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February 23, 2016

Tech Update

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Welcome to 2016 from the iQ3 technical team!

What better way to start a new year than to start a new blog?  As technologists we tend not to talk about ourselves very much, so let me introduce the iQ3 technical team.

While some of you may have already interacted with iQ3’s technical professionals, through our operations team or professional services, others may not have had the chance to experience what we do.  The technical team at iQ3 consists of the following groups:

  • Operations – You know operations. They keep the lights on, make sure problems are dealt with quickly and are fundamental to ensuring our customers are always happy with the services they have with iQ3.  The Ops team handle incidents related to cloud backup, cloud storage and cloud compute as well as customers who purchase support for products like EMC Networker and EMC Avamar directly from iQ3.
  •  Professional Services – This is our delivery arm.  Our engineers hold numerous certifications from EMC as well as other vendors and more importantly have a long history of delivering successful projects under their belts.  Projects include backup infrastructure refreshes, data centre moves, enterprise storage implementations and disaster recovery solutions. Our service delivery team makes sure all of our projects are delivered on time, on budget and achieve our customer’s objectives. The devil is in the detail and our service delivery guys revel in untangling complexity and making our implementations simple and painless for our customers.
  •  Pre-sales and Consulting – The pre-sales engineers help our customers make sense of new trends in the IT landscape and translate them into something tangible that delivers real benefits to our customers.  Whether it is simply providing a quote for additional storage capacity or designing a hybrid cloud data protection solution, this team brings with it deep technical and industry knowledge to ensure our solutions are insightful, accurate and ultimately help our customers deliver on their goals.

What differentiates iQ3 from other IT vendors and other partners? In a broad sense, whilst we are specialists in our chosen field, our technical team can, and often do, cover multiple roles where needed.  This gives us a broad perspective on the technology solutions we deliver and the challenges our customers face.  This perspective enables us to design, implement and support the best possible solutions for our customers.  We call them Intelligent Data Solutions.

Traditional_Storage-solutions-image

So what’s new and news worthy? Well this is the IT industry so the answer is lots, but for now I want to focus on a not-so recent trend in system engineering which is gaining a lot more popularity ….

Software Defined Storage

If you have been in the IT industry as long as I have you have probably noticed a change in how systems are packaged to deliver their value; hardware centric to software centric.  Early storage arrays (think EMC DMX, Sun A5000, DG CLARiiON) were highly engineered pieces of hardware with most of the design effort going into ensuring drives, backplanes, fibre channel (or more commonly SCSI) interfaces were able to deliver high levels of data availability and reasonable performance.  Software (or firmware/microcode) was just there to provide basic functionality and any updates to software was simply to address bugs or stability issues.

Fast forward to today and this model has reversed. Systems are increasingly built on commodity (COTS) hardware and all of the intelligence is delivered in software. EMC and other vendors are also tending to offer the same functionality either as an appliance, which they build, and support or as software only, so can build the solution yourself.  Usually these software only variants are offered as free downloads to trial and use in non-production environments.  You only need to pay if you want to run them in production and get support from EMC (and updates).  The industry calls this Software Defined Storage (SDS) and is a component of the Software Defined Data Centre (SDDC).

Here are some examples of systems that follow this model from the EMC family:

Platform Appliance Software Only
EMC VNX Unified storage array VNX Systems;  5200, 5400, 5600, 5800, 7600, 8000, VNXe 1600, 3200 vVNX software
EMC Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) object storage ECS appliances; C70, ECS-U300, ECS-U700, ECS-U1100, ECS-U1500, ECS-1800, ECS-U2100, ECS-U3000 ECS Software
EMC ScaleIO software defined storage ScaleIO Nodes; CS100, CC100, PC100, PF100, ScaleIO software
EMC Avamar data protection Avamar nodes; M600, M1200, M2400 Avamar Virtual Edition
EMC Isilon scale out NAS Isilon S-Series, X-Series, NL-Series, HD-Series nodes IsilonSD Edge
EMC Data Domain Data Domain 2200, 2500, 4200, 4500, 7200, 9500 Data Domain virtual Edition

Stay tuned, more products that you know and love are going this way soon.

iQ3 sees this trend introducing more flexibility to our customers but also potentially more risk if not implemented correctly.  If you want to own the hardware stack in your environment and just layer intelligent software over the top to deliver the services you need, SDS will do this.  However, SDS is not for everyone.  There is value is the appliance model. It gives you one “throat to choke”, tight hardware integration, end to end QA and a proven platform to run your business on.  So what?  Ultimately appliances are there to reduce risk.  They deliver predictable and consistent outcomes that allow you to focus on areas of the technology landscape which are possibly less well defined or need more innovation.

Backup-Recovery

Where iQ3 sees the real benefit from the software defined storage trend, is as an enabler to change current hosting models for IT infrastructure.  We see all sorts of storage and backup deployments in customer environments;

  • Single site and single system: No hardware redundancy, cheap, all eggs in one basket approach.  Site or system failure=data loss.
  • Single site with redundant systems: Better but site failure is still a risk.
  • Dual site and redundant systems: Gold standard but expensive.  Site or system failure does not impact availability
  • Single site with system onsite replicating to iQ3: This is the classic hybrid cloud approach.  Minimise appliances onsite and leverage iQ3 as a trusted cloud service provider to provide an offsite copy.  An entire copy of data is still kept onsite at the customer’s premises so the cost of entry for this solution is still relatively high; less than running a full dual site solution but for some use cases this approach could be optimised further. This sort of solution would be an Isilon X-series cluster at the customers site replicating all data to the iQ3 cloud storage platform.
  • Single site software only extending into iQ3: This is where software defined storage is leading us.  No hardware running in customer’s data centres just software providing sufficient storage to address day to day needs and the rest of the storage residing offsite, say in iQ3 Cloud Storage.  The benefit of this approach is that there is no infrastructure footprint in our customers’ data centres, no power, no cooling beyond the compute resourced need to run the SDDS software.  iQ3 provides the scale, resilience and management for the bulk of the storage which is available in an automated way back to our customers.  There are many infrastructure solutions that can be built using this model, Scale out NAS, Data Domain backup targets, Avamar backup, VNX Unifed storage and others.

 

iQ3 has an exceptional track record in designing and delivering solutions based on these and other data storage and data protection technologies.  If you would like to discuss a new project you are working on or a problem you are currently experiencing in your environment, feel free to contact your account manager or submit a contact request here.

 

Michael Akayan – Technical Consultant, iQ3

~ We will be featuring other members of our technical team on this blog, so please check in regularly and follow the link to it from the Q News update.