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.
Storageless Data You Say?
David Flynn kicked off the presentation from Hammerspace talking about storageless data. Storageless data? What on earth is that, then? Ultimately your data has to live on storage. But this all about consumption side abstraction. Hammerspace doesn’t want you to care about how your application maps to servers, or how it maps to storage. It’s more of a data-focussed approach to storage than we’re used to, perhaps. Some of the key requirements of the solution are as follows:
- The agent needs to run on everything – virtual, physical, containers – it can’t be bound to specific hardware
- Needs to be multi-vendor and support multi-protocol
- Presumes metadata
- Make data into a routed resource
- Deliver objective-based orchestration
The trick is that you have to be able to do all of this without killing the benefits of the infrastructure (performance, reliability, cost, and management). Simple, huh?
Stitching It Together
A key part of the Hammerspace story is the decoupling of the control plane and the data plane. This allows it to focus on getting the data where it needs to be, from edge to cloud, and over whatever protocol it needs to be done over.
[image courtesy of Hammerspace]
Hammerspace officially supports 8 sites at the moment, and the team have tested the solution with 32 sites. It uses an eventually consistent model, and the Global Namespace is global per share, providing flexible deployment options. Metadata replication can be setup to be periodic – and customised at each site. You always rehydrate the data and serve it locally over NAS via SMB or NFS.
Hammerspace is priced on capacity (data under management). You can also purchase it via the AWS Marketplace. Note that you can access up to 10TB free on the public cloud vendors (AWS, GCP, Azure) from a Hammerspace perspective.
Thoughts and Further Reading
I was fortunate to have a followup session with Douglas Fallstrom and Brendan Wolfe to revisit the Hammerspace story, ask a few more questions, and check out some more demos. I asked Fallstrom about the kind of use cases they were seeing in the field for Hammerspace. One popular use case was for disaster recovery. Obviously, there’s a lot more to doing DR than just dumping data in multiple locations, but it seems that there’s appetite for this very thing. At a high level, Hammerspace is a great choice for getting data into multiple locations, regardless of the underlying platform. Sure, there’s a lot more that needs to be done once it’s in another location, or when something goes bang. But from the perspective of keeping things simple, this one is up there.
Fallstrom was also pretty clear with me that this isn’t Primary Data 2.0, regardless of the number of folks that work at Hammerspace with that heritage. I think it’s a reasonable call, given that Hammerspace is doubling down on the data story, and really pushing the concept of a universal file system, regardless of location or protocol.
So are we finally there in terms of data abstraction? It’s been a problem since computers became common in the enterprise. As technologists we frequently get caught up in the how, and not as much in the why of storage. It’s one thing to say that I can scale this to this many Petabytes, or move these blocks from this point to that one. It’s an interesting conversation for sure, and has proven to be a difficult problem to solve at times. But I think as a result of this, we’ve moved away from understanding the value of data, and data management, and focused too much on the storage and services supporting the data. Hammerspace has the noble goal of moving us beyond that conversation to talking about data and the value that it can bring to the enterprise. Is it there yet in terms of that goal? I’m not sure. It’s a tough thing to be able to move data all over the place in a reliable fashion and still have it do what it needs to do with regards to performance and availability requirements. Nevertheless I think that the solution does a heck of a lot to remove some of the existing roadblocks when it comes to simplified data management. Is serverless compute really a thing? No, but it makes you think more about the applications rather than what they run on. Storageless data is aiming to do the same thing. It’s a bold move, and time will tell whether it pays off or not. Regardless of the success or otherwise of the marketing team, I’m thinking that we’ll be seeing a lot more innovation coming out of Hammerspace in the near future. After all, all that data isn’t going anywhere any time soon. And someone needs to take care of it.