Maxta Breaks The Code For Integrating Storage And Compute

It seems everybody wants to come to the software-defined storage (SDS or SDDS – software defined data storage) party, from established vendors like EMC (ViPR) and IBM (Storwize), to start-ups like Primary Data, Coho Data and the latest stealth entrant, Maxta. While there is little known about Maxta, which formally introduced itself today, it is shipping product, has customers, and offers some pretty impressive benefits, including an 85% reduction in OPEX, 55% in CAPEX, 80% in TCO, 77% in power and cooling, and 60% in floor space.

Maxta has broken the code for integrating storage and compute into a converged virtual data center, eliminating the need for external storage arrays, said founder and CEO Yoram Novick. The Maxta Storage Platform (MxSP) is a hypervisor-agnostic implementation of enterprise storage that integrates with server virtualization at all levels from user interface to data management, while supporting all possible deployments of virtual data centers, including private, public and hybrid clouds.

Maxta offers all the critical features that enterprise users are typically demanding of the storage infrastructure in their virtualized environments, said ESG Senior Analyst Mark Peters in a prepared statement. “But, rather than being just another rack or cabinet based storage system, the Maxta solution can essentially be seen as a server-based storage app; as such it’s a perfect fit for an increasingly converged, and yet heterogeneous, world where easy to deploy and use software management is crucial from both operational and economic viewpoints.”

The problem SDS addresses, according to Novick, is that storage is broken. Everybody realizes there is trouble, the data center is transforming, and virtualization is leading the charge. “Unfortunately storage didn’t keep up with those developments. It’s not flexible and agile enough to keep up.”

Maxta’s approach was ‘thinking outside the storage box’ for software-defined VM-centric storage, he said. “We decided to focus on where the problem is, and where people are looking for a solution.”

VMware may be majority-owned by EMC, but that hasn’t stopped the virtualize-everything vendor from casting its eyes on servers as storage. Last month Chuck Hollis, Chief Strategist, VMware SAS BU, blogged a follow-up piece to his “Are Servers The New Storage?”, saying the SDS movement is not only underway, but its gaining momentum.

In addition to the “inexpensive hardware” argument, he presented four reasons why he believed servers-as-storage would become more attractive:

-from a pure performance perspective, there doesn’t appear to be anything faster than applications running on server-based memory technologies; that architectural bang-for-buck differential is substantial and will be persistent;

-storage-as-software can be potentially far easier to manage as part of converged operations and workflows;

-there’s a pooling benefit: hardware resources used for any storage purpose can be shared and reallocated: not just among storage tasks, but general purpose server tasks as well; and,

-simplicity benefit: using the exact same building blocks (industry standard servers) for both compute and storage.

The bottom line, he said is that storage-as-software is shaping up to be a significant category within the broader storage marketplace. “And this time, it looks for real.”

EMC Chief Technologist John Cooper called software defined data storage the foundation of push-button IT. Anil Vasudeva, an analyst with IMEX Research, added it is key to IT as a Service.

“It provides a services-based infrastructure for automation, unified control and greater efficiency. Provisioning would be accomplished via policies and workload-aware service levels to match application requirements.”

According to IDC, software-based/software-defined storage (SBS/SDS) is any storage software stack that can be installed on commodity resources (x86 hardware, hypervisors, or cloud) and/or off-the-shelf computing hardware. Furthermore, in order to qualify, software-based storage stacks should offer a full suite of storage services and federation between the underlying persistent data placement resources to enable data mobility of its tenants between these resources.

“Software-based storage will slowly but surely become a dominant part of every datacenter, either as a component of a software-defined datacenter or simply as a means to store data more efficiently and cost-effectively,” said Ashish Nadkarni, Research Director, Storage Systems. “With a consistent and coherent set of definitions, suppliers can collectively help buyers realize the vision for SBS platforms.”

Storage guru Howard Marks recently noted that vendors use the term “software-defined” to describe an incredibly broad range of storage products–many of which strain credulity, including some very hardware-defined products. Every storage system built in this century gets most of its functionality from software, he said, so if you stretch “software-defined” to include products that include proprietary hardware, then 95% of all storage products would qualify as SDS, and we would no longer be talking the genus SDS but the much larger storage kingdom.

This skepticism about SDS was part of the reason why Maxta has kept under the radar since its 2009 start. “We decided not to announce the company until we had technology validation, and market validation,” said Novick.

Now that the company has gone public, it plans to go deep and wide, he said. Deep in the sense of the VMware environment, adding more features and capabilities, and wide in the sense of providing full-spectrum solutions for different hypervisors like HyperV.


Under The Hood

MxSP delivers best in class snapshot and clone technology, supports an unlimited number of VM-level snapshots and zero copy clones instantly without performance degradation, providing data protection without impacting production applications and instant provisioning of new VMs using VM templates. VM-level replication provides fast and affordable high availability and disaster recovery. It is optimized to utilize flash performance and hard disk capacity – including SATA, SAS and PCIe attached – to deliver competitive performance and high capacity at an attractive price for virtualized workloads.

It also employs state of the art capacity optimization capabilities like thin provisioning, inline compression and de-duplication to dramatically reduce the data footprint, improving effective storage capacity and reducing cost. It provides the ability to scale compute and storage independently on-demand, one standard server at a time without having to over-provision resources. Additionally, it seamlessly co-exists with other storage solutions providing investment protection for customers.



Author: Steve Wexler

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