Wednesday Nov 04, 2009

A Time Capsule for the Enterprise?

On Halloween I upgraded the desk side PC from Windows XP to Windows 7.  Between multiple reboots, application installs, recovery of email, print server configuration, etc. my wife asked "Why does it have to be so hard?"  As she said this I was looking at the Apple Time Capsule sitting on top of a small cabinet in our home basement. The only item coming out of the Time Capsule was the power cord connected to the power outlet.  I run the Time Capsule as a wireless client in our home network for data backup.  The data consists of many pictures, video clips, songs, the kids homework and basically many various files (some of which are important).

My home (LAN) network has grown over the years from a few PCs connected via an old 802.11b router to a dual band (802.11g/802.11n) router connecting a multitude of wireless clients. These include a XBox, iTouch, PrintServer, OpenSolaris, Ubuntu, Mac, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 devices.  Basically a heterogeneous environment.  Will the older Window versions be phased out at home eventually?  Yes.  The Unix/Linux clients will remain out of necessity as well as for hobby.  It's difficult to currently beat the Mac experience.  Adding a Time capsule into my existing home network was relatively easy.  The Airport setup updated the Time Capsule firmware and configured the device in straight forward steps.  It wasn't as "fun" for a "techie" as say CLI commands, but simple is defined as "fun" for most consumers. The Windows XP to Windows 7 full upgrade was painfull but I have to admit the network configuration experience was much improved.  I was pleasantly surprised freeware Bonjour discovery services just worked and the W7 system configured the Time Capsule as a usable share.

One could imply a similar situation in the enterprise space.  For an enterprise business "fun" is defined as high margin dollars on a growing revenue stream.  This usually means your costs are contained, you implement continuous improvements on efficiency and you simplify.  Vendors in the technology industry are all trying to provide a truly "Enterprise Time Capsule" or Appliance.  There has been a large amount of innovation over the past 20 years.  However today's innovation is tomorrow's PDP-11Minicomputers were appliances that Mainframes couldn't be.  The evolution has continued over the years in every technology segment.

Enterprise customers want it simple as do consumers.  While the stakes are much higher in the enterprise, the bar is significantly raised for "just working" each and every time.  It doesn't matter if you are playing catchup, you are the incumbent or you are the new thought leader-- the winners will be the set of vendors who provide the tool that "just works" each and every time in the harshest and most complex environments. 

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


Monday Nov 10, 2008

A new Networked Appliance is the Appliance Appliance for Storage and IT

Going against the establishment or trying to redefine standards in an industry is always hard.  While believers encourage you the industry critics are happy to knock you down.  For the critics as Dale Carnegie says: "Criticisms are disguised complements."  Today after lots of encouragement, hard work and collaboration Sun is announcing it's first wave of OpenStorage appliance solutions built from some pretty compelling systems and software technologies. 

In a nutshell the Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage System Family offers data services via:

  • - Storage Analytics
  • - VLAN support
    - ZFS Hybrid Storage Pool
    - RAID-Z (5 and 6), Mirrored and Striping
    - Snapshots
    - Clone and clone promotion
    - Snapshot Restore
    - Storage ISV integration
    - NFSv3, v4 service
    - Kernel based CIFS Server
    - iSCSI Target
    - Remote Replication
    - Data Compression
    - Active-Active Clustering
    - Thin Provisioning
    - Virus scanning
    - NDMP Server (Network Data Management Protocol)
    - System Self-Healing
    - ZFS Data Integrity
    - RAID-6 (DP) and optional RAID-6 Across JBODs
    - LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol)
    - IP MultiPathing (IPMP)
    - I/O MultiPathing between the Sun Storage 7410 and JBODs
    - Phone home telemetry
    - Multi Browser Interface support
    - Heterogeneous access
    - Role Base Access Control and more...

As true appliances the Sun Storage 7110, 7210 and 7410 offer you a seamless easy to use captive control interface.  It should not matter what is under the covers. But let's take a quick peek under and look at some of the piece parts.  The same piece parts that allow anyone in the opensolaris community to roll your own storage solution.  A great group of folks at Sun have rolled our own storage appliance for sale ($$$) if that is the right solution for you.  Some community members have money but no time and some community members have no money but timeMeet up with them.  The choice is yours and the cost savings are significant for either choice.  However it is pretty difficult to make something very easy and that's where the technical skills of systems and software expertise at Sun differentiates. 

Next up in our recipe is standard commodity hardware.  Nothing special is needed here to add or tweak the configuration.  Software turns the standard hardware into the appliance.  Stock servers with disks and dumb JBOD expansion if you really want to scale. No magic here other than well designed hardware.  Add in components such as SSD/Flash technology to optimize file serving.  Marry it all with very clever file system technology (you know what it is) so performance gains pop.  Intelligence based on a simple flow of:

if ssd_present

then

       begin {optimize ssd}

else

       begin {optimize normal};

That's right an auto sensing file system (click here to see the actual code) for solid state disks no matter how many you may have in your configuration.  Now let's look at one final component. Technology that combines, contains, configures, consolidates and choreographs all this neat stuff into one seamless appliance of fully integrated software and hardware (FISHworks).  The result is analytics for insight and management.  Integrated RAS, fault management and reporting.  Click and point for configuration, management of data services and user management.  Simply easy.

Congratulations are due to too many folks to name here across the systems, software, services, marketing, ops, etc. organizations at Sun.  The most exciting aspect for me is the almost limitless additional services and horizontal scaling that can be realized through the combination of more innovation among systems and opensolaris software.  No matter what model is right for you, as a community member, you can participate or just watch.  It's totally up to you.

As the graphic shows above we've put all hands in for a job well done.

Enough of the quick peek of what is under the covers, just get it and try it out and let us know what you think.  A select set of community members have been working with us for a while and see the glass both ways.  We have been listening too... that is why we took some extra time.



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 Mar 20, 2008

A Completed Open Source Storage Stack... no kidding

Another storage code base has been posted at opensolaris.  This most recent contribution focuses on the area of hierarchical storage management (HSM).  The technology is much more than standard backup.  It addresses automated data management via policies driven by data and metadata.  HSM drives some of the largest data repositories out there in the industry today.  With our open sourcing of SAM-Q we have completed an extremely large complex effort of open sourcing our \*entire\* storage stack!

This milestone is only the end of the beginning since we have many new open storage projects in process at opensolaris.org. These new storage projects are all being developed out in the open with the community.  Everything from data services, protocols, file systems, compression, encryption, replication, snapshots, drivers and archive software is available to the community.  There is no other comprehensive open sourced storage stack out there in the industry.

However, there are other comprehensive proprietary storage stacks out there that are quite good but you pay a hefty price (premium) for each part of the storage stack.  If you have the time but not the money the opensolaris community may be the place where you can contribute.  The community may also be the place for you if you are trying to establish your business or solution at a revolutionary price point.  In either case pure economics is a driving force. 

You may want to check out my most current read. "Alan Greenspan - The Age of Turbulence"  If you enjoy economics, history and want to ponder the power of the open source movement (aggregate demand ;-) )-- this book is a must read.  Alan also gives you some insight into the current market meltdown.

Read what some of the many team members Margaret Hamburger, Ted Pogue and Lynn Rohrer have to say about our latest opensource efforts. The entire team's pace and execution responded to a very aggressive goal set by me ~1 year ago... "Open Source the entire storage stack."  I'm also excited by the code contributions made by partners and vendors to the community.  It is also equally exciting to see customers using the open sourced storage technologies to build their storage products for their businesses. 

We at Sun also have the opportunity to build hybrid storage solutions with the opensolaris storage stack as well.  After all, open source software is in our DNA and we are the largest commercial contributors of open source software in the world.  A big thank you to the entire team.


Thursday Jan 17, 2008

Don't Forget That Storage Plumbing

Few can say that storage is not one very hot topic in the IT sector today.  The internet has created quite a medium for content delivery of podcasts, blogs, webcasts, webinars, etc.  This blog itself is an example.  Storage solutions are abundant, but don't forget that some storage vendors charge you for every neat feature.  Yes you pay for that special hardware that does compression to save storage space.  You also pay for every one of those protocols that you need (iSCSI, CIFS, NFS, etc.) and let's not forget about those important data services for protection (replication, clustering, anti-virus engine, etc.)  Some vendors even charge big money when you grow out of your storage pool and want expansion.  Can you say fork lift upgrade?  Well not all storage vendors want to charge you twice.  As the storage market approaches commodity some of us are getting ahead of the curve.  It is true that all storage companies want to make money... but the difference is leading the way versus fighting against something that will happen anyway.  Even new fast storage hardware will become a commodity as others join with similar offerings. It is important to understand that storage today is heavily reliant on low level software such as device drivers, frameworks and protocols that enable the higher level software in the storage stack to simply work.  If a company can expose and open up the storage stack it has a good possibility to attract not only customers but developers as well... which is what I'll call a community.

At OpenSolaris.org there is a project being done by the community called COMSTAR (Common Multiprotocol SCSI Target).  It is a clever framework which enables protocol plug-ins which speak differnent flavors of storage like Fibre Channel, iSCSI, etc.  For me it is analogous to  the old port and class driver model of my youth.  For more info on COMSTAR click here

Also see what this community member has to say. Some other notables about the storage plumbing at OpenSolaris.  The COMSTAR effort puts code into the kernel for optimization.  It will improve upon the current iSCSI Target already available and in good use today.

Open sourcing the entire storage stack implies the storage plumbing too.  For example it enables this storage stack to work for you rather than you working to pay for that expensive storage solution.

Remember Sun's OS, middleware, database and infrastructure products have the following in common-- they are models of open sourced software that more and more customers are demanding from all vendors and providers.

Thursday Dec 06, 2007

NDMP The Protocol, It's All About The Storage...

Why talk about an industry standard protocol called NDMP (Network Data Management Protocol).  I agree by itself it is a low level medium that is a check box item in the world of storage.  However it is an important piece of plumbing that enables your "house" to function.  Numerous software storage applications, particularly backup software and tape products, utilize this protocol for providing services.  While it is analogous to other storage protocols such as iSCSI and FCoE it is "the" protocol when it comes to basic backup.  Pretty sophisticated backup software choices are out there all driven by this basic protocol.  This includes multiple configuration choices such as local backup, 3-way and DAR. 

  • SUN is a working member of the SNIA community to advance the adoption of industry standards. We will be contributing source code to the SNIA effort to help update the SNIA software from NDMP v3 to NDMP v4.

  • SUN is fostering its own OpenSolaris Storage Platform community in cooperation with SNIA and other industry standards bodies to implement and enhance storage industry standards.

  • SUN plans to incorporate the SNIA software being created by the NDMP software TWG into OpenSolaris when it is approved by the SNIA membership.

The storage stack of OpenSolaris keeps getting stronger.  While NDMP is a robust service for backup, when it comes to management of massive amounts of data your mileage may vary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the above picture shows the NDMP protocol in application it does not speak to the entire pyramid structure on the right.  Backup can help you with the performance/cost curve of storage classes, but true storage archive management (SAM) is the one storage application that can automatically manage multiple tiers of storage according to policies crafted by the environment.   Policies are usually driven of of the metadata (the data on the data that you store) which allows you to move data between classes of storage (e.g. expensive FC disks, cheaper SATA disks and magnetic tape) based on file size, access frequency, creation date, etc.  OpenSolaris has released initial SAM/QFS code sources and will continue to do so until the entire SAM/QFS code base is available to the community.  Equally exciting are the OpenSolaris projects ADM and MMS which are bringing storage archive management to the ZFS file system.  Couple all these activities together make one extremely busy storage community working with OpenSolaris.  Given all the technologies are open source code bases you have the ability to leverage with your own code even if it is proprietary.  Fueling the opensource community benefits not only better innovation but more customer choice as well.

 

 

Monday Nov 26, 2007

The Art of Coexistant File Sharing in OpenSolaris

Today any OS needs to provide support for the 2 dominant file sharing protocols in the industry (NFS and CIFS).  While there are good  implementations such as SAMBA which run  "On" the OS in user space, ideally you want both file sharing protocols to run portions of the implementation "In" the kernel.  Now that OpenSolaris has a kernel based CIFS server along side NFS, I want to give kudos to a few people who made it a reality. Keep in mind implementing any file protocol in any kernel is difficult.  When you introduce both Windows and OpenSolaris together at the kernel level one can appreciate the complexities introduced to coexist.  Coexist has the caveat that code gets added in a seamless fashion and that services are not negatively impacted by this new foreign object.  Fundamental items such as the file system, security, permissions, marshaling,  etc., play an important part in making the seamless coexistence a technical mountain to climb.  That said the OpenSolaris team solved some pretty significant technical issues to make the CIFS Server in OpenSolaris available to anyone.  Despite some self proclaimed experts insisting the feat would never be accomplished, I'll point you to a few folks who know how to collaborate, innovate and in some instances dictate how to "get it done."  You can see for yourself the numerous ARC (~35) cases sponsored and approved as well as some intricate details of how problems were solved.  You can hear from the developers directly and since OpenSolaris is open sourced-- peruse ~370 thousands of lines of code that are now part of OpenSolaris.  Let's start with Mike Shapiro and Alan M. Wright.  One is a Patriots and Red Sox fan (like me) and the other is fond of rugby (unlike me... I like the Patriots).  Both are top notch engineers who can architect with ease and crank out massive amounts of code... that just works.  Mike and Alan cracked a heck of a technical problem (yes these are the hard problems that motivate them both) with respect to "Unified POSIX and Window Credentials for Solaris."  Mike describes the problem in detail on a recent post at his blog.  Alan takes us through, via his blog, the evolution of how a fully integrated CIFS service was integrated into OpenSolaris.  He is very literate on topics such as SMB autohome shares and why they evolved.  Let's not forget about Afshin, Doug and Nico.  All quite literate as well on the details of the hows and whys of a fully integrated CIFS service into OpenSolaris that was not just munged to sort of work.  From an architectural perspective numerous design requirements were diligently reviewed.  Take for example endianness.  The CIFS protocol is sensitive to the x86 processor endian order of significance.  However careful care was taken to enable the CIFS protocol in OpenSolaris to work on both big-endian and little-endian architectures by putting intelligence into marshaling.  So that means that the OpenSolaris CIFS Server will run on a SPARC-based platform if a community member were to build an appliance or simply run the service as part of a general purpose server.  Yes Niagara-II and Rock microprocessors work as it is part of OpenSolaris architecture conformance.  What other open sourced OS supports a kernel based CIFS service that runs on both big and little endian machines?

Thursday Nov 08, 2007

OpenSolaris Train Keeps a Rolling...

There I was standing at the railway station in the city of Odawara, Japan waiting for the express train back to Tokyo.  Out of nowhere a N700 bullet train sped by without stopping.  I'm estimating it was clocking ~90mph (~145kph) right through the station!!!  The N700 bullet train is an engineering marvel.  In fact the bullet train system in Japan is a wonderful experience.  The service is superb and in my opinion the most efficient means for transportation in and out of Tokyo.  Instead of dealing with stop and go traffic in any congested major city of the world, you ride on what feels like a cushion of air.  You also see the electric poles on the side of the track flash by you quickly...  You know you are going fast.  The N700 will top out at ~320kph (~200mph) which is equivilent to the French TGV  bullet trains.  Previously the N700 was bidding to top out at ~360kph (~224mph) but the East Japan Railway Company decided to scale back due to vibration and environmental concerns.  I wanted to take a picture of the train in motion.  The pure speed not only startled me but had me in awe of this beautiful machine.  The nose of the train is very aerodynamic in appearance.  The number of passenger cars attached, fully occupied with passengers, must of numbered ~20.  Despite the number of fully loaded cars the N700 appeared to effortlessly move  due to momentum and kinetic energy.

The N700 reminds me of the OpenSolaris train that has gathered a lot of speed and momentum during the past 18 months.  This train  is carrying more passengers (community members) and the acceleration is noticeable.  With the OpenSolaris release of the Developer Preview, MMS, Kernel based CIFS Server and yes infamous ephemeral UIDs the validation of open source software keeps building momentum.  Furthermore even more technology is yet to come.  While a picture may be worth a 1000 words-- I encourage you to look, touch and participate in the millions of lines of source code available to everyone.  So you can create your own picture.


Friday Oct 26, 2007

FISH -n- CIFS

There is motivation when skeptics like to preach that there is no way <substitute here> is going to happen.  Examples include come from behind victories in sports, new discoveries in science and cures for disease.  Good intentions are one thing, but following through on those intentions is a bit more difficult. 

The storage community at opensolaris.org has been busy this past year with community members that include partners, industry standard bodies and numerous code contributions.  The community has been on a journey to continue to enhance, integrate, develop, share and invent technologies applicable to traditional storage and more importantly hybrid storage solutions of today and tomorrow.  The Storage Platform for OpenSolaris Distributions has just had some recent contributions.  Keep in mind these contributions to the community are free, open and not proprietary.  Code is not read only, but available for modification, improvement and bi-directional sharing according to the opensolaris licensing terms.

Recent additions of code and new opensolaris projects include:

  • Kernel based CIFS server (Build 77).  That's right-- designed in as a first class citizen of the os with a kernel based protocol, tightly coupled with NFSv4, VFS, ZFS and Active Directory.  Windows Interoperability.  Another complimentary open sourced solution along side our friends from the SAMBA community.  This service leverages the os and its capabilities.  Need infinite snapshots of your CIFS files?  Want file compression?  Strive for encryption of your data?  Not a problem.  ZFS provides these data services IN the file system.  The kernel based CIFS server source code will post here today.  Need help with source code management tools click here.

  • NDMP service.  Table stakes for backup applications.  The code will be binaries only until the SNIA working group members complete their efforts.

  • Virus Scan service.  Another service that is tightly integrated with the kernel CIFS server and the ZFS file system.  This service provides ICAP protocol support for off-board virus scan engines.

  • NFSv4 Mirror Mounts.  NFSv4 Clients can now automatically mount shared file systems on a NFSv4 Server.

The above new Opensolaris project pages will be posting in the next few weeks so stay tuned.

Adding more and more content to the storage stack of opensolaris may raise some questions of what can be done with this stack.  Well first off it enables better integrated hybrid storage solutions.  The x4500 "Thumper"with Solaris has enabled new thinking storage solutions by leveraging the hardware and software unique capabilities.  One can continue on this journey and enhance the unique hardware and software capabilities.  In fact think of it as Fully Integrated Software and Hardware on a repetitive basis.  The tighter you integrate the incremental features, the more compelling solutions with commodity components using an enterprise open sourced os one can build.  I would think that if you could provide a software heath kit of an open sourced software stack to appeal to the masses you may have something worth investigating.

Come and participate.  Opensolaris is transforming itself from open storage solutions, xVM to Solaris install revisited also known as "Indiana." 

How can you pass up FISH -n- CIFS well prepared? Help spread the word.

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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