GreyBeards talk with Lee Caswell and Dave Wright of NetApp

In our 30th episode, we talk with Dave Wright (@JungleDave), SolidFire founder, VP & GM SolidFire of NetApp and Lee Casswell (@LeeCaswell), VP Products, Solution & Services Marketing NetApp. Dave’s been on before as CEO of SolidFire back in May of 2014, but this is the first time for Lee. Dave’s also been a prominent guest at Storage Field Day, most recently at SFD9 with Dave Hitz from NetApp. Unclear how Lee managed to avoid TFD/SFD duty but it’s only a matter of time.

Solidfire was recently acquired by NetApp in their largest acquisition ever, signaling a new direction for them (acquisition closed 2 Feb. 2016). Since we had spent a prior podcast on another recent storage acquisition, we thought it only appropriate to talk with these two as well. We started the discussion with Dave and how it feels to be within the NetApp umbrella.

Another topic that came up was how flash gets used in the cloud. Old school had it that flash was just high IO performance but nowadays, next gen application development has a range of IO requirements which all need consistent performance to data. Flash with scale out and QoS can handle this wide range of requirements across cloud applications. Lee mentioned how flash adoption is changing from application specific to more general purpose storage which is removing the “IO bottleneck”.

Google had written a study saying that for the next decade there will not be a flash-disk crossover but the differences are small enough that you almost have to be hyper-scale customers to see significant economic advantages.

We discussed the lack of lot’s of AFA’s doing well on throughput intensive benchmarks. Dave mentioned that throughput was one of disk’s better performing modes and in the past, storage interfaces 3Gbps-6Gbps hid a lot of flash performance. But benchmarks of synthesized pure workloads aren’t real world, workloads in real data centers are much messier.

IO density (IOPS/GB) came up as another discussion topic.  At low IO density, disk may still make sense but as IO density increases, all flash makes much more sense.

Google also mentioned the importance of tail-end IO latency (IO latency at 99.9%). Poor tail IO latency has been an ongoing problem holding back the adoption of hybrid storage. All flash has same advantages here but are not all AFAs are immune to the problems in tail-end latency.

The podcast runs just over 39 minutes and episode covers a lot of ground about their products, flash technology advantages, and market dynamics.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Dave Wright, SolidFire Founder, Vice President, and GM

Dave Wright_201506-0063Dave Wright left Stanford in 1998 to help start GameSpy Industries, a leader in online video game media, technology, and software. While at GameSpy, Dave led the team that created a backend infrastructure powering thousands of games and millions of gamers. GameSpy merged with IGN Entertainment in 2004 to create one of the largest Internet gaming & entertainment media companies. Dave served as Chief Architect for IGN and led technology integration with FIM / MySpace after IGN was acquired by NewsCorp in 2005.

In 2007 Dave founded Jungle Disk, a pioneer and early leader in cloud-based storage and backup solutions for consumers and businesses. Jungle Disk was acquired by leading cloud provider Rackspace in 2008 and Dave worked closely with the Rackspace Cloud division to build a cloud platform supporting tens of thousands of customers. In December 2009 Dave left Rackspace to start SolidFire.

Lee Caswell, Vice President Product, Solutions, and Services Marketing

LeeLee Caswell is vice president of Product, Solutions and Services Marketing at NetApp, where he leads a team that speeds the customer adoption of new products, partnerships, and integrations. Lee joined NetApp in 2014 and has extensive experience in executive leadership within the storage, flash and virtualization markets.

Lee was previously vice president of Marketing at Fusion-IO (now SanDisk). Prior to Fusion-IO Lee was a founding member of Pivot3, a company considered to be an early innovator in hyper-converged systems, where he served as the CEO and CMO. Earlier in his career, Lee held marketing leadership positions at VMware, Adaptec, and SEEQ Technology (now LSI Logic). He started his career at General Electric in Corporate Consulting.

Lee holds a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Carleton College and a master of business administration degree from Dartmouth College. Lee is a New York native and has lived in northern California for many years. He and his wife live in Palo Alto and have two children. In his spare time Lee enjoys cycling, playing guitar, and hiking the local hills.

Disclaimer: NetApp and SolidFire have been clients of DeepStorageNet and NetApp is a current client of Silverton Consulting.

Greybeards talk car videos, storage and IT trends with Marc Farley

In our 30th episode, we talk with 3rd time guest star,  Marc Farley (@GoFarley), Formerly with Datera and Tegile. Marc has recently gone on sabbatical and we wanted to talk to him about what was keeping him busy and what was going on in storage/IT industry these days.

Marc is currently curating a car comedy vlog called theridecast.com. Apparently people, at least in California, are making comedy videos in their cars. They can be quite hilarious, checkout this episode of comedian in cars getting coffee.

While in the storage biz, the industry is getting battered by a number of trends: IT shrinking budgets, vendor proliferation, migration to cloud, and flash becoming old hat. Marc makes multiple points as to why the storage market is undergoing such a major transition these days:

  • Death to tech refresh, long live the cloud –  yes the cloud does upgrade hardware but  planned storage system obsolesce doesn’t happen in the cloud anymore. Cloud providers are  buying new SSDs, disks, white box servers, memory etc,  but not enterprise class storage, server or networking hardware.
  • AFA is boring, but selling – every vendor’s got one , two or sometimes three and they all know how to provide flash storage services. Customers pay extra for AFA, whether they need to or not, because they are swapping out old expensive, enterprise class storage for AFAs that often cost less but still provide better performance..
  • Tail IO latency becoming more important but it’s not understood – when IO response times go from 100µsec to 10msec, it hurts. It doesn’t matter if it’s every 1000 or 10,000 IOs, customers want less performance variability, which is a main reason they move to AFA in the first place. But not all AFA’s perform the same in tail latency and SSD controller/system architecture make a big difference.
  • Hybrid storage survives but only if you go big – hybrid storage economics makes sense only for large, diverse data repositories, that mix user directories, non-performance sensitive apps, and other structured and unstructured data in one data store.
  • Greenfield apps & secondary storage are moving to the cloud but migrating current apps to the cloud is difficult –  for new app development and archive storage, moving to or starting in the cloud is a no-brainer. Transitioning running enterprise class apps to the cloud is tough to do, that requires multiple skill sets and may never be successful. Hybrid  (cloud-on premises) enterprise class apps are too arduous to even contemplate.
  • Realtime analytics is emerging but data needs to be on flash – yes MapReduce is a batch activity which can uses lots of slow disk but there’s more to analytics than MR, and doing log analysis, in anything approaching realtime, one needs flash performance.
  • Optical’s persistence is great but who leaves data on the same technology for  20 years –  with magnetic and electronic storage densities going up every couple of years, who could afford keep data on the same optical technology that was 20 years old. Imagine using microfiche to keep PB of data today, inconceivable.

As for IT in general, one limiter of IT activity will become the lack of skilled engineers, specifically full-stack engineers and data scientists.

We ended our discussions on the economics of Samsung 3D NAND and Intel-Micron (IM) 3D Xpoint non-volatile memories. Both new semiconductor technologies are always long term investments. Today, Samsung is probably losing money on each 3D TLC NAND SSD it sells, but over time, as  fab yields improve, it should become cheap enough to make a profit. Similarly, 3D Xpoint may be costly to produce early on, but as IM perfect  their fab processes, the technology should become inexpensive enough to make oodles of $s for them. And there’s more technology changes to come.

The podcast runs just over 40 minutes and covers a lot of ground. Marc’s been in the IT almost as long as the GreyBeards and has a unique perspective on what’s happening today, having been with so many diverse, major and (minor) startup vendors throughout his tenure in the industry.  Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Marc Farley


Marc is a storage greybeard who has worked for many storage companies and is currently on sabbatical. He has written three books on storage including his most recent, Rethinking Enterprise Storage: A Hybrid Cloud Model and his previous books Building Storage Networks and Storage Networking Fundamentals.

In addition to his writing books he has been a blogger and podcaster about storage topics while working for EqualLogic, Dell, 3PAR, HP, StorSimple,  Microsoft, and others.

When he is not working, Marc likes to ride bicycles, listen to music, spend time with his family and dote on his cats. Of course there’s that car video curation…

GreyBeards talk with Pivot3 and NexGen Storage about their recent acquisition announcement

In our 29th episode, we talk with John Spiers (@lefthandsan), Co-founder & CEO of NexGen Storage and Ron Nash (@hronaldnash), Chairman & CEO of Pivot3, a hyper converged infrastructure provider.  We have talked with John before (see last June’s podcast episode) about NexGen Storage technology. Recently, Pivot3 announced they were going to acquire NexGen Storage and Howard and I wanted to talk about to them what brought the two together.

We have discussed hyper converged solutions before (see ScaleComputing and Gridstore podcasts) dating all the way to the first GreyBeardsOnStorage podcast with Nutanix but this is the first time we have talked with Pivot3 and Ron Nash. As discussed in those podcasts hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) brings together compute, storage and sometimes networking under one overarching infrastructure framework and delivers all this as a single solution that customers can then tailor to their own needs. In a typical HCI solution, storage is software defined, compute is under the control of a hypervisor and can include software defined networking.

Sometime last fall both John and Ron were considering additional funding opportunities with their VC’s, when one of them, Brian Smith of S3 Ventures, suggested they look at combining their two operations into one company.

It seemed that John was looking to expand their sales and marketing team to take NexGen Storage to the next level while Ron was looking for some additional differentiation in storage technology that could take their solution beyond where they were today. It seemed to Mr. Smith that each of them had just what the other one was looking for.

As GreyBeardsOnStorage listeners should recall, NexGen Storage is known for their hybrid storage solution with fine grained QoS capabilities. Although, NexGen Storage is delivered as an appliance, their main IP is in storage software and so implementing a Software Defined Storage solution under HCI was certainly an option.

Pivot3 has been around since 2002 and has sale teams around the world with an extensive marketing team. Pivot3 uses Zen and now mostly VMware for their hypervisor environments and typically run on whitebox servers with storage bridge bay boxes running software defined storage. Pivot3 had already implemented scaleable erasure coding which is something NexGen Storage was also looking at.

Pivot3 and the rest of the HC solutions market space seems split into two. That is there is a good market at the low end, where small companies, remote offices, small workgroups, etc. are looking for an easy to deploy, full IT stack solution. And at the high end, large web properties and other IT behemoths  also need an easy to deploy, readily automated solution, that can scale to whatever size they require.

Both Pivot3 and NexGen Storage work well in VDI deployments but NexGen was mostly deployed in currently running VDI environments, whereas Pivot3 primarily went into brand new deployments, that could take advantage of HCI solutions.

In the podcast we discuss some of these large organizations such as Google, Facebook, Etrades and others and what they are looking for in an IT infrastructure. We also discuss some of the technology trends that are impacting both HCI and storage infrastructure. It turns out NexGen’s extensive QoS capabilities are what can make HCI deployments work even better than they do today.

In the past couple of days, the technology teams of the two companies have been hot and heavy, examining possible synergies and discussing how to reconcile their respective roadmaps. John and Ron were sitting in the back during these discussions throwing out ideas which the technical teams ran with as far as they could.

The podcast runs just over 41 minutes and episode covers a lot of ground about both of their products market spaces, technology, and business dynamics and especially, on how they see the two solutions complementing each other. Apparently the acquisition is on a fast path to close soon. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Ron Nash 2016[1][1]Ron Nash, Chairman and CEO, Pivot3

Ron brings senior leadership and experience as the chairman and CEO of Pivot3. He has held numerous leadership roles at both start-up and enterprise information technology companies including ExoLink (acquired by Alliance Data Systems), Advanced Telemarketing (now Aegis Global) and Rubicon (acquired by Cerner), Perot Systems (now Dell Services) and EDS (now HP Enterprise Service). More recently, he served as a partner at InterWest Partners, investing in successful breakthrough technology companies like Pivot3 and Lombardi Software (acquired by IBM).

 

John Spiers Headshot[1][1][1][1]John Spiers, Founder and CEO, NexGen Storage

John is a serial entrepreneur based in Boulder, CO. John has been pioneering breakthrough data storage innovations for over 30 years. He co-founded venture-backed LeftHand Networks, a market leader in virtualized, scale-out data storage, and served as LeftHand’s Chief Technology Officer. In 2010 John co-founded NexGen Storage. John supports local entrepreneurs, serving on the boards of local technology startups and as an advisor for the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. John is a graduate from Colorado State University with a degree in Engineering.