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VMblog Expert Interview: Gerardo Dada of DataCore Talks Data Storage Challenges, Impact of COVID-19, HCI and More

interview datacore gerardo dada 

One of the hot topics that stands out when discussing the modern datacenter is storage, or more specifically, software-defined storage (SDS).  And one of the company's leading in this space for quite some time has been a company called DataCore.  VMblog has been following DataCore since the beginning.  And recently, the company has extended its SDS innovation with a next-generation, distributed file and object storage virtualization solution that gives unprecedented visibility and control over unstructured, widely-scattered data.  vFilO is the latest addition to the company’s SDS product portfolio which also includes hyperconverged infrastructure solutions.

So, when questioning the challenges facing organizations right now with regard to SDS, HCI and data storage, and the impact on decision making by the COVID-19 pandemic, VMblog reached out to one of the industry experts, Gerardo Dada, chief marketing officer at DataCore.  

VMblog:  What current challenges are driving strategic decisions about data storage?

Gerardo Dada:  We all know data is always growing, demanding more capacity. But we know IT budgets don't grow at the same rate, so logically, IT needs to find ways to do more with less. 

Then there are increased requirements to enable users to work remote, increase security, integrate systems - and of course everyone wants applications to work faster.

Then there are technology shifts like the adoption of HCI and the realization that software is what makes it work. In fact, there is a broader realization that software-defined storage is like this swiss-army knife tool that can deliver many benefits - so much that it seemed implausible. But now, the majority of IT departments have adopted or are adopting SDS, and those who are not are the laggards.

We also see IT departments wanting to adopt object storage, not because they need the technology, but because their data is distributed, they want to lower costs and take advantage of cloud storage. Really, to make up for deficiencies of their current file-based systems.

VMblog:  How has the Covid-19 pandemic and economic downturn impacted those decisions?

Dada:  What we hear from customers and our channel is that the uncertainty is making companies pause any major expenses. So, while IT now needs to support remote workers, and continue managing existing systems, there is limited ability to buy more hardware.

In this situation, people are realizing how SDS can help them weather the storm: extend the life of existing systems by improving performance, optimize the storage they already have with pooling, thin-provisioning and auto-tiering, and avoid the traditional approach of throwing hardware at the problem.

We all expect things to get better, hopefully soon, and SDS is an important step towards modernization so that after this downturn is over, it makes it easier to add new storage hardware, decommission old, or change your architecture with no need to do the traditional weekend-at-the-datacenter forklift migrations required - software takes care of it. In other words, your storage becomes more flexible, both for the short term and ready for long term.

VMblog:  Why is flexibility and choice in the infrastructure stack so important right now?

Dada:  We always crave the latest and greatest storage, and every technology wave brings a new ‘cool' vendor, who would very much like that you throw everything out, migrate everything to their system, and commit to six years or more with refreshes every two or three years. If we know technology is going to change, and that the value is in the software - why would anyone overpay for hardware and why would you want to make a long-term commitment?

Imagine your company acquires another company who uses a different vendor, can you integrate all storage systems? Or a new VP of architecture decides you will move from iSCSI to Fibre Channel, can you do it seamlessly? Imagine applications need performance and you can only afford a few TBs of NVMe storage, can you make it so it helps all applications? You are opening an office in another country, can you share files in a multi-site namespace? Your primary NAS is almost full, can you leverage the cloud to move old files automatically? With SDS the answer to all these questions is "Yes, you can." That's the power of flexibility. It's not a platitude, it is real value.

If we can learn one thing from Covid-19 is that no one knows what tomorrow will look like. Having an adaptable system that gives you flexibility and choice is the best way to be ready for the future.

In fact, our most recent IT storage survey shows limited flexibility is the top reported technology disappointment.

As Charles Darwin wrote "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change."

VMblog:  What are you hearing from your customers in terms of challenges and what they need to evolve?

Dada:  In a way, it is surprising that storage is still this hard in 2020.

From our survey, IT professionals are still not getting the availability they need or the ability to expand capacity without disruption.

In spite of the intent on consolidating systems and vendors, the majority (73%) have more than one datacenter and 81% have more than one storage vendor. Multiple vendors usually mean silos, different ways to solve a problem, inconsistent features, and different runbooks for disaster recovery.

The good news is that 64% of IT are strongly considering or standardizing on SDS, which can solve most of these problems. Customers see in SDS an opportunity to future-proof infrastructure, to simplify management of different types of storage and to extend the life of existing storage assets.

VMblog:  Why did DataCore enter the file and object market?

Dada:  Anyone who has been in storage for some time knows most companies have multiple filers with incompatible technologies, and that the ‘newer' NAS systems are really expensive to maintain, but it is hard to migrate data and it is difficult to find a system that meets all requirements.

We heard this pain loud and clear from customers and partners, and we saw an opportunity to solve it with a software-defined approach. vFilO treats data as data, it can be accessed via NFS, SMB, or S3 protocols, it can be stored in a file or an object system in the back-end, and it delivers the best of both worlds: fast performance even for transactional workloads, yet globally distributed.

vFilO can be deployed quickly, it can assimilate existing systems across datacenters and clouds, unify data access under a multi-site NFS, and automatically optimize data placement based on policies and rules. This means it can identify old or unused data in your expensive NFS, compress and move that data to the cloud to make room in your existing system, while the moved data is still available.

VMblog:  DataCore launched an HCI offering last year, how are you competing against the large established vendors?

Dada:  Every technology has benefits and tradeoffs. It's no different with HCI. The large vendors have taken a hardware-centric approach that usually results in silos. Our model is all about flexibility and mixing existing systems with new ones, SANs and HCI co-existing, sharing storage and hosts. 

More importantly, it's necessary that IT understand the benefits and tradeoffs of erasure coding. It is very efficient capacity-wise when deployed at the right scale but it carries a certain degree of complexity and a performance penalty that should not be ignored.

Our approach at HCI is based on mirroring, which delivers much more performance and is ideal to deploy in either 2-node pairs for discrete applications or edge deployments, or in combination with external storage.

In other words, there is no single right approach for every company for every workload. Our approach is optimized for flexibility and performance.

VMblog:  And finally, what's next for DataCore?

Dada:  Just a few months ago we launched vFilO to address the unmet needs we saw in file and object systems. vFilO is simply bringing the same benefits of SDS into the world of unstructured data: flexibility first and foremost, capacity optimization across different systems and locations, increased availability, and improved visibility and control.

We know vFilO is a completely different product from what is available in the market, as it incorporates the capabilities you expect from a distributed file system, a cloud gateway, a metadata management system, a data tiering solution, and an object storage system - all in one software - plus the capability to ingest and virtualize existing systems.

So, our challenge is to educate the market and to explain all these capabilities in a way that is easy to understand, without missing on the opportunity to continue talking about SANsymphony for block.

When I joined the company a little over two years ago, the industry was a bit confused about SDS. Today it is recognized as a foundational technology that is real, with proven benefits. With the portfolio we have and the experience that comes from many years of doing this, we are in a really good position to continue driving adoption for SDS in the market.


Published Thursday, May 07, 2020 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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