IBM® recently announced a new Active Cloud Engine™ (ACE) capability for their SONAS and Storwize® V7000 Unified storage systems.
ACE federated file systems
With the new ACE capabilities file data can now be shared across a number of SONAS clusters located around the world, creating a federation of SONAS systems. By doing this, data located at any of the federated SONAS sites can now be readily accessed by any other location in the federation.
It starts with stitching together a global file system, spanning multiple SONAS clusters. With the global file system across multiple SONAS clusters, access can then be provided to all the files underneath this system without having to change OS support.
In this way, with a federation of SONAS clusters located in Hong Kong, London, and New York, personnel at each site could have access to data located in other sites. However, a single site will be designated to have write ownership over a fileset (i.e. directory/folder) level, although such ownership can be transferred. Many filesets can be deployed for granularity. In addition, sites that have read access can copy files into a different fileset or locally to a users’ system. When data is being written at a cache site, it automatically will transfer any changes to a home site after which the other sites would once again have access to the most current version of the data.
In addition to providing global file access, ACE can be used to preposition files to any federated cluster location as needed. This can be especially useful for more predictable access to files from other locations. When it’s known that a certain set of files will be needed at an alternate site, ACE policies can be established that will pre-position that data at the other site such that access will appear to be the same speed as local file access.
All this differs substantially from storage or file replication services. With file replication, there can be only one reader/updater present in the replication cluster. In contrast, with ACE federation any cluster location can access data wherever it’s needed. Moreover, ACE policy management can also restrict certain directories to be only accessible, locally if so desired, blocking them from the global file system. In this way, subsets of cluster data could be available globally and other data could be restricted to local only access.
ACE policy management services
In addition to creating a SONAS federation, ACE can also provide other automated policy management for the files it controls. Specifically, ACE policies can be created that identify which files have been modified since last backup, need to be replicated, or have expired and need to be deleted. Together with its automated policy management ACE can be used to more effectively manage, protect and replicate file data.
Storwize V7000 Unified
In addition to the ACE announcement described above, IBM also released a new packaging together of Storwize V7000 and SONAS into a single, bundled offering. In this case Storwize V7000 and two SONAS interface nodes are packaged together and use the same storage for both file and virtualized block storage services.
However, currently the ACE capabilities of Storwize V7000 unified are restricted to a single site but one can readily see how ACE federated file systems could be extended to use V7000 unified clusters just as well. Nonetheless, ACE capabilities for a single site, described above, can provide some unique capabilities in and of itself.
The Storwize V7000 Unified file (SONAS interface) modules provide 2-10Gbps Ethernet file interfaces and consume 2-8Gbps FC interfaces to the Storwize V7000 control enclosures. The Storwize V7000 Unified still supports up to 8-8Gbps FC host ports, 4-GigE interfaces and optionally, 4-10Gbps iSCSI port interfaces.
I am aware of large design shops that have for years used FTP to move data from one design lab to another around the world, to keep their design work” following the sun”. These processes involve elaborate scripts and full directory migration from one lab to another, taking place off hours. With the introduction of ACE federation, this sort of capability can be completely automated through the use of policies to preposition the data at each lab over time. However, this wouldn’t even be needed as designers at the sites around the world could just access the files as needed. Of course there would be more overhead to access the data from other SONAS locations but this could be a tradeoff – better performance by pre-positioning file data or less bandwidth use with dynamic access driven movement. In any event, with SONAS ACE federation, at least you will have a choice.
The Storwize Unified follows a trend in the industry to provide the option for both file and block storage from a single storage system, especially appealing to midrange customers. While Storwize V7000 Unified ACE capabilities may be limited to non-federated use today, that restriction will be removed over time.
There seems to be a storage industry move afoot to stitch together multiple data centers into one world wide, universal data center. While private cloud capabilities make this easier to do for applications and servers, one vexing problem has remained namely, how to make data available across these multi-site environments. EMC VPLEX and IBM’s ACE are responses to these issues and we are certain more will come.
[This storage announcement dispatch was originally sent out to our newsletter subscribers in October of 2011. If you would like to receive this information via email please consider signing up for our free monthly newsletter (see subscription request, above right) or subscribe by email and we will send our current issue along with download instructions for this and other reports.]
Silverton Consulting, Inc. is a Storage, Strategy & Systems consulting services company, based in the USA offering products and services to the data storage community