Nexsan Announces Assureon Cloud Transfer

Announcement

Nexsan announced Cloud Transfer for their Assureon product a little while ago. I recently had the chance to catch up with Gary Watson (Founder / CTO at Nexsan) and thought it would be worth covering the announcement here.

 

Assureon Refresher

Firstly, though, it might be helpful to look at what Assureon actually is. In short, it’s an on-premises storage archive that offers:

  • Long term archive storage for fixed content files;
  • Dependable file availability, with files being audited every 90 days;
  • Unparalleled file integrity; and
  • A “policy” system for protecting and stubbing files.

Notably, there is always a primary archive and a DR archive included in the price. No half-arsing it here – which is something that really appeals to me. Assureon also doesn’t have a “delete” key as such – files are only removed based on defined Retention Rules. This is great, assuming you set up your policies sensibly in the first place.

 

Assureon Cloud Transfer

Cloud Transfer provides the ability to move data between on-premises and cloud instances. The idea is that it will:

  • Provide reliable and efficient cloud mobility of archived data between cloud server instances and between cloud vendors; and
  • Optimise cloud storage and backup costs by offloading cold data to on-premises archive.

It’s being positioned as useful for clients who have a large unstructured data footprint on public cloud infrastructure and are looking to reduce their costs for storing data up there. There’s currently support for Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, with Google support coming in the near future.

[image courtesy of Nexsan]

There’s stub support for those applications that support. There’s also an optional NFS / SMB interface that can be configured in the cloud as an Assureon archiving target that caches hot files and stubs cold files. This is useful for those non-Windows applications that have a lot of unstructured data that could be moved to an archive.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The concept of dedicated archiving hardware and software bundles, particularly ones that live on-premises, might seem a little odd to some folks who spend a lot of time failing fast in the cloud. There are plenty of enterprises, however, that would benefit from the level of rigour that Nexsan have wrapped around the Assureon product. It’s my strong opinion that too many people still don’t understand the difference between backup and recovery and archive data. The idea that you need to take archive data and make it immutable (and available) for a long time has great appeal, particularly for organisations getting slammed with a whole lot of compliance legislation. Vendors have been talking about reducing primary storage use for years, but there seems to have been some pushback from companies not wanting to invest in these solutions. It’s possible that this was also a result of some kludgy implementations that struggled to keep up with the demands of the users. I can’t speak for the performance of the Assureon product, but I like the fact that it’s sold as a pair, and with a lot of the decision-making around protection taken away from the end user. As someone who worked in an organisation that liked to cut corners on this type of thing, it’s nice to see that.

But why would you want to store stuff on-premises? Isn’t everyone moving everything to the cloud? No, they’re not. I don’t imagine that this type of product is being pitched at people running entirely in public cloud. It’s more likely that, if you’re looking at this type of solution, you’re probably running a hybrid setup, and still have a footprint in a colocation facility somewhere. The benefit of this is that you can retain control over where your archived data is placed. Some would say that’s a bit of a pain, and an unnecessary expense, but people familiar with compliance will understand that business is all about a whole lot of wasted expense in order to make people feel good. But I digress. Like most on-premises solutions, the Assureon offering compares well with a public cloud solution on a $/GB basis, assuming you’ve got a lot of sunk costs in place already with your data centre presence.

The immutability story is also a pretty good one when you start to think about organisations that have been hit by ransomware in the last few years. That stuff might roll through your organisation like a hot knife through butter, but it won’t be able to do anything with your archive data – that stuff isn’t going anywhere. Combine that with one of those fancy next generation data protection solutions and you’re in reasonable shape.

In any case, I like what the Assureon product offers, and am looking forward to seeing Nexsan move beyond the Windows-only platform support that it currently offers. You can read the Nexsan Assueron Cloud Transfer press release here. David Marshall covered the announcement over at VMblog and ComputerWeekly.com did an article as well.

NetApp Announces NetApp ONTAP AI

As a member of NetApp United, I had the opportunity to sit in on a briefing from Mike McNamara about NetApp‘s recently announced AI offering, the snappily named “NetApp ONTAP AI”. I thought I’d provide a brief overview here and share some thoughts.

 

The Announcement

So what is NetApp ONTAP AI? It’s a “proven” architecture delivered via NetApp’s channel partners. It’s comprised of compute, storage and networking. Storage is delivered over NFS. The idea is that you can start small and scale out as required.

Hardware

Software

  • NVIDIA GPU Cloud Deep Learning Stack
  • NetApp ONTAP 9
  • Trident, dynamic storage provisioner

Support

  • Single point of contact support
  • Proven support model

 

[image courtesy of NetApp]

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I’ve written about NetApp’s Edge to Core to Cloud story before, and this offering certainly builds on the work they’ve done with big data and machine learning solutions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) solutions are like big data from five years ago, or public cloud. You can’t go to any industry event, or take a briefing from an infrastructure vendor, without hearing all about how they’re delivering solutions focused on AI. What you do with the gear once you’ve bought one of these spectacularly ugly boxes is up to you, obviously, and I don’t want to get in to whether some of these solutions are really “AI” or not (hint: they’re usually not). While the vendors are gushing breathlessly about how AI will conquer the world, if you tone down the hyperbole a bit, there’re still some fascinating problems being solved with these kinds of solutions.

I don’t think that every business, right now, will benefit from an AI strategy. As much as the vendors would like to have you buy one of everything, these kinds of solutions are very good at doing particular tasks, most of which are probably not in your core remit. That’s not to say that you won’t benefit in the very near future from some of the research and development being done in this area. And it’s for this reason that I think architectures like this one, and those from NetApp’s competitors, are contributing something significant to the ongoing advancement of these fields.

I also like that this is delivered via channel partners. It indicates, at least at first glance, that AI-focused solutions aren’t simply something you can slap a SKU on and sells 100s of. Partners generally have a better breadth of experience across the various hardware, software and services elements and their respective constraints, and will often be in a better position to spend time understanding the problem at hand rather than treating everything as the same problem with one solution. There’s also less chance that the partner’s sales people will have performance accelerators tied to selling one particular line of products. This can be useful when trying to solve problems that are spread across multiple disciplines and business units.

The folks at NVIDIA have made a lot of noise in the AI / ML marketplace lately, and with good reason. They know how to put together blazingly fast systems. I’ll be interested to see how this architecture goes in the marketplace, and whether customers are primarily from the NetApp side of the fence, from the NVIDIA side, or perhaps both. You can grab a copy of the solution brief here, and there’s an AI white paper you can download from here. The real meat and potatoes though, is the reference architecture document itself, which you can find here.

Dell EMC Announces IDPA DP4400

Dell EMC announced the Integrated Data Protection Appliance (IDPA) at Dell EMC World in May 2017. They recently announced a new edition to the lineup, the IDPA DP4400. I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Reichwein about it and thought I’d share some of my thoughts here.

 

The Announcement

Overview

One of the key differences between this offering and previous IDPA products is the form factor. The DP4400 is a 2RU appliance (based on a PowerEdge server) with the following features:

  • Capacity starts at 24TB, growing in increments of 12TB, up to 96TB useable. The capacity increase is done via licensing, so there’s no additional hardware required (who doesn’t love the golden screwdriver?)
  • Search and reporting is built in to the appliance
  • There are Cloud Tier (ECS, AWS, Azure, Virtustream, etc) and Cloud DR options (S3 at this stage, but that will change in the future)
  • There’s the IDPA System Manager (Data Protection Central), along with Data Domain DD/VE (3.1) and Avamar (7.5.1)

[image courtesy of Dell EMC]

It’s hosted on vSphere 6.5, and the whole stack is referred to as IDPA 2.2. Note that you can’t upgrade the components individually.

 

Hardware Details

Storage Configuration

  • 18x 12TB 3.5″ SAS Drives (12 front, 2 rear, 4 mid-plane)
    • 12TB RAID1 (1+1) – VM Storage
    • 72TB RAID6 (6+2) – DDVE File System Spindle-group 1
    • 72TB RAID6 (6+2) – DDVE File System Spindle-group 2
  • 240GB BOSS Card
    • 240GB RAID1 (1+1 M.2) – ESXi 6.5 Boot Drive
  • 1.6TB NVMe Card
    • 960GB SSD – DDVE cache-tier

System Performance

  • 2x Intel Silver 4114 10-core 2.2GHz
  • Up to 40 vCPU system capacity
  • Memory of 256GB (8x 32GB RDIMMs, 2667MT/s)

Networking-wise, the appliance has 8x 10GbE ports using either SFP+ or Twinax. There’s a management port for initial configuration, along with an iDRAC port that’s disabled by default, but can be configured if required. If you’re using Avamar NDMP accelerator nodes in your environment, you can integrate an existing node with the DP4400. Note that it supports one accelerator node per appliance.

 

Put On Your Pointy Hat

One of the nice things about the appliance (particularly if you’ve ever had to build a data protection environment based on Data Domain and Avamar) is that you can setup everything you need to get started via a simple to use installation wizard.

[image courtesy of Dell EMC]

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I talked to Steve about what he thought the key differentiators were for the DP4400. He talked about:

  • Ecosystem breadth;
  • Network bandwidth; and
  • Guaranteed dedupe ratio (55:1 vs 5:1?)

He also mentioned the capability of a product like Data Protection Central to manage an extremely large ROBO environment. He said these were some of the opportunities where he felt Dell EMC had an edge over the competition.

I can certainly attest to the breadth of ecosystem support being a big advantage for Dell EMC over some of its competitors. Avamar and DD/VE have also demonstrated some pretty decent chops when it comes to bandwidth-constrained environments in need of data protection. I think it’s great the Dell EMC are delivering these kinds of solutions to market. For every shop willing to go with relative newcomers like Cohesity or Rubrik, there are plenty who still want to buy data protection from Dell EMC, IBM or Commvault. Dell EMC are being fairly upfront about what they think this type of appliance will support in terms of workload, and they’ve clearly been keeping an eye on the competition with regards to usability and integration. People who’ve used Avamar in real life have been generally happy with the performance and feature set, and this is going to be a big selling point for people who aren’t fans of NetWorker.

I’m not going to tell you that one vendor is offering a better solution than the others. You shouldn’t be making strategic decisions based on technical specs and marketing brochures in any case. Some environments are going to like this solution because it fits well with their broader strategy of buying from Dell EMC. Some people will like it because it might be a change from their current approach of building their own solutions. And some people might like to buy it because they think Dell EMC’s post-sales support is great. These are all good reasons to look into the DP4400.

Preston did a write-up on the DP4400 that you can read here. The IDPA DP4400 landing page can be found here. There’s also a Wikibon CrowdChat on next generation data protection being held on August 15th (2am on the 16th in Australian time) that will be worth checking out.

SwiftStack Announces 1space

SwiftStack recently announced 1space, and I was lucky enough to snaffle some time with Joe Arnold to talk more about what it all means. I thought it would be useful to do a brief post, as I really do like SwiftStack, and I feel like I don’t spend enough time talking about them.

 

The Announcement

So what exactly is 1space? It’s basically SwiftStack delivering access to their storage across both on-premises and public cloud. But what does that mean? Well, you get some cool features as a result, including:

  • Integrated multi-cloud access
  • Scale-out & high-throughput data movement
  • Highly reliable & available policy execution
  • Policies for lifecycle, data protection & migration
  • Optional, scale-out containers with AWS S3 support
  • Native access in public cloud (direct to S3, GCS, etc.)
  • Data created in public cloud accessible on-premises
  • Native format enabling cloud-native services

[image courtesy of SwiftStack]

According to Arnold, one of the really cool things about this is that it “provides universal access to over both file protocols and object APIs to a single storage namespace, it is increasingly used for distributed workflows across multiple geographic regions and multiple clouds”.

 

Metadata Search

But wait …

One of the really nice things that SwiftStack has done is add integrated metadata search via a desktop client for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It’s called MetaSync.

 

Thoughts

This has been a somewhat brief post, but something I did want to focus on was the fact that this product has been open-sourced. SwiftStack have been pretty keen on open source as a concept, and I think that comes through when you have a look at some of their contributions to the community. These contributions shouldn’t be underestimated, and I think it’s important that we call out when vendors are contributing to the open source community. Let’s face it, a whole lot of startups are taking advantage of code generated by the open source community, and a number of them have the good sense to know that it’s most certainly a two-way street, and they can’t relentlessly pillage the community without it eventually falling apart.

But this announcement isn’t just me celebrating the contributions of neckbeards from within the vendor community and elsewhere. SwiftStack have delivered something that is really quite cool. In much the same way that storage types won’t shut up about NVMe over Fabrics, cloud folks are really quite enthusiastic about the concept of multi-cloud connectivity. There are a bunch of different use cases where it makes sense to leverage a universal namespace for your applications. If you’d like to see SwiftStack in action, check out this YouTube channel (there’s a good video about 1space here) and if you’d like to take SwiftStack for a spin, you can do that here.

Rubrik Cloud Data Management 4.2 Announced – “Purpose Built for the Hybrid Cloud”

Rubrik recently announced 4.2 of their Cloud Data Management platform and I was fortunate enough to sit in on a sneak preview from Chris Wahl, Kenneth Hui, and Rebecca Fitzhugh. “Purpose Built for the Hybrid Cloud”, there are a whole bunch of new features in this release. I’ve included a summary table below, and will dig in to some of the more interesting ones.

Expanding the Ecosystem Core Features & Services General Enhancements
AWS Native Protection (EC2 Instances) Rubrik Envoy SQL Server FILESTREAM
VMware vCloud Director Integration Rubrik Edge on Hyper-V SQL Server Log Shipping
Windows Full Volume Protection Network Throttling NAS Native API Integration
AIX & Solaris Support VLAN Tagging (GUI) NAS SMB Scan Enhancements
SNMP AHV VSS snapshot
Multi-File restore Proxy per Archival Location
Reader-Writer Archival Locations

 

AWS Native Protection (EC2 Instances)

One of the key parts of this announcement is cloud-native protection, delivered specifically with AWS EBS Snapshots. The cool thing is you can have Rubrik running on-premises or sitting in the cloud.

Use cases?

  • Automate manual processes – use policy engine to automate lifecycle management of snapshots, including scheduling and retention
  • Rapid recovery from failure – eliminate manual steps for instance and file recovery
  • Replicate instances in other availability zones and regions – launch instances in other AZs and Regions when needed using snapshots
  • Consolidate data management – one solution to manage data across on-premises DCs and public clouds

Snapshots have been a manual process to deal with. Now there’s no need to mess with crontab or various AWS tools to get the snaps done. It also aligns with Rubrik’s vision of having a single tool to manage both cloud and on-premises workloads. The good news is that files in snapshots are indexed and searchable, so individual file recovery is also pretty simple.

 

VMware vCloud Director Integration

It may or may not be a surprise to learn that VMware vCloud Director is still in heavy use with service providers, so news of Rubrik integration with vCD shouldn’t be too shocking. Rubrik spent a little time talking about some of the “Foundational Services” they offer, including:

  • Backup – Hosted or Managed
  • ROBO Protection
  • DR – Mirrored Site service
  • Archival – Hosted or Managed

The value they add, though, is in the additional services, or what they term “Next Generation premium services”. These include:

  • Dev / Test
  • Cloud Archival
  • DR in Cloud
  • Near-zero availability
  • Cloud migration
  • Cloud app protection

Self-service is the key

To be able to deliver a number of these services, particularly in the service provider space, there’s been a big focus on multi-tenancy.

  • Operate multi-customer configuration through a single cluster
  • Logically partition cluster into tenants as “Organisations”
  • Offer self-service management for each organisation
  • Centrally control, monitoring and reporting with aggregated data

Support for vCD (version 8.10 and later) is as follows:

  • Auto discovery of vCD hierarchy
  • SLA based auto protect at different levels of vCD hierarchy
  • vCD Instance
  • vCD Organization • Org VDC
  • vApp
  • Recovery workflows
  • Export and Instant recovery
  • Network settings
  • File restore
  • Self-service using multi-tenancy
  • Reports for vCD organization

 

Windows Full Volume Protection

Rubrik have always had fileset-based protection, and they’re now offering the ability with Windows hosts to protect a volume at a time, eg. C:\ volume. These protection jobs incorporate additional information such as partition type, volume size, and permissions.

[image courtesy of Rubrik]

There’s also a Rubrik-created package to create bootable Microsoft Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE) media to restore the OS as well as provide disk partition information. There are multiple options for customers to recover entire volumes in addition to system state, including Master Boot Record (MBR), GUID Partition Table (GPT) information, and OS.

Why would you? There are a few use cases, including

  • P2V – remember those?
  • Physical RDM mapping compatibility – you might still have those about, because, well, reasons
  • Physical Exchange servers and log truncation
  • Cloud mobility (AWS to Azure or vice versa)

So now you can select volumes or filesets, and you can store the volumes in a Volume Group.

[image courtesy of Rubrik]

 

AIX and Solaris Support

Wahl was reluctant to refer to AIX and Solaris as “traditional” DC applications, because it all makes us feel that little bit older. In any case, AIX support was already available in the 4.1.1 release, and 4.2 adds Oracle Solaris support. There are a few restore scenarios that come to mind, particularly when it comes to things like migration. These include:

  • Restore (in place) – Restores the original AIX server at the original path or a different path.
  • Export (out of place) – Allows exporting to another AIX or Linux host that has the Rubrik Backup Service (RBS) running.
  • Download Only – Ability to download files to the machine from which the administrator is running the Rubrik web interface.
  • Migration – Any AIX application data can be restored or exported to a Linux host, or vice versa from Linux to an AIX host. In some cases, customers have leveraged this capability for OS migrations, removing the need for other tools.

 

Rubrik Envoy

Rubrik Envoy is a trusted ambassador (its certificate is issued by the Rubrik cluster) that represents the service provider’s Rubrik cluster in an isolated tenant network.

[image courtesy of Rubrik]

 

The idea is that service providers are able to offer backup-as-a-service (BaaS) to co-hosted tenants, enabling self-service SLA management with on-demand backup and recovery. The cool thing is you don’t have to deploy the Virtual Edition into the tenant network to get the connectivity you need. Here’s how it comes together:

  1. Once a tenant subscribes to BaaS from the SP, an Envoy virtual appliance is deployed on the tenant’s network.
  2. The tenant may log into Envoy, which will route the Rubrik UI to the MSP’s Rubrik cluster.
  3. Envoy will only allow access to objects that belong to the tenant.
  4. The Rubrik cluster works with the tenant VMs, via Envoy, for all application quiescence, file restore, point-in-time recovery, etc.

 

Network Throttling

Network throttling is something that a lot of customers were interested in. There’s not an awful lot to say about it, but the options are No, Default and Scheduled. You can use it to configure the amount of bandwidth used by archival and replication traffic, for example.

 

Core Feature Improvements

There are a few other nice things that have been added to the platform as well.

  • Rubrik Edge is now available on Hyper-V
  • VLAN tagging was supported in 4.1 via the CLI, GUI configuration is now available
  • SNMPv2c support (I loves me some SNMP)
  • GUI support for multi-file recovery

 

General Enhancements

A few other enhancements have been added, including:

  • SQL Server FILESTREAM fully supported now (I’m not shouting, it’s just how they like to write it);
  • SQL Server Log Shipping; and
  • Per-Archive Proxy Support.

Rubrik were also pretty happy to announce NAS Vendor Native API Integration with NetApp and Isilon.

  • Network Attached Storage (NAS) vendor-native API integration.
    • NetApp ONTAP (ONTAP API v8.2 and later) supporting cluster-mode for NetApp filers.
    • Dell EMC Isilon OneFS (v8.x and later) + ChangeList (v7.1.1 and later)
  • NAS vendor-native API integration further enhances our current capability to take volume-based snapshots.
  • This feature also enhances the overall backup fileset backup performance.

NAS SMB Scan Enhancements have also been included, providing a 10x performance improvement (according to Rubrik).

 

Thoughts

Point releases aren’t meant to be massive undertakings, but companies like Rubrik are moving at a fair pace and adding support for products to try and meet the requirements of their customers. There’s a fair bit going on in this one, and the support for AWS snapshots is kind of a big deal. I really like Rubrik’s focus on multi-tenancy, and they’re slowing opening up doors to some enterprises still using the likes of AIX and Solaris. This has previously been the domain of the more traditional vendors, so it’s nice to see progress has been made. Not all of the world runs on containers or in vSphere VMs, so delivering this capability will only help Rubrik gain traction in some of the more conservative shops around town.

Rubrik are working hard to address some of the “enterprise-y” shortcomings or gaps that may have been present in earlier iterations of their product. It’s great to see this progress over such a short period of time, and I’m looking forward to hearing about what else they have up their sleeve.

Druva Announces CloudRanger Acquisition

Announcement

Druva recently announced that they’ve acquired CloudRanger. I had the opportunity to catch up with W. Curtis Preston about the news recently and thought I’d cover it briefly here.

 

What’s A CloudRanger?

Here’s the high-level view of the company:

  • Founded in 2016
  • Headquartered in Donegal, Ireland
  • 300+ Global Customers
  • 3x Growth in last 6 months
  • 100% Cloud native ‘as-a-Service’
  • Pay as you go pricing model
  • Biggest client creating 4,000 snapshots per day

 

Why CloudRanger?

Agentless Service

  • API Account IAM access ensures greater customer account security
  • Leverages AWS Quiescing capabilities
  • No account proxies (No additional costs, increased security)
  • No software needed to be updated

Broadest service coverage

  • Amazon EC2, EBS, RDS & RedShift
  • Automated Disaster Recovery (ADR)
  • Server scheduling for Amazon EC2 & RDS
  • SaaS based solution, compared to CPM server based approach
  • Easy to use platform for managing multiple AWS accounts
  • Featured SaaS product in AWS Marketplace available via SaaS contracts

Consumption Based Pricing Model

  • Pay as you go with full insight into data usage for cost predictability

 

A Good Fit

So where does CloudRanger fit in the broader Druva story? You’ll notice in the below picture that Apollo is missing. The main reason for the acquisition, as best I can tell, is that CloudRanger gives Druva the capability they were after with Apollo but in a much shorter timeframe.

[image courtesy of Druva]

 

Thoughts

A lot of customers want a lot of different things from their software vendors, particularly when it comes to data protection. A lot of companies have particular needs, and infrastructure protection is a complicated beast at the best of times. Sometimes it makes sense to try and develop these features for your customers. And sometimes it makes sense to go out and acquire those features. In this case, Druva has realised that CloudRanger gets them to a point in their product development far quicker than they may have gotten to under their own steam. The point of this acquisition isn’t that the good folks at Druva don’t have the chops to deliver what CloudRanger does already, but now they can move on to other platform enhancements. This does assume that the acquisition will go smoothly, but given that this doesn’t appear to be a hostile takeover, I’m assuming that part will go well.

Druva have done a lot of cool stuff recently, and I do like their approach to data protection (management?) that has differentiated itself from some of the more traditional approaches in the marketplace. CloudRanger gives them solid capability with AWS workloads, and I imagine Azure will be on the radar as well. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out, and what impact it has on some of their competitors in the space.

Cloudtenna Announces DirectSearch

 

I had the opportunity to speak to Aaron Ganek about Cloudtenna and their DirectSearch product recently and thought I’d share some thoughts here. Cloudtenna recently announced $4M in seed funding, have Citrix as a key strategic partner, and are shipping a beta product today. Their goal is “[b]ringing order to file chaos!”.

 

The Problem

Ganek told me that there are three major issues with file management and the plethora of collaboration tools used in the modern enterprise:

  • Search is too much effort
  • Security tends to fall through the cracks
  • Enterprise IT is dangerously non-compliant

Search

Most of these collaboration tools are geared up for search, because people don’t tend to remember where they put files, or what they’ve called them. So you might have some files in your corporate Box account, and some in Dropbox, and then some sitting in Confluence. The problem with trying to find something is that you need to search each application individually. According to Cloudtenna, this:

  • Wastes time;
  • Leads to frustration; and
  • Often yields poor results.

Security

Security also becomes a problem when you have multiple storage repositories for corporate files.

  • There are too many apps to manage
  • It’s difficult to track users across applications
  • There’s no consolidated audit trail

Exposure

As a result of this, enterprises find themselves facing exposure to litigation, primarily because they can’t answer these questions:

  • Who accessed what?
  • When and from where?
  • What changed?

As some of my friends like to say “people die from exposure”.

 

Cloudtenna – The DirectSearch Solution

Enter DirectSearch. At its core it’s a SaaS offering that

  • Catalogues file activity across disparate data silos; and
  • Delivers machine learning services to mitigate the “chaos”.

Basically you point it at all of your data repositories and you can then search across all of those from one screen. The cool thing about the catalogue is not just that it tracks metadata and leverages full-text indexing, it also tracks user activity. It supports a variety of on-premises, cloud and SaaS applications (6 at the moment, 16 by September). You only need to login once and there’s full ACL support – so users can only see what they’re meant to see.

According to Ganek, it also delivers some pretty fast search results, in the order of 400 – 600ms.

[image courtesy of Cloudtenna]

I was interested to know a little more about how the machine learning could identify files that were being worked on by people in the same workgroup. Ganek said they didn’t rely on Active Directory group membership, as these were often outdated. Instead, they tracked file activity to create a “Shadow IT organisational chart” that could be used to identify who was collaborating on what, and tailor the search results accordingly.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I’ve spent a good part of my career in the data centre providing storage solutions for enterprises to host their critical data on. I talk a lot about data and how important it is to the business. I’ve worked at some established companies where thousands of files are created every day and terabytes of data is moved around. Almost without fail, file management has been a pain in the rear. Whether I’ve been using Box to collaborate, or sending links to files with Dropbox, or been stuck using Microsoft Teams (great for collaboration but hopeless from a management perspective), invariably files get misplaced or I find myself firing up a search window to try and track down this file or that one. It’s a mess because we don’t juts work from a single desktop and carefully curated filesystem any more. We’re creating files on mobile devices, emailing them about, and gathering data from systems that don’t necessarily play well on some platforms. It’s a mess, but we need access to the data to get our jobs done. That’s why something like Cloudtenna has my attention. I’m looking forward to seeing them progress with the beta of DirectSearch, and I have a feeling they’re on to something pretty cool with their product. You can also read Rich’s thoughts on Cloudtenna over at the Gestalt IT website.

What’s New With Zerto?

Zerto recently held their annual conference (ZertoCON) last week in Boston. I didn’t attend, but I did have time to catch up with Rob Strechay prior to Zerto making some announcements around the company and future direction. I thought I’d cover those here.

 

IT Resilience Platform

The first announcement revolved around the “IT Resilience Platform“. The idea behind the strategy is that backup, disaster recovery and cloud mobility solutions into a single, simple, scalable platform. Strechay says that “this strategy combines continuous availability, workload mobility, and multi-cloud agility to ensure you can withstand any disruption, leverage new technology seamlessly, and move forward with confidence”. They’ve found that Zerto is being used both for unplanned and planned disruptions, and they’ve also been seeing a lot more activity resolving ransomware and security incidents. From a planned outage perspective, DC consolidation has been a big part of the planned disruption activity as well.

What’s driving this direction? According to Strechay, companies are looking for fewer point solutions. They’re also seeing backup and DR activities converging. Cloud is driving this technology convergence and is changing the way data protection is being delivered.

  • Cloud for backup
  • Cloud for DR
  • Application mobility

“It’s good if it’s done properly”. Zerto tell me they haven’t rushed into this and are not taking the approach lightly. They see IT Resilience as a combination of  Backup, DR Replication, and Hybrid Cloud. Strechay told me that Zerto are going to stay software only and will partner on the hardware side where required. So what does it look like conceptually?

[image courtesy of Zerto]

Think of this as a mode of transport. The analytics and control is like the navigation system, the orchestration and automation layer are the steering wheel, and continuous data protection is the car.

 

Vision for the Future of Backup

Strechay also shared with me Zerto’s vision for the future of backup. In short, “it needs to change”. They really want to move away from the concept of periodic protection to continuous, journal-based protection delivering seconds of RPO at scale to meet customer expectations. How are they going to do this? The key differentiation will be CDP combined with best of breed replication.

 

Zerto 7 Preview

Strechay also shared some high level details of Zerto 7, with key features including:

  • Intelligent index and search
  • Elastic journal
  • Data protection workflows
  • Architecture enhanced
  • LTR targets

There’ll be a new and enhanced user experience – they’re busy revisiting workflows and enhancing a number of them (e.g. reducing clicks, enhanced APIs, etc). They’ll also be looking at features such as prescriptive analytics (what if I added more VMs to this journal?). They’re aiming for a release in Q1 2019.

 

Thoughts

The way we protect data is changing. Companies like Zerto, Rubrik and Cohesity are bringing a new way of thinking to an age old problem. They’re coming at it from slightly different angles as well. This can only be a good thing for the industry. A lot of the technical limitations that we faced previously have been removed in terms of bandwidth and processing power. This provides the opportunity to approach the problem from the business perspective. Rather than saying “we can’t do that”, we have the opportunity to say “we can do that”. That doesn’t mean that scale is a simple thing to manage, but it seems like there are more ways to solve this problem than there have been previously.

I’ve been a fan of Zerto’s approach for some time. I like the idea that a company has shared their new vision for data protection some months out from actually delivering the product. It makes a nice change from companies merely regurgitating highlights from their product release notes (not that that isn’t useful at times). Zerto have a rich history of delivering CDP solutions for virtualised environments, and they’ve made some great inroads with cloud workload protection as well. The idea of moving away from periodic data protection to something continuous is certainly interesting, and obviously fits in well with Zerto’s strengths. It’s possibly not a strategy that will work well in every situation, particularly with smaller environments. But if you’re leveraging replication technologies already, it’s worth looking at how Zerto might be able to deliver a more complete solution for your data protection requirements.

Burlywood Tech Announces TrueFlash

Burlywood Tech came out of stealth late last year and recently announced their TrueFlash product. I had the opportunity to speak with Mike Tomky about what they’ve been up to since emerging from stealth and thought I’d cover the announcement here.

 

Burlywood TrueFlash

So what is TrueFlash? It’s a “modular controller architecture that accelerates time-to-market of new flash adoption”. The idea is that Burlywood can deliver a software-defined solution that will sit on top of commodity Flash. They say that one size doesn’t fit all, particularly with Flash, and this solution gives customers the opportunity to tailor the hardware to better meet their requirements.

It offers the following features:

  • Multiple interfaces (SATA, SAS, NVMe)
  • FTL Translation (Full SSD to None)
  • Capacity ->100TB
  • Traffic optimisation
  • Multiple Protocols (Block (NVMe, NVMe/F), File, Object, Direct Memory)

[image courtesy of Burlywood Tech]

 

Who’s Buying?

This isn’t really an enterprise play – those aren’t the types of companies that would buy Flash at the scale that this would make sense. This is really aimed at the hyperscalers, cloud providers, and AFA / HCI vendors. They sell the software, controller and SSD Reference Design to the hyperscalers, but treat the cloud providers and AFA vendors a little differently, generally delivering a completed SSD for them. All of their customers benefit from:

  • A dedicated support team (in-house drive team);
  • Manufacturing assembly & test;
  • Technical & strategic support in all phases; and
  • Collaborative roadmap planning.

The key selling point for Burlywood is that they claim to be able to reduce costs by 10 – 20% through better capacity utilisation, improved supply chain and faster product qualification times.

 

Thoughts

You know you’re doing things at a pretty big scale if you’re thinking it’s a good idea to be building your own SSDs to match particular workloads in your environment. But there are reasons to do this, and from what I can see, it makes sense for a few companies. It’s obviously not for everyone, and I don’t think you’ll be seeing this n the enterprise anytime soon. Which is the funny thing, when you think about it. I remember when Google first started becoming a serious search engine and they talked about some of their earliest efforts with DIY servers and battles with doing things at the scale they needed. Everyone else was talking about using appliances or pre-built solutions “optimised” by the vendors to provide the best value for money or best performance or whatever. As the likes of Dropbox, Facebook and LinkedIn have shown, there is value in going the DIY route, assuming the right amount of scale is there.

I’ve said it before, very few companies really qualify for the “hyper” in hyperscalers. So a company like Burlywood Tech isn’t necessarily going to benefit them directly. That said, these kind of companies, if they’re successful in helping the hyperscalers drive the cost of Flash in a downwards direction, will indirectly help enterprises by forcing the major Flash vendors to look at how they can do things more economically. And sometimes it’s just nice to peak behind the curtain to see how this stuff comes about. I’m oftentimes more interested in how networks put together their streaming media services than a lot of the content they actually deliver on those platforms. I think Burlywood Tech falls in that category as well. I don’t care for some of the services that the hyperscalers deliver, but I’m interested in how they do it nonetheless.

Storbyte Come Out Of Stealth Swinging

I had the opportunity to speak to Storbyte‘s Chief Evangelist and Design Architect Diamond Lauffin recently and thought I’d share some information on their recent announcement.

 

Architecture

ECO-FLASH

Storbyte have announced ECO-FLASH, positioning it as “a new architecture and flash management system for non-volatile memory”. Its integrated circuit, ASIC-based architecture abstracts independent SSD memory modules within the flash drive and presents the unified architecture as a single flash storage device.

 

Hydra

Each ECO-FLASH module is comprised of 16 mSATA modules, running in RAID 0. 4 modules are managed by each Hydra, with 4 “sub-master” Hydras being managed by a master Hydra. This makes up one drive that supports RAID 0, 5, 6 and N, so if you were only running a single-drive solution (think out at the edge), you can configure the modules to run in RAID 5 or 6.

 

[image courtesy of Storbyte]

 

Show Me The Product

[image courtesy of Storbyte]

 

The ECO-FLASH drives come in 4, 8, 16 and 32TB configurations, and these fit into a variety of arrays. Storbyte is offering three ECO-FLASH array models:

  • 131TB raw capacity in 1U (using 4 drives);
  • 262TB raw capacity in 2U (using 16 drives); and
  • 786TB raw capacity in 4U (using 48 drives).

Storbyte’s ECO-FLASH supports a blend of Ethernet, iSCSI, NAS and InfiniBand primary connectivity simultaneously. You can also add Storbyte’s 4U 1.18PB spinning disk JBOD expansion units to deliver a hybrid solution.

 

Thoughts

The idea behind Storbyte came about because some people were working in forensic security environments that had a very heavy write workload, and they needed to find a better way to add resilience to the high performance storage solutions they were using. Storbyte are offering a 10 year warranty on their product, so they’re clearly convinced that they’ve worked through a lot of the problems previously associated with the SSD Write Cliff (read more about that here, here, and here). They tell me that Hydra is the primary reason that they’re able to mitigate a number of the effects of the write cliff and can provide performance for a longer period of time.

Storbyte’s is not a standard approach by any stretch. They’re talking some big numbers out of the gate and have a pretty reasonable story to tell around capacity, performance, and resilience as well. I’ve scheduled another session with Storbyte to talk some more about how it all works and I’ll be watching these folks with some interest as they enter the market and start to get some units running workload on the floor. There’s certainly interesting heritage there, and the write cliff has been an annoying problem to solve. Coupled with some aggressive economics and support for a number of connectivity options and I can see this solution going in to a lot of DCs and being used for some cool stuff. If you’d like to read another perspective, check out what Rich over at Gestalt IT wrote about them and you can read the full press release here.