Cohesity – DataPlatform in the Cloud

cohesityWhat separates vendors is focus and execution. In a crowded market, finding the right backup provider is no easy task. While each product has its pros and cons, finding the differentiator can be a daunting task. While Cohesity is relatively new to this space (founded in 2013), they have that focus and execution necessary to be a leader in the backup space.

But Cohesity is more than just backups. The Cohesity storage appliance not only handles your backup storage needs, but can also run your dev and test workloads. Cohesity is focused on your secondary storage needs. That secondary storage consists of any workloads or data that isn’t production. By avoiding the draw of being another primary storage vendor, Cohesity is listening to customers, learning their needs and creating a solution that can fit any size business.

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The Cohesity solution was built for a virtualized (VMware-only) environment. Connecting directly to your vCenter servers and pulling your inventory allowing administrators to create backup jobs and policies. While their start was in virtualization, there are still many physical workloads in the datacenter. Creating agents for physical Windows, Linux, and SQL server all backing up to the same storage system and with the same policies prove no workloads can’t be protected by Cohesity.

But wait, there’s more!

While data protection is important, that’s only a small portion of the Cohesity offering. Running these backups directly from the Cohesity storage arrays allows you to free up primary storage resources and (potential) bottlenecks when running multiple instances of the same VM on a single array. Leveraging the SSDs that come in each Cohesity node as a cache tier, testing software patches and deployments from your backed up production VMs means that your performance doesn’t suffer. And with a built in QoS engine your dev/test workloads don’t have to affect the speed of your backups.

Cohesity provides a scale-out solution, meaning as storage demand increases so can your secondary storage space. Operating under a single namespace, as new nodes are added, your space increases without needing to reconfigure jobs to point to a new array or manually re-striping data. Cohesity has customers that have scaled up to as much as 60 nodes with over a petabyte of storage.

To the cloud!

Policy-based backups and replication ensures that your data will be available. Cohesity has the ability to distribute data across the nodes in a cluster, replicate to clusters in another locations, and also replicate your data to a cloud provider in order to satisfy offsite backup requirements. The latest addition to the Cohesity software portfolio is the DataPlatform Cloud Edition. This gives you the ability to run Cohesity in the cloud.

DataPlatform CE is more than just replicating data to the cloud. Your VMs can be backed up to your on-premises cluster and that data can be replicated to your cloud-based array. From that cloud-based array, you can then clone virtual machines to a native cloud format. This means your servers can be run in the cloud in their native format and available to test or even run in the event of migrations or datacenter outages.

Many backup and data protection software vendors are doing replication to the cloud such as Veeam and Zerto. While the features isn’t new, its addition makes Cohesity a serious contender in this space. DataPlatform CE is available currently in tech preview in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace, but Cohesity hopes to release it in the first half of 2017 with support for Azure as well as AWS.

Wrapping Up

Data protection and availability is never going to be exciting. Swapping tapes and deploying agents is tedious work. A fully integrated software solution that not only protects your data, but also helps solve the problem of data sprawl, a platform for developers to test against production data in an isolated environment and the ability to migrate workloads to the cloud. That’s about as exciting as it gets in data protection and that is just the tip of the (storage) iceberg.

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Take a look at posts by my fellow delegates from Tech Field Day 12 and watch the videos here.

First Look at Cohesity Cloud Edition
The Silent Threat of Dark Data
Cohesity Provides All of Your Secondary Storage Needs
Secondary Storage is Cohesity’s Primary Goal

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Disclaimer: During Tech Field Day 12, my expenses (flight, hotel, transportation) were paid for by Gestalt IT. Cohesity provided each delegate with a gift bag, but I am under no obligation to write about any of the presented content nor am I compensated for such writing.

Cohesity – DataPlatform in the Cloud

Cohesity – Scale-Out Secondary Storage

Backups are boring. No matter if you’re talking about swapping tapes, configuring backup jobs in your legacy agent-based  software, or spending another night restoring snapshots from your storage array; there’s just no way to make backups interesting. Cohesity aims to fix that. No, they won’t make backups sexy, but they are looking to add a bit more flash to the secondary storage market.

So what exactly is “secondary storage?” Secondary storage encompasses our backups, non-prod workloads, fileshares and the like. The secondary storage market is gaining visibility recently. With the flood of primary storage vendors, Cohesity could have been another “me-too” primary storage vendor, but they see the value in attacking an under-developed market.

The concept of Cohesity is simple. You can purchase the C2300 or C2500 models which offer 48TB or 96TB of storage respectively in each 4-node appliance (with a minimum of 3-nodes to start). Additional capactity can be added a single node at a time afterwards in 12TB or 24TB chunks depending on the model. Each node contains either 800GB or 1.6TB of flash for caching along with compute and memory. Cohesity claims they are infinitely scalable due to their distributed OASIS (Open Architecture for Scalable Intelligent Storage) architecture, though they’ve only tested up to 32 nodes at the time of this writing. Once your nodes are setup, you just point Cohesity at your vCenter Server and you now have visibility of your virtual machines.

Cohesity, leveraging VADP, is able to snapshot your configured VMs and begins ingesting all that data. The changes of these VMs are tracked (using CBT) so you’re not performing new full backups each time. All that is pretty standard in the backup world, so what sets Cohesity apart? That data is not just backed up, but it is available to actually use. Want to spin up one of these backed up VMs for testing? Space-efficient clones are created directly on the Cohesity appliance and are presented back to your ESXi hosts. Searching for a file to restore from one of these VMs? You can locate it right from the web interface and download the file without having to restore the entire VM.

The differentiator for Cohesity is not just how it scales or how simple it makes the backup process, but how it makes your backups useful. Enabling developers to access clones of your production systems to test deployments and hotfixes without impacting your production storage. Integrated QoS preventing your dev/test workloads from consuming all your resources and causing backup performance to suffer. Utilizing the onboard flash combined with global deduplication, performance of these workloads can mimic production without the cost of an all flash array.

An all-inclusive secondary storage appliance that provides visibility of data sprawl adds to the value. Often times, as production systems are backed up and cloned and cloned again, you lose sight of the origin of that data. Migrating data from one storage array to another you lose that deduplication and you’re now increasing capacity across systems to accommodate your storage footprint. By providing an all-in-one solution for your backups and dev/test workloads, you’re able to maximize your investment without the need for multiple arrays and storage targets.

The backup market is a crowded one. There are more feature rich backup software providers in the space, but many of them require the purchase of additional storage that doesn’t have the capabilities of what Cohesity provides. Having just released Version 1 in mid-October, Cohesity has a lot of capabilities in their software with what appears to be a great vision for the future. The product is still in need of refinement to simplify the process of searches, reporting, and scheduling, but the foundation of what the Cohesity team has built has me excited to see where they’ll be able to take their product.

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Watch all the videos from Cohesity at Storage Field Day 8 here.

Disclaimer: During Storage Field Day 8, my expenses (flight, hotel, etc) were paid for by Tech Field Day. I am under no obligation to write about any of the presented content nor am I compensated by any of the presenting companies for such writing.

Cohesity – Scale-Out Secondary Storage

Pure Storage – Enterprise Ready, Pure and Simple

Disruption! Disk is dead! Flash forever!

When Pure Storage first came into the public eye they were loud, they were bold and everyone took notice. Whether you liked their marketing campaigns or their even louder marketing team, Pure marked the beginning of the flash revolution. They weren’t the first to do flash, they were just the first to convince us that all flash was right for our datacenter. If IOPs and low latency mattered, Pure was the vendor you needed.

With a recent IPO and new hardware platform (flasharray//m) there has been a lot going on with Pure Storage. While the announcement of their latest product was over 6 months ago (June 2015), my expectations for Pure are always high. The Tech Field Day delegates at Storage Field Day 8  got a chance to listen to what Pure Storage has been doing, their focus, and hopefully what was still to come.  This time around, however, I was left a little disappointed.

When a company who touts disruption as loud as Pure, you expect big things. Believe me, it’s not that what they’ve built isn’t impressive. A brand new, 3U dual-controller array built to eliminate single points of failure, maximize performance and display their orange logo as bright and loud as their messaging has always been is impressive. But that’s old news. This announcement feels like it was forever ago and we’re curious where Pure goes from here. What’s next for Pure?

Sadly, we don’t know. Roadmap and futures were off limits for this newly-public company. The feeling I get is that Pure is focusing on refinement, whether in their products or just in their messaging. Customers want visibility into their arrays. They want non-disruptive upgrades. They want health monitoring and alerting. They want that enterprise feeling companies like NetApp and EMC provide. Pure Storage’s focus right now is the enterprise and everything that Pure1 provides.

Pure1 is SaaS-based management and support of your Pure Storage arrays. Gone are the days of setting up management servers in each of your datacenters to manage and collect metrics of all your arrays. Pure1 allows you to login to a web interface and view statistics and alerts on all your arrays from a single portal. That’s one less server you’re forced to manage, update, and maintain to hold on to your historical data. Pure Storage arrays phone home all the important metrics (every 30 seconds) that matter so you have that single interface. New features can be delivered faster to all its customers with the collected data without the need to perform an update to your software.

Pure1 is being leveraged to open tickets on your behalf. Pure Storage said that roughly 70% of customer tickets are opened proactively by Pure1. Pure has worked at eliminating the “noise” of these alerts as well, focusing on root cause alerts as opposed to just all the alerts that may come from a cable or drive being pulled. These proactive tickets include bug fixes for issues that may come up in your environment based on your current configuration. I can recall a few times in my career where I’ve ran into a software bug on my storage array that the vendor was aware of, but never informed me I was susceptible to. This is the kind of information all customers want, but not all vendors provide.

Pure Storage has taken a non-disruptive everything approach to its software releases as well. While legacy vendors have left me reluctant to upgrade my arrays in the past, Pure Storage touted 91% customer adoption of its software within 8 months of release. Pure’s customers are trusting in its development, enough to even perform upgrades in the middle of the day while still serving production workloads. That is confidence and shows the capabilities of these arrays and Pure’s engineers. Non-disruptive no matter the operation.

Is the marketing machine that was Pure Storage dead? My hope and feeling is no. Pure is finding out who they are as $PSTG. This is a period of refinement and maturity for the 6-year-old company. We’ll have to wait and see what they’ll do next and I’m sure we’ll all take notice.

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Watch all the videos from Pure Storage at Storage Field Day 8 here.

Disclaimer: During Storage Field Day 8, my expenses (flight, hotel, etc) were paid for by Tech Field Day. I am under no obligation to write about any of the presented content nor am I compensated by any of the presenting companies for such writing.

 

 

 

Pure Storage – Enterprise Ready, Pure and Simple

NexGen Storage – The Future is Hybrid

At Storage Field Day 8, the delegates got a sneak peak at what NexGen Storage was up to. With new product and patent announcements, there was a lot to be excited about for this hybrid array vendor.

Hybrid storage is the future. But with the death of disk and living in an all-flash world, how can that be true? While disk isn’t dead yet, it feels like it’s dying. High IOPs, low latency, and consistent performance is what makes flash so desirable. When designing a modern datacenter today, I’d be unlikely to buy spinning disk. So how can hybrid be the future?

As the cost of flash continues to drop the dependency we have on spinning disk drops as well. When it comes to enterprise storage, why pay for a fading technology when flash is becoming more and more affordable? That’s not to say disk doesn’t have a place in the datacenter; it just means the use cases are beginning to diminish. Spinning disk is generally not a place where I want my production applications to run.

NexGen Storage has been in the hybrid array space for some time. After being founded in 2010, being purchased by Fusion-io in 2013 and then eventually being spun out as its own company earlier this year, NexGen Storage has continued to focus on its hybrid arrays. The engineering efforts and customer growth didn’t stop along the way. The NexGen team stayed focused on what it does best; fast storage with predictable performance.

With the rise of flash in the datacenter, why the focus on hyrbid? With NexGen, their hybrid arrays are not just flash cache in front of spinning disk. The approach of flash and RAM caching writes and/or reads makes sense as only your working set “needs” that high speed/low latency tier, but in the event your array was unable to predict the next blocks being requested by your application the performance of spinning disk sometimes isn’t enough. Their latest model, the N5-1500, is all flash with a hybrid approach.

While the cost of flash is dropping rapidly, it still is expensive. NexGen Storage is utilizing flash over the PCIe bus for it’s caching tier which is much more expensive than just regular SSD drives. The advantage of this approach is lower latency, higher throughput, but at a more reasonable cost as you’re not filling an array with all PCIe flash. The N5 all flash series is available in 15TB to 60TB raw capacity (in 15TB increments) with all sizes coming with 2.6TB of PCIe flash.

Why the same cache tier size? With its now patented dynamic QoS, NexGen Storage is able to deliver that consistent performance businesses need for their applications. The ability to prioritize workloads and assign pre-configured QoS policies allows you to purchase a do-everything array. In many of the smaller environments I’ve worked in, you don’t have the luxury of multiple storage arrays for production and dev/test. Often time, you are hoping that your non-critical workloads do not affect your mission-critical workloads. With automated throttling and prioritizing placement of your data, you’re able to ensure development never interferes with Tier 0.

The all-flash datacenter is here today and each all-flash vendor has a different approach. This hybrid all-flash approach is what sets NexGen Storage apart along with an all-inclusive software feature set. A fast array isn’t enough anymore; you need an array that has the intelligence to deliver the performance you’re expecting at all times. Combine that with VMware Virtual Volumes support, data reduction (deduplication and compression) along with array-based snapshots and replication (between all-flash and hybrid spinning disk arrays) and you have a solution built for the next generation.

Disclaimer: During Storage Field Day 8, my expenses (flight, hotel, etc) were paid for by Tech Field Day. I am under no obligation to write about any of the presented content nor am I compensated by any of the presenting companies for such writing.

NexGen Storage – The Future is Hybrid

Thoughts in the Airport

Traveling is one of my least favorite things. I have never done well on flights, waiting to take off, sitting still for hours, and feeling trapped. That trapped feeling is worse when I’m stuck in the middle or window seat. If I’m not on aisle I don’t want to fly.

This time, however, it’s different. Sure, I’ve been to tech conferences before. I’ve been to a handful of VMworld’s, went to Cisco Live and a few smaller conferences as well. But Storage Field Day? This is my first time being selected as a delegate at a Tech Field Day event. As I sit in the airport I’m nervous for a completely different reason.

Tech Field Day events are filled with companies presenting their latest and greatest products and solutions. This is an event that skips the marketing and gets into the nitty gritty. The delegates (11 of us this time around) get to ask questions of the people who built these products and have a vast knowledge of their inner workings. Viewers watching the live stream can have their questions relayed to the presenters via Twitter and the #SFD8 hashtag so they gain a better understanding as well.

So why the nerves? Sitting alongside storage experts such as Howard Marks and Ray Lucchesi who run the GreyBeards on Storage podcast (which I subscribe to) and Scott D. Lowe who is an author, a blogger, a former CIO and someone is who well known and well respected in the industry. It just so happens that Howard and Scott have done a combined 36 Tech Field Day events. Alex Galbraith, Viper V.K, Jon Klaus, Dan Frith, Mark May, Enrico Signoretti, and Jarett Kulm are the remaining delegates who are also well known and respected as well. For a first timer like me, it doesn’t get much more intimidating.

That’s just the delegates, I haven’t even mentioned the presenters. We’ll be on-site at the Coho Data, Pure Storage, and Cohesity. With a recent IPO I’ll be curious to see what Pure will be showcasing and with their first GA release I’m interested in hearing more about Cohesity and where their product is at.

Violin Memory, Intel, INFINIDAT, Nimble Storage, Nexgen, Qumulo and Primary Data will also be presenting. With so little coming from Violin lately I’m curious what they’ve been up to (besides declaring that disk is dead). I’m also interested in where Nimble is at. With most of their competitors offering all flash solutions, Nimble is one of the last few hybrid-only vendors. Have they throw a bunch of SSD’s on their arrays and called it “All Flash” (ala NetApp) or are they working on something new?

As I sit in the airport at PDX waiting for my flight to arrive from Denver my nerves are about adding value to this event. Asking the questions and offering the perspective of a customer who has been responsible for deploying and administering storage over the last 7 years. Holding my own along side these storage industry experts and not letting myself get intimidated. This is out of my comfort zone, but I’m up for the challenge.

Thoughts in the Airport

Storage Field Day Here I Come!

Storage has been a component of my job for most of my IT career. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed, but hadn’t been something I’ve had the time to focus on. Coming from smaller organizations, I’ve been responsible for almost everything in the environment which rarely gave me an opportunity to be an expert in any one technology.

A few years ago the company I worked for was going through a storage refresh and I was tasked with evaluating our existing storage platform and determine our needs going forward. I spent time with nearly every major storage vendor there was going into depth on every aspect I could in order to determine the “best choice.” In the end I gained an understanding of storage that I never had before and it became a passion for me.

All that being said, I am both honored and humbled to be selected as a delegate for Storage Field Day 8! The Tech Field Day events have been something I’ve watched over the last couple of years and I have become a huge fan. These event give the viewers a chance to learn and ask questions about the latest technologies from the presenters. These events are about getting through the marketing and getting into the details. This is a great opportunity to educate yourself on the different products being presented.

Don’t miss all the presentations for Storage Field Day 8 on October 21-23. I am particularly interested in hearing more about what Coho Data and Cohesity are doing, but I’m looking forward to all the presentations.

Storage Field Day Here I Come!