Tuesday 29 October 2013

DataCore chairman on Software-defined storage and SSD performance

DataCore Software Chairman Ziya Aral, a founder of the company specializing in storage virtualization software, defines software-defined storage in its simplest terms, as a way of breaking the hardware layer from the software. Aral claims his company has been doing this for years, long before software-defined storage became such a widely used phrase.
In this interview with SearchSolidStateStorage, Aral describes why this approach is a good fit for solid-state drives (SSDs) and how it can help SSD performance.
You have called SSDs a revolutionary, yet complicated, technology. Why is it so important, and why is it so complicated?
Ziya Aral: SSD is important because it is fast. For most of our time in this industry, storage has meant disks. Disks are mechanical and, as a result, they're slow. There's an entire complicated fabric for making them fast -- caching and all kinds of lore that we apply to the devices. All of a sudden, here come SSDs, and they're transparent. A customer can simply stick one in a box -- and all of a sudden, it's faster. You boot Windows. You boot Linux. It happens in seconds. Whoa! This is great. Fast storage is very important.
Storage is the black sheep of the computer family. It's always the one lagging behind, because it's fundamentally mechanical. It's the one that slows down applications. Once upon a time, a third of all applications were storage-bound. Now it's probably 95%. Everything else got faster. We didn't.
The result is that any innovation that speeds up mass storage is wonderful, and SSDs speed up mass storage in a practical, commercially viable way. That's the good news. The bad news is they don't work like disk drives. They are complicated.
So if you want to read from an SSD, that's wonderful, but if you try to write to an SSD, it's not as fast. Worse, SSDs don't like being written to. I'm sorry to all my friends in the industry, but they don't. You know it. I know it. They burn out, and they burn out pretty quickly by disk standards.
So now, here's the complexity. SSDs aren't perfect for everything. They're still expensive -- to carry the bulk of your storage. You've still got to think about what you want to do with them in a larger architecture.
Now there are people in the industry, we try to partner with those people, people like Fusion-io, who I think are brilliant. They focus SSDs in a specific application, databases in this case, and they moderate SSDs with two technologies that actually make SSDs perform. One is software. They run caching software in front of their SSD. Second is DRAM. DRAM has a great advantage in that it doesn't care how many times you write to it...
...And how big of an impact will software-defined storage have on the SSD market and the performance of solid-state drives?
Aral: Huge. It's huge because it's hard enough to make disk drives work [laughs] and keep the application going, and the whole server virtualization market seems to have gotten stuck on tier-one applications and on virtual desktops.
So along comes this great storage technology. It supplements the conventional disk drive industry in a profound way. Integrated with DRAM, it seems to be able to work, but all of it defeats the schemes that we have been working on for years and years and years.
For example, to get the proper advantage of SSDs, you want the SSD to be local to the application. Most SSDs work that way. Now people are trying to build hybrid arrays and arrays of SSDs. That really sort of loses the advantage.
There's a physics to going over a wire … a lot of the advantage of the SSD disappears in that process. So now we are talking about moving a lot of the software infrastructure into the server and into the network. Well, why [move it] into the network? Because you don't want SSDs written to.
You want the longest delays possible, but long write delays mean that the data has to be in at least two locations, which means that the data has to go over a wire. Two ends of the cycle -- direct reads and asynchronous writes -- are happening at two different locations, and the software is infinitely portable. The software that glues those two phases together has to sit on both sides of the wire.

Monday 28 October 2013

The Register on DataCore: "Whoo-whoo. What's that sound? It's the DataCore Express passing '10k' Customer Sites"

That's 10,000 customer sites using DataCore Storage Virtualization Software...

Storage-area-network (SAN) software supplier DataCore has, we're told, notched up 10,000 customer sites. DataCore is based in Florida and ships SANsymphony and allied SAN software products that turn standalone and clustered X86 servers and their storage into SANs.

The latest, ninth, version of SANsymphony has increased the cluster node count from 8 to 16, effectively doubling the SAN size. CEO George Teixeira said the plan is to increase it stepwise to 128. Version nine also has a next-generation replication service with faster initialisation of its engine, supports Microsoft's ODX and VAAI, and provides logging and configuration alerts.

Teixeira says DataCore has been about software-defined storage for a long, long time. EMC's ViPR is no real advance on that front, merely being an API translator, and looking like the latest version of Invista to him. In effect, he asserts, EMC is saying to its customers that they should keep on buying separate storage devices and now there's an API translator sitting on top of them.

He decries the notion that array hardware suppliers such as NetApp can do software-defined storage: "Are you kidding me? SANsymphony is portable and general."

Teixeira told us: "We're seeing a lot more sales and interest in DataCore products after EMC's ViPR launch and we're now in more than 10,000 customer sites." That's after fifteen years of being in business.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Best of VMworld Europe 2013 User Awards: Massive Fehmarnbelt 18KM Tunnel project powered by DataCore Storage Virtualization

Judges' comments: “A huge project which couldn’t go unrecognised for how it has assured its own future growth and success. The project’s end result will be one hell of a case study.”

Five European IT projects either won or received honorable mention in the Best of VMworld Europe 2013 user awards, held at last week’s VMworld Europe 2013 event in Barcelona.

The judges of the fourth annual Best of VMworld Europe awards assessed the entries and selected the recipients based on overall innovation, systems performance improvement, cost reduction, easing the management burden, new use in the marketplace and improved efficiencies and business processes.

Fehmarnbelt Tunnel & DataCore Storage Virtualization Software
The organization overseeing construction of the 18km Over $8 billion Fehmarnbelt tunnel between Denmark and Germany has deployed DataCore storage virtualization software and it has cut disk storage costs by around 75%.

Danish state-owned Femern’s IT systems will have up to 150 engineering staff, as well as numerous consultants and contractors working to access CAD drawings, specifications and workflow systems for the project, which will be running on VMware and DataCore based systems.

“Our users were experiencing slow response times and a performance lag from their Microsoft SQL & Exchange applications running on VMware.  Today, and in the future, with DataCore, the applications appear robust, instantaneous and seamless.”  - Tim Olsson,  IT Manager at Femern A/S

The massive 18km underwater tunnel is due for completion in 2021.

The IT team adopted DataCore’s SANsymphony-V caching, auto-tiering and Fusion-io flash memory to speed up access to data and critical applications.

As a result it has ensured high speeds for its critical Microsoft SQL database and mail applications and safeguarded the project’s future growth flexibility to handle increased traffic and avoid hardware supplier lock-in with software-defined storage.

For more information, please read the full case study: Fehmarnbelt Tunnel & DataCore Software

Tuesday 15 October 2013

VMworld Europe 2013: DataCore Previews Latest SANsymphony-V Software-Defined Storage Platform Release Optimized for VMware® Infrastructures and Larger Scale Virtualization Deployments

At VMworld Europe, DataCore's long term customer SES Engineering, the worlds largest satellite company, presents the strategic advantages of a DataCore SANsymphony-V Software-defined Storage Platform
DataCore at vmworld
VMworld Sponsor DataCore showcases thousands of real-world customer successes, updates storage and VDI solutions and previews latest enhancements at VMworld Europe 2013, Stand S112

DataCore Software, the leader in software-defined storage architecture and premier provider of storage virtualization software, today provided a sneak-preview of its latest enhancements to the SANsymphony™-V storage virtualization software at VMworld 2013 (Oct. 15-17, Fira Barcelona, Stand S112). The company also is featuring its recently released DataCore VDS – Virtual Desktop Server, an affordable and high-speed VDI software solution. Visit Stand S112 to learn more about the new SANsymphony-V release, available on November 4, 2013. It will provide much greater scalability, faster next-generation replication services for disaster recovery, automatic self-healing storage capabilities, expanded platform integration with VMware VAAI space reclamation services and an updated vCenter™ plug-in. In addition, the new release of SANsymphony-V supports infrastructure-wide performance tiering and acceleration services that extend across scale-out grids of flash, SSDs and spinning disks from any vendor to accelerate Tier-1 applications and virtualization workloads.

DataCore and VMware Customers Speak Out on Software-defined Storage in a Virtual World
DataCore customer SES Engineering, the world-leading satellite operator and satellite communications company, will be available at the DataCore stand and will be featured in the Solutions Exchange Theatre on Oct. 15th at 4:40 p.m. SES Engineering will share its experience with DataCore storage virtualization software and explain why they see a software-defined architecture as the only logical solution to gain the flexibility and adaptability needed to address their growth and constantly changing needs.

VMware Users “Stop Fighting Your Storage Hardware”
DataCore Software recently launched a European-wide education and information campaign to spread the word to VMware users on the benefits of storage virtualization and software-defined storage architectures. Information resources including informative webcasts, links to video series on storage virtualization, white papers, “How To” guides and regional case studies are now available on DataCore’s “Stop Fighting Your Storage Hardware” site. The site showcases how real-world customers have achieved a software-defined data center that can maximize business productivity and capitalize on their current hardware investments.

Thousands of data centers around the globe deploy DataCore to cost-effectively meet the high-performance and high-availability storage requirements of their physical and virtual servers. "By making use of the DataCore solution within the virtual infrastructure created by VMware vSphere and VDI, we can not only ensure that we meet these corporate requirements, but also guarantee optimal cost-efficiency as a result of the hardware independence of the solution. This affects both the direct investment and the indirect and long-term cost of refreshes, expansions and added hardware acquisitions. We have thus created the technical basis for our external IT services, and within this framework we are creating the most flexible and varied range of cloud services possible," states Dr. Karl Manfredi CEO at Brennercom, a leading ICT company.

DataCore SANsymphony-V is Optimized for VMware Virtual Infrastructure Deployments
DataCore SANsymphony-V delivers a simple and scalable high-availability solution to meet vSphere™ shared storage requirements. The hardware-agnostic storage virtualization software abstracts and pools internal and external disks along with flash/SSDs to yield lightning-fast response, non-stop access and optimal use of capacity. Notable features include enhanced support for fast in-memory optimizations using DRAM caching and auto-tiering flash technologies, metro-wide failsafe synchronous mirroring and enhanced higher speed replication and new services for disaster recovery and remote site recovery. An updated plug-in for VMware vCenter allows users to non-disruptively provision, share, clone, replicate and expand virtual disks among physical servers and virtual machines. SANsymphony-V is the ideal software-defined storage platform to meet the demanding availability and performance needs required by VMware Virtual Infrastructures.

New SANsymphony-V Features Preview
The SANsymphony-V release available on November 4, 2013 will include: 
  • Twice the scaling with support for up to 16 federated nodes
    – Scales performance and HA; federated nodes can span Metro-wide distances
  • Next generation remote replication services
    – Speeds up performance for disaster recovery
  • New self-healing storage services
    – Reduces business downtime from hardware failures
  • New failsafe non-disruptive data mobility services between storage pools
    – Increases overall resiliency
  • New Hypervisor integration services
    – Offloads hosts to accelerate performance and data mobility operations (VAAI, ODX)
  • New space reclamation services
    – Enables IT organizations to reclaim unused capacity they already own
  • New change-control management and audit trail logs
    – Helps prevent avoidable errors and simplifies troubleshooting 
“The growing momentum for software-defined storage has encouraged VMware customers to consider storage virtualization software solutions that address performance and availability concerns. But while hypervisor-based and device-dependent storage virtualization solve some problems, agnostic software-only storage virtualization like DataCore SANsymphony-V have been proven to deliver  the highest value by working across any physical or virtual server and any collection of spinning disks and flash technology storage devices. We are pleased to showcase our customer proven value proposition and our SANsymphony-V software-defined storage platform at VMworld Europe 2013,” says Christian Hagen, vice president EMEA at DataCore Software.

DataCore VDS 2.0 – The VDI Solution
Visit the DataCore stand (S112) to find out more about the recently announced DataCore VDS 2.0 software.

"DataCore VDS overcomes the VDI adoption issues and addresses the major market need for affordable desktop virtualization solutions in a climate where smaller budgets and the European financial crisis are impacting all IT decisions. DataCore VDS 2.0 removes many of the most painful implementation obstacles while significantly reducing the cost per virtual desktop instance, states Mr. Hagen.

Special Offer to VMware vExperts, VCPs and VCIs
DataCore Software is offering a free one-year, Not-for-resale (NFR) license to VMware vExperts, VMware Certified Professionals and VMware Certified Instructors. The NFR licenses can be used in non-production environments, for evaluations, demonstrations and training purposes. VMware vExperts, VCPs and VCIs can access and download the software from the DataCore website at

Monday 7 October 2013

Software-defined storage and choices; Automated tiering is the hottest storage technology in 2013 – TheInfoPro

Interesting to see the recent results from TheInfoPro, a service of 451 Research LLC. Obviously, it was great to read that "software-defined storage transforming provisioning and capacity choices,"  this is why I wrote 36 Reasons To Adopt DataCore Storage Virtualization and Software-defined Storage Architectures .  However, what struck me the most was how Automated tiering has become the Hot technology of 2013.

I believe this is also tied to the growing use of Flash/SSD technologies and many vendors are offering what I consider a simple 2 level version of auto-tiering that works between flash and disk drives but it is almost always restricted in its use to storage that they control in their proprietary arrays.

At DataCore we see auto-tiering as a key architectural element of software-defined storage and therefore it is not limited to running within a single box of disks or on a vendor specific storage array system. Unlike the current offerings out there (e.g. HP 3PAR, Dell Compellent, etc.) DataCore takes auto-tiering to the infrastructure-wide level, our smart software spans up to 15 tiers of storage from Flash, to spinning disk drives to Cloud storage and we work across a wide mix of different incompatible platforms -basically any model or vendor storage device.

Yes we can auto-tier but we do it across all the storage assets, for example it can run over a Fusion-io card on the app sever as well as over HP 3PAR, Dell Compellent, SATA capacity disk systems and even to Cloud storage...thousands of customers are using it so it is proven technology.

Check out the DataCore Auto-tiering page for more information.

Anyway, here is a quote and a summary of the latest report that got me motivated to do this blog post:

"There are two major forces working on storage today - solid-state transforming storage architectures in datacenters, and software-defined storage transforming provisioning and capacity choices," said Marco Coulter, VP, TheInfoPro. "As enterprises move from solution designers to service brokers, the conversations with business partners are evolving from bits and bytes to services and APIs."

TheInfoPro released their latest Storage Study, revealing that enterprise storage capacity is more than doubling every two years, exceeding the rate of Moore's Law.

Consequently, automated tiering is the hottest storage technology in 2013, as it helps keep budgets under control by enabling the use of lower-cost capacity. As enterprises struggle to define an external cloud strategy, the on-premises cloud model is gaining favor.

Conducted during the first half of 2013, the study identifies the storage priorities of leading organizations to provide business intelligence about technological roadmaps, budgets and vendor performance. This semiannual study is based on live interviews with IT professionals and primary decision-makers at large and midsize enterprises in North America and Europe.

Highlights from the Storage Study include:
  • Enterprise Storage Capacity More Than Doubled Past Two Years
  • Solid-state or flash is mainly a hybrid array choice for enterprises, with 37% in use, compared with only 6% for all-flash arrays.
  • Decoupling of the storage hardware from the software controller presents a real market opportunity for software vendors looking to capitalize on enterprise interest in software defined storage. 31% of respondents viewed the coupling of storage controller hardware and software as very important or extremely important.
  • Architecting for performance is often reactive, as 48% of large and midsize enterprises have no specific IO/s targets for applications.
  • Internal cloud storage is the second most likely technology to be added to 2013 storage budgets as enterprises remain cautious about external cloud storage, which they accept as useful for email but not for general capacity. The increased demand for internal cloud storage solutions helps storage vendors as they seek to compete with Amazon S3.
  • Object storage (at the heart of many service-provider cloud storage offerings) faces an education barrier in enterprises, since most still see it as a compliance solution.
  • Enterprises are staying with FC for their core storage networks, with FCoE seen as an 'edge' solution and IB as a niche for select HPC deployments (12% in use)