Storage Field Day 9 – The High-Level #SFD9 Experience

Storage Field DayNow that I’ve been back for a while and have had some time to reflect on it, I thought I’d pull together an overall impression of my experience at the recent Storage Field Day Event. I’ll be following up over the next few weeks with posts focusing on the individual vendors and their presentations. This is intended as more of a high-level “what it was like” post.

[DISCLOSURE: The vendor sponsors involved in the event covered my expenses for the event. This included airfare, hotel, and meals. There was no expectation that I post anything in return, nor have I been asked to. No one other than me has previewed my content.]

OK, with that out of the way, let me dive in to:

Day 0

A number of my fellow SFD9 delegates had also attended the Pure//Accelerate conference with me (and some were involved in the Buzzword Bingo Incident). As the conference was wrapping up, we gathered together and met our ride.

Sometimes I see Tech Field Day delegates dance around this, so I’ll just say it. Our ride was a very comfortable stretch limo that held nine of us and our luggage.

During the ride from San Francisco to Santa Clara, one of the delegates, Justin Warren of EigenMagic fame, pulled out an impressive array of equipment I can only describe as a very compact portable recording studio. We then proceeded to record what would normally be called a podcast, but I understand will be called a “fieldcast” if it ever actually gets published. We discussed our impressions of the new announcements from Pure Storage.

Once at the hotel, we had a few minutes to check in, and gather back at the limo for the trip out to dinner. The opening dinner for the Field Day events is always a lot of fun. Everyone brings a gift and the delegates and organizers participate in a Yankee Swap with seemingly constant-changing rules. The gifts vary from funny to geeky to thoughtful.

Day 1

The day started early with the delegates gathering for breakfast. We received our clip-on microphones and audio cables (we’d need to plug in for each session), as well as the “behavior expectations” lecture conversation. Vendors will be pleased to hear that the “no throwing things” rule gets drilled into delegates (despite Mark May and I never actually having thrown anything during any Tech Field Day sessions).

We then climbed into the limo and headed off to NetApp Corporate HQ. Storage industry heavyweights Dave Hitz and Dave Wright (two of the three important Daves in the room) were there, as well as a number of folks I know from both NetApp and SolidFire. The session was refreshingly open with both Daves talking about strategy and admitting where they hit stumbling block in the past. I was left feeling good about the future of the SolidFire product line within the NetApp structure.

We had lunch in the NetApp cafeteria with the NetApp and SolidFire folks, then it was back to the limo to return to the hotel.

At the hotel, we had a session with Plexistor, a vendor I’d been unfamiliar with before SFD9. We had some local technical difficulties with the lighting in the room that adversely affected the live video stream, but once that got sorted out things went more smoothly. The short version of what they offer is that Plexistor has taken that blurring between memory and storage and found a way to productize it, moving the memory/storage border flexibly as needed.

Following the Pexistor session we had a Delegate Roundtable where we were recorded discussing the topics of:

  • High-Performance Object Stores
  • Object Store Backup
  • Backing up the Cloud

Following the roundtables, we uncabled, dropped our stuff back in our rooms and headed out to the SFD9 networking event. All of the SFD9 vendors were invited, as well as several local-area friends of Tech Field Day. The event was held in one half of a large meeting room, while there was a painting class being held in the other half. It’s possible that a delegate might have attempted to pose as the painting instructor at one point and then tried to join the class as a student at another, but as none of that was recorded, I’m going to say it didn’t happen.

Day 2

We gathered in the hotel lobby first thing in the morning and climbed back into the limo for a trip over to the Violin Memory HQ, where we ate breakfast. To my amusement, one of the Violin marketing folks told me that they had instructed their speakers to avoid buzzwords as much as possible to avoid a “Dave incident”. I was again impressed by the openness of the vendor presenters as they talked about their company and product history. I’m interested in taking a deeper look into their software and will do so as soon as I receive that VM I’ve been promised (hint, hint).

From there we traveled to the Intel Security Group HQ to talk with the folks from Intel Storage. I’ll admit that I’m not used to thinking of Intel as a storage company, but as more of a generalized tech company. That said, I’m always interested in hearing what they have to say. What I’d overlooked is that Intel offers SSD devices. They started to present on the topic of Silent Data Corruption (aka “bit rot”) and what followed was the most quantum physics per minute of any storage presentation I’ve ever heard. They explained cosmic rays, showed how they can cause data corruption, and showed what Intel is doing to protect against them. It turns out that SSDs are less vulnerable to cosmic rays than spinning disks are (not something I would have guessed) but Intel is running tests and working on ways to make their SSDs even less vulnerable to them.

From Intel, we traveled to the Cohesity HQ. Cohesity was another vendor I’d been unfamiliar with. They’re definitely a Silicon Valley startup by culture. The SFD9 session was not held in a conference room, mostly because it didn’t appear to me that they have any. The floor they’re on is mostly one big open space — no cubicles, just desks. Everyone is obviously actively collaborating. Cohesity’s mission is to become the “all-in-one” secondary storage that can fulfill multiple needs and use cases simultaneously. What they have so far is very interesting, and I’ll dive into it in a future post.

That evening was a dinner for the SFD9 delegates and organizers, but I had an urgent work issue come up and spent the evening in my hotel room building a 26-slide presentation while everyone else went out. I hear that dinner was really good.

Day 3

The day started with us gathering in the hotel lobby again, then heading off to the VMware campus. I got to see a VMware VSAN presentation when I attended SFD7, so I felt pretty well-versed in the background material. Christos Karamanolis and his team presented all the new goodness in VSAN version 6.2. Christos is someone I’ve always had enormous respect for; he’s one of the smartest people I know (and anyone who knows me well knows that’s not something I say lightly), and I’m always happy to hear him present. We got a very thorough deep dive into VSAN 6.2, wrapping up with a demo from my man Rawlinson Rivera.

Following the VMware session, the delegates with early flights headed to the airport, while the rest of us headed to lunch. A couple more left after lunch, while the rest of us sat in the hotel lobby, catching up on email and resting our now very full brains. A smaller group went to dinner, and then I headed to the airport to catch the red-eye home.

Conclusion

All in all, this was a great event to be a part of. I got access to a huge amount of information — and got to hear it directly from the people who are building these products. I’m still working on digesting it all, but I’ll be bringing you more details on the individual presentations I attended in the weeks ahead.

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3 Responses to Storage Field Day 9 – The High-Level #SFD9 Experience

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