SGI has launched its first enterprise data storage product since Rackable bought Silcon Graphics Inc. for $42.5 million and changed its name to SGI following the acquisition.
The new product, CloudRack X2, is a scaled-down version of its CloudRack C2, which is shipped already racked. CloudRack X2 holds up to nine TR2000 trays, which contain CPU as well as up to eight 3.5-inch SATA hard disk drives. C2, by contrast, holds up to 20 drives. X2 can be deployed as a cabinet or slotted into an existing rack.
SGI says it can customize the hardware it ships in either product, offering a range of Intel Xeon and AMD processors and user-configurable CPU/ memory/capacity combination. The goal is to sell this product into Internet service providers as well as HPC and digital graphics shops such as post-production editing. SGI is the latest in a list of HPC scale-out vendors to bring their high-end products downmarket, although unlike Isilon and BlueArc, SGI is not targeting mainstream enterprises with new software.
“The hardware design has been tailored for cloud computing,” SGI senior product marketing director Geoffrey Noer said. “Most of those service providres have their own custom software — one of our big value propositions is that we can tune our hardware to their specific apps.”
Ah, there’s that word again: “cloud.” We reported Thursday on some new plans brewing behind the scenes at NetApp and Emulex in the cloud storage space, as well as the commentary from several industry analysts about how, well, cloudy this buzzword has become. Just look at these three companies alone — one, NetApp, is focused on delivering IT as a service within enterprise data centers through a virtual infrastructure; another, Emulex, is focusing on connectivity between internal enterprise infrastructure and external service provider data centers; a third, SGI is offering little in the way of virtualization or software integration and cites the hardware design in defining its system as suitable for the cloud.
“It’s like trying to bag smoke right now,” Illuminata analyst John Webster said of pinning down a technical definition for the “cloud” buzzword.
However, one thing is abundantly clear: whatever the cloud turns out to be, vendors are gung-ho about it leading into fall. Expect further developments, particularly from NetApp. Then we’ll have to see whether end users follow.
Emerging data archiving software player Nayatek released a new version of its Datosphere software this week, adding support for archiving Windows file systems to its existing support for email, Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), instant messaging and unified communications. The company’s goal is to build what it calls a “data neutral” archive through a modular design that features connectors for each type of data supported.
Nayatek’s file archiving offers federated search, some e-discovery/custodian role features, although VP of product management Scott Lehmann said the company is still working on legal hold and SharePoint. Datosphere can stub or copy a file to the archive while deleting it completely from primary storage. File archiving policies are available according to age, size or document type. End users can access and view archived files and emails through an Outlook folder or web client, and perform federated searches across all data types from one interface.
Datosphere comes with a Redundant Array of Independent Nodes (RAIN) architecture, in a standard HA (dual) version and an enterprise n-way version. The software itself ships within a virtual appliance. According to Lehmann, Datosphere remains Windows-focused for email and files so far, though Unix support is planned. Similarly, single instancing in the Datosphere archive is currently limited to email and within file shares – no global data reduction yet.
While Nayatek has managed in a short time (the company came out of stealth in December) to match many of the major features of more established competitors, it will be difficult to break into this market without significant differentiation. According to Lehmann, Datosphere’s software-only model and the simplicity of its modular design will make it more user-friendly than competitors’ offerings.
But Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Brian Babineau said it will probably take more than that for Nayatek to overtake competitors like Symantec, EMC, Autonomy-Zantaz and Mimosa Systems in the data compliance and archiving market. The biggest differentiator in this market is breadth of support for multiple operating systems and applications, especially Microsoft SharePoint and Lotus Notes email as an alternative to Exchange. E-Discovery, search and compliance capabilities, and a SaaS option or cloud partners are also keys to success, Babineau said.
“No one has it all,” Babineau said. “As a shiny new object in the marketplace, Nayatek may get some attention — but where they’re going to go long-term is the biggest question mark I have looking at them right now.”
If you think the hype about cloud computing has peaked, think again.
Vendors who build their hardware and software around cloud computing say it has a solid grasp on the service provider market and is getting ready to cover the enterprise.
Sajai Krishnan, CEO of cloud storage startup ParaScale, says service providers are heavyily committed to the cloud and others are coming around as they grasp its value.
“The cloud is still a fuzzy concept, despite all this religion around it,” Krishnan said “You need to spend a couple of hours talking about it, then the light bulb goes off. But for people who only read the occasional article, it still raises more questions than it answers.”
He thinks enterprises are ready to turn to clouds, initially with the help of service providers.
“It’s not either/or,” he said. “For certain large applications, we’ve seen folks roll out an internal cloud and for other things they go external. When you have an application that’s running inside an enterprise four or five years, take it out and put a VMware wrapper on it, test it and put it back into production, an IT shop doesn’t have the cycles to do that. If a service provider has the expertise to handle something like that, it drives up the value of cloud storage inside these companies very quickly.”
During his company’s earnings call with analysts Monday night, 3PAR CEO Dave Scott said the storage systems vendor is anticipating a shift toward the cloud. 3PAR has long billed itself as a utility storage company and counts service providers as large customers.
“We believe that we are in the midst of major secular trend with cloud computing as an ultimate replacement of much of the information technology that is currently owned and operated by enterprises,” Scott said.
For now, much of that trend is driven by service providers.
Tier1 Research pegs the cloud service market at around $300 million this year with cloud storage making up about 40 percent to 60 percent of that. Tier1 analyst Antonio Piraino says he considers storage “low-hanging fruit” among cloud services.
Krishnan says the service provider market is starting to split into three areas. One is the mass-market cloud service providers such as Amazon S3, Google, and Rackspace. The second area is smaller providers who combine virtualization, multi-tenant storage clouds and private hosted clouds. The third segment consists of the large telcos such as AT&T, etsVerizon Business, and Deutsche Telecom.
“Service providers are beyond the confusion and in the fourth quarter you’ll see a whole slew of announcements around cloud services,” Krishnan said. “They know the technology. On the enterprise side, there’s still a lot of confusion. When you talk about cloud, Amazon comes to mind first.”
(6:13) Cisco makes mainframe move
Alliance Storage Technologies Inc. (ASTI), the Colorado company that bought Plasmon’s assets last January, says it is selling the Plasmon product line whole and hopes to significantly expand its business based on the proprietary Ultra Density Optical (UDO) technology.
ASTI was a Plasmon reseller before the U.K.-based archiving vendor went under after years of financial problems. ASTI picked up Plasmon’s assets for an undisclosed sum, leased Plasmon’s Colorado Springs manufacturing plant, hired many of its employees and is now stepping up marketing of Plasmon products. ASTI will keep the Plasmon brand name and is selling its UDO appliances, drives, libraries and media after rebuilding its channel with new VARs and integrators.
“It’s an identical product lineup as Plasmon’s,” said Bill Gallagher, a former Plasmon exec who is now ASTI’s director of strategic accounts and regional sales director. “I don’t think Plasmon’s failure was a failure of technology. The company suffered for years with restructuring and trying to get its financials in order. Alliance is profitable, and we haven’t seen any change in demand. Customers are happy, they wanted to see what would happen. ”
ASTI has sold optical storage for more than 10 years, carrying products from Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sony as well as Plasmon. ASTI CEO Chris Carr says the company is committed to the future of UDO. “Last year we caught wind of Plasmon’s financial difficulties and we saw an opportunity,” he said. “Specifically, we were looking for UDO technology.”
UDO discs hold up to 60 GB and are supposed to last for more than 50 years. Plasmon’s largest libraries have 638 slots and store 38.3 TB. ASTI execs claim Plasmon shipped over 17,000 libraries. ASTI will not honor service contracts for Plasmon customers but is offering discounts on new contracts, Carr said.
Cisco is adding performance and security features to its MDS 9000 Fibre Channel SAN director platform to make it more palatable to mainframe shops.
The enhancements will speed replication on mainframes over the WAN and add encryption and management capabilities along with 8 Gbps FICON support. The idea is to improve Cisco’s FICON performance as IBM begins phasing out older ESCON mainframe connectivity devices, which will force customers to swap out mainframe switches and HBAs.
“All those ESCON directors are going to be taken out and need to be replaced,” Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Bob Laliberte said. “It will be a phased type of thing, and it presents a great opportunity for Cisco to get penetration on mainframes.”
Cisco’s enhancements include:
• Cisco XRC Acceleration that speeds the performance of IBM z/OS Global Mirror – formerly known as Extended Remote Copy (XRC). Cisco XRC Acceleration caches data to reduce latency over the WAN and speed replication.
• Cisco TrustSec Fibre Channel Link Encryption works on data that goes over any native Fibre link through an upgraded 8 Gbps linecard on either end of Cisco Inter-Switch Links (ISLs). The encryption works on FICON and open systems.
• Cisco I/O MDS 9000 I/O Accelerator, a SAN-based fabric application to speed replication to disk or tape for disaster recovery.
Cisco MDS directors have been more popular in open systems environments than mainframes. When Cisco got into the Fibre Channel switch market in 2003, rivals McData and InRange had a lock on the mainframe space. McData and InRange are now gone, and Brocade has the IP from both companies through acquisitions. Cisco’s storage competitor Brocade still sells McData directors and will likely leverage mainframe IP into its DCX and other new generation directors, but Cisco is looking to persuade organizations with ESCON to switch to MDS.
Laliberte says the XRC Acceleration and Cisco’s ability to re-map FC ports from old directors to MDS 9000 directors by using VSANs should prove especially helpful for mainframe customers.
Cisco’s software line product manager for the MDS Bob Nusbaum says, “IBM’s phase out of ESCON is a strong signal that ESCON users should transition to FICON.”
Nusbaum estimates there are millions of ESCON devices still in use, although the migration to FICON has been going on for years. “If it was easy for customers to get off of it, they’d have done it already,” he says.
LSI Corp. acquired NAS vendor ONStor today, continuing the trend of storage acquisitions that likely will continue for at least a few more months.
LSI got a good price. It paid $25 million for a company that had close to $140 million in VC funding. But for now LSI isn’t talking about its plans for ONStor because it is in its “quiet period” ahead of its earnings report next Wednesday. An LSI spokesman said the company will talk about the acquisition on its earnings call.
But one thing is obvious. “Now LSI is in the NAS business,” StorageIO Group analyst Greg Schulz says. “LSI already sells storage to Dell, IBM, Sun, SGI and others. This is a golden opportunity to go in and provide a turnkey box to go in front of the boxes they already sell.”
ONStor was among the vendors talking IPO at the start of 2008, only to fall on hard times when the economy tanked. It completed a funding round of less than $10 million in December, with only existing VCs kicking in – apparently a move to keep it going long enough to get acquired.
ONStor also began a technology change this year, adopting the Zettabyte File System (ZFS) developed by Sun as its primary architecture and bringing out the ZFS-based Pantera LS2100 in April. The LS2100’s iSCSI support also brought ONStor into the multiprotocol storage market.
Because its NAS gateway is compatible with other vendors’ storage, ONStor has frequently partnered with SAN companies over the years – including Fujitsu Computer Systems, Nexsan, 3PAR, Pillar and LSI.
“That’s the appealing thing for LSI,” Schulz says. “They could put ONStor in front of any arrays.”
LSI sells its SAN systems exclusively through OEMs — mainly IBM – while ONStor has its own set of partners and sells everything under its own brand. That raises an interesting set of questions:
Will LSI sell NAS only through OEMs, or will it sell NAS through the LSI or ONStor brand?
Will LSI compete with its partner IBM on the NAS front, will it try to replace NetApp as IBM’s NAS partner, or will it offer IBM an alternative NAS platform?
With ONStor’s ZFS support and its own background as Sun’s midrange SAN supplier, will LSI go after the Sun midrange storage market if Oracle changes Sun’s storage strategy?
Will LSI use ONStor’s file virtualization capabilities as part of the SVM (Storage Virtualization Manager) platform it picked up in its acquisition of StoreAge in 2006?
Hopefully LSI will begin to shed light on some of these issues next week.
An interesting little tidbit crossed my inbox yesterday – an announcement from Kroll OnTrack, which specializes in recovering damaged or unreadable hard disks (we covered some of their recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina). According to the company’s press release, it “can now offer NetApp users a trusted and viable option to address data loss for the Data OnTap platform.”
The press release referred specifically to snapshots:
As NetApp OnTap provides users with Snapshots (automated, point-in-time backup), this new technology is critical as sometimes the snapshots are purged before the creation of a more permanent backup is created [sic] (i.e. when there are gaps between snapshots and backups) – as such, the data is lost and no longer available to the NetApp storage system. The new technology allows for the recovery of these snapshots by essentially ‘turning back the clock’ on a NetApp FAS system enabling Ontrack Data Recovery engineers to restore the data to its last Snapshot state.
I followed up with Kroll yesterday to find out if this is the first in a series of offerings for major storage vendors. After all, they all offer snapshots.
This was the response I got from a spokesperson:
The NetApp solution was actually developed in response to customers requests – a “just in time” solution. They may develop solutions for other storage vendors, but they have not had many requests at this time.
Another line that jumped out at me in the press release:
the company also offers a hardware solution beyond NetApp’s RAID-DP safeguard. While RAID-DP allows for the failure of two disks in a system, Kroll Ontrack provides an additional layer of protection when more than two drives fail and before a rebuild occurs.
I also followed up on this, to clarify whether Kroll was releasing a data protection product or if they meant something else. The response:
This may be misleading in the press release. It’s not that [Kroll has] an additional product/solution. What they are saying is that in addition to the ability to recovery from software failure (the snapshots), they are also able to recovery from Hardware failures (the RAID-DP). So when the RAID-DP fails, they can still recovery from the system as well.
When the RAID-DP fails?
If you read between the lines here, it seems like the case of purged snapshots is what drove the initial recovery from a specific customer or customers, and Kroll is now trying to advertise it as a generally available service. The snapshot issue could arguably have been caused by user error, and there’s no indication the RAID-DP service has actually been used “in anger.” But I can only imagine that for NetApp, seeing this press release must’ve been like a landlord reading about Orkin offering a special for its pest control services on one of his buildings. The implications are not explicit, but they’re there.