Category Archives: VMware

47: Greybeards talk Storage as a Service with Lazarus Vekiarides, CTO & Co-Founder ClearSky Data

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In this episode, we talk with ClearSky Data’s Lazarus Vekiarides, CTO and Co-founder,  who we have talked with before (see our podcast from October 2015). ClearSky Data provides a storage-as-a-service offering that uses an on-premises appliance plus point of presence (PoP) storage in the local metro area to hold customer data and offloads this data to cloud storage. In addition to the on-premises storage-as-a-service they offer access to customer data from an in-cloud virtual appliance. ClearSky provides the whole storage service, including gigabit metro Ethernet connections from the customer to the POP for simple capacity based charge every month.

How does it work

Their Edge (on premises) appliance supports 24 SSDs and can scale up to 4 appliances. Soon a single appliance will be able to hold up to 32TB of data.  It’s intended to hold a data center’s entire working set for one week of activity. So essentially it’s a big caching appliance for the local data center

For ClearSky Data the lone source of truth for customer data lies in the PoP. The PoP is connected to metro wide fibre that is available in a number of large metropolitan areas. Laz says they have measured sub 500 µsec round trip response time between their PoP equipment and Edge appliance. The PoP provides the backing store for the Edge appliance. Data written to the edge appliance(s) are written through to the PoP storage. This data and it’s metadata (<1% of LUN size) is flushed to cloud storage which holds the data indefinitely.

DR through the PoP

If customers have multiple data centers within the same metro area (100Km) then they can have a single “logical” array that accesses the same data, say a cluster file system across the two data centers. The PoP will take care of copying the metadata to the secondary edge device and will invalidate any data sitting in the secondary device which is no longer valid. In this way customers can have a Recovery Point Objective (RPO)=0 seconds. That is any data written to the primary data center is automatically available to the secondary data center as long as the PoP survives.

But even if you wanted to fail over to a different metro area the PoP data is offloaded to the cloud continuously so while you wouldn’t attain an RPO=0 seconds, it could be awfully short, on the order of a couple of seconds.

Recent enhancements

ClearSky Data has recently enhanced their storage as a service to provide policy management over snapshots. That is you can establish policies as to how often to take LUN snapshots and how long to retain them in the cloud.

Also, ClearSky Data has added VMware functionality via plugins that allow their storage to know which VMs are writing data or are being backed up to their appliance. And this is included in the metadata written for a LUN which is offloaded to the cloud. Someday soon when you can have vSphere running bare metal in a public cloud service, you will be able to run the Cloud Edge (cloud software version of their Edge appliance) and restore the data from your data center directly to the cloud and have an iSCSI LUN available to EC2 running VMware providing complete Cloud DR for a data center.

We talked a bit about our favorite topic, NVMe storage and Laz sees a potential for it to help their Edge appliances but at the moment fault-tolerence/high availability is not there. And as they are primary storage for data centers HA is a critical capability.

Pricing and availability

Their product is priced as a service in $0.nn/GB/Month and if you do a 36 month cost analysis they feel they would come out cheaper than hybrid storage. They currently have PoP’s in Boston, NyNy, Northern Virginia, Dallas, and California. Laz says they believe there’s 15 major metropolitan areas across the USA they have targeted for service.  What nothing in Europe or Asia? We would imagine this is merely a question of the number of customers, amount of data and metro infrastructure.

The podcast runs ~24 minutes. Laz has been in the storage industry across a number of companies and has been with a few startups as well. Laz is very knowledgeable about storage, cloud, and metro networking, a good friend and is always a pleasure to talk with.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Lazarus Vekiarides, CTO & Co-Founder ClearSky Data

For over 20 years Laz Vekiarides has served in key technical and leadership roles delivering breakthrough technologies to market. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of Software Engineering for Dell’s EqualLogic Storage Engineering group, where he led the development of numerous storage innovations and established the EqualLogic product line as a leader in host OS and hypervisor integration.

Laz joined Dell from EqualLogic, which was acquired in early 2008, where he was a member of the core leadership team – playing a key role in the company’s early success as a Senior Engineering Manager and Architect for the PS Series SAN arrays and host tools. Prior to EqualLogic, Laz held senior engineering and management positions at several companies including 3COM and Banyan Systems.

An occasional blogger, Laz frequently speaks at industry conferences, particularly in the areas of virtualization and data storage. He holds several storage technology patents, as well as a BSEE from Northeastern University, and an MSCS from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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.

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.

34: GreyBeards talk Copy Data Management with Ash Ashutosh, CEO Actifio

In this episode, we talk with Ash Ashutosh (@ashashutosh), CEO of Actifio a copy data virtualization company. Howard met up with Ash at TechFieldDay11 (TFD11) a couple of weeks back and wanted another chance to talk with him.  Ash seems to have been around forever, the first time we met I was at a former employer and he was with AppIQ (later purchased by HP).  Actifio is populated by a number of industry veterans and since being founded in 2009 is doing really well, with over 1000 customers.

So what’s copy data virtualization (management) anyway?  At my former employer, we did an industry study that determined that IT shops (back in the 90’s) were making 9-13 copies of their data. These days,  IT is making, even more, copies of the exact same data.

Data copies proliferate like weeds

Engineers use snapshots for development, QA and validation. Analysts use data copies to better understand what’s going on in their customer-partner interactions, manufacturing activities, industry trends, etc. Finance, marketing , legal, etc. all have similar needs which just makes the number of data copies grow out of sight. And we haven’t even started to discuss backup.

Ash says things reached a tipping point when server virtualization become the dominant approach to running applications, which led to an ever increasing need for data copies as app’s started being developed and run all over the place. Then came along data deduplication which displaced tape in IT’s backup process, so that backup data (copies) now could reside on disk.  Finally, with the advent of disk deduplication, backups no longer had to be in TAR (backup) formats but could now be left in-app native formats. In native formats, any app/developer/analyst could access the backup data copy.

Actifio Copy Data Virtualization

So what is Actifio? It’s essentially a massively distributed object storage with a global name space, file system on top of it. Application hosts/servers run agents in their environments (VMware, SQL Server, Oracle, etc.) to provide change block tracking and other metadata as to what’s going on with the primary data to be backed up. So when a backup is requested, only changed blocks have to be transferred to Actifio and deduped. From that deduplicated change block backup, a full copy can be synthesized, in native format, for any and all purposes.

With change block tracking, backups become very efficient and deduplication only has to work on changed data so that also becomes more effective. Data copying can also be done more effectively since their only tracking deduplicated data. If necessary, changed blocks can also be applied to data copies to bring them up to date and current.

With Actifio, one can apply SLA’s to copy data. These SLA’s can take the form of data governance, such that some copies can’t be viewed outside the country, or by certain users. And they can also provide analytics on data copies. Both of these capabilities take copy data to whole new level.

We didn’t get into all Actifio’s offerings on the podcast but Actifio CDS is as a high availability appliance which runs their  object/file system and contains data storage. Actifio also comes in a virtual appliance as Actifio SKY, which runs as a VM under VMware, using anyone’s storage.  Actifio supports NFS, SMB/CIFS, FC, and iSCSI access to data copies, depending on the solution chosen. There’s a lot more information on their website.

It sounds a little bit like PrimaryData but focused on data copies rather than data migration and mostly tier 2 data access.

The podcast runs ~46 minutes and  covers a lot of ground. I spent most of the time asking Ash to explain Actifio (for Howard, TFD11 filled this in). Howard had some technical difficulties during the call which caused him to go offline but then came back on the call. Ash and I never missed him :), listen to the podcast to learn more.

Ash Ashutosh, CEO Actifio

Ash Ashutosh Hi Res copy-resizedAsh Ashutosh brings more than 25 years of storage industry and entrepreneurship experience to his role of CEO at Actifio. Ashutosh is a recognized leader and architect in the storage industry where he has spearheaded several major industry initiatives, including iSCSI and storage virtualization, and led the authoring of numerous storage industry standards. Ashutosh was most recently a Partner with Greylock Partners where he focused on making investments in enterprise IT companies. Prior to Greylock, he was Vice President and Chief Technologist for HP Storage.

Ashutosh founded and led AppIQ, a market leader of Storage Resource Management (SRM) solutions, which was acquired by HP in 2005. He was also the founder of Serano Systems, a Fibre Channel controller solutions provider, acquired by Vitesse Semiconductor in 1999. Prior to Serano, Ashutosh was Senior Vice President at StorageNetworks, the industry’s first Storage Service Provider. He previously worked as an architect and engineer at LSI and Intergraph.

GreyBeards deconstruct storage with Brian Biles and Hugo Patterson, CEO and CTO, Datrium

In this our 32nd episode we talk with Brian Biles (@BrianBiles), CEO & Co-founder and Hugo Patterson, CTO & Co-founder of Datrium a new storage startup. We like to call it storage deconstructed, a new view of what storage could be based on today and future storage technologies.  If I had to describe it succinctly, I would say it’s a hybrid between software defined storage, server side flash and external disk storage.  We have discussed server side flash before but this takes it to a whole another level.

Their product, the DVX consists of Hyperdriver host software and a NetShelf, external disk storage unit. The DVX was designed from the ground up based on the use of host/server side flash or non-volatile memory as a given and built everything else around that. I hesitate to say this but the DVX NetShelf backend storage is pretty unintelligent, just a dual controller disk storage with a multi-task coordinator. In contrast, the DVX Hyperdriver host software used to access their storage system is pretty smart and is installed as a VIB in vSphere. Customers can assign up to 8TB of host-based, server side flash/non-volatile memory to the storage system per server. The Datrium DVX does the rest.

The Hyperdriver leverages host flash, DRAM and compute cores to act as a caching layer for read and write IO and as a data management engine. Write data is write-thru straight from the server side flash to the NetShelf storage system which has Non-volatile DRAM (NVRAM) caching. Once write data is in NetShelf cache, it’s in two places, one on the host server side flash and the other in storage NVRAM. Reads are easier to handle, just being cached from the NetShelf storage in the server side flash. There’s no unique data residing in the hosts.

The Hyperdriver looks like a NFS mount to vSphere and the DVX uses a proprietary protocol to talk with the backend DVX NetShelf. Datrium supports up to 32 hosts and you can define the amount of Flash, DRAM and host compute allocated to the DVX Hyperdriver activity.

But the other interesting part about DVX is that much of the storage management functionality and storage control logic is partitioned between the host  Hyperdriver and NetShelf, with both participating to do what they do best.

For example,  disk rebuilds are done in combination with the host Hyperdriver. DVX RAID rebuild brings data from the backend into host cache, computes rebuild data and writes the reconstructed data back out to the NetShelf backend. This way rebuild performance can scale up with the number of hosts active in a cluster.

DVX data are compressed and deduplicated at the host before being sent to the NetShelf. The NetShelf backend also does a global deduplication on the host data. Hashing computations and data compression activities are all done on the host and passed on to the NetShelf.  Brian and Hugo were formerly with EMC Data Domain, and know all about data deduplication.

At the moment DVX is missing some storage functionality but they have an extensive roadmap with engineering resources to match and are plugging away at all of it. On the other hand, very few disk storage devices offer deduped/compressed data storage and warm server side caches during vMotion. They also support QoS functionality to limit the amount of host resources consumed by DVX Hyperdriver software

The podcast runs ~41 minutes and episode covers a lot of ground about how the new DVX product came about, how they separated storage functionality between host and backend and other aspects of DVX storage.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAK8AAAAJGQyODQwNjg1LWI3NTMtNGY0OC04MGVmLTc5Nzg3N2IyMmEzYQBrian Biles, Datrium CEO & Co-founder

Prior to Datrium, Brian was Founder and VP of Product Mgmt. at EMC Backup Recovery Systems Division. Prior to that he was Founder, VP of Product Mgmt. and Business Development for Data Domain (acquired by EMC in 2009).

Hugo Patterson, Datrium CTO & Co-founderAAEAAQAAAAAAAANZAAAAJDhiMTI2NzMyLTdkZDAtNDE5Yy1hMTM5LTNiMWM2MWM3NTlmMA

Prior to Datrium, Hugo was an EMC Fellow serving as CTO of the EMC Backup Recovery Systems Division, and the Chief Architect and CTO of Data Domain (acquired by EMC in 2009), where he built the first deduplication storage system. Prior to that he was the engineering lead at NetApp, developing SnapVault, the first snap-and-replicate disk-based backup product. Hugo has a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon.