68: GreyBeards talk NVMeoF/TCP with Ahmet Houssein, VP of Marketing & Strategy @ Solarflare Communications

In this episode we talk with Ahmet Houssein, VP of Marketing and Strategic Direction at Solarflare Communications, (@solarflare_comm). Ahmet’s been in the industry forever and has a unique view on where NVMeoF needs to go. Howard had talked with Ahmet at last years FMS. Ahmet will also be speaking at this years FMS (this week in Santa Clara, CA)..

Solarflare Communications sells Ethernet communication gear, mostly to the financial services market and has developed a software plugin for the standard TCP/IP stack on Linux that supports both target and client mode NVMeoF/TCP. That is, their software plugin provides a complete implementation of NVMeoF across TCP Ethernet that extends the TCP protocol but doesn’t require RDMA (RoCE or iWARP) or data center bridging.

Implementing NVMeoF/TCP

Solarflare’s NVMeoF/TCP is a free plugin that once approved by the NVMe(oF) standard’s committees anyone can use to create a NVMeoF storage system and consume that storage from almost anywhere. The standards committee is expected to approve the protocol extension soon and sometime after that the plugin will be added to the Linux Kernel. After standards approval, maybe VMware and Microsoft will adopt it as well, but may take more work.

Over the last year plus most NVMeoF/Ethernet we encounter requires sophisticated RDMA hardware. When we talked with Pavilion Data Systems, a month or so ago, they had designed a more networking like approach to NVMeoF using RoCE and TCP a special purpose FPGA that’s used in their RDMA NICs and Mellanox switches to support client-target mode NVMeoF/UDP [updated 8/8/18 after VR’s comment, the ed.]. When we talked with Attala Systems, they had special purpose FPGA that’s used in RDMA NICs and Mellanox switches to support target & client mode NVMeoF/UDP were using standard RDMA NICs and Mellanox switches to support their NVMeoF/Ethernet storage [updated 8/8/18 after VR’s comment, the ed.].

Solarflare is taking a different tack.

One problem with the NVMeoF/Ethernet RDMA is compatibility. You can use either RoCE or iWARP RDMA NICs but at the moment you can’t use both. With TCP/IP plugins there’s no hardware compatibility issue. (Yes, there’s software compatibility at both ends of the pipe).

SolarFlare recently measured latencies for their NVMeoF/TCP (Iometer/FIO) which shows that the with the protocol running it adds about a 5-10% increase in latency versus running RDMA NVMeoF/UDP-RoCE-iWARP.

Performance measurements were taken using a server, running Red Hat Linux + their TCP plugin with NVMe SSDs on the storage side and a similar configuration on the client side without the SSDs.

If they add 10% latency to 10 microsec. IO (for Optane), latency becomes 11 microsec. Similarly for flash NVMe SSDs it moves from 100 microsec to 110 microsec.

Ahmet did mention that their NICs have some hardware optimizations which brings down this added latency into something approaching closer to 5%. And later we discuss the immense parallelism opportunities using the TCP stack in user space. Their hardware also better supports more threads doing IO in parallel.

Why TCP

Ahmets on a mission. He says there’s this misbelief that Ethernet RDMA hardware is required to achieve lightening fast response times using NVMeoF, but it’s not true. Standard TCP with proper protocol enhancements is more than capable of performing at very close to the same latencies as RDMA, without special NICs and DCB switch configurations.

Furthermore, TCP/IP already has multipathing support. So current high availability characteristics of TCP are readily applicable to NVMeoF/TCP

Parallelism through user space

NVMeoF/TCP was the subject of 1st half of our discussion but we spent the 2nd half talking about scaling or parallelism. Even if you can do 11 or 110 microsecond latency at some point, if you do enough of these IOs, the kernel overhead in processing blocks and transferring control from kernel space to user space will become a bottleneck.

However, there’s nothing stopping IT from running the TCP/IP stack in user space and eliminating any kernel control transfer whatsoever. By doing so, data centers could parallelize all this IO using as many cores as available.

Running the plugin in a TCP/IP stack in user space allows you to scale NVMeoF lightening fast IO to as many users as you have user spaces or cores, and the kernel doesn’t even break into a sweat

Anyone could simply download Solarflare’s plugin, configure a white box server with Linux and 24 NVMe SSDs and support ~8.4M IOPS (350Kx24) at ~110 microsec latency And with user space scaling, one could easily have 1000s of user spaces connected to it.

They’re going to need need faster pipes!

The podcast runs ~39 minutes. Ahmet was very knowledgeable about NVMe, NVMeoF and TCP.  He was articulate and easy to talk with.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Ahmet Houssein, VP of Marketing and Strategic Direction at Solarflare Communications 

Ahmet Houssein is responsible for establishing marketing strategies and implementing programs to drive revenue growth, enter new markets and expand brand awareness to support Solarflare’s continuous development and global expansion.

He has over twenty-five years of experience in the server, storage, data center and networking industry, and held senior level executive positions in product development, marketing and business development at Intel and Honeywell. Most recently Houssein was SVP/GM at QLogic where he successfully delivered first to market with 25Gb Ethernet products securing design wins at HP and Dell.

One of the key leaders in the creation of the INFINIBAND and PCI-Express industry standard, Houssein is a recipient of the Intel Achievement Award and was a founding board member of the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA), a global organization of 400 companies in the storage market. He was educated in London, UK and holds an Electrical Engineering Degree equivalent.

66: GreyBeards talk Midrange storage part 2, with Sean Kinney, Sr. Dir. Midrange Storage Mkt, Dell EMC

Sponsored by:

Dell EMC Midrange Storage

In this episode we talk with Sean Kinney (@SeanRKinney14), senior director, midrange storage marketing at Dell EMC.  Howard and I have both known Sean for a number of years now. Sean has had multiple roles in the IT industry, doing various marketing and management duties at multiple vendors. He’s back at Dell EMC now and wanted to take on opportunity to discuss Dell EMC midrange storage with us.

As you probably already know, Dell EMC midrange storage dominates their market and has done so for a number of years now. Currently, Dell EMC midrange storage has 2X the revenue of any other competitor.

This is the third time (Dell) EMC has been on our show (see our EMCWorld2015 summary podcast with Chad Sakac, and  Talk with Pierluca Chiodelli sponsored podcast).  Since our last podcast, there’s been plenty of happenings at Dell EMC midrange storage.

Dell EMC Unity and SC storage news

Dell EMC Unity storage has recently added new file data reduction and file sync replication functionality. And a short time ago, Dell EMC came out with an AFA version of their SC Series storage.

With the two midrange product lines there’s been some cross fertilization. That is Dell EMC is starting to take some of the best features from one solution and applying it to the other.

For example,

  • SC series has had its Health Check offering since Compellent days. This is a PS, offered by Dell EMC, that reviews the health of your data center’s SC storage, DR plans, backup activity, IO performance, etc. and provides recommendations as to how to improve the overall storage environment. The Health Check PS is now also available for Unity storage.
  • Unity storage has had its CloudIQ management/monitoring solution since December of 2016. CloudIQ is a big data analytics-remote management, software-as-a-service offering, running in the cloud that allows customers to manage/monitor Unity storage from anywhere. With SC Series’ latest, 7.3 code update, SC storage is also supported under CloudIQ.

We also discussed some of the inherent advantages to SC Series storage, such as their forever software licensing, storage federation/scale out clusters and economical $/GB pricing.

Sean mentioned some of the Future Proof guarantees that Dell EMC offers on both Unity and SC series storage. These include hardware investment protection, data-in-place upgrades, data reduction guarantees, etc.

The podcast runs ~20 minutes. Sean has been around the storage for a long time now and is very knowledgeable about Dell EMC Midrange storage as well as competitive solutions. Howard and I have talked with Sean at a number of industry events in the past and it was fun to talk with him again.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Sean Kinney, Senior Director,  Dell EMC Midrange Storage Marketing

Sean Kinney is an industry leader in the storage and data protection market, with over 20 years of experience in the IT industry.

Currently, he is the Senior Director for midrange storage marketing at Dell EMC.  He spent the first 10 years of his career at EMC, and then held positions including VP and General Manager of online backup at Acronis and Senior Director, Storage Marketing at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.

Sean has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and a M.B.A from the University of Michigan.

65: GreyBeards talk new FlashSystem storage with Eric Herzog, CMO and VP WW Channels IBM Storage

Sponsored by:

In this episode, we talk with Eric Herzog, Chief Marketing Officer and VP of WorldWide Channels for IBM Storage about the FlashSystem 9100 storage series.  This is the 2nd time we have had Eric on the show (see Violin podcast) and the 2nd time we have had a guest from IBM on our show (see CryptoCurrency talk). However, it’s the first time we have had IBM as a sponsor for a podcast.

Eric’s a 32 year storage industry veteran who’s worked for many major storage companies, including Seagate, EMC and IBM and 7 startups over his carreer. He’s been predominantly in marketing but was CFO at one company.

New IBM FlashSystem 9100

IBM is introducing a new FlashSystem 9100 storage series, using new NVMe FlashCore Modules (FCM) that have been re-designed to fit a small form factor (SFF, 2.5″) drive slot but also supports standard, NVMe SFF SSDs in a 2U appliance package. The new storage has dual active-active RAID controllers running the latest generation IBM Spectrum Virtualize software that’s running over 100K storage systems in the field today.

FlashSystem 9100 supports up to 24 NVMe FCMs or SSDs, which can be intermixed. The FCMs offer up to 19.2TB of usable flash and have onboard hardware compression and encryption.

With FCM media, the FlashSystem 9100 can sustain 2.5M IOPS at 100µsec response times with 34GB/sec of data throughput. Spectrum Virtualize is a clustered storage system, so one could cluster together up to 4 FlashSystem 9100s into a single storage system and support 10M IOPS and 136GB/sec of throughput.

Spectrum Virtualize just introduced block data deduplication within a data reduction pool. With thin provisioning, data deduplication, pattern matching, SCSI Unmap support, and data compression, the FlashSystem 9100 can offer up to 5:1 effective capacity:useable flash capacity. That means with 24 19.2TB FCMs, a single FlashSystem 9100 offers over 2PB of effective capacity.

In addition to the appliances 24 NVMe FCMs or NVMe SSDS, FlashSystem 9100 storage can also attach up to 20 SAS SSD drive shelves for additional capacity. Moreover, Spectrum Virtualize offers storage virtualization, so customers can attach external storage arrays behind a FlashSystem 9100 solution.

With FlashSystem 9100, IBM has bundled additional Spectrum software, including

  • Spectrum Virtualize for Public Cloud – which allows customers to migrate  data and workloads from on premises to the cloud and back again. Today this only works for IBM Cloud, but plans are to support other public clouds soon.
  • Spectrum Copy Data Management – which offers a simple way to create and manage copies of data while enabling controlled self-service for test/dev and other users to use snapshots for secondary use cases.
  • Spectrum Protect Plus – which provides data backup and recovery for FlashSystem 9100 storage, tailor made for smaller, virtualized data centers.
  • Spectrum Connect – which allows Docker and Kubernetes container apps to access persistent storage on FlashSystem 9100.

To learn more about the IBM FlashSystem 9100, join the virtual launch experience July 24, 2018 here.

The podcast runs ~43 minutes. Eric has always been knowledgeable on the enterprise storage market, past, present and future. He had a lot to talk about on the FlashSystem 9100 and seems to have mellowed lately. His grey mustache is forcing the GreyBeards to consider a name change – GreyHairsOnStorage anyone,  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Eric Herzog, Chief Marketing Officer and VP of Worldwide Channels for IBM Storage

Eric’s responsibilities include worldwide product marketing and management for IBM’s award-winning family of storage solutions, software defined storage, integrated infrastructure, and software defined computing, as well as responsibility for global storage channels.

Herzog has over 32 years of product management, marketing, business development, alliances, sales, and channels experience in the storage software, storage systems, and storage solutions markets, managing all aspects of marketing, product management, sales, alliances, channels, and business development in both Fortune 500 and start-up storage companies.

Prior to joining IBM, Herzog was Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President of Alliances for all-flash storage provider Violin Memory. Herzog was also Senior Vice President of Product Management and Product Marketing for EMC’s Enterprise & Mid-range Systems Division, where he held global responsibility for product management, product marketing, evangelism, solutions marketing, communications, and technical marketing with a P&L over $10B. Before joining EMC, he was vice president of marketing and sales at Tarmin Technologies. Herzog has also held vice president business line management and vice president of marketing positions at IBM’s Storage Technology Division, where he had P&L responsibility for the over $300M OEM RAID and storage subsystems business, and Maxtor (acquired by Seagate).

Herzog has held vice president positions in marketing, sales, operations, and acting-CFO roles at Asempra (acquired by BakBone Software), ArioData Networks (acquired by Xyratex), Topio (acquired by Network Appliance), Zambeel, and Streamlogic.

Herzog holds a B.A. degree in history from the University of California, Davis, where he graduated cum laude, studied towards a M.A. degree in Chinese history, and was a member of the Phi Alpha Theta honor society.

62: GreyBeards talk NVMeoF storage with VR Satish, Founder & CTO Pavilion Data Systems

In this episode,  we continue on our NVMeoF track by talking with VR Satish (@satish_vr), Founder and CTO of Pavilion Data Systems (@PavilionData). Howard had talked with Pavilion Data over the last year or so and I just had a briefing with them over the past week.

Pavilion data is taking a different tack to NVMeoF, innovating in software and hardware design, but using merchant silicon for their NVMeoF accelerated array solution. They offer Ethernet based NVMeoF block storage.

VR is a storage “lifer“, having worked at Veritas on their Volume Manager and other products for a long time. Moreover, Pavilion Data has a number of exec’s from Pure Storage (including their CEO, Gurpreet Singh), other storage technology companies and is located in San Jose, CA.

VR says there were 5 overriding principles for Pavilion Data as they were considering a new storage architecture:

  1. The IT industry is moving to rack scale compute and hence, there is a need for rack scale storage.
  2. Great merchant silicon was coming online so, there was less of a need to design their own silicon/asics/FPGAs.
  3. Rack scale storage needs to provide “local” (within the rack) resiliency/high availability and let modern applications manage “global” (outside the rack) resiliency/HA.
  4. Rack scale storage needs to support advanced data management services.
  5. Rack scale storage has to be easy to deploy and run

Pavilion Data’s key insight was in order to meet all those principles and deal with high performance NVMe flash and up and coming, SCM SSDs,  storage had to be redesigned to look more like network switches.

Controller cards?

One can see this new networking approach in their bottom of rack, 4U storage appliance. Their appliance has up to 20 controller cards creating a heavy compute/high bandwidth cluster attached via an internal PCIe switch to a backend storage complex made up of up to 72 U.2 NVMe SSDs.

The SSDs fit into an interposer that plugs into their PCIe switch and maps single (or dual ported) SSDs to the applianece’s PCIe bus. Each controller card supports an Intel  XeonD micrprocessor and 2 100GbE ports for up to 40 100GbE ports per appliance. The controller cards are configured in an active-active, auto-failover mode, for high availability. They don’t use memory caching or have any NVram.

On their website Pavilion data show  117 µsec response times and 114 GB/sec of throughput for IO performance.

Data management for NVMeoF storage

Pavilion Data storage supports widely striped/RAID6 data protection (16+2), thin provisioning, space efficient read only (redirect on write) snapshots and space efficient read-write clones. With RAID6, it takes more than 2  drive failures to lose data.

Like traditional storage, volumes (NVMe namespaces) are assigned to RAID groups.  The backend layout appears to be a log structured file. VR mentioned that they don’t do garbage collection and with no Nvram/no memory caching, there’s a bit of secret sauce here.

Pavilion Data storage offers two NVMeoF/Ethernet protocols:

  • Standard off the shelf,  NVMeoF/RoCE interface that makes use of v1.x of the Linux kernel NVMeoF/RoCE drivers and special NIC/switch hardware
  • New NVMeof/TCP interface that doesn’t need special networking  hardware and as such, offers NVMeoF over standard NIC/switches. I assume this takes host software to work.

In addition, Pavilion Data has developed their own Multi-path IO (MPIO) driver for NVMeoF high availability which they have contributed to the current Linux kernel project.

Their management software uses RESTful APIs (documented on their website). They also offer a CLI and GUI, both built using these APIs.  Bottom of rack storage appliances are managed as separate storage units, so they don’t support clusters of more than one appliance. However, there are only a few cluster storage systems we know of that support 20 controllers today for block storage.

Market

VR mentioned that they are going after new applications like MongoDB, Cassandra, CouchBase, etc. These applications are designed around rack scaling and provide “global”, off-rack/cross datacenter availability themselves. But VR also mentioned Oracle and other, more traditional applications. Pavilion Data storage is sold on a ($/GB) capacity basis.

The system comes in a minimum, 5 controller cards-18 NVMe SSD configuration and can be extended in groups of 5 controllers-18 NVMe SSDs to the full 20 controller cards-72 NVMe SSDs.

The podcast runs ~42 minutes. VR was very knowledgeable about the storage industry, NVMeoF storage protocols, NVMe SSDs and advanced data management capabilities. We had a good talk with VR on what Pavilion Data does and how well it works.   Listen to the podcast to learn more.

VR Satish, Founder and CTO, Pavilion Data Systems

VR Satish is the Chief Technology Officer at Pavilion Data Systems and brings more than 20 years of experience in enterprise storage software products.

Prior to joining Pavilion Data, he was an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Artiman Ventures. Satish was an early employee of Veritas and later served as the Vice President and the Chief Technology Officer for the Information & Availability Group at Symantec Corporation prior to joining Artiman.

His current areas of interest include distributed computing, information-centric storage architectures and virtualization.

Satish holds multiple patents in storage management, and earned his Master’s degree in computer science from the University of Florida.

61: GreyBeards talk composable storage infrastructure with Taufik Ma, CEO, Attala Systems

In this episode,  we talk with Taufik Ma, CEO, Attala Systems (@AttalaSystems). Howard had met Taufik at last year’s FlashMemorySummit (FMS17) and was intrigued by their architecture which he thought was a harbinger of future trends in storage. The fact that Attala Systems was innovating with new, proprietary hardware made an interesting discussion, in its own right, from my perspective.

Taufik’s worked at startups and major hardware vendors in his past life and seems to have always been at the intersection of breakthrough solutions using hardware technology.

Attala Systems is based out of San Jose, CA.  Taufik has a class A team of executives, engineers and advisors making history again, this time in storage with JBoFs and NVMeoF.

Ray’s written about JBoF (just a bunch of flash) before (see  FaceBook moving to JBoF post). This is essentially a hardware box, filled with lots of flash storage and drive interfaces that directly connects to servers. Attala Systems storage is JBOF on steroids.

Composable Storage Infrastructure™

Essentially, their composable storage infrastructure JBOF connects with NVMeoF (NVMe over Fabric) using Ethernet to provide direct host access to  NVMe SSDs. They have implemented special purpose, proprietary hardware in the form of an FPGA, using this in a proprietary host network adapter (HNA) to support their NVMeoF storage.

Their HNA has a host side and a storage side version, both utilizing Attala Systems proprietary FPGA(s). With Attala HNAs they have implemented their own NVMeoF over UDP stack in hardware. It supports multi-path IO and highly available dual- or single-ported, NVMe SSDs in a storage shelf. They use standard RDMA capable Ethernet 25-50-100GbE (read Mellanox) switches to connect hosts to storage JBoFs.

They also support RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE) NICS for additional host access. However I believe this requires host (NVMeoF) (their NVMeoY over UDP stack) software to connect to their storage.

From the host, Attala Systems storage on HNAs, looks like directly attached NVMe SSDs. Only they’re hot pluggable and physically located across an Ethernet network. In fact, Taufik mentioned that they already support VMware vSphere servers accessing Attala Systems composable storage infrastructure.

Okay on to the good stuff. Taufik said they measured their overhead and it was able to perform an IO with only an additional 5 µsec of overhead over native NVMe SSD latencies. Current NVMe SSDs operate with a response time of from 90 to 100 µsecs, and with Attala Systems Composable Storage Infrastructure, this means you should see 95 to 105 µsec response times over a JBoF(s) full of NVMe SSDs! Taufik said with Intel Optane SSD’s 10 µsec response times, they see response times at ~16 µsec (the extra µsec seems to be network switch delay)!!

Managing composable storage infrastructure

They also use a management “entity” (running on a server or as a VM),  that’s used to manage their JBoF storage and configure NVMe Namespaces (like a SCSI LUN/Volume).  Hosts use NVMe NameSpaces to access and split out the JBoF  NVMe storage space. That is, multiple Attala Systems Namespaces can be configured over a single NVMe SSD, each one corresponding to a single  (virtual to real) host NVMe SSD.

The management entity has a GUI but it just uses their RESTful APIs. They also support QoS on an IOPs or bandwidth limiting basis for Namespaces, to control manage noisy neighbors.

Attala systems architected their management system to support scale out storage. This means they could support many JBoFs in a rack and possibly multiple racks of JBoFs connected to swarms of servers. And nothing was said that would limit the number of Attala storage system JBoFs attached to a single server or under a single (dual for HA) management  entity. I thought the software may have a problem with this (e.g., 256 NVMe (NameSpaces) SSDs PCIe connected to the same server) but Taufik said this isn’t a problem for modern OS.

Taufik mentioned that with their RESTful APIs,  namespaces can be quickly created and torn down, on the fly. They envision their composable storage infrastructure to be a great complement to cloud compute and container execution environments.

For storage hardware, they use storage shelfs from OEM vendors. One recent configuration from Supermicro has hot-pluggable, dual ported, 32 NVMe slots in a 1U chasis, which at todays ~16TB capacities, is ~1/2PB of raw flash. Taufik mentioned 32TB NVMe SSDs are being worked on as we speak. Imagine that 1PB of flash NVMe SSD storage in 1U!!

The podcast runs ~47 minutes. Taufik took a while to get warmed up but once he got going, my jaw dropped away.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Taufik Ma, CEO Attala Systems

Tech-savvy business executive with track record of commercializing disruptive data center technologies.  After a short stint as an engineer at Intel after college, Taufik jumped to the business side where he led a team to define Intel’s crown jewels – CPUs & chipsets – during the ascendancy of the x86 server platform.

He honed his business skills as Co-GM of Intel’s Server System BU before leaving for a storage/networking startup.  The acquisition of this startup put him into the executive team of Emulex where as SVP of product management, he grew their networking business from scratch to deliver the industry’s first million units of 10Gb Ethernet product.

These accomplishments draw from his ability to engage and acquire customers at all stages of product maturity including partners when necessary.