Storage Soup


May 13, 2010  10:12 PM

EMC World Reporter’s Notebook and Photos

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

PhotobucketThis attendee (actually one of the Universal Studios performers who would play the Blues Brothers on the show floor) is wearing one of the blue-horned Brumhilde helmets that were given out at the welcome reception / concert. I never found out the significance of the helmets, though obviously blue corresponds with the “Beat Your Backup Blues” slogan…

VMax to add native VPlex capabilities
According to an EMC whitepaper on the architecture of the VPlex storage virtualization product it launched this week, “VPlex Local supports local federation today. EMC Symmetrix VMax hardware also adds local federation capabilities natively to the array later in 2010 and will work independently of the VPlex family.” One observer’s response: “Why buy [a separate] VPlex?”

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More shots from the welcome reception and Counting Crows concert:

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EMC keynote speaker previews future infrastructure management offerings
During a keynote by EMC EVP/COO Pat Gelsinger on Monday, EMC VMware czar Chad Sakac previewed some new “service oriented” features of the Ionix infrastructure management software product line, including the next Ionix Unified Infrastructure Manager (2.0) and Project Redwood. Redwood is a planned user self-service portal planned as a future capability of VMware. There’s talk that Redwood will also be integrated with EMC’s VPlex to give access to data across geographic distance. UIM 2.0, meanwhile, will add chargeback and other features to the software that Sakac said will make internal IT more like a service, including multi-tenancy, chargeback and SLA-based provisioning.

PhotobucketPat Gelsinger’s keynote on the main stage Monday afternoon.

FLARE/DART and midrange array unification – connecting the dots
EMC ended months of speculation about the convergence of its Clariion and Celerra midrange disk array products with an announcement of a unified management console for the two offerings, as well as disclosures by executives that further convergence is on its way. That convergence includes common replication tools and a more consolidated hardware footprint. Today, while Celerra’s gateway can front a Clariion array, the two engines that make a Clariion a Clariion (FLARE) and a Celerra a Celerra (DART) remain separate entities. If further unification is to take place, there are three options: 1) mash the two code bases together into one 2) run them alongside one another using server virtualization within a single storage server 3) run them alongside one another using separate cores of a multicore processor.

While EMC has finally copped to the fact that it is condensing its platforms, officials from the C-suite on down continue to insist that they will make either standalone offering available to people who want it (in other words, no plan to end-of-life one or the other).

Speculation about plans to mash together code, meanwhile, seem to have come from NetApp’s competitive analysis, which concluded the two codebases will be brought together under something called the Common Block File System (CBFS), an EMC answer to WAFL. CBFS already exists, handling thin provisioning and block compression for both arrays, and it’s possible its role could expand.

Mark Sorenson, senior vice president of EMC’s Unified Storage Division, declined to say exactly how the consolidation might work, but seemed to eliminate a combined codebase when, after presented with the three options for unification, answered (I thought rather pointedly) that server virtualization and multicore processors are “good, new, enabling technologies for consolidation.” Mashing the code together under CBFS also wouldn’t necessarily make sense if EMC plans to continue to sell one-off standalone offerings depending on what users ask for.

Other insiders hinted that the multicore processor route is the one that EMC will take, saying “stuff that’s just coming to maturation will come to the fore.” This would seem to fit with Intel’s continued development of multicore processor chip sets, as well as Gelsinger’s prior experience as an executive at Intel.

PhotobucketEMC CEO Joe Tucci’s opening keynote was piped into the press room.

Centera, Atmos, V-Max – the next place for product convergence?
With Celerra/Clariion coming together, a thought struck me as I stood on the show floor at EMC World Wednesday, surveying the happily humming racks whirring away at several separate booths. There was a Centera Virtual Archive set up, with one box labeled “London” and the other local to show how Centera data can be federated over distance. In another, a Symmetrix V-Max, demonstrating how data can be federated over multiple arrays in a mesh architecture for scalability. And finally, there was a tutorial being given on VPlex, a new virtualization product that can be used to virtualize multiple modular arrays and…federate data over distance. To complete the circle, see item above about V-Max adding native VPlex capabilities. Not shown: Atmos, which also consists of a scale-out system built on commodity hardware with an object interface that can be used to federate unstructured…do you see where I’m going with this?

I talked with one of the booth workers about the Centera a little bit. I asked her what the real difference is between Centera, especially the Centera Virtual Archive, and Atmos specifically. She mentioned the number of ISVs that have already written to Centera, the fact that it uses MD5 hashing to demonstrate objects have not been modified, etc. But is there anything about those different features that couldn’t be ported to one of the other boxes? Particularly since Atmos and Centera are object-based already?

PhotobucketGelsinger briefs press and analysts.

Experts hash out FAST Cache, potential future features
I already included some of the discussion between Gestalt IT’s Stephen Foskett and DeepStorage.net’s Howard Marks about FAST 2 in my piece about updates to Clariion and Celerra but the two self-described geeks also chewed over FAST Cache pretty thoroughly Tuesday.

Foskett and Marks both pumped EMC’s Sorenson for details on the use cases of FAST 2 vs. FAST Cache. Sorenson said FAST is meant to place data on tiers of storage according to historical performance characteristics, something Foskett described as “driving using the rear-view mirror.” FAST Cache would be for “bursty” unanticipated performance spikes.

Marks said he’d like to see more user control and predictive features added to FAST Cache, so that if users know which data will become hot at a later date, say, the end of a quarter, they can schedule a move up to cache and back out again when the burst is over. This also might allow users to create an “exclude list” of data that shouldn’t be put in cache regardless of access patterns. Sorenson said it was something EMC was considering exposing to ISVs through an API set, ISVs like, say, VMware.

“But,” Foskett pointed out, “previous attempts at user-tunable caches were colossal failures. I can see some use cases, but it’s probably better to turn it on and leave it alone.” But some awareness within the cache of files as well as blocks – the better to put file metadata in cache, for example – was something Foskett said EMC should consider, and something Sorenson also said was possible down the road. “That dream of file-level Flash cache is what Sun has with ZFS and Avere has also described already,” Foskett pointed out.

PhotobucketThe Bloggers’ Lounge, seen from the main keynote hall escalator.

Compellent fires back at VPlex; NetApp still snarking
EMC’s VPlex and midrange disk array announcements this week have caused a stir among competitors who have begun trying to pick apart EMC’s news.

I would have expected Compellent to start in right away on FAST 2 given its own sub-LUN tiered storage features, but Compellent reps said they haven’t dug into FAST 2’s inner workings yet to offer a detailed comparison.

In the meantime, Compellent issued a statement pitting its LiveVolume data migration feature against VPlex:

There are a few similarities between VPLEX and Compellent’s Live Volume technology. Both solutions tackle the problem of non-disruptive volume migration, which is useful in disaster avoidance, load balancing or maintenance situations. That’s where the similarities end.

The EMC solution requires multiple high-end VPLEX hardware engines and many high bandwidth, low latency network connections. Compellent’s focus is on integrating a software solution that scales. EMC has a significant focus on high-end bandwidth, and all that comes with a hefty price tag (about $77k for a local-only, interconnect system vs. the $5k license for Live Volume).

VPLEX is designed as an add-on set of rack-mounted servers, which requires a change in the data center topology and the addition of a new in-between configuration. Compellent’s Live Volume is a software solution that fits in with Compellent’s Fluid Data architecture, meaning that it supports any Storage Center configuration or network connections, and can leverage existing network connections without impact on write performance.

Meanwhile, in case you’d forgotten how bitter the rivalry remains between NetApp and EMC, look no further than NetApp’s response to EMC’s midrange storage announcement:

Yesterday’s announcements demonstrate that EMC has finally realized the importance of storage efficiency. NetApp is the undisputed industry leader in storage – from measurement to capabilities, from efficiency guarantees to reporting and optimization – across all systems, management products and workloads such as virtualization and database environments. EMC is clearly following our lead, but NetApp, with its V-Series open systems controller able to optimize an EMC system, continues to deliver greater value and storage efficiency than EMC can deliver natively on its own systems.

May 13, 2010  5:23 PM

VCE flips the switch on Cisco Fibre Channel sales

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

The VCE alliance between EMC, Cisco and VMware seems to have made Cisco’s MDS Fibre Channel switches more popular in data centers.

During Cisco’s earnings call Wednesday night, CEO John Chambers said storage product revenue grew 100% year-over-year to $140 million last quarter. One Wall Street analyst says Cisco clearly won market share from its rival Brocade in Fibre Channel switching, and he credits the VCE partnership for that.

“How is it possible that Cisco’s MDS 9513 gained share despite an oversubscribed backplane and generally being considered an inferior product compared to the Brocade’s DCX?” Wedbush Securities analyst Kaushik Roy wrote today in a research note. “Our checks indicate that Cisco is seeing a significant uptick in the sales of MDS and Nexus products, largely due to its VCE (VMware-Cisco-EMC) partnership. Customers who in the past have avoided buying Cisco’s MDS products are now willing to accept Cisco’s MDS due to EMC’s blessing as part of the VCE’s vBbock bundle.“

Comments from Chambers on Cisco’s call appear to agree with Roy’s assessment, except for the part about the oversubscribed backplane and the DCX’s superiority.

“Our architectural sales approach is rapidly not only gaining traction but accelerating,” Chambers said. “This is different than the standalone product approach of our competition. … Vblock sales pull Nexus, UCS, VMware and EMC sales. Key takeaway: Cisco’s momentum in the data center is rapidly accelerating.”

Roy also thinks budding Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) adoption is helping Cisco. He estimates that one-third of Nexus switches are used for FCoE. That’s mostly on the server rather than the storage side. He also believes 10-Gigabit Ethernet is pushing many enterprises to file-based rather than block-based storage.

According to Roy, Brocade will announce new 64-port cards for its DCX switches and next-generation FCoE converged network adapters at its June 9 Technology Day, and is working on a 10-GigE CNA mezzanine card and blade server switch with 10-GigE and 8 Gbps Fibre Channel ports.

He also says Brocade is working on 16 Gbps Fibre Channel switches for 2011 release, and Cisco will upgrade its MDS 9513 director switch with an improved backplane to eliminate the need for oversubscription later this year.


May 12, 2010  3:32 PM

CommVault plans deduplication across all tiers

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

CommVault CEO Bob Hammer says his customers can’t get enough of data deduplication, and the vendor will give them a lot more of it when its next version of Simpana launches later this year.

During CommVault’s earnings call Tuesday, Hammer said deduplication was the major driver in the company’s 31% revenue growth last quarter. With Simpana 9, he said, CommVault will increase the scale and functionality of its deduplication while integrating source and target dedupe capability. Hammer says CommVault’s dedupe will go beyond anything on the market, “and there will be no close second.”

I spoke with Hammer after the call, and he clarified a bit.

“This will be our third-generation of deduplication, and we will dramatically increase the scale with the addition of source-side dedupe and the ability to deduplicate secondary copies and dedue directly to the cloud,” Hammer said. “Those are the major areas we’ll expand.”

Hammer says the expanded dedupe in Simpana 9 will take it closer to primary data.

“With source-side deduplication, you’re getting close to that primary layer,” he said. “We’re combining that deduplication with the ability to more intelligently manage snap copies across hardware silos. It’s not primary dedupe, but it’s close to the primary layer. We’re working with a number of hardware vendors that will be part of our release in the fall as well.”

Hammer also says Simpana 9 will deduplicate “virtualization environments across the board – at the source and in some cases at the target, but we don’t want to dedupe just at the target. It becomes an integrated seamless part of all tiers of storage, including the cloud and tape.”

Hammer says deduplication was the most popular feature of its Advanced Data Information Management (ADIM) product group, which also includes replication, virtualization, and archiving. ADIM revenue increased 91% year-over-year and 21% from the previous quarter, and made up 43% of CommVault’s $73.4 million revenue last quarter.

“It’s becoming a requirement for data management because it saves a significant amount of money on storage and reduces network traffic,” he said of data dedupe.

When CommVault released Simpana 8 with dedupe in January 2009, the vendor maintained many customers would no longer need hardware deduplication products. Hammer says CommVault now competes with more hardware vendors than software vendors for dedupe, with the main competition coming from EMC’s Data Domain.

“Our win rate remains very high, although clearly EMC is doing well with that product in its installed base,” Hammer said. “It’s still the best deduplication appliance on the market.”

While Hammer was talking up CommVault’s plans for dedupe Tuesday, Data Domain launched its DD Boost software to speed the dedupe process, At EMC World. Data Domain execs also discussed plans to integrate Data Domain’s dedupe with EMC Avamar source-based dedupe to end the target versus source debate.

Hammer also said on the earnings call that CommVault is developing technology that will bring it into a third major market to go with its current place in the backup and ADIM markets.

He wouldn’t elaborate when I spoke to him. “We’ll talk about that later in the fall,” he said.

CommVault may also reconsider its current strategy of developing all of its own technology rather than picking up IP via acquisition. When asked if that was a possibility during the earnings call, Hammer said: “In the past, we’ve dismissed it. When we plan our strategy for the next 12 months we’ll take a broader look at what we’re going to do with the company, and it may come into play. Now it’s not in the plan, but that may change.”


May 11, 2010  12:18 PM

EMC World Day 2: Backup and Unisphere

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Big day on tap at EMC World — we were just given press releases for several announcements going out today: Data Domain software called DD Boost, integrated today with NetBackup and Backup Exec and in the second half of this year with EMC Networker; Unisphere unified management between Clariion and Celerra; and a new Ionix storage configuration tool.

DD Boost is similar to Symantec’s OpenStorage API (OST), in that it integrates the target data deduplication device with backup software, but in this case it also offloads some of the processing to the backup server as well. Per the press release: “The DD Boost software library is distributed to the backup server and identifies data segments inline as they arrive. After asking the Data Domain storage system which segments are new, it compresses and forwards only the unique segments.” Surprisingly, no mention of Avamar in this release.

Unisphere puts Celerra and Clariion management into a single pane, and includes cross-array reporting. EMC is also rolling out FAST v2 (block level) for Clariion and Celerra today, as well as new integration with VMware through VMware’s vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) and a new vCenter plugin.

Finally, Ionix Storage Configuration Advisor 2.0 “automates the validation of storage configuration best-practices in physical and virtual environments, utilizes agentless discovery…and provides detailed reports and trend analysis that improve storage change and configuration management processes.’

Stay tuned for followup reports with further detail.


May 10, 2010  5:14 PM

EMC’s Tucci: “we’re taking a virtualized approach”

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Photobucket
Joe Tucci vs. the paparazzi in the press briefing room Monday morning at EMC World. 

EMC CEO Joe Tucci officially kicked off EMC World 2010 with a keynote speech this morning that included an obvious reference to Oracle Corp.’s “stack” offerings. “Other companies are building the whole stack,” including servers, database, middleware and storage, Tucci said (it’s the reference to database and middleware that’s the Oracle giveaway).

Tucci said this approach will lead to a siloed data center, as with previous waves of IT that now includes silos of mainframe and distributed systems at many enterprises. “If three or four vendors do it and you’re not using everything from one vendor, you’ll have stacks that run into the same problems we have today,” Tucci said. “We also have a stack,” he said, referring to EMC’s vBlock products with Cisco and VMware, “but rather than a verticalization approach, we’re taking a virtualization approach.”

Tucci also referred to EMC’s most recent Digital Universe report on data growth, and outlined EMC’s general vision for managing that growth using cloud computing and data center federation. While much of the data growth will be introduced by consumers using mobile phones that send multimedia such as photos and video, or specialized machines like medical imaging devices, some 80% of the data will still be managed by enterprises, Tucci said. “You won’t have to buy [resources] for the peaks of the year or the day When you reach the peaks, you can federate,” Tucci said.

In support of this vision, EMC announced VPlex, a new wide-area caching device that will pool data over geographic distance this morning.

In a Q&A session following the keynote, Tucci was asked about acquisition strategies given EMC’s estimated $6.5 million in free cash per its most recent 10-Q. Despite this free cash flow and the $2 billion acquisition of Data Domain last year, Tucci said he still prefers the “string of pearls” acquisition approach. So far this year, EMC has bought one company,  Archer Technologies, LLC, a provider of governance, risk, and compliance software.

After Tucci mentioned EMC needs to compete better in the low end of the midrange on EMC’s last earnings call, its Iomega division came out with the ix12-300r, which blurred the lines between the top end of the Iomega line and the low end of EMC’s Clariion and Celerra lines. Would the new low-midrange products Tucci alluded to on that earnings call come from the Iomega or Clariion/Celerra side? “We will have a line with functionality from Clariion and Celerra that will be driven significantly downmarket,” Tucci said. “Iomega will remain below that.”


May 10, 2010  1:33 PM

EMC releases VPlex “active-active” storage

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

This morning’s big announcement at EMC World is called VPlex, which EMC says will allow for federation of data over geographic distance.

VPlex was first publicly discussed at last year’s VMWorld conference. At the time, EMC officials referred to it as “active-active” storage to support distance VMotion. The key difference between this and metro clusters is cache coherency, enabled by EMC’s acquisition of technology from YottaYotta three years ago. While the stretched array cluster remains locally “array aware” — integrating with EMC FAST, for example — it can propagate data as a distributed pool quickly enough to support running applications being VMotioned over distance.

The VPlex device is an appliance which begins at 1U and can scale up to 4U, with 32 GB cache, two quadcore processors per appliance, and can front any of EMC’s arrays. The goal, according to Pat Gelsinger, President and Chief Operating Officer, EMC Information Infrastructure Products, is to be able to front third-party arrays as well, although Brian Gallagher, President, Symmetrix and Virtualization Product Group, said those third party arrays are not fully supported yet.”

Two separately licensed versions of VPlex are available today — VPlex Local, which covers local data center data migrations, which starts at $77,000 as an up-front fee or $26,000 for subscription-based pricing. VPlex Metro is also becoming available today and will support data over over distances up to 100 km (5 ms latency) using synchronous replication.

In early 2011, officials said, EMC will release VPlex Geo, which will support “thousands of virtual machines over thousands of miles” and asynchronous replication. Finally, VPlex Global, also due out next year, will support multi-site pooling using asynchronous or synchronous replication.

Stay tuned for more on this announcement and other news from the show.


May 7, 2010  12:33 PM

05-06-2010 Storage Headlines

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

(0:24) Data Robotics CEO: Drobo makes RAID data storage easier

(1:49) SMB data storage hardware competition heats up with Iomega ix12-300r

(3:31) CA adds disk backup application to ARCserve Backup software

(5:06) Transaction performance management vendor integrates with EMC FAST

(6:17) NetEx gets VMware seal of approval


May 5, 2010  8:55 PM

Transaction performance management vendor integrates with EMC FAST

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

With EMC World fast upon us, announcements have begun to take on an EMC theme, including one from Precise Software Inc. that its transaction performance management software is integrated with EMC’s Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) to offer transaction-by-transaction monitoring and storage tier migration.

The software has been generally available since the end of 2009 as part of the EMC Select program. Customers interested in linking critical database and other application transactions with the performance boost available from SSDs can have Precise’s software create a list of “suggestions” of what volumes and transactions could best benefit from Flash storage. An integration between Precise and Symmetrix Management Console can then ‘hand off’ that list of suggestions to FAST, which will perform the migration to higher tiers of storage accordingly. In the ‘handoff’ scenario, the storage manager would manually approve the data movement suggested by Precise.

EMC offers some application performance management through its Ionix IT Operations Intelligence products, but that monitoring is focused on the network rather than transactions,” Precise’s EVP of Products and Marketing Zohar Gilad said.

Of course, EMC FAST is far from the only automated storage tiering software currently available. Gilad said integration with other vendors’ storage tiering software is on the roadmap, but declined to disclose who else Precise might be working with.


May 4, 2010  7:22 PM

NetEx gets VMware seal of approval

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

As certification announcements go, this one is more interesting, I think, than most others, if only because it harkens back to one of the most interesting product announcements/demonstrations I saw last year.

At last year’s VMWorld in San Francisco, Cisco and VMware demonstrated distance VMotion, a technology that will be key to VMware’s vision of data center federation and fluidity between public and private clouds. However, distance VMotion as of that conference had several limitations, the most significant of which from a storage perspective is the need to migrate potentially large volumes of data over distance very quickly in order to support VMotion between data centers.

VMware said last year it will support customers if they deploy distance VMotion using the Cisco network, but its support statement included extensive fine print, including a minimum network bandwidth of 622 Mbps, or an OC12 connection.

Partners were scrambling at that time to step in to solve the data migration problem (including EMC, which was developing “active-active” storage to support distance VMotion), and some of the exhibitors on the show floor, including NetEx and F5 Networks, claimed to be able to solve the problem today. At the time, however, no WAN optimization products were certified for distance VMotion with VMware.

Today, NetEx announced certification of its HyperIP software as VMware Ready, which according to a press release means “HyperIP integrates consistently with VMware technology and is ready for deployment in customer environments.” The press release doesn’t mention distance VMotion specifically, but a NetEx spokesperson said a large oil and gas company has deployed the software for distance VMotion. That customer is not open to taking questions from press, the spokesperson said.


May 3, 2010  3:13 PM

Will zettabytes of data push enterprises to the cloud?

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

According to IDC’s 2010 Digital Universe report, digital data grew 62% last year as 800,000 PB were added. IDC says 1.2 million PB (1.2 zettabytes) will be added this year, and that will increase to 35 ZB in 10 years.

While those numbers may look staggering on a page, they probably don’t shock anybody charged with managing data storage. The real shocking – and frightening – number is that IDC says the amount of IT staff to manage all this data will only grow by a factor of 1.4 by 2020. If IDC is correct, than the dreaded “do more with less” mantra will become a long-term way of life.

So how will this all change the way we manage data? Chuck Hollis, global marketing CTO of EMC – which sponsored the IDC study – says the data growth will push a lot more of it to the cloud this year. Hollis says the IT staffs at large enterprises that he talks to are ready to set up private clouds to manage data.

“For tech guys, this is the year of putting your cloud strategy together,” Hollis says. “We’re way beyond the ‘What is the cloud?’ discussion, and it’s a very mature discussion with the IT guys I talk to.

“The larger enterprises say, ‘We’re big, we can do this ourselves. We can build a private cloud behind the firewall and get comfortable with it.’ They’re saying, ‘We pay the same price for this stuff – the processors, server, storage – there’s no reason I can’t do what Amazon does.’”

Hollis says as long as organizations feel they can control their data in the cloud, they’re willing to move it there.

“The cloud works when enterprise guys can be in control,” he said. “Ask them to give up control, and it’s not that attractive a proposition for them. You can’t outsource responsibility and accountability. In financial services, a trillion dollars a day floats around the global economy over the cloud. Most days we’re OK with that. Clouds, schmouds, it doesn’t matter as long as enterprise guys feel they’re in control.”

Other emerging methods of managing growth aren’t quite as mature, Hollis says. That includes data deduplication for primary data. While EMC is now the leader in backup dedupe, Hollis says the success of primary deduplication “has a lot to do with processors being fast enough to do it without impacting performance. If you have a SAP application with 10,000 demanding users, maybe it [deduplication]’s a false savings. The concern is, at what cost? The technology gets better year over year, but some are of the opinion this is just a temporary fix, you’re just buying yourself some time. A lot of information is not compressible, like JPEGs. You can’t compress something that’s already compressed.”

Flash solid state storage is another area where EMC has been out front, but it’s another technology where the greatest benefits are still down the road. “If you take what processors have done in the last 10 years as far as density, price and performance, then start with flash in 2010 and forecast it out in 10 years, it could actually get cheaper than disk,” Hollis said. “That would be an interesting world.”


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