Thursday, July 21, 2022

Recap of the 44th edition of The IT Press Tour

Initially posted on StorageNewsletter 7/11/2022

The recent 44th edition of The IT Press Tour was the opportunity to meet and visit 9 companies - iXsystems, Lightbits Labs, Liqid, Nasuni, Quantum, Spectra Logic, Veritas, VAST Data and WEKA - covering data management, cloud, NVMe, file storage, composable environments, primary and secondary storage, tape and open source.

iXsystems, I should say iX, meeting was the opportunity to realize the the company annual revenue is around $100 million and it represents probably a surprise for many readers. TrueNAS has a 40% penetration rate within Fortune 500. The team has clearly made progress with TrueNAS 13.0 helping TrueNAS Scale to finally be ready addressing the scale-out model asked by iX customers. I also learned that the company worked on a global distributed storage approach based on a P2P/blockchain design, inviting users to bypass public cloud and storage and share data from multiple storage entities present as various private production sites.

Lightbits Labs session was also very interesting as I was able to measure the progress made by the team. The company now articulates its message around the cloud data platform angle promoting very low latency - up to 160𝝻s, 75 millions IOPS, high endurance and flexible data protection. As a full and only software solution, delivering such high performance on TCP is a real achievement aligned with the huge ethernet installed based. The software stack got very rich features list and more are coming becoming a serious alternative solution against usual players. Intel was invited and I'm still wondering why Intel invests so heavily in storage, here with the NVMe/TCP champion but also with its DAOS. Is it just to support Optane and potentially other CPU and networking components? In that case why they sold to SK Hynix their NAND and SSD business? Clearly for Lightbits Labs it's a major partnership that should their destiny.

Liqid visit at their Broomfield, CO, HQ was the opportunity to learn more about the data center composability leader. I understand that CDI - composable disaggregated infrastructure - represents the next step after HCI to build dynamically virtual server to honor and address dynamic changing workloads. Built around the Liqid EX 4400 Series and coupled with Liqid Matrix software, the solution finds its ideal footprint with GPU-based configuration able to compose, decompose and recompose on-demand any configuration. Beyond this, Liqid has extended its technology with ioDirect, a peer-to-peer GPU connection to boost bandwidth. And being a strong Nvidia partner, Liqid supports GPUDirect. The various configurations deployed at customers sites shown during the session are impressive. The industry now expects soon the next step, the capability to support DRAM disaggregation and composability via CXL.

Nasuni organized the session at the beautiful new Microsoft EBC in Mountain View. Nasuni's mission is clearly ambitious with the goal to serve file data from any point and protect them from anything. Results also have significantly improved and demonstrated a real adoption acceleration. The company sees a split in the file storage market with a TAM opportunity of $5B in the coming years. Having shifted its message, Nasuni has found its spot fueled by new VC round, key new functionalities like an advanced ransomware protection and two recent interesting acquisitions with DBM Cloud Systems and Storage Made Easy. In addition, Nasuni offers for a few months extended services via its Labs entity being open source solutions offered to customers to use and customize. These new services are present on GitHub.

Quantum, met at their EBC in Englewood, CO, delivered and impressive presentation as I measured all the progress made by the company for a few years. I can easily align this with the arrival of Jamie Lerner as CEO four years ago. Fueled by acquisitions like CatDV, Pivot3, EnCloudEn or Atavium and coupled with internal developments, Quantum has successfully made the transition to a software machine as illustrated by the image below. The second key point was the work done for hyperscalers having designed a new tape library line - the Scalar i6H - to support their demanding needs. The company equipped today five of the top hyperscalers with football fields full of tape libraries. It clearly gives to Quantum a new credibility with these biggest storage needs on the planet.

Spectra Logic, also met at their HQ in Boulder, CO, gave a company and product update around BlackPearl, StorCycle, VAIL and of course its tape libraries line. The secondary storage champion has made some significant developments for unstructured data with BlackPearl NAS, its integration with StorCycle and VAIL. StorCycle has been updated to support multi-billion file aligned with large data center needs and full integration with AWS, GCP and Azure among others features. It helps Spectra plays a role beyond the storage destination becoming active in the data management. On the BlackPearl side, the generation 2, accelerates the chameleon aspect of the solution and delivers new capabilities around encryption, S3 and Glacier like approach beyond NAS and gateway role. The company also realized that public cloud is inevitable with S3 being the natural access method delivering a real U3 - Universal, Unified and Ubiquitous - model. VAIL leverages on-premises and public cloud to maximize capabilities of both world delivering a multi-point access to data becoming global.

Veritas has chosen to present its new data management strategy around its autonomous flavor fueled by the NetBackup family. NetBackup business represents at least 65% of the revenue of the company so I understand this choice even if InfoScale should have been a good addition. The idea is to extend what automation can offer with real independence, with some capabilities to analyze, take decision and execute operations without any human intervention thanks to AI and cloud learning. For Veritas, this model has three components: automated cyber-resilience with seamless air gap, multi-cloud optimization and intelligent protection. Clearly the base for that is NetBackup 10 with its cloud scale architecture coupled with some AI/ML extension to make things transparent, rich and rapid. It has to be also agnostic to the environment able to run on-premises but also in the cloud with bare metal, VM or Kubernetes deployments. Really an interesting approach for the market leader for enterprise data protection.

VAST Data covered Ceres, 4.3 and gave a preview of some 4.4 features. Clearly the company is moving fast with impressive contracts proving that advanced scalable NAS has entered in a new dimension thanks to its DASE architecture, container, SCM, QLC Flash, NVMe and its network companion. The product now supports 30TB drives, NVidia BlueField SmartNIC and Kioxia SCM delivering a new density reference. With a lot of new features, the company has accelerated filling the gap with other established NAS and even going beyond what I can find on the market. This is the case for the new data reduction approach with 4.4 release promoting a new adaptive variable chunking to find similarities. This new engine delivers super high reduction ratio making full flash NAS a very compelling story at every level.

WEKA shared its impressive story confirming its market footprint acceleration for a few quarters and its recent VC round. Playing in a very conservative world with parallel file system model with some open source pressure, the company has introduced a radically new architecture where eveything is sharded and parallelized to gain performance and resiliency. Implemented as container, every instance can serve as metadata and data services able to sustain very high IOSP and throughput for various needs, well beyond classic HPC. In fact the company targets AI and next generation workloads exposing all kind of interface such a Posix one but also NFS, SMB, S3, CSI and GPUDirect. The WEKA 4 news with the support of AWS, supported for several years, but above all GCO, Azure and OCI confirms WEKAfs as a U3 - Universal, Unified and Ubiquitous - data platform. In addition a new data reduction engine is also introduced with new UI and incremental continuous snapshots.


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