Storage Soup


December 18, 2008  10:48 AM

Sun repackages data center products and services

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Yesterday I met with Amy O’Connor, who has recently been named VP of services for Sun Microsystems. She told me about new product and services packages Sun would launch today. We also had an interesting discussion about the state of Sun and its services division.

The announcement made today was “Rapid Solutions”– bundles of hardware, software, “cookbooks” and services aimed at data center efficiency, Web infrastructure and high-performance computing. Each of those areas had one bundle introduced today.

Under data center efficiency, Sun rolled out a managed virtual desktop service, in which users deploy hardware and software on premise but the day to day management is run by Sun remotely. The user still has to host all the data, which can be a challenge when it comes to remote desktops where some kind of deduplication or single-instancing tools are required to cut down on redundant machine images.

For Web infrastructure, the first package rolled out for cloud service providers is a bundle of database and identity management tools, including MySQL, Sun Java Identity Management, and Open SSO (single sign-on), servers and storage systems. The storage in this case is Sun StorageTek 6000 disk arrays, but O’Connor said Open Storage packages may also be included down the road.

Finally, O’Connor admitted, the high performance computing market for Sun has weakened in the current economy, but for that vertical Sun is packaging up compute nodes and storage.

Notice storage is involved in every bundle. “We’re also working on the scale of open storage systems–you’ll see a lot more in this space,” O’Connor said. “Sun got that storage religion–when they bought StoragTek I don’t think they quite had it yet.

“Let’s face it,” she went on. “Five years ago, storage had its own acronyms and was a separate shop. If you weren’t a storage person you didn’t talk storage and data. Now everyone talks storage and data, rather than just threads and CPU. I would say at this point in time everything we do is about storage, and we wouldn’t be in a position to compete there at all if it wasn’t for StorageTek.”

There has been a lot of speculation about the StorageTek business at Sun lately. Sun hasn’t done much to enhance StorageTek’s disk products, and a lot of people in the industry suspect Sun is looking to spin off the tape business to raise money.

But O’Connor says the StorageTek IP and personnel remain key pieces of Sun’s business.

“The acquisition put thought leadership in our sales force in terms of integrating different product units,” she said. “I’ve never believed in our roadmap more than I do today.”

Hearing that kind of statement from a Sun executive brings back memories of the first STK Forum I ever attended, just after the acquisition by Sun in 2005. I remember a parade of executives trotted out on stage, almost all of them new to their roles, and many new to Sun while the ink was still fresh on the merger. The execs making statements exactly like O’Connor’s included Mark Canepa and Brenda Zawatski, who are both long gone from Sun.

Since then there’s been another series of execs in charge of storage divisions, including Nigel Dessau and David Yen, who also talked confidently and optimistically about Sun’s latest new direction, only to wind up leaving the company as it heads in yet another new direction. O’Connor has been with Sun many years and her colleagues speak highly of her, but there’s only so many times you can hear the same thing from the same company without any action to back it up before you begin to view such statements a bit more skeptically.

But not everybody is so skeptical of Sun. There are some who feel Open Storage may finally be a place Sun can settle for a while.

“Sun’s had a major midlife crisis,” was how Taneja Group analyst Jeff Boles put it. The company has emerged with the server-storage convergence/open source identity, which “seems like it’s locked in and might be good for the new cloud computing paradigm.”

December 18, 2008  10:24 AM

Storage spending slowing already

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

The spending slowdown most storage industry people are expecting to hit in 2009 has already begun, according to new research from TheInfoPro (TIP).

TIP interviewed 65 senior executives at large Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies, and found nearly one-third spent less on storage this year than they originally budgeted and 68% plan to spend less in 2009 than in 2008. A year ago, TIP’s survey found 81% of enterprises expected to spend more this year than they did last year.

The fourth quarter is usually a big one for buying storage, as companies spend their remaining budget and often find pricing favorable as vendors want to finish the year strong. But that apparently isn’t the case this year.

“We’re seeing a lot less Q4 activity this year,” TIP CEO Ken Male said. “We’re not seeing a lot of budget flush right now. It’s a very defensive procure right now.”

According to TIP, only 21% of the execs interviewed expect to spend more than $10 million in 2009 – a 10% drop from last year. The averaged 2008 spend was $10.7 million and the average 2009 budget will decrease 14% over the amount spent this year.

Male says many enterprises will make use of storage they bough in recent years and early n 2008, before what he calls the “nuclear winter” hit the financial services in September.

The spending slowdown isn’t limited to financial services. Breaking it down by industry, 75% of technology companies, 68% of financial services firms and 63% of manufacturers forecast significant declines in 2009 spending.


December 17, 2008  4:21 PM

Brocade set to close Foundry acquisition

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Brocade cleared its final hurdle to its $2.6 billion acquisition of Ethernet networking firm Foundry Networks today when Foundry’s shareholders approved the deal.

In Brocade’s release announcing the approval, the Fibre Channel switch vendor said it expects to close the deal Thursday. Brocade also said it will probably not require more financing than the $1.1 billion loan it secured in October.

Brocade has been trying to wrap up the deal since July, when it revealed it would pay $3 billion for Foundry. With financing tough to come by with current economic conditions, the companies renegotiated the price downward Oct. 30. That prompted the Foundry shareholders to push back their approval vote.

Under final terms, Brocade will pay $16.50 in cash for each Foundry share. Foundry shares closed at $16.62 today, up from their opening price of $15.96.


December 16, 2008  3:30 PM

Everything you always wanted to know about data backup but were afraid to ask

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Photobucket
Who you gonna call when your computer’s toast?
Originally uploaded on Flickr by alexmuse 

Guess which IT discipline the experts expect to be the most resilient in the face of the recession? You guessed it: good ol’ backup. Perhaps the least glorified job in the data center, at times among the most poorly understood–and still chugging along, as the growth of corporate data waits for no man or stock market.

As we begin to look forward to time off for the holidays the New Year, then, what better perspective to take on the storage industry than a careful look at backup, the technical advances that have made it vastly more complicated (but potentially vastly more efficient as well), and the people who are making it work in different environments? This week we’re running a feature piece by yours truly at our SearchDataBackup.com site that examines all of the above…and more.

Part I is up today, covering everybody’s favorite topic: disk vs. tape. There’s even a little NAS disk vs. VTL disk for those who like things a little spicier. Tomorrow will see Part 2, focused on software. Thursday’s Part 3 will examine outsourcing and the cloud. Friday’s finale will address the ways parts 1-3 still won’t get on top of the data growth rate at big companies any time soon. Yay!

Hope everyone who made the venerable disk vs. tape debate so lively on this blog will tune in, and offer their own views.


December 15, 2008  2:23 PM

Latest addition to the storage swag collection

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

A while back I did a riveting post for this blog covering my collection of storage s.w.a.g. (stuff we all get) picked up in my travels through the storage industry. I thought I’d follow up with a notice about the latest showpiece in my collection:

Photobucket

It’s a T-shirt, from EMC/Mozy. Occupying a place of honor (and a place of not-fitting) in my work area at the office, it doubles as a conversation piece and warning to intruders.


December 15, 2008  12:43 PM

Deduping slows but doesn’t stop data growth

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

While most organizations are likely planning to trim their IT budgets next year, a lot of them are also no doubt finding that cutting storage capacity will be difficult if not impossible.

Take Victaulic Company. The pipe joining manufacturing company purchased 30 TB of usable capacity with its new Sepaton S2100-ES2 VTL in September, and infrastructure manager Fred Railing says he’s already ordered 10 TB more because of an increase in data being backed up. And that’s with a 39-1 deduplication ratio from Sepaton’s DeltaStor software.

“[The VTL] was sized appropriately when we bought it, but the amount of data we have to back up has increased 30 percent already,” Railing says. “We keep six weeks worth of backup, and we’re close to capacity right now. We have to keep an eye on that to make sure it doesn’t fill up.”

Railing says the increase in data stored hasn’t come from an acquisition or any unusual situation, and he doesn’t see it slowing down much soon.

“We have quite a few projects going on now, and we’ve added lot more servers in the last nine months,” he said. “It always will increase, maybe not as dramatically as it has been lately, but our engineering and email data keeps growing and giving us more to back up.”

Victaulic dedupes everything it backs up, Railing says, although reducing data wasn’t the original reason for going to the VTL. He set out to reduce backup windows by using disk, and his backups have gone from 24 hours to 12.

“At first we were looking at just getting a VTL to shrink our backup windows,” he said. “We thought it was worth getting dedupe option because we would end up buying so much more disk. Now we’re deduping everything we back up.”


December 15, 2008  9:41 AM

HDS adds solid-state drives to USP disk arrays

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Bringing up the rear among major vendors pledging support for solid-state drives (SSD), Hitachi Data Systems today said it would ship SSDs in its enterprise Universal Storage Platform and midrange USP-VM disk arrays in the first quarter of next year.

HDS did not reveal any partners for the SSDs it will ship in 73 GB and 146 GB capacities next year. The press release said  HDS plans to also offer the SSDs being developed by Hitachi GST and Intel, but those products are not expected to ship until 2010. STEC is the other manufacturer of enterprise FC and SAS drives currently on the market.

HDS is ringing in the new year with a different tune than the one it sang in early 2008. Shortly after EMC announced support for SSDs in Symmetrix in January, HDS sought out reporters to throw water on the idea, saying there was no market for SSDs. (Though chief scientist Claus Mikkelsen also mentioned that HDS could support the drives and would “jump right in” if EMC had in fact “created a market” for SSDs).


December 11, 2008  4:28 PM

Shoah Foundation tames 8 PB with tape and automation

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Add this as a point in the ‘tape’ column if you’re scoring the ancient debate at home.

The Shoah Foundation, founded by Stephen Spielberg to preserve Holocaust survivors’ narratives after Schindler’s List and now a part of the University of Southern California, has conducted interviews with thousands of survivors in 56 countries. The Foundation has 52,000 interviews that amount to 105,000 hours of footage.

CTO Sam Gustman says the footage was originally shot on analog video cameras, then converted to digital betacam and MPEGs for distribution online. It currently amounts to 135 TB. However, the Foundation is converting the footage to Motion JPEG 2000, which will create bigger files–about 4 PB of data, Gustman estimated. Each video will be copied twice, bringing the total to 8 PB.

Gustman says the Foundation received a $2 million donation of SL8500 tape libraries, Sun STK  6540 arrays and servers from Sun Microsystems in June. The Foundation has an automated transcoding system running on the servers, and that takes up the 140 TB of 6540 disk capacity for workspace. Sun’s SAM-FS software will automate the migration of data within the system, to the 6540 and then to the SL8500 silo for long-term storage.

We’re hearing a lot in the industry these days about rich content applications such as this one moving to clustered disk systems, but Gustman said disk costs too much for the Foundation’s budget.  He sees the potential for an eventual move to disk storage, but “disk is still too expensive–four to five times the total cost of ownership, mostly for powerand cooling.”

Another advantage to the T10000 tape drives the Foundation plans to use is that they will eliminate having to migrate the entire collection to disk during copying, transcoding and technology refreshes. One T10000 drive can make copies or do conversions directly between drives in the robot, and the virtualization layer with SAM-FS means that can happen transparently.

However, as an organization charged with the historic preservation of records, Gustman agreed with others I’ve talked to about this subject in saying that there’s still no great way to preserve digital information in the long term. “The problem with digital preservation right now is that you have to put energy into it–you can’t just stick it in a box and hope it’s there 100 years from now,” he said. “Maybe there’ll be something eventually that you don’t have to put energy into, but it doesn’t exist yet.”


December 11, 2008  2:48 PM

The vagaries of disaster recovery, cont’d

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Last week, Tory Skyers wrote a post about the unforeseen complexities of disaster recovery after his PC’s motherboard fried. This week, I had an interesting discussion with somebody working with a much bigger enterprise infrastructure who also found that people, process, and sometimes luck–good and bad–can influence disaster recovery planning more than any technology.

Mark Zwartz, manager of information technologies for privately held real estate conglomerate JMB Companies, has been signed on with SunGard’s Availability Services for virtual server-based DR since August.  Last week Zwartz gave me a deeper look behind the scenes at his disaster recovery planning process, and the ways it wasn’t so simple.

For one thing, it might not have happened at all without a contract re-negotiation with SunGard. “Our original contract was a wacky deal with [one subsidiary] that expanded to the other entities, but the contracts were so goofy and webbed into each other that if we called with a problem or needing to fail over, the people at SunGard might not have any idea which company or machines we were talking about,” he said. “We saved money on lawyers and negotiations, but quite honestly, if we had to failover, nobody at SunGard might’ve known what to turn on.”

The renegotiation of that contract happened to coincide with the beta program for the SunGard service. “That was the foot in the door to change things,” Zwartz said. Because it was a beta program, the companies got three free months of testing, which caught the attention of Zwartz’s management.

Meanwhile, JMB was in the midst of a hardware refresh, as well as rolling out virtualization. Still, “one of the hardest parts was selling virtualization–these are highly intelligent people who are handling millions if not billions of dollars, and it’s hard to explain the concept that they don’t actually ‘own’ anything [with virtual servers],” he said.

A broker at a hedge fund firm in the conglomerate was highly reliant on Outlook contacts and notes in each contact file to do her daily business. Meanwhile, the company still worked with traditional tape backup, which wouldn’t offer the granular protection to recover all of those contacts in the event of an outage.

I’m sure most of you out there in blogland know what happened next. “She was synching her BlackBerry herself, and blew out her contacts,” according to Zwartz. The only option for restoring Exchange backups was to restore the entire Exchange database from tape to a separate server, which the company had declined to buy. “They lost a significant part of a trade before that,” he said. “Nobody realized such a small thing would make her unproductive.”

Of course, without a fully staffed and replicated secondary environment, Zwartz acknowledged, it’s impossible to be disaster-proof. But the incident also had a silver lining when it came to convincing management to participate in the new SunGard program. “It would’ve cost $1,500 to get a new backup device,” he said. “It wound up taking six weeks to get one contact back and cost between $15,000 and $20,000. It was a selling point when it came to virtual servers with SunGard.”


December 9, 2008  4:26 PM

NetApp discontinues replication app

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

NetApp today quietly pulled the plug on its SnapMirror for Open Systems (SMOS) heterogeneous data replication software, acquired from startup Topio for $160 million in 2006.

In a press release posted on the NetApp Web site - but not distributed – the vendor said it would discontinue SMOS and close the former Topio development facility in Haifa, Israel on Jan. 15. According to the release, NetApp “has not made final employment decisions” on the 51 employees in Haifa.

NetApp acquired Topio for its Data Protection Suite, at least partly in response to EMC’s purchase of Kashya six months before. But while EMC built Kashya’s replication and CDP into RecoverPoint – a staple of its replication platform — Topio’s heterogeneous replication offering never caught on, even after NetApp re-released it as ReplicatorX and then SMOS.

NetApp’s release blames the product’s failure on a lack of interest in replication between multiple vendors’ products. “Our decision to terminate SMOS product development was based on customer priorities and actual purchase histories,” the release said. “The market for replication products for disaster recovery purposes is dominated by homogeneous, rather than multivendor, solutions. Our ‘any-to-any’ solution with SMOS was never adopted by customers in the way we anticipated.”

NetApp added that it remains committed to its other SnapMirror versions for “any-to-NetApp” data protection. SMOS customers will get three years of maintenance and technical support.


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