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Trusted Business Advisors, Expert Technology Analysts

Research Areas

Systems

Includes Storage Arrays, NAS, File Systems, Clustered and Distributed File Systems, FC Switches/Directors, HBA, CNA, Routers, Components, Semiconductors, Server Blades.

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 components that make up the SAN, FC-based or iSCSI-based, and all forms of file servers, including NAS systems based on clustered or distributed file systems, are covered soup to nuts. Our analysts have deep backgrounds in file systems area in particular. Components such as Storage Network Processors, SAS Expanders, FC Controllers are covered here as well. Server Blades coverage straddles this section as well as the Infrastructure Management section above.

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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
Free Reports

Market Landscape Abstract: Survey of VVol Implementation by Various Storage Vendors

VMware Virtual Volumes (VVols) is one of the most important technologies that impacts how storage interacts with virtual machines. In April and May 2015, Taneja Group surveyed eleven storage vendors to understand how each was implementing VVols in their storage arrays. This survey consisted of 32 questions that explored what storage array features were exported to vSphere 6, how VMs were provisioned and managed. We were surprised at the level of differences and the variety of methods used to enable VVols. It was also clear from the analysis that underlying limitations of an array will limit what is achievable with VVols. However, it is also important to understand that there are many other aspects of a storage array that matter—the VVol implementation is but one major factor. And VVol implementation is a work in progress and this represents only the first pass.

We categorized these implementations in three levels: Type 1, 2 and 3, with Type 3 delivering the most sophisticated VVol benefits. The definitions of these three types is shown below, as is the summary of findings.

Most storage array vendors participated in our survey but a few chose not to, often due to the fact that they already delivered the most important benefits that VVols deliver, i.e. the ability to provision and manage storage at a VM-level, rather than at a LUN, volume or mount point level. In particular that list included the hyperconverged players, such as Nutanix and SimpliVity but also players like Tintri.

Publish date: 06/08/15
Profile

Qumulo Core: Data-Aware Scale-Out NAS Software (Product Profile)

Let's face it: Today’s storage is dumb. Mostly it is a dumping ground for data. As we produce more data we simply buy more storage and fill it up. We don't know who is using what storage at a given point in time, which applications are hogging storage or have gone rogue, what and how much sensitive information is stored, moved or accessed by whom, and so on. Basically, we are blind to whatever is happening inside that storage array. On the other hand, storage should just work, users of storage should see it as an endless invisible resource, while the administrators of storage should be able to unlock the value of data itself through real-time analytical insight, not fighting fires just to keep storage running and provisioned.

Storage systems these days are often quoted in petabytes and will eventually move to exabytes and beyond. Businesses are being crushed under the weight of this data sprawl and a new tsunami of data is coming their way as the Internet of Things fully comes online in the next decade. How are administrators dealing with this ever increasing appetite to store more data? It is time for a radical new approach to building a storage system, one that is aware of the information stored within while dramatically reducing the time administrators spend managing the system.

Welcome to the new era of data aware storage. This could not have come at a better time. Storage growth, as we all know, is out of control. Granted the cost per GB keeps falling at about a 40% per year rate, but we keep growing capacity at about a 60% growth rate. This causes both the cost and capacity to keep increasing every year. While cost increase is certainly an issue, the bigger issue is manageability. And not knowing what we have buried in those mounds of data is a bigger issue. Instead of data being an asset, it is a dead weight that keeps getting heavier. If we didn’t do something about it, we would simply be overwhelmed, if we are not already.

The question we ask is why is it possible to develop data aware storage today when we couldn’t yesterday? The answer is simple: flash technology, virtualization, and the availability of “free” CPU cycles make it possible for us to build storage today that can do a lot of heavy lifting from the inside. While this was possible yesterday, if implemented, it would have slowed down the performance of primary storage to a point where it would be useless. So, in the past, we simply let it store data. But today, we can build in a lot of intelligence without impacting performance or quality of service. We call this new type of storage Data Aware Storage.

When implemented correctly, data aware storage can provide insights that were not possible yesterday. It would reduce risk for non-compliance. It would improve governance. It would automate many of the storage management processes that are manual today. It would provide insights into how well the storage is being utilized. It would identify if a dangerous situation was about to occur, either for compliance or capacity or performance or SLA. You get the point. Storage that is inherently smart and knows: what type of data it has, how it is growing, who is using it, who is abusing it, and so on.

In this profile, we dive deep into a new technology, called Qumulo Core, the industry’s first data-aware scale-out NAS platform. Qumulo Core promises to radically change the scale-out NAS product category by using built-in data awareness to massively scale a distributed file system, while at the same time radically reducing the time to administer a system than can hold billions of files. File systems in the past could not scale to this level because administrative tools would crush under the weight of the system.

Publish date: 05/14/15
Profile

HP ConvergedSystem: Solution Positioning for HP ConvergedSystem Hyper-Converged Products

Converged infrastructure systems – the integration of compute, networking, and storage - have rapidly become the preferred foundational building block adopted by businesses of all shapes and sizes. The success of these systems has been driven by an insatiable desire to make IT simpler, faster, and more efficient. IT can no longer afford the effort and time to custom build their infrastructure from best of breed D-I-Y components. Purpose built converged infrastructure systems have been optimized for the most common IT workloads like Private Cloud, Big Data, Virtualization, Database and Desktop Virtualization (VDI).

Traditionally these converged infrastructure systems have been built using a three-tier architecture; where compute, networking and storage, integrated at the rack level gave businesses the flexibility to cover the widest range of solution workload requirements while still using well-known infrastructure components. Emerging onto the scene recently has been a more modular approach to convergence using what we term Hyper-Convergence. With hyper-convergence, the three-tier architecture has been collapsed into a single system appliance that is purpose-built for virtualization with hypervisor, compute, and storage with advanced data services all integrated into an x86 industry-standard building block.

In this paper we will examine the ideal solution environments where Hyper-Converged products have flourished. We will then give practical guidance on solution positioning for HP’s latest ConvergedSystem Hyper-Converged product offerings.

Publish date: 05/07/15
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
Technology Validation

Better Together: Optimizing VMware vSphere 6.0 Deployments with Dell EqualLogic PS Series

Although server virtualization provides enormous benefits for the modern data center, it can also be daunting from a storage perspective. Provisioning storage to match the exact virtual machine (VM) requirements has always been challenging, often ending in a series of compromises. Each VM will have its own unique performance and storage requirements; this can create over-provisioning and other inefficient uses of storage. A virtualization administrator has to try and match a VM’s storage requirements as close as possible to storage that has been pre-provisioned. Provisioning in this way is time consuming and does not possess the VM-level granularity required to meet the specific needs of the applications running in a VM. To exacerbate the problem, often, over the lifetime of a VM, the storage requirements for a VM will change, which requires ongoing diligence and review of the storage platform and manual intervention to meet the new requirements.

VMware vSphere 6.0 introduced the biggest change to the ESXi storage stack since the company’s inception with the inclusion of vSphere Virtual Volumes (VVol). VVol helps to solve the challenge of how to match a VM’s storage requirements with external storage capabilities on a per VM basis. We found that VVol when combined with Dell EqualLogic PS Series arrays become a powerful force in the datacenter.

In this brief, we call out some storage-related highlights of vSphere 6.0 such as Virtual Volumes, and then take a close look at how they, as well as traditional datastore stored VMs have been enhanced and packaged by Dell Storage into the EqualLogic PS Series storage solution. We will show how Dell and VMware have combined forces to deliver an enterprise-class virtual server and storage environment that is highly optimized and directly addresses the performance, availability, data protection and complexity challenges common in today’s business-critical virtualized data centers.

Publish date: 04/28/15
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