Huawei Dorado – All about Speed

[Preamble: I was a delegate of Storage Field Day 15 from Mar 7-9, 2018. My expenses, travel and accommodation were paid for by GestaltIT, the organizer and I was not obligated to blog or promote the technologies presented at this event. The content of this blog is of my own opinions and views]

Since Storage Field Day 15 3 weeks ago, the thoughts of the session with Huawei lingered. And one word came to describe Huawei Dorado V3, their flagship All-Flash storage platform is SPEED.

My conversation with Huawei actually started the night before our planned session at their Santa Clara facility the next day. We had a evening get-together at Bourbon Levi’s Stadium. I was with my buddy, Ammar Zolkipli, who coincidentally was in the Silicon Valley for work. Ammar is from Hitachi Vantara Japan, and has been a good friend of mine for over 17 years now.

Shortly, the Huawei team arrived to join the camaraderie. And we introduced ourselves to Chun Liu, not knowing that he is the Chief Architect at Huawei. A big part of that evening was our conversation with him. Ammar and I have immersed in the Oil & Gas EP (Exploration & Production) data management and petrotechnical applications when he was in Schlumberger and after that a reseller of NetApp. I was a Consulting Engineer with NetApp back then. So, the 2 of us started blabbering (yeah, that would be us when we get together to talk technology).

I observed that Chun was very interested to find learn about real world application use cases that would push storage performance to its limits. And I guessed that the best type of I/O characteristics would be small block, random I/O and billions of them, with near-real time latency. After that evening I did some research and could only think of a few, such as deep analytics or some applications with needs for Monte Carlo simulations. Oh, well, maybe I would share that with Chun the following day.

The moment the session started, it was already about the speed prowess of Huawei Storage. It was like the greyhounds unleashed going after the rabbit. In the lineup, the Dorado series stood out.

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The leapfrog game in Asia with HPC

Brunei, a country rich in oil and gas, is facing a crisis. Their oil & gas reserves are rapidly running dry and expected to be depleted within 2 decades. Their deep dependency on oil and gas, once the boon of their economy, is now the bane of their future.

Since 2000, I have been in and out of Brunei and got involved in several engagements there. It is a wonderful and peaceful country with friendly people, always welcoming visitors with open hearts. The country has prospered for decades, with its vast oil riches but in the past few years, the oil prices have been curbed. The profits of oil and gas no longer justify the costs of exploration and production.

2 years ago, I started pitching a new economy generator for the IT partners in Brunei. One that I believe will give a country like Brunei the ability to leapfrog their neighbours in South East Asia, which is to start build a High Performance Computing (HPC)-as-a-Service (HPC-as-a-Service) type of business.

Why HPC? Why do I think HPC will give a developing country like Brunei super powers in the digital economy?

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The power of E8

[Preamble: I was a delegate of Storage Field Day 14 from Nov 8-10, 2017. My expenses, travel and accommodation were paid for by GestaltIT, the organizer and I was not obligated to blog or promote the technologies presented at this event. The content of this blog is of my own opinions and views]

E8 Storage technology update at Storage Field Day 14 was impressive. Out of the several next generation NVMe storage technologies I have explored so far, E8 came out as the most complete. It was no surprise that they won the “Best of Show” in the Flash Memory Summits for the “Most Innovative Flash Memory Technology” in 2016 and “Most Innovative Flash Memory Enterprise Business Application” for 2017.

Who is E8 Storage?

They came out of stealth in August 2016 and have been making waves with very impressive stats. When E8 was announced, their numbers were more than 10 million IOPS, with 100µsecs for reads and 40µsecs for writes. And in the SFD14 demo, they reached and past the 10 million IOPS numbers.

The design philosophy of E8 Storage is different than the traditional dual controller scale-up storage architecture design or the multi-node scale-out cluster design. In fact, from a 30,000 feet view, it is quite similar to a “SAN-client” design advocated by Lustre, leveraging a very high throughput, low latency network.

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The engineering of Elastifile

[Preamble: I was a delegate of Storage Field Day 12. My expenses, travel and accommodation were paid for by GestaltIT, the organizer and I was not obligated to blog or promote the technologies presented in this event]

When it comes to large scale storage capacity requirements with distributed cloud and on-premise capability, object storage is all the rage. Amazon Web Services started the object-based S3 storage service more than a decade ago, and the romance with object storage started.

Today, there are hundreds of object-based storage vendors out there, touting features after features of invincibility. But after researching and reading through many design and architecture papers, I found that many object-based storage technology vendors began to sound the same.

At the back of my mind, object storage is not easy when it comes to most applications integration. Yes, there is a new breed of cloud-based applications with RESTful CRUD API operations to access object storage, but most applications still rely on file systems to access storage for capacity, performance and protection.

These CRUD and CRUD-like APIs are the common semantics of interfacing object storage platforms. But many, many real-world applications do not have the object semantics to interface with storage. They are mostly designed to interface and interact with file systems, and secretly, I believe many application developers and users want a file system interface to storage. It does not matter if the storage is on-premise or in the cloud.

Let’s not kid ourselves. We are most natural when we work with files and folders.

Implementing object storage also denies us the ability to optimally utilize Flash and solid state storage on-premise when the compute is in the cloud. Similarly, when the compute is on-premise and the flash-based object storage is in the cloud, you get a mismatch of performance and availability requirements as well. In the end, there has to be a compromise.

Another “feature” of object storage is its poor ability to handle transactional data. Most of the object storage do not allow modification of data once the object has been created. Putting a NAS front (aka a NAS gateway) does not take away the fact that it is still object-based storage at the very core of the infrastructure, regardless if it is on-premise or in the cloud.

Resiliency, latency and scalability are the greatest challenges when we want to build a true globally distributed storage or data services platform. Object storage can be resilient and it can scale, but it has to compromise performance and latency to be so. And managing object storage will not be as natural as to managing a file system with folders and files.

Enter Elastifile.

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Why demote archived data access?

We are all familiar with the concept of data archiving. Passive data gets archived from production storage and are migrated to a slower and often, cheaper storage medium such tapes or SATA disks. Hence the terms nearline and offline data are created. With that, IT constantly reminds users that the archived data is infrequently accessed, and therefore, they have to accept the slower access to passive, archived data.

The business conditions have certainly changed, because the need for data to be 100% online is becoming more relevant. The new competitive nature of businesses dictates that data must be at the fingertips, because speed and agility are the new competitive advantage. Often the total amount of data, production and archived data, is into hundred of TBs, even into PetaBytes!

The industries I am familiar with – Oil & Gas, and Media & Entertainment – are facing this situation. These industries have a deluge of files, and unstructured data in its archive, and much of it dormant, inactive and sitting on old tapes of a bygone era. Yet, these files and unstructured data have the most potential to be explored, mined and analyzed to realize its value to the organization. In short, the archived data and files must be democratized!

The flip side is, when the archived files and unstructured data are coupled with a slow access interface or unreliable storage infrastructure, the value of archived data is downgraded because of the aggravated interaction between access and applications and business requirements. How would organizations value archived data more if the access path to the archived data is so damn hard???!!!

An interesting solution fell upon my lap some months ago, and putting A and B together (A + B), I believe the access path to archived data can be unbelievably of high performance, simple, transparent and most importantly, remove the BLOODY PAIN of FILE AND DATA MIGRATION!  For storage administrators and engineers familiar with data migration, especially if the size of the migration is into hundreds of TBs or even PBs, you know what I mean!

I have known this solution for some time now, because I have been avidly following its development after its founders left NetApp following their Spinnaker venture to start Avere Systems.

avere_220

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