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ioFABRIC Vicinity 3.0: Storage Myth Making

It’s not very often that a piece of technology, or a product update, reminds me of the work of Roland Barthes. But in a recent product briefing, his most famous work Mythologies, was brought to mind. In the work, Barthes looks at how modern myths are made. He uses several errudite essays to do so, but I can sum it up quickly for the purpose of this piece. Essentially, a myth is a second level sign. Where a typical sign is the arbitrary association of a sound or image to a meaning, a myth is a sign that is intentionally associated with a meaning (or signifier). There are a number of implications for this. The most immediate is the flattening of history behind the original sign and making it into a single undisputed narrative. It’s an incredibly powerful act.

So why did this come to mind when talking to ioFABRIC? Let me explain.

In the Storage Vicinity

If you’re not familiar with ioFABRIC, they make Vicinity, a data fabric solution that lets you get better utilization of all your storage. It does this by presenting applications with a virtual data plane that amalgamates all available storage. This is governed independently by their own control plane. Essentially, the virtual data plane presents to the application as whatever kind of storage it natively needs (block, file, SMB, etc.).

Up to date, ioFABRIC Vicinity has supported storage in your data center, whether it’s a SAN, SSDs, NVMe, or emerging NVDIMMs. But with their 3.0 release, they are fundamentally changing the product. Vicinity now supports multi-site and multi-cloud storage as well, allowing for organization to maintain business continuity even if theoretically losing a whole data center.

This is where ioFABRIC embraces Barthes, just as a myth creates a second layer intentional sign from an existing one, Vicinity does the same thing for storage. Whereas traditional storage is a product that must be managed and assigned to applications, Vicinity simply presents it as a flat service to be accessed, with the solution taking care of the management, migration, and prioritization. The 3.0 release makes this a total encapsulation of storage, in that customers aren’t limited to a particular site, but instead can extend seamlessly across clouds and sites.

Happy Little Evergreen

Now ioFABRIC doesn’t present Vicinity 3.0 as a mythological transformation (even though it is). They instead they present it with three main attributes.

Availability and protection are common enough storage concepts (although the story around the latter is interesting in its own right), but “evergreen” requires clarification.

This is ioFABRIC’s idea that with their virtual storage pool, additional media can simply be added when needed and removed when either at end of life or simply not useful. Essentially their data fabric takes care of replication and migration when storage is added to make sure that removing it will be seamless. The robustness of this is informed by policy, which can be provision to survive losing an entire site (useful when a public cloud experiences an outage).

The evergreen-ness of Vicinity is extremely important to ioFABRIC’s vision. They don’t lack for ambition when they state that they view this less as a data migration solution as much as an enabler of migration obsolesces.


Vicinity 3.0 is a big release for ioFABRIC. This can be seen in the fact that it includes ransomware protection and that’s not the headline feature. In 2017, a year with multiple real ransomware attacks, this is a huge feature add, made possible by their multi-cloud/multi-site additions.

Vicinity has had snapshot support for some time, but in version 3.0, they’ve been rethought as a ransomware mitigation solution. They’ve been made more space efficient in the system, and support real time incremental updates to multiple sites. Snapshots are no longer accessible by the disks themselves and are immutable.

In the event of an attack impacting a single site, the cloud and other sites are fine and still provide full access to data. If all sites are infected, organizations can recover from these snapshots wholesale.

Ransomware mitigation still feels like an amorphous category, with lots of different enterprise verticals trying their hand at it. Vicinity doesn’t come from a strictly security or visibility background (although ioFABRIC founders do have a pedigree in firewalls), I actually think this is the right approach to the problem. Storage needs to be thinking of how to get around ransomware at an architectural level. While security add-ons might be more responsive to specific threats and potentially more malleable, having a more resistant architecture gives an organization a better foundation of protection from this emergent threat.

Stray Thoughts

Like I said, this is a big release with a lot of interesting features:

  • Strong public cloud support with AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
    • Notably, the company is also going to market with MSP support.
  • If you’re utilizing more than one public cloud, Vicinity will look at outbound cost during data transfer, and route data based on least cost, whether that’s cloud-to-cloud, or going cloud-to site-to-cloud.
  • Because it’s 2017, ioFABRIC includes AI features in this release. They’re framing this as being based on a “swarm intelligence”, by which each element isn’t very smart, but combines to allow for advanced analytics across the fabric.
    • This is used to optimize application workload performance at the lowest possible cost.
      • By default the system assumes that storage mediums with lower latencies are more expensive and moves to save costs based on performance policy. This is fully customizable however.
    • Vicinity also has exportable reports on cost for each workload based on this, which is pretty cool.


Bringing semiotics into the data center may seem a bit much. But the flattening of the physical reality of storage into a symbolic (although engineered) substrate, which we call a data fabric, is storage as a second layer sign. By adding multi-site and multi-cloud support, ioFABRIC has dismissed the idea that storage is defined strictly by locality and medium, or at least via clever management makes it opaque.

On top of those ontological accomplishments, Vicinity 3.0 is a feature packed release. If you’re in the need for a hybrid cloud storage solution that hardens your organization against ransomware, while maintains high utilization, availability, and makes manual migration potentially obsolete, you should give it a look.

About the author

Rich Stroffolino

Rich has been a tech enthusiast since he first used the speech simulator on a Magnavox Odyssey². Current areas of interest include ZFS, the false hopes of memristors, and the oral history of Transmeta.

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