137: GreyBeards talk VMware Explore 2022 Wrap-up

Jason Collier Principle Member of Technical Staff, AMD (@bocanuts), a current GreyBeardsOnStorage co-host and I both attended VMware Explore 2022 this past week and we recorded a podcast discussing VMware’s announcements on the show floor. It turns out that Keith Townsend, TheCTOAdvisor (@thectoadvisor) had brought his Airstream &studio and was exhibiting on the show floor. Keith kindly offered the use of his studio to record the podcast.

This one is a video. Let us know what you think. I clearly need a cowboy hat and Jason said (off camera) that I’m showing more grey in my beard than before. I take that as a compliment here.

Here’s the news as we saw it:

  • vSphere 8 – has a number of new features but the ones we thought important were the GA of Project Monterey. This supports new DPUs that now run ESXi out board from the CPU. They are able to offload lot’s of the CPU networking cycles to the DPU freeing up these for other (more important) work. vSphere 8 supports 2 DPUs now, the NVIDIA (Mellanox) BlueField(-2?) DPU and the AMD (Pensando) DPU. AMD recently purchased Pensando and Jason seemed to know an awful lot about this tech. VMware also announced support for concurrent ESXi upgrades which can now allow upgrading ESXi running in DPUs while hosts and clusters continue to operate. Finally, the other item of interest was vSphere is now more API driven. I guess it’s only a matter of time before all VMware functionality is API driven to make it even more cloud-like
  • vSAN 8 – also has a number of new features. The first we discussed was is a faster data path. This means more IOPS, more bandwidth and lower latency for IOs. Next, vSAN 8 now supports single tier storage pools . These will no longer require a caching layer. This should also speed up IO operations (as long as the single tier is at least as fast as the old caching layer). They also announced faster snapshots. Apparently this has been a problem in the past and they’ve done the work to speed this up considerably. Jason mentioned an AMD open source VM migration tool (from somebody else’s X86 CPUs to AMDs) that depends a lot on vSAN snapshots.
  • Cloud Flex Storage – mentioned at the show but not well explained, Jason and I speculated that this was an internal storage service available on for Cloud Foundation users on AWS where customers could subscribe to storage as-a-service in much lower increments (maybe even GB/month) than standing up more vSAN hosts to increase storage.
  • NetApp FsX (ONTAP) storage – along the same line, VMware announced support for NetApp’s FsX as yet another storage option for Cloud Foundation users on AWS. Supplying yet another storage-as-a-service option for this environment.
  • Cloud Flex Compute – also mentioned at the show was their new Compute-As-A-Service for Cloud Foundation users on AWS. This way users could subscribe to more or less compute, on an as needed basis rather than having to spin up new ESXi hosts. I later found out this allows users to run a single VM and pay for it on a subscription basis.
  • Tanzu Application Platform (TAP) – is a new VMware supplied (and supported) “development experience” for K8s on vSphere. Note, it doesn’t include any advanced Tanzu services such as Tanzu K8s Grid (TKG) so it’s a true DevOps bare bones environment.
  • Tanzu K8S Operations (TKO) – another new Tanzu based service which offers operations complete control over the Tanzu services running on vSphere. Note Tanzu Mission Control (TMC) is not part of TKO.
  • Aria management – VMware rebranded vRealize and CloudHealth, which now comes in 3 bundles, Aria Cost (CloudHealth+), Aria Operations and Aria Automation. Which are all built onto of Aria Graph that graphs all the nodes in your VMware clusters with all their connections so that Aria management can traverse this graph to find out what’s where. On top of Aria Graph are Aria Hub, Aria Insights, and Aria Guardrails (sort of like providing boundary’s where services can be deployed).

They also announced Ransomware Recovery [changed 7Sep22, the Eds] as a Service which builds on VMware’s DR-aaS announced last year and Tanzu now works with Red Hat OpenShift

We also discussed the show. I heard somewhere there were 10K people there, Jason heard somewhere between 6K and 9K. In any case much smaller than VMworlds prior to Covid (25kish). And of course the rebranding of the show seemed counter-intuitive at best.

The show floor was much smaller than usual, (not withstanding Keith’s Airstream RV exhibit). And there were a number of storage vendors not at the show?? There was less hardware on the show floor, this could be a Covid thing but there were just as many mini-white boards/class rooms per large exhibiter, so don’t think it was because of Covid.

But the elephant in the room was Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware. At one of the analyst briefings I asked an exec about attrition. He made a couple of comments but in the end said VMware has been bought and sold before and has always come out of it in better shape. This will be no different.

That’s about all from the show.

And Thanks again to Keith and his crew, for lending us his studio to record the show. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an RV on a show floor. Keith seemed to have a ball with it

Tell us how you like our video. If everyone is for it we could do something like this with a Zoom (in this case Zencastr) recording, Or just try this at the next joint conference. .

Jason Collier, Principle Member of Technical Staff at AMD

Jason Collier (@bocanuts) is a long time friend, technical guru and innovator who has over 25 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur in technology.

He was founder and CTO of Scale Computing and has been an innovator in the field of hyperconvergence and an expert in virtualization, data storage, networking, cloud computing, data centers, and edge computing for years.

He’s on LinkedIN. He’s currently working with AMD on new technology and he has been a GreyBeards on Storage co-host since the beginning of 2022

134: GreyBeards talk (storage) standards with Dr. J Metz, SNIA Chair & Technical Director AMD

We have known Dr. J Metz (@drjmetz, blog), Chair of SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) BoD, for over a decade now and he has always been an intelligent industry evangelist. DrJ was elected Chair of SNIA BoD in 2020.

SNIA has been instrumental in the evolution of storage over the years working to help define storage networking, storage form factors, storage protocols, etc. Over the years it’s been crucial to the high adoption of storage systems in the enterprise and still is.. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

SNIA started out helping to define and foster storage networking before people even knew what it was. They were early proponents of plugfests to verify/validate compatibility of all the hardware, software and systems in a storage network solution.

One principal that SNIA has upheld, since the very beginning, is strict vendor and technology neutrality. SNIA goes out of it’s way to insure that all their publications,  media and technical working group (TWGs) committees maintain strict vendors and technology neutrality.

The challenge with any evolving technology arena is that new capabilities come and go with a regular cadence and one cannot promote one without impacting another. Ditto for vendors, although vendors seem to stick around a bit longer.

One SNIA artifact that has stood well the test of time is the SNIA dictionary.  Free to download and free copies available at every conference that SNIA attends. The dictionary covers just about every relevant acronym, buzzword and technology present in the storage networking industry today as well as across its long history.

SNIA also presents and pushes the storage networking point of view at every technical alliance in the IT industry. .

In addition, SNIA holds storage conferences around the world, as well as plugfests and  hackathons focused on the needs of the storage industry. Their Storage Developer Conference (SDC), coming up in September in the USA, is a highly technical conference specifically targeted at storage system developers. 

SDC presenters include many technology inventors driving the leading edge of storage (and memory, see below) industries. So, if you are developing storage systems, SDC is a must attend conference.

As for plugfests, SNIA has held FC storage networking plugfests over the years which have been instrumental in helping storage networking adoption.

We also talked about SNIA hackathons. Apparently a decade or so back, SNIA held a hackathon on SMB (the file protocol formerly known as CIFS) where most of the industry experts and partners doing work on SAMBA (open source SMB implementation) and SMB proprietary software were present.

At the time, Jason was working for another company, developing an SMB protocol. While attending the hackathon, Jason found that he was able to develop 1-1 relationships with many of the lead SMB/SAMBA developers and was able to solve problems in days that would have taken months before.

SNIA also has technology alliances with just about every other standards body involved in IT infrastructure, software and hardware today. As an indicator of where they are headed, SNIA recently joined with CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation) to push for better storage under K8s.

SNIA has TWGs focused on technological areas that impact storage access. One TWG that has been going on now, for a long time, is Swordfish, an extension to the DMTF Redfish that focuses on managing storage.

Swordfish has struggled over the years to achieve industry adoption. We spent time discussing some of the issues with Swordfish, but honestly,  IMHO, it may be too late to change course.

Given the recent SNIA alliance with CNCF, we started discussing the state of storage under K8s and containers. DrJ and Jason mentioned that storage access under K8s goes through so many layers of abstraction that IO performance is almost smothered in overhead. The thinking at SNIA is we need to come up with a better API that bypasses all this software overhead to  directly access hardware.

 SNIA’s been working on SDXI (Smart Data Acceleration Interface), a new hardware memory to memory, direct path protocol. Apparently, this is a new byte level, (storage?) protocol for moving data between memories. I believe SDXI assumes that at least one memory device is shared. The other could be in a storage server, smartNIC, GPU, server, etc. If SDXI were running in your shared memory and server, one could use the API to strip away all of the software abstraction layers that have built up over the years to accessi shared memory at near hardware speeds

DrJ mentioned was NVMe as another protocol that strips away software abstractions to allow direct access to (storage) hardware. The performance of Optane and SSDs (and it turns out disks) was being smothered by SCSI device protocols/abstrations that were the only way to talk to storage devices in the past. But NVM and NVMe came along, and stripped all the non-essential abstractions and protocol overhead away and all of a sudden sub 100 microsecond IO’s were possible. 

Dr. J Metz,  SNIA Chair & Technical Director AMD

J is the Chair of SNIA’s (Storage Networking Industry Association) Board of Directors and Technical Director for Systems Design for AMD where he works to coordinate and lead strategy on various industry initiatives related to systems architecture. Recognized as a leading storage networking expert, J is an evangelist for all storage-related technology and has a unique ability to dissect and explain complex concepts and strategies. He is passionate about the innerworkings and application of emerging technologies.

J has previously held roles in both startups and Fortune 100 companies as a Field CTO,  R&D Engineer, Solutions Architect, and Systems Engineer. He has been a leader in several key industry standards groups, sitting on the Board of Directors for the SNIA, Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA), and Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe). A popular blogger and active on Twitter, his areas of expertise include NVMe, SANs, Fibre Channel, and computational storage.

J is an entertaining presenter and prolific writer. He has won multiple awards as a speaker and author, writing over 300 articles and giving presentations and webinars attended by over 10,000 people. He earned his PhD from the University of Georgia.

133: GreyBeards talk trillion row databases/data lakes with Ocient CEO & Co-founder, Chris Gladwin

We saw a recent article in Blocks and Files (Storage facing trillion-row db apocalypse), about a couple of companies which were trying to deal with trillion row database queries without taking weeks to respond. One of those companies was Ocient (@Ocient), a Chicago startup, whose CEO and Co-Founder, Chris Gladwin, was an old friend from CleverSafe (now IBM Cloud Object Storage).

Chris and team have been busy creating a new way to perform data analytics on massive data lakes. It’s has a lot to do with extreme parallelism, high core counts, NVMe SSDs, and sophisticated network and compute flow control. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

The key to Ocient’s approach involves NVMe SSDs which have become ubiquitous over the last couple of years which can be deployed to deal with large data problems. Another key to Ocient is multi-core CPUs, which again seem everwhere and if anything, are almost doubling with every new generation of CPU chip.

We let Chris wax a little too long on the SSD revolution in IOPs, especially as pertains too random 4K reads. Put a 20 or so NVMe SSDs in a server with dual 50 core CPU chips and you have one fast random IO machine.

Another key to Ocient is very sophisticated network and bus data flow management. With all this data running any query on it, involves consuming lots of data that all has to be brought into the CPU. PCIe bandwidth helps, as does NVMe SSDs, but you still need to insure that nothing gets bottlenecked moving all that data around a system/server.

Yet another key to Ocient is parallelism. With one 20 NVMe SSD server and 2-50 core CPUs you’ve got a lot of capability but when you are talking about trillion row databases you need more. So in order to respond to queries in anything a second or so, they throw a lot of NVMe servers at the problem.

I asked how they split the data across all these servers and Chris mentioned that at the moment that’s part of their secret sauce and involves professional services.

Ocient supports full ANSI SQL queries against trillion row databases and replies to those queries in a matter of seconds. And we aren’t just talking about SQL selects, Ocient can do splits, joins and updates to this trillion row database at the same time as the SQL select are going on. Chris mentioned that Ocient can be loading 100K JSON files each second, while still performing SQL queries in near real time against the trillion row database.

Ocient supports Reed-Solomon error correction on database data as well as data compression and encryption.

In addition to SQL queries, Chris mentioned that Ocient supports data load and transform activities. He said that most of this data is being generated from IoT applications and often needs to be cleaned up before it can be processed. Doing this in real time, while handling queries to the database is part of their secret sauce.

Chris said there’s probably not that many organizations that have need for trillion row databases. But ad auctions, telecom routers, financial services already use trillion row databases and they all want to be able to process queries faster on this data. Ocient is betting that there will be plenty more like this over time.

Ocient is available on AWS and GCP as a cloud service, can also be used operating in their own Ocient Cloud or can be deployed on premises. Ocient services are billed on a per core pack (500 cores, I think) subscription model.

Chris Gladwin, CEO and Co-founder, Ocient

Chris is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ocient whose mission is to provide the leading platform the world uses to transform, store, and analyze its largest datasets.

In 2004, Chris founded Cleversafe which became the largest and most strategic object storage vendor in the world (according to IDC.)  He raised $100M and then led the company to over a $1.3B exit in 2015 when IBM acquired the company.  The technology Cleversafe created is used by most people in the U.S. every day and generated over 1,000 patents granted or filed, creating one of the ten most powerful patent portfolios in the world. 

Prior to Cleversafe, Chris was the Founding CEO of startups MusicNow and Cruise Technologies and led product strategy for Zenith Data Systems.  He started his career at Lockheed Martin as a database programmer and holds an engineering degree from MIT. 

129: GreyBeards talk composable infrastructure with GigaIO’s, Matt Demas, Field CTO

We haven’t talked composable infrastructure in a while now but it’s been heating up lately. GigaIO has some interesting tech and I’ve been meaning to have them on the show but scheduling never seemed to work out. Finally, we managed to sync schedules and have Matt Demas, field CTO at GigaIO (@giga_io) on our show.

Also, please welcome Jason Collier (@bocanuts), a long time friend, technical guru and innovator to our show as another co-host. We used to have these crazy discussions in front of financial analysts where we disagreed completely on the direction of IT. We don’t do these anymore, probably because the complexities in this industry can be hard to grasp for some. From now on, Jason will be added to our gaggle of GreyBeard co-hosts.

GigaIO has taken a different route to composability than some other vendors we have talked with. For one, they seem inordinately focused on speed of access and reducing latencies. For another, they’re the only ones out there, to our knowledge, demonstrating how today’s technology can compose and share memory across servers, storage, GPUs and just about anything with DRAM hanging off a PCIe bus. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

GigaIO started out with pooling/composing memory across PCIe devices. Their current solution is built around a ToR (currently Gen4) PCIe switch with logic and a party of pooling appliances (JBoG[pus], JBoF[lash], JBoM[emory],…). They use their FabreX fabric to supply rack-scale composable infrastructure that can move (attach) PCIe componentry (GPUs, FPGAs, SSDs, etc.) to any server on the fabric, to service workloads.

We spent an awful long time talking about composing memory. I didn’t think this was currently available, at least not until the next version of CXL, but Matt said GigaIO together with their partner MemVerge, are doing it today over FabreX.

We’ve talked with MemVerge before (see: 102: GreyBeards talk big memory … episode). But when last we met, MemVerge had a memory appliance that virtualized DRAM and Optane into an auto-tiering, dual tier memory. Apparently, with GigaIO’s help they can now attach a third tier of memory to any server that needs it. I asked Matt what the extended DRAM response time to memory requests were and he said ~300ns. And then he said that the next gen PCIe technology will take this down considerably.

Matt and Jason started talking about High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) which is internal to GPUs, AI boards, HPC servers and some select CPUs that stacks synch DRAM (SDRAM) into a 3D package. 2nd gen HBM silicon is capable of 256 GB/sec per package. Given this level of access and performance. Matt indicated that GigaIO is capable of sharing this memory across the fabric as well.

We then started talking about software and how users can control FabreX and their technology to compose infrastructure. Matt said GigaIO has no GUI but rather uses Redfish management, a fully RESTfull interface and API. Redfish has been around for ~6 yrs now and has become the de facto standard for management of server infrastructure. GigaIO composable infrastructure support has been natively integrated into a couple of standard cluster managers. For example. CIQ Singularity & Fuzzball, Bright Computing cluster managers and SLURM cluster scheduling. Matt also mentioned they are well plugged into OCP.

Composable infrastructure seems to have generated new interest with HPC customers that are deploying bucketfuls of expensive GPUs with their congregation of compute cores. Using GigaIO, HPC environments like these can overnight, go from maybe 30% average GPU utilization to 70%. Doing so can substantially reduce acquisition and operational costs for GPU infrastructure significantly. One would think the cloud guys might be interested as well.

Matt Demas, Field CTO, GigaIO

Matt’s career spans two decades of experience in architecting innovative IT solutions, starting with the US Air Force. He has built federal, healthcare, and education-based vertical solutions at companies like Dell, where he was a Senior Solutions Architect. Immediately prior to joining GigaIO, he served as Field CTO at Liqid. 

Matt holds a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from American InterContinental University, and an MBA from Concordia University Austin.

127: Annual year end wrap up podcast with Keith, Matt & Ray

[Ray’s sorry about his audio, it will be better next time he promises, The Eds] This was supposed to be the year where we killed off COVID for good. Alas, it was not to be and it’s going to be with us for some time to come. However, this didn’t stop that technical juggernaut we call the GreyBeards on Storage podcast.

Once again we got Keith, Matt and Ray together to discuss the past year’s top 3 technology trends that would most likely impact the year(s) ahead. Given our recent podcasts, Kubernetes (K8s) storage was top of the list. To this we add AI-MLops in the enterprise and continued our discussion from last year on how Covid & WFH are remaking the world, including offices, data centers and downtowns around the world. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

K8s rulz

For some reason, we spent many of this year’s podcasts discussing K8s storage. TK8s was never meant to provide (storage) state AND as a result, any K8s data storage has had to be shoe horned in.

Moreover, why would any IT group even consider containerizing enterprise applications let alone deploy these onto K8s. The most common answers seem to be automatic scalability, cloud like automation and run-anywhere portability.

Keith chimed in with enterprise applications aren’t going anywhere and we were off. Just like the mainframe, client-server and OpenStack applications before them, enterprise apps will likely outlive most developers, continuing to run on their current platforms forever.

But any new apps will likely be born, live a long life and eventually fade away on the latest runtime environment. which is K8s.

Matt mentioned hybrid and multi-cloud as becoming the reason-d’etre for enterprise apps to migrate to containers and K8s. Further, enterprises have pressing need to move their apps to the hybrid- & multi-cloud model. AWS’s recent hiccups, notwithstanding, multi-cloud’s time has come.

Ray and Keith then discussed which is bigger, K8s container apps or enterprise “normal” (meaning virtualized/bare metal) apps. But it all comes down to how you define bigger that matters, Sheer numbers of unique applications – enterprise wins, Compute power devoted to running those apps – it’s a much more difficult race to cal/l. But even Keith had to agree that based on compute power containerized apps are inching ahead.

AI-MLops coming on strong

AI /MLops in the enterprise was up next. For me the most significant indicator for heightened interest in AI-ML was VMware announced native support for NVIDIA management and orchestration AI-MLops technologies.

Just like K8s before it and VMware’s move to Tanzu and it’s predecessors, their move to natively support NVIDIA AI tools signals that the enterprise is starting to seriously consider adding AI to their apps.

We think VMware’s crystal ball is based on

  • Cloud rolling out more and more AI and MLops technologies for enterprises to use. on their infrastructure
  • GPUs are becoming more and more pervasive in enterprise AND in cloud infrastructure
  • Data to drive training and inferencing is coming out of the woodwork like never before.

We had some discussion as to where AMD and Intel will end up in this AI trend.. Consensus is that there’s still space for CPU inferencing and “some” specialized training which is unlikely to go away. And of course AMD has their own GPUs and Intel is coming out with their own shortly.

COVID & WFH impacts the world (again)

And then there was COVID and WFH. COVID will be here for some time to come. As a result, WFH is not going away, at least not totally any time soon. And is just becoming another way to do business.

WFH works well for some things (like IT office work) and not so well for others (K-12 education). If the GreyBeards were into (non-crypto) investing, we’d be shorting office real estate. What could move into those millions of square feet (meters) of downtime office space is anyones guess. But just like the factories of old, cities and downtowns in particular can take anything and make it useable for other purposes.

That’s about it, 2021 was another “interesteing” year for infrastructure technology. It just goes to show you, “May you live in interesting times” is actually an old (Chinese) curse.

Keith Townsend, (@TheCTOadvisor)

Keith is a IT thought leader who has written articles for many industry publications, interviewed many industry heavyweights, worked with Silicon Valley startups, and engineered cloud infrastructure for large government organizations. Keith is the co-founder of The CTO Advisor, blogs at Virtualized Geek, and can be found on LinkedIN.

Matt Leib, (@MBLeib)

Matt Leib has been blogging in the storage space for over 10 years, with work experience both on the engineering and presales/product marketing. His blog is at Virtually Tied to My Desktop and he’s on LinkedIN.

Ray Lucchesi, (@RayLucchesi)

Ray is the host and co-founder of GreyBeardsOnStorage and is President/Founder of Silverton Consulting, and a prominent (AI/storage/systems technology) blogger at RayOnStorage.com. Signup for SCI’s free, monthly industry e-newsletter here, published continuously since 2007. Ray can also be found on LinkedIn