IP Expo Manchester – Day 1 Review

As part of my new role, I’m hopefully going to be getting out and about a lot more and seeing what the virtualisation market has to offer that is complementary to our VMware offerings. As a result, I attended day 1 of the new IP Expo conference at Manchester Central today (that’s the G-MEX in old money!), where there were a whole slew of VMware partners showing off their wares. Not only VMware too, but other vendors and some quirky exhibitors (such as the Museum of Computing).

My first impressions of the solutions hall was that it was a bit smaller than I was expecting, taking up just half the hall. I suppose seeing as delegate tickets were free, the organisers wanted to dip of a bit of a toe in the water before committing to a much bigger event. The Expo also shared the venue with the TMRW conference, which is a “paid for” event with the likes of Brian Cox (that’s the scientist and not the mad Scottish actor) speaking to the masses.

Opening Keynote – Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council


So first up was Sir Richard Leese to open the event. The general theme of the speech was to re-iterate the growth in the local economy and how that was being driven by the digital economy. There were so many facts and figures sprinkled throughout the speech that I wondered if I should have a bingo card on my lap to tick off all the numbers!

Anyway, some key information taken from the speech was:-

  • Greater Manchester population grew by 19% in the last 10 years
  • 28% growth employment rate between 2004 and 2014
  • Manchester is home to the two most popular universities in the UK
  • £2 billion invested in transport over last 5 years
  • 45,000 people working in digital economy
  • The Sharp Project in East Manchester is now fully let
  • The north west textiles industry growing fast again because of technology
  • Manchester hosts the only Internet exchange outside of London
  • Government support for “Devo Max” in Manchester area, first of it’s kind in England

At the end of the keynote we were promptly kicked out of the keynote hall for TMRW guests only. Bad form! Most of the room stood up and left, and to be honest it was all a bit awkward. I hope the organisers don’t make this mistake next year. That being said, as Tim Lovejoy was MC, I wasn’t sorry to leave!

Veeam – 3 2 1 Rule of Backups – Kevin Ridings


The next session I attended was by Veeam. I’m especially interested in this vendor as we already partner with them successfully and it’s a partnership we’re looking to extend as we grow our portfolio of solutions. Some pearls gleaned from this session:-

  • What is the 3210 rule? 3 copies of data, two different media types, one copy off site with zero errors
  • The 321 Rule protects you in most DR scenarios
  • Tape support in version 7 of Backup & Replication as customers asked for it
  • Tape provides best price per GB, doesn’t consume power to be stored
  • However, tape requires man hours to move around
  • Slow RTO
  • Veeam B&R Backup Copy jobs automatically copies backups to secondary repository, which uses different retention  policies
  • Built in WAN accelerator is aware of de-duplication and content
  • Cloud Gateway provides SSL connections over a single port
  • Additional role on the Veeam server
  • Cloud providers can securely share storage between tenants, optimising costs
  • CloudConnect works as a local repository
  • Possible to enable self service, PowerShell and REST
  • Requires version 8 update 2

The main takeaway from this session was that CloudConnect partners could be used as secondary repositories for Veeam backups and you can work with your existing Veeam partner to do this and ensure your data is safe, secure and with a trusted partner (and not “in the cloud” where you may not know where the hell it is!).

Cetus – From Ground To The Cloud
The next session was by Cetus Solutions, who discussed their project to deliver cloud services to NextGear Capital, which was a rare example of a startup company and a greenfield site. What was interesting about this case study was that as a brand new company, NextGear were not lashed to a legacy infrastructure and deliberately wanted to leverage cloud technologies to give them scale and performance without needing a large IT department and on premises kit.
  • New company founded by Cox Automotive Group in US
  • £40 million to 300 dealers in first 6 months
  • Enterprise grade infrastructure from day one
  • Highly scalable with lean back office infrastructure
  • Startup company wanted IT as OpEx rather than CapEx
  • Financial data needed to be secure and in compliance with industry legislation
  • Core infrastructure,  applications, disaster recovery as a service
  • FlexPod solution
  • Xenapp 7.5 with Atlantis ILIO
  • Citrix NetScaler with thin clients and mobile devices
  • External cloud services such as SalesForce
  • Replicate VMs to Cetus environment
  • NetScaler sat in front of desktops and environment, aggregated content from “internal” cloud and third parties into a single interface.

The key message from this case study was that this startup could be agile and keep costs and complexity down by building a bespoke environment from scratch using best of breed technologies that would allow them to scale up in future with predictable costs. Interesting!


SimpliVity – Making Sense of Hyper Converged Infrastructure – Hani El Qasem
My next session was with SimpliVity, who are a relatively new company in the hyper converged space. I’d heard of them before owing to them sponsoring a vBeers event (hic!) but also because Cisco have partnered with them, plus I’m linked to a couple of their guys on LinkedIn and see what they’re up to.
Hani’s session was really interesting as in my mind it raised the question of whether the monolithic stacks we have now such as FlexPod and vBlock might already be a thing of the past? Yes they’re solid and reliable, but it’s still a multi vendor solution and there are a lot of moving parts. Not to mention separate compute, storage and networking takes a lot of additional overhead. I can see both sides of the argument on FlexPod type solutions and hyperconverged solutions such as SimpliVity and Nutanix. I guess it all comes down to customer requirements, as it always should be.
  • 3 1/2 years in development before shipping the product, rare for a startup
  • Best of VMworld 2013 and 2014, amongst others
  • Customers include T-Systems (aka T-Mobile), NHS
  • Customers want consumer economics on a cloud scale
  • Data protection, performance, data efficiency and global unified management all baked into the product
  • Web providers such as Facebook and Google use cheap, disposable hardware and build resiliency into the application
  • Enterprise do it the other way around
  • Converged infrastructure phase 1 like FlexPod/vBlock,  Phase 2 is storage and server. Phase 3 collapse all into one stack like SimpliVity
  • Omnicube (SimpliVity solution) is x86 architecture. Accelerator card performs dedupe,  compression,  accelerator, optimisation. Dedupe once and forever. Across all tiers (SSD, HDD, DRAM).
  • Can scale down. Minimum of 1 cube, other hyperconverged solutions need 3 as a minimum,  some need 4 if you need maintenance
  • Global unified management
  • Extension of vCenter,  not a proprietary interface. Single pane of glass plus no big learning curve of a new management UI
  • Integrated data protection and WAN optimisation
  • Reduced energy consumption, less physical space if renting CoLo space
  • One SKU
  • DRAM,  SSD and HDD tiers
  • Presentation layer uses NFS
  • 40 to 1 reduction in data storage required
  • Example given was 5.4 TB of raw data, reduced to 2.7 TB on competition solution,  650 GB on Omnicube
Virtual Volumes – Jonathan Disley Nimble Storage
After a wander around the hall, I dropped into my final session of the day by Nimble Storage. I’d lost track of time to be quite honest, so I was a little bit late and missed the first part. The session was a whistle stop tour of the new Virtual Volumes (VVols) functionality baked into vSphere 6.0. I have to say, Jonathan had to whip through it so quickly because of time that I didn’t really digest all of what was being said, so it’s something I need to follow up on. I did take some notes though:-
  • There are three main different storage designs on VMware – guest connected, VMDK on VMFS or RDM
  • Virtual volumes break into policy control plane and virtual data plane
  • Storage container is the logical construct, advertises services such as snapshot, encryption etc
  • Set storage policy and assign to a VM such as thin provisioned, snapshot etc
  • Uses VASA provider to be storage aware. Nimble embeds this into the controller. Some vendors use a separate virtual appliance
  • No VMFS partition on the virtual volume
  • Nimble InfoSight software has per VM performance monitoring. Cloud based offering that uses “call home” messages and statistics from installed controllers
  • Possible to see noisy neighbours causing latency on a data store

I’ll be back for day two tomorrow, so watch out for another review!