Storage Soup

December 15, 2010  6:24 PM

IBM, STEC seek to make MLC solid state an enterprise play

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

IBM is bringing STEC multi-level cell (MLC) solid state drives into the enterprise, and the word from STEC is that others will follow soon.

SSD supplier STEC today said IBM is using its ZeusIOPS MLC flash drives in the IBM DS8800, DS8700 and Storwize V7000 storage arrays. STEC manager for SSD technical marketing Scott Shadley said it marks the first use of STEC’s MLC in enterprise storage systems, but he expects other OEM partners to qualify the MLC flash soon. Until now, more expensive single-level cell (SLC) flash has shipped in enterprise solid state storage arrays.

STEC also sells SSDs through OEM deals with array vendors EMC, Hewlett-Packard, and Hitachi Data Systems as well as IBM and others smaller partners.

“We’ll see many more OEMs going forward with MLC in the first part of next year,” Shadley said. “They’ve been in qualifications.”

Shadley said IBM is replacing the SLC modules it previously sold on the three storage systems with MLC modules. IBM will sell STEC ZeusIOPS MLCs with 6 Gbps SAS and 4 Gbps Fibre Channel interfaces, and at 300 GB and 600 GB capacities.

While pricing varies among vendors, Shadley said the MLCs cost more than 25% less than SLCs. But that cheaper price has come at the expense of performance and endurance. Until the last year or so, MLCs were exclusively used in consumer devices while only SLCs were considered to have the performance and reliability for enterprise applications. MLCs can store two or more bits per cell and multiple levels of charge, giving it at least twice the capacity of SLCs but with slower write speeds and higher bit error rates.

However, vendors such as Fusion-io, Micron, Anobit, Violin Memory and STEC have worked to improve the write endurance and reliability of MLC flash.

In STEC’s case, it uses what it calls Secure Array of Flash Element (SAFE) technology to reduce component failures associated with MLC flash and CellCare technology to improve MLC’s endurance. STEC claims its MLC flash endurance can reach five years.

December 13, 2010  9:30 PM

Sepaton prepares enterprise cloud backup model

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Backing up to the cloud started mainly as an option for smaller companies, but enterprise backup vendors see it moving up into the enterprise.

CommVault and Symantec have made their backup software more cloud friendly for larger companies, and now enterprise virtual tape library (VTL) vendor Sepaton is preparing to help customers back up to private and public clouds.

Sepaton director of advanced technology Dennis Rolland said the vendor will have products that fulfill a cloud model. He’s not yet ready to talk about any specific cloud products, but he said Sepaton is putting together a cloud strategy built around two of its key capabilities.

“The main thing is that deduplication and low-bandwidth replication really make a cloud deployment possible,” Rolland said. “Our customers typically have short backup windows and a large amount of data to move. Deduplication reduces the cost of that storage footprint and replication sends only unique data after the first backup. Those are really the enablers. Cloud solutions today that don’t have dedupe, I don’t know how viable they will be in the enterprise to move large amounts of data.”

Rolland said organizations backing up to private clouds also need the ability to allocate performance and capacity according to business needs, and a multi-tenant model. He said many companies also want to use the public cloud to seamlessly create another tier of data protection.

Using the cloud for backup isn’t the only change Sepaton sees in enterprise data protection. Rolland said the rise of Ethernet in storage, the proliferation of virtual machines and emergence of OST for Symantec NetBackup customers is leading to more unified storage devices. This is changing Sepaton’s model because it started as a Fibre Channel-only VTL vendor before adding NAS and file-based interfaces.

“Ten-gigabit Ethernet is driving consolidation,” he said. “Ethernet is easier to manage that Fibre Channel. Users are asking for Ethernet support in every vendor’s roadmap. We can run Ethernet in same system simultaneously over FC. We can run a VTL emulation over Fibre Channel and OST to a disk device over Ethernet to the same system.”

December 13, 2010  1:02 PM

Dell wraps up Compellent deal, acquires storage array vendor

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Dell made it official today. It is buying Compellent for $820 million, and expects the deal to close early next year.

Dell and Compellent said last Thursday that they were in advanced negotiations for a deal, and most industry experts said they did not expect another serious bidder to emerge.

We will have more details on later today, following a press briefing. We expect Dell to answer some of the product positioning issues raised last week as well as its relationship with storage partner EMC.

Dell did say in its release this morning that it will keep Compellent’s operations in Eden Prairie, Minn., and will invest in engineering, support, operations and sales capability to grow the Compellent business. The deal is worth $27.75 per Compellent share. That comes to $960 million, or $820 million minus Compellent’s cash.

The deal winds up a year of consolidation among storage system vendors. Hewlett-Packard acquired 3PAR for $2.35 billion in September after a long bidding war with Dell, and EMC is in the process of closing a $2.25 billion deal for clustered NAS vendor Isilon.

December 9, 2010  3:15 PM

Dell says it wants Compellent for $876 million

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Dell today said it is serious about buying Compellent Technologies for $876 million. I guess it’s really serious if the companies already have a price.

Any storage acquisition under $2 billion seems like a steal these days and Dell has clearly been shopping for another platform to go with its EqualLogic iSCSI family. Still, this proposed deal raises some questions about Dell’s storage strategy:

Is Compellent that much different than EqualLogic? Sure, Compellent sells Fibre Channel SANs and EqualLogic is iSCSI only, but they target similar customers. Buying Compellent won’t give Dell a larger potential customer base than it already has with EqualLogic plus its OEM deal with EMC for Clarrion Fibre Channel SANs. And Compellent isn’t a replacement for the higher end 3PAR arrays that Hewlett-Packard outbid Dell for in September. “How does Compellent, which has been a repeatedly highlighted competitor of Dell/EqualLogic, address Dell’s desire to move into the higher-end storage market?” Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. analyst Aaron Rakers asked in a note issued to clients today.

Is this the end of the Dell-EMC relationship? That long-standing partnership took a hit when Dell bought EqualLogic in 2008 and another when it tried to buy 3PAR. EMC CEO Joe Tucci has talked about rebuilding the relationship, but only if Dell were serious. Buying another EMC competitor probably isn’t what Tucci had in mind as a Dell show of seriousness. You could argue that the higher end Clariion systems still give Dell something that it doesn’t get from Compellent, but does EMC still want to play ball with a company that has become a prime competitor?

One financial analyst said EMC and Dell will retain their uneasy relationship for now. “It’s obvious that the EMC-Dell relationship is getting worse,” said Kaushik Roy of Wedbush Securities. “But what choice does Dell have in the high end of the midrange? Compellent doesn’t go there. So I think Dell still sells some CX in the midrange.”

By tipping its hand on Compellent, is Dell making it more likely that another suitor will make a bid? And if so, who? Rakers raises the question of whether NetApp would be interested, but Compellent’s doesn’t fill any gaps in NetApp’s product line.

On the plus side for Dell, this takes it closer to becoming full-service storage vendor. Dell’s in-house storage portfolio now includes EqualLogic, Exanet’s clustered NAS IP, Ocarina’s data reduction technology, and its DX Object Storage platform. Compellent brings impressive software technologies such as Data Progression automated tiering, Dynamic Capacity thin provisioning, and Live Volume for migrating volumes across arrays. It will be interesting to see if Dell makes a play for its own storage software company, perhaps its backup software OEM partner CommVault.

From a business perspective, Dell will make more money from selling Compellent systems than it makes from EMC Clariion because it owns the products. This is obviously a key reason for Dell broadening its storage portfolio.

If the companies reach an agreement, it will be interesting to hear Dell’s responses to these questions and its plans for this new technology.

December 7, 2010  6:54 PM

Fusion-io sees comfort level rising in PCIe-based SSDs

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

While the enterprise solid state drive (SSD) is still growing slowly and no method of using SSDs has moved to the forefront, Fusion-io CEO David Flynn said his company’s Flash-based PCIe cards are making a big splash in a handful of vertical markets.

“We’re growing like gangbusters on revenue and growing our headcount,” he said. “It’s like riding a rocket ship.”

Because Fusion-io is a private company, we don’t really know if the vendor had five times as much revenue in its fiscal year that ended in June as it did last year as Flynn claims. And we don’t know how much revenue that would be. But Fusion-io did have a customer go public today when financial services firm Credit Suisse said it is using Fusion’s ioMemory technology with its trading platform.

Flynn said Credit Suisse is a typical customer in some ways, but not others. He said Fusion-io has other top trading firms as customers but most won’t publicly admit it. Credit Suisse uses Fusion-io’s cards to improve the speed of its computers to determine what stock trades to make and to execute those trades. “People have been using us for trading for three years,” Flynn said.

But Flynn said financial services is only the third largest vertical market among Fusion-io’s customer base, behind Web companies and government agencies. The most commonly run applications are analytical and transactional databases that require caching tiers, messaging for financial transactions and unstructured text search.

“Awareness of SSD technology is maturing,” Flynn said. “We’ve been in production for three years and people are becoming more aware and comfortable with our technology.”

With that awareness and comfort comes more competition for Fusion-io. Vendors such as STEC and LSI, in partnership with Seagate, have SSD PCIe cards that compete with Fusion-io. And industry heavyweights Dell, EMC, IBM and Intel in October initiated a working group to standardize PCIe-based SSDs technology. Fusion-io is among that group, which underscores the value the industry is placing on PCIe SSD cards as well as the increased level of competition.

“They’re bringing PCI express to the drive bay and that’s an admission that we had it right from the start,” Flynn said. “People are recognizing that you have to get the legacy storage infrastructure out of the way if you want to tap into the true potential of NAND Flash. But they’re all three or four years behind us in getting product out.”

December 3, 2010  5:41 PM

Storage revenues: NetApp, EMC, Ethernet on the rise

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

The latest external storage system revenue numbers are in from IDC and Gartner, showing that trends we saw in the first half of 2010 continued into last quarter.

Those include the rise of Ethernet in networked storage at the expense of Fibre Channel, and market share gains by NetApp and EMC at the expense of IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

According to IDC, Ethernet-based NAS and iSCSI SANs outgrew the market again in the third quarter of 2010. NAS increased 49.8% over last year and iSCSI jumped 41.4%. Those numbers compare to overall SAN revenue growth of 18.5% and an external storage increase of 19%.

EMC led the NAS market with 46.6% share followed by NetApp with 28.9%, according to IDC. Both vendors picked up share over last quarter. EMC is also in the process of acquiring clustered NAS vendor Isilon, which had 0.75% of the overall storage share last quarter.

Dell still leads the iSCSI market on the strength of its EqualLogic platform. Dell had 33.8% market share last quarter, well ahead of EMC at 13.8% and HP at 13.7%. Dell increased its iSCSI share from 32.9% in the second quarter.

In the overall vendor horse race, EMC kept its lead in external storage with 26.1% of the market revenue, followed by IBM at 12.9%. NetApp, which edged ahead of HP in the second quarter, stayed third with 11.6%. HP was fourth at 11.1%, followed by Dell with 9.1%

EMC and NetApp gained total share over the previous quarter and last year while the other three of the top five lost share. NetApp revenue grew a whopping 54.9% since last year while EMC grew 28.3%. HP had the lowest growth at 11.3% over last year. Maybe that’s why HP spent $2.35 billion to acquire SAN vendor 3PAR, which had 0.83% of the market last quarter.

IDC said total external storage sales for last quarter were $5.2 billion.

Gartner reported similar numbers, placing the total external storage revenue at $4.6 billion — up 16% from last year.

Gartner added Fujitsu to the list of vendors who outgrew the market, and shed more light on specific vendor successes and failures. Gartner’s top five was the same as IDC’s, and it listed Hitachi Data Systems, Futjitsu and Oracle/Sun as the next three leaders. Gartner said Oracle/Sun revenue declined 36.3% from last year, attributing it to Oracle’s ending the OEM deal Sun had with HDS for its 9000 high-end monolithic array platform.

Other information in the Gartner report:

  • HP’s market share loss was due to an “anemic” position in the NAS segment along with revenue declines for its EVA midrange SAN platform.
  • Dell lost share despite EqualLogic success because of declines in sales of the systems it sells through its OEM deal with EMC.
  • IBM XIV systems grew 112% year-over-year, but IBM had “spotty” performance with its DS series.
  • HDS third-quarter revenues took a hit because of a transition from its USP-V and USP-VM systems to its new high-end VSP monolithic array.

  • December 2, 2010  8:27 PM

    Forrester lists objections to object storage

    Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

    While storage vendors are paying a lot of attention to object storage these days, a new report from Forrester Research points to limitations that make the technology the wrong choice for many organization’s storage requirements.

    The report, “Prepare for Object Storage in the Enterprise, defines object storage as “Storage of data that is broken into distinct segments, each containing a unique identifier that allows for retrieval and integrity verification of the data.”

    The report isn’t anti-object storage. It points out object storage systems’ value in the areas of massive scalability, greater custom control over data, the ability to reduce management and hardware costs, and its WORM and shared tenancy features. It also recommends object storage for certain workloads. But it also looks at the downsides that need to be considered before adopting an object storage system.

    “Poor performance, high data change rates, capacity sprawl, and lack of standards will prevent object storage from becoming ubiquitous, but it has the potential to significantly improve storage economics, ease of use, and control when mapped to the right workloads,” wrote the report’s lead author Andrew Reichman.

    The right workloads, according to the report, include archiving, cloud storage, Web 2.0 and imaging applications. In other words, you shouldn’t be using object storage systems for databases.

    As for drawbacks, Reichman writes that object storage focuses on data movement, high scalability and automation but not performance. “Performance, measured in inputs/outputs per second (IOPS) is not the strong suit,” he writes. “Put simply, object storage is just not designed as a replacement for SAN storage, deployed where high transactional performance is paramount.”

    He adds that object storage’s use of unique identifiers is “not the most efficient design for data that gets edited frequently.” So while it’s good for picture or audio files that usually aren’t modified after creation, it’s not so good for databases and collaborative files.

    And while file system vendors follow consistent standards and formats, there is no standard for object APIs. “In the end, the benefits of objects may take a back seat to the consistency and familiarity of files, unless the industry can get together on standardization,” Reichman wrote.

    November 29, 2010  5:39 PM

    Largest InfiniBand vendors merge; eye converged networks

    Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

    There is one less InfiniBand vendor following today’s merger of the market leaders Mellanox and Voltaire. There is also one larger player to watch in the converged storage and networking space.

    The merger leaves two InfininBand vendors — Mellanox and QLogic, which is primarily a Fibre Channel HBA vendor. Both have their sights on Ethernet as well, as Voltaire did before Mellanox bought it today for $176 million.

    Once the merger closes – probably early next year – the new Mellanox will be a more complete InfiniBand vendor. The deal combines Mellanox’s silicon and adapter cards with Voltaire switches and software. Voltaire already bought its switch chips from Mellanox.

    Mellanox CEO Eyal Waldman said the two companies will combine product lines in late 2011. He said some of the vendors’ OEM partners and large customers actually requested a merger of the vendors. Mellanox and Voltaire have OEM deals with IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Oracle/Sun and other server vendors, and share enterprise customers including Shell, General Electric and Exxon.

    Waldman said the growth of the combined companies will come from adding Voltaire software such as Unified Fabric Manager and Voltaire Storage Accelerator to Mellanox products. “Today they come on top of Voltaire’s systems, and in the future I hope they also come on top of Mellanox’s systems,” he said.

    Mellanox and Voltaire were the largest survivors of the handful of vendors who sold InfiniBand devices, hoping that it’s low latency would help it catch on as a major network interconnect. But InfiniBand remains largely a niche player for high performance computing and companies that rely heavily on transactional data for trading. Over the last year, Mellanox had revenue of $149.5 million and Voltaire’s revenue was $67.7 million. QLogic, which got into InfiniBand by acquiring PathScale and SilverStorm in 2006, had $39 million of revenue from InfiniBand last year.

    Today’s merger can accelerate Mellanox’s move into converged networks because Voltaire’s software can manage storage and 10-Gigabit Ethernet networks. Both vendors say their 10-GbE devices can support Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) as well. QLogic has the lead there, though, with FCoE adapters already on the market.

    Waldman said Mellanox would keep Voltaire’s employees, bringing the combined headcount to around 700. Voltaire CEO and chairman Ronnie Kenneth will join the Mellanox board, pending shareholder approval.

    November 24, 2010  2:46 PM

    Object storage newcomer Scality looks to conquer the cloud

    Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

    A new object storage vendor has thrown its hat in the ring to compete as a cloud storage enabler.

    Actually, it’s thrown its Ring in the ring.

    Scality’s Ring technology is targeted at service providers looking to take on Amazon S3 in the cloud. Scality is concentrating on storing email first, with designs on other applications and enterprise customers down the road.

    “In five years I see us in the enterprise market,” Scality CEO Jerome Lecat said. “Today enterprises are still on the learning curve. They ask a lot of questions, but are not deploying a major pool of cloud storage. But that will come.”

    Scality’s DNA is in email storage. It spun out of European email management vendor Bizanga after Cloudmark acquired Bizanga last February. The spin-out was originally called Bizanga Store, but changed its name to Scality in June. Scality is based in France, but has an office in San Francisco.

    Lecat said email is also a good fit from a technology perspective for Scality.

    “Some applications are being re-written to work with object storage. Email is one of them,” Lecat said. “People have written connectors with Exchange to work in the cloud. We’ll target applications that have been optimized to work with object storage.”

    Scality sets up a cluster – or a ring – of nodes on commodity servers, and each node manages its piece of the storage environment. Each node constantly monitors a small number of peers, and the system will automatically rebalance the load if a node is added or taken out. Store and receive requests go through “accessors” that use HTTP, REST, RS2, Zimbra, OpenXchange, or Dovecot to communicate with the application. Scality also developed an I/O daemon called BizIOD to communicate with storage hardware.

    When a store or retrieve request comes, the accessor contacts one of the nodes on the Ring. Lecat said by using Scalitiy’s Distributed Hash Table algorithm, the assessor can find the Ring in one hop for a ring of 10 nodes, two hops for 100 nodes, three hops for 1,000 nodes and seven hops for 10,000 nodes. That means within three hops, one node can address 50 PB of storage with less than 20 milliseconds of latency on a Gigabit Ethernet LAN.

    After the correct node is contacted, it passes the object to BiziOD, which places it on the storage hardware. The nodes decide what objects should get off-loaded to tier two storage, and handle retention policies. One BizIOD runs per piece of physical storage hardware, but multiple BizIODs can run on one Ring node. If a disk fails, it only impacts the associated BizIOD daemon instead of the entire Ring node.

    Adding tier one nodes boosts IOPS for better performance, and adding tier two nodes increases capacity.

    Lecat said one Ring node typically has between 3 TB and 7 TB of usable capacity. He said Ring will support unlimited file sizes in its next release, which could come by the end of the year.

    “We believe we have faster performance,” Lecat said. “And we can handle policies deployed on storage itself. You can decide how many copies of data you want to keep, and the data can self-delete at the end of the archival period. We manage these things from the storage layer rather than the application layer.”

    Lecat said Scality has seven customers, including European service providers Telent, Host Europe, ScaleUp, Dunkel and intergenia. Backup vendor CommVault also provides a connector to European-based providers who use the Scality Ring.

    Scality is looking to expand its U.S. footprint, but that won’t be easy because it involves competing with object storage products from EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Dell, NetApp/Bycast, DataDirect Networks, Caringo and Cleversafe.

    November 23, 2010  7:20 PM

    Embattled Overland offers free storage

    Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

    Overland Storage is giving customers extra disk and tape storage for no charge as part of a holiday season promotion, while Nasdaq is threatening to bring the vendor a lump of coal for Christmas.

    Overland initiated two promotions this week, offering customers an additional 4 TB when they purchase a 4 TB SnapServer N2000 NAS/iSCSI system and 1.2PB of free capacity if they buy an NEO 8000e 1.2 PB tape library.

    Overland’s attempt to jumpstart sales with these promotions comes as the Nasdaq is threatening to delist the vendor from the stock exchange because it is not in compliance with the exchange’s minimum standards for shareholders’ equity, market value or income. Overland has until Dec. 31 to present a compliance plan to Nasdaq explaining how it plans to meet one of the minimum standards.

    After receiving the compliance plan, Nasdaq can grant Overland an extension up to 180 days to accomplish its goals before it is delisted.

    Overland faced a similar delisting threat last year and has a history of financial losses, including a $6.5 million loss last quarter on revenue of $17.6 million – a revenue decline of 9% from last year. Overland had $4.3 million in cash at the end of the quarter, but has since sold $4.2 million of stock to investors. Overland’s stock price opened today at $1.30.

    The vendor has put together a new management team over the last year under CEO Erik Kelly, including CTO Geoff Barrall and VP of global sales and marketing Jillian Mansolf, and is trying t o rebound with its Snap and NEO platforms. However, two key executives who joined Overland in 2009 — Ravi Pendekanti and Chris Gopal – left this year.

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