Storage Soup

October 28, 2008  4:01 PM

STORServer gives C-suite a forklift upgrade

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Data protection appliance vendor STORServer has a new management team, replacing president and CEO John Pearring with a president and a separate CEO, both promoted from inside the company.

Chief operating officer Laura Buckley takes over as president and Bob Antoniazzi moves up from VP of business development to CEO.   Buckley will continue as COO for the Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)-based backup appliance maker while working with the company’s directors. Antoniazzi will be responsible for exploring new market opportunities and business directions for the company, according to a STORServer press release that said Pearring left for personal reasons.

Antoniazzi told me today that the most likely way for the company to expand its products is to flesh out a line of virtual server appliances. STORServer added a virtual instance of its TSM-based backup software inside its hardware appliance a few months ago, but has yet to make it available without hardware. “Right now, we’re being cautious,” he said. “We’re shipping a physical appliance with a virtual appliance inside, tweaked and optimized according to customer requirements for performance and reliability–we can’t just say, ‘Here you go, put this on your own ESX server and good luck.’ I don’t think it’s responsible to do that now.” But that’s the goal eventually.

STORServer also recently announced support for email archiving, but Antoniazzi said “I don’t see us going and doing more new technologies for new technologies’ sake. Whatever we ship, we support, and we have to make sure our support organization is prepared on anything we add.”

Customers have also incquired about remote replication, data deduplication and support for cloud computing. “These are ideas that we will be investigating, but they’re not going out the door anytime soon,” he said.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse said STORServer’s got the right idea by adding virtual servers and email archiving features into the mix, but “I’m not sure they have the opportunity to adopt an all-virtual-appliance strategy. I don’t know what limitations might exist for distributing the OS their applications rely on. But it would be a good step for the lower end of the market. They may also have an opportunity to package up a solution for ROBOs, maybe using IBM’s FastBack.”

She added, “The other thing that is missing for them is just general awareness.  They are a great self-sustaining company with a decent channel, but have relatively low visibility in a crowded market.  Unfortunately, now it’s a tough economy to make big investments in that way.”

October 28, 2008  8:56 AM

NetApp cancels user conference, releases dedupe VTL

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

NetApp was supposed to hold its first-ever user conference, called NetApp Accelerate, in February, but yesterday put out a press release saying the conference has been cancelled.

“We had more customer interest in NetApp Accelerate than we anticipated,” said Elisa Steele, senior vice president, Corporate Marketing, in a statement. “But those same customers told us their travel budgets were being cut and it was difficult to commit to attending in today’s climate of economic uncertainty. For those reasons, we decided to cancel this year’s program.”

Wachovia financial analyst Aaron Rakers wonders if NetApp cancelled the conference to trim its own budget.

“While it is clear that economic conditions are resulting in more stringent expense controls at enterprises, we do find this as interesting; we believe possibly a result of NetApp’s own focus on operating expense control,”Rakers wrote in a note to clients.

NetApp said it will be release technical content that had already been prepared for the show between February and May next year.

Today, NetApp said its long-awaited data deduplication feature for its virtual tape library product has finally arrived. The feature, like NetApp’s primary storage dedupe, will be free for new and existing customers. NetApp has taken a contrarian approach to dedupe. It was the first major storage vendor to offer dedupe for primary data — building the capability into its operating system — but the last of the VTL vendors to add dedupe for backup.

October 27, 2008  6:19 PM

IBM takes on Mac backup

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

IBM and partner Effigent have released a co-developed product for backing up Mac desktops and laptops. Called CDP4Mac, an Apple OS X version of IBM’s CDP for Files desktop / laptop data backup software. Like the earlier Windows version of CDP for Files, CDP4Mac tracks changes to workstation files and can upload them to a USB device, centralized server or a designated URL when connected to a network. Effigent added the Mac interface and ability to recognize the Mac file system structure.

Apple has its own near-CDP backup product for OS X, called Time Machine, but an IBM spokesperson said Effigent and IBM had Apple’s support, including testing assistance, because CDP4Mac can also be used to backup Windows data if a Mac is running both operating systems without the need for separate clients. CDP4Mac can also do single instancing across files from both OSes.

This puts IBM into fresh competition with EMC, which offers both Retrospect and versions of its Mozy backup SaaS that support Mac, as well as Atempo’s LiveBackup CDP product. “There aren’t many solutions out there that support both Mac and PC,” said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Lauren Whitehouse. “Apple is very tuned to the Apple user.”

She added, “In the corporate environment, users first look to a storage vendor or a familiar partner for backup, rather than Apple, even if they’re running Macs.”

October 24, 2008  3:52 PM

Foundry delays vote on Brocade deal

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Foundry Networks today abruptly postponed its shareholders vote on its pending acquisition by Brocade, raising questions about whether the $3 billion deal will go through.

Brocade said on July 21 it would buy Ethernet switch vendor Foundry to expand its data center presence. Foundry shareholders were scheduled to vote on the deal today, but the company issued a press release saying the meeting was pushed back to next Wednesday because of “recent developments related to the transaction.”

Foundry did not say what those developments were, and Brocade spokesman John Noh said he could not comment. In a note to his clients, financial analyst Aaron Rakers of Wachovia Capital Markets wrote that Foundry investors are worried that Brocade either hasn’t been able to raise the $400 million in funding to go with the $1.1 billion loan it secured two weeks ago, or is trying to renegotiate terms of the deal.

“It is very hard for us to judge the outcome at this point, but we do believe Brocade has been very committed to the transaction and we believe investors could have meaningful questions on Brocade’s long-term growth story without this acquisition,” Rakers wrote.

October 24, 2008  1:24 PM

Dell prepares for converged networks, FCoE and iSCSI

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

During a conference call with storage reporters today to discuss the future for data center networking, Dell senior storage manager Eric Endebrock pointed to the convergence of Ethernet and Fibre Channel as inevitable. “Change is afoot,” he said. “FCoE is a more straightforward management infrastructure–the next generation of intercommunication for Fibre Channel.”

No suprise there. Practically every FC storage vendor is saying that. But where it gets tricky with Dell is, it dropped $1.4 billion in iSCSI SAN vendor EqualLogic less than a year ago. And where EqualLogic’s PS Series iSCSI SAN arrays fit into the converged picture isn’t clear yet.

“Protocols will not necessarily be the top factor in choosing the next storage system for customers,” Endebrock said. “We get caught up in the latest cool technology trend on [the vendor and press] side, but customers don’t necessarily care about that.” He added that lossless Ethernet “will float all storage boats” and that “customers see a place for all protocols.”

Also, “linking EqualLogic to iSCSI is probably not the best way to think about it–we also provide a scaling architecture and solve higher customer needs–it’s far more than just a protocol discussion.”

So far, Dell spokespeople aren’t willing to go into further detail about what its exact plan is for EqualLogic. “We continue to investigate our options and will support 10 Gigabit Ethernet as well as Data Center Ethernet with EqualLogic. We’re going to watch our customers’ needs and what the customers want,” Endebrock said.

A presentation at Storage Networking World titled “Yes, Fibre Channel and iSCSI Can Coexist” by director of global storage and network marketing Praveen Asthana, offered some clues about how Dell sees it all fitting together. “Mixed is in,” Dell’s Asthana said.  But he identified Ethernet as the glue–whether it’s providing the base layer of the unified network or providing a simple management and monitoring interface for all endpoints on an IP network.

While traditional Fibre Channel offers better performance for business applications than traditional iSCSI, it also offers better performance for streaming applications and high-performance computing (HPC) workloads, Asthana pointed out. But he also projected scale-out iSCSI, especially with 10 GbE, will surpass the performance offered by both earlier protocols.

FCoE is still  a topic that remains in the eye of the beholder. An attempt by FC vendors to stay relevant against 10 GbE? Or Ethernet taking over the data center? Depends on who you talk to.

Bottom line: Dell will support FC as long as it supports Clariion. Endebrock was mostly mum when it came to the relationship with EMC, as addressed by EMC CEO Joe Tucci in the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Wednesday. “Joe actually laid out that we have a great relationship and we’re actively working together on how to go to market on the best way possible, working on fitting our product lines together. We’re going back to basics and at the ground level refocusing on where we’ve seen success in the past.”

October 24, 2008  9:23 AM

Is dedupe recession-proof?

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

With the global economy crumbling, Data Domain is the rare company that not only exceeded its financial expectations for last quarter but actually raised its forecast for this quarter.

Data Domain’s third-quarter revenue of $75 million was up 134 percent from last year, and earned the company $3.2 million in net income. Data Domain expects revenue  this quarter to be between $80 million to $84 million and its estimate for the full year is between $269 million and $273 million, up from the previous estimate of $250 million to $255 million.

The data dedupe specialist proved that curbing data growth is a high priority in data centers these days even if companies are looking to trim storage budgets. Quantum also cited sales of its deduplication products as a highlight in an overall disappointing quarter, and EMC execs said on their earnings call this week that their Avamar host-based dedupe is selling well although they made no mention of the re-branded Quantum products they sell.

But while Quantum, EMC and others say they saw a spending slowdown in September and October, Data Domain execs say its full speed ahead. Data Domain CEO Frank Slootman said his company’s new bigger – and more expensive – DD690 system has been well received, and customers are moving beyond just using dedupe to for backup. Slootman said Data Domain systems are increasingly being used for nearline (archive) data.

“We saw normal spending patterns and behavior, even in the last week of September when all hell was breaking loose,” Slootman said. “If you didn’t watch CNBC, you wouldn’t know something was wrong with the world.”

Data Domain reported 10 deals of more than $1 million and two of more than $5 million, and the average deal grew to $131,700 from $108,000 the previous quarter. Slootman said even financial services companies are buying “because of the much bigger faster product we’re selling.”

Quantum also has a bigger dedupe product out – the DXi750 – and CEO Rick Belluzzo said it spurred an increase in disk and software revenue despite an overall loss of $3 million due to declining tape sales.

“The DXi7500 has tended to take us into bigger accounts and bigger deals, but those become a little harder to close,” Belluzzo said. “It’s clear the global financial crisis impacted our ability to close business at end of the quarter. We saw numerous sizeable deals fall out of the quarter, particularly on the DXi7500.”

Belluzzo said he hopes most of those big deals will close, and several already have. Quantum is clearly betting its future on disk backup fueled by deduplication and replication rather than its legacy tape business. Belluzzo said the vendor is also looking for more partners to license its dedupe IP as EMC has. One financial analyst says Quantum has a deal in the works with Dell. Dell hasn’t done much with dedupe yet, but senior manager of Dell storage Erick Endebrock  said on a conference call with reporters today there will be a dedup announcement “in the near future.”

October 23, 2008  3:07 PM

Plasmon to be taken private

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Several weeks after recommending to investors that they approve a bid by a private equity company to take over the struggling maker of optical storage media, Plasmon has been bought by an unidentified U.S. firm.

As a result of the deal, which earlier reports valued at $25 million, Plasmon has become Plasmon Holdings LLC, and will move its headquarters from the U.K. to the U.S. Plasmon will continue its strategy under CEO Steven Murphy of fitting its products in to users’ overall long-term archiving strategies (bolstered by partnerships with NetApp and IBM-FileNet) rather than focusing solely on the speeds and feeds of its optical media.

Murphy has been here before. He was CEO of Softek when it spun out of Fujitsu and went private in 2004. Last year, IBM acquired Softek for an undisclosed amount, and folded Softek’s host-based Transparent Data Migration Facility (TDMF) data migration software into its IBM Global Services (IGS) division,. 

October 23, 2008  11:34 AM

Sun denies reports that co-founder Bechtolsheim is leaving

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

The New York Times and BusinessWeek are reporting today that Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim is leaving the company (for a second time) to serve as chairman and chief development officer for a startup he funded. That company, Arista, will compete with Cisco in the 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) and cloud computing markets. Former Cisco exec Jayshree Ullal has been recruited as Arista’s CEO.

Reached for comment, a Sun spokesperson sent the following statement today:

There have been a few inaccurate articles published regarding the status of Sun co-founder, Andy Bechtolsheim. Sun can confirm that Andy will remain with Sun to continue his present involvement with the Sun Systems group in helping to drive new product architectures, including X64 servers and storage servers, and will continue to work on key strategic initiatives such as HPC. Andy will move to part-time work status and spend the remainder of his time involved in the start-up community where he worked prior to re-joining Sun in 2004.

The Times story does note that “he said he would retain a part-time advisory role at the company. ‘It’s my baby…I will always be associated with Sun’.”

Regardless of the semantics about Bechtolsheim’s work status, the move is another blow to Sun among many recently, from declining earnings to the impairment of goodwill for its StorageTek acquisition.

October 22, 2008  3:21 PM

EMC CEO hints at trouble in paradise with Dell

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Although EMC executives said sales of midrange Clariion systems were strong last quarter — up 12 percent from last year — the Clariion discussion wasn’t all hearts, roses and strong margins on its earnings call. Dell accounted for less than 30 percent of Clariion sales, down from  33 percent in the prior quarter.

Wall Street analysts estimated Dell Clariion revenues for the quarter were down 26% year over year and 12% sequentially. Aaron Rakers of Wachovia pointed out that Dell now accounts for 10.4% of EMC overall revenue, down from 12.3% in the second quarter and 15.8% a year ago.

For the first time since Dell acquired iSCSI SAN vendor EqualLogic last January, EMC CEO Joe Tucci acknowledged his long-time partner’s acquistion of its own SAN platform affected Clariion sales. “We’ve probably gotten a little off track,” he said. “As Dell bought EqualLogic, we diverged more than we should’ve.” Tucci added “there’s a lot more we could and should be doing together…we’re quickly and actively working to put plans in place to make this relationship even better.”

In the meantime, Tucci noted that EMC had built up new sales channels for Clariion, which negated the impact of the decline in Dell Clariion revenues.

Rakers called the Dell revelation “disappointing as [EMC] did note that it was ‘back on track’ with Dell during its prior quarter earnings call.”

October 22, 2008  11:13 AM

No massive spending slowdown for storage. . .yet

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Early results are in, and they indicate no massive spending slowdown for storage last quarter but vendors are bracing for one this quarter.

EMC hit expectations for last quarter while indicating customers may be cutting back. That reflects the trend of the other vendors who reported earnings this week.

Systems vendor Compellent realized its first profitable quarter with income of $464,000 a year after going public and a quarter ahead of its goal. QLogic reported higher revenue than expected, although it would have been on the low end of its forecast if not for a one-time royalty revenue benefit. Still, its HBA sales held up reasonably well despite a poor quarter from its larger OEM partner Sun.

VMware also did better than expected, and it’s no secret that virtual server sales bode well for networked storage sales.

Although the fourth quarter is usually strong for storage sales, forecasts are conservative for this quarter.  A lot of the conservatism comes from the gloomy reports from analysts and in the media almost daily as well as early signs that sales are slowing.

“We see a slight slowdown in October compared to the seasonality,” QLogic CEO H.K. Desai said during his company’s earnings conference call. “It’s supposed to be a strong month. We see some slowdown compared to what we have seen in the previous October or the first month of the quarter previously.”

VMware CFO Mark Peek said the percentage of enterprise licenses was down compared last quarter compared to the previous quarter as organizations buy only the licenses they need.

“Customers continue to proceed cautiously in their capital spending decision process,” he said. “In some instances, customers are deciding to forego larger discounts offered by enterprise license agreements and instead are choosing to buy for their immediate needs.”

Compellent CEO Phil Soran said he’s still hoping for an increase in spending among smaller shops, although Compellent’s  fourth-quarter revenue guidance of $25 million called for only a modest uptick from the$24.6 million it reported from last quarter.

“I think the mid-size enterprise customer is a little more resilient,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they’re not being hit by the economic environment, but I’ve seen some numbers, forecast in storage growths and it’s been hit hard at the large accounts, the enterprise accounts and the mid-size enterprise.”

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