Protocol support, as would be expected with the Unity, is broad, with support for File (NFS, SMB), Block (iSCSI, FC), and Object (S3) data storage protocols within the one unified platform.
These were hinted at with the release of Unity 7.0, but the Nexsan Unity NV10000 boosts performance by increasing bandwidths of up to 25GB/s, enabling you to scale performance up as your application needs evolve.
Other Useful Features
As you’d expect from this kind of storage array, the Nexsan Unity NV10000 also delivers features such as:
High availability (HA);
Data at rest encryption; and
Storage pool scrubbing to protect against bit rot, avoiding silent data corruption.
Unity supports a comprehensive Host OS matrix and is certified as a Veeam Ready Repository for backups. Interestingly, the Nexsan Unity NV10000 also provides data security, regulations compliance, and ransomware recoverability. The platform also supports immutable block and file and S3 object locking, for data backup that is unchangeable and cannot be encrypted, even by internal bad actors.
I’m not as much of a diskslinger as I used to be, but I’m always interested to hear about what StorCentric / Nexsan has been up to with its storage array releases. It strikes me that the company does well by focussing on those features that customers are looking for (fast storage, peace of mind, multiple protocols) and also by being able to put it in a form-factor that appeals in terms of storage density. While the ecosystem around StorCentric is extensive, it makes sense for the most part, with the various components coming together well to form a decent story. I like that the company has really focussed on ensuring that Unity isn’t just a cool product name, but also a key part of the operating environment that powers the solution.
In short, there’s a fair bit that’s gone into this release, and I’ll cover these below.
The Unity platform already supported FC, iSCSI, NFS, and SMB. It now supports S3 as well, making interoperability with data protection software that supports S3 as a target even simpler. It also means you can do stuff with Object Locking, and I’ll cover that below.
[image courtesy of Nexsan]
There have also been some enhancements to the speeds supported on the Unity hardware interfaces, and FC now supports up to 32Gbps, and support for 1/10/25/40/100GbE over Ethernet.
Security, Compliance and Ransomware Protection
Unity now supports immutable volume and file system snapshots for data protection. This provides secure point-in-time copies of data for business continuity. As I mentioned before, there’s also support for object locking, enabling bucket or object-level protection for a specified retention period to create immutable copies of data. This allows enterprises to address compliance, regulatory and other data protection requirements. Finally, there’s now support for pool-scrubbing to detect and remediate bit rot to avoid data corruption.
There have been increases in total throughput capability, with Varanasi telling me that Total Throughput has increased up to 13GB/s on existing platforms. There’s also been a significant improvement in the Unity to Assureon ingestion rate. I’ve written a little about the Unbreakable Backup solution before, and there’s a lot to like about the architecture.
[image courtesy of Nexsan]
This is the first time that Nexsan has announced enhancements to its Unity platform without incorporating some kind of hardware refresh, so the company is testing the waters in some respects. I think it’s great when storage companies are able to upgrade their existing hardware platforms with software and offering improved performance and functionality. There’s a lot to like in this release, particularly when it comes to the improved security and data integrity capabilities. Sure, not everyone wants object storage available on their midrange storage array, but it makes it a lot more accessible, particularly if you only need a few 100TB of object. The object lock capability, along with the immutable snapshotting for SMB and NFS users, really helps improve the overall integrity and resiliency of the platform as well.
StorCentric now has a pretty broad portfolio of storage and data protection products available, and you can see the integrations between the different lines are only going to increase as time goes on. The company has been positioning itself as a data-centric company for some time, and working hard to ensure that improved security is a big part of that solution. I think there’s a great story here for customers looking to leverage one vendor to deliver storage, data protection, and data security capabilities into the enterprise. The bad guys in hoodies are always looking for ways to make your day unpleasant, so when vendors are working to tighten up their integrations across a variety of products, it can only be a good thing in terms of improving the resilience and availability of your critical information assets. I’m looking forward to hearing what’s next with Nexsan and StorCentric.
DMS is being positioned as a suite of “data cloud services” by StorCentric, with a focus on:
Data consistency; and
It has the ability to operate across heterogeneous storage, clouds, and protocols. It’s a software solution based on subscription licensing and uses a policy-driven engine to manage data in the enterprise. It can run on bare-metal or as a VM appliance. Object storage platform / cloud support if fairly robust, with AWS, Backblaze B2, and Wasabi, amongst others, all being supported.
[image courtesy of StorCentric]
There are a number of scenarios where a solution like DMS makes sense. You might have a bunch of NFS storage on-premises, for example, and want to move it to a cloud storage target using S3. Another use case cited involved collaboration across multiple sites, with the example being a media company creating content in three places, and working in different time zones, and wanting to move the data back to a centralised location.
Speaking to StorCentric about the announcement, it was clear that there’s a lot more on the DMS roadmap. Block storage is something the team wants to tackle, and they’re also looking to deliver analytics and ransomware alerting. There’s also a strong desire to provide governance as well. For example, if I want to copy some data somewhere and keep it for 10 years, I’ll configure DMS to take care of that for me.
Thoughts and Further Reading
Data management means a lot of things to a lot of people. Storage companies often focus on moving blocks and files from one spot to another, but don’t always do a solid job of capturing data needs to be stored where it does. Or how, for that matter. There’s a lot more to data management than keeping ones and zeroes in a safe place. But it’s not just about being able to move data from one spot to another. It’s about understanding the value of your data, and understanding where it needs to be to deliver the most value to your organisation. Whilst it seems like DMS is focused primarily on moving data from one spot to another, there’s plenty of potential here to develop a broader story in terms of data governance and mobility. There’s built-in security, and the ability to apply levels of data governance to data in various locations. The greater appeal here is also the ability to automate the movement of data to different places based on policy. This policy-driven approach becomes really interesting when you start to look at complicated collaboration scenarios, or need to do something smart with replication or data migration.
Ultimately, there are a bunch of different ways to get data from one point to another, and a bunch of different reasons why you might need to do that. The value in something like DMS is the support for heterogeneous storage platforms, as well as the simple to use GUI support. Plenty of data migration tools come with extremely versatile command line interfaces and API support, but the trick is delivering an interface that is both intuitive and simple to navigate. It’s also nice to have a few different use cases met with one tool, rather than having to reach into the bag a few different times to solve very similar problems. StorCentric has a lot of plans for DMS moving forward, and if those plans come to fruition it’s going to form a very compelling part of the typical enterprise’s data management toolkit. You can read the press release here.
The new Unity models announced are the 3300 and 7900. Both models use two controllers and vary in capacity between 1.6PB and 6.7PB. They both use the Intel Xeon E5 v4 Family processors, and have between 256GB and 448GB of system RAM. There are hybrid storage options available, and both systems support RAID 5, 6, and 10. You can access the spec sheet here.
One of the more interesting use cases we discussed was what StorCentric refer to as “Unbreakable Backup”. The idea behind Nexsan Unbreakable Backup is that you can use your preferred data protection vendor to send backup data to a Unity array. This data can then be replicated to Nexsan’s Assureon platform. The cool thing about the Assureon is that it’s a locked down solution. So even if you’re hit with a ransomware attack, it’s going to be mighty hard for the bad guys to crack the Assureon platform as well, as StorCentric uses a Key Management System hosted inside StorCentric, and provides minimal privileges to end users.
There’s also a Data Mobility Suite coming at the end of Q3, including:
Cloud Connector, giving you the ability to replicate data from Unity to 18 Public clouds including Amazon and Google (for unstructured data, cloud-based backup); and
Flexible Data Migrations – streamline Unity implementations, migrate data from heterogeneous systems.
Thoughts and Further Reading
I’ve written enthusiastically about Assureon in the past, so it was nice to revisit the platform via this announcement. Ransomware is a scary prospect for many organisations, so a system that can integrate nicely to help with protecting protection data seems like a pretty good idea. Sure, having to replicate the data to a second system might seem like an unnecessary expense, but organisations should be assessing the value of that investment against the cost of having corporate data potentially irretrievably corrupted. Insurance against ransomware attacks probably seems like something that you shouldn’t need to spend money on, until you need to spend money recovering, or sending bitcoin to some clown because you need your data back. It’s not appealing by any stretch, but it’s also important to take precautions wherever possible.
Midrange storage is by no means a sexy topic to talk about. In my opinion it’s a well understood architecture that most tier 1 companies do pretty well nowadays. But that’s the beauty of the midrange system in a lot of ways – it’s a well understood architecture. So you generally know what you’re getting with hybrid (or all-flash) dual controller systems. The Unity range from Nexsan is no different, and that’s not a bad thing. There are a tonne of workloads in the enterprise today that aren’t necessarily well suited to cloud (for the moment), and just need some block or file storage and a bit of resiliency for good measure. The Unity series of arrays from Nexsan offer a bunch of useful features, including tiering and a variety of connectivity options. It strikes me that these arrays are a good fit for a whole lot of workloads that live in the data centre, from enterprise application hosting through to data protection workloads. If you’re after a reliable workhorse, it’s worth looking into the Unity range.
Welcome to Random Short Take #38. Not a huge amount of players have worn 38 in the NBA, and I’m not going to pretend I was ever a Kwame Brown fan. Although it did seem like he had a tough time of it. Anyway let’s get random.
Ransomware is the new hotness. Or, rather, protecting storage systems from ransomware is the new hotness. My man Chin-Fah had a writeup on that here. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when you’ll run into a problem. It’s been interesting to see the various approaches being taken by the storage vendors and the data protection companies.
This was a great article from Alastair on some of the differences between networking with AWS and VMC on AWS. As someone who works for a VMware Cloud Provider, I can confirm that NSX (T or V, I don’t care) has a whole slew of capabilities and whole slew of integration challenges.
Are you Zoomed out? I am. Even when you think the problem can’t be the network, it might just be the network (I hope my friends in networking appreciate that it’s not always the storage). John Nicholson posted a typically comprehensive overview of how your bandwidth might be one of the things keeping you from demonstrating excellent radio voice on those seemingly endless meetings you’re doing at the moment. It could also be that you’re using crap audio devices too, but I think John’s going to cover that in the future.
Scale Computing has a good story to tell about what it’s been doing with a large school district in the U.S. Read more about that here.
This is one of those promotions aimed at my friends in Northern America more than folks based where I am, but I’m always happy to talk about deals on data protection. StorCentric has launched its “Retrospect Dads & Grads Promotion” offering a free 90-Day subscription license for every Retrospect Backup product. You can read more about that here.
Nexsan recently announced the release of its new E-Series 18F (E18F) storage platform. I had the chance to chat with Surya Varanasi, CTO of StorCentric, about the announcement and thought I’d share some thoughts here.
Less Disk, More Flash
[image courtesy of Nexsan]
The E18F is designed and optimised for quad-level cell (QLC) NAND technology. If you’re familiar with the Nexsan E-Series range, you’d be aware of the E18P that preceded this model. This is the QLC Flash version of that.
We spoke about a couple of use cases for the E18F. The first of these was with data lake environments. These are the sort of storage environents with 20 to 30PB installations that are subjected to random workload pressures. The idea of using QLC is to increase the performance without significantly increasing the cost. That doesn’t mean that you can do a like for like swap of HDDs for QLC Flash. Varanasi did, however, suggest that Nexsan had observed a 15x improvement over hard drive installation for around 3-4 times the cost, and he’s expecting that to go down to 2-3 times in the future. There is also the option to use just a bit of QLC Flash with a lot of HDDs to get some performance improvement.
The other use case discussed was the use of QLC in test and dev environments. Users are quite keen, obviously, on getting Flash in their environments at the price of HDDs. This isn’t yet a realistic goal, but it’s more achievable with QLC than it is with something like TLC.
QLC And The Future
We spoke briefly about more widespread adoption of QLC across the range of StorCentric storage products. Varanasi said the use “will eventually expand across the portfolio”, and they were looking at how it might be adopted with the larger E-Series models, as well as with the Assureon and Vexata range. They were treating Unity more cautiously, as the workloads traditionally hosted on that platform were a little more demanding.
Thoughts and Further Reading
The kind of workloads we’re throwing at what were once viewed as “cheap and deep” platforms is slowly changing. Where once it was perhaps acceptable to wait a few days for reporting runs to finish, there’s no room for that kind of performance gap now. So it makes sense that we look to Flash as a way of increasing the performance of the tools we’re using. The problem, however, is that when you work on data sets in the petabyte range, you need a lot of capacity to accommodate that. Flash is getting cheaper, but it’s still not there when compared to traditional spinning disks. QLC is a nice compromise between performance and capacity. There’s a definite performance boost to be had, and the increase in cost isn’t eye watering. StorCentric Announces QLC E-Series 18F
I’m interested to see how this solution performs in the real world, and whether QLC has the expected durability to cope with the workloads that enterprise will throw at it. I’m also looking forward to seeing where else Nexsan decide to use QLC in its portfolio. There’s good story here in terms of density, performance, and energy consumption – one that I’m sure other vendors will also be keen to leverage. For another take on this, check out Mellor’s article here.