Scale Computing Makes Big Announcement About Small HE150

Scale Computing recently announced the HE150 series of small edge servers. I had the chance to chat with Alan Conboy about the announcement, and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

Edge, But Smaller

I’ve written in the past about additions to the HC3 Edge Platform. But those things had a rack-mount form factor. The newly announced HE150 runs on Intel NUC devices. Wait, what? That’s right, hyper-converged infrastructure on really small PCs. But don’t you need a bunch of NICs to do HC3 properly? There’s no need for backplane switch requirement, as they use some software-defined networking to tunnel the backplane network across the NIC. The HC3 platform uses less than 1GB RAM per node, and each node has 2 cores. The storage sits on an NVMe drive and you can get hold of this stuff at a retail price of around $5K US for 3 nodes.

[image courtesy of Scale Computing]

Scale at Scale?

How do you deploy these kinds of things at scale then? Conboy tells me there’s full Ansible integration, RESTful API deployment capabilities, and they come equipped with Intel AMT. In short, these things can turn up at the remote site, be plugged in, and be ready to go.

Where would you?

The HE150 solution is 100% specific to multi-site edge implementations. It’s not trying to go after workloads that would normally be serviced by the HE500 or HE1000. Where it can work though, is with:

  • Oil and Gas exploration – with one in each ship (they need 4-5 VMs to handle sensor data to make command decisions)
  • Grocery and retail chains
  • Manufacturing platforms
  • Telcos – pole-side boxes

In short, think of environments that require some amount of compute and don’t have IT people to support it.

 

Thoughts

I’ve been a fan of what Scale Computing has been doing with HCI for some time now. Their take on making things simple across the enterprise has been refreshing. While this solution might surprise some folks, it strikes me that there’s an appetite for this kind fo thing in the marketplace. The edge is often a place where less is more, and there’s often not a lot of resources available to do basic stuff, like deploy a traditional, rackmounted compute environment. But a small, 3-node HCI cluster that can be stacked away in a stationery cupboard? That might just work. Particularly if you only need a few virtual machines to meet those compute requirements. As Conboy pointed out to me, Scale isn’t looking to use this as a replacement for the higher-preforming options they have available. Rather, this solution is perfect for highly distributed retail environments where they need to do one or two things and it would be useful if they didn’t do those things in a data centre located hundreds of kilometres away.

If you’re not that excited about Intel NUCs though, you might be happy to hear that solutions from Lenovo will be forthcoming shortly.

The edge presents a number of challenges to enterprises, in terms of both its definition and how to deal with it effectively. Ultimately, the success of solutions like this will hinge on ease of use, reliability, and whether it really is fit for purpose. The good folks at Scale don’t like to go off half-cocked, so you can be sure some thought went into this product – it’s not just a science project. I’m keen to see what the uptake is like, because I think this kind of solution has a place in the market. The HE150 is available for purchase form Scale Computing now. It’s also worth checking out the Scale Computing presentations at Tech Field Day 20.

InfiniteIO And Your Data – Making Meta Better

InfiniteIO recently announced its new Application Accelerator. I had the opportunity to speak about the news with Liem Nguyen (VP of Marketing) and Kris Meier (VP of Product Management) from InfiniteIO and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

Metadata Is Good, And Bad

When you think about file metadata you might think about photos and the information they store that tells you about where the photo was taken, when it was taken, and the kind of camera used. Or you might think of an audio file and the metadata that it contains, such as the artist name, year of release, track number, and so on. Metadata is a really useful thing that tells us an awful lot about data we’re storing. But things like simple file read operations make use of a lot of metadata just to open the file:

  • During the typical file read, 7 out of 8 operations are metadata requests which significantly increases latency; and
  • Up to 90% of all requests going to NAS systems are for metadata.

[image courtesy of InfiniteIO]

 

Fire Up The Metadata Engine

Imagine how much faster storage would be if it only has to service 10% of the requests it does today? The Application Accelerator helps with this by:

  • Separating metadata request processing from file I/O
  • Responding directly to metadata requests at the speed of DRAM – much faster than a file system

[image courtesy of InfiniteIO]

The cool thing is it’s a simple deployment – installed like a network switch requiring no changes to workflows.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Metadata is a key part of information management. It provides data with a lot of extra information that makes that data more useful to applications that consume it and to the end users of those applications. But this metadata has a cost associated with it. You don’t think about the amount of activity that happens with simple file operations, but there is a lot going on. It gets worse when you look at activities like AI training and software build operations. The point of a solution like the Application Accelerator is that, according to InfiniteIO, your primary storage devices could be performing at another level if another device was doing the heavy lifting when it came to metadata operations.

Sure, it’s another box in the data centre, but the key to the Application Accelerator’s success is the software that sits on the platform. When I saw the name my initial reaction was that filesystem activities aren’t applications. But they really are, and more and more applications are leveraging data on those filesystems. If you could reduce the load on those filesystems to the extent that InfiniteIO suggest then the Application Accelerator becomes a critical piece of the puzzle.

You might not care about increasing the performance of your applications when accessing filesystem data. And that’s perfectly fine. But if you’re using a lot of applications that need high performance access to data, or your primary devices are struggling under the weight of your workload, then something like the Application Accelerator might be just what you need. For another view, Chris Mellor provided some typically comprehensive coverage here.

Datrium Enhances DRaaS – Makes A Cool Thing Cooler

Datrium recently made a few announcements to the market. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Biles (Chief Product Officer, Co-Founder), Sazzala Reddy (Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder), and Kristin Brennan (VP of Marketing) about the news and thought I’d cover it here.

 

Datrium DRaaS with VMware Cloud

Before we talk about the new features, let’s quickly revisit the DRaaS for VMware Cloud offering, announced by Datrium in August this year.

[image courtesy of Datrium]

The cool thing about this offering was that, according to Datrium, it “gives customers complete, one-click failover and failback between their on-premises data center and an on-demand SDDC on VMware Cloud on AWS”. There are some real benefits to be had for Datrium customers, including:

  • Highly optimised, and more efficient than some competing solutions;
  • Consistent management for both on-premises and cloud workloads;
  • Eliminates the headaches as enterprises scale;
  • Single-click resilience;
  • Simple recovery from current snapshots or old backup data;
  • Cost-effective failback from the public cloud; and
  • Purely software-defined DRaaS on hyperscale public clouds for reduced deployment risk long term.

But what if you want a little flexibility in terms of where those workloads are recovered? Read on.

Instant RTO

So you’re protecting your workloads in AWS, but what happens when you need to stand up stuff fast in VMC on AWS? This is where Instant RTO can really help. There’s no rehydration or backup “recovery” delay. Datrium tells me you can perform massively parallel VM restarts (hundreds at a time) and you’re ready to go in no time at all. The full RTO varies by run-book plan, but by booting VMs from a live NFS datastore, you know it won’t take long. Failback uses VADP.

[image courtesy of Datrium]

The only cost during normal business operations (when not testing or deploying DR) is the cost of storing ongoing backups. And these are are automatically deduplicated, compressed and encrypted. In the event of a disaster, Datrium DRaaS provisions an on-demand SDDC in VMware Cloud on AWS for recovery. All the snapshots in S3 are instantly made executable on a live, cloud-native NFS datastore mounted by ESX hosts in that SDDC, with caching on NVMe flash. Instant RTO is available from Datrium today.

DRaaS Connect

DRaaS Connect extends the benefits of Instant RTO DR to any vSphere environment. DRaaS Connect is available for two different vSphere deployment models:

  • DRaaS Connect for VMware Cloud offers instant RTO disaster recovery from an SDDC in one AWS Availability Zone (AZ) to another;
  • DRaaS Connect for vSphere On Prem integrates with any vSphere physical infrastructure on-premises.

[image courtesy of Datrium]

DRaaS Connect for vSphere On Prem extends Datrium DRaaS to any vSphere on-premises infrastructure. It will be managed by a DRaaS cloud-based control plane to define VM protection groups and their frequency, replication and retention policies. On failback, DRaaS will return only changed blocks back to vSphere and the local on-premises infrastructure through DRaaS Connect.

The other cool things to note about DRaaS Connect is that:

  • There’s no Datrium DHCI system required
  • It’s a downloadable VM
  • You can start protecting workloads in minutes

DRaaS Connect will be available in Q1 2020.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Datrium announced some research around disaster recovery and ransomware in enterprise data centres in concert with the product announcements. Some of it wasn’t particularly astonishing, with folks keen to leverage pay as you go models for DR, and wanting easier mechanisms for data mobility. What was striking is that one of the main causes of disasters is people, not nature. Years ago I remember we used to plan for disasters that invariably involved some kind of flood, fire, or famine. Nowadays, we need to plan for some script kid pumping some nasty code onto our boxes and trashing critical data.

I’m a fan of companies that focus on disaster recovery, particularly if they make it easy for consumers to access their services. Disasters happen frequently. It’s not a matter of if, just a matter of when. Datrium has acknowledged that not everyone is using their infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean they can’t offer value to customers using VMC on AWS. I’m not 100% sold on Datrium’s vision for “disaggregated HCI” (despite Hugo’s efforts to educate me), but I am a fan of vendors focused on making things easier to consume and operate for customers. Instant RTO and DRaaS Connect are both features that round out the DRaaS for VMwareCloud on AWS quite nicely.

I haven’t dived as deep into this as I’d like, but Andre from Datrium has written a comprehensive technical overview that you can read here. Datrium’s product overview is available here, and the product brief is here.

SwiftStack Announces 7

SwiftStack recently announced version 7 of their solution. I had the opportunity to speak to Joe Arnold and Erik Pounds from SwiftStack about the announcement and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

Insane Data Requirements

We spoke briefly about just how insane modern data requirements are becoming, in terms of both volume and performance requirements. The example offered up was that of an Advanced Driver-Assistance System (ADAS). These things need a lot of capacity to work, with training data starting at 15PB of data with performance requirements approaching 100GB/s.

  • Autonomy – Level 2+
  • 10 Deep neural networks needed
  • Survey car – 2MP cameras
  • 2PB per year per car
  • 100 NVIDIA DGX-1 servers per car

When your hot data is 15 – 30PB and growing – it’s a problem.

 

What’s New In 7?

SwiftStack has been working to address those kinds of challenges with version 7.

Ultra-scale Performance Architecture

They’ve managed to get some pretty decent numbers under their belt, delivering over 100GB/s at scale with a platform that’s designed to scale linearly to higher levels. The numbers stack up well against some of their competitors, and have been validated through:

  • Independent testing;
  • Comparing similar hardware and workloads; and
  • Results being posted publicly (with solutions based on Cisco Validated Designs).

 

ProxyFS Edge

ProxyFS Edge takes advantage of SwiftStack’s file services to deliver distributed file services between edge, core, and cloud. The idea is that you can use it for “high-throughput, data-intensive use cases”.

[image courtesy of SwiftStack]

Enabling functionality:

  • Containerised deployment of ProxyFS agent for orchestrated elasticity
  • Clustered filesystem enables scale-out capabilities
  • Caching at the edge, minimising latency for improved application performance
  • Load-balanced, high-throughput API-based communication to the core

 

1space File Connector

But what if you have a bunch of unstructured data sitting in file environments that you want to use with your more modern apps? 1space File Connector brings enterprise file data into the cloud namespace, and “[g]ives modern, cloud-native applications access to existing data without migration”. The thinking is that you can modernise your workflows at an incremental rate, rather than having to deal with the app and the storage all in one go.  incrementally

[image courtesy of SwiftStack]

Enabling functionality:

  • Containerised deployment 1space File Connector for orchestrated elasticity
  • File data is accessible using S3 or Swift object APIs
  • Scales out and is load balanced for high-throughput
  • 1space policies can be applied to file data when migration is desired

The SwiftStack AI Architecture

SwiftStack have also developed a comprehensive AI Architecture model, describing it as “the customer-proven stack that enables deep learning at ultra-scale”. You can read more on that here.

Ultra-Scale Performance

  • Shared-nothing distributed architecture
  • Keep GPU compute complexes busy

Elasticity from Edge-to-Core-to-Cloud

  • With 1space, ingest and access data anywhere
  • Eliminate data silos and move beyond one cloud

Data Immutability

  • Data can be retained and referenced indefinitely as it was originally written
  • Enabling traceability, accountability, confidence, and safety throughout the life of a DNN

Optimal TCO

  • Compelling savings compared to public cloud or all-flash arrays Real-World Confidence
  • Notable AI deployments for autonomous vehicle development

SwiftStack PRO

The final piece is the SwiftStack PRO offering, a support service delivering:

  • 24×7 remote management and monitoring of your SwiftStack production cluster(s);
  • Incorporating operational best-practices learned from 100s of large-scale production clusters;
  • Including advanced monitoring software suite for log aggregation, indexing, and analysis; and
  • Operations integration with your internal team to ensure end-to-end management of your environment.

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

The sheer scale of data enterprises are working with every day is pretty amazing. And data is coming from previously unexpected places as well. The traditional enterprise workloads hosted on NAS or in structured applications are insignificant in size when compared to the PB-scale stuff going on in some environments. So how on earth do we start to derive value from these enormous data sets? I think the key is to understand that data is sometimes going to be in places that we don’t expect, and that we sometimes have to work around that constraint. In this case, SwiftStack have recognised that not all data is going to be sitting in the core, or the cloud, and they’re using some interesting technology to get that data where you need it to get the most value from it.

Getting the data from the edge to somewhere useable (or making it useable at the edge) is one thing, but the ability to use unstructured data sitting in file with modern applications is also pretty cool. There’s often reticence associated with making wholesale changes to data sources, and this solution helps to make that transition a little easier. And it gives the punters an opportunity to address data challenges in places that may have been inaccessible in the past.

SwiftStack have good pedigree in delivering modern scale-out storage solutions, and they’ve done a lot of work ensure that their platform adds value. Worth checking out.

NetApp Announces New AFF And FAS Models

NetApp recently announced some new storage platforms at INSIGHT 2019. I didn’t attend the conference, but I had the opportunity to be briefed on these announcements recently and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

All Flash FAS (AFF) A400

Overview

  • 4U enclosure
  • Replacement for AFF A300
  • Available in two possible configurations:
    • Ethernet: 4x 25Gb Ethernet (SFP28) ports
    • Fiber Channel: 4x 16Gb FC (SFP+) ports
  • Based on latest Intel Cascade Lake processors
  • 25GbE and 16Gb FC host support
  • 100GbE RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE) connectivity to NVMe expansion storage shelves
  • Full 12Gb/sec SAS connectivity expansion storage shelves

It wouldn’t be a storage product announcement without a box shot.

[image courtesy of NetApp]

More Numbers

Each AFF A400 packs some grunt in terms of performance and capacity:

  • 40 CPU cores
  • 256GB RAM
  • Max drives: 480

Aggregates and Volumes

Maximum number of volumes 2500
Maximum aggregate size 800 TiB
Maximum volume size 100 TiB
Minimum root aggregate size 185 GiB
Minimum root volume size 150 GiB

Other Notes

NetApp is looking to position the A400 as a replacement for the A300 and A320. That said, they will continue to offer the A300. Note that it supports NVMe, but also SAS SSDs – and you can mix them in the same HA pair, same aggregate, and even the same RAID group (if you were so inclined). For those of you looking for MetroCluster support, FC MCC support is targeted for February, with MetroCluster over IP being targeted for the ONTAP 9.8 release.

 

FAS8300 And FAS8700

Overview

  • 4U enclosure
  • Two models available
    • FAS8300
    • FAS8700
  • Available in two possible configurations
    • Ethernet: 4x 25Gb Ethernet (SFP28) ports
    • Unified: 4x 16Gb FC (SFP+) ports

[image courtesy of NetApp]

  • Based on latest Intel Cascade Lake processors
  • Uses NVMe M.2 connection for onboard Flash Cache™
  • 25GbE and 16Gb FC host support
  • Full 12Gbps SAS connectivity expansion storage shelves

Aggregates and Volumes

Maximum number of volumes 2500
Maximum aggregate size 400 TiB
Maximum volume size 100 TiB
Minimum root aggregate size 185 GiB
Minimum root volume size 150 GiB

Other Notes

The 8300 can do everything the 8200 can do, and more! And it also supports more drives (720 vs 480). The 8700 supports a maximum of 1440 drives.

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

Speeds and feeds announcement posts aren’t always the most interesting things to read. It demonstrates that NetApp is continuing to evolve both its AFF and FAS lines, and coupled with improvements in ONTAP 9.7, there’s a lot to like about these new iterations. It looks like there’s enough here to entice customers looking to scale up their array performance. Whilst it adds to the existing portfolio, NetApp are mindful of this, and working on streamlining the portfolio. Shipments are expected to start mid-December.

Midrange storage isn’t always the sexiest thing to read about. But the fact that “midrange” storage now offers up this kind of potential performance is pretty cool. Think back to 5 – 10 years ago, and your bang for buck wasn’t anywhere near like it is now. This is to be expected, given the improvements we’ve seen in processor performance over the last little while, but it’s also important to note that improvements in the software platform are also helping to drive performance improvements across the board.

There have also been some cool enhancements announced with StorageGRID, and NetApp has also announced an “All-SAN” AFF model, with none of the traditional NAS features available. The All-SAN idea had a few pundits scratching their heads, but it makes sense in a way. The market for block-only storage arrays is still in the many billions of dollars worldwide, and NetApp doesn’t yet have a big part of that pie. This is a good way to get into opportunities that it may have been excluded from previously. I don’t think there’s been any suggestion that file or hybrid isn’t the way for them to go, but it is interesting to see this being offered up as a direct competitor to some of the block-only players out there.

I’ve written a bit about NetApp’s cloud vision in the past, as that’s seen quite a bit of evolution in recent times. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a good hardware story to tell, and I think it’s reflected in these new product announcements. NetApp has been doing some cool stuff lately. I may have mentioned it before, but NetApp’s been named a leader in the Gartner 2019 Magic Quadrant for Primary Storage. You can read a comprehensive roundup of INSIGHT news over here at Blocks & Files.

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.