Looking Back Before We Charge Forward
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 posted by Dave Wright
2011 was a foundational year for us here at SolidFire. Emerging from stealth
mode at Structure in June, to a great VMworld
panel and TechFieldDay appearance in September, and more recently
announcing our new
financing round in late-October, we have been hard at work. The
best part is we are just getting started. Beyond enhancing our
product, building our team and spreading the word, we have spent
countless hours with cloud service providers (CSPs) listening to
the challenges they encounter when attempting to deploy profitable
high-performance cloud-storage infrastructures. Today we are
solving these problems with a select group of early access
customers, and we look forward to making the SolidFire
system broadly available in 2012. We don't think that
cloud computing will ever be the same.
Conversations with CSPs throughout the past year has continued to reinforce our belief that this customer segment is unique in its scale, business model and the solutions that it requires. The driving force behind this conclusion are four important qualifiers that clearly differentiate their IT environment and resulting storage system requirements from that of the traditional enterprise. These factors are:
- Ability to Provide Predictable Performance
- Massive Scale
- Lack of Application-level visibility
Individually, each of these factors impose unique pressures on the IT environment. Taken together, they demand an entirely new approach. Deeply understanding the architectural implications of these collective burdens provides a more constructive lens from which to assess the viability of one solution versus another in a cloud-scale setting.
A frequently debated topic that highlights the importance of evaluating customer requirements from a more holistic viewpoint is that of automated storage tiering. Originally blogging on the topic back in July, we have continued to evolve our thinking on the topic and I would like to introduce a blog series in which we cover our view on tiering at length.
Talk to any IT manager about how they are keeping up with performance demands and you will increasingly hear talk about resorting to unpredictable and resource intensive band-aids like tiering. In a controlled single system environment the dynamic tiering of data between SSD and SATA drives would seem to make sense. Unfortunately, the economics of these more tactical approaches, while viable in smaller topologies, start to break down under the burdens imposed in a cloud environment.
Once you introduce the elements of multi-tenancy, multiple applications, and the need to scale across multiple systems, a tiered approach exposes CSP customers to "all or nothing" performance disparity. Working around the unpredictable nature of this setup requires human intervention eroding the proposed cost benefits of the automated tiering value proposition. When evaluated against criteria above, the shortcomings of an automated tiering approach start to become very clear. Cloud service providers are forced to seek out alternative solutions that are better aligned with both the performance controls required in a multi-tenant cloud environment, and the efficiency mandated by the hyper-competitive nature of the cloud services market.
There is little debate that Quality of Service (QoS) is a key competitive differentiator for CSPs. Consequently, they cannot afford to gamble with the performance variability inherent to a tiering or cache-based solution. The manual intervention required to tune and optimize these architectures on an ongoing basis is the antithesis of a profitable cloud-scale management model. Coming out of the holiday break we will further explore storage tiering in even greater detail. We will look at the differences between capacity and performance tiering, dive into the true economics of tiered solutions, and hash out the merits of local versus global deduplication. As always, please provide your feedback here on our blog. We look forward to the conversation.
Happy and safe holidays to everyone and we look forward to seeing you in 2012.
-Dave Wright, Founder & CEO