Category Archives: Flash

Disruption in the Storage Market: Advances in Technology and Business Models

New technologies, business models, and vendors have led to major disruption in the storage market. Watch the video below to hear Randy Weis discuss the evolution of flash storage, how new business models have driven prices down, and the vendors that are making it possible.

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EMC claims it can make data centres All Flash and no downtime

EMC quantum leapAs EMC prepares for its takeover by Dell it claims it has made ‘significant changes’ to its storage portfolio, converting its primary offering to All Flash, modernising array pricings and introducing a new category of flash storage, DSSD D5 at its Quantum Leap event.

EMC’s flagship VMAX All Flash enterprise data services platform and its new DSSD D5 rack-scale flash system are part of a new drive to persuade data centres to use flash technology as their primary storage medium. The vendor claims that by 2020 all storage used for production applications will be flash-based with traditional disk relegated to the roll of bulk storage and archiving.

The new all-flash portfolio will be used by databases, analytics, server virtual machines and virtual desktop infrastructures, says EMC, which predicts that the need for predictable performance with sub-millisecond latencies will persuade data centres to make the extra investment. ENC’s new XtremIO is designed for high-end enterprise workloads, while VMAX All Flash will consolidate mixed block and file workloads that require up to 99.9999% availability, as well as rich data services, IBM mainframe and iSeries support and scalable storage growth up to four petabytes (PB) of capacity.

The DSSD D5 Rack-Scale Flash, meanwhile, is for the most performance-intensive, traditional and next-generation use cases, such as getting microsecond response times on Oracle and Hadoop based analytics jobs. Meanwhile, the new VNX Series arrays represent an entry level all-flash offering which starts at $25,000.

EMC announced that the VMAX array has been re-engineered to offer two new all-flash models: the EMC VMAX 450 and EMC VMAX 850. Both are designed to capitalise on the performance of flash and the economics of today’s latest large-capacity SSDs.

Finally, EMC also announced the DSSD D5 which, it claimed, will be a quantum leap in storage technology, with its new Rack-Scale Flash. TEMC said the new invention will be used in high production applications such as genetic sequencing calculations, fraud detection, credit card authorisation and advanced analytics.

EMC claims it will create a ten fold surge in performance levels. The storage hardware is capable latency of 100 microseconds, throughput at 100 GB/s and IOPS of up to 10 million in a 5U system. EMC DSSD D5 will be generally available in March 2016.

Is Adobe axing Flash under cover of Creative Cloud?

Adobe Animate screenAs an official Adobe blog hailed a ‘new era’ for Flash Professional, the software company seems to be sidelining its creation.

Apple boss Steve Jobs once famously dismissed Flash as proprietary software from the PC age. Now Adobe appears to be admitting it doesn’t have a role in the age of the cloud. While updating readers on developments in its Creative Cloud, Adobe reveals that Flash Professional CC is to be re-branded as Adobe Animate CC in order to “more accurately reflect the content-formats produced by this tool.”

Flash has long been heavily criticised because its proprietary nature made it unsuitable for the web. Jobs said Apple would never consider Flash for any of its phones tablets because “we know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps.”

Latterly, the high power needed by devices running Adobe would make it unsuitable for the cloud, while the lack of openness would, in Jobs’ words, “hinder the progress of the platform.”

Adobe explains, in its blog, that “open web standards and HTML5 have become the dominant standard” and that “Flash Professional CC product team has embraced this movement by rewriting the tool from the ground up”. Adding native support for HTML5 Canvas and WebGL, in addition to supporting output to any format was such a ‘hug hit’ with Adobe customers that, in a short space of time, a third of all content produced in Flash Professional CC is HTML5-based, reaching over 1 billion devices worldwide.

The name change reflects the downgrading of Flash’s role in Creative Cloud. However, in another official blog post the vendor explains that Adobe Animate CC will continue to support Flash (SWF) and AIR formats ‘as first-class citizens’, as well as other formats like broadcast-quality video. “We will continue improving Animate CC’s HTML5 capabilities over time, while optimizing its core animation and authoring feature set,” said Rich Lee, senior product marketing manager for Creative Cloud web products.

In the cloud, it was the lack of stability and security that dissuaded Apple from using Flash.

Flash was highlighted by Symantec for having one of the worst security records in 2009. Steve Jobs once said he knew first hand Flash is the top reason for Apple device crashes. “We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash,” Jobs once said. Now, it seems, Adobe has accepted that Flash isn’t right for the cloud.

HP launches 3Par flash storage – building block for all flash data centres

HPHewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has launched new flash storage devices which it claims will bring the day of the all flash data centre and lighting fast cloud services closer.

The HPE 3PAR StoreServ Storage systems will be the data storage blocks in the flash data centres of the future, its claims. When all the memory, storage and processing of data is run on flash technology, data centres will create the most competitive environment possible for cloud services, according to HPE.

HPE has also integrated 3PAR StoreServ with its new HPE StoreOnce and HPE StoreEver product lines to ensure protection and retention keep pace with demand. It is this integration which will speed the progress of modernising data centres, according to HPE, because it means that new and mixed media types can work together in the same array while maintaining performance and enterprise-class resiliency.

Earlier in November the Storage Performance Council testified that a new world record speed was achieved by the 3PAR StoreServ 20850 all-flash array. HPE claims it produced better performance levels than the rival EMC VMAX 400K, but at half the price.

Among the new HPE offerings are a 3PAR Flash Acceleration system for Oracle, 3PAR Online Import software and support for 3d NAND drives.

The Flash Acceleration drive could makes databases perform 75% quicker while enabling legacy systems like EMC VMAX to remain in place, claims HPE. This, it says, is half the price of upgrading the legacy storage system.

3PAR Online Import software makes it easier to move off hard disk drive (HDD)-bound legacy storage, such as EMC, HDS and IBM XIV, and onto flash. Support for 3D NAND drives means that solid state drive (SSD) technology can be installed cheaply.

HPE claims it can save the massive expense involved in buying pure flash systems by creating a flash-optimised design that supports both file and block storage as well as a secondary tier of HDDs.

HPE also announced new systems to help customers as they move away from traditional backup silos in favour of integrated flash array and application data protection.

“Organisations want game-changers like flash without introducing risk,” said Manish Goel, HPE’s general manager for storage, “to meet those demands, Hewlett Packard Enterprise simplifies flash storage from the entry to enterprise.”

Huawei’s OceanStor could make European data centres deliver cloud in a flash

datacentre1Huawei has launched a drive to put flash memory in Europe’s data centres in a bid to speed up the delivery of cloud services.

The OceanStor Flash Strategy in Europe aims to popularise the adoption of flash memory in data centres and drag customers into the all-flash era of high performance and reliability.

Huawei’s strategy is to concentrate on partners in the industry supply chain, persuading them to make a commitment by inventing new flash controllers, media chips and enterprise storage systems based on all-flash technology, it has said. The launch of the OceanStor Flash Strategy took place at the Huawei CIO Forum and Network Congress took place in Lisbon, Portugal last week. The European drive follows in the wake of a similar programme launched in China in September.

The core of the strategy involves Huawei integrating solid-state drives (SSDs) into the storage products sold throughout Europe. The equipment maker signed its first collaboration agreement under the new strategy with flash memory provider Micron at the 2015 Huawei Cloud Congress in Shanghai in September.

For the same price a data centre might spend on a 15000 revs per minute hard disk, they can get an SSD that’s five times faster and has less environmental impact, argued Yuan Yaun, CTO of Huawei IT Solutions Sales in Western Europe.

“Optimal user experience and low power consumption is well suited to customers’ business needs now and in the big data future,” said Yaun. Unlike conventional enterprise storage vendors, Huawei wants to future-proof software architecture, he said, because Huawei wants to keep in line with emerging data application trends, whereas traditional storage vendors have a legacy business model to protect. Huawei is free to adopt the latest technology and to work with multiple parties in the supply chain to develop new solutions, Yaun argued.

“We cannot achieve innovation by ourselves. Everything we have created, obtained and achieved would not be possible without the joint efforts of our partners and the unflinching trust of our customers,” said Yuan.

Adobe under renewed pressure to kill Flash following security issues

Much of the world's digital video content is still served up on Flash

Much of the world’s digital video content is still served up on Flash

Adobe Flash, the video and graphics platform that was once almost ubiquitous across computing devices is coming under increasing pressure after a series of security vulnerabilities, reports

Such has been the severity of these vulnerabilities that Mozilla has added all versions of Flash to the block list for the Firefox Browser. In addition the new Chief Security Officer of Facebook used Twitter to call for Adobe to announce an end-of-life date for Flash.

This probably marks the end game for a piece of software that was once considered central to the consumption of multimedia content, both on PC and mobile. The first and probably most damaging Emperor’s New Clothes moment was in 2010 when the late Apple boss Steve Jobs addressed a furore around Apple’s diminishing support for Flash.

An Adobe-affiliated blogger has even gone so far as to demand Apple screw itself, and Jobs saw fit to put the Apple view forward.  Among Jobs’ criticisms of Flash was its security, saying: “Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.”

A couple of years later Android followed suit and the industry on the whole has been looking to reduce its exposure to Flash ever since, with tech such as HTML5 being of significant assistance in this regard. The writing appears to be on the wall for Flash, and it will be interesting to see if Adobe is capable of pulling the plug on it in a sensible and dignified way.

Catching up with Chuck Hollis: A Storage Discussion

Things are moving fast in the IT world. Recently, we caught up with Chuck Hollis (EMC’s Global Marketing CTO and popular industry blogger) to discuss a variety of topics including datacenter federation, Solid State Drives, and misperceptions surrounding cloud storage.

JTC: Let’s start off with Datacenter federation…what is coming down the road for running active/active datacenters with both HA and DR?

Chuck: I suppose the first thing that’s worth pointing out is that we’re starting to see using multiple data centers as an opportunity, as opposed to some sort of problem to overcome. Five years ago, it seems that everyone wanted to collapse into one or two data centers. Now, it’s pretty clear that the pendulum is starting to move in the other direction – using a number of smaller locations that are geographically dispersed.

The motivations are pretty clear as well: separation gives you additional protection, for certain applications users get better experiences when they’re close to their data, and so on. And, of course, there are so many options these days for hosting, managed private cloud services and the like. No need to own all your data centers anymore!

As a result, we want to think of our “pool of resources” as not just the stuff sitting in a single data center, but the stuff in all of our locations. We want to load balance, we want to failover, we want to recover from a disaster and so on – and not require separate technology stacks.

We’re now at a point where the technologies are coming together nicely to do just that. In the EMC world, that would be products like VPLEX and RecoverPoint, tightly integrated with VMware from an operations perspective. I’m impressed that we have a non-trivial number of customers that are routinely doing live migrations at metro distances using VPLEX or testing their failover capabilities (not-disruptively and at a distance) using RecoverPoint.

The costs are coming down, the simplicity and integration is moving up – meaning that these environments are far easier to justify, deploy and manage than just a few years ago. Before long, I think we’ll see active-active data centers as sort of an expected norm vs. an exception.

JTC: How is SSD being leveraged in total data solutions now, with the rollout of the various ExtremeIO products?

Chuck: Well, I think most people realize we’re in the midst of a rather substantial storage technology shift. Flash (in all its forms) is now preferred for performance, disks for capacity.

The first wave of flash adoption was combining flash and disk inside the array (using intelligent software), usually dubbed a “hybrid array”. These have proven to be very, very popular: with the right software, a little bit of flash in your array can result in an eye-popping performance boost and be far more cost effective than trying to use only physical disks to do so. In the EMC portfolio, this would be FAST on either a VNX or VMAX. The approach has proven so popular that most modern storage arrays have at least some sort of ability to mix flash and disk.

The second wave is upon us now: putting flash cards directly into the server to deliver even more cost-effective performance. With this approach, storage is accessed at bus speed, not network speed – so once again you get an incredible boost in performance, even as compared to the hybrid arrays. Keep in mind, though: today this server-based flash storage is primarily used as a cache, and not as persistent and resilient storage – there’s still a need for external arrays in most situations. In the EMC portfolio, that would be the XtremSF hardware and XxtremSW software – again, very popular with the performance-focused crowd.

The third wave will get underway later this year: all-flash array designs that leave behind the need to support spinning disks. Without dragging you through the details, if you design an array to support flash and only flash, you can do some pretty impactful things in terms of performance, functionality, cost-effectiveness and the like. I think the most exciting example right now is the XtremIO array which we’ve started to deliver to customers. Performance-wise, it spans the gap between hybrid arrays and server flash, delivering predictable performance largely regardless of how you’re accessing the data. You can turn on all the bells and whistles (snaps, etc.) and run them at full-bore. And data deduplication is assumed to be on all the time, making the economics a lot more approachable.

The good news: it’s pretty clear that the industry is moving to flash. The challenging part? Working with customers hand-in-hand to figure out how to get there in a logical and justifiable fashion. And that’s where I think strong partners like GreenPages can really help.

JTC: How do those new products tie into FAST on the array side, with software on the hosts, SSD cards for the servers and SSD arrays?

Chuck: Well, at one level, it’s important that the arrays know about the server-side flash, and vice-versa.

Let’s start with something simple like management: you want to get a single picture of how everything is connected – something we’ve put in our management products like Unisphere. Going farther, the server flash should know when to write persistent data to the array and not keep it locally – that’s what XtremSW does among other things. The array, in turn, shouldn’t be trying to cache data that’s already being cached by the server-side flash – that would be wasteful.

Another way of looking at it is that the new “storage stack” extends beyond the array, across the network and into the server itself. The software algorithms have to know this. The configuration and management tools have to know this. As a result, the storage team and the server team have to work together in new ways. Again, working with a partner that understands these issues is very, very helpful.

JTC: What’ the biggest misperception about cloud storage right now?

Chuck: Anytime you use the word “cloud,” you’re opening yourself up for all sorts of misconceptions, and cloud storage is no exception. The only reasonable way to talk about the subject is by looking at different use cases vs. attempting to establish what I believe is a non-existent category.

Here’s an example: we’ve got many customers who’ve decided to use an external service for longer-term data archiving: you know, the stuff you can’t throw away, but nobody is expected to use. They get this data out of their environment by handing it off to a service provider, and then take the bill and pass it on directly to the users who are demanding the service. From my perspective, that’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Can you call that “cloud storage”? Perhaps.

Or, more recently, let’s take Syncplicity, EMC’s product for enterprise sync-and-share. There are two options for where the user data sits: either an external cloud storage service, or an internal one based on Atmos or Isilon. Both are very specific examples of “cloud storage,” but the decision as to whether you do it internally or externally is driven by security policy, costs and a bunch of other factors.

Other examples include global enterprises that need to move content around the globe, or perhaps someone who wants to stash a safety copy of their backups at a remote location. Are these “cloud storage?”

So, to answer your question more directly, I think the biggest misconception is that – without talking about very specific use cases – we sort of devolve into a hand-waving and philosophy exercise. Is cloud a technology and operational model, or is it simply a convenient consumption model?

The technologies and operational models are identical for everyone, whether you do it yourself or purchase it as a service from an external provider.

JTC: Talk about Big Data and how EMC solutions are addressing that market (Isilon, GreenPlum, what else?).

Chuck: If you thought that “cloud” caused misperceptions, it’s even worse for “big data.” I try to break it down into the macro and the micro.

At the macro level, information is becoming the new wealth. Instead of it being just an adjunct to the business process, it *is* the business process. The more information that can be harnessed, the better your process can be. That leads us to a discussion around big data analytics, which is shaping up to be the “killer app” for the next decade. Business people are starting to realize that building better predictive models can fundamentally change how they do business, and now the race is on. Talk to anyone in healthcare, financial services, retail, etc. – the IT investment pattern has clearly started to shift as a result.

From an IT perspective, the existing challenges can get much, much more challenging. Any big data app is the new 800 pound gorilla, and you’re going to have a zoo-full of them. It’s not unusual to see a 10x or 100x spike in the demand for storage resources when this happens. All of the sudden, you start looking for new scale-out storage technologies (like Isilon, for example) and better ways to manage things. Whatever you were doing for the last few years won’t work at all going forward.

There’s a new software stack in play: think Hadoop, HDFS, a slew of analytical tools, collaborative environments – and an entirely new class of production-grade predictive analytics applications that get created. That’s why EMC and VMware formed Pivotal from existing assets like Greenplum, GemFire et. al. – there was nothing in the market that addressed this new need, and did it in a cloud-agnostic manner.

Finally, we have to keep in mind that the business wants “big answers”, and not “big data.” There’s a serious organizational journey involved in building these environments, extracting new insights, and operationalizing the results. Most customers need outside help to get there faster, and we see our partner community starting to respond in kind.

If you’d like a historical perspective, think back to where the internet was in 1995. It was new, it was exotic, and we all wondered how things would change as a result. It’s now 2013, and we’re looking at big data as a potentially more impactful example. We all can see the amazing power; how do we put it to work in our respective organizations?

Exciting time indeed ….

Chuck is the Global Marketing CTO at EMC. You can read more from Chuck on his blog and follow him on Twitter at @chuckhollis.