Storage Field Day 19 – Vendor Previews

Storage Field Day 19 – Vendor Previews

Chris Evans Storage, Tech Field Day Leave a Comment

Next week I will be attending Storage Field Day 19, a three-day technical presentation on vendor storage products and services.  This post is a preview of the presenting companies and expected topics.  I’ve written this kind of summary for many of the TFD events I’ve attended.  They serve as a guide on what to expect from the companies and how to form opinions on their presented material, company strategy and direction.

Vendors are presented here in alphabetical order.  Some have more discussion content than others, either because we’ve seen them before, I’ve worked with them or have written about them in the past.

Dell EMC

I doubt many people in technology haven’t heard of Dell or EMC.  Dell EMC is the current name for the EMC storage and associated enterprise products under the Dell brand.  It’s difficult to know on what subjects Dell EMC may choose to present.  Helpfully we have some context courtesy of the TFD website

Dell EMC will present for a large percentage of the second day, covering Isilon, DevOps and PowerOne.  Isilon is a scale-out NAS platform that EMC acquired in 2010.  It directly competes with offerings like ONTAP from NetApp.  In recent years, Dell EMC has put more focus into the product, with all-flash versions, compression and performance improvements. 

DevOps could cover a wide range of products and services.  We’ll have to wait and see what that entails.  PowerOne is more evident, though.  This is a converged infrastructure solution offered as a service, with metered/subscription billing.  EMC initially partnered with Cisco in developing vBlock solutions.  PowerOne is the transformation of that concept into a platform that exclusively uses Dell equipment. 

Putting the hardware aside, I’m more interested in understanding how Dell EMC has developed efficient automation and subscription-based billing.  As a CI solution, the subscription model seems somewhat of an oxymoron.  Converged Infrastructure solutions are generally static in design and built for a specific purpose.  There isn’t really a scale-up/down option.  As a result, a subscription seems only like offering customers more flexible payment terms. 

I was hoping Dell EMC would be covering the strategic direction of Midrange.NEXT.  This area seems to have gone quiet, although the company was promising an announcement by the end of January 2020.  It doesn’t look like SFD19 will be the forum for that.

Infrascale

Infrascale is a company I don’t know a lot about.  A quick check of their website highlights services that include DR as a Service and Cloud Backup.  I wrote extensively about data protection in 2019, so the Infrascale presentation will be an excellent opportunity to see how much of that thinking applies here. 

The challenge for all of the data protection solution providers is how to make noise in a very crowded market.  Incumbent vendors such as Commvault have started their transition to the public cloud.  Druva and Clumio are already there.  You can read some more thinking in this post published earlier this month.   Let’s see if Infrascale does things differently. 

Komprise

Unstructured data has a habit of growing out of control.  When disk storage is cheap, the cost of manual management becomes impractical.  So, companies like Komprise exist to optimise the movement of data from expensive primary storage to more cost-effective alternative locations.  In the old days, we used to call this Information Lifecycle Management (ILM).  Today we see terms like Intelligent Data Management and Cloud Data Management used.  Mostly though, the challenges are the same – optimising storage resources without having to delete content. 

In May 2019, we recorded a podcast with Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise.  This episode provides some good background on the challenges IT organisations face when balancing storage costs versus data availability.  Today, we have the options to use the public cloud as an archive target, or even move data from expensive public cloud to cheap on-premises storage.  That leads us on nicely to the next presenting company.

MinIO

MinIO is an open-source enterprise-class object storage platform.  The company also gets top marks for one of the best website URLs (https://min.io/).  MinIO claims widespread adoption of their storage technology, with millions of Docker pulls and tens of thousands of Github stars (a way to bookmark code repositories). 

The MinIO platform, for me at least, seems more about simplicity and ease of deployment.  The leading object storage vendors don’t generally provide user-downloadable versions of their software, either due to complexity or because the process leads to unreasonable expectations.  However, MinIO is freely and easily downloadable, with plenty of examples for different platforms.

The company claims that MinIO is used across a wide variety of use cases, and I believe that the software is also white labelled to provide object storage access for other commercial offerings.  What’s the long-term strategy for an open-source company like MinIO, where the market is essentially a race to the bottom on price?  I’m interested to see if SUBNET can be a way to build a different object storage vendor in this competitive market. 

NetApp

NetApp is part-way into a journey of transition, away from purely selling appliances, to becoming a data management company.  NetApp storage is now available across AWS, Azure and GCP, in most cases, natively integrated into cloud APIs and security models.  This evolution has been an enormous change for a company that previously focused on selling boxes to the enterprise.

With such momentum in the public cloud, the NetApp mantra has been to embrace rather than fight cloud adoption.  The data fabric puts in place a strategy for bringing the two worlds together and includes some non-storage components like the NetApp Kubernetes Service.

Most recently, NetApp has announced storage as a service for on-premises customers.  Keystone provides new consumption models that more closely align with the public cloud.  While on-premises can never be as flexible as the public cloud (because the infrastructure is dedicated rather than shared), NetApp is one of several vendors trying to standardise consumption models, regardless of the physical storage location. 

Tiger Technology

Tiger Technology is another vendor I know little about.  Doing a cursory scan on the Tiger website, I can see that software-defined storage forms a big part of the company product offerings.  SDS has changed a lot over the last decade when solutions focused on being drop-in replacements for traditional storage arrays.  Today, SDS operates across public and private clouds, on multiple protocols and using many purchasing models. 

However, this part of the storage industry is crowded with solutions, from SMB upwards.  Many end-users will be focused on price ($/GB) or happy to use open-source versions of commercial software.  As a result, Tiger needs to have a strong competitive offering.  I’m looking forward to this discussion, as the SDS market continues to evolve.

WekaIO

I’ve already mentioned Isilon and NetApp in this post.  Both companies produce solutions addressing scale-out NAS.  In a related area, WekaIO has developed a scale-out file system that runs on NVMe storage or in the public cloud.  I hesitate to call the solution NAS (although it does provide NAS support) because the implementation is based on providing what looks like local storage to a cluster of hosts. 

WekaIO has presented numerous times at Tech Field Day, and we’ve also done a couple of podcasts with founder Liran Zvibel and CTO Andy Watson.  These provide a background on the WekaIO solution and a potential future direction for the company.  Andy, specifically, talks about the need for high-performance file systems in the public cloud.

As with any vendor, I’m interested to see what WekaIO chooses to present this time around.  The Matrix file system has already demonstrated performance credentials, so where does the discussion go next?

Western Digital

Western Digital recently sold off the majority of their data centre storage business to Data Direct Networks (DDN).  It’s rumoured that the object storage business may be up for sale too.  That leaves media and the composable infrastructure business as other options for discussion.

At a macro level, increases in capacity for both HDDs and SSDs show no sign of slowing down.  We talked about the achievements in this week’s Storage Unpacked podcast looking at 2020 futures.  Ten years ago, we had almost no NAND flash technology in the data centre and HDDs were at 1TB capacity.  Today 16 TB & 32TB SSDs are normal and HDDs are pushing 20TB and upwards.

At a micro level, the technology needed to deliver these improvements is astounding.  Technologies such as HAMR and MAMR have been in development for ten years or more.  Western Digital may choose to present some of the details, which will make for a fascinating discussion. 

The Architect’s View

There’s lots of promise from the SFD19 line-up, although I have no insight as to what will actually be presented.  As usual, you can follow the conversation live online at https://techfieldday.com/ or join in the discussion through twitter using the hashtag #SFD19. 


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