70: GreyBeards talk FMS18 wrap-up and flash trends with Jim Handy, General Dir. Objective Analysis

In this episode we talk about Flash Memory Summit 2018 (FMS18) and recent trends affecting the flash market with Jim Handy, General Director, Objective Analysis. This is the 4th time Jim’s been on our show and has been our go to guy on flash technology forever.

NAND supply?

Talking with Jim is always a far reaching discussion. We quickly centered on recent spot NAND pricing trends. Jim said the market is seeing a 10 to 12% pricing drop, Quarter/Quarter, almost 60% since the year started, in NAND spot pricing which is starting to impact long term contracts. During supply glut’s like this, DRAM spot prices typically drop 40-60% Q/Q, so maybe there’s more NAND price reductions on the way.

A new player in the NAND fab business was introduced at FMS18, Yangtze Memory Technology from China. Jim said they were one generation behind the leaders which says their product costs ($/NAND bit) are likely 2X the industry. But apparently, China is prepared to lose money until they can catch up.

I asked Jim if they have a hope of catching up – yes. For example, there’s been some shenanigans with DRAM technology and a Chinese DRAM Fab. They  have (allegedly)stolen technology from Micron’s Taiwan DRAM FAB. They in turn have sued Micron for patent infringement and won, locking Micron out of the Chinese DRAM market. With DRAM market tightening, Micron’s absence will hurt Chinese electronics producers. Others will step in, but Micron will have to focus DRAM sales elsewhere.

3D Xpoint/Optane?

There wasn’t much discussion on 3D XPoint. Intel did announce some customers for Optane SSDs and that they are starting to produce 3D XPoint in DIMMs. The Intel-Micron 3D XPoint partnership has disolved. Intel seems willing to continue to price their Optane and 3D XPoint DIMM below cost and make it up selling micro processors.

Jim predicted years back there would be little to no market for 3D Xpoint SSDs. With Optane SSDs at 5X higher cost than NAND SSDs and only 5X faster, it’s not a significant enough advantage to generate volumes needed to make a profitable product. But in a DIMM form factor, hanging off the memory bus, it’s 1000X faster than NAND, and with that much performance, it shouldn’t have a problem generating sufficient volumes to become profitable.

Other NAND/SCM news

We talked about the emergence of QLC NAND. With 3D NAND, there appears to be sufficient electrons to make QLC viable. The write speeds are still horrible,  ~1000X slower than SLC. But vendors are now adding SLC NAND (write cache) in their SSDs to sustain faster writes.

The other new technology from FMS18 was computational storage. Computational storage vendors are putting compute near (inside) an SSD to better perform IO intensive workloads. Some computational storage vendors   talked about their technology and how it could speed up select workloads

There’s SCM beyond 3D XPoint. These vendors have been quietly shipping for some time now, they just aren’t at the capacities/bit density to challenge NAND. Jim mentioned a few that were in production, EverSpin/MRAM, Adesto/ReRAM and Crossbar/FeRAM.

Jim said IBM was using EverSpin/MRAM technology in their latest FlashCore Modules for their FlashSystem 9100. And EverSpin MRAM is being used in satellites. Adesto/ReRAM is being used medical instrument market.

The podcast runs ~42 minutes. We apologize for the audio quality, we promise to do better next time. Jim’s been the GreyBeards memory and flash technology guru before our hair turned grey and is always enlightening about the flash market and technology trends.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Jim Handy, General Director, Objective Analysis

Jim Handy of Objective Analysis has over 35 years in the electronics industry including 20 years as a leading semiconductor and SSD industry analyst. Early in his career he held marketing and design positions at leading semiconductor suppliers including Intel, National Semiconductor, and Infineon.

A frequent presenter at trade shows, Mr. Handy is known for his technical depth, accurate forecasts, widespread industry presence and volume of publication. He has written hundreds of market reports, articles for trade journals, and white papers, and is frequently interviewed and quoted in the electronics trade press and other media.  He posts blogs at www.TheMemoryGuy.com, and www.TheSSDguy.com

69: GreyBeards talk HCI with Lee Caswell, VP Products, Storage & Availability, VMware

Sponsored by:

For this episode we preview VMworld by talking with Lee Caswell (@LeeCaswell), Vice President of Product, Storage and Availability, VMware.

This is the third time Lee’s been on our show, the previous one was back in August of last year. Lee’s been at VMware for a couple of years now and, among other things, is leading the HCI journey at VMware.

The first topic we discussed was VMware’s expanded HCI software defined data center (SDDC) solution, which now includes compute, storage, networking and enhanced operations with alerts/monitoring/automation that ties it all together.

We asked Lee to explain VMware’s SDDC:

  • HCI operates at the edge – with ROBO-2-server environments, VMware’s HCI can be deployed in a closet and remotely operated by a VI from the central site.
  • HCI operates in the data center – with vSphere-vSAN-NSX-vRealize and other software, VMware modernizes data centers for the  pace of digital business..
  • HCI operates in the public Cloud –with VMware Cloud (VMC)  on AWS, IBM Cloud and over 400 service providers, VMware HCI also operates in the public cloud.
  • HCI operates for containers and cloud native apps – with support for containers under vSphere, vSAN and NSX, developers are finding VMware HCI an easy option to run container apps in the data center, at the edge, and in the public cloud.

The importance of the edge will become inescapable, as 50B edge connected devices power IoT by 2020. Lee heard Pat saying compute processing is moving to the edge because of 3 laws:

  1. the law of physics, light/information only travels so fast;
  2. the law of economics, doing all processing at central sites would take too much bandwidth and cost; and
  3. the law(s) of the land, data sovereignty and control is ever more critical in today’s world.

VMware SDDC is a full stack option, that executes just about anywhere the data center wants to go. Howard mentioned one customer he talked with at FMS18, just wanted to take their 16 node VMware HCI rack and clone it forever, to supply infinite infrastructure.

Next, we turned our discussion to Virtual Volumes (VVols). Recently VMware added replication support for VVols. Lee said VMware has an intent to provide a SRM SRA for VVols. But the real question is why hasn’t there been higher field VVol adoption. We concluded it takes time.

VVols wasn’t available in vSphere 5.5 and nowadays, three or more years have to go by before a significant amount of the field moves to a new release. Howard also said early storage systems didn’t implement VVols right. Moreover, VMware vSphere 5.5 is just now (9/16/18) going EoGS.

Lee said 70% of all current vSAN deployments are AFA. With AFA, hand tuning storage performance is no longer something admins need to worry about. It used to be we all spent time defragging/compressing data to squeeze more effective capacity out of storage, but hand capacity optimization like this has become a lost art. Just like capacity, hand tuning AFA performance doesn’t make sense anymore.

We then talked about the coming flash SSD supply glut. Howard sees flash pricing ($/GB) dropping by 40-50%, regardless of interface. This should drive AFA shipments above 70%, as long as the glut continues.

The podcast runs ~21 minutes. Lee’s always great to talk with and is very knowledgeable about the IT industry, HCI in general, and of course, VMware HCI in particular.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Lee Caswell, V.P. of Product, Storage & Availability, VMware

Lee Caswell leads the VMware storage marketing team driving vSAN products, partnerships, and integrations. Lee joined VMware in 2016 and has extensive experience in executive leadership within the storage, flash and virtualization markets.

Prior to VMware, Lee was vice president of Marketing at NetApp and vice president of Solution Marketing at Fusion-IO. Lee was a founding member of Pivot3, a company widely considered to be the founder of hyper-converged systems, where he served as the CEO and CMO. Earlier in his career, Lee held marketing leadership positions at Adaptec, and SEEQ Technology, a pioneer in non-volatile memory. He started his career at General Electric in Corporate Consulting.

Lee holds a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Carleton College and a master of business administration degree from Dartmouth College. Lee is a New York native and has lived in northern California for many years. He and his wife live in Palo Alto and have two children. In his spare time Lee enjoys cycling, playing guitar, and hiking the local hills.

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.

64: GreyBeards discuss cloud data protection with Chris Wahl, Chief Technologist, Rubrik

Sponsored by:

In this episode we talk with Chris Wahl, Chief Technologist, Rubrik. This is our second time having Chris on our show. The last time was about three years ago (see our Chris on agentless backup podcast). Talking with Chris again was great and there’s been plenty of news since we last spoke with him.

Rubrik now has three products the Rubrik Cloud Data Protection suite (onprem, virtual or in the [AWS & Azure] cloud), the Rubrik Datos IO (recent acquisition) for NoSql database with semantic dedupe and Rubrik Polaris GPS, a SaaS monitoring/trending/management solution for your data protection environment. Polaris GPS monitors and watches data protection trends for you, to insure all your data protection SLAs are being met. But we didn’t spend much time on Polaris.

Datos IO was designed from the start to backup new databases based on NoSQL technologies and provides, a semantic based deduplication capability, that’s unique in the industry . We talked with Datos IO before their acquisition by Rubrik (see our podcast with Tarun on 3rd generation data protection).

Cloud Data Protection

As for their Cloud Data Protection suite, one major differentiator is that all their functionality is available via RESTful APIs. Their GUI is completely built off their APIs. This means any customer could use their set of APIs to integrate Rubrik data protection with any application/workload on the planet.

Chris mentioned that Rubrik has 40+ specific application/system integrations that provide “strictly consistent” data protection. We assume this means application consistent backups and recovery but goes beyond mere applications.

With the Cloud Data Protection solution, data resides on the appliance for only a short (customer specifiable) period and then is migrated off to cloud or onprem object storage. The object storage could be any onprem S3 compatible storage, in the AWS or Azure cloud. It’s completely automatic. The data migrated to object storage is self-defining, meaning that metadata and data are all available in one spot and can be restored anywhere there’s a Rubrik Cloud Data Protection suite operating.

The Cloud Data Protection appliance also supports onboard search and analytics to search backup/recovery metadata/catalogs. As such, there’s no need to purchase other tools to uncover which backup files exist. Their solution also uses data deduplication to reduce the data stored.

Data stored is also encrypted by customer keys and use HTTPS to transfer data. So, data is secured at rest, secured in flight and deduped. Cloud Data Protection also offers data mobility. That is it can move your VMs and data from onprem to the cloud and use Rubrik in the cloud to rehydrade the data and translate your VMs to run in AWS or Azure and it works in reverse, translating AWS/Azure compute instances into VMs.

Rubrik’s major differentiator is simplicity. Traditionally, customers had been conditioned to thinking data protection took hours to maintain, fix and keep running. But with Rubrik Cloud Data Protection, a customer just points it to an application and selects an SLA, and Rubrik takes over from there.

The secret behind Rubrik’s simplicity is Cerebro. Cerebro is where they have put all the smarts to understand a data center’s infrastructure, applications/VMs, protected data and requested SLAs and just makes it work

The podcast runs ~27 minutes. Chris was great to talk with again and given how long it’s been since we last talked, he had much to discuss. Rubrik seems like an easy solution to adopt and if their growth is any indicator, customers agree. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Chris Wahl, Chief Technologist, Rubrik

Chris Wahl, author of the award winning Wahl Network blog and host of the Datanauts Podcast, focuses on creating content that revolves around virtualization, automation, infrastructure, and evangelizing products and services that benefit the technology community.

In addition to co-authoring “Networking for VMware Administrators” for VMware Press, he has published hundreds of articles and was voted the “Favorite Independent Blogger” by vSphere-Land three years in a row (2013 – 2015). Chris also travels globally to speak at industry events, provide subject matter expertise, and offer perspectives to startups and investors as a technical adviser.

63: GreyBeards talk with NetApp A-Team members John Woodall & Paul Stringfellow

Sponsored by NetApp:

In this episode, we talk with NetApp A-Team members John Woodall (@John_Woodall), VP Eng, Integrated Archive Systems and Paul Stringfellow (@techstringy), Technical Dir.  Data Management Consultancy, Gardner Systems Plc.

Both John and Paul have been NetApp partners for quite awhile (John since the beginning of NetApp). John and Paul work directly with infrastructure customers in solving customer, real world data problems.

NetApp A-Team is a select, small (only 25 total) group of individuals that are brought together periodically and briefed by NetApp Execs and Product managers. A-Team membership is for life (as long as they continue to work in IT and not for a competitor). The briefings span a number of topics but are typically about what NetApp plans to do in the near term. The A-Team is there to provide a customer perspective to NetApp management and product teams.

Oftentimes, big companies can lose sight of customer problems and having a separate channel that’s engaged directly with customers can sometimes bring to light these issues. By having the A-Team, NetApp is getting feedback on customer problems and concerns from partners that directly engage with them.

Both Howard and I were very impressed that when John and Paul introduced themselves they mentioned DATA rather than storage. This signalsa a different perspective from pure infrastructure to a more customer view.

Following that theme, Howard asked about how customers were seeing the NetApp Data Fabric. This led to a long discussion of just what NetApp Data Fabric represents to customers in this multi-cloud world today. NetApp’s Data Fabric provides choice on where customers can run their work, liberating work that previously may have be stuck in the cloud or on prem.

Ray asked about how NetApp is embracing the cloud. What with cloud data volumes (see earlier NetApp sponsored podcast), NPS, Cloud ONTAP and other cloud solutions NetApp has lit up in various public clouds.  John mentioned that public preview for Cloud Data Volumes should free up by end of the year and at that time anyone can use it.

I was at a dinner with NetApp, 3-5 years ago, when the cloud looked like a steamroller that was going to grind infrastructure providers into dust. I was talking with a NetApp executive, he said they were doing everything they could at the time to figure out how to offer value with cloud providers rather than competing with them. Either you embrace change or you’re buried by it.

At the end of the podcast, Howard turned the discussion to NetApp HCI. Paul said, at first HCI was just shrunk infrastructure, but now, its more about the software stack on top of HCI that matters. The stack enables simpler deployment and configuration flexibility. From a NetApp HCI perspective, flexibility in being able to separately add more compute or storage is a strong differentiator.

The podcast runs ~30 minutes. Both John and Paul were very knowledgeable about current IT trends. I think we could have easily talked with them for another hour or so and not exhausted the conversation.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Paul Stringfellow, Technical Director, Data Management Consultancy Gardner Systems, Plc

An experienced technology professional, Paul Stringfellow is the Technical Director at Data Management Consultancy Gardner Systems Plc. He works with businesses of all types to assist with the development of technology strategies, and, increasingly, to help them manage, secure, and gain benefit from their data assets.

Paul is a NetApp A-Team and is very involved in the tech community. Paul often presents at conferences and user group events. He also produces a wide range of business focused technology content from his blog techstringy.com and Tech Interviews Podcast (podcast.techstringy.com), and he also writes regularly for a number of industry technology sites. You can find Paul on twitter at @techstringy.

John Woodall, VP Engineering, Integrated Archive Systems 

John Woodall is Vice President of Engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, Inc. (IAS). John has more than 28 years of experience in technology with a background focused on Enterprise and Infrastructure Architecture, Systems Engineering and Technology Management. In these roles John developed a long string of successes designing and implementing complex systems in demanding, mission critical large-scale enterprise environments.

John is a NetApp A-Team member and has managed the complete range of IT disciplines. John brings that experience and perspective to his role at IAS.At IAS, his focus is on mapping the company’s strategic direction, evaluating emerging technologies, trends, practices and managing the technology portfolio for IAS with the express goal of producing excellent customer experiences and business outcomes. Prior to joining IAS, John held architecture and management roles at Symantec, Solectron (now part of Flextronics), Madge Networks and Elsevier MDL.You can find me at @John_Woodall on twitter and Skype: TechWood