Cloud storage growth is hurting NAS & SAN storage vendors

Strange Clouds by michaelroper (cc) (from Flickr)
Strange Clouds by michaelroper (cc) (from Flickr)

My friend Alex Teu (@alexteu), from Oxygen Cloud wrote a post today about how Cloud Storage is Eating the World Alive. Alex reports that all major NAS and SAN storage vendors lost revenue this year over the previous year ranging from a ~3% loss to over a 20% loss (Q1-2014 compared to Q1-2013, from IDC).

Although an interesting development, it’s hard to say that this is the end of enterprise storage as we know it.  I believe there are a number of factors that are impacting  enterprise storage revenues and Cloud storage adoption may be only one of them.

Other trends impacting NAS & SAN storage adoption

One thing that has emerged over the last decade or so is the advance of Flash storage. Some of this is used in storage controllers to speed up IO access and some is used in servers to speed up IO access. But any speedup of IO could potentially reduce the need for high-performing disk drives and could allow customers to use higher capacity/slower disk drives instead. This could definitely reduce the cost of storage systems. A little bit of flash goes  long way to speed up IO access.

The other thing is that disk capacity is trending upward, at exponential rates. Yesterday,s 2TB disk drive is todays 4TB disk drive and we are already seeing 6TB from Seagate, HGST and others. And this is also driving down the cost of NAS and SAN storage.

Nowadays you can configure 1PB of storage with just over 170 drives. Somewhere in there you might want a couple 100TB of Flash to speed up IO access to these slow disks but Flash is also coming down in ($/GB) price (see SanDISK’s recent consumer grade TLC drive at $0.44/GB). Also the move to MLC flash has increased the capacity of flash devices, leading to less SSDs/flash cache cards to store/speed up more data.

Finally, the other trend which seems to have emerged recently is the movement away from enterprise class storage to server storage. One can see this in VMware’s VSAN, HyperConverged systems such as Nutanix and Scale Computing, as well as a general trend in Windows Server applications (SQL Server, Exchange Server, etc.) to make better use of DAS storage. So some customers are moving their data to shared DAS storage today, whereas before this was more difficult to accomplish effectively and because of that they previously purchased networked storage.

What about cloud storage?

Yes, as Alex has noted, the price of cloud storage has declined precipitously over the last year or so. Alex’s cloud storage pricing graph is shows how the entry of Microsoft and Google has seemingly forced Amazon to match their price reductions. But the other thing of note is that they have all come down to about the same basic price of $0.024/GB/Month.

It’s interesting that Amazon delayed their first S3 serious price reductions by about 4 months after Azure and Google Cloud Storage dropped there’s and then within another month after that, they all were at price parity.

What’s cloud storage real growth?

I reported last August that Microsoft Azure and Amazon S3 were respectively storing 8 trillion and over 2 trillion objects (see my Is object storage outpacing structured and unstructured data growth). This year (April 2014) Microsoft mentioned at TechEd that Azure was storing 20 Trillion object and servicing 2 million request per second.

I could find no update to Amazon S3 numbers from last year but the 10x  2.5x growth in Azure’s object count in ~8 months and the roughly doubling of request/second (In my post I didn’t mention last year they were processing 900K requests/second) say something interesting is going on in cloud storage.

I suppose Google’s cloud storage service is too new to report serious results and maybe Amazon wants to keep their growth a secret. But considering Amazon’s recent matching of Azure’s and Google’s pricing, it probably means that their growth wasn’t what they expected.

The other interesting item from the Microsoft discussions on Azure, was that they were already hosting 1M SQL databases in Azure and that 57% of Fortune 500 customers are currently using Azure.

In the “olden days”, before cloud storage, all these SQL databases and Fortune 500 data sets would have more than likely resided on NAS or SAN storage of some kind. And possibly due to the traditional storage’s higher cost and greater complexity, some of this data would never have been spun up in the first place if they had to use traditional storage, but with cloud storage so cheap, rapidly configurable and easy to use all this new data was placed in the cloud.

So I must conclude from Microsofts growth numbers and their implication for the rest of the cloud storage industry that maybe Alex was right, more data is moving to the cloud and this is impacting traditional storage revenues.  With IDC’s (2013) data growth at ~43% per year, it would seem that Microsoft’s cloud storage is growing more rapidly than the worldwide data growth, ~14X faster!

On the other hand, if cloud storage was consuming most of the world’s data growth, it would seem to precipitate the collapse of traditional storage revenues, not just a ~3-20% decline. So maybe the most new cloud storage applications would never have been implemented before if they had to use traditional storage, which means that only some of this new data would ever have been stored on traditional storage in the first place, leading to a relatively smaller decline in revenue.

One question remains: is this a short term impact or more of a long running trend that will play out over the next decade or so? From my perspective, new applications spinning up on non-traditional storage is a long running threat to traditional NAS and SAN storage which will ultimately see traditional storage relegated to a niche. How big this niche will ultimately be and how well it can be defended needs to be the subject for another post?

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Comments?

Replacing the Internet?

safe 'n green by Robert S. Donovan (cc) (from flickr)
safe ‘n green by Robert S. Donovan (cc) (from flickr)

Was reading an article the other day from TechCrunch that said Servers need to die to save the Internet. This article talked about a startup called MaidSafe which is attempting to re-architect/re-implement/replace the Internet into a Peer-2-Peer, mesh network and storage service which they call the SAFE (Secure Access for Everyone) network. By doing so, they hope to eliminate the need for network servers and storage.

Sometime in the past I wrote a blog post about Peer-2-Peer cloud storage (see Free P2P Cloud Storage and Computing if  interested). But it seems MaidSafe has taken this to a more extreme level. By the way the acronym MAID used in their name stands for Massive Array of Internet Disks, sound familiar?

Crypto currency eco-system

The article talks about MaidSafe’s SAFE network ultimately replacing the Internet but at the start it seems more to be a way to deploy secure, P2P cloud storage.  One interesting aspect of the MaidSafe system is that you can dedicate a portion of your Internet connected computers’ storage, computing and bandwidth to the network and get paid for it. Assuming you dedicate more resources than you actually use to the network you will be paid safecoins for this service.

For example, users that wish to participate in the SAFE network’s data storage service run a Vault application and indicate how much internal storage to devote to the service. They will be compensated with safecoins when someone retrieves data from their vault.

Safecoins are a new BitCoin like internet currency. Currently one safecoin is worth about $0.02 but there was a time when BitCoins were worth a similar amount. MaidSafe organization states that there will be a limit to the number of safecoins that can ever be produced (4.3Billion) so there’s obviously a point when they will become more valuable if MaidSafe and their SAFE network becomes successful over time. Also, earned safecoins can be used to pay for other MaidSafe network services as they become available.

Application developers can code their safecoin wallet-ids directly into their apps and have the SAFE network automatically pay them for application/service use.  This should make it much easier for App developers to make money off their creations, as they will no longer have to use advertising support, or provide differenct levels of product such as free-simple user/paid-expert use types of support to make money from Apps.  I suppose in a similar fashion this could apply to information providers on the SAFE network. An information warehouse could charge safecoins for document downloads or online access.

All data objects are encrypted, split and randomly distributed across the SAFE network

The SAFE network encrypts and splits any data up and then randomly distributes these data splits uniformly across their network of nodes. The data is also encrypted in transit across the Internet using rUDPs (reliable UDPs) and SAFE doesn’t use standard DNS services. Makes me wonder how SAFE or Internet network nodes know where rUDP packets need to go next without DNS but I’m no networking expert. Apparently by encrypting rUDPs and not using DNS, SAFE network traffic should not be prone to deep packet inspection nor be easy to filter out (except of course if you block all rUDP traffic).  The fact that all SAFE network traffic is encrypted also makes it much harder for intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on any conversations that occur.

The SAFE network depends on a decentralized PKI to authenticate and supply encryption keys. All SAFE network data is either encrypted by clients or cryptographically signed by the clients and as such, can be cryptographically validated at network endpoints.

The each data chunk is replicated on, at a minimum, 4 different SAFE network nodes which provides resilience in case a network node goes down/offline. Each data object could potentially be split up into 100s to 1000s of data chunks. Also each data object has it’s own encryption key, dependent on the data itself which is never stored with the data chunks. Again this provides even better security but the question becomes where does all this metadata (data object encryption key, chunk locations, PKI keys, node IP locations, etc.) get stored, how is it secured, and how is it protected from loss. If they are playing the game right, all this is just another data object which is encrypted, split and randomly distributed but some entity needs to know how to get to the meta-data root element to find it all in case of a network outage.

Supposedly, MaidSafe can detect within 20msec. if a node is no longer available and reconfigure the whole network. This probably means that each SAFE network node and endpoint is responsible for some network transaction/activity every 10-20msec, such as a SAFE network heartbeat to say it is still alive.

It’s unclear to me whether the encryption key(s) used for rUDPs and the encryption key used for the data object are one and the same, functionally related, or completely independent? And how a “decentralized PKI”  and “self authentication” works is beyond me but they published a paper on it, if interested.

For-profit open source business model

MaidSafe code is completely Open Source (available at MaidSafe GitHub) and their APIs are freely available to anyone and require no API key. They also have multiple approved and pending patents which have been provided free to the world for use, which they use in a defensive capacity.

MaidSafe says it will take a 5% cut of all safecoin transactions over the SAFE network. And as the network grows their revenue should grow commensurately. The money will be used to maintain the core network software and  MaidSafe said that their 5% cut will be shared with developers that help develop/fix the core SAFE network code.

They are hoping to have multiple development groups maintaining the code. They currently have some across Europe and in California in the US. But this is just a start.

They are just now coming out of stealth, have recently received $6M USD investment (by auctioning off MaidSafeCoins a progenitor of safecoins) but have been in operation now, architecting/designing/developing the core code now for 8+ years now, which probably qualifies them for the longest running startup on the planet.

Replacing the Internet

MaidSafe believes that the Internet as currently designed is too dependent on server farms to hold pages and other data. By having a single place where network data is held, it’s inherently less secure than by having data spread out, uniformly/randomly across a multiple nodes. Also the fact that most network traffic is in plain text (un-encrypted) means anyone in the network data path can examine and potentially filter out data packets.

I am not sure how the SAFE network can be used to replace the Internet but then I’m no networking expert. For example, from my perspective, SAFE is dependent on current Internet infrastructure to store and forward rUDPs on along its trunk lines and network end-paths. I don’t see how SAFE can replace this current Internet infrastructure especially with nodes only present at the endpoints of the network.

I suppose as applications and other services start to make use of SAFE network core capabilities, maybe the SAFE network can become more like a mesh network and less dependent on the current hub and spoke current Internet we have today.  As a mesh network, node endpoints can store and forward packets themselves to locally accessed neighbors and only go out on Internet hubs/trunk lines when they have to go beyond the local network link.

Moreover, the SAFE can make any Internet infrastructure less vulnerable to filtering and spying. Also, it’s clear that SAFE applications are no longer executing in data center servers somewhere but rather are actually executing on end-point nodes of the SAFE network. This has a number of advantages, namely:

  • SAFE applications are less susceptible to denial of service attacks because they can execute on many nodes.
  • SAFE applications are inherently more resilient because the operate across multiple nodes all the time.
  • SAFE applications support faster execution because the applications could potentially be executing closer to the user and could potentially have many more instances running throughout the SAFE network.

Still all of this doesn’t replace the Internet hub and spoke architecture we have today but it does replace application server farms, CDNs, cloud storage data centers and probably another half dozen Internet infrastructure/services I don’t know anything about.

Yes, I can see how MaidSafe and its SAFE network can change the Internet as we know and love it today and make it much more secure and resilient.

Not sure how having all SAFE data being encrypted will work with search engines and other web-crawlers but maybe if you want the data searchable, you just cryptographically sign it. This could be both a good and a bad thing for the world.

Nonetheless, you have to give the MaidSafe group a lot of kudos/congrats for taking on securing the Internet and making it much more resilient. They have an active blog and forum that discusses the technology and what’s happening to it and I encourage anyone interested more in the technology to visit their website to learn more

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Comments?

DS3, the BlackPearl and the way forward for … tape

Spectra Logic Summit 2013, Nathan Thompson, CEO talking about  Spectra Logic's historyJust got back from an analyst summit with Spectra Logic.  They announced a new interface to tape called, Deep Simple Storage Service (DS3) and an appliance that implements this interface named the BlackPearl.  The intent is to broaden the use of tape to include, todays more web services, application environments.

The main problems addressed by the new interface is how do you map an essentially sequential, high throughput but long latency access to first byte, removable media device to an essentially small file, get and put environment.  And is there a market for such services. I think Spectra Logic has answered the first set of questions and is about to embark on a journey to answer the second set of questions.

The new interface – it’s all about simplifying tape

The DS3 interface answers the first set of questions. With DS3 Specra Logic has extended Amazon’s S3 interface to expose some of the sequentiality and removability of tape to the object storage world.

As you should recall, Amazon S3 is a RESTful, web interface that uses HTTP type GET and PUT commands to move data to and from the S3 storage service.  The data you are moving is considered an object and the object name or identifier is unique across the storage service. When you “PUT” an object you get to add key-value pairs of information called meta-data to the object. When you “GET” an object you retrieve the data from the storage service. The other thing one needs to be aware of is that you get and put objects into “BUCKET”s.

With DS3, Spectra Logic has added essentially 4 new commands to S3 protocol, which are:

  • Bulk Put – this provides a list of objects that one wants to “PUT” into a DS3 storage service and the response from the DS3 storage service is an ordered list of which objects to PUT in sequence and which DS3 storage server node (essentially an IP address) to send the data.
  • Bulk Get – this supplies a list of objects that one wants to GET from a DS3 storage service and the response is an ordered list of the sequence to get those objects and the node address to use for those object gets
  • Export Bucket – this identifies a BUCKET that you wish to remove from a DS3 storage service.  Presumably the response would be where the bucket can be found,  the number of pieces of media to expect, and some identification of the media serial numbers that constitute a bucket on the DS3 storage service.
  • Import Bucket – this identifies a new bucket which will be imported into a DS3 storage service and will supply some necessary information such as how many pieces of media to expect and the serial numbers of the media.  Presumably the response will be a location which can be used to import the media.

With these four simple commands and an appropriate DS3 client, DS3 server and DS3 storage backend one now has everything they need to support a removable media object store. I could see real value for export/import like this on the “rare occasion” when a  cloud service provider goes out of business.

The DS3 interface will be publicly available and the intent is to both supply Spectra Logic developed clients as well a ISV/partner developed DS3 clients so as to provide removable media object stores for all sorts of other applications.

Spectra’s is providing developer tools and documentation so that anyone can write a DS3 client. To that end, the DS3 developer portal is up (couldn’t find a link this AM but will update this post when I find it) and available free of charge to anyone today (believe you need to register to gain access to the doc.). They have a DS3 server simulator that DS3 client developers can use to test out and validate their client software. They also have a try & buy service for client developers.

Essentially, the combination of DS3 clients, DS3 servers and DS3 backend storage create a really deep archive for object data. It’s not intended for primary or secondary storage access but it’s big, cheap, and power/space efficient storage that can be very effective if used for archive data.

BlackPearl, the first DS3 Server

Their second announcement is the first implementation of a DS3 server, Spectra Logic calls BlackPearl(™). The BlackPearl connects to one or more Spectra Logic tape libraries as a backend store which together essentially provides a DS3 object storage archive. The DS3 server talks to DS3 clients on the front end. BlackPearl uses SAS or FC connected tape transports, which can be any transport currently supported by SpectraLogic tape libraries, including IBM TS1140, LTO-4, -5 and -6.

In addition to BlackPearl, Spectra Logic is releasing the first DS3 client for Hadoop. In this case, the DS3 client implements a new version of the Hadoop DistCp (distributed copy) command which can be used to create a copy of an HDFS directory tree onto a DS3 storage service.

Current BlackPearl hardware is a standard 2U server with 4-400GB SSDs inside which act as sort of a speed matching buffer for the Object interface to SAS/FC tape interface.

We only saw a configuration with one BlackPearl in operation (GA of BlackPearl is expected this December). But the plan is to support multiple BlackPearl appliances to talk with the same DS3 backend storage. In that case, there will be a shared database and (tape) resource scheduler across all the appliances in the cluster.

Yes, but what about the market?

It’s a gutsy move for someone like Spectra Logic to define a new open interface to deep storage. The fact that the appliance exists outside the tape library itself and could potentially support any removable media offers interesting architectural capabilities. The current (beta) implementation lacked some sophistication but the expectation is that much of this will be resolved by GA or over time through incremental enhancements.

Pricing is appealing. When you add BlackPearl appliance(s), with a T950 Spectra Logic tape library using LTO drives which supports uncompressed data store of ~2.4PB of archive data, the purchase price is ~$0.10/GB. This compares especially well with current Amazon Glacier pricing of $0.01/GB/Month, so that for the price of 10 months of Glacier storage you could own your own DS3 storage service.

At larger capacities, such as BlackPearl using T950 with TS1140 tape drives supporting 6.4PB is even cheaper, at $0.09/GB. Other configurations are available and in general bigger congfigurations are cheaper on $/GB and smaller ones more expensive.  The configurations are speced by Spectra Logic to have all the media, tape drives and BlackPearl systems be needed to support an archives object store.

As for markets, Spectra Logic already has beta interest from a large well known web services customer and a number of media & entertainment customers.

In the long run, Spectra Logic believes that if they can simplify access to tape for an application where it’s well qualified to support (deep archive), that this will enable new applications to take advantage of tape, that weren’t even dreamed of before.  By opening up a Object Store interface to tape, anyone currently using S3 is a potential customer.

Amazon announced earlier this year that they have over 2 trillion objects is their S3. And as far as I can tell (see my post Who’s the next winner in storage?) they are growing with no end in sight.

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Comments?

 

HDS Influencer Summit wrap up

[Sorry for the length, it was a long day] There was an awful lot of information suppied today. The morning sessions were all open but most of the afternoon was under NDA.

Jack Domme,  HDS CEO started the morning off talking about the growth in HDS market share.  Another 20% y/y growth in revenue for HDS.  They seem to be hitting the right markets with the right products.  They have found a lot of success in emerging markets in Latin America, Africa and Asia.  As part of this thrust into emerging markets HDS is opening up a manufacturing facility in Brazil and a Sales/Solution center in Columbia.

Jack spent time outlining the infrastructure cloud to content cloud to information cloud transition that they believe is coming in the IT environment of the future.   In addition, there has been even greater alignment within Hitachi Ltd and consolidation of engineering teams to tackle new converged infrastructure needs.

Randy DeMont, EVP and GM Global Sales, Services and Support got up next and talked about their success with the channel. About 50% of their revenue now comes from indirect sources. They are focusing some of their efforts to try to attract global system integrators that are key purveyors to Global 500 companies and their business transformation efforts.

Randy talked at length about some of their recent service offerings including managed storage services. As customers begin to trust HDS with their storage they are start considering moving their whole data center to HDS. Randy said this was a $1B opportunity for HDS and the only thing holding them back is finding the right people with the skills necessary to provide this service.

Randy also mentioned that over the last 3-4 years HDS has gained 200-300 new clients a quarter, which is introducing a lot of new customers to HDS technology.

Brian Householder, EVP, WW Marketing, Business Development and Partners got up next and talked about how HDS has been delivering on their strategic vision for the last decade or so.    With HUS VM, HDS has moved storage virtualization down market, into a rack mounted 5U storage subsystem.

Brian mentioned that 70% of their customers are now storage virtualized (meaning that they have external storage managed by VSP, HUS VM or prior versions).  This is phenomenal seeing as how only a couple of years back this number was closer to 25%.  Later at lunch I probed as to what HDS thought was the reason for this rapid adoption, but the only explanation was the standard S-curve adoption rate for new technologies.

Brian talked about some big data applications where HDS and Hitachi Ltd, business units collaborate to provide business solutions. He mentioned the London Summer Olympics sensor analytics, medical imaging analytics, and heavy construction equipment analytics. Another example he mentioned was financial analysis firms usingsatellite images of retail parking lots to predict retail revenue growth or loss.  HDS’s big data strategy seems to be vertically focused building on the strength in Hitachi Ltd’s portfolio of technologies. This was the subject of a post-lunch discussion between John Webster of Evaluator group, myself and Brian.

Brian talked about their storage economics professional services engagement. HDS has done over 1200 storage economics engagements and  have written books on the topic as well as have iPad apps to support it.  In addition, Brian mentioned that in a late The Info Pro survey, HDS was rated number 1 in value for storage products.

Brian talked some about HDS strategic planning frameworks one of which was an approach to identify investments to maximize share of IT spend across various market segments.  Since 2003 when HDS was 80% hardware revenue company to today where they are over 50% Software and Services revenue they seem to have broaden their portfolio extensively.

John Mansfield, EVP Global Solutions Strategy and Development and Sean Moser, VP Software Platforms Product Management spoke next and talked about HCP and HNAS integration over time. It was just 13 months ago that HDS acquired BlueArc and today they have integrated BlueArc technology into HUS VM and HUS storage systems (it was already the guts of HNAS).

They also talked about the success HDS is having with HCP their content platform. One bank they are working with plans to have 80% of their data in an HCP object store.

In addition there was a lot of discussion on UCP Pro and UCP Select, HDS’s converged server, storage and networking systems for VMware environments. With UCP Pro the whole package is ordered as a single SKU. In contrast, with UCP Select partners can order different components and put it together themselves.  HDS had a demo of their UCP Pro orchestration software under VMware vSphere 5.1 vCenter that allowed VMware admins to completely provision, manage and monitor servers, storage and networking for their converged infrastructure.

They also talked about their new Hitachi Accelerated Flash storage which is an implementation of a Flash JBOD using MLC NAND but with extensive Hitachi/HDS intellectual property. Together with VSP microcode changes, the new flash JBOD provides great performance (1 Million IOPS) in a standard rack.  The technology was developed specifically by Hitachi for HDS storage systems.

Mike Walkey SVP Global Partners and Alliances got up next and talked about their vertical oriented channel strategy.  HDS is looking for channel partners perspective the questions that can expand their reach to new markets, providing services along with the equipment and that can make a difference to these markets.  They have been spending more time and money on vertical shows such as VMworld, SAPhire, etc. rather than horizontal storage shows (such as SNW). Mike mentioned key high level partnerships with Microsoft, VMware, Oracle, and SAP as helping to drive solutions into these markets.

Hicham Abhessamad, SVP, Global Services got up next and talked about the level of excellence available from HDS services.  He indicated that professional services grew by 34% y/y while managed services grew 114% y/y.  He related a McKinsey study that showed that IT budget priorities will change over the next couple of years away from pure infrastructure to more analytics and collaboration.  Hicham talked about a couple of large installations of HDS storage and what they are doing with it.

There were a few sessions of one on ones with HDS executives and couple of other speakers later in the day mainly on NDA topics.  That’s about all I took notes on.  I was losing steam toward the end of the day.

Comments?

SCI SPC-1 results analysis: Top 10 $/IOPS – chart-of-the-month

Column chart showing the top 10 economically performing systems for SPC-1
(SCISPC120226-003) (c) 2012 Silverton Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Lower is better on this chart.  I can’t remember the last time we showed this Top 10 $/IOPS™ chart from the Storage Performance Council SPC-1 benchmark.  Recall that we prefer our IOPS/$/GB which factors in subsystem size but this past quarter two new submissions ranked well on this metric.  The two new systems were the all SSD Huawei Symantec Oceanspace™ Dorado2100 (#2) and the latest Fujitsu ETERNUS DX80 S2 storage (#7) subsystems.

Most of the winners on $/IOPS are SSD systems (#1-5 and 10) and most of these were all SSD storage system.  These systems normally have better $/IOPS by hitting high IOPS™ rates for the cost of their storage. But they often submit relatively small systems to SPC-1 reducing system cost and helping them place better on $/IOPS.

On the other hand, some disk only storage do well by abandoning any form of protection as with the two Sun J4400 (#6) and J4200 (#8) storage systems which used RAID 0 but also had smaller capacities, coming in at 2.2TB and 1.2TB, respectively.

The other two disk only storage systems here, the Fujitsu ETERNUS DX80 S2 (#7) and the Huawei Symantec Oceanspace S2600 (#9) systems also had relatively small capacities at 9.7TB and 2.9TB respectively.

The ETERNUS DX80 S2 achieved ~35K IOPS and at a cost of under $80K generated a $2.25 $/IOPS.  Of course, the all SSD systems blow that away, for example the Oceanspace Dorado2100 (#2), all SSD system hit ~100K IOPS but cost nearly $90K for a $0.90 $/IOPS.

Moreover, the largest capacity system here with 23.7TB of storage was the Oracle Sun ZFS (#10) hybrid SSD and disk system which generated ~137K IOPS at a cost of ~$410K hitting just under $3.00 $/IOPS.

Still prefer our own metric on economical performance but each has their flaws.  The SPC-1 $/IOPS metric is dominated by SSD systems and our IOPS/$/GB metric is dominated by disk only systems.   Probably some way to do better on the cost of performance but I have yet to see it.

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The full SPC performance report went out in SCI’s February newsletter.  But a copy of the full report will be posted on our dispatches page sometime next month (if all goes well). However, you can get the full SPC performance analysis now and subscribe to future free newsletters by just sending us an email or using the signup form above right.

For a more extensive discussion of current SAN or block storage performance covering SPC-1 (top 30), SPC-2 (top 30) and ESRP (top 20) results please see SCI’s SAN Storage Buying Guide available on our website.

As always, we welcome any suggestions or comments on how to improve our analysis of SPC results or any of our other storage performance analyses.

 

One day with HDS

HDS CEO Jack Domme shares the company’s vision and strategy with Influencer Summit attendees #HDSday by HDScorp
HDS CEO Jack Domme shares the company’s vision and strategy with Influencer Summit attendees #HDSday by HDScorp

Attended #HDSday yesterday in San Jose.  Listened to what seemed like the majority of the executive team. The festivities were MCed by Asim Zaheer, VP Corp and Product Marketing, a long time friend and employee, that came to HDS with the acquisition of Archivas five or so years ago.   Some highlights of the day’s sessions are included below.

The first presenter was Jack Domme, HDS CEO, and his message was that there is a new, more aggressive HDS, focused on executing and growing the business.

Jack said there will be almost a half a ZB by 2015 and ~80% of that will be unstructured data.  HDS firmly believes that much of this growing body of  data today lives in silos, locked into application environments and can’t become truly information until it can be liberated from this box.  Getting information out of the unstructured data is one of the key problems facing the IT industry.

To that end, Jack talked about the three clouds appearing on the horizon:

  • infrastructure cloud – cloud as we know and love it today where infrastructure services can be paid for on a per use basis, where data and applications move seemlessly across various infrastructural boundaries.
  • content cloud – this is somewhat new but here we take on the governance, analytics and management of the millions to billions pieces of content using the infrastructure cloud as a basic service.
  • information cloud – the end game, where any and all data streams can be analyzed in real time to provide information and insight to the business.

Jack mentioned the example of when Japan had their earthquake earlier this year they automatically stopped all the trains operating in the country to prevent further injury and accidents, until they could assess the extent of track damage.  Now this was a specialized example in a narrow vertical but the idea is that the information cloud does that sort of real-time analysis of data streaming in all the time.

For much of the rest of the day the executive team filled out the details that surrounded Jack’s talk.

For example Randy DeMont, Executive VP & GM Global Sales, Services and Support talked about the new, more focused sales team. On that has moved to concentrate on better opportunities and expanded to take on new verticals/new emerging markets.

Then Brian Householder, SVP WW Marketing and Business Development got up and talked about some of the key drivers to their growth:

  • Current economic climate has everyone doing more with less.  Hitachi VSP and storage virtualization is a unique position to be able to obtain more value out of current assets, not a rip and replace strategy.  With VSP one layers better management on top of your current infrastructure, that helps get more done with the same equipment.
  • Focus on the channel and verticals are starting to pay off.  More than 50% of HDS revenues now come from indirect channels.  Also, healthcare and life sciences are starting to emerge as a crucial vertical for HDS.
  • Scaleability of their storage solutions is significant. Used to be a PB was a good sized data center but these days we are starting to talk about multiple PBs and even much more.  I think earlier Jack mentioned that in the next couple of years HDS will see their first 1EB customer.

Mark Mike Gustafson,  SVP & GM NAS (former CEO BlueArc) got up and talked about the long and significant partnership between the two companies regarding their HNAS product.  He mentioned that ~30% of BlueArc’s revenue came from HDS.  He also talked about some of the verticals that BlueArc had done well in such as eDiscovery and Media and Entertainment.  Now these verticals will become new focus areas for HDS storage as well.

John Mansfield, SVP Global Solutions Strategy and Developmentcame up and talked about the successes they have had in the product arena.  Apparently they have over 2000 VSPs intsalled, (announced just a year ago), and over 50% of the new systems are going in with virtualization. When asked later what has led to the acceleration in virtualization adoption, the consensus view was that server virtualization and in general, doing more with less (storage efficiency) were driving increased use of this capability.

Hicham Abdessamad, SVP, Global Services got up and talked about what has been happening in the services end of the business.  Apparently there has been a serious shift in HDS services revenue stream from break fix over to professional services (PS).  Such service offerings now include taking over customer data center infrastructure and leasing it back to the customer at a monthly fee.   Hicham re-iterated that ~68% of all IT initiatives fail, while 44% of those that succeed are completed over time and/or over budget.  HDS is providing professional services to help turn this around.  His main problem is finding experienced personnel to help deliver these services.

After this there was a Q&A panel of John Mansfield’s team, Roberto Bassilio, VP Storage Platforms and Product Management, Sean Moser,  VP Software Products, and Scan Putegnat, VP File and Content Services, CME.  There were a number of questions one of which was on the floods in Thailand and their impact on HDS’s business.

Apparently, the flood problems are causing supply disruptions in the consumer end of the drive market and are not having serious repercussions for their enterprise customers. But they did mention that they were nudging customers to purchase the right form factor (LFF?) disk drives while the supply problems work themselves out.

Also, there was some indication that HDS would be going after more SSD and/or NAND flash capabilities similar to other major vendors in their space. But there was no clarification of when or exactly what they would be doing.

After lunch the GMs of all the Geographic regions around the globe got up and talked about how they were doing in their particular arena.

  • Jeff Henry, SVP &GM Americas talked about their success in the F500 and some of the emerging markets in Latin America.  In fact, they have been so successful in Brazil, they had to split the country into two regions.
  • Niels Svenningsen, SVP&GM EMAE talked about the emerging markets in his area of the globe, primarily eastern Europe, Russia and Africa. He mentioned that many believe Africa will be the next area to take off like Asia did in the last couple of decades of last century.  Apparently there are a Billion people in Africa today.
  • Kevin Eggleston, SVP&GM APAC, talked about the high rate of server and storage virtualization, the explosive growth and heavy adoption of Cloud pay as you go services. His major growth areas were India and China.

The rest of the afternoon was NDA presentations on future roadmap items.

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All in all a good overview of HDS’s business over the past couple of quarters and their vision for tomorrow.  It was a long day and there was probably more than I could absorb in the time we had together.

Comments?

 

Tape still alive, well and growing at Spectra Logic

T-Finity library at SpectraLogic's test facility (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, All Rights Reserved
T-Finity library at SpectraLogic's test facility (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, All Rights Reserved

Today I met with Spectra Logic execs and some of their Media and Entertainment (M&E) customers, and toured their manufacturing, test labs and briefing center.  The tour was a blast and the customers Kyle Knack from National Geographic (Nat Geo) Global Media, Toni Perez from Medcom (Panama based entertainment company) and Lee Coleman from Entertainment Tonight (ET) all talked about their use of the T-950 Spectra Logic tape libraries in the media ingest, editing and production processes.

Mr. Collins from ET spoke almost reverently about their T-950 and how it has enabled ET to access over 30 years of video interviews, movie segments and other media they can now use to put together clips on just about any entertainment subject imaginable.

He  talked specifically about the obit they did for Michael Jackson and how they were able to grab footage from an interview they did years ago and splice it together with more recent media to show a more complete story.  He also showed a piece on some early Eddie Murphy film footage and interviews they had done at the time which they used in a recent segment about his new movie.

All this was made possible by moving to digital file formats and placing digital media in their T-950 tape libraries.

Spectra Logic T-950 (I think) with TeraPack loaded in robot (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, All Rights Reserved
Spectra Logic T-950 (I think) with TeraPack loaded in robot (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, All Rights Reserved

Mr. Knack from Nat Geo Media said every bit of media they get anymore, automatically goes into the library archive and becomes the “original copy” of the media used in case other copies are corrupted or lost.  Nat Geo started out only putting important media in the library but found it just cost so much less to just store it in the tape archive that they decided it made more sense to just move all media to the tape library.

Typically they keep two copies in their tape library and important media is also copied to tape and shipped offsite (3 copies for this data).  They have a 4-frame T-950 with around 4000 slots and 14 drives (combination of LTO-4 and -5).  They use FC and FCoE storage for their primary storage and depend on 1000s of SATA drives for primary storage access.

He said they only use SSDs for some metadata support for their web site. He found that SATA drives can handle their big block sequential and provide consistent throughput and especially important to M&E companies consistent latency.

3D printer at Spectra Logic (for mechanical parts fabrication) (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, All Rights Reserved
3D printer at Spectra Logic (for mechanical parts fabrication) (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, All Rights Reserved

Mr. Perez from MedCom had much the same story. They were in the process of moving off of proprietary video tape format (Sony Betacam) to LTO media and digital files. The process is still ongoing although they are more than halfway there for current production.

They still have a lot of old media in Betacam format which will take them years to convert to digital files but they are at least starting this activity.  He said a recent move from one site to another revealed that much of the Betacam tapes were no longer readable.  Digital files on LTO tape should solve that problem for them when they finally get there.

Matt Starr Spectra Logic CTO talked about the history of tape libraries at Spectra Logic which was founded in 1998 and has been laser focused on tape data protection and tape libraries.

I find it pleasantly surprising that a company today can just supply tape libraries with software and make a ongoing concern of it. Spectra Logic must be doing something right, revenue grew 30% YoY last year and they are outgrowing their current (88K sq ft) office, lab, and manufacturing building they just moved into earlier this year and have just signed to occupy another building providing 55K sq ft of more space.

T-Series robot returning TeraPack to shelf (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, All Rights Reserved
T-Series robot returning TeraPack to shelf (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, All Rights Reserved

Molly Rector Spectra Logic CMO talked about the shift in the market from peta-scale (10**15 bytes) storage repositories to exa-scale (10**18 bytes) ones.  Ms. Rector believed that today’s cloud storage environments can take advantage of these large tape based, archives to provide much more economical storage for their users without suffering any performance penalty.

At lunch with Matt Starr, Fred Moore (Horison Information Strategies)Mark Peters (Enterprise Strategy Group) and I were talking about HPSS (High Performance Storage System) developed in conjunction with IBM and 5 US national labs that supports vast amounts of data residing across primary disk and tape libraries.

Matt said that there are about a dozen large HPSS sites (HPSS website shows at least 30 sites using it) that store a significant portion of the worlds 1ZB (10**21 bytes) of digital data created this past year (see my 3.3 exabytes of data a day!? post).  Later that day talking with Nathan Thompson Spectra Logic CEO, he said these large HPSS sites probably store ~10% of the worlds data, or 100EB.  I find that difficult to comprehend that much data at only ~12 sites but the national labs do have lots of data on hand.

Nowadays you can get a Spectra Logic T-Finity tape complex with 122K slot, using LTO-4/-5 or IBM TS1140 (enterprise class) tape drives.  This large a T-Finity has 4 rows of tape libraries which uses the ‘Skyway’ to transport a terapack of tape cartridges between one library row to the another.   All Spectra Logic libraries are built around a tape cartridge package they call the TeraPack which contains 10 LTO cartridges or (I think) 9-TS1140 tape cartridges (they are bigger than LTO tapes).  The TeraPack is used to import or export tapes from the library and all the tape slots in the library.

The software used to control all this is called BlueScale and is used in their T50e, a small, 50 slot library all the way up to the 122K T-Finity tape complex.  There are some changes for configuration, robotics and other personalization for each library type but the UI looks exactly the same across any of their libraries. Moreover, BlueScale offers the same enterprise level of functionality (e.g., drive and media life management) services for all Spectra Logic tape libraries.

Day 1 for SpectraPRDay closed with the lab tour and dinner.  Day 2 will start discussing futures and will be under NDA so there won’t be much to talk about right away. But from what I can see, Spectra Logic seems to be breaking down the barriers inhibiting tape use and providing tape library systems, that people almost revere.

I haven’t seen that sort of reaction about a tape library since the STK 4400 first came out last century.

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Comments?

Server virtualization vs. storage virtualization

Functional Fusion? by Cain Novocaine (cc) (from Flickr)
Functional Fusion? by Cain Novocaine (cc) (from Flickr)

One can only be perplexed by the seemingly overwelming adoption of server virtualization and contrast that with the ho-hum, almost underwelming adoption of storage virtualization.  Why is there this significant a difference?

I think the problem is partly due to the lack of an common understanding of storage performance utilization.

Why server virtualization succeeded

One significant driver of server virtualization is the precipitous drop in server utilization that occurred over the last decade when running single applications on a physical server.  It was nothing to see real processor utilization of less than 10% and consequently it was easy to envision that executing 5-10 applications on the single server. And what’s more each new generation of server kept getting more powerful, handling double the MIPs every 18 months or so driven by Moore’s law.

The other factor was that application workloads weren’t increasing that much. Yes new applications would come online but they seldom consumed an inordinate amount of MIPs and were often similar to what was already present. So application processing growth while not flatlining, was expanding at a relatively slow speed.

Why storage virtualization has failed

Data on the other hand continues its never ending exponential growth. Doubling every 3-5 years or less. And the fact that you have more data, almost always requires more storage hardware to support the IOPs being required to support it.

In the past the storage IOP rates was intrinsically tied to the number of disk heads available to service the load.  Although disk performance grew it wasn’t doubling every 18 months, and real per disk performance was actually going down over time, measured as the amount of IOPS per GB.

This drove proliferation of disk spindles and as such, storage subsystems in the data center. Storage virtualization couldn’t reduce the number of spindles required to support the workload.

Thus, if you look at storage performance from the perspective of % IOPS one could support per disk, most  sophisticated systems were running anywhere from 75% to 150% (based on DRAM caching).

Paradigm shift ahead

But SSDs can change this dynamic considerably.  A typical SSD can sustain 10-100K IOPs and there is some liklihood that this will increase with each generation that comes out but the application requirements will not increase as fast.  Hence, , there is a high liklihood that normal data center utilisation of SSD storage perfomance will start to drop below 50% or more, when that happens. -torage virtualization may start to make a lot more sense.

Maybe when (SSD) data storage starts moving more in line with Moore’s law, storage virtualization will become a more dominant paradigm for data center storage use.

Any bets on who the VMware of storage virtualization will be?

Comments?