Kill it with fire, it is a disaster.

Ask your friends who don’t work in IT infrastructure if they think what we do is exciting. If you’re like me you aren’t friends with this type of muggle. So try asking the parents of your kids friends. I’m pretty sure that they would rate our working world of IT infrastructure as dull. So it’s nice when we get to see something a little more exciting, like destroying things with thermite. A few of these normal people will be Mythbusters fans and may have seen burning Thermite cut a car in half and explode on contact with ice. But have they seen a storage device destroyed with Thermite? We have, first DeepStorage destroyed a node in a Gridstore cluster and last month Datto destroyed a NAS. OK, I know it’s no James Bond stunt but it is better than a PowerPoint presentation, even a little better than a whiteboard.


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Challenges of Deduplicated Storage

I am continuing my series of blog posts that are inspired by listening to SimpliVity’s story while I was on a speaking tour with them. Almost everything in these post is generically about deduplicated primary storage rather than specifically about SimpliVity. So far I’ve mostly looked at the upside of deduplicated storage, it’s about time I looked at some challenges. Some design challenges are around metadata management and write latency. There are also operational challenges around the meaning of available capacity. And challenges when you migrate off a deduplicated storage platform that is full. Continue reading

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The Case for Camels


When it comes to efficiently conveying information we often use shortened forms of words or phrases. Stay with me. Sometimes we need to name an object without using spaces. As an example, I might create a VM that is my “production web server number 3 in my Auckland datacentre”. That name is rather long. Since VMs are often stored in folders with the same name there could be a nasty folder name. Naming that VM in a shorter form would make a lot of sense, maybe prodweb03akl. Now I have a short folder name with no white space. So far I’m sure you are all on the same page and wondering what my point is.

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Array Offloaded VM Cloning

I’m continuing with my thoughts about deduplicated storage for VMs and how it is different and requires different thinking. Today I will look at cloning VMs and some thoughts. In particular how other data efficient cloning technologies work compared to deduplication.

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If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Manage It!


The above quote is attributed to both Peter Drucker and Edward Demming although it appears that neither actually said it. Even so it is a driver for a lot of what operations teams do in IT. Measure and record everything in case we need the information to manage something later. A whole swathe of management products exist to gather measurements into large piles of data and let you see what has happened. Most of these products will let you know when something happened, whether it’s a breach of a static threshold or a departure from “normal” status. This sort of massive data crunching is what computers are great for, a lot of data in and a little analytics out. Then a human must decide what to do with the analyzed data. These products are an open loop, they just measure and report.

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Deduplicated VM Cloning and Backup

I mentioned earlier that I’d been thinking a lot about the consequences of using a deduplicated store for holding live VMs. This thinking came from hearing the SimpliVity pitch quite a few times and also hearing the questions that came from the audience. To be clear this isn’t something that has to be unique to SimpliVity and SimpliVity did not ask me to write this post.


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Hyperconverged like you just don’t care

Living in a small city, in a small country, I see a lot of small businesses. These customers will never have a virtualisation specialist on their staff, they barely have an IT specialist. These same customers find that their IT needs have grown beyond a single Windows server and some desktops. Some sort of virtualisation is going to be important for these customers, just as it is for enterprise customers.


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Not quite hyperconverged Backup

Why do backup products not come integrated into the storage that they require? Pretty much every backup product that you deploy wants a disk target to write to. That disk target has an x86 CPU in it and the backup software could run on that CPU. This is one thing Rubrik have done. Their product is a hybrid storage array that also runs their backup software. This backup array is a deduplicated scale out storage appliance, using SuperMicro Twin hardware it puts a four node cluster in 2U. A basic 3 node configuration should backup around 200 VMs, about 100TB of backup capacity. For scale more of these units can be added, apparently without practical limits to how many units.

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New PluralSight module

One of the things I like about the PluralSight subscription model is that it is easy to add content to a course. Both for me to write the additional content but also for students to consume additional content.
This week a new module has been added to my Horizon View 6.0 New Features course. The new module is all about the enhancements in View 6.1. The new module was also a chance to dig into hardware 3D video. An area that I didn’t already cover in the course.
I plan to add at least one more module to the course, matybe more if there are areas that need more coverage.
The new module is available here on the site, go ahead and watch when you’re ready.

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Out of Band. When all else fails, no midnight drive

Sometimes it is not the cost of having something that is important. Sometimes the cost of not having is far greater.
Back in the dim and distant past I was a server support engineer. Once a month I would have my week of being on call for the organization. A global company with around 5,000 staff in the UK where I lived at the time. Every week I would get the midnight call to deal with a hung server in a remote office. One particular server would hang every <REDACTED> week. The problem was that this server had no remote management capability. The business unit who bought it saved $500 by not buying the card. So at 1 am I would get in my car and drive an hour to the office, an office I never visited during daylight. Once there security would escort me to the datacenter and I’d power cycle the server. Then I’d drive an hour home and go back to bed. Lots of other servers might hang during the week. Most of them had ILO or DRAC or RSA cards that allowed me to reset them without leaving home. Paying me overtime (lucky contractor) to reset this one server cost the company $200 per month for two years, all to save $500.


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