Monday, 25 November 2013

Software Defined Storage a fancy way to say virtualization, says DataCore Software chairman

Ziya AralExecutive Editor Ellen Obrien of SearchStorage interviews DataCore Software Corp. chairman and founder Ziya Aral on software-defined storage (SDS) and how customers get into trouble, and why distinguishing between SDS and virtualization isn't so easy.
I want to get started by talking about software-defined storage. Everyone seems to have a play here. How do you define it?
Ziya Aral: Each time this subject comes up, there is a slight redefinition of the term. But software-defined storage is a continuation of what used to be called storage virtualization. Storage virtualization [by] itself lacks server virtualization. A virtual machine is one of these concepts that basically argues for creating a software emulation layer. It's an approach to breaking hardware away from software. Now, there are a million good reasons to do that. Just thinking about the question for 5 minutes gets you there. Hardware and software live different lives with different expertise.
Hardware is redefined every 18 months. Software sometimes has a half-life of 10, 15, 20 years. It makes absolute sense to architect software and hardware differently and to have a software layer that is defined in a perfect world, in a perfect universe. [In that layer], storage is perfect. There's an absolutely infinite amount of space. It has all of the positive characteristics that you want for it. It has high availability, data has integrity, [and] it can move around at will. And then there's hardware. Hardware has the real limitations that physics impose. And you would like those two broken apart from each other.
Can you explain to us how software-defined storage is different from standard virtualization?
Aral: No. I can't.
Do you believe it's one and the same?
Aral: I think that it is essentially one and the same. Now, there are always detail differences, but it's like asking the question, 'How is the cloud different from storage service providers [SSPs] of 10 years ago?' Now, conceptually many of the cloud vendors have gone for direct repetition of what the SSP guys used to say. The technology has changed; commercially it's more practical. There are elements to the story that reflect the current thinking on many things. But in essence, the idea is the same. Software-defined storage is similar.
We're still doing emulation. And frankly, emulation is a bad word in our industry because emulation equals 'slow.' It's getting one thing to do what another thing is supposed to be doing. The other thing is several times more complicated. But frankly, emulation is the beginning of storage virtualization, of server virtualization. When the power of the underlying technology, the hardware technology, reaches a certain critical mass, then the software is able to really begin to abstract in a fundamental way from those hardware limitations. And that's the real basis of software-defined storage.
How do you stand out in such a competitive market right now? What's your pitch to customers?
Aral: Typically, their problem is they've got a bunch of controllers from this vendor, a bunch of controllers from this vendor, and they don't work together. So, when these fail, these don't take over. These aren't fast enough. So, we find ourselves selling after the fact in most cases.
Now, that's not always true. DataCore Software's getting to be a reasonably sized company. Today, in many cases, we sell at the architectural level. [However], the bulk of our business still continues to be making up for the damage done previously. In those cases, we're covering disaster recovery where none exists. For example, a customer must have immediate availability of data at all times. OK, terrific, that's great. It's a requirement of many businesses. It is absolutely universal.
They bought a box. The box has two power supplies, two power cords, two sets of logic and one piece of software driving all of it. The box fails. All right, let's think about this. [They say,] 'We should have another box. Better still, another box hooked up to another power grid somewhere. This would be great. It'd be terrific 30 miles across town.' [The vendor says,] 'We don't do that.' [They say,] 'You don't do that? OK. How do I do that then?' Answer: DataCore.
[They might say,] 'But, but, but EMC does that. They do that with two boxes of their own. But we have an old box and the new EMC box. Now do I do that?' [We say,] 'Well, you don't.'
That's what we do most of the time. It is a key piece of storage architecture, but eventually software defines storage, eliminates storage as such. It reduces storage devices to peripherals.
Now, EMC builds and sells more of those devices than anyone else around. Why would they talk about software-defined storage? In fact, why would any of the larger hardware vendors talk about it? Well, they're not stupid people. They're smart people, and they understand the science. They talk about it in anticipation of an evolving architecture that leads to many opportunities.
But, I am sad to say, 15 years into it, we're still the radical. This is crazy. This is so obviously true. Yet, we're still the radical.
Where do you see it 15 years from now?
Aral: Storage operating systems will, I believe, take the place of large, high-end storage controllers today. That is, you will build your application infrastructure around them. They will be one logically combined, logically integrated entity. But the entity itself will be a ball that moves. You put it on that platform. You put it over here. You put it in Phoenix. You move it to Tokyo. You outsource by taking that whole ball and putting it out on the cloud. You pull it back in because those damn cloud providers, they're charging me too much and they don't give me the response I want.
This whole thing will be essentially nothing other than the reflection of the business process or the application architecture guy's vision of how he wants this thing to work. It will be a figment of the mind. The fact that it lives on computers -- and where those computers live -- will be an afterthought. It'll be an afterthought for a different guy, like the networking guy that you have that's basically responsible for the wires.
Will that significantly change the role of the storage manager, storage admin?
Aral: Forgive me. Those are our customers, and I love those people. But their role is changing already. That was the most rapidly growing section of the IT industry for a while. It sure isn't today. Those guys are drowning. They're drowning. And they're going to up their game and lower their tolerance of this and that box.
We have a T-shirt at DataCore. It's an internal-use T-shirt. It says 'Hardware Sucks.' This is a new introduction of an old T-shirt. What it means is not that hardware sucks. Hardware is terrific. It does all this stuff. But when you're chained to it, man, it hurts. It hurts. You've got to free yourself of that.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

DataCore Chairman Ziya Aral on Software Defined Storage and Storage Virtualization

Ziya Aral

View the 5 minute Video

Somehow, it's become a question everyone is looking to answer -- and answer in a way that separates them from all the other people trying to succeed in the same space: What is software-defined storage? Depending on whom you ask, software-defined storage (SDS) is either a meaningless buzz phrase, a new spin on virtualization, or a truly revolutionary way of thinking about the connection between -- and necessary separation of -- hardware and software. In this video, DataCore Software Chairman Ziya Aral offers his take on SDS, and his perspective on how the technology has evolved.

"Each time this subject comes up, there is a slight redefinition of the term, but software-defined storage is a continuation of what used to be called storage virtualization,"

Aral said. It's an approach, simply put, "to breaking hardware away from software." This year, major storage players such as EMC made a play in the SDS market. EMC disclosed its plans for ViPR in May and began shipping it in August. The vendor acknowledged that defining the term was not simple, and executives agreed the term was overused.

Many industry analysts agree with Aral's point, that software-defined storage is already living up to the hype and it's because storage and server systems are looking more and more similar to each other. For companies like DataCore, the SDS craze is an opportunity to point out that major vendors are trying to fix a "broken storage model," and that DataCore believes the company's SANsymphony-V storage virtualization software, with no hardware or application-programming-interface restrictions, set the standard for SDS many years ago.

Monday, 18 November 2013

DataCore adds scale to SANsymphony-V storage virtualization software


DataCore Software Corp. upgraded its SANsymphony-V storage virtualization software, doubling its scalability and adding self-healing and high-availability features to the platform, which the vendor bills as a more mature and complete alternative to EMC Corp.'s ViPR.

SANsymphony-V brings storage features such as caching, thin provisioning, auto tiering, replication, mirroring and snapshots across different types of storage hardware. It treats storage across hardware platforms as one pool. DataCore began calling its software a storage hypervisor and then software-defined storage long before EMC introduced its ViPR platform earlier this year.

The biggest change with SANsymphony-V 9.0.4 is it scales to 16 nodes instead of the previous eight-node limit. That could bring DataCore into more enterprise implementations.

"Historically, the knock on DataCore has been that it only scales to a point, so this is a big deal," said Jim Bagley, senior analyst at Austin, Texas-based SSG-NOW.

The self-healing capability uses synchronous mirroring of data between nodes to detect nodes that have failed or that have been taken out of service. SANsymphony-V then migrates data on those nodes to other hardware without disrupting applications. Augie Gonzalez, director of product marketing at DataCore, said this feature was added mostly for solid-state drives "that have a higher propensity to flake out on you" than RAID-protected hard disk drives.

The new version can also move virtual disks non-disruptively between storage pools. This allows virtual volumes from a test/development pool to be relocated to a production pool without disrupting access to applications. SANsymphony-V's remote replication now will automatically sync the data on two sites if they get out of sync, and its audit logs will record time stamps of each administrative action that can help troubleshoot problems on the SAN.

According to Gonzalez, what has changed the most is awareness of SANsymphony-V. He said DataCore's message was often lost in the wilderness until EMC decided to push software-defined storage and the idea of storage management that works across varied hardware platforms.

"ViPR has put a whole different perspective on what we do and the kinds of people interested in what we do," Gonzalez said. "Our value proposition from the beginning was to provide a uniform platform to control storage devices. That was a hard value to push when storage hardware guys were saying, 'Do this as a hardware function; the function exists just for this device and each device brings its own piece of intelligence.'"

Gonzalez said DataCore has seen a spike in customer interest since EMC began talking about ViPR in May. He said ViPR represents a flip-flop for EMC, which used to position storage as hardware-centric and siloed. "Now they say, 'Why not just plug in this uniform software and plug in the right hardware for the job?'" he said.

DataCore has been saying that for years and has been selling to EMC customers, as well as customers of other large storage vendors. Gonzalez said SANsymphony-V is used mostly by companies that are heavily virtualized and run more than one type of storage hardware.

With ViPR on the market, EMC becomes a competitor to DataCore while also helping to highlight SANsymphony-V's value.

"All the buzz about the advantages of software-defined storage and the goodness that it brings helps DataCore," SSG-NOW's Bagley said. "The primary difference is EMC is all about pushing its own hardware, and DataCore is device-agnostic."

Sunday, 17 November 2013

An Australian municipality continues to grow and save money with DataCore Storage Virtualization Software

"Virtualizing servers was something we knew we had to pursue. And the concepts we were learning made us think that virtualization on the storage side was something we should also implement to avoid having a single point-of-failure in terms of our newly acquired SAN."
- Kevin Chan IT Infrastructure Manager, Kingston City Council
"The real beauty of DataCore is that it fulfills the full range of storage requirements - such as management, high-availability and disaster recovery - with hardware independent software that runs on any standard Intel or AMD based system."

- Anand Karan Managing Director, Lincom Solutions
To learn more, please read: The Full Case Study on Kinston City Council

DataCore Partner Lincom Designed and Implemented the Kingston City Council Solution:

Lincom Solutions holds DataCore implementation/engineering certifications and have worked with DataCore for nearly 7 years in designing and implementing DataCore solutions for various organisations, ranging from not for profit to global airlines.
One example of such an implementation is Kingston City Council.
For more information on Lincom, please see: