UA-93095-7

HP Tech Talk: Software Defined Storage

Storage for a New Style of IT

HP’s Kate Davis, WW Product Marketing Manager for HP StoreVirtual Storage @KateAtHP discusses the topic in depth with independent storage blogger Chris Evans @chrismevans  from the UK, whose blog Architecting.IT is read  by over 5,000 IT professionals each month.

Beginning with basic concepts and the underlying essentials of the technology, Kate and Chris quickly move to a discussion of products from other vendors.

The regular series HP Tech Talk is published each Tuesday, and includes interviews with HP experts on  Cloud, Networking, Servers and Storage products and ideas that are defining a the vision of a new style of Information Technology that offers a strategic framework for HP offerings in the enterprise space.

 

Video Edition on the Roku Streaming Media Player and SDRNewsTV on YouTube

Roku_150x86   YouTubeSubscribeNow268x60

 

Audio Edition

itunes_badge_enRSS_bean_60x131  This episode is also available on iTunes and Windows Media

 

HP Tech Talk Guest

Transcript

Host:

Host:

Chris:

Host:

Kate:

Host:

Kate:

Host:

Kate:

Host:

Chris:

Host:

Kate:

Chris:

Kate:

Chris:

Host:

Chris:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kate:

Host:

Chris:

Host:

Kate:

Host:

Kate:

Chris:

Kate:

Host:

Kate:

Chris:

Host:

Chris:

Kate:

Host:

Kate:

Host:

Chris:

Host:

Chris:

Host:

Kate:

Chris:

Kate:

Host:

Chris:

Host:

Kate:

Chris:

Host:

Chris:

Kate:

Host:

Kate:

Host:

INTRO:There’s no term as ill-defined as software-defined. Let’s get some clarity next on HP Tech Talk.INTRO MUSICWelcome to HP Tech Talks. I’m Andy McCaskey from SDR News and this is the show where we try and get some clarity and talk about defining the new style of IT with experts from Hewlett Packard. Of course we cover subjects like cloud computing and networking and servers. And today, we’re going to be focusing on storage, and we’ve got a real treat because we have two folks who are joining us today. First of all, I’d like to introduce Chris Evans. Chris is actually joining us from the U.K., and he’s not an HP employee but he does know a lot about storage.Yeah, I’m not an HP employee, but I am hopefully able to give you some technical input on this subject. Looking forward to talking about it.Well I’m really glad that you’re able to join us here today. And of course, from the HP side, we have Kate Davis who’s actually joining us from Colorado. 

It’s great to be here today and it’s going to be a good topic to discuss.

 

Well I think we have a lot of ground to cover. And the crux of it is really kind of the initial topic that I had before we opened about this term software-defined. It looks like there have been almost as many definitions as there are people defining. But looks like some order is coming to that now.

 

Yeah, we hoped to figure out what the definition is and agree across the industry and move away from just being a buzzword.

 

So you have software-defined network, you have software-defined data center. What are some of the other acronyms that were floating around?

 

I think the third one is software-defined storage. Eventually, you’ll see software-defined servers as server technology changes. But the next one that’s really in play right now is storage.

 

Chris, as you have been working in your observations of the storage industry, what sorts of variants have you run into?

 

I guess I’m looking because I get to talk to a lot of different companies, not just HP, but obviously a lot of startups and a lot of the companies. One of the things you know definitely right about is that we are seeing different definition for this. But I do think people are focusing on the push of features into software and the use of commodity storage. Those seem to be the two main pieces that come out so far, although there is a very big wide variation in the different types of technology that people are trying to call software-defined storage.

 

Kate, what are some of the generally accepted features that everyone can agree upon?

 

I think the baseline is that it’s software and typically runs in a virtualized infrastructure. And it brings the base storage features in provisioning and snapshot. After that is where the debate begins.

 

Let’s just add some of the base to that Kate. I think people talk about automation, people talk about abstraction from the hardware – and ultimately, you’ve still got to have the hardware somewhere. But those are the sort of features I’m seeing that people are mentioning. I think we can look at the Wikipedia software-defined storage article, and it points us to some of those things. But as you said, they’re not 100% clear yet. So I think it’s good to add those in as well.

 

I think the biggest thing to look at is that is software-defined storage an umbrella that has a bunch of different technologies in it or is it solely what the product is? So I can see that in a couple of different ways. I can see the umbrella actually encompassing those virtual storage and storage hypervisors and future software storage that comes out. But I think that part of the debate is that is it the umbrella or is it specific features in the software product?

 

Well I know in the show notes here they talked about the idea of it actually being in software and not in microcode. Does this mean firmware in the hardware itself or how are you using that term?

 

A lot our storage arrays and devices that had gone previously, who relied on microcode within the actual hardware which drives the software features and the functionality. What we are seeing now, I think, is a move away from that specifically and more into software to actually deliver this. And Kate mentioned the whole idea of virtualization and that abstraction piece to virtualization. And I think that people are seeing it more moving away from a traditional monolithic array that might be the historical device, which is microcode to control that, and more into a software setup which would use commodity hardware. I think that’s why we’re seeing the difference.

 

I think it’s really about the infrastructure that’s being built. It’s thinking about next generation. It’s full data centers, it’s cloud services, it’s how to be flexible with the infrastructure that needs to be built to handle what the day requirements are going to be.

 

What are some other features that you would be looking for in the software-defined storage?

 

I think one thing that we should talk about is the whole separation of control and data planes. One of the things that was specified in the storage-defined networking which obviously is where these terms come from is the idea of separating the flow of the data from the management of that particular technology. And I think, to a certain degree, we’ll expect to see that in software-defined storage as well. From my perspective, the other things I’d like to see in there – which I think will evolve over time as Kate mentioned – would include things like QoS, data mobility, and obviously things like policy-based management where we set a set of standards about how we want something to work, and we let the hardware make that decision because we’re not tied to the specifics of the hardware.

 

Kate, would you have anything to add to that?

 

I think Chris is absolutely right. The real value of software-defined storage is the data services that go into the data plane that really provide all of the feature functionality to whatever infrastructure you are trying to build. So there is separation between the data plane and the control plane because every product needs to have management – and the more open our product is to management and APIs, the better it’s going to fit within a person’s workload, a person’s business, to really benefit the infrastructure and the architecture overall.

 

So the hardware has to be in there somewhere. Aren’t all arrays software-defined then?

 

If you look at storage itself, yes, every storage product is software-defined because you have hardware with software on it to make it do things. When you really get down into it, we need to look at what that hardware is. The way we see it for HP, our definition is its open industry standards based hardware. We’re looking at servers. We’re looking at direct attached storage. Anything that when you add the storage software to it, it’s really going to create a new product. It’s going to create the shared storage for your virtualized servers. It’s going to add new functionality that you did not have by that hardware alone. It’s going to allow you to be mobile with your data across your infrastructure.

 

One thing that you have to bear in mind is that there has to be some hardware definitely. And one of the other things you have to think of is that we’re not going to deliver… try IOPS for instance: A high IOPS demands application or device using SATA drives. So that hardware has to reflect what we want. Potentially, that might contain SSD, it might contain hard drives. But as you said, we’re actually taking pretty much commodity standards technology, and we’re building something out of that, and that’s the subtle difference to what we see traditionally where arrays are being built on the  components that are being plugged together very specifically.

 

What I think software-defined storage really brings is new benefits. You’re going to get that flexibility by being able to build whatever you want. You’re going to get efficiency by using the hardware that’s already in your infrastructure, and you’re going to get the cost savings because you’re not having to buy arrays just to get the functionality, but you could actually rely  upon your servers.

 

Is storage virtualization the same as software-defined storage?

 

My answer to this is no, and Chris may have a different point. I think storage virtualization is an aspect of an array. Depending on the product, it could be part of the feature set. I see software-defined storage as an actual full product that is layered upon the hardware. So the whole aspect all of the data services that it provides, that is software-defined storage.

 

Yeah, I think you’re right there Kate. I see storage virtualization as a subset, and I see software-defined storage a superset of virtualization. It just happens to be one of those features that are in there. There’s obviously a lot more of that we talked about already that would need to be included to make it, as you said, a full featured product.

 

Chris, should software-defined storage networking also be included?

 

This is an interesting discussion because clearly, within the networking environment, we talk about software-defined networking for the piece of the infrastructure which processes data across, between servers and storage or between devices. Within the storage arena, we have both the fabric, which will be the standard network, which could be fiber channel, it could be  other things. And then, we’ve got the physical persistence in storing that data. And I think perhaps sometimes, we need to consider both because clearly, you want the ability to store that data, but we also want the ability to redirect it sometime in the future, or to be able to replicate and do the things. So I think there’s an opportunity that involves  the networking side to be part of this definition, and that really hasn’t been done yet.

 

I think you’re right there. I think that as the software-defined data center evolves, and it’s going to take many years to evolve, so that we have software servers and networking and storage all working together. I think that we kind of have the piece parts, and it’s starting. And I think the evolution will come in a few years’ time.

 

Kate, what about software-defined storage in the hypervisor? I think there are people in the industry that are claiming that they’ve implemented that.

 

I think that’s one way of deploying it. It depends on… I guess the future functionality that you can truly get from it already built in. That means it is proprietary, so you have to run your infrastructure on that hypervisor. There’s no changing over time. I think the benefit of having it in more of a virtual machine is that it’s movable, that it can change hardware. I wonder if having it buried in a hypervisor is really limiting.

 

Chris, you probably can speak more freely from an independent blogging perspective.

 

Yeah, it’s true. Some of the vendors have started to say that their products are doing this already, and to a certain degree, they are – because you could look and say the Vmware and they have, with things like DRS and some of their other features, they have the ability to put that policy layer in there. They are doing abstraction of that. You’re also tied to that particular one enclosure. How do you make that flexible across multiple hypervisors? How do you get yourself flexibility across physical servers and so on? That isn’t necessarily the mobility that you might work with software-defined storage. So you are still tying yourself in slightly.

 

Are some of those offerings blurring the boundaries within the software-defined storage?

 

I think there’s a chance that they could do, because you’ve got some other features that are being brought in as part of technology and the hardware, they having to be supported that directly connected to the hypervisor. So some of the things we’ve seen today, like the AAI and the other acceleration technologies that are being put into the hardware mean that we’re sort of mixing those different pieces of technology. It’s probably not a problem as long as those interfaces are clear, well-defined, and open – because then you can implement it in a more consistent fashion but where it is not, and obviously, that potentially is a problem.

 

Kate, what is HP’s approach in this situation?

 

We want to have a product that can work in anybody’s infrastructure. So we’re going to be very hypervisor independent, we’re going to be very hardware agnostic, and we’re going to provide the key functionality that you need for your storage or your virtualized environment. But we don’t necessarily care what the underlying piece parts are.

 

As long as they’re HP parts, I guess.

 

It’s better if they’re HP, yes, but it’s not limited to that.

 

What about other vendors? Where does the EMC ViPR system fit in?

 

That’s an interesting one. Viper, and I think Kate I both talked about this. EMC have obviously taken a slightly different approach in that they’ve decided to go for the control piece first, and they’re looking at how they can abstract that in terms of provisioning and management. And that’s pretty much the majority of what they are doing with Vipr, although they are doing some work around export data to different formats like Hadoop and so on.

 

Can you really have SDS with only the control plane?

 

I don’t think so. I think it needs three parts. I think it needs to be able to work on open hardware. I think it needs that data plane to bring in the services to your infrastructure. And I think it does need that control plane to add the management piece. And I think by ViPR using arrays that are already in the infrastructure, that keeps the purpose of the benefits of software-defined storage. It’s supposed to be cost-effective, it’s supposed to add efficiency, it’s supposed to add that flexibility to the environment. And I think that by just adding the control plane, you’re focusing on managing what’s already there, but you’re not adding extra feature functionality.

 

And just to add to that case, there’s something we should consider, and that’s the underlying technology that’s being abstracted there. You’re purely relying on those features. So if those arrays only support certain features, then that’s what we get. You don’t get an additional leveled software abstraction to the allow you to deal the things in that data point.

 

Chris, it looked like you took a poll or a survey amongst a number of people in the industry. Can you explain what you were seeking and share some of those results?

 

Yeah, sure. I think I mentioned earlier that there is a Wikipedia page which has some definition around what software-defined storage means. What I was really keen to do is find out what people’s views were and what they actually thought what those definitions were like and how accurate they were. What I did was that I put a poll on and I asked people to respond over the course of a couple of months. As a response, it wasn’t high, it’s only in the hundreds. It’s not massive, but it’s still potentially relevant. And what I found was that something like 26% of the people think that software-defined storage should be delivered on white box commodity hardware, as to the definition in Wikipedia. The second thing, I think that around 22%, is that it should be policy-driven storage. So clearly, that means not relying on the specific hardware, but putting in their specific policy requirements around perhaps tiering or performance.  After that, we saw 18:30 average between 15 and 10% around things like virtual volumes, management of traditional arrays, and separation in those storage maintenance operations. So pretty much, it’s clear that people are focusing on the idea of commodity and policy as the two main parts to this.

 

I think that’s a good view of what people need for their infrastructure. I think that’s also part of what’s going to differentiate, all the products that are part of software-defined storage category. I think we need to agree on the base aspects of it and then be able to have those different functions to differentiate, because we can’t all be the same.

 

Chris, thanks very much for sharing your survey with us. I have to ask the last question for Kate here. Kate, if you’re thinking about software-defined storage, why HP and why now?

 

HP has been and is in virtual storage software-defined storage market for six years now. We actually have the most robust product that is out there in the market. And we have full functionality, we have full integration with multiple hypervisors and are continuing to invest in the platform and will continue to grow it. And you’ll see that later this year.

 

Excellent. Well thanks to you for joining us here as well. And thanks to each of you for joining us here on HP Tech Talks. We’re going to be talking with the folks from cloud computing coming up here next week. I’m Andy McCaskey for SDR News. Thanks and we’ll see you again.

 

Music and End!