Posts Tagged ‘automated storage placement’

I need to learn Norwegian!

14/08/2009

I need to be brief with this Weekly View as it is PL Junior’s birthday today, and Mrs. PL has made it quite clear that I am required to help setup for his party …and ensuring I don’t bore our guests with analogies of birthday cake slices and how they remind me of data deduplication.

But with guests coming over later this evening, I got to thinking again about our recent holiday.  As I said last week, this is the second year running that we went to the same resort in Malta on holiday.  Last year PL Junior as just learning how to swim and, as he was just turning two, wasn’t yet to the point where he would play with children he didn’t know.  Equally, as only about twenty percent of the folks holidaying in this resort are British, there were many children speaking a multitude of languages that PL Junior didn’t understand.  This year saw many changes, from PL Junior spending nigh on six hours a day in the pool and, interestingly PL Junior developed a relationship with three Norwegian children whom he played with non stop.  Did PL Junior suddenly become a fluent Norwegian speaker?  Nope, didn’t understand a word of what the three children aged three, five, and nine were saying …nor they him …but between my German, my wife’s French, and the Norwegian parents’ English we were able to find enough common ground to enable us to go out to dinner together and generally enjoy one another’s company.  PL Junior continues to ask for Markhus, Khristof, and Nikolay and when we are going to go back to Malta to play with them …and Mrs. PL and I have a standing invitation to come to Norway with PL Junior to ski in their family chalet.

What does this have to do with data storage and protection?

The sale of enterprise [e.g. EMC Symmetrix] and modular storage [e.g. EMC CLARiiON] ‘crossed over’ during the last recession in 2000 / 2001, with modular storage sales overtaking enterprise for the first time and, since then, modular storage sales have continued to rise whilst enterprise have continued to decline.  There are many reasons for this, but customers realised that they could achieve similar performance and reduced complexity with modular storage at a price significantly lower to enterprise.  We are about to see a similar ‘paradigm shift’ as enterprise and modular storage converge.  You can tell your friends that you heard it here first, and there are storage products on the market today which represent the future converged enterprise/modular arrays as I’ve described …think IBM XiV and EMC Vmax …and trust me when I tell you that other major vendors such as NetApp, HDS, and HP aren’t far behind.

As the storage arrays converge we will be able to provide customers performance, high utilisation, and decreased management complexity without sacrificing quality and, perhaps most importantly, at a competitive cost.  But as this convergence occurs, how will customers be able to differentiate one solution from another to satisfy their business needs …or will they all look the same?

No, I can assure you that, whilst they will seek to achieve the same outcomes, how they get there will continue to be different.  IBM XiV solves the grid architecture question by using a massively parallel SATA array and using software to allow storage to be ‘written‘ across all the drives thus giving high performance to all applications equally …whereas EMC takes a different view with Vmax useing mixed solid state drives, fibre channel drives, and SATA drives with software to ‘promote‘ and ‘demote‘ storage as application demands require.  Equally, storage vendors will seek to differentiate their products with features …whilst they will all provide thin provisioning, vendors are now going to war re how their thin provisioning works.  To wit, they go to great pains to explain ‘chunklets’, or how large a thin provisioned block they will use.  It is now being argued that use a chunk too large and you may negate the very applicability of thin provisioning long term, whereas use a chunk too small and you may overrun the onboard storage cache and negatively affect performance.  HDS uses 42 MB chunk sizes to allow for their thin provisioning solution to execute zero page reclamation, thus ‘reclaiming’ up to 30% of previously allocated storage back into the storage pool as fully usable …thus equating to cost savings …whilst EMC uses 768K chunklets as this is optimised for performance on their systems.

Who is right and, more importantly …what to do?  Firstly, they are all correct …and all incorrect!  The solutions will all technically ‘work, however what matters is what the customer is trying to accomplish and the business issue(s) we are trying to solve.  This is where Computacenter comes in as our vendor agnostic yet vendor selective consultancy practice enables us to firstly understand how each of our vendor partners accomplish things like grid architecture, thin provisioning, and chunklet size …and secondly, which vendor or vendors can demonstrably solve the customer business issue(s).  Just like PL Junior and our new Norwegian friends, there are folks who can translate what is being said at the bits an bytes level into real world cost reduction and the solving of business issues.

What sometimes happens, however, is that the most applicable solution could actually involve more than one vendor …but as we’re trying to reduce complexity, not introduce more many customers decide to go ‘sole vendor’.  Again, this is where Computacenter come in as …just as we parents helped PL Junior and the Norwegian children understand one another …Computacenter can provide consultancy, implementation, and support services which span multiple vendors thus providing customers with the best of breed solution at a fair cost without increasing complexity.

Mrs. PL and PL Junior have already stated their intention for us to holiday with our new Norwegian friends next year, and I plan to work a bit more on my Norwegian before we go away.  In the interim, please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance in helping to articulate the ‘why Computacenter’ for you  …our customers.

Have a great weekend.

-Matthew

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Telly can be good for you!

17/07/2009

This will be the last Weekly View for a couple of weeks as I am off to Malta with Mrs. PL and PL Junior on our yearly family holiday.  I’ll be taking notes whilst there to see what Malta has to do with storage, and if you’re really missing the Weekly View that much in my absence remember that you can catch up on past installments here on the blog.

Having been born in the States, you might think that my favourite television programmes growing up were Diff’rent Strokes, The Dukes of Hazard, or Family Ties.  Nope.  My father inherited an exceedingly dry sense of humour from my grandfather (z”l) which he then instilled in me …growing up my favourite programmes were actually Are You Being Served?, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Yes Minister, and Red Dwarf.  For someone who was already viewed by his classmates as a ‘bit weird’, I don’t suppose this helped …and the real problem, in the days before satellite television and BBC America was that the only time we could see these programmes was to watch the four hour block each Friday night broadcast by our local PBS [Public Broadcast System] whom had purchased these programmes from the BBC.  To say that my mother was less than enamoured with what she saw as a weekly four hour geek humour fest would be an understatement …and we were often made to video the four hour sessions on to VCR tapes to be be viewed on Sunday when mum went out shopping.  Equally, the way the PBS purchased the programmes was somewhat erratic …and in the days before Google and the internet …we were often left to our own devices to piece together the correct order for the programme series.  Difficult at the best of times, and winding/rewinding VCR tapes was a less than efficient method.

What does this have to do with Data Storage and Protection?

People sometimes ask me when I’m going ‘home’, by which they mean the USA.  Truth be told, London is my home and as my family are spread all over the USA …and I haven’t lived there in any capacity for over ten years …I’d be more likely to be making wine in New Zealand [which I hear is much like England in the 1950s] than hunting in vain for Weetabix in the local Piggly Wiggly.  For me the invention of SKY+ has made a huge impact on living and working in the UK …I can search from my favourite programmes, I hit a little red button and hey …presto …it’ll record no bother.  Hit the little green button and whammo …I have a series link to record every episode.  I can even log on remotely to my SKY+ over the internet using Skyplayer to setup a record on my SKY+ box …from anywhere in the world!  No bulky VCR tapes …I can record more than one programme at a time …no need to wind/rewind tapes …sheer unadulterated telly bliss.

But here’s something to think about …if you have SKY+, where are your telly programmes being stored?  The simple answer is on a hard drive, but what is the data structure?  Do you open up SKY+ and see a directory structure that looks like ‘My Documents’ gone wild?  Do you have to search for the file for the programme you want to watch and then double click to watch it?  Nope.  You have an interface that shows you the programmes recorded (and set to record in future), when they were recorded, and so on …and you simply press the big ‘ol PLAY button and you’re away.  The ‘secret sauce’ of SKY+ takes care of the rest via indexing and so forth.  Do you worry if your SKY+ box is going to ‘crash’?  Do you back it up religiously each night?  Not likely as the reputation of the SKY+ product is such that most people treat it like the appliance it truly is and get on with more important things in their lives.

A similar ‘revolution’ is happening within data storage and protection.  There are many ways to describe this, and I don’t wish to get bogged down in nomenclature, so let’s call this automated data placement.  Put simply, the data storage system in question is designed to understand where the data ‘is’ at a block level and then move/promote/demote as business needs warrant without any administrative interaction nor, most importantly, any disruption to the users of said data blocks.  ‘Cloud computing’ is predicated on this very idea, however I feel that this is an important solution for our customers in the datacentre as well.

There are several solutions which make great use of automated data placement, and I don’t have the space to list them all here, but I did want to highlight three solutions briefly which I think our customers want and need.

IBM XiV introduced grid storage to the marketplace and is a massively parallel SATA array which allows for scale out without sacrificing performance.  How does it do this?  Well, the full answer can be a bit complicated …and we’ll soon have some videos up on Browza+ to explain more fully …but in short the IBM solution is to write data to all drives simultaneously.  This allows for tier one performance capabilities at a greatly reduced cost, but some customers have asked …how do we know where the data ‘is’ in the array?  Well, there are no storage or RAID groups in the array so you cannot locate it in the traditional sense …but the ‘secret sauce’ of IBM XiV allows for logical drive units [LUNs] to be created with an index effectively understanding where all of the blocks are …not unlike SKY+.

But what if I’ve a customer who likes grid storage architecture but wants the comfort factor of having fibre channel and solid state drives in addition to SATA?  Enter EMC Vmax, the next iteration of the DMX family.  Working in a similar fashion to IBM XiV, EMC allows a customer to also have fibre channel [FC] disk drives, SATA, and solid state disk drives all in the same array.  Why?  Well, some customers still feel more comfortable knowing they have ‘supercharged’ storage throughput available to them …and are willing to pay for it …even if they never use it.  The Vmax will monitor the workload coming into the array and, if the situation warrants it, move the data up from SATA into FC and finally into solid state drives for performance if needs be.  Think of it as taking your SKY+ box and sticking it into a Ferrari …just in case you really really really need to watch Fawlty Towers from zero to sixty in 3.4 seconds.

Finally, we have HDS HCP v3.0, which will be HDS upcoming release to their already hugely popular HDS HCAP content management platform.  Given that, in a typical customer environment, better than 80% of stored data is unstrucutured …and of that 80%, much of the data will be dormant not having been accessed for a considerable period of time …content management platforms, sometimes known as ‘archive’, can be hugely useful and reduce storage costs by an order of magnitude.  We’ll be running an NDA session internally to help explain what HCP v3.0 does specifically, however what has me excited is that this platform sees the emergence of SKY+ for content management.  HCP will be able to support object ‘versioning’ so that I can replicate and/or archive …at the block level …only the bits of data which are evolving.  In addition, HCP will allow me to have one archive device …working with multiple storage devices!  Think of it as one SKY+ box for the whole neighbourhood.  You could easily argue that HCP v3.0 is the first content management for the ‘cloud’ as, by utilising the ‘secret sauce’ of automated data placement fully such that it won’t matter where the data ‘lives’ anymore …HCP v3.0 can handle it anywhere.

As always, I hope that you are excited as I am about the solutions available both in the here and now as well as coming down the line which can help save our customers money …please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require any assistance or need more information on the solutions I’ve discussed.