the conference IBM organized several other events but I just didn’t have time to attend all of them. Probably the coolest part of the opening general session was listening to comedian Tom Cotter and an eleven-year old prodigy guitarist named Brandon Niederauer who rocked the big stage at the opening session. Brandon “Taz” Niederauer is a young guitarist/vocalist who has stunned crowds standing toe to toe with the pros, leaving them ALL asking for more! When asked if he wants to be like some other famous guitarists, his response was:  ‘I don’t want to be like anyone, I just want to be me’, he said.

DSCN462711 year old guitarist Brandon Niederauer rocks at IBM Edge opening general session.

Reflections on the IBM Edge
After a week at the conference I am already looking back at what has been a very valuable experience. As with years past Edge was packed with great sessions, presenters, networking and entertainment. It is difficult to try and focus on just a couple key items, but here is my attempt.

Key early message at IBM Edge was that “infrastructure matters“! No matter what you hear about the cloud and flash technologies, it has to run on hardware. Everything virtual runs on something physical! 1 yottabyte (!) of data is already managed by IBM and all that data resides on some hardware. They shipped over 100+ Petabytes of Flash technology in less than a year. Infrastructure matters!

DSCN4579Edge 2014 – Infrastructure matters!

Now, those of you that read my blog regularly will know that I attend one technical conference every year and often like to have a little time to reflect after these big industry shindigs, before I put my thoughts down. I want to try to see the bigger picture, or at least what will be the lasting changes – not so much what gets immediately reported, but what will be impacting a vendor, the market, and me as a user for years to come. I was also there with specific task to explore the market and learn about latest enterprise storage subsystem technologies, because my company will be looking for one of these ‘black frames’ (they all look the same these days) by the end of this year. Our data growth is estimated at 35% per year and we need more storage and newer technology to manage it.

You can read the impressions of other bloggers regarding the IBM Edge 2014 but everyone is talking about the major theme of the Edge conference, that ‘Infrastructure matters’! IBM clearly understands that and you get the distinct impression that it has a huge number of underlying tools, technologies, products, and ideas to make manifest its desire to be a real storage leader in the next phase of IT. In other words, the raw materials exist. Again, I am not talking about the newly announced products per se (though the progress of multiple flash implementations and Storwize are excellent) but about the fact that IBM seems to understand that the future of storage is built around 3 things – software definition, economy, and open-ness – that were not traditionally the first things one thought of when hearing the name IBM, but that it has quietly and completely embraced.

PureData System for Analytics is thirstyPureData System for Analytics is thirsty

Software Defined Everything
There has been a lot of discussion around the Software Defined Data Center. I am not talking the standard “market lecture” that most people are used to; there has been genuine information from multiple points of view on the whole concept. It’s refreshing to see IBM Edge allow such a wide variety of presenters to help develop the full picture rather than simply pushing multiple sessions repeating the same canned message. It does seem that the SDDC (or SDS, SDN, SDE, etc) will at least lead to some better management tools across the board.

During the IBM Edge Conference in Las Vegas, the main theme was on how Infrastructure Matters to Cloud, Analytic, Mobile and Social. I spent the majority of the time in the Storage sessions where I got to hear great sessions on:

  • New Generation of Storage Tiering
  • Flash in the Data center, SSDs, Caching
  • System Storage DS8000 and SVC best practices
  • The World of Flash
  • What’s New in IBM SAN Volume Controller
  • IBM DS8870 ATS Configuration
  • Real Time Compression and Virtualization Benefits
  • Cloud: Infrastructure Matters for Private, Public, or Hybrid

There were too many sessions to mention them all. My agenda also included sessions on Data Protection and Data Security as well as more details of the storage platforms such as DS8870, XIV, V7000 and a ‘Meet the Experts’ session on Storage. With over 550 sessions available, the hardest part about attending Edge was deciding what session to attend. Thankfully they provide online access to presentations from most of the sessions available so even after the conference I could still get some of the information from the sessions I could not attend.

DSCN4628IBM PureSystems – IBM Impact and one beautiful hostess

IBM DS8870 Enterprise Disk Subsystem
The main reason I was at the conference was to observe other’s opinions on the latest IBM disk subsystem  and learn about its features. In a nut shell this disk subsystem upgrades the existing computing hardware in every aspect: adds more cache and improves energy efficiency over the older disk storage subsystems. This is the 5th generation of the popular DS8000 series that dates back to 2004 and the System Storage DS8300.

The IBM DS8870 specifications
It all starts with the changeover to the new POWER7 processing chip running at ~3.6 GHz. With this new microprocessor the DS8870 now supports 2 to 16 cores per controller. It appears the more cache installed in a system, the more processing cores are available for code execution. Furthermore, the DS8870 supports up to 1024GB (1TB) of DRAM cache. This should help the more cache friendly workloads that many enterprises encounter these days. At 1TB it’s almost 3x more cache than what was available previously with the DS8800.

DSCN4546That’s my ‘puppy’ – DS8870 disk subsystem loaded with FlashSystem

Also, IBM redesigned the DS8870 for higher energy efficiency. The new system with 1,536 drives, running 100% read miss workload (worst case) is ~20% more energy efficient than a similarly configured DS8800. In addition, self-encrypting drives which previously had been optional now come standard on all DS8870 storage. This provides for scalable disk and SSD drive encryption of data-at-rest for environments that need extra security and supplies safe, cryptographically secure destruction of customer data in seconds rather than days. Finally, the DS8870 rack has dedicated space for IBM’s new Ultlra SSD I/O drawer. This is for the new dense flash memory configuration – IBM FlashSystems 840. This feature is now installed in every DS8870 disk subsystem.

IBM DS8870 performance
With all the new processing power and increased cache one would think I/O performance would improve as well. Indeed, the new DS8870 provides over 1.8x better sequential read throughput and 2.8x better database like open systems IOPS performance. The DS8870 does slightly better on System z, with z IOPS coming in at 3.1x better. All performance comparisons were based against a DS8800 system.

IBM Mainframe_2014IBM’s Solution Center at Sands Expo

IBM FlashSystem
We are now at a tipping for Flash. IBM FlashSystem can perform I/O in about 100 microseconds, which is roughly 10x faster than solid state drives (SSD), and 50x faster than spinning disk. For those clients who value performance, this can easily justify its use.

Take for example an IBM Power system running DB2 PureScale application with 43,000 transactions per second, including 13,000 updates per second, that result in 1.3 million IOPS to the back-end storage. This can be accomplished with either (a) all-disk 5,000 spinning disk spindles, (b) hybrid 2,500 spinning disk spindles combined with 128 solid state drives (SSD), or (c) IBM FlashSystem. The comparisons are astounding. The IBM FlashSystem solution is 11x less expensive than the hybrid system, and 14x less expensive than the all-disk solution. The solution also uses 26x less energy, and 80x less space in the data center.

infrastructure mattersIBM’s Solution Center at Sands Expo – Infrastructure Matters!

New IBM Storwize, XIV, Tape library & Flash storage products announced
At IBM Edge Conference, IBM announced new and enhanced capabilities across its storage portfolio. Advances in its Storwize, XIV, tape library and Flash storage products can optimize storage for large-scale cloud deployments through virtualization, real-time compression, easy-tiering and mirroring, and provide clients fast access to information.

Available in the second quarter, the new high-performance storage solutions include:

  • IBM Storwize V7000 Unified has been enhanced with new clustering capabilities, Real-time Compression, and Active Cloud Engine to help clients manage growing amounts of data. The system now supports two times the storage capacity of previous models, or 4 petabytes;
  • IBM XIV Cloud Storage for Service Providers delivers a cost-efficient infrastructure and pay-per-use pricing model for Business Partners that reduces the initial cost of the system by as much as 40 percent. Also, IBM previewed new features such as XIV multi-tenancy, enhanced data security and improved cloud economics through the partition of XIV storage into logical domains assigned to distinct tenants;
  • TS4500 Tape Library enables large-scale cloud deployments with a data architecture that maintains high utilization and can back up three times more cloud data in the same footprint;
  • IBM DS8870 Flash enclosure offers up to three and one-half times faster flash performance requiring 50 percent less space and 12 percent less energy.

In related storage news, scientists at IBM Research – Zurich, in cooperation with the FUJIFILM Corporation of Japan, announced they have demonstrated 85.9 billion bits per square inch, a new record in areal data density on low-cost linear magnetic particulate tape – a significant update to one of the computer industry’s most resilient, reliable and affordable data storage technologies for Big Data. To learn more about the critical technologies developed by IBM Researchers to achieve this record, visit here.

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At Edge 2014, IBM introduced new and updated storage and systems offerings for cloud, big data, analytics and mobile workloads.
IBM has released preliminary study findings of 750 global organizations that show that less than 10 percent are fully prepared to address the proliferation of cloud computing, analytics, mobile devices, and social media, so Big Blue is providing new systems to help them.

Building on last week’s Software Defined Storage launch, in which IBM announced new software that enables organizations to access any data from any device and from anywhere in the world, the company today announced new and enhanced capabilities across its storage portfolio. Advances in its Storwize, XIV, tape library and Flash storage products can optimize storage for large-scale cloud deployments through virtualization, real-time compression, easy-tiering and mirroring, and provide clients fast access to information.

“Big data is the transformative force driving every element of our clients’ computing infrastructure – starting with environments of traditional applications blended with the new requirements of social, mobile and analytic workloads that demand faster access at massive scale,” said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM Systems & Technology Group and IBM Integrated Supply Chain, in a statement. “The continued advances of our portfolio provide clients with a fast and easy way to close the gap between their data, the business decisions they have to make, and the mandate to use information to provide more personalized experiences for their customers.”

DSCN4557Edge 2015 again in Vegas

There are already plans for IBM Edge 2015 which will return to the Venetian, May 11th – 15th. It should be another great conference if the past three years are any indication. You can read my reviews of the 2013 EDGE conference here and 2012 SHARE conference in Anaheim here.

DSCN4675Yes… the rumors were true. We all soak up the sun in Vegas and enjoyed the Tuesday night Sheryl Crow concert.

Sheryl Crow concert
The nine-time Grammy winner, Sheryl Crow performed as a quest at the EDGE Conference. She shared her hits and some of her favorite tunes with the IT people on Sands Expo stage. It was an excellent performance by a gifted and very likeable artist and her talented band (the drummer was amazing!). As I was watching her from the front row, somehow Lance Armstrong’s face kept coming to my mind. The well-known disgraced cyclist was dating Sheryl for few years during his dominance at the Tour de France.

DSCN4663Sheryl Crow during her performance at the Edge conference

Her repertoire included her lighthearted hits “Soak Up The Sun,” “Every day is a Winding Road,” and her debut single “All I Wanna Do,” along with her more thought-provoking compositions “Redemption Day,” “Home,” “Let’s Get Free,” and “I Shall Believe.” The highlights of this performance were two of her early hits from her first album Tuesday Night Music Club: “Strong Enough” and “Leaving Las Vegas,” and her cover of the Cat Steven’s-penned “The First Cut is the Deepest.” She was on stage singing song after song for almost 2 hours.

My final thoughts
I think the Edge 2014 conference was a huge success. More than 4,200 technical people attended the conference in person and many more participated via the conference live stream. Edge2014 featured over 550 technical sessions, client success stories, top shelf entertainment and around-the-clock networking. One of the things I loved most about the Edge sessions were the excellent client speakers and success stories that really brought home the real world use cases on how companies today are using PureSystems to accelerate and simplify their move to Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, and Social to realize tangible business results.

DSCN4536Food catering was perfect!

Almost perfect organization of all events during these five days made us very satisfied. I still wonder how they managed to feed so many people within one hour lunch break. By the way, food was delicious. Hats down to Venetian hotel staff! We all left Edge 2014 with the skills needed to manage storage growth, accelerate cloud deployments, unlock insights from big data, and secure critical information and processes to achieve real business results.

At the end of this review I should mention the weather was fantastic for the whole week, so I decided to extend my stay in Vegas for several days after the conference. Sitting by the hotel pool and drinking their very expensive exotic drinks, made me wonder about this amazing city in the middle of the Nevada desert that’s been driven solely by money!

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