HP's storage VP David Scott discusses data storage trends for 2013

HP's storage VP David Scott says data storage trends call for single architectures for primary storage, data protection, and retention and analysis.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. revised its storage strategy in late 2012, extending the capability of its 3PAR StoreServ primary storage family and adding a StoreAll object and file platform. We spoke with David Scott, former 3PAR CEO and current senior vice president of HP storage, about storage trends entering 2013 and HP's plans for turning around its storage business.

HP laid out a new storage strategy with its most recent 3PAR product introduction. How would you describe your storage strategy?

David Scott: People are looking for single architectures that scale to any need and any size. We call it polymorphic simplicity with a single architecture.

We think we can have a single architecture with a primary storage system, a single architecture with information protection systems, and a single architecture with retention and analytics combined. We use 3PAR StoreServ for primary storage, HP StoreOnce for information protection and HP StoreAll for retention and analytics. The same physical architecture underlies StoreOnce and StoreAll.

How different is that from what your competitors do?

Scott: In the primary storage space, EMC has VNX, VNXe and VMAX. We now cover much of that space with StoreServ. We have one architecture versus three. Our operating system is also available for the flash world, and EMC added another architecture there [when it acquired all-flash array startup XtremIO]. Plus, EMC has Vplex to tie everything together. That's five architectures in primary storage.

For us, 3PAR covers everything, including all-solid-state-drive (SSD). That's a major difference.

For backup, EMC has client-side deduplication with Avamar and target dedupe with Data Domain. We have one dedupe architecture with StoreOnce. Also, we have software-only dedupe with Data Protector, again with a single polymorphic architecture.

3PAR will be your all-flash platform going forward?

Scott: Today we have all-SSD solutions for StoreServ. In the future, we expect to seamlessly transition to all-flash and nonvolatile memory storage on 3PAR.

Can the 3PAR hard-drive controllers optimally handle all-flash storage?

Scott: When we designed the 3PAR architecture, by good fortune we designed it from the start with one very small page size. We use a 16-kilobyte page size. That was an issue with thin provisioning. EMC's equivalent for thin provisioning was 768 kilobytes and Hitachi Data System's architecture is in the megabytes. With all-flash, you need a small page size, and we have that. EMC didn't have it, that's why it had to buy XtremIO.

The 3PAR ASIC that allows us to do thin provisioning and other technologies like deduplication in hardware also allows us to handle all-flash and nonvolatile memory in controllers. Because of those design decisions, we can take the 3PAR architecture forward to an all-flash world. Our competitors will force their customers to go through a major transition.

3PAR is a block storage platform. How can it be a single storage architecture without network-attached storage (NAS)?

Scott: We added 3PAR file services with our latest announcement. It gives you file and block with 3PAR.

That's through Windows Storage Server 2012, right?

Scott: Yes.

How tightly is Windows Storage Server integrated with 3PAR?

Scott: It's very well integrated. All the thin provisioning from our hardware-assisted ASIC is tightly integrated. When you delete files, automatically that space is reclaimed on the 3PAR system and made available. You can also manage and configure the file and block storage from a common interface.

Is the file storage run on a separate server?

Scott: Today we run file storage on controllers outside of 3PAR. They're separate devices. Ultimately, we will look to integrate the controllers into one system.

When HP introduced StoreOnce deduplication for backup, the long-range plan was to extend its dedupe to primary storage. Where are you with that?

Scott: StoreOnce is used for information protection, which is backup and recovery. Ultimately, we will drive a combination of information protection and primary storage closer. Part of that is to make sure we integrate compression technology into our 3PAR StoreServ architecture. We'll have deduplication, thin provisioning, compression and so on in that architecture.

I will point out that we provide primary storage dedupe for files as part of our 3PAR file services.

What new data storage trends do you see entering 2013?

Scott: This is an interesting time in storage. There are a lot of technology changes, and a lot of pressures are developing to respond to the massive explosion in unstructured data with greater agility. There's a need for multi-tenancy for the cloud. All these things are pressuring what would otherwise be a conservative approach to IT.

People are working out whether their operating systems will be tenable for all-flash or an all-nonvolatile memory world. Next-generation applications are also using object storage paradigms to bring cloud applications in-house and run enterprise-type storage on internal clouds.

We're also seeing an emergence of real-time analytics not only for structured but unstructured information. And we're seeing software-defined networking and software-defined storage leveraging industry-standard servers.

We're starting to hear those terms a lot. How do you define software-defined storage?

Scott: It's really a change in architectural approach. The purpose is to leverage the fact that industry-standard servers have become far more powerful. Customers can leverage industry-standard building blocks with all the functionalities they need, including rich sets of data storage. We define software-defined storage as a new class of solution with virtual storage appliances [VSAs]. You can run them as virtual machines on any industry-standard server technology.

You're talking about the StoreVirtual VSA, right?

Scott: We believe HP is leading here, and it began with the acquisition of LeftHand. VMware began talking about the software-defined data center at VMworld last year, just after its acquisition of Nicira. We branded LeftHand VSA technology as StoreVirtual VSA a few weeks before VMworld. Our VSA technology is different from everybody else's; it's hypervisor-agnostic, it's not just running in VMware as VMware's VSA does. StoreVirtual also works with Microsoft Hyper-V and any server. You can mix and match hypervisors and server types in a single cluster. We've deployed 150,000 servers with our VSA.

StoreVirtual VSA is our primary virtual storage architecture but we believe long-term you will have a VSA for data protection and a VSA for information retention, each of which can run on industry-standard servers on any hardware and in a hypervisor-agnostic way.

You added object storage with StoreAll. Where do you see that technology playing?

Scott: The success of Amazon and other cloud providers is enabling application development to take place using objects. It has put enterprises in a position where they ask, 'Do I want to go full-scale production on Amazon or use an object storage API and run those applications in-house?' As they consider bringing them back and running them in-house, they're saying they don't want to create a different architecture. StoreAll is an object and file solution together.

Enterprises are also starting to be scared to death about employees using online file-sharing and syncing services like Dropbox, and storing highly sensitive information in the public cloud, so they want to provide file-sync-and-share capability in-house. Again, leveraging a platform like StoreAll with an object interface will allow customers to deliver their own file-sharing solutions.

Will HP offer a file-sharing/sync service?

Scott: We work with partners such as Oxygen Cloud, Ctera, Egnyte and other vendors that can integrate with StoreAll.

Another term we're hearing all the time is big data. How does HP handle that?

Scott: A lot of people use analytics for structured information, and now we're seeing an evolution to real-time big data analytics for unstructured information. The same HP storage that can deliver enterprise object storage can also be the platform for real-time data analytics. We've integrated into StoreAll a new high-speed metadata search engine that lets you search faster even after you scale to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of objects or files.

We do this all on the same architecture. EMC has Atmos, Centera and Isilon for that. We have a single architecture.

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