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GestaltIT Tech Field Day 2010: EMC – Vmware Vision

April 12th, 2010 No comments

The presentation on EMC – Vmware Vision was done by EMC – Chad Sakac, VP Vmware Alliance at EMC. Here Chad covers the issues around Storage efficiency, management, capacity and performance.

There was a 20 min piece where the cameras were turned off since the information is on embargo. Stay tuned related to that information later in the year. There is also some information that Chad discusses related to some new technology announcements from EMC and Vmware in the near future, product demostration, etc.

There were 15 delegates in the room from GestaltIT and around 12 to 15 from EMC including Barry Burke, Steve Todd, Chad Sakac, Rob Callary, Nick Weaver, Ed Saipetch, Gina Minks, Stu Miniman and many more.

EMC VCE Vision, Chad Sakac from storagenerve on Vimeo.

Storage optimization, a pipe dream

March 25th, 2010 3 comments

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Posts like these make me think how easy is it for people to make claims for something that they have no idea about. What I mean “something” is “storage in a customers environment”. Practically these are some very easy means to make money in the storage industry today. “Life is good” one walks into a customer without knowing their environment, applications, users, databases and blindly tell them that we can help you reclaim 70% of all your storage. Let us evaluate your environment, have our engineers come in perform a storage assessment, be resident here for a while, bill for the work to reclaim and redeploy the storage and yea help you buy the brand of storage we prefer for our customers.

We all know how optimized, well managed and efficient our storage environments are and why are they architected they way they are in your organization. If customers run a 60% utilized environment it means 40% of the storage is un-utilized but not necessarily reclaimable and re-deployable.

Picture Source: UPENN.EDU

The issues

Largely storage environments are heavily dependant upon the architecture, IOPS requirements, databases, vm’s, applications and many other variable factors that drive its performance.

Storage architectures in an organization typically encompass provision for growth of the existing file systems, databases and future requirements.

In between this growth, resource allocation, resource shifts and retirement of older host systems, there are usually holes that get created, which makes certain portions of this storage orphaned or reclaimable.

Storage Archiving to cheaper disk and tape is not always a practice in organizations, which can lead to off loading some of the structured and unstructured data from these systems.

Storage groups typically have a high turnover rate of employees, which creates a hole as someone new is being introduced to the environment and may need a ramp up time to understand the environment, applications and user needs.

Storage groups at time do not have written policies, procedures and guidelines on what and how the storage should be reclaimed for future use. Typically a lack of data management practices are also seen with related to moving the data to cheaper storage based on policies and lifecycle management.
Application, database and performance requirements are consistently growing, which makes purchasing new storage inevitable for newer applications. While the old apps and databases are still running, cost of migrating from the old systems to new ones cause additional budgeting issues.

There is a misconception that storage reclaimation is easy to achieve. 70% of your storage can be reclaimed and redeployed today.

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Storage Management

Lack of defined processes, procedures, oversight, change control management, application needs, database demands, etc add more complexity to storage management environments making reclaimation a much harder task.

Lack of implementation of SRM (Storage Resource Management) tools in the environments adds another layer of complexity with storage management. Storage admins and managers typically true up monthly reports related to storage environments on excel spreadsheets.

Implementation of native features within storage should absolutely be considered before purchasing and deploying any new storage. Features like data deduplication, thin provisioning, automated tiering, zero page reclaim, vmware aware storage (api’s) and use of automated ILM policies.

Define, Define, Define……..all your process, procedures, exceptions….etc..

Yea and want to throw this out too…  Personally ran into one organization so far, where the storage manager was compensated (bonuses) based on the total reclaimed storage per year.

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Political issues

The steepest battle with any storage optimization project is internal political issues within the organization.

Working at multiple levels either the C level or IT management level imposes additional challenges…

At times the management is possibly open to ideas around storage optimization exercises to reclaim the so-called 70% of all the reclaimable storage. But as this idea flows down to the local storage teams, its either killed or delayed because of political issues.

Going from the storage teams upwards causes similar issue with application teams, database teams, architects and then the money spenders or the C level executives.

“Did one think it was easy, when they walked in…”

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The after effects

What are some of the effects of reclaiming 70% of storage in an organization…just a few I can highlight here.

  • Large changes will be implemented in organizations at a Storage management level along with replacing key executives that made a decision to purchase all this storage..
  • For many years to come that organization will not purchase storage, essentially use the existing “old” storage they have sitting on the floor.
  • New Applications may still end up using older storage platforms creating storage management & performance issues.
  • Customer may not be able to use latest technologies like Automated Tiering, Deduplication, Thin Provisioning, Zero Page reclaim, Power down disk, energy efficiency and many more.
  • The larger problem it creates is the use of the storage on the floor for more than 3 / 5 years, where they start paying for hefty hardware and software maintenance charges beyond warranty.
  • The company, the person that sold you storage assessment, storage reclaimation and storage redeployment will be in there to pitch you new storage products from a XYZ company…

And

  • If every customer in the world reclaims about 70% of all the storage, I will leave the question upto you as to what will happen to the storage industry…. let the critics answer it…

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The Journey

So anyone that comes and tells you that we will do a Storage Optimization for you today, have the results tomorrow and reclaim 70% of all your storage,………….….its nothing more than the “title of this post”.

As I like to call it, “It’s a Journey” to make your storage environment fully efficient, optimized and “beat the sh*t out of it”…..

It’s the process where the customer needs to be educated at every level within the organization by helping them create a “storage economics” practice that would enable them to achieve the right results..

Again its about establishing practices, policies, procedures, guidelines, tools, showing the importance at all levels and the biggest creating the awareness about it…

The shortest 5 rules to begin this journey….

  • Storage rule 1#: Buy what you need, use what you buy
  • Storage rule 2#: Define and follow your practices, policies and procedures.
  • Storage rule 3#: Establish an on going storage economics practice in your organization
  • Storage rule 4#: Use robust SRM tools to manage your storage environment.
  • Storage rule 5#: Centralize storage management, resource, infrastructure

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It’s a journey….or it turns into a pipe dream….

HP Blades Day 2010: Final Thoughts

March 3rd, 2010 1 comment

This is my 5th consecutive post on HP Blades day.  So far no videos have been uploaded, just the coverage of the event and pictures. This post primarily focuses on what I feel we saw at HP in terms of things that will help them, challenges in the market and where all this may go.

There has been at least 6 to 8 hours of video recording on my flip camera; starting tomorrow I will upload these videos only of the most interesting sessions on the blog.

Satellite View of HP Facilities in Houston, TX

The coverage of the event can also be found on Greg Knieriemen’s Infosmack Podcast on Storage Monkeys, here.

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Positives

This event was a very smart move by HP and as far as I can see they have exceeded their expectations with this event. Though I felt the twitter activity with HP Tech Day (Storage, #hptechday) was much higher than what we saw with this event HP Blades Day (Blades, #hpbladesday). Though the after discussions have taken over the blogging, twitter and the Internet press by surprise with the number of tweets, blogs and press articles written about this event.

Clearly for me this was a good platform to learn, understand and share some visions and technologies related to HP Blade products. I have been a storage focused individual, but only with a shallow knowledge of the blades architecture and infrastructure. This was a great event for myself to understand the depth of these products and take a deep dive into the interworking of converged infrastructure. An Event like this helps understand and connect the dots together with future products and emerging technologies. As this was a non-NDA event, we didn’t have preview to the next generation of HP Blade products.

One thing that is pretty visible and positive is that HP has managed to mobilize resources in the direction of integrating internal resources relating to converged infrastructure. Though its obvious and again visible that at places, they have not been able to fulfill that dream entirely.

There were some awkward moments where the engineering teams were asked to not do a deep-dive on other vendor technologies. The marketing folks spoke about some strategy related to these technologies and painted an overall picture. The mix of people involved with the presentations and demos seem to accomplish the agenda. Marketing pitches by social media and marketing teams along with engineering details by the architecture teams seemed to accomplish their goals.

The highlight of the sessions were a 45 min talk with the CTO of StorageWorks, Paul Perez and the competitive intelligence session that was hosted my Gary Thome and his team to compare HP Blades products with Dell, IBM and Cisco UCS. Discussions around CEE and Virtual Connect were pretty interesting.

HP emphasized the 250 million dollar investment with Microsoft over and over during the HP Blades Day. This proves that they value this partnership heavily and possibly have a roadmap associated in the future with great integration with Microsoft products.

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Challenges

HP emphasizes a lot on converged datacenters and the products it’s gearing for the next generation. But an integration vision from a convergence management was still lacking, a direction or a strategy on how these pieces of puzzle will be joined together and managed. HP clearly owns all the stacks of the next generation products, but again the orchestration and integration is one thing that is not very clear yet. Say too big and too much to manage!!!

With Networking products and the focus on Virtual Connect, HP seems to be moving in the right direction, but again when it comes to FCoE and CEE (Converged Enhanced Ethernet) the direction is pretty unknown. It’s sort of wait and watch as to where the market goes and drives demands, a lack of vision in real terms. HP clearly has a big competition from Cisco when it comes to the Networking stack.

With Storage products, HP clearly has a very big competition with already proven Vendors and their technologies like EMC, NetApp and IBM. Also technologies that are strong and emerging would largely cause market nuisance or focus disruption for HP.

With the Blade products, HP is a market leader, but truly considers Dell, IBM and Cisco as the biggest threats and sort of prepared to fight against it. Seems the next generation Rack and Blade products might seem to have a lot of integration with storage and networking.

The services story, with the acquisition of EDS, HP made a move in the right direction being the first in the market to do so. With the latest acquisitions from Dell of Perot Systems, from Oracle of SUN Microsystems and by Xerox of ACS, large vendors are all trying to fulfill the services gap. HP clearly has a big competition with IBM and Oracle in the space.

The VCE (VMware, Cisco, EMC) coalition: What are your thoughts. It’s pretty amazing to see HP not mention the word ‘cloud’ these two days. Focus has been virtualization and the partnership with VMware, but really no focus on moving toward utility market and integration of all next gen products for converged datacenters with the underlying virtualization layer. May be the Microsoft partnership may fulfill this.

VMware or Microsoft: They didn’t say this, but seems something is cooking. The partnership with Microsoft and the investment of 250 million dollars will create some friction with VMware, at least my guess. Next gen products may utilize Hyper-V as an underlying virtualization layer rather than using the default VMware Hypervisor.

HP still needs a very strong storage technology in the Enterprise space that is their own and not OEM’d. The truth is, eventually the HP – Hitachi relationship has to come to an end with HP’s new product that may compete in the same market space. This strategy will enable HP to be very unique in terms of the markets they serve, which may include their own in-house storage products for SMB, Midsize and Enterprise customers.

So other lacking things from HP were the Cloud Strategy (if they ever plan to enter that space), FCoE discussions, Procurve and Storage Management as it relates to Insight Software.

It may have been very hard to cover all these platforms in a day and a half with giving all the technology details behind it. Also remember this was a non-NDA session, so we were not preview to all the future products and technologies.

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Summary

Overall HP did hammer us for 2 consecutive days with HP Blades Technology. Coming out of it, I can truly say, HP had so much focus on datacenter convergence. Their move to hire Dave Donatelli was a smart one many of his strategic moves and direction in the ESSN (Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking) are pretty visible now.

Apart from GestaltIT Techfield Day, HP is still the only OEM to arrange Bloggers Invite Only Event. The ratio of Bloggers to HP Personnel was 1:2, giving everyone a lot of attention.

Now the question is who will be next OEM to do a similar event and what will they do to prove themselves different. Already hearing some buzz in the industry about some the effects of HP Blades Day and some possible events from other OEMs.

But I clearly see an advantage of an event like this and the after effects of it, good move HP Marketing Team! Along with Ivy Worldwide!!

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Disclaimer: This event is sponsored by HP and hosted in Houston, TX. HP paid all the flight, living and mostly food expenses. This is a bloggers – invitation only event. No products have been given by HP.

I totally love my Drobo but….

November 25th, 2009 3 comments

I totally love my Drobo but….I have to honestly say, its missing some key features…

So over the past two days, I have covered the Drobo technology pretty extensively, all the way from the introduction of the 2 new Drobo’s to what the technology offers today, configuration, setup, overhead, data protection, etc.

There is a collaborative effort ongoing behind the scenes with the GestaltIT Tech Field Day Delegates working on some BeyondRAID technology blog posts.

Here are the previous blog posts on Drobo Technology….

Drobo S and DroboElite – Introduced 11/23/2009

Some very interesting articles on Drobo S and DroboElite

The Drobo Math

DROBO / DROBO S

Drobo_5bay_Right Front

Though I think the Drobo technology (BeyondRAID) is a pretty solid offering in the industry today, there are some very features that at least the Drobo and Drobo S are missing today.

Note: This is not a comparison of the Drobo to any other industry products, but certainly some items mentioned below would help further drive the value of the Drobo from a consumer’s viewpoint.

  • Enable NAS support (Ethernet). A very important feature that is missing today related to the NAS offerings, a ton of new features could be easily introduced in the Drobo if it was NAS enabled.
  • Drobo manageable through the Ethernet
  • Drobo and the data on the Drobo should be password protected
  • Support for iSCSI
  • Multiple host access, with multiple user access for NAS.
  • File shares based on usernames and passwords.
  • Haven’t yet tried this, but connect a Drobo or a Drobo S behind an Iomega Ix4-200d or a Synology NAS device to natively use the features supported within those devices and use the Drobo’s BeyondRAID technology in the backend.
  • Built in FTP Server
  • Built in Photo Sharing
  • Built in iTunes Library
  • Built in internal mail server (not a must have, but good to have feature)
  • Built in web server for web hosting
  • NAS Shares
  • Active Directory authentication for users on the Drobo
  • Some sort of high-speed expansion to connect between multiple Drobo’s using a 1GB interface or higher, in short some sort of expandable Drobo daisy chain.
  • USB Printer connection
  • Spin down drives if no activity
  • Spin down fans if no activity
  • Spin down and spin up the Drobo based on time of the day
  • Some sort of interface to view activity inside the Drobo related to memory, CPU and other components.
  • Safe eject drives before drive replacements or drive upgrades
  • Some sort of integration with various media appliances from a household including playstation, TiVo, live streaming that would enable data sharing between these devices.

I understand the value Drobo and Drobo S brings on the table with the BeyondRAID technology, but to compete in the consumer (home) market, a device can’t just be a single standalone device and not talk to any other devices in the environment.

We are collecting data at an enormous pace today, but as I say, “We are” indeed means a group of individuals, family, friends. There is just no way to collaborate on the collected data without physically moving the Drobo from place to place and computer to computer for data share.

I totally get the picture of what the Drobo and Drobo S brings on the table, but if I have to spend $800 or around that number to buy a storage unit, I absolutely think it should talk to and share my data between multiple computers, users, appliances, gadgets I have in the household.

There is only one option I can think that would enable NAS data share, which is to use the Drobo behind a DroboShare or a traditional NAS.. Though not sure if it loses any of it’s features by doing so. This option will cost you additional money.

DroboPro / DroboElite

Lets talk a bit about the DroboPro and DroboElite. These products are made for SMB space. They offer great features including having 2 x 1 Gigabit Ethernet, iSCSI support, VMware support, 16 host, 255 smart volumes, etc. The price on the DroboPro / DroboElite is way beyond what a consumer (home) will spend for data storage.


DroboElite Front

Though here is a short list of items I think the DroboPro and DroboElite should have.

  • Removable back-panel to replace power supplies without turning the unit offline.
  • Online replacement of any FRU’s.
  • Redundant power supplies.
  • DroboPro / DroboElite manageable through the Ethernet
  • DroboPro / DroboElite and the data on the unit should be password protected
  • Multiple user access to NAS Shares
  • Active Directory integration for user authentication
  • Built in FTP Server
  • Built in internal mail server
  • Built in web server for web hosting
  • Spin down drives with no activity
  • Spin down fans with no activity
  • At least support 15 drives.
  • Expandable to may be 30 drives through some sort of high-speed bus/loop/port connect.
  • SCSI 3 PGR’s
  • Some sort of management interface to better manage the components, processes, activities, CPU, memory, stats (Read/Write I/O), port stats, etc through this interface
  • Safe eject drives before drive replacements or drive upgrades.

Again the argument stays that the DroboPro and DroboElite offers great technology, plug and play features, VMware compatibility, lower cost and BeyondRAID technology, but are those the only features that I am truly looking from a SAN.

One thing I have learned, it’s hard to survive in the home (consumer) market and SMB space with the same product name. At times its better to have two distinct products one defined for consumer market while the other for the SMB space. The product can still be the same product under-the-hood but with different processing powers and different product names.

Just some thoughts!! IMHO