Storage and application performance

By eweek  |  Posted 2007-07-23 Print this article Print

Orenstein: I completely agree with your statement. The way I like to phrase it is, if you were to look at the typical data center and divide it into the server layer, the network layer and the storage layer - and maybe take an X-ray of that to identify wheres the processing power and wheres the memory - what you see is that its awfully top heavy right now, that theres an incredible amount of processing power with the multi-CPU motherboards, and the multi-core CPUs and the virtual machines that its taken the place as well. The networking layer is very robust in terms of the silicon and the processing that goes in there. The storage layer is still a little bit light, in general, on processing and memory. Of course, its heavily weighted to traditional disk media, rotating magnetic media. And so I think whats going to happen over time with the likes of Gear6 caching appliances, and other appliances and new storage systems that are coming out on the market is that youll see a balancing of the processing needs and the memory needs across all of those server network and storage layers. And, absolutely, over time, I think the storage devices are going to get more intelligent. I think the networks are going to get more intelligent and I think a number of appliances that complement that infrastructure will become increasingly more intelligent to rebalance the data center as a whole. Vizard: In that model, when I think about the world, its a top-down, servers/ network/storage kind of play. Are you suggesting that that may flip where it could become a storage/network/server kind of architecture, because the servers are going to become (you could argue theyre becoming $2,000 peripherals right now) their compute engines?

Orenstein: You know, I always like to remind people that its called the data center, not the server center. And so, data is really the asset that the companies want to protect, and manage and extract the most information and value from in one way or another. And so, if that core information is the primary asset there, then the question becomes, how do we get the most amount of access to it, the most rapid amount of access to it, the ability to crunch that data and turn it into useful information? And your hypothesis, I think, is spot on in that we may see a reversal of the architecture from the data out as opposed to from the server or the application in.

Vizard: Given your device, it has cache, its essentially a box, do you worry at all that the IBMs of the world and the EMCs or NetApps are just going to load up their own cache appliance and set that up in front of their own set of devices? How will you stand up as a competitor?

Orenstein: Thats a good question. Those companies that you mention generally focus on making storage devices as opposed to devices that reside in the network as caching devices. So, none of them has caching devices right now. We tend to be a very strong partner with any company thats making a storage system, because we go into that environment. And whats unique about Gear6 compared to some other emerging companies in the market is that we dont have a new file system and we dont provide persistent storage. So, the very architectural model of Gear6 and our Cache FX appliance is to enhance an existing storage footprint at the persistent storage layer, and that could be from IBM, or EMC or Network Appliance, or any other major vendor out there. I think, again, those companies are specialists, typically, at what I would call edge devices that are very effective at providing persistent storage, and the services that go around persistent storage such as backup, and recovery, and snapshoting, and replication, and provisioning and a host of other tools. They havent been as strong in making devices that are a little bit more network resident, and so thats an area where Gear6 is focused, and, again, it seems to be a very strong complement to what the persistent storage vendors are delivering today.

Vizard: What do you think the ambitions of the networking companies are going to be in this space as it applies to storage? You hear Cisco increasingly talk about storage and, you know, your appliance is basically embedded in the network as well. So, what do you think will happen there?

Orenstein: I think youre going to see a recognition of the networking companies that they inevitably will want to move closer and closer to the data. All data moves over some type of network. Today, were seeing a lot of activity in the networking market around things related to wide-area file systems and wide-area acceleration, essentially tackling the problem of Internet latency with various caching, and optimization and compression mechanisms. And, in addition to a number of very successful emerging companies in that area, all of the large networking companies including Cisco, and Juniper and others, have gotten into that arena. As well, a number of companies have begun to break into the data center in an area that I would call more on the Web-serving and load-balancing arena. Juniper, and F5 and Cisco all make products that sort of help bring the data center out to the Internet and the Internet into the data center. As those areas become more developed, youll see a further penetration into the data center, and that could be by the networking companies. It could be by the larger storage companies, to now tackle the problem of disk latency. So, once the Internet latency issue has become relatively solved or relatively mature, the next stop is going a little bit further into the data center and tackling the disk latency problem, which, of course isnt going away. And things like the arrival of a terabyte drive arent helping the equation; theyre only exacerbating this problem of what we call the server storage-performance gap. I think you will see a lot of interest in people penetrating further to accelerate the end-to-end process, whether that be the user at the end of a Web service, across the Internet, all the way into the data center to that core data set, whether theyre delivering some piece of information from a database, or video or music clip from a content library.

Vizard: So, in that model, then, we can probably see some convergence between the networking and storage vendors. And who knows, we might ultimately see a merger between mega partners like Cisco and EMC at the rate were going.

Orenstein: It might be, and maybe Gear6 as well.



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