Storage Informer
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Tag: Open Source

GroundWork Monitor Enterprise 6.2

by on Jul.09, 2010, under Storage

Release: GroundWork Monitor Enterprise 6.2

GroundWork Open Source, provider of commercial open source system and network management software, today announced the general availability of GroundWork Monitor Enterprise 6.2.

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Storage Is Software

by on Jul.09, 2010, under Storage

Storage Is Software

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The title of this post is a variant on the intriguing "infrastructure is code" meme from the #devops community. I think it’s a useful idea to remind ourselves of — especially as technology transitions.

Even though some of you reading this might thing the statement is blindingly obvious, it’s clear that the vast majority of people think of boxes with blinking lights when you say the word "storage".

And I think this is going to be up for change sooner than later.

Things Change

Having now been directly involved in storage for over 15 years, I feel I can safely make a reasonable judgment when things are changing.

So let’s go look at the current landscape …

For starters, most storage hardware today is built out of the same industry-standard parts bin used by the server guys.  Yes, there are a few storage stalwarts trying to claim differentiation through this bit or that bit of unique silicon, but the secular trend is pretty obvious — parts is parts.

Now, I think there’s still room for useful hardware differentiation in areas like innovative architecture, or clever packaging, or using the latest merchant silicon chips, or perhaps more reliable manufacturing processes. 

All that being said, I think the opportunities for sustained differentiation through hardware prowess alone are becoming more rare over time.

And we all p lay in a very competitive market indeed  Much like customers won’t accept dated or over-priced server hardware designs, they won’t accept dated or over-priced storage hardware designs.

Thinking About Storage Software

At its most basic level, you expect to write information to a storage platform, and get it back again. 

You’d like to do so in a convenient format — more traditional block and file formats, perhaps something newer like objects, even maybe something like tables.  That’s a function of software, not hardware.

You’d like the integrity of the data protected from all sorts of bad things that can happen — hardware failures, software failures, human error, the list goes on.  That’s a function of software, not hardware.

You’d like to wring the maximum in performance and efficiency from the hardware you own: move the popular data to the high-perfrmance media, the less-popular data to cost-effective stuff, and wring the excess capacity out with things like compression and deduplication.

More software.

If you tend to think geographically, you’d like the right information in the right location at the right time if possible.  Whether that’s to better protect, or improve user experience, or something else — that’s all software as well.

I could go on, but — when you think about it — just about everything we talk about that’s new, interesting and useful tends to boil dow n to a software discussion. 

Sure, there are new hardware bits like faster processors, and enterprise flash drives, and newer 10GbE interconnects — but it takes software to make all that stuff really useful.

The Impact Of Open Source

Much like industry-standard components and architectures set the floor for cost-effective hardware, I think open source software sets the floor for cost-effective software functionality.

There’s still room to innovate in software, but you have to do it in areas that haven’t been well-covered by the open source community.  And — make no mistake — it’s a safe bet that open source software will be an ever-increasing part of our enterprise environments.

Resistance to either trend appears futile :-)

Separating Software From Hardware

We’ve just come to assume that storage software is inevitably woven to storage hardwa re.  But as the industry moves to more standard components and architectures, that’s becoming more of a business model discussion, and less of a technology discussion.

Examples are starting abound, especially within EMC’s portfolio. 

Our Atmos cloud storage platform is now available as a VMware virtual machine.  Run it on just about any VMware-supported hardware platform, and you’ve got a fully featured, next-generation distributed object-oriented metadata-rich policy-driven cloud storage environment

One could separately debate the meri ts of running Atmos storage software on a generic hardware platform vs. one that is specifically built for purpose, but that’s more of a discussion around implementation choices — and choice is good.

Many of you are aware that the Avamar client-side dedupe backup platform works basically the same way — your backup target can either be a dedicated hardware device running Avamar, or the same functionality running in a VM on generic hardware — it’s your choice.

Going further, there’s a much larger universe of EMC storage products just waiting to escape the confines of phy sical hardware: RecoverPoint, VPLEX, Celerra, Centera — the list goes on. 

Even some interesting open-source choices if you go looking: for example, the EMC LifeLine stack which powers the increasingly more powerful Iomega unified storage devices.

So why aren’t all these great things being done today?  Lots of issues, but the big one is — it’s hard!

Making storage software work predictably and reliably in a virtual machine takes substantial engineering effort.  And that incremental effort&#016 0; has to be balanced against other investment opportunities: things like adding new features, or supporting new hardware, or perhaps deep integrations with other environments.

It’s happening — it’s just not an overnight process.  Sorry to say, the future isn’t quite here yet …

Fast Forward Several Years

Imagine you’re in charge of storage decisions at your company, and you’re trying to put together a solution for part of your operation.

You might start by assembling a set of services you’ll need to provide for applications and users.  You evaluate different software stack options. for functionality, price, reliability, support, ease-of-use, integration, APIs, etc.

You do so by composing various storage software VMs, and putting the resulting stacks through their paces.  Basic presentation services (file, block, object, etc.).  Some replication stuff, maybe some auto-tier ing and or intelligent archival stuff.

You test features and functions, integration points and management interfaces.  All using virtual machines in whatever test bed you’ve got handy.

No need to consider storage as hardware just yet.

When you’re ready to implement, you’ve got more choices: you can stick with the storage-software-in-a-VM approach, or perhaps consider purpose-built hardware if your needs so dictate. 

Functionality first, implementation second.

Farther Down The Line

The migration of storage functionality from hardware to software will likely change how storage hardware itself is built.  At the low end of the market, all-in-one storage can learn new tricks simply by invoking new elements of a (presumably virtualized) software stack.

And at the high end of the market, it’s not hard to imagine larger, dynamic pools of virtualized storage capabilities that flex both resources and functionality much the way virtualized servers do today.  To be fair, though, that’s a reasonable description of what a VMAX and VPLEX does today.

Indeed, w e can easily see storage software functionality running flexibly where it makes the most sense — on a general purpose all-in-one storage hardware platform, or perhaps as a set of virtualized tasks in a server farm, or perhaps on an appliance dedicated to a task — or any combination as needs shift.

And that’s going to force some changes in thinking all around.

Final Thoughts

The runaway success of VMware has caused many of us to think of "servers" in terms of software images that are invoked as needed.  The hardware is still there, and it needs to do its job, but we think about it differently.

Will we learn to think of storage the same way?

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Cloud Computing, Virtualization and Open Source on Intel

by on Oct.19, 2009, under Storage

Cloud Computing, Virtualization and Open Source on Intel

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the Open Source at Intel website was going to have several focused topics about the intersection of Cloud Computing, Virtualization and Open Source. I wanted to highlight a few of those new topics here in this blog post.

Cloud Computing Spotlight: Virtualization&aposs Next Frontier

"Because of its strengths in collaborative, standards-based innovation, Open Source software holds great promise for moving the cloud forward. Building on the foundations of mature hypervisor technologies such as those in Xen* and KVM*, open Cloud Computing infrastructures will advance the ecosystem as a whole." Read more …

Project Spotlight: Xen and KVM Enablement for Trusted Computing

"The security of Cloud Computing is vital to end customers as they consider placing their data on public infrastructure. They need to be assured of a trusted environment, even as they share hardware with other organizations, cede administrative control to the cloud operator, and comingle data and applications of multiple security levels. Current work by Intel within the Xen* and KVM* projects is helping to advance that goal through a mixture of hardware and Open Source software technologies." Read more …

Ecosystem Spotlight on Virtualization

"Nowhere do the benefits of Open Source seem more compelling than in the burgeoning Cloud Computing space, where virtualization and advanced technologies create bright opportunities for innovative companies. To explore the enterprise perspectives on public and private clouds, Intel invited a panel of notable experts from Cisco, Citrix, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and VMware to share their viewpoints at the Intel Developer Forum 2009." Read more …

Content Spotlight: Security in a Virtualized Environment Whitepaper

"As with any major change to an organization’s IT architecture, virtualization brings with it a number of new security challenges and considerations. The hardware and software ecosystem continually introduces new measures to help address these challenges. The security outlook around virtualization continues to unfold, including the following key changes to the physical security model." Read more …

Intel Expert Series: Billy Cox and Jun Nakajima

"Billy Cox is particularly involved in the development of strategic relationships between Intel and hypervisor projects, especially Xen* and KVM,* as well as cloud platforms such as the Eucalyptus project. Among his key goals are enabling trusted multi-tenancy in Cloud Computing environments." Read more …

"Jun Nakajima is a Principal Engineer at the Intel® Open Source Technology Center who focuses on Open Source virtualization projects, such as Xen and KVM. In fact, Jun wrote the first code for Xen to take advantage of Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) and continues to be recognized as one of the key contributors to Xen." Read more …

Platform Technology Spotlight

"In the application virtualization space, many Citrix customers are looking to simplify their environments by virtualizing their Citrix XenApp* servers on Citrix XenServer*. Citrix recently benchmarked its XenApp 5.0 application virtualization solution with new XenServer 5.5 on the Intel® Xeon® processor 5500 series and demonstrated dramatic performance benefits, compounded by the use of Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology." Read more …

You can visit the Open Source at Intel website for more information on open source at Intel.

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