Random Short Take #37

Welcome to Random Short Take #37. Not a huge amount of players have worn 37 in the NBA, but Metta World Peace did a few times. When he wasn’t wearing 15, and other odd numbers. But I digress. Let’s get random.

  • Pavilion Data recently added S3 capability to its platform. It’s based on a variant of MinIO, and adds an interesting dimension to what Pavilion Data has traditionally offered. Mellor provided some good coverage here.
  • Speaking of object storage, Dell EMC recently announced ECS 3.5. You can read more on that here. The architectural white paper has been updated to reflect the new version as well.
  • Speaking of Dell EMC, Preston posted a handy article on Data Domain Retention Lock and NetWorker. Have you pre-ordered Preston’s book yet? I’ll keep asking until you do.
  • Online events are all the rage at the moment, and two noteworthy events are coming up shortly: Pure//Accelerate and VeeamON 2020. Speaking of online events, we’re running a virtual BNEVMUG next week. Details on that here. ZertoCON Virtual is also a thing.
  • Speaking of Pure Storage, this article from Cody Hosterman on NVMe and vSphere 7 is lengthy, but definitely worth the read.
  • I can’t recall whether I mentioned that this white paper  covering VCD on VCF 3.9 is available now, and I can’t be bothered checking. So here it is.
  • I’m not just a fan of Backblaze because of its cool consumer backup solution and object storage platform, I’m also a big fan because of its blog. Articles like this one are a great example of companies doing corporate culture right (at least from what I can see).
  • I have the impression that Datadobi has been doing some cool stuff recently, and this story certainly seems to back it up.

Brisbane (Virtual) VMUG – June 2020

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The June edition of the Brisbane VMUG meeting will be held online via Zoom on Tuesday 2nd June. We have speakers from VMware and StorageCraft presenting and it promises to be a great afternoon.

Here’s the agenda:

  • VMUG Intro (by me)
  • StorageCraft Presentation – Object Storage with Jack Alsop
  • VMware Presentation – vRealize Automation with Mark Foley
  • VMware Presentation – Project Pacific with Michael Francis
  • Q&A

The speakers have gone to great lengths to make sure this will be a fun and informative session and I’m really looking forward to hearing what they have to say. You can find out more information and register for the event here. I hope to see you there (online). Also, if you’re interested in sponsoring one of these events, please get in touch with me and I can help make it happen.

StorONE Announces S1:TRUprice

StorONE recently announced S1:TRUprice. I had the opportunity to talk about the announcement with George Crump, and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

What Is It?

A website that anyone can access that provides a transparent view of StorONE’s pricing. There are three things you’ll want to know when doing a sample configuration:

  • Capacity
  • Use case (All-Flash, Hybrid, or All-HDD); and
  • Preferred server hardware (Dell EMC, HPE, Supermicro)

There’s also an option to do a software-only configuration if you’d rather roll your own. In the following example, I’ve configured HPE hardware in a highly available fashion with 92TB of capacity. This costs US $97243.14. Simple as that. Once you’re happy with the configuration, you can have a formal quote sent to you, or choose to get on a call with someone.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Astute readers will notice that there’s a StorONE banner on my website, and the company has provided funds that help me pay the costs of running my blog. This announcement is newsworthy regardless of my relationship with StorONE though. If you’ve ever been an enterprise storage customer, you’ll know that getting pricing is frequently a complicated endeavour. there’s rarely a page hosted on the vendor’s website that provides the total cost of whatever array / capacity you’re looking to consume. Instead, there’ll be an exercise involving a pre-sales engineer, possibly some sizing and analysis, and a bunch of data is put into a spreadsheet. This then magically determines the appropriate bit of gear. This specification is sent to a pricing team, some discounts to the recommended retail price are usually applied, and it’s sent to you to consider. If it’s a deal that’s competitive, there might be some more discount. If it’s the end of quarter and the sales person is “motivated”, you might find it’s a good time to buy. There are a whole slew of reasons why the price is never the price. But the problem with this is you can never know the price without talking to someone working for the vendor. Want to budget for some new capacity? Or another site deployment? Talk to the vendor. This makes a lot of sense for the vendor. It gives the sales team insight into what’s happening in the account. There’s “engagement” and “partnership”. Which is all well and good, but does withholding pricing need to be the cost of this engagement?

The Cloud Made Me Do It

The public availability of cloud pricing is changing the conversation when it comes to traditional enterprise storage consumption. Not just in terms of pricing transparency, but also equipment availability, customer enablement, and time to value. Years ago we were all beholden to our storage vendor of choice to deliver storage to us under the terms of the vendor, and when the vendor was able to do it. Nowadays, even enterprise consumers can go and grab the cloud storage they want or need with only a small modicum of fuss. This has changed the behaviours of the traditional storage vendors in a way that I don’t think was foreseen. Sure, cloud still isn’t the answer to every solution, and if you’re selling big tin into big banks, you might have a bit of runway before you need show your customers too much of what’s happening behind the curtain. But this move by StorONE demonstrates that there’s a demand for pricing transparency in the market, and customers are looking to vendors to show some innovation when it comes to the fairly boring business of enterprise storage. I’m very curious to see what other vendors decide to follow suit.

We won’t automatically see the end of some of the practices surrounding enterprise storage pricing, but initiatives like this certainly put some pressure back on the vendors to justify the price per GB they’re slinging gear for. It’s a bit easier to keep prices elevated when your customers have to do a lot of work to go to a competitor and find out what it charges for a similar solution. There are reasons for everything (including high prices), and I’m not suggesting that the major storage vendors have been colluding on price by any means. But something like S1:TRUprice is another nail in the coffin of the old way of doing things, and I’m happy about that. For another perspective on this news, check out Chris M. Evans’ article here.

Spectro Cloud – Profile-Based Kubernetes Management For The Enterprise

 

Spectro Cloud launched in March. I recently had the opportunity to speak to Tenry Fu (CEO) and Tina Nolte (VP, Products) about the launch, and what Spectro Cloud is, and thought I’d share some notes here.

 

The Problem?

I was going to start this article by saying that Kubernetes in the enterprise is a bin fire, but that’s too harsh (and entirely unfair on the folks who are doing it well). There is, however, a frequent compromise being made between ease of use, control, and visibility.

[image courtesy of Spectro Cloud]

According to Fu, the way that enterprises consume Kubernetes shouldn’t just be on the left or the right side of the diagram. There is a way to do both.

 

The Solution?

According to the team, Spectro Cloud is “a SaaS platform that gives Enterprises control over Kubernetes infrastructure stack integrations, consistently and at scale”. What does that mean though? Well, you get access to the “table stakes” SaaS management, including:

  • Managed Kubernetes experience;
  • Multi-cluster and environment management; and
  • Enterprise features.

Profile-Based Management

You also get some cool stuff that heavily leverages profile-based management, including infrastructure stack modelling and lifecycle management that can be done based on integration policies. In short, you build cluster profiles and then apply them to your infrastructure. The cluster profile usually describes the OS flavour and version, Kubernetes version, storage configuration, networking drivers, and so on. The Pallet orchestrator then ensures these profiles are used to maintain the desired cluster state. There are also security-hardened profiles available out of the box.

If you’re a VMware-based cloud user, the appliance (deployed from an OVA file) sits in your on-premises VMware cloud environment and communicates with the Spectro Cloud SaaS offering over TLS, and the cloud properties are dynamically propagated.

Licensing

The solution is licensed on the number of worker node cores under management. This is tiered based on the number of cores and it follows a simple model: More cores and a longer commitment equals a bigger discount.

 

The Differentiator?

Current Kubernetes deployment options vary in their complexity and maturity. You can take the DIY path, but you might find that this option is difficult to maintain at scale. There are packaged options available, such as VMware Tanzu, but you might find that multi-cluster management is not always a focus. The managed Kubernetes option (such as those offered by Google and AWS) has its appeal to the enterprise crowd, but those offerings are normally quite restricted in terms of technology offerings and available versions.

Why does Spectro Cloud have appeal as a solution then? Because you get control over the integrations you might want to use with your infrastructure, but also get the warm and fuzzy feeling of leveraging a managed service experience.

 

Thoughts

I’m no great fan of complexity for complexity’s sake, particularly when it comes to enterprise IT deployments. That said, there are always reasons why things get complicated in the enterprise. Requirements come from all parts of the business, legacy applications need to be fed and watered, rules and regulations seem to be in place simply to make things difficult. Enterprise application owners crave solutions like Kubernetes because there’s some hope that they, too, can deliver modern applications if only they used some modern application deployment and management constructs. Unfortunately, Kubernetes can be a real pain in the rear to get right, particularly at scale. And if enterprise has taught us anything, it’s that most enterprise shops are struggling to do the basics well, let alone the needlessly complicated stuff.

Solutions like the one from Spectro Cloud aren’t a silver bullet for enterprise organisations looking to modernise the way applications are deployed, scaled, and managed. But something like Spectro Cloud certainly has great appeal given the inherent difficulties you’re likely to experience if you’re coming at this from a standing start. Sure, if you’re a mature Kubernetes shop, chances are slim that you really need something like this. But if you’re still new to it, or are finding that the managed offerings don’t give you the flexibility you might need, then something like Spectro Cloud could be just what you’re looking for.

Random Short Take #36

Welcome to Random Short Take #36. Not a huge amount of players have worn 36 in the NBA, but Shaq did (at the end of his career), and Marcus Smart does. This one, though, goes out to one of my favourite players from the modern era, Rasheed Wallace. It seems like Boston is the common thread here. Might have something to do with those hall of fame players wearing numbers in the low 30s. Or it might be entirely unrelated.

  • Scale Computing recently announced its all-NVMe HC3250DF as a new appliance targeting core data centre and edge computing use cases. It offers higher performance storage, networking and processing. You can read the press release here.
  • Dell EMC PowerStore has been announced. Chris Mellor covered the announcement here. I haven’t had time to dig into this yet, but I’m keen to learn more. Chris Evans also wrote about it here.
  • Rubrik Andes 5.2 was recently announced. You can read a wrap-up from Mellor here.
  • StorCentric’s Nexsan recently announced the E-Series 32F Storage Platform. You can read the press release here.
  • In what can only be considered excellent news, Preston de Guise has announced the availability of the second edition of his book, “Data Protection: Ensuring Data Availability”. It will be available in a variety of formats, with the ebook format already being out. I bought the first edition a few times to give as a gift, and I’m looking forward to giving away a few copies of this one too.
  • Backblaze B2 has been huge for the company, and Backblaze B2 with S3-compatible API access is even huger. Read more about that here. Speaking of Backblaze, it just released its hard dive stats for Q1, 2020. You can read more on that here.
  • Hal recently upgraded his NUC-based home lab to vSphere 7. You can read more about the process here.
  • Jon recently posted an article on a new upgrade command available in OneFS. If you’re into Isilon, you might just be into this.

VeeamON 2020 Is Online

VeeamON 2020 would have happened already this year, but these are crazy times, and like most vendors, Veeam has chosen to move the event online, rather than run the gauntlet of having a whole bunch of folks in one place and risk the rapid spread of COVID-19. The new dates for the event are June 17 – 18. You can find more information about VeeamON 2020 here and register for the event here.

The agenda is jam-packed with a range of interesting topics around data protection, spread across a range of tracks, including Architecture and Design, Implementation Best Practices, and Operations and Support. It’s not just marketing fluff either, there’s plenty there for technical folk to sink their teeth into.

 

Thoughts

Six months ago I thought I’d be heading to Vegas for this event. But a lot can change in a short period of time, and a lot has changed. The broader topic of online conferences versus in-person events is an interesting one, and not something I can do justice to here. This isn’t something that Veeam necessarily wanted to do, but it makes sense not to put a whole mess of people in the same space. What I’m interested to see is whether the tech vendors, including Veeam, will notice that not running large scale in-person events actually saves a bunch of money, and look to do more of these once things have gone back to whatever passes for normal in the future. Or whether, as a few people have commented, the events don’t get as much engagement because people aren’t present and can’t commit the time. As much as I’ve come to hate the frequent flights to the U.S.A. to attend tech conferences, it does make it easier to be present in terms of time zones and distractions. If I’m watching events in Pacific Time from my home, it’s usually the middle of the night to make the keynote. And I have the day job to consider as well.

That said, I think it’s fantastic that companies like Veeam have been able to adjust their approach to what was a fairly traditional model when it came to customer and partner engagement. Sure, we won’t be able to get together for a meal in person, but we’ll still have the opportunity to hear about what Veeam’s been up to, and find out a little more about what’s coming next. Ultimately, that’s what these kind of events are about.

 

Backblaze B2 And A Happy Customer

Backblaze recently published a case study with AK Productions. I had the opportunity to speak to Aiden Korotkin and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

The Problem

Korotkin’s problem was a fairly common one – he had lots of data from previous projects that had built up over the years. He’d been using a bunch of external drives to store this data, and had had a couple of external drives fail, including the backup drives. Google’s cloud storage option “seemed like a more redundant and safer investment financially to go into the cloud space”. He was already using G Suite. And so he migrated his old projects off hard drives and into the cloud. He had a credit with Google for a year to use its cloud platform. It became pretty expensive after that, not really feasible. Korotkin also stated that calculating the expected costs was difficult. He also felt that he needed to find something more private / secure.

 

The Solution

So how did he come by Backblaze? He did a bunch of research. Backblaze B2 consistently showed up in the top 15 results when online magazines were publishing their guides to cloud storage. He’d heard of it before, possibly seen a demo. The technology seemed very streamlined, exactly what he needed for his business. A bonus was that there were no extra steps to backup his QNAP NAS as well. This seemed like the best option.

Current Workflow

I asked Korotkin to walk me though his current workflow. B2 is being used as a backup target for the moment. Physics being what it is, it’s still “[h]ard to do video editing direct on the cloud”. The QNAP NAS houses current projects, with data mirrored to B2. Archives are uploaded to a different area of B2. After time, data is completely archived to the cloud.

How About Ingest?

Korotkin needed to move 12TB from Google to Backblaze. He used Flexify.IO to transfer from one cloud to the next. They walked him through how to do it. The good news is that they were able to do it in 12 hours.

It’s About Support

Korotkin noted that between Backblaze and Flexify.IO “the tech support experience was incredible”. He said that he “[f]elt like I was very much taken care of”. He got the strong impression that the support staff enjoyed helping him, and were with him through every step of the way. The most frustrating part of the migration, according to Korotkin, was dealing with Google generally. The offloading of the data from Google cost more money than he’s paid to date with Backblaze. “As a small business owner I don’t have $1500 just to throw away”.

 

Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of Backblaze for some time. I’m a happy customer when it comes to the consumer backup product, and I’ve always enjoyed the transparency it’s displayed as a company with regards to its pod designs and the process required to get to where it is today. I remain fascinated by the workflows required to do multimedia content creation successfully, and I think this story is a great tribute to the support culture of Backblaze. It’s nice to see that smaller shops, such as Korotkin’s, are afforded the same kind of care and support experience as some of the bigger customers might. This is a noticeable point of distinction when compared to working with the hyperscalers. It’s not that those folks aren’t happy to help, they’re just operating at a different level.

Korotkin’s approach was not unreasonable, or unusual, particularly for content creators. Keeping data safe is a challenge for small business, and solutions that make storing and protecting data easier are going to be popular. Korotkin’s story is a good one, and I’m always happy to hear these kinds of stories. If you find yourself shuffling external drives, or need a lot of capacity but don’t want to invest too heavily in on-premises storage, Backblaze has a good story in terms of both cloud storage and data protection.

Random Short Take #35

Welcome to Random Short Take #35. Some really good players have worn 35 in the NBA, including The Big Dog Antoine Carr, and Reggie Lewis. This one, though, goes out to one of my favourite players from the modern era, Kevin Durant. If it feels like it’s only been a week since the last post, that’s because it has. I bet you wish that I was producing some content that’s more useful than a bunch of links. So do I.

  • I don’t often get excited about funding rounds, but I have a friend who works there, so here’s an article covering the latest round (C) of funding for VAST Data.
  • Datadobi continue to share good news in these challenging times, and has published a success story based on some work it’s done with Payspan.
  • Speaking of challenging times, the nice folks a Retrospect are offering a free 90-day license subscription for Retrospect Backup. You don’t need a credit card to sign up, and “[a]ll backups can be restored, even if the subscription is cancelled”.
  • I loved this post from Russ discussing a recent article on Facebook and learning from network failures at scale. I’m in love with the idea that you can’t automate your way out of misconfiguration. We’ve been talking a lot about this in my day job lately. Automation can be a really exciting concept, but it’s not magic. And as scale increase, so too does the time it takes to troubleshoot issues. It all seems like a straightforward concept, but you’d be surprised how many people are surprised by these ideas.
  • Software continues to dominate the headlines, but hardware still has a role to play in the world. Alastair talks more about that idea here.
  • Paul Stringfellow recently jumped on the Storage Unpacked podcast to talk storage myths versus reality. Worth listening to.
  • It’s not all good news though. Sometimes people make mistakes, and pull out the wrong cables. This is a story I’ll be sharing with my team about resiliency.
  • SMR drives and consumer NAS devices aren’t necessarily the best combo. So this isn’t the best news either. I’m patiently waiting for consumer Flash drive prices to come down. It’s going to take a while though.

 

World Backup Day 2020

World Backup Day has been and gone already (it’s 31st March each year). I don’t normally write much about it, as I’d like to think that every day is World Backup Day. But not everyone is into data protection in the same way I am though. Every year, some very nice people at a PR firm I work with send me a series of quotes about World Backup Day, and I invariably file them away, and don’t write anything on the topic. But I thought this year, “in these uncertain times”, that it might be an idea to put together a short article that included some of those quotes and some of my own thoughts on the topic.

 

The Vendor’s View

Steve Cochran (Chief Technology Officer, ConnectWise), had this to say on the topic:

“There are two major reasons why we should take backups seriously: Hardware failure and human error. Systems are not foolproof and every piece of hardware will fail eventually, so it’s not a question of if, but rather when, these failures will happen. If you haven’t kept up with your backups, you’ll get caught unprepared. There’s also a factor of human error where you might accidentally delete a file or photo. We put our entire lives on our computers and mobile devices, but we also make mistakes, and not having a backup system in place is almost silly at this point. While you need to dedicate some time to set up automatic backups, you don’t have to keep up with them — they simply run in the background.”

 

Yev Pusin (Director of Strategy, Backblaze), chipped in with this:

“World Backup Day is coming up, and while many will folks will go with phrases like ‘Don’t be an April Fool, Backup Today,’ it is not the route I’ll go down this year. Backing up your data is something that should be taken seriously, especially with the recent increase in major ransomware attacks and the sudden increase in the amount of remote workers we are seeing in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.

While World Backup Day serves as a great reminder of the importance of backing up your data, data backup is something that should be an everyday activity. That used to be a daunting task, but it no longer has to be one!”

 

Carl D’Halluin (CTO, Datadobi), had this to say on the topic:

“Ultimately, in a world of rising threats, organizations must develop the ability to protect and back up their data quickly, flexibly, securely, and cost-effectively, so data can be backed up down to the individual file level.”

 

Data Protection is Everyone’s Problem

Data protection is everyone’s problem. But I don’t want that to sound like I’m trying to scare you. It’s one of those things that’s important though. More and more of our everyday activities revolve around technology and data. In the much the same way as most of us now have home insurance, and car insurance, and health insurance, we also need to consider the need for data insurance. This isn’t just a problem for companies, and it’s not just a problem for the end user, it’s a problem for everyone.

So what can you do? There’s all manner of things you can do to improve your personal and business data protection situation. From a personal perspective, I recommend you do the equivalent of going to your doctor for a health check, and do a health check on your data. Spend a day taking note of everything that you interact with, and question the data that’s generated during those interactions. Is it important to you? What would you do if you couldn’t access it? Then go and find a way to protect it if possible. That might be something as mundane as taking screenshots of messages (and baking up the resultant screenshots). It might be more complicated, and involve installing some software on your computer. Whatever it is, if you’re not doing it, and you think you should be, try and make it a priority. If it all seems too complicated, or something you don’t feel capable of doing yourself, don’t be afraid to ask people on the Internet for help.

The same goes for business. You might work for a company where the responsibility for data protection in a corporate sense lies with someone else, but I would suggest that, just like workplace health and safety, data protection (availability, integrity, and security) is everyone’s responsibility. If you’re generating data and keeping it on your laptop, how is your company going to protect that data? Is there a place you should be storing it? Why aren’t you doing that? Is your company relying on SaaS applications but not protecting those apps? Talk to the people responsible. Things go wrong all the time. You don’t want to be on the wrong end of it. Indeed, in celebration of World Backup Day, I recently jumped on a Druva podcast with W. Curtis Preston and Stephen Manley to talk about when things do go wrong. You can listen to it here.

Data protection can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Particularly when you start to understand the value of your data. So let’s all try to make every day “World Backup Day”. Okay, I know that’s a terrible line, but you know what I mean.

Random Short Take #34

Welcome to Random Short Take #34. Some really good players have worn 34 in the NBA, including Ray Allen and Sir Charles. This one, though, goes out to my favourite enforcer, Charles Oakley. If it feels like it’s only been a week since the last post, that’s because it has.

  • I spoke to the folks at Rancher Labs a little while ago, and they’re doing some stuff around what they call “Edge Scalability” and have also announced Series D funding.
  • April Fool’s is always a bit of a trying time, what with a lot of the world being a few timezones removed from where I live. Invariably I stop checking news sites for a few days to be sure. Backblaze recognised that these are strange times, and decided to have some fun with their releases, rather than trying to fool people outright. I found the post on Catblaze Cloud Backup inspiring.
  • Hal Yaman announced the availability of version 2.6 of his Office 365 Backup sizing tool. Speaking of Veeam and handy utilities, the Veeam Extract utility is now available as a standalone tool. Cade talks about that here.
  • VMware vSphere 7 recently went GA. Here’s a handy article covering what it means for VMware cloud providers.
  • Speaking of VMware things, John Nicholson wrote a great article on SMB and vSAN (I can’t bring myself to write CIFS, even when I know why it’s being referred to that way).
  • Scale is infinite, until it isn’t. Azure had some minor issues recently, and Keith Townsend shared some thoughts on the situation.
  • StorMagic recently announced that it has acquired KeyNexus. It also announced the availability of SvKMS, a key management system for edge, DC, and cloud solutions.
  • Joey D’Antoni, in collaboration with DH2i, is delivering a webinar titled “Overcoming the HA/DR and Networking Challenges of SQL Server on Linux”. It’s being held on Wednesday 15th April at 11am Pacific Time. If that timezone works for you, you can find out more and register here.