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Q&A: Interview with @StorMagic CEO Hans O'Sullivan, #ROBO Master

Hyper-converged infrastructure is one of the fastest growing segments in IT spending. One of the emerging trends for hyper-converged is the remote office/branch office (ROBO), which has very specific performance and availability requirements for business applications at the edge. While they typically only require the storage capacity of a laptop, these sites play an important role in an organization's business. To get a better understanding of the ROBO space, I caught up with Hans O'Sullivan, CEO of StorMagic. As part of our discussion on the enterprise edge, I learned about StorMagic's new ROBO solution partnership with VMware that was announced at VMware Partner Exchange.

VMblog:  It's interesting that you're focusing on ROBO, because not many storage vendors are.  What's the difference between a ROBO customer and a typical enterpriser?

Hans O'Sullivan:  Our view of remote sites is very different from other vendors. They consider ROBO to be no different to a hundred SMBs, but they are very different. An SMB has a small data center requiring ease of change and flexibility for the business environment, typically with local IT support.  ROBO has hundreds of identical IT configurations requiring a "cookie cutter" implementation without local variance. Usually there are no IT resources onsite, which means they must centrally manage hundreds or thousands of sites. Typical capacities are 2-3 TBs and a problem seen on one site is likely to be multiplied by 100. IT administrators don't want to preserve complex management infrastructures - they need simplicity and automation to manage thousands of sites.

VMblog:  If you would, give me a specific use case to explain.

O'Sullivan:  ROBO is where the enterprise meets the customer. Imagine a retail point-of sale application at a hardware store conglomerate with thousands of locations across the country. If your POS application goes down, customers not only can't buy power tools or lumber, but they'll go down the road to your competitor and may never return. Remote locations cannot afford the luxury of local IT staff onsite to support these servers, which are usually physically located in broom closets, under desks and in places that are not computer room environments. They require centralized, simplified management. Because they're out on the edge of the enterprise, these businesses can't afford to lose data or any downtime. They need the data availability provided by shared storage in their virtualized environment but without the cost, complexity, or single point of failure of a SAN.

VMblog:  So rather than a SAN, what is the alternative for these remote sites?

O'Sullivan:  A virtual storage appliance is often the better answer for ROBO environments. VSAs can solve key business problems by enabling high availability across sites with less hardware and less operating expense than traditional SANs. For instance, our VSA - SvSAN - can work seamlessly with the hypervisor, appearing no different to a physical SAN but with the advantages of no single-point of failure, lower cost, higher performance through internal rather than network interfaces and simplified management. You can ensure high availability through mirrored, virtualized shared storage that leverages the direct attached or internal server disks, even solid-state drives, and presenting all of it as shared storage for these applications.  

VMblog:  How will your new partnership with VMware impact the ROBO market?

O'Sullivan:  With VMware we can deliver value to organizations looking for simplified, cost effective virtualization without the need for a complex, physical SAN. StorMagic can provide high availability with just two server nodes whereas other VSA solutions require a minimum of three physical servers at each site. The extra server significantly increases capex and opex especially when you consider the incremental cost for hundreds and thousands of ROBO sites. The two-node entry configuration of StorMagic SvSAN allows VMware and its channel partners to recommend vSphere ROBO together with SvSAN for remote environments that don't have low latency or high capacity requirements per site, but must have highly available shared storage.

VMblog:  Are there specific requirements for hardware?

O'Sullivan:  As long as the server is on VMware's hardware compatibility list (HCL), our SvSAN can control its storage and serve it back up to the application.  SvSAN has minimal system requirements allowing more resources to be dedicated to application VMs rather than delivering the storage functionality.

VMblog:  Is there any other advice you could give to distributed enterprises looking for the right shared storage solution for their ROBO sites?

O'Sullivan:  Absolutely. Besides considering hardware requirements, distributed enterprises should look for VSAs that enable centralized management that is automated for tasks such as installations and upgrades, and fits into their existing management infrastructure. That way they get the most cost effective implementation of availability at the edge and can easily manage all their sites centrally from corporate headquarters.  By taking these steps to increase the simplicity in your ROBO environment, you can realistically achieve a return on the technology investment in less than 6 months.


Once again, thanks to Hans O'Sullivan, CEO at StorMagic, for making time for this interview with
Published Thursday, February 05, 2015 6:55 AM by David Marshall
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