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Trusted Business Advisors, Expert Technology Analysts

Research Areas

Primary Storage

Includes Storage SAN Arrays, NAS, and other purpose-built, on-premises primary storage devices. Also included are key value-added storage technologies such as Flash, NVMe, Storage Class Memory and other relevant Storage Acceleration technologies.

In this category, Taneja Group analysts cover all form and manner of storage arrays, modular and monolithic, enterprise or SMB, large and small, general purpose or specialized. All emerging key strategic components that make up the primary storage systems are covered, soup-to-nuts. We look at specific storage acceleration technologies in a range of form factors, and assess how vendors and users can best take advantage of them to improve performance for specific types of use cases and workloads. We pay special attention to newly emerging technologies such as Storage Class Memory, and assess how they will work and interact with existing infrastructures and impact primary storage capabilities going forward.

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Profile

Enterprise Storage that Simply Runs and Runs: Infinidat Infinibox Delivers Incredible New Standard

Storage should be the most reliable thing in the data center, not the least. What data centers today need is enterprise storage that affordably delivers at least 7-9's of reliability, at scale. That's a goal of less than three seconds of anticipated unavailability per year - less than the reliability of most data centers.

Data availability is the key attribute enterprises need most to maximize their enterprise storage value, especially as data volumes grow into scales. Yet traditional enterprise storage solutions aren’t keeping pace with the growing need for greater than the oft-touted 5-9’s of storage reliability, instead deferring to layered on methods like additional replication copies, that can drive up latency and cost, or settling for cold tiering which zaps performance and reduces accessibility.

Within the array, as stored data volumes ramp up and disk capacities increase, RAID and related volume/LUN schemes begin to fall down due to longer and longer disk rebuild times that create large windows of vulnerability to unrecoverable data loss. Other vulnerabilities can arise from poor (or at best, default) array designs, software issues, and well-intentioned but often fatal human management and administration. Any new storage solution has to address all of these potential vulnerabilities.

In this report we will look at what we mean by 7-9’s exactly, and what’s really needed to provide 7-9’s of availability for storage. We’ll then examine how Infinidat in particular is delivering on that demanding requirement for those enterprises that require cost-effective enterprise storage at scale.

Publish date: 09/29/15
Report

Redefining the Economics of Enterprise Storage (2015 Update)

Enterprise storage has long delivered superb levels of performance, availability, scalability, and data management.  But enterprise storage has always come at exceptional price, and this has made enterprise storage unobtainable for many use cases and customers. Most recently Dell introduced a new, small footprint storage array – the Dell Storage SC Series powered by Compellent technology – that continues to leverage proven Dell Compellent technology using Intel technology in an all-new form factor. The SC4020 also introduces the most dense Compellent product ever, an all-in-one storage array that includes 24 drive bays and dual controllers in only 2 rack units of space.  While the Intel powered SC4020 has more modest scalability than current Compellent products, this array marks a radical shift in the pricing of Dell’s enterprise technology, and is aiming to open up Dell Compellent storage technology for an entire market of smaller customers as well as large customer use cases where enterprise storage was too expensive before.

Publish date: 06/30/15
Report

The Promise of VM-Centric Storage and VVols: Tintri VMstore Delivers the Future Promise Now

The din surrounding VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes (VVols) is deafening. It started in 2011 when VMware announced the concept of VVols and the storage industry reacted with enthusiasm and culminated with its introduction as part of vSphere 6 release in April 2015. Viewed simply, VVols is an API that enables storage arrays that support the functionality to provision and manage storage at the granularity of a VM, rather than LUNs or Volumes or mount points, as they do today. Without question, VVols is an incredibly powerful concept and will fundamentally change the interaction between storage and VMs in a way not seen since the concept of server virtualization first came to market. No surprise then that each and every storage vendor in the market is feverishly trying to build in VVols support and competing on the superiority of their implementation.

Yet one storage player, Tintri, has been delivering products with VM-centric features for four years without the benefit of VVols. How can this be so? How could Tintri do this? And what does it mean for them now that VVols are here? To do justice to this question we will briefly look at what VVols are and how they work and then dive into how Tintri has delivered the benefits of VVols for several years. We will also look at what the buyer of Tintri gets today and how Tintri plans to integrate VVols. Read on…

Publish date: 06/26/15
Report

Journey Towards Software Defined Data Center (SDDC)

While it has always been the case that IT must respond to increasing business demands, competitive requirements are forcing IT to do so with less. Less investment in new infrastructure and less staff to manage the increasing complexity of many enterprise solutions. And as the pace of business accelerates those demands include the ability to change services… quickly. Unfortunately, older technologies can require months, not minutes to implement non-trivial changes. Given these polarizing forces, the motivation for the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) where services can be instantiated as needed, changed as workloads require, and retired when the need is gone, is easy to understand.

The vision of the SDDC promises the benefits needed to succeed: flexibility, efficiency, responsiveness, reliability and simplicity of operation… and does so, seemingly paradoxically, with substantial cost savings. The initial steps to the SDDC clearly come from server virtualization which provides many of the desired benefits. The fact that it is already deployed broadly and hosts between half and two-thirds of all server instances simply means that existing data centers have a strong base to build on. Of the three major pillars within the data center, the compute pillar is commonly understood to be furthest along through the benefits of server virtualization.

The key to gaining the lion’s share of the remaining benefits lies in addressing the storage pillar. This is required not only to reap the same advantages through storage virtualization that have become expected in the server world, but also to allow for greater adoption of server virtualization itself. The applications that so far have resisted migration to the hypervisor world have mostly done so because of storage issues. The next major step on the journey to the SDDC has to be to virtualize the entire storage tier and to move the data from isolated, hardware-bound silos where it currently resides into a flexible, modern, software-defined environment.

While the destination is relatively clear, how to move is key as a business cannot exist without its data. There can be no downtime or data loss. Furthermore, just as one doesn’t virtualize every server at once (unless one has the luxury of a green-field deployment and no existing infrastructure and workloads to worry about) one must be cognizant of the need for prioritized migration from the old into the new.  And finally, the cost required to move into the virtualized storage world is a major, if not the primary, consideration. Despite the business benefits to be derived, if one cannot leverage one’s existing infrastructure investments, it would be hard to justify a move to virtualized storage. Just to be sure, we believe virtualized storage is a prerequisite for Software Defined Storage, or SDS.

In this Technology Brief we will first look at the promise of the SDDC, then focus on SDS and the path to get there. We then look at IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC), the granddaddy of storage virtualization. SVC initially came to market as a heterogeneous virtualization solution then was extended to homogeneous storage virtualization, as in the case of IBM Storwize family. It is now destined to play a much more holistic role for IBM as an important piece of the overall Spectrum Storage program.

Publish date: 06/17/15
Report

EMC PowerPath: Optimized IO Multipathing for All Flash Arrays

All-flash arrays are changing the datacenter for the better. No longer do we worry about IOPS bottlenecks from the array: all-flash arrays (AFA) can deliver a staggering amount of IOPs. AFAs with the ability to deliver hundreds of thousands of IOPs are not uncommon. The problem now, however, is how to get the IOPS from the array to the servers. We recently had a chance to see how well an AFA using EMC PowerPath driver works to eliminate this bottleneck—and we were blown away. Most comparisons with datacenter infrastructure show a 10-30% improvement in performance; but, the performance improvement that we saw with PowerPath was extraordinary.

Getting bits from an array to server is easy —very easy, in fact. The trick is getting the bits from a server to an array in an efficient manner when you have many virtual machines (VM) on multiple physical hosts that are transmitting the bits over a physical network with a virtual fabric overlay; this is much more difficult. Errors can get introduced and must be dealt with, the most efficient path must be obtained and established, re-evaluated and reestablished continually, and any misconfiguration can produce less than optimal performance. In some cases, this can cause outages or even data loss. In order to deal with the “pathing,” or how the I/O travels from the VM to storage, the OS running on the host needs a driver, or in the case where multiple paths can be taken from the server to the array, a multipathing driver needs to be used to direct the traffic.

Windows, Linux, VMware and most other modern operating systems include a basic multipath driver; however, these drivers tend to be generic and not code optimized to extract the maximum performance from an array and come with only rudimentary traffic optimization and management functions. In some cases these generic drivers are fine, but in the majority of datacenters the infrastructure is overtaxed and its equipment needs to be used in the most efficient manner possible. Fortunately, storage companies such as EMC are committed to making their arrays work as performant as possible and spend a considerable amount of time and research to develop multipathing drivers optimized for their arrays. EMC invited us to take a look at how PowerPath, their optimized “intelligent” multipath driver, performed on an XtremIO flash array connected to a Dell PowerEdge R710 server running ESXi 6.0 while simulating an Oracle workload. We looked at the results of the various tests EMC ran comparing PowerPath/VE multipath driver against VMware’s ESXi Native Multipath driver and we were impressed—very impressed—by the difference that an optimized, multipath driver like PowerPath can make in a high IO traffic scenario.

Publish date: 04/30/15
Profile

Enterprise Flash - Scalable, Smart, and Economical

There is a serious re-hosting effort going on in data center storage as flash-filled systems replace large arrays of older spinning disks for tier 1 apps. Naturally as costs drop and the performance advantages of flash-accelerated IO services become irresistible, they also begin pulling in a widening circle of applications with varying QoS needs. Yet this extension leads to a wasteful tug-of-war between high-end flash only systems that can’t effectively serve a wide variety of application workloads and so-called hybrid solutions originally architected for HDDs that are often challenged to provide the highest performance required by those tier 1 applications.

Someday in its purest form all-flash storage theoretically could drop in price enough to outright replace all other storage tiers even at the largest capacities, although that is certainly not true today. Here at Taneja Group we think storage tiering will always offer a better way to deliver varying levels of QoS by balancing the latest in performance advances appropriately with the most efficient capacities. In any case, the best enterprise storage solutions today need to offer a range of storage tiers, often even when catering to a single application’s varying storage needs.

There are many entrants in the flash storage market, with the big vendors now rolling out enterprise solutions upgraded for flash. Unfortunately many of these systems are shallow retreads of older architectures, perhaps souped-up a bit to better handle some hybrid flash acceleration but not able to take full advantage of it. Or they are new dedicated flash-only point products with big price tags, immature or minimal data services, and limited ability to scale out or serve a wider set of data center QoS needs.

Oracle saw an opportunity for a new type of cost-effective flash-speed storage system that could meet the varied QoS needs of multiple enterprise data center applications – in other words, to take flash storage into the mainstream of the data center. Oracle decided they had enough storage chops (from Exadata, ZFS, Pillar, Sun, etc.) to design and build a “flash-first” enterprise system intended to take full advantage of flash as a performance tier, but also incorporate other storage tiers naturally including slower “capacity” flash, performance HDD, and capacity HDD. Tiering by itself isn’t a new thing – all the hybrid solutions do it and there are other vendor solutions that were designed for tiering – but Oracle built the FS1 Flash Storage System from the fast “flash” tier down, not by adding flash to a slower or existing HDD-based architecture working “upwards.” This required designing intelligent automated management to take advantage of flash for performance while leveraging HDD to balance out cost. This new architecture has internal communication links dedicated to flash media with separate IO paths for HDDs, unlike traditional hybrids that might rely solely on their older, standard HDD-era architectures that can internally constrain high-performance flash access.

Oracle FS1 is a highly engineered SAN storage system with key capabilities that set it apart from other all-flash storage systems, including built in QoS management that incorporates business priorities, best-practices provisioning, and a storage alignment capability that is application aware – for Oracle Database naturally, but that can also address a growing body of other key enterprise applications (such as Oracle JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, Siebel, MS Exchange/SQL Server, and SAP) – and a “service provider” capability to carve out multi-tenant virtual storage “domains” while online that are actually enforced at the hardware partitioning level for top data security isolation.

In this report, we’ll dive in and examine some of the great new capabilities of the Oracle FS1. We’ll look at what really sets it apart from the competition in terms of its QoS, auto-tiering, co-engineering with Oracle Database and applications, delivered performance, capacity scaling and optimization, enterprise availability, and OPEX reducing features, all at a competitive price point that will challenge the rest of the increasingly flash-centric market.

Publish date: 02/02/15
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