Top 10 blog posts for 2011

Merry Christmas! Buon Natale! Frohe Weihnachten! by Jakob Montrasio (cc) (from Flickr)
Merry Christmas! Buon Natale! Frohe Weihnachten! by Jakob Montrasio (cc) (from Flickr)

Happy Holidays.

I ranked my blog posts using a ratio of hits to post age and have identified with the top 10 most popular posts for 2011 (so far):

  1. Vsphere 5 storage enhancements – We discuss some of the more interesting storage oriented Vsphere 5 announcements that included a new DAS storage appliance, host based (software) replication service, storage DRS and other capabilities.
  2. Intel’s 320 SSD 8MB problem – We discuss a recent bug (since fixed) which left the Intel 320 SSD drive with only 8MB of storage, we presumed the bug was in the load leveling logic/block mapping logic of the drive controller.
  3. Analog neural simulation or digital neuromorphic computing vs AI – We talk about recent advances to providing both analog (MIT) and digital versions (IBM) of neural computation vs. the more traditional AI approaches to intelligent computing.
  4. Potential data loss using SSD RAID groups – We note the possibility for catastrophic data loss when using equally used SSDs in RAID groups.
  5. How has IBM researched changed – We examine some of the changes at IBM research that have occurred over the past 50 years or so which have led to much more productive research results.
  6. HDS buys BlueArc – We consider the implications of the recent acquisition of BlueArc storage systems by their major OEM partner, Hitachi Data Systems.
  7. OCZ’s latest Z-Drive R4 series PCIe SSD – Not sure why this got so much traffic but its OCZ’s latest PCIe SSD device with 500K IOPS performance.
  8. Will Hybrid drives conquer enterprise storage – We discuss the unlikely possibility that Hybrid drives (NAND/Flash cache and disk drive in the same device) will be used as backend storage for enterprise storage systems.
  9. SNIA CDMI plugfest for cloud storage and cloud data services – We were invited to sit in on a recent SNIA Cloud Data Management Initiative (CDMI) plugfest and talk to some of the participants about where CDMI is heading and what it means for cloud storage and data services.
  10. Is FC dead?! – What with the introduction of 40GbE FCoE just around the corner, 10GbE cards coming down in price and Brocade’s poor YoY quarterly storage revenue results, we discuss the potential implications on FC infrastructure and its future in the data center.

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I would have to say #3, 5, and 9 were the most fun for me to do. Not sure why, but #10 probably generated the most twitter traffic. Why the others were so popular is hard for me to understand.

Comments?

HDS buys BlueArc

wall o' storage (fisheye) by ChrisDag (cc) (From Flickr)
wall o' storage (fisheye) by ChrisDag (cc) (From Flickr)

Yesterday, HDS announced that they had closed on the purchase of BlueArc their NAS supplier for the past 5 years or so.  Many commentators mentioned that this was a logical evolution of their ongoing OEM agreement, how the timing was right and speculated on what the purchase price might have been.   If you are interested in these aspects of the acquisition, I would refer you to the excellent post by David Vellante from Wikibon on the HDS BlueArc deal.

Hardware as a key differentiator

In contrast, I would like to concentrate here on another view of the purchase, specifically on how HDS and Hitachi, Ltd. have both been working to increase their product differentiation through advanced and specialized hardware (see my post on Hitachi’s VSP vs VMAX and for more on hardware vs. software check out Commodity hardware always loses).

Similarly, BlueArc shared this philosophy and was one of the few NAS vendors to develop special purpose hardware for their Titan and Mercury systems to specifically speedup NFS and CIFS processing.  Most other NAS systems use more general purpose hardware and as a result,  a majority of their R&D investment focuses on software functionality.

But not BlueArc, their performance advantage was highly dependent on specifically designed FPGAs and other hardware.  As such, they have a significant hardware R&D budget to continue their maintain and leverage their unique hardware advantage.

From my perspective, this follows what HDS and Hitachi, Ltd., have been doing all along with the USP, USP-V,  and now their latest entrant the VSP.  If you look under the covers at these products you find a plethora of many special purpose ASICs, FPGAs and other hardware that help accelerate IO performance.

BlueArc and HDS/Hitachi, Ltd. seem to be some of the last vendors standing that still believe that hardware specialization can bring value to data storage. From that standpoint, it makes an awful lot of sense to me to have HDS purchase them.

But others aren’t standing still

In the mean time, scale out NAS products continue to move forward on a number of fronts.  As readers of my newsletter know, currently the SPECsfs2008 overall performance winner is a scale out NAS solution using 144 nodes from EMC Isilon (newsletter signup is above right or can also be found here).

The fact that now HDS/Hitachi, Ltd. can bring their considerable hardware development skills and resources to bear on helping BlueArc develop and deploy their next generation of hardware is a good sign.

Another interesting tidbit was HDS’s previous purchase of ParaScale which seems to have some scale out NAS capabilities of its own.  How this all gets pulled together within HDS’s product line will need to be seen.

In any event, all this means that the battle for NAS isn’t over and is just moving to a higher level.

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Comments?

BlueArc introduces Mercury

Tomorrow, BlueArc will open up a new front in their battle with the rest of the NAS vendors by introducing the Mercury 50 NAS head. This product is slated to address the more mid-range enterprise market that historically shunned the relatively higher priced Titan series.

Mercury 50 is only the first product in this series and other products to be released in the future will help fill out the top end of this series. Priced similar to the NetApp 3140 this product has all the support of standard BlueArc file system while only limiting the Max storage capacity to 1PB. Its NFS throughput is a little better than half the current Titan 3100.

Mercury 50 will eventually be offered by BlueArc’s OEM partner HDS. However, immediately the Mercury 50 will be sold by the BlueArc’s direct sales force as well as many new channel partners that BlueArc has acquired over this past year.

This marks a departure for BlueArc into the more mainstream enterprise storage space. Historically, BlueArc has been successful in the high performance market but the real volumes and commensurate revenue are in the standard enterprise space. The problem in the past has been the high price of the BlueArc Titan systems but now with Mercury this should no longer be an issue.

That being said, the competition is much more intense as you move down market. EMC and NetApp will not stand still while their market share is eroded. And both of these company’s have the wherewithal to compete on performance, pricing and features.

Exciting times ahead for the NAS users out there.