Startup News Flash part 11

Last Startup News Flash of the year, part 11… It is relatively short this time, I am guessing everyone is wrapping up before the holiday season really starts. I know I am!

I want to congratulate Nimble on their very successful IPO. They introduced their stock at the price of $21.00 per share and are now at $ 35.00 after just a couple of days of trading. Not sure why, but for whatever reason I haven’t written about Nimble yet in-depth, personally I’ve been impressed by what they offer. If you look at the cost of their solution and hold it against quality and features they offer I am sure you will be impressed as well, definitely one of those companies I would be talking to when looking to invest in a new storage system! Once again, congrats to all involved on the successful IPO.

Infinio just announced a new round of funding. 12 million for Series B is not bad if you ask me. Investors include: Bessemer Venture Partners, Highland Capital Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Osage University Partners (a partner of Columbia University, home of Infinio’s roots). After having recently announced GA of their 1.0 product I guess it is full speed ahead with this new injection. Congrats and looking forward to the upcoming releases.

That was it for this year with regards to startups news , hopefully back next year with more Startup News!

Re: VMware VSAN VS the simplicity of hyperconvergence

I was reading this awesome article by “the other” Scott Lowe. (That is how he calls himself on twitter.) I really enjoyed the article and think it is a pretty fair write-up. Although I’m not sure I really agree with some of the statements or conclusions drawn. Again, do not get me wrong… I really like the article and effort Scott has put in, and I hope everyone takes the time to read it!

A couple of things I want to comment on:

VMware VSAN VS the simplicity of hyperconvergence

I guess I should start with the title… Just like for companies like SimpliVity (Hey guys congrats on winning the well deserved award for best converged solution) and Nutanix their software is the enabler or their hyper-converged solution. Virtual SAN could be that, if you buy a certain type of hardware of course that is.

Hyper-converged infrastructure takes an appliance-based approach to convergence using, in general, commodity x86-based hardware and internal storage rather than traditional storage array architectures. Hyper-converged appliances are purpose-built hardware devices.

Keyword in this sentence if you ask me is “purpose-built”. In most cases there is nothing purpose-built about the hardware. (Except for SimpliVity as they use a purpose built component for deduplication.) In May of 2011 I wrote about these HPC Servers that SuperMicro was selling and how they could be a nice platform for virtualization, I even ask in my article which company would be the first to start using these in a different way. Funny, as I didn’t know back then that Nutanix was planning on leveraging these which was something I found out in August of 2011. The servers used by most of the Hyper-converged players today those HPC servers and are very much generic hardware devices. The magic is not the hardware being used, the magic is the software if you ask me and I am guessing vendors like Nutanix will agree on me that.

Due to its VMware-centric nature and that fact that VSAN doesn’t present typical storage constructs, such as LUNs and volumes, some describe it as a VMDK storage server.

Not sure I agree with this statement. What I personally actually like about VSAN is that it does present a “typical storage construct” namely a (Virtual SAN) data store. From a UI point of view it just looks like a regular datastore. When you deploy a virtual machine the only difference is that you will be picking a VM Storage Policy on top of that, other than that it is just business as usual. For users, nothing new or confusing about it!

As is the case in some hybrid storage systems, VSAN can accelerate the I/O operations destined for the hard disk tier, providing many of the benefits of flash storage without all of the costs. This kind of configuration is particularly well-suited for VDI scenarios with a high degree of duplication among virtual machines where the caching layer can provide maximum benefit. Further, in organizations that run many virtual machines with the same operating system, this breakdown can achieve similar performance goals. However, in organizations in which there isn’t much benefit from cached data — highly heterogeneous, very mixed workloads — the overall benefit would be much less.

VSAN can accelerate ANY type of I/O if you ask me. It has a write buffer and a read cache. Depending on the size of your working set (active data), the size of the cache and the type of policy used you should always benefit regardless of the type of workload used. From a writing perspective as mentioned it will always go to the buffer, but from a read perspective your working set should be in cache. Of course there are always types of workloads where this will not apply but for the majority it should.

VSAN is very much a “build your own” approach to the storage layer and will, theoretically, work with any hardware on VMware Hardware Compatibility list. However, not every hardware combination is tested and validated. This will be one of the primary drawbacks to VSAN…

This is not entirely true. VMware is working on a program called Virtual SAN ready nodes. These Virtual SAN ready nodes will be pre-configured, certified and tested configurations which are optimized for things like performance / capacity etc. I haven’t seen the final list yet, but I can imagine certain vendors like for instance Dell and HP will want to list specific types of servers with an X number of Disks and a specific SSD types to ensure optimal user experience. So although VSAN is indeed a “bring your own hardware” solution, but I think that is the great thing about VSAN… you have the flexibility to use the hardware you want to use. No need to change your operational procedures because you are introducing a new type of hardware, just use what you are familiar with.

PS: I want to point out there are some technical inaccuracies in Scott’s post. I’ve pointed these out and am guessing they will be corrected soon.

Removing a disk group from a VSAN host

I had been playing around with my VSAN cluster for a bit the last couple of weeks and it literally has become messy. I created many VMs and many snapshots and removed many of those again, all of this while pulling cables of servers and pulling disks. Basically stress testing VSAN while injecting faults to see how it responds. It was time to clean up and upgrade to a later build as the beta refresh was just released. After deleting a bunch of VMs I noticed that not everything was removed, I had also uploaded ISOs and some other random stuff which I probably should not have. Anyway, I needed to clean one of my hosts up.

I figured I would use RVC for the exercise just to get a bit more familiar with it. First I wanted to check what the current state was of my cluster, I used the “vsan.disks_stats” command:

Then I figured I would want to just simply remove the disk group for Server “prmb-esx08” using “vsan.host_wipe_vsan_disks”:

Note that you can also do this using the UI:

  • Go to your cluster
  • Click “Manage” and “Virtual SAN” -> “Disk Management”
  • Select the “Disk Group” and click the “Remove the Disk Group” icon

If only the world of applications was as simple as that…

In the last 6-12 months I have heard many people making statements around how the application landscape should change. Whether it is a VC writing on GigaOm about how server CPU utilization is still low and how Linux Containers and new application architectures can solve this. (There are various reasons CPU util is low by the way, ranging from being memory constraints to storage perf constraints and by design) Or whether it is network administrators simply telling the business that their application will need to cope with a new IP-Addresses after a disaster recovery fail-over situation. Although I can see where they are coming from I don’t think the world of applications is as simple as that.

Sometimes it seems that we forget something which is fundamental to what we do.  IT as it exists today provides a service to its customers. It provides an infrastructure which “our / your customers” can consume. This infrastructure, to a certain point, should be architected based on the requirements of your customer. Why? What is the point of creating a foundation which doesn’t meet the requirements of what will be put on top of it? That is like building a skyscraper on top of the foundation of a house, bad things are bound to happen! Although I can understand why we feel our customers should change I do not think it is realistic to expect this will happen over night. Or even if it is realistic to ask them to change?

Just to give an example, and I am not trying to pick on anyone here, lets take this quote from the GigaOm article:

Server virtualization was supposed to make utilization rates go up. But utilization is still low and solutions to solve that will change the way the data center operates.

I agree that Server Virtualization promised to make the utilization rates go up, and they did indeed. And overall utilization may still be low, although it depends on who you talk to I guess or what you include in your numbers. Many of the customers I talk to are up to around 40-50% utilized from a CPU perspective, and they do not want to go higher than that and have their reasons for it. Was utilization the only reason for them to start virtualizing? I would strongly argue that it was not the only reason, there are many others! Reducing the number of physical servers to manage, availability (HA) of their workloads, transportability of their workloads, automation of deployments, disaster recovery, maintenance… the reasons are almost countless.

I guess you will need to ask yourself what all of these reasons have in common? They are non-disruptive to the application architecture! Yes there is the odd application that cannot be virtualized, but the majority of all X86 workloads can be, without the need to make any changes to the application! Clearly you would have to talk to the app owner as their app is being migrated to a different platform, but there will be hardly any work for them associated with this migration.

Oh I agree, everything would be a lot better when the application landscape was completely overhauled and magically all applications use a highly available and scalable distributed application framework. Everything would be a lot better when all applications magically were optimized for the infrastructure they are consuming, applications can handle instant ip-address changes, applications can deal with random physical servers disappearing. Reality unfortunately is that that is not the case today, and for many of our customers in the upcoming years. Re-architecting an application, which often for most app owners comes from a 3rd party, is not something that happens overnight. Projects like those take years, if they even successfully finish.

Although I agree with the conclusion drawn by the author of the article, I think there is a twist to it:

It’s a dynamic time in the data center. New hardware and infrastructure software options are coming to market in the next few years which are poised to shake up the existing technology stack. Should be an exciting ride.

Reality is that we deliver a service, a service that caters for the needs of our customers. If our customers are not ready, or even willing, to adapt this will not just be a hurdle but a showstopper for many of these new technologies. Being a disruptive (I’m not a fan of the word) technology is one thing, causing disruption is another.

Startup News Flash part 10

There we are, part 10 of the Startup News Flash. Someone asked me on Twitter last week why Company XYZ was never included in the news flash. Let it be clear that I am not leaving anyone out (unless I feel they aren’t relevant to this newsletter or my audience), I have limited time so typically do not do briefings… Which means that if the marketing team doesn’t sent me the details via email and I haven’t somehow stumbled across the announcement it will not appear on here. If you want your company to be listed, make sure they sent their press releases over.

Some new models announced by Nutanix. Funny to see how they’ve been pushing hard from a marketing perspective to remove the “pure VDI play” label they had and now launch a VDI focused model called the 7000 series. (Do not get me wrong, I think this is a brilliant move!) The 7000 series offers you the option to include NVIDIA K1 or K2 Grid cards. Primarily intended to accelerate graphics, so if you are for instance doing a lot of 3D rendering or just are a heavy graphical VDI user these could really provide a benefit over their (and other vendors) normal offerings. On top of that the 3000 and 6000 series has been overhauled. The NX-3061 and NX-3061 with 10 Core (2.8GHz) Ivy Bridge have been introduced and the NX6060 and NX6080 10 Core (2.8 and 3.0GHz respectively) have been introduced. Haven’t seen anything around pricing, so can’t comment on that.

No clue what it is exactly these guys do to be honest. I find their teaser video very intriguing. Not much detail to be found around what they are doing other than “re-imagine enteprise computing”. Hoping to hear more from these guys in the future as their teaser did make me curious.

I don’t care much about benchmarks, but it is always nice to see a smaller (or the underdog) company beat the big players. Kaminario managed to outperform Oracle, IBM and Fujitsu with their SPC-2 Performance Benchmark using their scale-out all flash array K2 v4. Just a couple of weeks after breaking the SPC-1 Benchmark World Record again. Like I said, I don’t care much about benchmarks  as it doesn’t typically say much about the operational efficiency etc. Still it is a nice indication of what can be achieved, though your results may vary depending on your IO pattern of course.