Storage Soup

March 30, 2009  10:06 PM

WD dives in to SSDs

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Drive maker Western Digital is looking to hop on to the solid-state drive bandwagon by paying $65 million for a company that has the technology.

WD today completed a cash acquisition of SiliconSystems, Inc. of Aliso Viejo, Calif., a supplier of solid-state drives for the embedded systems market. The SiliconSystems’ product portfolio includes solid-state drives with SATA, EIDE, PC Card, USB and other interfaces in 2.5-inch, 1.8-inch, and other form factors. WD plans to develop new solid-state offerings to be embedded in OEM systems with the new intellectual property.

Depending on who you talk to, SSDs could become the new tier 1 in storage over the next several years. Not everyone shares such a bullish outlook, but it’s clear to drive makers like WD and Seagate that they must have an offering in this space to compete. Forward Insights president and analyst Gregory Wong sees the acquisition as the only way for WD to develop a competitive offering at this point, noting on his blog today that WD “dabbled” in SSD technology in the early 1990’s.

“However, it appears that early experience wasn’t enough for a latecomer to catch up to the vast improvements in performance and reliability made by SSD vendors recently,” he wrote. “System-level solutions particulary on the firmware side are required to manage the increasing complexities of NAND flash with each new technology generation.”

Wall Street analyst Aaron Rakers of Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research wrote in a note to investors Monday that he expects to see the combined entities focus on positioning embedded SSDs in blade servers.

March 30, 2009  5:48 PM

Fujitsu reorganizes in North America

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Three Fujitsu entities are consolidating into a new company called Fujitsu America, the better to align sales according to customer segment rather than specific products.

Fujitsu Consulting, Fujitsu Computer Systems and Fujitsu Transaction Solutions, a retail-equipment business unit, will be combined in the new North American entity, headed up by CEO Farhat Ali. The reorganization divides the sales force into six vertical-market focus areas–healthcare, public sector, telco, manufacturing, financial services and retail.

“We were hearing from clients that various salespeople have come to them but don’t understand the full picture of their industry,” Ali said. “Customers want to know, ‘what do you know about my industry and what are competitors in this industry doing?'”

The first offering under this new plan will be a retail product links Fujitsu’s GlobalStore point of sale application with Fujitsu’s back-end server and storage hardware systems. That’s the most well-developed so far of Fujitsu’s “total value propositions,” meant to deliver an end-to-end IT infrastructure to support a vertical-specific application. Next up is healthcare.

“The front office is really a storefront,” Ali said. “In healthcare we’ve mostly focused on tablet PCs, but we can also add point-of-sale kiosks and integration with medical applications provided by vendors like Cerner through business process management software to connect the two.”

As for storage, the business plan isn’t quite as specifically defined, but Ali said the company has hired several former Veritas/Symantec veterans to strengthen the company’s understanding of storage. The new entity will also become the world’s fourth largest professional services company, behind IBM, Hewlett-Packard/EDS, and Accenture, “depending on the dollar-yen exchange rate,” Ali said.

Fujitsu’s not the only systems vendor to refocus according to customer segments lately. Dell Inc. also reorganized in January and refocused business divisions according to whether their customers fit into small, medium or large enterprise categories.

March 27, 2009  6:18 PM

03-26-2009 Storage Headlines

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Stories referenced:

(0:25) Dell officially launches PS6000 iSCSI SANs
(2:33) Quantum DXi users report slow restores after power loss
(3:29) Seagate introduces BlackArmor NAS boxes
(4:04) The Planet expands cloud cover
(5:41) Compellent picks STEC solid state drives
(6:46) Carbonite sues Promise Technology for unreliable storage

March 25, 2009  8:18 PM

Analysts see EMC/Dell relationship fading

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Despite both companies’ protestations to the contrary last year, analysts on Wall Street and in the storage industry still see the coziness between the two companies trending down in the wake of Dell’s PS6000 Series launch today.

As part of its announcement today, Dell noted that the EMC NX-4 array it’s reselling is now shipping. Although Dell did not immediately qualify the product after EMC’s launch, Dell’s senior manager of storage Travis Vigil said “joint customers are still asking for us to produce more joint solutions together.”

But some industry-watchers see a different picture. Wall Street analyst Aaron Rakers of Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research sent out a note to clients today in response to the announcement pointing out a decline in Dell-generated revenues for EMC Clariion and the PS6000’s potential competitiveness with the EMC disk array:

Dell’s continued push with its EqualLogic iSCSI SAN arrays remains important to EMC … as a headline negative. For its January 2009 quarter, Dell had reported that its Dell/EqualLogic revenue grew more than 100% yr/yr [year over year], which implies that the company’s organic storage revenue decline in the mid/high-single digit yr/yr range. The company had reported that PowerVault (low-end NAS) revenue grew solid double digits yr/yr, which implies even weaker Dell/EMC CLARiiON revenue. EMC generated 10.9% of its 4Q08 revenue through Dell, of which the company reported that Dell had accounted for approximately 25% of the company’s total midrange CLARiiON revenue (Emphasis in the original)…

This is down from the disclosed 30-35% Dell/EMC CLARiiON contribution reported a year ago. The new Dell/EqualLogic PS6000-series scales up to a total capacity of 576TB (PS6500E), which compares to EMC’s CLARiiON CX4-series (introduced in August 2008) that currently scales up to 960 drives or up to 951TB in the high-end CX960. The new PS6000E arrays could be positioned competitively against the CLARiiON CX4-240/480 arrays with 231TB and 471TB, respectively. It remains important to note that Dell/EqualLogic systems are iSCSI SAN only (i.e., no FC-based SAN support), which we believe to be the way Dell is positioning CLARiiON relative to EqualLogic.

Other industry sources tell me Dell is positioning Clariion different relative to EqualLogic, specifically leading with Clariion when FC is asked for but now when the customer requires iSCSI or “unified” storage.

. “I think they continue to sell it those customers who want a traditional FC storage system, but they lead with EqualLogic and the value of modular, scale out storage system until the customer asks for something else,” Forrester Research analyst Stephanie Balaouras said. “That’s my analysis, not anything Dell has communicated. Every storage vendor out there knows that in tough economy it can’t be business as usual. It’s the right time to lead with different storage approaches and systems.”

However, even if the relationship is on the decline, it’s unlikely that a breakup is imminent. “It is a marriage of convenience,” said Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) founder and senior analyst Steve Duplessie. “But it really works. They sell a lot of stuff because of each other. Dell’s got great coverage in places EMC isn’t.”

Duplessie said he’s detected the same tension others are picking up on. “You talk to them and you can see it in their faces,” he said. “They both want to be in control. Dell can’t be happy to see [EMC CEO Joe] Tucci onstage with [Cisco CEO John] Chambers talking about blades, and conversely, if you’re EMC, you can’t be too happy to see Dell buy EqualLogic.”

But, Duplessie added, “if it ain’t broke…it’s not like money is easy to come by these days. I would be stunned if either one of them deliberately ended [the relationship]. I think it would be evolution and a kind of Darwinism that runs its course.”

March 24, 2009  6:21 PM

Carbonite sues Promise Technology for unreliable storage

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Online backup service provider Carbonite is suing Promise Technology, claiming that the storage vendor’s arrays did not perform to specifications and prevented Carbonite users from restoring their files.

The lawsuit, as reported by the Boston Globe, was filed in Suffolk Superior Court last week and alleges that Carbonite “suffered “substantial damage” to its business and reputation from products manufactured by Promise Technology Inc. and marketed to Carbonite by Interactive Digital Systems Inc,” which is also named in the suit.

According to the Globe story and other reports over the last several days, Carbonite alleged that it lost 7500 customers’ data in several separate incidents because of the problem with Promise, but Carbonite’s CEO has since released a statement saying that number is misleading:

On March 21, The Boston Globe reported that Carbonite is suing one of its vendors for defective hardware that was purchased in 2007. This lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred nearly two years ago. The article (and subsequent coverage by other outlets) references court documents which say that Carbonite “lost the backups of over 7,500 customers.” It is possible that readers will walk away from this with the impression that 7,500 customers were unable to restore their files from Carbonite. This is not the case. Let me explain.

All of the affected customers had their backups re-started immediately and automatically. A small number of these customers had their PCs crash before their re-started backups were complete. These customers were unable to restore all off their files from Carbonite. We took full responsibility for what happened, and I did my best to apologize personally to each of these customers.

We addressed the technical issues that caused the above problems, and in the nearly two years since the incident, we have not encountered further problems. That said, our lawsuit seeks a refund for the defective products we were sold.

The obvious question becomes, why is Carbonite suing two years later if there have been no further problems? If there have been no further problems, how can Carbonite prove damage to its business and reputation? It sounds like PR-wise, Carbonite is trying to do two different things at once: present a dramatic story to the court in the hopes of winning the lawsuit, while minimizing the drama to its potential customers who may be reading in the press. They probably can’t have it both ways.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Promise sent the following statement to Storage Soup this afternoon:

We have looked into Carbonite’s allegations and believe that they have no merit. Our investigation indicates that our products were neither implemented nor managed using industry best practices. … We look forward to a successful conclusion to this matter that demonstrates the quality of our products and our overall commitment to the customer.

I will give Carbonite points for chutzpah, though. Imagine if every enterprise storage user sued their vendor over problems like this. It’s a pretty good indication that storage for cloud services will be under high scrutiny, even as every storage vendor tries to climb aboard the cloud bandwagon.

March 23, 2009  3:29 PM

Compellent picks STEC solid state drives

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Compellent today filled in details about its solid state drive strategy, revealing it will offer 146 GB ZeusIOPS SSDs from STEC for its Storage Center systems.

Compellent will preview the SSD drives at its C-Drive user conference May 3-7, but hasn’t disclosed pricing or availability. Its press release today did say Compellent will package SSDs in a two-drive minimum, which it considers enough for a successful tier 0 approach.

Compellent executives first disclosed plans to include SSD late last year, but talked more about its block-level automated data migration for making solid state more efficient than about the actual hardware until today.

During the company’s earnings conference call last month, CEO Phil Soran predicted Compellent could deliver SSDs at about 10% the cost of competing systems by putting only active blocks of data on solid state while keeping inactive data on spinning disk.

It remains to be seen if Compellent can make good on those claims, but users and analysts say automated data migration will play a major role in helping SSD gain traction in enterprise storage. Compellent appears to have an advantage here, even if it trails EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard and others in shipping SSDs.

All those vendors are also using STEC drives, as are Sun and IBM. EMC, first out with SSDs on enterprise storage, last week added support for 200 GB and 400 GB drives.

March 20, 2009  3:08 PM

03-19-2009 Storage Headlines

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Hmmm…what could our top story be this week?

In case you missed ’em:

(0:25) IBM reportedly wants Sun for $6.5B
(1:45) Dell/EqualLogic prepares SSD IP SAN
(2:57) Cisco pushes into servers; storage’s role undefined
(3:50) EMC strengthens Iomega NAS
(4:27) CA makes its SRM more virtualization-friendly

March 19, 2009  6:01 PM

Would SunBM leave NetApp users in the lurch?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

IBM and Sun–East Coast meets West Coast?

It’s the talk of the IT industry this week, whether you’re in servers, software, or storage–the Wall Street Journal report that IBM is in talks to acquire Sun for — let me write this out — six point five biiiiiiiiiiiilllion dollars. Also known as a 100% premium on current Sun valuation.

I know storage isn’t the major focus of the deal, and it’s more likely driven by Hewlett-Packard, Dell and perhaps server newcomer Cisco putting pressure on IBM’s other divisions. But when it comes to storage, if this merger does take place, all I can see right now is a hot mess. A hot mess with tentacles, even.

It’s not just that both IBM and Sun have less-than-ideal track records when it comes to assimilating recent large storage acquisitions–i.e. Sun’s $4.1 billion attempt to swallow StorageTek and last year’s smaller debacle with IBM’s XIV product. Or that, as former Sun evangelist and current consultant with Capstone Technology Taylor Allis put it, such a merger would represent a culture clash–“East Coast company with its strength in business acumen meets West-Coast Bermuda shorts technology innovation.”

As far as storage goes, one of Sun’s strongest revenue streams is the declining tape market. But what really catches my attention about this possible merger is the tangled web of conflict it would create in the rest of the storage market.

Two major problems stand out immediately, though one of them is the granddaddy of the other. First there’s the matter of high-end disk arrays to consider. IBM has been knocked for its lack of innovation in its DS series of arrays, but has also steadfastly insisted it’s going to keep selling them. There’s already some positioning to work out in the portfolio between the DS series and XIV, and if this merger goes through, you can throw Sun’s longstanding partnership with HDS for high-end disk arrays into the mix. Analytico’s Tom Trainer suggested to me once that IBM may consider OEMing a product from one of its rivals in high end storage, but would they really do such a thing?

Whether they do or don’t sell HDS, there would most assuredly be a struggle over which direction to go. While we’re at it, what of FalconStor, still a partner to Sun for VTL but dropped by IBM in favor of Diligent? “They would have to have colossal arguments,” said Allis. “Between the mix of cultures and a lot of product overlap, it would be a long, painful road.”

But the really  big storage elephant in the room here is NetApp.

IBM OEMs practically NetApp’s entire product line as the N series. NetApp claims Sun steps on its WAFL toes with ZFS, and there’s an ongoing lawsuit over the matter. If IBM acquires Sun, does NetApp sue its own best partner? Does IBM drop NetApp? Does IBM attempt to make Sun and NetApp play nice together? Would acquiring Sun amount to IBM taking a position in the copyright fight, where Sun already claims to be winning?

Are any of those scenarios particularly palatable, especially for customers who are invested in IBM’s N-series precisely because it has the IBM brand associated with it, and therefore ostensibly an assurance that IBM would stand behind that product?

Regardless, those considerations probably will be subsumed in favor of the potential combination of OpenSolaris and ZFS with the “software mainframe” idea VMware has been advancing. It’s no secret IBM is enamored with the cloud, and will need a strong strategy and offering in that space. “The embedded storage capabilities in ZFS like software RAID baked into the operating system are similar to DFSMS in the mainframe world,” Allis pointed out. And at least one partnership deal could be simplified in the merger, as both IBM and Sun OEM LSI storage.

Far be it for me to question the value of the software mainframe. That’s not my beat. But if this deal goes through, the storage industry had better buckle up.

March 17, 2009  5:43 PM

StoneFly makes SSD iSCSI SANs a trend

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

It turns out Dell/EqualLogic isn’t the only vendor with an all-iSCSI SAN system that supports solid state drives (SSDs).

StoneyFly actually beat Dell to its official announcement of the PS6000 today with its rollout of the Voyager, an active-active midrange IP SAN. Voyager is available with Intel X-25E SSDs, or SAS or SATA drives. It also includes a 10-Gigabit Ethernet option – something that is apparently still on the drawing board at Dell.

It seems like just yesterday – or maybe this morning – that SSDs were considered something for super high performance tier 0 applications. Is anybody using iSCSI for that?

StoneFly product manager Jame Ervin says demand is high for SSD as well as 10-GigE.

“We have customers ready to go with SSD the minute it’s available,” she said. “They’re looking for any performance benefit they can get.”

As for 10-gigE, Ervin says it has the greatest appeal among service providers. “Those type of customers seem to have the most interest so far. They seem to be ahead of the game adopting new technologies,” she said.

IDC research analyst Liz Conner doesn’t expect SSD to be a large selling point for iSCSI before 2010, but with iSCSI use growing and budgets shrinking it’s worth taking a look at now.


“I see it popping up more for Fibre Channel SANs, but it will happen with iSCSI,” Conner said. “Most people will go with Fibre Channel for high performance, but with iSCSI offering more high-end features and the way the economy is now, it’s more of an option.”

Conner says 10-gigE is inevitable for iSCSI. “They can say, ‘we’ve got it now, you won’t have to upgrade later,’” she said of StoneFly’s strategy.

March 16, 2009  9:15 PM

Cisco pushes into servers; storage’s role undefined

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Cisco execs led by CEO John Chambers spent 90 minutes today on a webcast telling groups spread around the world what most of the IT world already knew – it is getting into the server business. But to Cisco’s way of spinning it, it is going beyond servers to a new data center architecture that will include networking, virtualization, a unified fabric, the cloud, and storage.

Nobody spent much time talking about individual products during the webcast, which included partners from EMC, VMware, Intel, Microsoft, BMC Software, and Accenture. Cisco has a diagram of the main pieces of its Unified Computing System on its web site, although details such as general availability and pricing are still to come.

We still don’t know the role storage will play in Cisco’s new world either, although EMC CEO Joe Tucci appeared on the webcast to give his blessing and EMC blogger Chuck Hollis today applauded Cisco’s bravery. Cisco also listed NetApp, Emulex, and QLogic among its partners. Considering those vendors along with EMC are also Cisco’s core Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) allies, it seems as if FCoE is as far as Cisco’s storage plans go for now.

Chambers and other Cisco execs said today’s session was mainly about describing an architecture and partner ecosystem with more product details to follow. And Tucci hinted that EMC will work more closely with Cisco’s unified computing products than it does with Cisco’s MDS Fibre Channel switches. “We will make sure our storage systems are not only qualified with, but really tuned to bring value to this Unified Computing System,” he said.

It’s also important to consider those missing from Cisco’s ecosystem – server vendors Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell and Sun, and storage/networking connectivity rival Brocade. For Cisco to succeed with its new unified architecture, it must successfully compete with those vendors who also partner with most of Cisco’s unified computing allies. And in the case of the server vendors, Cisco is going head-to-head with its own Ethernet partners.

So Cisco’s unified computing may play a divisive role with other key technology players. While Cisco customers may be eager to sign on, how will those who prefer open interfaces and standards react?

“Cisco has to get an entire ecosystem participating for its technology to really go into next phase,” StorageIO Group analyst Greg Schulz says. “To go into that market full tilt, they have to step all over IBM, Sun, HP, and potentially Intel white box customers. Are they really serious about wanting to take market share from their key partners? And how will the others respond?”

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