14 entries categorized "data integrity"

May 22, 2012

5.005: who said it couldn't be done?

They said "it" couldn't be done. They said nobody else's array could do "it" – that only their array architecture could handle "it." They said all kinds of things about how "it" was going to bring the demise of Symmetrix, because Symmetrix would never do "it." Even if we could do “it,” they said we wouldn’t – but they said we can’t. 

But they were wrong. VERY wrong.

Today EMC announced "it" is now available on VMAX. And then EMC went one better than they ever imagined – EMC took "it" further than they have been able to, even after all the (8+) years they have been shipping "it."

And of course, they will try to undermine the fact that they now have DIRECT competition from another array vendor who has implemented "it" - highlighting the history of EMC bashing "it", as if that matters any more. As I have noted before, being "first" is only important until there is a second - then all that matters is which implementation is better. And so they will childishly act like first means best perpetually.

Have you guess what "it" is yet?

More importantly, do you know who “they” are?


Read on to see what they never expected…and should have feared...

Continue reading "5.005: who said it couldn't be done?" »


October 05, 2011

4.008: truth or d@re

Data @ Rest EncryptionBack in December 2010, EMC’s Enterprise Storage Division (ESD) released a major new software update for VMAX, embodied as Enginuity 5875. Among the more than 50 new features was  the Data at Rest Encryption feature (which we internally abbreviate as “D@RE”). And then back in May, we updated D@RE with support for RSA’s external key manager as a complement to the embedded RSA key manager in the original release.

Admittedly, Data at Rest Encryption is a feature that is offered by very few storage platforms – it is almost exclusively found only on enterprise-class arrays, in fact. And of all the implementations, Symmetrix VMAX’s D@RE implementation is highly differentiated – a breed apart from would-be competitors (as is FAST VP, VMAX’s automated storage tiering implementation, but that’s not today’s story).

Separating VMAX D@RE from everyone else  are features such as:

  • Support for any and all drive types supported by VMAX. Where some other implementations are limited to offering encryption only on special drives with built-in encryption, VMAX D@RE encrypts all the data on all the Flash EFD drives, enterprise 10K and 15K HDDs, and 7200rpm “slow-spin” HDDs;
  • imageA unique key for each and every drive in the system. With up to 2400 unique keys in a full-blown VMAX, the life of a crypto-criminal is much more difficult, especially as compared to competitive offerings that support a max of 31 keys for the entire array (the more data protected by a single key, the easier it is to find the key);
  • Complete and transparent data at rest encryption for any and all hosts, applications and storage services, including Virtual Provisioning, FAST VP, SRDF, TimeFinder, VAAI, etc.
  • Automated assignment of unique keys to every replacement drive and rekeying of data as the drives are rebuilt;
  • Virtually undetectable performance overhead for either encryption or decryption (see chart at right);
  • The ability to remove the keys from the array altogether when physically relocating the array as added protection against the accidental or malicious loss of the array (or drives) during the move. Deliver the array and the keys to the new locale separately, and restart the array without delay after the two are reunited.

To my knowledge, no other enterprise storage array offers all of these native capabilities of VMAX D@RE.

Arguable, I could stop there. But wait…

It gets BETTER!

Continue reading "4.008: truth or d@re" »


January 18, 2011

3.017: vmax 2011 edition - powerful. trusted. smartest.

image In the 20 months since its launch back in April of 2009, VMAX has literally redefined the storage landscape. Back then, EMC focused the messaging around how VMAX was purpose-built for the virtual data center, leveraging multi-core Intel technology to deliver a highly efficient and scalable modular and tiered enterprise storage platform. We introduced the new Virtual Matrix architecture, the first array built upon that architecture, and the first wave of automation that has simplified the whole deployment model of Symmetrix storage.

EMC also did a bit of a Babe Ruth at that launch – pointing to the bleachers where we intended to deliver, in two phases, the innovation of Fully Automated Storage Tiering. FAST v1 for VMAX began shipping just about a year ago.

On December 15th, 2010 the second phase of FAST began shipping, along with more than 50 other significant features and new products in what we now call Enginuity 5875. Included also were some new hardware updates to VMAX – a new native 10Gb Ethernet director for SRDF and iSCSI, plus a new VMAX engine that sports an encrypting back-end to support Data at Rest Encryption.

Today (January 18th, 2010), EMC publicly announces what is inarguably the largest set of new storage products ever to be simultaneously introduced on one day. With over 40 new products and scores of new features, today's launch truly lives up to its Record Breaker theme. (If by chance you've missed all the hype, there's still time to learn about it at the #EMCBreaksRecords web site.)

So, what's all the hype about? Well, for the full effect, you'll have to go see for yourself. But within the context of VMAX, there's lots of new things in this latest release of Enginuity 5875, and I thought I'd lead off my contribution to the launch day communications with a quick run through of the major ones…


Continue reading "3.017: vmax 2011 edition - powerful. trusted. smartest." »


July 16, 2010

3.008: shame on all of us


Sometimes we in the storage industry misbehave.

Sometimes Badly.

The most recent example surrounds the reports early this week about how a bank was unable to service its ATM customers as a result of a vendors' process mistake. Apparently an operator used an out-of-date procedure to execute a routine service operation during a planned outage and the result was an protracted unplanned outage. To their credit, the vendor publicly owned up to the mistake and is certainly taking steps to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

All fine and good, if we could have just left it there.

But no, it seems this is not to be the case. Sales reps from the vendor-at-fault's competitors are gleefully emailing these reports to every customer and prospect, in hopes of creating sufficient Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about the competitor in the minds of these potential sources of revenue. I personally have had over a dozen emails in my inbox linking to the reports.

I find this deplorable, childish behavior.

And yes, that is directed at folks from my own company as well as those from competitors.

Continue reading "3.008: shame on all of us" »


May 14, 2009

2.003: sgt. friday and the ibm flash competency debate

It appears that both Tony Pearson and Barry Whyte are wont to try to diffuse the debate I started in my ibm really really doesn't get flash post with yet more innuendo, misinformation and unsubstantiated fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD).

Which is all they can do, I guess, unless they are going to publicly explain in concrete terms why IBM is unable (or unwilling) to support the larger-capacity STEC ZeusIOPS drives in the DS8K that EMC has been shipping for Symmetrix since February 2009.

In the interest of those who really don't want to sift through the cruft to get to the reality behind the discussion, I outline for you here the simple facts of the debate:

  1. EMC is shipping today the two largest-capacity enterprise-class flash drives available in the market – the STEC ZeusIOPS 4Gb/s Fibre Channel SLC-based drives in 200GB and 400GB capacities.
  2. EMC refers to these drives as "Enterprise Flash Drives" (EFD) in recognition of their specific designs to support the availability and data integrity requirements of enterprise storage, and as opposed to the more common drives targeted at the server or laptop markets.
  3. IBM reports to be shipping today the STEC ZeusIOPS 4Gb/s Fibre Channel SLC-based drives in 73GB and 146GB capacities only.
  4. IBM calls its flash drives simply Solid State Drives (SSDs).
  5. EMC's 200GB EFD and IBM's 146GB SSD are the same physical STEC ZeusIOPS drive, with 256GB of internal SLC NAND flash – the only difference between the two is that the EMC version provides more usable capacity from the same amount of flash.
  6. EMC alone ships STEC's newest and largest ZeusIOPS 4GB/s FC drive with 512GB of SLC NAND, formatted for 400GB usable capacity.
  7. EMC's 400GB EFD further reduces customer cost per usable GB, enabling customers to get more than twice the usable capacity from the same number of drives as IBM's largest SSD, or to use fewer 400GB EFDs to meet their capacity targets and thereby enjoy not only lower acquisition costs vs. the IBM DS8K, but reduced power, cooling and space requirements as well.
  8. EMC asserts that the 200GB and 400GB formatting does not significantly reduce the practical life of either drive in any workload when used in EMC arrays, including pathological/artificial write-intensive workloads.
  9. EMC stands behind this assertion with the same replacement and service warranty as is offered for both Fibre Channel and SATA-based hard disk drives in EMC storage arrays.
  10. IBM has not yet explained publicly why it can not (or will not) offer similar capacities and the corollary cost savings on the DS8K.

Just the facts , ma'am.

This post is from the storage anarchist.


February 18, 2009

1.040: efd - what's in a name?

Giraffes Can't Dance, by Giles AndreaeIt seems that at least some of the Flash Dancers I called out in my last post are embarrassed to admit that their dance moves aren't all that awe-inspiring.

Other's seem intent on proving that they actually can't dance at all, like the Giraffes in Giles Andreae's book.

Or so it seems in the viral blogger war that's broken out over on one of NetApp's blogger's site (where else?).

At the root of the debate is EMC's use of the term "Enterprise Flash Drive," or EFD. Seems that representatives of at least two of the Flash Dancers (HP and, you-guessed-it, NetApp) have taken issue with this term, calling it a "new acronym" that proves that EMC "doesn't have a clue how to use flash technology at all."

This from a company that to date has delivered nothing flash-based to market other than a simple qualification of a third party solid-state storage device, and the as-yet-unfulfilled promise of a NAND-based PAM at some point in the future (as far as I can tell, they're only shipping DRAM-based PAMs to date).

Why am I not surprised? 

Because that's exactly what I meant about Flash Dancing – those that can't DO have to tap-dance around with competitor attacks and acrobatic misdirection to mask their inability to deliver.

But here's the thing – EMC didn't invent the term EFD as a marketing ploy. Nor did EMC bloggers all-of-a-sudden just start using it within the past couple of months.

No, the term has been used consistently since EMC's introduction of flash drive support back on January 14, 2008. In fact, my very first blog post on Flash drives described Enterprise Flash and EFDs.

Granted, that's before at least some of the anti-EMC attack squad were even participating in the blog-o-sphere, but that's hardly an excuse.

Given the confusion (and ruckus) that's spun up around the term, I thought I'd take a moment to explain what's behind EMC's intentional use of "EFD" instead of the more generic "SSD."

Continue reading "1.040: efd - what's in a name?" »


November 12, 2008

1.030: flash as cache - really?

Over the past week or so, Robin Harris, Chuck Hollis and Stephen Foskett each discussed the "appropriate" use of flash technology going forward. Chuck comes down pretty solidly in the "best as persistent storage" camp, while Robin seems more aligned with FusionIO and the "flash as cache" side of the argument, while Stephen seems content to accept that flash will appear at both the initiator and the target sides of the I/O conversation.

I myself tend to agree with Stephen.


(You know there's always a BUT! with me).

A few things have been nagging at me about this whole flash-as-cache discourse. The first is centered around the fact that it takes longer to WRITE a block to NAND flash than it does to READ it.

Question Unlike traditional SDRAM where reads and writes complete at the same speed, with NAND even if your flash controller is smart enough to asynchronously pre-erase blocks, it still takes longer to perform a write than a read. And if you take the time to verify the accuracy of the write, it gets even worse.

So my question is, since it takes longer to write than to read a NAND block, and every read hit required at least one prior write:

What read hit ratios and repetitive reads of a block
are required to overcome the NAND write penalty?

inquiring minds want to know...

Continue reading "1.030: flash as cache - really?" »


September 05, 2008

1.024: something you should know (about xiv)

Here in the States there is a radio show hosted by Mike Carruthers called "Something You Should Know." Each weekday on the show, which is broadcast by 150 radio stations across the most of mainland US, Mike interviews interesting people who have information about something you should know.

I think he needs to interview an IBM "Top Gun" customer service engineer soon.

Why? Because they know something that YOU should know -  something that IBM marketing, bloggers and your IBM XIV salesperson probably have been neglecting to discuss honestly with you.

It's the answer to this simple question:

"What happens if a second drive fails before my XIV array has completed rebuilding the first failed drive?"

Now, I'm sure that you've been told that the XIV can rebuild the data on a failed 1TB SATA drive in something like 20-30 minutes. And you probably understand that this makes for a very short window of opportunity that a second drive might fail on its own.

But the probability isn't zero - it can't be. Especially when you factor in human error (wrong drive pulled) or adjacent failures (a node dies). But let's not argue the math - let's just explore the results of such a double failure for the moment, irrespective of the probability.

And lest I be accused of spreading FUD, I won't even tell you the answer (until after the break).

Go call your IBM customer service engineer and ask him or her the question (I'd suggest not asking your sales rep - at least, not if you want an honest and complete answer). Note that you may have to ask specifically to speak with a "Top Gun" storage CSE - not all of IBM's service engineers have been trained on XIV service yet. But the Top Guns have.

You might want to be seated for the answer...the chairs are still available.


Continue reading "1.024: something you should know (about xiv)" »


September 04, 2008

1.023: it's just a flash-y science experiment

And now, my oft-requested take on the 1 Meellyun IOPS flash technology science experiment that IBM is promoting so heavily:

Way Cool. Applause

That's right - Barry Whyte and IBM's Almaden Lab team are to be congratulated for their accomplishment, as I actually did in the first comment to BarryW's boastful blog post on the event. This is indeed an important milestone on the road to wide-scale commercialization of solid-state persistent storage, even if it isn't an actual product announcement (IBM admits you can't buy their experimental configuration for at least 9-12 months).

its alive

Commendations all around...

But surely you don't think that's all I have to say now, do you...

Continue reading "1.023: it's just a flash-y science experiment" »


May 16, 2008

1.005.2 hitachi hits new lows (reposted)

Notice: I withdrew this post yesterday afternoon after receiving a challenge from a commenter who insisted that I was mixing up Hitachi's disk drive results with their storage array business. After carefully reviewing Hitachi's published results, I am convinced that the revenue growth numbers I used for Hitachi's storage business are correct (and exclude HGST). Therefore, I have reinstating my post intact, with the addition of a new "Hitachi Math" section (in blue) below.

Hitachi announced their earnings this past Tuesday (May 13th), and their Storage Solutions results (among others) were particularly gloomy. Not as bad as the free-fall in plasma TV sales in the US that they experienced, maybe, but dismal nonetheless.

In what is their fiscal Q4, once high-flying Hitachi only managed to eek out storage revenues that were down 1% from a year ago and down 3% from last quarter, while both EMC and IBM (if you include Tape) actually grew revenues double digits Y/Y in the same period. It marks a notably downward trend in Hitachi's Storage Solutions revenue growth over the past couple of years, as can be seen in this chart:

Y/Y Reported Storage Revenue Growth - EMC-IBM-Hitachi

And Hitachi's projections for the future was for even more revenue contraction for this quarter and next - shrinking perhaps another 5% before they expect a turn-around, they said.

more hitachi math

As I noted above, the above results were challenged yesterday with an assertion that the "decline" was due to HGST. Fact is, these numbers are taken directly from Hitachi's earnings supplement, where they report "Storage Solutions" (array hardware, software and services) separately from "Hard Disk Drives" (see the top of page 2).

You'll note that Hitachi reports by halves (wouldn't want to make it easy to figure quarterly results now, would you?) - but if you go back to last quarters' results, you can do the math to verify that their Storage Solutions revenues were up 2% Y/Y in FQ3'07 and down 1% Y/Y and 3% Q/Q in FQ4'07 - just like I said.

In researching the accuracy of the numbers used in the chart, I was also allowed to see a couple of financial analyst's reports that included additional revenue insights provided them by HDS executives. While I cannot reprint specifically what these analysts published, I must say that there is something that smells an awful lot like Hitachi Math in their reports. Perhaps they just misunderstood what the HDS execs told them, but the numbers the published in their reports simply don't add up.

More importantly, since HDS only sees revenues excluding Japan, their perspective undoubtedly skews any possible analysis - especially since it's not clear whether HP and/or Sun storage revenues are reported through HDS or if they go directly to Hitachi Ltd. (I'm pretty sure they go directly to Japan).

And if revenues really weren't shrinking, then why the heck would HDS execs be trying to spin the story with Wall Street in the first place?

Bottom line: Hitachi Headquarters reported (and documented) that FQ4'07 Storage Solutions (ex-hard disk) was down 3% Q/Q and down 1% Y/Y - just like I said.

And on top of declining revenues, word on the street is that morale in Hitachi's US field operations is at an all-time low. Nobody seems to know if morale is suffering from the recent out-sourcing of customer service, the collapsing of the former solution/consulting business with the former Hitachi Data Systems subsidiary, or the new Japanese management that are running the new US holding company now. Or maybe it's something else?

Given that the flagship USP-V is nearly a year old, it seems very odd that revenues would be shrinking at a time when the new system should be really starting to gain traction.

It all makes me wonder...

Continue reading "1.005.2 hitachi hits new lows (reposted)" »


March 08, 2008

0.070: horton hears a hu

Horton Hears a HuMy sides hurt.

I ended last week rotflmao!, thanks to IBM's Charlie Andrews and his creative response to flash-based solid state storage (tape, he said...TAPE!). At the time, I figured that nobody could top that for the flat-out wackiest statement of the year.

Apparently, I underestimated Hu Yoshida.

Not content with his first round of uninformed comments about flash SSDs, HDS' so-called "chief technology officer" piled on a few more layers of baloney in an interview with IT Week UK's Dave Bailey:

IT Week:
What are your views on Flash memory storage, which EMC recently announced it would be putting onto its DMX systems?
There are a number of problems with Flash memory. First, the price, which can be up to 20 times as much as spinning disks. Secondly, there’s supplier viability – there’s only a few vendors of this technology at the minute. You’ve also got to remember that Flash disks have a rewrite limitation and we need to have some diagnostics to predict when that limit could occur. For hard disks, we have self-monitoring analysis and reporting technology (Smart), but there’s nothing like that for Flash disks. What happens if you’re in the middle of a financial transaction and a write failure occurs, after a write commit? As for performance, just because it’s solid state doesn’t mean it would be any faster than a spinning disk. Remember all those interfaces between your application and the disk are slowing the data transfer rates, so it would be a good idea to benchmark your set-up.

What happens on a write failure, he asks?


OK, well, I almost PMP...

Wait, let me catch my breath...

Come on, he can't be serious...I mean, it's not like disk drives don't suffer from the occasional write failure, yet somehow we manage not to lose data. At least, EMC arrays manage not to lose data - with multiple layers of protection and recovery.

Can it be that Hu is really that out of touch with reality?


Continue reading "0.070: horton hears a hu" »


January 03, 2008

0.055: obligatory "ibm buys xiv" post

Well, I thought I'd wait a day and let the dust settle on this before I made any comments.

Turns out I saved myself a lot of redundant typing. Chuck Hollis covered much of what I would have said (albeit a bit more elegantly). I share his notion that IBM may be using a Web 2.0 smoke-screen to hide their real intent to use Nextra as either A): a response to DELL+EqualLogic and/or 3PAR; or B): as a replacement for the woefully under-funded (and near-dead) DS8000.

I also think there's a potential C): merge Nextra with SVC to solve SVC's emerging Rube-Goldberg scalability problems and get FlashCopy/Global Mirror compatibility onto a truly scalable platform. I guess that the lack of end-to-end data integrity protection is starting to tarnish the SVC image, with wholesale replacements and exorcisms being held on both sides of the pond (or so I've been told). But that's just me being me, I guess (and perhaps in a manner that's a bit more argumentative than Chuck would have written - I'm sure I'll be hearing from BarryW soon on that one).

Steve Duplessie and Mark Peters over at ESG did an good job of explaining what the Nextra is all about, and lends some credibility that this really might be all about Web 2.0 after all, given IBM's need to find a viable replacement for the now aging and somewhat archaic DR500 (tape is dead, haven't you guys heard yet?). But I don't think you really know what Nextra can really do until you actually hear what the current customers are doing with it, and it seems that all of them have lost their tongues for some odd reason. And for the record, I also think Steve's comments that this is probably at least as much about Moshe as it is about Nextra are right on.

At the very least, on his reputation alone Moshe will probably get IBM an audience with a few of those Wall Street IT shops that have banished Big Blue storage from their data centers because of all the incompatible product churn they've incurred since the days of RAMAC, Iceberg, Sharks and now the dead-end can-you-say-downtime DS8000's.

Not to be outdone, Fellow Blogger Tony Pearson took his own shot at explaining what he thinks is the revolutionary neat new technology in Nextra. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much understanding of the Centera architecture, so he mistakenly thinks is this all new. But heck, even though back before Christmas he was joining forces with TwoEgos in a premature wake for Centera, I'll give him a pass on the fact that Centera's been doing this exact type of blob striping and protection since day one (back at the beginning of 2002).

I'm feeling oddly benevolent to start this New Year for some reason...

Continue reading "0.055: obligatory "ibm buys xiv" post" »


September 19, 2007

0.036: data integrity and virtualized storage

Is your data really safe?

In what many think is a modern-day impression of Chicken Little, Robin Harris has been asking this question over on StorageMojo for quite a while. In his most recent blog post, he refuels his concerns using "evidence" presented in a Data Integrity research paper done by the folks at CERN.

I highly recommend you at least skim that document, as there are some interesting observations in it that could have far reaching ramifications in your own storage environment.

According to this paper, more than 3 of the MP3's or TiVo videos I have in my Terabyte Home are probably corrupted -and I might never know it!

Now Robin takes the 50,000 foot view of this, and comes to the conclusion that the world just may collapse soon if this data integrity issue isn't resolved. He even suggests that HEY! Shouldn't we be doing something NOW to avoid all this?

</sarcasm> (I leave it to the reader to figure where the opening tag belongs smile_wink)

Good news, Robin: some of us have already been solving this problem. Been doing so for years, in fact...  

Continue reading "0.036: data integrity and virtualized storage" »


June 26, 2007

0.013: customers say the darnedest things

Well, it's the last week of the quarter, and things around work are much like they probably are at virtually every product company on the planet - everybody is on-call to do whatever it takes to close business and get the products shipped in order to recognize the revenue this quarter. Even many of us in engineering will be called in to help close deals - we even have a slogan for this practice: "Everyone Makes Closing Calls" (that's the EMC "squared" version).

Down the road in Franklin and Apex and over the pond in Cork, at this time of the quarter EMC stands for "Empty Manufacturing's Closets," the goal being that everything is in the trucks (or lorries) and well down the road by midnight Saturday, with the manufacturing floors as barren as Old Mother Hubbard's cupboards.

Given this quarterly ritual, and next week's impending US Independence holiday, I expect the blog traffic to be relatively lighter this week than others. So I thought I'd have a little fun between briefings and con-calls and explore a few of the odder things I've heard from customers and prospects over the years.

Regarding the title of today's entry, many of you probably remember the similarly-titled children's show hosted by Bill Cosby back in the 90's. Many of you will also remember that it was Art Linkletter who first ran the concept as a segment on his CBS radio show back in the 1940's and later on his TV show (from 1952 through 1970). Fewer of you will actually remember the name of that show: it was "Art Linkletter's House Party."

There - the genealogy is documented. Now I don't want to see any folderol out in blog-land about who actually invented the darnedest things nor who stole them from Art. Especially not from a certain inebriated mis-information peddler. OK? smile_wink

Continue reading "0.013: customers say the darnedest things" »

anarchy cannot be moderated

the storage anarchist

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I am unabashedly an employee of EMC, but the opinions expressed here are entirely my own. I am a blogger who works at EMC, not an EMC blogger. This is my blog, and not EMC's. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by EMC and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of EMC.

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