Huawei – Probably Not What You Expected

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 15.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

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


Back In The Day

Huawei have been working with Flash technologies since 2005.

[image courtesy of Huawei]


Their first AFA came to market in 2011 (the Dorado 2100 & 5100, offering 6Gbit/s SAS SSDs) and in 2017 they released their first NVMe AFA. This was a refresh of the Dorado line and offers 0.5ms latency and 3:1 data reduction (more on that later).

Interestingly, they also make their own SSDs, along with their own storage controller chips.


It’s A Box

Not the kind of box that the good lads at Pied Piper tried to sell, but there is hardware involved. And software for that matter. It supports a lot of the features you’d look for in a modern storage platform, including:

  • Thin provisioning;
  • In-line global deduplication;
  • Support for VMware VVOLs;
  • Intelligent QoS;
  • In-line compression;
  • Synchronous and asynchronous replication;
  • Heterogeneous storage virtualisation;
  • Writable snapshots;
  • Metro clustering via synchronous replication;
  • LUN migration and cloning; and
  • Internal encryption key management.

From a hardware perspective, there are a variety of speeds and feeds available supporting iSCSI, FC and InfiniBand.


Let’s Do Something Nice With The Data

Data protection capabilities, such as snapshots and clones, have been around for some time, and Huawei provide the ability to do both. HyperSnap provides support for “instant, writable snapshots with no performance penalty”, while HyperClone provides the ability to create clones quickly and easily. There’s also data efficiency technology in the form of SmartDedupe and SmartCompression. Huawei seem quite keen to put their money where their mouth is (can a company do that?), and offer a 3:1 Dedupe guarantee. This doesn’t apply to every bit of data (i.e. not your movie collection) but it does apply to database and virtual machine data (or other data depending on the output of their data reduction evaluation tool). The great news is it’s flexible (meaning you can turn deduplication and compression on or off individually) as well as being global and inline.

They also provide “Evolvable Data Protection Schemes” which basically means you can start with a presence in one data centre and evolve your replication / remote site protection strategy as you go with limited re-configuration necessary. The fan-in ratio goes up to 64:1 too, which is a nice high number.

[image courtesy of Huawei]


Thoughts And Further Reading

I’m the first to admit I was pretty ignorant of Huawei’s storage portfolio prior to this presentation. I’ve seen Huawei logos in data centres before, but they were mostly on the front of comms gear, not storage devices. Clearly, they’ve been in the game for a while and are doing some pretty neat stuff with their platform. On the surface, it looks like they’re doing a lot of the things that the likes of EMC and IBM have done before. But once you dig into the architecture a little, it becomes clear that there’s some really cool tech being deployed, and that a lot of thought and research has gone into the product.

Whilst a number fo the features available in the platform might seem like table stakes to some, it strikes me that Huawei have gone to some effort to ensure that the capabilities people really rely on in a storage platform, such as data integrity and protection options, are delivered in a robust and reliable fashion. I’m always a fan of companies that back themselves when it comes to data efficiency guarantees, and I appreciate that Huawei call out the fact that you should run everything through their tool before they guarantee the guarantee. I’m also a big fan of flexible replication options, with the ability to replicate to multiple DCs being a nice touch. Sure, it might have been a while since you found yourself in that position, but there are plenty of enterprises out there that will benefit from this workhouse approach to performance storage. The focus on hardware and software integration is not as common as it once was, but Huawei are doing a decent job of controlling their own destiny by sticking with that approach.

Huawei probably aren’t at the top of your shopping list when it comes to enterprise storage arrays, but after watching their presentation I think they’re worthy of a second look.