Takeaways from EMC Inform ’07

Today I want to tell you about the EMC Avamar data backup and de-duplication software and Nortel OM5130 SAN extension unit.

A few weeks back I visited EMC Inform ’07 one day conference in Melbourne. Main aim of my visit was to get a feel for what Enterprise (and storage) world is concerned with nowadays, and maybe to pick up an idea or two.

The presentations I went to gave me an impression that the hottest topics today seem to be server and storage virtualization, data storage and backup optimization, and an increasing urge to make sense of the avalanche of information.

This is all good, but what can a Telco get out of all this? I saw a couple of things.

EMC Avamar

In one of my past lives I was responsible for some system administration tasks, which, of course, included backing stuff up. So, when I saw this one, it did touch my heart. Enter the EMC’s next generation of backup software, called Avamar. From the presentation I got an impression that Avamar utilizes a familiar concept of Stac compression, but takes it to the next level, where it looks for repeating bit patterns across all the files it is given to back up, rather than limiting the search to individual files. This is my guess, of course – there was not much technical detail provided. They did claim though that in real life they are routinely able to get “compression” rates of anything up to 600:1. What does it mean for a data carrier? Well, it depends.

First, if you are providing a long haul data carriage service for an enterprise customer and they use it for backing up their data, Avamar may significantly decrease their bandwidth requirements. So, in this case, Avamar may be a bad news for you.

On a flip side of a coin, you may have a customer who has too much data and does not back it up over your long haul service, because it will take too much time. Avamar may well be able to bring that possibility within their reach and they may start doing it, potentially buying more bandwidth from you.

Nortel OM5130

The second takeaway is (to my heart) is juicier and tastier. It is called Nortel OM5130 (a.k.a. Business Continuity System 3000 Data Center solution).

It is a 2RU system, which can take one to three modules, each equipped with 2 SFP-based Gigabit Ethernet uplink (WAN) ports and 4 multirate SFP-based optical LAN ports, each of which can be configured in software as either Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel FC100 or FICON. The uplink ports can be configured as either Layer 1 (direct point to point connection via dark fibre), Layer 2 (Ethernet) or Layer 3 (IP) to talk to another OM5130 at a different location (or locations – it supports meshed configurations, when uplink ports are in Layer 2 or Layer 3 mode).

From the Product Brief document:

“The BCS 3000 Data Center solution offers the following on a single platform:

  • Native support of SAN and LAN protocols across a common WAN link;
  • Distance extension for Fibre Channel over thousands of kms;
  • Definable Time-of-Day bandwidth management;
  • Statistical multiplexing of ports;
  • Wire speed hardware compression (up to 30:1);
  • Forward error correction for enhanced WAN error tolerance.”

There is also an option for hardware line-rate encryption (for an additional cost).

What is so good about it (i.e. “where’s the money”)? If you provide IP or Ethernet services to your enterprise customers, you can deploy these units at customer premises and:

  • Provide a cheaper (estimated quarter of a price) alternative to SAN extension when compared to traditional DWDM gear (with the later being possible at all only if you have an access to dark fibre in the first place);
  • Get more out of your IP/MPLS backhaul network, especially combined with time of day profiles – better utilize your bandwidth during backbone’s “quiet times”;
  • Offer sub-rate Fibre Channel extension services (if anyone cares);
  • Offer “premium” low frame loss rate Ethernet services, backed by FEC feature (OM5130 has an ability to rebuild some amount of lost packets);
  • Allow customer services to run at full 1Gbps rate for much greater distances (2000km+), enabled by the distance extension features for SAN (with local buffer credit management);
  • Having enabled line rate, extremely low latency compression, offer full rate 1Gbps services, while actually using only half of that on your core links (which can be a big deal with long haul links);
  • Provide jumbo frame support (up to 9000 bytes, I am given to understand) over your infrastructure with smaller MTU, to allow for better customer service performance;
  • With optional encryption, offer peace of mind to sensitive customers – both pre-shared and dynamic keys are supported;
  • Monitor your SLA guarantees – OM5130 generates a number of real-time reports, “including trend analysis over past 24 hours on latency, throughput and errors for all supported protocols”.

To wrap it up, this product does indeed look exciting (especially if it does deliver on its promise), and in my opinion presents a real opportunity.

About Dmitri Kalintsev

Some dude with a blog and opinions ;) View all posts by Dmitri Kalintsev

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