69: GreyBeards talk HCI with Lee Caswell, VP Products, Storage & Availability, VMware

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For this episode we preview VMworld by talking with Lee Caswell (@LeeCaswell), Vice President of Product, Storage and Availability, VMware.

This is the third time Lee’s been on our show, the previous one was back in August of last year. Lee’s been at VMware for a couple of years now and, among other things, is leading the HCI journey at VMware.

The first topic we discussed was VMware’s expanded HCI software defined data center (SDDC) solution, which now includes compute, storage, networking and enhanced operations with alerts/monitoring/automation that ties it all together.

We asked Lee to explain VMware’s SDDC:

  • HCI operates at the edge – with ROBO-2-server environments, VMware’s HCI can be deployed in a closet and remotely operated by a VI from the central site.
  • HCI operates in the data center – with vSphere-vSAN-NSX-vRealize and other software, VMware modernizes data centers for the  pace of digital business..
  • HCI operates in the public Cloud –with VMware Cloud (VMC)  on AWS, IBM Cloud and over 400 service providers, VMware HCI also operates in the public cloud.
  • HCI operates for containers and cloud native apps – with support for containers under vSphere, vSAN and NSX, developers are finding VMware HCI an easy option to run container apps in the data center, at the edge, and in the public cloud.

The importance of the edge will become inescapable, as 50B edge connected devices power IoT by 2020. Lee heard Pat saying compute processing is moving to the edge because of 3 laws:

  1. the law of physics, light/information only travels so fast;
  2. the law of economics, doing all processing at central sites would take too much bandwidth and cost; and
  3. the law(s) of the land, data sovereignty and control is ever more critical in today’s world.

VMware SDDC is a full stack option, that executes just about anywhere the data center wants to go. Howard mentioned one customer he talked with at FMS18, just wanted to take their 16 node VMware HCI rack and clone it forever, to supply infinite infrastructure.

Next, we turned our discussion to Virtual Volumes (VVols). Recently VMware added replication support for VVols. Lee said VMware has an intent to provide a SRM SRA for VVols. But the real question is why hasn’t there been higher field VVol adoption. We concluded it takes time.

VVols wasn’t available in vSphere 5.5 and nowadays, three or more years have to go by before a significant amount of the field moves to a new release. Howard also said early storage systems didn’t implement VVols right. Moreover, VMware vSphere 5.5 is just now (9/16/18) going EoGS.

Lee said 70% of all current vSAN deployments are AFA. With AFA, hand tuning storage performance is no longer something admins need to worry about. It used to be we all spent time defragging/compressing data to squeeze more effective capacity out of storage, but hand capacity optimization like this has become a lost art. Just like capacity, hand tuning AFA performance doesn’t make sense anymore.

We then talked about the coming flash SSD supply glut. Howard sees flash pricing ($/GB) dropping by 40-50%, regardless of interface. This should drive AFA shipments above 70%, as long as the glut continues.

The podcast runs ~21 minutes. Lee’s always great to talk with and is very knowledgeable about the IT industry, HCI in general, and of course, VMware HCI in particular.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Lee Caswell, V.P. of Product, Storage & Availability, VMware

Lee Caswell leads the VMware storage marketing team driving vSAN products, partnerships, and integrations. Lee joined VMware in 2016 and has extensive experience in executive leadership within the storage, flash and virtualization markets.

Prior to VMware, Lee was vice president of Marketing at NetApp and vice president of Solution Marketing at Fusion-IO. Lee was a founding member of Pivot3, a company widely considered to be the founder of hyper-converged systems, where he served as the CEO and CMO. Earlier in his career, Lee held marketing leadership positions at Adaptec, and SEEQ Technology, a pioneer in non-volatile memory. He started his career at General Electric in Corporate Consulting.

Lee holds a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Carleton College and a master of business administration degree from Dartmouth College. Lee is a New York native and has lived in northern California for many years. He and his wife live in Palo Alto and have two children. In his spare time Lee enjoys cycling, playing guitar, and hiking the local hills.

36: GreyBeards discuss VMworld2016 with Andy Banta, Storage Janitor, NetApp Solidfire

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Thanks Andy Warfield, Coho Data

In this episode, we talk with Andy Banta (@andybanta), Storage Janitor (Principal Virt. Architect), Netapp SolidFire. Andy’s been involved in Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and other VMware API implementations at SolidFire and worked at VMware and other storage/system vendor companies before that.

Howard and I were at VMworld2016 late last month and we thought Andy would be a good person to discuss what went there this year.

No VVOLs & VSAN news at the show

Although, we all thought there’d be another release of VVOLs and VSAN announced at the show, VMware announced Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services. If anything the show was a bit mum about VMware Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and Virtual SAN™ (VSAN) this year as compared to last.

On the other hand, Andy’s and other VVOL technical sessions were busy at the conference. And one of them ended up having standing room only and was repeated at the show, due to the demand. Customer interest in VVOLs seems to be peaking.

Our discussion begins with why VVOLs was sidelined this year. One reason was that there was a  focus from VMware and their ecosystem on Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) and HCI doesn’t use storage arrays or VVOL.

Howard and I suspected with VMware’s ecosystem growing ever larger, validation and regression testing is starting to consume more resources. But Andy, suggested that’s not the issue, as VMware uses self-certification, where vendors run tests that VMware supplies to show they meet API requirements. VMware does bring in a handful of vendor solutions (5 for VVOLs) for reference architectures and to insure the APIs meet (major) vendor requirements but after that, it’s all self certification.

Another possibility was  that the DELL-EMC acquisition (closed 9/6) could be  a distraction. But Andy said VMware’s been and will continue on as an independent company and the fact that EMC owned ~84% of the stock never impacted VMware’s development before. So DELL’s acquisition shouldn’t either.

Finally we suggested that executive churn at VMware could be the problem. But Andy debunked that and said the amount of executive transitions hasn’t really accelerated over the years.

After all that, we concluded that just maybe the schedule had slipped and perhaps we will see something new in Barcelona for VVOLs and VMware APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA), at VMworld2016 Europe.

Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services

What VMware did announce was VMware Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services. This seems to signal a shift in philosophy to be more accommodating to the public cloud rather than just competing with them.

VMware Cloud Foundation is a repackaging of  VMware Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), NSX®,  VSAN and vSphere® into a single bundle that customers can use to spin up a private cloud with ease.

VMware Cross-Cloud Services is a set of targeted software for public cloud deployment to ease management and migration of services . They showed how NSX could be deployed over your cloud instances to control IP addresses and provide micro-segmentation services and how other software allows data to be easily migrated between the public cloud and VMware private cloud implementations. Cross Cloud Services was tech previewed at the show and Ray wrote a  post describing them in more detail (please see VMworld2016 Day 1 Cloud Foundation & Cross-Cloud Services post).

Cloud services

Howard talked about how difficult it can be to move workloads to the cloud and back again. Most enterprise application data is just too large to transfer quickly and to complex to be a simple file transfer.  And then there’s legal matters for data governance, compliance and regulatory regimens that have to be adhered to which make it almost impossible to use public cloud services.

On the other hand, Andy talked about work they had done at SolidFire to use cloud in development. They moved some testing to the cloud to spin up 1000s of (SolidFire simulations) instances to try to catch an infrequent bug (occurring once every 10K runs).  They just couldn’t do this in their lab. In the end they were able to catch and debug the problem much more effectively using public cloud services.

Howard mentioned that they were also using AWS as an IO trace repository for benchmark development work he is doing. AWS S3 as a data repository has been a great solution for his team, as anyone can upload their data that way. By the way, he is looking for a data scientist to help analyze, this data if anyone’s interested.

In general, workloads are becoming more transient these days. Public cloud services are encouraging this movement but Docker and micro services are also having an impact.

VVOLs

One can even see this sort of trend in VMware VVOLs, which can be  another way to enable more transient workloads. VVOLs can be created and destroyed a lot quicker than Vdisks in the pasts. In fact, some storage vendors are starting to look at VVOLs as transient storage and are improving their storage and meta-data garbage collection accordingly.

Earlier this year Howard, Andy and I were all at a NetApp SolidFire Analyst event in Boulder. At that time, SolidFire said that they had implemented VVOLs so well they considered “VVOLs done right”.  I asked Andy what was different with SolidFire’s VVOL implementation. One thing they did was completely separate the Protocol endpoints from the storage side. Another was to provide QoS at the VM level that could be applied to a single or 1000s of VMs

Andy also said that SolidFire had implemented a bunch of scripts to automate VVOL policy changes across 1000s of objects. SolidFire wanted to make use of these scripts for their own VVOL implementation but as they could apply to any vendors implementation of VVOLs, they decided to open source them.

The podcast runs over 42 minutes and covers a broad discussion of the VMware ecosystem, the goings on at VMworld and SolidFire’s VVOL implementation. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Andy Banta, Storage Janitor, NetApp SolidFire

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Andy is currently a Storage Janitor acting as a Principal Virtualization Architect at NetApp SolidFire, focusing on VMware integration and Virtual Volumes.  Andy was a part of the Virtual Volumes development team at SoldiFire.

Prior to SolidFire, he was the iSCSI Tech Lead at VMware, as well as being on the engineering teams at DataGravity and Sun Microsystems.

Andy has presented at numerous VMworlds, as well as several VMUGs and other industry conferences. Outside of work, and enjoys racing cars, hiking and wines. Find him on twitter at @andybanta.