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3PAR interviewed; Storage Virtualization discussed!


Finally the Q&As are here. I spoke to Craig Nunes and we had a good talk about the role of storage in the fast changing virtual infrastructure.

Here are the Q&As:

1. Please tell us a bit about 3PAR?

3PAR is the global leader in “utility storage.” Utility storage is a category of highly virtualized tiered-storage arrays built for utility computing deployments in the heart of the data center. 3PAR Utility Storage allows users to securely and reliably serve more with less. Organizations creating virtualized IT infrastructures for workload consolidation use 3PAR to reduce the cost of allocated storage capacity, storage administration, and the SAN infrastructure.

As a pioneer of thin provisioning, 3PAR has disrupted the fundamental economics associated with primary storage and become a leader in minimizing power consumption and promoting environmental responsibility. Distinct advantages in simplicity, efficiency, and massive scalability make 3PAR utility storage ideal for open systems storage consolidation, integrated data lifecycle management, and performance-intensive applications.

3PAR was founded in 1999 by several engineers from Sun who essentially invented the Sun Server product line. Jeff Price (the “P” in 3PAR) and Ashok Singhal (the “A” in 3PAR) are the VP of Engineering and CTO, respectively. Robert Rogers (the “R” in 3PAR) was the company’s first CEO.

3PAR’s first products shipped in 2002. Our customers are medium to large enterprises, service providers and government agencies. Each of our customers is often aggregating demand across many departments, lines of business or external businesses. This multiplying effect means that many users of 3PAR have no idea that their data rests on 3PAR Utility Storage. If you or someone you know has a page on one of several social networking sites, has been online to shop or book travel, has traded stock, has an account with one of several investment or commercial banks, or uses one of several leading IT outsourcing companies to run his or her business, there is a good chance that their data is served on 3PAR.

In terms of competition, the companies founded in 1999/2000 that would have grown up to be our primary competition in utility storage did not survive the nuclear winter that struck the economy in 2001-2003. Thus we find ourselves competing with traditional storage vendors who are attempting to repurpose platforms developed for mainframes or the distributed computing data centers of the ‘90s for utility computing deployments. 3PAR typically competes with high-end storage offerings from EMC, HDS and IBM. A portion of the company’s product line also competes with midrange products from EMC, NetApp and HP.

2. Can you tell us about your products line and maybe also the recently released solution 3cV?

As I mentioned above, 3PAR Utility Storage offers advantages in simplicity, efficiency, and massive scalability. Customers can reduce administration time by 90%, cut capacity and related expenses by up to 75%, and minimize other storage infrastructure and platforms. In deploying 3PAR Utility Storage in their data centers, customers can:

· Start and grow in small, affordable increments

· Scale massively and confidently within a single system

· Provision lifetime, application-tailored storage in 15 seconds

· Purchase capacity only for written data

· Optimize tiered storage automatically

The Utility Storage hardware platform is called the 3PAR InServ Storage Server. With a tightly clustered, cache-coherent, load-balanced, and modular design, the InServ cost-effectively delivers the highest levels of availability, scalability, and simplicity. InServ Storage Servers utilize the 3PAR InSpire Architecture to deliver a simple yet powerful tiered-storage array for open systems. Central to the design is a high-bandwidth, low-latency backplane that unifies cost-effective, modular, and upgradeable components into a highly available, fully and autonomically load-balanced cluster.

The InServ family includes three models:

· InServ S800 Storage Server for maximum consolidation headroom for enterprises and service providers

· InServ S400 Storage Server for enterprise storage consolidation

· InServ E200 Storage Server for departmental or remote office consolidation

The 3PAR InForm Operating System is the foundation of the InForm software family. The InForm Operating System utilizes advanced internal virtualization capabilities within this massively scalable tiered-storage array to reduce storage administration and increase storage efficiency as compared with traditional solutions. The InForm Operating System eliminates array planning and delivers instant, application-tailored provisioning through built-in, autonomic management of data. Data management takes place across internally virtualized lower-level components including disks, loops, cache, processors, and ports.

3PAR recently announced 3cV, a customer-proven blueprint for the virtual datacenter. First coined by Deutsche Bank, 3cV stands for the combination of the 3PAR InServ Storage Server, HP BladeSystem c-Class, and VMware Infrastructure. The key utility computing technologies these three platforms uniquely blend are server and storage virtualization:

· 3PAR InServ Storage Server as described above featuring Virtual Domains and thin technologies

· HP BladeSystem c-Class—The No. 1 blade infrastructure on the market for datacenters of all sizes, the HP BladeSystem c-Class minimizes energy and space requirements and increases administrative productivity through advantages in I/O virtualization, power and cooling, and manageability.

· VMware Infrastructure—Infrastructure virtualization suite for industry-standard servers. VMware Infrastructure delivers the production-proven efficiency, availability, and dynamic management needed to build the responsive data center.

These elements combine to form a complete utility computing offering that can enable customers to halve server, storage, and operational costs and to gain instant agility. Organizations cited in the recent announcement as having adopted 3cV in their datacenters as a virtualized computing architecture included Deutsche Bank, Hilton Grand Vacations, Ariba, Martin's Point Health Care, and SAVVIS.

3. Can you elucidate a little bit on your "Block Storage", how does a Data Center benefit from it?

3PAR Utility Storage allows budget-pressured CIOs, service providers, and system administrators to meet IT service levels in a simpler, more agile, and less costly way. Attaining these service levels has traditionally required highly trained storage specialists. Service level optimization has also been hindered by expensive systems that suffer poor storage utilization or require complex and time-consuming storage provisioning, change management, and ongoing performance optimization. With 3PAR, all of these barriers are eliminated.

Our promise to our customers is to serve more with less. Utility Storage can accelerate IT responsiveness by up to 10X and accelerate project ROI, while at the same time lowering total cost of ownership by up to 50% and reducing the need for data center expansion.

4. How does 3PAR and Virtual Infrastructure work together?

3PAR Utility Storage turns server virtualization into true utility computing. Let me explain.

In deploying Virtual Infrastructure, VMware best practices suggest provisioning a large amount of capacity up-front to each ESX server for multiple virtual machines without having to request additional storage. In addition, it is recommended that 2x the actual data space be provisioned for suspend/resume space. It is not uncommon to allocate one or two terabytes of capacity when setting up each ESX server. As you can see, a virtual server environment is a very storage intensive undertaking, the cost of which can hamper progress of server consolidation to a virtual server environment. However very little of this capacity is actually used initially, and the cost of this capacity can be many times the cost of Virtual Infrastructure licenses.

3PAR Thin Provisioning and Fast RAID 5 provide unique efficiencies in a VMware environment. Thin Provisioning permits abundant upfront provisioning of useable capacity while requiring minimum physical storage (for written data only). The benefits include maximum provisioning flexibility, reduced storage cost, improved ROI and breadth of deployment, reduced storage management and reduced application disruption due to rescanning.

In addition, virtual server environments consolidate many times more I/O within the physical server than traditional server environments. While the desired effect of improving CPU utilization is achieved, running 10 or 20 virtual machines per server often overruns server memory and requires substantial paging to the storage array. With several ESX servers or blades attached to an array, the storage cache is also overrun and virtual server performance is limited to the array’s I/O performance to disk.

3PAR’s massively parallel InSpire Architecture automatically spreads all workloads over all internal disk resources, delivering demonstrably higher and more predictable levels of performance (high IOPS, low latencies) with full capacity utilization. This means each and every ESX server volume benefits from the combined performance of all array resources in parallel. The benefits include higher and more predictable application service levels, more virtual servers can be consolidated per ESX server, more transaction-intensive applications can be supported in a virtualized ESX environment, and fewer arrays and less capacity are required to support a given VMware deployment.

The combination of 3PAR with Virtual Infrastructure allows both compute and storage resources to be purchased and provisioned only as needed – delivering true utility computing.

5. Why would I propose a client to take a look at 3PAR as against HP's EVA, IBM or other storage options?

Versus HP’s EVA and other traditional dual controller arrays, 3PAR customers have achieved a number of benefits, including:

· Growing into a single array versus adding multiple arrays over time

· Allowing mixed workloads (random I/O such as transaction processing and sequential I/O such as a backup or data warehouse load) to coexist on a single array without impact, versus dedicating separate traditional modular arrays to a given workload

· Autonomic provisioning in seconds versus hours of spreadsheets and manual steps to provision

· Cost effective enterprise-class DR versus a lack of robust DR capabilities

· Thin Provisioning and Thin Copy versus fat provisioning and snapshot reservations

· Lower power and cooling, reduced CO2 emissions versus traditional midrange arrays whose poor utilization combined with additional controllers and SAN infrastructure increase power and cooling requirements and drive up CO2 emissions

6. Future of storage: We are all talking about "Cloud Computing" and big boys like Google, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon EC2 are going for it, can they pose a threat to your storage solutions? How are you dealing with it?

Given we are talking about storage, it probably makes sense that I address “cloud storage” versus “cloud computing.” Cloud storage is considered to be a networked data storage model in which capacity is generally hosted by third parties, rather than being hosted on dedicated servers. These hosting companies operate large data centers effectively sell or lease storage capacity to users (businesses). The hosting companies provision storage from a pool of highly virtualized storage resources based upon the requirements of the customer.

3PAR’s strategy is well-aligned with this trend. Our ideal customers include both service providers (like the hosting companies or software-as-a-service companies cited in a cloud storage model) and business units within enterprises or government agencies that act as internal service bureaus, such as IT organizations. Both groups can benefit from delivering solutions based on a utility service model that leverages a shared, virtualized utility computing infrastructure for workload consolidation and cost control.

Our customers include the largest hosting and software-as-a-service companies in the U.S. In fact we are the second largest supplier of storage capacity to this market according to Gartner. Our success is based upon delivering lower capital expenditures through high capacity utilization rates, lower operating expenditures through autonomic and dynamic storage management, all while providing very high levels of availability and performance so SLAs can be met.

7. What about Data Center Efficiency, how is 3PAR better?

3PAR can reduce capacity and related purchases by up to 75% with the use of Thin Provisioning, Thin Copy and Fast RAID 5 technologies. By reducing the absolute “raw” storage required to support a given amount of “usable” storage, capacity efficiency can be increased up to 4X versus traditional storage platforms.

8. What are your future expansion plans? How deep is your reach in EMEA and Asia?

With regards to Europe, we currently offer Utility Storage in the U.K. and Germany where we have 3PAR sales and technical support locations. We offer Utility Storage through channel partners in Italy, France, Netherlands, Switzerland and Poland. In addition we have opened an engineering center in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in an effort to co-locate engineering resources closer to our European customers.

In Asia we offer Utility Storage in Japan where 3PAR sales and technical support specialist work with channel partners to serve that market. We also offer Utility Storage through channel partners in Korea, China, Singapore and Australia.

Unfortunately I cannot comment on expansion plans to come, but will certainly keep you apprised.

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