VMware Virtual SAN is now ready for mainstream adoption

Virtual SAN (VSAN) was released two years ago and I think it is fair to say that the initial release was never going to “set the world on fire”, but roughly every six months a new version appeared with a huge list of improvements. This brings us to the recently announced 6.2 release, which for me is the first version that is ready for mainstream adoption – highlights include: De-duplication – 4K blocks within a disk group with the process occurring when the blocks are de-staged to the capacity tier (All-Flash only) Compression – attempts to reduce de-duplicated 4K blocks down to 2K or less (All-Flash only) RAID 5/6 – in addition to the existing RAID 1 (All-Flash only) Checksum data integrity on reads and periodic scans Quality Continue reading

Some interesting new ways to improve your IT infrastructure in 2016

It’s an exciting time in IT; there is so much innovation going on, often driven by start-ups, and many new ways of doing things compared to a few years ago. The good news is that generally the affordability of high-end technology is better than ever, bring them within the reach of most organisations. So let’s take a look at what’s now available: 1. Availability – Improving your Disaster Recovery processes by enabling vMotion and HA between sites I believe that current DR practices built around active passive asynchronous replication and VMware Site Recovery Manager are just not good enough: Data is lost in the event of a fail-over Local array failures cause downtime Failing-over/back causes significant disruption to the organisation Testing is difficult therefore Continue reading

NetApp FlashRay is dead long live SolidFire, AFF and EF

Just prior to Christmas NetApp announced that it will be buying SolidFire and its All-Flash Array (AFA), at the same time they have also stated that they will not be bringing FlashRay to market. I think this is a good thing as we have needed clarity with regard to the future of FlashRay for some time, and it has been evident that NetApp has been taking what they have learnt from the FlashRay project to enhance All-Flash FAS (AFF). FlashRay will therefore continue to live on in AFF and it will continue to get further FlashRay related features and performance enhancements over the next few years. So NetApp has lost one and gained one AFA, still leaving them with three platforms – surely that Continue reading

NetApp All-Flash FAS support renewals now include free controllers

I have been saying for sometime that I felt that 2015 was the year of the All-Flash Array and month on month we are seeing an increased value proposition from the vendors. The latest offer from NetApp is that when you renew the maintenance, on their All-Flash FAS taking it up to six years, you will receive a new pair of controllers for free. You can choose to have newer generation of what you currently have or upgrade to higher end controllers and just pay the difference. In addition you can now extend the support, beyond the included 3 years, such that year 4-7 support and warranty cost the same % of list price per year at initial purchase or at Continue reading

All-Flash and Hybrid Array bundles with integrated data protection now available from NetApp

Now, the recent announcement regarding the affordability of NetApp’s All-Flash FAS (AFF) does not change the fact that we are still a long way off (if ever) having all data sitting on flash, but what we are seeing is a steady increase – five plus years ago we only had HDDs, a few years ago maybe 2% flash, and today it is viable to have 20%+, but the majority of your data will still be on HDDs. One of the advantages of FAS is that you can create a cluster of mixed array types, each optimised for a specific role – an All-Flash AFF8060 for VDI and OLTP, a Hybrid FAS8020 for Virtualisation and an All-HDD FAS2554 for a Backup Vault. You can then non-disruptively move data around the cluster, so Continue reading

NetApp has just made 2015 the year of the affordable All-Flash Array – Part 1

The storage array industry has been struggling over the last few years, all the major vendors have seen a decline in revenues and whilst the start-ups appear to be doing well, the reality is that I do not believe any of them actually make a profit. On top of this there is a push towards software-defined storage (i.e. VMware VSAN) and hyper-converged platforms (i.e. EVO:RAIL and Nutanix), there are some advantages with these solutions, but like all new technologies there are also significant downsides – I have explored this in more detail here. Anyone who knows me, is very aware that I am a big fan of home cinema and analogies, so let’s compare home cinema equipment to a storage array – I am always on Continue reading

NetApp has just made 2015 the year of the affordable All-Flash Array – Part 2

In the previous post I looked at the background behind the NetApp All-Flash FAS (AFF) and explored how its commercial value proposition is likely to impact the storage industry, in this post I will look at the AFF in more detail – the key highlights are: Always-on data efficiency Inline Compression (8K) Inline Zero Write Elimination (4K) Always-On De-duplication (4K) Zero-overhead Thin Provisioning (4K) New flash optimisations to reduce latency Optimised SCSI Drivers Read Path Flash Optimisations Optimised thresholds as HDDs are not supported Built on many years of optimising FAS for flash Writes are not in the critical latency path Writes are coalesced in the memory before being de-staged Never overwrites the current version of that block New writes go to free Continue reading

Comparing the new NetApp AFF8000 series with EMC XtremIO 4.0

NetApp has just announced the AFF (All-Flash FAS) series of flash optimised arrays which has been tuned exclusively for Flash (HDDs are not supported). Included with the new models is an updated version of Clustered Data ONTAP (8.3.1) which adds Inline Compression with near-zero impact on system performance. At the same time EMC has announced XtremIO 4.0, this is a key release as it adds double disk protection, non-disruptive cluster expansion and native replication (with support for RecoverPoint). So how do these products compare? In many ways you would assume that this would be an easy win for XtremIO as it is a “ground-up” flash design, what is interesting is that in many ways the products are remarkably similar – the All-Flash Array market is really Continue reading

Should NetApp “kill off” FlashRay?

Before we discuss if NetApp should “kill off” FlashRay let’s review what its key features are: All-Flash Array (AFA) designed for current and upcoming flash technologies High performance in-line de-duplication and compression Flash-optimised I/O stack to keep latency ultra-low Variable length block layout that is equally adept at different I/O sizes Scale-out architecture Thin provisioning Distributed dual-parity RAID 250,000 IOPS @ 0.5 ms on 8K I/O 8GB/s on large-block I/O Now I am a great believer in the fact that we do not want storage silos therefore ideally FlashRay needs to support HDDs and/or different tiers of SDDs. I know we are discussing AFAs, but I just do not see HDDs going away for many years therefore as much as it sounds strange Continue reading

Affordability means that 2015 will be the year that the All-Flash Array (AFA) goes mainstream

There is no doubt that the SAS 10K and 15K drives are an “endangered species” – they have had a fantastic run, but we are reaching a tipping point whereby the cost per TB of flash drives will soon be on a par with them – then it will be game over. Does this mean that the all-flash data centre is now viable for most organisations? Absolutely not, the future will consist of three tiers of storage as it has done for the last 5 years: High performance flash capable of enduring a high number of writes (eMLC) High performance flash drives optimised for reads (cMLC) High capacity HDDs optimised for data archiving and sequential workloads (NL-SAS) They will be deployed in a Continue reading