Help StorageMojo find the VMAX 20k’s lost petabytes!

by Robin Harris on Wednesday, 21 January, 2015

While working on a client configuration for a VMAX 20k – and this may apply to the 40k as well, as I haven’t checked – I encountered something odd: The 20k supports up to 2400 3TB drives, according to the EMC 20k spec sheet. That should be a raw capacity of 7.2PB

However, the same spec sheet appears to say that the maximum usable storage capacity – after taking care of formatting overhead, system needs, etc. is ≈2PB. Here’s the table from the spec sheet:

20k spec sheet

Coming at it from other directions, it seems that since the 20k supports four 60 drive enclosures per rack, and supports 10 drive racks – with a lot of daisy-chaining – you can indeed connect 2400 3.5″ SAS drives. So where us the discrepancy?

Try as I might I can’t reconcile it. Simple spec sheet error? I can’t read? Are large capacity drives short stroked? Is the NSA using the rest? What’s up?

I know there’s a lot of EMC expertise out there, so please, enlighten me!

The StorageMojo take
I’ve been looking at a number of systems this week. As far as large vendor product info goes, EMC and NetApp are the least forthcoming, HP the most, and HDS in the middle.

Normally withholding information from customers is meant to ensure a call to their friendly Sales Engineer, but perhaps it is to imbue passivity into customers. “Boy, I can’t figure this out. Why even try?”

Perhaps more on this topic later. I’ve also thought of twist on the Price Lists that may justify un-deprecating them. Your thoughts?

Courteous comments welcome, of course. Update: If I were in competitor product marketing, especially for flash products, I’d be updating my “flash is competitive with disk” slides tonight. End update.


Facebook on disaggregation vs. hyperconvergence

by Robin Harris on Tuesday, 6 January, 2015

Just when everyone agreed that scale-out infrastructure with commodity nodes of tightly-coupled CPU, memory and storage is the way to go, Facebook’s Jeff Qin, a capacity management engineer – in a talk at Storage Visions 2015 – offers an opposing vision: disaggregated racks. One rack for computes, another for memory and a third – and fourth – for storage.

The rationale: applications need different amounts of each resource over time. Having thousands of similarly configured servers ignores this fact and leads to substantial – at FB scale – waste.

They’ve also found that different components reach functional obsolescence at different rates. Refreshing hardware at the rack level is simpler than opening thousands of servers and replacing dusty bits.

Enabling this dramatic change is their new network. No details on this network, but it must offer high bandwidth and extraordinarily low latency.

Another rack resource coming soon: optical cold storage racks starting at 1PB and expected to go to 3-4PB with the advent of 400GB optical discs.

The StorageMojo take
Holy disaggregation, Batman! The hooded crusaders at Facebook are roaring out the Zuckcave with architectures blazing. Maybe hyperscale is even odder than we imagined.

What does this mean for the rest of us? A first approximation: very little.

Facebook is an amalgam of services with very different requirements: instant messaging; friend news feeds; gaming; video; long-term photo storage; and oodles of advertising and user tracking.

An Amazon home page draws on over 100 distributed asynchronous services, but the focus is your shopping cart and payments. Facebook is, in comparison, a realtime feed mashed up with a massive personal archive.

Facebook is popular culture and its application resource requirements reflect that. Apps, like memes or fads, ebb and flow with user’s whims. Search, by contrast, is almost static.

To the extent that there is a larger lesson, it’s the network that FB has designed. If they can actually make disaggregation work the network is key.

The advantages of stripped down, warehouse-optimized LANs recall the earlier battle between RISC and CISC in CPUs. Simpler, cheaper and faster vs complex, costly and slower.

That is an idea with legs.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. As is traditional, Internet access at CES is spotty.


Friday hike blogging: Highline trail

by Robin Harris on Friday, 19 December, 2014

Hike blogging got interrupted by some schedule conflicts and bad weather. Federal district court jury duty was one interruption. Some needed rain and cold temperatures was another.

To make up for the lapse, here are two pictures from this week’s hike around Cathedral Rock.

Winter is one of my favorite seasons because of the clouds and, sometimes, fog on the rocks. Here’s a shot from early in the hike, looking east to the Mogollon Rim:

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

As the 4+ hour hike progressed, the weather improved. This view of Cathedral Rock is looking northwest from the Highline trail in the last hour of the hike.

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

Planning to take Bo and Tess on a walk later today. And if the weather cooperates hoping to hike the spectacular Hangover trail on Tuesday.


WD acquires Skyera: whoa!

by Robin Harris on Thursday, 18 December, 2014

The Skyera acquisition could signal a sea change in the relationship between storage device and system makers. It is overdue.

Traditionally, device makers avoided competing with their customers. This is what it made Seagate’s acquisition of Xiotech (now X-IO years ago so surprising.

StorageMojo was critical of Seagate’s Xiotech acquisition because there were large and profitable intermediate steps that Seagate could’ve taken – which they belatedly have – rather than diving into the array business. Ultimately Xiotech didn’t work out for Seagate.

Are things are different today?
Competing with customers is much less of an issue today because:

  1. There are only 4 3 hard drive vendors.
  2. Most system OEMs are moving to flash and SSDs are fast as they can anyway.
  3. Intel/Micron and Samsung are dominating enterprise SSD sales, so Seagate and WD have little business to lose.

Today, unlike the past, there’s a clear, low-risk path for WD, Seagate, and Toshiba to move into the storage system arena. In fact, given Intel’s and Samsung’s SSD success, there’s a positive reason to move soon if they want to play any role in future enterprise storage.

Every silver lining has a cloud. And in the case of WD and Seagate, the problem is that they are component vendors, not system vendors.

Their executive teams have to wrap their heads around software, service and support to build a viable systems business. It took HP – originally a test equipment company – a couple of decades to develop a strong systems engineering perspective and that came from acquisitions, not internally.

WD and Seagate don’t have decades.

The StorageMojo take
The storage systems business needs new blood. The old enterprise model is dying and the new model will have much lower margins for mainstream storage (see The 30% solution).

WD and Seagate have a tremendous opportunity – Seagate’s Kinetic initiative is quite promising – if they navigate the complex issues required to build a systems business. While it would be difficult I’d like to see them try.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.


The 30% solution

by Robin Harris on Tuesday, 2 December, 2014

The existential battle facing legacy storage vendors is about business models, not technology or features. Market forces – cloud providers and SMBs – are trying to turn a high margin business into a much lower margin business.

We have already seen this happen with the servers. Many large minicomputer companies enjoyed 60 to 70% gross margins for years.

But then the PC – the new minicomputer – came along with much lower gross margins and much higher volumes. As CPUs, networks and software improved, the PC evolved into the server business we have today.

In the process, many technically superior products– such as Decnet and MVS – were pushed aside. Their functions were commoditized, mass-produced and plummeted in price – and gross margin.

Storage is an application
In the last 10 years storage companies have moved most of their functions to software. They’ve made storage an application.

In the 1970s and through the mid-80s several companies built large businesses based on word processing. They packaged software and hardware with support and training and found a ready market in offices worldwide.

Then PC word processing software started catching up with the proprietary word processing systems. Early packages such as Wordstar were hopelessly primitive compared to high-end Wang systems, but they evolved and in a few short years Wang was dead.

The StorageMojo take
Server technology is evolving faster than storage controllers can. The traditional storage engineering model of tightly specified controllers running well-tested firmware is getting less viable each year.

Scratch most storage array controllers today and you’ll find a barely disguised x86 server decorated with low-volume/high-cost redundancy bits. Scale-out storage with many redundant storage servers can be just as reliable and performant as traditional storage.

Fortunately for legacy vendors, most customers don’t know that. Many mid and upper level IT managers are comfortable with the devil they know and resist change.

But as AWS, Google and Azure are showing, large-scale cloud infrastructures can handle most enterprise jobs today. And they keep getting better.

The upshot is that most storage capacity will become a 30% gross margin business in the next 10 years. There will always be specialized applications that require high-margin gear, but that won’t be the bulk of the market.

Look at servers today. That is storage in 10 years.

Courteous comments welcome, of course. Because of the critical nature of storage, software only vendors will have to step up their quality to achieve wide penetration. How do you think they can best do that?


Friday hike blogging: Cockscomb Butte

by Robin Harris on Friday, 21 November, 2014

Thanks to re:Invent and some other issues I haven’t done much hiking in the last 2 weeks. But back on the 8th I took a hike with my friend Gudrun up Cockscomb. There’s no official Forest Service trail so I was glad to have a guide for my first ascent.

We spent about 90 minutes on top. But the sun started going down so we did too. The desert gets dark quickly – and cool too – and it was getting dim by the time we got back to the car.

As usual, the views were wonderful. Here’s one looking north to Bear Mountain from the side of Coxcomb.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Yes, that is a real estate development in the foreground. Lots start at about $1m if you’re wondering. Kind of far from town though.

As for me, I’m definitely getting out for a hike this weekend!


Primary Data takes on the enterprise

November 21, 2014

The economics of massive scale-out storage systems has thrown a harsh light on legacy enterprise storage. Expensive, inflexible, under-utilized data silos are not what data intensive enterprises need or – increasingly – can afford. That much is obvious to any CFO who can read Amazon Webe Services’ pricing. But how to get from today’s storage […]

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EMC’s re-intermediation strategy

November 18, 2014

EMC – and other legacy array vendors – are trying to become an intermediary between enterprises and the cloud. Are cloud-washed arrays a viable strategy? EMC’s Joe Tucci is working to ensure that EMC can survive in a cloud world even if he doesn’t manage to sell the company before he retires. The acquisitions of […]

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AWS re:Invent this week

November 11, 2014

StorageMojo’s legion of analysts are saddling up for the ride to Las Vegas for AWS re:Invent. This is a first time for this event and trust it will be excellent. If you’re there feel free to say hi! Courteous comments welcome, of course. Please comment on anything you’d like to see The StorageMojo take on.

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Pure vs EMC: who’s winning?

November 11, 2014

Forbes contributor and analyst Peter Cohan writes on seemingly conflicting stories coming from Pure and EMC. Let’s unpack the dueling narratives. Does Pure win 70% vs EMC or does EMC win 95% vs Pure? The metrics: Both parties seem to agree that they meet up very often in competitive bidding situations. EMC claims that it […]

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Friday hike blogging: clouds and sun

November 7, 2014

I’ve been hiking regularly, but not posting Fridays due to some schedule conflicts. Last Saturday I took one of my favorite loops, but started from Soldiers Pass rather than Mormon Canyon, and headed counterclockwise. The weather was unsettled, with dark clouds to the north and east and broken clouds to the west. As it was […]

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Mark Lewis on Formation’s enterprise play

November 6, 2014

Formation Data Systems announced a soft launch a few weeks ago with a $24M round – hefty for a software play – and one of the investors is Kumar Malavalli, the smart guy behind Brocade. StorageMojo spoke to FDS CEO Mark Lewis. The what Formation is focused on attacking the cost and expense of enterprise […]

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Adesto resistance RAM shipping now

November 3, 2014

Adesto Technologies is a company you probably haven’t heard of. I’m here to fix that, thanks to a discussion I had today with their CEO, semiconductor veteran Narbeh Derhacobian. Adesto is announcing a whiz-bang new product next week, but you need to know about this company now. Their focus is low-power memory solutions – i.e. […]

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Friday hike blogging: Sterling Pass trail

October 24, 2014

After the Slide Rock fire all the trails in Oak Creek Canyon were closed for about 4 months. They reopened the trails October 1, so I’ve been hiking some of them to see what the fuss was about. The Sterling Pass to Vultee Arch hike is about about 1200 steep feet up, 800 steep feet […]

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Shadow IT industry pt. III: what’s next?

October 24, 2014

What’s next for the shadow IT industry? It should be obvious: after blowing up the storage and server business models, what’s left? Networking Amazon has been working on their own networking software and hardware for several years. While networks aren’t a large part of their cost structure – servers are – it was rapidly growing […]

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