Storage Soup

February 16, 2010  10:21 PM

New Seagate and Toshiba SAS drives push further into FC territory

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Toshiba today rolled out the first product to come from the hard drive business it acquired from Fujitsu last year: a 600 GB 2.5-inch SAS hard disk drive. Last week, Seagate launched a 600 GB 2.5-inch drive of its own, a 10,000 RPM offering with the option of Fibre Channel or SAS drive interfaces.

At 600 GB capacity, small form factor (2.5-inch) SAS moves into closer competition with Fibre Channel disk drives in the external storage market. Analysts say the transition to small form factor SAS is largely complete in internal storage, but the conversion of external storage from FC to SAS disks has been a long process.

It was only about 18 months ago, pointed out IDC analyst John Rydning, that the SAS-2 spec was ratified, boosting SAS throughput speeds to 6 Gbps (Fibre Channel is now at 8 Gbps). That fairly recent spec also supported cable lengths between drives of up to 10 meters, more suitable for external disk arrays than the previous limit of six meters.

Meanwhile, until these announcements from Seagate and Toshiba, aerial density on SAS drives, particularly in small form factors, also lagged behind the FC gear the enterprise is accustomed to, Rydning said. “These announcements bring 2.5-inch capacity parity with 3.5-inch Fibre Channel drives that are still primarily used [in external storage systems], creating a migration path for external storage players [to small form factor SAS drives],” he said.

This is a transition Rydning said he expects to continue over the next three years, provided external storage products using small form factor SAS drives work as expected out of the gate. Even then, however, the transition will also depend on the comfort level for storage pros charged with managing systems day to day. “People have built up a knowledge base and comfort level with Fibre Channel — there’s hesitancy to make sure SAS is as robust,” Rydning said.

February 16, 2010  3:50 PM

HP refreshes and renames MSA, LeftHand platfroms

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

This should be a busy year for Hewlett-Packard storage, with upgrades expected to each of its major SAN array platforms. HP started that process today by launching two new systems at the low-end of its storage portfolio – the Modular Smart Array (MSA) platform for SMBs, workgroups and branch offices, and its iSCSI product line.

The new MSA is now called the HP StorageWorks P2000 line and the LeftHand iSCSI series is the P4000 series. This is just a wild guess, but you can expect HP to name the EVA the P6000 and the XP enterprise series the P8000 when those platforms get refreshed.

The P2000 G3 MSA features 8 Gbps Fibre Channel and 6 Gbps SAS connectivity, and scales to 149 2.5-inch or 96 3.5-inch drives for maximum capacities of 57.6 TB SAS and 192 TB SATA. Like previous versions of the MSA, the P2000 also supports Gigabit Ethernet iSCSI.

The new systems also support drive spindown and a new remote snapshot capability that lets customers replicate snapshots and remote copies (clones) to a second P2000 G3 array for disaster recovery.

Existing MSA customers can upgrade to G3 controllers. The G3 is priced at $9,950 for a dual-controller FC 3.5-inch drive array, $10,350 for a dual-controller FC 2.5-inch drive array, and $12,350 for a dual-controller FC/iSCSI combination 3.5-inch drive array. Those prices do not include storage capacity.

With the P4000, HP is getting rid of the LeftHand brand that it carried over after acquiring the iSCSI vendor last year. The P4000 is targeted at storage for virtual servers. New features include RAID 5 and RAID 6 software, a P4000 Unified NAS Gateway that lets customers store block and file data on one system, and pay-as-you-go pricing that lets customers upgrade in 12 TB increments. Pricing for the P4000 G2 SAN starts at $30,000.

IDC storage analyst Natalya Yezhkova says although HP still has four distinct SAN platforms, it is trying to streamline the branding of its storage products. “HP is getting rid of all the brands it has had,” she said. “The P series creates a sense of continuity. It was a complicated situation that HP is trying to simplify. It might create some confusion among customers and channel partners at first, but just temporarily.”

February 12, 2010  5:45 PM

What to Buy a Geek — Valentine’s Day Edition

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Geek Love, originally uploaded by Foxy Kitsuneko

Each year around the holidays, we put out a list of What to Buy a Geek for the Holidays, based on suggestions from enterprise data storage industry analysts and users about what gadgetry will make their Yuletide bright.

No sooner has your credit rating recovered from the holiday adventure, though, than another gift-giving occasion comes along that may require a whole new round of anxious searching.

Obviously, our What to Buy a Geek lists are also an appropriate resource for Valentine’s Day ideas.

This blogger turned up some other great finds — my personal favorite is the 8-bit Dynamic Life T-Shirt. ThinkGeek, a geek-gift favorite, has a whole Valentine’s day section, as does NewEgg. Personally, I’m partial to the ThinkGeek mini business-card filing cabinet and the portable photo studio, though they are admittedly not among the most romantic items available. If your geek is a Rubik’s cube master or just enjoys a challenge to go along with their gift, why not give them the Magic IQ gift box?

Among the most coveted storage-specific geek items I’ve seen in the last year or so is Mozy’s “Back the F:/ Up” T-shirt. The good news is that it’s available…the bad news is that it’s not for sale. But rest assured, if you get your hands on one of these on behalf of your geek, it will be appreciated.

Not interested in helping Mozy out with its marketing for a t-shirt? Zazzle has some other storage-specific alternatives available for good old fashioned money. How about “Holographic Storage: Not just a passing phase“? Or “Holographic Storage: More than scratching the surface“? Or a pin your geek can use to identify themselves at the next IT conference: “I dream about storage space“. Then there’s this classy little “Vintage” number…

More T-Shirts suggested by Twitter followers: On a list at Squidoo and another potentially NSFW Zazzle find

If none of that is unique enough, we also had an unusual pitch cross our Outlook inboxes here at Storage Soup in the last week, subject line: “For Techie with Love on Valentine’s Day.” The event: a Valentine’s Day auction of rare books taking place in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Among the titles, per the Bonhams and Butterfields email:

An early edition of Planning and Coding of Problems for an Electronic Computing Instrument, Part II, Vol I, .a volume on “Mathematical and Logical aspects of an Electronic Computing machine” by Herman Goldstine and John Van Neuman (est. $500 – 700); an assortment of early internal IBM publications and offprints – “704 Training Manual,” with “704 Problems” (est. $800 – 1,200); a collection of mimeographed manuscripts and lecture notes from the 1950s, documenting the early years of computer instruction at the university and industrial level (est. $1,000 – 1,500) and an assortment of early manuscripts and printings relating to the development of Fortran and other forms of programming as well as a selection of printed broadsides and handouts issued by Remington Rand and covering the Univac and Ferractor systems (est. $300 – 500).

Because after all, nothing says romance more than “Mathematical and Logical Aspects of an Electronic Computing Machine.”

February 12, 2010  9:59 AM

02-11-2010 Storage Headlines

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

(0:24) Dell wants Exanet; deal not done yet

(1:47) IBM rolls out SONAS clustered NAS based on GPFS

(3:31) Isilon Systems clustered NAS adds solid-state drives (SSDs), 10 GbE connectivity

(5:12) Riverbed Steelhead 7050 uses solid-state drives to boost WAN performance

(7:08) Nasuni Filer offers cloud storage gateway for NAS

February 8, 2010  7:51 PM

Dell wants Exanet; deal not done yet

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Dell today confirmed it has made an offer to acquire the assets of bankrupt scale-out NAS vendor Exanet and is waiting for approval from a court in Isreal, where Exanet is based.

The Israeli financial newspaperGlobes reported today that Dell has acquired Exanet for $12 million, but a Dell spokesperson said the deal is not yet done.

According to a statement Dell emailed to Storage Soup, “Dell has submitted an offer to purchase Exanet assets, primarily patents and other IP, with court approval through a Chapter 7 liquidation in Israel. The transaction has not yet been approved by the Israel court, so we won’t speculate on its completion or timing.”

In the meantime, speculation has already begun on the market impact of the deal, including whether it will alter Dell’s relationship with EMC. But Exanet is not as competitive to EMC as EqualLogic, the iSCSI SAN vendor that Dell acquired two years ago. In this case, Dell is looking to pick up the IP of a scale-out NAS company which targets the low end of the market. That’s much less likely to ruffle EMC feathers, though it is another step for Dell into creating its own storage outside of the EMC platforms that it co-markets.

In the meantime, in case you needed any further validation of the idea that clusterability is becoming a checklist item for NAS products, this would probably be it. As far as I’m aware, EMC doesn’t have scale-out NAS offerings along these lines (Atmos also does scale out, but it’s positioned differently). Who knows, maybe they’ll OEM Dell for a change.

It also appears to be just a matter of time until Dell adds Data Domain deduplication backup devices to the list of EMC products that it sells. There has been talk in the industry of this coming since EMC acquired Data Domain last summer.

Today, Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research Aaron Rakers wrote in a note to clients: “Although EMC and Dell are discontinuing their reseller relationship, our industry contacts/checks have suggested that the two companies could soon announce an expansion in their Dell/EMC OEM relationship to include EMC’s Data Domain deduplication appliances. Some conversations have suggested that Dell could be already selling the EMC Data Domain deduplication solutions.”

February 5, 2010  6:28 PM

Isilon makes it into the (light) black

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

NAS vendor Isilon recorded its first profitable quarter to end 2009, three years after becoming a public company. It didn’t make it by much, but it was a milestone nonetheless.

Isilon reported net income of $140,000 for the quarter, or income of $1.6 million on a non-GAAP basis with adjustments for items such as stock-based compensation and legal fees. Its revenue for last quarter was $37.5 million, up 23% from the previous quarter and 18% year over year.

The climb to profitability was a steep one for Isilon, which stumbled after going public in December 2006 with heavy losses and questionable sales tactics that resulted in CTO Sujal Patel taking over as CEO in October 2007. Patel brought in a new management team and reduced spending while expanding Isilon’s product platform last year.

Remaining in the black will require more progress on both fronts. The fourth quarter is traditionally the biggest of the year for storage sales, and Isilon can’t afford much of a dip in sales this quarter if it is to say above break-even. It still lost $18.9 million for the full year in 2009.

Yet Patel says his goal is for a profitable 2010, despite NetApp’s beginning to combine its GX clustered technology in its core operating system, a surge in EMC Celerra NAS sales, and Hewlett-Packard’s increased integration of clustered NAS from the acquisitions of PolyServe and Ibrix.

“We’re planning a profitable year here,” Patel said, adding that Isilon will add new storage platforms and operating systems releases this year. “We’re continuing to innovate and build on our scale-out NAS platform and build our channel program. Most of last year was about making tough decisions that would help us position ourselves well for the future.”

Patel says Isilon’s overall product strategy is to sell storage systems that go beyond its traditional customer base of media/entertainment, life sciences, and online service providers. “The high value opportunities are bigger deals where you’re part of the mission critical infrastructure in medium to large-size customers,” he said.

“We’re going to grow our business by getting in front of larger enterprise customers who want a highly technologically differentiated scale-out NAS solution, and want to buy $500,000 or a couple million dollars of storage every single year.”

February 5, 2010  11:37 AM

02-03-2010 Storage Headlines

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

(0:25) NetApp discontinues development on NearStore virtual tape library

(3:10) CommVault adds cloud data storage tier option to Simpana

(4:33) Overland Storage rips and replaces business plan, emphasizes Snap Server NAS

(7:16) SolarWinds aims to integrate Tek-Tools storage resource management with network, server management

(8:06) Continuity Software adds disaster recovery service-level agreement management to RecoverGuard

February 4, 2010  5:49 PM

CommVault plans to go further with deduplication, cloud features

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

CommVault added block-level data deduplication to its Simpana data protection and management suite at the start of 2009, and introduced cloud connectivity this week. Now CEO Bob Hammer says there will be even more dedupe and cloud when Simpana 9 launches later this year.

Hammer says dedupe has been a major source of revenue for CommVault with 900 customers licensing the feature in 2009, including around 300 in the fourth quarter as CommVault increased total revenue 18% year over year to $71 million. So what’s next for Simpana’s dedupe?

“We will take deduplication up a level so it can enable us to manage data in and out of clouds and remote locations in a much more comprehensive way than we do today,” Hammer said of CommVault’s plans for Simpana 9. “Our objectives are to improve scale, the algorithms and the way we do source site deduplication. It’s a pretty significant enhancement to the product line.”

Hammer says CommVault is unlikely to seek more OEM partners beyond Dell for its deduplication, and will instead concentrate on picking up more channel distribution partners for Simpana. That’s a different strategy than other dedupe vendors such as Quantum and FalconStor, who are trying to capitalize on dedupe demand by offering the software to storage vendors to compete with EMC’s Data Domain and Avamar dedupe products.

Hammer says CommVault clearly has the attention of backup software market leaders EMC and Symantec, which recently beefed up deduplication across its NetBackup and Backup Exec platforms. Hammer says CommVault has run into aggressive pricing tactics from those rivals. In other words, EMC and Symantec have been discounting their dedupe software, according to CommVault.

“EMC’s strategy is what I would call the more rational and better managed strategy,” Hammer said. “They’re trying to stop us in that space, and they’re aggressive about it. Symantec pricing is a lot more disorganized, I’d call it panicky. The discounts are deeper and vary between regions.”

Whatever EMC’s strategy, it seemed to work. EMC last month reported 600 new Data Domain customers last quarter and more than 50% revenue growth for Data Domain and Avamar.

Hammer says the cloud and information management would also be areas of improvement in Simpana 9. He estimates about 40 percent to 50 percent of CommVault customers have expressed in interest in using the cloud for backup and long-term archiving. He says Simpana 9 will have more cloud connectivity features that go beyond the Service Pack released for Simpana 8 this week that lets customers hook into services from Amazon, Microsoft, Nirvanix, EMC and Iron Mountain.

“We’ll have a number of significant cloud enhancements,” Hammer said. “We’ve been working this for years. People are going to want cloud configurations, whether private or public. Enterprise customers will build large internal cloud structures that different divisions will access. We have a platform to enable that as a seamless tier. Likewise, we can help a customer who wants to access public clouds.”

February 3, 2010  10:20 PM

Nexenta CEO: It doesn’t matter what Oracle does with ZFS

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Oracle laid out its strategy for Sun’s product lines last week, following the approval of the $7.4 billion deal by European regulators. It was met with dismay in some corners of the IT world, including some Sun channel partners, after Oracle revealed it intends to sell directly to Sun’s top 4000 customers.

But it also put to rest lingering questions about Oracle’s intentions for Sun’s hardware products, particularly in storage. So far, Oracle has pledged to continue Sun’s storage product lines, but it’s early yet. We caught up today with Evan Powell, the CEO of Nexenta Systems, a storage vendor building clustered NAS products based on ZFS to see what he thought of Oracle’s plans.

Storage Soup: How do you see the strategy playing out, or impacting your customers?

Powell: From Nexenta’s perspective we think that the general storage aduience may be missing the point which is community community community. and the ZFS community as we’ve been saying for when there was more uncertainty about Oracle’s plans over the last several months, the ZFS community is extremely vibrant. There are hundreds of thousands of users if not more. The horse has left the barn a long time ago on ZFS in the sense that the vibrancy of the community, the class, scale and number of users, is already equal to that of any proprietary commercialized closed legacy file system. So it’s great that Oracle is continuing to invest in ZFS and that they decided to bring out new products, the the ZFS Storage Appliance and so forth. But for us, that’s sort of the icing on the cake. The cake is community community community and we know firsthand having more deployments on ZFS than any other company including Sun that the community is very vibrant.

Storage Soup: So do you see that being any kind of issue with Oracle, or a cultural depature for them?

Powell: In terms of their support for the community? I don’t know is the real answer. What will happen, what Oracle will do…they’re saying all the right things, which is great, but again…at some level, it’s like Java. There’s no end of users. It’s going to be okay. Same with ZFS. There’s no end of users, fully open sourced, it’s going to be okay…irrespective of what Oracle decides to do.

What I saw from their announcements is that they’re going to do the right things, instead of continuing to support the community, and they’re getting on board more clearly in their branding, calling their product the ZFS Storage Appliance. But again if you look at the folks maybe in enterprise software that could’ve been the first question they asked– ‘How big is the user base? Okay, it’s fine.’ In the storage world, the notion of real open solution is a little bit still orthoganal to people’s thinking.

Storage Soup: With any kind of announcement like this you’re going to find contrarians and skeptics, and there were some people who expressed skepticism that what was laid out at Oracle’s strategy webcast is exactly what was going to happen or the long term plan. Is that overthinking things?

Powell: Larry Ellison is a proven and brilliant leader. I don’t exactly know what he’s going to do, but everything he’s saying is very positive. But it’s not that important specifically what Oracle does or doesn’t do with ZFS.

February 1, 2010  9:39 PM

Intel and Micron unveil denser Flash components

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Intel and Micron unveiled a new 25 nanometer lithography process for NAND wafers which are used to build Flash devices on Friday, saying the process will yield denser, cheaper Flash devices for consumers and commercial use.

The announcement comes less than a year after Intel and Micron first joined up to form a joint venture called IM Flash Technologies, which started by collaborating on 34 nanometer (nm) Flash components. IM Flash Technologies also has a partnership with Hitachi GST.

Tom Rampone, vice president of the Technology and Manufacturing Group and general manager of the NAND Solutions Group at Intel, said in a press conference on Friday that the vendors are qualifying 25 nm NAND wafers and sampling them to OEM customers at Intel’s fabrication plants. Rampone showed this product at Friday’s conference (see YouTube video)–a 167 square millimeter block he said is twice as dense as Flash devices created with the 34 nm lithography process.

The first products to be built using this technology will be an 8 GB multi-level cell (MLC) consumer Flash device, Rampone said, and most of the discussion Friday revolved around its consumer applications — an ability to hold 2000 songs in that small footprint, for example.

But Intel and Micron’s press release also makes reference to the product’s uses in solid-state drives (SSDs), and the 25 nanometer process holds at least some hope for enterprise users interested in Flash but put off currently by its high prices and relatively low densities. Moreover, traditionally MLC drives have been first to market and seen as consumer-grade, but recently SSD vendors like STEC and system builders like WhipTail have come along claiming to offer enterprise-level reliability and endurance with MLC Flash.

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