112: GreyBeards annual year end wrap-up with Keith & Matt

It’s the end of the year, so time for our regular year end wrap up discussion with the GreyBeards. 2020 has been an interesting year to say the least. It started out just fine, then COVID19 showed up and threw a wrench in everyone’s plans and as the year closes, we were just starting to see some semblance of the new normal, when one of the largest security breaches in years shows up. Whew, almost glad that’s over and onto 2021.

As always the GreyBeards had a great discussion on these and other topics to highlight the year just past. The talk was wide ranging and hard to characterize but I did my best below. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

COVID19s impact on the enterprise

It will probably take some time before we learn the true, long term impacts of COVID19 on IT but one major change has to be the massive Work From Home (WFH) transition that took place overnight.

While WFH can be more productive for some, the lack of face2face interaction can be challenging for others. The fact that many of the GreyBeards have been working from home for decades now, left us a bit oblivious to how jarring this transition can be for newcomers.

There’s definitely some psychological changes that need to occur to be productive at WFH. Organization skills become even more important. Structured interactions (read conference calls, zoom/webex and other forms of communication become much more important. And then there’s security.

Turns out VMware and others have been touting VDI solutions for the past decade or so to better support remote work and at the same time providing corporate levels of security for remote work. While occasionally this doesn’t work quite as well as expected, it’s certainly much much better than having end users access corporate data without any security around that data or worse yet, the “bring your own device”. All these VDI solutions had a field day when WFH happened.

Many workers found they could be more productive at WFH, due the less distractions, no commute time and more flexible hours. What happens when COVID19 is vanquished to all these current WFHers is anyone’s guess.

We thought there might be less need for large office campuses/buildings. But there’s something to be said for more collaboration and random interactions through face2face meetings that can only occur in an office setting with workers present at the same time. Some organizations will take to this new way of work while others will try to dial WFH back to non-existent. Where your organization fits on this spectrum and why, will be telling across a number of dimensions.

The rise of ARM

There’s been a slow but steady improvement in ARM processors over the last almost half century. Nowadays it’s starting to make a place for itself in the enterprise. ARH has always been the goto microprocessor for low power solutions (like smartphones) but nowadays they are being deployed in the cloud and even the enterprise. These can be used as server processors but even outside servers, ARM cores are showing up in hardware accelerators as the brains behind SmartNICs, DPUs, SPUs, etc.

Keith made mention AWS 2nd generation Graviton 64-bit ARM processor EC2 instances. And yes there’s significant cost ( & power) savings that can be had using AWS Graviton ARM instances. So the cloud is starting to adopt them. Somewhere over the past couple of years I heard that VMware was porting ESX to work on ARM cores.

But apparently, it’s not just as simple as dropping an ARM multi-core processor into a server and recompiling your code and away you go. Applications need a certain amount of optimization to run effectively on ARM processors. And the speed up between non-optimized and optimized versions of an application running on ARM cores is significant.

As for SmartNICs and DPUs, these are data networking hardware accelerators that provide real time processing capabilities needed to keep up with higher speed networking, 100GbE and beyond. These DPUs perform deep packet inspection, data compression, encryption and other services all at wire speeds.. Yes you could devote 1 or more X86 cores to do this, but it’s much cheaper (and more effective) to do this outside the CPU core. Moreover, performing this activity at the network entry point to the server means that much of this data doesn’t have to be transferred back and forth through server memory. So not only does it save CPU core cycles but also memory size and memory & PCIe bus bandwidth. We published a recent podcast with Kevin Deierling, NVIDIA Networking discussing DPUs if you want to learn more.

Pat made mention at (virtual) VMworld their plans to port ESX to the DPU. Keith followed up on this and asked some other exec’s at VMware about this and they said VMware will more likely support DPUs as just another hardware accelerator in their cluster. In either case, CPU cycles should be freed up and this should help VMware use X86 cores more efficiently. And perhaps this will help them engage in more CPU constrained environments such as Telcom.

Then there’s computational storage. We have been watching this technology for a couple of years now and it’s seeing some success in being deployed to public cloud environments. They seem to be being used to provide outboard data compression. It’s unclear whether these systems depend on ARM processing or not but my bet is that they do. To learn more about computational storage check out these podcasts, FMS2020 wrap up with Jim Handy and our talk with Scott Shadley on NGD’s computational storage.

System security

At yearend, we are learning of a massive security breach throughout US government IT facilities. All based on what is believed to be a Russian hack to a software package that is embedded in a popular networking tool software solution, SolarWinds. They are calling this a software supply chain hack. Although we are mainly hearing about government agencies being hacked, SolarWinds is also pervasive in the enterprise as well.

There have been many hardware supply chain hacks in the past, where a board supplier used chips or logic that weren’t properly vetted. Over time, hardware suppliers have started to scrutinize their supply chains better and have reduced this risk.

And the US government have been lobbying for the industry to use a security chip with a backdoor or to supply back doors to smartphone encryption capabilities. Luckily, so far, none of these have been implemented by industry.

What Russia has shown us is that this particular hack is not limited to the hardware sphere. Software supply chain risk can’t be ignored anymore.

This means that any software application supplier will need to secure their supply chain or bring it all in house. Which may mean that costs for these packages will go up. It’s possible that using a pure open source supply chain may reduce this risk as well. At least that’s the promise of open source.

We said 2020 was an interesting year and it’s going out with a bang.

Matt Leib (@MBLeib), one of our co-hosts, has been blogging in the storage space for over 10 years, with work experience both on the engineering and presales/product marketing.. His blog is at Virtually Tied to My Desktop and he’s on LinkedIN.

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.

78: GreyBeards YE2018 IT industry wrap-up podcast

In this, our yearend industry wrap up episode, we discuss trends and technology impacting the IT industry in 2018 and what we can see ahead for 2019 and first up is NVMeoF

NVMeoF has matured

In the prior years, NVMeoF was coming from startups, but last year it’s major vendors like IBM FlashSystem, Dell EMC PowerMAX and NetApp AFF releasing new NVMeoF storage systems. Pure Storage was arguably earliest with their NVMeoF JBOF.

Dell EMC, IBM and NetApp were not far behind this curve and no doubt see it as an easy way to reduce response time without having to rip and replace enterprise fabric infrastructure.

In addition, NVMeoFstandards have finally started to stabilize. With the gang of startups, standards weren’t as much of an issue as they were more than willing to lead, ahead of standards. But major storage vendors prefer to follow behind standards committees.

As another example, VMware showed off an NVMeoF JBOF for vSAN. A JBoF like this improves vSAN storage efficiency for small clusters. Howard described how this works but with vSAN having direct access to shared storage, it can reduce data and server protection requirements for storage. Especially, when dealing with small clusters of servers becoming more popular these days to host application clusters.

The other thing about NVMeoF storage is that NVMe SSDs have also become very popular. We are seeing them come out in everyone’s servers and storage systems. Servers (and storage systems) hosting 24 NVMe SSDs is just not that unusual anymore. For the price of a PCIe switch, one can have blazingly fast, direct access to a TBs of NVMe SSD storage.

HCI reaches critical mass

HCI has also moved out of the shadows. We recently heard news thet HCI is outselling CI. Howard and I attribute this to the advances made in VMware’s vSAN 6.2 and the appliance-ification of HCI. That and we suppose NVMe SSDs (see above).

HCI makes an awful lot of sense for application clusters that VMware is touting these days. CI was easy but an HCI appliance cluster is much, simpler to deploy and manage

For VMware HCI, vSAN Ready Nodes are available from just about any server vendor in existence. With ready nodes, VARs and distributors can offer an HCI appliance in the channel, just like the majors. Yes, it’s not the same as a vendor supplied appliance, doesn’t have the same level of software or service integration, but it’s enough.

[If you want to learn more, Howard’s is doing a series of deep dive webinars/classes on HCI as part of his friend’s Ivan’s ipSpace.net. The 1st 2hr session was recorded 11 December, part 2 goes live 22 January, and the final installment on 5 February. The 1st session is available on demand to subscribers. Sign up here]

Computional storage finally makes sense

Howard and I 1st saw computational storage at FMS18 and we did a podcast with Scott Shadley of NGD systems. Computational storage is an SSD with spare ARM cores and DRAM that can be used to run any storage intensive, Linux application or Docker container.

Because it’s running in the SSD, it has (even faster than NVMe) lightening fast access to all the data on the SSD. Indeed, And the with 10s to 1000s of computational storage SSDs in a rack, each with multiple ARM cores, means you can have many 1000s of cores available to perform your data intensive processing. Almost like GPUs only for IO access to storage (SPUs?).

We tried this at one vendor in the 90s, executing some database and backup services outboard but it never took off. Then in the last couple of years (Dell) EMC had some VM services that you could run on their midrange systems. But that didn’t seem to take off either.

The computational storage we’ve seen all run Linux. And with todays data intensive applications coming from everywhere these days, and all the spare processing power in SSDs, it might finally make sense.

Futures

Finally, we turned to what we see coming in 2019. Howard was at an Intel Analyst event where they discussed Optane DIMMs. Our last podcast of 2018 was with Brian Bulkowski of Aerospike who discussed what Optane DIMMs will mean for high performance database systems and just about any memory intensive server application. For example, affordable, 6TB memory servers will be coming out shortly. What you can do with 6TB of memory is another question….

Howard Marks, Founder and Chief Scientist, DeepStorage

Howard Marks is the Founder and Chief Scientist of DeepStorage, a prominent blogger at Deep Storage Blog and can be found on twitter @DeepStorageNet.

Raymond Lucchesi, Founder and President, Silverton Consulting

Ray Lucchesi is the President and Founder of Silverton Consulting, a prominent blogger at RayOnStorage.com, and can be found on twitter @RayLucchesi. Signup for SCI’s free, monthly e-newsletter here.

55: GreyBeards storage and system yearend review with Ray & Howard

In this episode, the Greybeards discuss the year in systems and storage. This year we kick off the discussion with a long running IT trend which has taken off over the last couple of years. That is, recently the industry has taken to buying pre-built appliances rather than building them from the ground up.

We can see this in all the hyper-converged solutions available  today but it goes even deeper than that. It seems to have started with the trend in organizations to get by with less man-women power.

This led to a desire to purchase pre-buit software applications and now, appliances rather than build from parts. It just takes to long to build and lead architects have better things to do with their time than checking compatibility lists, testing and verifying that hardware works properly with software. The pre-built appliances are good enough and doing it yourself doesn’t really provide that much of an advantage over the pre-built solutions.

Next, we see the coming systems using NVMe over Fabric storage systems as sort of a countertrend to the previous one. Here we see some customers paying well for special purpose hardware with blazing speed that takes time and effort to get working right, but the advantages are significant. Both Howard and I were at the Excelero SFD12 event and it blew us away. Howard also attended the E8 Storage SFD14 event which was another example along a similar vein.

Finally, the last trend we discussed was the rise of 3D TLC and the absence of 3DX and other storage class memory (SCM) technologies to make a dent in the marketplace. 3D TLC NAND is coming out of just about every fab these days and resulting in huge (but costly) SSDs, in the multi-TB range.  Combine these with NVMe interfaces and you have msec access to almost a PB of storage without breaking a sweat.

The missing 3DX SCM tsunami some of us predicted is mainly due to the difficulties in bringing new fab technologies to market. We saw some of this in the stumbling with 3D NAND but the transition to 3DX and other SCM technologies is a much bigger change to new processes and technology. We all believe it will get there someday but for the moment, the industry just needs to wait until the fabs get their yields up.

The podcast runs over 44 minutes. Howard and I could talk for hours on what’s happening in IT today. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Howard Marks is the Founder and Chief Scientist of howardmarksDeepStorage, a prominent blogger at Deep Storage Blog and can be found on twitter @DeepStorageNet.

 

Ray Lucchesi is the President and Founder of Silverton Consulting, a prominent blogger at RayOnStorage.com, and can be found on twitter @RayLucchesi.

40: Greybeards storage industry yearend review podcast

In this episode, the Greybeards discuss the year in storage and naturally we kick off with the consolidation trend in the industry and the big one last year, the DELL-EMC acquisition. How the high margin EMC storage business is going to work in a low margin company like Dell is the subject of much speculation. That and which of the combined companies storage products will make it through the transition make for interesting discussions. And Finally what exactly is Dell’s long term strategy is another question.

We next turn to the coming of age of object storage. A couple of years ago, object storage was being introduced to a wider market but few wanted to code to RESTful interfaces. Nowadays, that seems to be less of a concern and the fact that one can have onsite/offsite/cloud based object storage repositories from open source, proprietary solutions and everything in between is making object storage a much more appealing option to enterprise IT.

Finally, we discuss the new Tier 0. What with NVMe SSDs and the emergence of NVMe over Fabric coming out last year, Tier 0 has never looked so promising.  You may recall that Tier 0 was hot about 5 years with TMS and Violin and others coming out with lightning fast storage IO. But with DELL-EMC DSSD: startups (E8 storage, Mangstor, Apeiron data systems, and others); NVMDIMMs, CrossBar, and Everspin coming out with denser offerings; and other SCM (Micron, HPE, IBM, others?) technologies on the horizon, Tier 0 has become red hot again.

Sorry about the occasional airplane noise and other audio anomalies. The podcast runs  over 47 minutes. Howard and I could talk for hours on what’s happening in the storage industry. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Ray Lucchesi is the President and Founder of Silverton Consulting, a prominent blogger at RayOnStorage.com, and can be found on twitter @RayLucchesi.

Howard Marks is the Founder and Chief Scientist of howardmarksDeepStorage, a prominent blogger at Deep Storage Blog and can be found on twitter @DeepStorageNet.

 

GreyBeards on Storage year end 2015 podcast

In our annual yearend podcast and it’s the Ray and Howard show, talking about storage futures, industry trends and some storage world excitement of- the past year.

We start the discussion deconstructing recent reductions in year over year revenues at major storage vendors. It seems with the advent of all flash arrays (AFA), and all major vendors and most startups now have AFAs, customers no longer feel the need to refresh old storage hardware with similarly (over-)configured new systems. Instead, most can get by with AFA storage, at smaller capacities that provides the same, if not better, performance. Further9, the fact that AFAs are available from so many vendors and startups, customers no longer have to buy performance storage exclusively from major vendors anymore. This is leading to a decline in major vendor storage revenues, which should play itself out over the next 1-2 years as most enterprise storage systems are refreshed.

Recent and future acquisitions also came up for discussion. NetApp’s purchase of SolidFire was a surprise, but SolidFire had carved out a good business with service providers and web-scale customers which should broaden NetApp’s portfolio. In the mean time, the Dell-EMC acquisition takes them out of the competition for new technology acquisitions, at least until it closes. NetApp’s new CEO, George Kurian, appears more willing than his predecessor to go after good storage technology, wherever it comes from.

Software delivered (defined) storage came up as well. With the compute available in todays micro-processors, there’s very little a software delivered storage system can’t do. And with scale-out storage, there’s even more cores to work with. Software delivered storage and scale-out will continue to play a spoiler role, at least in the low to mid-range, in the storage market throughout the next year.

Nonetheless, hardware still has some excitement left. Intel’s recent acquisition of Altera, now makes Xeon/x86 processing available for embedded applications that previously had to rely on ARM and MIPS processing. Now, there’s nothing an FPGA hardware based system can’t do. Look for lot’s more activity here over the long term.

We talked about recent SMR disks coming out and how they could be used in storage systems today.  There was some adjacent discussion on the flash-disk crossover, and conclude it’s unlikely over the next 3-5 years, at least for capacity drives. Although there’s plenty of analyst that say it’s already happened, on a pure $/GB there’s still no comparison.

We then turned to  3D TLC NAND and the  reliability capabilities available from current controlller technologies. Raw planar NAND available today is much less reliable than what we had 1-2 generations back, but the drives, if anything, have gotten more reliable. This is due to the reliability technology inherent in todays SSD controllers.

We had an aside, on SSD overprovisioning and how this should become a customer level option.  Reducing overprovisioning would decrease drive endurance but it’s a tradeoff that the vendors/distributors make for customers today. We feel that at least for some customers, they could make this decision just as well. Especially if drive replacements were a customer maintenance activity with replacement SSDs shipped in a just-in-time manner.

We conclude on 3D XPoint (3DX) non-volatile memory. We both agreed 3DX adoption depends on pricing which will change over time. In the long term, we see the potential for a new storage system with 3DX or other new non-volatile memory as a top performing storage/caching/non-volatile memory tier, 3D TLC NAND as a middle tier and SMR disk as the bottom tier. When is another question.

Our year end discussion always wanders a bit, from high end business trends to in the weeds technologies and everything in-between. This one is no exception and runs over 49 minutes. We tried to do another Year End video this time but neither of our video recording systems worked out, but we had a good audio recording, so we went with the podcast this year. Next year should be back to video.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Howard Marks

Howard Marks is the Founder and Chief Scientist of howardmarksDeepStorage, a prominent blogger at Deep Storage Blog and can be found on twitter @DeepStorageNet.

 

Ray Lucchesi

Ray Lucchesi is the President and Founder of Silverton Consulting, a prominent blogger at RayOnStorage.com, and can be found on twitter @RayLucchesi.