Monday, 23 March 2015 15:36

Tintri gearing up for midyear update

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New software with new capabilities for Tintri storage arrays is scheduled for release in the next few months.

The arrival of software with similar functions such as VMware's VVOL and OpenStack Cinder has vindicated Tintri's approach to storage for virtualised systems, vice president of technology Rex Walters (pictured) told iTWire, but Tintri takes a hypervisor-agnostic approach and supports VMware, Hyper-V and KVM, and is currently developing for Cinder.

Where Tintri has so far focused on "absolutely necessary" functionality, the next release - due in the middle of this year - will start to deliver capabilities that are not possible unless they are built on a platform centred on virtual volumes.

The release will include such capabilities as guaranteed service levels, which is becoming more important as IT departments increasingly act like service providers.

"We allocate resources very efficiently," Walters said, and customers tend to run out of capacity rather than performance. (How does he know? Around 80% of customers allow Tintri to access the operating information collected by their arrays.) But some of the company's customers do like to run 'what if...?' scenarios.

Other storage vendors [e.g., SolidFire] may allow administrators to set maximum and minimum levels, but Walters asked how an admin is supposed to know what the correct values are, and how they can tell whether a change has improved the situation. The implication was that the next release of the Tintri software will provide that information, along with a mechanism to automatically move a virtual machine's storage to a different node if necessary to optimise the overall system.

The ability to set service levels would also be useful for service providers and IT departments that behave like service providers, as it allows administrators to ensure than clients are not getting better service than they are paying for.

Companies are "very pragmatic," Walters said. They want to know they can move workloads around, but they would rather not actually do that. This casts some doubt on that aspects Cisco's Intercloud concept, as Walters expects organisations to run certain workloads on premises and others in the cloud.

"You want the storage close to the processing," he said, because "a nanosecond per foot can't be beat," referring to the increasing latency the further apart storage and processing elements are located.

Cisco's UCS "is a very interesting platform" from Tintri's perspective. Guaranteed 10Gbps connectivity from blade to storage is "an important thing in our world," he said. Combined with the absence of an artificial limit on the number of virtual machines per node, UCS "meshes very well" with Tintri.

"Fundamentally, we believe in best of breed" and that customers should decide what is best for them, said Walters. So Tintri stays out of the preconfigured systems market, although some of its channel partners do offer 'pod' or 'stack' based configurations that include Tintri storage.

"We're incredibly interoperable" thanks to the use of 10GbE, which avoids the interoperability issues associated with Fibre Channel. Walters even went as far as to suggest that the emergence of pod-style offerings resulted from the wide adoption of reference architectures that provides assurance that particular combinations of hardware and software versions would work together.

While Tintri does have some reference architectures, their focus is on how to configure other vendors' kit.

Tintri is "expanding pretty significantly in Australia," Walters said, pointing to the recent appointment of Graham Schultz as regional managing director for Australia and New Zealand.

The Australia and New Zealand market is highly virtualised, Schultz said, adding that Tintri's local customers are largely in the government, finance, health and media sectors, and typically have more than 100 virtual machines.

Tintri has an impressive repurchase rate. The last time Walters checked the numbers, on average for every $100 a customer spends on an initial purchase, it spends another $270 over the next 18 months.

To some extent, "it's the nature of virtualisation: VM sprawl," he said. But there is also a degree of scepticism on the part of new customers. Tintri's arrays are different to those organisations are used to buying, so they start by acquiring one and put that into production. When they see how well that goes, they gain confidence and return for more.

This gives Walters a problem that his peers at other vendors might envy: the endorsements provided by reference customers are so strong that "people don't believe them."


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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