Archive for Storage

Dell finds $67Bn down the back of the sofa – what to do with it? Buy EMC of course!

Dell Acquires EMC

This is just a quick post as I should be concentrating on VMworld right now, but (obviously) all everyone is talking about at the event is the momentous news that Dell are to acquire EMC for a record $67 Billion! There are so many possible implications from this event, so many questions which arise immediately and probably many more as the dust starts to settle. For example:

  • Dell have a very strong relationship with Microsoft, not only providing large quantities of infrastructure into MS corporate and Azure, but collaborating closely on products like the Microsoft Azure Pack etc. How do MS feel about a key partner buying one of their biggest competitors (VMware) and how will they react?
  • How many EMC and Dell products will be dead in the water within 6-12 months? If you are in the middle of your buying cycle right now, would you want to actually make a long term investment into either? This could be a great time for some of the other major players and startups to expand their market shares.
  • What is the future of VMware? They are still technically independent, though 80% owned by EMC. Would Dell want to maintain that position, buy up the remaining stock, or perhaps even sell off VMware to pay off a good chunk of the EMC purchase price? The market certainly didn’t seem too impressed as the VMware stock price dropped over 10% after the deal become public!
  • What will the likes of HP do now that their biggest competitor has just bought one of their biggest partners?
  • Will the SEC approve the merger (I am certainly no expert on US financial law, but I assume they will have some sort of say over this due to the scale of the deal)?
  • Maybe all of the above are moot, and everyone will continue to get along as Frenemies / Co-petitors (©2015 Jane Rimmer)… then again, maybe not?

People have been talking about Joe Tucci’s retirement for years now; I doubt anyone imagined it would end with this!

Looking Forward to Storage Field Day 8

Storage Field Day

I have been a fan of the Tech Field Day events for some time. They provide a really interesting approach to tech marketing and are a great way of keeping up with the latest developments in the industry, as tech startups and established players alike take to the stage to showcase / discuss (and often get grilled by the delegates about) their shiniest new toys and features.

One of the key services I see the guys at TFD providing (free!) to the community is helping to maintain our knowledge of the bewildering array (pardon the pun) of vendors and solutions that are available out there, in an easy to consume format. It’s important to keep up with current trends and releases in the storage arena, even if you only have vendor X or Y in your current environment. If only so that when your IT Director says to you he wants to go out and buy vendor Z you can have a sensible, fact based conversation as to why or why not to consider them (instead of the obvious knee jerk reaction which they will potentially be expecting!). In my case I’m just a massive geek who loves talking / learning / reading / writing about tech, so keeping up definitely isn’t a chore for me! 🙂

So with that in mind, I am very honoured and excited to have been invited to attend Storage Field Day 8 from the 21st to 23rd October this year. Thank you very much to Stephen Foskett (@SFoskett) and Claire Chaplais (@cchaplais) for the awesome opportunity!

I would consider myself an IT generalist with a penchant for virtualisation and storage. The thing that has really drawn my interest to the storage field has been the fact that it is one of the fastest moving parts of the industry today, with the most innovation and potential disruption from startups.

You don’t have to be an established player to be successful any more. The cost of entry when basing your solutions on Intel chips and white box chassis with a layer of cleverly written software is a heck of a lot cheaper than the custom hardware driven solutions of the past! As many companies have a wide selection of storage silos across their estates, it is also not so difficult to encourage them to try out your new solution to initially replace a single silo either. Lastly lets be honest, we all like an underdog, and there are quite a few underdogs nipping at the bellies of the 880lb storage gorillas as we speak!

Morpheus doesnt like high margin storage

For the past three years I have been working as a Solution Architect at Claranet, an independent pan-European managed services provider, designing hosting solutions for the mid-market; an interesting and challenging sector where aspirations sometimes exceed budgets. That said, I will try not to repeat the traditional service provider mantra of “Can I securely multi-tenant it?” and “Do you provide an Opex commercial model?” too much…

I am really looking forward to enabling my brain sponge and soaking up the vast combined knowledge of the delegates and presenters at the event (some of whom I listen to regularly on the highly recommended podcasts Greybeards on Storage and In Tech We Trust and all of whom are known for producing awesome community content), so be sure to check them out and follow them on twitter!

The list of vendors at SFD8 is extensive too… with some new names who only came out of stealth in the past year along with the more familiar ones, it should be a fascinating week!

SFD8 Vendors

You can join the live stream during the event, and recordings of all sessions are available after, all of which you can find here:
http://techfieldday.com/event/sfd8/

PS: Being half Saffa, half Scot I was a bit concerned I might miss some of the RWC 2015 action by being in the States during the semi final stage, but after spending this Saturday sitting in the stands during the (now infamous) SA vs Japan game, I’m sadly less concerned about that possible outcome now!

Tech Startup Spotlight – Hedvig

Hedvig

After posting this comment last week, I thought it might be worth following up with a quick post. I’ll be honest and say that until Friday I hadn’t actually heard of Hedvig, but I was invited along by the folks at Tech Field Day to attend a Webex with this up and coming distributed storage company, who have recently raised $18 million in their Series B funding round, having only come out of stealth in March 2015.

Hedvig are a “Software Defined Storage” company, but in their own words they are not YASS (Yet Another Storage Solution). Their new solution has been in development for a number of years by their founder and CEO Avinash Lakshman; the guy who invented Cassandra at Facebook as well as Amazon Dynamo, so a chap who knows about designing distributed systems! It’s based around a software only distributed storage architecture, which supports both hyper-converged and traditional infrastructure models.

It’s still pretty early days, but apparently has been tested to up to 1000 nodes in a single cluster, with about 20 Petabytes, so it would appear to definitely be reasonably scalable! 🙂 It’s also elastic, as it is designed to be able to shrink by evacuating nodes, as well as add more. When you get to those kind of scales, power can become a major part to your cost to serve, so it’s interesting to note that both x86 and ARM hardware are supported in the initial release, though none of their customers are actually using the latter as yet.

In terms of features and functionality, so far it appears to have all the usual gubbins such as thin provisioning, compression, global deduplication, multi-site replication with up to 6 copies, etc; all included within the standard price. There is no specific HCL from a hardware support perspective, which in some ways could be good as it’s flexible, but in others it risks being a thorn in their side for future support. They will provide recommendations during the sales cycle though (e.g. 20 cores / 64GB RAM, 2 SSDs for journalling and metadata per node), but ultimately it’s the customer’s choice on what they run. Multiple hypervisors are supported, though I saw no mention of VAAI support just yet.

The software supports auto-tiering via two methods, with hot blocks being moved on demand, and a 24/7 background housekeeping process which reshuffles storage at non-busy times. All of this is fully automated with no need for admin input (something which many admins will love, and others will probably freak out about!). This is driven by their philosophy or requiring as little human intervention as possible. A noteworthy goal in light of the modern IT trend of individuals often being responsible for concurrently managing significantly more infrastructure than our technical forefathers! (See Cats vs Chickens).

Where things start to get interesting though is when it comes to the file system itself. It seems that the software can present block, file and object storage, but the underlying file system is actually based on key-value pairs. (Looks like Jeff Layton wasn’t too far off with this article from 2014) They didn’t go into a great deal of detail on the subject, but their architecture overview says:

“The Hedvig Storage Service operates as an optimized key value store and is responsible for writing data directly to the storage media. It captures all random writes into the system, sequentially ordering them into a log structured format that flushes sequential writes to disk.”

Supported Access Protocols
Block – iSCSI and Cinder
File – NFS (SMB coming in future release)
Object – S3 or SWIFT APIs

Working for a service provider, my first thought is generally a version of “Can I multi-tenant it securely, whilst ensuring consistent performance for all tenants?”. Neither multi-tenancy of the file access protocols (e.g. attaching the array to multiple domains for different security domains per volume) nor storage performance QoS are currently possible as yet, however I understand that Hedvig are looking at these in their roadmap.

So, a few thoughts to close… Well they definitely seem to be a really interesting storage company, and I’m fascinated to find out more as to how their key-value filesystem works in detail.  I’d suggest they’re not quite there yet from a service provider perspective, but for private clouds in the the enterprise market, mixed hypervisor environments, and big data analytics, they definitely have something interesting to bring to the table. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on them in the future.

For those wanting to find out a bit more, they have an architectural white paper and datasheet on their website.

HOWTO: Process for Upgrading Veeam Backup & Replication 7 to 8

As a VMware vExpert we are kindly provided free licenses for Veeam Backup & Replication and Veeam One. I have been using Veeam B&R for the last year and have successfully used it to protect half a dozen of my key lab machines and do one or two restores over that time.

The licenses we are provided with by Veeam are based on a 365 day evaluation, so my backup server was reaching its expiry date this week. I was running Veeam B&R version 7.x, so as part of the upgrade license I also needed to update the Veeam software from version 7 to 8.

This turned out to be an incredibly easy process with only a couple of minor tweaks at the end to get things up and running. As you can see from the screenshots below the installation and update of Veeam is pretty much a next, next, finish type of installation.

It’s also with mentioning that I have documented the process for upgrading Veeam B&R, but the process for upgrading Veeam One is pretty much the same.

As with any standard upgrade to software running in a virtual machine, I started by taking a snapshot of that machine.

Next step was to mount the ISO file Veeam into a virtual machine operating system and start the install wizard.

Of course I read every single word of the license agreement.

The installer recognised the previous version of the software and offered to upgrade to latest automatically.

I then pointed the install wizard to the evaluation license key provided to me by the folks at Veeam.

A number of basic checks are completed to ensure that the appropriate pre-requisites are in place.

Next you would enter the service account for Veeam. Obviously being a home lab and me being incredibly lazy, this is the local machine administrator in this case. In any production environment this should of course be a dedicated account.

The existing SQL express database instance is selected.

Veeam recognises this has an instance on it which can be upgraded.

The installer is now ready to run.

After about five minutes installation is complete.

After a quick reboot, the server is back up and running and I log back in. When I launch Veeam B&R 8 for the first time, it recognises that some server components still need to be upgraded.

Again this is just a next, next, finish setup.

The only issues I have seen after the upgrade were a couple of VMs which failed their backups. After a reboot of said machines, everything was right as rain and backups are running as normal.

Once I was sure everything was working properly, and had run a couple of successful backups, I committed and deleted the snapshots taken at the start of the process.

Conclusion
Overall the process was very simple and very slick, exactly what you want from a software upgrade. Particularly impressive considering this was a full version upgrade, not just a point release. You can see why their marketing department came up with the tagline “It Just Works”!

Although most organisations I have worked for in the past have generally used more traditional backup vendors, Veeam is definitely enterprise ready and well worth considering. The only drawback, is that if you run a mixed environment of physical and virtual machines, you may require multiple backup platforms. Even then, Veeam Endpoint can do this in some scenarios AFAIK.

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