The Future of NAS is Object Storage

For as long as I can remember, block based storage has been the way you achieve performance and reliability in your datacenter.  Almost all of the industry performance leaders tended to be block based.  Even when you add file services, it simply sits on top of this block based storage.  Now if you are a long time reader of this blog, you’ll know that i have written extensively on this subject and the latest and greatest offerings of my former employer, but there is a change coming to datacenter storage, and this change is object based!

What’s driving this change?  Simply put: Cloud.  The largest cloud based service providers all use object based storage, and as cloud becomes a bigger part of an it strategy, adopting a similar technology on-premises makes this integration easier.  Using cloud storage in the enterprise gets expensive though, so its best to be smart about how you implement it in your infrastructure.  In comes Scality RING

Scality RING

Scality RING has been an ever evolving over the past several years, starting as a data protection and replication product and evolving into a full fledged enterprise software defined storage platform.  At Storage Field Day 11 (#SFD11) I had the pleasure of meeting with them and learning about their latest version, the 6.0 release.

Scality RING 6.0

So what is RING?  RING is a feature rich software defined storage platform designed to run on commodity x86 hardware that scales up and out!  It supports NFS, SMB, and FUSE.  It also supports Amazon S3, OpenStack, and other object APIs.  On the data protection side, RING gains added resiliency through the use of erasure coding, replication, and geo-distribution.

Scality RING

RINGs architecture is based on a CHORD peer-to-peer to peer algorithm that allows it to scale out and add nodes with ease.  This architecture also allows the system to keep it’s performance at scale due to local lookup tables on each node, increasing it’s ability to do a distributed search across the system when looking for data.

CHORD Architecture

The beauty of this is that it all stitches together simply.  Got a computer running Linux with some local drives?  Good, now you have a Scality node.  So if you need to add more storage, just pick up another computer and install the software on it.  Add enough of these together, and you have a massive scale out system in the petabytes range.

My Thoughts

After seeing several options for offering on-premises scale out storage, I think Scality is one of the more robust solutions.  Its clear now, in it’s 6th major revision of it’s software, that they are listening to their customers and growing from a niche product into a full fledged enterprise workhorse.  I also found it particularly interesting that they hired several of their developers from a hackathon they did.  This ended up being so successful for them that they are doing this again.

I also want to thank Stephen Foskett of Gestalt IT and the rest of the Tech Field Day staff for putting together a great event.  If you want to see the full Scality presentation, head on over to the tech field day website.

I’m headed to Storage Field Day 11!

Storage Field DayWe’re just 1 week away from Storage Field Day 11 and I’m proud to say I’ll be there as a delegate!  For those of you who don’t know, the Tech Field Day series (a GestaltIT production) is a chance for vendors and members of the tech community to come together and discus their latest product innovations.  These sessions are broadcast live and are joined by the greater community on twitter.  Now for those of you familiar with the process, you might be saying “Sean, that was an over simplified explanation” and you’re right, it was.  Delegates are highly technical and won’t pull any punches when asking questions, so presenters need to be on top of their game and knowledgeable about all aspects of the products.  Nothing is really off limits, the only rule is no throwing things.

 

What companies will be presenting?

Traditionally with most Field Day events, 8 companies will present to the delegates.  They range from large established companies down to those coming out of stealth (this is a great type of event for coming out of stealth btw).  So lets look at the list of presenters:

Storage Field Day 11 Companies

As you can see, we have some well established vendors, some new ones, and 2 blank spaces (those would be the stealth companies).  I expect we’ll see some updates on storage mediums (Both spinning disk and Flash) as well as storage systems (Both Hardware and Software).

So what’s next?

I’m not really sure what is next.  While storage field day is not new to me (You’ll see me in the background of the EMC presentation at SFD5), I’ve never been a delegate before.  I’m looking forward to being on the other side of this and learning a lot.  So be sure to tune in next week and join in the conversation on twitter using the #SFD11 hashtag!

My thoughts on VMworld 2016

VMworld 2016This week, geeks of the world flocked to Las Vegas to celebrate all things datacenter and virtualization.  This was my 5th VMworld (and my first time not attending as a vendor), but my first VMworld in Vegas.  Now, as I sit here in the airport waiting to return home, i wanted to reflect on my thoughts of the show.

 

Announcements

I found the announcements from VMware a bit disappointing.  There, I’ve said it!  The things that were announced were great as part of a vision and forward looking direction that VMware is headed.  However these announcements weren’t really new and were discussed last year as well.  This time however they were a lot more polished and had working demos.  Its great to see that VMware is accepting that people will chose other clouds for their workloads.  But while cloud workloads may be the future, many people are not there yet.

I found the lack of announcements around whats coming for traditional infrastructure (also known as private cloud) a bit disturbing.  In my experiences with customers, very few of them are using the cloud.  The reason being that they aren’t developing their own apps, they are using someone else’s, and those still install into traditional VMs.  I don’t believe we will see a bigger shift to cloud and container based workloads until the workload vendors start adopting them.

 

Infrastructure Trends

Walking around the show floor, it was very clear that there has been a shift in traditional infrastructure.  Even from the big players, you didn’t see any mention of a spinning disk array.  It was either all flashed or converged.  Which then showed off 2 trends:  A race to the top and a race to the bottom.  So what do i mean by that?  In a race to the top, these vendors are saying that they have the best or the fastest arrays.  One product that can handle anything thats thrown at it, so you know you have the best out there, and it also comes with a top tier price too.  Then the other trend, the race to the bottom.  This was a “do more with less” approach i was seeing.  These vendors were trying to put up the impressive numbers without braking the bank through innovative technology.  You saw this through your newer vendors, who have a great idea, but haven’t necessarily gone through many revision cycles to add to or refine their offerings.  I’m looking for big things from this space as i still believe price dictates the market.

You also saw this same trend in the converged space.  It seems like this is the area with the most growth and just about everyone had some sort of a converged offering.  Again, you have major players in this space that offer a full featured converged platform to address the majority of a company’s needs.  And you also have the race to the bottom, where several companies were creating virtual san offerings trying to put out impressive performance numbers with very few disks.  I honestly wonder what the landscape will be like in a few years as it becomes increasingly crowded.  Something has to give, and i expect we will see a large change in the number of vendors in this space in just a few years time.

 

Community

The community at VMworld has already been a great experience, and this year was no exception.  It was great to see so many friends and almost felt like a family reunion.  While the vExpert community is increasing, it’s great to see vendors still taking the time to engage these people.  There are two vendors that i want to single out in particular.  The first, Cohesity.  They took the time ahead of VMworld to talk to the vExpert community, and went above and beyond to reward them for their hard work at the show.  The backpack and show survival kit was a great offering and i was really impressed with the quality and effort put into it

The second was Datrium.  I think this year is a story they will be telling for years to come and a great lesson learned.  Their booth staff was calm and patient while secretly having a meltdown over missing Raspberry PIs.  I’m proud of them that in the end they were able to pull it off, even if that meant missing evening activities and staying up till 2 in the morning assembling these things.  They came out great, and again I want to thank them for supporting the vExpert community.

The vExpert community is increasing in size each year, and having a place to congregate in the bloggers area was awesome.  So many people are giving back to the community and i’m proud to support as many of them as i can.  My laptop came in relatively empty, and now its hard to  find any free space on it.

Final Thoughts

VMworld is always a great experience, and this year was no exception.  While vegas is cheaper, doing a show in August  there is just too darn hot.  Its clear that there is a shift in the landscape going on, but you can’t forget about those customers who aren’t constantly living on the cutting edge.  And the community around the show is great, you will find amazing people to talk to all around the show and i encourage you to do that.  Finally, i want to give a shout out to Battle Bots.  Having these robots at the show was awesome and i can’t wait to see who wins in the finale tonight!

 

SimpliVity: The all inclusive HCI solution gets even better!

Its been a while since I’ve wrote about SimpliVity, and while I may not be there anymore, I still like to stay up to date.  Today, SimpliVity announces some great enhancements that really build in the areas that really count.

SimpliVity RapidDR

When i was doing demo’s of the OmniStack software, there were 4 aspects of the built in data protection that i would always show off: Backup, Restore, Clone, and Move.  While these make up the basic components of a disaster recovery plan, what was lacking was the automation piece.  Enter RapidDR.

RapidDR provides the automation and work flows that tie all the data protection functionality together and deliver a truly comprehensive solution.  Now users can schedule power on order, network and resource changes, as well as external scripts to run as part of a simple wizard.  RapidDR will utilize Simplivity’s built in rapid restore technology to get customers up and running with a useable VM and thus reducing the amount of time it takes to recover from an incident.

SimpliVity RapidDR

This enhancement also improves compliance as well.  All the scripts and recovery steps are self documenting to help improve compliance and understanding, and cut down on the time and complexity of manually building run books.

MS SQL specific backups

While application aware backups had been a part of SimpliVity since the initial version, i noticed often that customers would stack it with another SQL specific backup product to get all the functionality they needed.  Now, with additional enhancements, those are a thing of the past.  Now, when you backup a SQL server, you can do things like log truncation.  And when you restore the VM, it will run through the entire restore and bring SQL server back to a running configuration, rather than having to restore the database from within.

SimpliVity All Flash Node

Saving the best for last, this has been something I’ve been waiting for since day 1 at SimpliVity.  If you thought OmniStack was fast before, wait till it’s loaded up with flash.  This update replaces the spinning disk with 1.6TB Intel SSDs.  These nodes will come in equivalent specs to the larger nodes as far as CPU, RAM, and storage, while delivering up to 5x increased performance.  As already validated by the AFA market, adding flash is a great way to keep up with the demands of an ever expanding environment and deliver predictable performance.  Combine that with the rest of the enhancements already offered and you have a very robust datacenter in a box.

SimpliVity All Flash Node

Conclusion

As a presales engineer, its clear that product management has been listening to feedback as these 3 were highly requested features and I’m glad to see them being brought to market as early as Q4 2016 (aka next quarter).  If you are attending VMworld, be sure to stop by the booth and check this out.  And if you are attending the show, drop me a line in the comments and lets meet up!

Cheap and Simple MDM for the Masses!

Airwatch-by-vmware-logoAs businesses expand, IT staffs often do not.  When more and more people are added to the company, you will need a way to manage everyone’s devices.  Whether you have corporate secrets to protect, a BYOD policy to enforce, or you just want people to stop asking you for the Wi-Fi password, mobile device management is becoming a bigger part of day to day operations.  Today, VMware is proud to announce the addition of a new product, Airwatch Express!

Airwatch Express is the MDM-as-a-service offering that allows companies to manage mobile devices without going through a major investment in time or resources.  At only $2.50/month/device, this offering allows a 100% cloud based management of devices that comes in at almost half the current pricing.

AirWatch Express Blueprint_Page_05

So what do you get in this offering.  Well first, it’s 100% cloud based.  No need to install and setup a solution on premises.  Administrators manage devices by creating blueprints (similar to vRealize Automation).  The cloud based portal walks them through 7 steps including the type of devices they want to configure, what applications are required to be installed or need to be blocked (yes you can block things like youtube), as well as mail, Wi-Fi, and encryption settings.  You then assign these blueprints to your users (by either creating them in the website or using the active directory connector plugin).  It couldn’t be any simpler.

AirWatch Express Blueprint_Page_08

As someone who has worked for a startup that had a single digit sized IT team, yet was hiring 10 new employees a week, this is a great offering to get the job done and not stress out the IT staff.  While Airwatch Express might not be the most feature rich offering (it is designed as an entry level product), buyers can upgrade to other versions of Airwatch that might suit their needs better.

The vSphere C# client is dead! Long live the C# client!

Web Client All The ThingsToday VMware announced that it will no longer be supporting the C# client in the next major version of vSphere.  This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  VMware has been shifting towards this for some time now as they keep improving on their web interface.  Earlier, other advanced vSphere functionality as well as  plugins such as SRM went web client only.  With additions of the embedded host client and a new HTML5 web client fling, it’s clear that this will be the future of GUI management going forward.

During a recent discussion on this news, it’s clear there are some concerns about the announcement and the plans going forward.  Right now there is a percentage of the user base that have to use both clients to successfully manage their vSphere environment.  My biggest concern revolves around the Client Integration Plugin, which seems to have issues depending on what browser that you want to use.  Other things like VUM don’t really work that well in the web client either (not to mention there is still a windows dependency on the VUM server currently).  These are all hurdles that VMware will need to overcome, and I’m sure they can in time, the question is will they be ready on GA date.

The biggest hurdle of all will be user acceptance and the learning curve associated with it.  There are a lot of users that still like the way the C# client is laid out and avoid the web client at all costs.  I know a lot of that was based on the speed of the interface.  The jump from 5.5 –> 6.0 saw vast improvements in speed and performance, and I’m sure the next major version will see gains as well.

At this point, my suggestion to everyone is to start getting used to the web client as it is the future of GUI management for vSphere.  If you are running 5.5 or 6.0, go ahead and give it a try (you might need to separately install the web client server depending on your vSphere environment).  If you are running something older, well now might be a good time to start planning an upgrade!

Trying something new

LogicsONE_2014_RAll of my professional life (a little over 6 years now) I have worked in the vendor space.  Starting at EMC straight out of college, and then most recently at the startup SimpliVity.  Next week, this all changes as I make a shift to the channel.  Starting Monday, I will officially begin the next phase in my career as an Advanced Virtualization Consultant at LogicsOne.  I’ll be assisting clients with planning VMware automation, deployments, and datacenter transformations and be that trusted advisor they can rely on.  For those of you not familiar with LogicsOne, they are a leader in consulting, integration, and management of virtual and cloud based environments.  In 2012, LogicsOne was acquired by GreenPages, a large value added reseller operating up and down the east coast.  They continue to maintain the LogicsOne brand and values and operate it under their professional services division.

I’m excited for this move.  Vendor life is all that I’ve know and now I get to take what I’ve learned about storage, virtualization, and hyperconvergence and apply it to something new.  I’m happy to be trying a new side of the industry and get exposure to new technologies and their integration with each other.  I still plan to be a big part of the VMware and virtualization community, so expect to see me at events and meetups.

 

Turning VDI up to 11!

11It’s an exciting time in the world of HCI.  More and more people are starting to realize the benefits of consolidating their environments down to a smaller footprint.  Today, SimpliVity is taking that a step further and cranking up VDI density to 11!  Building on the momentum of the OmniStack 3.0 release, a new software update greatly improves the time to deployment and performance of VDI workloads while maintaining predictable results as you scale.  While you can read the full announcement here, I want to highlight a few of the results:

  • 1000 linked clones in 4 nodes
  • 1000 desktops in 70 minutes
  • 1000 logins in 1000 seconds

These are some pretty bold claims, and to back that up, they are all validated by LoginVSI benchmarks!

1000 linked clones in 4 nodes

So before I dive into these claims, a little background information about the environment.  These tests were performed on the all new OmniCube CN-2400 platform.  This platform give a 15%-20% boost over the CN-2200 and brings the Intel Haswell chipset to a lower cost solution.  As with all the OmniCube offerings, RAM and CPU are adjustable to fit your needs.  CN-24004 of the CN-2400s were placed in a cluster and each were given 384 gigs of ram.  As for the different type of VMs used, they were based on the industry standards for Task Worker, Office Worker, and Knowledge Worker.  Using Windows 7 64 bit, they were given 1 gig of ram, 1.5, and 2 gigs respectively.  So lets take a look at the first claim.  Loading 1000 desktops into this size of an environment delivers unheard of density in the HCI space.

1000 desktops in 70 minutes

One of the major stresses on a VDI environment is the amount of time it takes to provision desktops.  Whether you are deploying a new OS, refreshing the existing image after an update, or bringing up your environment after a disaster, users don’t want to have to wait around to get access to their work, and likewise administrators don’t want to spend all night doing maintenance (IT admins need sleep too!).

1000 linked clones in 70 minutes

As you can see from the graph above, the number of linked clone desktops scaled up linearly as they registered a desktop check-in in the Horizon View logs.  Performance of the virtual desktops did not take a hit either as the number of instances increase as seen in the graph below.

1000 linked clones performance

1000 logins in 1000 seconds

Login storms, love them or hate them, it’s a part of doing business.  Every morning, users all login around the same time, and infrastructure needs to be able to handle that.  For this test, SimpliVity wanted to see just how much load could be put on the system during a scenario such as this, so the login time was adjusted to occur every second (a 2.8x increase over the industry standard for testing) which means that by 1000 seconds, all 1000 desktops will have performed a login.

1000 logins 1000 secondsI think the results here speak for themselves.  As the number of active sessions increases, performance remains steady and well below the threshold where users would see problems.

The full results of all the testing is posted here.  I’m really excited by this development and can’t wait to see what can be achieved in the future.

Introducing OmniStack 3.0 from SimpliVity

new-and-improvedToday I’m pleased to announce some exciting new features that i’ve been looking forward to since I joined SimpliVity 3 months ago.  Today we announced version 3.0 of our OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform.  This new version provides improvements across the board as well as additional features.  There’s something for everyone!

Under the hood, improvements have been made that have generated, on average, a 30% performance gain in high IO workloads such as exchange and SQL.  Improvements have also been made to dramatically increase the number of cubes you can have in  single datacenter and a federation, allowing for greater datacenter consolidation.

 

Unified Protected ROBO Solution

The first new change to OmniStack revolves around a new Unified Protected ROBO Solution with 2 goals in mind: (A) Unified management of all remote sites and (B) Ease of data protection for all remote sites.  With that in mind, a new Hub-and-Spoke topology was designed into the product.

ROBO_Hub_Spoke

This new design will cut down on the amount of cross chatter from remote sites by only communicating directly with the central cluster, freeing up bandwidth for essential traffic.  During deployment of the federation, the hub-and-spoke architecture will automatically detect its configuration and add remote sites to the federation without the need for user interaction.

 

OmniCube CN-1200

With a new solution, comes a new product, and this is a perfect opportunity to showcase the new CN-1200!

CN-1200

As you can guess from the model number, this is our smallest offering yet, perfect for ROBO sites that need to run only a handful of critical apps.  This new, smaller OmniCube gives you all the same data protection features you get with its bigger brethren.  I will have a single 8 core CPU, a fixed amount of hard drives, and 2 options for available ram.

 

File Level Restore

While the VM centric approach to backups allows users to backup and restore the entire VM at a time, there are instances where that becomes more work than is really needed.  As a power user, there have been plenty of opportunities where i have needed to restore just a single file, but rolling back an entire system just wasn’t an option.

File_Level_Restore

With the click of a button, administrators can take a single file in windows operating system backups and present them to any VM in the system.  This was a huge feature request from our customers and I’m glad we were able to deliver on it!

Backup Policy ImpactIn addition to the new backup and restore option, a range of changes have been made to administering backups.  Administrators can now do the following to help accommodate changes to business needs:

 

  • Edit existing Backup Policies Rules
  • Edit retention time for existing backups
  • Set retention time for manual backups at creation
  • Create new policy and assign to VMs in bulk
  • Resume/suspend backup policies for maintenance
  • Predicted Total Backup Reporting
  • CLI improvements for enhanced scripting capabilities

 

New Top Workload Viewer

For the user who wants to get more metrics and reporting out of their solution, SimpliVity has added a new top workload viewer to the datacenter overview tab.

Top Workload Viewer

Users can now click on on the performance chart and get a detailed report of what contributed to that metric!  For users trying to figure out what is sucking down all the available resources, you no longer have to turn to an add on solution like vROps.

 

New Deployment Manager

Not every enhancement we worked in was for the end user, this one is for the partners doing deployments.

Deployment ManagerThis new deployment manager will speed up installs by allowing partners to deploy multiple nodes in parallel!

A New Partnership

Last week SimpliVity announced a new partnership to deliver even more choice to customers.  The OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform has been extended onto Lenovo hardware in 3 offerings for small, medium, and large depending on customers needs.

Lenovo PartnershipThis new offering builds on the concept of being hardware agnostic.  We now have 3 different offerings at each size.

Vendor Agnostic

As you can see, SimpliVity has made enhancements to all aspects of the hyperconverged solution.  If you’d like to see these in action, hit me up and i’d be happy to give you a live demo of the new features.  If you’ll be at VMworld, be sure to check out our booth and for those of you who won’t be able to attend, we have a virtual experience where you can see everything SimpliVity has to offer.

Be sure to check back here often as I have more to share in the future!

 

 

VMware Announces vExperts for 2015 Second Half

vExpert-2015-BadgeYesterday, VMware announced the list of vExperts for 2015 Second Half and I am honored to be a part of that list.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the “vExpert” designation is not based on technical expertise, but rather a recognition for excellent engagement and influence within the virtualization communities.  To quote directly from the program:

“Each of these vExperts have demonstrated significant contributions to the community and a willingness to share their expertise with others. Contributing is not always blogging or Twitter as there are many public speakers, book authors, script writers, VMUG leaders, VMTN community moderators and internal champions among this group.”

I am gracious and humbled to be considered an influencer in this community and this has reaffirmed my commitment to knowledge sharing.  I want to thank Corey Romero and the rest of the vExpert team.  Keep up the great work with this program.