Here are some links to some random news items and other content that I recently found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 18 – buckle up kids! It’s all happening.
Cohesity added support for Active Directory protection with version 6.3 of the DataPlatform. Matt covered it pretty comprehensively here.
Speaking of Cohesity, Alastair wrote this article on getting started with the Cohesity PowerShell Module.
In keeping with the data protection theme (hey, it’s what I’m into), here’s a great article from W. Curtis Preston on SaaS data protection, and what you need to consider to not become another cautionary tale on the Internet. Curtis has written a lot about data protection over the years, and you could do a lot worse than reading what he has to say. And that’s not just because he signed a book for me.
Did you ever stop and think just how insecure some of the things that you put your money into are? It’s a little scary. Shell are doing some stuff with Cybera to improve things. Read more about that here.
I used to work with Vincent, and he’s a super smart guy. I’ve been at him for years to start blogging, and he’s started to put out some articles. He’s very good at taking complex topics and distilling them down to something that’s easy to understand. Here’s his summary of VMware vRealize Automation configuration.
Google Cloud has announced it’s acquiring Elastifile. That part of the business doesn’t seem to be as brutal as the broader Alphabet group when it comes to acquiring and discarding companies, and I’m hoping that the good folks at Elastifile are looked after. You can read more on that here.
A lot of people are getting upset with terms like “disaggregated HCI”. Chris Mellor does a bang up job explaining the differences between the various architectures here. It’s my belief that there’s a place for all of this, and assuming that one architecture will suit every situation is a little naive. But what do I know?
Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I found interesting. You might find it interesting too. Maybe. Happy New Year too. I hope everyone’s feeling fresh and ready to tackle 2019.
QNAP announced the TR-004 over the weekend and I had one delivered on Tuesday. It’s unusual that I have cutting edge consumer hardware in my house, so I’ll be interested to see how it goes.
It’s not too late to register for Cohesity’s upcoming Helios webinar. I’m looking forward to running through some demos with Jon Hildebrand and talking about how Helios helps me manage my Cohesity environment on a daily basis.
Elastifile Cloud File Service delivers a self-service SaaS experience, providing the ability to consume scalable file storage that’s deeply integrated with Google infrastructure. You could think of it as similar to Amazon’s EFS.
[image courtesy of Elastifile]
Easy to Use
Why would you want to use this service? It:
Eliminates manual infrastructure management;
Provisions turnkey file storage capacity in minutes; and
Can be delivered in any zone, and any region.
It’s also cloudy in a lot of the right ways you want things to be cloudy, including:
Pay-as-you-go, consumption-based pricing;
Flexible pricing tiers to match workflow requirements; and
The ability to start small and scale out or in as needed and on-demand.
One of the real benefits of this kind of solution though, is the deep integration with Google’s Cloud Platform.
The UI, deployment, monitoring, and billing are fully integrated;
You get a single bill from Google; and
The solution has been co-engineered to be GCP-native.
A single storage tier selection, being Standard or SSD;
It’s available in-cloud only; and
Grow capacity or performance up to a tier capacity.
With Elastifile’s Cloud File Service, you get access to the following features:
Aggregates performance & capacity of many VMs
Elastically scale-out or -in; on-demand
Multiple service tiers for cost flexibility
Hybrid cloud, multi-zone / region and cross-cloud support
You can also use ClearTier to perform tiering between file and object without any application modification.
I’ve been a fan of Elastifile for a little while now, and I thought their 3.0 release had a fair bit going for it. As you can see from the list of features above, Elastifile are really quite good at leveraging all of the cool things about cloud – it’s software only (someone else’s infrastructure), reasonably priced, flexible, and scalable. It’s a nice change from some vendors who have focussed on being in the cloud without necessarily delivering the flexibility that cloud solutions have promised for so long. Coupled with a robust managed service and some preferential treatment from Google and you’ve got a compelling solution.
Not everyone will want or need a managed service to go with their file storage requirements, but if you’re an existing GCP and / or Elastifile customer, this will make some sense from a technical assurance perspective. The ability to take advantage of features such as ClearTier, combined with the simplicity of keeping it all under the Google umbrella, has a lot of appeal. Elastifile are in the box seat now as far as these kinds of offerings are concerned, and I’m keen to see how the market responds to the solution. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, the Early Access Program opens December 11th with general availability in Q1 2019. In the meantime, if you’d like to try out ECFS on GCP – you can sign up here.
Elastifile recently announced version 3.0 of their product. I had the opportunity to speak to Jerome McFarland (VP of Marketing) and thought I’d share some information from the announcement here. If you haven’t heard of them before, “Elastifile augments public cloud capabilities and facilitates cloud consumption by delivering enterprise-grade, scalable file storage in the cloud”.
One of the major features of the 3.0 release is “ClearTier”, delivering integration between file and object storage in public clouds. With ClearTier, you have object storage expanding the file system namespace. The cool thing about this is that Elastifile’s ECFS provides transparent read / write access to all data. No need to re-tool applications to take advantage of the improved economics of object storage in the public cloud.
How Does It Work?
All data is accessible through ECFS via a standard NFS mount, and application access to object data is routed automatically. Data tiering occurs automatically according to user-defined policies specifying:
Targeted capacity ratio between file and object;
Eligibility for data demotion (i.e. min time since last access); and
Promotion policies control response to object data access.
ClearTier gets even more interesting when you combine it with Elastifile’s CloudConnect, by using CloudConnect to get data to the public cloud in the first place, and then using CloudTier to push data to object storage.
[image courtesy of Elastifile]
It becomes a simple process, and consists of two steps:
Move on-premises data (from any NAS) to cloud-based object storage using CloudConnect; and
Deploy ECFS with pointer to designated object store.
ClearTier also provides the ability to store snapshots on an object tier. Snapshots occur automatically according to user- defined policies specifying:
Data to include;
Destination for snapshot (i.e. file storage / object storage); and
Schedule for snapshot creation.
The great thing is that all snapshots are accessible through ECFS via the same NFS mount.
Thoughts And Further Reading
I was pretty impressed with Elastifile’s CloudConnect solution when they first announced it. When you couple CloudConnect with something like ClearTier, and have it sitting on top of the ECFS foundation, it strikes me as a pretty cool solution. If you’re using applications that rely heavily on NFS, for example, ClearTier gives you a way to leverage the traditionally low cost of cloud object storage with the improved performance of file. I like the idea that you can play with the ratio of file and object, and I’m a big fan of not having to re-tool my file-centric applications to take advantage of object economics. The ability to store a bunch of snapshots on the object tier also adds increased flexibility in terms of data protection and storage access options.
The ability to burst workloads is exactly the kind of technical public cloud use case that we’ve been talking about in slideware for years now. The reality, however, has been somewhat different. It looks like Elastifile are delivering a solution that competes aggressively with some of the leading cloud providers’ object solutions, whilst also giving the storage array vendors, now dabbling in cloud solutions, pause for thought. There are a bunch of interesting use cases, particularly if you need to access a bunch of compute, and large data sets via file-based storage, in a cloud environment for short periods of time. If you’re looking for a cost-effective, scalable storage solution, I think that Elastifile are worth checking out.
I shared my thoughts on Elastifile after seeing them at Storage Field Day 12. Since then they’ve been busy developing their product and Andy Fenselau kindly to the time to update me on what’s been happening with them in the months since. They’re also my new favourites because they use they understand the difference between premise and premises.
Elastifile were founded in 2013 and are based in Santa Clara, CA and Herzliya, Israel. They have Global Sales & Marketing (throughout North America, EMEA, and China). They’re well-funded with nearly $70M, and have a number of strategic investors involved, including Dell Technologies Capital, Cisco, and Western Digital.
Elastifile tell me they’re solving the hybrid-cloud enterprise data management problem. Companies are still facing the following issues:
On-premises struggles with cloud-like efficiency – they need scalability, “hardware freedom”, and consumption-based pricing; and
Unable to lift and shift to true hybrid cloud.
People have been “[g]oing to a gun fight with knives for the last few years”.
Cross-cloud Data Fabric
The solution, according to Elastifile, is their Cross-cloud Data Fabric, offering the simplicity of file, the scalability of object, and the performance of block.
Elastifile currently have around forty customers with more on the way. From a product maturity perspective, features such as encryption at rest are coming, which I think will help them penetrate certain segments more easily. There’s a lot to like about the flexibility of the product, and I’m a big fan of simplified subscription models to license products. I’d be interested to see just how well it really performs in a public cloud scenario, but this is a concern for every cloud-friendly storage solution. Hybrid is the new black, and it feels like Elastifile are putting a lot of work into making sure they’ve got a product that plays well in that space. I’m looking forward to seeing whether they can build on what seems like a well thought platform and compete with some of the bigger scale-out players.
Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 12. 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.
Here are some notes from Elastifile‘s presentation at Storage Field Day 12. You can view the video here and download my rough notes here.
What is it?
Elastifile’s crown jewel is the Elastic Cloud File System (ECFS). It’s a scalable data platform, supporting:
Exabyte scale capacity, 10s millions IOPS (and above)
And offering “advanced embedded data management and analytics”.
It is software only, and is virtualisation and cloud friendly, running on:
Physical servers (tested on 20+ platforms)
On-premises virtualisation (VMware, KVM, etc)
Cloud VMs (Amazon, Google, etc)
It’s also “Flash Native”, supporting all NAND technologies interfaces and offering support for object/S3 cold tiers (dynamic tiering/HSM/ILM).
From an architectural perspective, ECFS also offers:
Enterprise Level Features, including non-disruptive upgrades (NDUs), n-way redundancy, self healing, snapshots, sync/async DR
Storage Interfaces based on NFSv3/v4, SMB2/3, S3, HDFS
It also has cloud-friendly features, including:
Multi-tenancy, QoS, Hot add/remove nodes/capacity
Snapshot shipping to S3 (“CloudConnect”)
ILM/HSM/Dynamic tiering to other sites/clouds, Object/S3
Multi-site (geographically distributed access)
You can also leverage a number of different deployment modes, including:
Hyperconverged mode (HCI)
Dedicated storage mode (DSM) – with 2 tiers or single tier
Cloud (“Marketplace”) – as a service / as an application
Design Objectives and Journey
So what did Elastifile consider the foundation for a successful architecture when designing the product? They told us it would be “[a] good trade-off between all relevant dimensions, resources and requirements to produce the best solution for the desired target(s)”. Note, however, that it isn’t a linear path. Their goal is to “[b]e the best data platform for the cloud era enterprise”. It’s a lofty goal, to be sure, but when you’re starting from scratch it’s always good to aim high. Elastifile went on to tell us a little bit about what they’ve seen in the marketplace, what requirements these produced, and how those requirements drove product-direction decisions.
Elastifile Architectural Base Observations
Elastifile went into what they saw out in the marketplace:
Enterprises increasingly use clouds or cloud-like techniques;
In a cloud (like) environment the focus ISN’T infrastructure (storage) but rather services (data);
Data services must be implemented by simple, efficient mechanisms for many concurrent I/O data patterns;
Everything should be managed by APIs;
Data management should be very fine grained; and
Data mobility has to be solved.
Elastifile Architectural Base Requirements
The following product requirements were then developed based on those observations:
Everything must be automatic;
Avoid unnecessary restrictions and limitations. Assume as little as you can about the customer’s I/O patterns;
Bring Your Own Hardware (BYOH): Avoid unnecessary/uncommon hardware requirements like NVRAM, RDMA networks, etc (optional optimisations are OK);
Support realtime & dynamic reconfiguration of the system;
Support heterogeneous hardware (CPU, memory, SSD types, sizes, etc); and
Provide good consistent predictable performance for the given resources (even under failures and noisy environments).
Elastifile Architectural Base Decisions
So how do these requirements transform into architectural directions?
Scale-out (and Scale-up)
Cloud, cloud and cloud! (Cloudy is popular for a reason)
Cloud and virtualisation friendly (smart move)
Cost effective (potentially, although my experience of software companies is that they all eventually want to be Oracle)
Provides flexibility and efficient multiple concurrent IO patterns
Capacity efficiency achieved by dedupe, compression and tiering
Application level file system
Enables unique data level services and the best performance (!) (a big claim, but Elastifile are keen to stand behind it)
Superset of block/object interfaces
Enables data sharing (and not only storage sharing) for user self-service. (The focus on data, not just storage, is great).
Bumps in the Road
Elastifile started in 2013 and launched in v1 in Q4 2016 and they had a few bumps along the way.
To start with, the uptake in private clouds didn’t happen as expected;
OpenStack didn’t gather enough momentum;
It seems that private clouds don’t make sense short of the web-scale guys – lack of economy of scale;
Many enterprises do not attempt to modernise their legacy systems, but rather attempt to shift (some/all) workloads to the public cloud.
The impact on product development? They had to support public cloud use cases earlier than expected. According to Elastifile, this turned out to be a good thing in the end, and I agree.
The hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) model has proven problematic for many use cases. (And I know this won’t necessarily resonate with a lot of people I know, but horses for course and all that). Why not?
It’s not perceived well by many storage administrators due to problematic responsibilities boundaries (“where is my storage?);
Requires coordination with the applications/server infrastructure
Limits the ability to scale resources (e.g. scale capacity, not performance)
HCI is nonetheless a good fit for
Places/use cases without (appropriate/skilled) IT resources (e.g. ROBO, SMB); and
Vertical implementations (this means web scale companies in most places).
The impact on Elastifile’s offering? They added a dedicated storage mode to provide separate storage resources and scaling to get around these issues.
One of the things I really like about Elastifile is that the focus isn’t on the infrastructure (storage) but rather services (data). I’ve a million conversations lately with people across a bunch of different business types around the importance of understanding their applications (and the data supporting their applications) and why that should be more important to them than the badge on the front of the platform. That said, plenty of companies are running applications and don’t really understand the value of these applications in terms of business revenue or return. There’s no point putting in a massively scalable storage solution of you’re doing it to support applications that aren’t helping the business do its business. It seems like a reasonable thing to be able to articulate, but as anyone who’s worked in large enterprise knows, it’s often not well understood at all.
Personally, I love it when vendors go into the why of their key product architectures – it’s an invaluable insight into how some of these things get to minimum viable product. Of course, if you’re talking to the wrong people, then your product may be popular with a very small number of shops that aren’t spending a lot of money. Not only should you understand the market you’re trying to develop for, you need to make sure you’re actually talking to people representative of that market, and not some confused neckbeards sitting in the corner who have no idea what they’re doing. Elastifile have provided some nice insight into why they’ve done what they’ve done, and are focusing on areas that I think are really important in terms of delivering scalable and resilient platforms for data storage. I’m looking forward to seeing what they get up to in the future. If you’d like to know more, and don’t mind giving up some details, check out the Elastifile resources page for a nice range of white papers, blog posts and videos.
In what can only be considered excellent news, I’ll be heading to the US in early March for another Storage Field Day event. If you haven’t heard of the very excellent Tech Field Day events, you should check them out. I’m looking forward to time travel and spending time with some really smart people for a few days. It’s also worth checking back on the Storage Field Day 12 website during the event (March 8 – 10) as there’ll be video streaming and updated links to additional content. You can also see the list of delegates and event-related articles that have been published.
I think it’s a great line-up of presenting companies this time around. There are a few I’m very familiar with and some I’ve not seen in action before.
It’s not quite a total greybeard convention this time around, but I think that’s only because of Jon‘s relentless focus on personal grooming. I won’t do the delegate rundown, but having met a number of these people I can assure the videos will be worth watching.
Here’s the rough schedule (all times are ‘Merican Pacific and may change).
I’d like to publicly thank in advance the nice folks from Tech Field Day who’ve seen fit to have me back, as well as my employer for giving me time to attend these events. Also big thanks to the companies presenting. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Seriously.