E8 Storage Announces InfiniBand Support

I recently had the opportunity to have a call with Julie Herd about what E8 Storage have been up to and thought I’d share my thoughts here. I’ll admit it was a very quick chat because the announcement needed little explanation, but it’s sometimes the simple things that are worth noting.

 

Announcement

E8 Storage recently announced availability of InfiniBand support for its high performance, NVMe storage solutions. They already do NVMe/F using 4 or 8 100GbE ports, and there’s now an equivalent offering using IB.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

E8 are positioning this primarily as a response to requirements from HPC customers. While some people think IB is dead, there has been a big investment in the technology in HPC environments, and this allows E8 to get into that market without upsetting the apple cart too much. They’re certainly delivering the kind of storage performance that HPC folks would be interested in, so this seems like a sensible solution. They tell me there’s no difference in terms of latency or performance between the IB and RoCE offerings, and it’s really just about a common transport for those users that need it. The cool thing about E8, of course, is that there’s also a software-only version of their offering available, in case you have a particular tin vendor that you’d like to build your super fast NVMe/F storage platform on. You can read the full announcement here.

Cohesity Basics – Cloud Tier

I’ve been doing some work with Cohesity in our lab and thought it worth covering some of the basic features that I think are pretty neat. In this edition of Cohesity Basics, I thought I’d quickly cover off how to get started with the “Cloud Tier” feature. You can read about Cohesity’s cloud integration approach here. El Reg did a nice write-up on the capability when it was first introduced as well.

 

What Is It?

Cohesity have a number of different technologies that integrate with the cloud, including Cloud Archive and Cloud Tier. With Cloud Archive you can send copies of snapshots up to the cloud to keep as a copy separate to the backup data you might have replicated to a secondary appliance. This is useful if you have some requirement to keep a monthly or six-monthly copy somewhere for compliance reasons. Cloud Tier is an overflow technology that allows you to have cold data migrated to a cloud target when the capacity of your environment exceeds 80%. Note that “coldness” is defined in this instance as older than 60 days. That is, you can’t just pump a lot of data in to your appliance to see how this works (trust me on that). The coldness level is configurable, but I recommend you engage with Cohesity support before you go down that track. It’s also important to note that once you turn on Cloud Tier for a View Box, you can’t turn it off again.

 

How Do I?

Here’s how to get started in 10 steps or less. Apologies if the quality of some of these screenshots is not great. The first thing to do is register an External Target on your appliance. In this example I’m running version 5.0.1 of the platform on a Cohesity Virtual Edition VM. Click on Protection – External Target.

Under External Targets you’ll see any External Targets you’ve already configured. Select Register External Target.

You’ll need to give it a name and choose whether you’re using it for Archival or Cloud Tier. This choice also impacts some of the types of available targets. You can’t, for example, configure a NAS or QStar target for use with Cloud Tier.

Selecting Cloud Tier will provide you with more cloudy targets, such as Google, AWS and Azure.

 

In this example, I’ve selected S3 (having already created the bucket I wanted to test with). You need to know the Bucket name, Region, Access Key ID and your Secret Access Key.

If you have it all correct, you can click on Register and it will work. If you’ve provided the wrong credentials, it won’t work. You then need to enable Cloud Tier on the View Box. Go to Platform – Cluster.

Click on View Boxes and the click on the three dots on the right to Edit the View Box configuration.

You then can toggle Cloud Tier and select the External Target you want to use for Cloud Tier.

Once everything is configured (and assuming you have some cold data to move to the cloud and your appliance is over 80% full) you can click on the cluster dashboard and you’ll see an overview of Cloud Tier storage in the Storage part of the overview.

 

 

Thoughts?

All the kids are getting into cloud nowadays, and Cohesity is no exception. I like this feature because it can help with managing capacity on your on-premises appliance, particularly if you’ve had a sudden influx of data into the environment, or you have a lot of old data that you likely won’t be accessing. You still need to think about your egress charges (if you need to get those cold blocks back) and you need to think about what the cost of that S3 bucket (or whatever you’re using) really is. I don’t see the default coldness level being a problem, as you’d hope that you sized your appliance well enough to cope with a certain amount of growth.

Features like this demonstrate both a willingness on behalf of Cohesity to embrace cloud technologies, as well as a focus on ease of use when it comes to reasonably complicated activities like moving protection data to an alternative location. My thinking is that you wouldn’t necessarily want to find yourself in the position of having to suddenly shunt a bunch of cold data to a cloud location if you can help it (although I haven’t done the maths on which is a better option) but it’s nice to know that the option is available and easy enough to setup.

Random Short Take #5

So it’s been over six months since I did one of these, and it’s clear that I’m literally rubbish at doing them regularly.

Cohesity – SQL Log Backup Warning

This one falls into the category of “unlikely that it will happen to you but might be worth noting”. I’ve been working with some Cohesity gear in the lab recently and came across a warning, not an error, when I was doing a SQL backup.

But before I get to that, it’s important to share the context of the testing. With Cohesity, there’s some support for protecting Microsoft SQL workloads that live on Windows Failover Clusters (as well as AAGs – but that’s a story for another time). You configure these separately from your virtual sources, and you install an agent on each node in the cluster. In my test environment I’ve created a simple two-node Windows Failover Cluster based on Windows 2016. It has some shared disk and a heartbeat network (a tip of the hat to Windows clusters of yore). I’ve cheated, because it’s virtualised, but needs must and all that. I’m running SQL 2014 on top of this. It took me a little while to get that working properly, mainly because I’m a numpty with SQL. I finally had everything setup when I noticed the following error after each SQL protection job ran.

I was a bit confused as I had set the databases to full recovery mode. Of course, the more it happened, the more I got frustrated. I fiddled about with permissions on the cluster, manual maintenance jobs, database roles and all manner of things I shouldn’t be touching. I even went for a short walk. The thing I didn’t do, though, was click the arrow on the left hand side of the job. That expands the job run details so you can read more about what happened. If I’d done that, I would have seen this error straight away. And the phrase “No databases available for log backup” would have made more sense.

And I would have realised that the reason I was getting the log backup warning was because it was skipping the system databases and, as I didn’t have any other databases deployed, it wasn’t doing any log backups. This is an entirely unlikely scenario in the real world, because you’ll be backing up SQL clusters that have data on them. If they don’t have data on them, they’re likely low value items and won’t get protected. The only situation where you might come across this is if you’re testing your infrastructure before deploying data to it. I resolved the issue by creating a small database. The log backups then went through without issue.

For reference, the DataPlatform version I’m using is 5.0.1.

Nexenta Announces NexentaCloud

I haven’t spoken to Nexenta in some time, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy. They recently announced NexentaCloud in AWS, and I had the opportunity to speak to Michael Letschin about the announcement.

 

What Is It?

In short, it’s a version of NexentaStor that you can run in the cloud. It’s ostensibly an EC2 machine running in your virtual private cloud using EBS for storage on the backend. It’s:

  • Available in the AWS Marketplace;
  • Is deployed on preconfigured Amazon Machine Images; and
  • Delivers unified file and block services (NFS, SMB, iSCSI).

According to Nexenta, the key benefits include:

  • Access to a fully-featured file (NFS and SMB) and block (iSCSI) storage array;
  • Improved cloud resource efficiency through
    • data reduction
    • thin provisioning
    • snapshots and clones
  • Seamless replication to/from NexentaStor and NexentaCloud;
  • Rapid deployment of NexentaCloud instances for test/dev operations;
  • Centralised management of NexentaStor and NexentaCloud;
  • Advanced Analytics across your entire Nexenta storage environment; and
  • Migrate legacy applications to the cloud without re-architecting your applications.

There’s an hourly or annual subscription model, and I believe there’s also capacity-based licensing options available.

 

But Why?

Some of the young people reading this blog who wear jeans to work every day probably wonder why on earth you’d want to deploy a virtual storage array in your VPC in the first place. Why would your cloud-native applications care about iSCSI access? It’s very likely they don’t. But one of the key reasons why you might consider the NexentaCloud offering is because you’ve not got the time or resources to re-factor your applications and you’ve simply lifted and shifted a bunch of your enterprise applications into the cloud. These are likely applications that depend on infrastructure-level resiliency rather than delivering their own application-level resiliency. In this case, a product like NexentaCloud makes sense in that it provides some of the data services and resiliency that are otherwise lacking with those enterprise applications.

 

Thoughts

I’m intrigued by the NexentaCloud offering (and by Nexenta the company, for that matter). They have a solid history of delivering interesting software-defined storage solutions at a reasonable cost and with decent scale. If you’ve had the chance to play with NexentaStor (or deployed it in production), you’ll know it’s a fairly solid offering with a lot of the features you’d look for in a traditional storage platform. I’m curious to see how many enterprises take advantage of the NexentaCloud product, although I know there are plenty of NexentaStor users out in the wild, and I have no doubt their CxOs are placing a great amount of pressure on them to don the cape and get “to the cloud” post haste.

Rubrik Announces Polaris GPS

Rubrik recently announced their GPS module for Polaris. The product name gives me shivers because it’s the name of a data centre I spent a lot of weekends in years ago. In any case, Polaris is a new platform being built in parallel with Rubrik’s core offering. Chris Wahl very kindly took us through what some of the platform capabilities are.

 

Polaris What?

Polaris is the SaaS platform itself, and Rubrik are going to build modules for it (as well as allowing 3rd parties to contribute). So let’s not focus too much on Polaris, and more on those modules. The idea is to provide a unified control plane with a single point of control. According to Rubrik, there is a going to be significant focus on a Great User Experience ™.

“Rubrik Polaris is a consumable resource that you tap into, rather than a pile of infrastructure that you setup and manage”

 

I’m A Polaris

The first available module is “Rubrik Polaris GPS”. The idea is that you can:

  • Command and control of all Rubrik CDM instances, globally;
  • Monitor for compliance and leverage alerts to dig into trouble spots;
  • Work with open and documented RESTful APIs with visibility into a global data footprint. Automate and orchestrate all of Rubrik from a single entry point.

The creation and enforcement of business SLA policies is based on flexible criteria: geography, installation, compliance needs, planned growth, data migrations, etc. You can start to apply various policies to data – some you might want to keep in a particular geographical zone, some you might need replicated, etc.

Another cool thing is that the APIs are open and documented, making third-party integration (or roll your own stuff) a real possibility.

From a security perspective, there’s no currently available on-premises version but that’s a possibility in the future (for dark sites). You also need to add clusters manually (i.e. securely) – clusters won’t just automatically join the platform. The idea is, according to Rubrik, to “show you enough data to make actionable decisions, but don’t show too much”. This seems like a solid approach.

 

Questions?

Is my backup source data available to Polaris?

– No. The backup source data is available only to the respective Clusters. Polaris has access only to activities and reports on Clusters that have been granted access to Polaris.

Is Polaris a separate CDM version?

– No. Polaris is a SaaS service.

What is the maximum number of Clusters that can be managed by Polaris?

– There is no hard limit to the number of Clusters that can be managed by Polaris.

How secure is Polaris GPS?

– Polaris uses multiple levels of security to protect customer data and service: authentication, secure connection, data security, data isolation, data residency, etc.

 

Thoughts

So what problem are they trying to solve? Well, what if you wanted to apply global protection policies to multiple appliances? GPS could be leveraged here. This first module isn’t going to be very useful for folks who are running a single deployment of Briks, but it’s going to be very interesting for folks who’ve got a large deployment that may or may not be geographically dispersed. The GPS module is going to be very handy, and shows the potential of the platform. I’m keen to see what else they come up with to leverage the offering. I’m also interested to see whether there’s much uptake from third-parties. These extensible platforms always seem like a great idea, but I often see limited support from third-parties with the vendor doing the bulk of the heavy lifting. That said, I’m more than happy to see that Rubrik have taken this open approach with the API, as it does allow for some potentially interesting integrations to happen.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the secondary storage market, you’ll see that the companies offering solutions are well beyond simply delivering data protection storage with backup and recovery capabilities. There’s a whole lot more that can be done with this data, and Rubrik are focused on delivering more out of the platform than just basic copy data management. The idea of Polaris delivering a consolidated, SaaS-based view of infrastructure is likely the first step in a bigger play for them. I think this is a good way to get people using their infrastructure differently, and I like that these companies are working to make things simpler to use in order to deliver value back to the business. Read more about Polaris GPS here.

Storage Field Day 15 – Wrap-up and Link-o-rama

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 15.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. 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.

This is a quick post to say thanks once again to Stephen and Ben, and the presenters at Storage Field Day 15. I had a super fun and educational time. For easy reference, here’s a list of the posts I did covering the events (they may not match the order of the presentations).

Storage Field Day – I’ll Be At Storage Field Day 15

Storage Field Day 15 – Day 0

Storage Field Day 15 – (Fairly) Full Disclosure

IBM Spectrum Protect Plus Has A Nice Focus On Modern Data Protection

Dropbox – It’s Scale Jim, But Not As We Know It

StarWind VTL? What? Yes, And It’s Great!

WekaIO – Not The Matrix You’re Thinking Of

Cohesity Understands The Value Of What Lies Beneath

Western Digital – The A Is For Active, The S Is For Scale

Come And Splash Around In NetApp’s Data Lake

Huawei – Probably Not What You Expected

Datrium Cloud DVX – Not Your Father’s Cloud Data Protection Solution

Hedvig’s Evolution

 

Also, here’s a number of links to posts by my fellow delegates (in no particular order). They’re all very smart people, and you should check out their stuff, particularly if you haven’t before. I’ll attempt to keep this updated as more posts are published. But if it gets stale, the Storage Field Day 15 landing page will have updated links.

 

Josh De Jong (@EuroBrew)

The Challenge Of Scale

Convergence Without Compromise

 

Glenn Dekhayser (@GDekhayser)

#SFD15: Datrium impresses

 

Chan Ekanayake (@ChanEk81)

Storage Field Day 15 – Introduction

Dropbox’s Magic Pocket: Power Of Software Defined Storage

A Look At The Hedvig Distributed Hybrid Cloud Storage Solution

Cohesity: A Secondary Storage Solution For The Hybrid Cloud?

NetApp’s & Next Generation Storage Technologies

 

Chin-Fah Heoh (@StorageGaga)

Always serendipitous Storage Field Days

Storage dinosaurs evolving too

Magic happening

Cohesity SpanFS – a foundational shift

NetApp and IBM gotta take risks

Own the Data Pipeline

Huawei Dorado – All about Speed

 

Mariusz Kaczorek (@Settlersoman)

 

Ray Lucchesi (@RayLucchesi)

 

Dukagjin Maloku (@DugiDM)

Storage Field Day 15 … #SFD15

 

Michael Stanclift (@VMStan)

 

Lino Telera (@LinoTelera)

Back to Silicon Valley for Storage Field Day 15

Storage Field Day 15: Dropbox the high availability in a pocket

 

Arjan Timmerman (@ArjanTim)

Starwind software: SFD15 preview

 

Dr Rachel Traylor (@Mathpocalypse)

Commentary: White Papers Dont Impress Me Much

Dialogue: What Do We Mean By Predictive Analytics?

Little’s Law: For Estimation Only

 

Vendor Posts

Datrium @ Storage TechFieldDay

Storage Field Day Wrap-up: How Cohesity is Disrupting Legacy Backup

 

Thanks.

Druva Announces Cloud Platform Enhancements

Druva Cloud Platform

Data protection has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I’ve been talking to a number of vendors, partners and end users about data protection challenges and, sometimes, successes. With World Backup Day coming up I had the opportunity to get a briefing from W. Curtis Preston on Druva’s Cloud Platform and thought I’d share some of the details here.

 

What is it?

Druva Cloud Platform is Druva’s tool for tying together their as-a-Service data protection solution within a (sometimes maligned) single pane of glass. The idea behind it is you can protect your assets – from end points through to your cloud applications (and everything in between) – all from the one service, and all managed in the one place.

[image courtesy of Druva]

 

Druva Cloud Platform was discussed at Tech Field Day Extra at VMworld US 2017, and now fully supports Phoenix (the DC protection offering), inSync
(end point & SaaS protection), and Apollo (native EC2 backup). There’s also some nice Phoenix integration with VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC).

[image courtesy of Druva]

 

Druva’s Cloud Credentials

Druva provide a nice approach to as-a-Service data protection that’s a little different from a number of competing products:

  • You don’t need to see or manage backup server nodes;
  • Server infrastructure security is not your responsibility;
  • Server nodes are spawned / stopped based on load;
  • S3 is less expensive (and faster with parallelisation);
  • There are no egress charges during restore; and
  • No on-premises component or CapEx is required (although you can deploy a cache node for quicker restore to on-premises).

 

Thoughts

I first encountered Druva at Tech Field Day Extra VMworld US in 2017 and was impressed by both the breadth of their solution and the cloudiness of it all compared to some of the traditional vendor approaches to protecting cloud-native and traditional workloads via the cloud. They have great support for end point protection, SaaS and traditional, DC-flavoured workloads. I’m particularly a fan of their willingness to tackle end point protection. When I was first starting out in data protection, a lot of vendors were speaking about how they could protect business from data loss. Then it seemed like it all became a bit too hard and maybe we just started to assume that the data was safe somewhere in the cloud or data centre (week not really but we’re talking feelings, not fact for the moment). End point protection is not an easy thing to get right, but it’s a really important part of data protection. Because ultimately you’re protecting data from bad machines and bad events and, ultimately, bad people. Sometimes the people aren’t bad at all, just a little bit silly.

Cloud is hard to do well. Lifting and shifting workloads from the DC to the public cloud has proven to be a challenge for a lot of enterprises. And taking a lift and shift approach to data protection in the cloud is also proving to be a bit of challenge, not least of which because people struggle with the burstiness of cloud workloads and need protection solutions that can accommodate those requirements. I like Druva’s approach to data protection, at least from the point of view of their “cloud-nativeness” and their focus on protecting a broad spectrum of workloads and scenarios. Not everything they do will necessarily fit in with the way you do things in your business, but there’re some solid, modern foundations there to deliver a comprehensive service. And I think that’s a nice thing to build on.

Druva are also presenting at Cloud Field Day 3 in early April. I recommend checking out their session. Justin also did a post in anticipation of the session that is well worth a read.

Hedvig’s Evolution

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 15.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. 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.

Hedvig recently presented at Storage Field Day 15. You can see videos of their presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

More Hybrid Than Ever

It’s been a little while since I’ve spoken to Hedvig. Since that time they’ve built on a platform that was already pretty robust and feature-rich.

[image courtesy of Hedvig]

 

Features

If you’re unfamiliar with Hedvig, this post by Ray Lucchesi provides a nice overview of the offering. There are a number of nice features, including the fact that it’s hypervisor agnostic. You can also run the proxy on bare metal deployed as KVM instance. Each host requires a proxy and there are 2 proxies per host (active / passive) for HA. It provides protocol consolidation on a single platform and can do deduplication, compression and encryption at a virtual disk level. Workloads map to a virtual disk, and the deduplication is global (and can be toggled on / off at a virtual disk level). Deduplication is performed at a block-level to a 4K granularity.

The default replication policy is “Agnostic” (let the system decide where to put the data), but you can also tell it that you need it to be “Rack Aware” or even “DC Aware”. The cool thing is that the same policies apply whatever protocol you use.

Hedvig uses a concept called Containers (no, not those containers, or those containers). These are assigned to storage pools, and striped across 3 disks.

There is demarcation between metadata and data.

Data Process:

  • Local data persistence
  • Replication

Metadata Process:

  • Global knowledge of everything happening in the cluster

The solution can integrate with external KMS infrastructure if you’re into that sort of thing, and there’s a really focus on “correctness” of data in the system.

 

Hedvig’s Evolution

Hedvig already had a good story to tell in terms of scalable, software-defined storage by the time I saw them in 2016. Their recent presentation demonstrated not just some significant re-branding, but also increased maturity around the interface and data protection features on offer with the platform. Most of the demonstration time was spent in the Hedvig GUI, in stark contrast to the last time I saw them when there was an almost constant requirement to drop in to the CLI to do a variety of tasks. At the time this made sense as the platform was relatively new in the market. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m as much a fan as anyone of the CLI, but it feels like you’re in with a better chance of broad adoption if you can also present a useable GUI for people to leverage.

Of course, whether or not you have a snazzy HTML 5 UI means nothing if you don’t have a useful product sitting behind that interface. It was clear from Hedvig’s presentation that they certainly do have something worthy of further consideration, particularly given its focus on data protection, geo-resilience and storage efficiency. The fact that it runs on pretty much anything you can think of is also a bonus. I don’t think too many people would dispute that SDS has a lot of advantages over traditional storage deployments. It’s often a lot more accessible and provides an easier, cheaper entry point for deployment. It can often be easier to get changes and improvements made to the platform that aren’t necessarily tied to particular hardware architectures, and, depending on the software in play, it can often run on just about any bit of x86 compute you want it to. The real value of solutions like Hedvig’s are the additional data protection and efficiency features that provide performance, scalability and resilience beyond the standard 2-node, 1000 disk midrange offerings.

Hedvig seem to be listening to their current and (potential) customers and are making usability and reliability a key part of their offering. I look forward to seeing how this develops over the next 12 months.

VMware – vSphere Basics – Re-package An OVA

This is a quick and easy one. I came across a virtual appliance the other day that had an expired certificate.

When you click Next you’ll get an error saying the package is signed with an invalid certificate.

It’s a relatively easy fix (or at least workaround) and I followed Stephen Wagner‘s guidance here. In short, grab a copy of the VMware OVF Tool from here. You then run the following command:

ovftool.exe --skipManifestCheck c:\tmp\old.ova c:\tmp\new.ova

You’ll then be able to deploy the appliance without it barfing. Remember, though, that this is a bit of a rough workaround, and you should really contact the appliance vendor in the first instance as they’ll likely be keen to fix the issue. In my case I was able to continue with my testing while the vendor went ahead and fixed things on their side.