StorONE Q3-2020 Update

StorONE recently announced details of its Q3-2020 software release. I had the opportunity to talk about the announcement with George Crump and thought I’d share some brief thoughts here.

 

Release Highlights

Performance Improvements

One of the key highlights of this release is significant performance improvements for the platform based purely on code optimisations. Crump tells me that customers with Intel Optane and NVMe SSDs will be extremely happy with what they see. What’s also notable is that customers still using high latency media such as hard disk drives will still see a performance improvement of 15 – 20%.

Data Protection

StorONE has worked hard on introducing some improved resilience for the platform as well, with two key features being made available:

  • vRack; and
  • vReplicate.

vRack provides the ability to split S1 storage across more than one rack (or row, for that matter) to mitigate any failures impacting the rack hosting the controllers and disk enclosures. You can now also set tolerance for faults at an enclosure level, not just a drive level.

[image courtesy of StorONE]

vReplicate extends S1:Replicate’s capabilities to provide cascading replication. You can now synchronously replicate between data centres or campus sites and then asynchronously send that data to another site, hundreds of kilometres away if necessary. Primary systems can be an All-Flash Array.next, traditional All-Flash Array, or a Hybrid Array, and the replication target can be an inexpensive hard disk only S1 system.

[image courtesy of StorONE]

There’s now full support for Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) for S1:Snap users.

 

Other Enhancements

Some of the other enhancements included with this release are:

  • Improved support for NVMe-oF (including the ability to simultaneously support iSCSI and FC along with NVMe);
  • Improved NAS capability, with support for quotas and NIS / LDAP; and
  • Downloadable stats for increased insights.

 

Thoughts

Some of these features might seem like incremental improvements, but this is an incremental release. I like the idea of supporting legacy connections while supporting the ability to add newer tech to the platform, and providing a way forward in terms of hardware migration. The vRack resiliency concept is also great, and a salient reminder that the ability to run this code on commodity hardware makes some of these types of features a little more accessible. I also like the idea of being able to download analytics data and do things with it to gain greater insights into what the system is doing. Sure, it’s an incremental improvement, but an important one nonetheless.

I’ve been a fan of the StorONE story for some time now (and not just because the team slings a few dollars my way to support the site every now and then). I think the key to much of StorONE’s success has been that it hasn’t gotten caught up trying to be a storage appliance vendor, and has instead focussed on delivering reliable code on commodity systems that results in a performance-oriented storage platform that continues to improve from a software perspective without being tied to a particular hardware platform. The good news is though, when new hardware becomes available (such as Optane), it’s not a massive problem to incorporate it into the solution.

StorONE has always talked a big game in terms of raw performance numbers, but I think it’s the addition of features such as vRack and improvements to the replication capability that really makes it a solution worth investigating. It doesn’t hurt that you can check the pricing calculator out for yourself before you decide to go down the path of talking to StorONE’s sales team. I’m looking forward to seeing what StorONE has in store in the next little while, as I get the impression it’s going to be pretty cool. You can read details of the update here.

StorONE Announces AFA.next

StorONE recently announced the All-Flash Array.next (AFAn). I had the opportunity to speak to George Crump (StorONE Chief Marketing Officer) about the news, and thought I’d share some brief thoughts here.

 

What Is It? 

It’s a box! (Sorry I’ve been re-watching Silicon Valley with my daughter recently).

[image courtesy of StorONE]

More accurately, it’s an Intel Server with Intel Optane and Intel QLC storage, powered by StorONE’s software.

S1:Tier

S1:Tier is StorONE’s tiering solution. It operates within the parameters of a high and low watermark. Once the Optane tier fills up, the data is written out, sequentially, to QLC. The neat thing is that when you need to recall the data on QLC, you don’t necessarily need to move it all back to the Optane tier. Rather, read requests can be served directly from QLC. StorONE call this a multi-tier capability, because you can then move data to cloud storage for long-term retention if required.

[image courtesy of StorONE]

S1:HA

Crump noted that the Optane drives are single ported, leading some customers to look highly available configurations. These are catered for with a variation of S1:HA, where the HA solution is now a synchronous mirror between 2 stacks.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I’m not just a fan of StorONE because the company occasionally throws me a few dollarydoos to keep the site running. I’m a fan because the folks over there do an awful lot of storage type stuff on what is essentially commodity hardware, and they’re getting results that are worth writing home about, with a minimum of fuss. The AFAn uses Optane as a storage tier, not just read cache, so you get all of the benefit of Optane write performance (many, many IOPS). It has the resilience and data protection features you see in many midrange and enterprise arrays today (namely vRAID, replication, and snapshots). Finally, it has varying support for all three use cases (block, file, and object), so there’s a good chance your workload will fit on the box.

More and more vendors are coming to market with Optane-based storage solutions. It still seems that only a small number of them are taking full advantage of Optane as a write medium, instead focusing on its benefit as a read tier. As I mentioned before, Crump and the team at StorONE have positioned some pretty decent numbers coming out of the AFAn. I think the best thing is that it’s now available as a configuration item on the StorONE TRUprice site as well, so you can see for yourself how much the solution costs. If you’re after a whole lot of performance in a small box, this might be just the thing. You can read more about the solution and check out the lab report here. My friend Max wrote a great article on the solution that you can read here.

StorONE Announces S1:TRUprice

StorONE recently announced S1:TRUprice. I had the opportunity to talk about the announcement with George Crump, and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

What Is It?

A website that anyone can access that provides a transparent view of StorONE’s pricing. There are three things you’ll want to know when doing a sample configuration:

  • Capacity
  • Use case (All-Flash, Hybrid, or All-HDD); and
  • Preferred server hardware (Dell EMC, HPE, Supermicro)

There’s also an option to do a software-only configuration if you’d rather roll your own. In the following example, I’ve configured HPE hardware in a highly available fashion with 92TB of capacity. This costs US $97243.14. Simple as that. Once you’re happy with the configuration, you can have a formal quote sent to you, or choose to get on a call with someone.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Astute readers will notice that there’s a StorONE banner on my website, and the company has provided funds that help me pay the costs of running my blog. This announcement is newsworthy regardless of my relationship with StorONE though. If you’ve ever been an enterprise storage customer, you’ll know that getting pricing is frequently a complicated endeavour. there’s rarely a page hosted on the vendor’s website that provides the total cost of whatever array / capacity you’re looking to consume. Instead, there’ll be an exercise involving a pre-sales engineer, possibly some sizing and analysis, and a bunch of data is put into a spreadsheet. This then magically determines the appropriate bit of gear. This specification is sent to a pricing team, some discounts to the recommended retail price are usually applied, and it’s sent to you to consider. If it’s a deal that’s competitive, there might be some more discount. If it’s the end of quarter and the sales person is “motivated”, you might find it’s a good time to buy. There are a whole slew of reasons why the price is never the price. But the problem with this is you can never know the price without talking to someone working for the vendor. Want to budget for some new capacity? Or another site deployment? Talk to the vendor. This makes a lot of sense for the vendor. It gives the sales team insight into what’s happening in the account. There’s “engagement” and “partnership”. Which is all well and good, but does withholding pricing need to be the cost of this engagement?

The Cloud Made Me Do It

The public availability of cloud pricing is changing the conversation when it comes to traditional enterprise storage consumption. Not just in terms of pricing transparency, but also equipment availability, customer enablement, and time to value. Years ago we were all beholden to our storage vendor of choice to deliver storage to us under the terms of the vendor, and when the vendor was able to do it. Nowadays, even enterprise consumers can go and grab the cloud storage they want or need with only a small modicum of fuss. This has changed the behaviours of the traditional storage vendors in a way that I don’t think was foreseen. Sure, cloud still isn’t the answer to every solution, and if you’re selling big tin into big banks, you might have a bit of runway before you need show your customers too much of what’s happening behind the curtain. But this move by StorONE demonstrates that there’s a demand for pricing transparency in the market, and customers are looking to vendors to show some innovation when it comes to the fairly boring business of enterprise storage. I’m very curious to see what other vendors decide to follow suit.

We won’t automatically see the end of some of the practices surrounding enterprise storage pricing, but initiatives like this certainly put some pressure back on the vendors to justify the price per GB they’re slinging gear for. It’s a bit easier to keep prices elevated when your customers have to do a lot of work to go to a competitor and find out what it charges for a similar solution. There are reasons for everything (including high prices), and I’m not suggesting that the major storage vendors have been colluding on price by any means. But something like S1:TRUprice is another nail in the coffin of the old way of doing things, and I’m happy about that. For another perspective on this news, check out Chris M. Evans’ article here.

Random Short Take #27

Welcome to my semi-regular, random news post in a short format. This is #27. You’d think it would be hard to keep naming them after basketball players, and it is. None of my favourite players ever wore 27, but Marvin Barnes did surface as a really interesting story, particularly when it comes to effective communication with colleagues. Happy holidays too, as I’m pretty sure this will be the last one of these posts I do this year. I’ll try and keep it short, as you’ve probably got stuff to do.

  • This story of serious failure on El Reg had me in stitches.
  • I really enjoyed this article by Raj Dutt (over at Cohesity’s blog) on recovery predictability. As an industry we talk an awful lot about speeds and feeds and supportability, but sometimes I think we forget about keeping it simple and making sure we can get our stuff back as we expect.
  • Speaking of data protection, I wrote some articles for Druva about, well, data protection and things of that nature. You can read them here.
  • There have been some pretty important CBT-related patches released by VMware recently. Anthony has provided a handy summary here.
  • Everything’s an opinion until people actually do it, but I thought this research on cloud adoption from Leaseweb USA was interesting. I didn’t expect to see everyone putting their hands up and saying they’re all in on public cloud, but I was also hopeful that we, as an industry, hadn’t made things as unclear as they seem to be. Yay, hybrid!
  • Site sponsor StorONE has partnered with Tech Data Global Computing Components to offer an All-Flash Array as a Service solution.
  • Backblaze has done a nice job of talking about data protection and cloud storage through the lens of Star Wars.
  • This tip on removing particular formatting in Microsoft Word documents really helped me out recently. Yes I know Word is awful.
  • Someone was nice enough to give me an acknowledgement for helping review a non-fiction book once. Now I’ve managed to get a character named after me in one of John Birmingham’s epics. You can read it out of context here. And if you’re into supporting good authors on Patreon – then check out JB’s page here. He’s a good egg, and his literary contributions to the world have been fantastic over the years. I don’t say this just because we live in the same city either.

StorONE Announces S1-as-a-Service

StorONE recently announced its StorONE-as-a-Service (S1aaS) offering. I had the opportunity to speak to Gal Naor about it and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

The Announcement

StorONE’s S1-as-a-Service (S1aaS), is a use-based solution integrating StorONE’s S1 storage services with Dell Technologies and Mellanox hardware. The idea is they’ll ship you an appliance (available in a few different configurations) and you plug it in and away you go. There’s not a huge amount to say about it as it’s fairly straightforward. If you need more that the 18TB entry-level configuration, StorONE can get you up and running with 60TB thanks to overnight shipping.

Speedonomics

The as-a-Service bit is what most people are interested in, and S1aaS starts at $999 US per month for the 18TB all-flash array that delivers up to 150000 IOPS. There are a couple of other configurations available as well, including 36TB at $1797 per month, and 54TB at $2497 per month. If, for some reason, you decide you don’t want the device any more, or you no longer have that particular requirement, you can cancel your service with 30 days’ notice.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The idea of consuming storage from vendors on-premises via flexible finance plans isn’t a new one. But S1aaS isn’t a leasing plan. There’s no 60-month commitment and payback plan. If you want to use this for three months for a particular project and then cancel your service, you can. Just as you could with cable. From that perspective, it’s a reasonably interesting proposition. A number of the major storage vendors would struggle to put that much capacity and speed in such a small footprint on-premises for $999 per month. This is the major benefit of a software-based storage product that, by all accounts, can get a lot out of commodity server hardware.

I wrote about StorONE when they came out of stealth mode a few years ago, and noted the impressive numbers they were posting. Are numbers the most important thing when it comes to selecting storage products? No, not always. There’s plenty to be said for “good enough” solutions that are more affordable. But it strikes me that solutions that go really fast and don’t cost a small fortune to run are going to be awfully compelling. One of the biggest impediments to deploying on-premises storage solutions “as-a-Service” is that there’s usually a minimum spend required to make it worthwhile for the vendor or service provider. Most attempts previously have taken more than 2RU of rack space as a minimum footprint, and have required the customer to sign up for minimum terms of 36 – 60 months. That all changes (for the better) when you can run your storage on a server with NVMe-based drives and an efficient, software-based platform.

Sure, there are plenty of enterprises that are going to need more than 18TB of capacity. But are they going to need more than 54TB of capacity that goes at that speed? And can they build that themselves for the monthly cost that StorONE is asking for? Maybe. But maybe it’s just as easy for them to look at what their workloads are doing and decide whether they want everything to on that one solution. And there’s nothing to stop them deploying multiple configurations either.

I was impressed with StorONE when they first launched. They seem to have a knack for getting good performance from commodity gear, and they’re willing to offer that solution to customers at a reasonable price. I’m looking forward to seeing how the market reacts to these kinds of competitive offerings. You can read more about S1aaS here.

StorONE Spring From Stealth, Post Some Serious Numbers

StorONE recently came out of stealth with some impressive numbers. I had the opportunity to have a briefing with Gal Naor and thought I’d share my notes here.

 

Company Background

Gal Naor is the CEO (You might remember him from Storwize), with Raz Gordon the CTO. StorONE is funded by investors such as Seagate and venture capital firms GIZA and JGV, as well as private investors such as Microsoft’s Chairman John Thompson and former President of Sun Microsystems and CEO of Motorola, Edward Zander. They have offices in Israel, New York, Texas and Singapore.

 

The Problem

StoreONE are positioning themselves as the “Core Technology Company” and have focused on a product developed from the ground up. They have more than fifty patents lodged (most already granted). They tell me they’re heavily focused on innovation versus integration. By this they mean that their competitors integrate new features on yesterday’s technologies.

For the last six years we’ve seen some hardware innovation, in that things are just getting faster and fatter.

  • Faster: Drives, DRAM, Networking
  • Greater: Capacity, CPU cores

According to StorONE, High performance, high capacity or features are no longer the challenge. So what is the challenge then? For StorONE, it’s about delivering a product that:

  • Is cost effective; and
  • Delivers features without affecting performance and capacity.

According to them, “Storage is a broken ecosystem”. And it’s hard to do storage right the way we do it now, with the cost of IOs being high and customers struggling with vendor lock-in. Storage software seems to be the chokepoint.

 

What Does StorONE Do?

StorONE is a software play, and their “TRU (Total Resource Utilization) Storage” solution is designed to provide greater functionality on data path. There’s big focus on ease of use. Some of the cooler features of the product include the ability to run:

  • All protocols on the same drives
  • Mix workloads on the same tin; and
  • Unlimited snapshots without performance degradation

StorONE makes the hardware less important. To their way of thinking, the hardware they use is still the same. Drives are still HDDs, SSDs or NVMe. A block is still a block. It’s all commodity. You can run it as a physical or virtual solution.

They offer some neat protection mechanisms, including:

  • Integrated unlimited snapshots per volume – simple to restore, writable and nested. Supporting customized retention, VSS and Consistency Groups
  • Disk redundancy (N+K) per volume – no RAID restrictions – disks or cards. Fast rebuild. Mix and match drives.
  • No extra data copies

The system is designed for persistent integrity, enabling recovery from any hardware issues (by this they mean they don’t use cache). Other design considerations include:

  • Cloud design – manageable from any device (CLI and RESTful API);
  • No minimum capacity requirement – grow without capacity planning;
  • Application templates – minimal human errors; and
  • Proactive support and monitoring.

StorONE tell me their cost per Gigabyte is less than cloud pricing. There’s a subscription based licensing scheme in place.

Package Name Minimum Monthly Payment Including Price per GB Above
A $1500 150TB $0.01
B $6000 1PB $0.006
C $20000 10PB $0.002
D Call StorONE

What would you use it for?

  • High / ultra high IOPS workloads (SSD, NVMe);
  • High capacity / high throughout, high data protection; and
  • TRU Converged solution.

“Reduce storage costs faster than data growth”

 

Thoughts

StorONE are talking some really impressive numbers on minimal hardware. The key, as far as they’re concerned, is that the software is where the magic happens. According to them, you can get pretty good performance out of today’s hardware using just Linux. They key is to make it simple to use, simple to scale and simple to consume. From what I’ve seen in their introduction, they seem to be on their way to achieving that goal. I think it’s worth checking them out, and I’m keen to see how they progress in the marketplace over the next 12 months.