Storage Soup

May 21, 2008  1:36 PM

Archiving news spans the globe

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Busy week for archiving. While EMC was detailing its archiving roadmap in Las Vegas this week at EMC World, IBM was opening an archiving solutions center in Mexico, and U.K.-based Plasmon was launching its latest UDO-based system.

Plasmon’s Enterprise Active Archive (EAA) allows Plasmon’s UDO systems to work with disk for long-term archiving flexibility. EAA gives Plasmon’s archive appliance the ability to search disk and UDO media together, as well as index, classify, migrate and replicate files across systems.

Mike Koclanes, Plasmon’s chief strategy officer, said it wasn’t enough to have UDO drives that can last for 50 years to store data. “It didn’t fit into the IT ecosystem,” he said. “So we had to come up with an archiving appliance. The first thing we had to do was virtualize access to the application so it’s writing as if it’s a file system.” Koclanes said Plasmon intends to support solid state and holographic storage when they become widely available. He sees those technologies as well as SATA drives as complementary to UDO rather than competitive.

“When you store something on UDO, you have a permanent copy,” he said. “You have a UDO copy for DR and you don’t have to do backup any more. We’re not saying don’t use disk, we’re saying you don’t need three or four copies and have to replicate it around and use all that power.”

Meanwhile, IBM today opened a $10 million executive briefing center in Guadalajara, Mexico, dedicated to its archiving practice. IBM intends to use the Global Archive Solutions Center to help customers with their strategies for long-term data retention.

“Customers can come in and learn about best practices and do simulations of archiving with our products and partners’ products,” said Charlie Andrews, worldwide marketing manager for IBM storage.

“We’ve done a lot of research on what it means to have long-term retention of data. Does the media last long enough, how expensive is it, and when you talk about really long term — over 10 years — what happens with applications?” Andrews added. “Sometimes when you switch applications, you can’t read documents.”

Andrews said the archiving center is IBM’s 11th  global center but the first to address a “specific solution area” instead of a product line.   

Why Guadalajara? “Because we have a strong presence there,” Andrews said. “We’ve been there since 1927. It’s now a very rich high-tech area, it’s called the ‘Silicon Valley of Mexico.’ Also we believe growth in Latin America is significant for us.”


May 21, 2008  10:04 AM

Good quarter for HP storage not good enough for CEO Hurd

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Hewlett-Packard’s storage division has taken its share of heat in recent years. It has often underachieved from a revenue standpoint, been knocked by competitors and analysts for lack of innovation, and been reorganized internally. Now it’s led by Dave Roberson, former Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) CEO and currently VP of HP’s enterprise storage business.

So what was the reaction of the storage group and upper management to a sharp hike in revenue from storage last quarter? Not what you might think.

“If there’s anybody taking a lap around the building, I sure haven’t seen him because we’ve got a lot more work to do to be a participant in the way that HP ought to be a participant in the storage market,” CEO Mark Hurd told analysts on the earnings conference call Wednesday night.

Ok, so no laps around the building. But HP did report storage revenue increased 14 percent year over year to just over $1 billion, led by a 17 percent gain in its midrange EVA and 21 percent improvement with its high-end XP [rebranded HDS] arrays. Still, Hurd says that’s only the start. He expects to attach storage to a higher percentage of ProLiant servers going forward, stronger adoption of new HP storage products and a return on some of the money it’s laid out on storage acquisitions in recent years.

“Listen, we can just do better than this,” he said. “We’ve got new product we’ve announced into the market during the quarter in the storage space that we are excited about. We’ve begun to bring together some of the acquisitions we’ve done and align some of our Storage Essentials software with our platforms. We are doing more work in the channel and it turned into good growth. I mean, for us to get mid-double-digit growth or 14% growth in the quarter is better than we’ve seen.”

I’m guessing the new product Hurd referred to was the ExDS9100 Web 2.0/NAS system HP unveiled with much fanfare this month although it also launched a new EVA in February. In any case, Hurd emphasized there is still work to be done, and he expects to see it get done: “I don’t want you for one minute to think we are satisfied with it [storage success].”

Hurd has accomplished many of his goals since he arrived at HP three years ago. Now we’ll see if he can complete a storage turnaround.

May 21, 2008  9:08 AM

The incredible Hulk and more: photos from EMC World

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Tuckered out after a long couple of days of learning about information-centric data centers.

Plenty more where that came from, after the jump.

Continued »

May 20, 2008  12:00 PM

Another approach to self-healing storage

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been writing about the self-healing storage arrays announced by startup Atrato Inc. and a more seasoned company, Xiotech Corp. Seeing this, another company stuck its hand up to say, “Hey, we have that too!”

This other company is Data Direct Networks, and their self-healing product has actually been on the market in one form or another for some time now (DDN has been in business 10 years), but I wasn’t aware of it until they got my attention last week.

DDN’s product line consists of four hardware models: the S2A6620, 9550, 9700 and 9900. The self-healing stuff resides mostly in the S2A operating system. Like BlueArc’s Titan NAS heads, DDN’s products put some of the heavy-duty processing of data, such as parity calculations, into silicon by way of field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). According to DDN’s CTO Dave Fellinger, this, along with parallelization, means that the arrays can write and read at the same rate.

What that sets up is the ability to calculate two-disk parity on every read, as well as every write, without performance degradation. So theoretically the system never goes into rebuild mode, because it already operates in that mode all the time.

Like the systems from Xiotech and Atrato, DDN’s systems perform disk scrubbing, as well as isolation of failed disks for diagnosis and attempted repair. The product can conduct low-level formatting of drives, power-cycle individual drives if they become unresponsive, correct data using checksums on the fly if it comes off the disk corrupt, rewrite corrected data back to the disk, and use S.M.A.R.T. diagnostics on SATA disks to determine if the drives need to be replaced. (Atrato also uses S.M.A.R.T., among other error correction codes.)

The key difference between the DDN product and the others is that DDN’s disk arrays are not sealed. According to Fellinger, the company’s experience in large environments suggests that sealed arrays are impractical.According to Fellinger, the company’s experience in large environments suggests that sealed arrays are impractical. So admins swap out individual drives at DDN installations, the largest of which is an 8 PB deployment at Lawrence Livermore National Labs.

However, it seems Xiotech and Atrato are going after slightly different markets than DDN. Each of those vendors talks in capacities of 16 TB and 3U rack units. Xiotech said it is specifically going after enterprise accounts with its ISE system; Atrato seems to be targeting a more similar market to DDN in multimedia and entertainment. DDN claims to already have the big fish, such as AOL/Time Warner, locked up. And, Fellinger added, the company has just released an entry-level system with 60 drives offering up to 2 GBps performance.

For me, anyway, an already interesting and (relatively) new market just got that much more intriguing.

May 20, 2008  9:41 AM

EMC’s Maui “conspicuous by its absence” at EMC World

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Celerra Man: just one of the many attractions
at this week’s EMC World.

There’s plenty going on out here in Vegas with EMC World in full swing. It seems like there are attendees, press, analysts and EMC’ers stashed in every hotel on the Strip, and about 10,000 people milling around the corridors of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

There’s also been plenty of product news so far. EMC finally unveiled its deduping VTLs based on software from Quantum, one of which will also be the first Clariion array to offer drive spin-down, a feature EMC has promised in multiple products going forward. Also on the docket: incremental updates to Avamar’s software and Data Store hardware, and a new mid-market package for Networker.

But the subject on everyone’s lips in the whispering corridors was the one product EMC didn’t spend much time at all talking about: its Web 2.0 storage system, codenamed Hulk and Maui (looks like Hulk’s real name will be InfiniFlex).

While Hulk is shipping, Maui is, to quote StorageMojo blogger and Data Mobility Group analyst Robin Harris, “conspicuous by its absence.” Others who sat in on CEO Joe Tucci’s Q&A with analysts this morning said he was reluctant to answer questions about Hulk and Maui, and his face seemed to darken for a moment when I asked him afterwards if Maui had joined Hulk in shipping yet. But he also gave a straightforward answer, saying it’s not shipping yet but it is scheduled to do so this summer.

Before I could even ask how one was supposed to deploy one without the other, Tucci added, “Maui doesn’t require Hulk and Hulk doesn’t require Maui. They’re both independent but work together.” Furthermore, when both products arrive, EMC “is going to push them both very heavily.”

But for Harris, something doesn’t quite add up. “Joe promised Hulk/Maui in seven months last November,” he said. “EMC showed the hardware at NAB last month. But the software has always been the hard part.”

Word has it Hulk will ship with clustering software from Ibrix. I’ve heard rumblings about what Maui’s major malfunction might be, but nothing definite. Meanwhile, Harris told me that at the show he encountered a customer who’d been given a demo of Maui and described it as a layer of softwre that sits above local storage pools, “which could serve as a global data repository for multinational companies, tying multiple data centers together.” If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be surprising if getting things synchronized on that kind of scale took some time. And it would also explain why you could run Hulk without Maui, and Maui without Hulk.

But we’ve got another couple of months (it seems) before we find out for sure if the rumors about Maui are correct.

May 19, 2008  8:39 AM

SME backup products in the spotlight

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Backup software vendors BakBone and CommVault share the same code base — both platforms came out of work done at the Unix Systems Laboratory when it was owned by AT&T. But in the past week, I’ve heard different stories from both companies.

CommVault reported strong earnings on its last call and says it’s looking into expanding its product into adjacent markets such as data deduplication and records management. There’s also some evidence it’s winning converts from its larger rivals Symantec NetBackup and EMC Networker, and winning more deals over $100,000 as well as over $1 million. That move upmarket isn’t by accident, either: CEO Bob Hammer said on the earnings call that building higher-end business is CommVault’s goal for the remainder of this year.  Wall Street analysts are still dinging them over operating margin issues, but that’s neither here nor there for those of us more concerned with the technology side of things.

According to analysts, there are a few things making CommVault hot right now – a transition to disk-based backup, the rising popularity of VMware, and a Windows Server OS refresh. CommVault’s got a pretty good story in each of those categories, but the real trump card according to industry observers is its unified software platform that integrates backup with archiving and replication.

It would seem Bakbone shares several parts of that story as well, but they have been a much quieter company. Like CommVault, they have an integrated platform, but have chosen to focus on data protection rather than expanding into adjacent markets. From a business standpoint, they’ve gone in different directions: while CommVault has completed an IPO and had success in the public markets over the past two years, BakBone got booted off the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2004 for accounting issues it still hasn’t solved. But BakBone has continued to move forward with its product line, and in the last couple of weeks it added support for SharePoint archiving (something many competitors rolled out last year) and new integration with VMware’s consolidated backup (VCB).

BakBone previously offered integration with VCB, according to senior product marketing manager Gary Parker, but like many of its competitors in data backup, required scripting based on a publicly available API from VMware. With version 8.1 of its software released today, BakBone has packaged up those scripts into new software agents that sit on the client and VCB proxy server, allowing VCB management through the Bakbone Netvault interface.

Pretty nifty, and according to Taneja Group analyst Eric Burgener, not necessarily something everybody’s doing (TSM, for example, and EMC Networker don’t do it). But plenty of competitors have beaten them to the punch, including Netbackup and CommVault (Symantec’s Backup Exec still has no VMware client. What’s up with that?). And according to Burgener, “there is some value to it, but it’s not rocket science.”

According to Bakbone VP of marketing Jeff Drescher, Bakbone’s goal isn’t to be the first to market but to do right by its customers with what it does release. And it does have some blue-chip customers to its credit, though they’re either shy about talking to the press or Bakbone hasn’t noised them around much – customers like Yahoo! and GE Capital.

“These customers are using Bakbone to deal with departmental issues, in smaller environments,” Burgener said. “Their pitch is simplicity and covering a broad swath of backup functions.”

But right now I have to say my reporterly curiosity is piqued when it comes to these fraternal twins in the backup market. It’s hard for me to tell right now whether or not Bakbone has truly fallen behind CommVault or if it has just been quieter.

Drescher also pointed out the lag between announcement and adoption of emerging technologies, saying Bakbone is following other vendors with some product features, but getting them to customers right on time.

At least one customer I’ve talked to, though, said he’d been waiting for the VCB integration Bakbone has just added. “We’ve waited a little bit longer than we would have liked,” said Bryan Vonk, technical specialist for the Vancouver Police Department. But he added that he watched admins at the City of Vancouver’s main data center wrestle with the scripting for VCB and was content to wait for Bakbone. Furthermore, he said, now that that issue has been addressed, he has no pressing items remaining on his wish list at the moment. So we’ll just have to wait and see how this tale of two backup products plays out from here.


Meanwhile, another product marketed to midsize companies or departments, Atempo, also made incremental updatesl based on a desire to branch out its product, much like CommVault. In Atempo’s case, however, it has added a Mac and Linux backup client to its LiveBackup PC and laptop CDP software, support for more granular administrative roles than just “admin” or “user,” support for a group management console, and more scalability thanks to a change in how the product’s underlying database arranges data.

Like CommVault, Atempo is looking to take this product further upmarket than it has played in the past. That’s especially interesting when you think about how storage giant EMC and others are trying to figure out how to take their products downmarket at the same time. Which way is the market heading? I’m so confused.

May 16, 2008  10:31 AM

Grass on the roof and data center cooling

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

(Photo courtesy 416style on Flickr)

Heard a story on the news yesterday and couldn’t help but wonder if it might have implications for green data centers. 

It was a report on green roofs, an emerging practice of placing a layer of soil on the flat roof of a building or house and then planting vegetation. It’s chiefly done to compensate for the effect of deforestation on air quality in cities, and to manage stormwater runoff more effectively in the concrete jungle.

But there’s another effect green roofs have, according to the report: the average flat roof can climb to between 150 and 200 degrees in summer months, exposed as it is under the hot sun. A green roof can bring that temperature down to the vicinity of 80 or 90 degrees, alleviating some of the stress on the building’s air-conditioning system and burning less energy to cool it.

I’m sure I don’t have to explain the implications of this for helping to cool data centers, provided they’re in the right location. As it turns out, it would seem there are at least a few people out there who got that idea as well.

May 15, 2008  1:59 PM

Diligent is ready for its blue wash

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

IBM hasn’t said much about its roadmap plans for Diligent Technologies since buying the VTL dedupe vendor last month, but Diligent CEO Doron Kempel filled me in on some details this week at Storage Decisions.

Kempel still has no title at IBM but he’s working on the integration and product development roadmap that stretches through 2009. First on the list is a clustered system. Diligent was close to completing a two-cluster beta release when the deal went down, and those plans continue.

“Nobody has clusters for inline deduplication,” Kempel said. Data Domain is also working on a clustered system and NEC HydraStor dedupes across the nodes in its grid, but Kempel thinks Diligent will come out ahead in performance. “To cluster inline, you need indexes in memory to be in sync,” he said. “It took us 24 months to develop this technology, and I believe we won’t see something similar any time soon.”

The next step is what Kempel calls a “blue wash,” which means IBM will put its GUI on Diligent’s ProtectTier and begin shipping it on IBM hardware. He expects that to happen by the end of 2008. Then in 2009, plans call for IBM/Diligent to add replication followed by a NAS interface and IBM mainframe support for ProtectTier dedupe.

Diligent had planned to hire 30 engineers this year, but Kempel said that number is now 50 after the sale. He also said Diligent had around 200 customers at the time of the acquisition, with about half of them coming through its reseller deal with Hitachi Data Systems. IBM and HDS are saying the partnership will continue post-acquisition.  

May 15, 2008  10:19 AM

Brocade off to great start in ‘08 — but only in services

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

 Brocade is off to a great start in 2008 … if the vendor’s goal is to morph into a services company.

Brocade reported revenue from last quarter of $354.9 million Wednesday night. That’s up 3 percent from last year, and ahead of Brocade’s guidance and Wall Street expectations. But the increase comes largely from services revenue, which grew 32 percent over last year. Brocade’s product revenue actually dropped 2 percent from last year, with edge switches down sharply. <P>

Brocade execs point out that revenues usually fall in the first quarter of the year and this year’s drop was less than usual. But they also gave lower guidance than expected for this quarter, blaming it in part on the macroeconomic conditions that they played down a few quarters ago.

Perhaps that’s why on the day after its revenue upswing, Brocade’s stock price today opened 12 cents below yesterday’s close and analyst Shebly Seyrafi of Caris & Company downgraded the stock from Buy to Average.

Looking past the numbers, as the quarter ended there are questions about nearly all of Brocade’s most important current and future products.

Directors. Brocade says its new DCX Backbone director did better than they expected, and director revenue increased 19 percent from last year. Still, Brocade’s short-term success with the DCX could depend on how fast Fibre Channel over Etherenet (FCoE) ramps. Its rival Cisco is betting on customers going to FCoE sooner rather than later, with 8-gig switches not planned before the fourth quarter (Cisco will demo 8-gig cards for its MDS 9513, 9509, and 9506 directors next week at EMC World), while Brocade is counting on widespread adoption of 8-Gbps Fibre Channel well before FCoE. In any case, it might take customers a while to figure out their next move — which will delay sales.

Switches. Revenue from Brocade’s edge switches fell 2 percent from the previous quarter and 16 percent year over year. Did somebody say iSCSI? At least one financial analyst thinks the increase in director sales and decrease in switch sales shows customers are keeping FC for enterprise implementations but switching to iSCSI for smaller storage rollouts.

“We believe the low-end FC switching market could be under pressure from the rapid growth of the iSCSI market,” Kaushik Roy of Pacific Growth wrote in a note to clients today. “The iSCSI protocol seems to be a good enough solution at the present time for the low-end storage connectivity.”

HBAs. Brocade CEO Mike Klayman said one major OEM qualification (probably IBM or HP) of the new HBAs is coming soon, with significant revenue coming next year. Still, Brocade execs hedged when asked if they still expect HBAs to make up 10 percent of its revenue within a few years.

FCoE. Brocade walks a tightrope with FCoE, wanting to be seen as a technology leader without pushing the standard on customers too quickly and risk hurting its 8-gig sales. That’s why Klayko said Brocade had one design win for FCoE, then in the next breath added that it will cost more than FC at the start and everybody is cost-conscious these days. As for the design win, Klayko said, “We just wanted to make a statement we’re clearly in the market with competitive products.” In other words, Cisco/Nuova isn’t the only game in town for FCoE switches.

May 13, 2008  11:20 AM

EDS acquisition makes HP Avis to IBM’s Hertz

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

HP announced this morning that it will pay $13.9 billion for IT services company Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in a transaction expected to close in the second half of the year. EDS will remain a separate business unit known as “EDS, an HP company.”

This acquisition — HP’s largest since Compaq — makes HP the second-largest computer company in the world, behind IBM. The scuttlebutt is that’s no coincidence, that EDS is meant to help HP match IBM Global Services specifically. EDS was second-place finisher in annual worldwide services revenue with $22 billion, behind only IBM’s $54 billion, according to the New York Times. There’s also a history of HP and IBM jockeying for position in services. HP tried to buy another consulting firm, Pricewaterhouse Coopers Consulting (PwCC) in 2000, and lost out to IBM.

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff, blogging about today’s acquisition, sheds some light on those events and how they may have led to the Compaq merger:

When last we saw this play, it was with Carly Fiorina in the role of HP CEO looking to spend a reported $17 to $18 billion on Pricewaterhouse Coopers Consulting (PwCC) in 2000. A lousy set of quarterly results turned in by HP helped to scotch that deal. Nor did it help that a lot of observers thought that HP was offering way too much for an organization with $6.7 billion in annual revenues (2001) and about 33,000 employees. IBM seemingly provided evidence of this view when it bought PwCC in 2002 for only about $3.5 billion. (A bit of an unfair comparison given the economic and other events of 2001, but still…) Carly went on to get her acquisition kicks by gobbling up Compaq instead.

So what’s different this time around? According to Haff, it’s not the idea, but its execution. Rather than looking to pay 2x the revenues of PWC, this time HP spent less than the $22 billion annual revenue of EDS. Haff also points out, “Mark Hurd has made remarkably few changes to HP’s strategic direction since he took over. . . .The difference from times past is that Mark has a track record for keeping things ship-shape.”

Tom Foremski at Silicon Valley Watcher, commenting on rumors of the deal yesterday, pointed out some of the risks that HP still faces, such as a falling stock price for EDS in recent months and the potential for such a large acquisition to be a drain on the company. “HP would still need to gain a high-end IT consultancy business in order to compete with IBM,” he added.

Meanwhile, HP is far from slowing its services campaign, also reportedly in talks to  buy billions of pounds worth of data center facilities from British Telecom in the UK, presumably the better to make a matching European services push. I wonder if somewhere in the midst of all this is a plan to take on EMC’s Fortress as well, and redeem Upline at the same time.

The EMC factor is another interesting wrinkle. According to a note sent out by Wachovia analyst Aaron Rakers this morning, EMC shares could come under pressure from the deal because EDS is one of its preferred partners. “Some industry sources suggest that EDS could generate as much as $200 million in EMC revenue. In Apr 08, EMC extended its EDS relationship with new Information-centric Consulting Services (leveraging RSA offerings).” Other members of EDS’ partner program include Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle and Xerox.  

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