Storage Soup

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?”

March 16, 2009  8:20 PM

Dell/EqualLogic prepares SSD IP SAN

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Dell is about to add solid state drive (SSD) support to its EqualLogic iSCSI SANs in a new PS6000 model. As first reported on ChannelWeb last Friday, the PS6000 will also have four Ethernet ports, one more than EqualLogic PS5000 arrays have.

Dell officials did not return requests for comment today by Storage Soup, but several industry sources have confirmed the report is accurate and say the PS6000S will support 16 solid-state drives. A PS6000E will also be available with only SATA drives, according to one customer who asked not to be named because the product has not yet been formally released.

The general opinion on solid state is that customers will hold out for higher capacities and other features before they buy. Several EqualLogic customers reached by Storage Soup today said they still found SATA drives adequate for their needs.

However, according to Alan J. Hunt, Manager of Operations for Dickinson Wright PLLC, “It’s just the beginning of the market. In a few years I suspect [SSDs are] all we’re going to have–it’s kind of the beginning of the next big wave.”

Hunt added that a fourth port on EqualLogic’s arrays could be more significant than it might appear. “A fourth port means you would have balance if you have two switches and want redundancy,” he said. “Or you could make it a dedicated management port and still have three ports.”

Missing from the coming product update, if reports are accurate, would be 10-Gigabit Ethernet support, which a Dell spokesperson said last year is on the EqualLogic roadmap for 2009. But like with SSDs, EqualLogic customers and resellers say 10-Gig Ethernet can wait.

“I haven’t seen a susstantial interest in 10 Gig,” said Broadleaf Services account executive and EqualLogic VAR Christopher Baer. “There aren’t a lot of applications that require that kind of throughput yet.”

Other customers say 10-GigE would future-proof the array, even if they don’t need the bandwidth quite yet. “Why add another port? Why not 10-GigE and really get this thing going?” said a customer in the education field who requested that his name not be used as he is not authorized to speak with the press. Some pieces of the IT infrastructure in this user’s shop have been upgraded to 10-GigE already, including the network backbone.

“I don’t personally need the bandwidth,” Hunt said. “But it could add the ability to reduce the number of cables and passthrough modules for blades, as well as greatly simplifying VMware deployments.”

March 13, 2009  5:04 PM

STEC set to ride enterprise SSD wave

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

While most storage vendors have tempered expectations for early 2009, STEC is predicting a healthy expansion of its solid state drive (SSD) business for enterprise storage arrays.

STEC Thursday predicted its ZeusIOPS product for enterprise storage will command more revenue for the first six months of this year than it did in all of 2008. And STEC beat its projection of $50 million for 2008 by realizing $53 million in ZeusIOPS revenue.

If you’ve been following the storage industry lately, STEC’s optimism should be no surprise. Storage vendors have been lining up to offer ZeusIOPS SSDs in their arrays. EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, Sun, Hewlett-Packard and IBM are on board. Most of those vendors are just getting started. EMC, the first storage vendor to partner with STEC, sold every SSD it had last year according to EMC CEO Joe Tucci.

According to an STEC SEC filing, EMC accounted for 15.2% of STEC’s $227.4 million total revenue last year, which would put EMC’s piece of STEC revenue to $34.6 million. That’s the bulk of ZeusIOPS sale.

As Beth Pariseau’s story on SearchStorage today reveals, SSDs will remain a niche product in storage arrays until the cost comes down and management features improve. But sales will obviously get a boost this year from having more vendors pushing it.

STEC didn’t give many other details about its customers during its earnings conference call Thursday and has yet to officially confirm IBM or HP as OEM partners, but CEO Manouch Moshayedi did say ZeusIOPS revenue was split about evenly among Fibre Channel, SAS, and SATA interfaces.

Moshayedi also said STEC is cutting back on its DRAM product to concentrate on SSD for enterprise storage.
“ZeusIOPS is where we’re really putting all our emphasis,” he said.

Moshayedi doesn’t seem to expect a thaw in STEC’s relationship with Seagate now that the drive makers have dropped their lawsuits against each other. When asked if STEC might see Seagate as a partner, Moshayedi gave Seagate a cold shoulder.

“I think I am doing quite well by myself, without needing anyone else,” he said. “Our ZeusIOPS business is going through the roof. So I don’t need anyone else to help me with that. I’ve got the best customers in the world wanting my ZeusIOPS. Our ZeusIOPS is known to be the best drive out there. Everyone is trying to copy it. They have tried for two years, they have failed. And I think we will continue on just trucking with this product for the next few years until something else comes along.”

March 13, 2009  4:35 PM

Storage Headlines for 03-12-2009

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

You know the drill–some stories you may have missed this week:

Stories referenced:

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