Dell Technologies World 2019

I’ll be heading to Dell EMC’s annual conference (now known as Dell Technologies World) this year in Las Vegas, NV.

Dell – Dell Technologies World 2019 – See You Soon Las Vegas

This is a quick post to let you all know that I’ll be heading to Dell’s annual conference (Dell Technologies World) this year in Las Vegas, NV. I’m looking forward to catching up with some old friends and meeting some new ones. If you haven’t registered yet but feel like that’s something you might want to do – the registration page is here. To get a feel for what’s on offer, you can check out the agenda here. I’m looking forward to hearing more about stuff like this.

I’ll also be participating in a Tech Field Day Extra event at Dell Technologies World. You can check out the event page for that here.

Massive thanks to Konstanze and Debbie from Dell for organising the “influencer” pass for me. Keep an eye out for me at the conference and surrounding events and don’t be afraid to come and say hi (if you need a visual – think Grandad Wolverine).

Random Short Take #12

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I found interesting. You might find it interesting too. Maybe.

  • I’ve been a fan of Backblaze for some time now, and I find their blog posts useful. This one, entitled “A Workflow Playbook for Migrating Your Media Assets to a MAM“, was of particular interest to me.
  • Speaking of Backblaze, this article on SSDs and reliability should prove useful, particularly if you’re new to the technology. And the salty comments from various readers are great too.
  • Zerto just announced the myZerto Labs Program as a way for “IT professionals to test, understand and experiment with the IT Resilience Platform using virtual infrastructure”. You can sign up here.
  • If you’re in the area, I’m speaking at the Sydney VMUG UserCon on Tuesday 19th March. I’ll be covering how to “Build Your Personal Brand by Starting and Maintaining a Blog”. It’s more about blogging than branding, but I’m hoping there’s enough to keep the punters engaged. Details here. If you can’t get along to the event, I’ll likely publish the deck on this site in the near future.
  • The nice people at Axellio had some success at the US Air Force Pitch Day recently. You can read more about that here.
  • UltraViolet is going away. This kind of thing is disheartening (and a big reason why I persist in buying physical copies of things still).
  • I’m heading to Dell Technologies World this year. Michael was on the TV recently, talking about the journey and looking ahead. You can see more here.

Brisbane VMUG – March 2019

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The March 2019 edition of the Brisbane VMUG meeting will be held on Tuesday 26th March at Fishburners from 4pm – 6pm. It’s sponsored by Dell and promises to be a great afternoon.

Here’s the agenda:

  • VMUG Intro (by me)
  • VMware / Dell Presentation: Dell Factory Provisioning for Windows 10 with Workspace ONE (Pete Lindley)
  • VMware Presentation: VMware Education update and roadmap discussion (Shamus Hayes)
  • Q&A
  • Refreshments and drinks.

Dell have gone to great lengths to make sure this will be a fun and informative session and I’m really looking forward to hearing about some of the cool stuff you can do with Workspace ONE. You can find out more information and register for the event here. I hope to see you there. Also, if you’re interested in sponsoring one of these events, please get in touch with me and I can help make it happen.

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.

Dell Technologies World 2018

I’ll be heading to Dell EMC’s annual conference (now known as Dell Technologies World) this year in Las Vegas, NV.

Dell – Dell Technologies World 2018 – See You In Las Vegas

This is a quick post to let you all know that I’ll be heading to Dell EMC’s annual conference (now known as Dell Technologies World) this year in Las Vegas, NV. I’m looking forward to catching up with some old friends and meeting some new ones. If you haven’t registered yet but feel like that’s something you might want to do – the registration page is here. To get a feel for what’s on offer, you can check out the agenda here. I’m keen to hear the latest from Dell EMC.

Massive thanks to Konstanze and Debbie from Dell EMC for organising the “influencer” pass for me. Keep an eye out for me at the conference and surrounding events and don’t be afraid to come and say hi (if you need a visual – think Grandad Wolverine).

ScaleIO Is Not Your Father’s SDS

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 13.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day and Pure Storage. 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.

 

I’ve written about ScaleIO before (here and here), but thought it might be useful to deliver a basic overview of what ScaleIO actually is and what it can do. You can see Dell EMC’s Storage Field Day presentation video here and you can grab a copy of my rough notes from here.

 

ScaleIO Overview

What is it?

In a nutshell, it’s a software-defined storage product that leverages captive server storage at scale.

 

Benefits

According to Dell EMC, the useful life of ScaleIO is perpetual.

  • Deploy once
  • Grow incrementally
  • No data migration
  • Rolling upgrades
  • Perpetual software licenses

 

ScaleIO Vision and Architecture

Core, Fundamental Features of ScaleIO

Configuration Flexibility

  • Hyperconverged and/or 2-layers

Highly scalable

  • 100s / 1000s of nodes

High performance / low footprint

  • Performance scales linearly
  • High I/O parallelism
  • Gets the maximum from flash media
  • Various caching options (RAM, flash)

Platform agnostic

  • Bare-metal: Linux / Windows
  • Virtual: ESX, XEN, KVM, Hyper-V

Any network

  • Slow, fast, shared, dedicated, IPv6

Flash and Magnetic

  • SSD, NVMe, PCI or HDD
  • Manual and automatic multi-tiering

Elastic / flexible / multi-tenancy

  • Add, move, remove nodes or disks “on the fly”
  • Auto-balance

Various partitioning schemes:

  • Protection-domains
  • Storage pools
  • Fault sets
  • Seamlessly move assets from one partition to another
  • QoS – bandwidth/IOPS limiter

Resilient

  • Distributed mirroring
  • Fast auto many-to-many rebuild
  • Extensive failure handling / HA
  • Background disk scanner

Secure

  • AD/LDAP, RBAC integration
  • Secure cluster formation and component authentication
  • Secure connectivity with components, secure external client communication
  • D@RE (SW, followed by SED*)

Ease of management & operation

  • GUI, CLI, REST, OpenStack Cinder, vSphere plugin and more
  • Instant maintenance mode
  • NDU

Competent Snapshots

  • Writeable, no hierarchy limits
  • Large consistency groups
  • Automatic policies*

Thin-provisioning

Space-efficient layout*

  • Fine-grain snapshots and thin-provisioning*
  • Compression*

*Soon

 

Two-ways

You can use ScaleIO in a hyperconverged configuration and a “two-layer” configuration. With hyperconverged, you can run:

  • Application and storage in the same node, where  ScaleIO is yet another application running alongside other applications
  • Asymmetric nodes, where nodes may have a different # of spindles, etc

You can also run ScaleIO in a two-layer configuration

  • app-only nodes can access ScaleIO volumes
  • app+storage – hyperconverged nodes

 

Components

ScaleIO Components

  • ScaleIO Data Client (SDC) exposes shared block volumes to the application (block device driver)
  • ScaleIO Data Server (SDS) owns local storage that contributes to the ScaleIO storage pool (daemon/service)

SDS and SDC in the same host

  • Can live together
  • SDC serves the I/O requests of the resident host applications
  • SDS serves the I/O requests of various SDCs

 

Volume Layout, Redundancy and Elasticity

A volume appears as a single object to the application.

Volume Layout (No Redundancy)

  • Chunks (1MB) are spread across the cluster in a balanced manner
  • No hot spots, no I/O splitting

2-Copy Mirror Scheme

Free and Spare Capacity

  • Free and reserved space scattered across the cluster

 

Fast, balanced and smart rebuild

Forwards Rebuild

  • Once disk/node fails – the rebuild load is balanced across all the cluster partition disks/nodes -> faster and smoother rebuild

Backwards Rebuild

  • Smart and selective transition to “backwards” rebuild (re-silvering), once a failed node is back alive
  • Short outage = small penalty

 

Elasticity, Auto-rebalance

Add: one may add nodes or disks dynamically -> the system automatically rebalances the storage

  • Old volumes can use the wider striping
  • No extra exposure
  • Most minimal data transferred

Remove: One may remove nodes / disks dynamically -> the system automatically rebalances the storage

  • Minimal data transferred in a many to many fashion

Combination: The same rebalance plan could handle additions and removals simultaneously

 

Conclusion and Further Reading

I’ve spoken to a range of people in the industry, from customers to Dell EMC folks to competitive vendors, and one thing that gets raised constantly is that Dell EMC are offering both ScaleIO and VMware vSAN. If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know that this isn’t the first time Dell EMC have offered up products that could be seen as competing for the same market share. But I think they’re doing different things and are aimed at different use cases. My second favourite Canadian Chad Sakac explains this better than I would here.

Put this software on the right hardware (the key to any successful software defined storage product) and you’ve got something that can deliver very good block storage performance across a range of use cases. If you want to know more, Dell EMC have a pretty handy architecture overview document you can get here, and you can download a best practice white paper from here. You can also access a brief introduction to ScaleIO here (registration required). But the best bit is you can download ScaleIO for free from here.

ScaleIO.Next promises to deliver a range of new features, including space efficient storage and NVMe support. I’m curious to see the market uptake has been given the accessibility of the software. I’d also like to see what the uptake has been given the availability of ScaleIO-ready nodes based on Dell PowerEdge hardware. In any case, if you’ve got some spare tin, I recommend taking ScaleIO for a spin.

Dell EMC’s Isilon All-Flash Is Starting To Make Sense

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 13.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day and Pure Storage. 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.

 

I’ve written about Dell EMC Isilon All-Flash before (here and here). You can see Dell EMC’s Storage Field Day presentation video here and you can grab a copy of my rough notes from here.

 

The Problem?

Dell EMC’s Isilon (and OneFS) has been around for a while now, and Dell EMC tell us it offers the following advantages over competing scale-out NAS offerings:

  • Single, scalable file system;
  • Fully symmetric, clustered architecture;
  • Truly multi-protocol data lake;
  • Transparent tiering with heterogeneous clusters; and
  • Non-disruptive platform and OneFS upgrades.

While this is most likely true, the world (and its workloads) are changing. To this end, Dell EMC have been working with Isilon customers to address some key industry challenges, including:

  • Electronic Design Automation – 7nm and 3D Chip designs;
  • Life Sciences – population-scale genomics;
  • Media and Entertainment – 4K Content and Distribution; and
  • Enterprise – big data and analytics.

 

The Solution?

To cope with the ever-increasing throughput requirements, Dell EMC have developed an all-flash offering for their Isilon range of NAS devices, along with some changes in their OneFS operating environment. The idea of the “F” series of devices is that you can “start small and scale”, with capacities ranging from 72TB – 924TB (RAW) in 4RU. Dell EMC tell me you can go to over 33PB in a single file system. From a performance perspective, Dell EMC say that you can push 250K IOPS (or 15GB/s) in just 4RU and scale to 9M IOPS. These are pretty high numbers, and pointless if your editing workstation is plugged into a 1Gbps switch. But that’s generally not the case nowadays.

One of the neater resilience features that Dell EMC discussed was that the file system layout is “sled-aware” (there are 5 drive sleds per node and 20 sleds per 4RU chassis) meaning that a given file uses one drive per sled, allowing for sled removal for service without data unavailability, with these being treated as temporarily-offline drives.

 

Is All-Flash the Answer (Or Just Another Step?)

I’ve been fascinated with the storage requirements (and IT requirements in general) for media and entertainment workloads for some time. I have absolutely no real-world experience with these types of environments, and it would be silly for me to position myself as any kind of expert in the field. [I am, of course, happy for people working in M&E to get in touch with me and tell me all about what they do]. What I do have is a lot of information that tells me that the move from 2K to 4K (and 8K) is forcing people to rethink their requirements for high bandwidth storage in the ranges of capacities that studios are now starting to look at.

Whilst I was initially a little confused around the move to all-flash on the Isilon platform, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. You’re always going to have a bunch of data hanging around that you might want to keep on-line for a long time, but it may not need to be retrieved at great speed (think “cheap and deep” storage). For this, it seems that the H (Hybrid) series of Isilon does the job, and does it well. But for workloads where large amounts of data need to be processed in a timely fashion, all-flash options are starting to make a lot more sense.

Is an all-flash offering the answer to everything? Probably not. Particularly not if you’re on a budget. And no matter how much money people have invested in the movie / TV show / whatever, I can guarantee that most of that is going to talent and content, not infrastructure. But there’s definitely a shift from spinning disk to Flash and this will continue as Flash media prices continue to fall. And then we’ll wonder how we ever did anything with those silly spinning disks. Until the next magic medium comes along. In the meantime, if you want to take OneFS for a spin, you can grab a copy of the version 8.1 simulator here. There’s also a very good Isilon overview document that I recommend you check out if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.

Dell EMC’s in the Midst of a Midrange Resurrection

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 13.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day and Pure Storage. 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.

 

Dell EMC presented on their Unity range of midrange storage at Storage Field Day 13 recently. You can see video of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

We’re Talking About Unity, Man

All of the Software

Dell EMC have been paying attention to their customers, and all of the software for Unity is now included:

  • Block, File or VVol
  • Snapshots and AppSync Basic
  • Replication (including RecoverPoint Basic)
  • Inline compression
  • D@RE
  • AV enabler
  • QoS
  • Cloud Tiering
  • Unisphere (now running on HTML-5, die Java, die!)

There’s no need to go hunting for licenses or enablers like we had to in the VNX and CLARiiON days. This is a good thing, and tells me a lot about Dell EMC’s willingness to listen to customers when they say they want this stuff to be simple to consume without a bunch of extra costs.

 

Architecture

Dell EMC tell us that the Unity array is built on an active-active, fully redundant, dual node architecture. I can’t confirm whether this is the case or not, but I’m fairly sure that it’s an improvement on the ALUA days of yore. The Unity is also really a unified design now, with file, block or VMware Virtual Volume storage sharing the same pool of storage. Again, this is a significant improvement over the somewhat cludgy “Unified” approach that EMC took with the VNX range of arrays.

Dell EMC claim that the Unity array takes “10 minutes to install and 30 minutes to production”. I’m not sure how I feel about these numbers, and I’m not sure I’d make purchasing decisions based on how long it takes me to put some storage in a rack. Heck, I’ve worked in environments where it takes 2 hours to fill out the change request forms to deploy the arrays, and another 4 days to get these activities approved. I guess it’s nice to know that at the end of that administrative pain you could jam this gear in a rack pretty quickly and focus on other, more interesting activities.

Dell EMC are positioning the Unity as “compact and powerful: cloud integrated 500TB all-flash in 2RU”. Not unlike the Mazda3, you get a lot in a fairly compact form factor. And you likely won’t pay huge amounts for it either. Cloud integrated means a lot of things to a lot of people, but Dell EMC have been paying attention to what the likes of Pure Storage and Nimble Storage have been doing, and have delivered a pretty cool offering in CloudIQ, and I’m optimistic that the rest of Dell EMC’s tools will be following suit, if they haven’t already.

 

The Midrange Isn’t Dead

Okay, people weren’t actually saying that midrange is dead. But sometimes it feels like the focus has been on a lot of other things, like super scale out, hyper-object storage and terribly sexy, high-end all flash storage that runs to a large number of petabytes and connects directly into a port at the base of the end user’s skull. Added to that Dell EMC have had to do some careful balancing of product portfolios, and doing a pretty decent job of selling the benefits of both the Unity and SC series. I’ve had exposure to both products over time, and can see the good in each line of products. It’s not unreasonable to expect that they’ll merge in the future, but when this future will be is anyone’s guess. When Unity initially launched it felt a bit rushed (you can read my coverage here and here). Dell EMC have been working pretty hard to smooth out some of the roughness and bring to market some cool features that were missing in the first iteration of the product.

I’ve been fond of midrange arrays for a long time. The damn things tend to just run, and you can’t walk into most data centres without bumping into some kind of midrange array. Sometimes, midrange is really all you need to get the job done. And there’s no shame in that either. We’re also seeing a bunch of features that were traditionally considered “high-end” being implemented further down the stack. This should only be considered a good thing.

 

Further Reading

You can download the Unity Simulator here, and read my thoughts on Dell EMC’s midrange update from Dell EMC World 2017 here. You can also grab a copy of the Dell EMC Unity VSA from here.