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April 21, 2009


John F.

Well, I don't agree on every point you make, but I can agree on one thing; In the Cisco-HP Summo wrestling match, the competitors are clearly squaring off...



Does Cisco prefer NetApp at the moment?

At least two local virtualization events in the Seattle area here recently have been Cisco+NetApp+Vmware+(local vmware consulting company). Though that was before the V-MAX was announced.

I've read that it's possibly because NetApp is the only big guy supporting/shipping(?) FCoE right now though I haven't tried to confirm it myself. Or could it be vmware just trying to show itself as being more open by not rigorously reminding people that it's a division of EMC.

One of the local vmware consulting shops have been pushing NetApp (VMware over NFS) for quite a while and their biggest sales point is that it's easier, and that you don't have SCSI reservation/locking issues, though they don't tell the whole story, that there can be locking issues on NFS as well as this pretty big issue showed:

There seems to be a pretty big following of vmware over NFS, wonder how long it will last?

I was expecting some sort of revamp in VMFS with the vSphere announcement, if it's there they didn't make a lot of noise about it.

Peter C.

Hmmm.... "blading everything" is what happens when 'server' guys get involved in storage - everything has to be a server.


What happens when network guys get involved in Data Centers? Oh wait...that's a good idea.

- Peter

Chuck Hollis

Hi Nate -- you bring up some good questions.

I can categorically state that Cisco does not "prefer NetApp" at the moment. I bet the NetApp people really wish this was the case, but it ain't so.

Native FCoE into the array is nice marketing bling, but the reality is that most of FCoE's benefits accrue on the server side, not the storage side. And all the Cisco Nexus products support both FC and FCoE.

I also want to point out that the FCoE standard isn't entirely finalized yet -- a minor but important point to some.

The real issue is -- where does virtualization go from here?

Our view is that as it evolves from test+dev and smaller applications into big, hairy workloads running in large clusters, customers will prefer the same storage infrastructure for VMware that they do for their most demanding applications.

And, without being a technical bigot, the answer to that --- far and away - are block-oriented arrays with real FC SANs in front of them.

I'm not going to argue pros and cons, just the market reality of enterprise customers around the globe. Don't believe me, go check the data from IDC, Gartner, Forrestor, et. al. It's not even *close*.

Frankly, we're rather agnostic to the whole storage protocol discussion. We're pretty good at pointing out the pros and cons of each approach, and we don't have a religious bent one way or another.

Many customers in your category are hedging their bets by buying something like the Celerra unified storage that do iSCSI, NAS and real-deal FC SANs from the same storage array.

Different parts of your VMware environment might want different protocols. What you do for test+dev may not be what you do for your most demanding applications, hence the all-in-one approach.

The other thing you need to keep in mind is that this sounds like a partner-led event. The partner gets to choose who shows up at their event, and if they're in love with NetApp, you're gonna see a lot of NetApp love.

Conversely, go to another event sponsored by an EMC partner, and you're going to see a lot of EMC love.

That's the nature of the beast, isn't it?

Chuck Hollis

Hi Peter

Opinions vary on Cisco's UCS offering, but our perspective is that we see some really fresh thinking here, especially in next-gen data centers that are entirely virtualized, use converged fabrics, and managed in a network-centric fashion.

Cisco will have to prove themselves in front of customers (like all vendors do!), but -- based on what we've seen -- I'm not going to bet against them.

Thanks for writing ...

-- Chuck

John F.

Hi Chuck,

I'll take the opposing view and state that EMC wishes it were not so. We can agree to disagree for now, but in the end it's not our choice to make. As you well know, it's the customer that ultimately decides, and that decision is based on the preceived value each vendor or combination of vendors brings to each customer's unique situation.

John F.

Chuck Hollis

John, I'm merely stating a fact -- Cisco does not "prefer" NetApp.

If you have factual evidence to the contrary, please share it.

And fluffy marketing videos don't count !

You're right -- customers decide. We both agree on that.

-- Chuck

John F.

Oh come on Chuck,

Cisco has no preference, we both know that. May what the customer preceives as the best vendor win.

Best of Luck to you, and congratulations on your launch.


Frank L.

Hi Chuck,

I would agree with you. Anyone who seriously thinks objectively not just about the current state of the data center, but also the near future where provisioning and workloads will shift dynamically between not only servers, but between data centers, and even organizations, cannot deny that the network needs to be at the heart.

In an abstract way, I liken it to other provisioning infrastructures such as the phone company, cable company, power, water, etc. None of these infrastructures are managed in the home where they are consumed. They are managed centrally. Given enough time I can see where the data center will be forced to move to this model as well.

Further evidence can be found just by looking at Cisco's UCS and HP's Matrix solutions. With the exception of HP's storage (which to your point doesn't make much sense in a cloud environment, indeed even a dynamic data center environment), the two offer almost all of the same capabilities. Yet HP can only do this by adding layer upon layer upon layer of management, whereas Cisco can accomplish this from the network side simply with some fancy firmware. It is able to run much leaner, with far less overhead and complexity. When I see this, it seems clear that the natural place for the intelligence to live is the network.

This is not to say that Cisco doesn't have a lot of proving to do, or that this isn't going to be an extremely tough battle for them. Indeed, it might not even be Cisco that wins in the long run. I just think that over time it will be hard to keep the intelligence from migrating to the network.

Just MHO.



Hi Chuck,

Sorry but I couldnt resist..... Apparently Dave Donatelli doesn't think the Cisco approach is best and voted with his feet :-D


Chuck Hollis

Hi Nigel -- couldn't resist, could you?

-- Chuck

John Spiers


I would like to make a few corrections to your comments about LeftHand-HP solutions:

“First, you might as well forget demanding OLTP. There's no support for non-volatile cache (either DRAM or flash) using this approach, so every write has to go safely to disk (actually, two disks). Right away, an entire chunk of the workload spectrum isn't up for consideration.”

Not true. LeftHand’s software supports battery backed cache in its storage systems and with its Virtual SAN Appliance.

“Second, this approach is very wasteful in storage capacity. Unless you don't care about losing access to your data due to server failure, each byte has to be written on two separate blades. That's a 100% penalty on top of any RAID processing that's local to the blade. Yuch.”

Well Chuck, you have it wrong again. There are multiple ways to create redundancy so that you can sustain blade and blade storage failures with RAID 5 or RAID 6 storage efficiencies. And remember, our Thin Provisioning works with remote replication features (unlike EMC), and eliminates snapshot reserve space.

“Third, while it's true you can share storage within a blade rack, there's no sharing of storage across blade racks. That is, unless you decide to turn your HP blade rack into an NFS server, but that's another can of worms.”

Not true. Blade racks can be connected to each other and LeftHand storage can span multiple blade racks.

EMC is feeling the pain being tied to hardware.

By the way, I’m pleased to announce that David Donatelli, the former president of the EMC Storage Division, responsible for the EMC storage platforms and related software businesses, has decided to join HP as the executive vice president of Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking.

John Spiers

The comments to this entry are closed.

Chuck Hollis

  • Chuck Hollis
    SVP, Oracle Converged Infrastructure Systems

    Chuck now works for Oracle, and is now deeply embroiled in IT infrastructure.

    Previously, he was with VMware for 2 years, and EMC for 18 years before that, most of them great.

    He enjoys speaking to customer and industry audiences about a variety of technology topics, and -- of course -- enjoys blogging.

    Chuck lives in Vero Beach, FL with his wife and four dogs when he's not traveling. In his spare time, Chuck is working on his second career as an aging rock musician.

    Warning: do not ever buy him a drink when there is a piano nearby.

    Note: these are my personal views, and aren't reviewed or approved by my employer.
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