Posts Tagged ‘CLARiiON’

My mother-in-law and data storage.

13/12/2009

We had been dating for a few months, and I had been eagerly anticipating the moment for a while.  I hadn’t yet asked Mrs. PL to marry me, so she was still a single woman and I still spent my Sundays flying the virtual skies with my flight simulator.  Whilst we hadn’t really talked about it, I knew it was a conversation we wouldn’t be able to avoid much longer.

It was time for me to meet her parents.

As diaries would have it, it was suggested that I meet my possibly future in-laws at Royal Ascot as they had an extra place for me in the Royal Enclosure.  Brilliant, I thought …I’m sure dressing up in a morning suit and wearing a top hat whilst quaffing champagne and Pimms all day will steady my nerves nicely.  And what the heck, if I get into trouble I could surely ask the Queen for help?  I make that Pimms o’clock!  Or so my thinking went when I accepted the invitation.

The arrangements were made and we arrived at the appointed hour for a champagne reception hosted by one of my future in-law’s friends.  I had a glass of very nice champers, and then politely declined a further glass.  I conversed lightly about the events of the day and declined any further glasses of champagne.  I was beginning to get a few ‘looks’ …well, more so than usual anyway …and we made our way to the grounds for the racing.

I was offered another drink almost as soon as we entered the enclosure, which I again politely declined.  Now, as anyone who knows me or reads this blog frequently will know …I rarely shy away from a nice glass of champagne.  Or claret.  Or New Zealand sauvignon blanc.  Or single batch Hendrick’s gin.  Yes, I enjoy the odd tipple and my future mother-in-law was beginning to get worried.

‘Aren’t you having a nice time?’, asked she.

‘Not at all, I’m having a lovely day!’, I replied.

‘Are you teetotal?  Or are the drinks not to your liking?’, she said in a low tone.

‘No, they’re fine and no …I am most certainly not teetotal.  But I was raised to not have more than three drinks in front of your future in-laws.’

Silence.

‘Well, I guess perhaps it as serious as I have been led to believe.  Tell me, what do you do exactly.’

‘Erm, well …I’m in technology, I guess.’

‘Oh!  Great, we’ve had this problem with our PC lately and …’

*slight chuckle*

‘No, I’m sorry I don’t work on that side of technology.  I design and integrate data storage for corporations.’

My future father-in-law had joined my future mother-in-law’s side just as she turned a whiter shade of pale, leaned in to him, and whispered something in his ear.

‘No, no …our daughter will be just fine, I think I understand what he means!’, said my future father-in-law to my future mother-in-law.

The conversation shifted swiftly, and the remainder of the day was enjoyed by all.

It was only years later …at a dinner celebrating the birth of our son, actually …when my mother-in-law finally told me that she turned pale because she thought I bought and sold filing cabinets and self storage for City firms.

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

It is never difficult, in my opinion, to be misunderstood when attempting to explain things which you may be completely au fait with but others mightn’t have even heard of.  Indeed, I have a friend who is a fellow data storage practitioner who often tells people that he ‘sells insurance’ at cocktail parties rather than try to explain the weird and wacky world of storage thus avoiding the situation I found myself in with my future in-laws.  To be honest, I’ve considered this approach a few times but wouldn’t wish to be intentionally misleading nor fallacious.

And yet, the more I think about it …I do ‘sell insurance’ to a degree.

EMC made an announcement that I have been waiting for quite a while, the GA launch of Fully Automated Storage Tiering or ‘FAST’ for short.  FAST introduces automated storage tiering for the EMC Symmetrix Vmax, CLARiiON CX4, and Celerra NS unified storage NAS product.  Great, I hear you say.  What the heck does that mean?

Well, put simply FAST automates the movement of data at the block level between tiers of storage.  For example, a tier of solid state drives, a tier of fibre channel drives, and a tier of SATA drives.  Now, In a normal storage array, we tend to lose a lot of efficiency due to the fact that we need to ‘place’ the data by telling it where it should live through the management interface on which tier and such things as RAID groups, disk groups, and LUNs. What if you want to move the data between tiers after you’ve placed it?  It isn’t exactly an easy process and often requires downtime.  And If you don’t know what those terms above mean, don’t worry …I doubt they’ll be around for very much longer anyway.

What FAST does is essentially automate the placement of data at the block level on the most appropriate tier thus eliminating the inefficiencies noted above with the largely manual placement of data.  Where it will begin to get even more interesting is with the introduction of FAST v2 in 2010 when we can then monitor data workloads and promote/demote data seamlessly between tiers based upon business SLAs.

Before I go any further, it is worth noting that EMC aren’t alone in automating data tiering at the data block level as Compellent and 3PAR have been offering similar solutions in their products for a while.  Equally, there are many opinions about what FAST truly is, and one of the more balanced views I’ve read is Chris Evans’ a.k.a. The Storage Architect blog post on the subject here.

So is EMC’s announcement important?  Yes …and no.  There are two things that I find important about the announcement.

The first is that, just as with thin provisioning and data deduplication before, what was once a product is now …rightfully, in my opinion …becoming a feature.  I recognise that EMC will wish to market FAST as a product …sorry, guys, but I will have to respectfully disagree …but the emergence of automated storage tiering as a feature in storage products is a huge step forward as it allows us to link other automation technologies to storage to create a highly efficient datacentre which is adaptable with predictable costs.

Second, automated storage tiering is but a waypoint on a journey which I believe leads to policy based engines.  This means that, in the future, a Computacenter customer can select a workload package based upon their specific business needs and all of the components of the workload [server, storage, application, network] will be automatically provisioned and then …here’s the clever bit …actively monitored by the policy engine.  If the workload exceeds the capabilities of where it was originally provisioned, not a problem …we’ll move it seamlessly to a higher ‘tier’.  And what if the workload actually under-utilises where it was originally provisioned?  We’ll move it seamlessly to a lower cost ‘tier’.

And that’s where selling insurance comes in.

This is the journey to the virtualised datacentre and, frankly, every customer will be at a different stage of the journey and possibly be expecting different benefits out of their own virtualised datacentre.

Equally, I believe that there will be several different vendor ‘flavours’ of virtualised datacentre each with their own technological and cost benefits.

What makes us unique from our competition is our ability to understand the components of the virtualised datacentre, how to solve each customer’s own individual Rubik’s cube, how to calculate the return on investment as well as the cost benefit analysis to migrate to a fully virtualised datacentre …all whilst identifying and mitigating risk, perhaps even underwriting / gainsharing the calculated benefits

If that isn’t the beginnings of an attractive insurance policy in a challenging economy, I’m not sure what is.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

Advertisements

What is Ray lashing now?!

09/10/2009

Mrs. PL and I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Ray Mears.

If you have no knowledge of Ray Mears, or are reading this blog from outside the UK, Ray Mears is a ‘master of bushcraft’ …not the ‘I know everything about the former president of the USA’ kind but, rather, a wilderness survival expert. Ray knows an awful lot more about surviving in the wilderness than I ever will …even after having been a Boy Scout when I was much younger I respect Ray’s vast knowledge and experience …and has had several television series on the BBC.

Now, when I say that we have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with Ray in Casa PL, I mean that he is known affectionately as ‘the guy who lashes stuff together’ …although we tend to substitute another word for ‘stuff’, but this is a family blog …as Ray always seems to be taking vines or bark or whatever to lash the daylights out of something to make a tool. To say that Ray ‘overcomplicates’ survival would be an understatement and therein lies our obsession. We watch not because we have any desire to become survival experts …Mrs. PL’s idea of ‘roughing it’ is a hotel without twenty four hour room service …but to see what new bit of overcomplicated nonsense Ray will try to convince us we need to survive in the wild.

Before we had PL Junior, Mrs. PL and I were known to actually go out for a meal *gasp!* and perhaps a bottle of our favourite wine …or two …and it was the morning after one of these outings when we happened upon a Ray Mears omnibus. Too knackered to bother with changing the channel, we were quickly sucked into the warped world that it Ray Mear’s overcomplicated world of survival and ended up turning it into a game …the one who couldn’t accurately guess the next piece of Ray ridiculousness had to run the next errand for the good of the order. I lost and had to go make the tea when I didn’t guess that Ray was cutting down a small tree and planing it down to make a bread board. Yep, you read that right campers …my man Ray decided that, what one really needs when lost in the wilderness after having sourced the ingredients to make bread is …a breadboard. Complexity, thy name is Ray.

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

I’ve been talking a lot recently about the Computacenter Sharpen Your Business programme and I’ll share a secret with you. We’re not manufacturing secret Sharpen Your Business drugs in Hatfield, nor does Sharpen Your Business represent some kind of magic silver bullet that we’ve discovered and decided to brand for the good of all mankind. If we were manufacturing drugs in Hatfield, I’ve no doubts that folks would be asking me if I’m taking them by the pallet full …no, dear readers, this is an all natural technoweenie storage induced sometimes Starbucks assisted high!

At its core, Sharpen Your Business is about …simplicity. Whilst Ray Mears is introducing ever more intricate ways to make breadboards in the wild, we’re advocating our customers remove as much complexity as is possible from their IT infrastructures to reduce costs and optimise their business. If there is a secret to Sharpen Your Business, it is that it is our expertise and demonstrable breadth of experience with a broad spectrum of technologies within Computacenter allow us to introduce the reduction of complexity of IT into a customer without a disruption to their production business.

The seeds of the simplification movement within IT can be found in multiple places, and the race to remove complexity across the board carries on at pace.

VMware and related hypervisors have become ubiquitous within the technology market, and I believe it is just a matter of time until we see the death of the physical instance …everything will be virtual instance, from servers to desktops to software packages. It is this virtualisation of everything, including storage which will enable customers to make real use of cloud computing and remove major amounts of complexity from their environments.

Within storage we see vendors introducing simplicity in different ways.

IBM acquired XiV to give them a simple yet very effective massively parallel SATA array which no longer requires disk groups, RAID groups, and other barriers to simplified storage allocation and consumption. The use of thin provisioning and self healing algorithms in the array help to extend and amplify this simplicity. We were able to setup automated storage provisioning in a little under fours hours …on our very first try. Testament to how simple yet effective XiV can be.

EMC have introduced VMax and are currently working on a ‘unified storage’ platform with the CLARiiON with both platforms introducing a reduction in complexity. VMax, the EMC enterprise storage platform developed around CLARiiON controllers, allows a customer to scale out almost ad infinitum without adding the complexity of managing multiple arrays by hand. A unified storage platform within the CLARiiON range will introduce a ‘Swiss army knife’ approach to storage whereby a customer will have the ability to use NAS, SAN, virtual tape library, and archiving functions ….all within the same array.

NetApp were born of a mantra to remove complexity from storage and this philosophy remains very much part of their DNA. We have seen NetApp NAS devices become increasingly sophisticated in their approach to simplicity, and I would argue that their approach to NetApp storage platform’s tight integration with virtual environments [read VMware and/or virtual desktops] is wholly unique in the storage market and sets them apart from their competitors. When one adds the easy application integration with Oracle and Microsoft Exchange …admins who know nothing of storage can make backup ‘snapshots’ in no time at all using the NetApp integration …you could make an argument that NetApp understands the need for simplicity much better than most.

HDS introduce simplicity by allowing for storage virtualisation …that is to say, creating a storage ‘pool’ by virtualisation of other storage vendor arrays. IBM, EMC, HP, and other SAN attached storage vendor products traditionally don’t like talking to one another so you have to manage them separately. And if you have space on one vendor array, you can’t easily ‘share’ that space with another vendor product. Not so with HDS USPV which allows you to make a storage pool with just about any vendor product you can think of …simplicity in the form of a storage Babelfish! Throw in Zero Page Reclamation [ZPR] whereby we can reclaim unused space from traditional storage arrays as we migrate into the pool and you’re into simplicity amplified.

Not to leave out our friends at HP, I have seen time motion studies which clearly show that HP servers attached to HP storage can have storage provisioned in far fewer mouse ‘clicks’ and in about a third the time required for other products. Not to be outdone in the simplicity stakes, I am watching HP as they may ‘crack the code’ by introducing a massively parallel server/storage infrastructure in the future. Watch this space!

Each vendor introduces the reduction of complexity in a slightly different way, and who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is purely a matter of what the business problem is that we’re trying to solve.

In other words, how we apply this simplicity to demonstrably reduce costs and optimise a customer’s business is what Sharpen Your Business is all about.

Hacking down trees so you can make a flippin’ breadboard whilst lost in the great beyond isn’t.

Have a great weekend,

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

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

Click here to contact me

Have I mentioned I don’t like moving?!

11/08/2009

I have a confession to make.  I hate moving house.  I don’t mean gently despise, gosh I could really do without having to move…we’re talking would rather poke my eyes out with red hot knitting needles hatred here.  You would think that having had to move from my family home to university, from uni to many and several cities in the USA where I worked, from Atlanta to Dublin, from Dublin to London, from flat in London to nice house in Mill Hill, that I would be old hat at this and moving would be no big deal.  Errr, no…couldn’t be further from the truth.  Moving house ranks up there as something that I would do just about anything to have done for me, although even having the work physically done for me if but a small fraction of why I hate moving.  I’ll try to explain why.

I like reading.  A lot.  And so it takes next to no time at all for whereever I might be living to become inundated with books, magazines, newspapers…you get the picture.  But I also have a dirty little secret….I don’t throw away anywhere near as much read stuff as I should!  I read an article/book/whatever and I either know someone that would also enjoy reading this or naievely believe that I will need this article/book/whatever at a later date.  Yes, I know with the internet I could probably find it again in an archive somewhere but logic has precious little to do with this!  I also love music and have a collection of LPs, cassette tapes, CDs, et al that I will probably never listen to again now that I have an iPod.  But have I thrown the old stuff away?  I think you can guess that I haven’t.  And let’s not talk about my obsessive collection of DVDs as I think you are getting the picture.

So what happens when I have to move?  There’s the rub.  If I was going to stay in one place, I would probably just get a skip every few years and cull my collections of reading material, music, and DVDs to make space for more reading material, music, and DVDs.  But I could do this in my own time and at my own leisure.  Moving accelerates this whole process and I then have to stand there with boxes deciding whether to take it with me, cull it, give it away, and so on.  Just thinking about having to do this is enough to make my teeth itch and desperately want a nice cold G&T.

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

Information Lifecycle Management, or ILM for short, has been one of the biggest buzzwords in storage over the past 6 or 7 years.  What began with storage virtualisation and other similar products designed to increase storage utilisation has resulted in end-to-end ILM vendor portfolios.  I should mention at this point that some folks call ILM Hierarchical Storage Management or HSM…horses for courses, ILM and HSM are pretty well the same thing and I view this in somewhat the same vein as football versus soccer.  It’s football, by the way, but if my wayward American brethren insist on calling it soccer well…let’s just hope they can at least understand the offside rule.  But I digress.  ILM at it’s best is the ability to move data from high tier to mid tier to low tier to archive seamlessly with no manual intervention and without disruption to the user.  Great.  What the heck does that mean?

What if I could have someone [let’s call him Bob] at my beck and call 24/7/365 to manage my books/newspapers/magazines/music et al.  I would tell Bob that, when I’m done with a newspaper or magazine, go ahead and digitise it and catalog it for me on a hard drive.  After I’ve read a book, wait three months and if I haven’t given it to someone go ahead and move it to an off-site storage box but catalog that too so that I know where my books are.  And if I don’t ask about my book for a further nine months after that, digitise it and put it on the same hard drive as my newspapers and magazines.  With the hard drive, make sure that any data that I haven’t accessed in six months gets moved to a lower cost data archive and if I haven’t accessed it from the archive in another six months back it up to a tape and send it to the book storage area.  But remember, Bob…I want to access the data I just mentioned any time I want and I don’t want to wait more than 10 minutes to get it.  Forever.  And all of this needs to happen without my seeing or knowing it is happening.  And don’t eat too much either, Bob…Mrs. PL takes a dim view of that and may make me move you [and me!] out to the garden shed.

Imagine the space I would save!  I would never have to cull again!  I could move at will, or at the very least be able to talk to Mrs. PL about nice houses without dreading the book/music/DVDs to move.  Sheer unadulterated bliss!  Put another way, ILM on a very personal level.

Let’s look at a vendor ILM solution…when EMC began to acquire companies such as Data General, Legato, Documentum, Kashya, and RSA many people were scratching their heads.  Why would EMC, known for their high availability / high throughput systems in the upper end of the market, want to acquire a mid tier disk company [Data General made the CLARiiON platform] a backup software company who also had archiving capability [Legato Networker] a content and document management company [Documentum] and so on?  The answer was they were [and still are] building an ILM portfolio so that they can offer an enterprise solution to a customer which will move data seamlessly, preferably at the block level, between tiers transparent to the users…data storage at the appropriate price point from cradle to grave.  Nirvana!  Does it work?  Well, yes and no.  EMC, IBM, HDS have all been working on ILM and we are a lot further along now than we were five years ago but it isn’t as ‘seamless’ and transparent to the user as it could be.  Thankfully within the CC Storage Practice we understand the ILM portfolios of each vendor and so can implement the solution in a non-disruptive way, and the ILM solutions get better each day.

I’ll leave you with a very interesting ILM solution which has recently entered the market.  Compellent.  Compellent offer ILM ‘in a box’ whereby they have a rack of disks capable of moving data from tier to tier based upon business rules at the block level.  Confused?  Think ILM as described above, but if I only partially read a book with the intention of coming back to it later Compellent would be able to move the pages I’ve already read whilst I would still think that there is an entire book sat on my bedside table.  Clever stuff, and ILM at the block level may very well be the answer in future.

Computacenter services and solutions within Storage and related software are very much underpinned by best of breed vendor ILM solutions, please contact me if we can help you discuss Computacenter ILM solutions with your environment.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me