Viva Las Vegas: See you at Dell EMC World 2017!

DellEMCWorld 2017 logoI’m excited to head back to Las Vegas again, this time for Dell EMC World 2017 taking place on 8-11 May! This will be my 6th trip to Las Vegas for Dell EMC World over the years, and as always I’ll try to get the most out of these 3,5 days of conference. Which might be something a bit different compared to the previous years.

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SNIA: Avoiding tail latency by failing IO operations on purpose

SNIA logoConsistency and predictability matter. You expect Google to answer your search query within a second. If it takes two seconds, that is slow but ok. Much longer and you will probably hit refresh because ‘it’s broken and maybe that will fix it’.

There are many examples that could substitute the scenario above. Starting a Netflix movie, refreshing your Facebook timeline, or powering on an Azure VM. Or in your business: retrieving an MRI scan or patient data, compiling a 3D model, or listing all POs from last month.

Ensuring your service can meet this demand of predictability and consistency requires a multifaceted approach, both in hardware and procedures. You can have a modern hypervisor environment with fast hardware, but if you allow a substantially lower spec system in the cluster, performance will not be consistent. What happens when a virtual machine moves to the lower spec system and suddenly takes longer to finish a query?

Similarly, in storage, tiering across different disk types helps improve TCO. However, what happens when data trickles down to the slowest tier? Achieving that lower TCO comes with the tradeoff of less latency predictability.

These challenges are not new. If they impact user experience too much, you can usually work around them. For example, ensure your data is moved to a faster tier in time. If you have a lot of budget, maybe forgo the slowest & cheapest NL-SAS tier and stick to SAS & SSD. But what if the source of the latency inconsistency is something internal to a component, like a drive?

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The EMC Elect are dead; long live the Dell EMC Elect 2017!

DellEMCElect logoThe EMC Elect are dead, long live the Dell EMC Elect!

Last year Dell acquired EMC and merged all companies under the Dell Technologies umbrella. It was inevitable that both the Dell and EMC social media influencer programs were going to merge. You can read a bit about the nomination process and the merger of both programs over here.

Since the Dell EMC Elect program selects its members based on peer recognition, there needs to be an initial batch of members to do the vetting. These are the Dell EMC Elect founders, whom have got the daunting task of reviewing each and every nomination. I can spot a couple of veteran names in there, such as Mark, Allen, Dan and Victor. My hat’s off to them for putting in the grunt work for this year!

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Intel SPDK and NVMe-oF will accelerate NVMe adoption rates

Intel logoOnce upon a time there was a data center filled with racks of physical servers. Thanks to hypervisors such as VMware ESX it was possible to virtualize these systems and run them as virtual machines, using less hardware. This had a lot of advantages in terms of compute efficiency, ease of management and deployment/DR agility.

To enable many of the hypervisor features such as VMotion, HA and DRS, the data of the virtual machine had to be located on a shared storage system. This had an extra benefit: it’s easier to hand out pieces of a big pool of shared storage, than to predict capacity requirements for 100’s of individual servers. Some servers might need a lot of capacity (file servers), some might need just enough for an OS and maybe a web server application. This meant that the move to centralized storage was also beneficial from a capacity allocation perspective.

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Say Hello to the Dell EMC Elect!

Dell EMC Elect 2017 logoLast year Dell acquired EMC. EMC was rebranded to “Dell EMC” and moved under the Dell Technologies umbrella. In the last couple of months we could see the websites, emailing lists and Twitter accounts change from EMC to Dell EMC, etc. So it was inevitable that the EMC Elect program was going to change as well. In the meantime Dell also had an influencer program called the Dell Tech Centre Rockstars. Going forward, these two programs will merge and, as of today, be known as the Dell EMC Elect!

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Storage Field Day 12: storage drop bears reunited!

SFD LogoI’m excited to announce I’ll be attending Storage Field Day 12! During the event we’ll talk storage technology for three days, starting on March 8th. There’s an impressive line-up of companies and delegates gathering in Silicon Valley and of course we’ll live stream the presentations for the folks back home, who can pitch in over Twitter. Did I mention the line-up of companies already? Oh boy!

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Users don’t care if an application is supported, as long as it works

Working vs SupportedLast week we migrated several Oracle databases to a new DBaaS platform. The company I’m working for is in the midst of a datacenter migration to a new cloud provider. Since the Oracle databases were located on old and very expensive Oracle machines, we looked for opportunities to optimize and reduce costs. After much debate, we decided to move all databases to a shared Oracle Exadata platform. Much faster, and much cheaper: the hardware is more expensive, but you win it back with lower licensing costs (less sockets used).

All the Oracle database migrations went pretty well: stop app, export database, transfer to new DC, import & start database. The app teams updated their connection strings and tested the apps. Pretty painless! However there were also some scripts working alongside the databases, mainly for data loads. Server names changed and some scripts had to be moved from the old database servers to the application servers.

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Building a hybrid cloud with Avere

Avere logoThere’s no denying that off-premises cloud services are growing. Just look at the year-to-year growth of big public cloud providers. There’s big potential if you focus on two aspects of cloud. The first is speeding up access to data that is potentially not located in the same city or even geographic area. The second is supporting new protocols and storage methodologies that are suited for cloud native applications. One player in this area of IT is Avere, which aims to connect on-premises storage and compute to their siblings in the cloud.

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DellEMCWorld 2016 – I’m impressed!

My DellEMCWorld ride from Los Angeles to AustinWhen the news about the Dell and EMC merger became public last year, I was somewhat skeptical. I’ve had some really sketchy experiences with Dell servers and storage products, so it didn’t feel like a step forward. At the same time there was the organizational and support aspect. Mergers usually result in confusion for both sales processes and us people in the field having to glue all the products together. Not something I was looking forward to.

Lo and behold: I got an invite from the EMC Elect program to attend DellEMCWorld in Austin, Texas! This was my chance to fly over there and experience the merger announcements firsthand, plus ask questions. So I did! And I have to say: I was impressed.

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Hardware has set the pace for latency, time for software to catch up

I can’t recall the last storage system installation that didn’t have some amount of solid state drives in its configuration. And for good reason: we’re rapidly getting used to the performance benefits of SSD technology. Faster applications usually result in real business value. The doctor treating patients can get his paperwork done faster and thus has time for more patients in a day. Or the batch job processing customer mailing lists or CGI renderings completes sooner, giving you a faster time to market.

To reduce the application wait times even further, solid state drives need to be able to achieve even lower latencies. Just reducing the media latency won’t cut it anymore: the software component in the chain needs to catch up. Intel is doing just that with Storage Performance Development Kit (SPDK).

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