Category Archives: Storage

Infinio Blog: Executive Viewpoint 2016 Prediction

This post originally appeared on Virtual-Strategy Magazine and is authored by Scott Davis, CTO at Infinio, a GreenPages partner.  It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of GreenPages Technology Solutions.

 

It’s that time of year for CTO predictions. The rate of innovation and disruption across IT is certainly accelerating, providing ample opportunities for comment. Although there is a significant amount of disruptive change going on across many disciplines, I wanted to primarily focus on storage observations for 2016.

Emergence of Storage-class Memory

Toward the end of 2016, we’ll see the initial emergence of a technology that I believe will become the successor to flash. This new storage technology (storage class memory, or SCM) will fundamentally change today’s storage industry just as dramatically as flash changed the hard drive industry. Intel/Micron calls one version 3D XPoint and HP/SanDisk have joined forces for another variant.

SCM is persistent memory technology – 1,000 times faster than flash, 1,000 times more resilient, and unlike flash, it delivers symmetric read/write performance. SCM devices connect to memory slots in a server and they are mapped and accessed similarly to memory, although they are slightly slower. Unlike previous generations of storage technology, SCM devices can be addressed atomically at either the byte level or block-level granularity. Operating systems will likely expose them as either very fast block storage devices formatted by traditional file systems and databases (for compatibility) or as direct memory mapped “files” for next-generation applications. Hypervisors will likely expose them as new, specially named and isolated SCM regions for use by applications running inside the guest operating system (OS).

I expect that SCM will provide unprecedented storage performance, upend the database/file system structures we’ve grown accustomed to, and further drive the trend towards server-side storage processing, shaking up everything from storage economics to application design.

VSAN becomes an Alternative to HCI

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a sales strategy wrapped around a software-defined storage architecture that has garnered much attention in the past few years. HCI offerings comprise integrated hardware and software “building blocks” bundled and sold together as a single entity. The hardware is typically a server with direct attached storage disks and PCI-e flash cards. All the software needed to run virtual workloads is packaged as well, including hypervisor, systems management, configuration tools and virtual networking. Perhaps most relevant to our part of the industry, there is always a software-defined storage (SDS) stack bundled with HCI offerings that virtualizes the disks and flash hardware into a virtual storage array while providing storage management capabilities. This SDS stack delivers all the storage services to the virtual machines.

In VMware’s EVO:Rail offering, VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) is this integrated storage stack. Now battle-tested and rich with enterprise features, VSAN will become more prevalent in the datacenter.  Organizations attracted to cost-effective, high-performance server-side software-defined storage solutions no longer have to embrace the one-size-fits-all hyperconverged infrastructure sales strategy along with it. They will increasingly choose the more customizable VSAN-based solutions, rather than prepackaged HCI offerings, particularly for sophisticated enterprise data center use cases.

Flash Continues to Complement Traditional Spinning Drives, Not Replace Them

While the all-flash array market continues to grow in size, and flash decreases in price, the reality of flash production is that the industry does not have the manufacturing capacity necessary to enable flash to supplant hard disk drives. A recent Register article quoted Samsung and Gartner data that suggested that by 2020, the NAND Flash industry could produce 253 exabytes (EB), which is three times the current manufacturing capacity at a cost of approximately $23 billion.

 

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Red Hat launches software defined storage systems that run on commodity hardware

redhat office logoOpen source software vendor Red Hat has launched a portfolio of open, software-defined storage systems which will cut costs by running on commodity hardware. The systems will be sold through a variety of sources across Red Hat’s sales channel.

The logic of selling Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat Gluster Storage system through different channels is to widen the scope of opportunity for Red Hat’s partners, it said. The technology will be made available to any participants in the Red Hat Connect for Business and Red Hat Embedded programmes, as well as all Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Providers from 2016.

Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat Gluster Storage are open source, software-defined storage systems designed to cater for rapid expansion. They will run on commodity hardware and have durable, programmable architectures the vendor said.

Each is suited for different types of enterprise workloads and similarly enterprise customers will be able to mix and match the Red Hat partners whose skill sets are suited to the technical and vertical market conditions.

Red Hat Advanced and Premier partners are authorised to sell Red Hat Storage solutions, but only if they meet the training requirements for their region’s partner programme via the Red Hat Online Partner Enablement Network (OPEN). Having qualified, however, the resellers can be kept motivated as they benefit from competitive and flexible pricing models. Further service incentives come from opportunities to earn additional margin and recurring revenue.

Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat Gluster Storage subscriptions are scheduled to be available to partners through the Red Hat Embedded Program by the end of 2015. Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat Gluster Storage are scheduled to become available to Red Hat Certified Cloud and Service Providers in 2016.

Training and certification, marketing and sales programs, and technical content for Red Hat Storage solutions will be available to certified partners in the Red Hat Connect for Business Partners portal.

“By making Ceph Storage and Gluster Storage enterprise-procurement friendly, Red Hat is positioning itself as a formidable IT storage supplier,” said Ashish Nadkarni, program director at analyst IDC.

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.”

Adobe tweaks Document Cloud to unblock Dropbox and make e-signing easier

AdobeAdobe has announced two improvements to document management in the cloud, by making PDF files more manageable in Dropbox and solving one of the snags in electronic document signing.

One billion users of Adobe Acrobat DC and Adobe Acrobat Reader will now be able to edit PDFs as they sit in Dropbox folders, the vendor has announced, as it has worked with Dropbox to simplify the way that PDF files can be edited with Adobe apps.

According to Adobe, the billion mobile devices and desktop computers in the world that have Adobe Acrobat software contain 18 billion PDF files whose functions are limited by Dropbox. The blockage that stopped users from editing those files has now been removed as part of a drive to make Adobe Document Cloud more efficient, the vendor claims.

The improvement was achieved after the two companies integrated their applications and services on mobile devices, desktops and the web, according to Kevin M. Lynch, general manager of Adobe Document Cloud.

Users can now view and edit PDF files stored in their Dropbox Basic, Pro and Dropbox for Business accounts with any changes automatically saved back to Dropbox. Collaboration has also been simplified, Abode claims, as Acrobat DC users can now execute the full range of tasks promised by the application. Editing text on PDF files, organising pages and converting documents to their original format will no longer be hindered by Dropbox environment. Meanwhile, the synchronisation of documents will no longer be restricted by glitches between Adobe and Dropbox operating software.

Adobe has had to adjust as customers have constantly evolved, said Lynch. “Today, mobile has become the rule and people expect to complete work quickly and simply wherever and whenever they need. Our work with Dropbox will help Document Cloud customers be more productive,” said Lynch.

Adobe has also created new options for e-signing in Document Cloud in a bid to make electronic document management easier. New functions include a visual drag-and-drop Workflow Designer, digital signatures (a more advanced secure form of e-signatures) and Enterprise Mobility Management and Signature Capture.

Adobe said it has worked with Workday, Salesforce and Ariba to add e-signing options to their respective HR, sales, procurement and legal systems.

Bryan Lamkin, Adobe digital media’s general manager, promised, “a new level of efficiency”.

Dell said to be considering EMC acquisition

Dell serversComputing giant Dell is in advanced talks to buy storage company EMC according to a WSJ report, citing the inevitable people familiar with the matter.

A full acquisition seems unlikely since EMC is around double the size of Dell if you compare its $50 billion market cap with the $25 billion is cost to take Dell private. More probable would be for Dell to keep just the storage part of EMC, while spinning off VMware, which is mostly owned by EMC.

Another report from Re/code, which was itself acquired from the WSJ by Vox Media earlier this year, insists only the storage part of EMC has ever been on the table. It also makes the point that Dell would have to add significantly to its current debt pile of $12 billion to fund any deal.

If this move did go ahead it would set a new record for the value of tech-only M&A, topping the $37 billion Avago is paying for Broadcom. Dell is increasingly been moving towards enterprise IT, and away from PCs, since it was taken private by its founder. It has often been outbid by the likes of HP for in enterprise IT acquisitions in the past and EMC may be viewed as a relative bargain, having failed to recover its dotcom bubble highs.

IBM acquires storage vendor Cleversafe in hybrid cloud play

IBMEnterprise IT giant IBM has announced it will be acquiring object-based storage software and appliances vendor Cleversafe to boost its storage and hybrid cloud offering.

IBM will integrate the Cleversafe portfolio into its IBM Cloud business unit. The growth in the amount of unstructured data companies are looking to process, coupled with the need to find a balance between on-premise and cloud storage deployments, has created the demand for more storage options and greater flexibility, according to IBM.

“Today a massive digital transformation is underway as organizations increasingly turn to cloud computing for innovative ways to manage more complex business operations and increasing volumes of data in a secure and effective way,” said Robert LeBlanc, SVP of IBM Cloud. “Cleversafe, a pioneer in object storage, will add to our efforts to help clients overcome these challenges by extending and strengthening our cloud storage strategy, as well as our portfolio.”

“IBM is an innovator and leader in cloud and storage and we’re excited about the opportunities that lay ahead once this transaction closes,” said John Morris, President and CEO of Cleversafe. “Together with IBM we can extend our object storage leadership position to address the broadest set of workloads for clients with the most expansive set of object-based solutions.”

The terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed, but Cleversafe employs 210 people so the size of the acquisition is likely to be in the tens of million dollars.

Incidentally IBM has also announced a new mobile cloud security solution aimed at enterprise, which is a combination of products from both companies.

“More employees are using mobile devices to be more productive. At the same time, data and apps are moving to the cloud. The changes are exciting, but security needs to be top-of-mind,” said Steve McGaw, CMO of AT&T Business Solutions. “Trusted collaborators like IBM are helping us better address changing business models. Together we’re giving options to deliver highly secure mobile access to cloud apps and data.”

Backblaze launches cheap cloud storage service

BackBlaze B2 screenBackup service provider Backblaze has made a cloud storage service available for beta testing. When launched it could provide businesses with a cheap alternative to the Amazon S3 and the storage services bundled with Microsoft Azure and Google’s Cloud.

According to sources, Backblaze B2 will offer a free tier of service of up to 10GB storage, with 1GB/ per day of outbound traffic and unlimited inbound bandwidth. Developers will be able to access it through an API and command-line interface, but the service will also offer a web interface for less technical users.

Launched in 2007 Backblaze stores 150 petabytes of backup data and over 10 billion files on its servers, having built its own storage pods and software as a policy. Now, it intends to use this infrastructure building knowledge to offer a competitive cloud storage service, according to CEO Gleb Budman.

“We spent 90 per cent of our time and energy on building out the cloud storage and only 10 per cent on the front end,” Glebman told Tech Crunch. The stability of its backup service technology persuaded many users to extend the service into data storage. In response to customer demand,

Backblaze’s engineers spent a year working on the software to make this possible. Now the company is preparing to launch a business to business service that, it says, can compete with the cloud storage market’s incumbents on price and availability.

Backblaze’s service, when launched, will be half the price of Amazon Glacier, and ‘about a fourth’ of Amazon’s S3 service, according to sources. “Storage is still expensive,” Glebman said.

Though the primary use for Backblaze B2 will be to store images, videos and other documents, Budman said he expects some users to use it to store large research data sets.

Amazon Web Services to offer new hierarchical storage options after customer feedback

amazon awsAmazon Web services (AWS) is adding a new storage class to speed up the retrieval of frequently accessed information.

The announcement was made by AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr on his company blog. Customer feedback had made AWS conduct an analysis of usage patterns, Barr said. AWS’s analytical team discovered that many customers store rarely-read backup and log files, which compete for resources with shared documents or raw data that need immediate analysis. Most users have frequent activity with their files shortly after uploading them after which activity drops off significantly with age. Information that’s important but not immediately urgent needs to be addressed through a new storage model, said Barr.

In response AWS has unveiled a new S3 Standard, within which there is a hierarchy of pricing options, based on the frequency of access. Customers now have the choice of three S3 storage classes, Standard, Standard – IA (infrequent access) and Glacier. All still offer the same level of 99.999999999 per cent durability.‎ The IA Standard for infrequent access has a service level agreement (SLA) of 99 per cent availability and is priced accordingly. Prices start at $0.0125 per gigabyte per month with a 30 day minimum storage duration for billing and a $0.01 per gigabyte charge for retrieval. The usual data transfer and request charges apply.

For billing purposes, objects that are smaller than 128 kilobytes are charged for 128 kilobytes of storage. AWS says this new pricing model will make its storage class more economical for long-term storage, backups and disaster recovery.

AWS has also introduced a lifecycle policy option, in a system that emulates the hierarchical storage model of centralised computing. Users can now create policies that will automate the movement of data between Amazon S3 storage classes over time. Typically, according to Barr, uploaded data using the Standard storage class will be moved by customers to Standard IA class when it’s 30 days old, and on to the Amazon Glacier class after another 60 days, where data storage will $0.01 per gigabyte per month.

Ctera now integrated with HP’s hybrid cloud manager

Cloud storageCtera Networks says it has integrated its storage and data management systems with HP’s cloud service automation (HP CSA) as it seeks way to simplify the management of enterprise file services across hybrid clouds.

The HP CSA ‘architecture’ now officially recognises and includes Ctera’s Enterprise File Services platform. The logic of the collaboration is that as the HP service helps companies build private and hybrid clouds they will need tighter data management in order to deliver new services to enterprise users, according to the vendors.

Ctera, which specialises in remote site storage, data protection, file synchronisation, file sharing and mobile collaboration services, has moved to make it easier to get those services on HP’s systems. According to Ctera, the new services can now be run on any organization’s HP CSA managed private or virtual private cloud infrastructure.

Enterprises that embrace the cloud need to modernise their file services and IT delivery models, according to Jeff Denworth, Ctera’s marketing SVP. The new addition of Ctera to HP CSA means they can easily manage file services from a single control point and quickly roll out the apps using a self-service portal, Denworth said.

“HP CSA helps IT managers become organisational heroes by accelerating the deployment of private and hybrid clouds and IT services,” said Denworth. The partnership with HP will result in a ‘broad suite’ of file services, increased agility and cheaper hybrid cloud services, according to Denworth.

The partnership should make things simpler for cloud managers, who are being forced to take on several roles, according to Atul Garg, HP’s general manager of cloud automation. “Today’s IT teams are becoming cloud services brokers, managing various products and services across hybrid environments and fundamentally changing how they deliver value to the broader organisation,” said Garg. Now file services can be deployed easily to tens of thousands of users, said Garg.

The Storage (R)Evolution or The Storage Superstorm?

The storage market is changing, and it isn’t changing slowly. While traditional storage vendors still dominate the revenue and units sold market share, IDC concludes that direct sales to hyperscale (cloud scale, rack scale) service providers are dominating sales of storage. Hyperscale is the ability of an architecture to scale appropriately as increased demand is added to the system; hyperscale datacenters are the type run by Facebook, Amazon, and Google. 

Quote to remember:

“…cloud-based storage, integrated systems, software-defined storage, and flash-optimized storage systems <are selling> at the expense of traditional external arrays.”

In my opinion, this is like the leading edge of a thunderstorm supercell or a “Sandy” Superstorm – the changes that are behind this trend will be tornadoes of upheaval in the datacenter technology business. As cloud services implementations accelerate and software defined storage services proliferate, the impact will be felt not only in the storage market, but also in the server and networking markets. These changes will be reflected in how solutions providers, consulting firms, and VAR/DVARs will help the commercial market solve their technology and business challenges.

EMC is still number one by a very large margin, although down 4% year over year. HP is up nearly 9%; IBM and NetApp are way down. EMC overall (with NAS) has 32.4% revenue share; NetApp number 2 with 12.3%. Even with the apparent domination of the storage vendor market, it is obvious to EMC, their investors, and storage analysts everywhere (including yours truly) that the handwriting on the wall says they must adapt or become irrelevant. The list of great technology firms that didn’t adapt is long, even in New England alone. Digital Equipment Corporation is just one example.

Is EMC next? Not if the leadership team has anything to say about it. The recent announcements by VMware (EMC majority owned) at VMworld 2015 show not only the renewed emphasis on hybrid cloud services but also the intensive focus on software defined storage initiatives enabling the storage stack to be centrally managed within the vSphere Hypervisor. VMware vSphere APIs for IO Filtering are focused on enabling third party data services, such as replication, as part of vSphere Storage Policy-Based Management, the framework for software-defined storage services in vSphere.

EMC is clearly doubling down on the move to Hybrid Clouds with their Federation EMC Hybrid Cloud, as well as all the VMware vCloud Air initiatives. GreenPages is exploring and advising their customers on ways to develop a hybrid cloud strategy, and this includes engaging the EMC FEHC team as well as the VMware vCloud Air­ solution. EMC isn’t the only traditional disk array vendor to explore a cloud strategy, but it seems to be much further along than the others.

Software Defined Storage is the technology to keep an eye on. DataCore and FalconStor software dominated this space before it was even called SDS by default – there were no other SDS solutions out there. EMC came back in a big way with ViPR, arguably the most advanced “true” software defined storage solution in the market place now. Some of the other software-only vendors surging in this space, where software manages advanced data services across different arrays, like provisioning, deduplication, tiering, replication and snapshots, include Nexenta, Hedvig and others. Vendor SDS is a valid share of the market and is enabled by storage virtualization solutions by IBM, NetApp and others. Once “virtualized,” the vendor software enables cross platform data services. Other software-enabled platforms for advanced storage solutions include Coho Data and Pivot3. Hyperconverged solutions such as VSAN, SimpliVity or Nutanix offer more options to new datacenter solutions that don’t include a traditional storage array. “Tier 2” storage platforms such as Nexsan can benefit from this surge because, while the hardware platforms are solid and well-built, those companies haven’t invested as much or as long in the add-on software services that NetApp (for example) has. With advanced SDS solutions in place, this tier of storage can step up with a more “commodity” priced solution for advanced storage solutions.

In addition to the Hybrid Cloud diversification strategy, EMC and other traditional storage manufacturers are keeping a wary eye on the non-traditional vendors such as Nimble Storage, which is offering innovative and easy-to-use alternatives to the core EMC market. There are also a myriad of startups developing new storage services such as Coho, Rubrik, Nexenta, CleverSafe and others. The All Flash Array market is exploding with advanced solutions made possible by the growing maturity of the flash technology and the proliferation of new software designed to leverage the uniqueness of flash storage. Pure Storage grabbed early market share, followed by XtremIO (EMC), but SolidFire, Nexenta, Coho and Kaminario have developed competitive solutions that range from service provider oriented products to software defined storage services leveraging commodity flash storage.

 

What does this coming superstorm of change mean to you, your company, and your data center strategy? It means that when you are developing a strategic plan for your storage refreshes or datacenter refreshes, you have more options than ever to reduce total cost of ownership, add advanced data services such as disaster recovery or integrated backups, and replace parts (or the whole) of your datacenter storage, server and networking stacks. Contact us today to continue this discussion and see where it leads you. 

 

 

 

 

 

By Randy Weis, Principal Architect