Greybeards talk car videos, storage and IT trends with Marc Farley

In our 30th episode, we talk with 3rd time guest star,  Marc Farley (@GoFarley), Formerly with Datera and Tegile. Marc has recently gone on sabbatical and we wanted to talk to him about what was keeping him busy and what was going on in storage/IT industry these days.

Marc is currently curating a car comedy vlog called theridecast.com. Apparently people, at least in California, are making comedy videos in their cars. They can be quite hilarious, checkout this episode of comedian in cars getting coffee.

While in the storage biz, the industry is getting battered by a number of trends: IT shrinking budgets, vendor proliferation, migration to cloud, and flash becoming old hat. Marc makes multiple points as to why the storage market is undergoing such a major transition these days:

  • Death to tech refresh, long live the cloud –  yes the cloud does upgrade hardware but  planned storage system obsolesce doesn’t happen in the cloud anymore. Cloud providers are  buying new SSDs, disks, white box servers, memory etc,  but not enterprise class storage, server or networking hardware.
  • AFA is boring, but selling – every vendor’s got one , two or sometimes three and they all know how to provide flash storage services. Customers pay extra for AFA, whether they need to or not, because they are swapping out old expensive, enterprise class storage for AFAs that often cost less but still provide better performance..
  • Tail IO latency becoming more important but it’s not understood – when IO response times go from 100µsec to 10msec, it hurts. It doesn’t matter if it’s every 1000 or 10,000 IOs, customers want less performance variability, which is a main reason they move to AFA in the first place. But not all AFA’s perform the same in tail latency and SSD controller/system architecture make a big difference.
  • Hybrid storage survives but only if you go big – hybrid storage economics makes sense only for large, diverse data repositories, that mix user directories, non-performance sensitive apps, and other structured and unstructured data in one data store.
  • Greenfield apps & secondary storage are moving to the cloud but migrating current apps to the cloud is difficult –  for new app development and archive storage, moving to or starting in the cloud is a no-brainer. Transitioning running enterprise class apps to the cloud is tough to do, that requires multiple skill sets and may never be successful. Hybrid  (cloud-on premises) enterprise class apps are too arduous to even contemplate.
  • Realtime analytics is emerging but data needs to be on flash – yes MapReduce is a batch activity which can uses lots of slow disk but there’s more to analytics than MR, and doing log analysis, in anything approaching realtime, one needs flash performance.
  • Optical’s persistence is great but who leaves data on the same technology for  20 years –  with magnetic and electronic storage densities going up every couple of years, who could afford keep data on the same optical technology that was 20 years old. Imagine using microfiche to keep PB of data today, inconceivable.

As for IT in general, one limiter of IT activity will become the lack of skilled engineers, specifically full-stack engineers and data scientists.

We ended our discussions on the economics of Samsung 3D NAND and Intel-Micron (IM) 3D Xpoint non-volatile memories. Both new semiconductor technologies are always long term investments. Today, Samsung is probably losing money on each 3D TLC NAND SSD it sells, but over time, as  fab yields improve, it should become cheap enough to make a profit. Similarly, 3D Xpoint may be costly to produce early on, but as IM perfect  their fab processes, the technology should become inexpensive enough to make oodles of $s for them. And there’s more technology changes to come.

The podcast runs just over 40 minutes and covers a lot of ground. Marc’s been in the IT almost as long as the GreyBeards and has a unique perspective on what’s happening today, having been with so many diverse, major and (minor) startup vendors throughout his tenure in the industry.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Marc Farley


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

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

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

GreyBeards talk HPC storage with Molly Rector, CMO & EVP, DDN

oIn our 27th episode we talk with Molly Rector (@MollyRector), CMO & EVP of Product Management/Worldwide Marketing for DDN.  Howard and I have known Molly since her days at Spectra Logic. Molly is also on the BoD of SNIA and Active Archive Alliance (AAA), so she’s very active in the storage industry, on multiple dimensions and a very busy lady.

We (or maybe just I) didn’t know that DDN has a 20 year history in storage and in servicing high performance computing (HPC) customers. It turns out that more enterprise IT organizations are starting to take on workloads that look like HPC activity.

In HPC there are 1000s of compute cores that are crunching on PB of data. For Oil&Gas companies, it’s seismic and wellhead analysis; with bio-informatics it’s genomic/proteomic analysis; and with financial services, it’s economic modeling/backtesting trading strategies. For today’s enterprises such as retailers, it’s customer activity analytics; for manufacturers, it’s machine sensor/log analysis;  and for banks/financial institutions, it’s credit/financial viability assessments. Enterprise IT might not have 1000s of cores at their disposal just yet, but it’s not far off. Molly thinks one way to help enterprise IT is to provide a SuperComputer as a service (ScaaS?) offering, where top 10 supercomputers can be rented out by the hour, sort of like a supercomputing compute/data cloud.

We start early talking about DDN WOS: object store, which can handle archive to cloud or backend tape libraries. Later we discuss DDN ExaScaler and GridScaler, which are NAS appliances for Lustre and massively scale out, parallel file system storage, respectively.

Another key supercomputing storage requirement is  predictable performance. Aside from sophisticated QoS offerings across their products, DDN also offers the IME solution, a bump in the cable, caching system, that can optimize large and small file IO activity for backend DDN NAS scalers. DDN IME is stateless and can be removed from the data path while still allowing IT access  to all their data.

While we were discussing DDN storage interfaces, Molly mentioned they were working on an Omni Path Fabric.  Intel’s new Omni Path Fabric is intended to replace rack scale PCIe networks for HPC.

This months edition is not too technical and runs just over 45 minutes. We only got to SNIA and AAA at the tail end and just for a minute or two. Molly’s always fun to talk to, with enough technical smarts to keep Howard and I at bay, at least for awhile :). Listen to the podcast to learn more.

HeadshotMolly Rector, CMO and EVP Product Management & Worldwide Marketing,  DDN

With 15 years of experience working in the HPC, Media and Entertainment, and Enterprise IT industries running global marketing programs, Molly Rector serves as DDN’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) responsible for product management and worldwide marketing. Rector’s role includes providing customer and market input into the company’s product roadmap, raising the Corporate brand visibility outside traditional markets, expanding the partner ecosystem and driving the end-to-end customer experience from definition to delivery.

Rector is a founding member and currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Active Archive Alliance. She is also the Storage Networking Industry Association’s (SNIA) Vice Chairman of the Board and the Analytics and Big Data committee Vice Chairman. Prior to joining DDN, Rector was responsible for product management and worldwide marketing as CMO at Spectra Logic. During her tenure at Spectra Logic, the company grew revenues consistently by double digits year-over-year, while also maintaining profitability. Rector holds certifications as CommVault Certified System Administrator; Veritas Certified Data Protection Administrator; and Oracle Certified Enterprise DBA: Backup and Recovery. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in biology and chemistry.

GreyBeards talk global storage with Ellen Rubin CEO & Laz Vekiarides CTO, ClearSky Data

In this edition we discuss ClearSky Data’s global storage service with Ellen Rubin (@ellen_rubin), CEO & Co-Founder and Laz Vekiarides (@lazvek), CTO & Co-founder of ClearSky Data.  Both Ellen and Laz have been around the IT industry for decades and Laz in particular was deeply involved in the development of EqualLogic storage systems both at Dell and at EqualLogic, prior to the acquisition.

ClearSky Data provides a global, primary storage service that connects edge device(s) in the data center that supply a read/write cache for iSCSI block storage to a point-of-presence (PoP) appliance in the metro area which uses cloud storage as its backend storage repository . We get into the technology later but essentially a customer pays a $/GB/month fee and all the edge, point-of-presence hardware and cloud storage repository is bundled into that monthly price.

The service is implemented as a two level caching service: level one at the edge is a cluster of 2U appliances with compute, DRAM and up to 24 SSDs and a dedicated metro-ethernet networking link to the PoP; level two at the PoP includes a dual HA server configuration with a JBOD with even more SSDs that has a direct link to Amazon Web Services Simple Storage Service (AWS S3).

Data is compressed, (inline or post-process) deduped and encrypted at the edge. Encryption keys are kept by the customer. Data written to the edge is synch-mirrored to the PoP and when the PoP fills up or the customer’s time interval has elapsed, their data is destaged to Amazon S3 which can then be replicated to other regions, where needed.

As part of their service, ClearSky Data also offers disaster recovery. As all customer data resides in S3, it can easily be supplied to another edge appliance (with the proper keys) at any other metro area location connected to one of their PoP’s.

ClearSky Data handles eventual consistency (not all copies of the data residing in  cloud storage may be the same) by versioning the cloud data objects and providing point-in-time consistency.

At the edge, the service can be deployed as a cluster of appliances that work together to support the IO workload and the PoP is configured to handle whatever IO workload is required in the metro area. Activity at the edge is heavy compute (compression, dedupe and encrypting all the data that comes in) and workload at the PoP is more IO bandwidth/networking based.

ClearSky Data currently has PoP’s in Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Boston with more on the way in the US. Today, ClearSky Data offer’s iSCSI interface protocols but have plans to provide FC, NFS and SMB support as well.  As we recorded the podcast, ClearSky Data’s  service was not quite GA yet, but were close.

Full Disclosure: Howard has worked for ClearSky in the past.

This months edition runs just under 41 minutes and gets into the business side and technical side of their service. Ellen provided the business view and Laz handled all the technical questions Howard and I threw at him. We hope you enjoy the podcast.

Ellen and Laz-orig copyEllen Rubin, CEO & Co-Founder ClearSky Data

Ellen Rubin is an experienced entrepreneur with a proven track record in leading strategy, market positioning and go-to-market for fast-growing companies. Most recently she was co-founder of CloudSwitch, a cloud enablement software company that was successfully acquired by Verizon in 2011. At Verizon, Ellen ran the cloud products group and was responsible for the strategy and roadmap for all cloud offerings.

Prior to founding CloudSwitch, Ellen was Vice President of Marketing at Netezza (NYSE: NZ), the pioneer and global leader in data warehouse appliances that power business intelligence and analytics at over 200 enterprises worldwide. As a member of the early management team at Netezza, Ellen helped grow the company to $130 million in revenues and a successful IPO in 2007. Ellen defined and created broad market acceptance of a new category, “data warehouse appliances,” and led market strategy, product marketing, complementary technology relationships and marketing communications.

Prior to Netezza, Ellen founded Manna, an Israeli and Boston-based developer of real-time personalization software. Ellen played a key role in raising over $18 million in venture financing from leading US and Israeli venture capital firms, recruiting the US-based management team and defining product and market strategy. Ellen began her career as a marketing strategy consultant at Booz, Allen & Hamilton, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and an undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Harvard College. She speaks regularly at industry events and has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Women in the Cloud by CloudNOW, as a Woman to Watch by Mass High Tech and Rising Star Entrepreneur by the New England Venture Capital Association.

Laz 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.

Greybeards talk about Storage Trends in our 2014 Yearend Podcast-part 3

In this our end of year video podcast Howard and I discuss some of the trends impacting the storage industry today.  Which include Cloud, SSD/Flash, software defined storage and converged server-storage systems and object storage.

The video comes in at a little more than 43 minutes and is available to be streamed, from Vimeo

or as a downloadable podcast in as a 3 videos.

Part 3 (~8 minutes) discusses the state of object storage and some of the trends impacting it’s adoption.

Graybeards talk object storage with Russ Kennedy, Sr. VP Prod. Strategy & Cust. Solutions Cleversafe

In our 15th podcast we talk object storage with Russ Kennedy Senior V.P. Product Strategy and Customer Solutions, Cleversafe. Cleversafe is a 10 year old  company sellinge scale out, object storage solutions with a number of interesting characteristics. Howard and I had the chance to talk with Cleversafe at SFD4 (we suggest you view the video if you want to learn more), just about a year ago. But we have both known Russ for a number of years and Ray has done work for Cleversafe in the past.

We haven’t talked about objects storage in the past so this podcast goes over some foundational information about it. Object storage is starting to become more mainstream and general purpose as more interfaces become available and as the amount of data being stored grows out of sight.  Object storage has a flat name space, rich metadata, and relatively rudimentary, native storage access methods. But on top of this one can build sophisticated PB storage environments that can handle high amounts of data throughput, spread this data across multiple sites, and provide highly fault tolerant/highly available storage environments. Object storage will never replace OLTP block oriented storage but for environments with massive unstructured data repositories, it’s probably the best solution out there today.

Cleversafe has some unique characteristics namely their ability to split object storage elements over multiple disparate locations and use erase coding to supply data availability in the event of storage, server, or site failures. Some other object storage systems use 2- or 3-way replication to protect against data loss. But Russ makes the apt comment that when you are talking about PBs of data, replication can cause your storage costs to go up quite fast. Someone mentioned that there are Cleversafe customers that have 15-9’s data availability using erasure coding with only 150% of the original capacity. This is significantly more reliability than what could be obtained by dual or even triple redundancy alone. However, I always find that the weak link in data reliability  discussions such as these is always the software that implements the solution, not the data integrity architecture of the system.

Currently, Cleversafe has many multi-PB installations some of which span continents and others of which are looking to breach an EB (10**21 bytes of storage) of object data. We asked what these customers look like and Russ said lots of Accessors®  (stateless on- and off-ramps for object data) and a lots more Slicestors® (servers holding the statefull storage).

One of the significant barriers to higher object storage adoption has always been their unique, native object storage access protocols. But these days, it turns out that Amazon’s S3 protocol has become the defacto standard for object storage and this is helping accelerate object storage adoption.  In the podcast we discuss how historically, defacto standards have been a successful approach used to introduce new storage access protocols. Cleversafe offers its native RESTful access protocol, S3 and a smattering of others but you can also use other partner solutions if you need standard file access to the object store.

Cleversafe also offers HDFS as another access protocol. With Cleversafe HDFS, Hadoop can access all of it’s data from the Cleversafe object repository. In addition, you can run Hadoop MapReduce on its Slicestor nodes, if you want. Apparently, moving PB of data to analyze it and then deleting it is an expensive and very time consuming proposition, and of course native HDFS uses triple redundancy…

In the podcast, we get into object storage, some of Cleversafe’s advanced functionality, access protocol evolution and more. Listen to the podcast to learn more…

This months episode comes in at a little more than 47 minutes.

Russ Kennedy

Russ Kennedy, Sr VP Product Strategy & Customer Solutions

Russ Kennedy brings more than 20 years experience in the storage industry to Cleversafe as the company’s Senior Vice President of Product Strategy and Customer Solutions. Having rolled up his sleeves working on automated tape libraries, Russ is still attracted to the technological challenges that have shaped the industry and particularly to the innovative approach that Cleversafe delivers to storage.

Russ joined the company initially in 2007 and left in 2009, staying on in an advisory role. In 2011, Russ rejoined the company seeing a clear opportunity to solve the storage needs surrounding the exponential growth of big data and the unique impact that Cleversafe delivers over traditional systems.

Previously, Russ served as the Vice President of Competitive Intelligence at CA Technologies, and was the Senior Director of Engineering and Product Management at Thin Identity Corporation. Russ has an MBA from the University of Colorado at Denver and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Colorado State University.