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Extreme storage for media and entertainment

By Pete Brey, HP StorageWorks ExDS9100 Product Marketing Manager

As I'm sitting enjoying a cappuccino at the HQ of the 2009 HP Technology Forum in Las Vegas, I'm reflecting on how many changes have occurred since HPTF 2008. In that time, we started shipping the 9100 Extreme Data Storage System, one of the industry's most scalable, manageable, and affordable storage systems. We also introduced numerous innovations in our BladeSystem and StorageWorks portfolio to deliver greater simplicity and better TCO. And just last week, we introduced our HP Extreme Scale-out portfolio.

If you follow the Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry, you already know that they face some of the most serious challenges when it comes to dealing with explosive content. In "The Digital Dilemma" report from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, you get a clear glimpse into the long-term issues the industry is facing. While you might think Hollywood's biggest challenge is building systems big enough to support their archiving needs, "The Digital Dilemma" lays out a myriad of other issues which in many ways are much more concerning. A great read...I strongly suggest it.  

Through HP's work with DreamWorks (see the press release here) and other M&E customers, we are collaborating to develop leading end-to-end solutions to address these challenges. And because HP's storage systems are open-ended leveraging industry-standard technology, these customers can sleep at night knowing they will have long-term access to innovative technology without worrying about being locked into a specific vendor's technology.

(Editor's note: You can stop by the Extreme Data Storage demo at HP Tech Forum to see it for yourself as well as attend session 4026 with Pete and DreamWorks co-presenting).

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Children, Socks and Words

By Ian Duncan 

You almost certainly shouldn't have a favorite child - that can't end well.

At some point in your life you may well find yourself having a favorite pair of socks - this is a normal sign of aging. Don't fight it - it's inevitable.

You can (in fact I may argue you should) have favorite words - I find myself utilizing some words in conversations more often than perhaps I should simply because I like the way that they sound. Rambunctious, Panacea and Diametric all fit into this category - If I can find a way to fit them into a sentence I will.

I spent a lot of time thinking about diametric forces last week - we had one of our regular customer councils where about 40 or so customers from across the country were good enough to come and spend some time telling us about their experiences with our products. These are some of our most loyal customers and so there's little to no attempt at selling in this forum - we really just want to get a deeper insight into what their day to day lives are like and how we can make sure our product marketing and development teams really understand the issues and opportunities that they live with every day.

The diametric forces that many of them talked about can be summarized (fairly) briefly:

  • On the one hand everyone continues to experience dramatic information growth - the trajectory varied between 50% and 200% per year but there were some common themes - most of the content was file based, much of it related to static or streaming media, collaboration tools or replicated data.

  • On the other hand no one was claiming that their IT budget was growing at anywhere near these levels - in many cases folks believed they'd have to deal with a budget reduction.

This puts them in a challenging position - data keeps growing yet budgets don't keep pace - something has to change and whilst technologies like file optimization, deduplication and smart snapshots can help reduce the amount of content stored many in the room believed that the biggest opportunity is aligning data with the most appropriate storage system.

Since we announced the 9100 Extreme Data Storage System (ExDS9100) back in May (and incidentally it started shipping recently) one of the most interesting aspects of talking to customers about it has been how quickly the conversation turns to price - I've sold hardware and software for a number of years and typically price is a part of the conversation that you try to keep away from for as long as possible. With the ExDS9100 we're very open about the price (under $2/GB since you're asking) and we're finding that it's becoming a more prominent component of the customer evaluation process.

It's understandable with the world economies collapsing around us that price is high on many people's agenda but there's more to it than just acquisition cost. The fact is that people are staying in roles for a shorter amount of time right now - the average CIO tenure is around 3 years and so people are looking for a Return-On-Investment that is front-end loaded. Why should they sign off on a piece of infrastructure that will only benefit their successor? Customers have every right to expect storage vendors to apply innovation to reduce storage costs as much as increasing levels of performance or protection - we think that the ExDS9100 is targeted at a very clear customer issue today - those that need high scalability AND petabyte administration AND ridiculously low acquisition costs. Data Mobility Group recently undertook a study to look at how the ExDS9100 improves the economics of large scale storage - it's well worth a read -  

Ian Duncan, Director of Scalable NAS


No, it's not the Norwegian Polar Institute Day or No Pun Intended Day - it's our new product introduction day.  NPI at StorageWorks is an internal process to have our products available for customers and channel.  We focus on areas like services, internal configuration tools and systems, supply chain readiness, pricing, and marketing (e.g. page, brochures, photography, and other marketing content).  Our NPI's generally have somewhere between 20 to 30 products. Each NPI is generally a mix of updates to an existing products and brand new products.  Here are a few highlights of today's new product introduction:

There are some other enhancements in today's NPI that I'll point to in part 2 later today.

Further "day 1" thoughts on Atmos / Maui

By Michael Callahan

As my colleague Calvin Zito mentioned earlier today,  I wanted to make a few comments on EMC's announcement of the EMC Atmos (nee Maui). 

Since we first started talking publically about the ExDS9100 system in May, I've been struck by the incredible diversity of the software layers that people want to build on top of it.  In fact, quite a bit of this has been a surprise.  Much of the ExDS design grew out of our many years experience delivering software into environments very much like those which Atmos seems to target: Web 2.0 companies, telcos and service providers.  Based on that experience, we put a lot of emphasis on building something that could easily fit into existing environments (with standard racks!), be extremely simple to manage and, of course, be very cost-effective-while still offering a lot of flexibility in both hardware and software.  On the hardware front, a single ExDS9100 node scales from four blades to sixteen, and from roughly a quarter petabyte to over three-quarters (in just two floor tiles) -- and a customer can choose whatever combination of performance and capacity is desired, and even change the configuration of a running system by adding blades or capacity blocks.

But, as I said, what's particularly surprising to me is what has been happening on the software front -- how valuable it has been to offer flexibility there.  We know that EMC with Atmos is taking a proprietary, monolithic approach to the software layer that provides distributed replication, location services, and so on, on top of the basic building-block of local high-density storage -- but we think that's a mistake, and not what the market is looking for.  The last thing our customers want is to be locked in by a proprietary software layer that limits their technical options and ties them to one vendor. 

We have a whole set of customers-admittedly, the ones in the vanguard of these next-generation cloud applications -- who already have commitments to existing software that perform functions like these, whether built in-house, open source or commercial third party.  But even apart from these leading customers, we're finding that in other verticals, such as bioinformatics, oil and gas, and media, customers see tremendous value in the density, manageability and scalability of the ExDS system but are looking for very specific solutions with software stacks that are customized for their particular application needs.

For example, Calvin mentioned our partner Ocarina Networks.  With Ocarina, we've built a media archiving solution for a major film studio that allows it to maintain an online archive of its digital assets, using Ocarina's advanced content compression and optimization algorithms that include specific tuning for the data formats used in the industry.  Similarly, we've seen bioinformatics and oil and gas customers looking to bring parts of the software stack down into the storage layer, in ways that provide specific value to their applications.

Now, there are customers looking to adopt something in this space for the first time, and we'll work with them, including offering an HP-provided option -- but the key point is that our approach is based on supporting the customer's desire at once to have a market-leading storage system that provides unparalleled terabyte density, power efficiency and operational and acquisition cost effectiveness and at the same time let them retain the flexibility to build an appropriate software stack on top of that, that doesn't lock them in to one vendor.

We'll be talking more about how other customers are using the ExDS9100 in the coming months, but for now I'll just say that I think this emerging market for capacity-optimized storage is one where there will be more diversity and innovation, rather than less, and where customers will have more ability to customize their environments for their own needs -- and will not have to place all their data into some vendor's opaque cloud.

Michael Callahan, Chief Technologist
HP StorageWorks Scalable NAS Division

Pie in the Sky with Atmos?

Welcome to the party, EMC (Thanks Chuck for the preannouncement the other day and to all the other Twitter messages that made it clear what was happening). I'm glad after Joe Tucci promised this to be available in May and then again by the end of summer, you are finally announcing your product. But alas, we're still short on details. How much will you charge? We already announced pricing back in May, under $2GB. The HP StorageWorks 9100 Extreme Data Storage System (ExDS9100) will be shipping product around the end of November. EMC claimed general availability in June, but customers tell us it is not ready for prime time. Every single deal we have been in with EMC, we have won.

Now let us explore a few shortcomings in EMC's product (based on the few details we have) compared with the ExDS9100:

  • To compare with our ExDS9100 Max Config: it takes 3 racks of EMC's WS1 product (see hardware brochure) which includes 20 servers and 840 disks. This totals 6,452 lbs and 21 sq ft of floor space, compared to our 4,442 lbs and 12sqft.  Almost double the floor space and 50% heavier.  Better set aside some budget for that.
  • Hardware is:  Less storage, less CPU, less dense, fixed server/disk ratios, and in 2 of 3 rack options, EMC is using non-standard oversized cabinets.    Can you feel your total cost of ownership increasing?
  • EMC speaks to scalability, but storage appears to only be packaged in fixed rack increments with fixed CPU ratios.  From what is shared the only expansion path is buying another rack. That's not helpful to customers.  Pour more money into your TCO budget.
  • Where is EMC getting the hardware? HP has industry standard components and the leading server/drive vendor in the market. EMC has to cobble together the hardware and software into a nice vendor lock-in proprietary bag of tricks.  Cha-ching.
  • HP has a 3rd-party partner program. First vendor to announce an offering is Ocarina Networks. They will provide software data reduction (compression and de-duplication). EMC is going down the proprietary software route.  (More on this in a follow-up post from my colleague Michael Callahan).
  • Is Maui shipping? Nothing in the release or on the web site actually says it is available. Details?

EMC is famous for marketing-hype and spin without details. Does anyone else remember their WideSky initiative?  I can't help but think this is the same old story. I wonder if the relationship between names is any indication to where EMC's head is at?  

We are happy to go toe-to-toe with Atmos (Maui...Hulk...or whatever the name is) and continue to win deals.

Michael Callahan, Chief Technologist from our Enterprise NAS team will add his thoughts about the EMC software in another post later today.

P.S. I noticed a very interesting take on this from Stephen Foskett on his blog - take a look here.  His post got me wondering if the positioning conflict between VMware and Maui is why Diane Greene, the former VMware CEO left EMC.

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