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.

Kemp Keeps ECS Balanced

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 Kemp session here, and download my rough notes from here.


Kemp Overview

Established early 2000s, Kemp has around 25000+ customers globally, with 60000+ app deployments in over 115 countries. Their main focus is an ADC (Application Delivery Controller) that you can think of as a “fancy load balancer”. Here’s a photo of Frank Yue telling us more about that.

Application Delivery – Why?

  • Availability – transparent failover when application resources fail
  • Scalability – easily add and remove application resources to meet changing demands
  • Security – authenticate users and protect applications against attack
  • Performance – offload security processing and content optimisation to Load Balancer
  • Control – visibility on application resource availability, health and performance

Product Overview

Kemp offer a

LoadMaster – scalable, secure apps

  • Load balancing
  • Traffic optimisation 
  • Security

There are a few different flavours of the LoadMaster, including cloud-native, virtual, and hardware-based.

360 Central – control, visibility

  • Management
  • Automation
  • Provisioning

360 Vision – Shorter MTTD / MTTR

  • Predictive analytics
  • Automated incident réponse
  • Observability

Yue made the point that “[l]oad balancing is not networking. And it’s not servers either. It’s somehow in between”. Kemp look to “[d]eal with the application from the networking perspective”.



So what’s Dell EMC ECS then? ECS stands for “Elastic Cloud Storage”, and it’s Dell EMC’s software-defined object storage offering. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here are a few points to note:

  • Objects are bundled data with metadata;
  • The object storage application manages the storage;
  • No real file system is needed;
  • Easily scale by just adding disks;
  • Delivers a low TCO.

It’s accessible via an API and offers the following services:

  • S3
  • Atmos
  • Swift
  • NFS


Kemp / Dell EMC ECS Solution

So how does a load balancing solution from Kemp help? One of the ideas behind object storage is that you can lower primary storage costs. You can also use it to accelerate cloud native apps. Kemp helps with your ECS deployment by:

  • Maximising value from infrastructure investment
  • Improving service availability and resilience
  • Enabling cloud storage scalability for next generation apps

Load Balancing Use Cases for ECS

High Availability

  • ECS Node redundancy in the event of failure
  • A load balancer is required to allow for automatic failover and event distribution of traffic

Global Balancing

[image courtesy of Kemp]

  • Multiple clusters across different DCs
  • Global Server Load Balancing provides distribution of connections across these clusters based on proximity


  • Offloading encryption from the Dell EMC ECS nodes to Kemp LoadMaster can greatly increase performance and simplify the management of transport layer security certificates
  • IPv6 to IPv4 – Dell EMC ECS does not support IPv6 natively – Kemp will provide that translation to IPv4


Thoughts and Further Reading

The first thing that most people ask when seeing this solution is “Won’t the enterprise IT organisation already have a load-balancing solution in place? Why would they go to Kemp to help with their ECS deployment?”. It’s a valid point, but the value here is more that Dell EMC are recommending that customers use the Kemp solution over the built-in load balancer provided with ECS. I’ve witnessed plenty of (potentially frustrating) situations where enterprises deploy multiple load balancing solutions depending on the application requirements or where the project funding was coming from. Remember that things don’t always make sense when it comes to enterprise IT. But putting those issues aside, there are likely plenty of shops looking to deploy ECS in a resilient fashion that haven’t yet had the requirement to deploy a load balancer, and ECS is that first requirement. Kemp are clearly quite good at what they do, and have been in the load balancing game for a while now. The good news is if you adopt their solution for your ECS environment, you can look to leverage their other offerings to provide additional load balancing capabilities for other applications that might require it.

You can read the deployment guide from Dell EMC here, and check out Adam’s preparation post on Kemp here for more background information.

Dell EMC News From VMworld US 2018

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


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


Cloud Platforms

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


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

VxRack SDDC with VMware Cloud Foundation

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


Cloud-enabled Infrastructure

Focus is on the data

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

Cloud Data Protection

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

DD VE 4.0 Enhancements

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

Cloud Data Services

Dell EMC have already announced services such as:

And now you can get Dell EMC UnityVSA Cloud Edition.

UnityVSA Cloud Edition

[image courtesy of Dell EMC]

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


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

Enhancements include:

Data Domain Cloud Tier

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


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



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

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

Dell EMC Announces Isilon Update (with cameo from ECS)

Disclaimer: I recently attended Dell EMC World 2017.  My flights, accommodation and conference pass were paid for by Dell EMC via the Dell EMC Elect 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.


The latest generation of Isilon (previewed at Dell EMC World in Austin) was announced today. It’s a modular, in-chassis, flexible platform capable of hosting a mix of all-flash, hybrid and archive nodes. The smaller nodes, with a single socket driving 15 or 20 drives (so they can granularly tune the socket:spindle ratio), come in a 4RU chassis. Each chassis can accommodate 4 “sub-nodes”. Dell EMC are claiming some big improvements over the previous generation of Isilon hardware, with 6X file IOPS, 11X throughput, and 2X the capacity. Density is in too, and you can have up to 80 drives in a single chassis (using SATA drives). Dell EMC notes that it’s NVMe ready, but the CPU power to drive that isn’t there just yet. At launch it supports up to 144 nodes (in 36 chassis) and they’re aiming to get to 400 later in the year. Interestingly, there are now dual modes of backend connectivity (InfiniBand and Ethernet) to accommodate this increased number of nodes.
From a compute perspective, you’ll see the following specs:

  • Intel Broadwell CPU (with optimised compute to drive ratios)
  • Up to 6TB cache per node (2 Flash cards)
  • No SPoF
  • Networking flexibility – Infiniband, 10GbE/40GbE

Nodes can borrow power from neighbours if required too.

Dell EMC tell me this provides the following benefits:

  • 4:1 reduction in RU
  • Optimised IOPS and throughput
  • Future-proof, enduring design – snap in next-gen CPUs, networks
  • New levels of modular, hot-swappable serviceability

From a storage perspective, you’ll see a range of configurations:

  • From 72TB to 924TB in 4RU
  • 5 drive sleds per node. 3-6 drives per sled.
  • Front aisle, hot swap sleds and drives
  • Media flexibility: Flash, SAS and SATA media

Dell EMC tell me this provides the following benefits:

  • Start small and scale
  • Breakthrough density
  • Simplified serviceability and upgrades
  • Future-proof storage

Other Benefits?

Well, you get access to OneFS 8.1. You also get OPEX reduction by occupying a lot less space in the DC, and having the ability to host a lot more diversity of workloads. Dell EMC are also claiming this release provides unmatched resilience, availability, and security.

Scale? They’ve got that too.

From a capacity standpoint, you can start as small as 72TB (in one chassis) and expand that to over 33PB in a single volume and file system. In terms of performance, Dell EMC are telling me they’re getting up to 250K IOPs, 15GB/s, which scales to 9M IOPs, 540GB/s (aggregate throughput). Your mileage might vary, of course.


Speeds and Feeds

So what do the new models look like? You can guess, but I’ll say it anyway. F nodes are all flash, H nodes are hybrid, and A nodes are archive nodes.

F800 (All Flash)

  • 1.6TB, 3.2TB and 15.4TB Flash
  • 60 drives, up to 924TB per chassis
  • 250K IOPs per chassis
  • 15GB/s throughput

H600 (Hybrid)

  • 600GB and 1.2TB SAS drives
  • 120 drives and up to 144TB per chassis
  • 117K IOPs per chassis

H500, H400 (Hybrid)

  • 2/4/8TB SATA drives
  • 60 drives per chassis
  • Up to 480TB per chassis

A200 (Archive)

  • 2/4/8TB SATA drives
  • 60 drives per chassis
  • Up to 480TB per chassis

A2000 (Archive)

  • 10TB SATA drives
  • 80 drives per chassis
  • 800TB per chassis


“No node left behind”

One of the great things about Isilon is that you can seamlessly add “Next Gen” nodes to existing clusters. You’ve been able to do this with Isilon clusters for a very long time, obviously, and it’s nice to see Dell EMC maintain that capability. The benefits of this approach are that you can:

  • Beef up your existing Isilon clusters with Isilon all flash nodes; and
  • Consolidate your DC footprint by retiring older nodes.



OneFS has always been pretty cool and it’s now “optimised [for the] performance benefits of flash – without compromising enterprise features”. According to Dell EMC, flash wear is “yesterday’s problem”, and the F800 can sustain more writes per day than its total capacity every day for over 5 years before approaching limits. OneFS is now designed to go “From Edge to Core to Cloud” with IsilonSD Edge, the Next Generation Core and Cloud (with CloudPools -> AWS, Azure, Virtustream).


IsilonSD Edge

IsilonSD Edge has some new and improved features now too:

  • VMware ESXi Hypervisor
  • Full vCenter integration
  • Scale up to 36TB
  • Single server deployment
  • Back end SAN: ScaleIO, VSAN and VxRAIL
  • Dell PowerEdge 14G Support



Dell EMC also talked about their vision for ECS.Next, coming in the next year.

  • Data streaming
  • Enterprise Hardening
  • Certifications
  • Compliance
  • Economics
  • Hybrid Cloud

Big bets?

  • Hybrid Cloud
  • Batch and real-time analytics and stream processing
  • Massive scale @ low cost with new enterprise capabilities


Hybrid Cloud

Dell EMC are launching a ECS Dedicated Cloud (ECS DC) Service. This is on-demand ECS storage, managed by Dell EMC and running on dedicated, single-tenant servers hosted in a Virtustream DC. It’s available in hybrid and fully hosted multi-site configurations.

So what’s in the box?

You get some dedicated infrastructure

  • Customer owned ECS rack
  • Dedicated network / firewall / load balancer

You also get 24×7 support of hosted sites from a professional DevOps team

  • Strong expertise in operating ECS
  • Proactive monitoring and fast response

As well as broad Geo coverage

  • 5 DCs available across US (Las Vegas, Virginia) and Europe (France, London, Netherlands)
  • Coming to APJ by end of 2017

It will run on a subscription model, with a 1 year or 3 year contract available.


Project Nautilus

The team also took us through “Project Nautilus”, a batch and real-time analytics and stream processing solution.

Streaming storage and analytics engine

  • Scale to manage 1000s of high-volume IoT data sources
  • Eliminate real-time and batch analytics silos
  • Tier inactive data seamlessly and cost effectively

I hope to cover more on this later. They’re also working on certifications in terms of Hadoop and Centera migrations too (!). I’m definitely interested in the Centera story.



I’ve been a fan of Isilon for some time. It does what it promises on the tin and does it well. The Nitro announcement last year left a few of us scratching our heads (myself included), but I’m on board with a number of the benefits from adopting this approach. Some people are just going to want to consume things in a certain way (VMAX AF is a good example of this), and Dell EMC have been pretty good at glomming onto those market opportunities. And, of course, in much the same way as we’re no longer running SCSI disks everywhere, Flash does seem to be the medium of the future. I’m looking forward to seeing ECS progress as well, given the large numbers of scale-out, object-based storage solutions on the market today. If you’d like to read more about the new Isilon platform, head over to Dell EMC’s blog to check it out.


Dell EMC Announces ECS 3.0


Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS to its friends) has been around a little while. Today Dell EMC announced the release of version 3.0. I thought I’d cover off some of the reasons why ECS might be something you’d be interested in. I’ll then go through the new features with ECS 3.0. If you make it that far you’ll be treated to some light opinionalysis to finish off.


Why ECS?

Dell EMC provided me with a list of reasons why you might want to consider ECS.

Highly Efficient Data Protection

One of the problems we have is protecting unstructured data at scale. To this end, ECS uses a hybrid protection scheme comprised of triple mirroring, erasure coding and XOR algorithms. The key benefits of this approach are:

  • Lower storage overhead option for cold data scenarios
  • Enhanced data durability without the overhead of storing multiple copies


Efficient Large and Small File Storage

  • Small files stored in cache and written to a single disk through box-carting
  • Large files over 128MB in size are erasure coded immediately vs triple mirroring and erasure coded later
  • Provides up to 20% higher throughput for larger files


Fully Geo-distributed High Availability & Protection

  • A geographically distributed environment that acts as single logical resource
  • Active/Active platform with access to content through a single global namespace
  • Provides geo-caching to improve operational performance and reduces latency
  • Read/write access from any location globally


Comprehensive Data Access

Simultaneous access to underlying data through multiple interfaces

  • Object, File, HDFS
  • Support for S3, Swift, Atmos, Centera CAS, and NFS v3
  • HDFS compatible with Cloudera, Pivotal, Hortonworks, etc.

What does this mean?

  • Native Upgrade path for Centera/Atmos
  • Enables S3 like offering in-house
  • Eliminates storage gateways
  • Breaks down storage silos


Native Multi-tenant Architecture

  • Shared storage resources amongst multiple applications and tenants
  • System securely and automatically separates Namespaces, object buckets and users
  • Integration with LDAP and AD environments
  • Ensures the integrity of customers’ stored data


Built-in Metadata search

Integrated Metadata storage – store metadata using the same constructs as objects eliminating the need for a separate database and infrastructure to run it.

Metadata search via SQL construct

  • Enables applications and users to query metadata using SQL constructs. Supports several attribute and sort functions.
  • Global metadata search
  • Enables applications and users to search across the global namespace.


So what’s really new in 3.0?

So this ECS stuff is great, but what’s exciting about 3.0?

Advanced Retention Management

  • Event Based Retention – Enables application to specify retention period that will start when a specified event occurs
  • Litigation Hold – Enables application to temporarily prevent deletion of an object that is subject to an investigation or legal action
  • Min/Max Governor – Enables system administrator to specify a min and max value for the default retention period


This unblocks Centera customers using ARM from migration to ECS. I’m actually really excited about this, mainly because I was a big Centera fanboy and have found it difficult to put forward other EMC solutions to replace it for customers heavily leveraging ARM.


SNMP Traps Support

  • ECS 3.0 will support for SNMP Traps for ECS critical events
  • SNMP Traps is an optional feature, based on whether system admin configures SNMP information via UI/API
  • When configured, ECS sends a SNMP Trap to the configured server for any event that causes an alert on the management API
  • ECS supports the ability to configure up to 10 SNMP Trap Destination targets
  • SNMPv2 and SNMPv3 (USM mode) support
  • SNMP Query Service support (CPU & Memory)


Remote Syslog Support

  • Shipping ECS Monitoring & Diagnostics logs to a remote syslog server
  • Ability to forward all ECS Audit Logs and ECS Alerts to a centralized Syslog server
  • Forward OS syslog messages
  • Support for UDP and TCP based communication with syslog servers
  • Support for multiple redundant syslog servers , all active
  • Distributed service, resilient to node failures
  • Only System Admin can perform syslog management operations
  • Specify a severity threshold of logs to be forwarded
  • Ability to Add, Edit and Delete Syslog server configuration from the portal and REST API
  • Logs can be seen on ECS nodes in /var/log/<node IP>/syslog.log


Platform Lockdown

ECS will support a ability to do the following via the ECS RESTful management API

  • Lockdown an entire cluster
  • Lockdown a specific node
  • Unlock a locked node

A new management user role, the lock admin user, for locking is defined that will have the privilege of locking/unlocking the cluster.

In ECS 3.0 this will be a pre-provisioned local user ‘emcsecurity’.

The lock admin user i.e. ‘emcsecurity’ will have the ability to

  • Modify their password (forced during first login)
  • Lock the cluster
  • Lock a node
  • Unlock a node

System admin/monitor has the privilege to view the lock status of a node but NOT modify it


Thoughts and Further Reading

I’ve been talking to a lot of scale-out object storage folks lately. Given the amount of EMC stuff I’ve covered here previously, it’s a little surprising that this is the first time I’ve posted about ECS. That doesn’t mean it’s the first time I’ve looked, and I’ve had customers looking at it fairly seriously. In my opinion, the advanced retention management in 3.0 is really going to put a few customers over the line and finally give them the confidence to throw their Centera grids in the river (figuratively speaking).

The cool thing about ECS, like a lot of these types of solutions, is that you can consume it on your terms, via

  • Appliance;
  • Software defined;
  • Dedicated cloud; and
  • Multi-tenant Storage Cloud.

If you’re feeling keen on ECS, you can take it for a spin here. You can also download a version for free, non-production use here. Grab the datasheet from here.