Storage Soup

January 28, 2016  11:30 AM

EMC aims for all-flash, all-the-time primary storage

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

While waiting to become part of Dell, EMC is planning a massive flash injection into its storage systems.

David Goulden, CEO of EMC Information Infrastructure, teased new product launches to the VMX, VNX, DSSD and Data Domain product lines Wednesday during EMC’s earnings conference call. Flash will play a major role in all of the primary storage arrays, including at least one new all-flash platform.

“Flash is one of the megatrends that’s changing the infrastructure business forever,” said Goulden’s boss, EMC CEO Joe Tucci.

Goulden didn’t give away too many details, but he said VMAX enterprise and VNX midrange arrays would be “re-archtected” for flash. The VMAX and VNX are legacy arrays developed for hard disk drives but were retrofitted to accompany solid-state drives (SSDs) when they became available for primary storage. Goulden said new all-flash versions will include substantial changes to take full advantage of new flash technologies.

In an attempt to set a record for using the word “flash” the most times in a sentence, Goulden said this quarter EMC will introduce “a new flash-optimized all-flash VMAX that will significantly change the way flash is deployed in high-end primary storage.”

It’s unclear if EMC will re-name VNX or add another midrange product. While Goulden referred to VNX by name several times on the call, he also talked about a “mid-tier storage family’ coming in the second quarter, “which will change the use cases for flash in the mid-tier.” Whether that is VNX or another family remains to be seen.

DSSD is a new product, with technology acquired when EMC bought Andy Bechtolsheim-founded startup DSSD in 2014. EMC has previewed server-based DSSD at events over the past year but the system has not been released. Goulden said DSSD will launch this quarter, calling it a “quantum leap” in flash. He said DSSD will deliver “mind-blowing performance, bandwidth and latency for high-performance business applications like Hadoop analytics and ultra high-performance databases.”

Goulden did not mention any updates to XtremIO, which is the market leader in all-flash systems with $1 billion worth of sales in 2015. He did mention integrated copy data management (ICDM) added to XtremIO last year that puts database copies on primary storage.

EMC will also release a software-only version of the Data Domain disk backup platform and new converged products from VCE. The vendor has been in development with the virtual Data Domain for several years but wasn’t sure if it should cannibalize its popular hardware backup system.

Goulden said EMC and VMware have developed “a new next-generation hyper-converged appliance family” and VMware will make an announcement in February.

Despite any backup or hyper-converged developments, 2016 is shaping up as the year of all-flash for EMC. Or as Goulden said, a shift to “all-flash, all-the time ‘ in the midrange and high end.

“Flash is not about a single product,” Goulden said. “It’s a key technology across our portfolio. We really think that the technology has advanced to the stage with the latest 3D NAND technology and things like 3.8 terabyte drives. Of course you need to architect your system to optimize to use something that big and that fast, which is why we talked about the re-architecting. We can really come to market with a complete family of VNX, VMAX, XtremIO, DSSD, leveraging this latest technology and basically use all-flash all the time for primary storage.”

Product overlap is nothing new to EMC, but how will it explain to customers which all-flash platform to use?

“DSSD is going to address a whole new class of workloads,” Goulden said. “XtremIO and VMAX are playing in broadly similar markets, but with different attributes. The mid-tier line fits underneath that. So we really have the market exceptionally well covered and of course we’re leading with an all-flash agenda.

January 27, 2016  4:52 PM

Hyper-converged vendor Gridstore picks up funding for expansion

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Gridstore closed a $19 million funding round today with plans to substantially expand engineering and sales of its all-flash hyper-converged systems built for Microsoft Hyper-V.

The round brings Gridstore’s total funding to $45.5 million over three rounds. While $19 million is small compared to some of the storage funding rounds over the past year, Gridstore CEO George Symons said it is more than enough to fund Gridstore’s growth plans.

“I’m a believer in not going out and raising stupid amounts of money, even if you can,” he said. “If the goal is to go public in a year and lose large amounts, that’s the way you do it. Our goal is to build a business.”

He said the funding is enough to allow Gridstore to more than double from its current 38 employees by the end of 2016. Symons said most of the growth will hit the vendor’s two largest departments, sales and engineering.

Gridstore has already hired a chief strategy officer and chief financial officer – two positions it never had before. Former Del CTO James Thomason will fill the CSO role. Kevin Rains is the new CFO. Rains also worked at Dell as director of operations for its Enterprise Software Group. Gridstore also hired Phillip Lavery as VP of sales for the Americas and Nariman Teymourian, most recently senior vice president and general manager of the Converged Systems Division of HPE, replaces Imation CTO Geoff Barrall as Gridstore’s chairman.

Gridstore started selling storage appliances for Microsoft in 2013 and added all-flash hyper-converged systems in 2014. Symons said Gridstore revenue grew 343% last year, with new new customers “almost exclusively hyper-converged. It surprised me how quickly it happened and how completely it happened. I don’t think we had more than one or two new standalone storage customers last year.”

Symons said Gridstore will drop its storage-only system but will expand its hypervisor support by adding KVM. As for market leading hypervisor VMware, Gridstore will continue to leave that space to other hyper-converged players – including VMware.

“We’ll continue to watch that market,” he said. “Just jumping in as another hyper-converged infrastructure player doesn’t seem to be the right move for us.”

Atlantic Bridge Capital led the funding round with previous investors Acero Capital, GGV Capital and Onset Ventures participating.

January 27, 2016  8:02 AM

Pivot3 buys NexGen, combines hyper-converged with all-flash storage

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Hyper-converged vendor Pivot3 today acquired hybrid flash vendor NexGen Storage, combining small private companies that play in two hot technology areas.

NexGen CEO and founder John Spiers said the deal “came about serendipitously” at the suggestion of a venture capitalist firm. While working on a funding round, NexGen talked to one of Pivot3’s investors who suggested the two explore a merger. Spiers met with Pivot3 CEO Ron Nash and the two agreed they would be better as a larger company. The vendors’ investors decided how to allot the shares in the new company.

 “It’s really a stock swap, there’s no real purchase price,” Nash said.

Nash will be CEO of the new Pivot3. Spiers will become Pivot3’s executive vice president and Chief Strategy Officer and fellow NexGen founder Kelly Long will be a CTO in the company. Nash said all NexGen’s employees will join Pivot3.

 Pivot3 sells its VMware-based vStac OS on all-flash and hybrid hyper-converged systems combining storage and compute. It also sells a system optimized for video surveillance and high-density blades that fit in a rack to support up to 9,000 virtual machines.

NexGen sells all-flash and hybrid arrays that use PCIe server-based flash, solid-state drives and hard disk drives. Its policy-based quality of service manages data based on its value.

“We saw in NexGen a unique opportunity to expand upon what we have been doing in hyper-convergence,” Nash said. “We saw that we can be boarder in terms of the range of performance we can offer to IT shops. And they have a lot of storage functionality that makes us deeper.

“NexGen gets to combine with us, we have more international reach and additional products. It’s a great combination all around.”

 Nash said NexGen’s 86 employees will join Pivot3’s 130 to expand the headcount to more than 200. He said Pivot3 has more than 1,600 customers and NexGen has around 400, giving the combined company more than 2,000 customers. Austin, Texas-based Pivot3 will keep NexGen’s Boulder, Colorado, office.

Nash said Pivot3 will continue to sell both companies’ current products, and they will port software features to the others’ platforms. The NexGen brand will continue for now, but there will be new products combining both vendors’ technologies.

Among NexGen’s software features, Nash said Pivot3 is most interested in quality of service and dynamic provisioning.

 “There is a new wave of technology breaking out,” Nash said. “In a software-defined data center, you will have some hyper-converged, some storage-only and some cloud products – all based on a commodity x86 processor with software on top of it.”

This is the second time NexGen has been acquired. PCIe flash vendor Fusion-io bought NexGen in 2013 for $119 million. After SanDisk subsequently acquired Fusion-io, SanDisk spun off NexGen in January, 2015, putting it back in control of original founders Spiers and Long.

“We weren’t a good it for SanDisk’s business strategy because we competed with their OEMs,” Spiers said. “Our growth plans [for 2016] were to triple the size of our sales force, hire key marking positions and add key people in Europe and Asia. Pivot3 brings all that to the table.”

“We think this new wave of technology is going to knock out several incumbent IT companies,” Nash said. “We think we have a chance to be one company that pops up to replace them.”

January 26, 2016  9:00 AM

EMC expands Elastic Cloud (object) Storage

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
EMC, Object storage

EMC today launched Elastic Cloud Storage 2.2, making its object storage platform more mature as it prepares to take over use cases from EMC’s other object storage products, Atmos and Centera.

ECS is available as a software-only product or packaged on an appliance. The software is the ViPR software-defined storage data plane and the hardware is an x86 server.

EMC launched ECS in 2014 and brought out ECS 2.0 last May.

ECS 2.2 adds native NFS support to go with its previous support for Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift and Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS). Native NFS support allows ECS to handle file storage without a file gateway. EMC also enhanced the search capabilities, claiming ECS can search metadata across exabytes of unstructured data without a dedicated database. For security, EMC added data at rest encryption.

“We feel ECS now has anything you might want from an object storage platform,” said Manuvir Das, senior vice president of EMC’s Advanced Software Division.

Das said the metadata search “opens up an Internet of Things use case. We have automotive customers storing telemetry data from vehicles. Those are small pieces of large volumes of data. They can throw that into scalable object storage and search the metadata.”

He said EMC has shipped more than an exabyte of ECS storage, mostly on hardware appliances. He said there are three main types of customers. Traditional enterprise shops are using ECS for a low-cost archive as well as storage used to develop new applications. Service providers use it to build object-based clouds to compete with popular public clouds, and content providers creating cloud apps deploy ECS for scalable storage.

EMC has two other types of object storage – Centera for compliance-related data and Atmos for the cloud. Das said EMC continues to support and upgrade those applications, but it sees ECS as its object storage of the future.

“All roads lead to ECS,” he said. “Almost all the use cases across Atmos and Centera are heading to ECS. With version 2.2, the ECS feature set can do anything Atmos and almost everything Centera can do. Centera has advance compliance features that ECS does not yet do, but those are covered on the ECS roadmap.”

January 21, 2016  11:06 PM

Netlist launches new DDR4 NVDIMM

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa

Netlist unveiled its new DDR4-based non-volatile dual in-line memory module (NVDIMM) yesterday at the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA)’s Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) Summit in San Jose.

The NVvault DDR4 NVDIMM (NV4) combines DRAM and NAND flash, with the non-volatile flash ensuring that data is protected in the event of a power failure. The main difference between the latest NV4 product and the prior NV3 NVDIMM is support for DDR4 DRAM.

Netlist’s DDR4-based NV4, which became generally available yesterday, brings speed and capacity advantages over the DDR3-based NV3 product. The maximum density expands from 8 GB to 16 GB, and the DRAM clock speed increases from 1,600 megahertz (MHz) to 2,400 MHz, according to Mat Young, Netlist’s vice president of marketing.

At the NVM Summit, Netlist demonstrated the NV4 NVDIMM against a PCIe NVMe NAND flash device using a Super Micro server running a Percona TPC-C-like transaction processing benchmark on a MySQL database. Netlist claimed the NV4 system achieved a transaction rate five times higher than the PCIe NVMe flash.

Young said industry demos often focus on IOPS and bandwidth, but Netlist wanted to show potential customers how the product could performance with a real-world application.

“We feel really strongly that non-volatile memory is the next potential performance boost for storage. It’s a bit like NAND was to spinning hard drives,” said Young.

Netlist is working with several server and BIOS manufacturers on support for its NV4 NVDIMMs and sampling the product to an undisclosed number of customers, according to Young. He said target customers include OEMs and ODMs, appliance manufacturers and end users looking for higher application performance than NAND flash can provide.

“The fact that they’ve migrated to the DD4 interface indicates that NVDIMMs are growing in popularity. Although today’s main application is logs or journals in storage arrays, the growth of in-memory databases will create a much larger market,” said Jim Handy, chief analyst at Objective Analysis in Los Gatos, California. Handy said Netlist’s competition includes AgigA Tech, Micron, Smart Modular Technologies and Viking Technology.

January 20, 2016  12:52 PM

Caringo adds support for Microsoft Azure to its Swarm software

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii

Caringo has expanded its Swarm object storage to Microsoft Azure.

The company recently said its object storage software, which already has Amazon S3 support, now is available on the Azure cloud so customers have the ability to move applications seamlessly from Amazon S3 to the Azure cloud by using the Swarm software.

This capability gives customers another storage tier option, allowing them to tier to the Azure cloud without changing mount points or work flows. Files can be consolidated from all filers into a scalable object storage tier that is accessible via a web-based portal for search while also giving the ability to deploy disaster recovery sites globally. Data can be accessed and managed universally through cloud and file protocols and RESTful APIs.

“We’ve talked to a number of customers that don’t want to be connected just to one vendor,” said Tony Barbagallo, Caringo’s vice president of product. “This is an expansion of our platform. We have customers who use our storage on-premise but also want to replicate to the cloud and customers want multiple storage targets.

“They want a hybrid solution so they can distribute cloud storage or replicate to cloud storage,” Barbagallo.

Caringo’s object storage manages objects in a flat address space, making it easy to adjust to petabyte scale configurations. Each object is assigned a unique identifier, which allows a server to retrieve it without needing to know the physical location of the data. These characteristics make it a good fit for cloud storage.

This latest capability gives companies the ability to migrate Amazon S3-based application to the Azure cloud with the use of a RESTful interface.

The new Microsoft Azure template can be deployed in a 16TB, 32TB or 64TB Swarm cluster with an SSL Amazon S3 interface. It requires 18, 26 and 42 available processor cores for 16TB, 32TB and 64TB sizes and each size needs a Jump-Box virtual machine to increase the requirement for each size by one additional processor core.

Once on Swarm, files can be combined and protected in a searchable pool for continued use and complex analysis.

“Azure can offer our operating system as a server running on Azure hardware,” Barbagallo said. “For S3 we have a proxy server. If an application has a S3 problem, it is transferred to our protocol and translated. When the information is sent back, the translation goes the other way.”

In September 2015, Caringo came out with software that lets customers move data back and forth between file-based primary storage and Caringo Swarm object storage software. FileFly for Caringo Swarm is a Windows-based application that plugs directly into the Windows NTFS file system.

FileFly uses policy-based automation to identify and migrate aged data from primary Netapp file servers and arrays running the Windows Storage Server operating system to Caringo Swarm on the back end. No changes are required to applications or end user workflows.

Barbagallo said Caringo has no immediate plans to support the Google Cloud platform.

“Right now, we have no current plans to expand beyond this,” he said.

January 19, 2016  1:17 PM

Actifio adds central copy data management interface

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Nearly five years into sales of its copy data virtualization, Actifio is finding customers are looking for a simpler way to manage data across its appliances.

Today the vendor launched Actifio Global Manager (AGM) and a new Actifio Report Manager to give customers one HTML5 screen to manage their installed appliances.

AGM lets customers set service level agreement-based management from one interface. Actifio previously had a report manager, but the new one is re-designed with a new engine to create, manage and view reports on application, protection and recovery job performance, and SLA compliance.

Until now, Actifio customers used a desktop user interface to manage one appliance at a time. Chandra Reddy, Actifio’s vice president of product marketing, said the average Actifio enterprise customer uses Actifio to protect 100 TB of data, and some protect petabytes. To protect 100 TB, an organization would need two appliances on site and two more at a remote site for DR. Those four appliances would be managed separately without AGM.

Service providers might use 30 or more appliances, Reddy said.

“Now a customer can go to a single dashboard and get an aggregated view,” he said.

Customers can use AGM to migrate applications between Actifio appliances and to load balance applications across appliances. AGM also allows customers to manage processes such as snapshots, deduplication, live cloning and replication.

“Customers want a single centralized pane of glass to manage, monitor and troubleshoot thousands of protected virtual machines,” Reddy said. “That was the genesis of AGM.”

AGM will require a separate license. For new customers, AGM is free for the first two Actifio appliances and existing customers will not be charged for their first 10 appliances.


January 18, 2016  3:29 PM

Veeam kicks off 2016 with V9 GA

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii
Backup software, Veeam

Veeam Software has started off the year by making Veeam Availability Suite 9 generally available to customers. The software has more than 250 features, according to Veeam.

While the data protection application is only going GA now, Veeam pre-announced features throughout the past eight months.

“The software has been a year in the making,” said Doug Hazelman, vice president of product strategy at Veeam. “The focus has not only been on adding scalability but enterprise features that the mid-market and enterprise segments are looking for. So version 9 focuses on them.”

One of the main enhancements include integration with EMC VNX and VNXe hybrid storage. Veeam announced this in May 2015. Enterprises will able to use Veeam Backup from storage snapshots to create backups from EMC VNX or VNXe storage snapshots in two minutes or less via Veeam Explorer for Storage Snapshots without the need for intermediate steps.

The Veeam software also adds more granularity and intelligence from the VNX storage snapshots and Veeam Explorer can do recoveries from an individual files or restore individual application items from Microsoft Exchange or SharePoint. It also can recover a single virtual machine. Veeam also added new primary storage integrations with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), NetApp and EMC.

Last September HPE announced integration between Veeam Backup and Replication with HP StoreOnce Catalyst. The Veeam software also works with NetApp FAS and FlexArray V-Series so customers can create image-based backups as often as needed with little impact on production environments. Veeam also has enhancements with Veeam Explorer for Oracle and a disaster recovery as a service that is powered by Veeam Cloud Connect Replication.

Hazelman said the software had cloud backup in version 8, but the new version includes the ability for service providers to replicate to the cloud so they can provide disaster recovery as a services (DRaaS).

The latest Veeam software also has an unlimited scale-out backup repository.

January 15, 2016  5:01 PM

Avere launches new FXT Edge filers

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii

Avere Systems rolled out a new high-end and midrange FXT Edge physical appliances that offer more performance and storage compared to the previous systems that will be replaced.

The new 1U appliances have more density compared to the previous 2U 3850 and 4850 generation, while holding more CPU cores, solid state drive (SSD) capacity, NVAM and, in the case of the 5600, more DRAM.

The FXT 5600 holds 9.6 TB SSDs per node and scales up to 480 TB per cluster. That is double the amount of SSDs compared to the previous FXT model. The FXT 5400 holds 4.8TB per node and replaces the  and scales up to 240TB per cluster.

Jeff Tabor, Avere’s senior director of product management and marketing, said the new systems boast new performance that can be clustered to up to 50 systems so the performance builds across all the nodes. The 5600 can achieve 3.7 GBs per second while the 5400 can achieve 2.7 GBs per second. Avere is positioning the 5600 as both a capacity and performance system, while the 5400 is more of a capacity play.

“It’s just less expensive for those who don’t need quite as much,” Tabor said. “Our mission is to optimize on-premise infrastructure and enable the ability to move to the cloud.”

Both the 5600 and 5400 include 16 CRU cores and four GBs of NVAM. They have four 10GbE port and four 1GbE ports. The3 5600 has 384 GBs of DRAM and the 5400 use 256 GBs of DRAM. Both FXT 5000 models are 50 percent smaller than the prior FXT systems.

Avere’s FXT Edge filers are scale-out NAS devices built for the hybrid cloud and are used to boost performance for NAS devices. The systems support bothNFS and SMB protocols so businesses can store data and run applications on premises or in the cloud with minimal latency.

The systems support Avere’s FlashCloud for Amazon S3, Google, IBM and Cleversafe, HGST and Amplidata and SwiftStack. Avere layers a file system on object storage to accelerate performance.

n October 2015, Avere Systems expanded its cloud storage strategy with CloudFusion virtual NAS software designed specifically for Amazon Web Services (AWS). The CloudFusion virtual NAS filer is a 64-bit file system that Avere claims can scale to 1 exabyte in the public cloud.

It follows Avere’s 2014 launch of its Virtual FXT Edge Filer, a software-only version of its FXT Edge Filer that works as network-attached storage (NAS) in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). CloudFusion is based on the same vFXT Edge software technology designed for big data processing and storage in the cloud.

CloudFusion uses three tiers of AWS, storing data on EC2, Elastic Block Storage (EBS) or Simple Storage Service (S3), depending on usage patterns. It supports Network File Storage and Server Message Block protocols, and comes in two versions — one that supports four virtual CPUs and includes 30.5 GB of DRAM, and larger version that supports eight virtual CPUs and 61 GB of DRAM. Both support snapshots, compression and data tiering in RAM, solid-state drives and SATA disk drives.

January 14, 2016  7:50 AM

Diablo Technologies names new CEO, raises $19 million

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa
flash storage, Storage

Flash memory vendor Diablo Technologies named a new CEO and secured $19 million in Series C financing as the company tries to rebuild momentum for its memory technology business after fighting off legal challenges in 2015.

Chairman and CEO Mark Stibitz takes the reins from Diablo founder Riccardo Badalone, who moves into the chief product officer role. Stibitz had been an independent member of Diablo’s board of directors since February 2012. His business management and product development experience spanned start-up and public companies including Anobit, Elliptic Technologies, PMC-Sierra, Agere Systems and Lucent/AT&T-Microelectronics.

Stibitz said he started to work with Badalone on the executive transition in October. “Riccardo is the creative genius behind the innovation in the product, and he wants more time to see that through with the customers,” Stibitz said.

The $19 million Series C capital infusion raised total investments to $77.8 million since Diablo’s 2003 founding. The Ottawa-based startup commenced with $9.8 million and banked $36 million in Series A funding in November 2012 and $13 million in Series B funding in April 2015. Leading the Series C financing is ICV, a new investor, joined by Battery Ventures, BDC Capital, Celtic House, and Hasso Plattner Ventures.

Stibitz said Diablo needed money after battling legal claims from Netlist Inc., a memory module manufacturer that was its former development partner. Netlist’s accusations against Diablo included patent infringement, trade secret misappropriation, breach of contract, and incorrect inventorship.

Diablo claimed victory in March 2015 after a U.S. District Court jury found no breach of contract or misappropriation of trade secrets. The company’s law firm, McDermott Will & Emery LLP, claimed another win in December after the Patent Trial and Appeals Board decided in Diablo’s favor in three inter partes review proceedings on the intellectual property claims.

“The judge did not allow us to conduct business until we went through the legal process. We had high legal fees, and until we got through that, the company was basically put on hold,” Stibitz said. “Part of the amazing piece of the Diablo story is working through that legal process, coming out successful against the claims, clearing our good name and then [maintaining] the incredible support of the investors along the way.”

Stibitz said the Series C funding will enable Diablo to devote its full attention to its Memory1 all-flash DDR4 module and customer deployments. He said the company wants to expand its sales force, customer support team at headquarters and in the field, and research and development arm.

Target customers for Memory1 are hyperscale data center operators and major server OEMs. Stibitz said customers use the flash-based Memory1 module to increase the amount of memory in their server systems at a lower cost than DRAM.

Unlike Memory1’s use of flash as system memory, Diablo’s first product uses flash as high-performance block storage. Stibitz claimed the Memory Channel Storage product was gaining momentum until a judge ordered the company to stop selling the product last January. The judge later lifted the restrictions, but he said, “The pause was tough for us.” Diablo had sold its all-flash Memory Channel Storage through SanDisk and Lenovo under the name ULLtraDIMM.

Stibitz said Diablo faced a choice of updating its DDR3-based Memory Channel Storage product to DDR4 or focusing on the new Memory1 technology. The team chose the latter and pushed off the Memory Channel Storage refresh to this year. Diablo expects to sample the DDR4-based Memory Channel Storage product for top customers in the middle of the year and go into production by year’s end, according to Stibitz.

“We’re rebuilding the momentum the company had previously gained, but we’re doing it around flash as memory,” Stibitz said. “We felt that flash as memory was very innovative, and we wanted to get that out first in the restart process.”

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