Quantum OEMs esXpress VM Backup SW

Quantum announced today that they are OEMing esXpress software (from PHD Virtual) to better support VMware VM backups (see press release) . This software schedules VMware snapshots of VMs and can then transfer the VM snapshot (backup) data directly to a Quantum DXI storage device.

One free “Professional” esXpress license will ship with each DXI appliance which allows for up to 4-esXpress virtual backup appliance (VBA) virtual machines to run in a single VMware physical server. An “Enterprise” license can be purchased for $1850 which allows for up to 16-esXpress VBA virtual machines to run on a single VMware physical server. More Professional licenses can be purchased for $950 each. The free Professional license also comes with free installation services from Quantum.

Additional esXpress VBAs can be used to support more backup data throughput from a single physical server. The VBA backup activity is a scheduled process and as such, when completed the VBA can be “powered” down to save VMware server resources. Also as VBAs are just VMs they fully support VMware Vmotion, DRS, and HA capabilities that are available from VMware. However using any of these facilities to move a VBA to another physical server may require additional licensing.

The esXpress software eliminates the need for a separate VCB (VMware Consolidated Backup) proxy server and provides a direct interface to support Quantum DXI deduplicated storage for VM backups. This should simplify backup processing for VMware VMs using DXI archive storage.

Quantum also announced today a new key manager, the Scalar Key Manager for Quantum LTO tape encryption which has an integrated GUI with Quantum’s tape automation products. This allows a tape automation manager a single user interface to support tape automation and tape security/encryption. A single point of management should simplify the use of Quantum LTO tape encryption.

Chart of the Month

CIFS vs. NFS Throughput Results from SPECsfs(R) 2008 benchmarks
CIFS vs. NFS Throughput Results from SPECsfs(R) 2008 benchmarks
The chart to the left was sent out in last months SCI newsletter and shows the throughput attained by various storage systems when running the SPECsfs(R) 2008 CIFS and NFS benchmarks. The scatter-plot shows data for NAS systems that have published both NFS and CIFS SPECsfs benchmark results for the same storage system. To date (June 2009), only 5 systems have published results for both benchmarks.

The scatter plot clearly shows with a high regression coefficient (.97) that the same system can typically provide over 2.4X the throughput using CIFS as it can using NFS. My friends at SPECsfs would want me to point out that these two benchmarks are not intended to be comparable and I present this with a few caveats in the newsletter:

  • NFS operations are stateless and CIFS are stateful, the distribution of file sizes are different for the two benchmarks, the relative proportions of the respective IO workloads don’t match up exactly (CIFS has more reads and less writes than NFS), and all remaining (non-read/write) operations are completely different for each workload.
  • Most of these results come from the same vendor (Apple) and it’s implementation of NFS or CIFS target support may skew results
  • Only 5 storage systems have published results for these two benchmarks and probably in all honesty do not represent a statistically valid comparison
  • Usually host implementations of CIFS or NFS impact results such as these but for SPECsfs, the benchmark implements each protocol stack. As such, SPECsfs benchmark’s implementation of CIFS or NFS protocols may also skew results

All that being said, I believe it’s an interesting and current fact that for SPECsfs 2008 benchmarks CIFS has 2.4X the throughput of NFS.

In talking with real world customers and vendors on which is better the story seems much more mixed. I heard where one O/S had a much better implementation of the CIFS protocol and as such, customers moved to use CIFS for those systems. I haven’t seen much discussion about storage systems being better or worse on one protocol over the other but it’s certainly probable.

From my perspective any storage admin looking to configure new NAS storage should try out CIFS first to see if it performs well before trying NFS. Given my inclinations, I would probably try out both, but that’s just me.

If you are interested in seeing the full report on latest SPECsfs 2008 results please subscribe to my newsletter by emailing me at SubscribeNews@SilvertonConsulting.com?Subject=Subscribe_to_Newsletter.

Otherwise the full report will be on my website sometime next week.

On Storage Benchmarks

What is it about storage benchmarks that speaks to me? Is it the fact that they always present new data on current products, that there are always some surprises, or that they always reveal another facet of storage performance.

There are some that say benchmarks have lost their way, become too politicized, and as a result, become less realistic. All these faults can and do happen but it doesn’t have to be this way. Vendors can do the right thing if enough of them are engaged and end-users can play an important part as well.

Benchmarks exist mainly to serve the end-user community, by supplying an independent, audit-able, comparison of storage subsystem performance. To make benchmarks more useful, end users can help insure that they model real-world workloads. But this only happens when end-users participate in benchmark organizations, understand benchmark workloads, and understand in detail, their own I/O workloads. Which end-users can afford to do this, especially today?

As a result, storage vendors take up the cause. They argue amongst themselves to define “realistic end-user workloads”, put some approximation out as a benchmark and tweak it over time. The more storage vendors, the better this process becomes.

When I was a manager of storage subsystem development, I hated benchmark results. Often it meant there was more work to do. Somewhere, somehow or someway we weren’t getting the right level of performance from our subsystem. Something had to change. We would end up experimenting until we convinced ourselves we were on the right track. That lasted until we exhausted that track and executed the benchmark again. It almost got to the point where I didn’t really want to know the results – almost but not quite. In the end, benchmarks caused us to create better storage, to understand the best of the storage world, and to look outside ourselves at what others could accomplish.

Is storage performance still important today? I was talking with a storage vendor a couple of months back who said that storage subsystems today perform so well that performance is no longer a major differentiator or a significant buying consideration. I immediately thought why all the interest in SSDs and 8GFC. To some extent I suppose, raw storage performance is not as much a concern today but it will never go away completely.

Consider the automobile, it’s over a century old now (see Wikipedia) and we still talk about car performance. Perhaps it’s no longer raw speed, but a car’s performance still matters to most of us. What’s happened over time is that the definition of car performance has become more differentiated, more complex – top speed is not the only metric anymore. I am convinced that similar differentiation will happen to storage performance and storage benchmarks must lead the way.

So my answer is yes, storage performance still matters and benchmarks ultimately define storage performance. It’s up to all of us to keep benchmarks evolving to match the needs of end-users.

Nowadays, I can enjoy looking at storage benchmarks and leave the hard work to others.

EMC's Data Domain ROI

I am trying to put EMC’s price for Data Domain (DDup) into perspective but am having difficulty. According to InfoWorld article on EMC acquisitions ’03-’06 and some other research this $2.2B$2.4B is more money (not inflation adjusted) than anything in EMC’s previous acquisition history. The only thing that comes close was the RSA acquisition for $2.1B in ’06.

VMware only cost EMC $625M and has been by all accounts, very successful being spun out of EMC in an IPO and currently shows a market cap of ~$10.2B. Documentum cost $1.7B and Legato only cost $1.3B both of which are still within EMC.

Something has happened here, in a recession valuations are supposed to be more realistic not less realistic. At Data Domain’s TTM revenues ($300.5M) this will take over 7 years to breakeven on a straightline view. If one considers WACC (weighted average cost of capital) it looks much worse. Looking at DDup’s earnings makes it look even worse.

Other than fire up EMC’s marketing and sales engine to sell more DDup products, what else can EMC do to gain a better return on it’s DDup acquisition? (not in order)

  • Move EMC’s current Disk Libraries to DDup technology and let go of Quantum-FalconStor OEM agreements and/or abandon the current DL product line and substitute Ddup
  • Incorporate DDup technology into Legato Networker for target deduplication applications
  • Incorporate DDup technology into Mozy and Atmos
  • Incorporate DDup technology into Documentum
  • Incorporate DDup technology into Centera and Celerra

Can EMC selling DDup products and doing all this to better its technology double the revenue earnings and savings derived from DDup products and technology – maybe. But the incorporation of DDup into Centera and Celerra could just as easily decrease EMC revenues profits from the storage capacity lost depending on the relative price differences.

I figure the Disk Library, Legato, and Mozy integrations would be first on anyone’s list. Atmos next, and Celerra-Centera last.

As for what to add to DDup’s product line. Possibly additions are around the top end and the bottom end. DDup has been moving up market of late and integration with EMC DL might just help take it there. Down market, there is a potential market of small businesses that might want to use DDup technology at the right price point.

Not sure if the money paid for Ddup still makes sense but at least it begins to look better…

BlueArc introduces Mercury

Tomorrow, BlueArc will open up a new front in their battle with the rest of the NAS vendors by introducing the Mercury 50 NAS head. This product is slated to address the more mid-range enterprise market that historically shunned the relatively higher priced Titan series.

Mercury 50 is only the first product in this series and other products to be released in the future will help fill out the top end of this series. Priced similar to the NetApp 3140 this product has all the support of standard BlueArc file system while only limiting the Max storage capacity to 1PB. Its NFS throughput is a little better than half the current Titan 3100.

Mercury 50 will eventually be offered by BlueArc’s OEM partner HDS. However, immediately the Mercury 50 will be sold by the BlueArc’s direct sales force as well as many new channel partners that BlueArc has acquired over this past year.

This marks a departure for BlueArc into the more mainstream enterprise storage space. Historically, BlueArc has been successful in the high performance market but the real volumes and commensurate revenue are in the standard enterprise space. The problem in the past has been the high price of the BlueArc Titan systems but now with Mercury this should no longer be an issue.

That being said, the competition is much more intense as you move down market. EMC and NetApp will not stand still while their market share is eroded. And both of these company’s have the wherewithal to compete on performance, pricing and features.

Exciting times ahead for the NAS users out there.

Tape v Disk v SSD v RAM

There was a time not long ago when the title of this post wouldn’t have included SSD. But, with the history of the last couple of years, SSD has earned its right to be included.

A couple of years back I was at a Rocky Mountain Magnetics Seminar (see IEEE magnetics societies) and a disk drive technologist stated that Disks have about another 25 years of technology roadmap ahead of them. During this time they will continue to increase density, throughput and other performance metrics. After 25 years of this they will run up against some theoretical limits which will halt further density progress.

At the same seminar, the presenter said that Tape was lagging Disk technology by about 5-10 years or so. As such, tape should continue to advance for another 5-10 years after disk stops improving at which time tape would also stop increasing density.

Does all this mean the end of tape and disk? I think not. Paper stopped advancing in density theoretically about 2 to 3000 years ago (the papyrus scroll was the ultimate in paper “rotating media”). If we move up to the codex or book form- which in my view is a form factor advance – this took place around 400AD (see history of scroll and codex). Paperback, another form factor advance, took place in the early 20th century (see paperback history).

Turning now to write performance, moveable type was a significant paper (write) performance improvement and started in the mid 15th century. The printing press would go on to improve (paper write) performance for the next six centuries (see printing press history) and continues today.

All this indicates that some data technology, whose density was capped over 2000 years ago, can continue to advance and support valuable activity in today’s world and for the foreseeable future. “Will disk and tape go away” is the wrong question, the right question is “can disk or tape, after SSDs reach price equivalence on a $/GB basis, still be useful to the world”?

I think yes, but that depends on a number of factors as to how the relative SSD-Disk-Tape technologies advance. Assuming someday all these technologies support equivalent Tb/SqIn or spatial density and

  • SSD’s retain their relative advantage in random access speed,
  • Tape it’s advantage in sequential throughput, volumetric density, and long media life, and
  • Disk it’s all around, combined sequential and random access advantage

It seems likely that each can sustain some niche in the data center/home office of tomorrow, although probably not where they are today.

One can see trends being enacted in the enterprise data centers today that are altering the relative positioning of SSDs, disks and tape. Tape is now being relegated to long term, archive storage, Disk is moving to medium-term, secondary storage and SSDs is replacing top tier, primary storage.

More thoughts on this in future posts.

HDS upgrades AMS2000

Today, HDS refreshed their AMS2000 product line with a new high density drive expansion tray with 48-drives and up to a maximum capacity of 48TB, 8Gps FC (8GFC) ports for the AMS2300 and AMS2500 systems, and a new NEBS Level-3 compliant and DC powered version, the AMS2500DC.

HDS also re-iterated their stance that Dynamic Provisioning will be available on AMS2000 in the 2nd half of this year. (See my prior post on this subject for more information).

HDS also mentioned that the AMS2000 now supports external authentication infrastructure for storage managers and will support Common Criteria Certification for more stringent data security needs. The external authentication will be available in the second half of the year.

I find the DC version pretty interesting and signals a renewed interest in telecom OEM applications for this mid-range storage subsystem. Unclear to me whether this is a significant market for HDS. The 2500DC only supports 4Gps FC and is packaged with a Cisco MDS 9124 SAN switch. DC powered storage is also more energy efficient than AC storage.

Other than that the Common Criteria Certification can be a big thing for those companies or government entitities with significant interest in secure data centers. There was no specific time frame for this certification but presumably they have started the process.

As for the rest of this, it’s a pretty straightforward refresh.

DataDirect Networks WOS cloud storage

DataDirect Networks (DDN) announced this week a new product offering private cloud services. Apparently the new Web Object Scaler (WOS) is a storage appliance that can be clustered together across multiple sites and offers a single global file name space across all the sites. Also the WOS cloud supports policy file replication and distribution across sites for redundancy and/or load ballancing purposes.

DDN’s press release said a WOS cloud can service up to 1 million random file reads per second. They did not indicate the number of nodes required to sustain this level of performance and they didn’t identify the protocol that was used to do this. The press release implied low-latency file access but didn’t define what they meant here. 1M file reads/sec doesn’t necessarily mean they are all read quickly. Also, there appears to b more work for a file write than a file read and there is no statement on file ingest rate provided.

There are many systems out there touting a global name space. However not many say thier global name space spans across multiple sites. I suppose cloud storage would need to support such a facility to keep file names straight across sites. Nonetheless, such name space services would imply more overhead during file creation/deletion to keep everything straight and meta data duplication/replication/redundancy to support this.

Many questions on how this all works together with NFS or CIFS but it’s entirely possible that WOS doesn’t support either file access protocol and just depends on HTML get and post to access files or similar web services. Moreover, assuming WOS supports NFS or CIFS protocols, I often wonder why these sorts of announcements aren’t paired with a SPECsfs(r) 2008 benchmark report which could validate any performance claim at least at the NFS or CIFS protocol levels.

I talked to one media person a couple of weeks ago and they said cloud storage is getting boring. There are a lot of projects (e.g., Atmos from EMC) out there targeting future cloud storage, I hope for their sake boring doesn’t mean no market exists for cloud storage.