Day 2 - Live From SNW

Continuing our Live from SNW series, our first few entries for today are going to be catch up from yesterday's final briefings. As before these are all coming rapid fire so I ask your continued patience, these are very much first impressions.

George Crump

October 13, 2009

6 Min Read
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Continuing our Live from SNW series, our first few entries for today are going to be catch up from yesterday's final briefings. As before these are all coming rapid fire so I ask your continued patience, these are very much first impressions.Fujitsu was the next briefing. Fujitsu, like NEC Storage, is a huge company looking to stake claim to the US storage market. The storage line starts from the entry level ETERNUS DX80, moves into a mid-range offering with ETERNUS 4000 and tops out with a high-end tier one class ETERNUS 8000.The key differentiators for Fujitsu are the ability to perform encryption in the array and MAID capability. Encryption in storage is a cloudy issue at times, but clearly a top use case is when a system is decommissioned or needs to be sent in for repair. You want to make sure the data on this drive is unreadable. In the ETERNUS environment once a drive is removed from the array the data on it is rendered unreadable.On the MAID front, while many manufacturers are just now coming out with MAID storage on their tier one systems, Fujitsu has been offering it for over two years. This is critical because there is a lot that vendors need to learn about how to best optimize and configure MAID technology for optimal power efficiency.

We also discussed how Fujitsu's entry level product is unique in that it provides these security and power management advantages in a low end package. It also includes support for 120 drives and has fibre, iSCSI or SAS connections. Finally it can support SSD based devices as well.Fujitsu seems to have a strong and complete offering that performs well and certainly is backed by a stable company. Things to consider.EMC was the first briefing of the morning. The parts of the discussion that I can talk about centered on EMC's recent reorganization of all things backup under a new backup and recovery group that will be headed up by Data Domain CEO Frank Slootman. This is a great early move by EMC in my opinion. Frank is the kind of guy who will get the different factions within the new group, Avamar, Data Domain and Networker, all rowing the boat in the same direction. Look for smart, simple moves first and then more detailed potentially game changing moves next.3PAR was next up on the agenda and they had some major announcements for us to work through. The company that built its reputation on thin provisioning is getting ready to raise the bar on what it takes to provide thin provisioning. While other vendors are playing checkers, 3PAR seems to be playing chess.

Obviously as we discuss in our article "Thin Provisioning Basics", thin provisioning has value, even in its early form, but basically it was limited to net new data on net new projects. The 3PAR announcement adds the ability to move existing data to a thin platform as well as the ability to stay thin as the environment evolves.With Thin Conversion, a storage refresh no longer requires that you buy the amount of storage capacity you own plus what you expect to grow. Now you buy what you actually have written plus growth. This means for many customers a reduction by 35% or more in the amount of capacity that needs to be bought in a refresh.

The second announcement is what 3PAR calls Thin Persistence and it allows you to stay thin. As a volume is used, data is added to and deleted from that volume but a thinly provisioned volume does not typically reclaim this storage. With Thin Persistence 3PAR can detect free space that has been zeroed out and reclaim that storage.

All of this technology leverages the 3PAR Thin ASIC, a critical component so that thin provisioning, conversion and persistence can be performed quickly. Sometimes it may be a good thing not to use off the shelf hardware.Next up on the briefing calendar was Cleversafe. Their dsNet systems use a data dispersal technology to provide scalability, longevity, reliability and security. When data is written to a Cleversafe system it is broken down or sliced into packets. Those packets are then dispersed across different storage nodes, called Slicestors. These Slicestors can be located in one data center or located across various geographies.New for this show is Cleversafe's adding of an object storage model, moving beyond iSCSI. This allows direct access to content via JAVA or REST API's bet/put commands. When dealing with very large data formats like video, the file system information is not as relevant as the metadata in the object. iSCSI will continue to be supported and Cleversafe has added CIFS and NFS access. The role of these solutions is to provide clients a gateway to object based storage and both block access as well as object access can be managed from the same management system. Each Slicestor however has to be assigned a specific access type.

Overall Cleversafe continues to grow. They believe that the hype around cloud storage is going to come and go, but just as packet switching helped enable the internet, the "Storage Internet" which is what cloud storage may become will require a packetized storage technology like they offer.Next up for us was NEC. Not on the NEC HYDRAstor, but on the NEC D Series Storage family. While they have an entry level unit that is not upgradable, the rest of the family can be upgraded as your needs demand. An organization can start with a D3 and then upgrade to a D8. The D3 essentially becomes a drive shelf in the D8 system. The D8 is nodal in design.

Upgradability on nodes is available from other vendors but is still a relatively unique capability. You can have up to four D8 nodes that make up a single array. Each node has the ability to accept various modules based on need. There are three types of modules; one for connecting to SAN, one for disk cache and one for connecting to storage. The first node you install starts with two of each of these types of modules. From there you can add two more modules based on need. If you need more performance as an example, add two more cache modules.

The systems seem to have all the basic blocking and tackling features you expect in a SAN storage system at very aggressive price points. The new capabilities added include Thin Provisioning and a iSCSI version of the D3. In addition they also announced the extension of a 30 day, no questions asked return policy. NEC believes they have a product worth consideration and they are willing to prove it.

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