Storage Soup


March 16, 2009  9:15 PM

Cisco pushes into servers; storage’s role undefined

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Cisco execs led by CEO John Chambers spent 90 minutes today on a webcast telling groups spread around the world what most of the IT world already knew – it is getting into the server business. But to Cisco’s way of spinning it, it is going beyond servers to a new data center architecture that will include networking, virtualization, a unified fabric, the cloud, and storage.

Nobody spent much time talking about individual products during the webcast, which included partners from EMC, VMware, Intel, Microsoft, BMC Software, and Accenture. Cisco has a diagram of the main pieces of its Unified Computing System on its web site, although details such as general availability and pricing are still to come.

We still don’t know the role storage will play in Cisco’s new world either, although EMC CEO Joe Tucci appeared on the webcast to give his blessing and EMC blogger Chuck Hollis today applauded Cisco’s bravery. Cisco also listed NetApp, Emulex, and QLogic among its partners. Considering those vendors along with EMC are also Cisco’s core Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) allies, it seems as if FCoE is as far as Cisco’s storage plans go for now.

Chambers and other Cisco execs said today’s session was mainly about describing an architecture and partner ecosystem with more product details to follow. And Tucci hinted that EMC will work more closely with Cisco’s unified computing products than it does with Cisco’s MDS Fibre Channel switches. “We will make sure our storage systems are not only qualified with, but really tuned to bring value to this Unified Computing System,” he said.

It’s also important to consider those missing from Cisco’s ecosystem – server vendors Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell and Sun, and storage/networking connectivity rival Brocade. For Cisco to succeed with its new unified architecture, it must successfully compete with those vendors who also partner with most of Cisco’s unified computing allies. And in the case of the server vendors, Cisco is going head-to-head with its own Ethernet partners.

So Cisco’s unified computing may play a divisive role with other key technology players. While Cisco customers may be eager to sign on, how will those who prefer open interfaces and standards react?

“Cisco has to get an entire ecosystem participating for its technology to really go into next phase,” StorageIO Group analyst Greg Schulz says. “To go into that market full tilt, they have to step all over IBM, Sun, HP, and potentially Intel white box customers. Are they really serious about wanting to take market share from their key partners? And how will the others respond?”

March 16, 2009  8:20 PM

Dell/EqualLogic prepares SSD IP SAN

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Dell is about to add solid state drive (SSD) support to its EqualLogic iSCSI SANs in a new PS6000 model. As first reported on ChannelWeb last Friday, the PS6000 will also have four Ethernet ports, one more than EqualLogic PS5000 arrays have.

Dell officials did not return requests for comment today by Storage Soup, but several industry sources have confirmed the report is accurate and say the PS6000S will support 16 solid-state drives. A PS6000E will also be available with only SATA drives, according to one customer who asked not to be named because the product has not yet been formally released.

The general opinion on solid state is that customers will hold out for higher capacities and other features before they buy. Several EqualLogic customers reached by Storage Soup today said they still found SATA drives adequate for their needs.

However, according to Alan J. Hunt, Manager of Operations for Dickinson Wright PLLC, “It’s just the beginning of the market. In a few years I suspect [SSDs are] all we’re going to have–it’s kind of the beginning of the next big wave.”

Hunt added that a fourth port on EqualLogic’s arrays could be more significant than it might appear. “A fourth port means you would have balance if you have two switches and want redundancy,” he said. “Or you could make it a dedicated management port and still have three ports.”

Missing from the coming product update, if reports are accurate, would be 10-Gigabit Ethernet support, which a Dell spokesperson said last year is on the EqualLogic roadmap for 2009. But like with SSDs, EqualLogic customers and resellers say 10-Gig Ethernet can wait.

“I haven’t seen a susstantial interest in 10 Gig,” said Broadleaf Services account executive and EqualLogic VAR Christopher Baer. “There aren’t a lot of applications that require that kind of throughput yet.”

Other customers say 10-GigE would future-proof the array, even if they don’t need the bandwidth quite yet. “Why add another port? Why not 10-GigE and really get this thing going?” said a customer in the education field who requested that his name not be used as he is not authorized to speak with the press. Some pieces of the IT infrastructure in this user’s shop have been upgraded to 10-GigE already, including the network backbone.

“I don’t personally need the bandwidth,” Hunt said. “But it could add the ability to reduce the number of cables and passthrough modules for blades, as well as greatly simplifying VMware deployments.”


March 13, 2009  5:04 PM

STEC set to ride enterprise SSD wave

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

While most storage vendors have tempered expectations for early 2009, STEC is predicting a healthy expansion of its solid state drive (SSD) business for enterprise storage arrays.

STEC Thursday predicted its ZeusIOPS product for enterprise storage will command more revenue for the first six months of this year than it did in all of 2008. And STEC beat its projection of $50 million for 2008 by realizing $53 million in ZeusIOPS revenue.

If you’ve been following the storage industry lately, STEC’s optimism should be no surprise. Storage vendors have been lining up to offer ZeusIOPS SSDs in their arrays. EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Sun, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are on board. Most of those vendors are just getting started. EMC, the first storage vendor to partner with STEC, sold every SSD it had last year according to EMC CEO Joe Tucci.

According to an STEC SEC filing, EMC accounted for 15.2% of STEC’s $227.4 million total revenue last year, which would put EMC’s piece of STEC revenue to $34.6 million. That’s the bulk of ZeusIOPS sale.

As Beth Pariseau’s story on SearchStorage today reveals, SSDs will remain a niche product in storage arrays until the cost comes down and management features improve. But sales will obviously get a boost this year from having more vendors pushing it.

STEC didn’t give many other details about its customers during its earnings conference call Thursday and has yet to officially confirm IBM or HP as OEM partners, but CEO Manouch Moshayedi did say ZeusIOPS revenue was split about evenly among Fibre Channel, SAS, and SATA interfaces.

Moshayedi also said STEC is cutting back on its DRAM product to concentrate on SSD for enterprise storage.
“ZeusIOPS is where we’re really putting all our emphasis,” he said.

Moshayedi doesn’t seem to expect a thaw in STEC’s relationship with Seagate now that the drive makers have dropped their lawsuits against each other. When asked if STEC might see Seagate as a partner, Moshayedi gave Seagate a cold shoulder.

“I think I am doing quite well by myself, without needing anyone else,” he said. “Our ZeusIOPS business is going through the roof. So I don’t need anyone else to help me with that. I’ve got the best customers in the world wanting my ZeusIOPS. Our ZeusIOPS is known to be the best drive out there. Everyone is trying to copy it. They have tried for two years, they have failed. And I think we will continue on just trucking with this product for the next few years until something else comes along.”


March 13, 2009  4:35 PM

Storage Headlines for 03-12-2009

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

You know the drill–some stories you may have missed this week:

Stories referenced:

Looking for the latest storage news, trends and analysis? http://www.searchstorage.com/news.


March 11, 2009  8:01 PM

Sanrad to add QoS to storage virtualization products

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Sanrad, maker of the iSCSI storage virtualization gateway V-Switch and virtual server HA storage subsystem V-Stor, is adding a new quality of service feature to both its products.

Sanrad VP of product management Allon Cohen, “Storage-intensive I/O can be a barrier to virtualization of some applications.” The company’s quality of service aims to overcome that by letting users throttle and reserve bandwidth for the most performance-intensive applications. This is similar to features offered by array vendors such as EMC and Pillar Data Systems.

However, unlike those storage arrays, Sanrad’s first QoS release will allow for two levels of service only, according to type of disk. A SATA disk pool will have one quality of service and SAS another (arguably the difference in speed between these drives also provides service differences). In the next release, expected in a month or so, Cohen said, Sanrad will add the ability to prioritize LUN by LUN. Sanrad is also releasing an API so users can set policies and thresholds for dynamic monitoring systems. 

The product is currently in beta with partners and will become available at the end of the quarter. Sanrad is formally announcing it in a couple of weeks. QoS will be a free feature included with Sanrad products and a free upgrade for existing users.


March 11, 2009  6:36 PM

Riverbed contemplates SSDs, dedupe

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Photobucket
Eric Wolford with his lobster bib.

Riverbed held a roundtable discussion about the company (and some other topics) with journalists last night at Boston’s Oceanaire restaurant in Government Center. I sat next to Eric Wolford, Riverbed’s SVP of marketing and business development, and he opened a conversation by asking me “What’s hot?”

“Well,” I told him, “these days I sometimes feel like I’m writing for SearchSSD.com rather than SearchStorage.com.” I didn’t expect Riverbed to be getting into the solid-state disk game, but Wolford said there’s probably a place for SSDs in at least some of its WAN optimization products, too.

Wolford said some large Riverbed customers use Steelhead devices on both sides of the wire for replication. At extremely high bandwidth (OC12 and above), Wolford said SSDs could help keep up when large volumes of data hit the devices’ disks simultaneously.

“With large data center-to-data center replication, they sometimes need so many spindles there’s an opportunity for solid-state storage,” he said.

But he doesn’t see SSDs replacing spinning disk systems, for Riverbed or the industry at large. “It’ll give us a new high end,” he said. And, he added, “an enormous amount of our business is at the T1 level and there’s really no opportunity for it there.”

Wolford also gave me an update on the Atlas primary storage dedupe product Riverbed was originally going to ship this year but recently pushed out until 2010.

“We got critical feedback from alpha customers where they want to deploy [Atlas], but don’t want dependency on the Steelhead appliance.” Wolford said. So Riverbed is working on bundling the Steelhead functionality into the Atlas product itself.

Atlas will sit out of band, he said, “to the side” of the array and perform post-process dedupe. Wolford says customers are hot for primary storage data reduction, but most vendors still can’t deliver it at speeds fast enough for primary storage. “If the device is out of the path of hot data, the performance burden isn’t as extensive,” he said.


March 10, 2009  6:17 PM

Analysts: demand more from your storage vendor in virtual environments

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

A recent report by Andrew Reichman at Forrester Research showed that among 124 surveyed IT decision-makers, incumbent vendors and Fibre Channel still dominate the in-use storage systems supporting VMware deployments. But, according to Reichman and another analyst specializing in VMware, the Burton Group’s Chris Wolf, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily how things should be.

According to the Forrester Report, users should “pick a vendor that offers thin provisioning, has deduplication on the road map, and has documented best practices in virtual environments.”

Some of these things, Reichman says, are harder to come by than you might think. “Especially clear best practices–it seems like vendors tiptoe around it, saying, ‘we can do whatever you need!’ and customers need more clarity,” he said.

Reichman also said he wanted more storage vendors to offer management console integration with VMware’s vCenter, the way Xiotech does with its Virtual View.

On the management console front, the Burton Group’s Wolf added that vendors who sell backup should be looking to consolidate VMware data protection features into the same software framework as array-based or network-based backup mechanisms.

“That integration is going to be important for backup products supporting a virtual environment,” he said.

Reichman’s survey found that most shops are sticking with an incumbent vendor for server virtualization deployments, and that that vendor is most often EMC. But Reichman also said that the survey is probably capturing the first wave of production deployments of VMware. As those deployments grow and become more complex, and as more storage vendors add new features to their products specifically to support virtual servers, users might be compelled to take a fresh look.

When they do, Reichman’s report urges users to consider Ethernet first rather than Fibre Channel, though he said Ethernet adoption may be driving primarily by Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization software rather than VMware, “which tends to either be protocol-agnostic or Fibre Channel-centric,” he said.

Wolf said there are a couple more virtual server-focused features he’d like to see vendors add as they try to market storage devices for virtual server support. One of them is array-level primary storage compression and dedupe, currently only offered in a handful of places like NetApp’s FAS systems, EMC’s newest Celerra products, and for nearline/archival file storage by startups StorWize and Ocarina. The other is more efficient deployment consolidation for things like patches on multiple virtual machine images.

“So you could deploy a patch one time and any dependent images automatically update as well–that’s the level of intelligence I’d like to see in the arrays,” he said.


March 9, 2009  7:10 PM

Consumers feel enterprise-grade storage pain

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

According to a notice posted on Facebook’s official blog, a group of disk drives (a RAID group?) on what sounds like a clustered storage systems failed en masse over the weekend, causing 10 to 15% of user-uploaded photos to Facebook not to be available.

You may have noticed in the past day that some photos aren’t appearing or are displaying a “question mark” graphic when you go to view them. We have experienced some problems with our photo storage that affected between 10 to 15 percent of already uploaded photos. Don’t worry: Your photos are safe, and we are working to make them available again as soon as possible. We’ve already repaired about one-third of affected photos and expect to complete repairs on another third tonight.

Here’s what happened, and what we’re doing to fix the problem: During an otherwise routine software upgrade on Friday night, we ran into some problems with our photo storage and a few of the hard drives where we store photos apparently failed all at once. We’re trying to fully understand what happened, since simultaneous hardware failures like this are rare.

As high-profile sotrage outages go, this one doesn’t seem to be as severe as it could have been, at least not compared to other Web 2.0 services disasters like ma.gnolia, which wasn’t able to recover users’ bookmarks when its backups failed in January. According to Facebook’s post, users will not lose their pictures while they try to get the problem diagnosed and repaired, but won’t be able to view them until sometime next week–

We still have all your photos because we store them in a way that maintains multiple copies of the data in case of hardware failures like this. However, even though your photos are safe, we can’t serve photos off the affected storage volumes until they’re repaired. We’re working on them right now, but it will take some time because there’s so much data on them and the repair process largely involves copying huge amounts of data to new drives. This is why some photos aren’t showing up right now.

We’re restoring photos as we repair the hard drives, so some should be working again today and we should be back to normal by early next week. New photo uploads will continue to work properly during the repairs, because we write them to different storage volumes. Thanks for bearing with us while we return things to normal.

Storage Twitterers are skeptical about the cause of the problem. Tim Masters, Co-Founder of StorageMonkeys.com, wrote “Recovery will take until “early next week” after a “hard drive failure”? Wish I had that kind of SLA internally….most of us don’t get the luxury of a week to recover a LUN or a disk shelf…”

Bloggers who aren’t hard-bitten storage guys, meanwhile, had some praise for Facebook’s handling of the issue. “It’s good to know that Facebook maintains backups of all your data for situations like this…” wrote Adam Ostrow at Mashable.

Meanwhile, this isn’t the only tale of consumer-facing storage horror to surface on the Internet today. Gizmodo also reported the saga of Nicole, who was allegedly done wrong on the backup front by Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

“Best Buy charged Nicole $99 to backup her data but then replaced her hard drive without backing up a single byte,” Gizmodo’s Carey writes. “Nicole’s service contract clearly stated that Best Buy would perform the backup before any other service. Now Best Buy is claiming that her old hard drive is their property and that she has no right to the data that they failed to backup or restore.”

To me, Best Buy reserving some kind of property rights on the disk drive sounds like code for “it’s gone to our after-market resale disk drive repository in the sky, and we don’t know where it is.” I don’t think they’re witholding the information deliberately or maliciously (why voluntarily create a PR problem like this one?), but I also don’t think Nicole’s getting her data back.

With more and more digital data protection issues like this one falling into the laps of consumers, we are probably going to eventually–after a long, slow process of learning by painful experience–see an approach to this stuff more like that of enterprise storage and backup experts, none of whom I can imagine uploading a photo to Facebook or bringing a computer hard drive in for service anywhere without making their own backups first.


March 6, 2009  6:22 PM

Storage Headlines for 03-05-2009

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Here are some stories you may have missed this week:


 

Stories referenced:

  • (0:25) Storage budgets shrink as capacity grows
    Capacity planning: Users delay top-tier purchases
    Venture capitalist talks storage, economy and the cloud 
  • (2:25) Fusion-io looks to replace your SAN with Flash
  • (3:19) Digital Reef aims for data classification scalability
  • (4:18) Musical chairs going on in the storage industry
     More musical chairs: EqualLogic exec changes roles within Dell
  • As always, you can find the latest storage news, trends and analysis at http://searchstorage.com/news.


    March 6, 2009  3:44 PM

    IDC: storage sales down, especially Fibre Channel

    Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

    IDC’s storage tracker numbers released today shows an 0.5% year-over-year decline in worldwide external storage sales in the fourth quarter of 2008.

    This was the first time external disk sales declined in more than five years, yet it’s hardly a surprise. Everybody knows spending dropped due to the economy late last year, and IDC already told us that PCs and servers revenues fell 1.9% in the fourth quarter. But the dynamics behind the storage decline are interesting.

    NAS and iSCSI revenues continued to grow. NAS increased 8.6% over the previous year, and iSCSI was up 62%. However, Fibre Channel revenue declined 3.2%.

    With smaller installed bases, NAS and iSCSI have been growing faster than FC, but FC had been growing as well. The decline of FC will likely continue in the short term, as current market conditions favor NAS and iSCSI over more expensive FC SANs.

    “End users are looking for more economical ways to meet their growing storage needs as many IT budgets shrink due to the current economic conditions,” IDC research analyst for disk storage Liz Connor said in IDC’s press release. “FC SAN systems fulfill many high-end storage needs, but usually at a higher average price. However, iSCSI and NAS storage solution alternatives offer increased enterprise-level features at lower costs, and compel vendors to consider these technologies. Continued end user education, growing confidence in IP-based storage, increasing product sophistication, as well as a typically lower price point, result in increased adoption of iSCSI and NAS by many budget conscious end users.”

    The trends Connor talks about are almost certain to continue for the rest of this year because spending isn’t likely to pick up before late 2008 at the earliest. But there’s no guarantee that FC sales will rise when storage spending does improve. A year from now, enhanced Ethernet will be here to power not only Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) but improve NAS and iSCSI as well. Emerging storage markets such Web 2.0, film/broadcast, video surveillance, and health care are dominated by organizations that deal with more files than Oracle databases. They can do just fine with NAS or IP SANs. The largest FC vertical, financial services, has been crippled by the economy.

    So even when storage revenues start going up again, FC may not follow.


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