Fall SNWUSA 2013

Here’s my thoughts on SNWUSA which occurred this past week in the Long Beach Convention Center.

First, it was a great location. I saw a number of users I haven’t seen at SNWUSA ever before, some of which I have known for years from other (non-storage) venues.

Second, the exhibit hall was scantly populated. There were no major storage vendors at the show at all. Gold sponsors included NEC, Riverbed, & Sepaton, representing the largest exhibiters presenn. Making up the next (Contributing) tier were Western Digital, Toshiba, Active Archive Alliance, and LTO consortium with a smattering of smaller companies.  Finally, there were another 12 vendors with kiosks around the floor, with the largest there being Veeam Software.

I suspect VMWorld Europe happening the same time in Barcelona might have had something to do with the sparse exhibit floor but the trend has been present for the past few shows.

That being said there were still a few surprises in store, at least for me.  Two of the most interesting ones were:

  • Coho Data who came out of stealth with a scale out, RAIN (Redundant array of independent nodes) based storage cluster, with distributed, mirrored customer data across nodes and software defined networking. They currently support NFS for VMware with a management UI reminiscent of IOS 7 sans touch support. The product comes as a series of nodes with SSDs, disk storage and SDN. The SDN allows Coho Data to relocate front-end (client) connections to where the customer data lies. The distributed, mirrored backend storage provides redundancy in the case of a node/disk failure, at which time the system understands what data is now at risk and rebuilds the now-mirorless data onto other nodes. It reminds me a lot of Bycast/Archivas like architectures, with SDN and NFS support. I suppose the reason they are supporting VMware VMDKs is that the files are fairly large and thus easier to supply.
  • Cloud Physics was not exhibiting but they sponsored a break. As such, they were there talking with analysts and the press about their product. Their product installs as a VMware VM service and propagates VMware management agents to ESX servers which then pipe information back to their app about how your VMware environment is running, how VMs are performing, how your network and storage are performing for the VMs running, etc. This data is then sent to the cloud, where it’s anonymized. In the cloud, customers can use apps (called Cards) to analyze this data in the cloud, which can help them understand problem areas, predict what configuration changes can do for them, show them how VMs are performing, etc. It essentially is logging all this information to the cloud and providing ways to analyze the data to optimize your VMware environment.

Coming in just behind these two was Jeda Networks with their Software Defined Storage Network (SDSN). They use commodity (OpenFlow compatible) 10GbE switches to support a software FCoE storage SAN. Jeda Networks say that over the past two years,  most 10GbE switch hardware have started to support DCB in hardware and with that in place, plus OpenFlow compatibility, they can provide a SDSN on top of them just by emulating a control layer for FCoE switches. Of course one would still need FCoE storage and CNAs but with that in place one could use much cheaper switches to support FCoE.

CloudPhysics has a subscription based pricing model which offers three tiers:

  • Free where you get their Vapp, the management agents and a defined set of Free Card Apps for no cost;
  • Standard level where you get all the above plus a set of Card Apps which provide more VMware managability for $50/ESX server/Month; and
  • Enterprise level where you get all the above plus all the Card Apps presently available for $150/ESX server/Month.

Jeda networks and Coho Data are still developing their pricing and had none they were willing to disclose.

One of the CloudPhysics Card apps could predict how certain VMs would benefit from host based (PCIe or SSD) IO caching. They had a chart which showed working set inflection points for (I think) one VM running an OLTP application.  I have asked for this chart to discuss further in a future post.  But although CloudPhysics has the data to produce such a chart, the application shows three potential break points where say adding 500MB, 2000MB or 10000MB of SSD cache can speed up application performance by 10%, 30% or 50% (numbers here made up for example purposes and not off the chart they showed me).

A few other companies made announcements at the show. For example, Sepaton announced their new VirtuoSO, scale out hybrid reduplication appliance.

That’s about it. I would have to say that SNW needs to rethink their business model, frequency of stows or what they are trying to do at their conferences. However, on the plust side, most of the users I talked with came away with a lot of information and thought the show was worthwhile and I came away with a few surprises.