My Next Adventure

A funny thing happened on my way to my 11 year anniversary at Xiotech….

For those of you that are new to my blog, here is a little background information.  I started with Xiotech back in January 2000 and embarked on a remarkable ride.  The past 10+ years were amazing, with tons of professional and personal opportunities but as they say, all great things must eventually come to an end and this ending is especially difficult.

Xiotech is a FANTASTIC company, and Alan Atkinson and his team of rock stars are bound and determined to take this company to great places. I think in the pure storage space, there are very few that can go head to head with Sicola’s ISE technology.  It’s just solid.  Although this is an end to my Xiotech career, it’s an absolutely awesome start to the next chapter in my life and has me vibrating with excitement (my A.D.D is in OVERDRIVE).

What would compel me to leave a company like Xiotech?  This is a place that I’m pretty well respected and that I’ve passionately been spreading the evangelistic pure storage message these last 10+ years.  I have not been just drinking the Kool-Aid but making it in large batches!

Well, I found myself in a really awesome position to join a team of passionate, like-minded individuals in a group that is held in high regard in the cloud space.  This position will allow me to spread my wings even further and continue to speak about the cloud and virtualization.   I describe this change as giving me an opportunity to no longer talk just about the car in the proverbial garage (storage), but the whole house.  I look forward to sharing my passion about virtualization (storage, server and desktop), infrastructure, backup, replication, security and, most importantly, how to pull it all together holistically into something customers can use to drive value and efficiency in the data center.  Does anyone want to guess where I’m going?  If not, keep reading!

This group was pulled together by a pretty remarkable individual with an equivalent passion for this space.  So much passion that he was able to convince the powers that be to start an organization with the sole purpose of evangelizing the cloud.  This person’s name is Chad Sakac and his group is sometimes referred to as “Chad’s vArmy”  (click the link – it ROCKS) but at EMC they are known as vSpecialists.  Their mission is to spread the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) message.  He and his team have recruited some of the best and the brightest—and I can’t tell you how excited I am to nerd out with them.

I’d like to thank Marty Lonergan, John Elliott and the Dallas (and various other) vSpecialist team members  (@daverdfw, @lynxbat, @teeglasgow, @pgkeilty, @Justin_Lauer and @abhojwani) for giving me an opportunity to add value to the organization.  This is an incredible opportunity for me to work for the “powerhouse” of the cloud industry in the absolutely most coveted position of an EMC vSpecialist.

Finally, due to my change in focus and for the respect I have for Xiotech, I’m going to “retire” this blog site.  Starting soon, I will be shutting off the comments and changing my twitter handle name.  Moving forward, you can start following me over at www.vTexan.com ( Cool huh !)  If you currently e-mail subscribe to the StorageTexan blog, I would encourage you to do the same at vTexan.

Stay tuned for more cloud and virtualization goodness on http://www.vTexan.com.  I have an incredible amount of things to absorb over the next few months and look forward to sharing my experiences with my readers. 

 Until then…

@StorageTexan soon to be @vTexan :)

My VMworld 2010 trip report

My First VMworld Show!!  WOW.

I’m just about recovered from VMworld last week. It was crazy and the Xiotech booth was just NUTS.   I think I’ve finally gotten my voice back!!  This was my first VMworld and I have to tell you, I really hope it’s not my last!!!  The amount of content, speakers, sessions, lab and just plain old “networking” amongst your peers was just unbelievable.  I finally was able to put a face to a ton of twitter names :)  which was really cool.  Shout out to the following:  @3parfarley  @charleshood @cxi @hpstorageguy @jtroyer  @keithnorbie  @KendrickColeman  @rootwyrm  @stu @Texiwill @kculw @trey_anderson @NerdBlurt @vrobm @juicelsu009 @daverdfw @lynxbat  @Creedom2020 @mvaughn25 @davidmdavis  the @Mirazon Team as well as the @Veeam Team !!.  I’m sure I left a ton out – feel free to leave a comment below if I did :)

So, my biggest regret was not sitting in any of the labs.  I’m just kicking myself.  Truthfully that is the biggest lesson learned of the event.  I did get a chance to sit through about 4 sessions before I finally threw in the towel.  It seemed that every day you had to show up about 15min’s earlier then you did the day before to any given session.  45min wait to get into some was a little crazy but in most cases it was worth it.  My hope is next year in Vegas will be better.  Now, I’m not a big Vegas fan.  One of the cool things about being in San Fran was the ability to go from event to event and Vegas can get crazy with locations.  We’ll see how that goes!!  Vegas is good for about 2 days before it becomes a HUGE beating. 

So if you spent any time at VMworld, what was drilled into your head were Cloud Based Solutions and Virtual Desktops (VDI).  I spent the majority of my time in the VDI sessions.  VMware View 4.5 looks SOLID.  I’m most excited about their offline feature, as well as their tiered storage feature.  The Offline mode is the straw that I think finally breaks the camel’s back in regards to VDI adoption rates. 

 

 

 In my opinion, one of the largest hurdles (other than Storage cost) was connectivity to the network in order for VDI to work.  Now, with a lot of companies that have field offices or even field employees this gives them a tremendous capability to unleash VDI as a desktop solution.  One of the sessions I sat through that was the most appealing was the VDI Performance session, Specifically around “How to benchmark VDI”.  VMware View Planner was positioned as the next generation of VDI workload generator.  It’s essentially an appliance package that is designed to work with View 4.X and it allows you to setup Workload profiles, enter in the types of applications that type of user would utilize and then run against your system.  It would then run and give you a “pass/fail” on the overall solution based on a QoS you define.  Please note, I’m really summarizing its features and abilities but the net-net is that VMware View Planner should be a great tool to use when trying to get a better understanding of what your infrastructure can support.  I also like the idea of “What if I add another host, what happens” type scenarios you can play around with.  Lots of cool stuff!!

Tiered Storage as part of View 4.5 is yet another validation around OS’s and Hypervisors getting smarter about storage functions.  Today, tiered storage is typically a feature that a Storage array handles (poorly in most cases) and with VMware View 4.5 you have the ability to setup various tiers of storage within View 4.5 and have it manage where things should go.   The ability to have linked clones sitting on tier 2 or 3 storage allows better use of drive resources

Finally, another session I sat through discussed the market trends in driving desktop virtualization. 

 

 

It seems that Apple is driving some of the need.  I don’t know about your company, but at Xiotech I’m seeing more and more people utilizing MacBook’s and iPads for business use.  Virtual Desktop is the perfect fit for these types of situations.  The ability to serve up Microsoft specific applications, on a non-Microsoft product (Apple, Linux etc) is a great value-add.  It also really speaks to the “Bring your own PC” discussion that typically comes up in VDI discussion.

So heed my advice, go to VMworld the next chance you get, remember Vegas is going to be a beating !!  It is so worth the time and effort.  VMware did a spectacular job in pulling everything together.  This is definitely on my list of “Must attend” events!

@StorageTexan

What is your Windows 7 strategy?

 

My new favorite question !!  “What is your Windows 7 strategy?”   What appears to be a pretty straightforward question has led to some FANTASTIC discussions around Virtual Desktop opportunities lately.  It’s been my recent experience that most companies have been on Windows XP a few years longer than they would like to be so Windows 7 is something that is at the forefront of their mind.  Once the question is asked it usually starts moving towards a Virtual Desktop discussion (VDI) pretty quickly.  I’ve found that Windows 7 migration is one of the largest catalysts to get the momentum moving on a VDI architectural discussion (the others being VDI-Security, desktop disaster recovery as well as ”bring your own computer” or BYOC).  This makes sense since most of the time you buy a new PC with Windows 7 and not upgrade an existing desktop to Windows 7.  This is especially true if the existing desktop hardware is at least two years old. 

 

The upside to the VDI and Windows 7 discussion is this: it’s about as good a time as any to move to VDI then at any other point in time.  You already must replace the desktop hardware, so you might as well investigate the viability of virtualizing the desktop.  Sometimes it takes a little more than just a Windows 7 strategy to get things moving.  VDI also has some really nice side benefits like helping with local and remote users and their disaster recovery ramifications.  For instance, for a few years I ran the Systems Engineering Group for my region at Xiotech.  At the time I had 8 or 9 engineers and it never failed to happen that at least once a quarter someone’s laptop hard drive would crash, or better yet, get stolen – it always seemed that the AE’s had the most issues :) .  Each time that happened it took that SE or AE two or three days to get back up to speed and that’s if they had a good backup and we could ship them a replacement laptop quickly.  If not, it was a week.  What a VDI Architecture could have delivered was a “Desktop/Laptop Disaster Recovery process”.  In this case, they could have simply stopped into a store such as BestBuy, Target, or Fry’s Electronics and purchased a laptop, walked into a Starbucks (WiFi) and downloaded the VDI client and away they would go.  Now, if you don’t have remote users, think of the ability to swap out a failed desktop and have the end user up and running in an hour.  It’s HUGE!!!  The whole BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) concept really can take this to the next level.  Imagine the helpdesk team never having to image a laptop or desktop hard drive ever again.  You give the end-users a set dollar amount and require them to pick up 2 or 3 years of 24/7 phone support on the laptop/desktop and just supply them with a remote desktop access. 

 

Let’s look at the security enhancements you get with a Virtual Desktop architecture.  If you are a financial trading company, maybe you want to be able to lock down the company’s information as tightly as possible.  If you are a K-12 or University facility, maybe you want to keep the students from altering the OS/applications that might affect the next student.  The ability for a new desktop instance to be spawned at each unique login means that if a student loads a virus into the desktop, the next time someone logs in, they get a fresh, virus-free image.  What seems to have gotten the most attention in these K-12 institutions is the ability to offer the “Computer Lab” applications to home users.  Imagine a student logging into a VDI session from anywhere in the world and having the same level of access as if they were on campus.  The same look/feel etc.  Maybe the student has an iPad or a NetBook.  They can then access the lab 24/7/365.

So if you are struggling with concept of VDI and are looking for different ways to justify it hopefully I’ve left you with a few things to consider.  If nothing more, ask yourself (or the desktop team) the following:  “What is our Windows 7 strategy?”

@StorageTexan

Xiotech ISE Analyzer

 

In April 2010 Xiotech launched our CorteX (RESTful) architecture and one of the first things we rolled out to show the power of RESTful was our iPhone/iPad monitoring app.  It was a great success and really spoke to the power of a simple, easy to write to, open architecture.  We then took it to the next level and created a website www.CorteXDeveloper.com and encouraged people to sign up and participate.  So what’s next? 

The thing we hear most in the storage industry is the need for robust reporting tools for the array’s these customers are running.  With that said, we created a product called ISE Analyzer based on our CorteX RESTful API.  This robust API gives us some really unique capabilities.  ISE Analyzer gives our customers:

  • Dynamic User Interface based on Microsoft Silverlight
  • Quick View Status & Drill Down of their ISE, Servers and Storage Volumes
  • ISE Network Discovery – which is great in Storage Clouds
  • Data Analysis via Export – ability to export data into just about anything you need.
  • Visibility of historical data – trending etc
  • Local Alert Notification

The ability for customer to get their hands around all of their ISE’s they have in their environment, performance information as well as capacity planning is HUGE.  These ISEs could be deployed as standalone systems, integrated into Emprise 9000, Emprise 7000, ISE NAS, or even behind third-party storage virtualizes. It really continues our discussion around using ISE as a storage foundation.  Here are a couple of screen shots to look over.

The above screen shot gives a nice home screen.

What’s really cool is ISE Analyzer doesn’t have to be installed at a customer’s site.  From a service provider point of view, it can be installed in a monitoring site and the system can collect the information from many different locations or customers.  Ie) Service Provider wants to offer up a service around monitoring ISE’s at their customer locations.  ISE Analyzer gives them that ability.  This is fantastic for the SMB space who doesn’t have a 24/7 support staff.  We have also run into “dark sites” that don’t allow alerting/reporting to flow outside the firewall.  This solution would be perfect for them as well !!

I should also point out that we offer 2 kinds of ISE Analyzer.  We have the ISE Analyzer Software Service (SaaS) which comes as part of our zero cost, 5-year hardware maintenance contracts as well as an appliance based that is installed at a customer’s (or partners) location.  The big difference between the two is the ISE Analyzer Software Service is accessible via our customer portal and is based on a 24 hour period.  The Appliance based solution, due in large part to our RESTful API can do real-time performance trending.  The great news is, if you choose the appliance based solution, you also have the SaaS solution as well!!

So, if you currently running ISE’s and you want to monitor them, make sure you reach out to your account team.  Tell them StorageTexan sent you for a 10% discount HAHAHA :)  Also, if you are looking at Xiotech for your future storage needs, this will be a fantastic tool to help you better understand your utilization rates.

@StorageTexan

The Emprise 9000- Scaleout SAN Architecture

If you look up Emprise in the Merriam-Webster dictionary you will see that it means “an adventurous or daring enterprise.”   That pretty much describes the Emprise product family’s launch 2 years ago.  We did something that no one else was, or is doing today.  Imagine being able to start from scratch on a storage solution, and I’m not talking about controller software.  I’m talking a complete re-engineering/architecting a solution that is built with enough resiliencies to offer the only zero-cost 5-year hardware warranty in the storage industry.  Not only is it super reliable, but it’s ridiculously fast and predictable.  When you can support 600+ Virtual Desktop (Performance VDI) “bootstorm” instances at a whopping 20 IOPS per bootup in 3U of space, I would classify that as wicked fast!!!  

 

In those 2 years we have not sat around on our laurels.  Steve Sicola’s team, headed up by our VP of Technology David “Gus” Gustavsson, has really outdone themselves with our latest Emprise product launch.  Not only did we move our entire user interface from “Web Services” to a RESTful API (ISE-Manager (blog about this later) and our iPhone/iPad App), he also released our 20(ea) 2.5” disk drive DataPac which has 40(ea) 2.5” drives in 3U of space for about 19.2TB’s space and a TON of performance.  His team also released our ISE Analyzer (advanced reporting solution built on our CoreteX/RESTful API (www.CorteXdeveloper.com )– I’ll blog about that soon) and our next release of our Emprise product family, the Emprise 9000.  I swear his team doesn’t sleep!!!

 

 So, the Emprise 9000 is a pretty unique solution in the market.  Today, when you think “scale out” architecture the first thing you might think about is NAS.  Hopefully our ISE NAS !!  We hope moving forward you will also think of our Emprise 9000.  The Emprise 9000’s ability to scale to 12 controllers puts it way above the 8 controllers the 3PAR solution scales to and above the 2-controllers the rest of the storage world produces (EMC Clariion, Compellent, HP EVA, IBM XIV etc).  When married with our Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) it truly gives our customers the most robust, scalable solution in the storage market today.  

 

Let’s be clear, the Emprise 9000 is not just a controller update.  It’s a combination of better, faster controllers, RESTful API and our ISE technology combined to solve performance starved applications issues like Virtual Desktops, Exchange, OLTP, Data Warehouse, Virtual Servers as well as various other types of applications found in datacenters today.  The ability to give predictable performance whether the solution is 10% utilized, or 97% utilized is a very unique feature.  Did I mention it comes with our free zero-cost hardware maintenance?  24x7x365 !!!

So for those keeping a tally at home, and for those competitors that want a little more information on what the Emprise 9000 can do, here is a quick list: (this is not all the features)

  • Each controller has a Dual quad-core Nehalem CPU’s!!
  • Scale-out to 12 Controller pairs
  • 8Gb Fibre Channel ports
    • N-Port Virtualization (NPIV)
  • 1Gb or 10Gb iSCSI ports                (10GB later this quarter)
    • You can run both FC and iSCSI in the same solution.
  • Scalable from 1 to 96(ea) ISE’s of any size
    • Max capacity would be 1.8PB with 96(ea) 19.2 TB ISE’s
  • Support for greater then 2TB LUNS
    • Up to 256TB size LUN
  • Thin Provisioned Volumes
  • Snapshots
    • READ only Snapshots
    • Writeable Snapshots as well. Think “smart-clone” technology of VDI
  • Heterogeneous Migration
    • You want to migrate off that EMC, HP, 3PAR, HDS, etc – we can do it natively in our storage controllers.
  • Sync/Async native IP or FC replication

 

So, as you can see it’s a pretty impressive list!!  And as with all new products, we will be adding new features pretty quickly so stay tuned to announcements from us around the 9000.  BUT there’s more!!  But I can’t really go into it today :)  Just stick around a couple of months for some even cooler stuff Gus’s team will be rolling out.   I just got back from a week in Vegas getting feed by a firehose about all the stuff we will be rolling out by the end of the year.  WOW !!  Impressive to say the least !!! :)

@StorageTexan <-Follow me on Twitter

The Emprise 9000- Scaleout SAN Architecture

If you look up Emprise in the Merriam-Webster dictionary you will see that it means “an adventurous or daring enterprise.”   That pretty much describes the Emprise product family’s launch 2 years ago.  We did something that no one else was, or is doing today.  Imagine being able to start from scratch on a storage solution, and I’m not talking about controller software.  I’m talking a complete re-engineering/architecting a solution that is built with enough resiliencies to offer the only zero-cost 5-year hardware warranty in the storage industry.  Not only is it super reliable, but it’s ridiculously fast and predictable.  When you can support 600+ Virtual Desktop (Performance VDI) “bootstorm” instances at a whopping 20 IOPS per bootup in 3U of space, I would classify that as wicked fast!!!  

 

In those 2 years we have not sat around on our laurels.  Steve Sicola’s team, headed up by our VP of Technology David “Gus” Gustavsson, has really outdone themselves with our latest Emprise product launch.  Not only did we move our entire user interface from “Web Services” to a RESTful API (ISE-Manager (blog about this later) and our iPhone/iPad App), he also released our 20(ea) 2.5” disk drive DataPac which has 40(ea) 2.5” drives in 3U of space for about 19.2TB’s space and a TON of performance.  His team also released our ISE Analyzer (advanced reporting solution built on our CoreteX/RESTful API (www.CorteXdeveloper.com )– I’ll blog about that soon) and our next release of our Emprise product family, the Emprise 9000.  I swear his team doesn’t sleep!!!

 

 So, the Emprise 9000 is a pretty unique solution in the market.  Today, when you think “scale out” architecture the first thing you might think about is NAS.  Hopefully our ISE NAS !!  We hope moving forward you will also think of our Emprise 9000.  The Emprise 9000’s ability to scale to 12 controllers puts it way above the 8 controllers the 3PAR solution scales to and above the 2-controllers the rest of the storage world produces (EMC Clariion, Compellent, HP EVA, IBM XIV etc).  When married with our Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) it truly gives our customers the most robust, scalable solution in the storage market today.  

 

Let’s be clear, the Emprise 9000 is not just a controller update.  It’s a combination of better, faster controllers, RESTful API and our ISE technology combined to solve performance starved applications issues like Virtual Desktops, Exchange, OLTP, Data Warehouse, Virtual Servers as well as various other types of applications found in datacenters today.  The ability to give predictable performance whether the solution is 10% utilized, or 97% utilized is a very unique feature.  Did I mention it comes with our free zero-cost hardware maintenance?  24x7x365 !!!

So for those keeping a tally at home, and for those competitors that want a little more information on what the Emprise 9000 can do, here is a quick list: (this is not all the features)

  • Each controller has a Dual quad-core Nehalem CPU’s!!
  • Scale-out to 12 Controller pairs
  • 8Gb Fibre Channel ports
    • N-Port Virtualization (NPIV)
  • 1Gb or 10Gb iSCSI ports                (10GB later this quarter)
    • You can run both FC and iSCSI in the same solution.
  • Scalable from 1 to 96(ea) ISE’s of any size
    • Max capacity would be 1.8PB with 96(ea) 19.2 TB ISE’s
  • Support for greater then 2TB LUNS
    • Up to 256TB size LUN
  • Thin Provisioned Volumes
  • Snapshots
    • READ only Snapshots
    • Writeable Snapshots as well. Think “smart-clone” technology of VDI
  • Heterogeneous Migration
    • You want to migrate off that EMC, HP, 3PAR, HDS, etc – we can do it natively in our storage controllers.
  • Sync/Async native IP or FC replication

 

So, as you can see it’s a pretty impressive list!!  And as with all new products, we will be adding new features pretty quickly so stay tuned to announcements from us around the 9000.  BUT there’s more!!  But I can’t really go into it today :)  Just stick around a couple of months for some even cooler stuff Gus’s team will be rolling out.   I just got back from a week in Vegas getting feed by a firehose about all the stuff we will be rolling out by the end of the year.  WOW !!  Impressive to say the least !!! :)

@StorageTexan ß-Follow me on Twitter

How to design a Scale Out NAS Architecture

Scale-out architecture and why it is important when architecting a storage solution.

I had an interesting discussion with an architectural firm the other day.  Most of the discussion was around scaling for the future.  In our discussion we talked about the linear scalability of the ISE technology and he pointed out that while that made a ton of sense for his block-access requirements he was a little concerned around the unstructured data, as well as some plans utilizing NFS for some of his server and desktop virtualization needs.  The last thing he wanted to worry about was changing his architecture in 12 to 24 months due to growth or technology changes.  So we started working on architecting a solution utilizing our new “scale-out” ISE-NAS solution.

You’ve probably heard a lot about scale-out type architectures. 3PAR sort of led the way with their ability to scale out (at least to eight) their storage controllers to their fixed-backend backplane-attached disk drives and it offers up a pretty unique solution (at least in a block storage architecture).  3PARs problem is they don’t really have an answer for the same scalability around unstructured data (NAS).  Don’t get me wrong, they list 5 NAS companies on their website, 1 is out of business and the other 4 have either been acquired by their competitors or is a straight up competitor.  This scale out architecture seems to have caught on in the emerging NAS Gateway devices like Symantec FileStore and Isilon.  Clearly both FileStore and Isilon are very different on the scale-out architecture.  More below.

 

So first things first, let’s describe what a “scale-out” architecture means, at least to me that is.  When architecting solutions, it’s always important to put a solution together that can grow with the business.  In other words, they know what they need today, and they have an idea what they might need in 12 months, but 24 – 48 is a complete crap shoot.  They could be 5X the size, or just 2X the size but the architecture needs to be in place to support either direction. What is sometimes not discussed is what happens when you run out of either front-side processing power, backend IOPS or usable capacity?  Most storage solutions give you 1 to 2(ea) clustered controllers, and a fixed number of disk-drives they can scale to dependent on the specific controller you purchase.  From a front-end NAS solution most of them only scale to 2 nodes as well.  If you need more processing power,  more backend IOPS or capacity, you buy a second storage solution or you spend money to upgrade storage controllers that are not even remotely close to being amortized off the CFO’s books.  If you look at the drawing above, you can clearly see what scale-out architecture should look like.  You need more front-side processing, no problem.  You need more backend IOPS or Capacity, no problem.  They scale independently of each other.  There is no longer the case of “You love your first <insert storage/NAS solution of choice> and you hate your third, fourth etc etc. Isilon is probably a great example of that.  They tout their “scale-out” architecture but it clearly has some caveats.  For example, If you need more processing power, buy another Isilon, you need more capacity buy another Isilon, you need more backside IOPS…well you get the idea :)  It’s not a very efficient “scale-out” architecture.  It’s closer to a Scale up !!

Let’s also not loose site on the fact that this is a solution that will need to be in place for about 4 to 5 years, or the amount of time in which your company will amortize it.   The last thing you want to have to worry about is a controller upgrade, or net-new purchase because you didn’t size correctly or you under/over guessed your growth or even worse, years 4 and 5 hardware maintenance.  This is especially true if the vendor “end of life’d” their product before it was written off the books !!!  Cha-CHING.

 

So this company I was working with fluctuates with employees depending on what jobs they are working on.  It could go from 50 people to 500 people in a moment’s notice and while they would LOVE to size for 500, most of the time they were around 50 to 100.  So as I mentioned above, we started architecting a solution that incorporated our ISE-NAS solution based on Symantec’s FileStore product. When coupled with our Emprise 5000 (ISE) gives them the perfect scale-out solution.  They can start with 2-nodes and grow to 16 by simply adding NAS engines (x86) to the front end.  If they need more capacity, or backend IOPS, we can scale any direction independent of the rest of the solution.  Coupled with our predictable performance we gave them the ultimate ability to size for today, and know exactly what they can scale to in the future.

In the world of “Unified Storage”, cloud computing and 3 to 5 year project plans, its important to consider architecture when designing a solution to plan for the future.  Scale-Out architecture just makes a lot of sense.  BUT – do your homework.  Just because they say “scale-out” doesn’t really mean they are the same.  Dual-Clustered controllers – or even eight-way – will eventually become the bottle neck and the last thing you want to worry about is having to do a wholesale swap-out/upgrade of your controller nodes to remove the bottleneck or worse, have to buy a second (or third) storage solution to manage!!

@StorageTexan