59: GreyBeards talk IT trends with Marc Farley, Sr. Product Manager, HPE

In Episode 59,  we talk with Marc Farley, Senior Product Manager at HPE discussing trends in the storage industry today. Marc been on our show before (GreyBeards talk Cloud Storage…, GreyBeards video discussing file analytics, Greybeards talk cars, storage and IT…) and has been a longtime friend and associate of both Howard and I.

Marc’s been at HPE for a while now but couldn’t discuss publicly what he is working on, so we spent time discussing industry trends rather than HPE products.

We discussed the public cloud and its impact on enterprise IT. Although the cloud has been arguable alive and well for almost a decade now, its impact is still being felt today and for the foreseeable future

We next discussed AI and data storage. HPE’s acquisition of Nimble brought InfoSight into their product family, which was arguably one of the first to use big data analytics to improve field support and ongoing operations.

Howard mentioned that a logical next step is to apply AI to storage performance. Using AI to fingerprint application workloads and thereby help determine when that app’s data was needed in cache. We also mentioned that AI could be better used to help workload optimization/orchestration, in almost real time, rather than after the fact.

We talked about containerization as the next big thing. Howard and Marc said sometimes it’s less risky to just keep chugging away with what IT has always done rather than risking a move to a new paradigm/platform AKA containers. As further evidence, Marc had seen a survey (by an unnamed research firm) of customers pre-purchase expectations for new storage and what they actually used it for post-purchase. Pre-purchase, customers expected to use storage for server virtualization but post-purchase, a majority used it for more traditional, non-virtualized applications.

We returned to a perennial theme, when will SSDs supplant disk. Howard talked about a recent vendors introduction of a dual head disk and which he thought was  overreach. But all agreed the key metric is $/GB and getting the difference between rotating media and SSD $/GB below 10X. Howard believes when it’s more like 4X, then SSDs will kill off disk technology. Although some of us felt disks would never completely go away, witness tape.

The podcast runs ~38 minutes. Marc’s always a gas to talk with and is currently the most frequent guest we have had on our show  (although Jim Handy was tied with him up until now). Its’ great to hear from him again.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Marc Farley, Senior Product Manger, HPE

Marc is a storage greybeard who has worked for many storage companies and is currently providing product strategy for HPE. He has written three books on storage including his most recent, Rethinking Enterprise Storage: A Hybrid Cloud Model and his previous books Building Storage Networksand Storage Networking Fundamentals.

In addition to his writing books he has been a blogger and podcaster about storage topics while working for EqualLogic, Dell, 3PAR, HP, StorSimple,  Microsoft, HPE and others.

When he is not working, Marc likes to ride bicycles, listen to music, spend time with his family and dote on his cats. Of course there’s that car video curation…

55: GreyBeards storage and system yearend review with Ray & Howard

In this episode, the Greybeards discuss the year in systems and storage. This year we kick off the discussion with a long running IT trend which has taken off over the last couple of years. That is, recently the industry has taken to buying pre-built appliances rather than building them from the ground up.

We can see this in all the hyper-converged solutions available  today but it goes even deeper than that. It seems to have started with the trend in organizations to get by with less man-women power.

This led to a desire to purchase pre-buit software applications and now, appliances rather than build from parts. It just takes to long to build and lead architects have better things to do with their time than checking compatibility lists, testing and verifying that hardware works properly with software. The pre-built appliances are good enough and doing it yourself doesn’t really provide that much of an advantage over the pre-built solutions.

Next, we see the coming systems using NVMe over Fabric storage systems as sort of a countertrend to the previous one. Here we see some customers paying well for special purpose hardware with blazing speed that takes time and effort to get working right, but the advantages are significant. Both Howard and I were at the Excelero SFD12 event and it blew us away. Howard also attended the E8 Storage SFD14 event which was another example along a similar vein.

Finally, the last trend we discussed was the rise of 3D TLC and the absence of 3DX and other storage class memory (SCM) technologies to make a dent in the marketplace. 3D TLC NAND is coming out of just about every fab these days and resulting in huge (but costly) SSDs, in the multi-TB range.  Combine these with NVMe interfaces and you have msec access to almost a PB of storage without breaking a sweat.

The missing 3DX SCM tsunami some of us predicted is mainly due to the difficulties in bringing new fab technologies to market. We saw some of this in the stumbling with 3D NAND but the transition to 3DX and other SCM technologies is a much bigger change to new processes and technology. We all believe it will get there someday but for the moment, the industry just needs to wait until the fabs get their yields up.

The podcast runs over 44 minutes. Howard and I could talk for hours on what’s happening in IT today. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

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

53: GreyBeards talk MAMR and future disk with Lenny Sharp, Sr. Dir. Product Management, WDC

This month we talk new disk technology with Lenny Sharp, Senior Director of Product Management, responsible for enterprise disk with Western Digital Corp. (WDC). WDC recently announced their future disk offerings will be based on a new disk recording technology, called MAMR or microwave assisted magnetic recording.

Over the last decade or so the disk industry has been investing in HAMR or heat assisted magnetic recording as the next recording innovation. So, MAMR is a significant departure but appears well worth it.

WDC is arguably the leading supplier of HDD and one of the leading SSD suppliers to the industry today. Any departure from industry technology roadmaps for WDC is big news.

WDC is banking on MAMR technology to continue to offer capacity disk (for big data) at prices that are 10X below the price of flash storage for the foreseeable future. If they and the rest of the disk industry can deliver on that promise then there should be a substantial market for capacity disk for the next decade or so.

What’s  MAMR?

HAMR uses lasers to heat up a media spot being recorded. This boost in energy helps reduce the magnetic threshold of the grains inside the media and allowed them to be written or change state. Once that energy was removed, the data state on media would persist and could be read multiple times without error.

MAMR uses microwaves to add similar energy to the spot being written on disk media. MAMR doesn’t actually heat up the spot with microwaves, but it does add elector-magnetic energy to the spot being written, which has the same affect of reducing the threshold for writing the media.  I wrote a recent blog post about MAMR technology describing the technology in more detail

HAMR heated the media spot from 400C to 700C, which was potentially reduces disk reliability. MAMR, because it doesn’t heat the disk anymore than normal operations, should not impact disk reliability.

Also MAMR can use pretty much the same disk substrate used in enterprise disks today and be fabricated using much the same manufacturing lines used for PMR (perpendicular magnetic recording) heads, today.

Disk densities

MAMR should allow the industry to get to ~4.5Tb/sqin. Current PMR technology will probably max out at 1.0 to 1.3Tb/sqin.  PMR density growth has flatlined (6-7% per year) recently, but MAMR should put the disk industry back on a 15% density growth/year. The new MAMR disks will be sampling for enterprise customer in 2018 and in production by 2019.

As for how far MAMR will take disk, WDC said we can expect a 40TB disk device (using multiple platters) by 2025 and Lenny said perhaps double that eventually.

We ended our discussion with Lenny on WDC and other disk vendor moves outside of the device level. Over time, IT use of disks have changed and the disk vendor’s seem to believe the best way to address this transition is to look beyond disk/SSD devices and towards manufacturing storage shelves and potentially even systems!? We’ll need to wait and see the dust settle on these moves.

The podcast runs ~45 minutes. Lenny was very knowledgeable about current and future disk technology and seems to have been around the disk industry forever.  He’s got an insider’s view of disk technology, IT’s use of disk and storage market dynamics. Both  Howard and I enjoyed our time with him.   Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Lenny Sharp, Sr. Dir. Product Management, WDC

Lenny Sharp serves as Western Digital’s Sr. Director of Enterprise HDD product line management and planning. He has over 30 years of experience in high technology and storage. Sharp joined HGST in 2009, iniIally responsible for enterprise SSD.
He has also managed client HDD and spent four years in Japan, working closely with the development team and APAC customers.
Previously, he was responsible for managing systems, software, storage and semiconductors for companies including Dell, Philips, Western Digital and Maxtor (since acquired by Seagate).

50: Greybeards wrap up Flash Memory Summit with Jim Handy, Director at Objective Analysis

In this episode we talk with Jim Handy (@thessdguy), Director at Objective Analysis,  a semiconductor market research organization. Jim is an old friend and was on last year to discuss Flash Memory Summit (FMS) 2016. Jim, Howard and I all attended FMS 2017 last week  in Santa Clara and Jim and Howard were presenters at the show.

NVMe & NVMeF to the front

Although, unfortunately the show floor was closed due to fire, there were plenty of sessions and talks about NVMe and NVMeF (NVMe over fabric). Howard believes NVMe & NVMeF seems to be being adopted much quicker than anyone had expected. It’s already evident inside storage systems like Pure’s new FlashArray//X, Kamanario and E8 storage, which is already shipping block storage with NVMe and NVMeF.

Last year PCIe expanders and switches seemed like the wave of the future but ever since then, NVMe and NVMeF has taken off. Historically, there’s been a reluctance to add capacity shelves to storage systems because of the complexity of (FC and SAS) cable connections. But with NVMeF, RoCE and RDMA, it’s now just an (40GbE or 100GbE) Ethernet connection away, considerably easier and less error prone.

3D NAND take off

Both Samsung and Micron are talking up their 64 layer 3D NAND and the rest of the industry following. The NAND shortage has led to fewer price reductions, but eventually when process yields turn up, the shortage will collapse and pricing reductions should return en masse.

The reason that vertical, 3D is taking over from planar (2D) NAND is that planar NAND can’t’ be sharing much more and 15nm is going to be the place it stays at for a long time to come. So the only way to increase capacity/chip and reduce $/Gb, is up.

But as with any new process technology, 3D NAND is having yield problems. But whenever the last yield issue is solved, which seems close,  we should see pricing drop precipitously and much more plentiful (3D) NAND storage.

One thing that has made increasing 3D NAND capacity that much easier is string stacking. Jim describes string stacking as creating a unit, of say 32 layers, which you can fabricate as one piece  and then layer ontop of this an insulating layer. Now you can start again, stacking another 32 layer block ontop and just add another insulating layer.

The problem with more than 32-48 layers is that you have to (dig) create  holes (connecting) between all the layers which have to be (atomically) very straight and coated with special materials. Anyone who has dug a hole knows that the deeper you go, the harder it is to make the hole walls straight. With current technology, 32 layers seem just about as far as they can go.

3DX and similar technologies

There’s been quite a lot of talk the last couple of years about 3D XPoint (3DX) and what it  means for the storage and server industry. Intel has released Octane client SSDs but there’s no enterprise class 3DX SSDs as of yet.

The problem is similar to 3D NAND above, current yields suck.  There’s a chicken and egg problem with any new chip technologies. You need volumes to get the yield up and you need yields up to generate the volumes you need. And volumes with good yields generate profits to re-invest in the cycle for next technology.

Intel can afford to subsidize (lose money) 3DX technology until they get the yields up, knowing full well that when they do, it will become highly profitable.

The key is to price the new technology somewhere between levels in the storage hierarchy, for 3DX that means between NAND and DRAM. This does mean that 3DX will be more of between memory and SSD tier than a replacement for for either DRAM or SSDs.

The recent emergence of NVDIMMs have provided the industry a platform (based on NAND and DRAM) where they can create the software and other OS changes needed to support this mid tier as a memory level. So that when 3DX comes along as a new memory tier they will be ready

NAND shortages, industry globalization & game theory

Jim has an interesting take on how and when the NAND shortage will collapse.

It’s a cyclical problem seen before in DRAM and it’s a question of investment. When there’s an oversupply of a chip technology (like NAND), suppliers cut investments or rather don’t grow investments as fast as they were. Ultimately this leads to a shortage and which then leads to  over investment to catch up with demand.  When this starts to produce chips the capacity bottleneck will collapse and prices will come down hard.

Jim believes that as 3D NAND suppliers start driving yields up and $/Gb down, 2D NAND fabs will turn to DRAM or other electronic circuitry whichwill lead to a price drop there as well.

Jim mentioned game theory is the way the Fab industry has globalized over time. As emerging countries build fabs, they must seek partners to provide the technology to produce product. They offer these companies guaranteed supplies of low priced product for years to help get the fabs online. Once, this period is over the fabs never return to home base.

This approach has led to Japan taking over DRAM & other chip production, then Korea, then Taiwan and now China. It will move again. I suppose this is one reason IBM got out of the chip fab business.

The podcast runs ~49 minutes but Jim is a very knowledgeable, chip industry expert and a great friend from multiple  events. Howard and I had fun talking with him again. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Jim Handy, Director at 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

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.