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Cloudy discussions

Posted on Thursday, October 15, 2009 | 1 Comment

Even though everyone is getting into the cloud the community of people really getting into it (and talking and announcing) is not that great, one often keeps seeing the same names. Well from what I can see anyway.

So it was interesting to see that some of the people I am hooked up with at NaviSite have announced their cloud offering.

NaviSite Managed Cloud Services (NaviCloud), based on VMware vSphere™ 4 and VMware vCloud™ and the Cisco Unified Computing System, is an innovative, enterprise-class infrastructure platform that provides high-performance, scalable, on-demand, usage-billed IT infrastructure.
No surprises there, VMware, vCloud, UCS. I have been sharing some UCS implementation insights with these guys as we are both early adopters of the technology. Its great to be able to share with those outside your geography, because they are not your competitors.

But the point of this post is an interesting detail that I noticed about the Savvis Cloud which was posted at Channel Register; Savvis picks Compellent for public cloud service.
Compellent arrays track block-level activity and automatically move data blocks across tiers of storage, from fast and expensive solid state drives (SSD) to slower and capacious SATA hard disk drives across intervening faster but lesser capacity HDDs. This means that expensive SSD is used to optimum effect without placing excess data there, and that data movement does not need manual intervention.

Savvis chief technology officer Bryan Doerr said: "Compellent will help us drive down the cost of lifecycle storage while preserving application performance for our customers' applications.”

Todd Loeppke, the technical VP of storage architecture in Doerr's office, added: "It allows us to take cost out of storage... (We) write data to the right tier for performance reasons and then it will waterfall down the tiers as it ages." Doing it at the LUN or sub-LUN level "is not granular enough".
This is great stuff. I have really been pushing that storage for the cloud has to be super automated especially in the performance tiering. So its really interesting to see these comments and drivers from Savvis which support that. Not sure if Savvis are thinking of playing games with their customers and moving them to a lower tier of storage if they don't have the demand, whilst having them pay for a higher tier. I doubt it.

Yet is the driver performance? I don't think so. To me one key driver for this type of technology is reducing your operational costs. Its the operational support costs that will kill you and loose all your profit in Cloud. So if you can use a technology to self tune the storage across your performance tiers you may just be able to stop many support calls regarding "My IO is slow, whats wrong?". These calls are going to just suck up all your profit from that customer for the month. I know my experience with EMC Mozy is an example of that, which is probably why its support was so bad. So just as valid as moving some storage down the tiers you may move it up for a while as well, even if the customer is not paying for it. It may just be cheaper than the support call.

Of course Compellent are the not the only players in this space. Anyone in the field knows that others, such as EMC have this. For EMC its their coming FAST technology(see 1 and 2).

This is why people really need to be particular when they are architecting Clouds, especially large ones. Don't let people sell you the same old things, such as storage as one example, without describing what's different about it for Cloud. Are you just purchasing large scale storage or are you purchasing storage that has characteristics and functions to support the Cloud use case.

Also interesting to see that Savvis mention SSD in there, I think we are going to see that become common in the Cloud space. When you are paying by the Gb, SSD can be very attractive.



  1. Rodney, Great post! About your observation on automated storage being a key driver for the cloud, I think it's both a performance & cost equation. Moving the stale data down to higher capacity storage leaves the faster drives - like FC, SSD - for more important chunks of data. Also agreed with you about need to be particular when asking questions about the storage when buying cloud services or creating their own internal ones -- will the underlying storage give them more fluid, automated tiering of their data or will it require some manual intervention of a storage admin.

    Liem Nguyen, Compellent


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