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Hard or Soft Storage? That is the Question and the Answer

Posted by Rodger Burkley | Author Info

Dec 15, 2014 9:00:00 AM

There’s lots of press these days on Software-Defined Storage (SDS), Software-Defined Data Centers (SDDC), Server SAN’s, software-only virtual SANs, hyper-converged storage servers, storage appliances and the like. We’ve all been inundated with this new technology and architectural terms by bloggers, marketing mavens, PR, tradeshow signage, consultants, analysts, technology pundits and CEOs of new start-ups. As a blogger and marketing guy, I plead doubly guilty. But the emergence of SDS systems and SDDCs is real and timely. Definitions and differences, however, can be a tiny bit murky and confusing.

This enabling technology is coming to market just in time as today’s modern data centers, servers, storage arrays and even network/comm fabrics are getting more and more overtaxed and saturated with mega-scale data I/O transfers and operations of all types with all kind of data formats (i.e., file, object, HDFS, block, S3, etc.). When you add in the line of business commitments for SLA adherence, data security/integrity, compliance, TCO, upgrades, migrations, control/management, provisioning and the raw growth in data volume (growing by at least 50% a year) IT directors and administrators are getting prolonged headaches.

Against this backdrop, it’s no wonder that lately I’m getting asked a lot to clarify the difference between converged storage appliances, hyper-converged/hyper scale-out storage server clusters, and pure software-defined storage systems. So I wanted to make an attempt to provide a high level distinction between a storage hardware appliance and pure software-defined (i.e., shrink wrapped software) storage system, while also providing some considerations of choosing one over the other. In fact, architectural and functional differences are somewhat blurred. So it’s mostly about packaging…but not entirely.

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Topics: Software Defined Storage, 3rd Platform, third platform, storage management

What “Field of Dreams” Can Teach You About IT Projects and IT Operations Management

Posted by Brian Lett | Author Info

Dec 8, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Would you think that the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” has just as much to do with IT operations as it does with baseball. Remember the backstory? Themovie’s protagonist, Ray Kinsella, is an average and unsuccessful farmer, with regrets about his past. Like many on an IT team who gets struck with a bolt of inspiration – an idea for an IT-related project (a new application or service, probably along the lines of “what if we had a way to…” or “what if we did this:”) – Ray listens to a voice in the night telling him “If you build it, he will come.” He proceeds to plow under his crop, and construct a baseball field in the middle of his Iowa cornfield

 Then Ray’s “project” develops its own momentum – the seemingly now-corporeal ghost of Chicago White Sox outfielder Shoeless Joe Jackson walks out of the cornfield bordering the newly built baseball field, admires everything, thanks Ray for what he’s done, and asks to come back – with “friends.”

 Now Ray on an IT team would have had a similar experience: Someone gets wind he’s been working on a Skunk Works project that, although radical, could be something amazing. Shoeless Joe is like that first test user that becomes the unintentional evangelist, and quickly starts to build a critical mass among users.

 At this stage in the IT project, things are going well: The user base has grown, the old guard (shown in the movie as 1960s anti-establishment author Thomas Mann) at first grudgingly agrees to take a look at the project, then likes what it sees, becomes a strong advocate, and things evolve quickly (maybe even moving to formal alpha testing). In the movie, Shoeless Joe has brought a throng of other now-corporeal ghosts to play baseball once again on Ray’s field (more users, all of whom love the work Ray’s done). And Ray’s wife Annie stands by her man, despite a wave of criticism coming from her brother Mark, the financial advisor and antagonist who absolutely cannot see or understand Ray’s vision, and what he’s done.

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Topics: storage resource management, storage management, Service Assurance, IT Operations

Service Assurance for NFV

Posted by Serge Marokhovsky | Author Info

Dec 1, 2014 9:00:00 AM

There is a growing interest across the telecom industry today with Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). NFV is being evaluated in labs across the world and piloted for production rollout. In particular, larger service providers are steering their strategies around NFV to get in front of the pack and give themselves the agility they lack against the smaller and more aggressive players. A second key driver for NFV is to reduce costs while maintaining carrier class service assurance. With the fast arrival of NFV, are the current OSS & BSS tools in use today going to work in the future when NFV goes mainstream? If so, will they give the operational benefits management is anticipating to achieve with NFV or just keep doing the same thing? Let’s explore the challenges and new opportunities to achieve with service assurance in an NFV environment.

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Topics: storage management, Service Assurance, NFV

Third Party Array Support in ViPR Through OpenStack

Posted by Parashurham Hallur | Author Info

Nov 24, 2014 9:00:00 AM

OpenStack, the truly open cloud operating system, has been evolving since 2010. Since its inception, there have been many projects contributing to the growth of the OpenStack ecosystem. One of them, project code name “Cinder,” provides block storage capability. Any vendor who would like to enable block storage capability for their proprietary storage system is developing the Cinder plugin or Cinder driver. Here is the list of vendors who have developed the Cinder plugin.

EMC ViPR – the first software-defined storage platform of its kind – has been in the news since 2013 and is continuously adding new features to keep it ahead of the competition. A distinguishing feature of ViPR is its ability to support multi-vendor storage systems. In order to extend support for many new storage vendors, ViPR is always looking to enhance its support matrix by adding new storage systems to the support list. Traditionally, adding new storage systems to the list means that EMC, as well as third party vendors are writing new native drivers. This requires a lot of man hours and effort. But what if they could leverage what exists already and save a lot of the time and effort? That would make a lot of sense, right?

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Topics: Software Defined Storage, 3rd Platform, ViPR, OpenStack, storage management

Energize Your Cloud

Posted by Rodger Burkley | Author Info

Nov 17, 2014 9:00:00 AM

You’ve been hearing a lot about cloud computing these days. If the many definitions of the Cloud seem a tad abstract and esoteric - you’re not alone. Go to any IT tradeshow or consulting conference and you’ll see liberal references and pictures of the Cloud. Many messages are often mixed with cloud enabling technologies like Software-defined Storage (SDS), hyper-converged/hyper-scalable virtual Server SANs, and the many different flavors of Flash. Let’s not forget vendor messages around Big Data, Virtualization and 2nd to 3rd Platform transformation to Mobile Computing. It’s no wonder they call it the Cloud – it’s anything but clear!

Whatever it is you are trying to do with your cloud, whatever use case you are trying to solve, it is likely that SDS, Flash, and ultimately software defined data center (SDDC) platforms will be the key building blocks. Why? As performance requirements of cloud computing overtax the max performance limits of traditional spinning media, silicon based NAND Flash with no moving parts bridges the I/O performance gap between today’s hyper fast CPUs/Cores and much slower spinning media (i.e., 3,500 IOPs/SSD vs 150 IOPS/HDD at system level, respectively). A purely software-defined and implemented control and data services application forms an independent, de-coupled abstraction layer from the underlying physical layer of storage hardware resources. SDS is optimally designed for use in today’s modern heterogeneous, multi-vendor, and multi-hardware platform environment. SDS and the greater overarching SDDC umbrella platforms like ViPR and the ECS Appliance truly make centralized management of the storage infrastructure more flexible, easier to deploy, and simpler to manage. This provides a centrally managed control/access point among disparate physical devices/resources in the process plus the side benefits of hardware agnosticism and vendor independence. Who doesn’t like an easy button?

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Topics: Software Defined Storage, 3rd Platform, third platform, hybrid cloud, cloud storage

You Think You Know Cloud Storage Gateways? Sync Again

Posted by Jeff Denworth | Author Info

Nov 10, 2014 9:00:00 AM

*The following is a guest blog post, written by Jeff Denworth of CTERA

The cloud storage gateway market was particularly hot this summer, having experienced a flood of investment topping over $100M in both likely and unlikely places. CTERA was one vendor at the center of it all – as a provider of a cloud storage services platform that enables users to deploy cloud storage gateways, enterprise file sync and share and endpoint backup services from the private and virtual private cloud of their choice. CTERA alone secured $25 million in June, but we were not alone - our friend, EMC, for example, also got into the game by acquiring TwinStrata’s block storage caching gateway for their VMAX division. Fueled by customer demand and added investment, the cloud gateway market is undeniably hot, hot, hot! IT research analyst firm MarketsAndMarkets estimates that the Cloud Storage Gateway market will continue to grow at an average rate of 55% until 2019, representing a $5B market by that time.

Why cloud gateways, you ask? Well, there’s a variety of reasons.

  • By harnessing commodity storage technology and smart scalable software in the data center, new public and private cloud storage is redefining data center economics for primary storage and disaster recovery.
  • WAN bandwidth is now robust enough to where offices can now move substantial amounts of data to and from remote data centers using deduplication and compression to optimize efficiency and performance.
  • The combination of these two factors is enabling organizations to modernize how they deploy storage at the edge and eliminate some of the pains that customers had with managing storage across a dispersed enterprise.

As customers rush to find more modern solutions for branch office storage, they quickly learn that there are many approaches to cloud storage gateways. To reduce the confusion, I’ll try to illustrate the differences here in this blog.

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Topics: Software Defined Storage, third platform, ViPR, ECS Appliance, hybrid cloud, CTERA

Accelerating Storage ROI with Storage Resource Management

Posted by Kevin Gray | Author Info

Nov 3, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Enterprise IT organizations are increasingly being called upon to help their companies drive revenue growth by processing and managing new data sources that increase business intelligence and enhance customer engagement. As a result, many of these organizations are experiencing data growth rates in excess of 20% to 60% per year. In addition, in order to improve efficiency, organizations are adopting virtualization and software-defined architectures that increase business agility and flexibility. By abstracting the hardware infrastructure, virtualization technology may obscure the relationships between application services and the underlying physical resources they consume. These new abstraction layers may make it difficult to optimize resources to meet service levels while controlling escalating storage costs.

While storage resource management (SRM) solutions have been around for over a decade, many enterprises are increasingly depending on SRM to gain insight into where and how capacity is being consumed. Storage resource management helps these organizations control costs as the size of their infrastructure grows. Understanding how SRM can help your business is essential to getting the most out of your investments in SRM and your storage infrastructure.

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Topics: storage resource management, 3rd Platform, third platform, ViPR, Big Data

ViPR Interactive Demo: Your Software-Defined Storage Playground

Posted by Hoc Phan | Author Info

Oct 27, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Since the announcement and release of EMC ViPR, you have probably seen many demos for the product. All are good and serve the purpose they were initially intended for, whether it was product training, live data use cases, or customer demos. However, all of those tools require a fairly significant footprint in order to be able to run them. What if you could experience the power of ViPR in a lightweight delivery? Now you can!

Introducing the ViPR Interactive Demo!
The beauty of the ViPR interactive demo is that it can be run on your laptop or tablet with a minimal tax on connectivity and storage. You don’t need to make a special request to access it, only then to be placed in queue for days. The data in the environment is sanitized directly from our two virtual data centers (both multi-million dollar investments). Leveraging an HTML5 front end and focusing on a select set of high priority customer use cases, this demo gives you the flexibility to improvise on your own or follow a scripted story line.

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Topics: Software Defined Storage, ViPR, storage management

Flight Attendants and the Internet of Things: Prepare for Landing

Posted by Mark A. O'Connell | Author Info

Oct 20, 2014 9:00:00 AM

In an earlier post, I talked about the Internet of Things and how this will transform both the storage industry and our use of storage. In this blog, I'll explore some possible ramifications of the Internet of Things in a real world setting, see how the Internet of Things will drive new storage requirements, and will demand new forms of storage. For this example, I'll take the case of an airport as well as the passenger’s experience at an airport - examined from the perspective of the passenger, the airlines, and the stores found in the airport.

To start, imagine the passenger experience at an airport. If I were the passenger, what would I want to know about as I land?  For my itinerary, I want to know the gate where my connecting flight leaves, how long it will take me to get there, and the best route to take to get to this gate. Most likely, I’ll want to know where the nearest restroom is en route to my next gate. Depending on how long I have between connections and the time of day, I may want to know where I can get a cup of coffee, a beer, a meal, a magazine or book, or where the nearest airline lounge is located. If I were at the end of my flight, I would want to know where the rental car desk is located (if I have rented a car), otherwise I'd want to know where the nearest taxi stand is along with the projected wait for a taxi.

For the airline, what would they want to know?  As an immediate need (for a particular flight), how far away are the passengers who need to board - and how many more passengers will be able to board if they hold the flight for five or ten minutes? For deplaning passengers, which ones have tight connections and can they be allowed to exit first? How many carts should be at the gate to transport passengers? For long term needs, how can the assignment of flights to gates be optimized based on connection time, number of passengers making the connection, and the like?

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Topics: Big Data, Internet of Things, storage management

We Liked Data Before it was Big

Posted by George Hamilton | Author Info

Oct 15, 2014 9:00:00 AM

“I liked data before it was big” is a sign hanging on a wall in one of our EMC offices (I scoured my LinkedIn feed to find the picture again to no avail). I love what that sign conveys. Here at EMC, we’ve always been about data; storage is just the means to keep, access, protect and use it. In my mind, EMC does not just tackle storage problems; we solve data management challenges. Big Data is the latest data management challenge. That’s why EMC is so excited to be at Hadoop World to showcase our storage and data management solutions for Big Data.

The quote on the front page of the Strata+Hadoop World web page reads, “Big data is at the foundation of all the megatrends happening today”. Hard to argue with that assessment. I’d only add that storage and data management are the foundation for Big Data. So, by transitive relationship, this means storage and data management are the foundation of all the megatrends happening today. If this sounds like hubris, take a look at what IT decision makers identified as their most important factors when evaluating storage for Big Data ( scale 1-5, 1 = Essential to 5= Unimportant).

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Topics: Software Defined Storage, ViPR, HADOOP, Big Data, Hadoop World, Isilon