SNWUSA Spring 2013 summary

SNWUSA, SNIA, partyFor starters the parties were a bit more subdued this year although I heard Wayne’s suite was hopping to 4am last night (not that I would ever be there that late).

And a trend seen the past couple of years was even more evident this year, many large vendors and vendor spokespeople went missing. I heard that there were a lot more analyst presentations this SNW than prior ones although it was hard to quantify.  But it did seem that the analyst community was pulling double duty in presentations.

I would say that SNW still provides a good venue for storage marketing across all verticals. But these days many large vendors find success elsewhere, leaving SNW Expo mostly to smaller vendors and niche products.  Nonetheless, there were a\ a few big vendors (Dell, Oracle and HP) still in evidence. But EMC, HDS, IBM and NetApp were not   showing on the floor.

I would have to say the theme for this years SNW was hybrid storage. It seemed last fall the products that impressed me were either cloud storage gateways or all flash arrays but this year there weren’t as many of these at the show but hybrid storage certainly has arrived.

Best hybrid storage array of the show

It’s hard to pick just one hybrid storage vendor as my top pick, especially since there were at least 3 others talking to me under NDA, but from my perspective the Hybrid vendor of the show had to be Tegile (pronounced I think, as te’-jile). They seemed to have a fully functional system with snapshot, thin provisioning, deduplication and pretty good VMware support (only time I have heard a vendor talk about VASA “stun” support for thin provisioned volumes).

They made the statement that SSD in their system is used as a cache, not a tier. This use is similar to NetApp’s FlashCache and has proven to be a particularly well performing approach to use of hybrid storage. (For more information on that take a look at some of my NFS and recent SPC-1 benchmark review dispatches. How well this is integrated with their home grown dedupe logic is another question.

On the negative side, they seem to be lacking a true HA/dual controller version but could use two separate systems with synch (I think) replication between them to cover this ground?? They also claimed their dedupe had no performance penalty, a pretty bold claim that cries out for some serious lab validation and/or benchmarking to prove. They also offer an all flash version of their storage (but then how can it be used as a cache?).

The marketing team seemed pretty knowledgeable about the market space and they seem to be going after mid-range storage space.

The product supports file (NFS and CIFS/SMB), iSCSI and FC with GigE, 10GbE and 8Gbps FC. They quote “effective” capacities with dedupe enabled but it can be disabled on a volume basis.

Overall, I was impressed by their marketing and the product (what little I saw).

Best storage tool of the show

Moving onto other product categories, it was hard to see anything that caught my eye. Perhaps I have just been to too many storage conferences but I did get somewhat excited when I looked at SwiftTest.  Essentially they offer a application profiling, storage modeling, workload generating tool set.

The team seems to be branching out of their traditional vendor market focus and going after large service providers and F100 companies with large storage requirements.

Way back, when I was in Engineering, we were always looking for some information as to how customers actually used storage products. Well what SwiftTest has, is an appliance to instrument your application environment (through network taps/hardware port connections) to monitor your storage IO and create a statistical operational profile of your I/O environment. Then take that profile and play it against a storage configuration model to show how well it’s likely to perform.  And if that’s not enough the same appliance can be used to drive a simulated version of the operational profile back onto a storage system.

It offers NFS (v2,v3, v4) CIFS/SMB (SMB1, SMB2, SMB3) FC, iSCSI, and HTTP/REST (what no FCoe?). They mentioned an $8oK price tag for the base appliance (one protocol?) but grows up pretty fast, if you want all of them.  They also seem to have three levels of appliances (my guess more performance and more protocols come with the bigger boxes).

Not sure where they top out but simulating an operational profile can be quite complex especially when you have to be able to control data patterns to match deduplication potential in customer data, drive markov chains with probability representations of operational profiles, and actually execute IO operations. They said something about their ports have dedicated CPU cores to insure adequate performance or something similar but still it seems to little to hit high IO workloads.

Like I said, when I was in engineering were searching for this type of solution back in the late 90s and we would have probably bought it in a moment, if it was available., the domain/web site services provider was one of their customers that used the appliance to test storage configurations. They presented at SNW on some of their results but I missed their session (the case study is available on SwiftTests website).


In short, SNW had a diverse mixture of end user customers but lacked a full complement of vendors to show off to them.   The ratio of vendors to customers has definitely shifted to end-users the last couple of years and if anything has gotten more skewed to end-users, (which paradoxically should appeal to more storage vendors?!).

I talked with lots of end-users, from companies like FedEx, Northrop Grumman and AOL to name just a few big ones. But there were plenty of smaller ones as well.

The show lasted three days and had sessions scheduled all the way to the end. I was surprised at the length and the fact that it started on Tuesday rather than Monday as in years past.  Apparently, SNIA and Computerworld are still tweaking the formula.

It seemed to me there were more cancelled sessions than in years past but again this was hard to quantify.

Some of the customers I talked with thought SNW should go to a once a year and can’t understand why it’s still twice a year.  Many mentioned VMworld as having taken the place of SNW in being a showplace for storage vendors of all sizes and styles.  That and the vendor specific shows from EMC, IBM, Dell and others.

The fall show is moving to Long Beach, CA. Probably, a further experiment to find a formula that works.  Let’s hope they succeed.