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According to Carter, the big issue with QoS arises when changes in storage usage patterns collide with the lack of visibility and cross-tenant awareness that comes with consolidation.“People are zoomed into their volumes. They are not looking at the other volumes on the system and what they are doing. But purpose changes, applications and uses are not static,” he says.“A lot of QoS is just massaging resources with no concrete guarantees. For example, tenants have no awareness of each other, so it's all very well to sell me a priority level, but as one tenant I don't know who else is on the system or who has a higher priority.”Another factor is over-provisioning. The ability to over-provision spare capacity is one of the key reasons for storage consolidation and the same is true for QoS.Instead of provisioning each server with its own high-performance storage, which it will max out on only on a few occasions, we can share that performance across several applications so long as we can safely assume that they will not all call for their maximum allowance at the same time.

“People can over-provision. There are risks to that, but good monitoring and control means you should be able to avoid them,” says Carter.“Suppose I have 200,000 IOPS available: I could sell a minimum guarantee of 100k each to two clients. The service-level agreement [SLA] is usually built on the minimum.“Suppose one client now wants 150k. I could add more performance to my system or I could look at my monitoring and see that the other customer never really used more than 20k and decide to over-provision.If all the tenants did now come for their minimum, it would allocate shares proportionately. It turns into prioritisation.“As a service provider you might want to monitor the maximum allowance too, because if users are regularly running into their limits you could try to upsell them to a higher SLA.”Storage consolidation clearly has advantages, yet it also brings considerable complexity – which increase as time goes by. Could it be safer to instead have your data estate span different systems – perhaps even to go back to the comparative simplicity of a DAS-type approach?

“We've been educating people for the last 15 years to move to consolidated storage, first with SAN fabrics, then tiering and thin provisioning. But all those virtualisation layers create major problems with visibility,” says Nigel Houghton, regional sales manager EMEA for storage management and reporting specialist Aptare.“From a QoS perspective, DAS has advantages. Dedicated storage has its own QoS but the downside is the management and administration overhead that it would require. I don't think anyone could justify the cost these days.”Yet he notes that there is a common response to the problem that can arise when you have a mixture of virtual machines running on the same storage volume, which is that storage performance suffers because of their differing block sizes and read/write patterns.The response is to group virtual machines into sets with similar demands, for example by putting all the Oracle virtual machines together. This virtual DAS model can result in some storage being under used, though, just like physical DAS.

“The other aspect we get asked about is to tell them when things are running hot, because at the moment the first time they hear about it is when users start complaining that their apps are running slow,” Houghton says.“The application guys have tools to tell them how the applications are running, for example BMC, but the storage guys don't.”By the same token, enforcing QoS within the storage system guarantees it only there. Managing service delivery across your data-hungry applications requires end-to-end visibility into storage performance.“The problem could be in your host server virtualisation, in the SAN fabric, or it could be the back-end storage. In larger organisations those could all be run by different teams and as soon as you get them together it becomes a finger-pointing session,” Houghton says.“So you need a report on what's hot and on the main problems and reasons. Then auto-tiering can migrate hot applications, which means that centralising and automating are part of the same thing.“Then we add the end-to-end visibility, for example who is asking for this high-performance storage and why? Application designers may specify a storage profile but get it wrong – there's no intelligence in the storage to say so.

“But we can compare the storage profile with the application's actual profile. For example, we could show the sleepy applications and the ones that don't need so much performance and should be on a lower tier.”Even that might not be enough to avoid the same problems arising in the future. We really need to design workflows that allow us to move from prediction to planned anticipation, suggests Matt Starr, chief technical officer at backup and archiving specialist Spectra Logic.He points out that being always-on has changed our attitudes to data. We assume our data will always be there when we need it, and that is not necessarily the case.“What can happen is that the data is not at the right level in the stack. In fact, in a tiered environment, it's almost always not at the right level. It goes back to the fact that the guy running the workflow and the creation of data has no idea of how data gets tiered,” he says.Houghton believes the solution is to change how the workflow starts. “If you treat data like a physical asset, the job comes down to a warehouse where it is picked and then delivered. But while most people are good at figuring out how to move data to an archive, they are not so good at figuring out the workflow to get it back,” he says.

“If you know you will need certain storage at a certain time, why not touch it up a day before? I have my diary booked out all day, I know I will need certain information at 1pm, so that data should be waiting on my laptop.“Or take aerial imagery. There are hotspots where there's news interest, so track the news and use that to drive up the data. Or maybe you want images of the same spot over six years, so the software fires off the request.”What we need is a kind of ERP of storage, or an enterprise edition of Google Now.“It’s such a change from the days of paper records. We were used to recalling records ahead of time but we no longer do that,” Houghton observes. If you fancy spending your next European airline flight sitting next to someone who's carrying on a protracted conversation via mobile phone, you're in luck.The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has issued new guidance to European airlines allowing them to permit passengers to keep phones and other portable electronic devices (PEDs) switched on throughout flights, regardless of whether the devices are in airplane mode.

This is the latest regulatory step towards enabling the ability to offer ‘gate-to-gate’ telecommunication or WiFi services, the agency said on Friday.The regulators define PEDs as any kind of electronic device brought on board the aircraft by a passenger such as a tablet, a laptop, a smartphone, an e-reader or a MP3 player.EASA loosened its restrictions on devices in 2013 such that passengers don't have to switch them off, provided their Wi-Fi, cellular, Bluetooth, and other radios are disabled.With the new guidance issued on Friday, airplane mode becomes something of a misnomer, as passengers are free to leave their devices' radios active throughout takeoff, landing, and the flight itself.That's not to say airlines have been given a rubber stamp to let passengers do whatever they want. Each carrier must go through an assessment process to ensure that aircraft are not affected by transmissions coming from passengers' devices – and submitting to the assessment is entirely voluntary.

Because it is a decision of each airline, you may experience differences among airlines whether and when PEDs can be used, EASA said. In addition, you may experience differences within one airline depending on the aircraft type.US government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission, have similarly been rethinking their restrictions on gadgets during flights. In October 2013, the FAA gave airlines the thumbs-up to allow device use at all times except during takeoff and landing, although many carriers still ask passengers to keep their electronics in airplane mode.Under EASA's new policy, however, passengers can keep texting and gabbing from when they board to the moment the plane lands, although airline crews still have the authority to tell them to switch off.The catch, of course, is that passengers in a plane flying at 35,000 feet probably won't be able to connect to GSM towers on the ground, so it will be up to airlines to provide in-flight telecoms services if they're so inclined.


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