Posts Tagged ‘EMC Vmax’

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.

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To a worm in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish. Or why IBM XiV is still relevant.

30/11/2009

Mrs. PL and I have been trying to add another PL Junior to our tribe.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is …and how do I say this …we’ve had some very robust conversations as of late regarding upgrading to a larger house to accommodate a new PL Junior.  I think it is commonly referred to as ‘a full and frank discussion’ in diplomatic circles  …all I know is I’ve been getting my not inconsiderably sized posterior whupped regularly in our little fireside chats.  Oxbridge debating teams have nothing on a determined Mrs. PL, in my opinion.  Truth be told, I can kind of see Mrs. PL’s point and, to be fair to her, she is genuinely interested in more space as opposed to playing postcode bingo with the yummy mummy brigade who inhabit our little corner of northwest London.

Whilst we have been married for six years and together for almost ten, I still naively cling to the belief that if I just keep talking and present a coherent and factually based argument that Mrs. PL will come round to my way of thinking.

Me: ‘But we can’t really afford a new house, and I’ve been upgrading our house recently …what about our new supercharged home office?’

Mrs. PL: ‘Nice try, but weren’t you …by your own admission …indulging your own inner geek?  How does you being able to Twitter or tweet or whatever the heck it’s called build a new baby room?’

Me: ‘Yeah, okay …but what about the new shower stall, or the new washing machine?  It spins at 1400 rpm!  And has a 20 minute steam cycle to freshen up shirts when they’re wrinkled!’

Silence.  I’m pretty sure Mrs. PL is melting my inner organs with her glare.

Me: ‘And what about the new refrigerator?  It’s like a magic superfridge made by wizards and Hobbits …nothing ever goes bad in there!  We’ve eaten things that are like three weeks over the use by date!’

Mrs. PL: ‘Tell me something, my dearest chucklehead.  How do these upgrades fit into this equation you keep banging on about?  Wouldn’t a new house as opposed to siloed upgrades have a better five year cost benefit?’

Silence.  I hate it when she’s right.

What has this got to do with data storage and protection?

Mrs. PL has got me thinking about Howard Moskowitz, horizontal segmentation and a great talk I heard from Malcolm Gladwell.  I don’t want to steal any of Malcolm’s thunder or take too long explaining horizontal segmentation so click here if you have about fifteen minutes, well worth your while.

Put simply, the thought is that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ product nor, by extension a ‘perfect’ solution.  Rather, each product or solution should be developed and subsequently recommended based upon the good it can do for a particular customer situation.

I was reading a blog post from an analyst recently which questioned Is IBM XiV Still Relevant?  Whilst the blog post makes some interesting points, I kept coming back to the same thought …yes, I suppose you could ask this question but only really if you are viewing IBM XiV next to other storage array products in a ‘bikini contest’ fashion.

But judging arrays in a Miss World style lineup isn’t the real value of grid storage …and not at all the way I would advocate our articulating a solution in any case.

No, I think that grid storage …in this case IBM XiV, but you could also make the same argument with EMC Vmax or NetApp ONTAP v8 …is a basic building block of the virtualised datacentre.

If we wanted to view IBM XiV as a building block, one of the more interesting announcements around IBM XiV was actually buried in an announcement IBM made on 10 November which was talking about asynchronous mirroring …but the very next paragraph of the announcement talks about new support for instant space reclamation.

Why is this important?  Well, if you think back to this post about thin provisioning, what this means is that IBM XiV is making the software APIs which make thin provisioning possible available to third party products such as Symantec Storage Foundation such that Symantec software can now ‘recognise’ unused space and return it to the storage pool quickly.  We could easily add an IBM N Series gateway to provide NFS/CIFS NAS in addition to the block level storage from IBM XiV, as well as Storewize to give us data compression from 45% or higher for stale data.

What would this give us?  What we want …and need …to see, with vendors working together to ensure their products ‘glue’ together such that we can build a horizontally capable virtualised datacentre which is efficient, optimised, and fully flexible for customer needs both now and in the future.

But we wouldn’t stop with just the first building block if we wanted to derive true ROI and cost benefit.  We would need to consider virtualising the servers, converging the network, optimising the physical servers with blades, and automating the whole lot.

And here’s where it could get tricky if we start trying to articulate such a solution with stories of Prego, Howard Moskowitz, or Malcolm Gladwell and horizontal segmentation.

I think one of the easiest ways to visualise this concept is to picture a virtualised datacentre as a solved Rubik’s cube with each of the six sides a different solid colour made up of nine blocks.  Each solved side represents one of the discipline areas required for a virtualised datacentre …Data Storage & Protection, Networks, Platforms, Virtualisation, Automation, and Workspace / Collaboration.

Our customers …all of them …have unsolved Rubik’s cubes with the coloured blocks in any of a number of different iterations.

Our job, in my humble opinion, is not to articulate a storage product …or products …in the context of the proverbial bikini contest but, rather, in the context of exactly how our recommended solution will help our customers solve one, then two, then three sides until they reach all six for a fully virtaulised datacentre which delivers true ROI, cost benefit, and little or no disruption to their production business.

Please contact me if you would like assistance in taking this journey.

-Matthew

Click here to contact me.

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.

1984 revisited.

28/08/2009

I remember watching the Super Bowl XVIII with my father in 1984 when, unexpectedly during an otherwise boring third quarter, an advert came on which would change the way we think about computing forever.  The advert was directed by Ridley Scott …who would go on to make such classics as Blade Runner, Alien, and Gladiator …cost millions of dollars and months to make, lasted exactly sixty seconds, and was shown exactly …once.  I remember watching the advert speechless and wishing to see it again …but I wouldn’t see it again until many years later when You Tube made such things possible.

I won’t go into the advert in any great detail as it deserves to be seen and digested [click here to view], but it purported to introduce the Apple Macintosh to the world on 24 January 1984.  What it actually did was fire the first salvos of the ‘open system’ movement against the traditional mainframe world.  My father, who was an executive in the ‘data processing’ department …Information Technology, or ‘IT’ didn’t exist yet …watched the advert, turned to me, and proceeded to tell me how we would someday watch movies without going to the cinema, watch any movie ever made when and where we wanted to, listen to any piece of music ever recorded when and where we wanted to …and carry the sum total of the world’s library content in our pockets.

Now, my old man was heavy into Star Trek [still is, as am I, and I’ve passed on this geekdom to PL Junior!] and I have to admit that, at the time, I thought he had been watching one too many episodes with JT Kirk and the boys and/or had had one too many G&Ts during the course of the Super Bowl.  I nodded politely and went back to noshing on the nachos and sour cream my mum had made.

What has this got to do with Data Storage and Protection?

Far from being doolally, my father was describing things to me in 1984 that we now take for granted.  iPods, You Tube, Spotify, e-ink eReaders …all have become reality and, it is projected that within 15 years we will have personal storage systems capable of holding the contents of all of the world’s libraries in a form factor small enough to fit in your pocket.  Really.  But how did my father predict such things?  Was he a futurist who missed out on the big time?  Sadly, no.  He went to uni with people who would go on to work for DARPA and they would often sit up late into the evening over G&Ts discussing the latest developments in data networking technology.  They could see the practical applications of the internet they were developing, and I would argue that there are many parallels to be found in the success of the internet and the future of data storage.

The internet was not originally designed to be the delivery mechanism for fine purveyors of pornography but, rather, a way for the US government and military to communicate from coast to coast and all throughout the US in the event of WWIII …and the Soviet Union had wiped entire communication nodes …and cities …off the map with nuclear weapons.  It is a system that is designed to fail …a resilient system which can continue to operate even after multiple and massive failures.  Another interesting feature of the internet is it is designed to use standard ‘off the shelf’ components such that, as the components’ quality and processing power increases, they can be put into the internet without having to take down or redesign the whole flippin’ thing.  Think dial up modem to ‘wired’ broadband to ubiquitous WiFi and you get the picture.

A similar revolution is happening in storage.  The original storage arrays were really more like massive servers on steroids …in fact, they looked and behaved much like the mainframes they were meant to replace.  They have a central processor known as a controller, cache which acts much like the memory in a server, and well …disks.  The disks provide the massive and shared storage, but are connected to the controllers and cache.  A great architecture to start with, but as the amount of data we are creating has exploded exponentially it has become less and less efficient and more difficult to manage.  Indeed, whilst functionality has been added to the architecture …data replication, modular arrays, iSCSI, NAS, and so on …the central principle of architecture design hasn’t changed all that much in quite a while.  Most importantly, they are designed to never fail …and as a result of that principle, we find ourselves in something programmers call an ‘infinite loop’ which becomes ever more expensive to manage.

So what’s the answer?  Well, we need to turn the central principle on it’s head and design systems which fail.  Now, I know that may seem counterintuitive, but bear with me.  The quality of standard components has increased significantly over the past ten years …we now have hard drives and Intel processors in our laptops which would have powered supercomputers ten years ago …but, things still fail from time to time.

My view is parallel processing or ‘grid architecture’ storage is the answer, and these systems will soon eclipse the traditional storage architectures.  What is grid architecture storage?  The specifics can be somewhat complicated, but in principle you have data and communication modules which replace the controllers and cache with software to connect all of the modules together.  What does this give us?  The ability to use algorithms which write data to all of the data drives simultaneously …and as each module uses standard components with CPU and memory on board, I can lose a module without losing data as well as increasing system performance by replacing the standard components with the new whizz bang models as they become available.  The secret sauce of the software which connects the modules is what allows us to provide performance and reliability equivalent or greater to traditional systems …at an acquisition and management cost much lower than traditional storage systems.

So who is using grid architecture?  If you have Googled anything recently, you’ve used grid storage architecture.  And, if grid storage is the answer, who makes it?  Well, IBM XiV was the first past the mark but now EMC Vmax has joined the scene …and NetApp, HDS, HP aren’t far behind.  What will set each of them apart, in my opinion, is how they implement grid architecture as well as the functionality they provide as standard.

If you aren’t thinking about grid architecture storage, you should be …this is a tidal wave which is already transforming the storage marketplace and, whilst we  have ‘first mover’ advantage with the promise of fair pricing at the moment this won’t last forever.

Please feel free to contact me if I can help you understand grid architeture more fully and in greater depth, including the very real cost savings which can be gained.

-Matthew
Click here to contact me

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.