StorCentric Announces Data Mobility Suite

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

 

What Is It?

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

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

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

[image courtesy of StorCentric]

Use Cases

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

Big Ideas

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

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

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

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

StorCentric Announces Nexsan Unity 3300 And 7900

StorCentric recently announced new Nexsan Unity storage arrays. I had the opportunity to speak to Surya Varanasi, CTO of StorCentric, about the announcement, and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

Speeds And Feeds

[image courtesy of Nexsan]

The new Unity models announced are the 3300 and 7900. Both models use two controllers and vary in capacity between 1.6PB and 6.7PB. They both use the Intel Xeon E5 v4 Family processors, and have between 256GB and 448GB of system RAM. There are hybrid storage options available, and both systems support RAID 5, 6, and 10. You can access the spec sheet here.

 

Use Cases

Unbreakable

One of the more interesting use cases we discussed was what StorCentric refer to as “Unbreakable Backup”. The idea behind Nexsan Unbreakable Backup is that you can use your preferred data protection vendor to send backup data to a Unity array. This data can then be replicated to Nexsan’s Assureon platform. The cool thing about the Assureon is that it’s a locked down. So even if you’re hit with a ransomware attack, it’s going to be mighty hard for the bad guys to crack the Assureon platform as well, as StorCentric uses a Key Management System hosted inside StorCentric, and provides minimal privileges to end users.

Data Migration

There’s also a Data Mobility Suite coming at the end of Q3, including:

  • Cloud Connector, giving you the ability to replicate data from Unity to 18 Public clouds including Amazon and Google (for unstructured data, cloud-based backup); and
  • Flexible Data Migrations – streamline Unity implementations, migrate data from heterogeneous systems.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

I’ve written enthusiastically about Assureon in the past, so it was nice to revisit the platform via this announcement. Ransomware is a scary prospect for many organisations, so a system that can integrate nicely to help with protecting protection data seems like a pretty good idea. Sure, having to replicate the data to a second system might seem like an unnecessary expense, but organisations should be assessing the value of that investment against the cost of having corporate data potentially irretrievably corrupted. Insurance against ransomware attacks probably seems like something that you shouldn’t need to spend money on, until you need to spend money recovering, or sending bitcoin to some clown because you need your data back. It’s not appealing by any stretch, but it’s also important to take precautions wherever possible.

Midrange storage is by no means a sexy topic to talk about. In my opinion it’s a well understood architecture that most tier 1 companies do pretty well nowadays. But that’s the beauty of the midrange system in a lot of ways – it’s a well understood architecture. So you generally know what you’re getting with hybrid (or all-flash) dual controller systems. The Unity range from Nexsan is no different, and that’s not a bad thing. There are a tonne of workloads in the enterprise today that aren’t necessarily well suited to cloud (for the moment), and just need some block or file storage and a bit of resiliency for good measure. The Unity series of arrays from Nexsan offer a bunch of useful features, including tiering and a variety of connectivity options. It strikes me that these arrays are a good fit for a whole lot of workloads that live in the data centre, from enterprise application hosting through to data protection workloads. If you’re after a reliable workhorse, it’s worth looking into the Unity range.

Retrospect Announces Backup 17 And Virtual 2020

Retrospect recently announced new versions of its Backup (17) and Virtual (2020) products. I had the opportunity to speak to JG Heithcock (GM, Retrospect) about the announcement and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

What’s New?

Retrospect Backup 17 has the following new features:

  • Automatic Onboarding: Simplified and automated deployment and discovery;
  • Nexsan E-Series / Unity Certification;
  • 10x Faster ProactiveAI; and
  • Restore Preflight for restores from cold storage.

Retrospect Virtual 2020 has the following enhancements:

  • Automatic Onboarding: Physical and Virtual monitoring from a single website;
  • 50% Faster;
  • Wasabi Cloud Support;
  • Backblaze B2 Cloud Support; and
  • Flexible licensing between VMware and Hyper-V.

Automatic Onboarding?

So what exactly is automatic onboarding? You can onboard new servers and endpoints for faster deployment and automatic discovery.

  • Share one link with your team. No agent password required.
  • Retrospect Backup finds and protects new clients with ProactiveAI.
  • Add servers, desktops, and laptops to Retrospect Backup.
  • Single pane of glass for entire backup infrastructure with Retrospect Management Console.
  • Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

You can also onboard a new Retrospect Backup server for faster, simplified deployment.

  • Protect group or site.
  • Customised installer with license built-in.
  • Seamless Management Console integration.
  • Available for Windows and Mac.

Onboard new Retrospect Virtual server for complete physical and virtual monitoring.

  • Customised installer
  • Seamless Management Console integration.
  • Monitor Physical + Virtual

Pricing

There’s a variety of pricing available. When you buy a perpetual license, you have access to any new minor or major version upgrades for 12 months. With the monthly subscription model you have access to the latest version of the product for as long as you keep the subscription active.

[image courtesy of Retrospect]

 

Thoughts And Further Reading

Retrospect was acquired by StorCentric in June 2019 after bouncing around a few different owners over the years. It’s been around for a long time, and has a rich history of delivering data protection solutions for small business and “prosumer” markets. I have reasonably fond memories of Retrospect from the time when it was shipped with Maxtor OneTouch external hard drives. Platform support is robust, with protection options available across Windows, macOS and some Linux, and the pricing is competitive. Retrospect is also benefitting from joining the StorCentric family, and I’m looking forward to hearing about more product integrations as time goes on.

Why would I cover a data protection product that isn’t squarely targeted at the enterprise or cloud market? Because I’m interested in data protection solutions across all areas of IT. I think the small business and home market is particularly under-represented when it comes to easy to deploy and run solutions. There is a growing market for cloud-based solutions, but simple local protection options still seem to be pretty rare. The number of people I talk to who are just manually copying data from one spot to another is pretty crazy. Why is it so hard to get good backup and recovery happening on endpoints? It shouldn’t be. You could argue that, with the advent of SaaS services and cloud-based storage solutions, the requirement to protect endpoints the way we used to has changed. But local protection options still makes it a whole lot quicker and easier to recover.

If you’re in the market for a solution that is relatively simple to operate, has solid support for endpoint operating systems and workloads, and is competitively priced, then I think Retrospect is worth evaluating. You can read the announcement here.

StorCentric Announces QLC E-Series 18F

Nexsan recently announced the release of its new E-Series 18F (E18F) storage platform. I had the chance to chat with Surya Varanasi, CTO of StorCentric, about the announcement and thought I’d share some thoughts here.

 

Less Disk, More Flash

[image courtesy of Nexsan]

The E18F is designed and optimised for quad-level cell (QLC) NAND technology. If you’re familiar with the Nexsan E-Series range, you’d be aware of the E18P that preceded this model. This is the QLC Flash version of that.

Use Cases

We spoke about a couple of use cases for the E18F. The first of these was with data lake environments. These are the sort of storage environents with 20 to 30PB installations that are subjected to random workload pressures. The idea of using QLC is to increase the performance without significantly increasing the cost. That doesn’t mean that you can do a like for like swap of HDDs for QLC Flash. Varanasi did, however, suggest that Nexsan had observed a 15x improvement over hard drive installation for around 3-4 times the cost, and he’s expecting that to go down to 2-3 times in the future. There is also the option to use just a bit of QLC Flash with a lot of HDDs to get some performance improvement.

The other use case discussed was the use of QLC in test and dev environments. Users are quite keen, obviously, on getting Flash in their environments at the price of HDDs. This isn’t yet a realistic goal, but it’s more achievable with QLC than it is with something like TLC.

 

QLC And The Future

We spoke briefly about more widespread adoption of QLC across the range of StorCentric storage products. Varanasi said the use “will eventually expand across the portfolio”, and they were looking at how it might be adopted with the larger E-Series models, as well as with the Assureon and Vexata range. They were treating Unity more cautiously, as the workloads traditionally hosted on that platform were a little more demanding.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The kind of workloads we’re throwing at what were once viewed as “cheap and deep” platforms is slowly changing. Where once it was perhaps acceptable to wait a few days for reporting runs to finish, there’s no room for that kind of performance gap now. So it makes sense that we look to Flash as a way of increasing the performance of the tools we’re using. The problem, however, is that when you work on data sets in the petabyte range, you need a lot of capacity to accommodate that. Flash is getting cheaper, but it’s still not there when compared to traditional spinning disks. QLC is a nice compromise between performance and capacity. There’s a definite performance boost to be had, and the increase in cost isn’t eye watering. StorCentric Announces QLC E-Series 18F

I’m interested to see how this solution performs in the real world, and whether QLC has the expected durability to cope with the workloads that enterprise will throw at it. I’m also looking forward to seeing where else Nexsan decide to use QLC in its portfolio. There’s good story here in terms of density, performance, and energy consumption – one that I’m sure other vendors will also be keen to leverage. For another take on this, check out Mellor’s article here.

Random Short Take #23

Want some news? In a shorter format? And a little bit random? This listicle might be for you.

  • Remember Retrospect? They were acquired by StorCentric recently. I hadn’t thought about them in some time, but they’re still around, and celebrating their 30th anniversary. Read a little more about the history of the brand here.
  • Sometimes size does matter. This article around deduplication and block / segment size from Preston was particularly enlightening.
  • This article from Russ had some great insights into why it’s not wise to entirely rule out doing things the way service providers do just because you’re working in enterprise. I’ve had experience in both SPs and enterprise and I agree that there are things that can be learnt on both sides.
  • This is a great article from Chris Evans about the difficulties associated with managing legacy backup infrastructure.
  • The Pure Storage VM Analytics Collector is now available as an OVA.
  • If you’re thinking of updating your Mac’s operating environment, this is a fairly comprehensive review of what macOS Catalina has to offer, along with some caveats.
  • Anthony has been doing a bunch of cool stuff with Terraform recently, including using variable maps to deploy vSphere VMs. You can read more about that here.
  • Speaking of people who work at Veeam, Hal has put together a great article on orchestrating Veeam recovery activities to Azure.
  • Finally, the Brisbane VMUG meeting originally planned for Tuesday 8th has been moved to the 15th. Details here.