The turnover that often occurs when a large company buys a smaller one has begun at Dell/EqualLogic, about seven months after Dell closed its $1.4 billion acquistion of the iSCSI SAN vendor. The most visible of these departures was delivered via vlog by Inside IT blogger and Dell/EQL evangelist Marc Farley, who gave his reason for leaving as “I’m not much of a big-company guy. I don’t know if I’m allergic to them, or what.” Farley said he’d be going to work for a smaller storage vendor, but didn’t specify which.
This is similar to what I heard recently from Roman Kichorowsky, former director of PR for EqualLogic, whose name is on a Dell press release as recently as July 10 but who has now moved on to FalconStor.
It’s not unusual for employees to leave in these kind of acquisitions. There are real cultural differences with almost every merger, and you’ll always find people who smile big until the press coverage dies down, wait for options to vest, and then get out.
But Dell’s retention of EqualLogic’s service and support staff as well as channel partners were major concerns for EqualLogic customers after the acquisition. The departure of PR and marketing people almost surely won’t affect the customers. But it’s worth keeping an eye on who else chooses to exit.
Atempo has been busy lately working its archiving story. Over the last six weeks, the backup software vendor has released an email archiving application and forged partnerships with Nexsan, Nirvana and – as of today – Permabit.
Atempo and Permabit say they’ve completed interoperability testing of the Atempo Digital Archive (ADA) file archiving software solution with the Permabit Enterprise Archive disk-based storage system.
While such partnerships have become common for smaller storage vendors looking to take on larger players, a partner has to bring something to the table to make it worthwhile. For Permabit, Atempo adds support for user-initiated (along with admin-initiated) archiving and the ability to archive Mac and Windows files in the same repository.
“Now shops can have admins set policies as well as user-set retention rules, and they don’t have to step all over each other,” Permabit director of product marketing Louis Imershein said.
Imershein said while Permabit’s customers tend to be enterprises, most of them have Macs somewhere — usually in the art or graphics departments. He said ADA makes it easier to manage archives regardless of what type of applications are used. “It’s a nice way to re-direct users to the archive without having to go through a filter drive, they can make a direct hop,” he said. “In enterprises, you wonder how people can do without that.”
Analyst George Crump of Storage Switzerland agrees that Mac support is becoming important in large companies. “I’m seeing an uptick in use of Macintoshes, even in the enterprise,” he said. Crump is also seeing a need for simpler interfaces such as ADA’s in archiving. “Many applications are too heavy — for lack of a better word — and they bring more to the table than needed,” he said. “Disk-based archiving simplifies archiving compared to tape and optical archiving. But there wasn’t a simpler app to take advantage of the simpler interface.”
But with no shortage of archiving products in the market now, getting people to take a look at their simple products will be the hard part for little guys like Atempo and Permabit.
Last week I noted that EDS shareholders had filed suit to delay the closing of HP’s acquisition of the IT services company. The Wall Street Journal has since reported that HP and EDS will settle with those shareholders. As part of the settlement agreement, HP and EDS will delay the merger until Aug. 18. That allows investors to reap an additional 5 cent-per-share dividend. The companies have also agreed to turn over more information about the structure of the deal requested by shareholders.
Last week, we saw a good bit of rain falling on cloud storage’s parade. First there was another Amazon outage. Then it came to light that a cloud storage site called The Linkup (nee MediaMax) has completely failed, because of an apparent problem with data migration. At least that’s what it sounds like from their blog post about going out of business:
It was not possible to satisfactorily complete the move of files from MediaMax to The Linkup as we had expected, and as a result cannot offer a service that meets your expectations and our business requirements. This is a very disappointing outcome for us, and we know it has been a frustrating experience for many of our customers.
Maybe the owners of The Linkup could bounce back by taking Xdrive off AOL’s hands for the bargain price of $5 million and starting over.
Generally, I reserve judgment on the ultimate fate of cloud storage services. I know that online storage had a brief period of interest during the tech bubble but never went anywhere, and some believe this is more of the same. But I can be convinced, for now, that this time might be different. Small outfits such as The Linkup get trampled during the gold rush toward any new technology, and perhaps established service providers such as Amazon are going through growing pains. It’s still too early for these events to be anything other than a possible warning sign.
But things have sure looked ugly lately.
Want to avoid having to archive your emails? All you have to do is get elected President. Or, at least, be President Bush.
The overseer of unprecedented government snooping tactics on private citizens has taken umbrage at the suggestion that his email correspondence be similarly vulnerable to prying eyes, saying he’ll veto a bill passed by the House July 8 that would revise the Presidential Records Act and the Federal Records Act to address Presidential email records–specifically, the archiving and preservation thereof.
This all started last year, when a watchdog group claimed that members of the Republican National Committee used their RNC email addresses, which are supposed to be for campaign matters only, to conduct other business with the White House. When asked to turn over those emails, the Bush administration said, ““Oops.” Oh, and coincidentally, emails relating to the infamous Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame affair are also among the missing, according to CNN.com.
Now, what do you think would happen if the CEO of even the most powerful corporation attempted to respond that way to an e-discovery request?
That said, I don’t expect this legislation to pass anyway, if the track record of data privacy legislation is any indication.
That’s the question I’ve heard asked in the wake of Brocade’s blockbuster $3 billion acquisition of Foundry this week. Some have suggested that Juniper Networks, which is much more competitive with Cisco in the Internet router market, might have been a better choice.
To get a better sense of where these Ethernet players stand in the market, I talked to some analysts at the Dell’Oro Group, which specializes in tracking the networking market. According to Ethernet analyst Alan Weckel, Juniper has 16% of the total router market, while Foundry has 1% (this as compared to Cisco’s share, at 65%). Foundry is also #3, according to Dell’Oro, in the service provider and total Ethernet switching market, behind Force10 Networks and ProCurve Networking, respectively.
However, Weckel pointed out, Juniper doesn’t register yet in enterprise Ethernet switches, having only announced enterprise products earlier this year; its enterprise-class Ethernet switches aren’t shipping yet. “In routing, Juniper’s a clear number two,” he said. “But on the Ethernet switching side, it’s very early to say.”
Marty Lans, senior director of Brocade’s data center infrastructure group, said that Ethernet is the meat of the product strategy behind the acquisition. “We’re looking to sell from the heart of the data center out,” he said. FCoE and 10 GbE are already areas where Brocade has some products, including FCoE equipment that Lans said will ship when the FCoE is ratified, probably later this year.
“Those are within the four walls of the data center,” he said. “This is an extension to our product line meant to go beyond the data center.””
Moreover, Forrester analyst (and, full disclosure, my former news director) Jo Maitland blogged yesterday that
Foundry has all but conceded the enterprise market and has been selling its switches to metro providers building Ethernet MANs. . . .Right now, enterprise networking teams will not buy Brocade (or Foundry) for Ethernet. Period. It’s too risky and operationally foreign. But it’s possible a more robust service provider could do it if there was a competitive angle.
So. Acquire a company that has already shipped product and failed to gain share, or acquire a company with better share in one aspect with a product that could go either way? “It’s a question mark,” said Weckel.
Another clue to the origins of this deal might lie in a name mentioned on Brocade’s conference call: Seth Neiman of Crosspoint Venture Partners. He provided the seed money to found both companies, and just may have had a hand in making the deal happen, according to Maitland.
The news today was about a huge storage networking acquisition by Brocade, but another mammoth merger we covered here earlier is reportedly hitting a snag. The AP reports that some EDS shareholders are trying to pressure EDS into asking HP for more than the $13 billion it’s already been offered. Part of this pressure, according to the AP, is a plan to ask a judge in Collin County, Texas to postpone the company’s annual shareholder meeting. HP declined comment today.
While EDS is a huge player in the IT services industry and the acquisition obviously has tremendous value for HP, these shareholders would do well to reference the recent parable of Carl Icahn and MicroHoo.
The biggest difference between the last time S3 crashed and this time, in my observation, is that there was a much, much bigger chain reaction this time around. Last time, I knew of only a few companies using S3, like photo hosting site SmugMug, and startups that offer online backup services using their own interfaces on the front-end and Amazon’s hardware infrastructure on the back-end.
This time, not only were those types of Web 2.0 companies affected, but much bigger fish also felt the sting: no less than Web 2.0 microblogging phenom Twitter and some iPhone applications crashed along with S3.
The last Amazon outage was attributed to “growing pains” as the service gained popularity. I’d imagine adding popular apps like Twitter and the iPhone constituted another wave of painful growth. This is a new medium, and users of very new storage media accept some level of risk. But two major outages in six months is obviously raising some questions.
“Skype has crashed and stopped responding, Twitter, Tumblr and other major websites are barely working, most aren’t displaying images, widgets or static material that was outsourced to Amazon S3 services,” reported blogger LinkFog as the outage occurred. “It’s kinda funny how this goes against the very nature of the web, in each networks are interconnected in several ways to ensure that a major breakdown won’t happen.”
Others, like a blogger at Web Worker Daily, were not happy with Amazon’s SLAs:
Amazon does offer an SLA for the S3 service, guaranteeing 99.9% uptime or part of your money back. With .1% of a month being around 45 minutes, that means they owe people money. The requirements for claiming a refund, though, are onerous enough that no one except large users will bother (hey, Amazon, how about an automatic refund when you know your servers are down?).
Recent reports suggest that this is actually what will happen.
Clearly it’s not a major disaster for people not to be able to Twitter for a few hours. But when it comes to things like the backup services attached to S3, it might be time for people to rethink whether one cloud back-end is the same as another. Amazon’s appeal is that it’s cheap and relatively unrestricted for Web developers–but I hope the backup companies basing their hardware infrastructure on S3 at least inform their end users what the back end is, so they can make an informed decision about service provider reliability.
In the course of observing the festivities on NetApp and EMC blogs, I came across a sneaky little blog post/announcement from EMC about its LifeLine consumer storage product. According to The Storage Anarchist (aka Barry Burke), his post will be the only official announcement from EMC about LifeLine 1.1.
I’ve given up on trying to understand software release-numbering, btw. Sometimes it’s a “dot-oh” release for new OS support. Other times it’s a “dot one” for, say, Linux, Mac and NFS support, Active Directory integration, RAID 0, an embedded search engine, and oh, yeah, drive spin-down in a consumer NAS box.
But from Burke’s perspective as a
guinea pig user of the product, maybe this release isn’t so significant. At the very least, it hasn’t checked off all the items on his wish list, including integration with Mozy similar to what was announced for Iomega hard drives last week, better TiVo integration and dedupe.
In case you missed it, there’s been an entertaining exchange going on between EMC, NetApp and even IBM bloggers over a bug in NetApp’s SnapLock software.
It all started when EMC’er Scott Waterhouse of The Backup Blog got his hands on a notification from NetApp to customers urging an upgrade to OnTap 7.2.5 to resolve a vulnerability in SnapLock’s WORM functionality. Waterhouse didn’t go into much detail about exactly what the bug was and quoted selectively from the customer-notification document:
“…versions of Data ONTAP prior to 7.2.5 with SLC have been found to have vulnerabilities that could be exploited to circumvent the WORM retention capability.” They go on to say: “NetApp cannot stand by the SnapLock user agreement unless the upgrade is performed.”
Now this is a really big deal. This is not a trivial little upgrade to OnTAP. This is a big one.
Predictably, he then segued into a sales pitch–“Maybe it is time to explore an alternative?”–without giving much more information about what the problem actually was, or why exactly the upgrade between dot releases of OnTap isn’t trivial.
Waterhouse’s take was then picked up by Mark Twomey, aka StorageZilla, who led with the headline, “NetApp SnapLock Badly Broken.” Twomey also emphasized the fear angle “Right now none of those who aren’t running 7.2.5 or above are not compliant and it turns out they never were“ without divulging further details about the problem.
This is about where I came in. I tried pinging Twomey to no avail; I also tried hitting up some of the folks on Toasters. the NetApp users forum, to see what they’d heard. I planned to ping NetApp as well, but if the bug was as bad as the EMC’ers were making it out to be, I didn’t expect them to be willing to talk about it.
They surprised me by contacting me before I could get to them, and last Friday chief technical architect Val Bercovici gave me NetApp’s side of the story, telling me, “We expanded our testing on SnapLock to a third class of protection from tampering with the WORM feature.”
The first two classes, which had already been tested, concerned protection against malicious end-user removal of data, as well as protection from malicious administrative actions. The third and most recent class tested against was a case “where knowledge of the source code combined with some other products that are out there could be used for data deletion” inside SnapLock. Bercovici also didn’t want to give all the gory details, saying the vulnerability had not been exploited in the field, and NetApp wanted to keep it that way.
“It’s a highly unusual case, and in any event would be an audited deletion from the system,” Bercovici said. “It’s a level of testing EMC has never done” with Centera, he added.
Not quite “not compliant and never were”. NetApp bloggers were all over the EMC bloggers last week about the tone of their blog posts. It had begun to seem like the EMC-NetApp rivalry had faded a bit, as both companies go up against new competitors and find themselves with bigger fish to fry. But this was just like old times.
Things have gotten so moody so fast that blogger Tony Pearson from NetApp big brother IBM felt the need to tell EMC to pick on someone their own size:
I was going to comment on the ridiculous posts by fellow bloggers from EMC about SnapLock compliance feature on the NetApp, but my buddies at NetApp had already done this for me, saving me the trouble. . . .The hysterical nature of writing from EMC, and the calm responses from NetApp, speak volumes about the cultures of both companies.
But wait, there’s more. Remember how I mentioned heading over to see what was being discussed about this on Toasters? While there I ran across a thread that mentioned OnTap 7.2.5, and contained another message from NetApp to its customers:
Please be aware that we are investigating a couple of issues with quotas in Data ONTAP 7.2.5. As a precautionary measure, we have removed Data ONTAP 7.2.5 from the NOW site as we investigate the issues. We will provide an update as soon as more information is available.”
According to Bercovici, OnTap 7.2.5, issued as a bugfix for SnapLock, had its *own* bug, this time one that caused quota panic in some filers. In other words, the bugfix NetApp issued for what it said was an esoteric issue spawned another bug, and this time it caused some filers to ‘blue-screen’, according to the Windows analogy Bercovici used to describe the problem to me.
Version 22.214.171.124, which purportedly fixes both bugs, has since come out. As far as I’m concerned, the whole SnapLock bug was a tempest in a teapot, but NetApp still came out of this whole thing with egg on its face, as 7.2.5 introduced a severe and immediate problem in what seems like a well-intentioned effort to protect customers from an obscure corner-case hack. Also, they wound up with multiple EMC bloggers doing the Web equivalent of throwing chairs at them, a la Springer. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. . . .