StorCentric Announces Data Mobility Suite

StorCentric recently announced its Data Mobility Suite (DMS). I had the opportunity to talk to Surya Varanasi (StorCentric CTO) about the news, and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

What Is It?

DMS is being positioned as a suite of “data cloud services” by StorCentric, with a focus on:

  • Data migration;
  • Data consistency; and
  • Data operation.

It has the ability to operate across heterogeneous storage, clouds, and protocols. It’s a software solution based on subscription licensing and uses a policy-driven engine to manage data in the enterprise. It can run on bare-metal or as a VM appliance. Object storage platform / cloud support if fairly robust, with AWS, Backblaze B2, and Wasabi, amongst others, all being supported.

[image courtesy of StorCentric]

Use Cases

There are a number of scenarios where a solution like DMS makes sense. You might have a bunch of NFS storage on-premises, for example, and want to move it to a cloud storage target using S3. Another use case cited involved collaboration across multiple sites, with the example being a media company creating content in three places, and working in different time zones, and wanting to move the data back to a centralised location.

Big Ideas

Speaking to StorCentric about the announcement, it was clear that there’s a lot more on the DMS roadmap. Block storage is something the team wants to tackle, and they’re also looking to deliver analytics and ransomware alerting. There’s also a strong desire to provide governance as well. For example, if I want to copy some data somewhere and keep it for 10 years, I’ll configure DMS to take care of that for me.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Data management means a lot of things to a lot of people. Storage companies often focus on moving blocks and files from one spot to another, but don’t always do a solid job of capturing data needs to be stored where it does. Or how, for that matter. There’s a lot more to data management than keeping ones and zeroes in a safe place. But it’s not just about being able to move data from one spot to another. It’s about understanding the value of your data, and understanding where it needs to be to deliver the most value to your organisation. Whilst it seems like DMS is focused primarily on moving data from one spot to another, there’s plenty of potential here to develop a broader story in terms of data governance and mobility. There’s built-in security, and the ability to apply levels of data governance to data in various locations. The greater appeal here is also the ability to automate the movement of data to different places based on policy. This policy-driven approach becomes really interesting when you start to look at complicated collaboration scenarios, or need to do something smart with replication or data migration.

Ultimately, there are a bunch of different ways to get data from one point to another, and a bunch of different reasons why you might need to do that. The value in something like DMS is the support for heterogeneous storage platforms, as well as the simple to use GUI support. Plenty of data migration tools come with extremely versatile command line interfaces and API support, but the trick is delivering an interface that is both intuitive and simple to navigate. It’s also nice to have a few different use cases met with one tool, rather than having to reach into the bag a few different times to solve very similar problems. StorCentric has a lot of plans for DMS moving forward, and if those plans come to fruition it’s going to form a very compelling part of the typical enterprise’s data management toolkit. You can read the press release here.

Zerto Announces 8.5 and Zerto Data Protection

Zerto recently announced 8.5 of its product, along with a new offering, Zerto Data Protection (ZDP). I had the good fortune to catch up with Caroline Seymour (VP, Product Marketing) about the news and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

ZDP, Yeah You Know Me

Global Pandemic for $200 Please, Alex

In “these uncertain times”, organisations are facing new challenges

  • No downtime, no data loss, 24/7 availability
  • Influx of remote work
  • Data growth and sprawl
  • Security threats
  • Acceleration of cloud

Many of these things were already a problem, and the global pandemic has done a great job highlighting them.

“Legacy Architecture”

Zerto paints a bleak picture of the “legacy architecture” adopted by many of the traditional dat protection solutions, positing that many IT shops need to use a variety of tools to get to a point where operations staff can sleep better at night. Disaster recovery, for example, is frequently handled via replication for mission-critical applications, with backup being performed via periodic snapshots for all other applications. ZDP aims to being all this together under one banner of continuous data protection, delivering:

  • Local continuous backup and long-term retention (LTR) to public cloud; and
  • Pricing optimised for backup.

[image courtesy of Zerto]

Features

[image courtesy of Zerto]

So what do you get with ZDP? Some neat features, including:

  • Continuous backup with journal
  • Instant restore from local journal
  • Application consistent recovery
  • Short-term SLA policy settings
  • Intelligent index and search
  • LTR to disk, object or Cloud (Azure, AWS)
  • LTR policies, daily incremental with weekly, monthly or yearly fulls
  • Data protection workflows

 

New Licensing

It wouldn’t be a new software product without some mention of new licensing. If you want to use ZDP, you get:

  • Backup for short-term retention and LTR;
  • On-premises or backup to cloud;
  • Analytics; and
  • Orchestration and automation for backup functions.

If you’re sticking with (the existing) Zerto Cloud Edition, you get:

  • Everything in ZDP;
  • Disaster Recovery for on-premises and cloud;
  • Multi-cloud support; and
  • Orchestration and automation.

 

Zerto 8.5

A big focus of Zerto’s recently has been VMware on public cloud support, including the various flavours of VMware on Azure, AWS, and Oracle Cloud. There are a bunch of reasons why this approach has proven popular with existing VMware customers looking to migrate from on-premises to public cloud, including:

  • Native VMware support – run existing VMware workloads natively on IaaS;
  • Policies and configuration don’t need to change;
  • Minimal changes – no need to refactor applications; and
  • IaaS benefits- reliability, scale, and operational model.

[image courtesy of Zerto]

New in 8.5

With 8.5, you can now backup directly to Microsoft Azure and AWS. You also get instant file and folder restores to production. There’s now support for VMware on public cloud disaster recovery and data protection for Microsoft Azure VMware Solution, Google Cloud VMware Engine, and the Oracle Cloud VMware Solution. You also get platform automation and lifecycle management features, including:

  • Auto-evacuate for recovery hosts;
  • Auto-populate for recovery hosts; and
  • Encryption capabilities.

And finally, a Zerto PowerShell Cmdlets Module has also been released.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The writing’s been on the wall for some time that Zerto might need to expand its solution offering to incorporate backup and recovery. Continuous data protection is a great feature and my experience with Zerto has been that it does what it says on the tin. The market, however, is looking for ways to consolidate solution offerings in order to save a few more dollarydoos and keep the finance department happy. I haven’t seen the street pricing for ZDP, but Seymour seemed confident that it stacks up well against the more traditional data protection options on the market, particularly when compared against offerings that incorporate components that deal with CDP and periodic data protection with different tools. There’s a new TCO calculator on the Zerto website, and there’s also the opportunity to talk to a Zerto account representative about your particular needs.

I’ve always treated regular backup and recovery and disaster recovery as very different things, mainly because they are. Companies frequently make the mistake of trying to cobble together some kind of DR solution using traditional backup and recovery tools. I’m interested to see how Zerto goes with this approach. It’s not the first company to converge elements that fit in the data protection space together, and it will be interesting to see how much of the initial uptake of ZDP is with existing customers or net new logos. The broadening of support for the VMware on X public cloud workloads is good news for enterprises too (putting aside my thoughts on whether or not that’s a great long term strategy for said enterprises). There’s some interesting stuff happening, and I’m looking forward to see how the story unfolds over the next 6 – 12 months.

Quobyte Announces 3.0

Quobyte recently announced Release 3.0 of its software. I had the opportunity to speak to Björn Kolbeck (Co-Founder and CEO) about the release, and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

About Quobyte

If you haven’t heard of Quobyte before, it was founded in 2013 by some ex-Googlers and HPC experts. The folks at Quobyte were heavily influenced by Google’s scale-out software model and wanted to bring that to the enterprise. Quobyte has had software in production since 2016 and has customers across a range of industry verticals, including financial services and media streaming. It’s not really object storage, more a parallel file system or, at a stretch, scale-out NAS.

 

The Tech

Kolbeck describes Quobyte as “storage for Generation Scale-Out” and is focussed on “getting storage out of the ugly corner of specialised appliances”.

Unlimited Performance

  • Linear scaling delivers unlimited performance
  • No bottlenecks – scale from small to 1000s of servers
  • No more NFS – it’s part of the problem

Deploy Anywhere

  • True software storage runs anywhere – bare metal, containers, cloud
  • Almost any x86t server – no appliances

Unconditional Simplicity

  • Anyone can do storage, it’s just another Linux application
  • All in user space, installs in minutes

 

The Announcement

Free Edition

The first part of the announcement is that there’s a free edition (previously there was a 45 day trial on offer). It’s limited in terms of capacity, support, and file system clients, but could be useful in labs and smaller environments.

[image courtesy of Quobyte]

3.0 Release

The 3.0 release is also a big part of Quobyte’s news, with the new version delivering a bunch of new features, most of which are outlined below.

360 Security

  • Holistic data protection
  • End to end AES encryption (in transit / at rest / untrusted storage nodes)
  • Selective TLS support
  • Access keys for the file system
  • X.509 certificates
  • Event stream (metadata, file access)

Policy Engine

Powerful Policy Engine

  • For: Tenant, volume, file, client
  • Control: Layout, tiering, QoS, recoding, caching
  • Dynamic: Runtime re-configurable

Automated

  • Auto file layout: replication + EC and Flash + HDD
  • Auto selection of replication factor, EC schema

Self-Service

Quobyte is looking to deliver a “cloud-like experience” with its self-service capabilities.

Login for users

  • Manage access keys
  • Check resource consumption

Authenticate using access keys

  • S3
  • File system driver
  • K8s / CSI
  • User-space drivers: HDFS, TF, MPI-IO

Multi-Cluster

Data Mover

  • Bi-directional sync (evental consistency)
  • Policy-based data tiering between clusters
  • Recoding

TLS between clusters

More Native Drivers

HDFS

MPI-IO

Benefit of kernel bypass

  • Lower latency
  • Less memory bandwidth

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

One of the challenges with software-defined storage is invariably the constraint that poor hardware choices can put on performance. Kolbeck acknowledged that Quobyte is “as fast as your hardware”. I asked him whether Quobyte provided guidance on hardware choices that worked well with the platform. There is a bunch of recommended (and tested) hardware listed on this page. He did mention that whichever way you decided to go, it was recommended to stick with either Mellanox or Broadcom NICs due to issues observed with other vendors’ Linux drivers. There’re also recommendations on the site for public cloud instance sizing covering AWS, GCP, and Oracle.

Quobyte is being deployed to support scale-out workloads in the enterprise across a number of sectors including financial services, life sciences, media and entertainment, and manufacturing in Europe and Asia. Kolbeck noted that one of the interesting things about the advent of smart everything is that “car manufacturers are suddenly in the machine learning field” and looking for new ways to support their businesses.

There are a lot of reasons to like software-defined storage offerings. You can generally run them on anything, and performance enhancements can frequently be had via code upgrades. That’s not to say that you don’t get that with the big box slingers, but the flexibility of hardware choice has tremendous appeal, particularly in the enterprise market where it can feel like the margin on commodity hardware can be exorbitant. Quobyte hasn’t been around forever, but the folks over there seem to have a pretty solid heritage in software-defined and scale-out storage solutions – a good sign if you’re in the market for a software-defined, scale-out storage solution. Some folks are going to rue the lack of NFS support, but I’m sure Kolbeck and the team would be happy to sit down and discuss with them why that’s no great loss. There’s some pretty cool stuff in this release, and the free edition is definitely worth taking for a spin. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Quobyte over the next little while.

StorONE Q3-2020 Update

StorONE recently announced details of its Q3-2020 software release. I had the opportunity to talk about the announcement with George Crump and thought I’d share some brief thoughts here.

 

Release Highlights

Performance Improvements

One of the key highlights of this release is significant performance improvements for the platform based purely on code optimisations. Crump tells me that customers with Intel Optane and NVMe SSDs will be extremely happy with what they see. What’s also notable is that customers still using high latency media such as hard disk drives will still see a performance improvement of 15 – 20%.

Data Protection

StorONE has worked hard on introducing some improved resilience for the platform as well, with two key features being made available:

  • vRack; and
  • vReplicate.

vRack provides the ability to split S1 storage across more than one rack (or row, for that matter) to mitigate any failures impacting the rack hosting the controllers and disk enclosures. You can now also set tolerance for faults at an enclosure level, not just a drive level.

[image courtesy of StorONE]

vReplicate extends S1:Replicate’s capabilities to provide cascading replication. You can now synchronously replicate between data centres or campus sites and then asynchronously send that data to another site, hundreds of kilometres away if necessary. Primary systems can be an All-Flash Array.next, traditional All-Flash Array, or a Hybrid Array, and the replication target can be an inexpensive hard disk only S1 system.

[image courtesy of StorONE]

There’s now full support for Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) for S1:Snap users.

 

Other Enhancements

Some of the other enhancements included with this release are:

  • Improved support for NVMe-oF (including the ability to simultaneously support iSCSI and FC along with NVMe);
  • Improved NAS capability, with support for quotas and NIS / LDAP; and
  • Downloadable stats for increased insights.

 

Thoughts

Some of these features might seem like incremental improvements, but this is an incremental release. I like the idea of supporting legacy connections while supporting the ability to add newer tech to the platform, and providing a way forward in terms of hardware migration. The vRack resiliency concept is also great, and a salient reminder that the ability to run this code on commodity hardware makes some of these types of features a little more accessible. I also like the idea of being able to download analytics data and do things with it to gain greater insights into what the system is doing. Sure, it’s an incremental improvement, but an important one nonetheless.

I’ve been a fan of the StorONE story for some time now (and not just because the team slings a few dollars my way to support the site every now and then). I think the key to much of StorONE’s success has been that it hasn’t gotten caught up trying to be a storage appliance vendor, and has instead focussed on delivering reliable code on commodity systems that results in a performance-oriented storage platform that continues to improve from a software perspective without being tied to a particular hardware platform. The good news is though, when new hardware becomes available (such as Optane), it’s not a massive problem to incorporate it into the solution.

StorONE has always talked a big game in terms of raw performance numbers, but I think it’s the addition of features such as vRack and improvements to the replication capability that really makes it a solution worth investigating. It doesn’t hurt that you can check the pricing calculator out for yourself before you decide to go down the path of talking to StorONE’s sales team. I’m looking forward to seeing what StorONE has in store in the next little while, as I get the impression it’s going to be pretty cool. You can read details of the update here.

Pure Storage Acquires Portworx

Pure Storage announced its intention to acquire Portworx in mid-September. Around that time I had the opportunity to talk about the news with Goutham Rao (Portworx CTO) and Matt Kixmoeller (Pure Storage VP, Strategy) and thought I’d share some brief thoughts here.

 

The News

Pure and Portworx have entered an agreement that will see Pure pay approximately $370M US in cash. Portworx will form a new Cloud Native Business Unit inside Pure to be led by Portworx CEO Murli Thirumale. All Portworx founders are joining Pure, with Pure investing significantly to grow the new business unit. According to Pure, “Portworx software to continue as-is, supporting deployments in any cloud and on-premises, and on any bare metal, VM, or array-based storage”. It was also noted that “Portworx solutions to be integrated with Pure yet maintain a commitment to an open ecosystem”.

About Portworx

Described as the “leading Kubernetes data services platform”, Portworx was founded in 2014 in Los Altos, CA. It runs a 100% software, subscription, and cloud business model with development and support sites in California, India, and Eastern Europe. The product has been GA since 2017, and is used by some of the largest enterprise and Cloud / SaaS companies globally.

 

What’s A Portworx?

The idea behind Portworx is that it gives you data services for any application, on any Kubernetes distribution, running on any cloud, any infrastructure, and at any stage of the application lifecycle. To that end, it’s broken up into a bunch of different components, and runs in the K8s control plane adjacent to the applications.

PX-Store

  • Software-defined storage layer that automates container storage for developers and admins
  • Consistent storage APIs: cloud, bare metal, or arrays

PX-Migrate

  • Easily move applications between clusters
  • Enables hybrid cloud and multi-cloud mobility

PX-Backup

  • Application-consistent backup for cloud native apps with all k8s artefacts and state
  • Backup to any cloud or on-premises object storage

PX-Secure

  • Implement consistent encryption and security policies across clouds
  • Enable multi-tenancy with access controls

PX-DR

  • Sync and async replication between Availability Zones and regions
  • Zero RPO active / active for high resiliency

PX-Autopilot

  • GitOps-driven automation allows for easier platform for non-storage experts to deploy stateful applications, monitors everything about an application, reacts and prevents problems from happening
  • Auto-scale storage as your app grows to reduce costs

 

How It Fits Together

When you bring Portworx into the Pure Storage picture, you start to see that it fits well with the existing Pure Storage picture. In the picture below you’ll also see support for the standard container storage interface (CSI) to work with other vendors.

[image courtesy of Pure Storage]

Also worth noting is that PX-Essentials remains free forever for workloads under 5TB and 5 nodes).

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I think this is a great move by Pure, mainly because it lends them a whole lot more credibility with the DevOps folks. Pure was starting to make inroads with Pure Storage Orchestrator, and I think this move will strengthen that story. Giving Portworx access to Pure’s salesforce globally is also going to broaden its visibility in the market and open up doors to markets that may have been difficult to get into previously.

Persistent storage for containers is heating up. As Rao pointed out in our discussion, “as container adoption grows, storage becomes a problem”. Portworx already had a good story to tell in this space, and Pure is no slouch when it comes to delivering advanced storage capabilities across a variety of platforms. I like that the messaging has been firmly based in maintaining the openness of the platform and I’m interested to see what other integrations happen as the two companies start working more closely together. If you’d like another perspective on the news, check out Chris Evans’s article here.

Rancher Labs Announces 2.5

Rancher Labs recently announced version 2.5 of its platform. I had the opportunity to catch up with co-founder and CEO Sheng Liang about the release and other things that Rancher has been up to and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

Introducing Rancher Labs 2.5

Liang described Rancher as a way for organisations to “[f]ocus on enriching their own apps, rather than trying to be a day 1, day 2 K8s outfit”. With that thinking in mind, the new features in 2.5 are as follows:

  1. Rancher now installs everywhere – on EKS, OpenShift, whatever – and they’ve removed a bunch of dependencies. Rancher 2.5 can now be installed on any CNCF-certified Kubernetes cluster, eliminating the need to set up a separate Kubernetes cluster before installing Rancher. The new lightweight installation experience is useful for users who already have access to a cloud-managed Kubernetes service like EKS.
  2. Enhanced management for EKS. Rancher Labs was a launch partner for EKS and used to treat it like a dumb distribution. The management architecture has been revamped with improved lifecycle management for EKS. It now uses the native EKS way of doing various things and only adds value where it’s not already present.
  3. Managing edge clusters. Liang described K3s as “almost the goto distribution for edge computing (5G, IoT, ATMs, etc)”. When you get into some of these scenarios, the scale of operations is becoming pretty big. You need to re-think multi-cluster management when you have that in place. Rancher has introduced a GitOps framework to do that. “GitOps at scale” – created its own GitOp framework to accommodate the required scale.
  4. K8s has plenty of traction in government and high security environments, hence the development of RKE Government Edition.

 

Other Notes

Liang mentioned that Longhorn uptake (made generally available in May 2020) has been great, with over 10000 active deployments (not just downloads) in the wild now. He noted that persistent storage with K8s has been hard to do, and Longhorn has gone some way to improving that experience. K3s is now a CNCF Sandbox project, not just a Rancher project, and this has certainly helped with its popularity as well. He also mentioned the acquisition by SUSE was continuing to progress, and expected it would be closed in Q4, 2020.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Longtime readers of this blog will know that my background is fairly well entrenched in infrastructure as opposed to cloud-native technologies. Liang understands this, and always does a pretty good job of translating some of the concepts he talks about with me back into infrastructure terms. The world continues to change, though, and the popularity of Kubernetes and solutions like Rancher Labs highlights that it’s no longer a simple conversation about LUNs, CPUs, network throughput and which server I’ll use to host my application. Organisations are looking for effective ways to get the most out of their technology investment, and Kubernetes can provide an extremely effective way of deploying and running containerised applications in an agile and efficient fashion. That said, the bar for entry into the cloud-native world can still be considered pretty high, particularly when you need to do things at large scale. This is where I think platforms like the one from Rancher Labs make so much sense. I may have described some elements of cloud-native architecture as a bin fire previously, but I think the progress that Rancher is making demonstrates just how far we’ve come. I know that VMware and Kubernetes has little in common, but it strikes me that we’re seeing the same development progress that we saw 15 years ago with VMware (and ESX in particular). I remember at the time that VMware seemed like a whole bunch of weird to many infrastructure folks, and it wasn’t until much later that these same people were happily using VMware in every part of the data centre. I suspect that the adoption of Kubernetes (and useful management frameworks for it) will be a bit quicker than that, but it’s going to be heavily reliant on solutions like this to broaden the appeal of what’s a very useful (but nonetheless challenging) container deployment and management ecosystem.

If you’re in the APAC region, Rancher is hosting a webinar in a friendly timezone later this month. You can get more details on that here. And if you’re on US Eastern time, there’s the “Computing on the Edge with Kubernetes” one day event that’s worth checking out.

Pure Storage Announces Second Generation FlashArray//C with QLC

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 20.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Pure Storage recently announced its second generation FlashArray//C – an all-QLC offering offering scads of capacity in a dense form factor. Pure Storage presented on this topic at Storage Field Day 20. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

It’s A Box!

FlashArray//C burst on to the scene last year as an all-flash, capacity-optimised storage option for customers looking for storage that didn’t need to go quite as fast the FlashArray//X, but that wasn’t built on spinning disk. Available capacities range from 1.3PB to 5.2PB (effective).

[image courtesy of Pure Storage]

There are a number of models available, with a variety of capacities and densities.

  Capacity Physical
 

//C60-366

 

Up to 1.3PB effective capacity**

366TB raw capacity**

3U; 1000–1240 watts (nominal–peak)

97.7 lbs (44.3 kg) fully loaded

5.12” x 18.94” x 29.72” chassis

 

//C60-494

 

Up to 1.9PB effective capacity**

494TB raw capacity**

3U; 1000–1240 watts (nominal–peak)

97.7 lbs (44.3 kg) fully loaded

5.12” x 18.94” x 29.72” chassis

 

//C60-840

 

Up to 3.2PB effective capacity**

840TB raw capacity**

6U; 1480–1760 watts (nominal–peak)

177.0lbs (80.3kg) fully loaded

10.2” x 18.94 x 29.72” chassis

 

//C60-1186

 

Up to 4.6PB effective capacity**

1.2PB raw capacity**

6U; 1480–1760 watts (nominal–peak)

185.4 lbs (84.1 kg) fully loaded

15.35” x 18.94 x 29.72” chassis

 

//C60-1390

 

Up to 5.2PB effective capacity**

1.4PB raw capacity**

9U; 1960–2280 watts (nominal–peak)

273.2 lbs (123.9 kg) fully loaded

15.35” x 18.94 x 29.72” chassis

Workloads

There are reasons why the FlashArray//C could be a really compelling option for workload consolidation. More and more workloads are “business critical” in terms of both performance and availability. There’s a requirement to do more with less, while battling complexity, and a strong desire to manage everything via a single pane of glass.

There are some other cool things you could use the //C for as well, including:

  • Automated policy-based VM tiering between //X and //C arrays;
  • DR using the //X at production and //C at your secondary site;
  • Consolidating multiple //X array workloads on a single //C array for test and dev; and
  • Consolidating multiple //X array snapshots to a single //C array for long-term retention.

 

It’s a QLC World, Sort Of

The second generation is FlashArray//C means you can potentially now have flash all through the data centre.

  • Apps and VMs – provision your high performance workloads to //X, lower performance / high capacity workloads to //C
  • Modern Data Protection & Disaster Recovery – on-premises production applications on //X efficiently replicated or backed up to //C at DR site
  • User File Shares – User file access with Purity 6.0 via SMB, NFS

QLC nonetheless presents significant engineering challenges with traditionally high write latency and low endurance (when compared to SLC, MLC, and TLC). Pure Storage’s answer to that problem has been to engineer the crap out of DirectFlash to get the required results. I’d do a bad job of explaining it, so instead I recommend you check out Pete Kirkpatrick’s explanation.

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

I covered the initial FlashArray//C announcement here and many of the reasons why this type of offering is appealing remain the same. The knock on Pure Storage in the last few years has been that, while FlashArray//X is nice and fast and a snap to use, it couldn’t provide the right kind of capacity (i.e. cheap and deep) that a number of price-sensitive punters wanted.  Sure, they could go and buy the FlashArray//X and then look to another vendor for a dense storage option, but the motivation to run with a number of storage vendors in smaller enterprise shops is normally fairly low. The folks in charge of technology in these environments are invariably stretched in terms of bodies on the floor to run the environments, and cash in the bank to procure those solutions. A single vendor solution normally makes sense for them (as opposed to some of the larger shops, or specialist organisations that really have very specific requirements that can only be serviced by particular solutions).

So now Pure Storage has the FlashArray//C, and you can get it with some decent density, some useful features (thanks in part to some new features in Purity 6), and integration with the things you know and like about Pure Storage, such as Pure1 and Evergreen storage. It seems like Pure Storage has done an awful lot of work to squeeze performance out of QLC whilst ensuring that the modules don’t need replacing every other week. There’s a lot to like about the evolving Pure Storage story, and I’m interested to see how they tie it all together as the portfolio continues to expand. You can read the press release here, access the data sheet here, and read Mellor’s take on the news here.

Datadobi Announces DobiProtect

Datadobi recently announced DobiProtect. I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Jack and Carl D’Halluin about the announcement, and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

The Problem

Disaster Recovery

Modern disaster recovery solutions tend more towards business continuity than DR. The challenge with data replication solutions is that it’s a trivial thing to replicate corruption from your primary storage to your DR storage. Backup systems are vulnerable too, and most instances you need to make some extra effort to ensure you’ve got a replicated catalogue, and that your backup data is not isolated. Invariably, you’ll be looking to restore to like hardware in order to reduce the recovery time. Tape is still a pain to deal with, and invariably you’re also at the mercy of people and processes going wrong.

What Do Customers Need?

To get what you need out of a robust DR system, there are a few criteria that need to be met, including:

  • An easy way to select business-critical data;
  • A simple way to make a golden copy in native format;
  • A bunker site in a DC or cloud;
  • A manual air-gap procedure;
  • A way to restore to anything; and
  • A way to failover if required.

 

Enter DobiProtect

What Does It Do?

The idea is that you have two sites with a manual air-gap between them, usually controlled by a firewall of some type. The first site is where you run your production workload, and there’ll likely be a subset of data that is really quirte important to your business. You can use DobiProtect to get that data from your production site to DR (it might even be in a bunker!). In order to get the data from Production to DR, DobiProtect scans the data before it’s pulled across to DR. Note that the data is pulled, not pushed. This is important as it means that there’s no obvious trace of the bunker’s existence in production.

[image courtesy of Datadobi]

If things go bang, you can recover to any NAS or Object.

  • Browse golden copy
  • Select by directory structure, folder, or object patterns
  • Mounts and shares
  • Specific versions

Bonus Use Case

One of the more popular use cases that Datadobi spoke to me about was heterogeneous edge-to-core protection. Data on the edge is usually more vulnerable, and not every organisation has the funding to put robust protection mechanisms in place at every edge site to protect critical data. With the advent of COVID-19, many organisations have been pushing more data to the edge in order for remote workers to have better access to data. The challenge then becomes keeping that data protected in a reliable fashion. DobiProtect can be used to pull data from the core once data has been pulled back from the edge. Because it’s a software only product, your edge storage can be anything that supports object, SMB, or NFS, and the core could be anything else. This provides a lot of flexibility in terms of the expense traditionally associated with DR at edge sites.

[image courtesy of Datadobi]

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The idea of an air-gapped site in a bunker somewhere is the sort of thing you might associate with a James Bond story. In Australia these aren’t exactly a common thing (bunkers, not James Bond stories), but Europe and the US is riddled with them. As Jack pointed out in our call, “[t]he first rule of bunker club – you don’t talk about the bunker”. Datadobi couldn’t give me a list of customers using this type of solution because all of the customers didn’t want people to know that they were doing things this way. It seems a bit like security via obscurity, but there’s no point painting a big target on your back or giving clues out for would-be crackers to get into your environment and wreak havoc.

The idea that your RPO is a day, rather than minutes, is also confronting for some folks. But the idea of this solution is that you’ll use it for your absolutely mission critical can’t live without it data, not necessarily your virtual machines that you may be able to recover normally if you’re attacked or the magic black smoke escapes from one of your hosts. If you’ve gone to the trouble of looking into acquiring some rack space in a bunker, limited the people in the know to a handful, and can be bothered messing about with a manual air-gap process, the data you’re looking to protect is clearly pretty important.

Datadobi has a rich heritage in data migration for both file and object storage systems. It makes sense that eventually customer demand would drive them down this route to deliver a migration tool that ostensibly runs all the time as sort of data protection tool. This isn’t designed to protect everything in your environment, but for the stuff that will ruin your business if it goes away, it’s very likely worth the effort and expense. There are some folks out there actively looking for ways to put you over a barrel, so it’s important to think about what it’s worth to your organisation to avoid that if possible.

BackupAssist Announces BackupAssist ER

BackupAssist recently announced BackupAssist ER. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Linus Chang (CEO), Craig Ryan, and Madeleine Tan about the announcement.

 

BackupAssist

Founded in 2001, BackupAssist is focussed primarily on the small to medium enterprise (under 500 seats). They sell the product via a variety of mechanisms, including:

  • Direct
  • Partners
  • Distribution channels

 

Challenges Are Everywhere

Some of the challenges faced by the average SME when it comes to data protection include the following:

  • Malware
  • COVID-19
  • Compliance

So what does the average SME need when it comes to selecting a data protection solution?

  • Make it affordable
  • Automatic offsite backups with history and retention
  • Most recoveries are local – make them fast!
  • The option to recover in the cloud if needed (the fallback to the fallback)

 

What Is It?

So what exactly is BackupAssist ER? It’s backup and recovery software.

[image courtesy of BackupAssist]

It’s deployed on Windows servers, and has support for disk to disk to cloud as a protection topology.

CryptoSafeGuard

Another cool feature is CryptoSafeGuard, providing the following features:

  • Shield from unauthorised access
  • Detect – Alert – Preserve

Disaster Recovery

  • VM Instant boot (converting into a Hyper-V guest)
  • BMR (catering for dissimilar hardware)
  • Download cloud backup anywhere

Data Recovery

The product supports the granular recovery of files, Exchange, and applications.

Data Handling and Control

A key feature of the solution is the approach to data handling, offering:

  • Accessibility
  • Portability
  • Retention

It uses the VHDX file format to store protection data. It can also backup to Blob storage. Chang also advised that they’re working on introducing S3 compatibility at some stage.

Retention

The product supports a couple of different retention schemes, including:

  • Local – Keep N copies (GFS is coming)
  • Cloud – Keep X copies
  • Archival – Keep a backup on a HDD, and retain for years

Pricing

BackupAssist ER is licensed in a variety of ways. Costs are as follows:

  • Per physical machine – $399 US annually;
  • Per virtual guest machine – $199 US annually; and
  • Per virtual host machine – $699 US annually.

There are discounts available for multi-year subscriptions, as well as discounts to be had if you’re looking to purchase licensing for more than 5 machines.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Chang noted that BackupAssist is “[n]ot trying to be the best, but the best fit”. You’ll see that a lot of the capability is Microsoft-centric, with support for Windows and Hyper-V. This makes sense when you look at what the SME market is doing in terms of leveraging Microsoft platforms to deliver their IT requirements. Building a protection product that covers every platform is time-consuming and expensive in terms of engineering effort. What Chang and the team have been focussed on is delivering data protection products to customers at a particular price point while delivering the right amount of technology.

The SME market is notorious for wanting to consume quality product at a particular price point. Every interaction I’ve had with customers in the SME segment has given me a crystal clear understanding of “Champagne tastes on a beer budget”. But in much the same way that some big enterprise shops will never stop doing things at a glacial pace, so too will many SME shops continue to look for high value at a low cost. Ultimately, compromises need to be made to meet that price point, hence the lack of support for features such as VMware. That doesn’t mean that BackupAssist can’t meet your requirements, particularly if you’re running your business’s IT on a couple of Windows machines. For this it’s well suited, and the flexibility on offer in terms of disk targets, retention, and recovery should be motivation to investigate further. It’s a bit of a nasty world out there, so anything you can do to ensure your business data is a little safer should be worthy of further consideration. You can read the press release here.

Pure Storage and Cohesity Announce Strategic Partnership and Pure FlashRecover

Pure Storage and Cohesity announced a strategic partnership and a new joint solution today. I had the opportunity to speak with Amy Fowler and Biswajit Mishra from Pure Storage, along with Anand Nadathur and Chris Wiborg from Cohesity, and thought I’d share my notes here.

 

Friends In The Market

The announcement comes in two parts, with the first being that Pure Storage and Cohesity are forming a strategic partnership. The idea behind this is that, together, the companies will deliver “industry-leading storage innovations from Pure Storage with modern, flash-optimised backup from Cohesity”.  There are plenty of things in common between the companies, including the fact that they’re both, as Wiborg puts it, “keenly focused on doing the right thing for the customer”.

 

Pure FlashRecover Powered By Cohesity

Partnerships are exciting and all, but what was of more interest was the Pure FlashRecover announcement. What is it exactly? It’s basically Cohesity DataProtect running on Cohesity-certified compute nodes (the whitebox gear you might be familiar with if you’ve bought Cohesity tin previously), using Pure’s FlashBlades as the storage backend.

[image courtesy of Pure Storage]

FlashRecover has a targeted general availability for Q4 CY2020 (October). It will be released in the US initially, with other regions to follow. From a go to market perspective, Pure will handle level 1 and level 2 support, with Cohesity support being engaged for escalations. Cohesity DataProtect will be added to the Pure price list, and Pure becomes a Cohesity Technology Partner.

 

Thoughts

My first thought when I heard about this was why would you? I’ve traditionally associated scalable data protection and secondary storage with slower, high-capacity appliances. But as we talked through the use cases, it started to make sense. FlashBlades by themselves aren’t super high capacity devices, but neither are the individual nodes in Cohesity appliances. String a few together and you have enough capacity to do data protection and fast recovery in a predictable fashion. FlashBlade supports 75 nodes (I think) [Edit: it scales up to 150x 52TB nodes. Thanks for the clarification from Andrew Miller] and up to 1PB of data in a single namespace. Throw in some of the capabilities that Cohesity DataProtect brings to the table and you’ve got an interesting solution. The knock on some of the next-generation data protection solutions has been that recovery can still be quite time-consuming. The use of all-flash takes away a lot of that pain, especially when coupled with a solution like FlashBlade that delivers some pretty decent parallelism in terms of getting data recovered back to production quickly.

An evolving use case for protection data is data reuse. For years, application owners have been stuck with fairly clunky ways of getting test data into environments to use with application development and testing. Solutions like FlashRecover provide a compelling story around protection data being made available for reuse, not just recovery. Another cool thing is that when you invest in FlashBlade, you’re not locking yourself into a particular silo, you can use the FlashBlade solution for other things too.

I don’t work with Pure Storage and Cohesity on a daily basis anymore, but in my previous role I had the opportunity to kick the tyres extensively with both the Cohesity DataProtect solution and the Pure Storage FlashBlade. I’m an advocate of both of these companies because of the great support I received from both companies from pre-sales through to post-sales support. They are relentlessly customer focused, and that really translates in both the technology and the field experience. I can’t speak highly enough of the engagement I’ve experienced with both companies, from both a blogger’s experience, and as an end user.

FlashRecover isn’t going to be appropriate for every organisation. Most places, at the moment, can probably still get away with taking a little time to recover large amounts of data if required. But for industries where time is money, solutions like FlashRecover can absolutely make sense. If you’d like to know more, there’s a comprehensive blog post over at the Pure Storage website, and the solution brief can be found here.