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NetApp  announced the other day a new all nand flash solid-state devices (SSD) storage system called the EF540 that is available now. The EF540 has something's new and cool, along with some  things familiar, tried, true and proven.


What is new is that  the EF540 is an all nand flash multi-level  cell (MLC)  SSD storage system. What is old is that the EF540 is based on the  NetApp E-Series (read more here and here)  and SANtricity software with hundreds of thousands installed systems. As a refresher, the E-Series are  the storage system technologies and solutions obtained via the Engenio acquisition from LSI in 2011.


Image of NetApp EF540 via
Image via


The EF540 expands the NetApp SSD flash portfolio which includes  products such as FlashCache (read cache aka PAM) for controllers in ONTAP based storage systems. Other NetApp items in the NetApp flash portfolio include FlashPool SSD drives for persistent read and write storage in ONTAP based  systems. Complimenting FlashCache and FlashPool is the server-side PCIe caching  card and software FlashAccel.  NetApp is claiming to have revenue shipped 36PB of flash complimenting over 3 Exabytes (EB) of storage while continuing to ship a large amount of SAS and  SATA HDD's.


NetApp also previewed its future FlashRay storage system that should appear in beta later in 2013 and general availability  in 2014.


In addition to SSD and flash related announcements, NetApp  also announced enhancements to its ONTAP FAS/V6200 series including the  FAS/V6220, FAS/V6250 and FAS/V6290.


Some characteristics  of the NetApp EF540 and SANtricity include:

  • Two models with 12 or 24 x 6Gbs SAS 800GB MLC  SSD devices
  • Up to 9.6TB or 19.2TB physical storage in a  2U (3.5 inch) tall enclosure
  • Dual controllers for redundancy,  load-balancing and availability
  • IOP performance of over 300,000 4Kbyte random 100% reads under 1ms
  • 6GByte/sec performance of 512Kbyte sequential  reads, 5.5Gbyte/sec random reads
  • Multiple RAID levels (0, 1, 10, 3, 5, 6)  and flexible group sizes 
  • 12GB  of DRAM cache memory in each controller (mirrored)
  • 4  x 8GFC host server-side ports per controller
  • Optional  expansion host ports (6Gb SAS,  8GFC, 10Gb iSCSI, 40Gb IBA/SRP)
  • Snapshots  and replication (synchronous and asynchronous) including to HDD systems
  • Can  be used for traditional IOP intensive little-data, or bandwidth for big-data
  • Proactive SSD wear monitoring and  notification alerts
  • Utilizes SANtricity  version 10.84


Poll, Are large storage arrays day's numbered?

EMC and NetApp (along with other vendors) continue to sell large  numbers of HDD's as well as large amounts of SSD. Both EMC and NetApp are  taking similar approaches of leveraging PCIe flash cards as cache adding software  functionality to compliment underlying storage systems. The benefit is that the  cache approach is less disruptive for many environments while allowing improved  return on investment (ROI) of existing assets.


The best IO is the one that  you do not have to do, however the next best are those that have the least  cost or affect which is where SSD comes into play. SSD is  like real estate in that location matters in terms of providing benefit, as  well as how much space or capacity is needed.


What does this all mean?

The NetApp EF540 based on the E-Series storage system architecture is  like one of its primary competitors (e.g. EMC VNX also available as an all-flash  model). The similarity is that both have been competitors, as well as have  been around for over a decade with hundreds of thousands of installed systems.  The similarities are also that both continue to evolve their code base  leveraging new hardware and software functionality. These improvements have  resulted in improved performance, availability, capacity, energy effectiveness  and cost reduction.


Whats your take on RAID still being relevant?


From a performance perspective, there are plenty of public workloads  and benchmarks including Microsoft ESRP and SPC among others to confirm  its performance. Watch for NetApp to release EF540 SPC results given their history of  doing so with other E-Series based systems. With those or other results, compare  and contrast to other solutions looking not just at IOPS or MB/sec (bandwidth),  also latency, functionality and cost.


What  does the EF540 compete with?

The  EF540 competes with all  flash-based SSD solutions (Violin,  Solidfire, Purestorage, Whiptail, Kaminario, IBM/TMS, up-coming EMC Project “X”  (aka XtremeIO)) among others. Some of those systems use general-purpose  servers combined SSD drives, PCIe cards along with management software where  others leverage customized platforms with software. To a lesser extent,  competition will also be mixed mode SSD and HDD solutions along with some PCIe  target SSD cards for some situations.


What  to watch and look for:

It  will be interesting to view and contrast public price performance results using  SPC or Microsoft ESRP among others to see how the EF540 compares. In addition,  it will be interesting to compare other storage based, as well as  SSD systems beyond the number of IOPS. What will be interesting is to keep an  eye on latency, as well as bandwidth, feature functionality and associated  costs.


Given  that the NetApp E-Series are OEM or sold by third parties, let's see if  something looking similar or identical to the EF540 appear at any of those or  new partners. This includes traditional general purpose and little-data environments,  along with cloud, managed service provider, high performance compute and high  productivity compute (HPC), super computer (SC), big data and big bandwidth  among others.


Poll, Have SSD been successful in traditional storage systems and arrays


The  EF540 could also appear as a storage or IO accelerator for large-scale out,  clustered, grid and object storage systems for meta data, indices, key value  stores among other uses either direct attached to servers, or via shared iSCSI, SAS, FC and InfiniBand (IBA)  SCSI Remote Protocol (SRP).


Keep  an eye on how the startups that have been primarily Just a Bunch Of SSD (JBOS)  in a box start talking about adding new features and functionality such as snapshots,  replication or price reductions. Also, keep an eye and ear open to what EMC  does with project “X” along with NetApp FlashRay among other improvements.


For NetApp customers, prospects, partners, E-Series OEMs and their customers with the need for IO consolidation, or performance optimization for big-data, little-data and related applications the EF540 opens up new opportunities and should be good news. For EMC competitors, they now have new competition which also signals an expanding market with new opportunities in adjacent areas for growth. This also further signals the need for diverse ssd portfolios and product options to meet different customer application needs, along with increased functionality vs. lowest cost for high capacity fast nand SSD storage.


Some related reading:


Disclosure:  NetApp, Engenio (when LSI), EMC and TMS (now IBM) have been clients of  StorageIO.


Ok,  nuff said

Cheers gs

gregschulz Hot Shot

VCE revisited, now & zen

Posted by gregschulz Mar 14, 2013

StorageIO Industry trends and perspectives image


Yesterday VCE  and their proud parents announced revenues had reached an annual run rate  of a billion dollars. Today VCE announced some new products along with enhancements to others.


Before  going forward though, lets take go back for a moment to help set the stage to  see where things might be going in the future. A little over a three years ago, back in November 2009 VCE was born and initially named ACADIA by its proud parents (Cisco, EMC, Intel and VMware). Here is a post that I did back then.


VCE logo


Btw  the reference to Zen might cause some to think that I don’t how to properly refer to the Xen hypervisor. It is really a play from Robert  Plants album Now & Zen and its song Tall  Cool One. For those not familiar, click  on the link and listen (some will have DejaVu, others might think its new  and cool) as it takes a look back as well as present, similar to VCE.


Robert plant now & zen vs. Xen hypervisor


On  the other hand, this might prompt the question of when will Xen be available on  a Vblock? For that I defer you to VCE  CTO Trey Layton (@treylayton).


VCE  stands for Virtual Computing Environment and was launched as a joint initiative  including products and a company (since renamed from Acadia to VCE) to bring  all the pieces together. As a company, VCE is based in Plano (Richardson) Texas just  north of downtown Dallas and down the road from EDS or what is now left of it  after the HP acquisition  The primary  product of VCE has been the Vblock. The Vblock is a converged solution  comprising components from their parents such as VMware virtualization and management  software tools, Cisco servers, EMC storage and software tools and Intel  processors.


Not  surprisingly there are many ex-EDS personal at VCE along with some Cisco, EMC,  VMware and many other people from other organizations in Plano as well  as other cites. Also interesting to note that unlike other youngsters that  grow up and stay in touch with their parents via technology or social media  tools, VCE is also more than a few miles (try hundreds to thousands) from the  proud parent headquarters on the San Jose California and Boston areas.


VCE logo


As  part of a momentum update, VCE and their parents (Cisco, EMC, VMware and Intel)  announced annual revenue run rate of a billion dollars in just three years. In  addition the proud parents and VCE announced that they have over 1,000 revenue  shipped and installed Vblock  systems (also here)  based on Cisco  compute servers, and EMC storage solutions.


The VCE announcement  consists of:

  • SAP HANA database  application optimized Vblocks (two modes, 4 node and 8 node)
  • VCE Vision management  tools and middleware or what I have refered to as Valueware
  • Entry level Vblock (100 and 200) with Cisco C  servers and EMC (VNXe  and VNX) storage
  • Performance and  functionality enhancements to existing Vblock models 300 and 700
  • Statement of direction for  more specialized Vblocks besides SAP HANA
Images  courtesy with permission of


While  VCE is known for their Vblock converged, stack, integrated, data center in a  box, private cloud or among other descriptors, there is more to the story. VCE  is addressing convergence of  common IT building blocks for cloud, virtual, and traditional physical  environments. Common core building blocks include servers (compute or  processors), networking (IO and connectivity), storage, hardware, software,  management tools along with people,  processes, metrics, policies and protocols.


Storage I/O image of cloud and virtual IT building blocks


I  like the visual image that VCE is using (see below) as it aligns with and has themes  common to what I have discussing in the past.
Images  courtesy with permission of


VCE  Vision is software with APIs that collects information about Vblock hardware  and software components to give insight to other tools and management  frameworks. For example VMware vCenter plug-in and vCenter  Operations Manager Adapter which should not be a surprise. Customers will also  be able to write to the Vision API to meet their custom needs. Let us watch and  see what VCE does to add support for other software and management tools, along  with gain support from others.
Images  courtesy with permission of


Vision  is more than just an information source feed for VMware vCenter or VASA or tools and frameworks from  others. Vision is software developed by VCE that will enable insight and  awareness into the Vblock and applications, however also confirm and give  status of physical and logical component configuration. This means the basis  for setting up automated or programmatic remediation such as determining what  software or firmware to update based on different guidelines.
Images  courtesy with permission of


Initially  VCE Vision provides (information) inventory and perspective of how those  components are in compliance with firmware or software releases, so stay  tuned. VCE is indicating that Vision will continue to evolve after all this is  the V1.0 release with future enhancements targeted towards taking action,  controlling or active management.


StorageIO Industry trends and perspectives image

Some trends, thoughts and perspectives


The industry adoption buzz is around software  defined X where X can be data center (SDDC), or storage (SDS) or networking  (SDN), or marketing (SDM) or other things. The hype and noise around software  defined which in the case of some technologies is good. On the marketing hype  side, this has led to some Software Defined BS (SDBS).


Thus, it was refreshing at least in the  briefing session I was involved in to hear a minimum focus around software  defined and more around customer and IT business enablement with technology  that is shipping today.


VCE Vision is a good example of adding  value hence what I refer to as Valueware around converged components. For those vendors who have similar solutions, I  urge them to streamline, simplify and more clearly articulate their value  proposition if they have valueware.


VCE logo


Vendors including VCE continue to  evolve their platform based converged solutions by adding more valueware,  management tools, interfaces, APIs, interoperability and support for more  applications. The support for applications is also moving beyond simple line  item ordering or part number skews to ease acquisition and purchasing. Some solutions  include VCE Vblock, NetApp  FlexPod that also uses Cisco compute servers, IBM PureSystems (PureFlex etc) and Dell vStart among others are extending their support and optimization for various software  solutions. These software solutions range from SAP (including HANA), Microsoft  (Exchange, SQLserver, Sharepoint), Citrix desktop (VDI), Oracle, OpenStack,  Hadoop map reduce along with other little-data,  big-data and big-bandwidth applications to name a few.


Additional and related reading:
Acadia VCE: VMware + Cisco + EMC =  Virtual Computing Environment
Cloud  conversations: Public, Private, Hybrid what about Community Clouds?
Cloud, virtualization, Storage I/O  trends for 2013 and beyond
Convergence: People, Processes,  Policies and Products
Hard product vs. soft product
Hardware,  Software, what about Valueware?
Industry  adoption vs. industry deployment, is there a difference?
Many faces of storage hypervisor,  virtual storage or storage virtualization
The Human  Face of Big Data, a Book Review
Why  VASA is important to have in your VMware CASA


Congratulations to VCE, along with  their proud parents, family, friends and partners, now how long will it take to  reach your next billion dollars in annual run rate revenue. Hopefully it wont be three years until the next VCE revisited now and Zen ;).


VCE logo


Disclosure: EMC and Cisco have been  StorageIO clients, I am a VMware  vExpert that gets me a free beer after I pay for VMworld and Intel has named two of my books listed on their Recommended Reading List for Developers.


Ok, nuff said, time to head off to vBeers over in Minneapolis.


Cheers gs

EMC  (@EMCflash) today announced some new, enhanced, renamed and a rebrand flash solid-state  device (SSD) storage portfolio around theme of XtremIO. XtremIO was the startup  company with a new all flash SSD storage array that EMC announced they were buying in May 2012.  Since that announcement, Project "X" has been used when referring to the  product now known as XtremIO (e.g. all flash new storage array).


EMC flash SSD image


Synopsis  of announcement

  • Product  rollout and selective availability of the new all flash SSD array XtremIO
  • Rename  server-side PCIe ssd flash cards from VFCache to XtremSF   
  • New  XtremSF models including enhanced multi-level  cell (eMLC) with larger capacities
  • Rename  VFCache caching software to XtremSW (enables cache mode vs. target mode)


What  EMC previously announced:  

  • Buying  the company XtremeIO
  • Productizing  the new all flash array as part of Project “X”
  • It  would formally announce the new product in 2013 (which is now)   
  • VFCache and later enhancements  during 2012.


Storage I/O industry trends and perspectives


Overall, I give an Atta boy and Atta girl to  the EMC crew for a Product Defined Announcement (PDA) extending their flash  portfolio to complement their different customers and prospects various environment  needs. Now let us sit back and watch EMC, NetApp and others step up their flash dance moves to see who  will out flash the others in the eXtreme flash games, including software defined storage, software defined data centers, software defined flash, and software defined cache.


Related items about nand flash, SSD and metrics related themes:


Read more about XtremIO, XtremSF, XtremSW and SSD flash related items here in part II of this post.


Ok, nuff said (for now).


Cheers gs

Seagate image via


Seagate (@Seagate) announced today that it reached a milestone of  having shipped 2 Billion hard disk drives (HDD's), something that is round  stores data that keeps growing. As part of their announcement, Seagate has a good info graphics and facts page here going back to 1979 when it was founded as Shugart  Technology (read about Al Shugart here).


By coincidence, just a few years before Seagate was founded, McDonalds (who makes round things as well) announced that  they had served over 20 billion hamburgers. Thus McDonald feeds the appetites of consumers hungry for a quick meal while Seagate feeds the information demands, perhaps while stopping for a quick breakfast, lunch, coffee or dinner. Speaking of  things that go around (like HDD's), check out what NAS, NASA and NASCAR have in common all of which are also involved in big data as well as little data.


Storage I/O industry trends image


Both Seagate and McDonalds have also expanded their menu of offerings over the years maintaining their core products while expanding into new and adjacent areas given different appetites and preferences. After all, in the data cloud, virtual or physical data center also known as an information factory not everything is the same either.


Storage I/O image of cloud virtual and big data


Granted Seagate is helping to feed or fuel the internet  along with traditional hungry demand for data, not to mention people and data  are living longer, as well as getting larger.


Cloud, virtual server, big data and little data storage I/O image


In the case of Seagate and other  driver manufactures of which have consolidated down to three (Toshiba, Seagate  and Western Digital), the physical devices are getting smaller, however  capacities are increasing.


Storage I/O industry trends image


Why the continued growth? As mentioned data is getting larger (big data  and little data) and living longer, there is also no such thing as a data or  information recession. Consequently data storage is an important pillar or part of cloud, virtual and traditional information services with HDD's remaining popular along side nand flash solid state devices (SSD).


The Seagate info graphic page can be seen here and is a good walk  back in time for some, perhaps a history lesson for others. It goes back to the Sony Walkman which some might remember, launch of the PC and Apple Macintosh in the 80s, Linux and the web in  the 90s and moving forward from then to now.


Image of hard disk drives HDDs via storage I/o
A few of my HDD's, different types for various tasks.


If you think or believe HDD's are a dead technology,  take a few minutes to view the info graphic to update your insight on what has been an  important aspect of computing and remains popular in cloud environments. Otoh, if you believe that HDD's are still a core piece of computing  and will remain so including in roles in the future, have a look to  see how things have progressed, maybe some Dejavu.


Oh, for those who are thinking that the HDD  did not begin in 1979, you are absolutely correct as it dates back into the  1950s. Here is a link to something that I wrote a few years ago on the HDD's 50th birthday and looks like it will easily  celebrate 60 and beyond.


Additional related reading:
Seagate to say goodbye to Cayman Islands, Hello Ireland
More Storage IO momentus HHDD and SSD moments part II
Tape is still alive, or at least in conversations and  discussions
In the data center or information factory, not everything  is the same
Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) for virtual and physical  environments (part I, part II and part III)
Self Encrypting Disks (SEDs)
As the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) continues to spin
Happy 50th, hard drive. But will you make it to 60?
Seagate to say goodbye to Cayman Islands, Hello Ireland
More Storage IO momentus HHDD and SSD moments part II
Tape is still alive, or at least in conversations and  discussions
In the data center or information factory, not everything  is the same
The Human Face of Big Data, a Book Review

Congratulations to Seagate, now how long until the 3 billion served, excuse me, shipped HDD occurs?


Disclosure: Its been almost a month since my last visit to McDonalds or buying another HDD (or SSD) from


Ok, nuff said

Cheers gs

Storage I/O cloud virtual and big data perspectives


EMC and VMware (who is majority owned by EMC) have  announced a new joint initiative called Pivotal (read more here and here)  as part of their software defined data center strategies and architecture.


Image of EMC and VMware Pivotal PaaS cloud


Is this a pivotal moment for both EMC and VMware  signaling that they will be going head to head (via their new initiative based  company) with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, HP Cloud services,  Rackspace and a long list of others?


Part of the answer to that question would be based on  what is meant by going head to head, and which aspects of those services. For Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS) along with big data analytics related I would say yes. In terms of other Cloud AaaS or SaaS or IaaS probably not as much so at this time.


On the surface Pivotal appears to at least initially be  more of a Platform as a Service (PaaS) play vs. Software as a Service (SaaS) or  Application as a Service (AaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) play. Thus it will be interesting to see how Pivotal pivots and evolves into other directions beyond first cloud and big data applications development assistance.


This will not be the first initiative or company jointly formed with VMware following on the heals of VCE that also includes Cisco and Intel as partners.


Pivotal will be headed up by Paul Maritz who has been  EMC Chief Strategist and formerly CEO of VMware as well as having spent time at  Microsoft. EMC will have 69% ownership with VMware having the balance, it  is estimated that about $400 Million US dollars will need to be invested.


The new company or initiative is slated to launch on or about April 1,  2013 (April Fools day) with target 2013 revenues of about $300 Million. Projections are for an annual revenue of around $1 Billion in five  years. That  revenue will come from the existing assets and business being brought together  along with probably some net new business. Doing some quick back of the napkin  based math shows an average straight line growth of about 36% over five years.


VMware intellectual property and assets contributed:
  Spring source


EMC intellectual property and assets continued:
  Pivotal labs
  Greenplum big data solutions


Thus is this a Pivotal move signaling the entry into new  areas that could further disrupt and cloud that status of VMware and EMC as  technology suppliers?

Or  this clear the clouds a bit to bring clarity to what EMC and VMware are doing along with leveraging various acquisitions?


By  clarity, this in theory should help place both EMC and VMware with their  customer, partners and prospects as technology (along with associated services)  supplier (what some refer to as arms merchants) vs. competing with those  entities.


Storage I/O cloud virtual and big data perspectives


IMHO this is pivotal in that it helps to bring clarity  for some of the different technologies and business that EMC and VMware has  acquired. That clarity will help its own sales teams along with  partners avoid creation of revenue prevention teams impacting  sales of other solutions.


Likewise there should be good synergy around the various  tools, technology and offerings around big data, little data and application  development with pivotal. That synergy is a combination of tools, technologies,  development techniques. The combination of the tools and new techniques should  enable customers to leverage new technologies in new ways, vs. trying to use and  deploy in old ways.


Btw, anybody notice Mozy or the lack of that mention  keeping in mind that technology was brought back into the EMC backup group  fold, while still being operated as a service. Also keep in mind that Mozy was bought  by EMC and then transferred to VMware a couple of years ago.


Ok, nuff said (for now).


Cheers gs

Greg Schulz