Sunday, August 31, 2014

DataGravity - An Intelligence Platform for Your Data

By now, you've heard of DataGravity. They just won the Best of VMworld 2014 awards for two categories: New Technology and Best of Show. If you weren't able to attend VMworld in San Francisco this year, you should do yourself a favor and check out the DataGravity Discovery Series demo. Because this company is not just creating a new storage product, they're creating a new platform.

The core principle that drives DataGravity's development is this: you should expect more from your storage. But I like what I heard Paula Long say during DataGravity's presentation to the Tech Field Day Extra delegation on Monday: "You bought the storage, you should know what's in it."

The Discovery Series product provides the storage services like most other networked storage solutions: SMB, NFS, and iSCSI. Nothing too shocking there (well, not that I'll get into now). But the unique power of this product is in the data-aware platform they've created. We've been conditioned to ask only a few basic questions from our storage:

  • How much space are we consuming?
  • How much space do we have left?
  • How many IOPS can the storage handle?

We've limited the interrogation of our storage systems because these are the only questions for which they have answers. DataGravity's intelligence engine runs on the "passive" storage controller, and captures and analyzes meta-data on a dedicated pool of disks. That means that there's no performance penalty to be paid, and you'll have access to data about your data. Initially, the platform looks for five tags within your data: credit card numbers, social security numbers, URIs (or is it URLs?), IPv4 addresses, and email addresses. (Future releases will include the ability to create custom tags for your data). But think of what you can learn by just looking for these five bits of data.

Take this concept one step further: you can also create an audit trail of which users access which data (this requires the installation of an agent to associate SIDs with human-readable names). Now you know what's on your storage, and who is accessing it. For those of us who spend any measurable amount of time managing storage, this is a big pivot in how we think about data.

One final thought: Paula Long is very aware of where this technology is going. She put it this way: "We didn't build a bunch of features into the array. We actually built a bunch of capabilities into the array, which we can build features from." To me, that sounds like DataGravity knows their innovations will create a community of users who find new use cases for this technology. And that's when this platform will take off.