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September 16, 2013 Previous day Next day

Storage I/O trends

Cisco buys Whiptail continuing the Storage storage I/O flash cash cache dash

Congratulations to Virident for being bought today for $645  Million USDby Western Digital (WD). Virident a nand flash PCIe card startup  vendor has been around for several years and in the last year or two has gain  more industry awareness as a competitor to FusionIO among others.


There is a nand flash solid  state devices (SSD)  cash-dash occurring, not to mention fast cache dances that is occurring the IT  and data infrastructure (e.g. storage and IO) sector specifically.


Why the nand flash SSD cash dash and cache dance?

Yesterday hard disk drive (HDD) vendor Western Digital  (WD) bought Virident a nand flash PCIe Solid State Device (SSD) card vendor for $650M,  and today networking and server vendor Cisco bought Whiptail a SSD based  storage system startup for a little over $400M. Here is an industry trends perspective post that I did yesterday on WD and Virident.


Obviously this begs a couple of questions, some of which  I raised in my post yesterday about WD, Virident, Seagate, FusionIO and  others.

Questions include

Does this mean Cisco is getting ready to take on EMC, NetApp,  HDS and its other storage partners who leverage the Cisco UCS server?

IMHO at  least near term no more than they have in the past, nor any more than EMCs  partnership with Lenovo indicates a shift in what is done with vBlocks. On the  other hand, some partners or customers may be as nervous as a long-tailed cat  next to a rocking chair (Google it if you don’t know what it means ;).



Is Cisco going to continue to offer Whiptail SSD storage  solutions on a standalone basis, or pull them in as part of solutions similar  to what it has done on other acquisitions?


Storage I/O trends


IMHO  this is one of the most  fundamental questions and despite the press release and statements about this  being a UCS focus, a clear sign of proof for Cisco is how they reign in (if  they go that route) Whiptail from being sold as a general storage solution  (with SSD) as opposed to being part of a solution bundle.


How will Cisco manage its relationship in a coopitition  manner cooperating with the likes of EMC in the joint VCEinitiative along with  FlexPod partner NetApp among others? Again time will tell.


Also while most of the discussions about NetApp have been around the UCS based FlexPod business, there is  the other side of the discussion which is what about NetApp E Series storage  including the SSD based EF540that competes with Whiptail (among others).


Many people may not realize how much DAS storage  including fast SAS, high-capacity SAS and SATA or PCIe SSD cards Cisco sells as  part of UCS solutions that are not vBlock, FlexPod or other partner systems.


NetApp and Cisco have partnerships that go beyond the FlexPod (UCS and ONTAP  based FAS) so will be interesting to see what happens in that space (if  anything). This is where Cisco and their UCS acquiring Whiptail is not that  different from IBM buying TMS to complement their servers (and storage) while also partnering with other suppliers, same  holds true for server vendors Dell, HP, IBM and Oracle among others.


Can Cisco articulate and convince their partners,  customers, prospects and others that the whiptail acquisition is more about  direct attached storage (DAS) which includes both internal dedicated and external  shared device?

Keep in mind that DAS does not have to mean  Dumb A$$ Storageas some might have you believe.


Then there are the more popular questions of who is going  to get bought next, what will NetApp, Dell, Seagate, Huawei and a few others  do?


Oh, btw, funny how have not seen any of the pubs mention that Whiptail CEO Dan Crain is a former Brocadian (e.g. former Brocade CTO) who happens to be a Cisco competitor, just saying.


Congratulations to Dan and his crew and enjoy life at Cisco.


Stay tuned as the fall 2013 nand flash SSD cache dash and  cash dance activities are well underway.


Ok, nuff said (for now).

Cheers  Gs

Storage I/O trends

WD buys nand flash SSD storage I/O cache  vendor Virident

Congratulations to Virident for being bought today for $645  Million USDby Western Digital (WD). Virident a nand flash PCIe card startup  vendor has been around for several years and in the last year or two has gain  more industry awareness as a competitor to FusionIO among others.


There is a nand flash solid  state devices (SSD)  cash dash occurring, not to mention fast cache dances that is occurring the IT  and data infrastructure (e.g. storage and IO) sector specifically.

Why the nand flash SSD cash dash and cache dance?

Here  is a piece that I did today over at InfoStor on a related theme that sets the basis of why the nand flash-based SSD market  is popular for storage and as a cache. Hence there is a flash  cash dash and by some dance for increased storage I/O performance.


Like the hard  disk drive (HDD)  industry before it which despite what some pundits and profits have declared  (for years if not decades) as being dead (it is still alive), there were many  startups, shutdowns, mergers and acquisitions along with some transformations.  Granted solid-state  memories is part of the presence and future being deployed in new and different  ways.


The same thing has occurred in the nand flash-based  SSD sector with LSI acquiring SANDforce, SANdisk picking up Pliant and  Flashsoft among others. Then there is Western Digital (WD) that recently has danced with their cash as they dash to buy up all things flash including Stec (drives & PCIe cards), Velobit (cache software), Virident (PCIe cards), along with Arkeia (backup) and an investment  in Skyera.


Storage I/O trends

What about industry trends and market dynamics?

Meanwhile there have been some other changes with former  industry darling and highflying stock post IPO FusionIO hitting as market reality and sudden  CEO departure a few months ago. However after a few months of their stock  being pummeled, today it bounced back perhaps as people now speculate who will  buy FusionIO with WD picking up Virident. Note that one of Viridents OEM  customers is EMC for their PCIe flash card XtremSFas are Micron and LSI.


Meanwhile Stec, also   now own by WD was also EMCs original flash SSD drive supplier or what  they refer to as a EFDs (Electronic Flash Devices), not to mention having also  supplied HDDs to them (also keep in mind WD  bought HGST a year or so back).


There are some early signs as well as their stock  price jumping today which was probably oversold. Perhaps people are now speculating  that maybe Seagate  who had been an investor in Virident which was bought  by WD for $645 million today might be in the market for somebody else? Alternatively,  that perhaps WD didn’t see the value in a FusionIO, or willing to make big  flash cache cash grabs dash of that size? Also note Seagate won a $630  million (and the next appeal was recently upheld) infringement lawsuit  vs. WD (here and here).


Does that mean FusionIO could become Seagate’s target or  that of NetApp, Oracle or somebody else with the cash and willingness to dash,  grab a chunk of the nand flash, and cache market?


Likewise, there are the software I/O and caching tool  vendors some of which are tied to VMware and virtual servers vs. others that  are more flexible that are gaining popularity. What about the systems or solution  appliances play, could that be in the hunt for a Seagate?


Anything is possible however IMHO that would be a risky  move, one that many at Seagate probably still remember from their experiment  with Xiotech, not to mention stepping on the toes of their major OEM customer  partners.


Storage I/O trends


Thus I would expect Seagate if they do anything would be  more along the lines of a component type suppler meaning a FusionIO (yes they  have Nexgen, however that could be easily dealt with), OCZ, perhaps even a LSI  or Micron however some of those start to get rather expensive for a quick flash  cache grab for some stock and cash.


Also, keep in mind that FusionIO in addition to having  their PCIe flash cards also have the ioturbine software-caching tool that if  you are not familiar with, IBM recently made an announcement of their Flash  Cache Storage Accelerator (FCSA)  that has an affiliation to guess who?

Closing comments (for now)

Some of the systems or solutions players will survive,  perhaps even being acquired as XtremIO was by EMC, or file for IPO like Violin,  or express their wish to IPO and or be bought such as all the others (e.g.  Skyera, Whiptail, Pure, Solidfire, Cloudbyte, Nimbus, Nimble, Nutanix, Tegile,  Kaminario, Greenbyte, and Simplivity among others).


Here's the thing, those who really do know what is going  to happen are not and probably cannot say, and those who are talking what will  happen are like the rest of us, just speculating or providing perspectives or stirring  the pot among other things.


So who will be next in the flash cache ssd cash dash dance?


Ok, nuff said (for now).


Cheers  Gs

Storage I/O trends

It's not how much you have, its how storage I/O work gets done that matters

Following last weeks VMworld event in San Francisco where among other announcements including this one around Virtual SAN (VSAN) along with Software Defined Storage (SDS), EMC today made several announcements.



Today's EMC announcementsinclude:

  • The new VNX MCx (Multi Core optimized) family of storage systems
  • VSPEX proven infrastructure portfolio enhancements
  • Availability of ViPR Software Defined Storage (SDS) platform (read more from earlier posts here, here and here)
  • Statement of direction preview of Project Nile for elastic cloud storage platform
  • XtremSW server cache software version 2.0 with enhanced management and support for VMware, AIX and Oracle RAC

EMC ViPREMC XtremSW cache software


Summary of the new EMC VNX MCxstorage systems include:

  • More processor cores, PCIe Gen 3 (faster bus), front-end and back-end IO ports, DRAM and flash cache (as well as drives)
  • More 6Gb/s SAS back-end ports to use more storage devices (SAS and SATA flash SSD, fast HDD and high-capacity HDD)
  • MCx - Multi-core optimized with software rewritten to make use of threads and resources vs. simply using more sockets and cores at higher clock rates
  • Data Footprint Reduction (DFR) capabilities including block compression and dedupe, file dedupe and thin provisioning
  • Virtual storage pools that include flash SSD, fast HDD and high-capacity HDD
  • Block (iSCSI, FC and FCoE) and NAS file (NFS, pNFS, CIFS) front-end access with object access via Atmos Virtual Edition (VE) and ViPR
  • Entry level pricing starting at below $10,000 USD

EMC VNX MCx systems

What is this MCx stuff, is it just more hardware?

While there is more hardware that can be used in different configurations, the key or core (pun intended) around MCx is that EMC has taken the time and invested in reworking the internal software of the VNX that has its roots going back to the Data General CLARRiON EMC acquired. This is similar to an effort EMC made a few years back when it overhauled what is now known as the VMAX from the Symmetric into the DMX. That effort expanded from a platform or processor port to re-architecting and software optimizing (rewrite portions) to leverage new and emerging hardware capabilities more effectively



With MCx EMC is doing something similar in that core portions of the VNX software have been re-architected and written to take advantage of more threads and cores being available to do work more effectively. This is not all that different from what occurs (or should) with upper level applications that eventually get rewritten to leverage underlying new capabilities to do more work faster and leverage technologies in a more cost-effective way. MCx also leverages flash as a primary medium with data than being moved (256MB chunks) down into lower tiers of storage (SSD and HDD drives).


Storage I/O trends


ENC VNX has had in the past FLASH Cache which enables SSD drives to be used as an extension of main cache as well as using drive targets. Thus while MCx can and does leverage more and faster core as would most any software, it is also able to leverage those cores and threads in a more effective way. After all, it's not just how many processors, sockets, cores, threads, L1/L2 cache, DRAM, flash SSD and other resources, its how effective you use them. Also keep in mind that a bit of flash in the right place used effectively can go a long way vs. having a lot of cache in the wrong place or not used optimally that will end up costing a lot of cash.


Moving forward this means that EMC should be able to further refine and optimize other portions of the VNX software not yet updated to make further benefit of new hardware platforms and capabilities.

Does this mean EMC is catching up with newer vendors?

Similar to more of something is not always better, its how those items are used that matters, just because something is new does not mean its better or faster. That will manifest itself when they are demonstrated and performance results shown. However key is showing the performance across different workloads that have relevance to your needs and that convey metrics that matter with context.


Storage I/O trends


Context mattersincluding type and size of work being done, number of transactions, IOPs, files or videos served, pages processed or items rendered per unit of time, or response time and latency (aka wait or think time), along with others. Thus some newer systems may be faster on paper, powerpoint, WebEx, You tube or via some benchmarks, however what is the context and how do they compare to others on an apples to apples basis.

What are some other enhancements or features?

Leveraging of FAST VP (Fully Automated Storage Tiering for Virtual Pools) with improved MCx software

Increases the effectiveness of available hardware resources (processors, cores, DRAM, flash, drives, ports)

Active active LUNs accessible by both controllers as well as legacy AULA support

Data sheets and other material for the new VNX MCx storage systems can be found here, with software options and bundles here, and general speeds and feeds here.

Learn more here at the EMC VNX MCx storage system landing page and compare VNX systems here.

What does then new VNX MCx family look like?

EMC VNX MCx family image

Is VNX MCx all about supporting VMware?

Interesting that if you read behind the lines, listen closely to the conversations, ask the right questions you will realize that while VMware is an important workload or environment to support, it is not the only one targeted for VNX. Likewise if you listen and look beyond what is normally amplified in various conversations you will find that systems such as VNX are being deployed as back-end storage in cloud (public, private, hybrid) environments for use with technologies such as OpenStack or object based solutions (visit www.objectstoragecenter.comfor more on object storage systems and access)..


There is a common myth that the cloud and service providers all use white box commodity hardware including JBOD for their systems which some do, however some are also using systems such as VNX among others. In some of these scenarios the VNX type systems are or will be deployed in large numbers essentially consolidating the functions of what had been done by even larger number of JBOD based systems. This is where some of you will have a DejaVu or back to the future moment from the mid 90s when there was an industry movement to combine all the DAS and JBOD into larger storage systems. Don't worry if you are not yet reading about this trend in your favorite industry rag or analyst briefing notes, however ask or look around and you might be surprised at what is occurring, granted it might be another year or two before you read about it (just saying .


Storage I/O trends


What that means is that VNX MCx is also well positioned for working with ViPR or Atmos Virtual Edition among other cloud and object storage stacks. VNX MCx is also well positioned for its new low-cost of entry for general purpose workloads and applications ranging from file sharing, email, web, database along with demanding high performance, low latency with large amounts of flash SSD. In addition to being used for general purpose storage, VNX MCx will also complement data protection solutions for backup/restore, BC, DR and archiving such as Data Domain, Avamar and Networker among others. Speaking of server virtualization, EMC also has tools for working with Hyper-V, Xen and KVM in addition to VMware.

If there is an all flash VNX MCx doesn't that compete with XtremIO?

Yes there are all flash VNX MCx just as there have been all flash VNX before, however these will be positioned for different use case scenarios by EMC and their partners to avoid competing head to head with XtremIO. Thus EMC will need to be diligent in being very clear to its own sales and marketing forces as well as those of partners and customers of what to use when, where, why and how.

General thoughts and closing comments

The VNX MCx is a good set of enhancements by EMC and an example of how it's not as important of how more you have, rather how you can use it to be more effective.


Ok, nuff said (fow now).


Cheers  Gs

Storage I/O trends

Is more always better? Depends on what you are doing

As with many things it depends, however how about some of these? Is more better for example (among others):

  •   Facebook likes
  • Twitter followers or tweets (I'm @storageio btw)
  • Google+ likes, follows and hangouts
  • More smart phone apps
  • LinkedIn connections
  • People in your circle or community
  • Photos or images per post or article
  • People working with or for you
  • Partners vs. doing more with those you have
  • People you are working for or with
  • Posts or longer posts with more in them
  • IOPs or SSD and storage performance
  • Domains under management and supported
  • GB/TB/PB/EB supported or under management
  • Mart-time jobs or a better full-time opportunity
  • Metrics vs. those that matter with context
  • Programmers to get job done (aka mythical man month)
  • Lines of code per cost vs. more reliable and tested code per cost
  • For free items and time spent managing them vs. more productivity for a nominal fee
  • Meetings for planning on what to do vs. streamline and being more productive
  • More sponsors or advertisers or underwriters vs. fewer yet more effective ones
  • Space in your booth or stand at a trade show or conference vs. using what you have more effectively
  • Copies of the same data vs. fewer yet more unique (not full though) copies of information
  • Patents in your portfolio vs. more technology and solutions being delivered
  • Processors, sockets, cores, threads vs. using them more effectively
  • Ports and protocols vs. using them more effectively

   Storage I/O trends

Thus does more resources matter, or making more effective use of them?

For example more ports, protocols, processors, cores, sockets, threads, memory, cache, drives, bandwidth, people among other things is not always better, particular if those resources are not being used effectively.


Likewise don’t confuse effective with efficient often assumed to mean amount of something used.


For example a cache or memory may be 100% used (what some call efficient) yet only providing a 35% effective benefit (cache hit or miss) vs. cache turn (misses etc).


Throwing more processing power in terms of clock speed, or cores is one thing, kind of like throwing more server blades at a software problem vs. using those cores and sockets not to mention    threads more effectively.


Good software will run better on fast hardware while enabling more to be done with the same or less.


Thus with better software or tools, more work can be done in an effective way leveraging those resources vs. simply throwing or applying more at the situation.


Hopefully you get the point, so no need to do more with this post (for now), if not, stay tuned and pay more attention around you.


Ok, nuff said, I need to go get more work done now.


Cheers  Gs

Storage I/O trends

Fall 2013 Dutch cloud, virtual and storage I/O seminars

It is that time of the year again when StorageIO will be presenting a series of seminar workshops in the Netherlands on cloud, virtual and data storage networking technologies, trends along with best practice techniques.

Brouwer Storage


StorageIO partners with the independent firm Brouwer Storage Consultancy of Holland who organizes these sessions. These sessions will also mark Brouwer Storage Consultancy celebrating ten years in business along with a long partnership with StorageIO.


Server Storage I/O Backup and Data Protection Cloud and Virtual

The fall 2013 Dutch seminars include coverage of storage I/O networking data protection and related trends topics for cloud and virtual environments. Click on the following links or images to view an abstract of  the three sessions including what you will learn, who they are for, buzzwords, themes, topics and technologies that will covered.




Modernizing Data Protection
    Moving Beyond Backup and Restore


Storage Industry Trends
    What’s News, What’s The Buzz and Hype


Storage Decision Making
    Acquisition, Deployment, Day to Day Management

Modern Data Protection
Modern Data Protection
Modern Data Protection
September 30 & October 1
October 2 2013
October 3 and 4 2013


All seminar workshop seminars are presented in a vendor technology neutral including (e.g. these are not vendor marketing sales presentations) providing independent perspectives on industry trends, who is doing what, benefits, caveats of various approaches to addressing data infrastructure and storage challenges. View posts about earlier events here and here.

Storage I/O trends


As part of theme of being vendor and technology neutral, the workshop seminars are held off-site at hotel venues in Nijkerk Netherlands so no need to worry about the sales teams coming in to sell you something during the breaks or lunch which are provided. There are also opportunities throughout the workshops for engagement, discussion and interaction with other attendees that includes your peers from various commercial, government and service providers among others.


Learn more and register for these events by visiting the Brouwer Storage Consultancy website page (here) and calling them at +31-33-246-6825 or via email

Storage I/O events


View other upcoming and recent StorageIO activities including live in-person, online web and recorded activities on our events page here, as well as check out our commentary and industry trends perspectives

in the news here.

Bitter ballen

Ok, nuff said, I'm already hungry for bitter ballen (see above)!


Cheers  Gs