Monday Aug 17, 2009

Use all the Tools in the Tool Box...

Ultimately it is the software application that most IT customers look toward solving their business problems.  However software applications have a lot of moving parts sitting logically under the stack that enables the given application.  Some of these parts include operating system components, hardware and usually a large amounts of data.

A car, like an IT solution, requires more than a few set of tools to complete the job. While companies share many common problems, as do car manufactures, company solutions ultimately need the entire tool box to be fully utilized.  This is necessary in order to get the right solution to a company's IT problem.

Healthy competition amongst vendors enables multiple degrees of freedom for application solutions, but more technologies in a given vendors tool box only enables the ability to build better IT solutions.  The same applies to those who are in the business of building cars.  From a business perspective it is absolutely critical that the technologies have to be articulated into a cohesive and complementary strategy for success.  For example Ford builds cars, trucks and hybrids.  Ford does not depend on putting a truck engine into a Ford Focus and vice versa for obvious reasons.  The same applies for technology.  No "one solution fits all" has ever been successful in any market. 

Venture Capitalists and public companies have been chasing "the" goal for many years that one given technology can satisfy all aspects of a given marketHowever when you combine and use multiple technologies in your portfolio and present the right business and sales focus the results can be pretty awesome.

Here is a good example of software technologies:

from the tool box combined with partner technology to produce an ultimate software application solution.

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Wednesday Oct 29, 2008

NDMP, SNIA, FOSS, DATA, EASY, COOL, GIVE, TAKE

The Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) is a standard developed to address the interoperability of backup with  multi vendor network attached storage (NAS).  Less than a year ago some storage vendors worked with SNIA and created a technical Work Group (TWG) to further extend the NDMP standard through software development.  Initial NDMP TWG members include: EMC, NetApp, Hitachi Data Systems, Pillar Data Systems and Sun Microsystems.  The TWG membership made significant code contributions of the NDMPv3 reference implementation code base.  The end result was to create a complete, robust software development kit (SDK) that can be used to to implement NDMPv4 of the standard.

Sun as a member of the SNIA TWG for NDMP has now made available via opensolaris.org it's implementation of the NDMP Server.  As of build 102 (snv_102) the NDMPv4 source code is available.

The  significance here is not so much the evolving protocol but rather multiple vendors, regardless of their business model, promoting open storage networking solutions for the industry.  This collaboration through SNIA promoting not only open standards but open sourced software is what customers expect from all storage vendors today.  The challenge is to get all of the storage vendors to contribute to the collaboration, contribution and evolution of open storage solutions.

Job well done Mark Carlson and Reza Sabdar.


Tuesday Jun 10, 2008

OpenStorage blather... maybe not

There has been much talk about open source storage software in the past several months.  It seems that it is generating more interest than open source software in general.  The debates have aligned around 2 basic camps of nonsense and practicality.  One observation is starting to become clear.  It speaks relevance to certain folks.  Usually if something is mere hype people will ignore it.  I've watched something that was previously irrelevant become a lightening rod as of late.  Just as we are aligning for a presidential election here in the U.S. we have alignment around proprietary versus open sourced storage software.  More than mere startups are interested and able to design, build and offer a solution using software that is built from software that is open sourced. Heck you can even build your product on an open sourced code base and charge for it too.  It goes against the traditional grain of what is considered the norm for storage.  There is lots of proprietary storage software out there that comes from open sourced code-- e.g. embedded controllers.   Systems companies who have the knowledge of software, integration, sheer collaboration and understanding their customers are capable of creating a similar picture to the above.  It does go beyond DIY.

In fact if you have the expertise to lead in design trends you may be able to do better.  Take the so called blather around SSDs.  Some argue replacing a spinning drive with a FLASH drive using the traditional disk I/O interface is not worth it.  Maybe they are right.  However if your software was designed to use that SSD as a tertiary cache between the disk and the computational engine that would be different.  Yes maybe even altering as was the case when very large memories (VLM) were introduced in the mid-90s.  VLMs enabled the killer application database because working sets became much bigger.  The semiconductor folks do something similar and refer to the concept as pipelining.  Yes old concepts that get reapplied with newer technologies producing significant results.

So it is merely not just a do it yourself thing.  Click on the picture above an scroll through what the product offers.  An offering from a company who leads rather than follows.  It is probably true too if your company has all the capability of using open source software, hardware design and system integration.  Big companies too... not only startups.  Interesting times...

Tuesday Apr 29, 2008

OpenStorage in the news... OpenStorage IS the news.

A year ago Sun announced its OpenStorage initiative.  OpenSolaris is enabling the open storage revolution with the industry's first open storage software community and it is thriving and growing.  Companies are actively contributing source code as well as building appliances and solutions with this OpenStorage software stack.  This is not a head on battle with proprietary storage vendors.  Rather it is a flankOpenStorage  provides customers the advantage of a global community, with all the building blocks they need to accelerate business and market response at 1/10th the cost, with freedom to change vendors. Unlike the competition, Sun remains active in the community, offering the full range of service and support to help you at any point along the path to OpenStorage.  The community is enabled to provide OpenStorage software pre-installed on selected servers and contributed to the community for download.

OpenStorage = commodity industry standard hardware + OpenSolaris

All community members love to share to the degree that they choose.  That is the beauty... participate actively or maybe just watch for the moment from your vantage point.  It is rewarding to observe the participation through the efforts of others.  From podcasts of enthused individuals destroying disk drives to community members touting the value of this open sourced software-- one point is consistent.  ZFS is a file system that keeps appearing in the news more and more.  For example, end to end data integrity WITHOUT  intelligent hardware RAID controllers using free software on commodity hardware is news. Simon blogging about an open sourced home file server is news.  Fear of the impact of this free technology to some proprietary business models is news.  Seeing what others are doing with this technology is news.  Interest from other companies both large and small on using this file system is news.  Tim Thomas talking about configuring native CIFS in WorkGroup mode on OpenSolaris is news.  When Tim discusses Domain mode that is news as well. Seeing Jim Hughes and his YouTube postings helps makes the news as well. 

OpenStorage is no longer coming.  OpenStorage is here and customers are containing and retiring their proprietary storage. 

Set your storage free...  Get connected.

Thursday Aug 09, 2007

Storage as a commodity is accelerating

As company earnings continue to be announced in the 2nd half of 2007 more evidence is becoming available which points to a softening of storage demand, especially in the U.S.A.  Opinions range from the credit crunch of rising interest rates, product mix issues and full channel inventories that need to be drawn down.  While all of the above reasons may be a factor, I’d like to propose one of my own observations.

The storage industry is approaching an inflection point.  Multiple public companies are all speaking about IT consolidation and virtualization.  For newly formed companies and businesses their criteria requires designing around scalability, minimum solution costs and most importantly no vendor dependence.

I believe that companies that enjoy margins north of 50 points for storage solutions will be forced to be more competitive with storage solutions that go the way of commodity.

Let’s take as an example: block and file storage.  Solutions are provided today via a variety of proprietary embedded methods that range from traditional server/storage configurations to specialized appliances.  Storage services for all solutions typically provide support for industry standard protocols (iSCSI, NFS, CIFS, NDMP) and data services (snapshots, replication, RAID, compression, compliance, … etc.).  Storage solutions today charge you licensing fees or RTUs (Right To Use) for each protocol and data service you need.  This is a healthy revenue stream for certain storage vendors.

RAID performed by intelligent hardware controllers is a solid solution today.  However businesses are moving toward solutions based on software RAID because of enhanced protection provided by the software RAID/file system combination.  The design of the application is a factor too when multiple hardware failures can be tolerated because data copies are distributed and recoverable.  A good example of using cheap, non redundant hardware with software capable of handling multiple hardware failures is the Google File System (GFS).

Another factor at work here is a trend that can almost be defined as a default standard today—that of basing your IT solutions off of a Linux distribution.  There are multiple offerings of Linux today.  One distribution that is gaining adoption is CentOS.  Both public and private companies are deploying CentOS as an alternative to a popular Linux vendor distribution.
CentOS is built from publicly available open source SRPMS provided by a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor. CentOS conforms fully with the upstream vendors redistribution policies and aims to be 100% binary compatible. (CentOS mainly changes packages to remove upstream vendor branding and artwork). All perfectly legal under the terms and conditions of open source licensing.

How would the competitive landscape change if storage protocol support and data services could be added to a unix distribution? In other words take a proven enterprise unix os that is open sourced and build in additional features specific to storage.  In fact why not add other features that are becoming expected standards.  A good example here is virtulization.  If this could be done it would be an enabler for creating storage product offerings out of non proprietary software using commodity servers and storage.  This would change the current landscape especially if cost savings and prevention of vendor lock in is achievable.

There is a growing customer base that is building their IT infrastructure from hybrid storage solutions.  They don't quite fit nicely into the standard file, block or even object industry segments today.  In some ways these customers want to slightly tweak the storage, servers and software to create the hybrid.  This hybrid also turns out to be their competitive weapon.

Helping customers achieve their own individual hybrid is certainly an opportunity worth pursuing.



About

The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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