Integrated storage hardware is DEAD, software firm says
It's the food and the service that count, not the plates
VMworld Nexenta, the ZFS-based storage software company, is successfully avoiding becoming a storage hardware supplier - although that could make life easier. But it believes hardware storage companies are doomed in the long run.
The future is open storage software running in servers that abstracts and commoditises storage hardware. The future is apparently not storage hardware-based suppliers; especially not startups like Pure Storage, who have "the wrong model" according to Nexenta sales VP Jonathan Ash.
Ash said at a briefing in VMWorld Barcelona that Nexenta had just closed its third quarter, "our best quarter ever," and added many new customers, like the CIA and the FBI. The company is sharing a stand with STEC, with Ash saying: "80 per cent of our customers use SSDs and STEC has great ZeusIOPS SSDS."
He added that Nexenta works with Intel and OCZ too in the SSD area, emphasising that Nexenta is hardware-independent.
Nexenta's partners building all-SSD appliances can do 1.1 and 1.2 million IOPS, Ash said. "We can outdo Pure; we're both faster and cheaper. … Commodity hardware plus Nexenta software beats Pure."
He said Nexenta hadn't raised a ton of money, like Pure and other storage hardware startups, although it did raise $21 million a while ago: "because we're very capital-efficient."
Could Nexenta be a hardware supplier?
"Yes, it would make it much easier," says Ash, as the company has to have a ton of different suppliers' hardware in its labs for certification. "[But] If we did we'd be the same as Pure and I don't see any benefit in that … We believe the ability to move from one hardware vendor to another is good; it's our differentiator."
An all-flash storage hardware vendor like Pure could well say that it gets better performance, reliability and longevity from its flash than software suppliers using third-party SSDs can. Ash would simply reply that partner kit using Nexenta software is faster and cheaper than Pure so …?
Anyway, "Pure is trying to make another EMC. It's the wrong model."
Nexenta, it says, needs hardware suppliers as resellers and OEMs; it just doesn't want to be one. Biz dev veep Jim Fitzgerald said that Nexenta goes to the market with SGI and Dell for example.
Ash chimed in: "We've just done a 3PB deal with Dell in Japan."
The relationship with Dell, both men claimed, is getting stronger - even as Dell extends its NAS head strategy to add NAS access to its Compellent arrays.
Fitzgerald told reporters that Nexenta is working with Cisco on a fully integrated stack with VMware. In this, Nexenta software runs as a VM, a virtual storage appliance on a UCS blade, using its SSDs, and writes back to a C Series server with 100TB of disk. There is a VMware View deployment tool involved as well, cutting 150 View steps down to a few clicks.
What's clear is that Nexenta is growing fast on the basis of its partners being able to build systems using its software with commodity hardware that can be faster and cheaper than offerings from EMC, NetApp, Pure and Whiptail to name just a few. Other customers perceive that as risky and are very happy buying the integrated systems.
Like DataCore, Nexenta is a surviving, prospering and growing software supplier with - it would say - a best of breed product, and you can't knock success.
Whether it's right to say storage hardware companies will fall away is another matter. ®
So everything is going to be stored in thin air is it ?
So, who is going to manufacture the storage devices the servers need to implement the "cloud" ?
Oh, of course, they can store their data in "the cloud" too can't they!
Along with the servers which their "cloud" provider use.., And so on....
Hmmm.. Someone somewhere has to keep making some kind of physical bit storage device, unless they really can now store data in fluffy looking white coalesced raindrops up in the sky, along with the pie up there in "the cloud" .....
Re: So everything is going to be stored in thin air is it ?
Did I read the article ? Yes of course so I'm not sure what you are saying here. The implication I got is that there is a perception that companies making storage hardware might fail because of use of the cloud and similar setups. But an individual's or company's gigabyte of data, won't be stored in raindrops, but will still need to be on a physical hard drive (or other mass storage device) located somewhere on the planet, hopefully well backed up too, So someone somewhere will still have to make those storage devices. Let's hope too, that these "cloud" companies using that hardware can and will take better care of that individual's gigabyte, than will the owner of that data who saved it in the "cloud" for a "rainy day" goodness knows where and hoped the "cloud" company never went bust until that day came.
Let's also hope that internet companies connections become much faster, more reliable, and they stop whinging about data download "fair" useage otherwise the "cloud" will become a a bit of an unusable joke.
Undoubtedly there could in the distant future be less demand for enormous hard drives in home and corporate user's computers, with all the unused space often on them, but I think we are a long way off, at least here in the UK. Perhaps this perceived lack of demand for hard drives will cause server farm storage to be rather more expensive making the clould less attractive ?
In the mean time I'll keep my gigabytes locally on my own hardware and back it up myself if its all the same to anyone. It's the only way I can be certain it's really safe and secure. I wouldn't blame anyone else for taking a similar approach either.
Simplicity and reliability
Note Nexenta said they were faster and cheaper than pure storage. They also acknowledged that being an appliance vendor is easier. There's been a few other software-based storage folks over the years but it seems more often than not they go the appliance route. One of the driving reasons is stability. Stability driven by intensive testing done on known hardware/software and certification. The wider you make this list the more difficult it is to support properly(without a massive organization). Very quickly I believe it becomes more cost effective to go the appliance route and devote that $$ used to test a wide range of stuff to support the rest of the stack instead.
I'm a Nexenta customer (very tiny setup - I would not trust them with too much important stuff myself but it's a rounding error in this case) and I still haven't seen good evidence that they are in a position to support ZFS over the longer term now that ZFS is dead as a technology in Oracle's eyes (Oracle still use it I'm sure in their engineered systems and on their own commercial Solaris - I'm referring more to 3rd party use of it). I know they've hired a bunch of ex-Sun people.
The technology has potential from a features standpoint, though the sheer number of features really makes me worry whether or not they are in a position to properly maintain it, storage is really complicated.
The UI for example, if I go in and make a change to the snapshot configuration with the UI I can literally be waiting for 45-60+ minutes for the UI to respond, because each time it refreshes it has to iterate through each and every snapshot on the system individually. It's infuriating. The first few times I saw this I feared the entire system failed, because you can't even login to a 2nd management session it just hangs. A recent version of software they added the ability to "cache" results from these commands for a time but that's really not good enough, because it means at least once I have to wait for upwards of an hour or more for the UI to respond before it's cached. Just one example, fortunately a relatively minor one as it is about the UI.
It's obvious why Nexenta are popular, all these 2-bit VARs and resellers are frothing at the mouth to be able to offer something at a fraction of the cost of other platforms. Some customers are the same way. But of course you do often get what you pay for.
I was just having some drinks last night with a guy who left another mid range storage hardware company, they sell quite a bit, but even them with a company that built their own hardware in house, has an almost non existent support structure and can leave customers hanging for days with degraded/failed systems and they just don't care. I'm surprised they are still around with things like that. Apparently there is traditionally massive turnover in the organization as well. They too are "cheap", well cheapER, another interesting thing is the systems were not intended for 24x7 operation, but are sold as such anyways. At least one other guy that I know who works there hates it there as well, but they pay him well, so he can look past the rest of the issues for now.
I wish Nexenta luck, I feel they are biting off way more than they can chew, especially given the growth.
(my original post was about 4 pages but I decided to remove that stuff, too much to read and less relevant)