094: GreyBeards talk shedding light on data with Scott Baker, Dir. Content & Data Intelligence at Hitachi Vantara

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At Hitachi NEXT 2019 Conference, last month, there was a lot of talk about new data services from Hitachi. Keith and I thought it would be a good time to sit down and talk with Scott Baker (@Kraken-Scuba), Director of Content and Data Intelligence, at Hitachi Vantara about what’s going on with data operations these days and how customers are shedding more light on their data.

Information supply chain

Something Scott said in his opening remarks caught my attention when he mentioned customer information supply chains. The information supply chain is similar to manufacturing supply chains, but it’s all about data. Just like manufacturing supply chains where parts and services come from anywhere and are used to create products/services for customers,

information supply chains are about the data used in their organization operations. Information supply chain data is A) being sourced from many places (or applications); B) being added to by supply chain processing (or other applications); and C) ultimately used by the organization to supply a product/service to customers.

But after the product/service is supplied the similarity between manufacturing and information supply chains breaks down. With the information supply chain, data is effectively indestructible, is infinitely re-useable and can live forever. Who throws data away anymore?

The problem most organizations have with information supply chains is once the product/service is supplied, data is often put away never to be seen again or as Scott puts it, goes dark.

This is where Hitachi Content intelligence (HCI) comes in. HCI is designed to take (unstructured or structured) data and analyze it (using natural language and other processing tools) to surround it with information and other metadata, so that it can become more visible and useful to the organization for the life of its existence.

Customers can also use HCI to extract and blend data streams together, automating the creation of an information rich, data repository. The data repository can readily be searched to re-discover or uncover attributes about the data not visible before.

Scott also mentioned the Hitachi Pentaho Platform which can be used to make real time decision from structured data. Pentaho information can also be fed into HCI to provide more intelligence for your structured data.

But HCI can also be used to analyze other database data as well. For instance, database blob and text elements can be fed to and analyzed by HCI. HCI analysis can include natural language processing and other functionality to tag the data by adding key:value information, all of which can be supplied back to the database or Pentaho to add further value to structured data.

Customers can also use HCI to read and transform database tables into XML files. XML files can be stored in object stores as objects or in file systems. XML data could easily be textually indexed and be searched by various tools to better understand the structured data information

We also talked about Hadoop data that can be offloaded to Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) object storage with a stub left behind. Once data is in HCP, HCI can be triggered to index and add more metadata, which can then later be used to decide when to move data back to Hadoop for further analysis.

Finally, Keith mentioned that he just got back from KubeCon and there was an increasing cry for data being used with containerized applications. Scott mentioned HCP for Cloud Scale, the newest member of the HCP object store family, focused on scale out capabilities to provide highly consistent, object storage performance for customers that need it. Customers running containerized workloads use scale-out capabilities to respond to user demand and now they have on premises object storage that can scale with them, as needs change.

The podcast ran ~24 minutes. Scott was very knowledgeable about data workflows, pipelines and the need for better discovery tools. We had a great time discussing information supply chains and how Hitachi can help customers optimize their data pipelines. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

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Scott Baker, Director of Content and Data Intelligence at Hitachi Vantara

Scott Baker is, and has been, an active member of the information technology, data analytics, data management, and data protection disciplines for longer than he is willing to admit.

In his present role at Hitachi, Scott is the Senior Director of the Content and Data Intelligence organization focused on Hitachi’s Digital Transformation, Data Management, Data Governance, Data Mobility, Data Protection and Data Analytics solutions which includes Hitachi Content Platform (HCP), HCP Anywhere, HCP Gateway, Hitachi Content Intelligence, and Hitachi Data Protection Solutions.

Scott is a VMware Certified Professional, recognized as a subject matter expert, industry speaker, and author. Scott has been a panelist on topics related to storage, cloud, information governance, data security, infrastructure standardization, and social media topics. His educational background includes an MBA, Master’s & Bachelor’s in Computer Science.

When he’s not working, Scott is an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, and PADI Scuba Instructor. He has a passion for public speaking, whiteboarding, teaching, and traveling the world.

93: GreyBeards talk HPC storage with Larry Jones, Dir. Storage Prod. Mngmt. and Mark Wiertalla, Dir. Storage Prod. Mkt., at Cray, an HPE Enterprise Company

Supercomputing Conference 2019 (SC19) is coming to Denver next week and in anticipation of that show, we thought it would be a good to talk with some HPC storage group. We contacted HPE and given their recent acquisition of Cray, they offered up Larry and Mark to talk about their new ClusterStor E1000 storage system.

There are a number of components that go into Cray supercomputers and besides the ClusterStor, Larry and Mark mentioned their new SlingShot cluster interconnect which is Ethernet based with significant enhancements to congestion handling. But the call focused on ClusterStor.

What is ClusterStor

ClusterStor, is a Lustre file system hardwareappliance. Lustre has always been popular with the HPC crowd as it offered high bandwidth file services. But Lustre often took a team of (PhD) scientists to configure, deploy and run properly because of all the parameters that had to be setup for optimum performance.

Cray’s ClusterStor was designed to make configuring, deploying and running Lustre a lot simpler with a GUI and system defaults that provided an optimal running environment. But if customers still want access to all Lustre features and functionality, all the Lustre parameters can still be tweaked to personalize it.

What sort of appliance

The ClusterStore team has created a Lustre storage appliance using two systems, a 2U-24 NVMe SSD system and a 4U-106 disk drive system. Both systems use PCIe Gen 4 buses which offer 2X the bandwidth of Gen 3 and NVMe Gen 4 SSDs. Each ClusterStore E1000 appliance comes with 2 servers for HA and the storage behind it.

Larry said the 2U NVMe Gen 4 appliance offers 80GB/sec of read and 60GB/sec of write data bandwidth. And a full rack of these, could support ~2.5TB/sec of data bandwidth. One TB/sec seems like an awful lot to the GreyBeards, 2.5TB/sec, out of this world.

We asked if it supported InfiniBAND interconnects? Yes, they said it supports the latest generation of InfiniBAND but it also offers Cray’s own (SlingShot) Ethernet interconnect, unusual for HPC environments. And as in any Lustre parallel file system, servers accessing storage use Lustre client software.

ClusterStor Data Services

But on the backend, where normally one would see only LDISKFS for backend storage, ClusterStor also offers ZFS. Larry and Mark said that LDISKFS is faster but ZFS offers more functionality like snapshots and data compression.

Many of the Top 100 & Top 500 supercomputing environments are starting to deploy ML DL (machine learning-deep learning) workloads along with their normal HPC activities. But whereas HPC work has historically depended on bandwidth to read, write and move large files around, ML DL deals with small files and needs high IOPS. ClusterStor was designed to satisfy both high bandwidth and high IOPS workloads.

In previous HPC Lustre flash solutions, customers had to deal with the complexity of where to place data, such as on flash or on disk. But with net ClusterStor E1000, the system can do all this for you. That is it will move data from disk to flash when it sees an advantage to doing so and move it back again when that advantage is gone. But, just as with Lustre configuration parameters above, customers can still pre-stage data to flash.

The other challenge for HPC environments is extreme size. Cray and others are starting to see requirements for Exascale (exabyte, 10**18) byte) storage systems. In fact, Cray has a couple of ClusterStor E1000 configurations of 400PB or more already, As these systems age they may indeed grow to exceed an exabyte.

With an exabyte of data, systems need to support billions of files/inodes and better metadata services and indexing. ClusterStor offers optimized inode indexing and search to enable HPC users to quickly find the data they are looking for. Further, ClusterStor offers, data at rest encryption and supports virtual file systems, for multi-tenancy.

With a ZFS backend, ClusterStor can supply data compression and snapshots. Cray has tested ZFS compression on HPC scientific ( mostly already application compressed) data and still see ~30% reduction is storage footprint. At an exabyte of storage 30% can be a significant cost reduction

The podcast ran long, ~46 minutes. Larry and Mark had a good knowledge of the HPC storage space and were easy to talk with. Matt’s an old ZFS hand, so wanted to take even more about ZFS. I had a good time discussing ClusterStor and Lustre features/functionalit and how the HPC workloads are changing. Listen to the podcast to learn more. [The podcast was recorded on November 6th, not the 5th as mentioned in the lead in, Ed.]

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Larry Jones, Director Storage Product Management

Larry Jones is a director of storage product management for Cray, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Jones previously held senior product management roles at Seagate, DDN and Panasas.

Mark Wiertalla, Director Storage Product Marketing

Mark Wiertalla is a product marketing director for Cray, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

Prior to Cray, Wiertalla held product manager roles at EMC and SGI.

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

85: GreyBeards talk NVMe NAS with Howard Marks, Technologist Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, VAST Data Inc.

As most of you know, Howard Marks was a founding co-Host of the GreyBeards-On- Storage podcast and has since joined with VAST Data, an NVMe file and object storage vendor headquartered in NY with R&D out of Israel. We first met with VAST at StorageFieldDay18 (SFD18, video presentation). Howard announced his employment at that event. VAST was a bit circumspect at their SFD18 session but Howard seems to be more talkative, so on the podcast we learn a lot more about their solution.

VAST Data is essentially an NFS-S3 object store, scale out solution with both stateless, VAST Data storage servers and JBoF drive enclosures with Optane and NVMe QLC SSDs. Storage servers or JBoFs can be scaled independently. They don’t support tiering or DRAM caching of data but instead seem to use the Optane SSDs as a write buffer for the QLC SSDs.

At the SFD18 event their spokesperson said that they were going to kill off disk storage media. (Ed’s note: Disk shipments fell 18% y/y in 1Q 2019, with enterprise disk shipments at 11.5M units, desktop at 24.5M units and laptops at 37M units).

The hardware

The VAST Data storage servers are in a 2U/4 server configuration, that runs interface protocols (NFS & S3), data reduction (see below), data reformating/buffering etc. They are stateless servers with all the metadata and other control state maintained on JBoF Optane drives.

Each drive enclosure JBoF has 12 Optane SSDs and 44 U.2 QLC (no DRAM/no super cap) SSDs. This means there are no write buffers on the QLC SSDs that can lose data when power failures occur. The interface to the JBoF is NVMeoF, either RDMA-RoCE Ethernet or InfiniBand (customer selected). Their JBoFs have high availability, with dual fabric modules that support 2-100Gbps Ethernet/InfiniBand ports per module, 4 per JBoF.

Minimum starting capacity is 500TB and they claim support up to Exabytes. Although how much has actually been tested is an open question. They also support billions of objects/files.

Guaranteed better data reduction

They have a rather unique, multi-level, data reduction scheme. At the start, data is chunked in variable length chunks. They use heuristics to determine the chunk size that fits best. (Ed note, unclear which is first in this sequence below so presented in (our view of) logical order)

  • 1st level computes a similarity hash (56 bit not SHA1), which is used to determine a similarity level with any other currently stored data chunk in the system.
  • 2nd level uses a ZSTD compression algorithm. If a similarity is found, the new data chunk is compressed with the ZSTD compression algorithm and a reference dictionary used by the earlier, similar data chunk. If no existing chunk is similar to this one, the algorithm identifies a semi-unique reference dictionary that optimizes the compression of this data chunk. This semi-unique dictionary is stored as metadata.
  • 3rd level, If it turns out to be a complete duplicate data chunk, then the dedupe count for the original data chunk is incremented, a pointer is saved to the original unique data and the data discarded. If not a complete duplicate of other data, the system computes a delta from the closest “similar’ block and stores just the delta bytes, includes a pointer to the original similar block and increments a delta block counter.

So data is chunked, compressed with a optimized dictionary, be delta-diffed or deduped. All data reduction is done post data write (after the client is ACKed), and presumably, re-hydrated after being read from SSD media. VAST Data guarantees better data reduction for your stored data than any other storage solution.

New data protection

They also supply a unique Locally Decodable Erasure Coding with 4 parity (-like) blocks and anywhere from 36 (single enclosure leaving 4 spare u.2 SSDs) to 150 data blocks per stripe all of which support up to 4 device failures per stripe. 

The locally decodable erasure coding scheme allows for rebuilds without having to read all remaining data blocks in a stripe. In this scheme, once you read the 4 parity (-like) blocks, one has all the information calculated from up to ¾ of the remaining drives in the stripe, so the system only has to read the remaining ¼ drives in the stripe to reconstruct one, two, three, or four failing drives.  Given their data stripe width, this cuts down on the amount of data needing to be read considerably. Still with 150 data drives in a stripe, the system still has to read 38 drives worth of QLC SSD data to rebuild a data drive.

In addition to all the above, VAST Data also reblocks the data into much larger segments, (it writes 1MB segments to the QLC drives) and uses a heat map along with other heuristics to separate actively written data from less actively written data, thus reducing garbage collection, write amplification.

The podcast is a long and runs over ~43 minutes. Howard has always been great to talk with and if anything, now being a vendor, has intensified this tendency. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Howard Marks, Technologist Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, VAST Data, Inc.

Howard Marks brings over forty years of experience as a technology architect for hire and Industry observer to his role as VAST Data’s Technologist Extraordinary and Plienopotentary. In this role, Howard demystifies VAST’s technologies for customers and customer requirements for VAST’s engineers.

Before joining VAST, Howard ran DeepStorage an industry test lab and analyst firm. An award-winning speaker, he has appeared at events on three continents including Comdex, Interop and VMworld.

Howard is the author of several books (all gratefully out of print) and hundreds of articles since Bill Machrone taught him journalism at PC Magazine in the 1980s.

Listeners may also remember that Howard was a founding co-Host of the Greybeards-on-Storage Podcast.


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.