The Elastifile Cross-Cloud Data Fabric
May01

The Elastifile Cross-Cloud Data Fabric

Tuesday 18 april 2017, Patrick van Helden, Director of Solution Architecture at Elastifile was at Metis IT to tell about Elastifile. We had the chance to try a real-life deployment of the Elastifile software.

Elastifile is a relative new name in the storage area. Since this month, the company is out of stealth and has presented its Elastifile Cloud File System. The company is founded in 2013 in Israel by three founders with a strong background in the virtualization and storage industry. In three funding rounds the product raised $58 Million. In the last round $15M came directly from Cisco. Other investors in Elastifile are leading flash Storage vendors and Enterprise Cloud Vendors.

What is Elastifile?

The goal of the founders is to have a storage platform that is able to run any application, on any environment, at any location. Whereby any location means really any location: Cloud or on premise. The product is developed to run with the same characteristics in these environments. Therefor Elastifile wrote from scratch a POSIX compliant filesystem that supports file, block and object oriented workloads and is optimized for flash devices. You can store your documents, user shares, VMware VMDK files, but also use it for big data applications, all stored on the same Elastifile Cloud File System.

But what is the difference with a NetApp storage for example? A NetApp system can also provide you the same capabilities and is already doing this for years. The first thing in which Elastifile’s approach is different than NetApp, is the way the product is written. It’s written for high performance and low latency. Elastifile only supports flash devices and the software knows how to handle the different types of flash devices to get the best performance and extend the lifetime of flash devices. Furthermore, ElastiFile is linearly scalable and can be combined with compute (Hyperconverged Solutions).

Another difference is that the Elastifile Cloud File System can run inside a (public) cloud environment and connect this to your own on premise environment. The problem with (public) cloud environment is that it gives you not the same predictable performance as in your on-premise environment. The Elastifile Cloud File System have a dynamic data path to handle noisy and fluctuating environments like the cloud. Due to this dynamic path Elastifile can run with high-performance and most important with low latency in cloud-like environments.

Deployment models

Elastifile’s Cloud File System can be deployed in three different deployment models:

  • HCI
  • Dedicated Storage mode
  • In-Cloud

The first deployment model is HCI, where the Elastifile software runs on top of a hypervisor. Now, Elastifile supports only VMware, additional hypervisors will be added in future releases. You can compare this deployment with many other HCI vendors, but when connecting and combining the HCI deployment model with one of the other deployment options it gives you more flexibility and capabilities. Most other HCI vendors only support a small set of certified hardware configurations, wherein Elastifile supports a broad range of hardware configurations.

The second and in my opinion the most interesting deployment model is the dedicated storage mode deployment. In this model, the Elastifile software is directly installed on servers with flash devices. Together they create the Elastifile distributed storage. With this deployment model, it is possible to connect hypervisors directly to these storage nodes using NFS (and in the future SMB3), but also connect bare-metal servers with Linux, Oracle or even container based workloads to this same storage pool.

As we already discussed earlier the latest deployment is the In-Cloud deployment. Elastifile can run In-Cloud in one of the big public cloud providers but is not limited to public clouds. Elastifile can also run in other clouds as long it delivers flash based storage as infrastructure. The Elastifile can use the storage to build its distributed low-latency cloud file system.

When combining these three models you get a Cloud ready file system with high performance, low latency and a lot of flexibility and possible use-cases.

Use-cases

HCI file services

A great use-case for the Elastifile Cloud File System is that you can decouple the operating system and application from the actual data of the application in a HCI deployment. You can use the Elastifile Cloud File System to mount a VM directly to the storage and bypass the hypervisor. And because the Elastifile Cloud File System is a POSIX filesystem it can store millions of files with deep file structures.

Linear scalable in cloud-like environments

A second use-case for the Elastifile Cloud File system is that the performance with any deployment of Elastifile delivers a predictable low-latency performance. When expanding the Elastifile nodes each node will add the same performance as any other node. When adding additional storage, you’re also adding additional storage controllers to the cluster. This result in a linear scalable solution even in cloud-like environments.

Flash tiering

The last use-case of the Elastifile is that it could automatically move files on the filesystem to another tier of flash storage. This could be a cheaper type of flash or a less performing type of flash storage, for example consumer grade SSD’s. Movement will be based on policies. The Elastifile software can further offload cold data to a cheaper type of storage, like a S3 storage. This can be a cloud based S3 storage, but can also be an on premise S3 storage.

The future

How the future will look like is always difficult to say, but from all what I already tried is this a very promising first version of the Elastifile Cross-Cloud Data Fabric. In the session with Patrick, I deployed the software myself and Patrick showed us the performance on these deployed nodes without any problems. The idea’s around the product are great and on the roadmap, you find the most important capabilities which are needed to make it a real mature storage product.

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Nutanix Licensing Mayhem!?!?!
May03

Nutanix Licensing Mayhem!?!?!

A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar in which a Nutanix competitor stated that the Nutanix Licensing was a really hard nut to crack. I immediatly went to the Nutanix licensing site to see what was so difficult about it but couldn’t explain why someone would find it so hard to figure out the Nutanix Licensing.

The Acropolis editions

So let’s see how the Nutanix Licensing is done, and start with Acropolis:

Nutanix Acropolis is a powerful scale-out data fabric for storage, compute and virtualization. Acropolis combines feature-rich software-defined storage with built-in virtualization in a turnkey hyperconverged infrastructure solution that can run any application at any scale.

Well get back on the Acropolis licensing details shortly 😀

And on the other hand Nutanix Prism:

Nutanix Prism gives administrators a simple and elegant way to manage virtual environments. Powered by advanced data analytics and heuristics, Prism simplifies and streamlines common workflows within a datacenter eliminating the need to have disparate management solutions.

So after we know the different versions of Acropolis and Prism let’s dive into the differences between the Acropolis Starter, Pro and Ultimate editions:

The first difference between the three can be Storage side of things and is clearly stated on the Nutanix Website:

So if you need more then 12 hosts in a cluster or Deduplication, Compression or Erasure coding you’ll need at least Pro, if you need some of your workloads to be pinned on flash you’ll have to switch over to Ultimate. Easy as that on the storage side, let’s continue.

The next one in the Nutanix list is Infrastructure Resilience:

In this case it is even easier, if you need enclosure or rack awereness Starter is a NoNo. You’ll need to decide on other features (like storage) if you need to go to Pro or Ultimate.

Next please 😀 That will be Data Protection:

So you need Cloud Connect or Time Stream? Move to Pro, if you want Multi Site DR, Metro Availability or Sync Replicatie and DR you’ll need to go to Ultimate, if you don’t need all of these services, you’ll do just fine with starter…

No hard nuts for me until now, but we’re not there so let’s continue:

The one thing everybody seems to be talking about these days is security, and that’s also the next on the Nutanix list:

Just need Client Authentication? Go for Starter. Also need Cluster Lockdown?:

Cluster Shield, which allows administrators to restrict access to a Nutanix cluster in security-conscious environments, such as government facilities and healthcare provider systems. Cluster Shield disables interactive shell logins automatically.

Go to Pro and if you also need Data-at-Rest encryption please continue to Ultimate 😉

The next “hard nut” to crack, would be Management & Analytics. But for me it’s another easy comparison between what is in the licensing offer:

What is important for our Prism comparison is that every Acropolis edition already offers the Prism Starter edition. We don’t really need to look at that one than, so we’ll concentrate on Pro if we get there 😀 For Management and Analytics it is kind of easy again, because if you need Rest API’s you’ll need Pro or Ultimate, otherwise you could do with Starter. But again, it depends on the other features in these licensing deals if you can choose the Starter/Pro or Ultimate.

The last one would be Virtualization, but there is difference between the three on this:

That’s all for the Acropolis site of things, and to be honest I didn’t find any hard nuts to crack. The list is very clear, and based on the business and technical requirements it should be able to choose the flavor you need.

The Prism editions

So it must be in the Prism site of things than. Let’s see how difficult this Prism thingy really is.
For the people that payed attention, I already told that all Acropolis editions included the Prism Starter edition so we can concentrate on Pro.

Just to make clear on what is in both of them:

It’s not that hard to make your choice if you ask me, but let’s explain what Prism Pro offers more than the already included Starter:

  • Prism search is an integrated google-like search experience that will help you query and perform actions with a single click
  • Customizable Operations Dashboard is a Visually rich dashboards that give actionable summary of applications, virtual machines and infrastructure state at-a-glance.
  • Capacity Behavior Analytics is a Predictive analysis of capacity usage and trends based on workload behavior enabling pay-as-you-grow scaling
  • Capacity Optimization Advisor is an Infrastructure optimization recommendations to improve efficiency and performance

So if you need one of these features you’ll need to buy the Prism Pro license.

Conclusion

It is one thing to bash your competitors and I know they all do this, including Nutanix themselves, but if you want to say something about your competitors, please make sure to know what you’re talking about. In this case (and in my “humble” opinion) the statement about the Nutanix Licensing being a hard nut to crack is really based on nothing.

The Nutanix licensing is very clear in what the licensing does and does not include and it’s up to you to create clear requirements about the environment on which you can than base you choice for the Acropolis and Prism edition you’ll need.

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SimpliVity announcements
Apr05

SimpliVity announcements

This is a cross post from my Metis IT blogpost, which you can find here.

Today, April 5, 2016, SimpliVity announced new capabilities of the OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform. The announcement consists of three subjects:

  • OmniStack 3.5
  • OmniView
  • Hyper-V

Omnistack 3.5

This new version is the first major update of this year and I hope there will come more updates. The latest major release, version 3.0, was in the early second half of 2015. SimpliVity say this new version will deliver new capabilities optimized for large, mission-critical and global enterprise deployments. Besides improvements to the code, this release will add three new main capabilities to the OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform.

Stretched Clusters

The first improvement in the OmniStack software is the ability to create multi-node stretched clusters. In the current versions it is only possible to create a stretched cluster with a total of 2 nodes divided over two sites. This limit is now increased and supported by default. With a stretched cluster it will be possible to achieve a RPO of zero and a RTO of seconds.

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Intelligent Workload Optimizer

The second new capability is the Intelligent Workload Optimizer. SimpliVity will use a multi-dimensional approach to balance the workload over the platform. The balancing will be based on CPU, Memory, I/O performance and Data Location. This will result in less data migrations and a greater virtual machine improvement.

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REST API

And the last new capability in the OmniStack Software is the REST API. In version 3.5 it will be possible to use the REST API to manage the SimpliVity data virtualization platform. It was already possible to integrate with VMware vRealize Automation but now it will be a lot easier to integrate with third-party management portals and applications.

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OmniView

OmniView Predictive Insight tool is the second part of the announcement. OmniView is a web-based tool that gives custom visualization of an entire SimpliVity deployment. It can give predictive analytics and trends within a SimpliVity environment and helps to plan future grow. The tool can also help to investigate and troubleshoot issues within the environment. OmniView will be available for Mission-Critical-level support customers and approved partners.

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Hyper-V

The last part of the announcement is support for Hyper-V. The OmniStack Data Virtualization platform will be extended to this platform to give customers more choice. SimpliVity will support mixed and dedicated Hyper-V environments with the release of Windows Server 2016. Planning and timing about the availability is aligned to the release of Microsoft Windows Server 2016.

 

Conclusion

The announcement is a great step in the right direction and I think just-in-time. For me the most important part of the announcement is the announcement of version 3.5 and more specifically the support for stretched clusters. In more and more large European organizations stretched cluster support is a requirement nowadays and SimpliVity will now have the ability to support this. Also the REST API will help to integrate SimpliVity in an existing ecosystem of a customer.

The OmniView Predictive Insight tool will give customers insight to their SimpliVity environment and provide predictive analytics and forecasts. In the current 3.0 version it was only possible to get some statistics about the storage but now you will have a self-learning system which customers can use to improve their environment.

The Hyper-V support announcement is also a long-awaited one. Now we only have to wait till Microsoft will release Windows Server 2016 to use this feature.

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Cisco HyperFlex: A new HCI solution
Mar29

Cisco HyperFlex: A new HCI solution

This is a cross post from my Metis IT blogpost, which you can find here.

After teasing the market with a photo containing three servers, the word Hyper and some blank puzzle pieces, Cisco announced their own Hyper-converged Solution: Cisco HyperFlex. This solution is an extension of Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). Until now the UCS platform portfolio did not contain a native Cisco storage solution. Finally Cisco entered the highly competitive Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) market with HyperFlex.

The Cisco HyperFlex solution combines compute, storage and the network in one appliance. Cisco says the solution is unique in three ways: flexible scaling, continuous data optimization and an integrated network. All other HCI vendors do Hyper-converged with compute, storage and networking, but none of these have a complete integrated network solution. As expected of a former networking only company, Cisco also integrated the network.

The platform is built on existing UCS components and a new storage component. The servers used in the solution are based on the existing Cisco UCS product line. Networking is based on the Cisco UCS Fabric interconnects. The new storage component in Cisco’s platform is called the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform, which is based on Springpath technology.

Springpath HALO and Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform

Springpath was founded in 2012 and Cisco co-invested the start-up. Springpath has developed its own data platform using HALO (Hardware Agnostic Log-structured Object) architecture. The HALO architecture offers a flexible platform with data distribution, caching, persistence and optimization. Cisco has re-branded this to the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform.

All data on the Cisco HX Data platform is distributed over the cluster. Data optimization takes place by using inline de-duplication and compression. Cisco indicates most customers should reach 20-30% capacity reduction with de-duplication and another 30-50% with compression without any performance impact.

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VMware and Cisco HyperFlex

First the HyperFlex solution will only be available with the VMware hypervisor using NFS as storage protocol. A Data Platform Controller for communication with the physical hardware will be used for the HyperFlex platform. This Data Platform Controller requires a dedicated number of processor cores and dedicated amount of memory. The controller integrates the HX Data Platform with the use of two preinstalled VMware ESXi vSphere Installation Bundles (VIBs): IO Visor and VAAI. IO Visor provides a NFS mount point and VAAI offloads file system operations.

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Management

The HyperFlex storage is managed with a vCenter plug-in. There are currently no details available about the layout and functionality of this plug-in. We expect the plugin will be the same as Springpath with Cisco branding.

The physical server and network is managed like any other Cisco UCS server. Each server will be connected to the Fabric Interconnect and managed from the UCS manager interface.

Cisco HyperFlex range

The HyperFlex platform is available in three different models, an 1U and 2U rack based server and a combination of rack servers with blade servers. The first model is for a small footprint, the 2U model is for maximal capacity and the last option is for maximal capacity and high compute.

All configurations must be ordered with a minimum of four servers. As far as we know at this stage the maximum number of servers in a HyperFlex cluster is eight. Each server will be delivered with VMware pre-installed.

The hardware configuration of the HyperFlex nodes is not fixed. You can choose your type of processor, amount of memory and the amount of disks. On the Cisco Build & Price website all available configuration options can be found. You can always scale your cluster by adding storage and/or compute nodes.

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Licensing

Cisco has an interesting licensing model for the HyperFlex HX Data Platform. The HX Data Platform will be licensed on a per year basis. In the configuration tool by default a server is configured with a license for one year. This licensing model deviates from other HCI vendors who base their license model on raw or used TB’s, or use a perpetual license.

Conclusion

Cisco is a new and interesting player in the rapidly growing Hyper-converged market. The technology used provides some nice features, capabilities and an interesting licensing model. Time will tell if the product will be successful and what the roadmap will bring for the future. But at first sight it looks like a good alternative for the leading Hyper-converged solutions.

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The day before #VeeamOn2015
Oct27

The day before #VeeamOn2015

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So after a long day of travel on sunday (Amsterdam-Detroit and Detroit-Las Vegas) I arrived in Las Vegas late in the evening and fell into a deep sleep as soon as I hit the rather large bed in the Aria Resort and Casino, where the #VeeamOn2015 is held. I really like the venue in the way that it is an awesome resort where everything you need is in the same building(s) and if you need something it’s just a short 5 minute (or a little longer) walk. A esbig surprise was waiting for me when I entered the room and found a great gift (See picture). I actually had a discussion in the plane with the dutch guy (Ikea filmcrew) about this awesome headphones.. So a big thanks Veeam!

Monday at VeeamOn2015

So on monday after a good night sleep I went to the conference location to pick up my pass as well as a backpack and meet with a couple of guys. As I’m a foreigner with a big jetlag I decided to really take it easy this (Partner)day, and give myself the time to adjust.

I did went to the Grand opening of the Expo Lounge, to meet with peers and enjoy some great food and drinks. Always great to meet with people like Vladan Seget (blog: ESX Virtualization), Andrea Mauro (blog: vInfrastructure) and Joep Piscaer (blog: VirtualLifeStyle). Those three guys are all Veeam Vanguards and if you don’t know what that is, my suggestion is that you start reading more about this program here.

#VeeamON

#VeeamON2015

Evening in Vegas

In the evening I decided to make the best of my time here in Sincity and did a walk over the strip to see the fountains, take pictures of all the crazy stuff in this town, before heading to my room to do a Skype call with the homefront and get a (not so) good night sleep.

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Day 1 of VeeamOn2015 is already started and I’ll be writing another blogpost on that asap Open-mouthed smile

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Techunplugged is coming soon
Apr16

Techunplugged is coming soon

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Next week I’ll fly to London to attent the Techunplugged event created by Enrico Signoretti. I do admire what Enrico is achieving and it is awesome to so see all the effort he’s putting into these events to serve the community. I would highly recommend you to join us next week in London if you’re in the neighbourhood or have the opportunity to join.

Looking at the agenda it is going to be a very enjoyable and leaningfull day in which you’ll be able to ask your questions, listen to the experts and talk with them face to face.

With a great line-up of sponsors who’ll tell their story. With companies like PernixData, Zerto, Cloudian, Load DynamiX and Zadara Storage you’ll know you’ll join the beer party J with a head full of knowledge. But wait hearing from these companies alone would be awesome, but there is much more.

Enrico made sure to invite a couple of great guys (Gurus) from the industry to do a couple of great presentations and roundtables. People like Enrico Signoretti, Chris M Evans, Stephen Foskett, Hans DeLeenheer, Nigel Poulton and Martin Glassborow should ring a bell if you work in the industry, and they will all have a great story to tell…

So if you haven’t already, make sure to join us next week in London and make sure to reserve your FREE seat!

More information and registration at techunplugged.io

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