Formulus Black Announces Forsa 3.0

Formulus Black recently announced version 3.0 of its Forsa product. I had the opportunity to speak with Mark Iwanowski and Jing Xie about the announcement and wanted to share some thoughts here.

 

So What’s A Forsa Again?

It’s a software solution for running applications in memory without needing to re-tool your applications or hardware. You can present persistent storage (think Intel Optane) or non-persistent memory (think DRAM) as a block device to the host and run your applications on that. Here’s a look at the architecture.

[image courtesy of Formulus Black]

Is This Just a Linux Thing?

No, not entirely. There’s Ubuntu and CentOS support out of the box, and Red Hat support is imminent. If you don’t use those operating systems though, don’t stress. You can also run this using a KVM-based hypervisor. So anything supported by that can be supported by Forsa.

But What If My Memory Fails?

Formulus Black has a technology called “BLINK” which provides the ability to copy your data down to SSDs, or you can failover the data to another host.

Won’t I Need A Bunch Of RAM?

Formulus Black uses Bit Markers – a memory efficient technology (like deduplication) – to make efficient use of the available memory. They call it “amplification” as opposed to deduplication, as it amplifies the available space.

Is This Going To Cost Me?

A little, but not as much as you’d think (because nothing’s ever free). The software is licensed on a per-socket basis, so if you decide to add memory capacity you’re not up for additional licensing costs.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I don’t do as much work with folks requiring in-memory storage solutions as much as I’d like to do, but I do appreciate the requirement for these kinds of solutions. The big appeal here is the lack of requirement to re-tool your applications to work in-memory. All you need is something that runs on Linux or KVM and you’re pretty much good to go. Sure, I’m over-simplifying things a little, but it looks like there’s a good story here in terms of the lack of integration required to get some serious performance improvements.

Formulus Black came out of stealth around 4 and a bit months ago and have already introduced a raft of improvements over version 2.0 of their offering. It’s great to see the speed with which they’ve been able to execute on new features in their offering. I’m curious to see what’s next, as there’s obviously been a great focus on performance and simplicity.

The cool kids are all talking about the benefits of NVMe-based, centralised storage solutions. And they’re right to do this, as most applications will do just fine with these kinds of storage platforms. But there are still going to be minuscule bottlenecks associated with these devices. If you absolutely need things to run screamingly fast, you’ll likely want to run them in-memory. And if that’s the case, Formulus Black’s Forsa solution might be just what you’re looking for. Plus, it’s a pretty cool name for a company, or possibly an aspiring wizard.

Burlywood Tech Announces TrueFlash Insight

Burlywood Tech came out of stealth a few years ago, and I wrote about their TrueFlash announcement here. I had another opportunity to speak to Mike Tomky recently about Burlywood’s TrueFlash Insight announcement and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

The Announcement

Burlywood’s “TrueFlash” product delivers what they describe as a “software-defined SSD” drive. Since they’ve been active in the market they’ve gained traction in what they call the Tier 2 service provider segments (not the necessarily the “Big 7” hyperscalers).

They’ve announced TrueFlash Insight because, in a number of cases, customers don’t know what their workloads really look like. The idea behind TrueFlash Insight is that it can be run in a production environment for a period of time to collect metadata and drive telemetry. Engineers can also be sent on site if required to do the analysis. The data collected with TrueFlash Insight helps Burlywood with the process of designing and tuning the TrueFlash product for the desired workload.

How It Works

  • Insight is available only on Burlywood TrueFlash drives
  • Enabled upon execution of a SOW for Insight analysis services
  • Run your application as normal in a system with one or more Insight-enabled TrueFlash drives
  • Follow the instructions to download the telemetry files
  • Send telemetry data to Burlywood for analysis
  • Burlywood parses the telemetry, analyses data patterns, shares performance information, and identifies potential bottlenecks and trouble spots
  • This information can then be used to tune the TrueFlash SSDs for optimal performance

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

When I wrote about Burlywood previously I was fascinated by the scale that would be required for a company to consider deploying SSDs with workload-specific code sitting on them. And then I stopped and thought about my comrades in the enterprise space struggling to get the kind of visibility into their gear that’s required to make these kinds of decisions. But when your business relies so heavily on good performance, there’s a chance you have some idea of how to get information on the performance of your systems. The fact that Burlywood are making this offering available to customers indicates that even those customers that are on board with the idea of “Software-defined SSDs (SDSSDs?)” don’t always have the capabilities required to make an accurate assessment of their workloads.

But this solution isn’t just for existing Burlywood customers. The good news is it’s also available for customers considering using Burlywood’s product in their DC. It’s a reasonably simple process to get up and running, and my impression is that it will save a bit of angst down the track. Tomky made the comment that, with this kind of solution, you don’t need to “worry about masking problems at the drive level – [you can] work on your core value”. There’s a lot to be said for companies, even the ones with very complex technical requirements, not having to worry about the technical part of the business as much as the business part of the business. If Burlywood can make that process easier for current and future customers, I’m all for it.

StorONE Announces S1-as-a-Service

StorONE recently announced its StorONE-as-a-Service (S1aaS) offering. I had the opportunity to speak to Gal Naor about it and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

The Announcement

StorONE’s S1-as-a-Service (S1aaS), is a use-based solution integrating StorONE’s S1 storage services with Dell Technologies and Mellanox hardware. The idea is they’ll ship you an appliance (available in a few different configurations) and you plug it in and away you go. There’s not a huge amount to say about it as it’s fairly straightforward. If you need more that the 18TB entry-level configuration, StorONE can get you up and running with 60TB thanks to overnight shipping.

Speedonomics

The as-a-Service bit is what most people are interested in, and S1aaS starts at $999 US per month for the 18TB all-flash array that delivers up to 150000 IOPS. There are a couple of other configurations available as well, including 36TB at $1797 per month, and 54TB at $2497 per month. If, for some reason, you decide you don’t want the device any more, or you no longer have that particular requirement, you can cancel your service with 30 days’ notice.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The idea of consuming storage from vendors on-premises via flexible finance plans isn’t a new one. But S1aaS isn’t a leasing plan. There’s no 60-month commitment and payback plan. If you want to use this for three months for a particular project and then cancel your service, you can. Just as you could with cable. From that perspective, it’s a reasonably interesting proposition. A number of the major storage vendors would struggle to put that much capacity and speed in such a small footprint on-premises for $999 per month. This is the major benefit of a software-based storage product that, by all accounts, can get a lot out of commodity server hardware.

I wrote about StorONE when they came out of stealth mode a few years ago, and noted the impressive numbers they were posting. Are numbers the most important thing when it comes to selecting storage products? No, not always. There’s plenty to be said for “good enough” solutions that are more affordable. But it strikes me that solutions that go really fast and don’t cost a small fortune to run are going to be awfully compelling. One of the biggest impediments to deploying on-premises storage solutions “as-a-Service” is that there’s usually a minimum spend required to make it worthwhile for the vendor or service provider. Most attempts previously have taken more than 2RU of rack space as a minimum footprint, and have required the customer to sign up for minimum terms of 36 – 60 months. That all changes (for the better) when you can run your storage on a server with NVMe-based drives and an efficient, software-based platform.

Sure, there are plenty of enterprises that are going to need more than 18TB of capacity. But are they going to need more than 54TB of capacity that goes at that speed? And can they build that themselves for the monthly cost that StorONE is asking for? Maybe. But maybe it’s just as easy for them to look at what their workloads are doing and decide whether they want everything to on that one solution. And there’s nothing to stop them deploying multiple configurations either.

I was impressed with StorONE when they first launched. They seem to have a knack for getting good performance from commodity gear, and they’re willing to offer that solution to customers at a reasonable price. I’m looking forward to seeing how the market reacts to these kinds of competitive offerings. You can read more about S1aaS here.

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 #15

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I recently found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 15 – it could become a regular thing. Maybe every other week? Fortnightly even.

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!

Random Short Take #13

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Let’s dive in to lucky number 13.

Storage Field Day 18 – Wrap-up and Link-o-rama

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.

This is a quick post to say thanks once again to Stephen and Ben, and the presenters at Storage Field Day 18. I had a super fun and educational time. For easy reference, here’s a list of the posts I did covering the events (they may not match the order of the presentations).

Storage Field Day – I’ll Be At Storage Field Day 18

Storage Field Day 18 – Day 0

Storage Field Day 18 – (Fairly) Full Disclosure

Cohesity Is (Data)Locked In

NetApp And The Space In Between

StorPool And The Death of Hardware-Defined Storage

IBM Spectrum Protect Plus – More Than Meets The Eye

Western Digital Are Keeping Composed

VAST Data – No More Tiers Mean No More Tears?

WekaIO Continues To Evolve

Datera and the Rise of Enterprise Software-Defined Storage

 

Also, here’s a number of links to posts by my fellow delegates (in no particular order). They’re all very smart people, and you should check out their stuff, particularly if you haven’t before. I’ll attempt to keep this updated as more posts are published. But if it gets stale, the Storage Field Day 18 landing page will have updated links.

 

Becky Elliott (@BeckyLElliott)

California Dreamin’ My Way to Storage Field Day 18

A VAST-ly Different Storage Story

 

Chin-Fah Heoh (@StorageGaga)

A Storage Field 18 I will go – for the fun of it

VAST Data must be something special

Catch up (fast) – IBM Spectrum Protect Plus

Clever Cohesity

Storpool – Block storage managed well

Bridges to the clouds and more – NetApp NDAS

WekaIO controls their performance destiny

The full force of Western Digital

 

Chris M Evans (@ChrisMEvans)

Podcast #3 – Chris & Matt review the SFD18 presenters

Exploiting secondary data with NDAS from NetApp

VAST Data launches with new scale-out storage platform

Can the WekaIO Matrix file system be faster than DAS?

#91 – Storage Field Day 18 in Review

 

Erik Ableson (@EAbleson)

SFD18-Western Digital

Vast Data at Storage Field Day 18

 

Ray Lucchesi (@RayLucchesi)

StorPool, fast storage for fast times

For data that never rests, NetApp NDAS

 

Jon Klaus (@JonKlaus)

My brain will be melting at Storage Field Day 18!

Faster and bigger SSDs enable us to talk about something else than IOps

How To: Clone Windows 10 from SATA SSD to M.2 SSD (& fix inaccessible boot device)

The fast WekaIO file system saves you money!

Put all your data on flash with VAST Data

 

Enrico Signoretti (@ESignoretti)

A Packed Field Day

Democratizing Data Management

How IBM is rethinking its data protection line-up

NetApp, cloudier than ever

Voices in Data Storage – Episode 10: A Conversation with Boyan Ivanov

Voices in Data Storage – Episode 11: A Conversation with Renen Hallak

Voices in Data Storage – Episode 12: A Conversation with Bill Borsari

 

Josh De Jong (@EuroBrew)

 

Matthew Leib (@MBLeib)

I Am So Looking Forward to #SFD18

#SFD18 introduces us to VAST Data

Dual Actuator drives: An interesting trend

Weka.IO and my first official briefing

Cohesity: More on the real value of data

 

Max Mortillaro (@DarkkAvenger)

Storage Field Day 18 – It’s As Intense As Storage Field Day Gets

Storage Field Day 18 – Fifty Shades of Disclosure

Cohesity – The Gold Standard in Data Management

EP17 – Storpool: Being the best in Block Based storage – with Boyan Ivanov

Developing Data Protection Solutions in the Era of Data Management

Western Digital : Innovation in 3D NAND and Low Latency Flash NAND

 

Paul L. Woodward Jr (@ExploreVM)

Storage Field Day 18, Here I Come!

 

[photo courtesy of Stephen Foskett]

Datera and the Rise of Enterprise Software-Defined Storage

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.

Datera recently presented at Storage Field Day 18. You can see videos of their presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Enterprise Software-Defined Storage

Datera position themselves as delivering “Enterprise Software-Defined Storage”. But what does that really mean? Enterprise IT gives you:

  • High Performance
  • Enterprise Features
    • QoS
    • Fault Domains
    • Stretched Cluster
    • L3 Networking
    • Deduplication
    • Replication
  • HA
  • Resiliency

Software-defined storage gives you:

  • Automation
  • DC Awareness Agility
  • Continuous Availability
  • Targeted Data Placement
  • Continuous Optimisation
  • Rapid technology adoption

Combine both of these and you get Datera.

[image courtesy of Datera]

 

Why Datera?

There are some other features built in to the platform that differentiate Datera’s offering, including:

  • L3 Networking – Datera brings standard protocols with modern networking to data centre storage. Resources are designed to float to allow for agility, availability, and scalability.
  • Policy-based Operations – Datera was built from day 1 with policy controls and policy templates to easy operations at scale while maintaining agility and availability.
  • Targeted Data Placement – ensure data is distributed correctly across the physical infrastructure to meet policies around perfromance, availability, data protection while controlling cost

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I’ve waxed lyrical about Datera’s intent-based approach previously. I like the idea that they’re positioning themselves as “Enterprise SDS”. While my day job is now at a service provider, I spent a lot of time in enterprise shops getting crusty applications to keep on running, as best as they could, on equally crusty storage arrays. Something like Datera comes along with a cool hybrid storage approach and the enterprise guys get a little nervous. They want replication, they want resiliency, they want to apply QoS policies to it.

The software-defined data centre is the darling architecture of the private cloud world. Everyone wants to work with infrastructure that can be easily automated, highly available, and extremely scalable. Historically, some of these features have flown in the face of what the enterprise wants: stability, performance, resiliency. The enterprise guys aren’t super keen on updating platforms in the middle of the day. They want to buy multiples of infrastructure components. And they want multiple sets of infrastructure protecting applications. They aren’t that far away from those software-defined folks in any case.

The ability to combine continuous optimisation with high availability is a neat part of Datera’s value proposition. Like a number of software-defined storage solutions, the ability to rapidly iterate new features within the platform, while maintaining that “enterprise” feel in terms of stability and resiliency, is a pretty cool thing. Datera are working hard to bring the best of both worlds together, and managing to deliver the agility that enterprise wants, while maintaining the availability within the infrastructure that they crave.

I’ve spoken at length before about the brutally slow pace of working in some enterprise storage shops. Operations staff are constantly being handed steamers from under-resourced or inexperienced project delivery staff. Change management people are crippling the pace. And the CIO wants to know why you’ve not moved your SQL 2005 environment to AWS. There are some very good reasons why things work the way they do (and also some very bad ones), and innovation can be painfully hard to make happen in these environments. The private cloud kids, on the other hand, are all in on the fast paced, fail fast, software-defined life. They’ve theoretically got it all humming along without a whole lot of involvement on a daily basis. Sure, they’re living on the edge (do I sound old and curmudgeonly yet?). In my opinion, Datera are doing a pretty decent job of bringing these two worlds together. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in the next 12 months to progress that endeavour.

WekaIO Continues To Evolve

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.

WekaIO recently presented at Storage Field Day 18. You can see videos of their presentation here, and download my rough notes from here. I’ve written about WekaIO before, and you can read those posts here and here.

 

WekaIO

Barbara Murphy described WekaIO Matrix as “the fastest, most scalable parallel file system for AI and technical compute workloads that ensure applications never wait for data”.

 

What They Do

So what exactly does WekaIO Matrix do?

  • WekaIO Matrix is software-defined storage solution that runs on anything from bare metal, VMs, containers, on-premises or in the cloud;
  • Fully-coherent POSIX file system that’s faster than a local file system;
  • Distributed Coding, More Resilient at Scale, Fast Rebuilds, End-to-End Data Protection; and
  • InfiniBand or Ethernet, Converged or Dedicated, on-premises or cloud.

[image courtesy of WekaIO]

 

Lots of Features

WekaIO Matrix now has a bunch of features, including:

  • Support for S3, SMB, and NFS protocols;
  • Cloud backup, Snapshots, Clones, and Snap-2-Obj;
  • Active Directory support and authentication;
  • POSIX;
  • Network High Availability;
  • Encryption;
  • Quotas;
  • HDFS; and
  • Tiering.

Flexible deployment models

  • Appliance model – compute and storage on separate infrastructure; and
  • Converged model – compute and storage on shared infrastructure.

Both models are cloud native because “[e]verybody wants the ability to be able to move to the cloud, or leverage the cloud”

 

Architectural Considerations

WekaIO is focused on delivering super fast storage via NVMe-oF, and say that NFS and SMB deliver legacy protocol support for convenience.

The Front-End

WekaIO front-ends are cluster-aware

  • Incoming read requests optimised re location and loading conditions – incoming writes can go anywhere
  • Metadata fully distributed
  • No redirects required

SR-IOV optimises network access WekaIO directly access NVMe Flash

  • Bypassing the kernel leads to better performance.

The Back-End

The WekaIO parallel clustered filesystem is

  • Optimised flash-native data placement
    • Not designed for HDD
    • No “cylinder groups” or other anachronisms – data protection (similar to EC)
    • 3-16 data drives, +2 or +4 parity drives
    • Optional hot spares – uses a “virtual” hot spare

Global namespace = hot tier + Object storage tier

  • Tiering to S3-API Object storage
    • Additional capacity with lower cost per GB
    • Files shared to object storage layer (parallelised access optimise performances, simplifies partial or offset reads)

WekaIO uses the S3-API as its equivalent of “SCSI” for HDD.

 

Conclusion and Further Reading

I like the WekaIO story. They take away a lot of the overheads associated with non-DAS storage through the use of a file system and control of the hardware. You can make DAS run really fast, but it’s invariably limited to the box that it’s in. Scale-out pools of storage still have a place, particularly in the enterprise, and WekaIO are demonstrating that the performance is there for the applications that need it. There’s a good story in terms of scale, performance, and enterprise resilience features.

Perhaps you like what you see with WekaIO Matrix but don’t want to run stuff on-premises? There’s a good story to be had with Matrix on AWS as well. You’ll be able to get some serious performance, and chances are it will fit in nicely with your cloud-native application workflow.

WekaIO continues to evolve, and I like seeing the progress they’ve been making to this point. It’s not always easy to convince the DAS folks that you can deliver a massively parallel file system and storage solution based on commodity hardware, but WekaIO are giving it a real shake. I recommend checking out Chris M. Evans’s take on WekaIO as well.