Tag Archives: Commvault

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

Stalled Virtualization Projects-How Xiotech can help you unstick these deployments

Stalled Virtualization Projects? – How Xiotech can help you UN-STICK these deployments.

Xiotech is in a huge partner recruitment phase this year.  Things have been going just fantastic! However, one problem we are running into is trying to get some of these larger partners to give us the time of day.  Shocking I know- who wouldn’t want to carve out 60 mins of their time to talk to “Ziotech” (I didn’t misspell that – it happens to us ALL THE TIME).  Once we get our foot in the door it’s usually 20 mins of them explaining that they carry EMC, NetApp, Pillar, HDS, and Compellent, etc.  They always explain to us they just can’t take on yet another storage vendor.  What’s really interesting is we typically tell them we don’t want to replace any of their current storage offerings.  This usually leads to a skeptical look from them :)  I usually tell them that we have a very unique ability to “un-stick” Virtual Desktop opportunities. Let me explain a little further.

It never fails- VDI projects seem to get stalled, or simply get stuck in some rut that the prospect or partner can’t get out of.  Now, a stuck project can come in many shapes and sizes.  Sometimes it’s time and effort, sometime it’s other projects in the way. But the vast majority of the time its Cost/ROI/TCO type things.  Not just from a justification point of view, but most of the time from the upfront CAPEX view.  This has been especially true with 1000+ seat solutions.  Like I said, I just keep hearing more and more about these situations from our partners.  What normally follows is, “well the project is on hold due to funding issues.” So how can we differentiate ourselves in this kind of opportunity?  Funny you should ask that!!

I typically like to describe our ISE solution as a solution that has a VERY unique ability to do 3 things better than the rest. 

#1 – We give you true cost predictability over the life of the project. 

Let’s be honest, if you are about to deploy a 5000+ VDI desktop solution you are probably going to do this project over a 3 year time frame right?  Even if it’s only 500, why is it that as we look into these solutions further we only see 3 years of maintenance on the most expensive CAPEX which is storage?  By the time you get all 5000+ systems up and running it’ll be time for year 4 and 5 maintenance on your storage foundation.   If this isn’t your first storage rodeo, then you know that years 4 and 5 can be the most painful in regards to costs. Not to mention, what’s really cool about our solutions is the “Lego” style approach to design.  We can tell you what the cost is for each ISE you want to buy, since they are in 3U “blades” you can simply add the number you need to meet whatever metric you have in place and know the cost of each one.  As you can see, we do “Cost Predictability” pretty well.

#2 – We give you performance predictability. 

With our 3U Emprise 5000 we have the very unique ability to predict performance characteristics.  This is very difficult with legacy storage vendors.  Their array IOPS pool can swing 80% plus or minus depending on how full from a capacity point of view their solution is.  We deliver 348 SPC-1 IOPS per SPINDLE based on 97% capacity utilization.  Keep in mind most engineers for legacy storage arrays use 150 to 120 IOPS per spindle.  So based on that alone, we can deliver the same performance with ½ the spindles!!    

#3 – We can give you capacity predictability. 

Because of the linearity of our solution, when you purchase the Emprise 5000 we can tell you exactly how much useable, after RAID capacity you will have available.  Best practice useable capacity for our solution is 96% full.  That’s where we do all of our performance testing.  Compared with the industry average of anywhere from 60% to 80% your capacity “mileage” will vary !!

 So why should this be important to solution providers and customers?  So back to my VDI comments.  If you are in the process of evaluating, or even moving down the path to deploy VDI how important is it for you to fully understand your storage costs when trying to design this out?  If I could tell you that you can support 2000 VDI instance in 3U of space, and that 3U of space can hold 19TB’s of capacity and that solution cost $50,000 (I’m pulling this number out of the…..well, air) that could really be a pivotal point in getting your project off the ground don’t you think?  Like I said, no one deploys a 5000 seats solution at one time.  You do this over a number of years.  With our Storage Blades, you can do just that.  You simply purchase the one ISE at a time.  With its predictable costs, capacity and most importantly, it’s predictable performance you have the luxury of growing your deployment overtime, without having to worry about a huge upfront CAPEX hit.  Not to mention a 5 year hardware warranty better aligns with the finance side of the house and their typical 5 year amortization process.  No hidden year 4 and 5 Maintenance costs !! 

So, if you are looking at a VDI project or you’ve looked at it in the past and just couldn’t justify it, give us a call.  Maybe we can help lower your entry costs and get this project unstuck !!

Thanks,

@StorageTexan

Backup-Restores-Power and cooling oh my!!

In today’s datacenter no matter how much de-duplication, storage-tiering, and archiving companies attempt to throw at an issue, there still seems to be an explosion of information that has to be backed up, protected, restored and archived.   I’ve stopped being surprised each time I’ve asked a customer how their backup window is doing.  It’s always horrible and out of control.  Even with advanced data de-duplication it still surprises me at the responses I get.  Not to mention, most of the time customers are running out of power, cooling as well as rackspace in their datacenters.  All of this becomes a sort of “Perfect Storm” that has the potential to sink the datacenter into a mess of inefficiencies. 

So as I’ve discussed in the past, I get to spend a lot of time architecting solutions.  One of the things I spend a lot of time helping design is solutions to help eliminate performance bottlenecks.  The great news is I feel pretty strongly that we have a solution that is best in the industry.  Imagine if you could eliminate storage as a potential bottleneck as well as reduce your power, cooling and overall carbon footprint with one storage solution?   Awesome right!!!  What if I told you that Xiotech has the fastest, best throughput raid-protected spinning media solution in the market today (by Storage Performance Council SPC-2)?  What if I also told you that not only is it the fastest, but it’s also the most greenest (is that a word?) as well?  You would probably tell me I was full of…well you know.  This 3U storage element packs a wallop of performance.  If you haven’t had a chance, you should check out this recent press announcement.  In it we talk about a single Emprise 5000 having the ability to simultaneously power 750 DVD quality video streams, 25,000 MP3’s or 4 Studio-class movie editing projects.  For those of you that are familiar with this types of performance hogging applications you know that in 3U of space, that’s pretty cool!!  We even mention having the equivalent of operating every movie theater screen in the state of Colorado at the same time from one system.  You know on a side note, after 10 years here at Xiotech – how come I don’t have one in my entertainment center yet!!! Brian Reagan – maybe you can make this happen for me :)

You probably noticed that I haven’t even touched on how we can reduce the carbon footprint!!  We have a cool little feature that is native in our Emprise 5000 product called “PowerNap”.  Not only is it native, but it’s also FREE!!  PowerNap utilizes industry-standard Wake on LAN (WOL) technology.  This gives the end user an incredible ability to power up and down the Emprise 5000 solution via scripts or cron jobs.   

Here is something I like to take prospects through.  Let’s say you run a VTL (or backup to disk process) type solution for backup or archiving.  With PowerNap, you can run a simple Perl or PowerScript, as part of a backup process, to spin up the Emprise 5000.  So you kick off your backups at 6pm, it takes just 60 seconds to bring the Emprise 5000 from 24watts of power, up to the full operating  power draw of around 500 watts.  Impressive right!!  So, during the day the unit stays in a low power draw state, only drawing 24 watts of power. NOW THAT’S GREEN!!!!  Let’s say that during the day you need to do a quick restore.  You run your restore process within your backup software solution and part of the restore process is to run the script to spin up the unit.  Once the file has been restored, the backup application can issue another script to “PowerNap” the unit.  By the way, we have a great “BestPractice Guide”.  If you are interested in it, follow me on twitter and send me a message.  I’ll send it over to you.

Did I mention the Emprise 5000 comes with FREE 5 Year Hardware Maintenance and the PowerNap feature is FREE TOO!!!!  In the “me-too” world of Storage array features and functions, it’s things like PowerNap and blazingly fast performance like this that make me happy to go to work each and every day !!

@StorageTexan

Why running a hotel like you run your storage array could put you out of business.

<this post was updated on April 2, 2010>

Recently I wrote about why “Cost per raw TB” wasn’t a very good metric for comparing storage arrays.  In fact, my good friend Roger Kelley over at StorageWonk.com wrote a nice blog specifically “Comparing Storage Arrays “apples to apples” .  We don’t say this as a means to simply ignore some of the features and functions that some of the other vendors offer.  It’s just our helpful reminder that there is no “free storage lunch”.

So let me take you on a different type of journey around “cost per raw TB” and “cost per useable TB” and apply it to something outside of technology.  Hopefully this will make sense!!

Let’s assume you are in the market for a 100 room hotel.  You entertain all sorts of realtors that tell you why their hotel is better than the others. You’ve decided that you want to spend about $100,000 for 100 room hotel which averages about $1000 per room.   So, at a high level all the hotels offer that same cost per room.  Let’s call this “Cost per raw occupancy”.  It’s the easy way to figure out costs and it looks fair. 

You narrow down your list of hotels to three choices.  We’ll call them hotel C, hotel N and hotel X.   Hotel C and N have the same architecture, same basic building design, essentially they look the same other than names and colors of the buildings.  Hotel X is unique in the fact that it’s brand new and created by a group that has been building hotel rooms for 30+ years with each hotel getting better and better.  They are so confident in their building that it comes with 5 years of free building maintenance.   

So, you ask the vendors to give you their “best practice, not to exceed hotel occupancy rate”.  Hotel C tells you they have some overhead associated with some of their special features so their number is about 60 rooms that could be rented out at any given time.  The reservation system will let you book an unlimited amount of rooms, but once you get over 60 things just stop working well and guests complain.  Hotel N says they can do about 70 rooms before they have issues.  Hotel X says they have tested at 96 room’s occupancy without any issues at all.  

So, while at a high level hotel’s C, N and X were $1000 a room, after further review hotel C is about $1600 a room, hotel N is $1400 a room and hotel X is $1041 a room.  Big difference!!  Let’s assume each of these vendors could “right size” their hotel to meet your 100 room request but the room cost will stay the same.  So, hotel C would now cost you $160,000, hotel N is $140,000 and hotel X is $104,000.  So that my friend is what I like to call “Cost per useable occupancy” !!

Another way to do this is to have hotel C and N right size down to your budget number based on “cost per useable occupancy”.  If the $100,000 is the most important and you understand that you will only get to rent out 60 or 70 rooms from the other hotels, then you could save money with Hotel X by just purchasing 60 rooms in hotel X.  That would bring Hotel X’s costs down to $60,000 or a nice savings of $40,000!!  The net-net is you get 60 rooms across all 3 hotels but 1 offers you a HUGE savings. 

At the end of the day, as the owner of that hotel you want as many rooms rented out as possible.  The last thing you want to see happen is your 100 room hotel only capable of 60% or 70% occupancy. 

So, if you are in the market for a 100 room hotel, or a Storage Array, you might want to spend a little more time trying to figure out what their best practice occupancy rate is !!  It’ll save you money and heartburn in the end.  

I’ll leave you with this – based on the array you have today, what do you think your occupancy rating would be for your 100 room hotel?  Feel free to leave the vendor name out (or not) :)

@StorageTexan

Cool things Commvault is doing with REST

Cool things Commvault is doing with REST 

I’ve always been a HUGE fan of Commvault.  They just rock.  When I was a Systems Engineer back in Austin in the early 2000’s, I don’t think we had an account that I didn’t take Commvault into to try and solve a customer’s backup issues.  AND WE DIDN’T EVEN SELL COMMVAULT !!!   They had such cool technology that was clearly leaps and bounds above everyone else. Not to mention, they had some really cool people that worked for them as well (Shout out to Jeanna, Joelle, RobK and of course Mr Cowgil).  

Fast forward a few years and the release of Simpana as well as the addition of native DeDuplication clearly gave Data Domain and various other deduplication solutions a run for their money.  You would think that would be enough for one company!!   I was pretty excited about their recent press release around adding cloud data storage as a tier option in Simpana.  Dave Raffo over at SearchDataBackup.Com did a really nice job of summarizing the announcement.  It’s a clear sign that Commvault is still very much an engineering driven organization.  Which is just AWESOME!! 

 I think the biggest nugget that I pulled out of the press release is Commvault’s ability to integrate native REST capabilities.  The more and more I hear about REST’s potential, the more I get excited about some of the endless possibilities it can offer.  In this case, it allowed Commvault to easily integrate their backup architecture to include 3rd party cloud solutions like Amazon S3, EMC Atmos and a slew of others.   They didn’t need to build an API for each vendor; they just relied on REST’s open API to do that for them. 

If you haven’t had a chance you should check out Brian Reagan’s blog posting that mentions something we are calling CorteX.  Essentially CorteX is our RESTful based ecosystem on which developers can gain access to our Emprise solutions.  This is the next evolutionary step in our ongoing open architecture capabilities.  As some of you are aware, we’ve been touting our WebService’s Software Development Kit for some time.  It’s allowed us to do things like VMWare Virtual View which ties directly into Virtual Center to give VMWare Admin’s unprecedented abilities, as well as Microsoft developers creating a provisioning application called SANMAN that integrates some of their processes directly to our storage.  RESTful API will take this to a greater level.  Just like Commvault was able to tie directly into public cloud storage providers, CorteX will give unprecedented abilities to do really cool things. 

I’ve probably said more then I should :) So I’ll leave it with “more to come on CorteX as we get ready to release”.  I’ve probably stolen enough of Brian’s thunder to get an e-mail from him!!  It’s always good to hear from a Sr VP right!! 

So, keep an eye on Xiotech over the next couple of months and start paying attention to vendors that support RESTful API’s !!!

Thanks,

@StorageTexan