One of the beautiful things about a small conference is feeling less like I’m lost in a crowd. I spent three days in Nashville at ZertoCon with a few hundred other attendees. A smaller conference meant smaller queues for food and less walking around the conference center. A smaller crowd also meant that after chatting with the person next to me in a line, I saw them and talked with them again the next day. It is quite a different feeling compared to the massive conferences I often attend. There was also some lovely personal touches such as having Zil (a Zerto staff member, or Zertonian) play guitar for the opening keynote and again at the customer appreciation party. The crowd at the party really appreciated the Zertonians who performed when the house band took a break. I went to more sessions at ZertoCon than I have at any conference since my first VMworld. Both those sessions were good with knowledgeable presenters in rooms that were small enough that questions didn’t feel like an interruption. I also had a one-on-one briefing as well as easy access to talk to Zerto and sponsor staff to answer questions.
I liked the center of Nashville too, although it will be more pleasant when the construction right next to my hotel is finished. The bottom of Broadway is quite a sight, three or four blocks of wall-to-wall live music venues. Even on a Monday night everywhere had live performance and many bars had multiple bands playing. One bar we went to was four floors with three different groups performing. I was surprised that almost all of the music was classic rock covers, not a lot of anything country or western.
My favorite part of all of the conferences that I go to is catching up with my community friends. Ariel and Edgar were there before me and won the hackathon by adding Zerto components to their vDocumentation tool. I caught up with Nick Scuola, Shannon Snowden, and Justin Paul, who are all Zertonians, along with Kaitlyn, who was my host for the event. I also got to hang out with Eric Siebert properly for the first time. Small conferences are very different from large ones. There was more focus on education and technical content at ZertoCon than at the massive vendor conferences. ZertoCon felt personal and the Zertonians I met wanted to have real relationships with attendees rather than simply to make sales.
Next week I will be in Nashville for ZertoCon. Two firsts for me as I have never been to Tennessee or ZertoCon. I also get to have my longest flight, almost fifteen hours direct from Auckland to Chicago before my connection to Nashville. Unfortunately, I don’t get to Nashville until Sunday night, too late for the ZertoCon Hackathon. Hopefully, I will be sufficiently rested to make the most of the education opportunities at ZertoCon on Monday. There are hands-on-labs as well as instructor-led training and certification testing. The sessions run Tuesday and Wednesday, I’m interested in some of the cloud migration sessions as well as a vExpert session run by Ariel Sanchez and Nick Scuola. I am also expecting to learn quite a bit about Zerto V7.0 that was released this month. Say hi if you see me at ZertoCon, also look out for Ariel.
On my way back from Nashville, I will have a couple of days in San Jose. Who should I catch up with while I’m there?
When I first met Pure Storage, at Virtualization Field Day Three, the company objective was to deliver an all-flash storage array that was cost competitive with disk-based arrays. At that time Pure Storage was optimizing for cost, rather than all-out performance. But even when the price was a primary concern, Pure also wanted to deliver the data services that enterprise IT expects. Over the five years since I met Pure, I have seen many profound changes in the company, and the industry as a whole. While Pure is still very conscious of the cost of their products, they have a sufficient range of products that there are performance optimized options. There are whole new families of products that were not even conceived in 2014. One thing that has not changed is their business approach. The Forever Flash guarantee is one aspect of how Pure wants to make life simpler for its customers.
In my last post about Cohesity, I showed you how to set up replication between Cohesity clusters so that you could have DR using an off-site Cohesity cluster. Today I will walk through how that actual recovery might happen. You can watch the video of the process here on YouTube. We think of DR planning as being protection against major events, floods, fire, tornados, and the like. The reality is that most DR activities are more mundane. Real disasters are infrequent, and a DR plan is mostly insurance that we pray we never need to use. Often the DR environment is also the test and development environment, and the usual recovery is to bring up an isolated copy of production. Using the DR environment for testing delivers additional value from what would otherwise be expensive idle equipment. Each test also validates that parts of our DR plan will work if a disaster does occur.
In my series of posts about copying data, I talked about Disaster Recovery (DR) as a reason to copy data between sites, particularly in a form that allows rapid recovery of a large workload. Today I will walk through the process of replicating a set of VMs from one Cohesity cluster to another. If you would prefer to see the process in a video then take a look here at my YouTube video. You can also refer to the Cohesity site for more information about Disaster Recovery and Replication. In another post and video, I will show you the recovery of those VMs.
In the last two blog posts of this series, I looked at ways that we copy data for protection and ways that are about improving business. Since we are making these copies of the same data for different purposes it might be worth considering how we might use a single product to make these copies without a lot of redundant copying and storage. Each time we make a copy of the production data we are impacting the production system, minimizing the impact on production should result in a business benefit. The challenge is that the different reasons for copying data have very different requirements so a single product for these needs will have to be flexible and feature rich.
This month, Cohesity announced a marketplace for applications that can run directly on the Cohesity cluster. This is an excellent development from their Analytics Workbench which allowed custom written reporting applications to be run on the cluster. The marketplace, part of the Helios management platform, now enables software vendors to package their applications and offer deployment onto your Cohesity cluster. The initial offerings I have seen on the marketplace include Splunk for analytics and Imanis Data which is an interesting cloud-native backup vendor. What sort of applications would be useful on the Cohesity platform and what would be a poor choice?
The Cohesity is a data management platform, so a good application to run on the cluster will be very data focused. These applications will create insight from the existing data copies on the Cohesity platform. Another characteristic of the Cohesity platform is that it uses low core count Intel CPUs, so the applications must be able to get their work done with a moderate amount of CPU time. Another characteristic is that the applications will be mostly asynchronous; you must be prepared to wait for an answer. I don’t mean that the UI will be unresponsive but that the Cohesity platform suits analytics and intelligence functions more than real-time operations. Plenty of applications will not suit deployment on the Cohesity platform; it is not a general-purpose compute platform. This is not a place to run business applications like your databases, CRM or ERP system; those belong on your primary storage with high-performance physical servers and virtual machines. The initial applications available from the Helios store are focused on reporting and analytics. I will be interested in seeing what other applications turn up in the store. I am also interested in how Cohesity customers might develop their own applications for this new platform. I understand that there are Docker containers, Kubernetes, and resource controls hidden under the covers so it should not be too hard to add customer-developed applications.
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Do you use Software as a Service? Does your SaaS provider offer a full suite of data protection and compliance archiving? What if you choose to exit one SaaS platform and move to another, how will you fulfill your data governance requirements? Will you have to pay for the old platform just to keep access to your older archives? I feel like compliance and archiving will make SaaS platforms a new type of Hotel California, where you must still pay for the older platform even after you move to a new one. The only way I can see to avoid this is to integrate your SaaS data protection with your other data protection activities. Theresa Miller has some thoughts on the same issue in her post about the real world need for data protection with Office 365.
One of the first things that I saw in the Cohesity hardware is that it looks a lot like a hyperconverged infrastructure or scale-out software-defined storage. Multiple nodes in an enclosure, each with a mix of SSD and hard disk plus a reasonable amount of compute power. The nodes are clustered together to provide a distributed storage platform. Cohesity doesn’t seem to want to replace your SAN, but their storage is fast enough that you can run VMs from it for fast service recovery without waiting for data to copy in a restore. Once the VMs are running and service is restored, the VMs should be migrated back to your production datastores which Cohesity will do automatically. I made a short video showing this Cohesity Instant-Mass-Restore functionality in operation on my little lab. There is also a report from ESG that looks at the difference between bulk copy restores and Instant-Mass-Restore.