Random Short Take #26

Welcome to my semi-regular, random news post in a short format. This is #26. I was going to start naming them after my favourite basketball players. This one could be the Korver edition, for example. I don’t think that’ll last though. We’ll see. I’ll stop rambling now.

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.

Clumio’s DPaaS Is All SaaS

I recently had the chance to speak to Clumio’s Head of Product Marketing, Steve Siegel, about what they do, and thought I’d share a few notes here.

 

Clumio?

Clumio have raised $51M+ in Series A and B funding. They were founded in 2017, built on public cloud technology, and came out of stealth in August.

 

The Approach

Clumio want to be able to deliver a data management platform in the cloud. The first real opportunity they identified was Backup as a Service. The feeling was that there were too many backup models across private, public cloud, Software as a Service (SaaS), and none of them were particularly easy to take advantage of in an effective manner. This can be a real problem when you’re looking to protect critical information assets.

 

Proper SaaS

The answer, as far as Clumio were concerned, was to develop an “authentic SaaS” offering. This offering provides all of the features you’d expect from a SaaS-based DPaaS (yes, we’re now officially in acronym hell), including:

  • On-demand scalability
  • Ease of management
  • Predictable costs
  • Global compliance
  • Always-on security – with data encrypted in-flight and at-rest

The platform is mainly built on AWS at this stage, but there are plans in place to leverage the other hyperscalers in the future. Clumio charge per VM, with the subscription fee including support. They have plans to improve capabilities, with:

  • AWS support in Dec 2019
  • O365 support in Q1 2020

They currently support the following public cloud workloads:

  • VMware Cloud on AWS; and
  • AWS – extending backup and recovery to support EBC and EC2 workloads (RDS to follow soon after)

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll notice that I’ve done a bit with data protection technologies over the years. From the big enterprise software shops to the “next-generation” data protection providers, as well as the consumer-side stuff and the “as a Service crowd”. There are a bunch of different ways to do data protection, and some work better than others. Clumio feel strongly that the “[s]implicity of SaaS is winning”, and there’s definitely an argument to be made that the simplicity of the approach is a big reason why the likes of Clumio will receive some significant attention from the marketplace.

That said, the success of services is ultimately determined by a few factors. In my opinion, a big part of what’s important when evaluating these types of services is whether they can technically service the requirements you have. If you’re an HP-UX shop running a bunch of on-premises tin, you might find that this type of service isn’t going to be much use. And if you’re using a cloud-based service but don’t really have decent connectivity to said cloud, you’re going to have a tough time getting your data back when something goes wrong. But that’s not all there is to it. You also need to look at how much it’s going to cost you to consume the service, and think about what it’s going to cost when something goes wrong. It’s all well and good if your daily ingress charges are relatively low with AWS, but if you need to get a bunch of data back out in a hurry, you might find it’s not a great experience, financially speaking. There are a bunch of factors that will impact this though, so you really need to do some modelling before you go down that path.

I’m a big fan of SaaS offerings when they’re done well, and I hope Clumio continue to innovate in the future and expand their support for workloads and infrastructure topologies. They’ve picked up a few customers, and are hiring smart people. You can read more about them over at Blocks & Files, and Ken Nalbone also covered them over at Gestalt IT.

Pure//Accelerate 2019 – Cloud Block Store for AWS

Disclaimer: I recently attended Pure//Accelerate 2019.  My flights, accommodation, and conference pass were paid for by Pure Storage. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated by Pure Storage 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.

Cloud Block Store for AWS from Pure Storage has been around for a little while now. I had the opportunity to hear about it in more depth at the Storage Field Day Exclusive event at Pure//Accelerate 2019 and thought I’d share some thoughts here. You can grab a copy of my rough notes from the session here, and video from the session is available here.

 

Cloud Vision

Pure Storage have been focused on making everything related to their products effortless from day 1. An example of this approach is the FlashArray setup process – it’s really easy to get up and running and serving up storage to workloads. They wanted to do the same thing with anything they deliver via cloud services as well. There is, however, something of a “cloud divide” in operation in the industry. If you’re familiar with the various cloud deployment options, you’ll likely be aware that on-premises and hosted cloud is a bit different to public cloud. They:

  • Deliver different application architectures;
  • Deliver different management and consumption experience; and
  • Use different storage.

So what if Pure could build application portability and deliver common shared data services?

Pure have architected their cloud service to leverage what they call “Three Pillars”:

  • Build Your Cloud
  • Run anywhere
  • Protect everywhere

 

What Is It?

So what exactly is Cloud Block Store for AWS then? Well, imagine if you will, that you’re watching an episode of Pimp My Ride, and Xzibit is talking to an enterprise punter about how he or she likes cloud, and how he or she likes the way Pure Storage’s FlashArray works. And then X says, “Hey, we heard you liked these two things so we put this thing in the other thing”. Look, I don’t know the exact situation where this would happen. But anyway …

  • 100% software – deploys instantly as a virtual appliance in the cloud, runs only as long as you need it;
  • Efficient – deduplication, compression, and thin provisioning deliver capacity and performance economically;
  • Hybrid – easily migrate data bidirectionally, delivering data portability and protection across your hybrid cloud;
  • Consistent APIs – developers connect to storage the same way on-premises and in the cloud. Automated deployment with Cloud Formation templates;
  • Reliable, secure – delivers industrial-strength perfromance, reliability & protection with Multi-AZ HA, NDU, instant snaps and data at rest encryption; and
  • Flexible – pay as you go consumption model to best match your needs for production and development.

[image courtesy of Pure Storage]

Architecture

At the heart of it, the architecture for CVS is not dissimilar to the FlashArray architecture. There’re controllers, drives, NVRAM, and a virtual shelf.

  • EC2: CBS Controllers
  • EC2: Virtual Drives
  • Virtual Shelf: 7 Virtual drives in Spread Placement Group
  • EBS IO1: NVRAM, Write Buffer (7 total)
  • S3: Durable persistent storage
  • Instance Store: Non-Persistent Read Mirror

[image courtesy of Pure Storage]

What’s interesting, to me at least, is how they use S3 for persistent storage.

Procurement

How do you procure CBS for AWS? I’m glad you asked. There are two procurement options.

A – Pure as-a-Service

  • Offered via SLED / CLED process
  • Minimums 100TiB effective used capacity
  • Unified hybrid contracts (on-premises and CBS, CBS)
  • 1 year to 3 year contracts

B – AWS Marketplace

  • Direct to customer
  • Minimum, 10 TiB effective used capacity
  • CBS only
  • Month to month contract or 1 year contract

 

Use Cases

There are a raft of different use cases for CBS. Some of them made sense to me straight away, some of them took a little time to bounce around in my head.

Disaster Recovery

  • Production instance on-premises
  • Replicate data to public cloud
  • Fail over in DR event
  • Fail back and recover

Lift and shift

  • Production instance on-premises
  • Replicate data to public cloud
  • Run the same architecture as before
  • Run production on CBS

Use case: Dev / test

  • Replicate data to public cloud
  • Instantiate test / dev instances in public cloud
  • Refresh test / dev periodically
  • Bring changes back on-premises
  • Snapshots are more costly and slower to restore in native AWS

ActiveCluster

  • HA within an availability zone and / or across availability zones in an AWS region (ActiveCluster needs <11ms latency)
  • No downtime when a Cloud Block Store Instance goes away or there is a zone outage
  • Pure1 Cloud Mediator Witness (simple to manage and deploy)

Migrating VMware Environments

VMware Challenges

  • AWS does not recognise VMFS
  • Replicating volumes with VMFS will not do any good

Workaround

  • Convert VMFS datastore into vVOLs
  • Now each volume has the Guest VM’s file system (NTFS, EXT3, etc)
  • Replicate VMDK vVOLs to CBS
  • Now the volumes can be mounted to EC2 with matching OS

Note: This is for the VM’s data volumes. The VM boot volume will not be usable in AWS. The VM’s application will need to be redeployed in native AWS EC2.

VMware Cloud

VMware Challenges

  • VMware Cloud does not support external storage, it only supports vSAN

Workaround

  • Connect Guest VMs directly to CBS via iSCSI

Note: I haven’t verified this myself, and I suspect there may be other ways to do this. But in the context of Pure’s offering, it makes sense.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

There’s been a feeling in some parts of the industry for the last 5-10 years that the rise of the public cloud providers would spell the death of the traditional storage vendor. That’s clearly not been the case, but it has been interesting to see the major storage slingers evolving their product strategies to both accommodate and leverage the cloud providers in a more effective manner. Some have used the opportunity to get themselves as close as possible to the cloud providers, without actually being in the cloud. Others have deployed virtualised versions of their offerings inside public cloud and offered users the comfort of their traditional stack, but off-premises. There’s value in these approaches, for sure. But I like the way that Pure have taken it a step further and optimised their architecture to leverage some of the features of what AWS can offer from a cloud hardware perspective.

In my opinion, the main reason you’d look to leverage something like CBS on AWS is if you have an existing investment in Pure and want to keep doing things a certain way. You’re also likely using a lot of traditional VMs in AWS and want something that can improve the performance and resilience of those workloads. CBS is certainly a great way to do this. If you’re already running a raft of cloud-native applications, it’s likely that you don’t necessarily need the features on offer from CBS, as you’re already (hopefully) using them natively. I think Pure understand this though, and aren’t pushing CBS for AWS as the silver bullet for every cloud workload.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the market uptake on this product is like. I’m also keen to crunch the numbers on running this type of solution versus the cost associated with doing something on-premises or via other means. In any case, I’m looking forward to see how this capability evolves over time, and I think CBS on AWS is definitely worthy of further consideration.

Backblaze Has A (Pod) Birthday, Does Some Cool Stuff With B2

Backblaze has been on my mind a lot lately. And not just because of their recent expansion into Europe. The Storage Pod recently turned ten years old, and I was lucky enough to have the chance to chat with Yev Pusin and Andy Klein about that news and some of the stuff they’re doing with B2, Tiger Technology, and Veeam.

 

10 Years Is A Long Time

The Backblaze Storage Pod (currently version 6) recently turned 10 years old. That’s a long time for something to be around (and successful) in a market like cloud storage. I asked to Yev and Andy about where they saw the pod heading, and whether they thought there was room for Flash in the picture. Andy pointed out that, with around 900PB under management, Flash still didn’t look like the most economical medium for this kind of storage task. That said, they have seen the main HDD manufacturers starting to hit a wall in terms of the capacity per drive that they can deliver. Nonetheless, the challenge isn’t just performance, it’s also the fact that people are needing more and more capacity to store their stuff. And it doesn’t look like they can produce enough Flash to cope with that increase in requirements at this stage.

Version 7.0

We spoke briefly about what Pod 7.0 would look like, and it’s going to be a “little bit faster”, with the following enhancements planned:

  • Updating the motherboard
  • Upgrade the CPU and consider using an AMD CPU
  • Updating the power supply units, perhaps moving to one unit
  • Upgrading from 10Gbase-T to 10GbE SFP+ optical networking
  • Upgrading the SATA cards
  • Modifying the tool-less lid design

They’re looking to roll this out in 2020 some time.

 

Tiger Style?

So what’s all this about Veeam, Tiger Bridge, and Backblaze B2? Historically, if you’ve been using Veeam from the cheap seats, it’s been difficult to effectively leverage object storage to use as a repository for longer term data storage. Backblaze and Tiger Technology have gotten together to develop an integration that allows you to use B2 storage to copy your Veeam protection data to the Backblaze cloud. There’s a nice overview of the solution that you can read here, and you can read some more comprehensive instructions here.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I keep banging on about it, but ten years feels like a long time to be hanging around in tech. I haven’t managed to stay with one employer longer than 7 years (maybe I’m flighty?). Along with the durability of the solution, the fact that Backblaze made the design open source, and inspired a bunch of companies to do something similar, is a great story. It’s stuff like this that I find inspiring. It’s not always about selling black boxes to people. Sometimes it’s good to be a little transparent about what you’re doing, and relying on a great product, competitive pricing, and strong support to keep customers happy. Backblaze have certainly done that on the consumer side of things, and the team assures me that they’re experiencing success with the B2 offering and their business-oriented data protection solution as well.

The Veeam integration is an interesting one. While B2 is an object storage play, it’s not S3-compliant, so they can’t easily leverage a lot of the built-in options delivered by the bigger data protection vendors. What you will see, though, is that they’re super responsive when it comes to making integrations available across things like NAS devices, and stuff like this. If I get some time in the next month, I’ll look at setting this up in the lab and running through the process.

I’m not going to wax lyrical about how Backblaze is democratising data access for everyone, as they’re in business to make money. But they’re certainly delivering a range of products that is enabling a variety of customers to make good use of technology that has potentially been unavailable (in a simple to consume format) previously. And that’s a great thing. I glossed over the news when it was announced last year, but the “Rebel Alliance” formed between Backblaze, Packet and ServerCentral is pretty interesting, particularly if you’re looking for a more cost-effective solution for compute and object storage that isn’t reliant on hyperscalers. I’m looking forward to hearing about what Backblaze come up with in the future, and I recommend checking them out if you haven’t previously. You can read Ken‘s take over at Gestalt IT here.

VMware – VMworld 2019 – HBI2537PU – Cloud Provider CXO Panel with Cohesity, Cloudian and PhoenixNAP

Disclaimer: I recently attended VMworld 2019 – US.  My flights and accommodation were paid for by Digital Sense, and VMware provided me with a free pass to the conference and various bits of swag. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated by VMware 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.

Here are my rough notes from “HBI2537PU – Cloud Provider CXO Panel with Cohesity, Cloudian and PhoenixNAP”, a panel-type presentation with the following people:

You can grab a PDF copy of my notes from here.

Introductions are done.

YR: William, given your breadth of experience, what are some of the emerging trends you’ve been seeing?

WB: Companies are struggling to keep up with the pace of information generation. Understanding the data, storing and retaining it, and protecting it. Multi-cloud adds a lot of complexity. We’ve heard studies that say 22% of data generated is actually usable. It’s just sitting there. Public cloud is still hot, but it’s settling down a little.

YR: William comes from a massive cloud provider. What are you guys using?

WB: We’ve standardised on vCloud Director (vCD) and vSphere. We came from build our own but it wasn’t providing the value that we hoped it would. Customers want a seamless way to manage multiple cloud resources.

YR: Are you guys familiar with VCPP?

AP: VCPP is the crown jewel of our partner program at VMware. 4000+ providers, 120+ countries, 10+ million VMs, 10000+ DCs. We help you save money, make money (things are services ready). We’re continuing to invest in vCD. Kubernetes, GPUs, etc. Lots of R&D.

YR: William, you mentioned you standardised on the VMware platform. Talk to us about your experience. Why vCD?

WB: It’s been a checkered past for vCD. We were one of the first five on the vCloud Express program in 2010 / 11. We didn’t like vCD in its 1.0 version. We thought we can do this better. And we did. We launched the first on-demand, pay by the hour public cloud for enterprise in 2011. But it didn’t really work out. 2012 / 13 we started to see investments being made in vCD. 5.0 / 5.5 improved. Many people thought vCD was gong to die. We now see a modern, flexible portal that can be customised. And we can take our devs and have them customise vCD, rather than build a customised portal. That’s where we can put our time and effort. We’ve always done things differently. Always been doing other things. How do we bring our work in visual cloud into that cloud provider portal with vCD?

YR: You have an extensive career at VMware.

RR: I was one of the first people to take vCD out to the world. But Enterprise wasn’t mature enough. When we focused on SPs, it was the right thing to do. DIY portals needs a lot of investment. VMware allows a lot of extensibility now. For us, as Cohesity, we want to be able to plug in to that as well.

WB: At one point we had 45 devs working on a proprietary portal.

YR: We’ve been doing a lot on the extensibility side. What role are services playing in cloud providers?

AP: It takes away the complexities of deploying the stack.

JT: We’re specifically in object. A third of our customers are service providers. You guys know that object is built for scale, easy to manage, cost-effective. 20% of the data gets used. We hear that customers want to improve on that. People are moving away from tape. There’s a tremendous opportunity for services built on storage. Amazon has shown that. Data protection like Cohesity. Big data with Splunk. You can offer an industry standard, but differentiate based on other services.

YR: As we move towards a services-oriented world, William how do you see cloud management services evolving?

WB: It’s not good enough to provide some compute infrastructure any more. You have to do something more. We’re stubbornly focussed on different types of IaaS. We’re not doing generic x86 on top of vSphere. Backup, DR – those are in our wheelhouse. From a platform perspective, more and more customers want some kind of single pane of glass across their data. For some that’s on-premises, for some its public, for some it’s SaaS. You have to be able to provide value to the customer, or they will disappear. Object storage, backup with Cohesity. You need to keep pace with data movement. Any cloud, any data, any where.

AP: I’ve been at VMware long enough not to drink the Kool-Aid. Our whole cloud provider business is rooted in some humility. vCD can help other people doing better things to integrate. vCD has always been about reducing OPEX. Now we’re hitting the top line. Any cloud management platform today needs to open, extensible, not try to do anything.

YR: Is the crowd seeing pressure on pure IaaS?

Commentator: Coming from an SP to enterprise is different. Economics. Are you able to do a show back with vCD 9 and vROps?

WB: We’re putting that in the hands of customers. Looking at CloudHealth. There’s a benefit to being in the business management space. You have the opportunity to give customers a better service. That, and more flexible business models. Moving into flexible billing models – gives more freedom to the enterprise customer. Unless you’re the largest of the large – enterprises have difficulty acting as a service provider. Citibank are an exception to this. Honeywell do it too. If you’re Discount Tire – it’s hard. You’re the guy providing the service, and you’re costing them money. There’s animosity – and there’s no choice.

Commentator: Other people have pushed to public because chargeback is more effective than internal show back with private cloud.

WB: IT departments are poorly equipped to offer a breadth of services to their customers.

JT: People are moving workloads around. They want choice and flexibility. VMware with S3 compatible storage. A common underlying layer.

YR: Economics, chargeback. Is VMware (and VCPP) doing enough?

WB: The two guys to my right (RR and JT) have committed to building products that let me do that. I’ve been working on object storage use cases. I was talking to a customer. They’re using our IaaS and connected to Amazon S3. You’ve gone to Amazon. They didn’t know about it though. Experience and cost that can be the same or better. Egress in Amazon S3 is ridiculous. You don’t know what you don’t know. You can take that service and deliver it cost-effectively.

YR: RR talk to us about the evolution of data protection.

RR: Information has grown. Data is fragmented. Information placement is almost unmanageable. Services have now become available in a way that can be audited, secured, managed. At Cohesity, first thing we did was data protection, and I knew the rest was coming. Complexity’s a problem.

YR: JT. We know Cloudian’s a leader in object storage. Where do you see object going?

JT: It’s the underlying storage layer of the cloud. Brings down cost of your storage layer. It’s all about TCO. What’s going to help you build more revenue streams? Cloudian has been around since 2011. New solutions in backup, DR, etc, to help you build new revenue streams. S3 users on Amazon are looking for alternatives. Many of Cloudian’s customers are ex-Amazon customers. What are we doing? vCD integration. Search Cloudian and vCD on YouTube. Continuously working to drive down the cost of managing storage. 1.5PB in a 4RU box in collaboration with Seagate.

WB: Expanding service delivery, specifically around object storage, is important. You can do some really cool stuff – not just backup, it’s M&E, it’s analytics. Very few of our customers are using object just to store files and folders.

YR: We have a lot of providers in the room. JT can you talk more about these key use cases?

JT: It runs the gamut. You can break it down by verticals. M&E companies are offering editing suites via service providers. People are doing that for the legal profession. Accounting – storing financial records. Dental records and health care. The back end is the same thing – compute with S3 storage behind it. Cloudian provides multi-tenanted, scalable performance. Cost is driven down as you get larger.

YR: RR your key use cases?

RR: DRaaS is hot right now. When I was at VMware we did stuff with SRM. DR is hard. It’s so simple now. Now every SP can do it themselves. Use S3 to move data around from the same interface. And it’s very needed too. Everyone should have ubiquitous access to their data. We have that capability. We can now do vulnerability scans on the data we store on the platform. We can tell you if a VM is compromised. You can orchestrate the restoration of an environment – as a service.

YR: WB what are the other services you want us to deliver?

WB: We’re an odd duck. One of our major practices is information security. The idea that we have intelligent access to data residing in our infrastructure. Being able to detect vulnerabilities, taking action, sending an email to the customer, that’s the type of thing that cloud providers have. You might not be doing it yet – but you could.

YR: Security, threat protection. RR – do you see Cohesity as the driver to solve that problem?

RR: Cohesity will provide the platform. Data is insecure because it’s fragmented. Cohesity lets you run applications on the platform. Virus scanners, run books, all kinds of stuff you can offer as a service provider.

YR: William, where does the onus lie, how do you see it fitting together?

WB: The key for us is being open. Eg Cohesity integration into vCD. If I don’t want to – I don’t have to. Freedom of choice to pick and choose where we went to deliver our own IP to the customer. I don’t have to use Cohesity for everything.

JT: That’s exactly what we’re into. Choice of hardware, management. That’s the point. Standards-based top end.

YR: Security

*They had 2 minutes to go but I ran out of time and had to get to another meeting. Informative session. 4 stars.

Random Short Take #20

Here are some links to some random news items and other content that I recently found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 20 – feels like it’s becoming a thing.

  • Scale Computing seems to be having a fair bit of success with their VDI solutions. Here’s a press release about what they did with Harlingen WaterWorks System.
  • I don’t read Corey Quinn’s articles enough, but I am glad I read this one. Regardless of what you think about the enforceability of non-compete agreements (and regardless of where you’re employed), these things have no place in the modern workforce.
  • If you’re getting along to VMworld US this year, I imagine there’s plenty in your schedule already. If you have the time – I recommend getting around to seeing what Cody and Pure Storage are up to. I find Cody to be a great presenter, and Pure have been doing some neat stuff lately.
  • Speaking of VMworld, this article from Tom about packing the little things for conferences in preparation for any eventuality was useful. And if you’re heading to VMworld, be sure to swing past the VMUG booth. There’s a bunch of VMUG stuff happening at VMworld – you can read more about that here.
  • I promise this is pretty much the last bit of news I’ll share regarding VMworld. Anthony from Veeam put up a post about their competition to win a pass to VMworld. If you’re on the fence about going, check it out now (as the competition closes on the 19th August).
  • It wouldn’t be a random short take without some mention of data protection. This article about tiering protection data from George Crump was bang on the money.
  • Backblaze published their quarterly roundup of hard drive stats – you can read more here.
  • This article from Paul on freelancing and side gigs was comprehensive and enlightening. If you’re thinking of taking on some extra work in the hopes of making it your full-time job, or just wanting to earn a little more pin money, it’s worthwhile reading this post.

Spectra Logic – BlackPearl Overview

I recently had the opportunity to take a briefing with Jeff Braunstein and Susan Merriman from Spectra Logic (one of those rare occasions where getting your badge scanned at a conference proves valuable), and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

BlackPearl Family

Spectra Logic sell a variety of products, but this briefing was focused primarily on the BlackPearl series. Braunstein described it as a “gateway” device, with both NAS and object front end interfaces, and backend capability that can move data to multiple types of archives.

[image courtesy of Spectra Logic]

It’s a hardware box, but at its core the value is in the software product. The idea is that the BlackPearl acts as a disk cache, and you configure policies to send the data to one or more storage targets. The cool thing is that it supports multiple retention policies, and these can be permanent too. By that I mean you could spool one copy to tape for long term storage, and have another copy of your data sit on disk for 90 days (or however long you wanted).

 

Local vs Remote Storage

Local

There are a few different options for local storage, including BlackPearl Object Storage Disk, functioning as “near line archive”. This is configured with 107 enterprise quality SATA drives, (and they’re looking at introducing 16TB drives next month), providing roughly 1.8PB RAW capacity. They function as power-down archive drives (using the drive spin down settings), and delivers a level of resilience and reliability by using ZFS as the file system,. There are also customer-configurable parity settings. Alternatively, you can pump data to Spectra Tape Libraries, for those of you who still want to use tape as a storage format.

 

Remote Storage Targets

In terms of remote storage targets, BlackPearl can leverage either public cloud, or other BlackPearl devices as replication targets. Replication to BlackPearl can be one way or bi-directional. Public Cloud support is available via Amazon S3 (and S3-like products such as Cloudian and Wasabi), and MS Azure. There is a concept of data immutability in the product, and you can turn on versioning to prevent your data management applications (or users) from accidentally clobbering your data.

Braunstein also pointed out that tape generations evolve, and BlackPearl has auto-migration capabilities. You can potentially have data migrate transparently from tape to tape (think LTO-6 to LTO-7), tape to disk, and tape to cloud.

 

[image courtesy of Spectra Logic]

In terms of how you leverage BlackPearl, some of that is dependent on the workflows you have in place to move your data. This could be manual, semi-automated, or automated (or potentially purpose built into existing applications). There’s a Spectra S3 RESTful API, and there’s heaps of information on developer.spectralogic.com on how to integrate BlackPearl into your existing applications and media workflows.

 

Thoughts

If you’re listening to the next-generation data protection vendors and big box storage folks, you’d wonder why companies such as Spectra Logic still focus on tape. It’s not because they have a rich heritage and deep experience in the tape market (although they do). There are plenty of use cases where tape still makes sense in terms of its ability to economically store large amounts of data in a relatively secure (off-line if required) fashion. Walk into any reasonably sized film production house and you’ll still see tape in play. From a density perspective (and durability), there’s a lot to like about tape. But BlackPearl is also pretty adept at getting data from workflows that were traditionally file-based and putting them on public cloud environments (the kind of environments that heavily leverage object storage interfaces). Sure, you can pump the data up to AWS yourself if you’re so inclined, but the real benefit of the BlackPearl approach, in my opinion, is that it’s policy-driven and fully automated. There’s less chance that you’ll fat finger the transfer of critical data to another location. This gives you the ability to focus on your core business, and not have to worry about data management.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what BlackPearl can do, and I recommend checking out their product site for more information.

Random Short Take #14

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 14 – giddy-up!

NetApp And The Space In Between

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 18.  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.

NetApp recently presented at Storage Field Day 18. You can see their videos from Storage Field Day 18 here, and download a PDF copy of my rough notes from here.

 

Bye, Dave

We were lucky enough to have Dave Hitz (now “Founder Emeritus” at NetApp) spend time with us on his last day in the office. I’ve only met him a few times but I’ve always enjoyed listening to his perspectives on what’s happening in the industry.

Cloud First?

In a previous life I worked in a government department architecting storage and virtualisation solutions for a variety of infrastructure scenarios. The idea, generally speaking, was that those solutions would solve particular business problems, or at least help to improve the processes to resolve those problems. At some point, probably late 2008 or early 2009, we started to talk about developing a “Cloud First” architecture policy, with the idea being that we would resolve to adopt cloud technologies where we could, and reduce our reliance on on-premises solutions as time passed. The beauty of working in enterprise environments is that things can take an awfully long time to happen, so that policy didn’t really come into effect until some years later.

So what does cloud first really mean? It’s possibly not as straightforward as having a “virtualisation first” policy. With the virtualisation first approach, there was a simple qualification process we undertook to determine whether a particular workload was suited to run on our virtualisation platform. This involved all the standard stuff, like funding requirements, security constraints, anticipated performance needs, and licensing concerns. We then pushed the workload one of two ways. With cloud though, there are a few more ways you can skin the cat, and it’s becoming more obvious to me that cloud means different things to different people. Some people want to push workloads to the cloud because they have a requirement to reduce their capital expenditure. Some people have to move to cloud because the CIO has determined that there needs to be a reduction in the workforce managing infrastructure activities. Some people go to cloud because they saw a cool demo at a technology conference. Some people go to cloud because their peers in another government department told them it would be easy to do. The common thread is that “people’s paths to the cloud can be so different”.

Can your workload even run in the cloud? Hitz gave us a great example of some stuff that just can’t (a printing press). The printing press needs to pump out jobs at a certain time of the day every day. It’s not going to necessarily benefit from elastic scalability for its compute workload. The workloads driving the presses would likely run a static workload.

Should it run in the cloud?

It’s a good question to ask. Most of the time, I’d say the answer is yes. This isn’t just because I work for a telco selling cloud products. There are a tonne of benefits to be had in running various, generic workloads in the cloud. Hitz suggests though, that the should it question is a corporate strategy question, and I think he’s spot on. When you embed “cloud first” in your infrastructure architecture, you’re potentially impacting a bunch of stuff outside of infrastructure architecture, including financial models, workforce management, and corporate security postures. It diens’t have to be a big deal, but it’s something that people sometimes don’t think about. And just because you start with that as your mantra, doesn’t mean you need to end up in cloud.

Does It Feel Cloudy?

Cloudy? It’s my opinion that NetApp’s cloud story is underrated. But, as Hitz noted, they’ve had the occasional misstep. When they first introduced Cloud ONTAP, Anthony Lye said it “didn’t smell like cloud”. Instead, Hitz told us he said it “feels like a product for storage administrators”. Cloudy people don’t want that, and they don’t want to talk to storage administrators. Some cloudy people were formerly storage folks, and some have never had the misfortune of managing over-provisioned midrange arrays at scale. Cloud comes in all different flavours, but it’s clear that just shoving a traditional on-premises product on a public cloud provider’s infrastructure isn’t really as cloudy as we’d like to think.

 

Bridging The Gap

NetApp are focused now on “finding the space between the old and the new, and understanding that you’ll have both for a long time”. And that’s what NetApp’s focusing on moving forward. They’re not just working on cloud-only solutions, and they have no plans to ditch their on-premises. Indeed, as Hitz noted in his presentation, “having good cloudy solutions will help them gain share in on-premises footprint”. It’s a good strategy, as the on-premises market will be around for some time to come (do you like how vague that is?). It’s been my belief for some time that companies, like NetApp, that can participate in both the on-premises and cloud market effectively will be successful.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

So why did I clumsily paraphrase a How To Destroy Angels song title and ramble on about the good old days of my career in this article instead of waxing lyrical about Charlotte Brooks’s presentation on NetApp Data Availability Services? I’m not exactly sure. I do recommend checking out Charlotte’s demo and presentation, because she’s really quite good at getting the message across, and NDAS looks pretty interesting.

Perhaps I spent the time focusing on the “cloud first” conversation because it was Dave Hitz, and it’s likely the last time I’ll see him presenting in this kind of forum. But whether it was Dave or not, conversations like this one are important, in my opinion. It often feels like we’re putting the technology ahead of the why. I’m a big fan of cloud first, but I’m an even bigger fan of people understanding the impact that their technology decisions can have on the business they’re working for. It’s nice to see a vendor who can comfortably operate on both sides of the equation having this kind of conversation, and I think it’s one that more businesses need to be having with their vendors and their internal staff.