097: GreyBeards talk open source S3 object store with AB Periasamy, CEO MinIO

Ray was at SFD19 a few weeks ago and the last session of the week (usually dead) was with MinIO and they just blew us away (see videos of MinIO’s session here). Ray thought Anand Babu (AB) Periasamy (@ABPeriasamy), CEO MinIO, who was the main presenter at the session, would be a great invite for our GreyBeards podcast. Keith and I had a ball talking with AB.

Why object store

There’s something afoot in object storage space over the last year or so. It seems everybody is looking to deploy object store whether that be on prem, in CoLo facilities and in the cloud. It could be just the mass of data coming online but that trend has remained the same for years no. No it’s something else.

It all starts with AWS and S3. Over the last couple of years AWS has been rolling out new functionality that only works with S3 and this has been driving even more adoption of S3 as well as other object storage solutions.

S3 compatible object stores are available in just about every cloud service, available from major (and minor) storage vendors and in open source from MinIO.

Why S3 is so popular

Because object store is accessed via RestFUL interfaces, traditionally most implementations used their own API to access it. But when AWS created S3 (simple storage service) with their own API/SDK to access it, it somehow became the de-facto standard interface for all other object stores. S3 compatibility became a significant feature that all object stores had to support.

Sometime after that MinIO came into existence. MinIO provides a 100% open source, fully AWS S3 compatible object store that you can run anywhere on prem, in CoLo facilities and indeed in the cloud. In fact, there exist customers that run MinIO in AWS AB says this is probably just customers using a packaged software solution which happens to include MinIO but it’s nonetheless more expensive than AWS S3 as it uses EC2 instances and EBS storage to create an object store

Customers can access MinIO object stores with the AWS S3 SDK or the MinIO SDK. and you can access AWS S3 storage with AWS S3 SDK or use MinIO SDK. Occosionally, AWS S3 updates have broken MinIO’s SDK but these have been later fixed by AWS. It seems AWS and MinIO are on good terms.

AB mentioned that as customers get up to a few PBs of AWS S3 storage they often find the costs to be too high. It’s at this point that they start looking at other object storage solutions. But because MinIO is 100% S3 compatible and it’s open source many of these customers deploy it in their own data center facilities or in colo environments.

For those customers that want it, MinIO also offers an S3 gateway. With the gateway on prem customers can use S3 or standard file services to access S3 object storage located in the cloud. The gateway also works in the public cloud and can support both AWS s3 as well as Microsoft Blob storage as a backend.

MinIO matches AWS S3 features

AWS S3 has a number of great features and MinIO has matched or exceeded them all, step by step. AWS S3 has cross region replication options where customers can replicate S3 data from one region to another. MinIO supports both asynchronous replication of S3 data and synchronous replication (using RADIO).

But MinIO adds support for erasure coding within a fault domain. Default is Nx2 erasure coding which duplicates all your data so as long as 1/2 of your servers and storage are available you continue to have access to all your data. But this can be configured down like 12+4 where data is split accross 16 servers any four of which can fail and you can still access data.

AWS customers can use a Snowball (standalone storage device) to transfer data to or from S3 storage. AWS Snowball implements a subset of S3 API and requires a NAS staging area of equivalent size to migrate data out of S3. MinIO has support for Snowball’s limited S3 API and as such, Snowball’s can be used to migrate data into or out of MinIO. MinIO has a blog post which describes their support for AWS Snowball.

AWS also offers S3 Lambda services or server less computing services where compute services can be invoked when data is loaded in a bucket and then turned off when no longer needed. AWS Lambda depends on AWS messaging and other services to work properly. But MinIO supports Lambda like functionality using other open source services. AB mentions MQTT and Kafka services. MinIO has another blog post discussing their Lambda like services based on Kafka.

AWS recently implemented Snowflake a SQL database server for unstructured data that uses S3 storage to hold data. Ray and Keith almost choked on that statement as unstructured data and databases never used to be uttered in the same breath. But what AWS has shown was that you can use object store for database data as long as you are willing to load the table into memory and process it there and then unload any modified table data back into the object store. Indexing of the object data seems to be done as the data is being loaded and is also being done in a (random IO) cache or in memory and once done can also be unloaded into the object store.

Now Snowflake uses S3 but it’s not available on prem. MinIO has a number of data base partners that make use of their object store as a backend to host a Snowflake like service onprem. AB mentioned Spark and Splunk but there are others as well.

We ended up the discussion with what does it mean to have 20K stars on GitHub. AB said if you did a java script getting 20K stars would be easy but you just don’t see this sort of open source popularity for storage systems. He said the number is interesting but the growth rate is even more interesting.

The podcast runs ~47 minutes. AB was a great to talk tech with. Keith and I could have talked all afternoon with AB. It was very hard to stop the recording as we could have talked with him for another hour or more. AB said he doesn’t like to do podcasts or videos but he had no problem with us firing away questions. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

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Anand Babu Periasamy, CEO MinIO

AB Periasamy is the CEO and co-founder of MinIO. One of the leading thinkers and technologists in the open source software movement, AB was a co-founder and CTO of GlusterFS which was acquired by RedHat in 2011. Following the acquisition, he served in the office of the CTO at RedHat prior to founding MinIO in late 2015. AB is an active angel investor and serves on the board of H2O.ai and the Free Software Foundation of India.

He earned his BE in Computer Science and Engineering from Annamalai University.

095: GreyBeards talk file sync&share with S. Azam Ali, VP Customer Success at CentreStack

We haven’t talked with a file synch and share vendor in a while now and Matt was interested in the technology. He had been talking with CentreStack, and found that they had been making some inroads in the enterprise. So we contacted S. Azam Ali, VP of Customer Success at CentreStack and asked if he wanted to talk about their product on our podcast.

File synch and share, is part collaboration tool, part productivity tool. With file synch & share many users share the same files, across many different environments and end point devices. It’s especially popular with road warriors that need access to the same files on the road that reside in corporate data centers. With this technology, files updated anywhere would be available to all.

Most file synch&share systems require you to use their storage. But CentreStack just provides synch and share access to NFS and SMB storage that’s already in the data center.

CentreStack doesn’t use VPNs to access data, many other vendor do. But with CentreStack, one just log’s into a website (with AD credentials) and they have immediate browser access to files.

CentreStack uses a gateway VM, that runs in the corporate data center, configured to share files/file directories/shares. We asked whether they were in the data path and Azam said no. However, the gateway does register for file system notifications (e.g. when files are updated, outside CentreStack, they get notified).

CentreStack does maintain meta-data on the files, directories, shares that are under it’s control. Presumably, once an admin sets it up, it goes out and access the file systems that have shared files and populates their meta-data for those files.

CentreStack works with any NFS and SMB file system as well as NAS servers that support these two. It’s unclear whether customers can have more than one gateway server in their data center supporting synch and share but Azam did say that it wasn’t unusual for customers with multi-data centers to have a gateway in each, to support synch&share requirements for each data center.

They use client software on end point devices, which presents the shared files as an external drive (to Mac), presumably a cloud drive for Windows PCs and similar services (in an App) for other systems (IOS, Android phones, iPad, etc.). We believe Azam said Linux was coming soon.

The client software can be configured in cache mode or offline mode:

  • Cache mode – the admin can configure how much space to use on the endpoint device and the software will cache the most recently used files in that space for faster access
  • Offline mode – the software moves all files that the endpoint login can access, to the device.

In cache mode, when users open a file (not in the most recently used cache), there will be some delay as the system retrieves data from the internet and copies it to the endpoint device. Unclear what the delay might be but it’s probably a function of internet speed and load on the gateway, with possibly some overhead for the NFS/SMB/NAS system to supply the data. If there’s not enough space to hold the file, the oldest non-open file is erased from the cache.

In both modes, Centrestack supports cross domain locking. That is, if one client has a file open (for update), all other systems/endpoints may only access the file in read-only mode. After the file is closed. the file can then be opened for update by other users.

When CentreStack clients are used to update files, the data is stored back in the original file systems with versioning. This way if the data is corrupted, admins can easily return back to a known good copy version.

CentreStack also offers a cloud backup and DR service. Gateway admins can request that synch&share files be backed up to cloud storage (AWS S3, Azure Blob and Wasabi). When CentreStack backups file data to the cloud, it also includes metadata information about the files so they can be re-constituted anywhere.

A CentreStack cloud gateway VM can be activated in the cloud to supply access to backed up files. Unclear whether the CentreStack cloud backup has to be restored to block or file storage first or if it just accesses the data on cloud storage directly. But one customers using CentreStack cloud DR would need to run client software in their applications accessing these files.

Wasabi seemed an odd solution to have on their list of supported cloud storage providers, but Azam said for their market, the economics of Wasabi storage were hard to ignore. See our previous podcast with David Friend, Co-Founder& CEO, Wasabi, to learn more about Wasabi.

CentreStack is licensed on a per user basis, not storage capacity bucking industry trends. But they don’t actually own the storage so it makes sense. For CentreStack cloud backup, customers also have to supply the cloud storage.

They also offer a 30 day free trial on their website with unlimited users. We assume this uses CentreStacks cloud gateway and customers bring their own cloud storage to support it.

The podcast runs about 35 minutes. Azam was a bit more marketing than we are used to, but he warmed up once we started asking questions. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

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S. Azam Ali, VP of Customer Success, CentreStack

S. Azam Ali, is VP of Customer Success at CentreStack and is an executive with extensive experience in managing global teams including sales, support and consulting services.

Azam’s channel experience includes on-boarding new partners including creation of marketing and training collateral for the partners. Azam is an executive with a passion for customer success and establishing long term relationships and partnerships.

Azam is also an advisor to startups as well as established technology companies.

92: Ray talks AI with Mike McNamara, Sr. Manager, AI Solution Mkt., NetApp

Sponsored By: NetApp

NetApp’s been working in the AI DL (deep learning) space for a long time now and announced their partnership with NVIDIA DGX systems, back in August of 2018. At NetApp Insight, this week they were showing off their new NVIDIA DGX systems reference architectures. These architectures use NetApp AFF A800 storage (for more info on AI DL, checkout Ray’s Learning Machine (deep) Learning posts – part 1, – part 2 and – part3).

Besides the ONTAP AI systems, NetApp also offers

  • FlexPod AI solution based on their partnership with Cisco using UCS C480 ML M5 rack servers which include 8 NVIDA Tesla V100 GPUs and also features NetApp AFF A800 storage for use in core AI DL.
  • NetApp HCI has two configurations with 2- or 3-NVIDIA GPUs that come in 1U or 2U rack servers and run VMware vSphere or RedHad OpenStack/OpenShift software hypervisors suitable for edge or core AI DL.
  • E-series reference architecture that uses the BeeGFS parallel file system and offers InfiniBAND data access for HPC or core AI DL.

On the conference floor, NetApp showed AI DL demos for automotive, financial services, Public Sector and healthcare verticals. They also had a facial recognition application running that could estimate your age and emotional state (I didn’t try it, but Mike said they were hedging the model so it predicted a lower age).

Mike said one healthcare solution was focused on radiological image scans, to identify pathologies from x-Ray, MRI, or CAT scan images. Mike mentioned there was a lot of radiological technologists burn-out due to the volume of work caused by the medical imaging explosion over the last decade or so. Mike said image analysis is something that h AI DL can perform very effectively and doing so would improve the accuracy and reduce the volume of work being done by technologists.

He also mentioned another healthcare application that uses an AI DL app to count TB cells in blood samples and estimate the extent of TB infections. Historically, this has been time consuming, error prone and hard to do in the field. The app uses a microscope with a smart phone and can be deployed and run anywhere in the world.

Mike mentioned a genomics AI DL application that examined DNA sequences and tried to determine its functionality. He also mentioned a retail AI DL facial recognition application that would help women “see” what they would look like with different makeup on.

There was a lot of discussion on NetApp Cloud services at the show, such as Cloud Volume Services and Azure NetApp File (ANF). Both of these could easily be used to implement an AI DL application or be part of an edge to core to cloud data flow for an AI DL application deployment using NetApp Data Fabric.

NetApp also announced a new, all flash StorageGRID appliance that was targeted at heavy IO intensive uses of object store like AI DL model training and data analytics.

Finally, Mike mentioned NetApp’s ecosystem of partners working in the AI space to help customers deploy AI DL algorithms in their industries. Some of these include:

  1. Flexential, Try and Buy AI so that customers could bring them in to supply AI DL expertise to generate an AI DL application using customer data and deploy it on customer cloud or on prem infrastructure .
  2. Core Scientific, AI-as-a-Service, so that customers could purchase a service to implement an AI DL application using customer data and running on Core Scientific infrastructure..
  3. Scale Matrix, Mobile data center AI, so that customers could create an AI DL application and run it on Scale Matrix infrastructure that was transported to wherever the customer wanted it to be run.

We recorded the podcast on the show floor, in a glass booth, so there’s some background noise (sorry about that, but can’t be helped). The podcast is ~27 minutes. Mike is a long time friend and NetApp product expert, recently working in AI DL solutions at NetApp. When I saw Mike at Insight, I just had to ask him about what NetApp’s been doing in the AI DL space. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

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Mike McNamara, Senior Manager AI Solution Marketing, NetApp

With over 25 years of data management product and solution marketing experience, Mike’s background includes roles of increasing responsibility at NetApp (10+ years), Adaptec, EMC and Digital Equipment Corporation. 

In addition to his past role as marketing chairperson for the Fibre Channel Industry Association, he was a member of the Ethernet Technology Summit Conference Advisory Board, a member of the Ethernet Alliance, and a regular contributor to industry journals, and a frequent speaker at events.

91: Keith and Ray show at CommvaultGO 2019

There was a lot of news at CommvaultGO this year and it was our first chance to talk with their new CEO, Sanjay Mirchandani. Just prior to the show Commvault introduced new SaaS backup offering for the mid market, Metallic™ and about a month or so prior to the show Commvault had acquired Hedvig, a software defined storage solution. Keith and I also participated in a TechFieldDay Exclusive (TFDx) for Commvault, the day before the show began.

First up is Metallic, a Commvault Venture. When Sanjay arrived he took a worldwide tour of Commvault offices and customers and came back saying they needed a Software-as-a-Service backup offering to go after the mid market. That was about 6 months ago and since then, they have spun up a development and marketing team and today delivered their first product.

Metallic has three offerings all based on Commvault technology but re-implemented to be simpler to use and operate in the cloud.

  1. Metallic Core Backup & Recovery which is targeted at virtualized server environments whether on premises or in the cloud. It covers backup and recovery for VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V & KVM VMs, SQL server and file servers running on Windows or Linux.
  2. Metallic Office 365 Backup & Recovery, which is targeted at Office 365 solutions and provides backup and recovery solutions for these customer environments.
  3. Metallic Endpoint Backup & Recovery, which is focused on desktop and laptop users and provides backup and recovery for those end-user environments.

Metallic operates in it’s own cloud environment (believed to be Microsoft Azure) and it’s a bring your own cloud secondary storage solution with an option to use Metallic cloud storage as secondary storage.

At the moment, Metallic is only offered to US based organizations and purchased through Commvault channel partners. However, the free (believe 45 day) trial can be downloaded and purchased without the channel.

Pricing for the Core Backup & Recovery is based on TB/month and pricing for the other two Metallic offerings is based on user seats/month. There doesn’t seem to be any retention limit for the Office365 and Endpoint products. The Core Backup product data retention is only limited by the TBs that are licensed.

Next up is Commvault Activate™. This product was announced at last years GO conference but neither Keith or I took note. Activate is data management solution using Commvault backup storage and provides three capabilities, File storage Optimization, which identifies files that are suitable for archive; Sensitive Data Governance, which profiles and id’s sensitive data in files and provides governance; and Compliance Search & eDiscovery, which can be used to put legal holds and create review sets for legal and other compliance activities.

And then there’s Hedvig, a Commvault Venture. At the show there was much talk about the Data Brain as having two sides, one was for the management of data protection and the other was for the management of storage. What Commvault plans to do over the next few years is to deliver on a unified storage and protection Data Brain that supports both of these sides. During the TFD sessions there was quite a lot of chatter, twitter and otherwise about whether customers would ever be willing to have both primary and secondary storage on the same system, or be have both be controlled by the same data plane. Commvault isn’t the only vendor to have gone down this path. We will need to wait and see how customers react.

The podcast is ~23 minutes. As mentioned previously, Keith is a long time friend and co-host of our GreyBeards On Storage podcast. He always has an interesting perspective on how new technology can benefit the data center today. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

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Keith Townsend, The CTO Advisor

Keith Townsend (@CTOAdvisor) is a IT thought leader who has written articles for many industry publications, interviewed many industry heavyweights, worked with Silicon Valley startups, and engineered cloud infrastructure for large government organizations.

Keith is the co-founder of The CTO Advisor, blogs at Virtualized Geek, and can be found on LinkedIN.

90: GreyBeards talk K8s containers storage with Michael Ferranti, VP Product Marketing, Portworx

At VMworld2019 USA there was a lot of talk about integrating Kubernetes (K8s) into vSphere’s execution stack and operational model. We had heard that Portworx was a leader in K8s storage services or persistent volume support and thought it might be instructive to hear from Michael Ferranti (@ferrantiM), VP of Product Marketing at Portworx about just what they do for K8s container apps and their need for state information.

Early on Michael worked for RackSpace in their SaaS team and over time saw how developers and system engineers just loved container apps. But they had great difficulty using them for mission critical applications and containers of the time had a complete lack of support for storage. Michael joined Portworx to help address these and other limitations in using containers for mission critical workloads.

Portworx is essentially a SAN, specifically designed for containers. It’s a software defined storage system that creates a cluster of storage nodes across K8s clusters and provides standard storage services on a container level granularity.

As a software defined storage system, Portworx is right in the middle of the data path, storage they must provide high availability, RAID protection and other standard storage system capabilities. But we talked only a little about basic storage functionality on the podcast.

Portworx was designed from the start to work for containers, so it can easily handle provisioning and de-provisioning, 100s to 1000s of volumes without breaking a sweat. Not many storage systems, software defined or not, can handle this level of operations and not impact storage services.

Portworx supports both synchronous and asynchronous (snapshot based) replication solutions. As all synchronous replication, system write performance is dependent on how far apart the storage nodes are, but it can provide RPO=0 (recovery point objective) for mission critical container applications.

Portworx takes this another step beyond just data replication. They also replicate container configuration (YAML) files. We’re no experts but YAML files contain an encapsulation of everything needed to understand how to run containers and container apps in a K8s cluster. When one combines replicated container YAML files, replicated persistent volume data AND an appropriate external registry, one can start running your mission critical container apps at a disaster site in minutes.

Their asynchronous replication for container data and configuration files, uses Portworx snapshots , which are sent to an alternate site. But they also support asynch replication to any S3 compatible storage via CloudSnap.

Portworx also supports KubeMotion, which replicates/copies name spaces, container app volume data and container configuration YAML files from one K8s cluster to another. This way customers can move their K8s namespaces and container apps to any other Portworx K8s cluster site. This works across on prem K8s clusters, cloud K8s clusters, between public cloud provider K8s clusters s or between on prem and cloud K8s clusters.

Michael also mentioned that data at rest encryption, for Portworx, is merely a tick box on a storage class specification in the container’s YAML file. They make use use of KMIP services to provide customer generated keys for encryption.

This is all offered as part of their Data Security/Disaster Recovery (DSDR) service. that supports any K8s cluster service whether they be AWS, Azure, GCP, OpenShift, bare metal, or VMware vSphere running K8s VMs.

Like any software defined storage system, customers needing more performance can add nodes to the Portworx (and K8s) cluster or more/faster storage to speed up IO

It appears they have most if not all the standard storage system capabilities covered but their main differentiator, besides container app DR, is that they support volumes on a container by container basis. Unlike other storage systems that tend to use a VM or higher level of granularity to contain container state information, with Portworx, each persistent volume in use by a container is mapped to a provisioned volume.

Michael said their focus from the start was to provide high performing, resilient and secure storage for container apps. They ended up with a K8s native storage and backup/DR solution to support mission critical container apps running at scale. Licensing for Portworx is on a per host (K8s node basis).

The podcast ran long, ~48 minutes. Michael was easy to talk with, knew K8s and their technology/market very well. Matt and I had a good time discussing K8s and Portworx’s unique features made for K8s container apps. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

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Michael Ferranti, VP of Product Marketing, Portworx

Michael (@ferrantiM) is VP of Product Marketing at Portworx, where he is responsible for communicating the value of containerization and digital transformation to global architects and CIOs.

Prior to joining Portworx, Michael was VP of Marketing at ClusterHQ, an early leader in the container storage market and spent five years at Rackspace in a variety of product and marketing roles