Monthly Archives: January 2010

How to build resilient, scalable storage clouds and turn your IT department into a profit center

How to build resilient, scalable storage clouds and turn your IT department into a profit center!!

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last year the topic of Cloud based computing might be new to you.  Don’t worry about it at this point, there are CLEARLY more questions than answers on the subject.  I get asked at just about every meeting what my interpretation of “cloud” is.  I will normally describe it as an elastic, utility based environment that when properly architected, can grow and shrink as resources are provisioned and de-provisioned.  It’s a move away from “silo based” infrastructure and into a more flexible and scalable, utility based solution.  From a 30,000 foot view, I think that’s probably the best way to describe it.  Then the conversation usually rolls to “so, how do you compare your solution to others” relative to cloud. Here is what I normally talk about.

First and foremost we have sold solutions that are constructed just like everyone else’s.  Our Magnitude 3D 4000 product line is built with pretty much the exact same pieces and parts as does Compellent, NetApp FAS, EMC Clariion and HP EVA etc.  Intel-based controller motherboards, Qlogic HBAs, Xyratex or other SBOD drive bays connected via arbitrated loops.  Like I’ve said in prior posts, just line each of these up, remove the “branding” and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  They all use the same commodity parts.  Why is this important?  Because none of those solutions would work well in a “Cloud” based architecture.  Why?  Because of all the reasons I’ve pointed out in my “Performance Starved Application” post, as well as my “Cost per TB” post.  THEY DON’T SCALE WELL and they have horrible utilization rates.  If you really want to build a storage cloud you have to zero in on what are the most important aspects of it, or what I like to refer to as “The Fundamentals”.

 First you MUST start with a SOLID foundation.  That foundation must not require a lot of “care and feeding” and it must be self healing.   With traditional storage arrays, you could end up with 100, 200 or even 1000 spinning disks.  Do you really want to spend the time (or the HUGE maintenance dollars) swapping out, and dealing with bad disks?  Look don’t get me wrong, I get more than a few eye rolls when I bring this up.  At the end of the day, if you’ve never had to restore data because of a failed drive, or any other issue related to failed disks then this is probably not something high on your list of worries.  For that reason, I’ll simply say why not go with a solution that guarantees that you won’t have to touch the disks for 5 years and backs it up with FREE HARDWARE MAINTENANCE (24/7/365/4hr)!!  Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.  From a financial point of view, who cares if you’ve never had to mess with a failed drive, it’s freaking FREE HARDWARE MAINTENANCE for 5 years!!

Secondly, it MUST have industry leading performance.  Not just “bench-marketing” type performance, I mean real audited, independent, third party, validated performance numbers.  The benchmarks from the Storage Performance Council are a great example of a third party solution.  You can’t just slap SSD into an array and say “I have the fastest thing in the world”. Here is a great example; if you are looking at designing a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure then performance should be at the top of your design criteria (boot storms).  Go check out my blog topic on the subject.  It’s called “VDI and why performance matters”

Finally, you need the glue that holds all of this together from a management and a reporting point of view.  WebServices is that glue. It’s the ubiquitous “open standard” tool on which many, many application solutions have been built on. We are the only company who builds its storage management and reporting on Web Services, and have a complete WSDL to prove it.   No other company epitomizes the value of WebService than Microsoft.  Just go to Google “SANMAN XIOTECH” and you’ll see that the folks out in Redmond have developed their own user interface to our solution (our WSDL) to enable automated storage provisioning.  HOW AWESOME IS THAT!!  Not to mention, WebServices also gives you the ability to do things like develop “chargeback” options which turns the information technology department into a profit center.  We have a GREAT customer reference in Florida that has done this very thing.  They’ve turned their IT department into a profit center and have used those funds to refresh just about everything in their datacenter.

So those are the fundamentals.  In my opinion, those are the top 3 things that you need to address before you move any further into the design phase.  Once your foundation is set, then you can zero in on some of the value added attributes you would like to be able to offer as a service in the cloud. Things like CDP, CAS, De-Duplication, Replication, NAS etc.

@StorageTexan <– Follow Me on Twitter !!!


The Xiotech Social Media Brigade

The Xiotech Social Media Brigade 🙂

I’m asked a lot about who in Xiotech blogs, tweets etc. Here is a quick list. If you are with Xiotech, and you are not listed, let me know and i’ll add you !!!

Updated: Feb 27, 2010

Twitter Accounts:

@StorageTexan – That’s me !!!

@Xiotech – Our corporate account

@peglarr –Rob Peglar – VP of Technology

@JGM – Jim McDonald – Chief Strategy Officer

@briancreagan – Brian Reagan – Sr VP of Marketing

@pjselin – Peter Selin – South Central Enterprise Architect

@robsgarcia – Rob Garcia – East Region Systems Engineer

@kpeterson9978 – Kandace Peterson – East Region Account Executive

@mensch45 – Steve Sattler – Western Region Account Executive

@scottsigrist – Scott Sigrist – Central Region Account Executive

@McAnderson – Matt Anderson – Sales Operations

@MHack71 – Mickey Hackett – Eastern Principal Systems Engineer

@Gunslinger0331 – Rolland Miller – Central Principal Systems Engineer

@carelk – Carel Koch – Central Principal Systems Engineer

Blogs: – ME 🙂  – Joel Ruf – Technical Marketing Manager – Roger Kelley – Western Region Principal Storage Architect – Xiotech Official Blog – Peter Selin’s Blog – Steve Sattler’s Blog

Please make sure you follow everyone !!!


Xiotech ROCKING in 2010

 Why you  need to pay attention to Xiotech in 2010.

 (Please keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times!! )

Whew!!  The last 2 weeks have just been CRAZY!!!  I thought I would do a quick re-cap of the events.  On January 8th, I celebrated my 10year anniversary with Xiotech by launching www.StorageTexan.Com and posting my first blog.  It was a great opportunity to walk down memory lane.  I really enjoy blogging and hope to be able to keep it up.  January 10th, I flew out to Las Vegas to attend the Xiotech National Sales meeting.  WOW, what a great time!!  It’s always cool to hang out with all the Xiotech’ers.  I have to say, Alan Atkinson is doing a fantastic job.  What he’s done in his short amount of time at Xiotech is just phenomenal.  He’s surrounded himself with such talented people and has done such an awesome job of steering the company in the right direction.  Brian Reagan (@BrianCReagan) our Sr. VP of Marketing has done the unbelievable.  Completely re-vamped our website, marketing message, pulled together an AWESOME NSM and re-launched our social media presence (@Xiotech) in about 45 days!!  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sleep.  I also had a great opportunity to visit with our Chief Strategy Officer Jim McDonald (@JGM).  This was my first experience with him and I’m really impressed.  He’s already made some great impact in our overall go to market strategy and I’ve seen some of the things he wants to do and it’s just AWESOME.  You want to make sure you pay attention to us in 2010.  No recap of our NSM can be complete without mentioning our CTO Steve Sicola.  The guy is CRAZY SMART and I swear he’s got the enthusiasm of a 7 year-old at Christmas.  He LOVES HIS TOYS !!! 

That same week we welcomed our Channel Partners to Caesars Palace and I swear it’s going to take me 6 months to completely dry out.  We have THE best partners and they know how to have a great time!!  By the way, if you haven’t had an opportunity yet, go check out our new website (  VERY COOL!!  While you are there, check out Brian Reagans blog about the weeklong event. (Blogs.Xiotech.Com). Expect to see even more Social Media things as Brian gets this machine cranking out more information.  It’s always great to read Rob Peglar blogs (@peglarr)and my understanding is he’ll be doing a lot more !!

That brings us to this week.  NERDFEST 2010 was SOOOOOOOO cool.  This was Steve Sicola’s brainchild.  Essentially he pulled in every Xiotech Engineer from India, Eden Prairie, Florida and Colorado Springs as well as the Field Enterprise Architects for a week long “Geek-Out”.  Complete with Sicola’s homemade super fiery green chili.  In hindsight, having all these people in a small room the next day probably wasn’t the greatest of ideas :).  Our Enterprise Architect out of the South Central, Peter Selin blogged about it at his site. (@pjselin) Also, one of the presenters was Oak Investment Partners very own David Black (@DavidBBlack).  He wrote a nice blog about his time at NerdFest as well as a great overview on our ISE technology called “Xiotech ISE: A Revolution in Storage”

So I sit here with a nice cold Bud Light Lime trying to “will” myself to pull together a weekly report to send to my boss.  I think I’ll put that off until Sunday!!  My brain is pretty much mush at this point. 

Please keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times !!!

@StorageTexan <– Follow me on twitter !!

VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Why Performance matters

Is Storage Performance Predictability when building VMWare Virtual Desktop (VDI) Storage Clouds important?  This can also apply to Citrix and Microsoft Windows Hyper-V Virtual Desktop Systems.

Here is yet another great example of why I just love my job.  Last week  at our Xiotech National Sales Meeting we heard from a net-new educational customer out in the western US.  They recently piloted a VDI project with great success.   One of the biggest hurdles they were running into, and I would bet other storage cloud (or VDI specific) providers are as well, is performance predictability.  This predictability is very important.  Too often we see customer focus on the capacity side of the house and forget that performance can be extremely important (VDI boot storm anyone?).  Rob Peglar wrote a great blog post called “Performance Still Matters” over at the blog site.  When you are done reading this blog, head over to it and check it out 🙂

So, VDI cloud architects should make sure that the solution they design today will meet the requirements of the project over the next 12 months, 24 months and beyond.  To make matters worse, they need to consider what happens if the cloud is 20% utilized or if/when it becomes wildly successful and utilization is closer to 90% to 95%.  The last thing you want to do is have to add more spindles ($$$) or turn to expensive SSD ($$$$$$$$$) to solve an issue that should have never happened in the first place.

So, let’s assume you already read my riveting, game changing piece on “Performance Starved Applications” (PSA). VDI is ONE OF THOSE PSA’s!!!  Why is this important?  If you are looking at traditional storage (Clariion, EVA, Compellent  Storage Center, Xiotech Mag3D, NetApp FAS) arrays it’s important to know that once you get to about 75% utilization performance drops like my bank account did last week while I was in Vegas.  Like a freaking hammer!!  That’s just HORRIBLE (utilization and my bank account).  Again you might ask why that’s important?   Well I have three kids and a wife, who went back in to college, so funds are not where they should be at…..oh wait (ADD moment) I’m sure you meant horrible about performance dropping and not my bank account.  So, what does performance predictability really mean?  How important would it be to know that every time you added an intelligent storage element (Xiotech Emprise 5000 – 3U) with certain DataPacs you could support 225 to 250 simultaneous VDI instances (just as an example) including boot storms?  This would give you an incredible ability to zero in on the costs associated with the storage part of your VDI deployment.  This is especially true when moving from a pilot program into a full production roll out.  For instance, if you pilot 250 VDI instances, but you know that you will eventually need support for 1000, you can start off with one Emprise 5000 and grow it to a total of four elements.  Down the road, if you grow further than 1000 you fully understand the storage costs associated with that growth, because it is PREDICTABLE.

What could this mean to your environment?  It means if you are looking at traditional arrays, be prepared to pay for capacity that you will probably never use without a severe hit to performance.  What could that mean for the average end user?  That means their desktop boots slowly, their applications slow down and your helpdesk phone rings off the hook!!  So, performance predictability is crucial when designing scalable VDI solutions and when cost management (financial performance predictability) is every bit as critical.

So if you are looking at VDI or even building a VDI Storage Cloud then performance predictability would be a great foundation on which to build those solutions.  The best storage solution to build your application on is the Xiotech Emprise 5000.



Cost Per TB

Greetings and welcome back to my blog !!  I think i’m starting to get the hang of this !!  Hopefully you will agree !!

In my blog post titled Performance Starved Applications we specifically zeroed in on those storage array vendors whose best practice is to keep their systems below a certain utilization rate for performance reasons. If you recall, I mentioned that in our Emprise product line, using ISE technology, we do not have these issues.  Not only can you use more than the industry standard 75%, WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO RUN IT AT 95%% FULL!!!!  Heresy I know!!  We are such rebels over here!!

Let me give you some more food for thought on why this should be important to you.  Why should you pay for the 25% capacity you don’t use?  This is only a big deal if you don’t have an unlimited budget :).  Many times a prospective storage buyer just zero’s in on the upfront costs which in most cases is really misleading.  I like to look at this in a sort of “Cost vs. Value” thing if that makes any sense.   If you’ve ever considered “Cost Per raw TB” as one of the metrics towards the purchase of an array, you want to read further!!

Full disclosure here; I “borrowed” ALL of the following information from Roger Kelley, Principal Storage Architect for the Xiotech Western Region.  He put the “Rock” in Rock Star and I’m not above “borrowing” his ideas!!  His are ALWAYS better than mine anyway!!!  Don’t they say stealing is the perfect form of flattery?  I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes 🙂

Cost vs. Value

If I offered to sell you a 100TB SAN for $1000 how many systems would you buy?  Would you consider $10.00 per TB to be a good deal?  I’m mean COME ON it’s freaking $10.00 per TB!!  What if you bought it, got it to your datacenter, installed it, powered it on, opened up your server and found out that all but 1GB of capacity was used for other things?  The upfront cost maybe AWESOME but it’s far from a good value right?  If you can only use 1GB of that 100TB solution you are actually paying $1,000.00 per GB or $1,024,000 per TB!!!  OUCH.

We at Xiotech have referred to this as the industry’s “Dirty little secret”.  This secret is all about highlighting the upfront cost based on “raw” capacity which makes their configs look great.  As you can see from the example above, that doesn’t make this a good value.  Upfront cost per raw TB, in my opinion is not a good thing to focus on.  In my PSA blog we talked about the common industry “best practice” usable being about 75% right? Probably one of the best discussion on this dirty secret happened over at Chuck Hollis Blog back in 2008.  He basically had a “Slap Fight” comparing his EMC (CX4=70%) with NetApp (FAS=60%) and HP (EVA=70%) on their various utilization rates. (STOP don’t leave yet – finish my blog, comment at the bottom how great this was and then go to his and reference my blog while you leave him a comment).  The comments are the place you want to spend your time in.  It’s just a classic slap fight.  You should bookmark it for future reference.  If I can take a moment for some gratuitousness I just want to do a little SHOUT OUT to Chuck Hollis.  I want to be you and Rob Peglar when I grow up!!

Again, I’m not trying to pick on anyone in particular.  This could be any one of the following solutions (or all of them): Clariion, EVA, FAS, Compellent Storage Center, Xiotech Magnitude 3D, etc.  These solutions are typical and represent a vast number of installed arrays.  At the end of that day it’s important to not get wrapped around the axel on “cost per RAW capacity” but to zero in on “cost per useable capacity”.    Unless you just like paying more money then you should!!



Performance Starved Applications

In my role here at Xiotech I get to spend a lot of time with prospects as well as customers. It’s probably why I love my job so much. My wife seems to think it has more to do with my A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) and the ability to change topics and discussions on a daily basis then it does anything else. She’s probably right; at least she likes to point out just how right she typically is!! But that’s probably a separate blog posting 🙂  So back to my role and the blog topic at hand.

Have you heard of the phrase “Performance Starved Applications” or PSA? Hopefully this term is not new to you. PSAs are simply applications that are not performing correctly due in large part to two things. First, the customer purchased a solution that the vendor failed to size correctly; or if it was sized properly, the customer failed to understand the caveats once it was deployed. What sort of caveats might this be? In typical SBOD (Switched Bunch of Disks) arrays, as the storage system fills up, the performance drops like a hammer. This isn’t just a one vendor issue. Have you noticed that a lot of storage vendors use the same parts to build their arrays? For example, place a Clariion, EVA, FAS, Storage Center, Magnitude 3D next to each other. About the only difference is the logo and the software loaded on the controllers. In most cases they are using the exact same drive bays, shuttles and drives. So, they all suffer from the same issue and they all have a similar caveat when it comes to just how full you can load up their system. The industry has settled on about 75%.

So hopefully we all agree, as the storage system fills up, the performance goes down at just about the same interval. To give you an example, a typical enterprise-quality Seagate drive can produce about 300 “typical” IOPS empty. At 50% full, it drops to about 50% of the performance or 150 IOPS, at 75% its closer to 119 IOPS. So, if we can agree on these numbers the rest should make sense. Let’s play with some numbers. So a customer needs 20TB’s of 15K enterprise drives and let’s say we use those new spiffy 300GB 15k Enterprise Seagate drives. Using my “South Texas” math that’s 20TB/300GB drives = 67 Drives. (before you say it, yes I know a 300 GB drive is NOT 300GB but that’s another blog topic all together – not to mention all the sparing needed for that number of spindles, RAID overhead, etc.) so if we take 67 drives times 300 IOPS we get 20,100 IOPS. SWEET. But let’s be realistic, they have no intention of keeping their storage solution empty. So, should we use 50%? That drops the number down to 10,050 IOPS. Not bad, but let’s be really serious here, NO WAY does a customer only use 50% of their capacity right? Most of my customers use 90% of their capacity but we’ll settle in on the industry standard 75% so that IOP Pool would be around 8000 (just in case you were curious on the 90% number it’s 105 IOPS per drive so that would be 7,000). So I put this into a nice graph because I’m a big fan of pictures !!

<Click to make larger>

So, that’s eye opening.

You essentially paid for 20,100 IOPS but you only get to use 8000. Now think of some of your transactional applications you are running like E-mail and databases and ask yourself “How are they running?” It wouldn’t surprise me if you start to remember a user here or there mentioning that at times their email just sits and waits or database reports that you need take hours to run. Those are what we like to call PSA. And truthfully, most of the time the storage array is the last thing people think of.

 So, how can you solve this issue? The typical answer from vendors is “Buy 50% more capacity”. Problem is, you bought more than you need and never use it 🙂 instead, check out one of our Emprise solutions. They are built on our patented (80+ patents) storage system called the Intelligent Storage Element (ISE). The ISE suffers from no such performance degradation. You can check out a couple of YouTube video’s here –

So, the next time you think your applications are running slow or your end users complain of performance problems, you might want to check and see just how full your array is. If you enjoy using 100% of both the performance and capacity you purchased then give Xiotech a call !!!

My 10 years with Xiotech

WOW!! I’m very proud to say that today is my 10 year anniversary with Xiotech.  What an awesome ride this has been.  In those 10 years I’ve had an opportunity to work with some brilliant people.  Some of them are still here at Xiotech, others have moved on to other endeavors, but each one has made an impact both professionally and personally on me.

It just seems like it was just yesterday, sitting in the Minneapolis Decathlon Club Hotel (I think it’s a water park now 🙂 ) overwhelmed with a sense of “wow, this is soooo cool”, as well as thinking “Crap, I hope they don’t realize I have no idea what I’m doing” 🙂  The week before, I was a Windows and Unix Systems Admin for a telemarketing company out of Austin with no Pre-Sales experience.  I basically snuck into the position because the CIO of my company wanted to go back into sales and Xiotech snatched him up.  The good news for me is they were also looking for a Systems Engineer.  The CIO put in a good word for me and BAM I was hired and flown up to Minny for the National Sales Meeting!!  

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “He took to it like a duck takes to water”.  Well that duck is me.  I took to the Pre-Sales Systems Engineering position like a duck takes to water.  I LOVED IT and I tried to do everything in my power to absorb as much knowledge as I could.  Not just the ins and outs of storage, although I did that (I still have my SNIA Level 2 certification hanging on my wall !!).  As well as trying to hone/craft the whole concept around “Consultative Selling”.  I’m convinced that once you fully grasp consultative selling, you move very quickly into “Rock Star” status in a sales environment.  Now, for people like me who are far from “rock stars” you do the best you can and based on the 10 years I’ve been here, I think I’m getting closer!! 

Over those 10 years I’ve had the ability to wear multiple hats.  I’ve been a Pre/Post Sales Engineer doing selling/rack-n-stack and break/fix stuff, to a Regional Storage Architect and a Regional Systems Engineering Manager and it’s been an AWESOME ride.   I can honestly say that I’m just as excited today, as I was on my very first day and the education that has come from being” immersed in storage” these past 10 years has turned this “dyed in the wool” network guy into a “dyed in the wool” storage guy. I can’t tell you how happy I am they took a chance on me all those years ago!!

So, this is my first blog, my hope is to have the time to do more entries.  I have a lot of ideas but as people with Attention Deficit Disorder can tell you, it’s sometime difficult to stay focused long enough to edit it down and post it without changing it 400 times !! 🙂

Until then, here’s looking to another 10 years !! 🙂