Aparavi Announces File Protect & Insight – Helps With Third Drawer Down

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Victoria Grey (CMO), Darryl Richardson (Chief Product Evangelist), and Jonathan Calmes (VP Business Development) from Aparavi regarding their File Protect and Insight solution. If you’re a regular reader, you may remember I’m quite a fan of Aparavi’s approach and have written about them a few times. I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the announcement here.

 

FPI?

The title is a little messy, but think of your unstructured data in the same way you might look at the third drawer down in your kitchen. There’s a bunch of stuff in there and no-one knows what it all does, but you know it has some value. Aparavi describe File Protect and Insight (FPI), as “[f]ile by file data protection and archive for servers, endpoints and storage devices featuring data classification, content level search, and hybrid cloud retention and versioning”. It takes the data you’re not necessarily sure about, and makes it useful. Potentially.

It comes with a range of features out of the box, including:

  • Data Awareness
    • Data classification
    • Metadata aggregation
    • Policy driven workflows
  • Global Security
    • Role-based permissions
    • Encryption (in-flight and at rest)
    • File versioning
  • Data Search and Access
    • Anywhere / anytime file access
    • Seamless cloud integration
    • Full-content search

 

How Does It Work?

The solution is fairly simple to deploy. There’s a software appliance installed on-premises (this is known as the aggregator). There’s a web-accessible management console, and you configure your sources to be protected via network access.

[image courtesy of Aparavi]

You get the ability to mount backup data from any point in time, and you can provide a path that can be shared via the network to users to access that data. Regardless of where you end up storing the data, you leave the index on-premises, and search against the index, not the source. This saves you in terms of performance and speed. There’s also a good story to be had in terms of cloud provider compatibility. And if you’re looking to work with an on-premises / generic S3 provider, chances are high that the solution won’t have too many issues with that either.

 

Thoughts

Data protection is hard to do well at the best of times, and data management is even harder to get right. Enterprises are busy generating terabytes of data and are struggling to a) protect it successfully, and b) make use of that protected data in an intelligent fashion. It seems that it’s no longer enough to have a good story around periodic data protection – most of the vendors have proven themselves capable in this regard. What differentiates companies is the ability to make use of that protected data in new and innovative ways that can increase the value to that data to the business that’s generating it.

Companies like Aparavi are doing a pretty good job of taking the madness that is your third drawer down and providing you with some semblance of order in the chaos. This can be a real advantage in the enterprise, not only for day to day data protection activities, but also for extended retention and compliance challenges, as well as storage optimisation challenges that you may face. You still need to understand what the data is, but something like FPI can help you to declutter what that data is, making it easier to understand.

I also like some of the ransomware detection capabilities being built into the product. It’s relatively rudimentary for the moment, but keeping a close eye on the percentage of changed data is a good indicator of wether or not something is going badly wrong with the data sources you’re trying to protect. And if you find yourself the victim of a ransomware attack, the theory is that Aparavi has been storing a secondary, immutable copy of your data that you can recover from.

People want a lot of different things from their data protection solutions, and sometimes it’s easy to expect more than is reasonable from these products without really considering some of the complexity that can arise from that increased level of expectation. That said, it’s not unreasonable that your data protection vendors should be talking to you about data management challenges and deriving extra value from your secondary data. A number of people have a number of ways to do this, and not every way will be right for you. But if you’ve started noticing a data sprawl problem, or you’re looking to get a bit more from your data protection solution, particularly for unstructured data, Aparavi might be of some interest. You can read the announcement here.

Backblaze Announces Version 7.0 – Keep Your Stuff For Longer

Backblaze recently announced Version 7.0 of its cloud backup solution for consumer and business and I thought I’d run through the announcement here.

 

Extended Version History

30 Days? 1 Year? 

One of the key parts of this announcement is support for extended retention of backup data. All Backblaze computer backup accounts have 30-Day Version History included with their backup license. But you can now extend that to 1 year if you like. Note that this will cost an additional $2/month and is charged based on your license type (monthly, yearly, or 2-year). It’s also prorated to align with your existing subscription.

Forever

Want to have a more permanent relationship with you protection data? You can also elect to keep it forever, at the cost of an additional $2/month (aligned to your license plan type) plus $0.005/GB/Month for versions modified on your computer more than 1 year ago. There’s a handy FAQ that you can read here. Note that all pricing from Backblaze is in US dollars.

[image courtesy of Backblaze]

 

Other Updates

Are you trying to back up really large files (like videos)? You might already know that Backblaze takes large files and chunks them into smaller ones before uploading them to the Internet. Upload performance has now been improved, with the maximum packet size being increased from 30MB to 100MB. This allows the Backblaze app to transmit data more efficiently by better leveraging threading. According to Backblaze, this also “smoothes out upload performance, reduces sensitivity to latency, and leads to smaller data structures”.

Other highlights of this release include:

  • For the aesthetically minded amongst you, the installer now looks better on higher resolution displays;
  • For Windows users, an issue with OpenSSL and Intel’s Apollo Lake chipsets has now been resolved; and
  • For macOS users, support for Catalina is built in. (Note that this is also available with the latest version 6 binary).

Availability?

Version 7.0 will be rolled out to all users over the next few weeks. If you can’t wait, there are two ways to get hold of the new version:

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

It seems weird that I’ve been covering Backblaze as much as I have, given their heritage in the consumer data protection space, and my focus on service providers and enterprise offerings. But Backblaze has done a great job of making data protection accessible and affordable for a lot of people, and they’ve done it in a fairly transparent fashion at the same time. Note also that this release covers both consumers and business users. The addition of extended retention capabilities to their offering, improved performance, and some improved compatibility is good news for Backblaze users. It’s really easy to setup and get started with the application, they support a good variety of configurations, and you’ll sleep better knowing your data is safely protected (particularly if you accidentally fat-finger an important document and need to recover an older version). If you’re thinking about signing up, you can use this affiliate link I have and get yourself a free month (and I’ll get one too).

If you’d like to know more about the features of Version 7.0, there’s a webinar you can jump on with Yev. The webinar will be available on BrightTalk (registration is required) and you can sign up by visiting the Backblaze BrightTALK channel. You can also read more details on the Backblaze blog.

Formulus Black Announces Forsa 3.0

Formulus Black recently announced version 3.0 of its Forsa product. I had the opportunity to speak with Mark Iwanowski and Jing Xie about the announcement and wanted to share some thoughts here.

 

So What’s A Forsa Again?

It’s a software solution for running applications in memory without needing to re-tool your applications or hardware. You can present persistent storage (think Intel Optane) or non-persistent memory (think DRAM) as a block device to the host and run your applications on that. Here’s a look at the architecture.

[image courtesy of Formulus Black]

Is This Just a Linux Thing?

No, not entirely. There’s Ubuntu and CentOS support out of the box, and Red Hat support is imminent. If you don’t use those operating systems though, don’t stress. You can also run this using a KVM-based hypervisor. So anything supported by that can be supported by Forsa.

But What If My Memory Fails?

Formulus Black has a technology called “BLINK” which provides the ability to copy your data down to SSDs, or you can failover the data to another host.

Won’t I Need A Bunch Of RAM?

Formulus Black uses Bit Markers – a memory efficient technology (like deduplication) – to make efficient use of the available memory. They call it “amplification” as opposed to deduplication, as it amplifies the available space.

Is This Going To Cost Me?

A little, but not as much as you’d think (because nothing’s ever free). The software is licensed on a per-socket basis, so if you decide to add memory capacity you’re not up for additional licensing costs.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I don’t do as much work with folks requiring in-memory storage solutions as much as I’d like to do, but I do appreciate the requirement for these kinds of solutions. The big appeal here is the lack of requirement to re-tool your applications to work in-memory. All you need is something that runs on Linux or KVM and you’re pretty much good to go. Sure, I’m over-simplifying things a little, but it looks like there’s a good story here in terms of the lack of integration required to get some serious performance improvements.

Formulus Black came out of stealth around 4 and a bit months ago and have already introduced a raft of improvements over version 2.0 of their offering. It’s great to see the speed with which they’ve been able to execute on new features in their offering. I’m curious to see what’s next, as there’s obviously been a great focus on performance and simplicity.

The cool kids are all talking about the benefits of NVMe-based, centralised storage solutions. And they’re right to do this, as most applications will do just fine with these kinds of storage platforms. But there are still going to be minuscule bottlenecks associated with these devices. If you absolutely need things to run screamingly fast, you’ll likely want to run them in-memory. And if that’s the case, Formulus Black’s Forsa solution might be just what you’re looking for. Plus, it’s a pretty cool name for a company, or possibly an aspiring wizard.

Burlywood Tech Announces TrueFlash Insight

Burlywood Tech came out of stealth a few years ago, and I wrote about their TrueFlash announcement here. I had another opportunity to speak to Mike Tomky recently about Burlywood’s TrueFlash Insight announcement and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

The Announcement

Burlywood’s “TrueFlash” product delivers what they describe as a “software-defined SSD” drive. Since they’ve been active in the market they’ve gained traction in what they call the Tier 2 service provider segments (not the necessarily the “Big 7” hyperscalers).

They’ve announced TrueFlash Insight because, in a number of cases, customers don’t know what their workloads really look like. The idea behind TrueFlash Insight is that it can be run in a production environment for a period of time to collect metadata and drive telemetry. Engineers can also be sent on site if required to do the analysis. The data collected with TrueFlash Insight helps Burlywood with the process of designing and tuning the TrueFlash product for the desired workload.

How It Works

  • Insight is available only on Burlywood TrueFlash drives
  • Enabled upon execution of a SOW for Insight analysis services
  • Run your application as normal in a system with one or more Insight-enabled TrueFlash drives
  • Follow the instructions to download the telemetry files
  • Send telemetry data to Burlywood for analysis
  • Burlywood parses the telemetry, analyses data patterns, shares performance information, and identifies potential bottlenecks and trouble spots
  • This information can then be used to tune the TrueFlash SSDs for optimal performance

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

When I wrote about Burlywood previously I was fascinated by the scale that would be required for a company to consider deploying SSDs with workload-specific code sitting on them. And then I stopped and thought about my comrades in the enterprise space struggling to get the kind of visibility into their gear that’s required to make these kinds of decisions. But when your business relies so heavily on good performance, there’s a chance you have some idea of how to get information on the performance of your systems. The fact that Burlywood are making this offering available to customers indicates that even those customers that are on board with the idea of “Software-defined SSDs (SDSSDs?)” don’t always have the capabilities required to make an accurate assessment of their workloads.

But this solution isn’t just for existing Burlywood customers. The good news is it’s also available for customers considering using Burlywood’s product in their DC. It’s a reasonably simple process to get up and running, and my impression is that it will save a bit of angst down the track. Tomky made the comment that, with this kind of solution, you don’t need to “worry about masking problems at the drive level – [you can] work on your core value”. There’s a lot to be said for companies, even the ones with very complex technical requirements, not having to worry about the technical part of the business as much as the business part of the business. If Burlywood can make that process easier for current and future customers, I’m all for it.

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.

Scale Computing Announces HE500 Range

Scale Computing recently announced its “HC3 Edge Platform“. I had a chance to talk to Alan Conboy about it, and thought I’d share some of my thoughts here.

 

The Announcement

The HE500 series has been introduced to provide smaller customers and edge infrastructure environments with components that better meet the sizing and pricing requirements of those environments. There are a few different flavours of nodes, with every node offering E-2100 Intel CPUs, 32 – 64GB RAM, and dual power supplies. There are a couple of minor differences with regards to other configuration options.

  • HE500 – 4x 1,2,4 or 8TB HDD, 4x 1GbE, 4x 10GbE
  • HE550 – 1x 480GB or 960GB SSD, 3x 1,2, or 4TB HDD, 4x 1GbE, 4x 10GbE
  • HE550F – 4 x 240GB, 480GB, 960GB SSD, 4x 1GbE, 4x 10GbE
  • HE500T – 4x 1,2,4 or 8TB HDD, 8 x HDD 4TB, 8TB, 2x 1GbE
  • HE550TF – 4 x 240GB, 480GB, 960GB SSD, 2x 1GbE

The “T” version comes in a tower form factor, and offers 1GbE connectivity. Everything runs on Scale’s HC3 platform, and offers all of the features and support you expect with that platform. In terms of scalability, you can run up to 8 nodes in a cluster.

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

In the past I’ve made mention of Scale Computing and Lenovo’s partnership, and the edge infrastructure approach is also something that lends itself well to this arrangement. If you don’t necessarily want to buy Scale-badged gear, you’ll see that the models on offer look a lot like the SR250 and ST250 models from Lenovo. In my opinion, the appeal of Scale’s hyper-converged infrastructure story has always been the software platform that sits on the hardware, rather than the specifications of the nodes they sell. That said, these kinds of offerings play an important role in the market, as they give potential customers simple options to deliver solutions at a very competitive price point. Scale tell me that an entry-level 3-node cluster comes in at about US $16K, with additional nodes costing approximately $5K. Conboy described it as “[l]owering the barrier to entry, reducing the form factor, but getting access to the entire stack”.

Combine some of these smaller solutions with various reference architectures and you’ve got a pretty powerful offering that can be deployed in edge sites for a small initial outlay. People often deploy compute at the edge because they have to, not because they necessarily want to. Anything that can be done to make operations and support simpler is a good thing. Scale Computing are focused on delivering an integrated stack that meets those requirements in a lightweight form factor. I’ll be interested to see how the market reacts to this announcement. For more information on the HC3 Edge offering, you can grab a copy of the data sheet here, and the press release is available here. There’s a joint Lenovo – Scale Computing case study that can be found here.

Zerto – News From ZertoCON 2019

Zerto recently held their annual user conference (ZertoCON) in Nashville, TN. I had the opportunity to talk to Rob Strechay about some of the key announcements coming out of the event and thought I’d cover them here.

 

Key Announcements

Licensing

You can now acquire Zerto either as a perpetual license or via a subscription. There’s previously been some concept of subscription pricing with Zerto, with customers having rented via managed service providers, but this is the first time it’s being offered directly to customers. Strechay noted that Zerto is “[n]ot trying to move to a subscription-only model”, but they are keen to give customers further flexibility in how they consume the product. Note that the subscription pricing also includes maintenance and support.

7.5 Is Just Around The Corner

If it feels like 7.0 was only just delivered, that’s because it was (in April). But 7.5 is already just around the corner. They’re looking to add a bunch of features, including:

  • Deeper integration with StoreOnce from HPE using Catalyst-based API, leveraging source-side deduplication
  • Qualification of Azure’s Data Box
  • Cloud mobility – in 7.0 they started down the path with Azure. Zerto Cloud Appliances now autoscale within Azure.

Azure Integration

There’s a lot more focus on Azure in 7.5, and Zerto are working on

  • Managed failback / managed disks in Azure
  • Integration with Azure Active Directory
  • Adding encryption at rest in AWS, and doing some IAM integration
  • Automated driver injection on the fly as you recover into AWS (with Red Hat)

Resource Planner

Building on their previous analytics work, you’ll also be able to (shortly) download Zerto Virtual Manager. This talks to vCenter and can gather data and help customers plan their VMware to VMware (or to Azure / AWS) migrations.

VAIO

Zerto has now completed the initial certification to use VMware’s vSphere APIs for I/O Filtering (VAIO) and they’ll be leveraging these in 7.5. Strechay said they’ll probably have both versions in the product for a little while.

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

I’d spoken with Strechay previously about Zerto’s plans to compete against the “traditional” data protection vendors, and asked him what the customer response has been to Zerto’s ambitions (and execution). He said that, as they’re already off-siting data (as part of the 3-2-1 data protection philosophy), how hard is it to take it to the next level? He said a number of customers were very motivated to use long term retention, and wanted to move on from their existing backup vendors. I’ve waxed lyrical in the past about what I thought some of the key differences were between periodic data protection, disaster recovery, and disaster avoidance were. That doesn’t mean that companies like Zerto aren’t doing a pretty decent job of blurring the lines between the types of solution they offer, particularly with the data mobility capabilities built in to their offerings. I think there’s a lot of scope with Zerto to move into spaces that they’ve previously only been peripherally involved in. It makes sense that they’d focus on data mobility and off-site data protection capabilities. There’s a good story developing with their cloud integration, and it seems like they’ll just continue to add features and capabilities to the product. I really like that they’re not afraid to make promises on upcoming releases and have (thus far) been able to deliver on them.

The news about VAIO certification is pretty big, and it might remove some of the pressure that potential customers have faced previously about adopting protection solutions that weren’t entirely blessed by VMware.

I’m looking forward to see what Zerto ends up delivering with 7.5, and I’m really enjoying the progress they’re making with both their on-premises and public cloud focused solutions. You can read Zerto’s press release here, and Andrea Mauro published a comprehensive overview here.

Dell EMC Announces PowerProtect Software (And Hardware)

Disclaimer: I recently attended Dell Technologies World 2019.  My flights, accommodation and conference pass were paid for by Dell Technologies via the Media, Analysts and Influencers program. 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.

Last week at Dell Technologies World there were a number of announcements made regarding Data Protection. I thought I’d cover them here briefly. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to dive a little deeper into the technology in the next few weeks.

 

PowerProtect Software

The new PowerProtect software is billed as Dell EMC’s “Next Generation Data Management software platform” and provides “data protection, replication and reuse, as well as SaaS-based management and self-service capabilities that give individual data owners the autonomy to control backup and recovery operations”. It currently offers support for:

  • Oracle;
  • Microsoft SQL;
  • VMware;
  • Windows Filesystems; and
  • Linux Filesystems.

More workload support is planned to arrive in the next little while. There are some nice features included, such as automated discovery and on-boarding of databases, VMs and Data Domain protection storage. There’s also support for tiering protection data to public cloud environments, and support for SaaS-based management is a nice feature too. You can view the data sheet here.

 

PowerProtect X400

The PowerProtect X400 is being positioned by Dell EMC as a “multi-dimensional” appliance, with support for both scale out and scale up expansion.

There are three “bits” to the X400 story. There’s the X400 cube, which is the brains of the operation. You then scale it out using either X400F (All-Flash) or X400H (Hybrid) cubes. The All-Flash version can be configured from 64 – 448TB of capacity, delivering up to 22.4PB of logical capacity. The Hybrid version runs from 64 – 384TB of capacity, and can deliver up to 19.2PB of logical capacity. The logical capacity calculation is based on “10x – 50x deduplication ratio”. You can access the spec sheet here, and the data sheet can be found here.

Scale Up and Out?

So what do Dell EMC mean by “multi-dimensional” then? It’s a neat marketing term that means you can scale up and out as required.

  • Scale-up with grow-in-place capacity expansion (16TB); and
  • Scale-out compute and capacity with additional X400F or X400H cubes (starting at 64TB each).

This way you can “[b]enefit from the linear scale-out of performance, compute, network and capacity”.

 

IDPA

Dell EMC also announced that the Integrated Data Protection Appliance (IDPA) was being made available in an 8-24TB version, providing a lower capacity option to service smaller environments.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Everyone I spoke to at Dell Technologies World was excited about the PowerProtect announcement. Sure, it’s their job to be excited about this stuff, but there’s a lot here to be excited about, particularly if you’re an existing Dell EMC data protection customer. The other “next-generation” data protection vendors seem to have given the 800 pound gorilla the wakeup call it needed, and the PowerProtect offering is a step in the right direction. The scalability approach used with the X400 appliance is potentially a bit different to what’s available in the market today, but it seems to make sense in terms of reducing the footprint of the hardware to a manageable amount. There were some high numbers being touted in terms of performance but I won’t be repeating any of those until I’ve seen this for myself in the wild. The all-flash option seems a little strange at first, as this normally associated with data protection, but I think it’s competitive nod to some of the other vendors offering top of rack, all-flash data protection.

So what if you’re an existing Data Domain / NetWorker / Avamar customer? There’s no need to panic. You’ll see continued development of these products for some time to come. I imagine it’s not a simple thing for an established company such as Dell EMC to introduce a new product that competes in places with something it already sells to customers. But I think it’s the right thing for them to do, as there’s been significant pressure from other vendors when it comes to telling a tale of simplified data protection leveraging software-defined solutions. Data protection requirements have seen significant change over the last few years, and this new architecture is a solid response to those changes.

The supported workloads are basic for the moment, but a cursory glance through most enterprise environments would be enough to reassure you that they have the most common stuff covered. I understand that existing DPS customers will also get access to PowerProtect to take it for a spin. There’s no word yet on what the migration path for existing customers looks like, but I have no doubt that people have already thought long and hard about what that would look like and are working to make sure the process is field ready (and hopefully straightforward). Dell EMC PowerProtect Software platform and PowerProtect X400 appliance will be generally available in July 2019.

For another perspective on the announcement, check out Preston‘s post here.

Axellio Announces Azure Stack HCI Support

Microsoft recently announced their Azure Stack HCI program, and I had the opportunity to speak to the team from Axellio (including Bill Miller, Barry Martin, and Kara Smith) about their support for it.

 

Azure Stack Versus Azure Stack HCI

So what’s the difference between Azure Stack and Azure Stack HCI? You can think of Azure Stack as an extension of Azure – designed for cloud-native applications. The Azure Stack HCI is more for your traditional VM-based applications – the kind of ones that haven’t been refactored (or can’t be) for public cloud.

[image courtesy of Microsoft]

The Azure Stack HCI program has fifteen vendor partners on launch day, of which Axellio is one.

 

Axellio’s Take

Miller describes the Axellio solution as “[n]ot your father’s HCI infrastructure”, and Axellio tell me it “has developed the new FabricXpress All-NVMe HCI edge-computing platform built from the ground up for high-performance computing and fast storage for intense workload environments. It delivers 72 NVMe SSDS per server, and packs 2 servers into one 2U chassis”. Cluster sizes start at 4 nodes and run up to 16. Note that the form factor measurement in the table below includes any required switching for the solution. You can grab the data sheet from here.

[image courtesy of Axellio]

It uses the same Hyper-V based software-defined compute, storage and networking as Azure Stack and integrates on-premises workloads with Microsoft hybrid data services including Azure Site Recovery and Azure Backup, Cloud Witness and Azure Monitor.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

When Microsoft first announced plans for a public cloud presence, some pundits suggested they didn’t have the chops to really make it. It seems that Microsoft has managed to perform well in that space despite what some of the analysts were saying. What Microsoft has had working in its favour is that it understands the enterprise pretty well, and has made a good push to tap that market and help get the traditionally slower moving organisations to look seriously at public cloud.

Azure Stack HCI fits nicely in between Azure and Azure Stack, giving enterprises the opportunity to host workloads that they want to keep in VMs hosted on a platform that integrates well with public cloud services that they may also wish to leverage. Despite what we want to think, not every enterprise application can be easily refactored to work in a cloud-native fashion. Nor is every enterprise ready to commit that level of investment into doing that with those applications, preferring instead to host the applications for a few more years before introducing replacement application architectures.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Axellio’s capabilities when it comes to edge compute and storage solutions. In speaking to the Axellio team, what stands out to me is that they really seem to understand how to put forward a performance-oriented solution that can leverage the best pieces of the Microsoft stack to deliver an on-premises hosting capability that ticks a lot of boxes. The ability to move workloads (in a staged fashion) so easily between public and private infrastructure should also have a great deal of appeal for enterprises that have traditionally struggled with workload mobility.

Enterprise operations can be a pain in the backside at the best of times. Throw in the requirement to host some workloads in public cloud environments like Azure, and your operations staff might be a little grumpy. Fans of HCI have long stated that the management of the platform, and the convergence of compute and storage, helps significantly in easing the pain of infrastructure operations. If you then take that management platform and integrate it successfully with you public cloud platform, you’re going to have a lot of fans. This isn’t Axellio’s only solution, but I think it does fit in well with their ability to deliver performance solutions in both the core and edge.

Thomas Maurer wrote up a handy article covering some of the differences between Azure Stack and Azure Stack HCI. The official Microsoft blog post on Azure Stack HCI is here. You can read the Axellio press release here.

Komprise Continues To Gain Momentum

I first encountered Komprise at Storage Field Day 17, and was impressed by the offering. I recently had the opportunity to take a briefing with Krishna Subramanian, President and COO at Komprise, and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

Momentum

Funding

The primary reason for our call was to discuss Komprise’s Series C funding round of US $24 million. You can read the press release here. Some noteworthy achievements include:

  • Revenue more than doubled every single quarter, with existing customers steadily growing how much they manage with Komprise; and
  • Some customers now managing hundreds of PB with Komprise.

 

Key Verticals

Komprise are currently operating in the following key verticals:

  • Genomics and health care, with rapidly growing footprints;
  • Financial and Insurance sectors (5 out of 10 of the largest insurance companies in the world apparently use Komprise);
  • A lot of universities (research-heavy environments); and
  • Media and entertainment.

 

What’s It Do Again?

Komprise manages unstructured data over three key protocols (NFS, SMB, S3). You can read more about the product itself here, but some of the key features include the ability to “Transparently archive data”, as well as being able to put a copy of your data in another location (the cloud, for example).

 

So What’s New?

One of Komprise’s recent announcements was NAS to NAS migration.  Say, for example, you’d like to migrate your data from an Isilon environment to FlashBlade, all you have to do is set one as a source, and one as target. The ACLs are fully preserved across all scenarios, and Komprise does all the heavy lifting in the background.

They’re also working on what they call “Deep Analytics”. Komprise already aggregates file analytics data very efficiently. They’re now working on indexing metadata on files and exposing that index. This will give you “a Google-like search on all your data, no matter where it sits”. The idea is that you can find data using any combination of metadata. The feature is in beta right now, and part of the new funding is being used to expand and grow this capability.

 

Other Things?

Komprise can be driven entirely from an API, making it potentially interesting for service providers and VARs wanting to add support for unstructured data and associated offerings to their solutions. You can also use Komprise to “confine” data. The idea behind this is that data can be quarantined (if you’re not sure it’s being used by any applications). Using this feature you can perform staged deletions of data once you understand what applications are using what data (and when).

 

Thoughts

I don’t often write articles about companies getting additional funding. I’m always very happy when they do, as someone thinks they’re on the right track, and it means that people will continue to stay employed. I thought this was interesting enough news to cover though, given that unstructured data, and its growth and management challenges, is an area I’m interested in.

When I first wrote about Komprise I joked that I needed something like this for my garage. I think it’s still a valid assertion in a way. The enterprise, at least in the unstructured file space, is a mess based on the what I’ve seen in the wild. Users and administrators continue to struggle with the sheer volume and size of the data they have under their management. Tools such as this can provide valuable insights into what data is being used in your organisation, and, perhaps more importantly, who is using it. My favourite part is that you can actually do something with this knowledge, using Komprise to copy, migrate, or archive old (and new) data to other locations to potentially reduce the load on your primary storage.

I bang on all the time about the importance of archiving solutions in the enterprise, particularly when companies have petabytes of data under their purview. Yet, for reasons that I can’t fully comprehend, a number of enterprises continue to ignore the problem they have with data hoarding, instead opting to fill their DCs and cloud storage with old data that they don’t use (and very likely don’t need to store). Some of this is due to the fact that some of the traditional archive solution vendors have moved on to other focus areas. And some of it is likely due to the fact that archiving can be complicated if you can’t get the business to agree to stick to their own policies for document management. In just the same way as you can safely delete certain financial information after an amount of time has elapsed, so too can you do this with your corporate data. Or, at the very least, you can choose to store it on infrastructure that doesn’t cost a premium to maintain. I’m not saying “Go to work and delete old stuff”. But, you know, think about what you’re doing with all of that stuff. And if there’s no value in keeping the “kitchen cleaning roster May 2012.xls” file any more, think about deleting it? Or, consider a solution like Komprise to help you make some of those tough decisions.