Category Archives: Hyper converged

46: Greybeards discuss Dell EMC World2017 happenings on vBrownBag

In this episode Howard and I were both at Dell EMC World2017 this past month and Alastair Cooke (@DemitasseNZ) asked us to do a talk at the show for the vBrownBag group (Youtube video here). The GreyBeards asked for a copy of the audio for this podcast.

Sorry about the background noise, but we recorded live at the show, with a huge teleprompter in the background that was re-broadcasting keynotes/interviews from the show.

At the show

Howard was at Dell EMC World2017 on a media pass and I was at the show on an industry analyst pass. There were parts of the show that he saw, that I didn’t and vice versa, but all keynotes and major industry outreach were available to both of us.

As always the Dell EMC team put on a great show, and kudos have to go to their AR and PR teams for having both of us there and creating a great event. There were lots of news at the show and both of us were impressed by how well Dell EMC have come together, in such a short time.

In addition, there were a number of Dell partners at the show. Howard met  Datadobi on the show floor who have a file migration tool that walks a filesystem tree and migrates files as well as reports on files it can’t. And we both saw Datrium (who we talked with last year).

Servers and other news

We both liked Dell’s new 14th generation server. But Howard objected to the lack of technical specs on it. Apparently, Intel won’t let specs be published until they announce their new CPU chipsets, sometime later this year. On the other hand, there were a few server specs discussed. For example, I was impressed the new servers would support many more NVMe cards. Howard liked the new server support for NV-DIMMs, mainly for the potential latency reduction that could provide software defined storage.

That led us on a tangent discussion about whether there is a place for non-software defined storage anymore.  Howard mentioned the downside of HCI/software defined storage on upgrading server (DIMM, PCIe card) hardware.

However, appliance hardware seems to be getting easier to upgrade. The new Unity AFA storage can be upgraded, non-disruptively from the low end to high end appliance by just swapping out controller hardware canisters.

Howard was also interested in Dell EMC’s new CloudFlex purchasing model for HCI solutions. This supplies an almost cloud-like purchasing option for customers. Where for a one year commitment,  you pay as you go (no money down, just monthly payments) rather than an up front capital purchase. After the year’s commitment expires you can send the hardware back to Dell EMC and stop paying.

We talked about Tier 0 storage. EMC DSSD was an early attempt to provide Tier 0 but came with lots of special purpose hardware. When commodity hardware and software emerged last year with NVMe SSD speed, DSSD was no longer viable at the premium pricing needed for all that hardware and was shut down. Howard and I discussed how doing special hardware requires one to be much faster (10-100X) than commodity hardware solutions to succeed and the gap has to be continued.

The other big storage news was the new VMAX 950F AFA and its performance numbers. Dell EMC said the new VMAX could do 6.7M IOPS of RRH (random read hit) and had a 350µsec response time. Howard noted that Dell EMC didn’t say at what IO load they achieved the 350µsec response time. I told him it almost didn’t matter, even if it was a single IO at that response time, it was significant.

The podcast runs about 40 minutes. It’s just Howard and I talking about what we saw/heard at the show and the occasional, tangental topic.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.


Howard Marks, DeepStorage

Howard Marks is the Founder and Chief Scientist of howardmarksDeepStorage, a prominent blogger at Deep Storage Blog and can be found on twitter @DeepStorageNet.

Ray Lucchesi, Silverton Consulting

Ray Lucchesi is the President and Founder of Silverton Consulting, a prominent blogger at RayOnStorage Blog, and can be found on twitter @RayLucchesi.

43: GreyBeards talk Tier 0 again with Yaniv Romem CTO/Founder & Josh Goldenhar VP Products of Excelero

In this episode, we talk with another next gen, Tier 0 storage provider. This time our guests are Yaniv Romem CTO/Founder  & Josh Goldenhar (@eeschwa) VP Products from Excelero, another new storage startup out of Israel.  Both Howard and I talked with Excelero at SFD12 (videos here) earlier last month in San Jose. I was very impressed with their raw performance and wrote a popular RayOnStorage blog post on their system (see my 4M IO/sec@227µsec 4KB Read… post) from our discussions during SFD12.

As we have discussed previously, Tier 0, next generation flash arrays provide very high performing storage at very low latencies with modest to non-existent advanced storage services. They are intended to replace server, direct access SSD storage with a more shared, scaleable storage solution.

In our last podcast (with E8 Storage) they sold a hardware Tier 0 appliance. As a different alternative, Excelero is a software defined, Tier 0 solution intended to be used on any commodity or off the shelf server hardware with high end networking and (low to high end) NVMe SSDs.

Indeed, what impressed me most with their 4M IO/sec, was that target storage system had almost 0 CPU utilization. (Read the post to learn how they did this). Excelero mentioned that they were able to generate high (11M random 4KB) IO/sec on  Intel Core 7, desktop-class CPU. Their one need in a storage server is plenty of PCIe lanes. They don’t even need to have dual socket storage servers, single socket CPU’s work just fine as long as the PCIe lanes are there.

Excelero software

Their intent is to bring Tier 0 capabilities out to all big storage environments. By providing a software only solution it could be easily OEMed by cluster file system vendors or HPC system vendors and generate amazing IO performance needed by their clients.

That’s also one of the reasons that they went with high end Ethernet networking rather than just Infiniband, which would have limited their market to mostly HPC environments. Excelero’s client software uses RoCE/RDMA hardware to perform IO operations with the storage server.

The other thing having little to no target storage server CPU utilization per IO operation gives them is the ability to scale up to 1000 of hosts or storage servers without reaching any storage system bottlenecks.  Another concern eliminated by minimal target server CPU utilization is that you can’t have a noisy neighbor problem, because there’s no target CPU processing to be shared.  Yet another advantage with Excelero is that bandwidth is only  limited by storage server PCIe lanes and networking.  A final advantage of their approach is that they can support any of the current and upcoming storage class memory devices supporting NVMe (e.g., Intel Optane SSDs).

The storage services they offer include RAID 0, 1 and 10 and a client side logical volume manager which supports multi-pathing. Logical volumes can span up to 128 storage servers, but can be accessed by almost any number of hosts. And there doesn’t appear to be a specific limit on the number of logical volumes you can have.

 

They support two different protocols across the 40GbE/100GbE networks. Standard NVMe over Fabric or RDDA (Excelero patented, proprietary Remote Direct Disk Array access). RDDA is what mainly provides the almost non-existent target storage server CPU utilization. But even with standard NVMe over Fabric they support low target CPU utilization. One proviso, with NVMe over Fabric, they do add shared volume functionality to support RAID device locking and additional fault tolerance capabilities.

On Excelero’s roadmap is thin provisioning, snapshots, compression and deduplication. However, they did mention that adding advanced storage functionality like this will impede performance. Currently, their distributed volume locking and configuration metadata is not normally accessed during an IO but when you add thin provisioning, snapshots and data reduction, this metadata needs to become more sophisticated and will necessitate some amount of access during and after an IO operation.

Excelero’s client software runs in Linux kernel mode client and they don’t currently support VMware or Hyper-V. But they do support KVM as a hypervisor and would be willing to support the others, if APIs were published or made available.

They also have an internal OpenStack Cinder driver but it’s not part of their OpenStack’s release yet. They’re waiting for snapshot to be available before they push this into the main code base. Ditto for Docker Engine but this is more of a beta capability today.

Excelero customer experience

One customer (NASA Ames/Moffat Field) deployed a single 2TB NVMe SSD across 128 hosts and had a single 256TB logical volume shared and accessed by all 128 hosts.

Another customer configured Excelero behind a clustered file system and was able to generate 30M randomized IO/sec at 200µsec latencies but more important, 140GB/sec of bandwidth. It turns out high bandwidth is important to many big data applications that have to roll lots of data into their analytics clusters, processing it and output results, and then do it all over again. Bandwidth limitations can impact the success of these types of applications.

By being software only they can be used in a standalone storage server or as a hyper-converged solution where applications and storage can be co-resident on the same server. As noted above, they currently support Linux O/Ss for their storage and client software and support any X86 Intel processor, any RDMA capable NIC, and any NVMe SSD.

Excelero GTM

Excelero is focused on the top 200 customers, which includes the hyper-scale providers like FaceBook, Google, Microsoft and others. But hyper-scale customers have huge software teams and really a single or few, very large/complex applications which they can create/optimize a Tier 0 storage for themselves.

It’s really the customers just below the hyper-scalar class, that have similar needs for high low latency IO/sec or high IO bandwidth (or both) but have 100s to 1000s of applications and they can’t afford to optimize them all for Tier 0 flash. If they solve sharing Tier 0 flash storage in a more general way, say as a block storage device. They can solve it for any application. And if the customer insists, they could put a clustered file system or even an object storage (who would want this) on top of this shared Tier 0 flash storage system.

These customers may currently be using NVMe SSDs within their servers as a DAS device. But with Excelero these resources can be shared across the data center. They think of themselves as a top of rack NVMe storage system.

On their website they have listed a few of their current customers and their pretty large and impressive.

NVMe competition

Aside from E8 Storage, there are few other competitors in Tier 0 storage. One recently announced a move to an NVMe flash storage solution and another killed their shipping solution. We talked about what all this means to them and their market at the end of the podcast. Suffice it to say, they’re not worried.

The podcast runs ~50 minutes. Josh and Yaniv were very knowledgeable about Tier 0, storage market dynamics and were a delight to talk with.   Listen to the podcast to learn more.


Yaniv Romem CTO and Founder, Excelero

Yaniv Romem has been a technology evangelist at disruptive startups for the better part of 20 years. His passions are in the domains of high performance distributed computing, storage, databases and networking.
Yaniv has been a founder at several startups such as Excelero, Xeround and Picatel in these domains. He has served in CTO and VP Engineering roles for the most part.


Josh Goldenhar, Vice President Products, Excelero

Josh has been responsible for product strategy and vision at leading storage companies for over two decades. His experience puts him in a unique position to understand the needs of our customers.
Prior to joining Excelero, Josh was responsible for product strategy and management at EMC (XtremIO) and DataDirect Networks. Previous to that, his experience and passion was in large scale, systems architecture and administration with companies such as Cisco Systems. He’s been a technology leader in Linux, Unix and other OS’s for over 20 years. Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego.

36: GreyBeards discuss VMworld2016 with Andy Banta, Storage Janitor, NetApp Solidfire

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Thanks Andy Warfield, Coho Data

In this episode, we talk with Andy Banta (@andybanta), Storage Janitor (Principal Virt. Architect), Netapp SolidFire. Andy’s been involved in Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and other VMware API implementations at SolidFire and worked at VMware and other storage/system vendor companies before that.

Howard and I were at VMworld2016 late last month and we thought Andy would be a good person to discuss what went there this year.

No VVOLs & VSAN news at the show

Although, we all thought there’d be another release of VVOLs and VSAN announced at the show, VMware announced Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services. If anything the show was a bit mum about VMware Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and Virtual SAN™ (VSAN) this year as compared to last.

On the other hand, Andy’s and other VVOL technical sessions were busy at the conference. And one of them ended up having standing room only and was repeated at the show, due to the demand. Customer interest in VVOLs seems to be peaking.

Our discussion begins with why VVOLs was sidelined this year. One reason was that there was a  focus from VMware and their ecosystem on Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) and HCI doesn’t use storage arrays or VVOL.

Howard and I suspected with VMware’s ecosystem growing ever larger, validation and regression testing is starting to consume more resources. But Andy, suggested that’s not the issue, as VMware uses self-certification, where vendors run tests that VMware supplies to show they meet API requirements. VMware does bring in a handful of vendor solutions (5 for VVOLs) for reference architectures and to insure the APIs meet (major) vendor requirements but after that, it’s all self certification.

Another possibility was  that the DELL-EMC acquisition (closed 9/6) could be  a distraction. But Andy said VMware’s been and will continue on as an independent company and the fact that EMC owned ~84% of the stock never impacted VMware’s development before. So DELL’s acquisition shouldn’t either.

Finally we suggested that executive churn at VMware could be the problem. But Andy debunked that and said the amount of executive transitions hasn’t really accelerated over the years.

After all that, we concluded that just maybe the schedule had slipped and perhaps we will see something new in Barcelona for VVOLs and VMware APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA), at VMworld2016 Europe.

Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services

What VMware did announce was VMware Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services. This seems to signal a shift in philosophy to be more accommodating to the public cloud rather than just competing with them.

VMware Cloud Foundation is a repackaging of  VMware Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), NSX®,  VSAN and vSphere® into a single bundle that customers can use to spin up a private cloud with ease.

VMware Cross-Cloud Services is a set of targeted software for public cloud deployment to ease management and migration of services . They showed how NSX could be deployed over your cloud instances to control IP addresses and provide micro-segmentation services and how other software allows data to be easily migrated between the public cloud and VMware private cloud implementations. Cross Cloud Services was tech previewed at the show and Ray wrote a  post describing them in more detail (please see VMworld2016 Day 1 Cloud Foundation & Cross-Cloud Services post).

Cloud services

Howard talked about how difficult it can be to move workloads to the cloud and back again. Most enterprise application data is just too large to transfer quickly and to complex to be a simple file transfer.  And then there’s legal matters for data governance, compliance and regulatory regimens that have to be adhered to which make it almost impossible to use public cloud services.

On the other hand, Andy talked about work they had done at SolidFire to use cloud in development. They moved some testing to the cloud to spin up 1000s of (SolidFire simulations) instances to try to catch an infrequent bug (occurring once every 10K runs).  They just couldn’t do this in their lab. In the end they were able to catch and debug the problem much more effectively using public cloud services.

Howard mentioned that they were also using AWS as an IO trace repository for benchmark development work he is doing. AWS S3 as a data repository has been a great solution for his team, as anyone can upload their data that way. By the way, he is looking for a data scientist to help analyze, this data if anyone’s interested.

In general, workloads are becoming more transient these days. Public cloud services are encouraging this movement but Docker and micro services are also having an impact.

VVOLs

One can even see this sort of trend in VMware VVOLs, which can be  another way to enable more transient workloads. VVOLs can be created and destroyed a lot quicker than Vdisks in the pasts. In fact, some storage vendors are starting to look at VVOLs as transient storage and are improving their storage and meta-data garbage collection accordingly.

Earlier this year Howard, Andy and I were all at a NetApp SolidFire Analyst event in Boulder. At that time, SolidFire said that they had implemented VVOLs so well they considered “VVOLs done right”.  I asked Andy what was different with SolidFire’s VVOL implementation. One thing they did was completely separate the Protocol endpoints from the storage side. Another was to provide QoS at the VM level that could be applied to a single or 1000s of VMs

Andy also said that SolidFire had implemented a bunch of scripts to automate VVOL policy changes across 1000s of objects. SolidFire wanted to make use of these scripts for their own VVOL implementation but as they could apply to any vendors implementation of VVOLs, they decided to open source them.

The podcast runs over 42 minutes and covers a broad discussion of the VMware ecosystem, the goings on at VMworld and SolidFire’s VVOL implementation. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Andy Banta, Storage Janitor, NetApp SolidFire

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Andy is currently a Storage Janitor acting as a Principal Virtualization Architect at NetApp SolidFire, focusing on VMware integration and Virtual Volumes.  Andy was a part of the Virtual Volumes development team at SoldiFire.

Prior to SolidFire, he was the iSCSI Tech Lead at VMware, as well as being on the engineering teams at DataGravity and Sun Microsystems.

Andy has presented at numerous VMworlds, as well as several VMUGs and other industry conferences. Outside of work, and enjoys racing cars, hiking and wines. Find him on twitter at @andybanta.

GreyBeards talk with Pivot3 and NexGen Storage about their recent acquisition announcement

In our 29th episode, we talk with John Spiers (@lefthandsan), Co-founder & CEO of NexGen Storage and Ron Nash (@hronaldnash), Chairman & CEO of Pivot3, a hyper converged infrastructure provider.  We have talked with John before (see last June’s podcast episode) about NexGen Storage technology. Recently, Pivot3 announced they were going to acquire NexGen Storage and Howard and I wanted to talk about to them what brought the two together.

We have discussed hyper converged solutions before (see ScaleComputing and Gridstore podcasts) dating all the way to the first GreyBeardsOnStorage podcast with Nutanix but this is the first time we have talked with Pivot3 and Ron Nash. As discussed in those podcasts hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) brings together compute, storage and sometimes networking under one overarching infrastructure framework and delivers all this as a single solution that customers can then tailor to their own needs. In a typical HCI solution, storage is software defined, compute is under the control of a hypervisor and can include software defined networking.

Sometime last fall both John and Ron were considering additional funding opportunities with their VC’s, when one of them, Brian Smith of S3 Ventures, suggested they look at combining their two operations into one company.

It seemed that John was looking to expand their sales and marketing team to take NexGen Storage to the next level while Ron was looking for some additional differentiation in storage technology that could take their solution beyond where they were today. It seemed to Mr. Smith that each of them had just what the other one was looking for.

As GreyBeardsOnStorage listeners should recall, NexGen Storage is known for their hybrid storage solution with fine grained QoS capabilities. Although, NexGen Storage is delivered as an appliance, their main IP is in storage software and so implementing a Software Defined Storage solution under HCI was certainly an option.

Pivot3 has been around since 2002 and has sale teams around the world with an extensive marketing team. Pivot3 uses Zen and now mostly VMware for their hypervisor environments and typically run on whitebox servers with storage bridge bay boxes running software defined storage. Pivot3 had already implemented scaleable erasure coding which is something NexGen Storage was also looking at.

Pivot3 and the rest of the HC solutions market space seems split into two. That is there is a good market at the low end, where small companies, remote offices, small workgroups, etc. are looking for an easy to deploy, full IT stack solution. And at the high end, large web properties and other IT behemoths  also need an easy to deploy, readily automated solution, that can scale to whatever size they require.

Both Pivot3 and NexGen Storage work well in VDI deployments but NexGen was mostly deployed in currently running VDI environments, whereas Pivot3 primarily went into brand new deployments, that could take advantage of HCI solutions.

In the podcast we discuss some of these large organizations such as Google, Facebook, Etrades and others and what they are looking for in an IT infrastructure. We also discuss some of the technology trends that are impacting both HCI and storage infrastructure. It turns out NexGen’s extensive QoS capabilities are what can make HCI deployments work even better than they do today.

In the past couple of days, the technology teams of the two companies have been hot and heavy, examining possible synergies and discussing how to reconcile their respective roadmaps. John and Ron were sitting in the back during these discussions throwing out ideas which the technical teams ran with as far as they could.

The podcast runs just over 41 minutes and episode covers a lot of ground about both of their products market spaces, technology, and business dynamics and especially, on how they see the two solutions complementing each other. Apparently the acquisition is on a fast path to close soon. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Ron Nash 2016[1][1]Ron Nash, Chairman and CEO, Pivot3

Ron brings senior leadership and experience as the chairman and CEO of Pivot3. He has held numerous leadership roles at both start-up and enterprise information technology companies including ExoLink (acquired by Alliance Data Systems), Advanced Telemarketing (now Aegis Global) and Rubicon (acquired by Cerner), Perot Systems (now Dell Services) and EDS (now HP Enterprise Service). More recently, he served as a partner at InterWest Partners, investing in successful breakthrough technology companies like Pivot3 and Lombardi Software (acquired by IBM).

 

John Spiers Headshot[1][1][1][1]John Spiers, Founder and CEO, NexGen Storage

John is a serial entrepreneur based in Boulder, CO. John has been pioneering breakthrough data storage innovations for over 30 years. He co-founded venture-backed LeftHand Networks, a market leader in virtualized, scale-out data storage, and served as LeftHand’s Chief Technology Officer. In 2010 John co-founded NexGen Storage. John supports local entrepreneurs, serving on the boards of local technology startups and as an advisor for the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. John is a graduate from Colorado State University with a degree in Engineering.

 

GreyBeards talk EMCWorld2015 news with Chad Sakac, Pres. EMC System Eng.

In this podcast we discuss some of the more interesting storage announcements to come out of EMCWorld2015 last week with Chad Sakac, (@sakacc on twitter and VirtualGeek blogger) President, EMC Global Systems Engineering. Chad’s was up on the “big stage” at EMCWorld helping to introduce much of the news we found thought provoking.

Chad said he was growing out his greybeard for the podcast, but we had to shut off the video to record the talk. But from the picture below, there’s no doubt he has a beard growing.

EMCWorld2015 in Las Vegas had over 14,000 participants and is EMC’s premier customer event. As such, there are always a lot of interesting news revealed at the show. This years event was no exception. I listed about a dozen topics to discuss with Chad but had to cut it down to just four major areas to fit into a reasonable time.

Chad at his VirtualGeek blog discussed many of these topics at length, across multiple posts and Ray reviewed some EMCWorld2015 news over two posts on his RayOnStorage blog as well.

In the podcast, Howard,  Ray and Chad discuss EMC’s new rack-scale flash storage, the DSSD, their new VxRack hyper converged system, the new XtremIO 4.0  and their new free & frictionless delivery model for Emerging Technology Devision software defined solutions.

I would have to say the DSSD drew the most interest from the analyst community but the new VxRack and the Emerging Technology Division’s move to open sourcing ViPR Controller caught many of us by surprise.

Just about at the end of the call Ray’s Internet service dropped out so Howard and Chad were kind enough to end the session by themselves. Thanks to my co-host for picking up the ball, after I fell off and my apologies for going missing at the end.

This months episode runs long, just under an hour and that’s after we cut about 5 minutes of discussion on the problems in open sourcing proprietary products. Chad can talk for hours on this stuff and pretty much at any level of technical detail we could possibly want. Probably need to invite him back someday to discuss more.

Sorry this podcast is so late but we had to wait for EMCWorld2015 to be over. Hopefully, next month we will be back on schedule.

We hope you enjoy the podcast.

ChadSakac_Cropped-resizedChad Sakac, President Global EMC Systems Engineering

Chad Sakac leads EMC’s technology, architecture and strategy team across the world. He is a global thought leader and evangelist, with a background and skill set in IT strategy, innovation, disruption and organizational change.  He is intimately involved in driving EMC’s technology roadmap, acquisition strategy and R&D direction.

As a leading mind in IT, Chad is the author of one of the top 20 virtualization blogs “VirtualGeek”.  He holds Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degrees from the University Of Western Ontario, Canada.