Storage Soup

November 30, 2016  8:18 PM

HPE launches flash, SMB storage updates

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) rolled out a new 3PAR flash pricing initiative and StoreEasy file storage enhancements as part of a late-year rush of storage product releases.

HPE last week disclosed that its $779 million in storage revenue was down 5% on a year-over-year basis for the fiscal fourth quarter, ending on Oct. 31. That was HPE’s fourth fiscal quarter. For the full fiscal 2016, HPE storage revenue of $3.065 billion decreased 4% over last year’s $3.18 billion.

This week, HPE unveiled a 3PAR Flash Now initiative that it claims will allow customers to buy on-premises all-flash 3PAR StorServe at 3 cents per usable GB per month after data reduction. Program incentives include deferred payments until a customer’s all-flash array is up and running and automated data migration tools at no cost.

HPE also updated its StoreFabric Fibre Channel (FC) networking portfolio to the latest 32-Gigabit per second technology. The new 32-Gbps FC director and fixed-port switches and extension blades are based on technology from Brocade. HPE Smart SAN technology enables automated orchestration from 3PAR StoreServ flash storage arrays and can significantly reduce provisioning time, according to HPE.

HPE storage updates for SMBs
In December, HPE will make available upgraded StoreEasy network-attached file storage products for SMBs. New configurations of HPE StoreEasy support Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2016 Standard Edition, the latest Intel Xeon E5 v4 processors and higher speed DDR-2400 memory.

“Our focus is to make on-premise and hybrid cloud file storage even easier for small and mid-sized businesses, and with more cost predictability than public cloud solutions,” said Stephen Bacon, director of product management for HPE network-attached and software-defined storage.

Bacon said the jump from Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 to Windows Storage Server 2016 brings enhancements such as finer-grained deduplication and compression for larger files and file systems, hardened security against man-in-the-middle attacks, and improved performance for data-in-flight encryption.

StoreEasy customers have the option to use Microsoft Azure as an off-site backup target thanks to native Microsoft integration. Microsoft Data Protection Manager customers can also use StoreEasy as an on-premises backup target for Microsoft applications, virtual machines and client PCs, according to HPE.

The 2U StoreEasy NAS appliance will give customers the option of using new 10 TB hard disk drive (HDD) bundles to boost density by 25%. The HPE StoreEasy 1650 Expanded model will be able to scale to 280 TB raw capacity compared to the previous limit of 224 TB with 8 TB drives. Customers also will retain previously available drive options, including small-form-factor enterprise SAS drives, large-form-factor near-line drives and solid-state drives (SSDs).

Two key HPE storage management tools for the StoreEasy line are also getting updates. Bacon said HPE dramatically simplified its StoreEasy Pool Manager provisioning tool to enable customers with limited IT expertise to maximize capacity or performance, or strike a balance between the two, based on updated best practices.

“The person who’s provisioning it doesn’t need to know about RAID levels and different drive types and so on. For them, the experience is: Do they want to optimize their storage layout for capacity, for performance, or a balance of both?” Bacon said.

HPE is also updating its StoreEasy Dashboard monitoring tool to trigger low-capacity notifications for both customers and partners. Bacon said the partners receive information on the recommended drive bundle based on the customer’s configuration.

“With this [StoreEasy] makeover, we really thought through the capacity lifecycle for a system and, at each point, have made enhancements to make life easier for our customers and for our partners who are assisting those customers,” Bacon said.

HPE promotes its entry StoreEasy NAS at under $15,000, and Bacon said pricing has not materially changed with the update. Existing HPE StoreEasy customers running Windows Storage Server 2012 or 2012 R2 can purchase an upgrade kit for $700.

November 30, 2016  12:42 PM

Nutanix adds oodles of customers and red ink

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

In its first quarter as a public company, hyper-converged pioneer Nutanix recorded substantial revenue gains while continuing to suffer heavy losses. CEO Dheeraj Pandey said the increase in sales shows progress in Nutanix’s goal to establish itself as a trusted enterprise cloud vendor. The losses are the price it pays to earn that trust.

Nutanix reported revenue of $166.8 million for the quarter, up 125% over last year and ahead of financial analysts’ expectations. Its $129.65 in product revenue increased 84% from last year. Part of the uptick is due to maturing OEM deals with Dell EMC and Lenovo, who bundle Nutanix software on their servers. Nutanix forecast $175 million to $180 million for this quarter, which compares to $102.7 million for the same quarter last year.

Despite all those sales, Nutanix lost $162.2 million last quarter, compared to $38.5 million last year. Sales and marketing, research and development and overall operating expenses all shot up as Nutanix chases enterprise customers while competing with large IT vendors.

Nutanix raised $250 million in its September initial public offering and finished the quarter with $347 million, yet the company appears at least three years away from turning a profit.

“As a young public company, we’ll strive to balance our short-term goals with the long-term bets we must make for sustainable differentiation,” Pandey said on the earnings call Tuesday night.

That growth included nearly 400 new employees in the quarter, including 112 from PernixData and acquisitions. Nutanix finished the quarter with more than 2,350 employees.

Pandey said the company made progress landing enterprise deals and its Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV) is gaining traction with customers. Overall, the vendor added more than 700 customers in the quarter to bring its total to more than 4,400. Pandey said 256 customers spent more than $1 million on Nutanix in the quarter, a 137% increase from last year.

Pandey spent much of the call outlining his company’s history and future strategy. That strategy consists of providing a cloud infrastructure as a complement or alternative to public clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“Today we will cover a lot of ground on the way we think and dream about the future of enterprise computing,” Pandey said at the start of the call.

Here is his take on important issues:

Coopetition with Dell EMC

Pandey said the Dell-EMC merger – which also brought VMware to Dell – did not change the relationship between Nutanix and Dell. He said Nutanix is also working closely with EMC sales teams, despite EMC’s competitive VxRail hyper-converged system that uses VMware vSAN software. Pandey said some of Nutanix’s large deals last quarter came through Dell EMC.

“From the sidelines, it might appear that because of the VMware ownership, Dell EMC and Nutanix are in a zero-sum game,” he said. “As hustlers in the front line, we see a very different picture in which customer interest dictates alliances.

“What keeps Dell and Nutanix in an honest partnership with mutual respect is the fact that we can compete and cooperate on a deal-by-deal basis.”

On complementing/replacing AWS

Nutanix is counting on enterprises using its appliances as an alternative to the public cloud, but Pandey said there is room for Nutanix and AWS. “Contrary to some perceptions, we believe adoption of Amazon Web Services is ultimately a tailwind for us,” he said. “Owning and renting will find a balance, and the operating system that straddles the two will emerge as the new virtualization layer for enterprise infrastructure. I will repeat that again. The operating system that straddles the two will emerge as the new virtualization layer infrastructure.”

Convergence and hyper-convergence

Pandey said converged infrastructure came about when “large infrastructure incumbents came together to define bolt-on convergence heavily driven by joint marketing and professional services” and “today the market is ashamed with talking about converged infrastructure because it was a hack that flattered to deceive.” He said Nutanix’s pioneering work in hyper-convergence truly brought parts of the IT stack together.

Yet he said Nutanix is more than hyper-covnergence, which he called “a mere pit stop in the journey of an enterprise cloud system. While we remain a force to recon with in the hyper-converged infrastructure space, we are increasingly winning in the enterprise due to our full stack solution that includes native virtualization, management, cloud orchestration and, going forward, network security.” At another point in the call, he said, “The laggard observer focuses on our core data management capabilities to box us into a hyper-converged category.”

Large customer wins

Pandey said Toyota North America expanded its Nutanix product acquisition as part of a data center consolidation last quarter, and has spent a total of $6 million on Nutanix technology. Scotia Bank added Nutanix for a Splunk initiative and Singapore investment firm GIC spent more than $1 million in the quarter to help build an enterprise cloud. ICIC Bank Limited in India expanded its Nutanix footprint and added AHV. The U.S. Army Human Resources Command spent more than $1 million on Nutanix’s enterprise cloud stack and AHV for 54 sites, and the U.S. Navy installed Nutanix software on Cisco UCS hardware to run Splunk and Micrsofot SQL Server.

AHV traction

Pandey said 17% of Nutanix customers have adopted the Acropolis Hypervisor over the past year, and nearly half of its remote office customers deployed AHV last quarter. He said nearly one-third of U.S. federal government Nutanix nodes shipped in the quarter included AHV.

November 23, 2016  4:06 PM

HyperGrid swears off hardware, favors HyperCloud SaaS

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Hypergrid put the finishing touch on its shift from storage hardware to SaaS-based delivery with the introduction of HyperCloud. The company formerly known as Gridstore said HyperCloud helps enterprises build scalable IT services with pay-as-you-go SaaS subscription pricing.

“We believe cloud is a model, not a destination. We want to help enterprise CIOs transform their applications to containers and microservices architecture,” HyperGrid chief product officer Manoj Nair said.

HyperGrid’s new hybrid cloud integrates container technology picked up from DCHQ. Gridstore and DCHQ merged in June, renaming the combined company as Hypergrid.

HyperCloud bundles Hypergrid 3U hyper-converged appliances, HyperForm container orchestration and the software-defined HyperWeave fabric that integrates servers, all-flash storage and programmable network switches.

Customers may deploy HyperCloud as an integrated appliance in their data centers or consume applications, infrastructure and platforms via 18 hybrid cloud partners.  Metered billing is the same regardless of deployment method.  Containers, hyper-converged infrastructure, SQL Server instances, virtual desktops and unified cloud management are purchased as discretely consumed virtual units.

HyperForm provides lift-and-shift cloud migration. Internally developed containers could be hosted locally or burst to the cloud with policy-based governance and security.

The HyperCloud launch includes a new Hypergrid block storage driver, permitting Docker containers to run directly on all-flash storage. Scale-out flash storage gets a boost with support for nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) drives.  A single Hypergrid node can support 10 TB of NVMe flash across 100 Gigabit RDMA over Converged Ethernet fabric.

HyperCloud has qualified Dell PowerEdge C Series and Hewlett Packard Enterprise DL Series ProLiant rack servers and Micron NVMe drives. Minimum subscription is a one-year term.

Hypergrid’s cloud-based services model marks a departure from the company’s origins as Gridstore, which started out selling Microsoft-only arrays before adding all-flash hyper-converged appliances in 2014.

“We are (no longer) focused on selling a disk hardware appliance,” Nair said. “That business model is in the past.”

November 17, 2016  5:24 PM

NetApp’s hyper-convergence answer? All-flash and CI arrays

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
FlexPod, Hyper-convergence, NetApp, SolidFire

NetApp’s hyper-convergence strategy is to address that market through FlexPod and SolidFire.

FlexPod is the NetApp-Cisco converged infrastructure program, and SolidFire is the all-flash array platform NetApp acquired early this year. Those were the technologies NetApp CEO George Kurian spoke about Wednesday when asked about hyper-convergence on NetApp’s earnings.

Kurian sounded as if the major focus of hyper-convergence is to provide infrastructure for departments and remote offices.

“We have two approaches to compete with hyper-converged solutions,” he said. “One is a set of innovations that we brought to the FlexPod family called FlexPod Automation and the second is with SolidFire, which provides a zero touch storage provisioning solutions. The release of SolidFire that we introduced in the summer of this year called Fluorine allows us to compete very well with hyper-converge solutions and VMware environments, and we have been seeing wins.”

FlexPod with Infrastructure Automation provides a way for smaller companies to expedite the ordering and installation of a bundle consisting of Cisco UCS Mini, NetApp FAS arrays, hypervisors and other management software. But the server and storage are distinct products, while hyper-convergence puts all of that into one chassis.

Fluorine is the latest version of the SolidFire Element operating system. It included support for VMware VVOLs and greater virtual machine integration, but SolidFire is an array without a server built in.

While FlexPod with Infrastructure Automation and SolidFire can serve as storage for virtual desktop infrastructure and remote offices, many hyper-converged products are moving beyond that to serve as organizations’ primary storage.

Hyper-convergence appears to be the biggest hole in NetApp’s product portfolio, now that it selling a good deal of all-flash arrays. Kurian said NetApp was on track to hit $1 billion annual revenue in all-flash, counting All-Flash FAS, E-Series and SolidFire arrays. Still, NetApp’s product revenue of $741 million declined 13% from last year and its overall revenue of $1.34 billion slipped 7.3%. Both results were below Wall Street expectations. The vendor’s $109 million profit was below last year but better than expected, mainly because of cost cuts including layoffs.

NetApp forecasted revenue for this quarter of between $1.325 billion to $1.475 billion, which means it will likely increase over last year’s $1.386 billion.

“We are on track to return the company to long-term growth,” Kurian said.

November 16, 2016  12:23 PM

Pure Storage: We’re NVMe-ready

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Pure Storage

Pure Storage isn’t riding the NVMe bandwagon yet, but it has reserved a seat.

Pure promises its customers they can upgrade all new FlashArray//M systems to NVMe by the end of 2017 through the vendor’s Evergreen Storage program.

NVMe is a memory-class protocol for communications between CPU and flash. NVMe SSDs are expected to replace SAS SSDs. Bulk shipments are expected in 2017 although arrays such as EMC DSSD D5 and systems from startups E8 Storage and Apeiron Data Systems already use NVMe.

Pure today said it is offering an NVMe-Ready Guarantee. Pure VP of products Matt Kixmoeller said the guarantee means if Pure cannot upgrade an array to NVMe in 2017, the vendor will replace that customer’s system with a new NVMe array.

“We think we’re well set up compared to the retrofit legacy vendors,” Kixmoeller said, referring to storage vendors who were around since before the days of flash in enterprise storage. “We believe NVME is the next big thing and will be a strain to those legacy architectures. It’s a dramatic change.”

Although Pure isn’t first to ship NVMe SSDs, Kixmoeller said the vendor has prepared for the new technology since the start.

All FlashArray//M arrays have shipped with dual-ported hot pluggable NVMe NV-RAM devices since 2015. Every flash module slot is wired for SAS and PCIe/NVMe connectivity. Pure maintains its controllers can be upgraded non-disruptively from SAS to NVMe, and its Purity Operating Environment is optimized for NVMe with a massively parallel and multi-threaded design.

Kixmoeller said Pure will support M series arrays with NVMe and flash, or allow customers to switch completely to NVMe. He predicted the full transition to NVMe will take a year or two.

“When we built the Flasharray/M, we wanted to build a product that was upgradeable,” he said. “We foresaw the change in flash would be much faster than disk. If we built an array that needed to be upgraded every three-to-five years, it would seem like a dinosaur.”

November 15, 2016  7:17 AM

Qumulo scales out hardware options through HPE partnership

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Qumulo has scored an OEM deal with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to sell the startup’s data-aware scale-out NAS software on Apollo hardware.

Qumulo Core on HPE Apollo will be available on 2u 4200 appliances starting at 180 TB raw per node. Qumulo Core is also sold on 1u and 4u Qumulo QC-Series commodity hardware appliances.

Jeff Cobb, Qumulo VP of product management, said the vendor intends to extend its hardware compatibility list to more HPE models and other server vendors.

“This is definitely the first in a series,” Cobb said. “We’ll follow this with difference sizes and price performance points with HPE, and we’ll add other vendors to our hardware compatibility list.”

DataGravity, another data-aware storage vendor, has stopped selling its own appliances and now sells only software. DataGravity is pursuing partnerships with hardware vendors but has not disclosed any major OEM deals.

Cobb said the HPE Apollo products give Qumulo customers a denser hardware option, and could appeal to organizations that have standardized on HPE hardware.

“We’re a software company, and the value that we have comes from software,” Cobb aaid. “That software has to run on infrastructure, and our philosophy has always been the customers should choose the infrastructure.

He said Qumulo will also extend its file system to public clouds.

Qumulu’s QC-Series includes 1u QC24 (24 TB) and QC40 (40 TB) and 4u QC104 (104 TB), QC 208 (208 TB) and QC 260 (260 TB) nodes. Like the QC-Series, the Qumulo Core on Apollo appliances require four-node minimum clusters.

Qumulo also launched Core 2.5, adding snapshots to its file and object storage. Version 2.5 also includes throughput analytics, intelligent caching of metadata on solid-state drives and improvements to the erasure coding added in version 2.0 earlier this year.

November 7, 2016  5:48 PM

Formation Data adds cloud replication

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Formation Data, the software-defined storage vendor that wants to help enterprises build full-featured storage systems without an array, today added replication to the cloud for its FormationOne Dynamic Storage Platform.

Formation Data launched FormationOne this year with features such as dynamic tiering, snapshots, multi-tenancy, quality of service and the ability to pool storage across virtual machines. The new addition is Formation SafeGuard, which replicates data to Amazon Web Services and can be used for copy data management, disaster recovery and backup.

Customers can replicate between primary clouds or from a primary cloud to AWS. Formation Data CEO Mark Lewis said the idea is to turn AWS into an extension of on-premised storage. FormationOne supports iSCSI block storage, NFS file storage and Amazon S3-compatible object storage.

“You can use AWS as a DR site, you can use it as a content repository, a place to push content or if you need more capacity,” Lewis said. “Most public clouds have gateways and focus on ingestion only, not recovery and they’re bi-directional. We focus on the idea that the public cloud can be an extension of your private clouds.”

The initial SafeGuard release only supports AWS. Lewis said Formation Data is working on added Micrososft Azure support.
He said SafeGuard will be “minor” licensing addition for FormationOne. Formation Data charges by usable capacity under management.

November 3, 2016  10:13 AM

Quorum onQ update offers faster DR, smoother management

Paul Crocetti Paul Crocetti Profile: Paul Crocetti

The latest Quorum onQ disaster recovery platform update features faster disk writes, increased capacity and a redesigned user interface.

Quorum onQ 4.0 provides a suite of high availability, disaster recovery and DRaaS. All of its features are delivered and managed from a single console. The new browser-based UI makes it easier to manage a large number of servers, according to Darin Pendergraft, Quorum VP of product marketing.

“Quorum has re-architected the storage architecture of our hardware appliance to allow for disk writes up to two times faster and to allow for virtually unlimited storage capacity,” Pendergraft wrote in an email. “Customers will notice a large improvement in performance and will have more options when expanding local storage capacity.”

Quorum onQ 4.0, which will be generally available the first week of December, features instant recovery — one click starts a virtual clone of production servers, allowing recovery time of minutes. It also includes automated DR testing — clones are started and verified after each backup — and replication. It sends compressed and encrypted backups to the customer’s DR site or the Quorum cloud.

Target customers include anyone looking to move backup and recovery into the cloud, Pendergraft said.

In a study, “The State of Disaster Recovery Report,” conducted by Quorum in October and released Tuesday, 75% of respondents said they are using cloud-based disaster recovery, with 36% using a hybrid model and 39% using only DRaaS. The report also said that 89% are planning or interested in implementing more cloud-based disaster recovery and 90% would be interested in consolidating DR into one dashboard.

“The results show us that what we have done with onQ 4.0 is right in line with what customers are looking to buy now and increasingly in the future,” Pendergraft said.

In terms of recovery time, most respondents (55%) said it takes from one to two hours to recover from a server failure. More than one-quarter (26%) said it takes more than two hours, and only 19%  said it takes them less than an hour to recover.

Pendergraft said he believes Quorum onQ stands out in an increasingly competitive market because of its speed of recovery.

“Our architecture and hardware updates have demonstrated at least two-times performance in the lab, and we expect that to translate into a dramatic decrease in the backup and recovery times in customer environments,” he said.

Quorum introduced onQ in 2010. The vendor is offering a trade-in program for existing customers. A sales engineer will evaluate the age and configuration of a customer’s existing hardware to create an appropriate credit against a new hardware appliance purchase.

Local protection pricing for Quorum onQ is based on the number of servers being protected. A customer who replicates to Quorum’s cloud will pay based on the amount of storage, memory and CPU cores required to host a copy of the local environment.

October 31, 2016  2:32 PM

Broadcom reportedly ready to swallow Brocade

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Broadcom, Brocade

Brocade, the largest Fibre Channel networking vendor, could be joining the Broadcom empire soon.

Bloomberg reports that Brocade is close to being acquired and that Broadcom is among the interested parties. Bloomberg mentioned no other possible suitors. The story and talk of the deal helped Brocade’s stock price soar 21.98% today.

A Brocade deal would fit in with Broadcom’s recent strategy and its current products. Broadcom chips are used in Fibre Channel and Ethernet switches. Avago Technologies bought Broadcom for $37 billion in 2015 and changed the company name to Broadcom this year. Avago also acquired Emulex for $606 million in 2015, picking up Emulex’s Fibre Channel host adapter and Ethernet adapter business. Brocade is the FC switching leader, with Cisco its only rival, and also sells Ethernet switching from its 2008 acquisition of Foundry. Brocade acquired Ruckus Wireless for $1.2 billion last April.

Broadcom’s enterprise storage revenue of $527 million last quarter represented 14% of its overall revenue. Brocade reported $591 in total revenue last quarter, with $282 million coming from SAN products.

The Bloomberg report said a Brocade deal could be disclosed this week.

Brocade actively shopped itself soon after buying Foundry, but Hewlett-Packard acquired 3Com instead in 2009 and Dell bought Force10 in 2011. Talk of an acquisition cooled after Brocade hired Lloyd Carney as CEO in 2013.

October 31, 2016  11:51 AM

A defense of tape storage systems and how they’re improving

Paul Crocetti Paul Crocetti Profile: Paul Crocetti

Tape gets less respect than Rodney Dangerfield among the IT crowd. But tape still has its staunch defenders who say the medium remains technologically sound and continues to improve.

A major challenge is being able to communicate the advantages of tape storage systems, Fred Moore, president of Horison Information Strategies, said at the Fujifilm Global IT Executive Summit in Boston last month.

“The game has really changed,” as tape storage systems have made progress in the last 10 years, Moore said. “That’s the good news.” The bad news, he said, is that people don’t know it yet.

There is a tendency now to favor the tactical quick fix over strategic planning and regard cloud as a storage game-changer, said Jon Toigo, managing principal of Toigo Partners International and founder and chairman of the Data Management Institute. That mindset leaves tape on the outside looking in.

But using tape is getting much simpler thanks to the Linear Tape File System, Toigo said at the summit.

Other advantages of tape storage systems include their affordability, security, energy efficiency, long life and reliability, said Calline Sanchez, vice president of enterprise storage at IBM, in her presentation at the summit.

As an archive medium, tape’s capacity improvements are outperforming all other kinds of storage and it is ideal for storing less frequently accessed and modified data, Toigo said. LTO-7 offers 15 TB of compressed capacity and sustained data transfer rates of up to 750 megabytes per second for compressed data.

Is tape good for randomized access?

“No,” Toigo said. “It never was.”

But accessibility in tape storage systems is improving. Quantum, with its StorNext AEL6 appliance, combines the new Scalar i6 library with Quantum’s StorNext data management software. StorNext enables easier access to data stored on tape, with options for CIFS, NFS and RESTful interfaces.

“When we announced the [new Scalar tape platform], it was in the context of helping companies manage the rapid growth of unstructured data,” said Kieran Maloney, manager of archive and technical workflow solutions at Quantum.

The platform provides high-density storage for Quantum’s overall multi-tier portfolio that includes hybrid flash, object-based, cloud and tape storage.

With the cloud, too many administrators “think about how they can leverage cloud to replace tape” instead of how they can leverage cloud with tape, Maloney said. But as the amount of data and its time in storage rise, the cloud becomes more difficult to afford.

It makes sense to use tape for cloud seeding, Toigo said.

Compared to disk, tape storage systems provide more security against ransomware attacks and other hacks. Since tape isn’t online all the time, “it’s easier to keep away from ransomware,” Maloney said.

Disk is a breeding ground for hacks, Moore said.

So how does the tape community get its message out?

The message has to be engaging for millennials who don’t know about the technology, Toigo said.

“When they get it, we’ve got a whole new generation of tape users.”

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