Petabyte Hard Drive Storage

Software is Eating the Storage World. It’s Happening Here and Now – with Scality.

The ones who own data will win. That’s what defines the exploding “Information Age”. What does it mean to the Storage industry? Well, it opens the Petabyte era, which not only pushes the limits but challenges the fundamentals of Storage.

The storage eco-system has been relying on proprietary appliance designs for ages. Amid other mounting evidence, what the 75 cloud-scale customers of Scality attest to, is that the times they are a-changin.’

Yes, it’s true: service providers and large enterprises in multiple verticals put mission-critical data on petabyte-scale systems powered by the Scality RING software running on industry-standard software. Today.

Scality adoption is strong with communications services providers (cable and telco providers like Comcast in the USA, Orange in Europe, or 2 of the 3 largest telcos in Japan), cloud service providers (global companies like Dailymotion or Phoenix in the UK), data-hungry enterprise verticals like media & entertainment, global enterprises (for instance, one of the largest worldwide industrial groups is now utilizing the RING to cloud services dedicated to the Internet of Things), and lastly, government bodies (like the French Ministry of Defense or Los Alamos National Labs in the US).

Welcome to a new reality, where the rationale for storage appliances is gone.

Fundamentally, appliances were born not only from suppliers’ desire to establish a captive business model, but also from the challenge of extracting performance from raw hard disks. Twenty years ago, there was no real alternative, but to develop specialized operating systems (OSes) to be able to combine multiple disks and deliver the expected system-level performance, especially in throughput. Some storage players developed true IP in these proprietary OSes, and it made sense, e.g. in SANs.

But these design constraints are now gone, as central processing units (CPUs) became much more affordable, and Linux became the robust OS many developers rely on. In the Petabyte Era, there is no need for a proprietary OS if you need typical scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) performance (or less, obviously). I’m referring to something like gigabyte (GB) level throughput in and out of your storage system, which satisfies something like 80% of today’s storage needs.

A software such as the RING is runs in “user land”, meaning that it’s nothing but an application running on x86/Linux. So we don’t need any hardware/software certification testing effort. This means that we don’t run lengthy compatibility tests which restrict choice and delay the availability of hardware innovation at a whole system level. One of the RING’s value propositions is “Hardware Freedom:” customers have total freedom to pick the hardware of choice. Indeed, we have customers running the Ring on HP, Dell, Cisco, Supermicro, Seagate, SGI and even some ODM servers. Around the globe. It’s their choice.

The Petabyte Era is driving new requirements.

The first businesses which were confronted with the requirements that are now commonplace in the Petabyte Era were the web giants; companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc. And the conditions they required were: 1) total freedom to mix and match hardware platform as their infrastructure growth is exponential, and can’t be limited by hardware lock-in, 2) performance at scale, and 3) total reliability to support their always-on services, while self-healing in case of hardware failures (disk fails are inevitable; and this will continue happening).

How did they respond to such challenges? Without available off-the-shelf solutions, they developed in-house object stores.

In the Petabyte Era that we are currently in, these requirements are now high on the agenda of dozens of thousands of service providers and large enterprise around the globe, specifically the ones who decided to keep operating their own datacenter. While their requirements don’t differ from the needs of the web giants, what does differ is that they don’t all have the engineering muscle to develop their own storage software layer. And even if they attempted to, the workload would undoubtedly eventually distract them from their core business.

But that’s where experience and the Scality RING come into play. We took the best practices and lessons learned, and provide service providers and enterprises (among others) with the Scality RING: a productized version of the web giants’ secret sauce. We give them access to the same benefits of hardware freedom, performance at scale, and absolute reliability. And, the following facts support our claims. Our customers deploy on their hardware vendor of choice, our software supports very demanding use cases performance-wise [insert Dailymotion video link] and when it comes to reliability, we commit contractually. Indeed, our premium support offering comes with SLAs on availability and durability, backed with financial penalty schemes.

One more thing: Hardware matters. More than ever.

Yes, “software is eating the storage world.” It will change this industry value-chain forever: One can already see traditional storage industry players moving along the chain: Western Digital (WD)/Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) acquired Amplidata, Seagate acquired Xyratex, and every server vendor and original design manufacturer (ODM) is looking to expand their market share: in March 2015 the International Data Corporation’s Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker observed that “server market demand remained positive due to an on-going enterprise refresh cycle coupled with continued infrastructure investments by cloud service providers,” and predicted favorable future growth. And, money will change pockets as we predicted it in “The Future of Storage.”

And at the same time, hardware matters now, and more than ever. Because dropping the need for tight hardware/software integration and certification testing allows us to take advantage of hardware innovation as soon as it’s released. Larger disks such as SMR will help with more capacity, and require specific access patterns and imply more complex rebuild operations in the Petabyte Era. New network standards like RDMA promise low latencies, and require the storage software to evolve to take full advantage. IP drives will allow our customers to leverage the associated system architecture (separate at a disk level data management and data placement) in order to grow Petabyte systems even more gracefully. All of these are exciting developments directly tied to innovation in the hardware space.

The bottom line is; hardware still represents typically 2/3 of any storage system value. So it matters. Hardware vendors know that and keep innovating. And at Scality, we indeed want to partner with them and take advantage of any of their innovations. Super-fast. That’s why we have a strategic partnership with HP, Seagate and will soon announce many more.

Conclusion: this is a revolution. The tide is up. Anyone who faces petabyte-scale challenges is very much a part of the Petabyte Era, and should talk to Scality.

So talk to us. We have 6 years of field experience, 5 consecutive major releases of the RING software and 75 strong customer references that make “storage software on industry standard hardware,” and the Petabyte Era a reality. It’s here, and available now.

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