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July

July 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Claude Belloni in News - (Comments Off on July)
The first heat wave is on us this week with temperature forecasts of up to 37C in Zurich - and with it starts Summer vacation time! So if you are headed for the beach or the mountains: Enjoy and don't worry about business during these lazy days of Summer!
If you, like myself, enjoy reading, I can recommend "No Ordinary Disruption" by Dobbs, Manyika, and Woetzel - a team of McKinsey researchers. It summarizes and explains the four major disruptive trends for the early 21st century which are:
  1. Urbanization
  2. Accelerating Technology Change
  3. An Aging World (changing demographics)
  4. Global Connections
As you can guess, at least two of them have a very close relationship to our industry (Technology Change and Global Connections) and the authors provide a clear and sometimes scary view of how these disruptions will change our world in the years to come.
  Couple news around storage base technologies - HDD and SDD: IDC just released the Q1 2015 worldwide storage revenue numbers. As every quarter since Carter was president of the U.S., the capacity sold grew double digit: "Total capacity shipments were up 41.1% year over year to 28.3 exabytes during the quarter." Somewhat hidden in the charts is the fact that "ODM" (which IDC defines as ".. storage systems sales by original design manufacturers (ODM's) selling directly to hyperscale datacenter customers) accounted for 12.6% of global spending during the quarter - an increase of 23% compared to Q1 2014. Which means in my own terms that "the cloud" is the 3rd biggest storage vendor in Q1 2015! Agree? Capacity-wise, the first 10TB disk drives are on the horizon: HGST announced a helium-based SMR drive (shingled magnetic recording) to be available later this year. As you may know, SMR drives lend themselves to "write-once type" of usage patterns. Read the above article for the detailed technical reasons for that behavior! "SSDs are expected to eventually dominate HDDs in laptops and desktops, but that isn't expected to happen for years. At the end of last year, SSDs were only in about 15% of new notebooks. And, prices for SSDs are many times higher than that of HDDs. For example, a data center-class HDD with 6TB of capacity sells for $185 today and will drop to about $165 by the end of the year -- about 3 cents per gigabyte, according to market research firm Gartner. A 4TB HDD for a laptop sells for $95 to computer manufacturers or about 2 cents per gigabyte" Read this great summary (Computerworld) on the race for capacity and price between the various HDD and SSD technologies!
  Lastly, switching to the topic of hyperconverged: Nutanix has made some waves about an upcoming new solution: "Nutanix is working on a scale-out file server and thinks it will set the cat among the pigeons in array-land, especially NetApp's filer business." They are positioning themselves for an upcoming IPO as you can see from these comments in the finance industry, so obviously try to dress up for Wall St. these days! My company Avnet, by the way, is greatly positioned to help our clients and partners to grow into the era of "Converged" or "Hyperconverged" and take advantage of the cost, ease of use and flexibility benefits of these solutions. Watch this short video here to see what Avnet can do for you!

New CISCO MDS9396S

May 29th, 2015 | Posted by Claude Belloni in News - (Comments Off on New CISCO MDS9396S)
Errandum - talking about the perceived demise of Fibre Channel in my last post: meanwhile CISCO just quietly announced a new, compact 96-port 16 Gbps SAN switch , the MDS 9396S (in CISCO speak, the "S" stands for 16 Gbps). Base configuration starts at 48 ports with SW/license upgrades in 12-port increments up to 96 ports.
Read the details here and here and find the product home here!
At the other end of the San Jose networking-neighborhood, at "130 Holger Way" (where Brocade is located), an almost flat SAN revenue was reported for their Q2 of FY2015: "SAN product revenue was $314 million, down 2% year over year. The decline was primarily the result of softer storage demand and operational issues at certain OEM partners.".

Ethernet: SDN, Ethernet disk drives and the demise of Fibre Channel

May 21st, 2015 | Posted by Claude Belloni in News - (Comments Off on Ethernet: SDN, Ethernet disk drives and the demise of Fibre Channel)
Today, I have a bunch of networking news for you and try to give you some insight on where the industry is moving in terms of SDN (software defined networking).
But make no mistake: while marketing slides and vendor presentations suggest that everything "SD" is magic and easy, this is certainly not the case! "SD" at its best may enhance flexibility (customer choice of common hardware building blocks) and provide lower TCO, but the underlying mechanics and infrastructure still needs to provide the functions and performance levels of today's specialized products! So -as always- there's no free lunch here! Point in case: read this article about the claimed TCO's for the CISCO ACI solution! Good old Ethernet -as a protocol- is currently undergoing a major boost in terms of standardized speeds and -as a result- increased number of use cases. One of them is the new segment of "Ethernet disk drives". A very promising way of providing access to HDDs directly attached to standard Ethernet (thus no SATA, SAS, ...) as "The Register" writes in this article about a recent Seagate announcement here: "Kinetic is the object storage platform Seagate has built to make it possible to so useful work with its Ethernet-equipped disk drives. Seagate's ambition is to cut arrays out of the loop, allowing software to talk directly to disks. By cutting arrays and file systems out of the loop, Seagate reckons it can save users some cash and also speed things up." To accommodate the increasing performance requirements of today's networks, the Ethernet Alliance has recently issued an updated roadmap including native 25 Gb/s which is supposed to be productized as early as 2015! "The Ethernet Alliance recently released its 2015 roadmap, which outlines Ethernet’s response to the ongoing desire for more bandwidth in data centers by adding new speeds for both in-rack and backbone connections. The roadmap calls for some eye-popping speeds in the future, but also charts out a plan for the low end of the market, representing an unprecedented level of activity for Ethernet."  Read the complete article here! With my longterm Fibre Channel background, I was wondering of course where this leaves the storage protocol which is still dominating most of the datacenter connectivity between compute and storage: For a number of agreeable reasons, as outlined in this great article here, you may argue that FC has a somehow limited future: "Pundits have long predicted the demise of Fibre Channel, but this time it's real. In fact, the decline has already begun and now that RoCE is routable, this decline will accelerate. The last years Dell’ Oro SAN report highlighted a 3% year over year decline in Fibre Channel revenues, citing the need for “distributed scale-out and object-based storage” and a preference for "Ethernet speeds and converged infrastructure."" Would you agree?

Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA Honoured as Recipient of 2014
EMC EMEA VSPEX Distributor Partner of the Year Award

Bracknell, UK – May 8, 2015 – Avnet today announced it has received the 2014 EMC EMEA VSPEX Distributor Partner of the Year Award from EMC Corporation.

The award was presented on Wednesday 6th May to Avnet at the Global Partner Summit at the 2015 EMC World. The award recognises Avnet for their commitment to EMC, as well as their proven ability to add value to EMC’s offerings and drive innovative solutions for customers.

Dieter Lott, vice president business development, EMEA, at Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA commented, “We have enjoyed a decade long partnership with EMC. In fact, our partnership in North America celebrates its 15-year anniversary, this year. This award showcases our expertise in delivering global scale and local expertise as a value-added distributor in EMEA.”

“Avnet’s demonstrated leadership in EMEA has helped transform technology into business solutions for customers across EMEA,” said Philippe Fossé, vice president channels EMEA for EMC. “With VSPEX® technology, Avnet is helping customers leverage EMC’s best-in-breed converged infrastructure to drive IT innovation. It is my pleasure to recognise Avnet as EMC’s EMEA VSPEX Distributor Partner of the Year.”

Read the Press Release here!

May I

May 5th, 2015 | Posted by Claude Belloni in News - (Comments Off on May I)
It's May - which means that global IT flocks to Vegas for their spring pow-wow's. Starting this week is EMC with IBM next week and others to follow. So for today, let me focus on the most recent EMC announcements and give you a couple hints on where to find the details. First, read an overview and summary of the Day 1 announcements here and here! One of the more exciting - but less visible news seems to be the vVNX (read: virtual VNX or software-only entry storage) offer which shows up in the EMC store - check it out here! A slightly older post by EMC president Jeremy Burton from two weeks ago also helps to position and understand the strategy behind these announcements as well as his take on how and when last year's DSSD acquisition ("..an insane server-attached flash thing..") will start to be visible in products.
Big news also on the VCE side of the EMC federation: they use the EMCworld platform to make noise about the VxRack (based on VMware EVO:Rack) solution to be shipped around Q3 this year. Read the overview here and some insights by VCE CTO Trey Layton here. Lastly, for an understanding what's under the hood in terms of VMware technology, you'll have to scroll back to this VMworld blog entry from last year by VMware Fellow Raj Yavatkar here. Now wait, before we all get too excited about this, let's put this into perspective: "...Thus hyper-convergence is a special class of server SANs where VM workloads run alongside the storage workloads. It was conceived of to be cheaper, denser and more appealing than legacy convergence. Data centre convergence is a special class of hyper-convergence." And lastly, there is (always) the issue of pricing, as is outlined here.

April

April 17th, 2015 | Posted by Claude Belloni in News - (Comments Off on April)
Let's start with base technology today: we are slowly approaching the 10TB capacity point for 3.5" HDDs. After Western Digital / HGST (which has been selling a helium-based 8Tb drive for a couple months already), Seagate has announced a 8TB drive as well: Not using helium to allow more platters inside the 3.5" form factor - but obviously basing their product on SMR (shingled magnetic recording) to achieve the required density. This also explains the specific use case outlined in the announcement, described as "backup and objects": SMR disks use track overlay to reduce track width and thus have a limited capability to perform write updates to existing data / tracks. This is explained very well in this Wikipedia article here. Also refer to my previous blog-entry from November 2013!
There was other breaking news regarding storage capacity last week: The teams of IBM Research Zurich and Fujifilm have demonstrated an areal recording density of 123 billion bits of uncompressed data per square inch on low cost, particulate magnetic tape, a breakthrough which represents the equivalent of a 220 terabyte tape cartridge that could fit in the palm of your hand ! Read the details here. Moving up the solution stack, let's talk about " SAN" and it's younger sibling "VSAN": while SAN's have been around for some twenty years now, the current trend has been reversed and storage seems to move back into the server as a "virtualized" resource to be shared by multiple instances of the virtualized servers (VMware, Hyper-V, ....). Here's a look back at SAN's and a thorough analysis of the capabilities (and limitations!) of VSAN! VSAN is also one of the building blocks of VMware EVO:Rail and with the recent wave of EVO:Rail appliances hitting the market (among them the EMC VSPEX Blue) I found the article here to be a great summary and overview of this architecture/technology.
"Converged System circa 1977"
Which brings us to the "converged topic" and related material which is plentiful these days! Let's first look at the Q4 2014 market numbers as presented by IDC. The surprising #2 vendor for EMEA for the integrated infrastructure (with a triple-digit growth compared to Q4 2013!) is HP:
  • The EMEA "Integrated Infrastructure and Platform Revenue" report for all of 2014 can be found here.
  • The worldwide "Integrated Infrastructure and Platform Revenue" report for Q4 2014 can be found here.
As many of you certainly already figured out, "converged" is nothing new - it's rather the inversion of what started in the late 80ies and early 90ies as "client-server" architecture. Read this amusing story here!

March

March 27th, 2015 | Posted by Claude Belloni in News - (Comments Off on March)
Spring greets us with the latest IDC numbers about Q4 storage market details. I have compiled a couple of the reports below: The one really stunning fact in the IDC worldwide external storage report (besides the not-so unexpected drop of 24% for IBM) is the 40% increase of revenue for ODM direct! You won't find ODM as a company - IDC adds up sales to all types of "managed service providers" under that category: overall, external storage shipments to ODM's account for 12.8% of the worldwide revenue in Q4! See details here. And for EMEA: IDC EMEA external storage market report. IDC worldwide PBBA (if you don't remember PBBA: purpose built backup appliance) report. Not much of a surprise there, EMC DataDomain has a very comfortable lead with over 60% share in that market - which is not really growing in terms of revenue as you can read in the report. Where is this massive amount of storage going? Read here about the recent price offensive of Google for low-cost storage! And don't forget to forward the clock on Sunday morning-if you live in Europe that is!

February

February 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Claude Belloni in News - (Comments Off on February)
VSPEX Blue is the one hot topic today and is EMC's entry into the HCIA (hyper-converged infrastructure appliance) market! Based on VMware EVO:Rail and VSAN and preconfigured with RecoverPoint and EMC CloudArray software (among others). Please read the official press release here and read Avnet's release here!
You may be slightly confused (as I still am) about the positioning of EVO:Rail VSAN and EMC ScaleIO from EMC which seem to address a very similar market and problem. I found  that article from "The Register" to be very helpful in understanding where which makes sense and what the similarities are.
Add Flash storage to the equation and read how PureStorage sees EVO.Rail and Flash and how they may or may not be combined in the future in AFHCIA's (all-flash hyper-converged infrastructure appliances).

January

January 5th, 2015 | Posted by Claude Belloni in News - (Comments Off on January)
Happy New Year!
I have summarized a couple of 2015 predictions, wish-lists and trends at the beginning of the year for you below. Of course they represent my personal beliefs about where the IT and Storage industry will be heading in the next 12 months - so feel free to disagree! First let me revisit the state of the art in HDD capacity as of January 2015, here's a great writeup of what is available today: As you can see, we are rapidly approaching the 10 TB capacity limit - but data access performance remains an ever bigger problem with those huge disk drives. Related to that, RAID protection becomes less practical with every TB we add for single drives, so the industry is looking into new ways to protect data as you can read here! And for the SSD segment of enterprise storage, read the 2015 wish list for AFA's (all-flash arrays). Second, here's a number of analyst predictions for top 2015 storage trends and market developments: Hot storage technologies for 2015 (most notably Cloud-based disaster recovery or DRaaS among them) and top storage start-ups (many of them supporting flavors of SSDs to maximize performance)  to watch this year! And lastly from the NetApp CTO and industry veteran Jay Kidd, here's his personal view on 2015 trends.
Third: meet "Docker", the next big thing after hypervisors! Or as is explained in this paragraph on docker.com: "Docker is an open platform for developers and sysadmins to build, ship, and run distributed applications". It may be a smart thing to start to learn about Docker early in 2015 - so I have listed the link to a four part summary/basic overview from "The Register" here. Enjoy!

December

December 19th, 2014 | Posted by Claude Belloni in News - (Comments Off on December)
It has been a busy time for me and while I have continuously followed what's going on in the IT market, I did not have time to sit down and digest. So before 2014 is over, let's have a look at some recent news and how they fit into current trends:
If I had to summarize what I see going on right now is three major areas of excitement and start-up-activity:
  • Converged and Hyper-Converged Systems, goes hand in hand with the "software defined datacenter" topics and the Server-side SAN solutions.
  • Flash Storage and the question how a future "memory" or "storage" hierarchy will look like?
  • Cloud and all kinds of "managed services". Combined with the question which parts of IT will be on-premises - and what will be off-premises in a future scenario?
Along these lines, here's a writeup of recent news: The article here is a great analysis by industry veteran Jon Toigo about the new storage hype around server-SANs and the proclaimed death of the storage array as we know it. He states that "...there's no such thing as a true storage network, at least not one that fits the ISO model of networks. We have storage fabrics with switched DAS (SANs), and we have DAS with thin file server appliances (NAS). So, the idea that virtual servers won't work with anything but server-side direct attachment is silly."


It's impossible to understand server-SANs without knowing some details about VMware VVOLs (and here), VSANs (see also here), and most recently EVO:Rail Check the respective links for an explanation of each!
Please see my blogpost from Sept. 2013 as well, plus a great comparison of Hyper-Converged solutions here!

So while VSANs let's you control direct attached server storage from VMware, VVOLs provides a new construct (beyond NAS and LUNs) to manage external/SAN storage from VMware. And EVO.Rail (based on VSAN technology) is a complete software bundle from VMware which enables vendors (Dell, HP, and others have announced intents) to build their own "hyper-converged" appliances.

Reminds me of good old days of IBM mainframes where the "IO subsystem" was defined and under control of the base operating system. VMware obviously wants to gain control over the storage side of the datacenter and -in my opinion- they have a fair chance of winning that bet.

On to Flash: Combining the converged and flash hype will result in solutions like the one here: "Nutanix introduced a new all-flash storage appliance and a new feature that enables continuous availability across data centers."
And last week from Flash-leader PureStorage"Pure and Cisco have dreamed up FlashStack converged infrastructure (CI). This is a combination of combine Pure’s 400 Series arrays, Cisco UCS Blade Servers, Nexus switches, VMware vSphere 5 and Horizon 6".
However, this is mostly an unilateral attempt from Pure to hook up with CISCO - you will not find that specific solution on the CISCO CVD (CISCO validated design) site. No surprise; as they already have Invicta (to be integrated into UCS) and have created solutions with Nimble as well.

Closing todays comments with very recent news on AWS (Amazon web services):
"Amazon added storage features at its AWS re:Invent conference in November. They include support for larger and faster volumes on its Elastic Block Store (EBS). The enhancements center on solid-state drive (SSD)-backed EBS, which was launched back in June in all AWS regions. Amazon calls SSD EBS the fastest-adopted service in its Amazon Web Services portfolio."

What if - someday we may start over with a very disruptive and new way of computing? While dating back to Summer, the vision of "The Machine" sounds somewhat appealing to me!