Storage Soup

July 23, 2009  4:00 PM

LSI buys ONStor, enters NAS business

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

LSI Corp. acquired NAS vendor ONStor today, continuing the trend of storage acquisitions that likely will continue for at least a few more months.

LSI got a good price. It paid $25 million for a company that had close to $140 million in VC funding. But for now LSI isn’t talking about its plans for ONStor because it is in its “quiet period” ahead of its earnings report next Wednesday. An LSI spokesman said the company will talk about the acquisition on its earnings call.

But one thing is obvious. “Now LSI is in the NAS business,” StorageIO Group analyst Greg Schulz says. “LSI already sells storage to Dell, IBM, Sun, SGI and others. This is a golden opportunity to go in and provide a turnkey box to go in front of the boxes they already sell.”

ONStor was among the vendors talking IPO at the start of 2008, only to fall on hard times when the economy tanked. It completed a funding round of less than $10 million in December, with only existing VCs kicking in – apparently a move to keep it going long enough to get acquired.

ONStor also began a technology change this year, adopting the Zettabyte File System (ZFS) developed by Sun as its primary architecture and bringing out the ZFS-based Pantera LS2100 in April. The LS2100’s iSCSI support also brought ONStor into the multiprotocol storage market.

Because its NAS gateway is compatible with other vendors’ storage, ONStor has frequently partnered with SAN companies over the years – including Fujitsu Computer Systems, Nexsan, 3PAR, Pillar and LSI.

“That’s the appealing thing for LSI,” Schulz says. “They could put ONStor in front of any arrays.”

LSI sells its SAN systems exclusively through OEMs — mainly IBM – while ONStor has its own set of partners and sells everything under its own brand. That raises an interesting set of questions:
Will LSI sell NAS only through OEMs, or will it sell NAS through the LSI or ONStor brand?

Will LSI compete with its partner IBM on the NAS front, will it try to replace NetApp as IBM’s NAS partner, or will it offer IBM an alternative NAS platform?

With ONStor’s ZFS support and its own background as Sun’s midrange SAN supplier, will LSI go after the Sun midrange storage market if Oracle changes Sun’s storage strategy?

Will LSI use ONStor’s file virtualization capabilities as part of the SVM (Storage Virtualization Manager) platform it picked up in its acquisition of StoreAge in 2006?

Hopefully LSI will begin to shed light on some of these issues next week.

July 22, 2009  4:35 PM

Kroll OnTrack offers data recovery for NetApp

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

An interesting little tidbit crossed my inbox yesterday – an announcement from Kroll OnTrack, which specializes in recovering damaged or unreadable hard disks (we covered some of their recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina). According to the company’s press release, it “can now offer NetApp users a trusted and viable option to address data loss for the Data OnTap platform.”

The press release referred specifically to snapshots:

As NetApp OnTap provides users with Snapshots (automated, point-in-time backup), this new technology is critical as sometimes the snapshots are purged before the creation of a more permanent backup is created [sic] (i.e. when there are gaps between snapshots and backups) – as such, the data is lost and no longer available to the NetApp storage system. The new technology allows for the recovery of these snapshots by essentially ‘turning back the clock’ on a NetApp FAS system enabling Ontrack Data Recovery engineers to restore the data to its last Snapshot state.

I followed up with Kroll yesterday to find out if this is the first in a series of offerings for major storage vendors. After all, they all offer snapshots.

This was the response I got from a spokesperson:

The NetApp solution was actually developed in response to customers requests – a “just in time” solution. They may develop solutions for other storage vendors, but they have not had many requests at this time.

Another line that jumped out at me in the press release:

the company also offers a hardware solution beyond NetApp’s RAID-DP safeguard. While RAID-DP allows for the failure of two disks in a system, Kroll Ontrack provides an additional layer of protection when more than two drives fail and before a rebuild occurs.

I also followed up on this, to clarify whether Kroll was releasing a data protection product or if they meant something else. The response:

This may be misleading in the press release. It’s not that [Kroll has] an additional product/solution. What they are saying is that in addition to the ability to recovery from software failure (the snapshots), they are also able to recovery from Hardware failures (the RAID-DP). So when the RAID-DP fails, they can still recovery from the system as well.

When the RAID-DP fails?

If you read between the lines here, it seems like the case of purged snapshots is what drove the initial recovery from a specific customer or customers, and Kroll is now trying to advertise it as a generally available service. The snapshot issue could arguably have been caused by user error, and there’s no indication the RAID-DP service has actually been used “in anger.” But I can only imagine that for NetApp, seeing this press release must’ve been like a landlord reading about Orkin offering a special for its pest control services on one of his buildings. The implications are not explicit, but they’re there.

July 22, 2009  4:26 PM

Google-watchers uncover clues on possibly impending GDrive

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

I didn’t realize before today that there is such a rich niche community of bloggers focused solely on watching every move Google makes.

Color me more educated after I ran across some detective work by two bloggers today in my Google Reader (make of that what you will) which makes a case that Google is preparing to launch a long-rumored cloud file storage service known as GDrive.

Tony Ruscoe at Google Blogoscoped described GDrive this way: “the most eagerly anticipated Google product ever, with rumors literally going back years.” In January, he pointed out a reference to a “Google Web Drive” option in a beta release of Google’s photo-sharing software, Picasa, for Mac. Ruscoe also published a post that month in which several more tantalizing hints toward a possible Google Web Drive were uncovered in cached copies of Google documents in search engines (irony, anyone?).

Fast forward to this morning, and another blog dubbed Google Operating System, tagline, “An unofficial blog that watches Google’s attempts to move your operating system online,” posted on more possible clues in the latest update to the Google Docs interface:

The new interface of Google Docs, which is slowly rolled out to all users, brings the service one step closer to an online storage service. The “items by type” menu replaced “PDFs” with “Files”, suggesting that Google Docs will allow users to upload any type of files.

On the one hand, GDrive has been rumored and “impending” for years. On the other hand, with competitors like Amazon and Microsoft launching cloud storage services, it seems like a no-brainer for Google to want to compete in trendy cloud storage. But will this be the year? Stay tuned…

July 21, 2009  9:06 AM

Group Logic looks to ease Mac integration headaches for file archives

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

The maker of software that connects Mac workstations with Windows servers is launching a new product  that it claims will prevent “bad Mac behavior” with data archive stub files.

Group Logic’s main product is ExtremeZ-IP, software used to connect Mac clients with Windows servers. According to CEO Reid Lewis, a problem can arise when Mac clients are attached to Windows file servers where a file archiving program is leaving stubs.

Apple’s Mac OS X operating system includes features for end users called Quick Look, which shows users a preview of documents in the OS X file system. According to Lewis, the call that Quick Look makes to the primary file share can make archiving software think the files are being called back from the stub location. “When the Mac tries to render a prieview, the archive sees that as a read and bumps the file back up to primary storage.” It’s easy to imagine a scenario from there where a quick flip through all the contents of a folder could clog up the primary file server, Lewis added.

Group Logic’s new ArchiveConnect software, when installed on the Mac client, can provide a translation that allows for Quick Look while preventing stub files in the archive from being restored during a preview operation. Group Logic is charging $1.60 per GB of archive data addressed by Mac clients, and contemplating a per-client licensing scheme as well.

It’s a niche issue, said Brian Babineau, senior analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), and it would be easier for users if this kind of integration came directly from an archiving vendor rather than a third party.

However, he added, non-Windows applications remain an area that has largely been ignored in the enterprise archiving world to date. “We rare all aware of the benefits file archiving can bring–however, Mac environments that need archiving need more than just HSM because the type of data that they store is usually different than your traditional Windows or Linux environment,” Babineau said. “Solutions that can support the applications which generate more content types and archive the data right from the application are more compelling from my standpoint.”

July 20, 2009  7:20 PM

SunGard exec says storage will be ‘final domino’ in cloud interoperability

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

SunGard’s technical officer for cloud computing, Don Norbeck, talked with Storage Soup this afternoon on the service provider’s participation in the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) Open Cloud Standards Incubator and the “physics problem” that currently stands between IT and true application portability.

Storage Soup: Tell me about the standards body you joined and why…
Norbeck: DMTF has a good track record with previous initiatives. They brought VMware, Microsoft and Citrix to the table and got them to agree to include metadata to allow a base level of interoperability between them for the Virtualization Management Initiative (VMAN). The Open Virtualization Format (OVF) is similarly impressive to us.

SS: Did you just join the group this week? Is it a new initiative?
Norbeck: It’s relatively new – the group formed this April, and SunGard was part of that initial discussion. The news today is that we petitioned to be included in the leadership board and were just approved.

SS: Who else is participating in this standards effort?
Norbeck: Other members of the initiative include Cisco, EMC, VMware, Microsoft, HP, AMD, Rackspace, Savvio and Sun. Right now it’s an incubator discussion to define basic components of the cloud and how they should be administered. We don’t often participate in standards efforts, but we see extreme value as a service provider in being involved in this conversation early on.

SS: What kinds of things will the incubator be defining? What does it have to do with SunGard’s disaster recovery business?
Our first hypothesis is that there are going to be hundreds of different clouds out there with different characteristics – some optimized for speed, some for cost and some for availability. The cloud will serve two purposes: avoiding downtime and the expansion of infrastructure for peak demand. How much capacity you can spin up and how quickly you can fail over to a cloud data center depends on an up-front information exchange between the end user and the provider to tell how much and what to spin up for true application portability.

SS: I always thought cloud standards had more to do with interoperability between service providers – I thought the way users send data to service providers is already relatively well understood.
Before you can float workloads between service provider infrastructures, you have to figure out first how users move the workload beyond their firewall. That’s the first step. If we can all agree on application portability standards within that framework, we may be able to set something up where you can follow the sun from an electrical power perspective.

SS: Will the standard address how to move data over distance? Seems like that’s a hurdle VMware is trying to overcome right now, for example.
We’re still limited by distance. Network data transmission capacity is still a scarce resource. I’m not sure what the solution is – maybe enabling content delivery networks for branch offices so there are small bits of critical data everywhere, or leveraging some WAN acceleration technology in between. Storage is going to be the final domino to fall for the model of computing platform cloud aspires to be.

SS: How would you answer those who say it’s too early at this stage of the cloud to start imposing standards?
With any standards effort, the proof is in the actual utilization of the standard. This effort is more at the discussion stage, in which we’re looking to agree to language that will enable our customers to utilize us better. It’s too early to impose World Wide Web (WWW) type standards on cloud computing, but it’s not too early for the conversation.

July 20, 2009  2:46 PM

EMC takes controlling interest in Data Domain

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

EMC today revealed it has acquired more than 82% of Data Domain shares, which means any chance of another company swooping in with a better offer is gone. Under terms of the July 8 agreement between the vendors, EMC is paying $33.50 per share for Data Domain stock for a total of $2.1 billion.

EMC reiterated in a news release today that it expects to close the deal by the end of July. It also said Data Domain will be the centerpiece of a new product division for disk backup products, headed by Data Domain CEO Frank Slootman. Slootman will report to EMC CEO Joe Tucci and Frank Hauck, EVP of the storage business. EMC forecasts the division will have $1 billion in revenue in 2010.

Tucci first laid out plans to make Data Domain the key piece of its new product division June 1 when EMC made its first offer to buy Data Domain. Data Domain rejected that offer for a NetApp bid, but accepted EMC’s next offer.

EMC didn’t say which products will be included in the new division, but it’s likely to include Avamar host-based data deduplication software and whatever backup disk libraries EMC keeps after the deal closes. The biggest question centers around the EMC Disk Library (EDL) platform: will EMC continue to offer dedupe from Quantum on the EDL, replace the Quantum software with Data Domain software, or replace the entire EDL line with Data Domain devices?

In his June 1 comments, Tucci talked about making a family out of the Disk Library platform, so you can expect that brand to survive.

July 17, 2009  12:43 PM

HP acquires scale-out NAS vendor Ibrix

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Hewlett-Packard today acquired its clustered file system partner Ibrix, which is best known for selling its Fusion software through partners to studios that make animated movies.

HP did not disclose financial terms of the deal. Its press release said the transaction will likely close within 30 days, and the Ibrix business will become part of the StorageWorks division in HP’s Technology Solutions Group.

HP has resold Ibrix software with its SAN systems as well as ProLiant and BladeSystem servers. DreamWorks has used a combination of Fusion and HP hardware for rendering of its animated movies. Ibrix also counts Pixar as a customer, and has sales partnerships with EMC, Dell and IBM.

According to HP’s press release, Ibrix’s software “solidifies the company’s leadership in the emerging market of scale-out and high-performance computing storage, cloud storage, and fixed content archiving.”

We’ll have an update on SearchStorage following HP’s webinar today.

July 17, 2009  8:20 AM

07-16-2009 Storage Headlines

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

It’s that time of the week again…

Stories referenced:

(0:28) IBM adds thin provisioning to DS8000, asynchronous mirroring to XIV Storage System

(2:26) DataCore Software debuts Advanced Site Recovery for physical and virtual disaster recovery

(4:06) Barracuda Networks adds data deduplication with Yosemite integration

(5:35) Hewlett-Packard launches first external 6 Gbps Serial-Attached SCSI enclosures

(7:29) 3PAR blames poor sales on tight budgets

July 16, 2009  8:49 PM

Copan CEO spins out after rocky year

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Mark Ward has stepped down as CEO of Copan Systems after three-and-a-half year on the job, but the executive team says it’s “business as usual” for the MAID pioneer and archiving vendor.

A Copan executive responded to calls about Ward’s status by delivering a statement from the board confirming Ward has left while adding the CEO’s departure does not signal a change in direction.

“Mark Ward is no longer the CEO. The executive team is doing all the day-to-day activities, and its business as usual,” said the spokesman, who asked not to be quoted by name. “We’re committed to achieving our 2009 goals.”

Copan’s 2009 goals aren’t as lofty as they were a year ago when the company was expanding and Ward talked about taking the company public. Copan struggled when the economy crashed, forcing it to slash staff last November while waiting for funding. Copan did land $18.5 million in funding in February, but Ward said at the time he did not expect to increase staff.

A source outside of the company with knowledge of the situation said Ward departed because of a disagreement over strategy with the board. The executive who confirmed Ward’s departure said the board would not say if it was searching for a replacement. With several large storage vendors shopping, Copan would have to be considered a potential acquisition target.

Copan’s management team still includes two founders, CTO Chris Santilli and president of the federal division Will Layton.

Ward, a former sales executive at EMC and StorageTek, became Copan CEO in January of 2006, about a year and a half after the Longmont, Colo.-based vendor began shipping its first MAID disk spin down systems.

July 15, 2009  8:18 PM

Widespread IT staffing cuts this year, according to new survey

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

A new survey of some 200 IT executives across a dozen vertical markets by IT research firm Computer Economics found that 46% of respondents plan to reduce headcount this year, while 27% plan to increase headcount.

The report says healthcare and energy are faring better than other industries, with 60% of healthcare respondents and roughly half of energy and utility organizations reporting staffing increases. Retail, manufacturing and insurance will see the biggest declines, according to the report.

While capital purchases seem to be the most sensitive area for organizations with slashed IT budgets, operational expenditures are a murkier area. The question of staffing and how different organizations are addressing storage efficiency – through technology or operational improvements – seems to come down to organizational philosophy. I’ve talked to users during this economic downturn who say that their IT spending is going up because IT projects are being implemented to automate processes or cut down on spending elsewhere.

The Computer Economics report identifies finance as one industry where this phenomenon is taking place. “Certain sectors, however, are showing positive growth in their 2009/2010 IT operational budgets. These sectors include banking and finance at 4.9%, healthcare providers at 4.7%, professional and technical service firms at 4.0%, and utilities and energy at 1.3%.” These operational budget increases seem to run counter to some vendor marketing in the down economy encouraging users to trade some capital costs for a reduction in operational costs through automation.

Some vendors, like EMC Corp. have also been predicting stabilization in the economy and IT organizations by the end of this year, but the survey results show “the worst may not be over,” according Computer Economics’ press release. “Many IT executives expect further budget reductions in the future. About 49% reported that they expect to spend less than the amount allocated in their 2009/2010 IT spending plans compared to only 9% who anticipate being able to increase their IT budgets.”

Though it’s an interesting set of data points within the ongoing discussions of the economy and storage efficiency, I would also point out that with a sample size of 200 administrators, it’s not necessarily a definitive report. I’m hoping more research like this is being done which can be compared and contrasted with these results.

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