Storage Field Day 7 – Day 1 – Primary Data

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 7.  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 SFD7, there are a few things I want to include in the post. Firstly, you can see video footage of the Primary Data presentation here. You can also download my raw notes from the presentation here. Finally, here’s a link to the Primary Data website that covers some of what they presented.

Company Overview

Here’s a slightly wonky photo of Lance Smith providing the company overview.



If you haven’t heard of Primary Data before, they came out of stealth in November. Their primary goal is “Automated data mobility through data virtualisation” with a focus on intelligent, policy-driven automation for storage environments. Some of the key principles driving the development of the product are:

  • Dynamic Data Mobility – see and place data across all storage resources within a single global data space;
  • Policy-driven agility – non-disruptive, policy-based data movement;
  • Intelligent automation – automated real-time infrastructure dynamically aligns supply demand;
  • Linear scalability – performance and capacity scales linearly and incrementally; and
  • Global compatibility – single hardware-agnostic solution enhances coexisting legacy it and modern scale-out and hybrid cloud architectures.



David Flynn then launched into an engaging whiteboard session on the Primary Data architecture.


With storage, you have three needs – Performance, Price, Protection (Fast, Safe, Cheap). As most of us know but few of us wish to admit, you can’t have all three at the same time. This isn’t going to change, according to David. Indeed, the current approach of “Managing data via the storage container that holds it. This is the tail wagging the dog.”

So how does Primary Data get around the problem? Separate the metadata from the data.

Primary Data:

  • Uses pNFS client;
  • Offers file on file, on block, on object, on DAS;
  • Block as file;
  • Object; and
  • Splits the metadata and control path off to the side.

Primary Data also claim that 80% of IOPS to primary storage is to storage that doesn’t need to exist after a crash (temp, scratch, swap, etc).

David talked about when VMware first did virtualisation, there were a few phases:

1. Utilisation – This was the “doorknocker” use case that got people interested in virtualisation.

2. Manageability – this is what got people sticking with virtualisation.

Now along comes Primary Data, doing Data Virtualisation that also offers:

3. Performance.

Because, once you’ve virtualised the data, the problem becomes setting the objectives for the storage and the needs of the data. This is where Primary Data claim that their policy-based automation really helps organisations get the most from their storage platforms, and thus, their applications and data.


Closing Thoughts and Further Reading

Primary Data have some great pedigree and a lot of prior experience in the storage industry. There’s a lot more to the product than I’ve covered here, and it’s worth your while revisiting the video presentation they did at SFD7. They’ve taken an interesting approach, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about how it goes for them when they start shipping GA code (which they expect to do later this year).


Mark has a good write-up here, while Keith’s preview blog post is here and his excellent post-presentation discussion post can be found here.

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