Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SAN Buzz December II

With the year winding down and business coming to a halt in the next days, here's my last summary of news and events which caught my attention in the last couple days.

A most blessed Christmas Season to you!

Do you really need a SAN? That's the question raised in this article by Forrester senior analyst Andrew Reichman. He concludes that with more storage-specific functions added by the application vendors, the time has come for buyers to "question the value of their SAN and consider simpler options that fit better with the applications they truly care about." Hmmm...

On the technology side, Qlogic announces availability of an 8 Gbps blade switch module for the IBM BladeCenter and HDS announces their first shot at using SSDs for their USP platform.
Like IBM, HDS has been cautious about where and how to use SSDs in the enterprise storage hierarchy, but with the current hype about the technology, it seems that you simply have to have at least one SSD option in the portfolio and this will not change for 2009!

On the industry side, Brocade did complete the acquisition of Foundry Networks this past week and posted a whitepaper about their strategy for the combined company.

The rumour mill produced a couple news items (Network World and Inquirer)about CISCO allegedly planning to enter the blade server market?

And lastly, looking forward to 2009, here's IBM Bob Moffat's "10 Reasons why IBM succeeds in 2009"!

Monday, December 8, 2008

SAN Buzz December

Resuming on my cloud topic from the last post, here's a comment by Nicholas Carr (author of the book "The Big Switch") about how the current downturn seems to even affect Google's "cloudy" plans and datacenter expansion strategy: "So much for the Googley Treats".

The quarterly contest for top rankings in IDC's storage market reports for the third quarter 2008 is over and Byte&Switch reports on the verdict:
"Total disk systems capacity shipped in the quarter reached 2,170 Pbytes, up 41.7 percent from a year ago."

The hype for SSD storage seems to grow with more vendors and technologies hitting the market, thus adding to the confusion of many potential users of the new storage technology.
SNIA has recognised this and has recently launched the "Solid State Storage Initiative" (SSSI). Check their website for vendor-neutral material about the pros and cons of various SSD technologies!
What seems to become clear however is the fact, that the massive increase of harddisk capacity in the past years coupled with a relative lack of increase of performance seems to open up a perfect niche for high-performance-low-capacity SSDs in enterprise storage systems as this article explains!

And lastly, approaching the end of another year, here's an amazing website: If you want to find out about the buzz and hot topics in storage back in 2002 (or any other year back to 1949!) you'll find it here!

And if you feel nostalgic and want to have a look at a website of a long-gone company (like Veritas or McDATA) check out the wayback machine!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SAN Buzz November II

I noticed some time ago that the most recent news thread from the IT and storage industry increasingly sounds like a weather forecast:
Sunny skies with clouds developing in the atmosphere during the day...
Let's all hope we don't get too much rain from all these clouds!

Actually my friend Tony Pearson has a great post on the Atmos-thing announced last week.
And if you thought the concept of cloud storage was new, check out this research paper dated from 2000: they called it OceanStore back then, but clouds and oceans both hold water and span the globe (any other similarities?).

So if you feel like storing some of your digital files and documents in the cloud today, go to the Wuala website, this Swiss startup has recently opened their service to the public. It should have been named Clouds'R'Us, because the cloud actually consists of the storage of all the participating users in this implementation. Great idea!

As you may have noticed, the rate of density increases on traditional HDDs has slowed since 2004/05 and the justification for this is documented here: A guy by the name of Mark Kryder claims that the increase in density even beats the increase on the chip side (aka Moore's Law)..or maybe not?

In any case, the age of SSDs in the enterprise seems near (IBM has coined the term SCM (storage class memory)) and here's a video which shows a possible implementation/integration of SSDs in the IBM SVC virtualization solution.

Friday, November 14, 2008

SAN Buzz November

Couple news from the HDD vs. SSD front:

Seagate announces a new 2.5 inch high-performance enterprise drive and Intel releases a first revision of NVMHCI
(another one to get used to? Stands for "Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface").

NVMHCI is a good thing as it probably will raise the awarness of the fact, that it does not make sense to use solid-state memory embedded in systems architectures and file systems which have been designed entirely around the characteristics of rotating disk drives! Read the pros and cons here!

In the storage networking realm, CISCO seems to suffer a bit under the fact that they are kind of late to the 8 Gbps Party which Brocade started some nine months ago.

Meanwhile, Qlogic silently shipped the first products with 20 Gbps ISL capability, while CISCO plans to take advantage of their recent investment in VMware by integrating their stuff more tightly with the virtualized data centers.

If our customers will have funds available to invest into these technologies in 2009 is rather uncertain at this time:
IDC takes a rather pessimistic approach, while IBM's Sam Palmisano believes that the IT Industry in general- and IBM more specifically- are well positioned to actually support a technology-fueled economic recovery.

However, I have to admit that I strongly disagree with the stated example of "Stockholm's smart traffic system" mentioned in his speech (aka road pricing): as far as I can see, this is simply another means of collecting taxes and has absolutely nothing "smart" to it!

Monday, October 20, 2008

SAN Buzz October II

For those of you who didn't get the chance to attend SNW in Dallas (like myself), here's a great link to get an overview of what was going on at the Fall 2008 conference.

See you at the SNW Europe in Frankfurt next week!?

All the latest SNIA Tutorials are available here if you want to browse thru the presentations.
Of course there was also time to relax and socialize, not sure who created this funny video!

Among other things, IBM did announce a new scale-down version of its best-selling SAN Volume Controller virtualization solution: the SVC EE (entry edition).

Much of the buzz at the conference was around solid-state-storage and FCoE as you might guess, here's a couple articles related to FCoE:
NetApp announces plans for native FCoE storage (and here)
EMC announces an FCoE switch/gateway (based on CISCO Nexus technology)
and as the third piece needed to build an FCoE infrastructure, Emulex and Qlogic both announce certification of their respective CNAs.

The conclusion from my good friend Greg Schulz at StorageIO Group is
"...Fibre Channel over Ethernet can consolidate networks".

Friday, October 3, 2008

SAN Buzz October

Here's the highlights from the last two weeks in storage:
One (unrelated to storage!) was for sure a trip last week aboard a 1939 Ju-52 in the Swiss Alps, this airplane is (almost) completely free of computer technology and the flight attendant actually encouraged us to use the cell phones during take off and landing ;-)

IBM continues to invest in future storage technology and has announced a joint venture with Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to advance research and development of future solid-state memory products based on "racetrack memory".

You have certainly noticed that recently, many companies try to get into the "datacenter" market, a segment owned mainly by the big computer companies like IBM, HP and others in the past. The growing importance of the networks (and the internet), and the fact that todays datacenters have become a very complex collection of dozens of platforms, operating systems, and protocols open up the opportunity and needs for "datacenter operating systems" and "converged networks". CISCO's John Chambers talks in this interview with Forbes magazine where he sees CISCO's place in the datacenter (and why IBM might object to those plans).

On the technology side, I found two interesting posts about SAS (serial attached SCSI) which is slowly gaining traction in many aspects: One is the next SAS standard to be finalized in the near future, the other one is this press release about IBM shipping SAS drives for its entry-level BladeCenter S.

Monday, September 22, 2008

SAN Buzz September III

This week, the solid-state storage technology receives the official blessing from SNIA: Launching the SSSI (solid state storage initiative), the industry association aims to:
  • Educate the industry on solid state storage to make it clear where this technology is best suited.
  • Develop standards for solid state storage to allow for better and more interoperable implementations.
  • Perform market outreach in the US and around the world to enable the highest penetration of solid state storage products possible.

Read a well-written assessment of the initiative here.

VMware used its VMworld event last week to outline some of the focal topics for their 2009 roadmap and much of it is actually related to a better and tighter integration of storage and storage networks with the VMware environments.

On the FCoE front, Qlogic this week announced the successful "plugfest-certification" of their converged network adapter (CNA) at a recent FCIA-sponsored event.

Lastly, both Fibre Channel vendors announced new products as well: CISCO adds 8 Gbps technology to their MDS line of products (obviously admitting to the fact, that FCoE is not going to take over the SAN market for 2008 and 2009!) while

Brocade rolls out a fibre channel encryption blade together with their "converged" SAN management tool DCFM (Datacenter Fabric Manager) which is eventually going to replace both, the Brocade Fabric Manager (FM) as well as the SANnavigator/McDATA based EFCM.

Monday, September 8, 2008

SAN Buzz September II

Big Information Infrastructure rollout today from IBM:

Today, IBM announces a series of new products and solutions to help clients manage their enterprise information.
They can be summarized as CARS:

Friday, September 5, 2008

SAN Buzz September

Exciting days and weeks:

Google celebrates its 10th anniversary by releasing an own Webbrowser, leaving the industry scratching their heads about the underlying strategy and plans. These days also mark the 6th anniversary of CISCO entering the SAN market. Read an excellent analysis of what CISCO achieved during that time and where they might have done better.

The battle in the storage industry about SSDs heats up with IBM publishing the results of a lab-test, using SVC with integrated SSD (cache, sort-of). Which in turn led to some interesting posts from companies who take a different approach.

The magnetic-media side of the business meanwhile is still doing great as IDC reports in the latest release of worldwide external storage market numbers: "Total disk storage systems capacity shipped in Q2 reach 1,777 petabytes, growing 43.7% year over year"
If you want to be personally involved with many of the players in this industry and want to build and own opinion about exciting technologies like SSD, data de-duplication, FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) among many others, you should absolutely plan to attend the upcoming SNW (Storage Networking World) conference in Frankfurt, Germany.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

SAN Buzz August

Back from the beach today and already great news to report:

IBM announced XIV storage system today, a grid-based enterprise-class storage!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

SAN Buzz July II

Today, "major turmoil" -as previewed in my previous post- actually happens: Brocade announced their intent to acquire Foundry Networks, based in Santa Clara, CA.
What I instantly like about them is the name of their products: Big Iron!
I'm not familiar with that company, so here's the first set of opinions about Brocade's move:
In any case, to me this looks like a big endorsement for FCoE from the biggest Fibre Channel switch vendor!

Monday, July 14, 2008

SAN Buzz July I

Summer and vacation time is approaching quickly, so this will most likely be the only entry for the current month, unless -of course- major turmoil is going to happen like -say- CISCO buys EMC...

Along the same lines and topics, I came accross this interview with CISCO CEO John Chambers and he actually and openly addresses some of the questions around their storage partners (OSMs) and VMware.

And to round up the virtualization topic, here's a great piece on how integration and connectivity to storage plays an increasingly important role in VMware's strategy.
While Microsoft's competing offer -Hyper-V- obviously still seems to lack some of the storage capabilities of rival VMware.

From the IBM/Brocade SAN segment of the market, here's a link to the newest IBM SAN Newsletter.

Watch out for "application- or file-aware storage" hype?!
Well, not sure this is going to take off, but I've seen that term poping up more frequently than it used to a couple of months ago and not only from Pillar Data Systems, the company who claims to actually have implemented it:
Check out these references here, here, and here.
After all, it's not new, as this paper from the stone-age of storage (anno 1999) prooves!

No blog entry in 2008 without FCoE news:
A very excited article ("no need to wait") about the technology from BNT (the blade-networking spinoff of Nortel) and one more cautious (some may say "intentionally dampening the expectations") statement from Brocade here.

And lastly a couple of miscellaneous news from around IT:
  • IBM and ETHZ (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) plan to build a joint nanotechnology center on the IBM campus in Zurich/Rueschlikon: "The new nanotechnology center will occupy nearly 1,000 square meters of cleanroom space dedicated to research projects, such as carbon-based materials, nano-photonics, spintronics, nanowires, and tribology."
  • Does "NAS" stand for "never accesses storage"? Fact is that clients are increasingly lost in heaps of filers and unstructered data and many will find, that most of that data is rarely or never used. Time to think about data classification!

Monday, June 23, 2008

SAN Buzz June III

Summer has finally arrived in Zurich, so time to relax and enjoy some time away from work at the lake, at the pool or barbecue.
From the last two weeks of storage news, two areas stood out as far as I'm concerned:
1) I couple of news and releases around solid state disk and 2.5 inch disk drives, both potentially taking over some of the enterprise storage market in the long run.
2) Some interesting mid-year summaries on trends and hot topics in the industry for 2008 as well as a look back on what was hot in back in 2004.
And lastly, here's a well written article on converged fabrics and what role Ethernet, InfiniBand, and Fibre Channel might play in the data center of the future.

Friday, June 6, 2008

SAN Buzz June II

Gartner and IDC have added up the disk storage systems numbers for the first quarter of 2008 and they both agree, that the market grew at around 10% in revenue year-over-year and at over 50% in capacity:
Total disk storage systems capacity shipped during the quarter reached 1642 PB (petabytes) according to IDC.
To give you a feeling about that number, check out Wikipedia!
On the other side, the "information producing" end of the industry, there was this study done by the University of Berkeley in 2000 and 2003 titled "How much Information". Now the UCSD (SanDiego) has initiated an effort to recreate that report for the end of our decade.
After all, Youtube, Facebook, as well as iTunes and other Web 2.0 applications did barely exist in 2003!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

SAN Buzz June

The Return of Water-cooled Processors!

In a press release today, IBM Research Zurich announced, that they have successfully "demonstrated a prototype that integrates the cooling system into the 3-D chips by piping water directly between each layer in the stack."

Combining water and electricity may sound very scary at first, but in fact, water cooling right at the source of the heat -inside the processor- may be the only way to actually solve the colling challenges of high-performance, high-density chip designs.

Check out the full details here.

After all, IBM have used water cooling already way back in the 80s, as a look into the IBM archive reveals.

On the storage side, there is an intense battle (of words, mostly) going on related to the relevance and potential of Flash Storage (SSDs) to address enterprise storage needs: While the HDD market will definitely move to 2.5 inch based drives in the near future for that segment, I still tend to believe that the enterprise SSD market will remain a niche for the foreseable future, mainly for three reasons:
  1. Current SSD technoolgy does not allow single bit updates, so any write operation is quite complex because entire blocks of data have to be deleted and rewritten, so SSDs are by their very attributes mainly to be positioned for read operations.
  2. While the price level for consumer amounts of SSD (like the 10, 20 or 30 GB used in iPods, cell phones and laptops) is slowly reaching levels at which consumers are willing to actually pay the uplift for reduced weight, the increased battery life and robunstness, SSD at enterprise amounts of a couple hundred GB is still more than 10 times more expensive than HDD.
  3. And lastly, one of the biggest advantages of SSD, its robustness and resilience against mechanical shocks don't really count in a glass-house environment.

Read more about this topic here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

SAN Buzz May

My friends over at the ITSO have been very productive during the past couple of months and have churned out a number of excellent books. Here's a list of the latest material related to storage networking:
Implementing an IBM/Brocade SAN with 8 Gb Directors and Switches
Revised: May 30, 2008
Implementing an IBM/Brocade SAN with Fabric Manager 5.5
Published: May 23, 2008
Implementing an IBM/Brocade SAN
Published: April 4, 2008 ISBN: 0738485195
IBM System Storage/Brocade Multiprotocol Routing: An Introduction and Implementation
Published: April 4, 2008 ISBN: 0738485764
IBM/Cisco Multiprotocol Routing: An Introduction and Implementation
Published: April 23, 2008 ISBN: 0738485322
Implementing an IBM/Cisco SAN
Revised: April 22, 2008 ISBN: 0738485241
Cisco FICON Basic Implementation
Published: April 17, 2008 (Redpaper)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

SAN Buzz April

Time for an update: I'm currently in Moscow where I gave an update on recent storage networking standards at the local IDC conference. The translator has left and since most of the afternoon presentations are going to be in Russian (and I don't understand any Russian so far), there's some time for informal work.
In summarizing the past couple of weeks, there was a bunch of news around the SNW 2008 in Orlando, much of it related to FCoE and clustered storage concepts. Here's a couple of useful writeups:

CISCO buys Nuova Systems and introduces first (pre-standart) FCoE hardware.
The Enterprise Systems Journal featured a nice article about how to position this new unified networking standard. So FCoE is definitely an important trend to watch and the value proposition around consolidating server interconnects looks very promising!

The second hot segment is clustered storage in all shapes and forms: Infostor had an excellent piece on this new architecture and Xiotech invented the term ISE (Intelligent Storage Element) to describe their new solution based on a very modular approach to combine hard drive resources to form a resilient, scalable and flexible storage system. Not sure if this is supposed to bring back memories of the ICE cube project done at IBM Almaden a couple years ago.

And despite of all the current hype around solid state drives (SSD), the good old mechanical harddrive is still the single most important building block for our entire industry!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

SAN Buzz March

Returning to the office after the Easter break more felt like new year this time: with temperatures hovering around Zero (Celsius) and snow piling up in the streets, spring seems like months away.

However, you can tell it's spring time by a couple of signs in our industry:
  1. Conference and Trade show season is in full swing.
  2. Analyst predictions for what's going to be hot and not in 2008 get less frequent.
  3. The storage vendors release their spring collections of gear and hype.
Ontop of this, I wanted to share a couple of very well written acrticles related to three storage topics which I believe will be important and relevant for the rest of the year:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

SAN Buzz February I

Exciting news from IBM today: The IBM System Storage™ SAN768B is the next generation high-performance, high-density and high-availability SAN fabric backbone designed to be the foundation for large enterprise-class infrastructure simplification.
It provides up to 512 wire-speed, non-oversubscribed 8 Gbps ports in a single rack (or 768 ports slightly oversubscribed at 1.5:1) and interoperates with the m-type family (McDATA) of IBM directors.
For features and details refer to the IBM Announcement Letter.
A green touch for the platform is provided with the new SAN Cabinet containing Intelligent Power Distribution Units (iPDUs) which are designed to measure and monitor energy consumed by the attached products.

Monday, January 28, 2008

SAN Buzz January III

The latest hot news comes from the (storage) networking folks at 170 West Tasman Drive: CISCO did announce their Nexus platform this week (included on the CISCO webiste is a nice overview clip).
A good analyisis can be found here and here.
They refer to this as data center 3.0 platform, a unified network platform for the datacenter. Important to note however that this is all future promises for the time being: no Fibre Channel cards or support have been announced at this time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

SAN Buzz January II

This weeks news come from our friends at 1745 Technology Drive in San Jose:
Brocade did announce their first new director platform after the completion of the McDATA acquisition.
Although I didn't have a chance to see the product myself so far, the specs and pictures all indicate that it is basically an evolution of the Brocade 48000 director which has been around for some time.
Interestingly enough, they re-implemented an idea originally used in an Inrange Director (2001 timeframe) called XCA (extensible core architecture) which now goes by the name of ICLs (inter-chassis links) in 2008: Build high-port count SAN units by connecting multiple (two in Brocades' case) directors' backplanes. On second thought, this shouldn't be a big surprise: Inrange was acquired by CNT which was acquired by McDATA which was acquired by Brocade last year...
And due to fibre channel addressing limitations, Brocade in its 2008 implementation has to maintain the individual "domains" in the connected directors, so technically, there is a "hop" between the upper and lower unit.
The DCX highlights:
  • native interoperability with McDATA and Brocade platforms
  • Vitual fabrics (management zones)
  • integrated routing capability for each port
  • first 8 Gbps product on the market (8 Gbps blades will also be made available for the Brocade 48000)

More to follow as details become available...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

SAN Buzz January I (2008)

The new year takes off with some great news from our storage division here at IBM: On January 2nd, IBM has acquired XIV Information Systems, a privately-held storage solutions development company based in Tel Aviv, Israel.
XIV Information Systems, including its development activities, engineers, employees and technologies, will become part of STG’s System Storage business unit and will remain in Israel.
Regarding the name of the company, the Jerusalem Post has a hint as to where it originally came from.
This is a great move for IBM STG in a couple different ways:
a) The architecture used in XIVs products ("Nextra") is nothing less than revolutionary and clearly shows the way how "information management" solutions will be built in the 21st century: "Nextra is a SAN storage system built around next generation cluster technology to provide dynamic scale, auto-tuning and self-healing to the data layer. The architecture is based upon commodity components to provide lower cost." (Quote from the brand new ESG white paper)
b) The chairman of the board of XIV, Moshe Yanai, is a very well known person in the industry: While at EMC in the 1990s, Yanai served as the vice president of engineering and is widely credited as being the inventor of that company’s flagship Symmetrix storage array.
An excellent piece of analysis and summary can be found here and here!