Storage Soup

Apr 16 2007   11:30PM GMT

SNW chatter…

JoMaitland Jo Maitland Profile: JoMaitland

It’s a dirty job working in this kind of environment,
but somebody’s gotta do it…

Propellerheads and communication
Among the sessions at a new professional development track being tried out at SNW this year was a talk entitled “Interpersonal Communication Skills for Propellerheads” led by Deborah Johnson, CEO of Infinity I/O. As far as we could tell said propellerheads, some 30 in all, didn’t object to the moniker.

Johnson addressed attendees about other humans using their native language, i.e. technical jargon, telling her audience that interpersonal communication requires the befuddled propellerhead to “assess the ‘map’ of the person you’re talking to—” similarly to how they’d map a drive, we surmise. “Understand your goal and the audience context to select the right channel for your communication,” Johnson told the group, approximately one-third of whom were thumbing away busily on Blackberries or typing on laptops.

“Sometimes it takes more than one communication event to get your message across,” Johnson continued, further encouraging attendees to “ask questions to ensure you are decoding messages correctly [from others].”

So was it useful? “I do need to work on my communications skills,” said one self-professed propellerhead, adding that he has recently begun to cut his emails down from several pages to a strict one-page limit. Oy vey!

Deep dive on dedupe 

An early session on deduplication turned into a standing room only event, with Curtis Preston, VP of data protection services at GlassHouse, a.k.a Mr. Backup, holding court on the topic. He went through the different products, in-line versus post-process and the different schemes for identifying redundant data. But two points really stood out. First, data deduplication products are currently only appropriate for small to medium-sized environments, he said. “Do not take a 100 TB Oracle database and throw it at a data dedupe.” Second, ignore all the claims about deduplication ratios. “Your data will dedupe very differently to the guy next to you,”
Preston warned. 

Talking to a couple of users after the session, one thought dedupe could go the way of CDP. “It’s the big topic this year but we’ll see if it’s still around next year,” he said.  Another user, with 800 TBs to deal with, said the economics were too good for this technology to be a flash in the pan, if, and that was a big if in his mind, the products are robust and scalable enough. He noted that’s FalconStor’s SIR (single instance repository) doesn’t ship in volume for another couple of months, so it’s still very early days for this technology.

Users feeling out file virtualization

Comcast Media Center manager of server and storage operations Paul Yarborough gave a talk Monday afternoon on his company’s decision to virtualize NetApp 3020 filers with Acopia Networks’ ARX switch. Another presenter on file virtualization, Stephen Warner of Quest Diagnostics, has also deployed Acopia, to virtualize EMC Celerra boxes. Some tidbits that arose out of the presentations:

Yarborough’s company was so strapped for space on the NetApp filers due to the 16 TB filesystem restriction that they were spending dozens of man-hours on a regular basis reingesting digital content that had been deleted from overutilized disk.

Meanwhile, Yarborough said he evaluated NetApp’s OnTap GX as a means to solve the filesystem limit, but he remained pointedly noncommittal on his findings, saying only that it was a very new product when he evaluated it.

Warner, who heads up an EMC shop, said he believes that truly vendor diagnostic virtualization will not come from a large vendor. In Acopia, he said, his company found a startup it could influence (of course, it helps to have just under a petabyte of data under management if you’re looking to influence other companies).

Other users’ questions during Yarborough’s session were as interesting as the presentation itself. During the Q&A users peppered Yarborough with questions about performance impact, how much training it had required to get his staff up to speed on the Acopia product, and whether or not Acopia was truly effective in virtualizing Windows and Linux systems equally. Yarborough answered that there had been no performance impact that he’d seen, that training on the Acopia switch had taken a little longer since it operates on a switch and his admins are not used to managing switches, and that yes, Acopia is effective in virtualizing heterogeneous OSes.

Another user questioned the fact that Comcast had installed an Acopia agent on its domain controller. “That would never fly in our environment,” the commenter said.

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  • W. Curtis Preston
    What I _said_ was that I didn't think it was appropriate to try and back up a 100 TB Oracle database using current de-dupe backup SOFTWARE products (e.g. Avamar, Asigra, Puredisk). I don't think they're ready for data sets that big yet. They're perfect for remote office branch offices (ROBOs) and medium-sized datacenters, but users that have tried it tell me the de-dupe number crunching required on the client will make backups that big take too long. I'm sure things will get better with time. BUT I said if you buy the right kind of de-dupe _VTL_ you COULD back up data this big and more. The good ones kept trying different designs until they could do de-dupe without slowing things down. If they did it right, they should be able to handle any sized data set.
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