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Mike Fratto
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Day 2 at EMC World: Touching Base With EMC Partners

We check in with EMC partners and others at the vendor's annual conference. Get the latest from VCE, find out what's new with EMC flash storage and learn why Infineta may be worth watching.

During day two at EMC World, I focused more on some of the partners that augment and enhance EMC's product lines. I didn't get enough time to do all of the labs I wanted, nor attend many sessions. But what I saw, I liked.

VCE, the joint venture among VMware, Cisco and EMC, took the opportunity to highlight new feature enhancements to its Vblock architecture through integration with EMC's VPLEX, which federates storage across multiple locations. VCE also support EMC's Avamar, Data Domain and RecoverPoint products, all of which overlap somewhat in functionality. This means Vblock customers can choose the data protection suite that fits a particular application's needs.

Given that the products are tested and supported by VCE, if there's a problem, there's one call to make. That's exactly what VCE CEO Michael Capellas says differentiates VCE from competitors' private cloud offerings. "You should not confuse individual components which come from a single company with integration," he explained at EMC World. "Other reference architectures tell you how to build it. Just because you bought a reference architecture doesn't mean that you have integrated products. If you have a problem, you call VCE and we take ownership."

I got a chance to sit down with Eric Herzog, senior VP for product management and marketing of the unified storage division at EMC, who was excited about flash storage and the possibilities that tiering offers organizations. By utilizing an average of 5% of a storage system as flash, the array can offer two to three times better performance using flash.

Traditionally, adding more IOPS meant adding more disks to an array, and the progression was largely linear. Flash can substantially increase performance without adding more disks. That means less power draw and less space to hold the drives. He says the biggest hurdle he sees is educating storage admins both in organizations and EMC's channel partners that even though flash drives are far more expensive per unit than disk drives, to achieve equivalent performance, judicious use of flash plus disk can significantly reduce the overall system cost because you need far fewer disks. I suspect you'll be hearing a lot more about flash from EMC in the coming year.

Two EMC Partners to Watch

Many of EMC's partners were on display at EMC World--two caught my eye. Infineta makes a WAN optimizer that it claims competes on data reduction with the likes of Riverbed and Silver Peak, using in-memory deduplication and at 10 Gbit speeds. Built using merchant silicon and an FPGA, Infineta uses RAM to deduplicate blocks as small as 8 bytes and stores the dictionary in 64 Gbytes of RAM. Since block sizes are so small, representatives claim, they can deduplicate within the same packet, as well as across packets. Infineta is focusing primarily on replication traffic from backups and SRDF, rather than on file traffic. The company is in the process of getting its equipment qualified by EMC, which will open the door to being an approved component of the SAN. Its story sounds good, but, of course, I can't vouch for Infineta's performance claims. If your current WAN optimization isn't cutting it for your replication needs, Infineta is worth investigating. (And tell me what you find!)

What's a tech show in 2012 without some software-defined networking (SDN) goodness? I happened upon Vello Systems, which makes an SDN controller and optical switch that underpins its Remote Data Replication Manager (RDRM). The manager applies network policies via OpenFlow to replication data between data centers and can support, for example, EMC's SRDF and RecoverPoint, as well as VMware's Site Recovery Manager. Vello's RDRM seems targeted toward cloud providers, but any organization running fiber plant could look at Vello for WAN traffic enforcement.

If you're still at EMC World, take advantage of EMC's Hands-on Labs. There are 27 labs available. They're pretty well done; I ran through the vCloud Director lab in about an hour. There were several others I wanted to complete, but other obligations distracted me.

All in all, EMC put together a good show for its customers and partners. There were a bunch of sessions given by EMC staff and partners, plenty of food and seating if you needed to catch your breath, and a show floor that, while small, showcased both EMC and partner products and services.

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HaseebB
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HaseebB,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/30/2012 | 6:57:06 PM
re: Day 2 at EMC World: Touching Base With EMC Partners
You are clearly very knowledgeable about EMC products and how they interact with various WAN Opt solutions. Perhaps you work (or have worked) for a WAN Opt vendor?

With respect to the differences between VMAX- and DMX-based SRDF, I assume you are referring to the use of the 8-byte Data Integrity Field (DIF), which can confuse traditional dedupe algorithms. Consider that if the dedupe granularity is all the way down to 8 bytes, the dedupe engine will be able to find these DIFs and ignore them?

Again, happy to discuss in detail if you like. I'm reachable at haseeb at infineta dot com.
HaseebB
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HaseebB,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/30/2012 | 6:47:42 PM
re: Day 2 at EMC World: Touching Base With EMC Partners
You are absolutely right - EMC wants 5x+ reduction performance for SRDF. I'll be more than happy to point you to someone at ELab who can confirm that we meet their performance requirements.

My email is haseeb at infineta dot com. Looking forward to connecting.
IndustryVet
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IndustryVet,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2012 | 8:43:21 PM
re: Day 2 at EMC World: Touching Base With EMC Partners
In regards to EMC there are challenges in supporting the wide array of storage replication solutions they have (about a year ago I counted 7 - e.g. 2 for Symmetrix, CLARiiON, RecoverPoint, Data Domain, Celerra).

For example, there are some differences between SRDF replication on DMX and VMAX so WAN Op vendors must make adjustments (typically the user must specify within a application GUI field) in order to deliver acceleration.

VPLEX uses UDP and I don't believe Infineta has support for UDP currently (TCP was their primary target initially).

I hate to say this but as you peel back the layers of the Onion on Infineta the story gets less interesting.

As noted early, their approach is interesting but given their limited resources its going to be a challenge for them to compete in the WAN Op market
Mike Fratto
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Mike Fratto,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2012 | 5:45:51 PM
re: Day 2 at EMC World: Touching Base With EMC Partners
Yessir.

When I talked to them and they explained what they were doing, I did say that it sounded like LZ style compression, but with an exceptionally large dictionary and since it was in memory, how could they get the data reduction they were claiming.

Their response was, and this is the part I am shaky on, is that they utilize a minimum 8byte block and they can replace at a granular level. It sounds a lot more like network compression than anything else.

They further qualified their product saying that it was better suited for data transfers like replication and back-up--file transfers that would not benefit from disk based dedupe. Nor would it be very useful for pre-compressed data. But if you are transferring lots of *files*, then a disk based dedupe would likely perform better.

So they weren't saying they were always better than disk based dedupe.

I am interested in the details but I don't know what SRDF, replication, or back-up streams look like on the wire. It is a topic that I'd love to explore though.
IndustryVet
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IndustryVet,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/24/2012 | 4:30:41 PM
re: Day 2 at EMC World: Touching Base With EMC Partners
Infineta can only deliver 2-3x compression/reduction in data replication traffic. They've been working on their 'qualifcation' with EMC for over a year now. EMC won't qualify them because it doesn't consider a WAN Op solution as having value until they hit at least 5x++ compression/reduction.

Infineta's approach is interesting but given their hardware-based approach (FPGA) they are going to be very slow to add features and do bug fixes as they have to develop the code and then figure out how to fit it on to a FPGA.
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