Scuffling drive vendors Seagate and STEC have called a truce in their solid state drive (SSD) patent infringement battle, with both vendors saying today they have dropped their lawsuits against the other.
Seagate filed the first lawsuit last April claiming STEC violated four patents Seagate registered between 2002 and 2006, and STEC countersued. Under terms of today’s settlement, no money was paid and neither company licensed technology from the other. The settlement does not preclude future patent infringement suits between the two.
“Since STEC plays a major role in the proliferation of SSD technology, we view the dismissal as a vindication of our technology,” STEC CEO Manouch Moshayedi said in a statement. “With this case behind us, we can now optimize our resources to take full advantage of the market opportunities at hand.”
Seagate’s position is that the SSD market isn’t so great for STEC. According to the statement Seagate released about the settlement, “The economic conditions today are drastically altered from those that existed when we filed the litigation, and the impact of STEC’s sales of SSD’s has turned out to be so small that the expenditures necessary to vindicate the patents could be better spent elsewhere.”
Emulex today disclosed its next round of convergence products – universal converged network adapters (UCNAs) and a management framework — as well as encryption for its Fibre Channel HBAs.
If you were just getting familiar with converged network adapters (CNAs), you might be thrown by the concept of a universal CNA. The difference is, according to Emulex VP of corporate marketing Shaun Walsh, a CNA only supports Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) while a UCNA combines FCoE, 10-gig Ethernet, iSCSI offload and RDMA in one chip. Walsh says he expects Emulex OEM partners to begin selling its OneConnect CNAs in the second half of the year.
To manage devices for a converged network, Emulex will replace its HBAnywhere HBA software with a OneCommand platform. OneCommand will manage UCNAs as well as Emulex LightPulse HBAs.
Storage networking vendors are rushing to position their convergence devices in anticipation of FCoE and other methods of getting Ethernet, Fibre Channel and even InfiniBand to work together on one network. Mellanox launched its BridgeX gateway this week to let customers use any or all of those fabrics together.
It’s still up for debate as to how soon enterprises will begin consolidation, but Walsh says “convergenomics” will push them there faster than they would normally adopt new technology. Emulex is counting on customers looking to implement converged networks because it will save them money on cabling, power and cooling and rack space.
“It will be a phase thing,” Walsh says. “We’ll see first-generation products implemented this year, then the second generation will be when OEMs start to endorse those and put them in their product lines. Normally, I would say three to five years before it becomes mainstream, but given the economic situation, I’d say two to three years in this case.”
In the next few months, we’ll get an idea of whether convergenomics will stimulate storage spending or become storage voodonomics, but you can bet there will be no shortage of convergence product rollouts.
Encryption is another hot topic these days, with two standards proposals for key management being set forth this week. Emulex wasn’t involved with either of those, but its new Secure HBA uses encryption and key management from EMC’s RSA Security.
Last week, Hewlett-Packard launched its first iSCSI SAN product based on its acquisition last year of LeftHand Networks. As part of that announcement, HP made it official that LeftHand’s days as a software-based iSCSI SAN vendor are over. The company’s SAN/iQ software will continue to use commodity servers for hardware, but those servers from now on will only be manufactured by HP and will be pre-packaged into appliances with LeftHand’s software.
Most of LeftHand’s customers had them delivered like this anyway, as LeftHand’s software met in the channel with servers and were integrated by VARs. Still, come customers said they were disappointed that they could no longer use LeftHand’s software to repurpose existing hardware.
But this is not the first time a storage vendor has begun as a software-only play and moved into the appliance world once it was acquired by a larger vendor. That was the case with Avmar. Avamar began by delivering its host-based data deduplication software as an appliance, but large organizations could get better economies of scale by purchasing their own hardware from their usual supplier, or had standardized on a particular server build and didn’t want a noncompliant appliance sticking out like a sore thumb.
Thus Avamar went software-only, until it was acquired by EMC Corp. Soon after that acquisition EMC rolled out the Avamar Data Store, saying many of its customers didn’t want to have to assemble their own hardware/software clusters, especially in large environments (the company will still sell the product in a software-only version to users who want it, however). It didn’t hurt that EMC’s relationship with Dell flipped that economies-of-scale equation between Avamar and enterprise customers on its head, just like it doesn’t hurt for LeftHand that somewhere in the world, HP produces a ProLiant server every few seconds.
So I couldn’t help but think about all this when I met with a company a couple of weeks ago that has designs on being the heir apparent to LeftHand. StarWind Software and its eponymous iSCSI target software product are not exactly new. The product has been marketed for years by RocketDivision, a company headquartered in the Ukraine, which spun off StarWind Dec. 1.
CEO Zorian Rotenberg said StarWind is going to charge $2,995 for its most deluxe package which includes CDP, snapshots, repolication, mirroring, thin provisioning and an optional virtual tape library interface. That license fee also covers unlimited capacity in perpetuity.
StarWind is far from alone in value propositions of this type from a whole new generation of companies stepping up to pick up where LeftHand left off. StorMagic, Seanodes Open-e, DataCore, and Double Take’s emBoot are all on the market touting the benefits of commodity hardware and affordable, flexible software.
DataCore is a good example of a company that started off and remains software-only. And Enterprise Strategy Group founder Steve Duplessie suggested to me last year that server virtualization may change IT pros’ mentality around software-only storage. Meanwhile, the cloud data center has got people thinking about commodity hardware and horizontally scalable architectures. So it’s possible that the current “class” of iSCSI SAN software vendors will blaze a new trail.
But having watched the lifecycle of Avamar and LeftHand, I’m also wondering if it’s all just a little bit of history repeating.
According to a note posted on VMware’s KnowledgeBase website, the server virtualization software maker is recommending that users of NetApp’s FAS arrays in a High Availability System Configuration not upgrade to VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) 1.0 Update 1.
The note says these users have a 50% chance of encountering a bug that means “replicated datastores are not detected correctly” within the application. It’s unclear whether the bug is on the NetApp or VMware side of the equation, but the companies are investigating and can assist customers with downgrading to previous versions if they experience problems.
This is not the first time integration between SRM, VMware’s disaster recovery/failover application for virtual servers, and array-based replication from storage vendors has proven tricky. An HP user also told SearchDisasterRecovery.com last week that he experienced some pain while trying to bring his EVA environment up to speed with SRM.
Toshiba Corp. and Fujitsu Limited today made official what has been long rumored — Toshiba will take over Fujitsu’s hard disk and solid state drive business.
Toshiba will first take an 80% stake in a new company to be created by Fujitsu, while Fujitsu will maintain a 20% stake. The business will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba. The deal is expected to close this quarter, according to Scott Maccabe, vice president and general manager of Toshiba’s storage device division as well as a former senior manager with Fujitsu.
Maccabe said the down economy had Fujitsu looking to cut out non-profitable businesses. It has sold off its media businesses, including R&D and global sales organizations, to Toshiba, and has plans to sell its drive head business to Showa Denko K.K. (SDK). Fujitsu will now be focused on its systems and services businesses in storage, Maccabe said.
According to a Toshiba press release:
The consolidation of the two companies’ HDD businesses will enable Toshiba to reinforce its already strong position as a leading vendor of small form factor HDDs…widely used in notebook PCs, mobile devices, automotive and consumer electronics. It will also give Toshiba entry into the enterprise HDD market for server and data storage system applications, where Fujitsu is currently a leader…entry into the enterprise business will allow Toshiba to further enlarge its market-leading solid state drive (SSD) business by developing SSD products for servers and enterprise storage systems, fusing Toshiba’s NAND flash memory technology with Fujitsu’s enterprise HDD technology.
According to a note sent to investors by Jayson Noland of Robert W. Baird & Co. today, “The acquisition reduces mobile HDD suppliers to five from six, which should reduce industry capacity and improve pricing behavior … though we do not expect competitive dynamics in [the] enterprise to meaningfully change as a result of the merger.”
Copan Systems won its race against the clock, adding $18.5 million in funding to prove talk of its impending demise was exaggerated.
Copan late last year laid off 15% of its staff, gave its CEO and senior management pay cuts and sent about half the remaining staff on unpaid leave around the holidays while scrambling to close another funding round.
With funding hard to come by in these economic times, there was a lot of talk that Copan might not survive. But CEO Mark Ward said Copan’s 40% revenue growth last year attracted new venture capitalist Westbury Partners to lead the round with existing investors Austin Ventures, Globespan Capital Partners, Firstmark Capital and Credit Suisse kicking in more.
“It’s been a wild scenario over the last six months,” Ward said. “This should keep the EMCs of the world from telling everybody we’re going out of business.”
Ward says the funding will be used to add to Copan’s platform of MAID spin-down arrays. He says Copan will have two major product launches this year: a new file system for moving data from NAS to its archive, and a new systems architecture upgrade to 8 Gpbs Fibre Channel and 2 TB drives with improved data indexing and cataloguing capabilities.
Copan won’t be spending its newly acquired funding on hiring back any laid off employees. Ward said the company will probably remain at or near its current head count of 110 in hopes of hitting profitability this year. When it cut staff, Copan added international channel partners to augment sales and service.
Here are some stories you may have missed this week:
As always, you can find the latest storage news, trends and analysis at http://searchstorage.com/news.
Judging by NetApp’s results, the spending slowdown storage vendors feared this year hit hard in January.
Because NetApp’s last quarter ended Jan. 23 instead of at the end of December, it became the first storage vendor to report earnings that included results from early 2009. And those results were ugly — NetApp Wednesday night said its revenues of $874 million were down year-over-year and sequentially, it lost $75 million last quarter, and executives refused to give guidance for coming quarters.
The loss was due mainly to $128 million payment to the General Services Administration (GSA) over NetApp discount policies to government agencies from 1995-2005. But revenue was down 1% from last year and 4% from the previous quarter, and NetApp executives say that’s because their largest customers stopped spending in January.
“We were tracking pretty good through November and December,” CEO Dan Warmenhoven said. “I think the focus was on the first three weeks in January. That is where things kind of really stalled out.”
For the most part, storage vendors reported decent results for last quarter but were wary of what 2009 might bring. Warmenhoven says despite the slip, he doesn’t think NetApp lost market share. Instead, customers just stopped buying any storage. When an analyst on NetApp’s earnings call suggested NetApp lost market share, Warmenhoven said, “My guess is when you see the other storage vendors report on their first calendar quarter which includes January, you may come to a different conclusion.”
NetApp president Tom Georgens said there were shifts in buying trends last quarter. NetApp’s 50 largest accounts were most impacted by the economy. Also, sales tended to turn more toward SAN than NAS than in the past. And while FAS2000 low end and midrange FAS3000 system revenue increased from last year, high-end FAS6000 sales declined.
“January is always tough for IT spending, and this year it’s awful,” said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Brian Babineau, who suggests NetApp might have to diversify its product portfolio to help customers deal with data growth while trimming budgets. “Just selling storage and data management is tough,” he said. “They could get into archiving, for example. They need more quivers in the bow.”
NetApp cut loose a few products last quarter, discontinuing its StoreVault SMB storage system and SnapMirror for Open Systems replication software. Warmenhoven said StoreVault’s revenue never reached $5 million for a quarter and SnapMirror for Open systems failed to hit $1 million in a quarter.
Along with cutting those products, NetApp laid off around 540 employees – 6% of its workforce – this week. In a sign of the times, CFO Steve Gomo opened the earnings call by saying, “The financial highlight of our quarter was strong expense management.”
Although the Senate and House are still hammering out details of the economic stimulus package, the current plan includes provisions that would bring funding to the storage and IT industries.
Broadband networking investment is one big issue addressed by the stimulus. According to a whitepaper posted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), “ITIF estimates that spurring an additional investment of $30 billion in America’s IT network infrastructure in 2009 will create approximately 949,000 U.S. jobs …We also estimate that approximately 525,000 of these jobs will be in small businesses [fewer than 500 employees].” The $30 billion referred to includes “spurring or supporting” $10 billion investment in broadband networks over one year.
Storage industry experts who weighed in on Obama’s technology investment plans around the New Year also supported such investments, and respondents to a Web poll identified broadband investment and neutrality as the most important technological issue for the new President’s administration.
Next up on the list are new plans for “smart” sensors on public infrastructure like electrical grids. Every one of those sensors generates data, and IT vendors, most recently IBM, are eagerly anticipating the deluge of infrastructure requirements this will eventually bring about. According to an IBM press release announcing its new dynamic infrastructure and cloud computing initiatives yesterday, the world is now generating 15 PB of new data per day. That’s a lot of disk drives, and at least some job security for those tasked with keeping them spinning.
Perhaps the heftiest chunk of spending, though, is the $20 billion laid aside as part of the plan for digitizing healthcare records. States like Massachusetts have also already passed laws requiring electronic medical records. Something’s got to give there, too, according to industry experts, some of whom, like Compellent Technologies Inc.’s vice president of marketing Bruce Kornfeld, told me they’ve recently gotten a patient’s-eye view of the deficits in how some healthcare records are handled when two of his physicians faxed, in low-quality black and white, some images that had originally been taken in high-res technicolor.
In addition to these items, Seagate’s official blog points out some more tech stimulus in the Obama plan, including “Direct IT investments – government modernization, like a $400 million computer for the Social Security Administration…[and] Direct storage purchases by stimulated consumers – home storage is becoming a mainstream consumer electronics category.”
Meanwhile, even as dismal jobs reports come rolling in from the wider economy, IT industry analysts have suggested that the picture in IT is looking less grim. According to a report released by Foote Partners last week, “IT jobs continue to show strong counter movement against national jobs trends.” Foote’s report found “growth in pay for skills in Architecture, Project Management, IT Security, Database, Networking, Communications, and Methodology and Process skills and certifications over the past three months.” Foote also cited numbers recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) which show 9,000 jobs were added in October and November in the Management and Technical Consulting Services employment category, and another 11,000 were added in January.
Even though it’s early in the process, some members of the storage blogosphere are already starting to feel the effects of federal spending on IT. “This week the federal government bailed me and my little almost-a-real-company out,” wrote Jesse Gilleland in a post on his blog, SanGod.com, titled A bailout for little old me?
Several years ago I worked for a particular federal client. Data migration, switch migration, cable remediation, and a number of other projects. Apparently it went well because for years they’ve been trying to get me back in and it just came down the wire that I’ve just been awarded a 1-year contract to go in as their new storage admin. So the company is saved, or at least has been granted a one-year stay of execution.
NetApp Inc. was at the center of some buzz over the weekend among publications that cover corporate financials, after a column in Barron’s touched off speculation on Wall St. that NetApp might be about to report encouraging earnings. Amid that speculation was buzz that the company would also be laying off workers to maintain its profit margins as the economy continues to spiral downward.
NetApp PR director Jodi Bauman today confirmed the company plans to reduce its global workforce by 6% with the following statement: “”Today NetApp took a number of steps to better align our resources with the business outlook. This restructuring includes a reduction of about 6% of the global workforce, as well as the reallocation of other resources to initiatives designed to increase operating efficiency and build a foundation for additional market share gains.”
The company outlined a strategy at its Analyst Day last March that included adding to its sales force to better penetrate the enterprise market. It remains unclear how the planned cuts will affect that strategy. NetApp will hold its quarterly earnings call on Wednesday and may offer additional color then.