Qumulo – Storage Your Way

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 20.  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.

Qumulo recently presented at Storage Field Day 20. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.


Solving Problems The Qumulo Way

Extreme, Efficient Scalability

Legacy problem

  • Inefficient file system architectures only use 60-80% of purchased capacity
  • Limited capacity and file count scalability
  • Adding capacity and performance complex and often required downtime

Qumulo Solution

  • Get 100% out of your investment
  • Scale to hundreds of billions of files
  • Expand capacity and performance seamlessly

No More Tiers

Legacy problem

  • Data not available in fastest storage when users and applications request it
  • Tiering jobs were slow to execute and often didn’t complete, leaving risk of filling the performance tier

Qumulo Solution

  • Single-tier solution with predictive caching ensures performance SLAs are met
  • Simplified administration and full confidence in access to data


Legacy problem

  • Troubleshooting complexity, unforeseen growth expenditures, and usage bottlenecks plague IT
  • Impossible to track who is using data and for which projects

Qumulo Solution

  • Gain graphical, real-time visibility into user performance, usage trends and performance bottlenecks
  • Proactively plan for future requirements


Flash! Ah-ah

The development of an all-NVMe solution also means Qumulo can do even more to address legacy storage problems.

Intelligent Caching

  • Enables fast random reads from limited and expensive media (SSD)
  • Identifies read I/O patterns and promotes data from disk to SSD
  • Cache eviction policy leverages heat-based strategy

Predictive Prefetch

  • Enables very fast streaming reads
  • Proactively moves data to RAM by anticipating files that will likely be read in large, parallel batches or within a file
  • Constantly automatically adjusting if data is not used at per client granularity

All Writes Go To Flash

  • No special hardware components required
  • Data de-staged to optimise for HDD performance
  • Low latency NVMe makes writes much faster


Thoughts and Further Reading

We’ve been talking about the end of disk-based storage systems for some time now. But there still seems to be an awful lot of spinning drives being used around the globe to power a variety of different workloads. Hybrid storage still has a place in storage world, particularly when you need “good enough” performance in price-sensitive environments. What All-Flash does, however, is provide the ability to deliver some very, very good performance for those applications that need it. Doing high resolution video editing or need to render those files at high speed? An all-NVMe solution is likely what you’re after. But if you just need a bunch of capacity to store video surveillance files, or archives, then a hybrid solution will quite likely meet your requirements. The key to the Qumulo solution is that it can do both of those things whilst using a bunch of software smarts to help you get your unstructured data under control. It’s not just about throwing a new storage protocol at the problem and hoping things will run better / faster though. It’s also important to understand how the solution can scale out, and what kind of visibility you get with said solution. These are two critical aspects of storage solutions used in media production environments, particularly when being able to squeeze every last bit of performance out of the system is a key requirement, and you might be in a position where you need to throw a bunch of workload at the system in a hurry.

Qumulo strikes me as being a super popular solution for video editing, broadcast, production, and so forth. This is one of my favourite market segments, if only because the variety of workloads and solutions that cater to those workloads is pretty insane. That said, when you dig into other market segments, such as Artificial Intelligence and analytics workloads, you’ll also notice that unstructured data access is a common requirement. The delivery of an all-NVMe solution helps Qumulo provide the resources required to satisfy those high-performance applications. But the cool thing isn’t just the performance, or even the ability to scale. It’s the visibility you can get into the platform to work out what’s going on. Managing petabytes of unstructured data is a daunting task at the best of times, so it’s nice to see a company paying attention to making both the end user and the storage administrator happy. I’m the first to admit I haven’t been paying as much attention to Qumulo as I should have, but I will be doing so from now on. For another perspective, check out Ray Lucchesi’s article on Qumulo here.

Qumulo – Storage for people who care about their data

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 8.  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.

For each of the presentations I attended at SFD8, there are a few things I want to include in the post. Firstly, you can see video footage of the Qumulo presentation here. You can also download my raw notes from the presentation here. Finally, here’s a link to the Qumulo website that covers some of what they presented.



Qumulo is a 3.5 year old company from Seattle, WA that officially launched in March 2015. Interestingly, the founders invented OneFS and Isilon scale-out NAS. They pointed out that nowadays managing storage isn’t the big problem, it’s managing the data. Qumulo want to “[b]uild invisible storage that makes data visible”.


Ostensibly, Qumulo’s QSFS is a software-only layer that can work either with Qumulo’s appliances, roll your own hardware, VMs or cloud.


Qumulo sells storage to people that care a great deal about their data

Qumulo stated that their key design goals were to be:

  • Hardware agnostic;
  • Flexible;
  • Fast and scalable; and
  • File and object aware.

They want to achieve this by building “data-aware, primary scale-out storage systems that provide real-time analytics to give visibility into data usage and performance at scale”. Sounds like big ambitions, but Qumulo seem confident they can pull it off.

The solution is ideally suited to commercial HPC and large-scale unstructured data environments, with real-time analytics that provides the ability to curate and manage the data.

Qumulo have taken a flash-first hybrid design approach with their hardware. In their opinion this maximises both price / performance and price / capacity ratio. I tend to agree with this approach, given the relative sluggishness that we’ve seen with regard to the drop in price of flash.

Qumulo also employ a SaaS-type software delivery model, leveraging a subscription model not perpetual licenses to provide pay-as-you-go access to “continual software innovation”.Everything about the solution is 100% programmable, with a public and self-documenting REST API with interactive API explorer built-in to the product. Interestingly, the development and release cycle is tight, with new iterations of the platform being released every 2 weeks.

If you’re into hardware, you might be interested in reading some more about the Qumulo QC24 Hybrid Storage and QC208.


[image courtesy of Qumulo]

You can check the specs for yourself here, but think of the QC24 as the fast one and the QC208 as the big, dense one. Of note, Qumulo state that the supported cluster size is 4 – 1000 nodes. I think someone asked them about that and it hadn’t been tested with physical nodes yet. But the argument from Qumulo was that it was technically supported. Connectivity is also slightly different, with the QC24 Hybrid model sporting 2 * 10GbE SFP+ and the QC208 sporting 4 x 40GbE QSFP+. Cache is also slightly different to support the different capacities. Fine, so they’re not really the same.


Closing Thoughts and Further Reading

Qumulo state that they do “100% sales through channel”. I’ll be interested to see how long that model lasts. It’s something I always like to hear, as I work for a VAR, but oftentimes the reality is never quite as expected as the vendor grows and seeks new revenue opportunities.

In any case, as Qumulo pointed out in their presentation, we’re witnessing a shift in enterprise storage, moving from

  • Hardware-based to software-based;
  • Proprietary operating environments to linux-based OS platforms;
  • Hard drives -> flash-first hybrid appliances;
  • Petabytes of data to billions of files / objects; and
  • Storage management to data management.

Qumulo seem well-positioned, on paper at least, to flourish in this new world of enterprise storage. I like their approach to data rather than storage management. I’m really interested to see how they go over the next 12 months, particularly with the channel-only model and the rapid software development cycles.