Storage Soup


February 24, 2009  10:37 PM

Latest Sun/NetApp clash: SPEC SFS

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

While one vendor’s blogger came to bury SPEC SFS, another came to defend it. The clash of vendors as yet seems unresolved.

The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) SFS benchmark measures file server throughput and response time. The latest version, SPECsfs2008 was implemented last year.

But Sun FISHWorks blogger Bryan Cantrill wrote in a post called “Eulogy for a Benchmark” that the workload mix even in the most recent version remains outdated:

The 2008 reaffirmation of the decades-old workload is, according to SPEC, “based on recent data collected by SFS committee members from thousands of real NFS servers operating at customer sites.” SPEC leaves unspoken the uncanny coincidence that the “recent data” pointed to an identical read/write mix as that survey of…now-extinct Auspex dinosaurs a decade ago — plus ça change, apparently!

Moreover, Cantrill argued, the testing parameters for systems lead vendors to design NAS heads to perform well in the SFS test, which he said is at best irrelevant and at worst detrimental to a real-world environment. He also insists that SPEC benchmark results need to come with system pricing disclosures.

Enter NetApp blogger and senior technical director Michael Eisler, who called his response to Cantrill’s post “Chuckle for Today.”

the philosophy of SPEC SFS has always been to model reality as opposed to the idealist…dream where a storage device never has to process a request. P.S., in an earlier blog post, I made the argument that SPEC SFS 2008′s differences from SPEC SFS 3.0, show the caching on NFS clients has improved.

On the pricing disclosure issue:

Like many industries, few storage companies have fixed pricing. As much as heads of sales departments would prefer to charge the same highest price to every customer, it isn’t going to happen. Storage is a buyers’ market. And for storage devices that serve NFS and now CIFS, the easily accessible numbers on spec.org are yet another tool for buyers. I just don’t understand why a storage vendor would advocate removing that tool.

In storage, the cost of the components to build the device falls continuously. Just as our customers have a buyers’ market, we storage vendors are buyers of components from our suppliers and also enjoy a buyers’ market. Re-submitting numbers after a hunk of sheet metal declines in price is silly.

This is where Cantrill appears to take exception to Eisler’s taking exception, responding in a followup post that Eisler’s defense of the pricing non-disclosure is an “Alice-in-Wonderland defense.”

Mike’s argument — and I’m still not sure that I’m parsing it correctly — appears to be that the infamously opaque pricing in the storage business somehow helps customers because they don’t have to pay a single “highest price”! That is, that the lack of transparent pricing somehow reflects the “buyers’ market” in storage. If that is indeed Mike’s argument, someone should let the buyers know how great they have it — those silly buyers don’t seem to realize that the endless haggling over software licensing and support contracts is for them!

It’s not just this benchmark which is being debated over in the storage industry–SPC benchmarks have also been a bone of contention between EMC and NetApp and between HP and EMC. Even in the comments on this blog I’ve heard everything from “Take the time to read the full disclosures, read the specifications…You might learn something” from a defender of SPC to a nonplussed “I really hope nobody uses SPC-1 results as any criteria for buying storage.”

So benchmarks are obviously a touchy subject among many in the industry. But meanwhile, is there anything Sun and NetApp aren’t fighting about?

February 23, 2009  10:34 PM

EMC releases Networker Fast Start virtual appliance

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

A post by EMC’s Storagezilla over the weekend spread the news that EMC’s scaled-down version of its Networker backup product, Fast Start, is being made available as a virtual storage appliance (VSA).

‘zilla emphasizes that the Networker VSA is for demo purposes only, going so far as to say “Thou shalt not use this for production backups.” But the curious part is EMC also offers a VSA for its Avamar ROBO/dedupe software that is meant for use in production.

I know that there are big differences between Avamar and Networker, especially in scale. Performance can also limit scalability in virtual appliances. But other companies have offered VSAs using scaled-back versions of software for use in smaller environments, similar to Networker Fast Start (at least according to how it’s described on the product page).

Update:‘zilla let me know that you *can* run Networker in production on a VM, just not this particular time-limited VM.

EMC also has a not-for-production Celerra VSA. ‘zilla encourages a combo of the Networker and Celerra VSAs for a “NetWorker Advanced File Type Device.” But that device would still be not-for-production.

FalconStor basically calls this kind of configuration the Network Storage Server (NSS) and it’s available as a virtual appliance, very much for production use. EMC could have a competitor here with Networker and Celerra VSAs, but discourages their use in production. I’m not sure what to make of that.

In the meantime, there are more VSAs on the market now, for production use or otherwise, than you can shake a stick at. User/blogger Martin Glassborow (StorageBod) is putting several through their testing paces over at his place.


February 20, 2009  6:23 PM

Storage Headlines for 02-19-2009

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Here are some stories you may have missed this week:

Stories referenced:

  • Healthcare IT eyes medical record digitization hurdle
  • Sun jumbles key management picture
  • Mellanox builds bridge to consolidation
  • Storage industry debates standardized cloud API
  • Zmanda takes on Symantec, Microsoft in cloud backup
  •  

    As always, you can find the latest storage news, trends and analysis at http://searchstorage.com/news.


    February 19, 2009  10:02 PM

    Seagate, STEC call off SSD battle

    Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

    Scuffling drive vendors Seagate and STEC have called a truce in their solid state drive (SSD) patent infringement battle, with both vendors saying today they have dropped their lawsuits against the other.

    Seagate filed the first lawsuit last April claiming STEC violated four patents Seagate registered between 2002 and 2006, and STEC countersued. Under terms of today’s settlement, no money was paid and neither company licensed technology from the other. The settlement does not preclude future patent infringement suits between the two.

    “Since STEC plays a major role in the proliferation of SSD technology, we view the dismissal as a vindication of our technology,” STEC CEO Manouch Moshayedi said in a statement. “With this case behind us, we can now optimize our resources to take full advantage of the market opportunities at hand.”

    Seagate’s position is that the SSD market isn’t so great for STEC. According to the statement Seagate released about the settlement, “The economic conditions today are drastically altered from those that existed when we filed the litigation, and the impact of STEC’s sales of SSD’s has turned out to be so small that the expenditures necessary to vindicate the patents could be better spent elsewhere.”


    February 19, 2009  4:22 PM

    Emulex focuses on ‘Convergenomics’

    Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

    Emulex today disclosed its next round of convergence products – universal converged network adapters (UCNAs) and a management framework — as well as encryption for its Fibre Channel HBAs.

    If you were just getting familiar with converged network adapters (CNAs), you might be thrown by the concept of a universal CNA. The difference is, according to Emulex VP of corporate marketing Shaun Walsh, a CNA only supports Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) while a UCNA combines FCoE, 10-gig Ethernet, iSCSI offload and RDMA in one chip. Walsh says he expects Emulex OEM partners to begin selling its OneConnect CNAs in the second half of the year.

    To manage devices for a converged network, Emulex will replace its HBAnywhere HBA software with a OneCommand platform. OneCommand will manage UCNAs as well as Emulex LightPulse HBAs.

    Storage networking vendors are rushing to position their convergence devices in anticipation of FCoE and other methods of getting Ethernet, Fibre Channel and even InfiniBand to work together on one network. Mellanox launched its BridgeX gateway this week to let customers use any or all of those fabrics together.

    It’s still up for debate as to how soon enterprises will begin consolidation, but Walsh says “convergenomics” will push them there faster than they would normally adopt new technology. Emulex is counting on customers looking to implement converged networks because it will save them money on cabling, power and cooling and rack space.

    “It will be a phase thing,” Walsh says. “We’ll see first-generation products implemented this year, then the second generation will be when OEMs start to endorse those and put them in their product lines. Normally, I would say three to five years before it becomes mainstream, but given the economic situation, I’d say two to three years in this case.”

    In the next few months, we’ll get an idea of whether convergenomics will stimulate storage spending or become storage voodonomics, but you can bet there will be no shortage of convergence product rollouts.

    Encryption is another hot topic these days, with two standards proposals for key management being set forth this week. Emulex wasn’t involved with either of those, but its new Secure HBA uses encryption and key management from EMC’s RSA Security.


    February 18, 2009  9:35 PM

    iSCSI SAN software: riding the winds of change?

    Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

    Last week, Hewlett-Packard launched its first iSCSI SAN product based on its acquisition last year of LeftHand Networks. As part of that announcement, HP made it official that LeftHand’s days as a software-based iSCSI SAN vendor are over. The company’s SAN/iQ software will continue to use commodity servers for hardware, but those servers from now on will only be manufactured by HP and will be pre-packaged into appliances with LeftHand’s software.

    Most of LeftHand’s customers had them delivered like this anyway, as LeftHand’s software met in the channel with servers and were integrated by VARs. Still, come customers said they were disappointed that they could no longer use LeftHand’s software to repurpose existing hardware.

    But this is not the first time a storage vendor has begun as a software-only play and moved into the appliance world once it was acquired by a larger vendor. That was the case with Avmar. Avamar began by delivering its host-based data deduplication software as an appliance, but large organizations could get better economies of scale by purchasing their own hardware from their usual supplier, or had standardized on a particular server build and didn’t want a noncompliant appliance sticking out like a sore thumb.

    Thus Avamar went software-only, until it was acquired by EMC Corp. Soon after that acquisition EMC rolled out the Avamar Data Store, saying many of its customers didn’t want to have to assemble their own hardware/software clusters, especially in large environments (the company will still sell the product in a software-only version to users who want it, however). It didn’t hurt that EMC’s relationship with Dell flipped that economies-of-scale equation between Avamar and enterprise customers on its head, just like it doesn’t hurt for LeftHand that somewhere in the world, HP produces a ProLiant server every few seconds.

    So I couldn’t help but think about all this when I met with a company a couple of weeks ago that has designs on being the heir apparent to LeftHand. StarWind Software and its eponymous iSCSI target software product are not exactly new. The product has been marketed for years by RocketDivision, a company headquartered in the Ukraine, which spun off StarWind Dec. 1.

    CEO Zorian Rotenberg said StarWind is going to charge $2,995 for its most deluxe package which includes CDP, snapshots, repolication, mirroring, thin provisioning and an optional virtual tape library interface. That license fee also covers unlimited capacity in perpetuity.

    StarWind is far from alone in value propositions of this type from a whole new generation of companies stepping up to pick up where LeftHand left off. StorMagic, Seanodes Open-e, DataCore, and Double Take’s emBoot are all on the market touting the benefits of commodity hardware and affordable, flexible software.

    DataCore is a good example of a company that started off and remains software-only. And Enterprise Strategy Group founder Steve Duplessie suggested to me last year that server virtualization may change IT pros’ mentality around software-only storage. Meanwhile, the cloud data center has got people thinking about commodity hardware and horizontally scalable architectures. So it’s possible that the current “class” of iSCSI SAN software vendors will blaze a new trail.

    But having watched the lifecycle of Avamar and LeftHand, I’m also wondering if it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.


    February 17, 2009  7:26 PM

    VMware reports glitch with SRM and NetApp systems

    Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

    According to a note posted on VMware’s KnowledgeBase website, the server virtualization software maker is recommending that users of NetApp’s FAS arrays in a High Availability System Configuration not upgrade to VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) 1.0 Update 1.

    The note says these users have a 50% chance of encountering a bug that means “replicated datastores are not detected correctly” within the application. It’s unclear whether the bug is on the NetApp or VMware side of the equation, but the companies are investigating and can assist customers with downgrading to previous versions if they experience problems.

    This is not the first time integration between SRM, VMware’s disaster recovery/failover application for virtual servers, and array-based replication from storage vendors has proven tricky. An HP user also told SearchDisasterRecovery.com last week that he experienced some pain while trying to bring his EVA environment up to speed with SRM.


    February 17, 2009  7:19 PM

    Fujitsu transfers hard drive, SSD business to Toshiba

    Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

    Toshiba Corp. and Fujitsu Limited today made official what has been long rumored — Toshiba will take over Fujitsu’s hard disk and solid state drive business.

    Toshiba will first take an 80% stake in a new company to be created by Fujitsu, while Fujitsu will maintain a 20% stake. The business will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba. The deal is expected to close this quarter, according to Scott Maccabe, vice president and general manager of Toshiba’s storage device division as well as a former senior manager with Fujitsu.

    Maccabe said the down economy had Fujitsu looking to cut out non-profitable businesses. It has sold off its media businesses, including R&D and global sales organizations, to Toshiba, and has plans to sell its drive head business to Showa Denko K.K. (SDK). Fujitsu will now be focused on its systems and services businesses in storage, Maccabe said.

    According to a Toshiba press release:

    The consolidation of the two companies’ HDD businesses will enable Toshiba to reinforce its already strong position as a leading vendor of small form factor HDDs…widely used in notebook PCs, mobile devices, automotive and consumer electronics. It will also give Toshiba entry into the enterprise HDD market for server and data storage system applications, where Fujitsu is currently a leader…entry into the enterprise business will allow Toshiba to further enlarge its market-leading solid state drive (SSD) business by developing SSD products for servers and enterprise storage systems, fusing Toshiba’s NAND flash memory technology with Fujitsu’s enterprise HDD technology.

    According to a note sent to investors by Jayson Noland of Robert W. Baird & Co. today, “The acquisition reduces mobile HDD suppliers to five from six, which should reduce industry capacity and improve pricing behavior … though we do not expect competitive dynamics in [the] enterprise to meaningfully change as a result of the merger.”


    February 17, 2009  2:14 PM

    Copan archives $18.5M in funding

    Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

    Copan Systems won its race against the clock, adding $18.5 million in funding to prove talk of its impending demise was exaggerated.

    Copan late last year laid off 15% of its staff, gave its CEO and senior management pay cuts and sent about half the remaining staff on unpaid leave around the holidays while scrambling to close another funding round.

    With funding hard to come by in these economic times, there was a lot of talk that Copan might not survive. But CEO Mark Ward said Copan’s 40% revenue growth last year attracted new venture capitalist Westbury Partners to lead the round with existing investors Austin Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners, Firstmark Capital and Credit Suisse kicking in more.

    “It’s been a wild scenario over the last six months,” Ward said. “This should keep the EMCs of the world from telling everybody we’re going out of business.”

    Ward says the funding will be used to add to Copan’s platform of MAID spin-down arrays. He says Copan will have two major product launches this year: a new file system for moving data from NAS to its archive, and a new systems architecture upgrade to 8 Gpbs Fibre Channel and 2 TB drives with improved data indexing and cataloguing capabilities.

    Copan won’t be spending its newly acquired funding on hiring back any laid off employees. Ward said the company will probably remain at or near its current head count of 110 in hopes of hitting profitability this year. When it cut staff, Copan added international channel partners to augment sales and service.


    February 13, 2009  5:28 PM

    Storage Headlines for 02-12-2009

    Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

    Here are some stories you may have missed this week:

    Stories referenced:

  • NetApp feels recession’s sting
  • IBM unleashes updates for DS8000, XIV, deduplication and cloud
  • SMBs go for Symantec’s online backup
  • HP, IBM, EMC propose encryption key management standard
  • Hewlett-Packard releases first LeftHand iSCSI SAN products
  • F5 picks up pieces of file virtualization player Attune
  • As always, you can find the latest storage news, trends and analysis at http://searchstorage.com/news.


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