Storage Soup

March 11, 2008  3:12 PM

VMware vs. Partners: chatter about conflict increases

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Our friends at Homeland Security are known to use the term “chatter” to refer to the level of terrorist communications they’re intercepting at any given time. Any large consortium of humans will have its own chatter, with its own quirky patterns and trends, and the storage market is no exception.

Right now, in the wake of VMworld Europe, there’s quite a bit of chatter going on about developing conflicts between VMware and its partners, especially in storage.

Hmm, now where have I heard that idea before?

Still, where earlier discussions on this blog have been purely speculative, some new articles and posts have surfaced that push the observation further toward reality. There are those who continue to pooh-pooh the idea, but Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf, whom I interviewed for the post linked above, came away from discussions with partners at VMworld Europe seeing Storage VMotion as more disruptive to VMware’s alliances than ever:

…it did not take long for me to realize that storage vendors were not exactly singing Storage VMotion’s praises. Instead, many storage vendors were still feeling Storage VMotion’s sting. Why should they care about a new storage value-add in ESX 3.5? Vendors that offer storage virtualization as an integral part of their products have seen one of their key value-adds move to the ESX hypervisor and as a result see Storage VMotion as a threat to their bottom line.

Then, our SearchITChannelcom sister site published an article today about how channel partners, too, are feeling conflicted over VMware:

Some VMware partners are blaming the company’s rapid ascent and aggressive strategy in the server virtualization market for creating channel conflict.

VMware’s strategy, according to these value-added resellers (VARs) and independent software vendors (ISVs), has been to fill gaps in its market coverage by acquiring partners in those specific segments and integrating new technologies into its hypervisor. And the more niche markets the vendor enters, the more competition it creates with its partners.

“They have a go-it-alone approach,” said Erik Josowitz, vice president of product strategy for Surgient Inc., a VMware ISV partner in Austin, Texas. “They’re predatory in a certain sense.”

News writer Colin Steele, who reported that story, has some further tidbits on his blog as well (though he brings up the Patriots’ 18-1 season in that post, which stings a little for yours truly).

It’s still not much more than a matter of opinion and conjecture at this point, but it looks to me like when it comes to VMware and its partners, especially in the storage market, the plot is thickening. 

March 11, 2008  9:44 AM

EMC/IDC report: in storage, corporations are getting personal

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

EMC and IDC have published an update to their Digital Universe report, which met with skepticism when it was originally published last March. We’re generally skeptical of vendor-sponsored analyst reports around here, too, but there was one data point that jumped out at me in this report: over the next three years, 70% of information will be created by individuals but 85% of it will be managed by corporations.

Even more interestingly, the report says the majority of that data created by individuals won’t be created consciously. We are sprouting digital “shadows” such as credit card numbers, bank records, health records, etc., which are increasingly used to identify us and conduct business in the modern economy.

So, to review, in the future, 70% of the information EMC makes money storing will be yours, but it probably won’t be controlled or even consciously generated by you.

EMC’s message around this report is that businesses are going to need to be more aware of this personal digital information, because it’s going to put strain on their storage systems, and also because given the statistics above, individuals are going to be counting on businesses to store and manage their information in a way that preserves privacy and the integrity of the data.

Even where corporate storage managers aren’t directly in the business of information retention for consumers, virtually everyone is going to have to worry about data “hygiene” with the increasing blend of business and personal information on portable devices such as laptops and PDAs. This is something my Storage Soup colleague Tory Skyers has thought and spoken a lot about, including some presentations at Storage Decisions, and it’s still a problem without a clear solution for many in corporate IT.  

For users already struggling with that issue, the EMC / IDC report has some further bad news:

  • The digital universe in 2007 – at 2.25 x 1021 bits (281 exabytes or 281 billion gigabytes) – was 10% bigger than we thought. The resizing comes as a result of faster growth in cameras, digital TV shipments, and better understanding of information replication.
  • By 2011, the digital universe will be 10 times the size it was in 2006.
  • As forecast, the amount of information created, captured, or replicated exceeded available storage for the first time in 2007. Not all information created and transmitted gets stored, but by 2011, almost half of the digital universe will not have a permanent home.

March 10, 2008  7:55 PM

NetApp really DOES have a heart

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau


My fellow children of the 80’s will remember an anti-smoking PSA by C3PO and R2D2 from back in the day that ends with plaintive line from C3PO, “R2? Do you really think I don’t have a heart?”

That image jumped to mind when I heard about NetApp’s rebranding efforts, which include a new advertising campaign with a disembodied human heart as the central image.

In addition to the heart imagery, NetApp has been a little like C3PO in other ways. According to its VP of corporate marketing Elisa Steele, the company decided to change its branding, name and image to try and break out of its “technical company” mold, which at this stage of its growth is holding it back from wider adoption. The company means to maintain its technical culture, but otherwise seems to want to become more than, well, an android.

Continued »

March 6, 2008  12:31 PM

FRCP looking like a PITW (Pain in the Wallet)

Tskyers Tory Skyers Profile: Tskyers

I’m not sure how we get all mired in TLA’s but this FRCP is going to be a PITA (pain in the you-know-where), because it’s a four-letter acronym!

I’ve been fielding quite a few requests for legal holds recently, and I’ve been tracking the storage used by legal holds on our SAN and tape library. Out of curiosity, I started doing research on the average length of a trial, then tabulating the cost of storing the data requested on WORM for that time.

Guess what I’ve found?Some trials last a loooooooong time, and the costs are not insignificant. Now I see why Beth has been ringing the alarm about FRCP.

My company has been very lucky — we have a great risk and legal team as well as solid policy.  But people will still sue if you have a business address. The incidental cost of keeping someone’s mailbox around for five years or so while they litigate (then appeal when they lose) is high, but can a company afford not to do so? What happens when you can’t produce an email to back up your side of a dispute? Worse still, what if the other side accuses you of damaging their case by not providing them with the emails they’ve requested?

There’s a “Safe Harbor” clause in the FRCP that absolves companies of responsibility if the company has — and strictly follows — a deletion and retention policy. This protects the company from falling afoul of the regulation, but does my act (as an end user) of deleting an email fall under the “Safe Harbor” clause?

Let me put on my lawyer hat. Okay, it’s on. I’ve seen some precedent that leads me to believe that simply having and following a policy is not enough. Say that, as a network administrator, I have a policy that strictly prohibits viewing pornography on a company network. I can communicate the policy, but if I don’t have measures in place to actively block pornography or follow up complaints about it, I may leave myself open to suit. Some of you may be thinking, “Why would you have a rule that you can’t look at pornography and not have a content filter in place?” My point exactly: Why have a deletion and retention policy, and allow people to do their own deleting and retaining?

This is going to get very esoteric and confusing (as many of our laws are), but what I took away from this article was this: If you allow me to do something, you may be implicitly approving of the behavior. Not to mention that while the employee viewing the pornography is breaking the rules and doesn’t have a case against me, what about the person walking by their terminal who sees it against their will?

So as it relates to e-discovery, if you allow me to delete my own emails, are you implicitly approving of me disobeying retention and deletion policy?

I started thinking about this a little deeper (which almost always spells trouble) and technically, it seems like I would have to have CDP in place and store every email entering and leaving every mailbox forever to be really covered against every contingency. Suppose I’m an end-user, and I delete an incriminating email, but then sue and claim I need the email to prove my case, and that you should have that email available. . .BUT my mailbox wasn’t backed up before I deleted the message. Are you, the respondent, still in hot water?

Implications abound here. Will SMBs that fall under some form of regulation — SOX, HIPAA, etc. — have to store every email forever? I’d love some readers to weigh in on this. Have any of you out there fought this battle with management? Do you know of any vendors that have products that address this particular issue?

I’m curious as to how deep this particular rabbit hole goes and how many folks have been forced to follow it to its logical end. Is there a crazy playing card there yelling “Off with their heads!!”?

March 6, 2008  10:32 AM

Japanese bank sues IBM over ‘difficult’ computer system

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with storage, but I got a chuckle out of this story from Reuters UK today about a lawsuit filed against IBM:

A small Japanese bank has slapped International Business Machines Corp with a $107 million lawsuit, saying the technology giant failed to properly deliver on a computer deal.

Suruga Bank, based in Shizuoka Prefecture west of Tokyo, hired IBM in 2004 to help overhaul its computer system, but later baulked [sic] at the proposed changes.

“We are suing because we decided it would be difficult to implement the system they suggested,” a spokesman for the bank said.

Kind of a dangerous precedent for storage vendors if this suit is successful, don’t you think?

March 5, 2008  3:47 PM

New data protection gadgetry hits the streets

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Two storage-related announcements came out of CeBIT this week that have turned a few heads.

The first is the FlashBack Adapter from thumb-drive king SanDisk. The device fits into the ExpressCard slot of a user’s PC, and automatically and continuously backs up and encrypts data onto a flash memory card. This way, to quote SanDisk, when “you’re at a conference and someone spills coffee on your laptop PC, shorting out the system and cutting you off from your presentation and notes. Or your computer slips out of your hands and crashes to the floor,” you can extract the memory card from the smoking wreckage, find another PC and be on your way.

The second announcement comes from a UK company called Retrodata, which is reportedly getting ready to release a do-it-yourself drive recovery system. The beast, which has yet to be photographed, reportedly weighs 75 kg (165 lbs.) and will be priced at around $7000. But for all you Austin Powers fans out there, it does come equipped with…”lasers”.


According to techchee, a blog dedicated to high-tech products:

The device uses laser-guided positioning to help it accurately extract platters from any 3.5 inch hard drive with minimal user intervention. What’s unusual element is that such devices normally require highly skilled operators, whereas the System P. EX can be used by a relative novice at a data recovery company.

Maybe if Retrodata plays its cards right, it’ll get an order for…one million dollars.


March 4, 2008  3:40 PM

Brocade buys data center expertise

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Brocade today said it intends to buy private professional services firm Strategic Business Systems, Inc. (SBS) today, a reflection of how services have become a big piece of large storage implementations.

According to Rob Buergisser, Brocade’s director of operations for service, support and solutions, about 80 percent of the type of services that SBS provides are similar to those Brocade already offers, such as storage assessment, disaster recovery and data migration. But it’s the other 20 percent that were key to the deal: SBS’s data center virtualization and network design and optimization.

These services are crucial if Brocade is to become more than a Fibre Channel fabric vendor and provide all the pieces required for its vision of the next-generation data center.

Data center virtualization got hot with the rise of VMware in recent years. As Buergisser says, “Backup and recovery is a high growth area for Brocade, and server virtualization fits into that. When you virtualize servers, that changes a lot of things in the data center.”

But the IP networking services SBS brings could be the most important part of the acquisition. Brocade needs Ethernet expertise if it is to compete with Cisco when converged networks take over the data center. It also needs Ethernet technology. I expect Brocade’s next big acquisition to be an Ethernet switching vendor (perhaps Woven Systems or Force 10 Networks) to fill in the gap in its next-gen data center architecture. For now, it will pump up Ethernet services with SBS. “They bring a lot of IP stuff,” Buergisser said, and IP stuff is something Cisco has plenty of and Brocade needs.

February 28, 2008  12:40 PM

Hard drives coming to a theater near you

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

At a media event for BlueArc in Boston yesterday, I spoke to Tom Burns, director of post-production infrastructure for Technicolor, about an interesting project going on with movie studios and storage.

It’s called the Digital Cinema Initiative, a joint venture of Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal and Warner Bros. Studios aiming to convert movie theaters from film projection to digital movie delivery on FireWire hard drives. Eventually, Burns told me, the studios want to move from delivering movies to theaters in heavy, expensive film prints to sending them on hard drives so they could be played through license keys.

If you think you’ve got problems with analog tape in the IT world, consider the plight of the movie projectionist, who must splice together film prints and align them just so on a massive platter more than a yard in diameter. Splice it wrong, and part of the movie will be upside down and backwards, and the whole thing will need to be unspooled from the platter and re-spliced. Film also often spontaneously unspools itself from the platter if not fed through the projector at the right speed. I worked at a movie theater in college and have seen this tangled, panicked phenomenon in action. It’s sometimes called a “brain wrap” for the looping patterns the loose film makes on the platter/floor, and it’s not pretty.

A move to digital delivery would make it easier for theaters to transfer movies between screens, as they frequently do to move older releases to smaller theaters to make room on bigger screens for the latest premieres. It could also potentially eliminate another custom of the film-projection world that’s costly in terms of time for the cinema: the tech screening. It’s usually done the night before a movie opens to make sure everything’s in proper working order. But this new technology has a downside for theater employees, who are often asked to be the audience for tech screenings to point out any flaws in the film. With those tech sceenings gone, theater employees would lose their free sneak previews.

Speaking of sneak previews, BlueArc execs gave customers, partners and the media a look at the 2008 overall strategy for the company, which still plans on going public. The SEC-imposed quiet period on BlueArc led to some humor in the form of a revenue-growth slide with no numbers on it. CEO Mike Gustafson gamely posed for a photo in front of it for me:

BlueArc CEO in front of a funny 'quiet period' revenue slide

February 27, 2008  9:07 AM

EMC serves up new pricing for Mozy

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

The Mozy online backup service has gotten considerably more expensive since EMC acquired it from Berkley Data Systems.

After buying Berkeley Data Systems for $76 million last October, EMC placed Mozy into its EMC Fortress group of services, expanded the product line to include an enterprise version and split its MozyPro for small businesses into two levels: desktop and server. But new customers must pay a heavy premium for their server backups.

In an email to customers, EMC said its MozyPro desktop service retain its price of $3.95 per license and 50 cents per GB while MozyPro server costs $6.95 per license and $1.75  per GB per month. That means a one-server license with 10 GB of storage that would cost $8.95 under the old model will be $24.95 under the new model. A 20-server license with 500 GB goes from $329 to $1,014.

Before EMC acquired Mozy, MozyPro included server backup in its single tier. It added features such as support for Microsoft Windows server OS, and VSS writer backup and restore to Exchange, SYSVOL and Active Directory to its server tier, but customers will pay a stiff price.

MozyPro customer Jason Powell, IT director at Granger (Indiana) Community Church, wrote about the price increase on his blog, concluding: “An approx (sic) quadrupling in price seems ridiculous to me, but what do I know?”

Roy Sanford, vice president of EMC Fortress, defended the price increase by saying it affects only one Mozy service and EMC is grandfathering the price for licenses purchased before March 1. “There’s nothing surreptitious going on here,” Sanford said in a statement emailed to “We’re not trying to institute enterprise pricing across the board. The price changes that were announced to customers affects only one out of five Mozy offers and certainly can’t be misconstrued as a price change across the board.”

EMC also offers a Mozy Enterprise service that was not available from Berkeley Data Systems. The Enterprise service costs $5.25 per month per desktop or laptop plus 70 cents per GB, and $9.25 per Windows Server plus $2.35 per GB protected per month.

Ridiculous pricing or not, Powell is considering an upgrade to Enterprise edition because it lets customers seed a 2 TB USB drive from EMC for their first backup instead of uploading data online.

“Guess I’ll be making some calls to Mozy this week and see what makes the most sense for GCC,” he wrote on his blog.

He may be getting calls from Mozy competitors. Online backup vendor Intronis Technologies already launched a Mozy Migration Plan to induce customers to switch. Intronis says it will charge no license fees for Mozy customers who switch.

February 22, 2008  9:57 AM

Apple’s move away from hardware lock-in to low-cost generic arrays is a shrewd one

Tskyers Tory Skyers Profile: Tskyers

I’ve been seeing the scuttlebutt about Apple and Promise Technology and couldn’t help but add my two cents about how many Promise arrays I’ve seen pop up lately.

Last week, while installing our IBM N-series, I saw a couple of admins installing a multi-shelf Promise array. Peering through the cages in one of our colo areas, I’ve seen quite a few Promise and generic arrays installed. Walking the aisles in the areas I have access to, I’ve seen a rapid uptick in the installation of Off-Broadway-brand array vendors.

We own a small (5TB) Promise V-Track array we use for limited duty validation and testing (we bought it before the Storevault was released). I like it — it certainly fills the need and it does what it’s supposed to do. I can buy any brand and size SATA hard drive I want and the management tools come with the product at no additional charge. I was able to set it up in about 30 minutes and after the drive initialization (took close to 24! hours) I was all set and ready to go, all without a PhD. I even did the guy thing and didn’t read the instructions! I don’t know about you, but I can’t really ask for more, considering the price.

I’ve seen the folks at Apple accused of being stupid or lacking foresight in the past (Steve, I’m still upset about my Newton!!). In recent years, the accusers have usually been dining on crow, given the fact that Apple’s products consistently create trends. (Anyone up for an iDog?) I firmly believe they know something about the trend towards lower-cost generic arrays using generic disks in generic trays, otherwise (at least in my mind anyway), a company that prides itself on solidly locking you into their hardware when you use their software would have gone with a more mainstream storage vendor, or simply re-branded something and inserted a v-chip.

You’ve read me typing this for a couple of blog posts now, but I’ll type it again: Small to midsized SANs for under $50,000 with simple software and easy to use interfaces are going to be the market in the coming years. I’ll go a step further and say the days of proprietary drive trays and “enterprise-class ” drives are numbered too.

I seem to recall another big vendor that often gets maligned for lacking foresight snapping up a low-cost storage array vendor recently.

More importantly, Apple knows how to make difficult things easy and stylish. Not to mention that people who OEM for Apple (Foxconn , Acer et al.) are quite happy pumping out the iWhatever. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see Promise doing the same.

If there was ever a company that could pull off making a product that does easy data migration … see where I’m going with this?

Couple Apple’s really-easy-to-use SAN software with low-cost generic arrays and you could have a quick rise to major player in the storage software market. . .for a company many thought would be out of business by now, bringing in another company that “real” storage vendors look down their nose at.

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