Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 21. 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.
Remember Tintri? The company was founded in 2008, fell upon difficult times in 2018, and was acquired by DDN. It’s still going strong, and now offers a variety of products under the Tintri brand, including VMstore, IntelliFlash, and NexentaStor. I’ve had exposure to all of these different lines of business over the years, and was interested to see how it was all coming together under the DDN acquisition.
Does Your Storage Drive Itself?
Ever since I got into the diskslinger game, self-healing infrastructure has been talked about as the next big thing in terms of reducing operational overheads. We build this stuff, can teach it how to do things, surely we can get it to fix itself when it goes bang? As those of you who’ve been in the industry for some time would likely know, we’re still some ways off that being a reality across a broad range of infrastructure solutions. But we do seem closer than we were a while ago.
Tintri spent some time talking about what it was trying to achieve with its infrastructure by comparing it to autonomous vehicle development. If you think about it for a minute, it’s a little easier to grasp the concept of a vehicle driving itself somewhere, using a lot of telemetry and little computers to get there, than it is to think about how disk storage might be able to self-repair and redirect resources where they’re most needed. Of most interest to me was the distinction made between analytics and intelligence. It’s one thing to collect a bunch of telemetry data (something that storage companies have been reasonably good at for some time now) and analyse it after the fact to come to conclusions about what the storage is doing well and what it’s doing poorly. It’s quite another thing to use that data on the fly to make decisions about what the storage should be doing, without needing the storage manager to intervene.
[image courtesy of Tintri]
If you look at the various levels of intelligence, you’ll see that autonomy eventually kicks in and the concept of supervision and management moves away. The key to the success of this is making sure that your infrastructure is doing the right things autonomously.
So What Do You Really Get?
[image courtesy of Tintri]
You get an awful lot from Tintri in terms of information that helps the platform decide what it needs to do to service workloads in an appropriate fashion. It’s interesting to see how the different layers deliver different outcomes in terms of frequency as well. Some of this is down to physics, and time to value. The info in the cloud may not help you make an immediate decision on what to do with your workloads, but it will certainly help when the hapless capacity manager comes asking for the 12-month forecast.
I was being a little cheeky with the title of this post. I was a big fan of what Tintri was able to deliver in terms of storage analytics with a virtualisation focus all those years ago. It feels like some things haven’t changed, particularly when looking at the core benefits of VMstore. But that’s okay, because all of the things that were cool about VMstore back then are still actually cool, and absolutely still valuable in most enterprise storage shops. I don’t doubt that there are VMware shops that have definitely taken up vVols, and wouldn’t get as much out of VMstore as those shops running oldey timey LUNs, but there are plenty of organisations that just need storage to host VMs on, storage that gives them insight into how it’s performing. Maybe it’s even storage that can move some stuff around on the fly to make things work a little better.
It’s a solid foundation upon which to add a bunch of pretty cool features. I’m not 100% convinced that what Tintri is proposing is the reality in a number of enterprise shops (have you ever had to fill out a change request to storage vMotion a VM before?), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a noble goal, and certainly one worth pursuing. I’m a fan of any vendor that is actively working to take the work out of infrastructure, and allowing people to focus on the business of doing business (or whatever it is that they need to focus on). It looks like Tintri has made some really progress towards reducing the overhead of infrastructure, and I’m keen to see how that plays out across the product portfolio over the next year or two.