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.

131: GreyBeards talk native K8s data protection using Veritas NetBackup with Reneé Carlisle

The GreyBeards have been discussing K8s storage services a lot over the last year or so and it was time to understand how container apps and data could be protected. Recently, we saw an article about a Veritas funded survey, discussing the need for data protection in K8s. As such, it seemed a good time to have a talk with Reneé Carlisle (@VeritasTechLLC), Staff Product Manager for NetBackup (K8S), Veritas.

It turns out that Veritas NetBackup (NBU) has just released their 2nd version of K8s data protection. It’s gone completely (K8s) native. That is, Veritas have completely re-implemented all 3 tiers of NBU as K8s micro services. Moreover, the new release still supports all other NBU infrastructure implementations, such as bare metal or VM NBU primary server/media server services. It’s almost like you have all the data protection offered by NBU for the enterprise over the years, now also available for K8s container apps. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

To make use of NBU K8s, backup admins establish named gold, silver, bronze backup policies selecting frequency of backups, retention periods, backup storage, etc. Then DevOps would tag a namespace, pods, containers, or PVs with those data protection policy names. Once this is done, NBU K8S will start protecting that namespace, pod, container, or PV.

In addition, backup admins can include or exclude specific K8s namespace(s), pod(s), container(s), labels (tags), or PVs to be backed up with a specific policy. When that policy is triggered it will go out into the cluster to see if those K8s elements are active and start protecting them or excluding them from protection as requested.

NBU K8s has an Operator service, Data Mover services and other micro services that execute in the cluster. That is, at least one Operator service must be deployed in the cluster (recommended to be in a separate namespace but this is optional). The Operator service is the control plane for NBU K8S services. It will spin up data movers when needed and spin them down when done.

The Operator service supports a CLI but more importantly to DevOps, a complete implemented RESTful API service. Turns out the CLI is implemented ontop of the NBU (Operator) API. With the NBU API DevOps CI/CD tools or other automation can perform all the data protection services to protect K8s.

One historical issue with backup processing is that it can consume every ounce of network/storage and sometimes compute power in an environment. The enterprise class data movers (or maybe the Operator control plane) has various mechanisms to constrain or limit NBU K8S resource consumption so that this doesn’t become a problem.

But as the Operator and its Data Mover are just micro services, if there’s need for more throughput, more can be spun up or if there’s a need to reduce bandwidth, some of them can be spun down, all with no manual intervention whatsoever.

Furthermore, NBU K8s can be used to restore/recover PVs, containers, applications or namespaces to other, CNCF compliant K8s infrastructure. So, if you wanted to say, move your K8s namespace from AKS to GKE or onprem to RedHat OpenShift, it becomes a simple matter of moving the last NBU backup to the target environment, deploying NBU K8s in that environment and restoring the namespace.

NBU K8s can also operate in the cloud just as well as on prem and works in any CNCF compatible K8s environment which includes AKS, EKS, GKE, VMware Tanzu and OpenShift.

In the latest NBU K8s they implemented new, enterprise class Data Movers as micro services in order to more efficiently protect and recover K8S resources. Enterprise class Data Movers can perform virus-scanning/ransomware detection, encryption, data compression, and other services that enterprise customers have come to expect from NBU data protection.

NBU K8S accesses PV data, container, pod and namespace data and metadata using standard CSI storage provider and normal K8s API services.

As mentioned earlier, in the latest iteration of NBU K8s, they have completely implemented their NBU infrastructure, natively as containers. That adds, K8s auto-scaling, full CI/CD automation via APIs, to all the rest of NBU infrastructure operating completely in the K8s cluster.

So, now backup admins can run NBU completely in K8s or run just the Operator and its data mover services connecting to other NBU infrastructure (primary server and media servers) executing elsewhere in the data center.

NBU K8s supports all the various, disk, dedicated backup appliances, object/cloud storage or other backup media options that NBU uses. So that means you can store your K8s backup data on the cloud, in secondary storage appliances, or anyplace else that’s supported by NBU.

Licensing for NBU K8s follows the currently available Veritas licensing such as front end TB protected, subscription and term licensing options are available.

Reneé Carlisle, Staff Product Manager, Veritas NetBackup (K8S)

Reneé (LinkedIn) has been with Veritas Technologies for eleven years in various focus areas within the NetBackup Product Management Team.  In her current role she is the Product Manager responsible for the NetBackup strategic direction of Modern Platforms including Kubernetes and OpenStack.   She has a significant technical background into many of the NetBackup features including Kubernetes, virtualization, Accelerator, and cloud.  

Prior to working for Veritas, she was a customer running a large-scale NetBackup operation as well as a partner implementing, designing, and integrating NetBackup in many different companies.

128: GreyBeards talk containers, K8s, and object storage with AB Periasamy, Co-Founder&CEO MinIO

Sponsored by:

Once again Keith and I are talking K8s storage, only this time it was object storage. Anand Babu (AB) Periasamy, Co-founder and CEO of MinIO, has been on our show a couple of times now and its always an insightful discussion. He’s got an uncommon perspective on IT today and what needs to change.

Although MinIO is an open source, uber-compatible, S3 object store, AB more often talks like a revolutionary, touting the benefits of containerization, scale and automation with K8s. Object storage is just one of the vehicles to help get there. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

We started our discussion on the changing role of object storage in applications. Object storage started out as an archive solution. But then, over time, something happened, modern database startups adopted object storage to hold primary data, then analytics moved over to objects in a big way, and finally AI/ML came out with an unquenchable thirst for data and object storage was its only salvation.

Keith questioned the use of objects in analytics. Both AB and I pointed out that Splunk (and Spark) fully supported objects. But Keith said R (and Python) data scientists prefer to use protocols they learned in school, and these were all about (CSV, JPEGs, JSON) files. AB said what usually happens is this data is stored as object storage and then downloaded onto local disk as files to be processed. That’s not to say, that R or Python can’t process objects directly, but when they don’t, the ultimate source of data truth is object storage.

Somehow, we got onto the multi-cloud question. AB said the multi-cloud is really all about containers and K8s. When customers talk multi-cloud, what they really mean is they want applications that can run anywhere, in any cloud, on premise, or anyplace else for that matter.

I thought multi cloud was a DR solution. But AB reiterated it’s more a solution to vendor lock-in. What containerization gives IT is the option (ability) to run applications anywhere, but IT is not obligated to execute that option unless it makes sense

AB said that dev today doesn’t develop apps in the cloud anymore. They develop locally using minikube, once it’s working there they then add CI/CD tool chains and then move it to its final resting place (the cloud or wherever it ultimately needs to run). It turns out, containers, YAML files, scripts etc. are small and trivial to upload, migrate, or move to any internet location. And with ubiquitous K8s support available everywhere, they can move anywhere unchanged.

But where’s the data. AB said anywhere the app executes. It’s never moved, it takes too much time and effort to move this amount of data. But as applications move, any data it generates grows in that location over time.

We next turned to how MinIO was supported in K8s. AB mentioned they have a DirectPV CSI driver that creates a distributed PV to support MinIO services on local disks. In this way, containers needing access to MinIO S3 object storage can directly allocate data to user storage.

Then we asked about opinionated stacks. AB said most customers don’t want these. They may have some value in preserving an infrastructure environment but they’re better off transitioning to containerization and build any stack within those containers and the K8s cluster services.

On the other hand, MinIO object storage is available with the same S3 API, in bare metal, on VMware, OpenShift, K8s, every public cloud and most private clouds, as well. The advantage of the same, single storage interface, available everywhere can’t be beat.

MinIO recently closed a new funding round of $103M. AB mentioned they had new investments from Intel and Softbank, but I was more interested in plans he had for the new cash. And Keith asked where the new funding left MinIO with respect to its competitors in this space.

AB said it was never about the money, it was more about what you did with your team that mattered in the long run. AB’s imperative was to enter an existing market with a better product and succeed with that. Creating a new market plus a new product always cost more, takes longer and is riskier.

As for the new funds, there are really two ways to go: 1) improve the current product or 2) create a new one. My sense is that AB leans towards improving the current product.

For instance, MinIO is often asked to support a different object storage API. But AB’s perspective is that S3 was an early bet that paid off well by becoming the de facto standard for object storage. Supporting another API would divide his resources and probably make their current product worse not better. AB mentioned they are getting 1.1M downloads of their Docker container version so they seem to be succeeding well with the current product

Anand Babu (AB) Periasamy, Co-founder and CEO

AB Periasamy is the co-founder and CEO of MinIO, an open-source provider of high performance, object storage software. In addition to this role, AB is an active investor and advisor to a wide range of technology companies, from H2O.ai and Manetu where he serves on the board to advisor or investor roles with Humio, Isovalent, Starburst, Yugabyte, Tetrate, Postman, Storj, Procurify, and Helpshift. Successful exits include Gitter.im (Gitlab), Treasure Data (ARM) and Fastor (SMART).

AB co-founded Gluster in 2005 to commoditize scalable storage systems. As CTO, he was the primary architect and strategist for the development of the Gluster file system, a pioneer in software defined storage. After the company was acquired by Red Hat in 2011, AB joined Red Hat’s Office of the CTO. Prior to Gluster, AB was CTO of California Digital Corporation, where his work led to scaling of the commodity cluster computing to supercomputing class performance. His work there resulted in the development of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory’s “Thunder” code, which, at the time was the second fastest in the world.  

AB holds a Computer Science Engineering degree from Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, India.

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