Archive for Tom Fedro

The Exploding Market of Cross-Platform Driver Technology

OEM driver technologyBy Tom Fedro

Recently, it was announced that Paragon Software Group and AppliedMicro were collaborating so that the AppliedMicro PACKET pro family of single and multi-core processors for network attached storage (NAS) applications would embed Paragon’s exFAT, NTFS, and HFS+ driver technology to ensure cross-platform read/write ability regardless of which operating system or storage file system is selected by the end user. Paragon is excited about the possibilities of this project with AppliedMicro, as well as a host of other OEMs expanding into the Smart TVs, Set Top Boxes, Smartphones, Tablets, and Connected devices markets.

Over 10 years ago, Paragon recognized the need for fast UFSD technology to provide full cross-platform access to all of the popular file systems under diverse platforms (Android, Linux, Windows, and Mac) where these file systems are not natively supported — while maintaining data integrity. Paragon’s technology successfully bridges the gap between any file system and the various operating systems or embedded kernels in the market.

We’re proud to be working with some of the most respected names in the industry such as Acer, ASUS, Belkin, ZTE, Cisco Systems, Hitachi, NETGEAR, Logitech, LG Electronics, WD and Seagate to name a few.

Paragon proved its leadership in cross-platform technology with millions of satisfied end users worldwide. When compared to other alternatives, its portfolio of Android and Linux drivers provide measurably superior data throughput performance combined with strong data protection capabilities to ensure file system integrity — even in the case of unsafe removal of the storage device or a power outage.  A compelling feature set complimented by comprehensive chip set support from industry leaders like Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm to Marvell Semiconductor, Realtek Semiconductor, PLX Technology, Cavium Networks, and Applied Micro has propelled Paragon to be the standard in cross-platform file sharing for the mobile device and embedded system marketplace segments.

We continue to be impressed with the variety of devices utilizing our driver technology that our OEMs and chip manufacturers are bringing to market; from next-generation smart phones and smart TVs to tablets, set-top boxes and advanced digital media players. It’s a very exciting time for the company.

 

Platform Independence Drives High Demand for Universal File System Driver Technology

Smartphone Storage Options by Eric Zeman of Informationweek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Tom Fedro

Recently, Eric Zeman posted a piece on Informationweek.com about Smartphone storage Options. It was very well laid out explaining all the choices available among the different manufacturers and pointing out the upgrade costs for extra storage. The options ranged from purchasing expandable storage in the form of a microSD memory card to tapping your PC to view your movie and music collection. While informative, the conversation ought to be expanded to discuss the assurance that different devices with differing operating systems can indeed communicate, share, and recognize the storage hardware used.

For example, in a household of five, you might have a mix of varying Windows operating systems, new Android devices, iPhones, Tablets and Macs, all potentially capable of playing music or movies from a network attached shared storage device. What is often overlooked is that the differing Operating Systems (OS’s) may not be able to communicate. That is where universal file system drivers (UFSD) technology can add real value.

UFSDs enable devices with different OS’s, Chip sets, and firmware to share data and manipulate files seamlessly – basically providing complete platform independence for the user. Many OEMs partner with companies providing this technology and embed it into their devices to maximize the customer experience, making access more user-friendly.

With the soaring popularity of smart devices, the ability of the devices to interact seamlessly with storage will become more important and drive the mass adoption of UFSD technology along the way. So while the availability of storage for smart devices is a story, it isn’t the whole story; embedded systems that include UFSD technology that empower users with complete platform and OS independence will see solid growth in the coming years.

 

The Value of Data Storage vs. the Cost – Software Defined Storage

Balancing the cost vs the value of storageSenior Strategist Randy Kerns argued on Storage Soup that businesses cannot really just focus on the cost to store information; that the focus should be about the value. Other factors, for example, should be evaluated such as the speed at which data needs to be retrieved, how important the protection and integrity of the data is, how long must the data be stored to meet compliance and regulations in the industry. He is really spot-on.

Often, IT managers, directors and engineers find themselves arguing the need for highly effective storage and backup solutions only to be shot down by Finance. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a disaster, such as a hurricane, fire, earthquake. tornado or some other event, to get their point across. Communication is paramount; tech managers must speak in the language of profits and losses to help drive the point home.

While the argument for the value of securing data is important, especially as our need to save data increases exponentially we can’t dismiss the associated investment involved. Fortunately, the cost of saving and protecting the data has decreased with advances in technology. In fact, software-defined storage seems to be logical direction for the market to head. By implementing a software solution for storage, the hardware manufacturer is irrelevant, enabling the engineer to use commodity off-the-shelf (read inexpensive) components.

Good news is there are storage options on the market today that make securing your company’s data much more affordable than it was even 12 months ago.  Software defined storage is a trend that needs to be followed closely by any serious IT Executive.

Benefits of Licensing the Technician Rather Than the Hardware

Hard Disk Manager Field Technician License

By Tom Fedro

Guardian I.T. Services, a provider of IT services and consulting in southwest Florida, was faced with multiple similar projects where clients – including Charlotte County Airport Authority’s Punta Gorda Airport – had to migrate critical systems to new hardware and/or larger drives, to meet the growing demand for more storage and performance.

David Ward, president of Guardian I.T. Services, searched for nine months for software that enabled him to migrate his customers’ servers to new drives or all new hardware without hassle and without any risk of data loss. After vetting a short list, Ward selected software that ultimately offered a suite of disk management tools (including image-based backup and recovery), as well as a licensing model that saved his clients thousands of dollars because the software was uniquely licensed to the user rather than the hardware. Paragon’s Hard Disk Manager (HDM) Technician License offered twice the features at half the cost as the next best product he tested; the Technician License decreased the per-server cost even more.

After only four months of using HDM to create snapshots of all of the airport’s security systems, the hard drive of one of the servers failed and brought the entire system to a halt. The server that failed stored and managed all of the airport’s security data such as badges, personnel information, and security clearance – required for FAA, TSA, Homeland Security and FBI background checks along with all other regulations airports fall under.

The system was ultimately restored from an HDM image-based incremental backup to new hardware (MS Server 2003 with a new RAID configuration and two 500GB SATA hard drives).  Paragon’s “Adaptive Restore” technology allowed for a seamless restore to the dissimilar hardware.

It took only 54 minutes to get the server back up and running like nothing had ever happened. “After that one incident I will never consider using anything else; I absolutely swear by it,” said Ward about the Paragon product. “Before buying anything else, you must try Paragon. For a server restore or migration, no other software comes close in restore time, reliability and ease-of-use. I recommend Hard Disk Manager Tech License for any company with field technical support.”

Today’s Storage Mosaic

Popular Backup Methods by IndustryBy Tom Fedro

Paragon recently surveyed more than 370 IT professionals regarding the backup and restore methods employed in their networking environment. The results show that today’s storage environment is primarily serviced by local servers and Network Attached Storage. Cloud storage only made up 30 percent of the mix. And, long ago considered obsolete, tape’s foothold is nearly 40 percent.*

However, the interesting numbers lay among the makeup of storage implemented in vertical markets. Among those surveyed, the

  • Healthcare, aerospace and aeronautics industries did not use cloud services for backup at all, instead relying primarily upon local server and tape storage–this may be due to the sensitivity and complexity of the data produced by these two industries, along with associated regulations;
  • Finance industry’s unique mix of very short system-recovery and long data-retention requirements makes it the market segment with the highest integration of cloud services (36.8 percent) in the storage environment. Finance is also the highest integrator of tape into the storage mix, 68.4 percent of those surveyed; and lastly
  • Logistics and Government industries were the second and third highest users of tape backup.

Here’s a look at how the numbers aligned:

Industry

Server

Tape

Cloud

Aerospace/Aeronautics

66.7%

50.0%

0.0%

Education

50.0%

53.6%

17.9%

Finance

47.4%

68.4%

36.8%

Healthcare

50.0%

50.0%

0.0%

Government

60.0%

56.0%

16.0%

Insurance

50.0%

50.0%

25.0%

Logistics

66.7%

66.7%

33.3%

Manufacturing

41.7%

55.6%

25.0%

Non-Profit

42.9%

42.9%

21.4%

Real Estate

75.0%

50.0%

25.0%

Retail

47.1%

23.5%

35.3%

Telecommunications

33.3%

50.0%

33.3%

Transportation

60.0%

40.0%

10.0%

For all the hoopla surrounding cloud, it appears that in all industries IT professionals still prefer to maintain some control over their organization’s critical data, unwilling to completely trust the cloud in the event of a disaster.

* Note: In some cases, multiple storage methods are employed within the same IT environment thus resulting in a totaling of storage methods greater than 100 percent.

Who Can Benefit from Software-Defined Storage via an iSCSI SAN or NAS?

Benefits of Software Defined StorageBy Tom Fedro

There’s a lot of talk about software-defined storage lately. It even has its own Twitter hashtag: #softwaredefinedstorage to keep us up to date on the topic. The emergence of iSCSI-based SAN & NAS means that an IT department with budgetary constraints can have a scalable, highly available and affordable storage network using off-the-shelf hardware. Furthermore, building your own iSCSI SAN is a fairly easy task.

But why bother with an iSCSI SAN at all?

With an iSCSI SAN you can do many common tasks far easier and faster than with conventional file servers and direct attached disks. A SAN gives you “shared storage” on your network, meaning that you can centrally manage all of your storage from one device as opposed to managing storage on each individual application server. Some of the advantages of shared storage includes enabling simplified backups when using snapshots and allowing replication between storage devices — for off-siting data — to be done at a far lower cost than with host-based replication.

Who can benefit most from an iSCSI SAN? Any company that places a high value on their data can benefit from an iSCSI SAN, including

  • Any IT shop with limited resources and limited budgets. iSCSI is a proven technology that costs significantly less than Fiber Channel and provides superior data protection and cost reductions over traditional direct attached disks (also referred to as DAS). iSCSI is fully supported by VMware and many  other virtual machine vendors: in most cases an iSCSI SAN is the best choice for server virtualization projects.
  • Designers and testing and development teams that require immediate and fast access to data and backup sets, without waiting for delays with traditional tape-based backups.
  • When data is required in real time across geographically distributed organizations, iSCSI makes the most sense due to the low cost and ease-of-use of IP Networking.
  • Organizations that host other people’s data such as Application Service Providers (ASPs), Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or Storage Service Providers (SSPs) can all benefit from a reduced TCO footprint when using iSCSI storage.
  • Anywhere remote data replication or disaster recovery is a requirement: Typically as organizations start to expand (i.e., a new office is opened or a new company is acquired in another state), the costs associated with traditional data protection such as tape off-siting and data center hosting costs can be significantly reduced by leveraging remote sites and iSCSI.
  • Even the smallest companies can seek a positive ROI when using iSCSI storage to back up straight to disk before going to tape, essentially retaining weeks or even months of backups for protection against data loss and for legal/compliancy requirements, thus reducing the dependency on backup tape.

But software-defined storage is only touching the surface of the impact of this technology. Software-defined networks may in fact eliminate siloed functions of servers in the near-future data center…all while cutting the expenses associated with traditional data centers.

iSCSI vs FC—Which Is Better for Storage?

iSCSI vs FC storageA standard protocol for decades, SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface), enables computers to communicate with storage devices. As system interconnects move from the classic bus structure to a network structure, SCSI commands must be mapped to network transport protocols. Today’s IP Gigabit networks meet the performance requirements to seamlessly transport SCSI commands between application servers to centralized storage.

The iSCSI protocol enables the transfer of SCSI packets over a TCP/IP (Ethernet) network. iSCSI is an interoperable solution which enables the use of existing TCP/IP infrastructure and addresses distance limitations; iSCSI can also be used over the Internet. This means the disk drives in your SAN are presented over your existing Ethernet network to server applications as though the disks are local to your physical server hardware.

Don’t confuse this with traditional SCSI disks; in fact, iSCSI storage is typically implemented with affordable SATA or SAS disks. iSCSI presents block-based storage resembling your internal disk drives, whereas a NAS is nothing more than a plain file server that presents storage as file shares. A common scenario is to use a portion of your iSCSI SAN storage as back-end disks for file servers (NAS), consolidating both application data and file shares into one appliance.

With iSCSI storage you can use any IP switches and routers, and the client machines (your servers) can use a software driver called an “initiator” instead of the more costly FC HBAs (Host Based Adapters). For older servers with lower-powered CPUs you can use an iSCSI HBA, which is still lower cost than a FC HBA. Microsoft provides freely downloadable software iSCSI Initiators and endorses iSCSI technology for Windows, helping to promote iSCSI  awareness. The concept of using an IP network for block-based storage causes many people to incorrectly assume storage traffic will clutter their LAN, or that IP networking may not provide the necessary performance your applications require. While it is true that many early iSCSI vendors were shipping products that were not up to the job of enterprise class applications such as Microsoft Exchange, VMware and SQL Server, there is also a well-established base of vendors that are shipping iSCSI storage into SMBs and enterprise customers.

The iSCSI protocol provides numerous benefits for SANs vs Fiber Channel, a few key points are summarized below:

  • iSCSI uses familiar networking standards (Ethernet and TCP/IP): Most IT administrators are already familiar with TCP/IP, unlike the more complex skills required for FC storage.
  • Total storage costs are reduced: iSCSI SANs are easier to install and maintain than FC, lowering installation and maintenance expenses. iSCSI reduces the necessity of hiring or outsourcing
    storage administration.
  • Replication works over a standard IP network: iSCSI replication eliminates distance limitations and costs associated with FC routers.
  • Reduces complexity by eliminating FC switches and cabling: Using standard Ethernet switches simplifies everything as most organizations already have in-house IP networking skills.
  • iSCSI scales to 10 Gigabit: For enterprise applications that require high transactional performance 10GigE is available, thus expanding iSCSI Storage Networks’ performance to equal the performance of Metro and Wide Area Networks.

iSCSI’s use of IP Networking means long distance is no longer an issue for backing up remote sites or performing disaster recovery. With the use of Secure Internet Protocol (IPSec) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to provide authentication and privacy, iSCSI over a public network is a viable method to extend the corporate network without incurring high costs.10 Gigabit Ethernet provides enough bandwidth and iSCSI allows any IT administrator to easily deploy a true SAN over an IP network.

Surprising Results from Dell Testing FC, FCoE, and iSCSI for Primary Data Storage over SANs

Typical Storage Area Network

*Image Credit: Learn-Networking.com.

By Tom Fedro

The market generally argues that fibre channel (FC) and fibre channel over Ethernet (FCoE) are the preferred technology for primary data storage over storage area networks (SANs), and that iSCSI should be reserved for second-tier or remote storage. Looking to determine the throughput and CPU utilization for a given SAN protocol, Dell recently conducted a series of performance tests to compare 10GbE iSCSI, FCoE, and 4 Gb FC. The results were interesting: iSCSI outperformed FCoE and FC regardless of read or write operations for various I/O block sizes.

A brief summary is as follows:

  • Effective CPU utilization for various workloads: all the host adapters have similar CPU utilization metrics, showing that iSCSI is as efficient as FCoE and FC
  • Throughput efficiency (defined as MBps/%CPU for the various storage protocols): 10GbE iSCSI had the best throughput efficiency across the workload types, outperforming FCoE and FC

See full Dell comments here: http://en.community.dell.com/techcenter/storage/w/wiki/2722.aspx/

Dell’s test results showed that iSCSI  can outperform both FC and FCoE across the board—concluding that iSCSI SAN is a valid option for data center storage. Customers who are planning to purchase storage for their data centers especially High Availabilty (HA) storage,  should view iSCSI SAN as a viable option.

One product to consider is Paragon Starwind iSCSI SAN & NAS – it is an affordable option for HA requirements. Using “off-the-shelf” components and standard hardware for servers the solution when compared to proprietary hardware/software can lower HA investment by a compelling 50% to 90%.

Paragon Software Survey Results Show That Performance Is the Most Important Consideration in Backup and Recovery Software

Additionally, Over 70 Percent of Respondents Are Still Utilizing Windows 2003 and Nearly 80 Percent Have Windows XP in Their Operating Environments

Disk drive partition misalignmentBy Tom Fedro

Paragon Software conducted a survey last quarter that consisted of both Paragon and non-Paragon customers. Respondents revealed a couple of interesting results: 1) a reluctance to upgrade older operating systems (OSs) with newer software platforms and 2) when considering a backup and recovery software solution, performance is more important than price or support.

Out of 580 respondents,

  • 70.8 percent of respondents are running Windows 2003 in their environment and 79.0 percent of the respondents are running Windows XP in their environment
  • In order of importance when selecting a backup and recovery solution, 77 percent of respondents rated performance as their highest priority (over price and support)

At first, the two do not seem related, but in fact they are. No matter the reason for keeping an older OS in operation (i.e., cost or functionality), system performance may become an issue due to the transition from the 512-byte sector to 4K-byte sector storage standard. As explained in Partition Alignment: Problems, Causes and Solutions written by storage guru Thomas Coughlin, “…older operating systems and utilities can misalign the logical sectors in the host device and the physical data on the HDD sectors resulting in a significant performance degradation…if there is misalignment of the 512 byte logical sectors to the 4K byte physical sectors, it forces the hard disk drive to perform an addition read operation…” Hence, if you use an older OS with a newer 4K disk drive, you will run into performance issues.

Luckily, Paragon Software has an easy solution to correctly align your partitions and eliminate redundant read/writes: the Paragon Alignment Tool (PAT). PAT is a powerful utility that automatically detects if the drive is misaligned and then properly realigns all existing partitions, including boot partitions (and any data they contain) to the 4K-sector boundaries. Additionally, if you are using virtual server technology or have recently upgraded to solid state drives, your partitions may be misaligned.

Without realignment, performance loss can range between 20 and 50 percent, which can cause catastrophic issues during peak times.

 

Migrating from a Hard Disk Drive to a Solid State Drive can be Tricky Without the Right Tools

By Tom Fedro

The task of migrating the operating system, applications and files from one storage drive to another can be a slow and tedious process.

In the case of migrating system files from an HDD to an SSD, it can be especially complicated. The latest SSDs usually do not come with very high capacity. Smaller-sized drives and faster processing speeds are the norm. The robustness of SSDs is a prime benefit, which is leading more users to consider migrating their OS to SSDs to get the most out of their systems. The main obstacle they are facing is the modest capacity of SSDs for the price. So, how do you migrate an OS and hundreds of gigabytes of data on one huge volume to an SSD drive of 80-128GB? Without migration software, the only solution was to re-partition the HDD first, and then perform the migration using a special utility to separate the system and data, a process which risked data loss and was quite time consuming.

To help circumvent these potential issues, Centon Electronics Inc.  decided to include Paragon Migrate OS to SSD software in its SSD Notebook kits, bundled with their solid state drives (SSDs).

“After testing another party’s software with our SSDs, we decided to look for a more intuitive software solution,” said Aaron Campbell, product marketing manager for Centon Electronics. “I had worked with Paragon in the past, asked for a copy to test, and it worked perfectly. It was simple, quick and accurate. Exactly the solution we were searching for. Paragon was very responsive and more than willing to work with us even though we were not a large corporation. The customer and technical support was excellent and made us feel we were just as important as an International firm.”

Migrate OS to SSD provides easy copying of system data including the operating system, data files and applications to Centon’s SSDs. With an intuitive wizard-driven interface, the software automatically downsizes the source system volume, if needed; auto-aligns the copied system partition; and provides intelligent selection of specific files and folders for migration — all without rebooting the system.Paragon Migrate OS to SSD

Key features and benefits include file-exclusion technology (which increases migration speed), a simple and convenient wizard-driven graphical interface, automatic partition resize capability (prevents common issues when migrating system data from an HDD to a smaller SSD), automatic partition alignment awareness (to prevent redundant read/write operations), Microsoft Reserved Partition awareness, hot copy (without a system restart), and a smooth migration process regardless of the operating system.