Posts Tagged ‘HDS USPV’

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.

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Is ILM dead? And what does the Queen have to do with it anyway?

13/08/2009

Firstly, I do hope you and yours are having an enjoyable summer break and relaxing break as I did with Mrs. PL and PL Junior recently in Malta.  As I’m sure with most families, to escape the intensity of the sun during the midday we watched a fair bit of television over our holiday and after watching Doctor Who it got me thinking…television hasn’t always been as visually appealing and interactive as it is today.  Indeed, when television was first broadcast, the presenters sat around a table or stood in front of microphones and simply read the same script they would have read on the radio!  Why is that?  Well, put simply…the producers at that time just didn’t understand the power of television as a story telling medium through a more visual context and just tried to use the new technology much in the same way they had radio.  Needless to say people weren’t over the moon at paying what was a serious amount of money at the time to acquire a technology like television that simply did what their existing radios already did.  It wouldn’t be until producers started producing material that wasn’t available on radio that people started buying televisions en masse…one of those key events was the coronation of Elizabeth II on June 2nd, 1953 which saw many people rushing to buy televisions…or huddle around the set purchased by their family or friends.  Many people I have talked to and met since moving to the UK years ago have told me that they remember watching telly for the first time during the coronation!

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

Information lifecycle management is dead.  You would be forgiven for thinking this is true given the lack of media coverage ILM receives these days, and customers often ask me just what happened to ILM and is cloud computing the new answer to their data storage challenges.  The long answer to ‘is ILM dead’ can be somewhat complicated as I accept that trade magazines and newspapers need to sell copies to make money and, frankly, cloud computing is the current hot topic that everyone seems to be talking about.  Equally, I believe that cloud computing will play an increasingly important role for both SMBs and enterprise customers alike; for SMBs the promise of cloud computing is the agile and cost effective implementation and support of IT without massive overhead, and for enterprise customers cloud computing could prove a useful and economical adjunct for road warriors as well as a worthwhile strategy for data in their private cloud behind corporate firewalls.  In addition, cloud computing is designed to address the storage architecture and make it easier for users access this infrastructure whilst allowing corporate customers to increase their storage utilisation and reduce costs.  Cloud computing doesn’t really answer what to do with the continued creation of unstructured data and, frankly, why should it when some vendors would be happy to become utility companies in their own right with customers paying for storage as they do electricity today?  Cloud computing is a much deeper topic which deserves it’s own discussion and the short answer for me is no, ILM is by no means dead and is just as valid today as it ever was.  Perhaps even more so given the explosion of the growth of unstructured data coupled with sometimes confusing data compliance and retention regulations.  When I relate this view to customers, their natural response is, ‘So why then haven’t more customers implemented ILM?’

Part of the issue with the relative lack of take up in ILM has been in the marketing of ILM to customers by vendors, resellers, and systems integrators; ILM has often been marketed and discussed as if it were a single shrink wrapped product that customers can buy off the shelf and implement quickly.  This strategy was most likely taken due to the fact that ILM can be a confusing and complicated topic to discuss with customers, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Information Lifecycle Management is actually a series of data storage technologies and techniques designed to automate the movement of corporate data from creation to eventual cremation based upon established business rules and/or service level agreements.  This is an important distinction as this leads to two principal reasons customers haven’t implemented ILM; one, they haven’t aligned their corporate data to business value and two, they rightly view the implementation of ILM as potentially disruptive to their production business.  What to do?

The first step, in my opinion, is we need to help customers to align their data to business value.  This is an easy thing to say but, in actuality, becomes somewhat more challenging when you take on board the fact that each customer will be at a different stage of aligning data to business value as well as the fact that each customer often interprets data compliance and retention regulations slightly different.  This is not to say that aligning data to business value is not a worthwhile exercise as I fundamentally believe that this is the cornerstone to the adoption and implementation of ILM.  As with ILM, there isn’t a shrink wrapped product available off the shelf which helps a customer to automate the alignment of data to business value.  The most assured way I have found in helping customers to achieve this alignment is through fixed cost and fixed deliverable consultancy.  These engagements make use of software discovery tools which identify structured and unstructured data, including the hugely useful classification of data, and result in a consultant delivering a report which details a coherent and practical approach to the customer’s implementation of ILM over a set period of time.  Customers can sometimes react cynically to this approach, and my experience is that vendor supplied storage assessments and consultancy have too often given a very limited, immediate, and short sighted approach to recommendations which simply point to the acquisition of more kit.  We must actively work with our customers to help demystify the consultancy process by showing them how we conduct such engagements, how long it will take to deliver, and what business benefits they will receive by investing in such an engagement.  Computacenter have a well defined storage strategy engagement which does just this, and the documentation can be found here.

The second step, following the successful consultancy engagement which establishes how a customer will align their data to business value, is the implementation of technologies which will move data to the appropriate ILM tier in a non-disruptive way.  This is critical as no matter how great an ILM implementation strategy is, and irrespective of the return on investment and cost benefit analysis which supports the strategy, no customer will implement ILM if it is going to be disruptive to their production business.  To be fair, they need to be conducting business and increasing their revenue whilst implementing ILM in a way which is transparent to their internal users and external customers alike.  One of the foremost storage technologies for achieving this movement of data in a non-disruptive way is storage virtualisation.

Storage virtualisation has actually been in the market for longer than server virtualisation, however many customers have not seen the value and import in the implementation of data block level storage virtualisation.  There are several ways to achieve storage virtualisation, and I don’t wish to digress into an esoteric argument about the merits of array versus fabric storage virtualisation.  That’s what the Computacenter Storage Academy bootcamp sessions and related Masterclasses are for!  What I will say is that I believe it is important to consider such technologies which have a proven track record.  There are several Computacenter business partner products such as HDS USPV, the HP XP array which is based on the HDS USPV range, and IBM SVC all have referenceability worldwide as storage virtualisation products capable of virtualising data in a mult-vendor environment.  Again, there are are several applicable options and solutions within storage virtualisation and the key takeaway is the need to move data from tier to tier within existing corporate environments in a non-disruptive way.

I hope that I have been able to prove that ILM is by no means dead…and that we’re not looking to use technologies the same way we have before ala early television adoption…but, rather, ILM has not been taken up by customers in a significant way due to confusing market messages and a perception that ILM implementation will disrupt their business.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, but within Computacenter we are seeing a much great customer acceptance of ILM when we structure the conversation around the alignment of business data to business value as the ‘what’ in the ILM equation and the virtualisation of data to introduce non-disruptive data movements as the ‘how’.  Perhaps you will find similar positive responses through such techniques, but feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance in helping to articulate these messages …and long live Information Lifecycle Management!

-Matthew

Click here to contact me

What comes after books?

14/07/2009

I recently received a Sony eReader [PRS-505] from Mrs. PL and PL Junior for Father’s Day and, knowing me as you probably do by now, I love gadgets and anything technical that will help me save time.  However, I must admit that I was incredibly sceptical when I received the eReader at first.  Now, I had read more than one article which pitted the Sony eReader against the Amazon Kindle and other like devices …but not matter how greatly improved they said the electronic ‘ink’ is which comprises the secret sauce of these eBook readers, I am very much in love with the visceral experience of reading a traditional paper book.  The sound of the pages turning, the smell of the paper, the different fonts each publisher chooses to use, the sense of accomplishment of looking at a 900 page tome and thinking ‘I read that!’ …not easily replicated in the world of eBooks.  I know what you’re saying …but you’re a data guy!  You are constantly banging on about how to increase efficiencies with storage!  Yep, I know …all arguments that Mrs. PL had used with me before when she tried to convert me to the ways of the eReader.

More than that, Mrs. PL also likes to read …a lot …and between the pair of us I suppose I have lost sight of just how cluttered our house has become with books we’ve read.  Always happy to lend or give to a friend, would never dream of throwing a book out.  Throwing away a book is tantamount to sacrilege in both Mrs. PL and my extended families, but I think the warning signs that we had too many books to be sustainable came when we contemplated building PL Junior’s cot out of used books [but you could use a hardening shellac to make the pillars from old hardbacks!] and Mrs. PL looking at five bedroom houses [we live in a 2.5 bedroom house at the moment in North London] …not because we have other little PL Juniors on the way, sadly, but because Mrs. PL was seriously considering converting a bedroom or two into floor to ceiling library space.

Thankfully Mrs. PL was the realistic and rational of our little tribe and made the leap to the eReader …gave me one for Father’s Day so she could guilt me into using it if needs be …and then proceeded to cull our house of better than 80% of the books we’ve read and don’t need any longer.  Fifty seven black bin bags full of books, at last count.  Has it made a difference?  Who knew that we had a dining room?!

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

I’ve had the eReader for a little over two weeks know and, truth be told …I love it.  Seriously.  It’s not perfect, and it does have some drawbacks [no native support for my MacBook Air …although I have a cunning workaround!] but being able to download the next ten or more books I want to read to the eReader is hugely useful and doesn’t take up any more space than the physical device does already.  Equally, after having used the device for a while, I am utterly convinced that this is the future for many magazines and newspapers …think about it, instant and automated delivery via your existing home or corporate WiFi connection …the device already knows what you have and haven’t read so it can automatically delete/replace based on your preferences …and all without the clutter of unread/read newspapers and magazines [also a bit of a problem in the Yeager household]!

When it comes to data storage, we have a very similar challenge.  Five or more years ago, heck maybe up to only a year ago …simply adding more storage capacity was an oft pursued storage strategy …and deemed perfectly valid when we had shed loads of cheap datacentre space and power wasn’t an issue.  Indeed, in the heady days before the recession many of our customers had a desperate need to stay ahead of their competition and so adding more capacity was the order of the day …trouble was, much of the capacity that was added was tier one / high end / monolithic / enterprise [however you wish to describe it!] storage.  Now, nothing wrong with this type of storage …but we don’t need it for 100% of our infrastructure!  We know that the average customer environment is comprised of 20% structured data [the important stuff …you know, the data which makes us money!] and 80% unstructured [MP3s, old or duplicate spreadsheets, joke emails …you know, the data which COSTS us money to store!].

I don’t think in the span of my career have I seen customers so evenly split into two camps …those that have run out of space and power due to continued purchase and provisioning of high end enterprise storage alone …and those that will.

Now, our solutions aren’t designed to go in and tell customers ‘you’re doing it all wrong!’ or that you need to ‘rip and replace’ …no, our solutions are designed to save customers money whilst helping them utilise assets they already have.  I wouldn’t dream of ever calling someone’s baby ugly, Mr. Burton!  But how do we articulate our solutions in a way which will resonate?

A few examples for those that know they have a problem NOW:

Problem: I’ve run out of datacentre space, my datacentre power is costing me too much …but I need to find more storage space with a tight budget!  And I have been buying nothing but enterprise storage and/or have more than one storage vendor already!

Solution: Let’s look at storage virtualisation such as HDS USPV or HP XP  to help us consolidate without disrupting the production business…we can create virtual storage pools universally available for our server hosts without needing to worry about what vendor badge the existing storage arrays have …migrate to thin provisioning so we only allocate what we are physically using …and give you in year ROI because we can use Zero Page Reclaim [ZPR] to return 30% or more of their existing allocated storage into usable unallocated storage.  And finally we automate the storage provisioning to greatly reduce ongoing manpower costs. Et voila!  Reduced power, cooling, space, and manpower whilst enabling business innovation to continue!

Problem: I’m running out of datacentre space as I’ve too many servers, my power and cooling for the servers is costing me too much, I can’t afford to hire more administrators to look after more servers …but I need to add more servers with a tight budget!

Solution: Let’s look at consolidating all of the existing server shares to one or more NAS devices such as NetApp, HP Lefthand SAN, or IBM N series …we can then create a universal NAS namespace using F5 Acopia so we can manage the NAS devices as one and make the NAS storage universally available for server hosts …and then virtualise the remaining servers with automated provisioning of storage AND servers to greatly reduce ongoing manpower costs.  Et voila!  Reduced power, cooling, space, and manpower whilst enabling business innovation to continue!

Problem: I’ve run out of datacentre space, my datacentre power is costing too much …I need to reduce costs and find more storage space with a tight budget!  And I’d like to have access to tier one functionality as I may need it …but I’d prefer tier three pricing!

Solution: Let’s look at consolidating the storage to a grid storage architecture such as IBM XiV …we can migrate from existing tier one arrays to a grid storage architecture with tier one functionality but at greatly reduced cost, up to 25% of what tier one would normally be in some cases …and it uses SATA drives, which consume 97% less power and cooling over traditional tier one FC drives …whilst also giving us thin provisioning so we only allocate what we are physically using …and give you in year ROI because we can use Zero Page Reclaim [ZPR] to return 30% or more of their existing allocated storage into usable unallocated storage.  And finally we automate the storage provisioning to greatly reduce ongoing manpower costs. Et voila!  Reduced power, cooling, space, and manpower whilst enabling business innovation to continue!

I could give you more examples, but I’m running out of space [and you may be running out of patience!] so I want to talk about the other half of the customer stack …those who haven’t run into the same problems …yet.  What do we say to them?

Well, Mrs. PL and PL  Junior went out and bought me a tool which they knew would allow me to keep only the 20% of books I truly need whilst giving me a much more efficient way to read and store the other 80%.  They knew there was a problem there, although I was loathe to admit it …but am very much loving our ‘newly’ discovered dining room in addition to my eReader!

We need to engage our customers to discuss their business problems now and not wait  until they issue an RFP.  What if they say ‘we’re not bothered about storage optimisation at the moment as enterprise tier one storage from [insert vendor here] is so cheap it’s more cost effective for us to add to our [insert vendor here] arrays’?

Fair enough.  On balance, over the next month or three months or even six months they might be right.  But what about after that?  Do we know what their 20% of structured data is and how fast their storage is growing per annum?  Can we extrapolate these figures to show them when they will run out of datacentre space and/or be consuming more power than a small Yorkshire village?  Can we marry this data to the total cost of ownership manpower costs to show them how expensive this storage will be to maintain in the future?

You bet we can.  And we absolutely should.  We won’t win them all, but I would be surprised if we didn’t find something that we can help them with …automated storage and server provisioning, data deduplication, reducing backup windows, consolidating server shares, virtualising their servers …to name but a few.

I’m up for it if you are … and I bore everyone I meet at cocktail parties, wine tastings, Waitrose, my dry cleaners something silly with how proud I am to work for Computacenter and how insanely great our solutions are.  Let’s get out there and talk to all of our customers about how we can Sharpen Their Business and save them money by optimising their storage now.

What’s the house wine?

13/07/2009

I have been asked several times over the course of my career, “If you weren’t working in technology, what would you want to be doing?”  Given my love of aviation, I suppose the obvious choice would be airline pilot, but knowing how often long haul pilots are away from their families I’m not sure this profession would be a good outlet for my passion for aviation.  No, if I weren’t in technology I would probably want to be a winemaker in New Zealand with my private pilot’s license so I could fly back and forth to Australia.

Why wine, you may ask?  Well, I do enjoy drinking it for a start!  But I am also continually fascinated by just how complex making wine is …stay with me here, this isn’t a ‘wine snob’ blog.  From the selection of the right area for a vineyard, to the selection of the right grape(s) to grow in your vineyard, when to plant and when to pick, whether to use automated machines to pick and de-stem your grapes or do this all by hand, to blend or keep it single varietal, whether to age in stainless steel vats or wooden barrels …and if barrels, what kind of wood?  You get the point I’m sure …this stuff can be fairly complicated, and the iterations can keep even the most accomplished of winemakers busy for years making decision after decision.  So complicated, in fact, that there is a special designation known as a Master of Wine …of which there are only 287 …in the world!

Now, were I to listen to the French they would tell me that, whilst we have been making wine in just about every region of the world for over three thousand [or more …no one is quite sure!] years …only the French truly know wine, and only French wines can truly be ‘elite’.  Ahem.  Not quite sure I agree with that, and I have a few friends who happen to be Masters of Wine who wouldn’t agree either.  Yes, yes …it is true that French wines are generally ‘safe’ bets when dining out …but they can be awfully expensive  safe bets!  A good sommelier will listen to your likes / dislikes [Mrs. PL abhors oaky white wines, for example] and what you are eating and will then delicately guide towards a few selections …one will almost always be a ‘safe’ …but almost always pricey …French wine.  But, and here’s the key, the very good sommeliers I have known will give you their opinion but then not look down their nose in the slightest if you select the £12 bottle instead of the £70 bottle.

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

Something very interesting happened on 24 May 1976 to change the way many of us think about wines forever.  Known as the Judgment of Paris, a British wine merchant [Steve Spurrier] challenged some Masters of Wine, other distinguished mavens of the wine world , and most importantly …the French world to a ‘blind tasting’ of their wines [Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in particular] against some of the best known wineries in California.  What happened was fascinating and a bit too involved to go into here, but let’s just say the French didn’t win.  Similar tastings have taken place over the past 30 years [New Zealand pinot noir and sauvignon blanc against ‘Old World’ equivalents being a recent example] to show time and again that French wines aren’t always ‘the best’ and other alternatives certainly exist.

I see many parallels in the world of storage.  Some customers have been convinced by our competition, sometimes even vendors, that the only wine worth drinking is a 1982 Chateau  Margaux.  And you should buy a case …just in case there’s a rainy day.  Now, Chateau Margaux 1982 is a lovely bottle …and I’m sure Mrs. PL would love you to drop one by …but at £860 a bottle I’m not convinced it is really good value for money.  And here’s the key …we have customers who have bought CASES of this stuff and haven’t even drunk 30% of what they’ve bought, yet keep getting told that the only ‘safe’ choice is another case of the same!
There is an argument to made for blind tastings in the storage world, and to be fair there are independent consulting companies who do these types of ‘speeds and feeds’ testing.  However, this isn’t the point I’m driving to …and not where our value as Computacenter truly lies.

No, I’m arguing two things; one, we need to be better sommeliers and listen to our customers business issues so that we can help them select the most appropriate wine …and two, we shouldn’t be afraid to recommend the Computacenter house wine when the customer doesn’t express a preference.

What does this mean?  Well, if we take storage consolidation for example, why couldn’t we  blend IBM XiV plus IBM nSeries plus F5 Acopia plus Softek bottled with a Computacenter label which shows predictive storage spend and predictive customer savings.  If monsieur would prefer another winery or vintage we would of course be happy to oblige, but the house wine is lovely, very attractively priced, and the quality is guaranteed!  If we took storage virtualisation as another area, we could certainly recommend a nice bottle of HDS USPV which not only tastes great, but also has the ability to give you 30% more wine even after you’ve consumed the bottle! [More on that in another Weekly View.]

After all, that is what customers are truly after whether it be wine or storage.  A reasonable price with a predictable outcome.  Will you get a great tasting wine for £860?  Probably, although nothing is guaranteed …and for my money, I’d much prefer the £12 which the sommelier has assured me tastes just fine.

So you want to thin provision storage …

12/07/2009

Did you know that the human brain doesn’t actually need you to spell correctly in order to discern context?

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

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

Firstly, please allow me to apologise if you had any challenges reading the previous paragraph as I am categorically not trying to take the michael as regards dyslexia or related conditions.  Indeed, my sister is dyslexic and I have nothing but respect for the way that she hasn’t allowed this to slow her down in life or studies in the slightest.

But the question remains, where is the link between the opening paragraph and data storage?

The best storage device yet invented is the human brain, although admittedly it sometimes isn’t as performant as we would like after a night on the tiles, and we have much to learn about storage specifically and technology in general from studying neuroscience.

You may recall that I have talked about thin provisioning in this blow previously, affectionately known as the ‘Northern Rock’ method of storage allocation internally here at Computacenter, thin provisioning is a block level storage technology which allows us to more effectively control the storage allocation to hosts by only allocating [or provision, hence the term thin provisioning] that which is physically required.  Great.  That clears it up, simple right!  See you next week.

Only kidding …what that means in English is that we know that data is really only zeroes and ones [‘on’ bits and ‘off’ bits, actually], so who cares if it is a PowerPoint or Excel spreadsheet or joke email …what we care about are the zeroes and ones of the data, which is what we mean when we say ‘block level’.

Okay, now we move on to ‘fat’ provisioning in traditional storage environments …an email administrator tells the storage administrator he needs 10 terabytes [10,000 gigbaytes], so the storage admin adds a little ‘fluff’ just in case and we’re now into say 12 terabytes …and here’s the thing …the email admin won’t use the entire 12 terabytes in one go, he’ll use that gradually … in actuality he asked for the storage he reckons he’ll need for his users over the next year or more.  But the 12 terabytes has been allocated to him and cannot be used for anyone else.  Multiply that over multiple storage arrays and multiple hosts and you can see just how quickly storage is traditionally allocated which won’t be used for a considerable period of time …if ever …but locked into a single host allocation unable to be used for anyone else.  This certainly puts a big dent in utilisation!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could let other people have access to the storage we’re not using ?

Well, yes …and that is primarily what storage virtualisation is all about …and thin provisioning is a great feature of storage virtualisation.  A feature, mind …not a product …and the better vendor storage offerings have storage virtualisation built in as a feature so that you don’t have to go out and but a separate product or products to facilitate this.

Put simply, thin provisioning will tell the server that I have access to however many terabytes I have requested but the storage array will only dole out the zeroes and ones the server needs as it needs them thus freeing up a serious amount of storage for others to use.  And before you go worrying about it, we monitor how quickly data is being created to ensure we aren’t caught out with everyone requesting the storage they believe they are entitled to simultaneously thus crashing the system …a la Northern Rock.

Fandabbydoozy!  Everyone should be using this, right?  Absolutely.  In fact, buy three and we’ll have a great quarter!  But Houston, we have a problem.  Budgets are tight, and storage virtualisation and thin provisioning are predicated on the avoidance of future spend …and many, if not all, of our customers are looking for in year ROI …game over?

No, it doesn’t have to be …Zero Page Reclamation [ZPR] to the rescue!  Oh dear …what on Earth is ZPR I hear you shout.  Remember the first paragraph and the fact that our brains only need to see the first and the last letter to discern context?  Thought I’d forgotten about that, didn’t you?

Storage is allocated in a ‘fat’ provisioned traditional environment much in the same way …the array ‘writes’ a zero page to the beginning and the end and leaves the bits in between blank so that it remains allocated to the server host and won’t be accidentally allocated to someone else.  But we don’t want that as it is inefficient, so we buy an array with thin provisioning on board but …and here’s the kicker …if we don’t clear those ‘zero pages’ when we migrate from fat to thin provisioning [shouldn’t that be called a storage diet migration, by the way?] the new thin provisioned array will view the migrated data volumes as ‘full and allocated’ even though we know this isn’t the case.

Enter ZPR which ‘erases’, or removes if you prefer, the zero pages and returns this storage back to the pool.  Hey presto …in year ROI, money for old rope, instant storage!

There are some arrays which do this for themselves when you migrate to them alone [e.g. IBM XiV] but there are also arrays like HDS USPV which allow us to virtualise storage from heterogenous arrays [i.e from other vendors] into a pool, thin provision, and use ZPR to reclaim upwards of 30% of storage which would have otherwise remained ‘allocated’.   ZPR gives us a great way to not only help our customers control storage spend in the future, but use their existing assets to achieve ROI now …today …immediately.

I can’t think of a more powerful solution to ‘kick the door in’ when we’re talking to our customers about why Computacenter and not someone else when it comes to their storage partner.

I’ll be running a webinar re ZPR soon and a Masterclass in August to help you understand storage virtualisation more fully, but please don’t hesitate to contact me or your friendly neighbourhood Solution Specialist if you would like to position storage virtualisation and Zero Page Reclamation with your customer.