In my last two blog posts I discussed why I think some of the established “unified storage” products in the market represent where storage has been, not where it’s going. I understand this is a new controversial perspective, or at least a new idea. A number of people have asked me, “How can you criticize unified storage when NetApp has sold so much of it?” Well, first, because that’s my job – to work with our customers and engineers and figure out “what’s next”. Second, in rough numbers, I would guess that these unified boxes have accounted for perhaps 20% of the external storage market over the last few years. That leaves 80% who bought something else. I think the 80% bought something else because they did not think the compromises were worth the integration value, and they preferred a solution that was really well tuned to their particular requirements. And I think the next few years will be highly disruptive to the unified/all-in-one-box approach.
Here is an example of what’s coming:
- Let’s say you are a customer looking to deploy some storage. Start with BladeSystem. You are using it for everything else, and now you are going to use it as the base platform for your storage too:
- BladeSystem is the number one bladeserver in the world, with the most advanced, most current technology, from top to bottom, and it has been run in every enterprise use case on the planet. It is not a proprietary storage processor or last generation something-or-other. Because you have decided to start with BladeSystem you get all the goodies, including Virtual Connect networking and Flex-10, iLO, world class management, power and cooling, etc. BladeSystem is the gold standard. Period.
- In the rack you have the normal disk shelves that you always use with BladeSystem (in this case MDS600 DAS), and as usual you can allocate the storage to any blade in the rack:
- Now, the secret sauce – storage software that was designed to run on general purpose servers. You can use HP Lefthand software to create a highly reliable and functional SAN pool directly on the BladeSystem. Alot of the reliability comes from unique network RAID technology that was designed to fully leverage this type of scale-out bladeserver/IP network gear. This is not a proprietary SAN and NAS hardware all-in-a-box. The next rack over from this one can have identical hardware running your apps:
- Now, let’s say you have another data center on the other side of the campus. You install another one of these configs over there. The HP Lefthand secret sauce lets you manage both configs together as one logical SAN, stretched across these sites. You are not constrained to “all-in-one box”. There IS no box. Let’s say you are running VMware. You now have transparent storage failover across these two sites, basically for free, because the HP Lefthand software is one license for all the features:
- How do you manage it? One way is to use your standard BladeSystem management software. HP BladeSystem Matrix will allow you to provision your bladeservers, networking and storage in one shot. It will also allow you provision other kinds of storage you might have, even if that other storage is totally different. BladeSystem Matrix catalogues and understands the different capabilities of your storage systems, and matches them to the job you are provisioning. So really, we are talking about simple orchestration across servers, storage and networking. If you don’t want to do it this way, you can use the storage-only tools that come with our Lefthand and IBRIX software at no additional charge. Or third party tools for management from VMware, Microsoft and others. It is simple and integrated, but it can also be as open as you want it to be:
In many ways, at HP, we are an all-new storage company, and we are passionate about the potential of this converged approach. Will it take some time for people to understand the power of storage for converged infrastructure? Yes. But what we can do is really exciting, and more and more customers are having their “a-ha moments” with us every day. Many of these bought into “unified storage” a number of years ago and it helped them for a while. But now they have dozens or hundreds of these “unified” boxes all over the place, and many of them tell us that it doesn’t feel very unified anymore. At HP, we are breaking the boundaries of the box. Change is coming.
* Special thanks to Lee Johns at HP who pioneered many of these ideas last year.