Unofficial SNIA Malaysia Facebook group – You are invited!

Some of you might know that I am the incumbent SNIA Malaysia Chairman. But after doing my part for SNIA for the past 2 years, I wanted to step down in January 2012 and let some fresh new blood take over.

Unfortunately there were no takers for the position and both myself and my Vice-Chairman had decided to continue to run it for another year. It has not been easy because we volunteer for those positions. And I thank the good support from the SNIA folks in South Asia as well as the regulars who attend our meeting.

I can’t say that we are entirely successful in achieving good awareness about SNIA in Malaysia, and there is still a lot to do. But one thing I have always been very proud of was to start the *unofficial* SNIA Malaysia Facebook group. In the past 1 1/2 years, I have used it as a platform to share interesting things in this group, good or bad.

I felt that it is time I opened it up to a larger audience as the traffic on my blog has increased 2x in less than 6 months of its inception. It’s time to push the envelope and our limits in our generosity in sharing; testing our understanding in the areas of storage networking and data management; and notching it up a level to include international assessment.

I feel that this is the best way for us to improve ourselves, and participate globally with the best who are out there. I don’t claim to be an expert of things, and I am humbled by the many who supported me, us as SNIA Malaysia and my blog.

Since I am the admin of the FB group, you are welcomed to join us at http://www.facebook.com/groups/sniamalaysia/.

Please no spam. We are professionals who make mistakes and we want to help to spread the message that storage and data is very important.

So, join us by sending us a request, and please, please, give us your details and your background before we let you in. We want the Facebook group to be clean and professional.

Thank you

Not all SSDs are the same

Happy Lunar New Year! The Chinese around world has just ushered in the Year of the Water Dragon yesterday. To all my friends and family, and readers of my blog, I wish you a prosperous and auspicious Chinese New Year!

Over the holidays, I have been keeping up with the progress of Solid State Drives (SSDs). I am sure many of us are mesmerized by SSDs and the storage vendors are touting the best of SSDs have to offer. But let me tell you one thing – you are probably getting the least of what the best SSDs have to offer. You might be puzzled why I say things like this.

Let me share with a common sales pitch. Most (if not all) storage vendors will tout performance (usually IOPS) as the greatest benefits of SSDs. The performance numbers have to be compared to something, and that something is your regular spinning Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). The slowest SSDs in terms of IOPS is about 10-15x faster than the HDDs. A single SSD can at least churn 5,000 IOPS when compared to the fastest 15,000 RPM HDDs, which churns out about 200 IOPS (depending on HDD vendors). Therefore, the slowest SSDs can be 20-25x faster than the fastest HDDs, when measured in IOPS.

But the intent of this blogger is to share with you more about SSDs. There’s more to know because SSDs are not built the same. There are write-bias SSDs, read-bias SSDs; there are SLC (single level cell) and MLC (multi level cell) SSDs and so on. How do you differentiate them if Vendor A touts their SSDs and Vendor B touts their SSDs as well? You are not comparing SSDs and HDDs anymore. How do you know what questions to ask when they show you their performance statistics?

SNIA has recently released a set of methodology called “Solid State Storage (SSS) Performance Testing Specifications (PTS)” that helps customers evaluate and compare the SSD performance from a vendor-neutral perspective. There is also a whitepaper related to SSS PTS. This is something very important because we have to continue to educate the community about what is right and what is wrong.

In a recent webcast, the presenters from the SNIA SSS TWG (Technical Working Group) mentioned a few questions that I  think we as vendors and customers should think about when working with an SSD sales pitch. I thought I share them with you.

  • Was the performance testing done at the SSD device level or at the file system level?
  • Was the SSD pre-conditioned before the testing? If so, how?
  • Was the performance results taken at a steady state?
  • How much data was written during the testing?
  • Where was the data written to?
  • What data pattern was tested?
  • What was the test platform used to test the SSDs?
  • What hardware or software package(s) used for the testing?
  • Was the HBA bandwidth, queue depth and other parameters sufficient to test the SSDs?
  • What type of NAND Flash was used?
  • What is the target workload?
  • What was the percentage weight of the mix of Reads and Writes?
  • Are there warranty life design issue?

I thought that these questions were very relevant in understanding SSDs’ performance. And I also got to know that SSDs behave differently throughout the life stages of the device. From a performance point of view, there are 3 distinct performance life stages

  • Fresh out of the box (FOB)
  • Transition
  • Steady State

 

As you can see from the graph below, a SSD, fresh out of the box (FOB) displayed considerable performance numbers. Over a period of time (the graph shown minutes), it transitioned into a mezzanine stage of lower IOPS and finally, it normalized to the state called the Steady State. The Steady State is the desirable test range that will give the most accurate type of IOPS numbers. Therefore, it is important that your storage vendor’s performance numbers should be taken during this life stage.

Another consideration when understanding the SSDs’ performance numbers are what type of tests used? The test could be done at the file system level or at the device level. As shown in the diagram below, the test numbers could be taken from many different elements through the stack of the data path.

 

Performance for cached data would given impressive numbers but it is not accurate. File system performance will not be useful because the data travels through different layers, masking the true performance capability of the SSDs. Therefore, SNIA’s performance is based on a synthetic device level test to achieve consistency and a more accurate IOPS numbers.

There are many other factors used to determine the most relevant performance numbers. The SNIA PTS test has 4 main test suite that addresses different aspects of the SSD’s performance. They are:

  • Write Saturation test
  • Latency test
  • IOPS test
  • Throughput test

The SSS PTS would be able to reveal which is a better SSD. Here’s a sample report on latency.

Once again, it is important to know and not to take vendors’ numbers in verbatim. As the SSD market continue to grow, the responsibility lies on both side of the fence – the vendor and the customer.

 

2011 in review – my 100th blog entry

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,200 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

IDC Worldwide Storage Software QView 3Q11

I did not miss this when the IDC report of worldwide storage software for Q3 2011 was released a couple of weeks ago. I was just too busy to work on it until just now.

The IDC QView report covers 7 functional areas of storage software:

  • Data protection and recovery software
  • Storage replication software
  • Storage infrastructure software
  • Storage management software
  • Device management software
  • Data archiving software
  • File system software

All areas are growing and Q3 grew 9.7% when compared with the figures of 3Q2010. In the overall software market, EMC holds the top position at 24.5% followed by Symantec (15.3%) and IBM (14.0%). Here’s a table to show the overall standings of the storage software vendors.

 

In fact, EMC leads in 3 areas of storage infrastructure management, storage management and device management. But the fastest growing area is data archiving software with a pace of 12.2% following by storage and device management of 11.3%.

HP is not in the table, but IDC reported that the biggest growth is coming from HP with a 38.2% growth, boosted by its acquisition of 3PAR. Watch out for HP in the coming quarters. Also worthy of note is the rate Symantec has been experiencing. Their was only 2.2% and IBM, at #3, is catching up fast. I wonder what’s happening in Symantec having seeing them losing their lofty heights in recent years.

The storage software market is a USD$3.5 billion market and it is the market that storage vendors are placing more importance. This market will grow.

Hated GUI killing Ubuntu

OK, this is off-topic. Not my usual storage news but I thought I share this with you.

I am a Linux enthusiast. I play around with Linux – mostly Fedora and RedHat flavoured distros. For the past 2 years, one of the things I hated was the rise of Ubuntu. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t like the distro. Ubuntu, based on Debian, was the darling of the Linux desktop world. Perhaps I am a server guy but I just didn’t like Ubuntu. A few years ago, I won a Dell Latitude 2100 with Ubuntu pre-installed. I played around it with for a few days (hated it) and I decided to switch to Fedora 13 after that.

So, as Ubuntu’s star waned, I was piqued by the news. According to DistroWatch, which tracks popular Linux distros based on hits-per-day, Ubuntu is steadily on the decline. Here’s a look at the latest DistroWatch numbers of the top-10 Linux distros:

The decline is likely caused by Ubuntu Unity GUI, which replaced the likable GNOME/KDE interface in Ubuntu Natty Narwhal 11.04 version. The current version, Oneiric Ocelot 11.10, is taking a lot of hits of the wrong kind. It has dropped from the top spot and now down to #4.

Here’s a few screenshots of the Unity interface in Natty Narwhal.

 

I am pleasantly surprised that a GUI interface could cause so much harm to a Linux distro but judging by the number of haters out there, I guess the Unity GUI is killing Ubuntu’s popularity. Let’s see how Ubuntu will react in its version 12.04, Precise Pangolin.

The top distro is now Linux Mint, another Debian derivative. I have not tried Linux but I have been playing around with OpenSuSE 12.1. Not bad, buggy, but not bad.

I am still waiting to start my Fedora 16 download – 3.2GB baby over the Jaring SOMAport link. One day, but not today!

No more Huawei-Symantec

Huawei-Symantec is no more. Last night, Huawei, the China telecom giant has bought the remaining 49% of Symantec shares for USD530 million.

The joint venture was initially set up in 2007 to focus on 3S – Server, Storage and Security. With the consolidation under one owner, and one name, Huawei will continue to focus on the 3S. And since Huawei owns telco as well, a lot of the 3S solutions will come into play and it is likely that Huawei will become a cloud player as well.

Novell Filr product insight being arranged

Hello reader,

I can see that there are a lot of interests for the Novell Filr and let me assure you that I am already speaking with Novell to introduce this solution soon when it comes available next year.

I am hoping to get a front row seat and even better, be the first in Malaysia to test this product extensively. I can’t make any promises at this point but Novell Country Manager for Malaysia and South Asia will be in Australia this month to help get my enthusiasm across to their corporate people. (Fingers crossed).

I thank you for your support.

Thank you
/storagegaga 🙂

Atempo – 3 gals, 1 guy and 1 LB handbag

I have known Atempo for years and even contacted them once when I was in NetApp several years ago. I don’t know much about them until a friend recently took up the master resellership of Atempo here in Malaysia. And when people ask me “Atempo who?”, I would reply “3 gals, 1 guy and 1 LB handbag”.

Atempo, is a company that specializes in data protection and archiving solutions and has been around for almost 20 years. They compete with Symantec Netbackup, Commvault Simpana and Bakbone Netvault and I have seen their solutions. It’s pretty decent and with an attractive price as well. Perhaps they don’t market themselves as strongly as some the bigger data protection companies, but I would recommend to anyone, any day. If you need more information, contact me.

But the usual puzzled faces will soon go away once they start recognizing Atempo’s solutions because that is where my usual Atempo introduction comes from – their solutions.

Atempo has 5 key products

  • Time Navigator (TINA)
  • Live Navigator (LINA)
  • Atempo Digital Archive (ADA)
  • Atempo Digital Archive for Messaging (ADAM)
  • Live Backup (LB)
Wow, with a cool one like ADAM, 3 hotties in TINA, LINA and ADA, plus LV, err, I mean LB,what more can you ask for?So, before you get into kinky ideas (a foursome?), Atempo is attempting (pun intended ;-)), to take up of your mindshare when it comes to data backup and data archiving.
I am planning to find out more about Atempo in the coming months. Things have been hectic for me but my good buddy now the master reseller of Atempo in Malaysia will make sure that I focus on Atempo more.
Later – guy, gals and a nice handbag. 😀

Novell Filr (How do you pronounce this?)

I let you in on a little secret … I am a great admirer of Novell’s technology.

Ok, ok, they aren’t what they used to be anymore (remember the great heydays of Netware, ZenWorks and Groupwise?) And some of their business decisions didn’t make a lot of fans either. Some notable ones in recent years were the joint patent agreement with Microsoft (November 2006) and their ownership of Unix operating system rights. Though Novell did finally protected the Unix community by being the rightful owner of Unix OS rights, the negativity from the lawsuit and counter lawsuit between SCO and Novell soured the relationship with the faithfuls of Unix. In the end, they were acquired by Attachmate late last year.

However, I have been picking up bits of Novell technology knowledge for the past 3-4 years. Somehow, despite the negative perception that most people I know had about Novell, I strongly believe the ideas and thinking that goes into their solutions and products are smart and innovative.

So, when my buddy (and ex-housemate) of mine, Mr. Ong Tee Kok, the Country Manager of Novell Malaysia, asked me to evaluate a new solution from Novell (it’s not even been released yet), I jumped at the chance.

Novell will soon be announce a solution called Novell Filr. I really don’t know how to pronounce the name, but the concept of Novell Filr makes a lot of sense. I cannot say that it is disruptive but it is coming to meet the changing world of how users are storing and accessing their files and balancing it with the needs of enterprise file management and access.

Yes, Novell Filr is a file virtualization solution. It comes between the user and their files. Previously in a network attached environment, files are presented to the users via the typical file sharing protocols, CIFS for Windows and NFS for Unix/Linux. These protocols have been around for ages, with some recent advents in the last few years for SMB 2.0 and NFS version 4. However, the updates to these protocols address the greater needs of the organizations and the enterprise rather than the needs of the users.

And because of this, users have been flocking to cloud-centric solutions out there such as DropBox, Box.net and Windows Live SkyDrive. These solutions cater to the needs of the users wanting to access their files anywhere, with any device. Unfortunately, the simplicity of file access the “cloud-way” is not there when the users are in the office network. They would have to be routinely reminded by the system administrator to keep the files in some special directory to have their files backed up. Otherwise, they shall be ostracized by the IT department and their straying files will not be backed up.

Well, Novell will be introducing their Novell Filr soon and they have released a video of their solution. Check this out.

I shall be spending some time this week to look into their solution deeper and hoping to see a demo soon. And I have great confidence in the Novell solutions. I intend to share more about them later.