Man in the Arena Pavilion

A good friend of mine is a venture capitalist. He likes to jump into emerging market segments when the “water gets frothy.” A quick Google search of “NVMe-oF” yields 26 million results in just under .7 seconds. 5 years ago, the same search would turn up, at best 2,600. The NVMe-oF water is indeed getting frothy.

Big Storage has taken notice. Yesterday brought another announcement. This one comes from the expert marketeers at Pure Storage who offer a dramatically cooler name for our nerdy RDMA-over-Converged Ethernet (RoCE™). The newly christened DirectFlash Fabric™ is a fabulous story of disaggregation, hyper-scalability, superior economics compared to Direct-Attached Storage (DAS) and a focus on modern parallel applications like MySQL, MariaDB, MongoDB, and Cassandra. Even the idea of forsaking Fibre Channel in favor of ubiquitous Ethernet is encompassed in the extraordinary elegance of InDesign, Photoshop, and Webmastery.

Developing a radical new architecture for end-to-end NVMe from the ground up, creating and validating standards for an open choice of networks and SSDs is thankless work. As the idea begins to take hold, the reward is a sea of horrible taxonomies like Composable Disaggregated Infrastructure (CDI) and Engineering acronym soup like RoCE, iWARP, NVMe-oF, and FC-NVMe. And, if you’re lucky, the big guys lay claim to your turf.

It’s no easy task to build a brand as a pioneer.

But take a step back even further. Consider the ridicule in 2014, when a band of technologists submitted the heretical idea to use NVMe, an extremely new and low-latency computer protocol, to be shared over legacy “unreliable” and slow Ethernet fabric. Yet on February 7, 2017, US Patent 9565269 (Non-Volatile Memory Express Over Ethernet) was granted to Pavilion Data Systems. On May 16th, 2017 US Patent 9652182 (Shareable Non-Volatile Storage Device) and on July 18th, of that same year, US Patent 9712619 (Virtual NVMe Drive) were granted. During those formative years, these pioneers performed unnatural acts to make today’s NVMe fabrics a reality. Now, two years into production shipments, we delight paying customers worldwide.

As the waters grow frothier, I’m reminded of one of my favorite speeches. It was delivered by former US President Theodore Roosevelt in Paris, France on April 23, 1910. While discussing war, human rights and the responsibilities of citizenship, Roosevelt railed against cynics who looked down on those trying to make the world a better place. “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer,” he said, while delivering marvelous motivation to pioneers who dare. His speech (excerpt below) has come to be known as The Man in the Arena.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

No marketer worth his/her salt would sneer at the artistry of the Pure Storage DirectFlash Fabric™. Rather, we embrace, solicit help on open standards and choice, while welcoming all comers to our frothy waters.