SwiftStack Announces 7

SwiftStack recently announced version 7 of their solution. I had the opportunity to speak to Joe Arnold and Erik Pounds from SwiftStack about the announcement and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

Insane Data Requirements

We spoke briefly about just how insane modern data requirements are becoming, in terms of both volume and performance requirements. The example offered up was that of an Advanced Driver-Assistance System (ADAS). These things need a lot of capacity to work, with training data starting at 15PB of data with performance requirements approaching 100GB/s.

  • Autonomy – Level 2+
  • 10 Deep neural networks needed
  • Survey car – 2MP cameras
  • 2PB per year per car
  • 100 NVIDIA DGX-1 servers per car

When your hot data is 15 – 30PB and growing – it’s a problem.

 

What’s New In 7?

SwiftStack has been working to address those kinds of challenges with version 7.

Ultra-scale Performance Architecture

They’ve managed to get some pretty decent numbers under their belt, delivering over 100GB/s at scale with a platform that’s designed to scale linearly to higher levels. The numbers stack up well against some of their competitors, and have been validated through:

  • Independent testing;
  • Comparing similar hardware and workloads; and
  • Results being posted publicly (with solutions based on Cisco Validated Designs).

 

ProxyFS Edge

ProxyFS Edge takes advantage of SwiftStack’s file services to deliver distributed file services between edge, core, and cloud. The idea is that you can use it for “high-throughput, data-intensive use cases”.

[image courtesy of SwiftStack]

Enabling functionality:

  • Containerised deployment of ProxyFS agent for orchestrated elasticity
  • Clustered filesystem enables scale-out capabilities
  • Caching at the edge, minimising latency for improved application performance
  • Load-balanced, high-throughput API-based communication to the core

 

1space File Connector

But what if you have a bunch of unstructured data sitting in file environments that you want to use with your more modern apps? 1space File Connector brings enterprise file data into the cloud namespace, and “[g]ives modern, cloud-native applications access to existing data without migration”. The thinking is that you can modernise your workflows at an incremental rate, rather than having to deal with the app and the storage all in one go.  incrementally

[image courtesy of SwiftStack]

Enabling functionality:

  • Containerised deployment 1space File Connector for orchestrated elasticity
  • File data is accessible using S3 or Swift object APIs
  • Scales out and is load balanced for high-throughput
  • 1space policies can be applied to file data when migration is desired

The SwiftStack AI Architecture

SwiftStack have also developed a comprehensive AI Architecture model, describing it as “the customer-proven stack that enables deep learning at ultra-scale”. You can read more on that here.

Ultra-Scale Performance

  • Shared-nothing distributed architecture
  • Keep GPU compute complexes busy

Elasticity from Edge-to-Core-to-Cloud

  • With 1space, ingest and access data anywhere
  • Eliminate data silos and move beyond one cloud

Data Immutability

  • Data can be retained and referenced indefinitely as it was originally written
  • Enabling traceability, accountability, confidence, and safety throughout the life of a DNN

Optimal TCO

  • Compelling savings compared to public cloud or all-flash arrays Real-World Confidence
  • Notable AI deployments for autonomous vehicle development

SwiftStack PRO

The final piece is the SwiftStack PRO offering, a support service delivering:

  • 24×7 remote management and monitoring of your SwiftStack production cluster(s);
  • Incorporating operational best-practices learned from 100s of large-scale production clusters;
  • Including advanced monitoring software suite for log aggregation, indexing, and analysis; and
  • Operations integration with your internal team to ensure end-to-end management of your environment.

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

The sheer scale of data enterprises are working with every day is pretty amazing. And data is coming from previously unexpected places as well. The traditional enterprise workloads hosted on NAS or in structured applications are insignificant in size when compared to the PB-scale stuff going on in some environments. So how on earth do we start to derive value from these enormous data sets? I think the key is to understand that data is sometimes going to be in places that we don’t expect, and that we sometimes have to work around that constraint. In this case, SwiftStack have recognised that not all data is going to be sitting in the core, or the cloud, and they’re using some interesting technology to get that data where you need it to get the most value from it.

Getting the data from the edge to somewhere useable (or making it useable at the edge) is one thing, but the ability to use unstructured data sitting in file with modern applications is also pretty cool. There’s often reticence associated with making wholesale changes to data sources, and this solution helps to make that transition a little easier. And it gives the punters an opportunity to address data challenges in places that may have been inaccessible in the past.

SwiftStack have good pedigree in delivering modern scale-out storage solutions, and they’ve done a lot of work ensure that their platform adds value. Worth checking out.

Backblaze Has A (Pod) Birthday, Does Some Cool Stuff With B2

Backblaze has been on my mind a lot lately. And not just because of their recent expansion into Europe. The Storage Pod recently turned ten years old, and I was lucky enough to have the chance to chat with Yev Pusin and Andy Klein about that news and some of the stuff they’re doing with B2, Tiger Technology, and Veeam.

 

10 Years Is A Long Time

The Backblaze Storage Pod (currently version 6) recently turned 10 years old. That’s a long time for something to be around (and successful) in a market like cloud storage. I asked to Yev and Andy about where they saw the pod heading, and whether they thought there was room for Flash in the picture. Andy pointed out that, with around 900PB under management, Flash still didn’t look like the most economical medium for this kind of storage task. That said, they have seen the main HDD manufacturers starting to hit a wall in terms of the capacity per drive that they can deliver. Nonetheless, the challenge isn’t just performance, it’s also the fact that people are needing more and more capacity to store their stuff. And it doesn’t look like they can produce enough Flash to cope with that increase in requirements at this stage.

Version 7.0

We spoke briefly about what Pod 7.0 would look like, and it’s going to be a “little bit faster”, with the following enhancements planned:

  • Updating the motherboard
  • Upgrade the CPU and consider using an AMD CPU
  • Updating the power supply units, perhaps moving to one unit
  • Upgrading from 10Gbase-T to 10GbE SFP+ optical networking
  • Upgrading the SATA cards
  • Modifying the tool-less lid design

They’re looking to roll this out in 2020 some time.

 

Tiger Style?

So what’s all this about Veeam, Tiger Bridge, and Backblaze B2? Historically, if you’ve been using Veeam from the cheap seats, it’s been difficult to effectively leverage object storage to use as a repository for longer term data storage. Backblaze and Tiger Technology have gotten together to develop an integration that allows you to use B2 storage to copy your Veeam protection data to the Backblaze cloud. There’s a nice overview of the solution that you can read here, and you can read some more comprehensive instructions here.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I keep banging on about it, but ten years feels like a long time to be hanging around in tech. I haven’t managed to stay with one employer longer than 7 years (maybe I’m flighty?). Along with the durability of the solution, the fact that Backblaze made the design open source, and inspired a bunch of companies to do something similar, is a great story. It’s stuff like this that I find inspiring. It’s not always about selling black boxes to people. Sometimes it’s good to be a little transparent about what you’re doing, and relying on a great product, competitive pricing, and strong support to keep customers happy. Backblaze have certainly done that on the consumer side of things, and the team assures me that they’re experiencing success with the B2 offering and their business-oriented data protection solution as well.

The Veeam integration is an interesting one. While B2 is an object storage play, it’s not S3-compliant, so they can’t easily leverage a lot of the built-in options delivered by the bigger data protection vendors. What you will see, though, is that they’re super responsive when it comes to making integrations available across things like NAS devices, and stuff like this. If I get some time in the next month, I’ll look at setting this up in the lab and running through the process.

I’m not going to wax lyrical about how Backblaze is democratising data access for everyone, as they’re in business to make money. But they’re certainly delivering a range of products that is enabling a variety of customers to make good use of technology that has potentially been unavailable (in a simple to consume format) previously. And that’s a great thing. I glossed over the news when it was announced last year, but the “Rebel Alliance” formed between Backblaze, Packet and ServerCentral is pretty interesting, particularly if you’re looking for a more cost-effective solution for compute and object storage that isn’t reliant on hyperscalers. I’m looking forward to hearing about what Backblaze come up with in the future, and I recommend checking them out if you haven’t previously. You can read Ken‘s take over at Gestalt IT here.

VMware – VMworld 2019 – HBI2537PU – Cloud Provider CXO Panel with Cohesity, Cloudian and PhoenixNAP

Disclaimer: I recently attended VMworld 2019 – US.  My flights and accommodation were paid for by Digital Sense, and VMware provided me with a free pass to the conference and various bits of swag. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated by VMware 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.

Here are my rough notes from “HBI2537PU – Cloud Provider CXO Panel with Cohesity, Cloudian and PhoenixNAP”, a panel-type presentation with the following people:

You can grab a PDF copy of my notes from here.

Introductions are done.

YR: William, given your breadth of experience, what are some of the emerging trends you’ve been seeing?

WB: Companies are struggling to keep up with the pace of information generation. Understanding the data, storing and retaining it, and protecting it. Multi-cloud adds a lot of complexity. We’ve heard studies that say 22% of data generated is actually usable. It’s just sitting there. Public cloud is still hot, but it’s settling down a little.

YR: William comes from a massive cloud provider. What are you guys using?

WB: We’ve standardised on vCloud Director (vCD) and vSphere. We came from build our own but it wasn’t providing the value that we hoped it would. Customers want a seamless way to manage multiple cloud resources.

YR: Are you guys familiar with VCPP?

AP: VCPP is the crown jewel of our partner program at VMware. 4000+ providers, 120+ countries, 10+ million VMs, 10000+ DCs. We help you save money, make money (things are services ready). We’re continuing to invest in vCD. Kubernetes, GPUs, etc. Lots of R&D.

YR: William, you mentioned you standardised on the VMware platform. Talk to us about your experience. Why vCD?

WB: It’s been a checkered past for vCD. We were one of the first five on the vCloud Express program in 2010 / 11. We didn’t like vCD in its 1.0 version. We thought we can do this better. And we did. We launched the first on-demand, pay by the hour public cloud for enterprise in 2011. But it didn’t really work out. 2012 / 13 we started to see investments being made in vCD. 5.0 / 5.5 improved. Many people thought vCD was gong to die. We now see a modern, flexible portal that can be customised. And we can take our devs and have them customise vCD, rather than build a customised portal. That’s where we can put our time and effort. We’ve always done things differently. Always been doing other things. How do we bring our work in visual cloud into that cloud provider portal with vCD?

YR: You have an extensive career at VMware.

RR: I was one of the first people to take vCD out to the world. But Enterprise wasn’t mature enough. When we focused on SPs, it was the right thing to do. DIY portals needs a lot of investment. VMware allows a lot of extensibility now. For us, as Cohesity, we want to be able to plug in to that as well.

WB: At one point we had 45 devs working on a proprietary portal.

YR: We’ve been doing a lot on the extensibility side. What role are services playing in cloud providers?

AP: It takes away the complexities of deploying the stack.

JT: We’re specifically in object. A third of our customers are service providers. You guys know that object is built for scale, easy to manage, cost-effective. 20% of the data gets used. We hear that customers want to improve on that. People are moving away from tape. There’s a tremendous opportunity for services built on storage. Amazon has shown that. Data protection like Cohesity. Big data with Splunk. You can offer an industry standard, but differentiate based on other services.

YR: As we move towards a services-oriented world, William how do you see cloud management services evolving?

WB: It’s not good enough to provide some compute infrastructure any more. You have to do something more. We’re stubbornly focussed on different types of IaaS. We’re not doing generic x86 on top of vSphere. Backup, DR – those are in our wheelhouse. From a platform perspective, more and more customers want some kind of single pane of glass across their data. For some that’s on-premises, for some its public, for some it’s SaaS. You have to be able to provide value to the customer, or they will disappear. Object storage, backup with Cohesity. You need to keep pace with data movement. Any cloud, any data, any where.

AP: I’ve been at VMware long enough not to drink the Kool-Aid. Our whole cloud provider business is rooted in some humility. vCD can help other people doing better things to integrate. vCD has always been about reducing OPEX. Now we’re hitting the top line. Any cloud management platform today needs to open, extensible, not try to do anything.

YR: Is the crowd seeing pressure on pure IaaS?

Commentator: Coming from an SP to enterprise is different. Economics. Are you able to do a show back with vCD 9 and vROps?

WB: We’re putting that in the hands of customers. Looking at CloudHealth. There’s a benefit to being in the business management space. You have the opportunity to give customers a better service. That, and more flexible business models. Moving into flexible billing models – gives more freedom to the enterprise customer. Unless you’re the largest of the large – enterprises have difficulty acting as a service provider. Citibank are an exception to this. Honeywell do it too. If you’re Discount Tire – it’s hard. You’re the guy providing the service, and you’re costing them money. There’s animosity – and there’s no choice.

Commentator: Other people have pushed to public because chargeback is more effective than internal show back with private cloud.

WB: IT departments are poorly equipped to offer a breadth of services to their customers.

JT: People are moving workloads around. They want choice and flexibility. VMware with S3 compatible storage. A common underlying layer.

YR: Economics, chargeback. Is VMware (and VCPP) doing enough?

WB: The two guys to my right (RR and JT) have committed to building products that let me do that. I’ve been working on object storage use cases. I was talking to a customer. They’re using our IaaS and connected to Amazon S3. You’ve gone to Amazon. They didn’t know about it though. Experience and cost that can be the same or better. Egress in Amazon S3 is ridiculous. You don’t know what you don’t know. You can take that service and deliver it cost-effectively.

YR: RR talk to us about the evolution of data protection.

RR: Information has grown. Data is fragmented. Information placement is almost unmanageable. Services have now become available in a way that can be audited, secured, managed. At Cohesity, first thing we did was data protection, and I knew the rest was coming. Complexity’s a problem.

YR: JT. We know Cloudian’s a leader in object storage. Where do you see object going?

JT: It’s the underlying storage layer of the cloud. Brings down cost of your storage layer. It’s all about TCO. What’s going to help you build more revenue streams? Cloudian has been around since 2011. New solutions in backup, DR, etc, to help you build new revenue streams. S3 users on Amazon are looking for alternatives. Many of Cloudian’s customers are ex-Amazon customers. What are we doing? vCD integration. Search Cloudian and vCD on YouTube. Continuously working to drive down the cost of managing storage. 1.5PB in a 4RU box in collaboration with Seagate.

WB: Expanding service delivery, specifically around object storage, is important. You can do some really cool stuff – not just backup, it’s M&E, it’s analytics. Very few of our customers are using object just to store files and folders.

YR: We have a lot of providers in the room. JT can you talk more about these key use cases?

JT: It runs the gamut. You can break it down by verticals. M&E companies are offering editing suites via service providers. People are doing that for the legal profession. Accounting – storing financial records. Dental records and health care. The back end is the same thing – compute with S3 storage behind it. Cloudian provides multi-tenanted, scalable performance. Cost is driven down as you get larger.

YR: RR your key use cases?

RR: DRaaS is hot right now. When I was at VMware we did stuff with SRM. DR is hard. It’s so simple now. Now every SP can do it themselves. Use S3 to move data around from the same interface. And it’s very needed too. Everyone should have ubiquitous access to their data. We have that capability. We can now do vulnerability scans on the data we store on the platform. We can tell you if a VM is compromised. You can orchestrate the restoration of an environment – as a service.

YR: WB what are the other services you want us to deliver?

WB: We’re an odd duck. One of our major practices is information security. The idea that we have intelligent access to data residing in our infrastructure. Being able to detect vulnerabilities, taking action, sending an email to the customer, that’s the type of thing that cloud providers have. You might not be doing it yet – but you could.

YR: Security, threat protection. RR – do you see Cohesity as the driver to solve that problem?

RR: Cohesity will provide the platform. Data is insecure because it’s fragmented. Cohesity lets you run applications on the platform. Virus scanners, run books, all kinds of stuff you can offer as a service provider.

YR: William, where does the onus lie, how do you see it fitting together?

WB: The key for us is being open. Eg Cohesity integration into vCD. If I don’t want to – I don’t have to. Freedom of choice to pick and choose where we went to deliver our own IP to the customer. I don’t have to use Cohesity for everything.

JT: That’s exactly what we’re into. Choice of hardware, management. That’s the point. Standards-based top end.

YR: Security

*They had 2 minutes to go but I ran out of time and had to get to another meeting. Informative session. 4 stars.

Random Short Take #20

Here are some links to some random news items and other content that I recently found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 20 – feels like it’s becoming a thing.

  • Scale Computing seems to be having a fair bit of success with their VDI solutions. Here’s a press release about what they did with Harlingen WaterWorks System.
  • I don’t read Corey Quinn’s articles enough, but I am glad I read this one. Regardless of what you think about the enforceability of non-compete agreements (and regardless of where you’re employed), these things have no place in the modern workforce.
  • If you’re getting along to VMworld US this year, I imagine there’s plenty in your schedule already. If you have the time – I recommend getting around to seeing what Cody and Pure Storage are up to. I find Cody to be a great presenter, and Pure have been doing some neat stuff lately.
  • Speaking of VMworld, this article from Tom about packing the little things for conferences in preparation for any eventuality was useful. And if you’re heading to VMworld, be sure to swing past the VMUG booth. There’s a bunch of VMUG stuff happening at VMworld – you can read more about that here.
  • I promise this is pretty much the last bit of news I’ll share regarding VMworld. Anthony from Veeam put up a post about their competition to win a pass to VMworld. If you’re on the fence about going, check it out now (as the competition closes on the 19th August).
  • It wouldn’t be a random short take without some mention of data protection. This article about tiering protection data from George Crump was bang on the money.
  • Backblaze published their quarterly roundup of hard drive stats – you can read more here.
  • This article from Paul on freelancing and side gigs was comprehensive and enlightening. If you’re thinking of taking on some extra work in the hopes of making it your full-time job, or just wanting to earn a little more pin money, it’s worthwhile reading this post.

Automation Anywhere – The Bots Are Here To Help

Disclaimer: I recently attended Tech Field Day 19.  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.

 

Automation Anywhere recently presented at Tech Field Day 19. You can see videos of their presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Robotic What?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the new hotness in enterprise software. Automation Anywhere raised over $550 million in funding in the last 12 months. That’s a lot of money. But what is RPA? It’s a way to develop workflows so that business processes can be automated. One of the cool things, though, is that it can develop these automation actions by observing the user perform the actions in the GUI, and then repeating those actions. There’s potential to make this more accessible to people who aren’t necessarily software development types.

Automation Anywhere started back in 2003, and the idea was to automate any application. Automation anywhere want to “democratise automation”, and “anything that can be automated, should be automated”. The real power of this kind of approach is that it, potentially, allows you do things you never did before. Automation Anywhere want us to “imagine a world where every job has a digital assistant working side by side, allowing people doing what they do best”.

[image courtesy of Automation Anywhere]

 

Humans are the Resource

This whole automating all the things mantra has been around for some time, and the idea has always been that we’re “[m]oving humans up the value chain”. Not only that, but RPA isn’t about digital transformation in the sense that a lot of companies see it currently, i.e. as a way to change the way they do things to better leverage digital tools. What’s interesting is that RPA is more focused on automating what you already have. You can then decide whether the process is optimal or whether it should be changed. I like this idea, if only because of the number of times I’ve witnessed small and large companies go through “transformations”, only to realise that what they were doing previously was pretty good, and they’d just made a few mistakes in terms of manual process creeping in.

Automation Anywhere told us that some people start with “I know that my job cannot be automated”, but it turns out that about 80% of their job is business tools based, and a lack of automation is holding them back from thinking strategically. We’ve seen this problem throughout the various industrial revolutions that have occurred, and people have invariably argued against steam-powered devices, and factory lines, and self-healing infrastructure.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Automation is a funny thing. It’s often sold to people as a means to give them back time in their day to do “higher order” activities within the company. This has been a message that has been around as long as I’ve been in IT. There’s an idea that every worker is capable of doing things that could provide more value to the company, if only they had more time. Sometimes, though, I think some folks are just good at breaking rocks. They don’t want to do anything else. They may not really be capable of doing anything else. And change is hard, and is going to be hard for them in particular. I’m not anticipating that RPA will take over every single aspect of the workplace, but there’s certainly plenty of scope for it to have a big presence in the modern enterprise. So much time is wasted on process that should really be automated, because it can give you back a lot of time in your day. And it also provides the consistency that human resources lack.

As Automation Anywhere pointed out in their presentation “every piece of software in the world changes how we work, but rarely do you have the opportunity to change what the work is”. And that’s kind of the point, I think. We’re so tied to do things in a business a certain way, and oftentimes we fill the gaps in workflows with people because the technology can’t keep up with what we’re trying to do. But if you can introduce tools into the business that can help you move past those shortfalls in workflow, and identify ways to improve those workflows, that could really be something interesting. I don’t know if RPA will solve all of our problems overnight, because humans are unfortunately still heavily involved in the decision making process inside enterprise, but it seems like there’s scope to do some pretty cool stuff with it.

If you’d like to read some articles that don’t just ramble on, check out Adam’s article here, Jim’s view here, and Liselotte’s article here. Marina posted a nice introduction to Automation Anywhere here, and Scott’s impression of Automation Anywhere’s security approach made for interesting reading. There’s a wealth of information on the Automation Anywhere website, and a community edition you can play with too.

Random Short Take #18

Here are some links to some random news items and other content that I recently found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 18 – buckle up kids! It’s all happening.

  • Cohesity added support for Active Directory protection with version 6.3 of the DataPlatform. Matt covered it pretty comprehensively here.
  • Speaking of Cohesity, Alastair wrote this article on getting started with the Cohesity PowerShell Module.
  • In keeping with the data protection theme (hey, it’s what I’m into), here’s a great article from W. Curtis Preston on SaaS data protection, and what you need to consider to not become another cautionary tale on the Internet. Curtis has written a lot about data protection over the years, and you could do a lot worse than reading what he has to say. And that’s not just because he signed a book for me.
  • Did you ever stop and think just how insecure some of the things that you put your money into are? It’s a little scary. Shell are doing some stuff with Cybera to improve things. Read more about that here.
  • I used to work with Vincent, and he’s a super smart guy. I’ve been at him for years to start blogging, and he’s started to put out some articles. He’s very good at taking complex topics and distilling them down to something that’s easy to understand. Here’s his summary of VMware vRealize Automation configuration.
  • Tom’s take on some recent CloudFlare outages makes for good reading.
  • Google Cloud has announced it’s acquiring Elastifile. That part of the business doesn’t seem to be as brutal as the broader Alphabet group when it comes to acquiring and discarding companies, and I’m hoping that the good folks at Elastifile are looked after. You can read more on that here.
  • A lot of people are getting upset with terms like “disaggregated HCI”. Chris Mellor does a bang up job explaining the differences between the various architectures here. It’s my belief that there’s a place for all of this, and assuming that one architecture will suit every situation is a little naive. But what do I know?

NetApp Wants You To See The Whole Picture

Disclaimer: I recently attended Tech Field Day 19.  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.

NetApp recently presented at Tech Field Day 19. You can see videos of their presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Management or Monitoring?

James Holden (Director, Cloud Analytics) delivered what I think was a great presentation on NetApp Cloud Insights. Early on he made the comment that “[w]e’re as read-only as we possibly can be. Being actionable puts you in a conversation where you’re doing something with the infrastructure that may not be appropriate.” It’s a comment that resonated with me, particularly as I’ve been on both sides of the infrastructure management and monitoring fence (yes, I know, it sounds like a weird fence – just go with it). I remember vividly providing feedback to vendors that I wanted their fancy single pane of glass monitoring solution to give me more management capabilities as well. And while they were at it, it would be great if they could develop software that would automagically fix issues in my environment as they arose.

But do you want your cloud monitoring tools to really have that much control over your environment? Sure, there’s a lot of benefit to be had deploying solutions that can reduce the stick time required to keep things running smoothly, but I also like the idea that the software won’t just dive in a fix what it perceives as errors in an environment based on a bunch of pre-canned constraints that have been developed by people that may or may not always have a good grip on what’s really happening in these types of environments.

Keep Your Cloud Happy

So what can you do with Cloud Insights? As it turns out, all kinds of stuff, including cost optimisation. It doesn’t always sound that cool, but customers are frequently concerned with the cost of their cloud investment. What they get with Cloud Insights is:

Understanding

  • What’s my last few months cost?
  • What’s my current month running cost
  • Cost broken down by AWS service, account, region?
  • Does it meet the budget?

Analysis

  • Real time cost analysis to alert on sudden rise in cost
  • Project cost over period of time

Optimisation

  • Save costs by using “reserved instances”
  • Right sizing compute resources
  • Remove waste: idle EC2 instances, unattached EBS volumes, unused reserved instances
  • Spot instance use

There are a heap of other features, including:

  • Alerting and impact analysis; and
  • Forensic analysis.

It’s all wrapped up in an alarmingly simple SaaS solution meaning quick deployment and faster time to value.

The Full Picture

One of my favourite bits of the solution though is that NetApp are striving to give you access to the full picture:

  • There are application services running in the environment; and
  • There are operating systems and hardware underneath.

“The world is not just VMs on compute with backend storage”, and NetApp have worked hard to ensure that the likes of micro services are also supported.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

One of the recurring themes of Tech Field Day 19 was that of management and monitoring. When you really dig into the subject, every vendor has a different take on what can be achieved through software. And it’s clear that every customer also has an opinion on what they want to achieve with their monitoring and management solutions. Some folks are quite keen for their monitoring solutions to take action as events arise to resolve infrastructure issues. Some people just want to be alerted about the problem and have a human intervene. And some enterprises just want an easy way to report to their C-level what they’re spending their money on. With all of these competing requirements, it’s easy to see how I’ve ended up working in enterprises running 10 different solutions to monitor infrastructure. They also had little idea what the money was being spent on, and had a large team of operations staff dealing with issues that weren’t always reported by the tools, or they got buried in someone’s inbox.

IT operations has been a hard nut to crack for a long time, and it’s not always the fault of the software vendors that it isn’t improving. It’s not just about generating tonnes of messages that no-one will read. It’s about doing something with the data that people can derive value from. That said, I think NetApp’s solution is a solid attempt at providing a useful platform to deliver on some pretty important requirements for the modern enterprise. I really like the holistic view they’ve taken when it comes to monitoring all aspects of the infrastructure, and the insights they can deliver should prove invaluable to organisations struggling with the myriad of moving parts that make up their (private and public) cloud footprint. If you’d like to know more, you can access the data sheet here, and the documentation is hosted here.

Random Short Take #15

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I recently found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 15 – it could become a regular thing. Maybe every other week? Fortnightly even.

Random Short Take #14

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 14 – giddy-up!

Big Switch Are Bringing The Cloud To Your DC

Disclaimer: I recently attended Dell Technologies World 2019.  My flights, accommodation and conference pass were paid for by Dell Technologies via the Media, Analysts and Influencers program. 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.

As part of my attendance at Dell Technologies World 2019 I had the opportunity to attend Tech Field Day Extra sessions. You can view the videos from the Big Switch Networks session here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

The Network Is The Cloud

Cloud isn’t a location, it’s a design principle. And networking needs to evolve with the times. The enterprise is hamstrung by:

  • Complex and slow operations
  • Inadequate visibility
  • Lack of operational consistency

It’s time that on-premises needs is built the same way as the service providers do it.

  • Software-defined;
  • Automated with APIs;
  • Open Hardware; and
  • Integrated Analytics.

APIs are not an afterthought for Big Switch.

A Better DC Network

  • Cloud-first infrastructure – design, build and operate your on-premises network with the same techniques used internally by public cloud operators
  • Cloud-first experience – give your application teams the same “as-a-service” network experience on-premises that they get with the cloud
  • Cloud-first consistency – uses the same tool chain to manage both on-premises and in-cloud networks

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

There are a number of reasons why enterprise IT folks are looking wistfully at service providers and the public cloud infrastructure setups and wishing they could do IT that way too. If you’re a bit old fashioned, you might think that loose and fast isn’t really how you should be doing enterprise IT – something that’s notorious for being slow, expensive, and reliable. But that would be selling the SPs short (and I don’t just say that because I work for a service provider in my day job). What service providers and public cloud folks are very good at is getting maximum value from the infrastructure they have available to them. We don’t necessarily adopt cloud-like approaches to infrastructure to save money, but rather to solve the same problems in the enterprise that are being solved in the public clouds. Gone are the days when the average business will put up with vast sums of cash being poured into enterprise IT shops with little to no apparent value being extracted from said investment. It seems to be no longer enough to say “Company X costs this much money, so that’s what we pay”. For better or worse, the business is both more and less savvy about what IT costs, and what you can do with IT. Sure, you’ll still laugh at the executive challenging the cost of core switches by comparing them to what can be had at the local white goods slinger. But you better be sure you can justify the cost of that badge on the box that runs your network, because there are plenty of folks ready to do it for cheaper. And they’ll mostly do it reliably too.

This is the kind of thing that lends itself perfectly to the likes of Big Switch Networks. You no longer necessarily need to buy badged hardware to run your applications in the fashion that suits you. You can put yourself in a position to get control over how your spend is distributed and not feel like you’re feeling to some mega company’s profit margins without getting return on your investment. It doesn’t always work like that, but the possibility is there. Big Switch have been talking about this kind of choice for some time now, and have been delivering products that make that possibility a reality. They recently announced an OEM agreement with Dell EMC. It mightn’t seem like a big deal, as Dell like to cosy up to all kinds of companies to fill apparent gaps in the portfolio. But they also don’t enter into these types of agreements without having seriously evaluated the other company. If you have a chance to watch the customer testimonial at Tech Field Day Extra, you’ll get a good feel for just what can be accomplished with an on-premises environment that has service provider like scalability, management, and performance challenges. There’s a great tale to be told here. Not every enterprise is working at “legacy” pace, and many are working hard to implement modern infrastructure approaches to solve business problems. You can also see one of their customers talk with my friend Keith about the experience of implementing and managing Big Switch on Dell Open Networking.