The rapid growth of data is propelling transformation within the storage industry.
Capital markets are already seeing changes from storage vendors adapting to this new environment by spinning-off, restructuring, selling, and combining services, as well as seeing changes brought by newcomers who are disrupting the current system. Customers are also becoming increasingly aware of new and popular services, and are demanding Software-defined Storage, open source, and hyper-convergence concepts at an unprecedented pace.
A recent Gartner report showed that Huawei Storage posed the best revenue growth in the global market, achieving a 51.17% increase in sales revenue in 2015 against the previous year. And in quarterly reports from the Technology Business Research (TBR) and Gartner, as of Q4 2015 Huawei Storage has held the No.1 revenue growth rate of any vendor globally for 15 consecutive quarters. In Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for general-purpose disk arrays, Huawei ranked No.1 in the Challengers Quadrant, concluding that Huawei’s storage products are affirmed by the industry.
Huawei is also ranked first in terms of sales revenue, shipment, capacity, and revenue growth rate in the Chinese market (Gartner and IDC, short for International Data Corporation). With the launch of OceanStor 18000 V3, Huawei’s step into occupying carriers, financial, taxation, and energy markets is increasing.
Mr. Fan Ruiqi, president of Huawei’s Storage Product Line, is pushing for further success, saying “We are expecting a larger market share in carrier and financial industries and governments in China. Also, further efforts must be made for market development outside China.”
With cloud computing completely overturning the IT industry, Huawei’s current ICT strategic transformation is re-inventing the potential of the storage market.
Huawei’s focus is always oriented towards its customers, echoed through its joint innovation projects with ICBC and British Telecom. Mr. Fan introduced a Huawei cooperated project with a well-known vehicle company in Europe, saying “This company outsourced its traditional data center services to T-Systems. However, they had difficulties in building architecture to support new innovations such as Smart Factory, IoV, and Industry 4.0. They needed to re-consider many factors including data format and compliance, how to protect user’s privacy, and how to collect and process data. To tackle these problems, the company decided to cooperate with us and use our end-to-end solutions and services. As their strategic partner, we offer in-vehicle communication modules, data centers in the background, and channels that connect the cloud and terminal users.”
Convergence is driving the future as vendors merge the flexible scalability of cloud computing with the reliability of traditional storage. To support new applications emerging from cloud computing and Big Data, Huawei launched OceanStor V3 converged storage systems based on OceanStor OS in 2014. This is the first unified resource pool that eliminates information silos, allowing for new applications and architectures to emerge, and new technologies to mature and stabilize as product systems.
Analogous to banks and other large enterprises, Huawei also has thousands of applications that provision its services. To support massive applications, storage systems designed for every scenario are required. “Take Huawei storage systems as an example: OceanStor 18000 V3 is suitable for key applications, OceanStor Dorado for latency-demanding applications, OceanStor V3 for ordinary applications, and Software-defined Storage for new applications. To support the running of different platforms and products, customers need a unified scheduler and orchestration tool. This is where OceanStor DJ comes in. It enables service-oriented and automatic storage based on a converged data resource pool.” Mr. Fan said.
Huawei launched new-generation storage systems: OceanStor 18000 V3
Sticking to its customer-centric ideology, Huawei aims to ensure its innovations are half a step ahead of its competitors. With R&D centers distributed around the world, industry elites from the USA, the UK, Germany, Russia, and many other regions are recruited. In China, Huawei 2012 Laboratories support Huawei in Technical development. “We aggregate and utilize globally sourced data in our search to provide industry-leading storage solutions and strengthen our foothold in the market.” Mr. Fan pointed out, “Storage innovations must be in tune with industrial trends and customer requirements, and providers must adapt to this environment.”
A convincing argument does not guarantee robustness
Distributed and hyper-converged storage vendors are trying to convince customers to abandon SAN due to hardware limitations. Typical highlights of SAN, including high performance, reliability, and availability, are not missions impossible. High performance can be realized through hardware stacking.
“Upgrading hardware alone will never solve problems. The core of storage is applications.” Mr. Fan countered, “New system architectures will continue emerging. In response, Huawei will launch systems for distributed block, file, and object storage. These systems will inherit the elasticity and flexibility of distributed storage, while also having the reliability and availability of enterprise-level products.”
Storage, however, is never about its concepts and architecture, but has its focus on data protection. A convincing architecture goes beyond its application. Currently, “end-to-end” has become the industry buzzword. But as with end-to-end storage solutions, “end-to-end” must also apply to the global supply chain management, global production and manufacturing, emergency handling capabilities, and delivery capabilities. This is what serves as a test as to the overall capabilities of storage vendors. “No storage architecture is absolutely good or bad. As storage vendors compete against each other with comprehensive capabilities, including the ongoing evolution of technology, end-to-end solutions, as well as effective organization, cooperation, and delivery, what will create better architecture will be capabilities that suit development degrees and customer requirements.” Mr. Fan concluded.
In September 2015, Huawei caused a stir in the industry with its innovative joint projects in SSD controllers and flash chips, and customer-oriented software optimization. By promoting an acceleration of large-scale SSD application, as well as lowering the threshold of flash storage application in data centers, the era of SSD can begin. Using SSDs to replace HDDs is a general practice in the industry, and not an accurate reflection of Huawei’s ultimate goal. Mr. Fan believed that the key to popularize flash storage in enterprise-level applications is implementing the pooling and reconstruction of storage resources. After more than 10 years’ accumulating research, Huawei’s SSD capabilities have matured to this level, and its SSD products are achieving huge shipment numbers in the enterprise-level storage market due to their improvement of transaction handling capabilities for databases. Mr. Fan also told reporters that Huawei has developed its own SSD controllers embedded with many core patents to further its technological leads.
Huawei’s unique flash storage technology
OceanStor Dorado V3, the new-generation all-flash storage arrays to be launched this year, has higher performance and is optimized for mainstream database software. “Accelerating performance seamlessly” is the basic mantra of Huawei storage, and the OceanStor Dorado V3 goes beyond this statement.
Currently, key applications for most enterprises still rely on traditional high-end SAN. Huawei, observing this trend, started to research and test NAS functions merged with high-end SAN, to make NAS applicable to high-end enterprise customers. Through continuous innovation, Huawei developed its own chips covering storage control, I/O acceleration, media management, and deduplication and compression algorithms. It also played on its advantages within network technology by combing storage with Metro Ethernet, and optical networks, to implement multi-DC cross-MAN network adaptation.
“Developing incident-free hardware is the primary responsibility for storage vendors. In terms of our hardware production, we are receiving successful feedback. Over the past few years, many international customers have spoken highly about our products and how our products are creating a new and improved ‘Made in China’ brand. Furthermore, we will keep investing into the development of storage hardware to enhance our storage base.” However, Mr. Fan acknowledged that customers are not particularly interested in hardware specifications, and added, “Customers are more interested in how our storage systems meet application requirements, and store data, in order to make IT simple, businesses agile, and service developments more accelerated. Therefore, Huawei will continue focusing on developing software and services that enable smooth digitized transformation.”
From storage to data
During HCC 2015, Huawei service-driven storage was unveiled. OceanStor DJ, a joint innovation with ICBC, provides service-driven and automatic data services for enterprise customers by managing and orchestrating heterogeneous resources in cloud data centers. For example, by using OceanStor DJ, the service rollout duration of ICBC was shortened from several weeks to several minutes.
“OceanStor DJ has won bids from many industry customers, especially those with complicated application systems and storage devices provided by different vendors. They are eager to integrate OceanStor DJ’s capabilities into their systems for storage and data control. With features such as unified storage resource management, simplified management, automatic deployment, faster service rollout, and fewer mis-operations, OceanStor DJ enjoys favorites and wins orders from customers.” Mr. Fan said, “OceanStor DJ was developed to resolve customer pain points and help customers leap from the second platform to the third platform.” OceanStor DJ is a software-defined controller in nature. Huawei adopts it in the current storage solution to enable the creation and management of converged resource pools.
OceanStor DJ has garnered huge support from many of Huawei’s partners since its launch. Some of them, such as Veeam and Commvault, are already making in-depth developments and breakthroughs in their business. Mr. Fan expressed, “We are expecting more cooperation and innovation with our partners in terms of data, storage, network, and applications. We want to motivate data services and standardization, and broaden services for our customers.”
Software-defined networking (SDN) is already standardized, while Software-defined Storage (SDS) is undergoing this process. In accordance to developments happening with OpenStack or with the Linux Foundation, Huawei plans to establish an international SDS standardization union and now in discussion with many internationally renowned companies.
Huawei DFV framework
According to Mr. Fan’s speech, Huawei’s R&D focus is on Data Functions Virtualization (DFV), a future-oriented data governance framework. During the Huawei Analyst Summit 2016, Huawei expressed its vision of data governance; to help enterprises reshape data value. Features of DFV include: data plane and control plane isolation, hardware and software decoupling, basic and advanced storage function decoupling, and on-demand deployment.
“DFV is helping to develop micro data services.” Mr. Fan pointed out, “In 2014, we started to explore micro data services, or what we called micro storage services, and then in 2015 Docker, Mesos, and micro service technologies became popular, proving our initial exploration as being valuable. Containers or micro services (different from VMs) provide computing, storage, network switching, security, and data application capabilities together, implementing fast distribution. DFV is an important data governance framework for this. Soon, we are going to launch a DFV-based solution which may lead the market trend.”
Huawei storage aims to reshape data value, not limited to data storage, because storage can only support data reads, writes, and protection. Huawei storage wants to target the whole lifecycle of data, including data storage, analysis, and use, in order to maximize data values.
Products are ready!
Mr. Fan listed three key points about Huawei’s product updates and releases in 2016.
1. Keep promoting all-flash storage products: Currently, customers are interested in the golden ratio between SSDs and HDDs, and how to match all-flash storage with applications. At the Huawei Analyst Summit 2016, Huawei announced the upcoming release of its all-flash array Dorado V3. This product offers cutting-edge data functions (such as inline deduplication, compression, active-active, and interruption-free data migration) and provides state-of-the-art performance for critical enterprise applications to fully satisfy performance requirements of the future.
2. Brand-new SDS: providing software-defined and distributed block, file, and object storage to fulfill requirements of emerging applications with superior performance and scalability.
3. Continue promoting service-driven storage: Huawei, represented by its OceanStor DJ, continues to promote standardization and commercialization within the industry. The OceanStor DJ-based storage resource pool solution establishes a flexible and service-driven data platform for unified data management, and delivers comprehensive data services for customers.
As well as leading the market in China, Huawei’s ambition is to strategically position itself on the international storage market by playing an increasingly important role in global industry organizations including Storage Network International Associate (SNIA) and OpenStack Foundation.
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