Categories
Backup Deduplication

IBM Storage Announcement

As previously posted, I was confused about the muted launch of IBM’s XIV disk platform. Well, the formal launch finally occurred at IBM Storage Symposium in Montpelier, France. Congratulations to IBM, although I am still left scratching my head why they informally announced the product a month ago!

Another part of the announcement was the TS7650G which is Diligent’s software running on an IBM server. Surprisingly, there is not much new; it appears that they are banking on the IBM brand and salesforce to jumpstart Diligent’s sales. Judging by the lack of success in selling the TS75xx series, it will be interesting to see whether they will have any more success with this platform.

From a VTL perspective, IBM has backed themselves into a box. Like EMC, they have a historic relationship with FalconStor and have chosen a different supplier for deduplication. This creates an interesting dichotomy. Let’s look at the specs of their existing FalconStor-based VTL and newly announced technology.

Categories
Backup Deduplication Restore Virtual Tape

Keeping it Factual

I periodically peruse the blogosphere looking for interesting articles on storage, data protection and deduplication. As you can imagine, blog content varies from highly product centric (usually from vendors) to product agnostic (usually from analysts). I recently ran across a post over at the Data Domain blog, Dedupe Matters. This is a corporate blog where it appears that the content is carefully crafted by the PR team and is updated infrequently. Personally, I find canned blogs like this boring. That said, I wanted to respond to a post entitled “Keeping it Real” by Brian Biles, VP of Product Management. As usual, I will be quoting the original article.

A year or more later, Data Domain is scaling as promised, but the bolt-ons are struggling to meet expectations in robustness and economic impact.

Categories
Marketing

Industry analysts and conflicts

Just last week I posted commentary on an analyst’s article on eWeek. Ironically, there is currently a hot discussion going on over at ByteandSwitch on another article from the same analyst. (I am purposely not linking to the article, if you want to read it visit B&S and look for Data De-Dupe Guide 2.) In this case, the discussion revolves around the analyst’s objectivity. The reality is that analysts are paid to write vendor centric papers all the time which is not problematic as long as articles are identified as such. The issue here is that the article on ByteandSwitch is vendor centric, and the author is positioning the content as vendor agnostic. The author further compounds the problem by incorrectly summarizing the available capabilities of shipping deduplication solutions. In his Mr. Backup blog, W. Curtis Preston writes about some of the errors.

Categories
D2D Deduplication Virtual Tape

Analyst Commentary on VTL

I am often perusing industry related sites to find what people are saying about disaster recovery and data protection. Most of these sites rely on independent contributors to provide the content. Given the myriad of viewpoints and experience levels, it is not uncommon to see a wide range of commentaries, some consistent with industry trends, and others not. I keep this in mind when reading these articles and generally ignore inconsistencies; however once in a while an article is so egregiously wrong that I feel a response is necessary.

In this case, I am referring to an article appearing in eWeek where the author makes gross generalizations about VTL that are misleading at best. Let’s walk through his key points:

VTLs are complex

I completely disagree. The reason most people purchase VTLs is that they simplify data protection and can be implemented with almost no change in tape policies or procedures. This means that companies do not have relearn new procedures after implementing a VTL and thus the implementation is relatively simple and not complex like he suggests.

He also mentions that most VTLs use separate VTL software and storage. This is true for solutions from some of the big storage vendors, but is not the case with the SEPATON S2100-ES2. We manage the entire appliance including storage provisioning and performance management.

Finally, he complains about the complexity of configuring Fibre Channel (FC). While it is true that FC can be more complex than Ethernet it really depends on how you configure the system. One option is to direct connect the VTL which requires none of the FC complexities he harps on. He also glosses over the fact that FC is much faster than the alternatives which is an important benefit. (My guess is that he is comparing the VTL to Ethernet, but he never clearly states this.)

Categories
Marketing

A little bit off topic – IBM XIV

I traditionally stay focused on data protection in this blog, but wanted to make a quick digression. Specifically, I wanted to comment briefly on some weirdness around IBM and their XIV product line. IBM has recently been positioning XIV storage inside their new deduplication enabled VTL. Anyone considering these solutions should spend some time trying to understand XIV.

IBM bought XIV about 8 months ago. XIV was an Israeli company founded by industry guru Moshe Yanai. Yanai is clearly a smart guy having developed EMC’s Symmetric Storage system. He is experienced and talented, and his company, XIV, was developing next generation clustered storage. When IBM bought XIV, they said that it “could mark the end to RAID5 and mark the beginnings of a new disk storage architecture” (Quote courtesy of Tony Pearson, IBM employee and author of Inside Systems Blog).

All of the above sounds great, the problem is IBM just announced the first XIV product in Europe only with very little fanfare. It is quite odd, if the product is as revolutionary as they had previously suggested, wouldn’t you expect them to make a big deal out of it? Where are the analyst quotes? Where is the evangelizing? The short answer is that there has been none! What gives?

There have been numerous posts in the blogosphere about this. One of the earliest folks was Barry Burke from EMC on his StorageAnarchist blog. Blocks and Files, NetworkWorld and eWeek have also chimed in. Everyone is confused by this, Network World notes that the features are very limited in the product and eWeek goes so far as to suggest that the entire XIV acquisition was a failure!

The noteworthy point of the announced XIV solution is that its feature set is unimpressive and it only comes in one configuration, RAID 1 and 180 TB raw/80 TB usable. If you want any more storage that means a second XIV; if you want less, that means you get a fully populated XIV and you will only be licensed for the amount you are using. This makes for completely weird economics. No matter how much storage you want, you get 180 TB raw. You want 20 TB, no problem, you get 180 disks. Want 5 TB, they can meet that requirement as well although it requires 180 disks!

I have no idea what IBM is doing with this launch, but in my opinion, IBM has made a big blunder. When announcing a product, you either have to be fully committed with all resources behind or hold off. This half-baked launch where they only announced it in EMEA only is just plain odd and it leaves everyone, myself included, wondering what is really going on. From a product standpoint, I think that they probably encountered more challenges than originally expected and so were forced to delay the launch of the fully functional XIV. Why they launched the half-baked version in Europe is beyond me…

Categories
D2D Deduplication Virtual Tape

Tape is not dead!

I am amazed when I hear some vendors aggressively promote that tape is dead. It seems that hyping the demise of tape is in vogue these days and the reality is quite different. Even so,  there is no stopping them from sharing their message with anyone who will listen. If you ask large enterprises, many of them are looking at alternatives to tape, but telling them that tape is completely dead and that they should rip out all tape hardware is ludicrous. Ironically, this is the approach of some deduplication vendors.  Jon Toigo states this succinctly in his blog.

The problem with tape is that it has become the whipping boy in many IT shops.
Courtesy: Drunken Data

The simple reality is that tape has been an important component of data protection for years and is likely to maintain a role far into the future. The reader should remember that in today’s highly regulated environments, companies often face strict requirements about data retention. For example, medical institutions can face some of the most stringent requirements:

HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, in effect since 2003 or 2004 depending on the size of the organization, requires confidentiality of patient records on paper and sets retention periods for some kinds of medical information, regardless of media. These retention requirements can stretch from birth to 21 years of age for pediatric records, or beyond the lifetime of the patient for other medical records.
Courtesy: Directory M

With this in mind, let’s look at the evolution of tape:

Categories
Deduplication Restore

Deduplication and restore performance redux

A week ago, I wrote an article highlighting how deduplication can impact restore performance and the difference between forward and reverse referencing. Many people are not familiar with these two deduplication technologies and their importance.  SEPATON is the only vendor to implement forward referencing technology in a large scale enterprise appliance and it is important to understand why we did that.

Lauren Whitehouse from the Enterprise Strategy Group posted an article on a similar topic on Searchstorage.com on 8/11/08. It is gratifying to know that I am not the only one focused on the importance of deduplication and restore performance!

Categories
Backup Restore Virtual Tape

Rube Goldberg reborn as a VTL

I have fond memories from my childhood of Rube Goldberg contraptions. I was always amazed at how he would creatively use common elements to implement these crazy machines. By using every day items for complicated contraptions, he made even the simplest process look incredibly complex and difficult. But that was the beauty of it, no one would ever use the devices in practice, but it was the whimsical and complex nature of his drawings that made them so fun to look it.

Rube Goldberg Definition
Image courtesy of rubegoldberg.com

It is the in the context of Rube Goldberg that I find myself thinking about the EMC DL3D 4000 virtual tape library. Like, Goldberg, EMC has taken an approach to VTL and deduplication that revolves around adding complexity to what should be a relatively simple process. Unfortunately, I don’t think that customers will treat the solution with the same whimsical and fun perspective as they did with Goldberg’s machines.

You may think that this is just sour grapes from an EMC competitor, but I am not the only one questioning the approach. Many industry analysts and backup administrators are confused and left scratching their heads just like this author. Why the confusion? Let me explain.

Categories
Deduplication Restore

Deduplication and restore performance

One of the hidden landmines of deduplication is its impact on restore performance. Most vendors gloss over this issue in their quest to sell bigger and faster systems. Credit goes to Scott from EMC who acknowledged that restore performance declines on deduplicated data in the DL3D. We have seen other similar solutions suffer restore performance degradation of greater than 60% over time. Remember, the whole point of backing up is to restore when/if necessary. If you are evaluating deduplication solutions, you must consider several questions.

  1. What are the implications to your business on the decreasing restore performance?
  2. What is it about deduplication technology that hurts restore performance?
  3. Can you reduce the impact on restore performance?
  4. Is there a solution that does not have this limitation?
Categories
Backup Deduplication Restore

DL3D Discussion

There is an interesting discussion on The Backup Blog related to deduplication and EMC’s DL3D. The conversation relates to performance and the two participants are W. Curtis Preston the author of the Mr. Backup Blog and the The Backup Blog’s author, Scott from EMC.  Here are some excerpts that I find particularly interesting with my commentary included. (Note that I am directly quoting Scott below.)

VTL performance is 2,200 MB/sec native. We can actually do a fair bit better than that…. 1,600 MB/sec with hardware compression enabled (and most people do enable it for capacity benefits.)

The 2200 MB/sec is not new, it is what EMC specifies on their datasheet; however, it is interesting that performance declines with hardware compression. The hardware compression card must be a performance bottleneck. Is the reduction in performance of 28% meaningful? It depends on the environment and is certainly worth noting especially for datacenters where backup and restore performance are the primary concern.