Geo Replication in Hybrid Cloud Storage
Last Sunday Gretchen and I were cruising Hwy 1 south of Half Moon Bay looking for migrating whales and loving the splendor of this coastline when we came across this group of kite boarders at Waddell Creek. As you can see, it was a windy day and the boarders were catching great waves and getting pretty good air. The beginning of the video shows one pretty good flight that was close to shore. The video was taken with my Windows 8 Phone - a Nokia 820 - and has an audio track made with Sony Acid Studio.
David Isenberg wrote his famous and controversial paper, The Rise of the Stupid Network in 1997. Its a short and historically interesting read. If you have never read it, follow the link there now. It will take you less than 10 minutes. If you want the Cliff notes version, the gist of his paper is copied below:
A new network "philosophy and architecture," is replacing the vision of an Intelligent Network. The vision is one in which the public communications network would be engineered for "always-on" use, not intermittence and scarcity. It would be engineered for intelligence at the end-user's device, not in the network. And the network would be engineered simply to "Deliver the Bits, Stupid," not for fancy network routing or "smart" number translation.
Fundamentally, it would be a Stupid Network.
I've thought about corollaries in storage for many years. Networks and storage are much different. Storage is much more tightly coupled with data management in a way that networks will never be. Data management takes intelligence to make sure everything gets put in its optimal place where it can be accessed again complying with corporate governance, legal requirements and workers expectations. Networks don't really have these sorts of long-term consequences and so apples to apples comparisons aren't very useful.
But that doesn't mean there wouldn't be ways to eliminate unnecessary aspects of storage and lower costs enormously. As soon as data protection and management could be done without needing specialized storage equipment to do the job, that equipment would be eliminated. Cloud storage changes things radically for the storage industry, especially inventions like StorSimple's cloud-integrated storage (CiS) and a solution like Microsoft's hybrid cloud storage. But StorSimple was a startup and Microsoft isn't a storage company and so it wouldn't start becoming obvious that sweeping changes were underfoot until a major storage vendor came along to make it happen.
That's where EMC's ViPR software comes in. EMC refers to it as software-defined storage, which was predictable, but necessary for them. FWIW, Greg Schulz does a great job going through what was announced on his StorageIO blog.
One of the things ViPR does is provide an out-of-band virtualization layer that Greg's blog describes that opens the door to using less-expensive, stupid storage and protecting the data on it with some other global, intelligent system. This sort of design has never been very successful and it will be interesting to see if EMC can make it work this time.
The aspects of ViPR that are most interesting are its cloud elements - those that are expected initially and those that have been strongly hinted at, including:
If EMC wants their technology to run on the cloud, and it's clear they do, they needed all three of these things. For instance, consider remote replication to the cloud - how would the data replicated to the cloud be stored in the cloud? To a piece of hardware? No. Using storage network/device commands? No. To what target? The backend to a hypothetical EMC VSA in the cloud uses object storage services and cloud APIs. There is no other way to do it. They could have a VSA that uses iSCSI to a facility like EBS, but that would be like putting the contents of a container ship on rowboats. So, a VSA that accesses object storage services using cloud APIs is the only way. It is a clear signal that ViPR will be their version of CiS. They probably won't call it that, but that's beside the point.
The important thing is what happens to data protection after ViPR is made fully cloud-capable? Once you start using cloud services for data protection, there are a few things that immediately become obvious:
Those are all things that hybrid cloud storage from Microsoft does today by the way, but that's beside the point too. What's interesting is what will happen to EMC's sizeable data protection business - how will that be converted to cloud solutions and what value can they add that enhances cloud storage services? The technologies they have available for hybrid cloud data protection are already mostly in place and there will undoubtedly be a transformation for Data Domain products in the years to come, but these are the sorts of things they need to figure out over time.
It's going to be a slow transition for the storage industry, but EMC has done what it usually does - it made the first bold move and is laying the groundwork for what's to come. It will be interesting to watch how the rest of the storage industry responds.
I am genuinely excited by the surprising news this morning about Dell's acquisition of Enstratius. I don't have any first hand knowledge of the deal or Enstratius' technology, but the company has an excellent reputation and its CTO George Reese has been providing excellent, provocative thought leadership about cloud computing for a long time. Congratulations to both Dell and Enstratius for making this milestone decision.
What I know is that Enstratius develops cloud management technology that allows customers to manage cloud installations that span cloud boundaries, whether those clouds are private or public. They have built up a broad list of cloud partners that includes Windows Azure, Rackspace, AWS and others, which undoubtedly made them compelling to a company like Dell that wants to give their customers a lot of viable options. Giving customers management tools that span different cloud vendors is great for customers who are concerned about being locked in by one of the major cloud platforms. In the long run, it will make all cloud service providers work harder to attract and keep customers - and that competitive drivers make better industries and markets. Putting the technology within Dell should make it much more broadly available, assuming Dell will invest more in Enstratius. I suspect Dell will want to accelerate the business they acquired, just as Microsoft is accelerating our StorSimple business. It's a great recipe for success - these kinds of deals can work extremely well, something I have witnessed first hand a couple of times in my career. It's not that Enstratius couldn't have grown themselves over time, but this acquisition will compress that time by a few years.
I believe this deal is considered to be strategic for Dell - something they can build a business around - as opposed to kind of deal that fills a spot in the company's product line. That should be energizing for the people at Enstratius, who will find themselves travelling even more than they were previously - something they might not think is possible. Get ready George, you just went worldwide in a way that is difficult to imagine.
Last week Pivotal came out of stealth mode and announced themselves to the world. It got a fair amount of attention because Paul Maritz is the guy there and because the company is being built on jettisoned technology assets that had been previously acquired by EMC and VMware. It was also interesting that General Electric was involved by making an investment in the company. Today it was reported that VMware was also selling off WaveMaker, but not to Pivotal, which begs the question - why not? I suspect it's because the ROI for VMware is deemed to be better selling it to somebody else as opposed to adding another ingredient to Pivotal's melting pot.
The question you always need to ask about any new venture is when it is going to start making money and how much of it they will be able to make and how they are going to take their products and services to market. Pivotal is no exception, unless you include the fact that they have a lot of overhead in people trying put all these disparate pieces together. Some see the amassed talent as great talent, but a CFO sees it as a whopping huge payroll that isn't being offset by anything right now. There are no existing product lines to leverage and there isn't even a new product line that can carry the company through it's development efforts. In other words, it's a science project made of plausible components that could possibly work.
So I'm sticking my neck out, but not very far, by saying I don't think there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Pivotal. Just because there are a lot of smart people, it doesn't mean there is a business. You may ask "What about GE, doesn't their endorsement mean something?" Yes, it certainly does. GE is making a big push to be a software company that tackles large scale data processing for various verticals they have a vested interest in such as health care (those Hugo Weaving ads are fantastic), manufacturing, energy and others I can't think of right now. Getting visibility for their business is probably well worth the effort and I'm not talking about publicity. As an investor in Pivotal they will get to see more technology from more ecosystem companies than they might have otherwise. It's a good move for a company that wants to increase its software business.
I could be wrong, but that's how I see it.