Tag: Pure Storage

As Pure//Accelerate approaches, one of my favorite aspects of winning solutions comes to mind. It’s a virtue that transforms products into MVPs, rather than the drama generators so common on the court and in the field. What is it?

Simplicity

Businesses have enough knobs and pain points with tier-1 Oracle/SAP deployments and SQL, SharePoint and Exchange farms. The last thing they need is for storage and data protection to jump on the pile. That’s why enterprises need Pure Storage and Rubrik.

From the ground up, Pure and Rubrik have simplicity in their DNA. If you have a FlashArray on the floor, then you already know the freedom and ease it brings to storage infrastructure. Gone are the days of tweaking with RAID sets or tuning LUNs to squeeze out a few performance points. With a few cables and a vSphere plugin, Pure serves up datastores and gets out of the way.

Rubrik brings the same unobtrusive value to data protection and is the perfect pairing to Pure. From rack & go to policy-driven automation to instant recovery, Rubrik drives straight to the point and with beautiful simplicity.

Rack & Go

The first thing that stands out with Rubrik is its lean footprint–it doesn’t eat up precious data center space. When we deployed Rubrik at ExponentHR, we shrunk our backup layout from 14RU at each data center to just 4RU, with an even greater reduction in power consumption and cabling complexity.

With the previous product, the physical installation wasn’t easy, but it paled in comparison to the configuration and learning curve challenges. In contrast, the entire Rubrik deployment took 90 minutes to install and configure at both sites, including drive time. Starting the engine was as easy as a set of vCenter credentials.

Storage Technology Virtualization

Since the advent of thin provisioning, the concept of “data efficiency” has been used to describe how storage arrays deliver on large capacity requests while only reserving what’s actually occupied by data. For me, 3PAR (pre-HP) pioneered this in their thin provisioning and “Zero Detect” feature combo, which they like to deem a sort of deduplication 1.0 (they deduped zeroes in stream).

With the wider implementation of deduplication and compression, the “data efficiency” term has stepped (or been pushed) into marketing spotlights around the industry. HP 3PAR still promotes it, EMC XtremIO positions it at the top of their array metrics, and Pure Storage has it at the top-left of their capacity bar.

Is it bad to calculate and show? No. It’s a real statistic after all. Does it have any power or intrinsic value, though? No.

Storage Technology

Cody & Ravi from Pure Storage brought a good deep-dive of all-flash storage in a virtual (VMware) world. Major emphasis on “deep-dive” as they went into the nitty-gritty of VAAI primitives and especially SCSI UNMAP across the versions.

The only weak spot was the age-old issue of having to cram too much content into too little time. They hit the mark, just a bit rushed. Check out Cody’s blog for an opportunity to ingest it at a pace more appropriate for consumption with coffee or tea.

If you are making the transition from spinning or hybrid storage to all-flash, find the audio for this session and retrain your thinking. Offload old fears to VM-to-datastore limits and RAID considerations. Get simple. Be pure.

Storage Technology Virtualization

I should be ashamed of myself just posting this, but confession is the first step of healing (or something like that), right? For years, I put off configuring Active Directory LDAP integration for authentication on our storage arrays. Perhaps at the beginning, it was due to complexity and overload, but more recently, it just wasn’t that important to me. We’ve had strong, complex passwords in place on the built-in accounts, so the real “risk” was accountability–who performed an action under that login. So while I begrudge any positive sentiment toward auditors, I’ll throw some props to them for the motivational boost to eliminate these shared access methods.

The funny thing is that most of what follows in this 3-part series was pretty easy. Parts 1 & 2 took a whopping hour or two. Shame on me. So if you’re reading this and have any of these arrays, take the plunge and raise your security posture with an easy afternoon project.

Pure Storage

pure_ldap_pureuserLet’s give this boulder some downhill momentum with the easiest of the three arrays. It only makes sense that Pure takes the cake on this since the rest of what they do is equally simple–initial setup, vCenter Plug-in, volume provisioning, etc.

Pure actually pushes its customers to setup external authentication by restricting the local user database to the “pureuser” account with which all arrays ship. Thus, every admin of Pure knows this default launching point.

Security Storage Technology

I’ve been looking forward to elements of today’s announcement from Pure Storage for a couple months now, and I’ll be even more thrilled when bits and box hit the floor over the summer. Just last Thursday, I saw another orange victory (re)tweet and I was chomping at the bit to comment on the 1U gaps in between the controllers…

…Now the wait is over. The evergreen, ever-evolving, never-disruptive power of the FlashArray//m is being whispered loudly from those 1.75 inches of rack space. And it’s backed by the best support that’s somehow getting better!

Storage Technology

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple weeks now, and Virgin America is giving me that opportunity with an hour departure delay (silver lining? ;).

So much of the tech talk today centers on specs and numbers, but behind every product are people–engineers, executives, and various support staff. These folks have an amazing power to influence the success of their products and services for good and ill.

I still recall a support situation in 1998 or maybe ’99 and a Compaq laptop that had recurring display issues. On tech specs alone, the product would have earned a scathing review (especially since I wasn’t the only one facing the exact, repeat failure). However, Compaq Support all the way up to the VP engaged, rectified (with a replacement laptop), and topped it with a duffel bag and personal note of apology. Doing it right etches it in people’s memories.

Today I’d like to highlight a few folks and groups that have stood out to me recently and reflect well on their products and organizations. It’s a far-from-exhaustive, unordered list that centers on those I’ve not mentioned in previous posts.

Technology

In September 2013, my organization and I started a journey into the realm of flash storage. The initial foray took us into two camps and lasted much longer than we expected. In fact, our 2013 storage decision bore with it lessons and tests that lasted until it was once again time to make another upgrade, our 2015 replacement at a sister site.

History

In 2013, while smaller start-ups were aplenty, EMC’s pre-release XtremIO (GA in December 2013) and Pure Storage were the only mainstream contenders. Granted, Pure was still technically a start-up, but then again, XtremIO was an unreleased product purchased by EMC without broad field experience. Everyone was young.

pure_logoMuch of this has already been hashed in my prior posts, but the short story is that we made a decision to forego Pure Storage in 2013 based on a belief in promises by EMC that XtremIO would deliver xtremio_logoeverything that Pure did and more. The two metrics were data reduction and performance. We assumed in the land of enterprise storage that high availability was a given.

Storage Technology

When I wrote the “Doing It Again” posts about XtremIO and Pure Storage, I didn’t actually think I would get that chance. EMC’s concessions around our initial XtremIO purchase seemed like our next site replacement would be a foregone conclusion. However, when the chips were counted, the hand went to another player: Pure Storage.

pure_boxesLast Friday, the Pure hardware arrived. Unpacking and racking was simple–no cage nuts needed, and the only necessary tool (screwdriver) is included in the “Open Me First” box. The same instructions that I respected during our 2013 POC led the way. I recall back then that QA on their readability was the CEO’s 12-year-old son. If he could follow them, they were customer-ready. Unconventional but effective.

This morning, the Pure SE (@purebp) and I finished the cabling and boot-up config. Three IP addresses, two copper switch ports, and four FC interfaces. The longest part was my perfectionistic cable runs. What can I say? The only spaghetti I like is the edible Italian kind. Fiber and copper should be neat and clean.

Storage Technology Virtualization

We began our hands-on exploration of all-flash arrays in September 2013, and for all intents and purposes, the testing has never really concluded. If I knew then what I know now, I would have conducted a number of tests quickly during the official “Proof of Concept” (POC) phases.

All of the below tests are worth doing on the named products, as well as other similar products that official support the actions. Some tests particularly target a product architecture. Where applicable, I’ll note that. As with any storage array, the best and first test should be running real data (day-to-day workloads) atop it. The points build upon that being implied.

1. Capacity: Fill It Up!

This test is most practically focused on Pure Storage and its history and architecture. At the same time, the concept is worth processing with XtremIO.

In 2013 and before, Pure’s array dashboard showed a capacity bar graph that extended from 0% to 100%. At 80%, the array gave a warning that space was low, but failed to indicate the significance of this threshold. The code releases up to that point put an immediate write throttle on processing when the array passed that threshold. In short, everything but reads ground to a halt. This philosophy of what percentage truly is full was reassessed and redefined around the turn of the year to better protect the array and the user experience.

Pure’s architecture still needs a space buffer for its garbage collection (GC), which I believe is guarded by the redefinition of “full”. However, I have heard of at least one user experience where running near full caused performance issues due to GC running out of space (even with the protected buffer). If you’re testing Pure, definitely fill it up with a mix of data (especially non-dedupe friendly data) to see how it goes in the 80’s and 90’s.

For XtremIO, it’s a conceptual consideration. I haven’t filled up our array, but it doesn’t do anything that requires unprotected buffer space, so the risk isn’t particularly notable (feel free to still try!). The thing here is to think about what comes next when it does get full. The product road map is supposed to support hot-expansion, but today it requires swinging data between bricks (i.e. copy from an array of 1 x-brick to 2 x-bricks, 2 x-bricks to 4 x-bricks, etc).

Storage Technology

A fellow technologist asked a very fair and controversial question in a comment to IOPS Matter: VMware Native Multipathing Rule Attribute Affects Storage Failover, which pertains to my VMware-XtremIO environment. Since my response was running quite long, I thought it better to re-post the question here, followed by the answer.

“We are looking at purchasing a new all-flash SAN for our SQL environment running on VMware 5.5 — in your experience between Pure and EMC XIO, if you had it to do over, which would you buy? We are looking at the X-Brick 10TB against the Pure FA-405 6TB models. SQL compression is about 1.7:1 and dedup is almost nothing until we talk about storing multiple copies of our 300GB database for dev, test, staging, etc. Other than consistent finger-pointing from vendor to vendor, I’m not seeing much difference that would concern me in either direction other than price and that Pure’s 6TB might not exactly match the 8-9TB available in the XIO. Feedback?”

That’s quite the question, the answer to which would become headliner marketing material for whichever product was endorsed. Thankfully for me, the politically “safe” response of “it depends” is actually true. Factors like price, observable data reduction, and I/O patterns all sway the arrow.

Storage Technology