116: GreyBeards talk VCF on VxBlock 1000 with Martin Hayes, DMTS, Dell Technologies

Sponsored By:

This past week, we had a great talk with Martin Hayes (@hayes_martinf), Distinguished Member Technical Staff at Dell Technologies about running VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) on VxBlock 1000 converged infrastructure (CI). It used to be that Cloud Foundation required VMware vSAN primary storage but that changed a few years ago. . When that happened, the Dell Technologies team saw it as a great opportunity to support VCF on VxBlock CI.

This is the first GreyBeards podcast for Martin, but he was extremely knowledgeable about VxBlock and Cloud Foundation technologies. He’s been a technical product manager on the VxBlock converged infrastructure at Dell Technologies for many years. He’s an expert on Cloud Foundation and he knows an awful lot more about VMware NSX-T networking than seems reasonable (good thing). In any case, Martin’s expertise covers the whole gamut of VCF services as well as VxBlock 1000 infrastructure. The podcast is a bit longer than our normal sponsored podcast but there was a lot of information to cover. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

With VCF enabling primary storage on networked storage systems, all the storage vendors in the world gave a mighty cheer. But VMware Cloud Foundation still requires the vSAN servers to run its management domain. Late in 2020, VxBlock 1000 from Dell Technologies released a new software defined version of its Advanced Management Platform (AMP) to run on vSAN Ready Nodes. AMP is VxBlock’s management platform but also runs management domains for VCF and NSX-T.

For workload domains, VxBlock 1000 offers Cisco UCS M5 rack and blade servers, that can be configured to support just about any workload needed by a data center.

Historically, VMware vSphere problems with DR weren’t as much storage replication issues as networking problems. But NSX-T and VCF seemed to have solved that problem.

And with vRealize Automation plugins and NSX-T APIs, customers can have 0 touch network provisioning which enables the use of IaaS or infrastructure as code for their data center.

VMware vVOLs are now available with Dell EMC PowerMax storage. So, now VxBlock 1000 customers can use vSphere storage policy-based management (SPBM) as well as automated vVOL replication for data on PowerMax.

VMware NSX-T implements Application Virtual Networks (AVNs) using a GENEVE overlay network, which make extensive use of encapsulation. But where there’s encapsulation, de-encapsulation must follow to access outside networks. All this (encapsulation on ingress, de-encapsulation on egress) is done through NSX-T Edge clusters.

The net result of all this is that VMware customers have more choice, i.e., now they can run VCF on HCI or CI. And with VxBlock 1000 CI, VCF customers can select a best of breed components for each level of their 3-tier infrastructure.

Martin Hayes, DMTS, Dell Technologies

Martin Hayes is a Technical Product Manager at Dell Technologies, where he develops and executes data center product strategies that incorporate virtualization, software-defined networking (SDN) and converged systems.

Previously, he served in network advisory and architect roles at Dell EMC, converged systems pioneer VCE and Irish broadband provider eircom.

111: GreyBeards talk data analytics with Matthew Tyrer, Sr. Mgr. Solutions Mkt & Competitive Intelligence, Commvault

Sponsored by:

I’ve known Matthew Tyrer, Senior Manager Solutions Marketing and Competitive Intelligence, Commvault for quite awhile now and he’s always been knowledgeable about the problems the enterprise has in supporting and backing up large file data repositories. But lately he’s been focused on Commvault Activate their data analytics solution.

We had a great talk with Matthew. He was easy to talk to and knew a lot about how data analytics can ease the operational burden of the enterprise growing file data environments. .Remind me not to have two Matthew’s on the same program ever again. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Matthew mentioned that their Activate was built on the Commvault platform software stack, which has had a rich and long history of development and customer deployments. It seems that Activate data analytics had been an early part of the platform but recently was split out as a separate solution.

One capability that Activate has that many other data analytics solutions do not, is the ability to examine both online data as well as data in backups. Most analytics solution can do one or the other, only a few do both. But if a solution only has access to online or backup data, they are missing half the story.

In addition, Activate can operate across multiple data centers as well as across multiple public cloud environments to provide analytics for an enterprise’s file data where it may reside.

Given the proliferation of file data these days, data analytics has become a necessity to most large IT shops. In the past, an admin could track some data over time but with the volumes of file data today, this is no longer tenable. At PB or more of file data, located in on prem data centers as well as across multiple clouds, there’s just too much file data to keep track of manually anymore.

Activate also indexes file content to provide more visibility and tracking of the different types of data under management in the enterprise. This is in addition to the extensive metadata that is collected and analyzed so it can better understand data access rights, copies and physical locations around the enterprise.

Activate can help organizations govern their data flows in support of industry as well as government data compliance requirements. Activate Data Governance, one of the three Activate solutions, is focused exclusively on providing enterprises the tools needed to manage any and all data that exists under compliance regulation environments.

Mat Leib had worked in eDiscovery before and it had always been a pain to extract “legally relevant” data from online and backup repositories. With the Activate eDiscovery solution and Activate’s content indexing of all file data, legal can perform their own relevant data searches to create eDiscovery data sets in support of litigation activities. Self service legal extracts like this vastly reduces the admin time and cost needed for eDiscovery.

The Activate File Space Optimization solution was deployed in one environment that had ~20PB of data online. By using File Space Optimization, the customer was able to cut 20PB down to 10PB. Any customer could benefit from such a reduction but customers doing data migration would see even more benefit.

At the end of the podcast, Matthew mentioned some videos that show Activate solution use cases.

Matthew Tyrer, Senior Solutions Marketing and Competitive Intelligence

Having worked at Commvault for over twelve years, after 8 years as a Sales Engineer Matt took that technical knowledge and transitioned to marketing where he is currently serving as a Senior Manager in Commvault’s Solution Marketing team. He is also heavily involved in Competitive Intelligence initiatives, and actively participates in field enablement programs.

He brings over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry, including within the fields of data and information management, cloud, data governance, enterprise storage, disaster recovery, and ultimately both implementing and supporting those projects and endeavours for public and private sector clients across Canada and around the globe.

Matt’s passion, deep product knowledge, and broad field experiences have enabled him to translate Commvault technology and vision such that their value is easily understood in the market and amongst client and partner families.

A self-described geek-dad, Matt is an avid boardgame enthusiast, firmly believes that Han shot first, and enjoys tormenting his girls with bad dad jokes.

0100: GreyBeards talk with Colin Gallagher, VP Dig. Infra. Prod. Mkt. @ Hitachi Vantara

Sponsored By:

We have known Colin Gallagher (@worldc3), VP, Digital Infrastructure Product Marketing at Hitachi Vantara, for a long time and he has always been an all around smart storage guy. Colin’s team at Hitachi Vantara are bringing out a brand new, midrange storage system and we thought it would be a good time to catch up with him and learn about it.

The new Hitachi Vantara VSP E990 Storage System is an all NVMe SSD array for medium sized enterprises that need predictable, high IOPS-low latency performance with enterprise class functionality and world class reliability/availability. We asked Colin why they needed all NVMe levels of performance. Colin replied that many of these data centers are starting to use advanced HPC, AI, and data analytics applications together with their standard Oracle, SAP and Microsoft solutions. These combined workloads have an acute need for predictable, high end performance and enterprise class functionality in order to work well.

The VSP E99O comes from a long heritage of enterprise storage at Hitachi, most recently embodied in the Hitachi VSP 5000. In fact, the VSP E990 uses the same storage OS as the VSP 5000, with changes made to streamline it for use with higher performing, all NVMe storage on a dual controller architecture.

This means all the advanced storage functionality of the high end enterprise VSP 5000 are available on the VSP E990 midrange system, minus some items not pertinent to midrange such as mainframe attach.

Many of the software changes involved cache and cache management. In the VSP E990, cache is now automatically shared and distributed across controllers reducing the performance impact of mirroring. Further, Hitachi has added more cores and higher performing processors as well. As a result, the VSP E990 all NVMe array can provide up to 5.8M IOPS and a best in any networked storage system, IO response time as low as 64 µsec. Colin also mentioned that they have reduced flash drive rebuild times by 80%.

The VSP E990 comes in a 4U base configuration and can offer from ~6TB to up to over 6PB of virtual capacity with drive expansion. In 8U plus controller (on the audio, it was incorrectly stated as 6U, The Eds.), the VSP E990 provides slots for up to 96 NVMe SSDs. Just like all VSP storage, the VSP E990 also offers the Hitachi 100% Data Availability Guarantee, the world’s oldest. Further, the VSP E990 supports 6-9s (99.9999%) reliability.

In addition the VSP E990 also supports Hitachi Adaptive Data Reduction, which compresses and deduplicates data to increase virtual capacity and reduce physical footprint. In the VSP E990, Adaptive Data Reduction uses AI to determine the best time to deduplicate data while at the same time optimizing host IO performance and effective storage capacity.

Hitachi Ops Center

During the last year or so Hitachi Vantara introduced its new Hitachi Ops Center solution to better administer and manage storage and other digital infrastructure. Ops Center now comes with 4 components: Administrator, Protector (copy data management), Automator and Analyzer.

  • Administrator supplies an element manager for VSP, other storage, and digital infrastructure in the data center.
  • Protector provides enterprise class, copy data management to protect, migrate, and archive VSP data storage.
  • Analyzer supports AI analysis of the data center’s storage operations to monitor SLAs, troubleshoot shoot problems, and improve storage performance as well as 3rd party compute, network and storage.
  • Automator supplies a series of templates and services to automate mundane, manual storage and other digital infrastructure tasks required to configure, operate and manage these systems in the data center. Automator provides a number of templates which customers can tailor to automate infrastructure operations such as provisioning an ESXi data store. The templates together with Automator services automatically carry out all the OS, fabric and storage/digital infrastructure tasks and activities required to perform these functions.

Hitachi EverFlex consumption models

Hitachi Vantara is also introducing EverFlex, a new series of consumption models, that any customer can use to provide more financial flexibility in their data center digital infrastructure acquisitions, deployments, and management.

EverFlex offers customers the option to purchase, lease or buy on a pay-as-you-go, cloud-like basis any Hitachi Vantara storage or digital infrastructure. Colin mentioned there were two ways that pay-as-you-go can operate,

  1. Customers pay on pure capacity over time basis. Here the customer would contract for a certain capacity and Hitachi Vantara would install storage/digital infrastructure capacity and would bill them monthly for it.
  2. Customers pay on an SLA over time basis. Here they would contract for a specific SLA, such as IOPS or other performance characteristic and Hitachi Vantara would install and maintain any storage/digital infrastructure to meet that SLA and bill them monthly for it.

Colin said that all Hitachi, world-class services are also now available to be purchased under EverFlex.

The podcast ran ~24 minutes. Colin has always been easy to talk with and very knowledgeable about storage. We were very impressed with the performance and innovation in the VSP E990 as well as Ops Center and EverFlex. Keith and I had fun discussing these solutions with Colin. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Subscribe_on_iTunes_Badge_US-UK_110x40_0824.png
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is play_prism_hlock_2x-300x64.png

Colin Gallagher, VP Digital Infrastructure Product Marketing at Hitachi Vantara

Colin is Vice President for Digital Infrastructure Product Marketing at Hitachi Vantara where he leads product marketing for storage systems, storage software, and converged/hyper-converged solutions.

Over his 25-year career he has lead marketing and product management team teams at several major storage companies. Colin has a passion for telling compelling stories about technical products that help customers solve both business and personal pain – and he enjoys the challenge of telling them in creative ways.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and an MBA from Northeastern University. Colin tries to put as many miles on his bike as possible, “hangs out” on twitter as @worldc3, and (unlike the GreyBeards) is team Oxford comma.

82: GreyBeards talk composable infrastructure with Sumit Puri, CEO & Co-founder, Liqid Inc.

This is the first time we’ve had Sumit Puri, CEO & GM Co-founder of Liqid on the show but both Greg and I have talked with Liqid in the past. Given that we talked with another composable infrastructure company (see our DriveScale podcast), we thought it would be nice to hear from their  competition.

We started with a brief discussion of the differences between them and DriveScale. Sumit mentioned that they were mainly focused on storage and not as much on the other components of composable infrastructure.

[This was Greg Schulz’s (@storageIO & StorageIO.com), first time as a GreyBeard co-host and we had some technical problems with his feed, sorry about that.]

Multi-fabric composable infrastructure

At Dell Tech World (DTW) 2019 last week, Liqid announced a new, multi-fabric composability solution. Originally, Liqid composable infrastructure only supported PCIe switching, but with their new announcement, they also now support Ethernet and InfiniBand infrastructure composability. In their multi-fabric solution, they offer JBoG(PUs) which can attach to Ethernet/InfiniBand as well as other compute accelerators such as FPGAs or AI specific compute engines.

For non-PCIe switch fabrics, Liqid adds an “HBA-like” board in the server side that converts PCIe protocols to Ethernet or InfiniBand and has another HBA-like board sitting in the JBoG.

As such, if you were a Media & Entertainment (M&E) shop, you could be doing 4K real time editing during the day, where GPUs were each assigned to a separate servers running editing apps and at night, move all those GPUs to a central server where they could now be used to do rendering or transcoding. All with the same GPU-sever hardware andusing Liqid to re-assign those GPUs, back and forth during day and night shifts.  

Even before the multi-fabric option Liqid supported composing NVMe SSDS and servers. So with a 1U server which in the package may support 4 SSDS, with Liqid you could assign 24-48 or whatever number made the most sense  to that 1U server for a specialized IO intensive activity. When that activity/app was done, you could then allocate those NVMe SSDs to other servers to support other apps.

Why compose infrastructure

The promise of composability is no more isolated/siloed/dedicated hardware in your environment. Resources like SSDs, GPUS, FPGAs and really servers can be torn apart and put back together without sending out a service technician and waiting for hours while they power down your system and move hardware around. I asked Sumit how long it took to re-configure (compose) hardware into a new congfiguration and he said it was a matter of 20 seconds.

Sumit was at an NVIDIA show recently and said that Liqid could non-disruptively swap out GPUs. For this you would just isolate the GPU from any server and then go over to the JBoG and take the GPU out of the cabinet.

How does it work

Sumit mentioned that they have support for Optane SSDs to be used as DRAM memory (not Optane DC PM) using IMDT (Intel Memory Drive Technology). In this way you can extend your DRAM up to 6TB for a server. And with Liqid it could be concentrated on one server one minute and then spread across dozens the next.

I asked Sumit about the overhead of the fabrics that can be used with Liqid. He said that the PCIe switching may add on the order of 100 nanoseconds and the Ethernet/InfiniBand networks on the order of 10-15 microseconds or roughly 2 orders of magnitude difference in overhead between the two fabrics.

Sumit made a point of saying that Liqid is a software company. Liqid software runs on switch hardware (currently Mellanox Ethernet/InfiniBand switches) or their PCIe switches.

But given their solution can require HBAs, JBoGs and potentially PCIe switches there’s at least some hardware involved. But for Ethernet and InfiniBand their software runs in the Mellanox switch gear. Liqid control software has a CLI, GUI and supports an API.

Liqid supports any style of GPU (NVIDIA, AMD or ?). And as far as they were concerned, anything that could be plugged into a PCIe bus was fair game to be disaggregated and become composable.

Solutions using Liqid

Their solution is available from a number of vendors. And at last week’s, DTW 2019 Liqid announced a new OEM partnership with Dell EMC. So now, you can purchase composable infrastructure, directly from Dell. Liqid’s route to market is through their partner ecosystem and Dell EMC is only the latest.

Sumit mentioned a number of packaged solutions and one that sticks in my mind was a an AI appliance pod solution (sold by Dell), that uses Liqid to compose an training data ingestion environment at one time, a data cleaning/engineering environment at another time, a AI deep learning/model training environment at another time, and then an scaleable inferencing engine after that. Something that can conceivably do it all, an almost all in one AI appliance.

Sumit said that these types of solutions would be delivered in 1/4, 1/2, or full racks and with multi-fabric could span racks of data center infrastructure. The customer ultimately gets to configure these systems with whatever hardware they want to deploy, JBoGs, JBoFs, JBoFPGAs, JBoAIengines, etc.

The podcast runs ~42 minutes. Sumit was very knowledgeable data center infrastructure and how composability could solve many of the problems of today. Some composability use cases he mentioned could apply to just about any data center. Ray and Sumit had a good conversation about the technology. Both Greg and I felt Liqid’s technology represented the next step in data center infrastructure evolution. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Sumit Perl, CEO & Co-founder, Liqid, Inc.

Sumit Puri is CEO and Co-founder at Liqid. An industry veteran with over 20 years of experience, Sumit has been focused on defining the technology roadmaps for key industry leaders including Avago, SandForce, LSI, and Toshiba.

Sumit has a long history with bringing successful products to market with numerous teams and large-scale organizations.

80: Greybeards talk composable infrastructure with Tom Lyon, Co-Founder/Chief Scientist and Brian Pawlowski, CTO, DriveScale

We haven’t talked with Tom Lyon (@aka_pugs) or Brian Pawlowski before on our show but both Howard and I know Brian from his prior employers. Tom and Brian work for DriveScale, a composable infrastructure software supplier.

There’s been a lot of press lately on NVMeoF and the GreyBeards thought it would be good time to hear from another way to supply DAS like performance and functionality. Tom and Brian have been around long enough to qualify as greybeards in their own right.

The GreyBeards have heard of composable infrastructure before but this was based on PCIe switching hardware and limited to a rack or less of hardware. DriveScale is working with large enterprises and their data center’s full of hardware.

Composable infrastructure has many definitions but the one DriveScale probably prefers is that it manages resource pools of servers and storage, that can be combined, per request, to create any mix of servers and DAS storage needed by an application running in a data center. DriveScale is targeting organizations that have from 1K to 10K servers with from 10K to 100K disk drives/SSDs.

Composable infrastructure for large enterprises

DriveScale provides large data centers the flexibility to better support workloads and applications that change over time. That is, these customers may, at one moment, be doing big data analytics on PBs of data using Hadoop, and the next, MongoDB or other advanced solution to further process the data generated by Hadoop.

In these environments, having standard servers with embedded DAS infrastructure may be overkill and will cost too much. For example., because one has no way to reconfigure (1000) server’s storage for each application that comes along, without exerting lots of person-power, enterprises typically over provision storage for those servers, which leads to higher expense.

But if one had some software that could configure 1 logical server or a 10,000 logical servers, with the computational resources, DAS disk/SSDs, or NVMe SSDs needed to support a specific application, then enterprises could reduce their server and storage expense while at the same time provide applications with all the necessary hardware resources.

When that application completes, all those hardware resources could be returned back to their respective pools and used to support the next application to be run. It’s probably not that useful when an enterprise only runs one application at a time, but when you have 3 or more running at any instant, then composable infrastructure can reduce hardware expenses considerably.

DriveScale composable infrastructure

DriveScale is a software solution that manages three types of resources: servers, disk drives, and SSDs over high speed Ethernet networking. SAS disk drives and SAS SSDs are managed in an EBoD/EBoF (Ethernet (iSCSI to SAS) bridge box) and NVMe SSDs are managed using JBoFs and NVMeoF/RoCE.

DriveScale uses standard (RDMA enabled) Ethernet networking to compose servers and storage to provide DAS like/NVMe like levels of response times.

DriveScale’s composer orchestrator self-discovers all hardware resources in a data center that it can manage. It uses an API to compose logical servers from server, disk and SSD resources under its control available, throughout the data center.

Using Ethernet switching any storage resource (SAS disk, SAS SSD or NVMe SSD) can be connected to any server operating in the data center and be used to run any application.

There’s a lot more to DriveScale software. They don’t sell hardware. but have a number of system integrators (like Dell) that sell their own hardware and supply DriveScale software to run a data center.

The podcast runs ~44 minutes. The GreyBeards could have talked with Tom and Brian for hours and Brian’s very funny. They were extremely knowledgeable and have been around the IT industry almost since the beginning of time. They certainly changed the definition of composable infrastructure for both of us, which is hard to do. Listen to the podcast to learn more. .

Tom Lyon, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist

Tom Lyon is a computing systems architect, a serial entrepreneur and a kernel hacker.

Prior to founding DriveScale, Tom was founder and Chief Scientist of Nuova Systems, a start-up that led a new architectural approach to systems and networking. Nuova was acquired in 2008 by Cisco, whose highly successful UCS servers and Nexus switches are based on Nuova’s technology.

He was also founder and CTO of two other technology companies. Netillion, Inc. was an early promoter of memory-over-network technology. At Ipsilon Networks, Tom invented IP Switching. Ipsilon was acquired by Nokia and provided the IP routing technology for many mobile network backbones.

As employee #8 at Sun Microsystems, Tom was there from the beginning, where he contributed to the UNIX kernel, created the SunLink product family, and was one of the NFS and SPARC architects. He started his Silicon Valley career at Amdahl Corp., where he was a software architect responsible for creating Amdahl’s UNIX for mainframes technology.

Brian Pawlowski, CTO

Brian Pawlowski is a distinguished technologist, with more than 35 years of experience in building technologies and leading teams in high-growth environments at global technology companies such as Sun Microsystems, NetApp and Pure Storage.

Before joining DriveScale as CTO, Brian served as vice president and chief architect at Pure Storage, where he focused on improving the user experience for the all-flash storage platform provider’s rapidly growing customer base. He also was CTO at storage pioneer NetApp, which he joined as employee #18.

Brian began his career as a software engineer for a number of well-known technology companies. Early in his days as a technologist, he worked at Sun, where he drove the technical analysis and discussion on alternate file systems technologies. Brian has also served on the board of trustees for the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology as well as a member of the board at the Linux Foundation.

Brian studied computer science at Arizona State University, physics at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as physics at MIT.