“Pets” vs. “Cattle”… In the Context of Storage?

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By lamoney (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lamoney/97461242/) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been thinking a little bit (more than usual) lately about the crossroads we are at in the IT industry today. I’ve been reflecting back to some early posts that I shared way back when virtualization was the tech de rigueur. Not only that but the fact that my current company Coho Data is at the nexus of this crossroads, if you will. Since we talk “web-scale”, “scale-out” and a multitude of other buzzwords in today’s IT world, it’s interesting to explore some of those in the context of cloud and distributed systems that form the new reality of enterprise IT computing.

When dealing with cloud computing proximally or otherwise, it’s likely that you fall within either the VMware camp or the OpenStack camp (or both) today. Some would say these solutions are at opposite ends of the cloud software spectrum. You may also have heard the term: “Pets vs. Cattle” in reference to your servers, i.e. a Pet has a name, requires constant patching, updating and altogether expensive maintenance… whereas Cattle are nameless, can be removed from the system and replaced with new gear and be online again doing their job without skipping a beat.

Well, what if it were possible to have a zoo and a farm all-in-one? and what about for storage?!

Normally when you think of storage, its persistent nature requires it to be a Pet and not Cattle, but with today’s more modern storage architectures, I’d like to propose that this isn’t necessarily the case. You can have both persistence of data and statelessness of the underlying components at the same time. Bear with me for a minute while I reason through this…

With a scale-out, shared-nothing node architecture, you have the ability to add and remove nodes on the fly without worrying about the health of your data. As you scale to larger number of nodes, you care about each node even less. Despite the fact that you have a greater quantity of data in the system, the importance of any one individual storage node is reduced. Add to that the fact that a well-built self-healing, auto-scaling system can heal itself faster when there are more “cattle” on the farm.

As a function of this architecture you can also remove nodes in much the same way, allowing you to return leased equipment or installing newer, more dense and performant nodes into the system with everything working in a heterogenous fashion, and without skipping a beat. This is great from a TCO perspective as well.  It’s much better than being locked in with a fixed amount of high performance flash and capacity spinning disk for the next 3-5yr spending cycle. Extend this even one step further and you can imagine being able to automatically order new hardware to expand the system, adding it, then shipping back the old to the leasing company in a regular, predictable fashion.

One element of cloud scale systems that allows this to happen is extensibility, being able to easily extend a system beyond it’s original reason for being. Typically this is enabled via APIs and all of today’s next generation storage systems are build from the ground up to support this type of integration. Being able to organically adjust to customers’ needs quickly by offering APIs, toolkits and frameworks, is a key ingredient in delivering web-scale!

The interesting part of this whole discussion is that despite the importance of persistence in the storage world, given the right architecture we CAN indeed have the best of both worlds. Look at Coho’s scale-out enterprise storage architecture and you can see that we very much have a combination of the elements of both Pets and Cattle. We support the best from either architecture as well as any modern storage system should

Here are some examples:

  • Pets like NIC bonding for high availability – we’re cool with that
  • Pets like to be managed carefully and thoughtfully – we build intelligence into our storage, but also give visibility to the admin
  • Cattle can be auto-scaled by just plugging in a new node and allowing the system to grow – we do this as well
  • Cattle are designed to accommodate failures – we build our failure domains across physical boundaries so that their is no single point of failure
  • Pets like to have constant uptime – refer to previous feature of cattle above; accommodating failure means the system stays online if a component fails
  • Pets like to have high availability – we do this as well, allocating a minimum of 2 physical nodes in a single but shared nothing hardware design
  • Cattle work only when there is shared nothing architecture – utilizing independent nodes with object-based storage allows us to provide this as well!

At Coho we see the need for these differing approaches to computing from a storage perspective. We started out providing storage for VMware workloads and customers seem to like how we’re delivering on that so far. In addition, we see the need to support OpenStack from a storage perspective as well and are currently offering a tech preview of our OpenStack support. As a matter of fact, if you’re interesting in becoming a BETA participant for OpenStack, you should definitely get in contact with us.

Thanks for reading!

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Horizon View 6 – Reference Architecture

thumbnail of coho-vdi-vmware-horizon6-1000hSince I joined Coho (back in March of last year; time flies), I’ve been hard at work to deliver on our technical marketing solutions collateral, specifically with regard to VMware integrations, among many other duties. (Coho is a start-up, first and foremost.) My first order of business was to tackle a Reference Architecture of VMware Horizon View 6 on the Coho DataStream platform. This was not without its challenges, but through much blood, sweat and tears from Engineering and me, we finally have something of value!

Fast forward to now and we have another code release (our 2.4 release) under our belt, and we’re ready to share our findings and performance numbers for VMware VDI solutions on top of the Coho Data storage solution. I can’t wait to share all the advantages of Coho’s combination of speedy PCIe flash alongside our scale-out architecture, all the while leveraging some cool SDN hotness!

This is only the first in a long line of deep technical collateral coming rapidly down the pike to help our field and especially our customers to truly leverage what “web scale” really means. Looking for more? Stay tuned!

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Coho DataStream 2000f All-Flash Storage Offering

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It’s been a while since my last post, but I couldn’t pass up this chance to talk about the latest news here at Coho. The announcements we made today have been in the works for a while, and I am proud to have been a small part of bringing the all-flash offering to market, having tested it extensively for the last several months. The series-C funding round is nice, too, of course!

Our all-flash offering enters a crowded market to be sure, but instead of becoming just another all-flash storage vendor, we’re approaching all-flash a bit differently here at Coho. We believe that whether to go “all-flash” or “hybrid” shouldn’t be a decision the customer has to make themselves, but rather, with intelligence about your workloads and how much flash they “really” need to function at peak performance, we can allow both all-flash and hybrid to co-exist within a single cluster and single namespace for a balance of unmatched performance and economics.

Our Cascade tiering technology allows each AFA chassis to balance two different types of flash, NVMe flash cards for the upper tier, and up to twenty-four 2.5” SSDs for the lower tier. All told, you can fit up to 50 TB of usable capacity in each 2U chassis (that’s before calculating space efficiency from compression, etc.)

Here’s a statement from our Technical Product Manager, Forbes Guthrie‘s own blog post about the release, and this is a key point I use when talking to others about some of Coho’s key value:

“Coho realized early on, that when you’re building a storage system with outrageously fast flash devices, and you have hungry servers waiting with insatiable appetites; don’t set out to funnel that I/O through an obvious choke point.  Storage systems that come with pair of controllers, with no way to grow alongside your expanding storage needs, are a short-sighted design choice. With AFA storage, this is (obviously) way more critical.

All Coho DataStream systems are comprised of shared-nothing “MicroArrays”. Each 2U disk chassis contains 2 independent storage nodes; each have their own pair of 10 GbE NICs, their own CPUs and memory. As you add our disk chassis to a cluster, any type of Coho chassis, you’re adding controller power and I/O aperture.”

Well, I think that statement speaks for itself. I am really excited for what the future holds here at Coho. I feel that rounding out our catalog with this all-flash offering in the 2000f, entry-level hybrid offering in the 800h, to go along with our 1000h puts us in a very good place in the market right now. Add to that the fact that we use data intelligently to predict how much flash the customer needs for their workloads along with the ability to place it intelligently within a single namespace, across the different types of storage, provides us with the efficiency to compete very well against the competition, and I say: “Bring it on!

Links: 

http://www.theplatform.net/2015/05/22/the-future-of-flash-is-massive-scale/

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/05/21/coho_data_spawns_new_box_with_fresh_funding/

http://searchvirtualstorage.techtarget.com/news/4500246696/Coho-Data-goes-all-flash-with-new-scale-out-array

http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/blog/techflash/2015/05/coho-data-raises-30m-to-expand-flash-storage.html

http://vmblog.com/archive/2015/05/20/coho-data-raises-30-million-in-series-c-funding-led-by-march-capital-partners.aspx#.VVzT_1nBzRY

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/coho-data-raises-30-million-in-series-c-funding-led-by-march-capital-partners-2015-05-20

http://www.infostor.com/disk-arrays/ssd-drives/coho-data-raises-30-million-releases-all-flash-datastream-hardware.html

http://www.forbes.com/sites/benkepes/2015/05/20/coho-reels-in-a-30m-series-c-to-fuel-future-storage/

http://www.storagereview.com/coho_releases_allflash_array_and_raises_30_million_in_funding

http://www.cohodata.com/blog/2015/05/20/storage-the-coho-all-flash-2000f/

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Top Virtualization Blogs – 2015

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The time has come again to vote for the Top VMware & Virtualization Blogs of 2015. I was in the middle of a transition to my current role at Coho Data during the voting in 2014, so I didn’t rank last year, but this blog has placed twice in the Top 50 before. I have been sharing quite a few details on Coho this year, so I hope that warrants a vote!

I think that I was steadier with the delivery of content this year, versus last year, by blogging more frequently and with shorter articles that I hope were valuable to the readers. I, of course, still like to do an involved, in-depth blog here and there. I continue to work on the cadence and quality of my content. Thanks for your continued readership!

I would also like to mention the blog of my colleague, Forbes Guthrie (vReference), who is on the list as well. You may have seen his posts in my Twitter feed as well as my front page RSS.

Thanks for your vote!

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VMware vExpert 2015

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I am so happy to announce that I have again been honored as a vExpert for 2015. This is my 5th year as a vExpert! Many thanks to Corey Romero and the rest of the VMware Social Media & Community Team that helped determine the inductees this year. They run a great program and the process this year was quick and smooth.

At Coho Data, we have 2 vExperts so far. I’m challenging Patrick Benson and some of our other SEs to go for this honor next year. Their blogging and community efforts should be worthy of recognition. Forbes Guthrie, also made the list this year, along with me (no brainer!). I can assure you that the two of us, and the rest of our team our honored to be part of this exclusive company.

That’s it for now!

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