Technology Tiering, Servers Storage and Snow Removal

February 8, 2010 – 6:17 am

Granted it is winter in the northern hemisphere and thus snow storms should not be a surprise.

However between December 2009 and early 2010, there has been plenty of record activity from in the U.K. (or here), to the U.S. east coast including New York, Boston and Washington DC, across the midwest and out to California, it made for a white christmas and SANta fun along with snow fun in general in the new year.

2010 Snow Storm via

What does this have to do with Information Factories aka IT resources including public or private clouds, facilities, server, storage, networking along with data management let alone tiering?

What does this have to do with tiered snow removal, or even snow fun?

Simple, different tools are needed for addressing various types of snow from wet and heavy to light powdery or dustings to deep downfalls. Likewise, there are different types of servers, storage, data networks along with operating systems, management tools and even hyper visors to deal with various application needs or requirements.

First, lets look at tiered IT resources (servers, storage, networks, facilities, data protection and hyper visors) to meet various efficiency, optimization and service level needs.

Do you have tiered IT resources?

Let me rephrase that question to do you have different types of servers with various performance, availability, connectivity and software that support various applications and cost levels?

Thus the whole notion of tiered IT resources is to be abe to have different resources that can be aligned to the task at hand in order to meet performance, availability, capacity, energy along with economic along with service level agreement (SLA) requirements.

Computers or servers are targeted for different markets including Small Office Home Office (SOHO), Small Medium Business (SMB), Small Medium Enterprise (SME) and ultra large scale or extreme scaling, including high performance super computing. Servers are also positioned for different price bands and deployment scenarios.

General categories of tiered servers and computers include:

  • Laptops, desktops and workstations
  • Small floor standing towers or rack mounted 1U and 2U servers
  • Medium sizes floor standing towers or larger rack mounted servers
  • Blade Centers and Blade Servers
  • Large size floor standing servers, including mainframes
  • Specialized fault tolerant, rugged and embedded processing or real time servers

Servers have different names email server, database server, application server, web server, and video or file server, network server, security server, backup server or storage server associated with them depending on their use. In each of the previous examples, what defines the type of server is the type of software is being used to deliver a type of service. Sometimes the term appliance will be used for a server; this is indicative of the type of service the combined hardware and software solution are providing. For example, the same physical server running different software could be a general purpose applications server, a database server running for example Oracle, IBM, Microsoft or Teradata among other databases, an email server or a storage server.

This can lead to confusion when looking at servers in that a server may be able to support different types of workloads thus it should be considered a server, storage, networking or application platform. It depends on the type of software being used on the server. If, for example, storage software in the form a clustered and parallel file system is installed on a server to create highly scalable network attached storage (NAS) or cloud based storage service solution, then the server is a storage server. If the server has a general purpose operating system such as Microsoft Windows, Linux or UNIX and a database on it, it is a database server.

While not technically a type of server, some manufacturers use the term tin wrapped software in an attempt to not be classified as an appliance, server or hardware vendor but want their software to be positioned more as a turnkey solution. The idea is to avoid being perceived as a software only solution that requires integration with hardware. The solution is to use off the shelf commercially available general purpose servers with the vendors software technology pre integrated and installed ready for use. Thus, tin wrapped software is a turnkey software solution with some tin, or hardware, wrapped around it.

How about the same with tiered storage?

That is different tiers (Figure 1) of fast high performance disk including RAM or flash based SSD, fast Fibre Channel or SAS disk drives, or high capacity SAS and SATA disk drives along with magnetic tape as well as cloud based backup or archive?

Tiered Storage Resources
Figure 1: Tiered Storage resources

Tiered storage is also sometimes thought of in terms large enterprise class solutions or midrange, entry level, primary, secondary, near line and offline. Not to be forgotten, there are also tiered networks that support various speeds, convergence, multi tenancy and other capabilities from IO Virtualization (IOV) to traditional LAN, SAN, MAN and WANs including 1Gb Ethernet (1GbE), 10GbE up to emerging 40GbE and 100GbE not to mention various Fibre Channel speeds supporting various protocols.

The notion around tiered networks is like with servers and storage to enable aligning the right technology to be used for the task at hand economically while meeting service needs.

Two other common IT resource tiering techniques include facilities and data protection. Tiered facilities can indicate size, availability, resiliency among other characteristics. Likewise, tiered data protection is aligning the applicable technology to support different RTO and RPO requirements for example using synchronous replication where applicable vs. asynchronous time delayed for longer distance combined with snapshots. Other forms of tiered data protection include traditional backups either to disk, tape or cloud.

There is a new emerging form of tiering in many IT environments and that is tiered virtualization or specifically tiered server hyper visors in virtual data centers with similar objectives to having different server, storage, network, data protection or facilities tiers. Instead of an environment running all VMware, Microsoft HyperV or Xen among other hyper visors may be deployed to meet different application service class requirements. For example, VMware may be used for premium features and functionality on some applications, where others that do not need those features along with requiring lower operating costs leverage HyperV or Zen based solutions. Taking the tiering approach a step further, one could also declare tiered databases for example Oracle legacy vs. MySQL or Microsoft SQLserver among other examples.

What about IT clouds, are those different types of resources, or, essentially an extension of existing IT capabilities for example cloud storage being another tier of data storage?

There is another form of tiering, particularly during the winter months in the northern hemisphere where there is an abundance of snow this time of the year. That is, tiered snow management, removal or movement technologies.

What about tiered snow removal?

Well lets get back to that then.

Like IT resources, there are different technologies that can be used for moving, removing, melting or managing snow.

For example, I cant do much about getting ready of snow other than pushing it all down the hill and into the river, something that would take time and lots of fuel, or, I can manage where I put snow piles to be prepared for next storm, plus, to help put it where the piles of snow will melt and help avoid spring flood. Some technologies can be used for relocating snow elsewhere, kind of like archiving data onto different tiers of storage.

Regardless of if snowstorm or IT clouds (public or private), virtual, managed service provider (MSP), hosted or traditional IT data centers, all require physical servers, storage, I/O and data networks along with software including management tools.

Granted not all servers, storage or networking technology let alone software are the same as they address different needs. IT resources including servers, storage, networks, operating systems and even hyper visors for virtual machines are often categorized and aligned to different tiers corresponding to needs and characteristics (Figure 2).

Tiered IT Resources
Figure 2: Tiered IT resources

For example, in figure 3 there is a light weight plastic shovel (Shove 1) for moving small amounts of snow in a wide stripe or pass. Then there is a narrow shovel for digging things out, or breaking up snow piles (Shovel 2). Also shown are a light duty snow blower (snow thrower) capable of dealing with powdery or non wet snow, grooming in tight corners or small areas.

Tiered Snow tools
Figure 3: Tiered Snow management and migration tools

For other light dustings, a yard leaf blower does double duty for migrating or moving snow in small or tight corners such as decks, patios or for cleanup. Larger snowfalls, or, where there is a lot of area to clear involves heavier duty tools such as the Kawasaki mule with 5 foot curtis plow. The mule is a multifunction, multi protocol tool capable of being used for hauling items, towing, pulling or recreational tasks.

When all else fails, there is a pickup truck to get or go out and about, not to mention to pull other vehicles out of ditches or piles of snow when they become stuck!

Snow movement
Figure 4: Sometimes the snow light making for fast, low latency migration

Snow movement
Figure 5: And sometimes even snow migration technology goes off line!

Snow movement

And that is it for now!

Enjoy the northern hemisphere winter and snow while it lasts, make the best of it with the right tools to simplify the tasks of movement and management, similar to IT resources.

Keep in mind, its about the tools and when along with how to use them for various tasks for efficiency and effectiveness, and, a bit of snow fun.

Ok, nuff said.

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
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