Storage Field Day

45 posts

Put all your data on flash with VAST Data

VAST Data logoRoughly 6-7 years ago (around 2012), flash storage became affordable as a performance tier. At least, for the companies I was visiting. It was the typical “flash tier” story: buy 1-2% of flash capacity to speed everything up. All-flash storage systems were still far away into the future for them. They existed, and they were incredibly fast, but they also drove the €/GB price too far up, out of their reach.

However, in the background you could already hear the drums: it is going to be an all-flash future! Not just for performance, but also for capacity/archive storage. In fact, one of those people beating that drum was my colleague Rob. I recall vividly our “not yet!”-discussions…

And it makes sense. Solid-state drives are:

  • More reliable: there are no moving parts in SSDs, and media failures are easier to correct with software/design.
  • Power consumption is very low at rest: there is no little motor to keep platters spinning 24/7.
  • Faster: the number of heads and the rotational speed of the platters limit a hard drive’s performance. Not so with flash!

They are still quite expensive, looking at €/TB. Fortunately, cost is coming down too. The last year or two, all flash arrays have taken flight in general-purpose workloads. Personally, I have not installed a traditional tiered SAN storage system in over a year anymore. Hyper-converged infrastructure: same story, all flash. The development of newer, cheaper types of QLC flash only helps close the gap in €/GB between HDD and SSD. But there is still a 20x gap. And one company we met at Storage Field Day 18 has a pretty solid plan to bridge that gap: VAST Data.

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The fast WekaIO file system saves you money!

WekaIO file system logoIt is a fact of IT life: hardware becomes faster and more powerful with every new generation on the market. That absolutely applies to CPUs. A few weeks ago at Intel’s Data Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco, Intel presented their new Intel Xeon scalable processors. These beasts now scale up to 56 cores per socket, with up to 8 sockets per system/motherboard. This incredible amount of compute power enables applications to “do things”, whether it’s analytics, machine learning, or running cloud applications.

One thing in common across all applications is that they don’t want to wait for data. As soon as your %iowait is going up, you are wasting your precious and expensive compute power because the storage subsystem is not fast enough. Fortunately, WekaIO wants to make sure this will not be the case for your applications.

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Faster and bigger SSDs enable us to talk about something else than IOps

Bus overload on an old storage array after adding a few SSDs

The first SSDs in our storage arrays were advertised with 2500-3500 IOps per drive. Much quicker than spinning drives, looking at the recommended 140 IOps for a 10k SAS drive. But it was in fact still easy to overload a set of SSDs and reach its max throughput, especially when they were used in a (undersized) caching tier.

A year or so later, when you started adding more flash to a system, the collective “Oomph!” of the Flash drives would overload other components in the storage system. Systems were designed based on spinning media so with the suddenly faster media, busses and CPUs were hammered and couldn’t keep up.

Queue all sorts of creative ways to avoid this bottleneck: faster CPUs, upgrades from FC to multi-lane SAS. Or bigger architectural changes, such as offloading to IO caching cards in the servers themselves (e.g. Fusion-io cards), scale-out systems, etc.

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My brain will be melting at Storage Field Day 18!

SFD LogoStorage Field Day 18 will be a full event, according to Stephen Foskett. And Stephen doesn’t use italics too often! Three days, likely 3-4 sessions a day, each two hours long. Add a jetlag, a foreign language and new technology, which all need inline processing to keep up to speed. Outside of the sessions: very interesting conversations (tech and non-tech) while we drive between companies, so no naps. In other words: our brains will be melting for three days at Storage Field Day 18. And I’m VERY much looking forward to it!

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Zerto facilitates IT resiliency with a single VM replication platform

Zerto IT ResiliencyBack at Storage Field Day 16 in Boston, Zerto presented their VM replication software. It’s a block level, continuous hypervisor based replication, using a journal to log I/O in a VCR-like fashion. This enables you to rewind to any point in time that’s covered in the journal, and recover your VMs to that exact state. Zerto’s plans are a bit grander than “just VM Replication” though… they aim to cover the complete IT Resiliency market.

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NVMe and NVMe-oF 101 with SNIA: queues everywhere!

SNIA dictionaryDr. J. Metz talked with us about NVMe at Storage Field Day 16 in Boston. NVMe is rapidly becoming one of the new hypes in the storage infrastructure market. A few years ago, everything was cloud. Vendors now go out of their way to mention their array contains NVMe storage, or is at the very least ready for it. So should you care? And if so, why?

SNIA’s mission is to lead the storage industry worldwide in developing and promoting vendor-neutral architectures, standards and educational services that facilitate the efficient management, movement, and security of information. They do that in a number of ways: standards development and adoption for one, but also through interoperability testing (a.k.a. plugfest). They aim to help in technology acceleration and promotion: solving current problems with new technologies. So NVMe-oF fits this mission well: it’s a relatively new technology, and it can solve some of the queuing problems we’re seeing in storage nowadays. Let’s dive in!

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CloudIQ is looking out for your storage system’s health

A few week ago we visited Dell EMC in Boston for Storage Field Day 16. Susan Sharpe presented CloudIQ to us. If you’re unfamiliar with CloudIQ: it keeps track of your storage system performance, health, capacity and notifies you in case of any anomalies. If you’ve got a Dell EMC Unity storage system, you can already use it for free. And it’s also being actively developed, so expect many new features to come into production over time!

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I’m shipping up to Boston for Storage Field Day 16

Taking the train to AMS for Storage Field Day 16Yes, I’m sorry about the title too. But also glad to announce I’m shipping up to Boston for Storage Field Day 16 this week! Just ignore the fact I’m not on a ship but on a train for now, and all should be well… Next stop is AMS, then a direct flight to BOS. It’s going to be a slightly shorter, two-day Storage Field Day this time around. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to receive a lot less content!

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XtremIO X2: easier scaling, fewer cables and metadata aware replication

Storage Field Day 14 VMAX and XtremIO X2The Dell EMC High-End Systems Division talked about two systems. First about the VMAX All Flash, and later about the XtremIO X2. This post is about  the latter one. The XtremIO X2 builds upon the foundation of the original “old” XtremIO, but also does a couple of things differently. This post will explore those difference a bit, and will also talk about asynchronous and synchronous replication.

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VMAX All Flash: Enterprise reliability and SRDF at <1ms latency

Storage Field Day 14 VMAX and XtremIO X2Back in October we visited Dell EMC for a few Storage Field Day 14 presentations. Walking into the new EBC building we bumped into two racks. One with a VMAX all flash system and another with a XtremIO X2. Let’s kick off the Storage Field Day 14 report with VMAX All Flash. There’s still a lot of thought going into this enterprise class storage array…

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