Monday Aug 25, 2014

ZFS Storage for Virtualization and Cloud

I had the good fortune over the weekend to read through a VMware Press book called Essential Virtual SAN: Administrator's Guide to VMware Virtual SAN by Cormac Hogan and Duncan Epping. Very good book.

First, I'd like to observe that VSAN is a very interesting idea, but based on the content of this book, it's still in it's early days. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say that things like VSAN just might be the barbarian at the gate for certain storage use cases, as they aim to get virtual machine storage to be highly integrated with the virtual machine infrastructure.

Yet, as I've said, VSAN is very young. My read of the book is that while the promise of VSAN in small and medium-sized deployments is there, the simplicity isn't yet. Nor should anyone expect it to be. Storage projects have a very high bar to reach, and reaching that bar takes a long time. Especially when your goal is to run on a variety general-purpose hardware.

What really got my attention, though, was how the authors laid out the need for VSAN in the first place. In the introduction, they say:

When talking about virtualization and the underlying infrastructure that it runs on, one component that always comes up in the conversation is storage. The reason is fairly simple: In many environments, storage is a pain point. Although the storage landscape has changed with the introduction of flash technologies that mitigate many of the traditional storage issues, many organizations have not yet adopted these new architectures and are still running into the same challenges.

Hoo boy!  That's quite a statement relative to the current market-leading storage offerings. And yet, readers of this blog already know it's true. Virtualization masks storage bottlenecks, and therefore the easiest way to solve for this is to serve I/O from faster media.  It removes some of the need to know what the hypervisor is doing. And while the traditional storage leaders have each bolted some flash into their systems, generally it's been via relatively clunky (and expensive) caching algorithms that don't solve the challenges all that well. The best example that pops to mind is the new VNX8000, for which EMC took the unusual (for them) step of publishing a SPECsfs2008 result.  It's a fantastic result, but they built the entire back end with flash drives (over 500 of them!) to get there. Makes you think that maybe their caching isn't all that great yet.

Managing VSAN continues:

The majority of these problems stem from the same fundamental problem: legacy architecture. The reason is that most storage platform architectures were developed long before virtualization existed, and virtualization changed the way these shared storage systems were used.

In a way, you could say that virtualization forced the storage industry to look for new ways of building storage systems.

I'm smiling. One of my oft-repeated statements about Oracle ZFS Storage is that the workloads are now coming to us. ZFS was architectured to serve the majority of I/O from memory (you might even call it in-memory storage). We back that memory with a large flash cache. This leapfrogs the all-flash band-aid altogether. And in a sense, the VSAN approach concurs with this thought. 

To wit, here's a picture of how a VSAN implementation needs to see storage (from this really good VSAN blog):


Each disk group must include at least one flash drive and at least one conventional disk. Moreover, the book explains that you need to be careful to provision such that the flash drive is big and fast enough to deliver most of the read I/O, because ordinary disks deliver 80-175 IOPs/second each, while flash drives deliver 5000-30,000 IOPs each.  This makes cache misses VERY expensive. So, the statement here is to make sure that you have enough cache, and it's implied that the OS knows what to do with it.

We agree. And so do all of these new guys promoting all-flash arrays for virtualization.  But all-flash means that EVERYTHING has to be stored on flash disks. including the vast majority of data currently at rest. This scales well, but it gets pricey pretty fast. We think we've found a better way.

What if instead you had as much as 2 TB of DRAM in your system, and all of the hottest read data lived THERE?  Then, when the data started to cool a bit, you had a secondary flash cache with more than 12TB per system? And what if you'd been working on the algorithms to manage these caches for the better part of a decade? The logic is the same as what's being explained for VMware Virtual SANs: Fast media for hot data, cheaper media for "cold storage". 

So, bravo to VMware on the VSAN concept. And bravo to EMC for promoting the idea that virtualized workloads need better caching. We've struggled getting customers fully engaged in our Hybrid Storage Pool discussion, so having others out there telling the same general story can only help. Especially since we're better at it.

Happy reading!
Your OPN Communications team

Tuesday Aug 19, 2014

Oracle PartnerNetwork Syndicated Oracle Showcase Got a Facelift!

Have you seen the recently redesigned OPN Syndicated Oracle Showcase? Our new look makes it even easier to provide your customers with timely, compelling, rich web content that reinforces your expertise and the power of Oracle solutions.

OPN continues to provide our Gold level and above partners this content syndication service – available at no additional charge. So, if you aren’t taking advantage of this service – what are you waiting for?

Register today to get started and start enjoying these benefits:

  • Dynamic up-to-date Oracle content featuring Applications; Database;Engineered Systems; Middleware; Servers & Storage; Optimized Solutions; and Cloud;
  • Easy Installation – requires just a few lines of code;
  • Seamless integration with existing website styles;
  • Gated assets for lead generation capabilities;
  • Statistics and metrics available to measure effectiveness;
  • Tools and resources available to drive traffic + search engine optimization.

Don’t just take our word for it! Check out the redesign for yourself!

If you have questions about our redesign, or if you'd like help customizing the available solution pages, listen to the webinar replay that discusses these items in length.

If you’re currently syndicating and you'd like to customize the available solution pages of your Showcase, simply log in to your OPN Syndicated Oracle Showcase Partner Console.

If you'd like one-on-one assistance or technical support, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Attending Oracle OpenWorld this year?
The Oracle Showcase is powered by SharedVue. Stop by the OPN Lounge – a part of OPN Central @ OpenWorld – and meet with our SharedVue representative to learn more about this exciting syndication service.

Can’t wait to see you shine brighter!
The OPN Communications team

Thursday Aug 14, 2014

Solving the Data Growth Problem – Part 2

As mentioned in Part 1 of our blog series, enterprise customers constantly feel the business impact of rapid data growth through reduced application performance. This means that overall, customers are besieged with the cost and complexity of storing + managing large volumes of data.

What if it were possible for partners to present their customers a solution that fits within their storage budget and greatly reduces the cost of managing data over its lifecycle?

Enter “infinite storage” repository – a tiered storage environment where data is automatically moved, copied and stored on different types of media (performance disk/high-capacity disk/tape) in order to optimize cost, availability, performance, backup/recovery objectives, and long-term retention requirements.

While the ability to transparently place data on the most cost-effective tier is an obvious benefit, the need to scale the data infrastructure is essential in an environment with rapid data growth. Such a repository would scale to hundreds of petabytes – simply by adding more disk or tape storage capacity.

The partner’s solution would potentially:

  • Deliver a series of workshops that defines business and application requirements such as costs, response time, data availability targets, data protection needs, and retention controls;
  • Provide installation, configuration, and migration services;
  • Architect the repository using:

Let Oracle help you help your customers find a storage solution that fits well within their budget, while you build the necessary sales + implementation skills through Oracle’s Tiered Storage Specialization.

Best of luck to you!
OPN Comms team

Thursday Aug 07, 2014

Test Fest @ Oracle OpenWorld is BACK

If you register now for Test Fest at OPN Central @ OpenWorld, you're one step closer to earning your OPN Certified Specialist accreditation. Starting Monday, September 28 through Thursday, October 2 at the Westin St. Francis, OPN will have 10 testing sessions available with a pool of 140 exams to choose from. And the best part? It's FREE for OPN members.

Join your fellow peers at this year's Test Fest and earn your accreditation that will improve your credibility in the marketplace + lead to more business opportunities stemming from Oracle's latest solutions.

Dates, times and everything else you need to know can be found on the OPN Central @ OpenWorld official website.

We'll see you next month!

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