NAS vendor Isilon made it two straight profitable quarters when it beat expectations for last quarter to report 46% year-over-year revenue growth.
Isilon’s revenue of $39.3 million was even up 5% over the previous quarter, and it’s rare for storage companies to increase revenue from the fourth quarter of one year to the first quarter of the next. Isilon had $1.1 million of net income, up from $100,000 in the previous quarter. That compares to a $10.4 million loss in the first quarter of 2009. Isilon executives even raised their forecast for 2010 revenue from growth in the low-to-mid 20% range to an increase in the mid-30% range.
Isilon CEO Sujal Patel said the revenue growth came partly from pent-up demand of customers who has budget constraints in 2009, as well as better international sales and an increased channel focus. He also said Isilon is moving into more mainstream enterprise NAS accounts to go with its previous success in verticals such as media and entertainment.
Patel says Isilon is also benefiting from an industry focus on scale out NAS because its main NAS competitors don’t have clustered products yet.
“We have very little competition in the scale out space,” Patel said today on the Isilon earnings conference call. “There are lots of announcements out there from large companies, but most of the products we compete with are still two-controller products.”
After adding support for solid state drives (SSDs) and other hardware enhancements over the past year, Patel said Isilon’s product focus will be on software this year.
He says Isilon plans an operating system upgrade this year with and new software applications in 2010 and early 2011. He didn’t offer details, but Isilon could benefit from greater optimization with virtual servers and mainstream storage applications such as Oracle databases as well as native data deduplication.
Network and application management software maker SolarWinds today said it is re-releasing the storage resource management (SRM) products it bought in January with its $42 million acquisition of Tek-Tools under a SolarWinds branding and pricing scheme.
The products are now known as SolarWinds Storage Profiler, Backup Profiler and Server and Virtualization Profiler. Backup Profiler and Server and Virtualization Profiler will be licensed according to the number of physical or virtual servers being monitored (previously pricing varied depending on whether servers were virtual or physical). The new licensing scheme for Storage Profiler will be based on the number of disks being monitored and will be priced in tiers, starting at $2,995 for the first tier (up to 50 disks).
SolarWinds is planning to convert all customers to the new licensing scheme even if they are not changing their deployments, according to vice president of product marketing and management Sanjay Castelino. But one customer says the details about how that process will happen haven’t been made clear yet.
“I don’t understand if they’re just going to straight swap our license in some fashion,” said the customer, an administrator for a financial services company speaking on condition of anonymity. “For example, we have eight [disk arrays] with over 1,000 disks combined, but no one has asked us that so how can they issue a new license? One thing they could be doing better is reaching out and explaining this better because the email [sent to customers] does not explain the process, it just lists the new pricing scheme.”
Sepaton today launched its next generation enterprise virtual tape library (VTL) series, built on Hitachi Data Systems storage.
The Sepaton S2100-E2 Series 1900 and 2900 VTLs that will be available in June use the Hitachi Adaptable Modular Storage (ASM) 2100 system as the underlying storage through a global reseller deal with HDS. This is a different type of relationship Sepaton has with Hewlett-Packard, which sells Sepaton software on its own hardware to make up the HP Virtual Library Systems (VLS) product. In this case, Sepaton is selling HDS hardware integrated with the Sepaton S2100-ES2 VTL appliance, and its DeltaStor data deduplication and DeltaRemote replication software. However, Sepaton VP of worldwide marketing Jay Kramer says the HDS sales force will also sell the new 1900 and 2900 systems.
Sepaton will continue to support its S2100-ES2 1000 series – built on storage from Dot Hill – and the new systems can be used to expand existing customers’ VTLs, but only the 1900 and 2900 systems will be available for new enterprise customers. The 1900 uses 1 TB SATA drives for 12 TB usable capacity per shelf and the 2900 uses 2 TB drives for 24 TB per shelf. The appliances scale to eight nodes and the 2900 can support 1.6 PB.
Pricing starts at $175,000 for 12 TB of storage and a 24 TB system costs $417,600. Those prices include Sepaton’s DeltaStor data deduplication software, which is now bundled on all appliances. Previously, DeltaStor was licensed separately. DeltaRemote replication is still a separate add-on, Kramer said.
Sepaton will continue to use Dot Hill for its midrange S2100-MS2 VTLs.
The industry transition from 4 Gbps to 8 Gbps Fibre Channel was the impetus for Sepaton’s new hardware platform. The new systems are Sepaton’s first to support 8-gig. Sepaton says the systems provide for five-nines of data availability with no single point of failure, and support hot swappable major components, dual-battery backup for cache, and RAID-6 dual parity support. They also include Sepaton’s DeltaView central management suite for monitoring and reporting.
The change in storage suppliers isn’t unusually for Sepaton – the vendor used storage from Apple and LSI before picking Dot Hill for its previous generation. But HDS gives Sepaton more than a hardware platform. Sepaton executives are counting on a sales boost as well from the HDS sales force, especially since HDS doesn’t have its own deduplication product. It resold Diligent ProtectTier VTL software with deduplication and Data Domain’s deduplication appliances, but that was before IBM bought Diligent and EMC acquired Data Domain.
“A major player of HDS’ standing is now a partner to us,” Kramer said. “We think this will make us a significant presence the marketplace.”
A new company has emerged from stealth in the cloud data storage industry this week at Cloud Expo. TwinStrata Inc. is previewing what it calls its “cloud enablement strategy” today, though it’s not disclosing product details yet.
One thing TwinStrata’s product is not, according to CEO Nicos Vekiarides, is a cloud storage service. Instead, the company bills itself as a Storage Cloud Enablement specialist.
In its slide deck for press, TwinStrata listed the key requirements for Storage Cloud Enablement as the following:
•Non-disruptive integration w/existing business + data protection apps
•Supports all industry file systemsandblock-level access
•Intelligent caching architecture, delivers local performance
•Supports virtual and physical IT environments
•Easy to deploy, manage in self-service manner via UI, CLI and API
•Compute AnywhereTMapplication accessibility: on/off-premise, cloud
•Local and cloud data copies, zero-footprint snapshots
•Encryption for security
•Bandwidth savings via caching, compression, deduplication
•Support multiple cloud providers,with data mobility across providers
•Support providers that offer SLAs for regulatory & compliance
These aren’t confirmed product features, but the picture that’s emerging for me is a cloud gateway similar to Nasuni or StorSimple. Analysts have described these hybrid cloud gateways as the next frontier for file virtualization, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see more competitors enter this space this year.
Whatever the product turns out to be, TwinStrata says it will target medium-sized businesses (which it defines as companies with between $25 million and $99 million in annual revenue) and midsized enterprises ($100 million – $999 million).
Here’s another new twist on converged networking: the InfiniBand Trade Association (IBTA) has released a new specification for building Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) into 10-Gigabit Data Center Ethernet (DCE) networks.
InfiniBand providers claim their value proposition is the same as Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) — the ability to combine multiple types of network traffic over one wide pipe. But according to Brian Sparks, senior director of marketing communications at Mellanox and co-chair of the IBTA’s Marketing Working Group, RDMA over Converged Ethernet (RoCE, pronounced “Rocky”) can theoretically be run over DCE alongside Fibre Channel traffic. “With priority flow control in DCE, you can do both, but it’s up to the NIC provider,” Sparks said.
Sparks said Mellanox is planning to release products that support RoCE, and that other members of the IBTA manufacturers including Broadcom, Intel and Chelsio, may be working on 10-gigE NICs that support RoCE as well. The IBTA envisions RoCE finding use cases in financial services companies or businesses with a similar reliance on databases and low tolerance for latency.
IBTA is also hoping this spec will fare better than its last attempt to drive RDMA into the Ethernet world, a spec for RDMA over 1 Gigabit Ethernet iSCSI links called iSER, known in its Intel incarnation as iWARP. “It’s had a hard time getting market adoption, since the adapters are a little high on the power side,” Sparks said. “They require a slightly more expensive NIC and maybe only get a microsecond or two latency benefit.”
RoCE will be different, Sparks said, because latency is much improved over 10-Gig networks, and DCE will do away with the need to offload TCP/IP traffic, one of the hindrances to better performance with iWARP.
While product news was slim at spring SNW this week, there were vendors and other groups on hand to share roadmap details and discuss industry trends. Some tidbits of those conversations:
Fibre Channel Industry Association
Despite the rise of iSCSI and the emergence of 10-gigabit Ethernet, enhanced Ethernet and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), the Fibre Channel Industry Association (FCIA) is charging ahead on its road map for at least the next decade.
The FC storage networking vendors who make up the FCoE say 16 Gbps FC products are just around the corner, with demonstrations anticipated by fall SNW, a 16-gig plugfest by the end of this year and shipping products by late 2011 or early 2012. The FCIA roadmap also calls for 32 Gbps devices by late 2014.
And it won’t stop there. QLogic director of technology Skip Jones, who chairs the FCIA, says the goal is for 1 Tbps FC interswitch links (ISL) by around 2000.
Jones also says the FCIA is committed to optimizing FC’s role in emerging FCoE technology although he says FCoE so far is mostly hype that has created “a trough of disillusionment that’s bigger than the Grand Canyon,” Jones said. “We’re pushing storage networks, regardless of how you pipe them. We want to see a good user experience.”
The FCIA is also working on a projected proposal called FC-SCM (simplified configuration and management), which includes a limited set of capabilities aimed at making FC easier to manage for remote offices.
One FC roadmap has hit a dead end, though. Development of FC disk drives has stopped at 4 Gbps. “That’s becoming uninteresting to us,” Jones said. “What we care about is having more spindles to manage.”
Sepaton’s backup boxes have been virtual tape libraries (VTL) from day one, meaning they use Fibre Channel connectivity and sell primarily to enterprises. But that could be changing with the vendor’s embracing of Symantec’s NetBackup OpenStorage (OST) API. Symantec hasn’t certified Sepaton’s OST support yet, but Sepaton did a demonstration at Symantec Vision this week running backups directly to disk without tape emulation by using OST on a S2100-E2 VTL running DeltaStor deduplication software.
Sepaton VP of worldwide marketing Jay Kramer says OST support will open the door for Sepaton to run over 10-Gigabit Ethernet, and eventually NFS and CIFS NAS protocols.
“OST is a great complementary technology to the direction we’re going,” Kramer said. “OST treats disk as disk, rather than as a tape cartridge. This is a start for us to move to open formats, and we have other things coming.”
Kramer says Sepaton still expects a strong demand for FC VTLs, but NAS support will make it more competitive with EMC’s Data Domain in midrange shops. Data Domain’s NAS interface is one reason it has dominated that market.
Kramer says he’s not impressed with Data Domain’s new Global Deduplication Array, calling it a “bolt-on” product and pointing out that Sepaton supports eight clustered nodes with full dedupe and replication. Data Domain’s GDA clusters two nodes through OST.
While Ocarina Networks is known as a primary data deduplication vendor, its vice president of products Carter George says there are customers using Ocarina for backup. George also said Ocarina is pursuing OEM deals with major vendors to use Ocarina reduction technology in NAS, iSCSI and object storage array systems, as well as on backup appliances.
“Our strategy is to get our stuff built into end user products,” George says.
While tape vendors are pitching their medium as the best way to archive, CommVault direct of cloud solutions Jeff Echols says tape will get a run for its money from the cloud.
Echols says a good deal of the interest in CommVault’s Cloud Connector option is from customers looking to archive data.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in archiving to the cloud instead of tape,” Echols said. “Long-term, this is going to be real interesting for tape.”
Avere CEO Ron Bianchini says he misread the market when first launching his tiered NAS systems last year, but he doesn’t regret it.
Avere first came to market with two boxes containing SAS and flash solid state drives (SSDs) last year, and planned to follow with a bigger version of those systems. But Bianchini says talking to early customers and potential customers changed his mind, and the FXT 2700 that Avere came out with in January consisted of only SSD and RAM without any spinning disk.
“About 85 percent of the people we talked to already have Fibre Channel spindles and the system runs great the first and second months of the quarter, and rolls over and dies in the last month when orders come flooding in,” he said. “They wanted only SSDs to improve performance. I went to market expecting to sell one thing and got pulled in a completely different direction.”
Bianchini says Avere will issue a software upgrade this year improving its management features and user interface.
LSI demonstrated new software capabilities for its MegaRAID SAS controllers to optimize performance of direct attached storage (DAS) systems running SSDs. FastPath is designed to improve transactional application throughput to up to 150,000 IOPS while CacheCade is tiering software that turns SSD into a secondary tier of cache to improve transactional I/O performance. LSI claims CacheCade will significantly improve performance of OLTP and server workloads, and other read-sensitive applications.
An interesting tidbit from host-based replication, iSCSI SAN and boot-from-SAN vendor Double-Take Software Inc.’s quarterly earnings forecast press release this week:
Double-Take…has received unsolicited, non-binding, written conditional indications of interest to acquire the Company at prices above recent trading prices of its shares. The Company’s Board of Directors, in consultation with its financial and legal advisors, is reviewing these indications of interest, and considering other possible strategic transactions. There can be no assurance that any transaction will occur, that any transaction involving a purchase of the Company that may occur would be at or above the prices stated in the indications of interest or as to the timing of any transactions that may occur. Double-Take does not expect to make further public comments regarding these matters unless and until it enters into a definitive agreement with respect to a transaction or determines that none will be pursued.
Meanwhile, the first calendar quarter of 2010 finished “weaker than expected” for Double-Take, which now expects first quarter revenue to be in the range of $18.8 million to $18.9 million, compared to its previous guidance of $20.0 million to $21.2 million. The new forecast is down from $22.8 million in revenue in the previous quarter and up a bit from last year’s $18.2 million. Double-Take will officially report earnings May 4.
The release quoted CEO Dean Goodermote saying “although we are evaluating expressions of interest in the company, we continue to plan for a strong independent future.”
Symantec announced at its Symantec Vision show today in Las Vegas that it will add new support for more third-party disk arrays under its Veritas Thin Reclamation API, part of its Thin Optimization features for Storage Foundation.
Three array partners, 3PAR, IBM and HDS, had already integrated with the API prior to this announcement. This week, Symantec is announcing support for EMC’s Clariion (Symmetrix to follow by the end of the year), HP’s XP24000 (EVA to be determined), as well as arrays from Fujitsu, NetApp and Compellent (the latter still to come later this month).
The API helps Veritas File System (VxFS), which underpins Storage Foundation, and storage arrays communicate which blocks have been deleted and can be freed up and put back into the storage pool. Symantec’s Thin Optimization can also help users perform “thin migrations” from a thick-provisioned to a thin-provisioned array.
Some of the array vendors offer similar features natively — HDS, for example, offers what it calls Zero Page Reclaim, and Compellent offers Thin Import. Symantec claims its approach is more efficient than these native tools. “The reality is that typically unused storage is delted or overwritten, but not written over with all zeroes,” said vice president of product management Josh Kahn. “That makes things like zero-page reclaim less efficient.”
Kahn said Symantec is testing the Thin Reclamation API to get some statistics on the amount of additional capacity users can reclaim with it, but doesn’t yet have those specific numbers.
“The big advantage to this is migrating data from thick to thin, and it’s a pretty efficient tool for heterogeneous environments,” said Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) analyst Bob Laliberte. “Whether it’s efficient enough to use in tandem with a storage vendor is a question of whether you’re an existing Symantec shop.”