HP Tech Day – StoreServ Flash Optimizations

Attended HP Tech Field Day late last month in Disneyland. Must say the venue was the best ever for HP, and getting in on Nth Generation Conference was a plus. Sorry it has taken so long for me to get around to writing about it.

We spent a day going over HP’s new converged storage, software defined storage and other storage topics. HP has segmented the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) storage requirements into cost optimized, Software Defined Storage and SLA optimized, Service Refined Storage. Under Software Defined storage they talked about their StoreVirtual product line which is an outgrowth of the Lefthand Networks VSA, first introduced in 2007. This June, they extended SDS to include their StoreOnce VSA product to go after SMB and ROBO backup storage requirements.

We also discussed some of HP’s OpenStack integration work to integrate current HP block storage into OpenStack Cinder. They discussed some of the integrations they plan for file and object store as well.

However what I mostly want to discuss in this post is the session discussing how HP StoreServ 3PAR had optimized their storage system for flash.

They showed an SPC-1 chart depicting various storage systems IOPs levels and response times as they ramped from 10% to 100% of their IOPS rate. StoreServ 3PAR’s latest entry showed a considerable band of IOPS (25K to over 250K) all within a sub-msec response time range. Which was pretty impressive since at the time no other storage systems seemed able to do this for their whole range of IOPS. (A more recent SPC-1 result from HDS with an all-flash VSP with Hitachi Accelerated Flash also was able to accomplish this [sub-msec response time throughout their whole benchmark], only in their case it reached over 600K IOPS – read about this in our latest performance report in our newsletter, sign up above right).

  • Adaptive Read – As I understood it, this changed the size of backend reads to match the size requested by the front end. For disk systems, one often sees that a host read of say 4KB often causes a read of 16KB from the backend, with the assumption that the host will request additional data after the block read off of disk and 90% of the time spent to do a disk read is getting the head to the correct track and once there it takes almost no effort to read more data. However with flash, there is no real effort to get to a proper location to read a block of flash data and as such, there is no advantage to reading more data than the host requests, because if they come back for more one can immediately read from the flash again.
  • Adaptive Write – Similar to adaptive read, adaptive write only writes the changed data to flash. So if a host writes a 4KB block then 4KB is written to flash. This doesn’t help much for RAID 5 because of parity updates but for RAID 1 (mirroring) this saves on flash writes which ultimately lengthens flash life.
  • Adaptive Offload (destage) – This changes the frequency of destaging or flushing cache depending on the level of write activity. Slower destaging allows written (dirty) data to accumulate in cache if there’s not much write activity going on, which means in RAID 5 parity may not need to be updated as one could potentially accumulate a whole stripe’s worth of data in cache. In low-activity situations such destaging could occur every 200 msecs. whereas with high write activity destaging could occur as fast as every 3 msecs.
  • Multi-tennant IO processing – For disk drives, with sequential reads, one wants the largest stripes possible (due to head positioning penalty) but for SSDs one wants the smallest stripe sizes possible. The other problem with large stripe sizes is that devices are busy during the longer sized IO while performing the stripe writes (and reads). StoreServ modified the stripe size for SSDs to be 32KB so that other IO activity need not have to wait as long to get their turn in the (IO device) queue. The other advantage is when one is doing SSD rebuilds, with a 32KB stripe size one can intersperse more IO activity for the devices involved in the rebuild without impacting rebuild performance.

Of course the other major advantage of HP StoreServ’s 3PAR architecture provides for Flash is its intrinsic wide striping that’s done across a storage pool. This way all the SSDs can be used optimally and equally to service customer IOs.

I am certain there were other optimizations HP made to support SSDs in StoreServ storage, but these are the ones they were willing to talk publicly about.

No mention of when Memristor SSDs were going to be available but stay tuned, HP let slip that sooner or later Memristor Flash storage will be in HP storage & servers.


Photo Credits: (c) 2013 Silverton Consulting, Inc

Latest SPC-1 results – IOPS vs drive counts – chart-of-the-month

Scatter plot of SPC-1  IOPS against Spindle count, with linear regression line showing Y=186.18X + 10227 with R**2=0.96064
(SCISPC111122-004) (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, All Rights Reserved

[As promised, I am trying to get up-to-date on my performance charts from our monthly newsletters. This one brings us current up through November.]

The above chart plots Storage Performance Council SPC-1 IOPS against spindle count.  On this chart, we have eliminated any SSD systems, systems with drives smaller than 140 GB and any systems with multiple drive sizes.

Alas, the regression coefficient (R**2) of 0.96 tells us that SPC-1 IOPS performance is mainly driven by drive count.  But what’s more interesting here is that as drive counts get higher than say 1000, the variance surrounding the linear regression line widens – implying that system sophistication starts to matter more.

Processing power matters

For instance, if you look at the three systems centered around 2000 drives, they are (from lowest to highest IOPS) 4-node IBM SVC 5.1, 6-node IBM SVC 5.1 and an 8-node HP 3PAR V800 storage system.  This tells us that the more processing (nodes) you throw at an IOPS workload given similar spindle counts, the more efficient it can be.

System sophistication can matter too

The other interesting facet on this chart comes from examining the three systems centered around 250K IOPS that span from ~1150 to ~1500 drives.

  • The 1156 drive system is the latest HDS VSP 8-VSD (virtual storage directors, or processing nodes) running with dynamically (thinly) provisioned volumes – which is the first and only SPC-1 submission using thin provisioning.
  • The 1280 drive system is a (now HP) 3PAR T800 8-node system.
  • The 1536 drive system is an IBM SVC 4.3 8-node storage system.

One would think that thin provisioning would degrade storage performance and maybe it did but without a non-dynamically provisioned HDS VSP benchmark to compare against, it’s hard to tell.  However, the fact that the HDS-VSP performed as well as the other systems did with much lower drive counts seems to tell us that thin provisioning potentially uses hard drives more efficiently than fat provisioning, the 8-VSD HDS VSP is more effective than an 8-node IBM SVC 4.3 and an 8-node (HP) 3PAR T800 systems, or perhaps some combination of these.


The full SPC performance report went out to our newsletter subscriber’s last November.  [The one change to this chart from the full report is the date in the chart’s title was wrong and is fixed here].  A copy of the full report will be up on the dispatches page of our website sometime this month (if all goes well). However, you can get performance information now and subscribe to future newsletters to receive these reports even earlier by just sending us an email or using the signup form above right.

For a more extensive discussion of block or SAN storage performance covering SPC-1&-2 (top 30) and ESRP (top 20) results please consider purchasing our recently updated SAN Storage Buying Guide available on our website.

As always, we welcome any suggestions on how to improve our analysis of SPC results or any of our other storage system performance discussions.


Services and products, a match made in heaven

wrench rust by HVargas (cc) (from Flickr)
wrench rust by HVargas (cc) (from Flickr)

In all the hoopla about company’s increasing services revenues what seems to be missing is that hardware and software sales automatically drive lots of services revenues.

A recent Wikibon post by Doug Chandler (see Can cloud pull services and technology together …) showed a chart of leading IT companies percent of revenue from services.  The percentages ranged from a high of 57% for  IBM to a low of 12% for Dell, with the median being ~26.5%.

In the beginning, …

It seems to me that services started out being an adjunct to hardware and software sales – i.e., maintenance, help to install the product, provide operational support, etc. Over time, companies like IBM and others went after service offerings as a separate distinct business activity, outside of normal HW and SW sales cycles.

This turned out to be a great revenue booster, and practically turned IBM around in the 90s.   However, one problem with hardware and software vendors reporting of service revenue is that they also embed break-fix, maintenance and infrastructure revenue streams in these line items.

The Wikibon blog mentioned StorageTek’s great service revenue business when Sun purchased them.  I recall that at the time, this was primarily driven by break-fix, maintenance and infrastructure revenues and not mainly from other non-product related revenues.

Certainly companies like EDS (now with HP), Perot Systems (now with Dell), and other pure service companies generate all their revenue from services not associated with selling HW or SW.  Which is probably why HP and Dell purchased them.

The challenge for analysts is to try to extract the more ongoing maintenance, break-fix and infrastructure revenues from other service activity in order to understand how to delineate portions of service revenue growth:

  • IBM seems to break out their GBS (consulting and application mgnt) from their GTS (outsourcing, infrastructure, and maint) revenues (see IBM’s 10k).  However extracting break-fix and maintenance revenues from the other GTS revenues is impossible outside IBM.
  • EMC has no breakdown whatsoever in their services revenue line item in their 10K.
  • HP similarly, has no breakdown for their service revenues in their 10K.

Some of this may be discussed in financial analyst calls, but I could locate nothing but the above in their annual reports/10Ks.

IBM and Dell to the rescue

So we are all left to wonder how much of reported services revenue is ongoing maintenance and infrastructure business versus other services business.  Certainly IBM, in reporting both GBS and GTS gives us some inkling of what this might be in their annual report: GBS is $18B and GTS is $38B. So that means maint and break-fix must be some portion of that GTS line item.

Perhaps we could use Dell as a proxy to determine break-fix, maintenance and infrastructure service revenues. Not sure where Wikibon got the reported service revenue % for Dell but their most recent 10K shows services are more like 19% of annual revenues.

Dell had a note in their “Results from operations” section that said Perot systems was 7% of this.  Which means previous services, primarily break-fix, maintenance and other infrastructure support revenues accounted for something like 12% (maybe this is what Wikibon is reporting).

Unclear how well Dell revenue percentages are representative of the rest of the IT industry but if we take their ~12% of revenues off the percentages reported by Wikibon then the new ranges are from 45% for IBM to 7% for Dell with an median around 14.5% for non-break fix, maintenance and infrastructure service revenues.

Why is this important?

Break-fix, maintenance revenues and most infrastructure revenues are entirely associated with product (HW or SW) sales, representing an annuity once original product sales close.  The remaining service revenues are special purpose contracts (which may last years), much of which are sold on a project basis representing non-recurring revenue streams.


So the next time some company tells you their service revenues are up 25% YoY, ask them how much of this is due to break-fix and maintenance.  This may tell you whether their product footprint expansion or their service offerings success is driving service revenue growth.


Tape vs. Disk, the saga continues

Inside a (Spectra Logic) T950 library by ChrisDag (cc) (from Flickr)
Inside a (Spectra Logic) T950 library by ChrisDag (cc) (from Flickr)

Was on a call late last month where Oracle introduced their latest generation T1000C tape system (media and drive) holding 5TB native (uncompressed) capacity. In the last 6 months I have been hearing about the coming of a 3TB SATA disk drive from Hitachi GST and others. And last month, EMC announced a new Data Domain Archiver, a disk only archive appliance (see my post on EMC Data Domain products enter the archive market).

Oracle assures me that tape density is keeping up if not gaining on disk density trends and capacity. But density or capacity are not the only issues causing data to move off of tape in today’s enterprise data centers.

“Dedupe Rulz”

A problem with the data density trends discussion is that it’s one dimensional (well literally it’s 2 dimensional). With data compression, disk or tape systems can easily double the density on a piece of media. But with data deduplication, the multiples start becoming more like 5X to 30X depending on frequency of full backups or duplicated data. And number’s like those dwarf any discussion of density ratios and as such, get’s everyone’s attention.

I can remember talking to an avowed tape enginerr, years ago and he was describing deduplication technology at the VTL level as being architecturally inpure and inefficient. From his perspective it needed to be done much earlier in the data flow. But what they failed to see was the ability of VTL deduplication to be plug-compatible with the tape systems of that time. Such ease of adoption allowed deduplication systems to build a beach-head and economies of scale. From there such systems have no been able to move up stream, into earlier stages of the backup data flow.

Nowadays, what with Avamar, Symantec Pure Disk and others, source level deduplication, or close by source level deduplication is a reality. But all this came about because they were able to offer 30X the density on a piece of backup storage.

Tape’s next step

Tape could easily fight back. All that would be needed is some system in front of a tape library that provided deduplication capabilities not just to the disk media but the tape media as well. This way the 30X density over non-deduplicated storage could follow through all the way to the tape media.

In the past, this made little sense because a deduplicated tape would require potentially multiple volumes in order to restore a particular set of data. However, with today’s 5TB of data on a tape, maybe this doesn’t have to be the case anymore. In addition, by having a deduplication system in front of the tape library, it could support most of the immediate data restore activity while data restored from tape was sort of like pulling something out of an archive and as such, might take longer to perform. In any event, with LTO’s multi-partitioning and the other enterprise class tapes having multiple domains, creating a structure with meta-data partition and a data partition is easier than ever.

“Got Dedupe”

There are plenty of places, that today’s tape vendors can obtain deduplication capabilities. Permabit offers Dedupe code for OEM applications for those that have no dedupe systems today. FalconStor, Sepaton and others offer deduplication systems that can be OEMed. IBM, HP, and Quantum already have tape libraries and their own dedupe systems available today all of which can readily support a deduplicating front-end to their tape libraries, if they don’t already.

Where “Tape Rulz”

There are places where data deduplication doesn’t work very well today, mainly rich media, physics, biopharm and other non-compressible big-data applications. For these situations, tape still has a home but for the rest of the data center world today, deduplication is taking over, if it hasn’t already. The sooner tape get’s on the deduplication bandwagon the better for the IT industry.


Of course there are other problems hurting tape today. I know of at least one large conglomerate that has moved all backup off tape altogether, even data which doesn’t deduplicate well (see my previous Oracle RMAN posts). And at least another rich media conglomerate that is considering the very same move. For now, tape has a safe harbor in big science, but it won’t last long.


Latest ESRPv3 (Exchange 2010) results analysis for 1K-to-5Kmailboxes – chart of the month

(c) 2010 Silverton Consulting, Inc., All Rights Reserved
(c) 2010 Silverton Consulting, Inc., All Rights Reserved

The chart is from SCI’s October newsletter/performance dispatch on Exchange 2010 Solution Reviewed Program (ESRP v3.0) and shows the mailbox database access latencies for read, write and log write.  For this report we are covering solutions supporting from 1001 up to 5000 mailboxes (1K-to-5Kmbx), larger and (a few) smaller configurations have been covered in previous performance dispatches.  On latency charts like this – lower is better.

We like this chart because in our view this represents a reasonable measure of email user experience.  As users read and create new emails they are actually reading Exchange databases and writing database and logs.  Database and log latencies should show up as longer or shorter delays in these activities.  (Ok, not exactly true, email client and Exchange server IO aren’t the same thing.  But ultimately every email sent has to be written to an Exchange database and log sometime and every new email read-in has to come from an Exchange database as well).

A couple of caveats are in order for this chart.

  • Xiotech’s top run (#1) did not use database redundancy or DAGs (Database Availability Groups) in their ESRPv3 run. Their feeling is that this technology is fairly new and it will take some time before it’s widely adopted.
  • There is quite the mix of SAS (#2,3,6,7,9&10), FC (#1,5&8) and iSCSI (#4) connected storage in this mailbox range.  Some would say that SAS connected storage should have an advantage here but that’s not obvious from the rankings.
  • Vendors get to select the workload intensity for any ESRPv3/Jetstress run, e.g. the solutions shown here used between 0.15 IO/sec/mailbox (#9&10) and 0.36 IO/sec/mailbox (#1).  IO intensity is just one of the myriad of Jetstress tweakable parameters that make analyzing ESRP so challenging.  Normally this would only matter with database and log access counts but heavier workloads can also impact latencies as well.

Wide variance between read and write latencies

The other thing of interest in this chart is the interesting span between read latencies and write (database and log) latencies for the same solution. Take the #10 Dell PowerEdge system for example.  It showed a database read latency of ~18msec. but a database write latency of ~0.4msec.  Why?

It turns out this Dell system had only 6 disk drives (2TB/7200 RPM).  So few disk drives don’t seem adequate to support the read workload and as a result, show up poorly in database read latencies.  However, write activity can mostly be masked with cache until it fills up, forcing write delays.  With only 1100 mailboxes and 0.15 IOs/sec/mailbox, the write workload apparent fits in cache well enough to be destaged over time, without delaying ongoing write activity.  Similar results appear for the other Dell PowerEdge (#6) and the HP Smart Array (#7) which had 12-2TB/7200 RPM and 24-932GB/7200 RPM drives respectively.

On the other hand, Xiotech’s #1 position had 20-360GB/15Krpm drives and EMC’s Celerra #4 run had 15-400GB/10Krpm drives, both of which were able to sustain a more balanced performance across reads and writes (database and logs).  For Xiotech’s #5 run they used 40-500GB/10Krpm drives.

It seems there is a direct correlation between drive speed and read database latencies.  Most of the systems in the bottom half of this chart have 7200 RPM drives (except for #8, HP StorageWorks MSA) and the top 3 all had 15Krpm drives.  However, write latencies don’t seem to be as affected by drive speed and have more to do with the balance between workload, cache size and effective destaging.

The other thing that’s apparent from this chart is that SAS connected storage continues to be an effective solution for this range of Exchange configurations, following a trend first shown in ESRP v2 (Exchange 2007) results.  We reported on this in our  January ESRPv2 analysis dispatch for this year .

The full dispatch will be up on our website in a couple of weeks but if you are interested in seeing it sooner just sign up for our free newsletter (see upper right) or subscribe by email and we will send you the current issue with download instructions for this and other reports.

As mentioned previously ESRP/Jetstress results are difficult to compare/analyze and we continue to welcome any constructive suggestions on how to improve.

SPC-1/E IOPS per watt – chart of the month

SPC*-1/E IOPs per Watt as of 27Aug2010
SPC*-1/E IOPs per Watt as of 27Aug2010

Not a lot of Storage Performance Council (SPC) benchmark submissions this past quarter just a new SPC-1/E from HP StorageWorks on their 6400 EVA with SSDs and a new SPC-1 run for Oracle Sun StorageTek 6780.  Recall that SPC-1/E executes all the same tests as SPC-1 but adds more testing with power monitoring equipment attached to measure power consumption at a number of performance levels.

With this chart we take another look at the storage energy consumption (see my previous discussion on SSD vs. drive energy use). As shown above we graph the IOPS/watt for three different performance environments: Nominal, Medium, and High as defined by SPC.  These are contrived storage usage workloads to measure the varibility in power consumed by a subsystem.  SPC defines the workloads as follows:

  • Nominal usage is 16 hours of idle time and 8 hours of moderate activity
  • Medium usage is 6 hours of idle time, 14 hours of moderate activity, and 4 hours of heavy activity
  • High usage is 0 hours of idle time, 6 hours of moderate activity and 18 hours of heavy activity

As for activity, SPC defines moderate activity at 50% of the subsystem’s maximum SPC-1 reported performance and heavy activity is at 80% of its maximum performance.

With that behind us, now on to the chart.  The HP 6400 EVA had 8-73GB SSD drives for storage while the two Xiotech submissions had 146GB/15Krpm and 600GB/15Krpm drives with no flash.  As expected the HP SSD subsystem delivered considerably more IOPS/watt at the high usage workload – ~2X the Xiotech with 600GB drives and ~2.3X the Xiotech with 146GB drives.  The multipliers were slightly less for moderate usage but still substantial nonetheless.

SSD nominal usage power consumption

However, the nominal usage bears some explanation.  Here both Xiotech subsystems beat out the HP EVA SSD subsystem at nominal usage with the 600GB drive Xiotech box supporting ~1.3X the IOPS/watt of the HP SSD system. How can this be?  SSD idle power consumption is the culprit.

The HP EVA SSD subsystem consumed ~463.1W at idle while the Xiotech 600GB only consumed ~23.5W and the Xiotech 146GM drive subsystem consumed ~23.4w.  I would guess that the drives and perhaps the Xiotech subsystem have considerable power savings algorithms that shed power when idle.  For whatever reason the SSDs and HP EVA don’t seem to have anything like this.  So nominal usage with 16Hrs of idle time penalizes the HP EVA SSD system resulting in the poors IOPS/watt for nominal usage shown above..

Rays reading: SSDs are not meant to be idled alot and disk drives, especially the ones that Xiotech are using have very sophisticated power management that maybe SSDs and/or HP should take a look at adopting.

The full SPC performance report will go up on SCI’s website next month in our dispatches directory.  However, if you are interested in receiving this sooner, just subscribe by email to our free newsletter and we will send you the current issue with download instructions for this and other reports.

As always, we welcome any suggestions on how to improve our analysis of SPC performance information so please comment here or drop us a line.

Enterprise data storage defined and why 3PAR?

More SNW hall servers and storage
More SNW hall servers and storage

Recent press reports about a bidding war for 3PAR bring into focus the expanding need for enterprise class data storage subsystems.  What exactly is enterprise storage?

Defining enterprise storage is frought with problems but I will take a shot.  Enterprise class data storage has:

  • Enhanced reliability, high availability and serviceability – meaning it hardly ever fails, it keeps operating (on redundant components) when it does fail, and repairing the storage when the rare failure occurs can be accomplished without disrupting ongoing storage services
  • Extreme data integrity – goes beyond just RAID storage, meaning that these systems lose data very infrequently, provide the latest data written to a location when read and will tell you when data cannot be accessed.
  • Automated I/O performance – meaning sophisticated caching algorithms that try to keep ahead of sequential I/O streams, buffer actively read data, and buffer write data in non-volatile cache before destaging to disk or other media.
  • Multiple types of storage – meaning the system supports SATA, SAS and/or FC disk drives and SSDs or Flash storage
  • PBs of storage – meaning behind one enterprise class storage (sub-)system one can support over 1PB of storage
  • Sophisticated functionality – meaning the system supports multiple forms of offsite replication, thin provisioning, storage tiering, point-in-time copies, data cloning, administration GUIs/CLIs, etc.
  • Compatibility with all enterprise O/Ss – meaning the storage has been tested and is on hardware compatibility lists for every major operating system in use by the enterprise today.

As for storage protocol, it seems best to leave this off the list.  I wanted to just add block storage, but enterprises today probably have as much if not more external file storage (CIFS or NFS) as they have block storage (FC or iSCSI).  And the proportion in file systems seems to be growing (see IDC report referenced below).

In addition, while I don’t like the non-determinism of iSCSI or file access protocols, this doesn’t seem to stop such storage from putting up pretty impressive performance numbers (see our performance dispatches).  Anything that can crack 100K I/O or file operations per second probably deserves to call themselves enterprise storage as long as they meet the other requirements.  So, maybe I should add high-performance storage to the list above.

Why the sudden interest in enterprise storage?

Enterprise storage has been around arguably since the 2nd half of last century (for mainframe systems) but lately has become even more interesting as applications deploy to the cloud and server virtualization (from VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V and others) takes over the data center.

Cloud storage and cloud computing services are lowering the entry points for storage and processing, enabling application deployments which were heretofore unaffordable.  These new cloud applications consume storage at increasing rates and don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.  Arguably, some cloud storage is not enterprise storage but as service levels go up for these applications, providers must ultimately turn to enterprise storage.

In addition, server virtualization transforms the enterprise data center from a single application per server to easily 5 or more applications per physical server.  This trend is raising server utilization, driving more I/O, and requiring higher capacity.  Such “multi-application” storage almost always requires high availability, reliability and performance to work well, generating even more demand for enterprise data storage systems.

Despite all the demand, world wide external storage revenues dropped 12% last year according to IDC.  Now the economy had a lot to do with this decline but another factor reducing external storage revenue is the ongoing drop in the price of storage on a $/GB basis.  To this point, that same IDC report stated that external storage capacity increased 33% last year.

Why Dell & HP wants 3PAR storage?

Margins on enterprise storage are good, some would say very good.  While raw disk storage can be had at under $0.50/GB, enterprise class storage is often 10 or more times that price.  Now that has to cover redundant hardware, software/firmware engineering and other characteristics, but this still leaves pretty good margins.

In my mind, Dell would see enterprise storage as a natural extension of their current enterprise server business.  They already sell and support these customers, including enterprise class storage just adds another product to the mix.  Developing enterprise storage from scratch is probably a 4-7 year journey with the right people, buying 3PAR puts them in the market today with a competitive product.

HP is already in the enterprise storage market today, with their XP and EVA storage subsystems.  However, having their own 3PAR enterprise class storage may get them better margins than their current XP storage OEMed from HDS.  But I think Chuck Hollis’s post on HP’s counter bid for 3PAR may have revealed another side to this discussion – sometime M&A is as much about constraining your competition as it is about adding new capabilities to a company.


What do you think?

PC-as-a-Service (PCaaS) using VDI

IBM PC Computer by Mess of Pottage (cc) (from Flickr)
IBM PC Computer by Mess of Pottage (cc) (from Flickr)

Last year at VMworld, VMware was saying that 2010 was year for VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), last week NetApp said that most large NY banks they talked with were looking at implementing VDI and prior to that, HP StorageWorks announced a new VDI reference platform that could support ~1600 VDI images.  It seems that VDI is gaining some serious interest.

While VDI works well for large organizations, there doesn’t seem to be any similar solution for consumers. The typical consumer today usually runs downlevel OS’s, anti-virus, office applications, etc.  and have no time, nor inclination to update such software.  These consumers would be considerably better served with something like PCaaS, if such a thing existed.


Essentially PCaaS would be a VDI-like service offering, using standard VDI tools or something similar with a lightweight kernel, use of local attached resources (printers, usb sticks, scanners, etc.) but running applications that were hosted elsewhere.  PCaaS could provide all the latest O/S and applications and provide enterprise class reliability, support and backup/restore services.


One potential problem with PCaaS is the need for reliable broadband to the home. Just like other cloud services, without broadband, none of this will work.

Possibly this could be circumvented if a PCaaS viewer browser application were available (like VMware’s Viewer). With this in place, PCaaS could be supplied over any internet enabled location supporting browser access.   Such a browser based service may not support the same rich menu of local resources as a normal PCaaS client, but it would probably suffice when needed. The other nice thing about a viewer is that smart phones, iPads and other always-on web-enabled devices supporting standard browsers could provide PCaaS services from anywhere mobile data or WI-FI were available.

PCaaS business model

As for a businesses that could bring PC-as-a-Service to life, I see many potential providers:

  • Any current PC hardware vendor/supplier may want to supply PCaaS as it may defer/reduce hardware purchases or rather move such activity from the consumer to companies.
  • Many SMB hosting providers could easily offer such a service.
  • Many local IT support services could deliver better and potentially less expensive services to their customers by offering PCaaS.
  • Any web hosting company would have the networking, server infrastructure and technical know-how to easily provide PCaaS.

This list ignores any new entrants that would see this as a significant opportunity.

Google, Microsoft and others seem to be taking small steps to do this in a piecemeal fashion, with cloud enabled office/email applications. However, in my view what the consumer really wants is a complete PC, not just some select group of office applications.

As described above, PCaaS would bring enterprise level IT desktop services to the consumer marketplace. Any substantive business in PCaaS would free up untold numbers of technically astute individuals providing un-paid, on-call support to millions, perhaps billions of technically challenged consumers.

Now if someone would just come out with Mac-as-a-Service, I could retire from supporting my family’s Apple desktops & laptops…