Wednesday Feb 24, 2010

After Oracle - What's Next For Open Storage

Now that Oracle has completed the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, what will happen to Sun's Open Storage line of products? Sun really put a mark on the storage industry over the past year with products like the 7000 Unified Storage system that combines flash technology with high capacity disks to offer high performance, lower cost storage options to customers.

One of the unique features of this system is how the flash devices are managed automatically instead of requiring an inordinate amount of user intervention. Over the past few months companies like EMC and Netapp have been scrambling to respond with their own products that incorporate flash as best as they can.

Initially I think there was some concern over what Oracle would do with this line of products. However since the deal was closed late last month our leadership here at Oracle has made it clear that they will be investing and promoting Open Storage technology heavily. If you want to hear more about what the direction of the company will be on these products you should watch John Fowler at the Welcome Event or Mike Shapiro talk about the storage product strategy. Oracle will also be hosting live welcome events in major cities around the world and you can find the one closest to you here.

What is clear about Oracle's vision for Open Storage and in fact all of Sun hardware going forward is that it will focus on three areas: Complete, Open and Integrated. Notice that "Open" was not left out. Oracles products are based on open standards and that will not change for Open Storage. "Complete" really speaks to Oracle's commitment to making reliable, fast and feature rich products. Also, one of the biggest development areas for Open Storage will be in "Integration". This has already started taking place with the biggest example being the Exadata V2 database machine.

The Exadata V2 uses Open Storage FlashFire cards to deliver extreme performance for OLTP and Data Warehouse applications. This system is built on open standards like X86 architecture and Infiniband connectivity, but is integrated in such a way that it provides superior results while scaling to meet the needs of a variety of environments.

I think we will see more examples of this type of integrations in the future as well as increased development efforts around Open Storage as Oracle obviously understands the promise of this technology when it comes to helping customers address their storage issues. I am looking forward to talking about those developments in the weeks and months to come.

Friday Oct 09, 2009

Storage Analytics

The flagship product for Sun when it comes to Open Storage is the 7000 series Unified Storage System. What makes this system different from other Open Storage systems is that it is an appliance. Everything is integrated. Hard drives, SSDs and all the software required come preconfigured and ready to configure in less than 5 minutes out of the box.

One of the more impressive software features that is included in the 7000 series is Storage Analytics. Analytics allows you to see details about your storage network never before possible in an appliance of this nature. To find out just what kind of things you can do with Analytics take a look at the following video ...

Wednesday Sep 02, 2009

Open Storage Powered BI/DW

Tomorrow (9/3) I will be presenting a webinar on an Open Storage solution I have been working on for the last few months. The Business Intelligence Solution for Web Infrastructure is based on open source software from Pentaho, Infobright and Sun and delivers a reliable, high performance and low cost business intelligence environment to companies who may not have been able to afford one before.

I think using Open Storage to drive this kind of critical business tool is pretty cool. You can register and attend the webinar by clicking HERE. Or if you missed it live you can watch the replay as well.

Friday Jun 12, 2009

Open Storage Powers 21,000 desktops at CommunityOne/JavaOne

What if you needed to give computer access to up to 21,000 people intermittently with limited space, budget and resources? How would you accomplish such a task? How would you authenticate that many people? Where would you store all of the files necessary to make it all work?

The team supporting CommunityOne and JavaOne conferences this year solved all of these questions with the help of Open Storage, Sun's Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Software 3 and Virtualbox. This solution included ...

  • 3 Sun Storage 7210 Unified Storage Arrays (120TB)
  • 4 Sun Fire X4450, each with 4 CPUs and 64 GB memory (VDI Services)
  • 5 Sun Fire X4450 servers, each 4 CPUs, 6 cores per CPU and 64 GB of memory (Virtualbox)
  • 150 Sun Ray 270 thin clients

Of course the 7210s are the Open Storage part of the equation. Interestingly, capacity to store all those desktop images is only a small part of the problem. Throughput is another issue with all those users essentially booting and shutting down their selected operating systems at the same time. It turns out that a single 7210 can handle the throughput of about 1000 desktops so with only 150 active users at any given time they were in good shape.

Here is how the system worked ...


Step 1) Insert your conference badge into the Sun Ray.

Step 2) Select a Windows, Ubuntu or OpenSolaris desktop.

Step 3) Browse the web, check email, or just goof off.

When you are done with whatever you might be doing you can simply yank your card out and come back later to pick up where you left off. Your session is saved securely on the Sun Storage 7210 waiting to be resumed the next time you insert your card at any of the 150 available Sun Rays. It was a very cool solution and served the needs of the attendees perfectly. Great job to the team and great use of Open Storage!

Note: Photos curtesy of Andy Hall

Thursday Mar 05, 2009

What Is Open Storage Anyway?

Over the past few months I have been talking to a lot of people about Open Storage. So far I haven't talked to anyone outside of Sun who doesn't first ask the question "What is Open Storage anyway?" or "When you say Open Storage what does that mean exactly?". But defining a concept like Open Storage can be difficult. Here is one definition ...

Open Storage: As a general term, open storage refers to storage systems built with an open architecture using industry-standard hardware and open-source software.

This might be obvious to some, but lets break this down just a little.

Open Source - Using Open Source software is a key differentiator. Most storage vendors use proprietary software for their storage systems. Some might argue that using Open Source is more prone to vulnerabilities since the code is easily available. But in actuality, Open Source software is inherently more secure and more flexible since it is widely tested and can be easily updated to accommodate changes in the industry. Also, in the case of Sun's Open Storage products we fully support them with warranty and support contracts so if there ever is a problem we will step in and fix it.

Open Standards -  Using open standards is important so that you can always get to your data no matter what might happen to the company who makes your storage system. By using standards and protocols that have been widely accepted you can make sure that you can communicate with your storage system even if someone else's proprietary communications method becomes obsolete.

Open Architecture - This refers to using industry standard components instead of proprietary hardware that can only be sourced from a single vendor. Building a storage system this way reduces costs dramatically and allows the system to be upgraded to take advantage of new components and functionality as they become available.

Also, keep in mind that according to the above definition this concept is not Sun specific. Anyone could create an Open Storage solution or product using this definition (take a look at OpenFiler and FreeNAS for example). However, this definition still leaves a lot of ambiguity. It explains the concept, but does not give any detail about the various pieces needed to put together an Open Storage solution.

So, I came up with a framework to define the different areas that comprise Open Storage so that when I talk about it I can relate a given product or component to it's place in the framework. This is how my brain works (your mileage may vary). It is not official Sun marketing speak, although I hope it is adopted since it makes sense to me.

Open Storage Framework

Since it is a framework, I tried to keep it as simple as possible. The framework is divided into two layers: a software layer and a hardware layer. Within each of those layers are three different categories or "buckets" which components can fit into.

It is not a traditional layer model or anything like that. Think of it more like an organizational tool or a recipe.

Now let's take a look at each category and figure out what each one means.

Applications This is the thing you are running. It could be Oracle, Drupal, Sendmail, or any combination of applications. The FISHWorks user interface on Sun's Unified Storage Systems also fits into this category.
Open Utilities This category includes the operating system and all the utilities that the application depends on. Open Solaris, Linux, Gnu Tools, ZFS and Dtrace would all go here.
Open Protocols Open Protocols are free to use and have a specification that is open for all to see. Examples would be NFS, LDAP and iSCSI.
Compute This is where the processing gets done. Not only tradition CPUs go in this category, but also embedded devices. The key here is that they are "off the shelf" components that can be upgraded or changed as technologies change.
Memory/Cache Memory devices or "cache" speed up the communication between the compute and storage layers. This could be as simple as the RAM in a server or could include other products like the new Solid State Drives (SSDs) that are part of Sun's Unified Storage System's Hybrid Storage Pools.
Storage Of course the framework would not be complete without good old traditional storage components like hard disks and tape drives. However, depending on how they are used SSDs could fit into this category as well.

Leaders in the fatest growing and most innovative companies are really getting this.

Here is what Don MacAskill of SmugMug said on his blog ... "A storage device should be just a server with some open-source software and lots of disks. (The “open source” part is important. I’m sick of relying on closed-source RAID firmware). The amount of flexibility, performance, reliability and operational cost savings you can achieve with software RAID rather than hardware is enormous. With real datacenter-grade flash storage devices just around the corner, this becomes even more vital. ZFS makes all of this stuff Just Work, including properly adjusting the write caches on the disk, eliminating the RAID-5 write hole, etc."

Another example is Joyent, Inc. Since the founding of the company four years ago, Joyent has participated in the OpenSolaris storage community to serve its customers better by tapping the community's knowledge and engineering expertise. The company relies on one of the largest OpenSolaris installations in the world to provide a highly scalable, on-demand infrastructure for Web sites. “We've scaled clients up to over 1 billion page views a month using Joyent Accelerators built on ZFS, D-Trace and Containers in OpenSolaris,” says Rod Boothby, vice president of Platform Evangelism at Joyent.

These examples and many others like them seem to bolster the idea that the Open Storage concept is not only viable, but a better way going forward to implement storage systems. Clearly there is room here for interpretation and this framework will probably change over time. Perhaps your ideas about Open Storage are different from mine. I would love to hear them. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Thursday Feb 26, 2009

ZFS On FLOSS Weekly

Aaron and Leo on FLOSS Weekly

Be sure to download FLOSS Weekly this Saturday to hear myself and colleague David Brittle talk about ZFS. I happened to be in San Francisco this week and was able to be "in studio" at the TWiT cottage for the interview. ZFS is a big part of Sun's Open Storage strategy so it is important to understand what it is and how it can be used. Tune in to find our more ...

Tuesday Feb 17, 2009

Open Storage Summit Feb 23, 2009

Storage SummitNo matter where you reside don't miss the OpenSolaris Storage Summit that happens on Monday February 23, 2009. Be sure to  register today at no charge. If you will be in the SF Bay area you can join us at the Grand Hyatt downtown. Otherwise be sure to join us on UStream to listen and watch live. You can also get live updates by following on twitter.

I will be doing a panel talking about commercial uses of Open Storage. Be sure to look for me. I will be the goofy looking one :) I will also be at the Open Storage booth in the community marketplace after the closing talk.

Wednesday Jan 21, 2009

Open Storage Twitter Feed

If you want to stay in touch with what is going on in the Open Storage Universe you should try out my new twitter feed. If you are a twitter user simply follow it by clicking on the image below. You can also see my updates on this page in the sidebar to the left.

Twitter

Monday Nov 24, 2008

Wikipedia Taps Open Storage

Wikimedia LogoWhen you run a website that gets 7 billion views a month you need an infrastructure that is both scalable and manageable. And when you want to add rich media capabilities (uploading pictures, music, videos) to that infrastructure those two factors become even more important. That is why Wikimedia (the company that is behind Wikipedia) is running their site on Sun hardware and software.


Last week it was announced that Wikimedia would be using X4150 servers and X4500 storage servers to increase it's rich media capabilities. To learn more about running 48TB in 4 rack units click here. According to this article, Wikimedia is planning on implementing online video and photo editing soon. As you can imagine this requires vast amounts of storage. By selecting the X4500 as a storage platform Wikimedia is getting a lot of storage in a small space that is easy to manage at a $/GB ratio that is hard to beat anywhere else in the industry. On top of all this it fit's very neatly into their infrastructure so implementation will be simplified.


Also, to learn more about how Wikimedia runs it's web infrastructure using LAMP visit this great blog post.

Monday Nov 10, 2008

Follow The Amber Brick Road

Yellow Brick Road? by ucumari http://flickr.com/photos/ucumari/Sun is launching a new series of Open Storage products today. The new product line is called Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage Systems and was formerly referred to as "Amber Road".

What is different about this storage system?? Everything!

It is built on Open Source software including Solaris, ZFS, and Dtrace which makes it easier to see and measure what is happening within the storage system. It also includes Hybrid Storage Pools which combine Solid State (flash memory) disks with traditional hard drives to drastically improve read/write performance. It comes out of a group at Sun called FISHworks. The FISH part of the name stands for "Fully-Integrated Software and Hardware" which pretty much explains what this group does. They make the software that brings all the pieces of the system together. This group took a look at creating new tools to solve an old problem and came away with a real winner. This is the first product to bring together Sun's unique storage assets under a cohesive umbrella.

The system brings all the pieces of the puzzle together like this ...

  • Extremely fast setup
  • Easy to use interface
  • Open Source software stack
  • Multiple protocol support
  • Performance analysis tools
  • Integrated flash and SATA/SAS drives
  • Breakneck performance
  • Low $/GB

Just what do I use this great new system for, you ask? I will have more on that in the days to come. For now, here is a great video that explains the new product line-up. 


You can watch the live launch webcast at 3:30 p.m. PT from CEC in Las Vegas, Nevada at http://www.sun.com/launch/2008-1110/index.jsp. I know this will be late for the east coast (i.e. me :) )and other countries so you can also watch it at the same site on-demand at some point after the live webcast is over.

And speaking of bricks (i.e. Building Blocks) they make a great analogy for what Open Storage is all about. More on that to come as well ...

First Post - "I'm In Ur Blog, Writin' My Posts"

So what is this blog about anyway???

 Let me first introduce myself. My name is Aaron Newcomb and I work at Sun Microsystems as an Open Storage Solutions Developer. Before taking on this role I worked as a Storage Systems Engineer for Sun and as a Storage Architect for companies like HP and Procter & Gamble.

This blog is intended to be a study in Open Storage and the transformational power it can have in the storage industry. I will be trying to answer questions like ...

"What is Open Storage?"

"What makes it different than other storage systems"

"What are some examples?"

"What are the latest engineering efforts?"

"Who is making a difference?".

Please feel free to comment or email me and let me know if you like what I am doing here.

About

"Just what is Open Storage anyway?" This is the question I am trying to answer on this site. How am I doing?

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