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VSPEX, VCE, vBlock, FlexPod, vStart, PureSystems, HP Smart Bundles…

February 1st, 2013 by Steven Schwartz

Converged networking was a very hot topic a few years ago.  Cisco UCS, HP Virtual Connect, NextIO, Xsigo, Mellanox, and Voltaire all have had a hand in the ideology of the converged network.  Cisco, however, helped make the conversation of converged networking really turn into a converged infrastructure story.  The movement into highly virtualized services has made hardware components more and more commodity, forcing vendors to create new value in the solutions being presented.

Principle of the converging lens

Principle of the converging lens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is Converged Infrastructure?

How do you define converged infrastructure?  Per WIKI – Converged infrastructure packages multiple information technology (IT) components into a single, optimized computing solution. Components of a converged infrastructure solution include servers, data storage devices, networking equipment and software for IT infrastructure management, automation and orchestration.


What does this really mean?  Nothing much.  All of the above solutions are really just tried and tested reference architectures with varying levels of testing and supporting management applications.  I need to be very clear about calling out of “Single Vendor Support”.  Many of the below solutions technically have a single number to call in the event of a support issue and the ownership of multi-vendor communication is owned by a single vendor.



Computer Vendor

Networking Vendor

Storage Vendor

Single Vendor Support

EMC VSPEX IBM/Cisco Oracle/Cisco EMC n/a
VCE Cisco Cisco EMC Yes*
vBlock Cisco Cisco EMC n/a
FlexPod Cisco Cisco NetApp n/a
DELL vStart Dell Dell Dell Yes
IBM PureSystems IBM IBM IBM/NetApp Yes*
HP SmartBundles HP HP HP Yes
Nutanix Nutanix Nutanix Nutanix Yes
Simplivity Simplivity Simplivity Simplivity Yes

*VCE & IBM PureSystems technically would take and manage support calls, however the solutions still contain more one vendor’s products.


Nutanix and Simplivity?

New players to the seen are Nutanix and Simplivity.  Both had an impressive showing at VMWorld 2012.  They are a brick based converged infrastructure which tightly couples computer and storage in a expandable cluster model.  These are unique as they have been designed from day one as a single solution for virtualization, not a combination of server, networking, and storage products available separately. They have features such as clustered shared storage, single management , deduplication, and are tightly integrated.  They are focused on the mid-enterprise, reach down to medium business, and are being pulled into the large enterprise.

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Posted in Clustered File Systems, Converged Infrastructure, Enterprise, General, IO Virtualization, NetApp, SAN and NAS, virtualization, VMWare | 4 Comments »

Point, Shoot, Solution!

January 21st, 2013 by Steven Schwartz

So lately I’ve been working mostly with IT Manufacturers and Vendors.  When you are representing a technology manufacturer all you have is the products they sell… no matter what the business problem, technical problem, budget, need, the answer always is product X.  I’ve been lucky to have worked with some of the most cutting edge and disruptive products on the market, so customers have wanted them either because they were the right fit, they were the fastest, most reliable, highest performing product, or because it was all we had to offer.  There were also the cases of absolutely none of the prior, they just wanted to play with the newest shiny bobble.

For several periods of my career, I’ve been in the unique position to talk about the business of a client.  What are the issues that are keeping them from being agile, stopping them doubling in revenue, what could be changed to increase profitability? The details that are usually important to every executive board across industries.  The amazing thing, when looking at making a large technology purchase, the IT Director and below usually ignore the business needs for a solution, but instead get caught up in features, speeds and feeds, and price.  The shiny new storage widget that will never be implemented, but makes storage Vendor X stand-out this month becomes a critical decision point.  Let’s be honest, in most cases, IT at a company is a cost of doing business.


Small Pond Ring - 1

Small Pond Ring – 1 (Photo credit: the justified sinner)

I was recently in front of a local IT team that currently has NetApp deployed.  They had been sold on the idea of SSD as the cool technology.  They were in middle of making a rather large (for them) storage purchase.  They run FCP LUNs to VMFS from a NetApp clustered pair, and were almost completely out of SATA storage and they were experiencing performance issues.  The vendor solution was sell them more storage, and disregard looking at what they have stored where, sell them on FlexPools and FlexCache as well, that will resolve and performance issues they are having.


Fast forward a few weeks…there were no performance issues other than misconfiguration and following bad practices.  With a little more storage, implementation of NFS (of course NFS< why on earth would you want to continue the complexity of FCP on NetApp, especially when you’ve already put in place 10Gb Ethernet…a topic I will revisit at another time), and some best practices…HAPPY CLIENT! In the end, a relatively small IT staff was really looking for a way to free up time spent on operations and maintenance in order to spend time deploying new applications to make the company more agile.


This brings me back to the original thought, attacking the IT group with business logic and justifications.  I’m a geek at heart, I like the latest and greatest technologies.  For most of my career I’ve taken large personal risks working with and for early stage start-ups, that was my choice.  The typical CTO doesn’t have the option of playing with a science project, they need technologies that are proven and reliable.  Technologies should be implemented to further the business, not to scratch a technology itch.  The above company got sold on the shiny bobble called SSD, when in reality they might never need SSD technology…ever.  For the record, that doesn’t make them less of a company.

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Posted in Benchmarks, Enterprise, FCoE, General, iSCSI, NetApp, SAN and NAS, WAFL | 1 Comment »

SSD technologies and where are they being deployed?

March 13th, 2012 by Steven Schwartz
en:Wiring and structure of NAND flash cells.

Image via Wikipedia

We all know that the likes of Fusion IO have been around now for a few years and selling server based Flash acceleration for high prices.  What is less known is that TMS (Texas Memory Systems) has been selling flash storage (SAN) for several years quite successfully.  TMS is also one of the few storage vendors that has native support for IB storage connectivity.  DDN (Data Direct Networks) is another to have native IB storage controllers.  However, I’ve recently come across a vendor V3, that uses both IB and Solid State storage in an area where commodity has always won the technology battle, not speed or features.


VDI appliances are on the rise, and V3 is known for having a rock solid VDI appliance model.  I’ve seen it recently deployed in an ESX configuration for VMWare View.  This configuration utilized both IB and SSD to provide the fastest access to both data and storage infrastructure.  The use of the V3 appliance proved to be quicker to deploy, scaled to this customers needs, and helped reduce latency and boot times.


The appearance of SSD technology for application acceleration isn’t a new concept, however, it appears recently that it is very prevalent in Virtual Desktop Infrastructure designs.  On the acceleration side, NetApp has been using solid state storage in it’s PAM devices for several years as a caching engine for NAS reads.  NetApp has changed the name of PAM to Flash Cache in recent history, however, the use model is basically the same.  HDS and LSI have implemented models of SSD drives for most of the array models available to end-users.  These disk systems can utilize the SSDs as traditional volumes, or in some cases for specific application acceleration (read HNAS File System cache).  Of course, SSD drives are still at a 10x premium over more traditional spinning disk technologies.  Heck, most storage vendors have some level of support for SSD drives these days, however, I don’ t think there has been a good enough marketing push to show where they are valued.


I’m personally excited to see the movement toward shared SSD storage for use in virtualization, indexes for databases, and application acceleration.





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Posted in Enterprise, IO Virtualization, NetApp, NFS, SAN and NAS, VMWare | No Comments »

NO IPO…HDS to Acquire BlueArc

September 7th, 2011 by Steven Schwartz
Hitachi Data Systems Logo

Image via Wikipedia

5 year OEM of BlueArc’s Titan and Mercury product lines, HDS (Hitachi Data Systems) will be acquiring BlueArc.  This of course will be a great combination of companies, and I imagine will be a very accelerated ramp up as HDS already has everything in place to absorb BlueArc in a great way.  HDS isn’t one to buy companies.  This will be among one few and one of the largest acquisitions for HDS.  Exciting times for BlueArc and HDS, scary times for NetApp I would imagine.


Press Releases here: http://www.hds.com/corporate/press-analyst-center/press-releases/2011/gl110907.html?_p=v


and here:http://www.bluearc.com/storage-news/press-releases/110907-Hitachi-Data-Systems-Announces-Acquisition-of-BlueArc.shtml




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Posted in Enterprise, HDS, HPC, iSCSI, NetApp, NFS, Oracle, SAN and NAS, VMWare | 1 Comment »

Larry to Buy Larry…his boats are still more expensive

June 29th, 2011 by Steven Schwartz
Larry Ellison crop

Image via Wikipedia

In recent news Pillar Data Systems, mostly funded by Larry Ellison (CEO of Oracle, in case you didn’t know, but also one of the Top 10 richest people in the WORLD), is being bought by, ORACLE.  Pillar Data Systems, which by any industry standard has been grossly unsuccessful, is being acquired by Oracle for a whopping $0.00.  Well, lets not let facts ruin a good story, in theory, if the Pillar storage product line makes money, which would be a first for the product so far, Larry would personally get paid back his investment first.  So far Oracle has clearly done a stellar job of acquisition of SUN and therefore StorageTek, whose disk products are mainly OEM deals with either LSI (now NetApp) and HDS.  Can’t wait to see yet another set of storage products go wasted.



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Posted in Enterprise, General, NetApp, Oracle, Pillar Data Systems, SAN and NAS, Start-up, SUN | No Comments »

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