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Reality is persistent

I see quite a few posts about this storage or that it is going to change everything or has changed everything. And yet, I see little real evidence that storage usage is really changing for many.  So why is this? 

Let’s take on some of the received wisdom that seems to be percolating around. 

Object Storage can displace block and file?

It depends; replacing block with object is somewhat hard. You can’t really get the performance out of it; you will struggle with the APIs especially to drive performance for random operations and partial updates.

Replacing file with object is somewhat easier, most unstructured data could happily be stored as object and it is. It’s an object called a file. I wonder how many applications even using S3  APIs treat Object Storage anything other than a file-store, how many use some of the extended metadata capabilities? 

In many organisations; what we want is cheaper block and file. If we can fake this by putting a gateway device in front of Object Storage; that’s what we will do. The Object vendors have woken up to this and that is what they are doing. 

But if a vendor can do ‘native’ file with some of the availability advantages of a well-written erasure coding scheme at a compelling price point, we won’t care.

And when I can boot from Object me.   

All new developers are Object Storage aficionados?

I’m afraid from my limited sample size; I find this is rarely the case. Most seem to want to interact with file-systems or databases for their persistence layer. Now the nature of the databases that they want interact with is changing with more becoming comfortable with NoSQL databases.

Most applications just don’t produce enough data to warrant any kind of persistence layer that requires Object or even any kind of persistence layer at all.  

Developers rarely care about what their storage is; they just want it to be there and work according to their needs. 

Technology X will replace Technology Y

Only if Technology Y does not continue to develop and only if Technology X has a really good economic advantage. I do see a time when NAND could replace rotational rust for all primary storage but for secondary and tertiary storage; we might still be a way off. 

It also turns out that many people have a really over-inflated idea about how many IOPs their application need; there appears to be a real machismo about claiming that you need 1000s of IOPS…when our monitoring shows that someone could write with a quill pen and still fulfil the requirement. Latency does turn out to be important; when you do your 10 IOPS, you want it to be quick. 

Storage is either free or really cheap?

An individual gigabyte is basically free; a thousand of these is pretty cheap but a billion gigabytes is starting to get a little pricey.

A Terabyte is not a lot of storage? 

In my real life, I get to see a lot of people who request a terabyte of storage for a server because hell, even their laptop has this amount of storage. But for many servers, a terabyte is a huge amount of storage..many applications just don’t have this level of requirement for persistent data. A terabyte is still a really large database for many applications; unless the application developers haven’t bother to write a clean-up process.

Software-Defined is Cheaper? 

Buy a calculator and factor in your true costs. Work out what compromises you might have to make and then work out what that is worth to you. 

Google/Amazon do it, so we can too?

You could but is it really your core business? Don’t try to compete with the web-scale companies unless you are one..focus on providing your business with the service it requires. 

Storage Administration is dead?

It changed, you should change too but there is still a role for people who want to manage the persistent data-layer in all it’s forms. It’s no longer storage…it’s persistence.

Mine is the only reality?

I really hope not…





Something’s missing?

Yes, I know…I’m getting very lazy about blogging; I’m still not sure if the industry is boring me or simply exasperating me so much that I cannot be bothered to vent my spleen any more. I suspect that it is a bit of both! This should be an interesting year for the industry with the mergers, takeovers and companies simply thrashing around trying to reinvent themselves. So apart from life still being somewhat stressful, I amuse myself trying to get my home-office perfectly set-up. I might even put up pictures once I have done so!!

Anyway the recent announcements from companies large and small around All Flash Arrays has temporarily pricked me awake; hopefully at some point soon, the All Flash Array Announcment will no longer be a thing, it’ll just be another array announcement. Flash will eventually subsume rotational rust as the primary storage medium of choice for all workloads; well until the next big thing comes along. Opinion as to when this is does vary from pundit to purveyeor but it is going to happen.

That time is not here though and perhaps it is still worth considering the best use of our storage capacity and how to get the most from it. And it seems that some vendors don’t really want to help us poor customers in this space.

If you ship an AFA variant of existing array and you either add new features that aren’t supported on the exisiting variant across all tiers of storage be it flash or rotational rust or vice versa; I want good architectural reasons as to why you can’t do so. Compression for example works very well on both traditional disk and flash; in-line deduplication is harder, so you might get a pass on the latter but not the former. If you want to try to convince me that your expensive Flash tier is actually as cheap as the traditional tier you also ship; you are going to have work extra hard to do so when competing with vendors who can actually enable features across all of their tiers.

I shall leave it to the reader’s imagination as to which vendor might be attempting to play this game.

A Slight Return

I intend to start updating here again occasionally as the itches begin to build up again and I feel the need to scratch. There’s a lot going in the industry and there’s a massive amount of confusion about where it’s going at the moment.

I’m having interesting conversations with industry figures, many of them are as confused privately as they are sure publicly. Few seem to know exactly how this all plays out and not just storage guys.

I had a conversation a couple of days ago that put the electricity supply model for compute back on the radar; the technology enablers are beginning to line up to make this much more feasible but is the will/desire there? This debate will carry on until we wake up and realise that it’s all changed again.

Flash and trash is still fascinating; vendors still playing games with pricing and comparisons that make little sense. Valuations out of control (maybe) and yet quite possibly we can see the time when flash does become the standard as the prices continue to fall and storage requirements continue to soar.

And a lastly, a big thanks to all those have offered support, prayers, kind thoughts to me over the past few months. It does help..watching people you love go through chemo isn’t fun but it does help reset your priorities a bit.

Service Temporarily Suspended…

Apologies for very infrequent updates!

Unfortunately life has somewhat got in the way and I really don’t have the energy to blog at present! So I’m taking a little bit of a break…certainly over the summer, should we have one!

Hopefully normal service will be renewed at some point towards the end of the year!

So vendors….make hay whilst the sun shines!

Another Year In Bits…

So as another year draws to a close, it appears that everything in the storage industry is still pretty much as it was. There have been no really seismic shifts in the industry yet. Perhaps next year?

The Flash start-ups still continue to make plenty of noise and fizz about their products and growth. Lots of promises about performance and consolidation opportunities, however the focus on performance is throwing up some interesting stuff. It turns out that when you start to measure performance properly; you begin to find that in many cases that the assumed IOP requirements for many workloads isn’t actually there. I know of a few companies who have started down the flash route only to discover that they didn’t anything like the IOPs that they’d thought and with a little bit of planning and understanding, they could make a little flash go an awful long way. In fact, 15K disks would probably have done the job from a performance point of view. Performance isn’t a product and I wish some vendors would remember this.

Object Storage still flounders with an understanding or use case problem; the people who really need Object Storage currently, really do need it but they tend to be really large players and there are not a lot of them. All of the Object Storage companies can point at some really big installs but you will rarely come across the installs; there is a market, it is growing but not at a stellar rate at moment.

Object Storage Gateways are becoming more common and there is certainly a growing requirement; I think as they become common and perhaps simply a feature of a NAS device, this will drive the use of Object Storage until it hits a critical mass and there will be more application support for Object Storage natively. HSM and ILM may finally happen in a big way; probably not to tape but to an Object Store (although Spectralogic are doing great work in bringing Object and Tape together).

The big arrays from the major vendors continue to attract premium costs; the addiction to high margins in this space continues. The usability and manageability has improved significantly but the premium you pay cannot really continue. I get the feeling that some vendors are simply using these to fund their transition to a different model; lets hope that this transition doesn’t take so long that they get brushed away.

The transition to a software dominated model is causing vendors some real internal and cultural issues; they are so addicted to the current costing models that they risk alienating their customers. If software+commodity hardware turns out to be more expensive than buying a premium hardware array; customers may purchase neither and find a different way of doing things.

The cost of storage in the Cloud, both for consumers and corporates continues to fall; it continues to trend ever closer to zero as the Cloud price war continues. You have to wonder when Amazon will give it up as Google and Microsoft fight over the space. Yet for the really large users of storage, trending to zero is still too expensive for us to put stuff in the Cloud; I’m not even sure free is cheap enough yet.

The virtualisation space continues to be dominated by the reality of VMware and promise of OpenStack. If we look at industry noise, OpenStack is going to be the big player; any event that mentions OpenStack gets booked up and sells out but the reality is that the great majority are still looking to VMware for their virtualisation solution. OpenStack is not a direct replacement for VMware and architectural work will needed in your data-centre and with your installed applications but we do see VMware architectures that could be easily and more effectively replaced with OpenStack. But quite simply, OpenStack is still pretty hard-work and hard-pushed infrastructure teams aren’t well positioned currently to take advantage of it.

And almost all virtualisation initiatives are driven and focussed on the wrong people; the server-side is easy…the storage and especially the changes to the network are much harder and require signfiicantly more change. It’s time for the Storage and Network folks to gang-up and get their teams fully involved in virtualisation initiatives. If you are running a virtualisation initiative and you haven’t got your storage and network teams engaged, you are missing a trick.

There’s a lot bubbling in the Storage Industry but it all still feels the same currently. Every year I expect something to throw everything up in the air and it is ripe for major disruption but the dominant players still are dominant. Will the disruption be technology or perhaps it’ll be a mega-merger?

Can I take this chance to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Fantastic New Year…

New Service Offering…

I like sales people and marketeers; they are often nice, genuine and good people….mostly!


I’ve got a new service to offer; if you think that you’ve invented a new product sector, a new market, a new concept…email me and we’ll arrange a call.

If you can convince me that you’ve invented a completely new concept; the call is free and I’ll even write a blog on it but I won’t pimp your product. If I call ‘Bullsh*t’, you buy me something off my Amazon wishlist and I won’t laugh at you in public!

And I’ll give you a starter…if your new concept is Anything Defined Anything….it’s ‘Bullsh*t…total and utter crap…’!


Five Years On (part 2)

Looking back over the last five years; what has changed in the storage industry?

Well, there have certainly been a few structural changes; the wannabes, the could-bes, theyve mostly disappeared through acquisition or general collapse. The big players are still the big players; EMC, HDS, HP, IBM and NetApp still pretty much dominate the industry.

And their core products are pretty much the same at present; there’s been little revolution and a bit of evolution but the array in the data-centre today doesn’t yet feel much different from the array from five years ago.

Five years ago I was banging on about how useless ECC was and how poor the storage management tools are in general. The most used storage management tool was Excel. That was five years ago and as it was then, so it is today. No-one has yet produced a great storage management tool to enable the management of these ever growing estates.

Yet, there has been a massive improvement in the storage administration tools; anyone with a modicum of storage knowledge should be able to configure almost any array these days. Yes, you will be working at the GUI but I can take an IBM storage admin and point them at an EMC array, they will be able to carve it up and present storage.

Utilisation figures for storage still tend to be challenging; there is a great deal of wastage as I have blogged about recently. Some of this is poor user behaviour and some is poor marketing behaviour in that there is no way way to use what has been sold effectively.

So pretty much nothing has changed then?


Apart from the impact of SSD and Flash on the market; the massive number of start-ups focused on this sector…

Oh…and scale-out; Scale-Out is the new Scale-Up…Go Wide or Go Home..

Oh..then there’s virtualisation; the impact of virtualisation on the storage estate has been huge…

And then there’s that thing called Cloud which no-one can grasp and means different things to everyone..

And then there’s the impact of Amazon and their storage technologies..

And Big Data and the ever exploding growth of data collected and the ever hyperbolic hype-cycle.

So nothing’s really changed whilst everything has.


Five Years On (part 1)

Today is the fifth anniversary of the Storagebod Blog; I’d blogged a bit before and I had started commenting on various storage blogs but nearly all of the storage blogs and indeed enterprise technology blogs in general were vendor-focused and were pushing the agenda of the vendor. The voice of the ‘user’ was mostly missing…and so Storagebod was born.

Like many things, there was a itch followed by a scratch and possibly then with a bit of blood.

At the time that I started this blog; the vendors were very much in the mode of tearing lumps out of each other on their blogs. They spent more time talking and shouting at each other than actually listening to their customers and focusing on that. Now the blogs have mellowed, in fact many of them have fossilised and others unfortunately are just pure marketing. And still they seem spend more time talking to themselves, telling themselves how great they are, even if mostly they try not to tell us how poor their competitors are…so that’s progress?

There are still some good blogs out there; generally written by people who don’t have marketing or social in their job titles but the golden age of vendor blogging, if there was one, seems to have gone. If your company has a policy around social marketing; it’ll probably kill off the voices that should be heard.

Of course, there’s me and Chris Evans plugging away independently; there’s a few others as well but we could really do with more. I know plenty of you reading this disagree with much of what I write; I only have to read the comments on the syndicated ‘El Reg’ version of the blog and I thank all of my commenters but perhaps some of you might want to give this blogging a go yourself. Hey, if you want to put your toe in the water, drop me an email, leave me a comment and I’ll put up a guest entry.

But I’d also like to see a reboot of the vendor blogs; I’d like to see people write about things they feel passionately about, not just regurgitate the message that marketing have given them. If you work in marketing or social and you see something written that you don’t like; the first reaction should not be to try and get that person on-message; try to work out why that person is off-message and then whether it is legitimate. If it is full of inaccuracies, if it is leaking the companies secrets and if it is going to do the company serious harm; then have a discussion but you need to be aware that many of us really respect the nay-sayers and the outliers in your companies. At times we will be doing business with you because of that respect and it says a lot about a company’s culture if it embraces that openness.

Don’t turn your staff into something that resembles the village of Midwich.

Me, I’ll carry on what I’m doing; I’ll keep throwing bricks and sometimes bouquets. If I think the Emperor’s got no clothes…I’ll be the little boy who points at him and laughs.

But mostly, I’ll keep on doing this because it’s a lot of fun!!


Storage is Interesting…

A fellow blogger has a habit of referring to storage as snorage and I suspect that is the attitude of many. What’s so interesting about storage, it’s just that place that you keep your stuff? And many years ago as an entry level systems programmer; there were two teams that I was never going to join…one being the test team and the other being the storage team, because they were boring. Recently I have run both a test team and a storage team and enjoyed the experience immensely.

So why do I keep doing storage? Well, firstly I have little choice but to stick to infrastructure; I’m a pretty lousy programmer and it seems that I can do less damage in infrastructure. If you ever received more cheque-books in the post from a certain retail bank, I can only apologise.

But storage is cool; firstly it’s BIG and EXPENSIVE; who doesn’t like raising orders for millions? It is also so much more than that place where you store your stuff; you have to get it back for starters. I think that people are beginning to realise that storage might be a little more complex than first thought; a few years ago , the average home user only really worried about how much disk that they had but the introduction of SSDs into the consumer market has hammered home how the type of storage matters and the impact it can have on the user experience.

Spinning rust platters keep getting bigger but for many, this just means that the amount of free-disk keeps increasing, the increase in speed is what people really want. Instant changes things.

So even in the consumer market; storage is taking on a multi-dimensional personality; it scales both in capacity but also in speed. In the Enterprise; things are more interesting.

Capacity is obvious; how much space do you need? Performance? Well, performance is more complex and has more facets than most realise. Are you interested in IOPs? Are you interested in throughput? Are you interested in aggregate throughput or single stream? Are you dealing with large or small files? Large or small blocks? Random or sequential?

Now for 80% of use-cases; you can probably get away with taking a balanced approach and just allocating storage from a general purpose pool. But 20% of your applications are going to need something different and that is where it gets interesting.

Most of the time when I have conversations with application teams or vendors; when I ask the question as to what type of storage that they require, the answer comes back is generally fast. There then follows a conversation as to what fast means and whether the budget meets their desire to be fast.

If we move to ‘Software Defined Storage’, this could be a lot more complex than people think. Application developers may well have to really understand how their applications store data and how they interact with the infrastructure that they live on. If you pick the wrong pool,  your application performance could drop through the floor or the wrong availability level, you experience a massive outage.

So if you thought storage was snorage; most developers and people still do, you might want to start taking an interest. If infrastructure becomes code; I may need to get better a coding but some of you are going to have to get better at infrastructure. Move beyond fast and large and understand the subtleties; it is interesting…I promise you!

A New Job – for you maybe?

Although it is no great secret as to who my employer is; I’m sure you can all use Google and LinkedIn, I very rarely post about the specifics of my job. It does influence what I write about obviously but often less than you might think.

This post however is entirely linked to my employer. I have a vacancy in my team and perhaps someone reading this might be interested in coming to work for me. The job advert is here and very good it is too; well, I wrote most of it. However perhaps you might want some more detail.

My storage team provides support and delivery expertise for storage in our Broadcast Technology group. A mixture of delivery, support, some design and general madness will make up your day. Tasks vary from the very mundane; from bar-coding tapes and loading libraries to placating users to the planning of installation of new storage devices to scripting to sitting through vendor powerpoints and trying not to laugh too hard; with all points in between as well.

We use a mixture of traditional storage and some more esoteric stuff; so you may find yourself  upgrading a NetApp filer one-day; adding clients to a TSM server the next; working with the server and network teams to work out why GPFS is misbehaving the next.

At times, you will find yourself on the bleeding edge and doing things that few have done before. Answering big questions like how you build a grow-forever archive and little questions as to how to restore from said archive.

You will get frustrated at both the pace of change but also at times, why does it take so long to adopt some technologies? But you will get to do some cool stuff and when you turn the TV on, you can smile and take pleasure in the fact that you helped put those pictures on the screen.

You can see the technologies I’m interested in in the advert. But more important is attitude and aptitude. You need to want to learn and you must bring a sense of fun and enjoyment with you.

If you’ve got any questions…ask below or work out my email address.

And NO AGENCIES please!

And just in case you missed it…click here