Hyper-Veeam

Disclaimer: I recently attended VeeamON Forum Sydney 2018My flights and accommodation were paid for by Veeam. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

I recently had the opportunity to attend VeeamON Forum in Sydney courtesy of Veeam. I was lucky enough to see Dave Russell‘s keynote speech, and also fortunate to spend some time chatting with him in the afternoon. Dave was great to talk to and I thought I’d share some of the key points here.

 

Hyper All of the Things

If you scroll down Veeam’s website you’ll see mention of a number of different “hyper” things, including hyper-availability. Veeam are keen to position themselves as an availability company, with their core focus being on making data you need recoverable, at the time when you need it to be recoverable.

Hyper-critical

Russell mentioned that data has become “hyper-critical” to business, with the likes of:

  • GDPR compliance;
  • PII data retention;
  • PCI compliance requirements;
  • Customer data; and
  • Financial records, etc.

Hyper-growth

Russell also spoke about the hyper-growth of data, with all kinds of data (including structured, unstructured, application, and Internet of things data) is also growing at a rapid clip.

Hyper-sprawl

This explosive growth of data has also lead to the “hyper-sprawl” of data, with your data now potentially living in any or all of the following locations:

  • SaaS-based solutions
  • Private cloud
  • Public cloud

 

Five Stages of Intelligent Data Management

Russell broke down Intelligent Data Management (IDM) into 5 stages.

Backup

A key part of any data management strategy is the ability to backup all workloads and ensure they are always recoverable in the event of outages, attack, loss or theft.

Aggregation

The ability to cope with data sprawl, as well as growth, means you need to ensure protection and access to data across multiple clouds to drive digital services and ensure continuous business operations.

Visibility

It’s not just about protecting vast chunks of data in multiple places though. You also need to look at the requirement to “improve management of data across multi-clouds with clear, unified visibility and control into usage, performance issues and operations”.

Orchestration

Orchestration, ideally, can then be used to “[s]eamlessly move data to the best location across multi-clouds to ensure business continuity, compliance, security and optimal use of resources for business operations”.

Automation

The final piece of the puzzle is automation. According to Veeam, you can get to a point where the “[d]ata becomes self-managing by learning to backup, migrate to ideal locations based on business needs, secure itself during anomalous activity and recover instantaneously”.

 

Thoughts

Data growth is not a new phenomenon by any stretch, and Veeam obviously aren’t the first to notice that protecting all this staff can be hard. Sprawl is also becoming a real problem in all types environments. It’s not just about knowing you have some unstructured data that can impact workflows in a key application. It’s about knowing which cloud platform that data might reside in. If you don’t know where it is, it makes it a lot harder to protect, and your risk profile increases as a result. It’s not just the vendors banging on about data growth through IoT either, it’s a very real phenomena that is creating all kinds of headaches for CxOs and their operations teams. Much like the push in to public cloud by “shadow IT” teams, IoT solutions are popping up in all kinds of unexpected places in the enterprise and making it harder to understand exactly where the important data is being kept and how it’s protected.

Veeam are talking a very good game around intelligent data management. I remember a similar approach being adopted by a three-letter storage company about a decade ago. They lost their way a little under the weight of acquisitions, but the foundation principles seem to still hold water today. Dave Russell obviously saw quite a bit at Gartner in his time there prior to Veeam, so it’s no real surprise that he’s pushing them in this direction.

Backup is just the beginning of the data management problem. There’s a lot else that needs to be done in order to get to the “intelligent” part of the equation. My opinion remains that a lot of enterprises are still some ways away from being there. I also really like Veeam’s focus on moving from policy-based through to a behaviour-based approach to data management.

I’ve been aware of Veeam for a number of years now, and have enjoyed watching them grow as a company. They’re working hard to make their way in the enterprise now, but still have a lot to offer the smaller environments. They tell me they’re committed to remaining a software-only solution, which gives them a certain amount of flexibility in terms of where they focus their R & D efforts. There’s a great cloud story there, and the bread and butter capabilities continue to evolve. I’m looking to see what they have coming over the next 12 months. It’s a relatively crowded market now, and it’s only going to get more competitive. I’ll be doing a few more articles in the next month or two focusing on some of Veeam’s key products so stay tuned.

Storage Field Day – I’ll Be At Storage Field Day 17

Here’s some good news for you. I’ll be heading to the US in little less than a week for another Storage Field Day event. If you haven’t heard of the very excellent Tech Field Day events, you should check them out. I’m looking forward to time travel and spending time with some really smart people for a few days. It’s also worth checking back on the Storage Field Day 17 website during the event (September 20 – 21) as there’ll be video streaming and updated links to additional content. You can also see the list of delegates and event-related articles that have been published.

I think it’s a great line-up of both delegates and presenting companies this time around. There are a few I know well and some I’ve not met before. There may also still be a few companies added to the line-up. I’ll update this if and when they’re announced.

I’d like to publicly thank in advance the nice folks from Tech Field Day who’ve seen fit to have me back, as well as my employer for letting me take time off to attend these events. Also big thanks to the companies presenting. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Seriously.

Dell EMC News From VMworld US 2018

I’m not at VMworld US this year, but I had the opportunity to be briefed by Sam Grocott (Dell EMC Cloud Strategy) on some of Dell EMC‘s key announcements during the event, and thought I’d share some of my rough notes and links here. You can read the press release here.

TL;DR?

It is a multi-cloud world. Multi-cloud requires workload mobility. The market requires a consistent experience between on-premises and off-premises. Dell EMC are doing some more stuff around that.

 

Cloud Platforms

Dell EMC offer a number of engineered systems to run both IaaS and cloud native applications.

VxRail

Starting with vSphere 6.7, Dell EMC are saying they’re delivering “near” synchronous software releases between VMware and VxRail. In this case that translates to a less than 30 Day delta between releases. There’s also support for:

VxRack SDDC with VMware Cloud Foundation

  • Support for latest VCF releases – VCF 2.3.2, and future proof for next generation VMware cloud technologies
  • Alignment with VxRail hardware options – P, E, V series VxRail models, now including Storage Dense S-series
  • Configuration flexibility

 

Cloud-enabled Infrastructure

Focus is on the data

  • Cloud data mobility;
  • Cloud data protection;
  • Cloud data services; and
  • Cloud control.

Cloud Data Protection

  • DD Cloud DR – keep copies of VM data from on-premises DD to public cloud and orchestrate failover of workloads to the cloud
  • Data Protection Suite – use cloud storage for backup and retention
  • Cloud Snapshot Manager – Backup and recovery for public cloud workloads (Now MS Azure)
  • Data Domain virtual edition running in the cloud

DD VE 4.0 Enhancements

  • KVM support added for DD VE on-premises
  • In-cloud capacity expanded to 96TB (was 16TB)
  • Can run in AWS, Azure and VMware Cloud

Cloud Data Services

Dell EMC have already announced services such as:

And now you can get Dell EMC UnityVSA Cloud Edition.

UnityVSA Cloud Edition

[image courtesy of Dell EMC]

  • Up to 256TB file systems
  • VMware Cloud on AWS

CloudIQ

  • No cost, SaaS offering
  • Predictive analytics – intelligently project capacity and performance
  • Anomaly detection – leverage ML to pinpoint deviations
  • Proactive health – identify risks before they impact the environment

Enhancements include:

Data Domain Cloud Tier

There are some other Data Domain related enhancements, including new AWS support (meaning you can have a single vendor for Long Term Retention).

ECS

ECS enhancements have also been announced, with a 50%+ increase in storage capacity and compute.

 

Thoughts

As would be expected from a company with a large portfolio of products, there’s quite a bit happening on the product enhancement front. Dell EMC are starting to get that they need to be on-board with those pesky cloud types, and they’re also doing a decent job of ensuring their private cloud customers have something to play with as well.

I’m always a little surprised by vendors offering “Cloud Editions” of key products, as it feels a lot like they’re bolting on something to the public cloud when the focus could perhaps be on helping customers get to a cloud-native position sooner. That said, there are good economic reasons to take this approach. By that I mean that there’s always going to be someone who thinks they can just lift and shift their workload to the public cloud, rather than re-factoring their applications. Dell EMC are providing a number of ways to make this a fairly safe undertaking, and products like Unity Cloud Edition provide some nice features such as increased resilience that would be otherwise lacking if the enterprise customer simply dumped its VMs in AWS as-is. I still have hope that we’ll stop doing this as an industry in the near future and embrace some smarter ways of working. But while enterprises are happy enough to spend their money on doing things like they always have, I can’t criticise Dell EMC for wanting a piece of the pie.

Cohesity Announces Helios

I recently had the opportunity to hear from Cohesity (via a vExpert briefing – thanks for organising this TechReckoning!) regarding their Helios announcement and thought I’d share what I know here.

 

What Is It?

If we’re not talking about the god and personification of the Sun, what are we talking about? Cohesity tells me that Helios is a “SaaS-based data and application orchestration and management solution”.

[image courtesy of Cohesity]

Here is the high-level architecture of Helios. There are three main features:

  • Multi-cluster management – Control all your Cohesity clusters located on-premises, in the cloud or at the edge from a single dashboard;
  • SmartAssist – Gives critical global operational data to the IT admin; and
  • Machine Learning Engine – Gives IT Admins machine driven intelligence so that they can make an informed decision.

All of this happens when Helios collects, anonymises, aggregates, and analyses globally available metadata and gives actionable recommendations to IT Admins.

 

Multi-cluster Management

Multi-cluster management is just that: the ability to manage more than one cluster through a unified UI. The cool thing is that you can rollout policies or make upgrades across all your locations and clusters with a single click. It also provides you with the ability to monitor your Cohesity infrastructure in real-time, as well as being able to search and generate reports on the global infrastructure. Finally, there’s an aggregated, simple to use dashboard.

 

SmartAssist

SmartAssist is a feature that provides you with the ability to have smart management of SLAs in the environment. The concept is that if you configure two protection jobs in the environment with competing requirements, the job with the higher SLA will get priority. I like this idea as it prevents people doing silly things with protection jobs.

 

Machine Learning

The Machine Learning part of the solution provides a number of things, including insights into capacity consumption. And proactive wellness? It’s not a pitch for some dodgy natural health product, but instead gives you the ability to perform:

  • Configuration validations, preventing you from doing silly things in your environment;
  • Blacklist version control, stopping known problematic software releases spreading too far in the wild; and
  • Hardware health checks, ensuring things are happy with your hardware (important in a software-defined world).\

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

There’s a lot more going on with Helios, but I’d like to have some stick time with it before I have a lot more to say about it. People are perhaps going to be quick compare this with other SaaS offerings, but I think they might be doing some different things, with a bit of a different approach. You can’t go five minutes on the Internet without hearing about how ML is changing the world. If nothing else, this solution delivers a much needed consolidated view of the Cohesity environment. This seems like an obvious thing, but probably hasn’t been necessary until Cohesity landed the type of customers that had multiple clusters installed all over the place.

I also really like the concept of a feature like SmartAssist. There’s only so much guidance you can give people before they have to do some thinking for themselves. Unfortunately, there are still enough environments in the wild where people are making the wrong decision about what priority to place on jobs in their data protection environment. SmartAssist can do a lot to take away the possibility that things will go awry from an SLA perspective.

You can grab a copy of the data sheet here, and read a blog post by Raj Dutt here. El Reg also has some coverage of the announcement here.

Random Short Take #7

Here are a few links to some random things that I think might be useful, to someone. Maybe.

Rubrik Announces Polaris Radar

Polaris?

I’ve written about Rubrik’s Polaris offering in the past, with GPS being the first cab off the rank.  You can think of GPS as the command and control platform, offering multi-cloud control and policy management via the Polaris SaaS framework. I recently had the opportunity to hear from Chris Wahl about Radar and thought it worthwhile covering here.

 

The Announcement

Rubrik announced recently (fine, a few weeks ago) that Polaris Radar is now generally available.

 

The Problem

People don’t want to hear about the problem, because they already know what it is and they want to spend time hearing about how the vendor is going to solve it. I think in this instance, though, it’s worth re-iterating that security attacks happen. A lot. According to the Cisco 2017 Annual Cybersecurity Report ransomware attacks are growing by more than 350% annually. It’s Rubrik’s position that security is heavily focused on the edge, with firewalls and desktop protection being the main tools deployed. “Defence in depth is lopsided”, with a focus on prevention, not necessarily the recovery. According to Wahl, “it’s hard to bounce back fast”.

 

What It Does

So what does Radar do (in the context of Rubrik Polaris)? The idea is that it is increasing the intelligence to know when you get hit, and helping you to recover faster. The goal of Radar is fairly straightforward, with the following activities being key to the solution:

  • Detection – identify all strains of ransomware;
  • Analysis – understand impact of an attack; and
  • Recovery – restore as quickly as possible.

Radar achieves this by:

  • Detecting anomalies – leverage insights on suspicious activity to accelerate detection;
  • Analysing threat impact – spend less time discovering which applications and files were impacted; and
  • Accelerating recovery – minimise downtime by simplifying manual processes into just a few clicks.

 

How?

Rubrik tell me they use (drumroll please) Machine Learning for detection. Is it really machine learning? That doesn’t really matter for the purpose of this story.

[image courtesy of Rubrik]

The machine learning model learns the baseline behaviour, detects anomalies and alerts as they come in. So how does that work then?

1. Detect anomalies – apply machine learning on application metadata to detect and alert unusual change activity with protected data, such as ransomware.

What happens post anomaly detection?

  • Email alert is sent to user
  • Radar inspects snapshot for encryption
  • Results uploaded to Polaris
  • User informed of results (via the Polaris UI)

2. Analyse threat impact – Visualise how an attack impacted the system with a detailed view of file content changes at the time of the event.

3. Accelerate recovery – Select all impacted resources, specify the desired location, and restore the most recent clean versions with a few clicks. Rubrik automates the rest of the restore process.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I think there’s a good story to tell with Polaris. SaaS is an accessible way of delivering features to the customer base without the angst traditionally associated with appliance platform upgrades. Data security should be a big part of data protection. After all, data protection is generally critical to recovery once there’s been a serious breach. We’re no longer just protecting against users inside the organisation accidentally deleting large chunks of data, or having to recover from serious equipment failures. Instead, we’re faced with the reality that a bunch of idiots with bad intentions are out to wreck some of our stuff and make a bit of coin on the side. The sooner you know something has gone awry, the quicker you can hopefully recover from the problem (and potentially re-evaluate some of your security). Being attacked shouldn’t be about being ashamed, but it should be about being able to quickly recover and get on with whatever your company does to make its way in the world. With this in mind, I think that Rubrik are on the right track.

You can grab the data sheet from here, and Chris has an article worth checking out here. You can also register to access the Technical Overview here.

Datrium Announces CloudShift

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Datrium‘s Brian Biles and Craig Nunes about their CloudShift announcement and thought it was worth covering some of the highlights here.

 

DVX Now

Datrium have had a scalable protection tier and focus on performance since their inception.

[image courtesy of Datrium]

The “mobility tier”, in the form of Cloud DVX, has been around for a little while now. It’s simple to consume (via SaaS), yields decent deduplication results, and the Datrium team tells me it also delivers fast RTO. There’s also solid support for moving data between DCs with the DVX platform. This all sounds like the foundation for something happening in the hybrid space, right?

 

And Into The Future

Datrium pointed out that disaster recovery has traditionally been a good way of finding out where a lot of the problems exist in you data centre. There’s nothing like failing a failover to understand where the integration points in your on-premises infrastructure are lacking. Disaster recovery needs to be a seamless, integrated process, but data centres are still built on various silos of technology. People are still using clouds for a variety of reasons, and some clouds do some things better than others. It’s easy to pick and choose what you need to get things done. This has been one of the big advantages of public cloud and a large reason for its success. As a result of this, however, the silos are moving to the cloud, even as they’re fixed in the DC.

As a result of this, Datrium are looking to develop a solution that delivers on the following theme: “Run. Protect. Any Cloud”. The idea is simple, offering up an orchestrated DR offering that makes failover and failback a painless undertaking. Datrium tell me they’ve been a big supporter of VMware’s SRM product, but have observed that there can be problems with VMware offering an orchestration-only layer, with adapters having issues from time to time, and managing the solution can be complicated. With CloudShift, Datrium are taking a vertical stack approach, positioning CloudShift as an orchestrator for DR as a SaaS offering. Note that it only works with Datrium.

[image courtesy of Datrium]

The idea behind CloudShift is pretty neat. With Cloud DVX you can already backup VMs to AWS using S3 and EC2. The idea is that you can leverage data already in AWS to fire up VMs on AWS (using on-demand instances of VMware Cloud on AWS) to provide temporary disaster recovery capability. The good thing about this is that converting your VMware VMs to someone else’s cloud is no longer a problem you need to resolve. You’ll need to have a relationship with AWS in the first place – it won’t be as simple as entering your credit card details and firing up an instance. But it certainly seems a lot simpler than having an existing infrastructure in place, and dealing with the conversion problems inherent in going from vSphere to KVM and other virtualisation platforms.

[image courtesy of Datrium]

Failover and failback is a fairly straightforward process as well, with the following steps required for failover and failback of workloads:

  1. Backup to Cloud DVX / S3 – This is ongoing and happens in the background;
  2. Failover required – the CloudShift runbook is initiated;
  3. Restart VM groups on VMC – VMs are rehydrated from data in S3; and
  4. Failback to on-premises – CloudShift reverses the process with deltas using change block tracking.

It’s being pitched as a very simple way to run DR, something that has been notorious for being a stressful activity in the past.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

CloudShift is targeted for release in the first half of 2019. The economic power of DRaaS in the cloud is very strong. People love the idea that they can access the facility on-demand, rather than having passive infrastructure doing nothing on the off chance that it will be required. There’s obviously some additional cost when you need to use on demand versus reserved resources, but this is still potentially cheaper than standing up and maintaining your own secondary DC presence.

Datrium are focused on keeping inherently complex activities like DR simple. I’ll be curious to see whether they’re successful with this approach. The great thing about something like a generic orchestration framework like VMware SRM is that you can use a number of different vendors in the data centre and not have a huge problem with interoperability. The downside to this approach is that this broader ecosystem can leave you exposed to problems with individual components in the solution. Datrium is taking a punt that their customers are going to see the advantages of having an integrated approach to leveraging on demand services. I’m constantly astonished that people don’t get more excited about DRaaS offerings. It’s really cool that you can get this level of protection without having to invest a tonne in running your own passive infrastructure. If you’d like to read more about CloudShift, there’s a blog post that sheds some more light on the solution on Datrium’s site, and you can grab a white paper here too.

Getting Started With The Pure Storage CLI

I used to write a lot about how to manage CLARiiON and VNX storage environments with EMC’s naviseccli tool. I’ve been doing some stuff with Pure Storage FlashArrays in our lab and thought it might be worth covering off some of the basics of their CLI. This will obviously be no replacement for the official administration guide, but I thought it might come in useful as a starting point.

 

Basics

Unlike EMC’s CLI, there’s no executable to install – it’s all on the controllers. If you’re using Windows, PuTTY is still a good choice as an ssh client. Otherwise the macOS ssh client does a reasonable job too. When you first setup your FlashArray, a virtual IP (VIP) was configured. It’s easiest to connect to the VIP, and Purity then directs your session to whichever controller is the current primary controller. Note that you can also connect via the physical IP address if that’s how you want to do things.

The first step is to login to the array as pureuser, with the password that you’ve definitely changed from the default one.

login as: pureuser
pureuser@10.xxx.xxx.30's password:
Last login: Fri Aug 10 09:36:05 2018 from 10.xxx.xxx.xxx

Mon Aug 13 10:01:52 2018
Welcome pureuser. This is Purity Version 4.10.4 on FlashArray purearray
http://www.purestorage.com/

“purehelp” is the command to run to list available commands.

pureuser@purearray> purehelp
Available commands:
-------------------
pureadmin
purealert
pureapp
purearray
purecert
pureconfig
puredns
puredrive
pureds
purehelp
purehgroup
purehost
purehw
purelog
pureman
puremessage
purenetwork
purepgroup
pureplugin
pureport
puresmis
puresnmp
puresubnet
puresw
purevol
exit
logout

If you want to get some additional help with a command, you can run “command -h” (or –help).

pureuser@purearray> purevol -h
usage: purevol [-h]
               {add,connect,copy,create,destroy,disconnect,eradicate,list,listobj,monitor,recover,remove,rename,setattr,snap,truncate}
               ...

positional arguments:
  {add,connect,copy,create,destroy,disconnect,eradicate,list,listobj,monitor,recover,remove,rename,setattr,snap,truncate}
    add                 add volumes to protection groups
    connect             connect one or more volumes to a host
    copy                copy a volume or snapshot to one or more volumes
    create              create one or more volumes
    destroy             destroy one or more volumes or snapshots
    disconnect          disconnect one or more volumes from a host
    eradicate           eradicate one or more volumes or snapshots
    list                display information about volumes or snapshots
    listobj             list objects associated with one or more volumes
    monitor             display I/O performance information
    recover             recover one or more destroyed volumes or snapshots
    remove              remove volumes from protection groups
    rename              rename a volume or snapshot
    setattr             set volume attributes (increase size)
    snap                take snapshots of one or more volumes
    truncate            truncate one or more volumes (reduce size)

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit

There’s also a facility to access the man page for commands. Just run “pureman command” to access it.

Want to see how much capacity there is on the array? Run “purearray list –space”.

pureuser@purearray> purearray list --space
Name        Capacity  Parity  Thin Provisioning  Data Reduction  Total Reduction  Volumes  Snapshots  Shared Space  System  Total
purearray  12.45T    100%    86%                2.4 to 1        17.3 to 1        350.66M  3.42G      3.01T         0.00    3.01T

Need to check the software version or generally availability of the controllers? Run “purearray list –controller”.

pureuser@purearray> purearray list --controller
Name  Mode       Model   Version  Status
CT0   secondary  FA-450  4.10.4   ready
CT1   primary    FA-450  4.10.4   ready

 

Connecting A Host

To connect a host to an array (assuming you’ve already zoned it to the array), you’d use the following commands.

purehost create hostname
purehost create -wwnlist WWNs hostname
purehost list
purevol connect --host [host] [volume]

 

Host Groups

You might need to create a Host Group if you’re running ESXi and want to have multiple hosts accessing the same volumes. Here’re the commands you’ll need. Firstly, create the Host Group.

purehgroup create [hostgroup]

Add the hosts to the Host Group (these hosts should already exist on the array)

purehgroup setattr --hostlist host1,host2,host3 [hostgroup]

You can then assign volumes to the Host Group

purehgroup connect --vol [volume] [hostgroup]

 

Other Volume Operations

Some other neat (and sometimes destructive) things you can do with volumes are listed below.

To resize a volume, use the following commands.

purevol setattr --size 500G [volume]
purevol truncate --size 20GB [volume]

Note that a snapshot is available for 24 hours to roll back if required. This is good if you’ve shrunk a volume to be smaller than the data on it and have consequently munted the filesystem.

When you destroy a volume it immediately becomes unavailable to host, but remains on the array for 24 hours. Note that you’ll need to remove the volume from any hosts connected to it first.

purevol disconnect [volume] --host [hostname]
purevol destroy [volume]

If you’re running short of capacity, or are just curious about when a deleted volume will disappear, use the following command.

purevol list --pending

If you need the capacity back immediately, the deleted volume can be eradicated with the following comamnd.

purevol eradicate [volume]

 

Further Reading

The Pure CLI is obviously not a new thing, and plenty of bright folks have already done a few articles about how you can use it as part of a provisioning workflow. This one from Chadd Kenney is a little old now but still demonstrates how you can bring it all together to do something pretty useful. You can obviously extend that to do some pretty interesting stuff, and there’s solid parity between the GUI and CLI in the Purity environment.

It seems like a small thing, but the fact that there’s no need to install an executable is a big thing in my book. Array vendors (and infrastructure vendors in general) insisting on installing some shell extension or command environment is a pain in the arse, and should be seen as an act of hostility akin to requiring Java to complete simple administration tasks. The sooner we get everyone working with either HTML5 or simple ssh access the better. In any csase, I hope this was a useful introduction to the Purity CLI. Check out the Administration Guide for more information.

Nexsan Announces Assureon Cloud Transfer

Announcement

Nexsan announced Cloud Transfer for their Assureon product a little while ago. I recently had the chance to catch up with Gary Watson (Founder / CTO at Nexsan) and thought it would be worth covering the announcement here.

 

Assureon Refresher

Firstly, though, it might be helpful to look at what Assureon actually is. In short, it’s an on-premises storage archive that offers:

  • Long term archive storage for fixed content files;
  • Dependable file availability, with files being audited every 90 days;
  • Unparalleled file integrity; and
  • A “policy” system for protecting and stubbing files.

Notably, there is always a primary archive and a DR archive included in the price. No half-arsing it here – which is something that really appeals to me. Assureon also doesn’t have a “delete” key as such – files are only removed based on defined Retention Rules. This is great, assuming you set up your policies sensibly in the first place.

 

Assureon Cloud Transfer

Cloud Transfer provides the ability to move data between on-premises and cloud instances. The idea is that it will:

  • Provide reliable and efficient cloud mobility of archived data between cloud server instances and between cloud vendors; and
  • Optimise cloud storage and backup costs by offloading cold data to on-premises archive.

It’s being positioned as useful for clients who have a large unstructured data footprint on public cloud infrastructure and are looking to reduce their costs for storing data up there. There’s currently support for Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, with Google support coming in the near future.

[image courtesy of Nexsan]

There’s stub support for those applications that support. There’s also an optional NFS / SMB interface that can be configured in the cloud as an Assureon archiving target that caches hot files and stubs cold files. This is useful for those non-Windows applications that have a lot of unstructured data that could be moved to an archive.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The concept of dedicated archiving hardware and software bundles, particularly ones that live on-premises, might seem a little odd to some folks who spend a lot of time failing fast in the cloud. There are plenty of enterprises, however, that would benefit from the level of rigour that Nexsan have wrapped around the Assureon product. It’s my strong opinion that too many people still don’t understand the difference between backup and recovery and archive data. The idea that you need to take archive data and make it immutable (and available) for a long time has great appeal, particularly for organisations getting slammed with a whole lot of compliance legislation. Vendors have been talking about reducing primary storage use for years, but there seems to have been some pushback from companies not wanting to invest in these solutions. It’s possible that this was also a result of some kludgy implementations that struggled to keep up with the demands of the users. I can’t speak for the performance of the Assureon product, but I like the fact that it’s sold as a pair, and with a lot of the decision-making around protection taken away from the end user. As someone who worked in an organisation that liked to cut corners on this type of thing, it’s nice to see that.

But why would you want to store stuff on-premises? Isn’t everyone moving everything to the cloud? No, they’re not. I don’t imagine that this type of product is being pitched at people running entirely in public cloud. It’s more likely that, if you’re looking at this type of solution, you’re probably running a hybrid setup, and still have a footprint in a colocation facility somewhere. The benefit of this is that you can retain control over where your archived data is placed. Some would say that’s a bit of a pain, and an unnecessary expense, but people familiar with compliance will understand that business is all about a whole lot of wasted expense in order to make people feel good. But I digress. Like most on-premises solutions, the Assureon offering compares well with a public cloud solution on a $/GB basis, assuming you’ve got a lot of sunk costs in place already with your data centre presence.

The immutability story is also a pretty good one when you start to think about organisations that have been hit by ransomware in the last few years. That stuff might roll through your organisation like a hot knife through butter, but it won’t be able to do anything with your archive data – that stuff isn’t going anywhere. Combine that with one of those fancy next generation data protection solutions and you’re in reasonable shape.

In any case, I like what the Assureon product offers, and am looking forward to seeing Nexsan move beyond the Windows-only platform support that it currently offers. You can read the Nexsan Assueron Cloud Transfer press release here. David Marshall covered the announcement over at VMblog and ComputerWeekly.com did an article as well.

NetApp Announces NetApp ONTAP AI

As a member of NetApp United, I had the opportunity to sit in on a briefing from Mike McNamara about NetApp‘s recently announced AI offering, the snappily named “NetApp ONTAP AI”. I thought I’d provide a brief overview here and share some thoughts.

 

The Announcement

So what is NetApp ONTAP AI? It’s a “proven” architecture delivered via NetApp’s channel partners. It’s comprised of compute, storage and networking. Storage is delivered over NFS. The idea is that you can start small and scale out as required.

Hardware

Software

  • NVIDIA GPU Cloud Deep Learning Stack
  • NetApp ONTAP 9
  • Trident, dynamic storage provisioner

Support

  • Single point of contact support
  • Proven support model

 

[image courtesy of NetApp]

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I’ve written about NetApp’s Edge to Core to Cloud story before, and this offering certainly builds on the work they’ve done with big data and machine learning solutions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) solutions are like big data from five years ago, or public cloud. You can’t go to any industry event, or take a briefing from an infrastructure vendor, without hearing all about how they’re delivering solutions focused on AI. What you do with the gear once you’ve bought one of these spectacularly ugly boxes is up to you, obviously, and I don’t want to get in to whether some of these solutions are really “AI” or not (hint: they’re usually not). While the vendors are gushing breathlessly about how AI will conquer the world, if you tone down the hyperbole a bit, there’re still some fascinating problems being solved with these kinds of solutions.

I don’t think that every business, right now, will benefit from an AI strategy. As much as the vendors would like to have you buy one of everything, these kinds of solutions are very good at doing particular tasks, most of which are probably not in your core remit. That’s not to say that you won’t benefit in the very near future from some of the research and development being done in this area. And it’s for this reason that I think architectures like this one, and those from NetApp’s competitors, are contributing something significant to the ongoing advancement of these fields.

I also like that this is delivered via channel partners. It indicates, at least at first glance, that AI-focused solutions aren’t simply something you can slap a SKU on and sells 100s of. Partners generally have a better breadth of experience across the various hardware, software and services elements and their respective constraints, and will often be in a better position to spend time understanding the problem at hand rather than treating everything as the same problem with one solution. There’s also less chance that the partner’s sales people will have performance accelerators tied to selling one particular line of products. This can be useful when trying to solve problems that are spread across multiple disciplines and business units.

The folks at NVIDIA have made a lot of noise in the AI / ML marketplace lately, and with good reason. They know how to put together blazingly fast systems. I’ll be interested to see how this architecture goes in the marketplace, and whether customers are primarily from the NetApp side of the fence, from the NVIDIA side, or perhaps both. You can grab a copy of the solution brief here, and there’s an AI white paper you can download from here. The real meat and potatoes though, is the reference architecture document itself, which you can find here.