Storage Soup

July 31, 2015  5:11 AM

Quantum stumbles at closing time

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Quantum, StorNext, Tape backup

Add Quantum to the list of storage vendors that struggled last quarter.

Quantum Thursday reported revenue of revenue of $110.9 million, down around $17 million from last year and below its original forecast. The company lost $10.1 million, down from a loss of $4.3 million last year. The declines were especially sharp in Quantum’s core tape business.

Quantum CEO Jon Gacek said organizations seemed reluctant to buy, and Quantum refused to give deep discounts at the end of the quarter to close deals.

“The overall storage environment was particularly challenging at the end of the quarter as customers seemed to pull back on purchases,” Gacek said. “I’m not willing to panic and do dumb things [to make sales].”

The challenges are expected to continue this quarter. Quantum’s forecast for the quarter of between $120 million and $130 million is an increase from this quarter, but down from last year when the vendor had $135 million in the same quarter.

“I’m not confident that the market is going to bounce back,” Gacek said, “although I do feel better about how [this quarter] has started. It just feels choppy to me.”

Quantum did not give guidance for the entire fiscal year, which started last quarter.

Gacek sees a silver lining in what Quantum calls scale-out storage, which is primarily its StorNext file system, Lattus object storage and new Artico NAS archiving appliance. Those products grew 54 percent year-over-year to $28 million, a hike of around $10 million, due to strong sales in media and entertainment and video surveillance. But disk backup revenue was flat at $17.3 million and tape revenue fell about $28 million.

Because the tape revenue is still the majority of Quantum’s business, it can’t grow overall by increasing scale-out if tape keeps slipping. The previous quarter, Quantum beat expectations when tape sales stabilized and DXi disk backup and scale-out storage increased.

“I like how we’re positioned in scale-out, and there is a lot of opportunity there,” Gacek said. “I would like to be more confident in the data center stuff.”

July 30, 2015  2:02 PM

EMC comes off the bench(mark), publishes SPC numbers for VMAX, VNX

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

EMC, which has downplayed the significance of industry benchmarks, today published its first Storage Performance Council (SPC) block benchmarks for its unified storage systems.

Results for the VMAX 400K and VNX 8000 arrays were strong, but not dominant. The VMAX 400K achieved the highest SPC-2 (bandwidth) result for MB per second with 55,643.78 and finished second behind the Hewlett-Packard XP7 (based on Hitachi technology) for price/performance at $33.58 per SPC-2 MBps.

The VNX 8000 finished second in SPC-1 (transactional) performance and fourth in price per SPC1 IOPS.

The big surprise is that EMC published benchmark numbers at all. The vendor has long insisted that customers should do application performance testing instead of relying on SPC numbers, although it has published benchmarks for file storage.

In an EMC Pulse blog about the benchmark results, authors Jeff Boudreau and Fidelma Russo say they still favor application performance testing. “We continue to believe that application performance testing is the best predictor of real-world performance, especially for critical workloads,” they wrote.

However, customer requests have prompted EMC to benchmark.

“The world’s changing and our customers are changing,” said Jonathan Siegal, VP of marketing for EMC Core Techologies. “Customers have more choices, and there’s a lot of noise out there.”

The Pulse bloggers added: “By publishing these SPC results, customers can use these standard assessments to help simplify their initial high-performance storage evaluations and eliminate much of the ‘noise’ in their screening process.”

The VMAX 400K system EMC tested was an all-flash model with eight 512 GB engines and 32 200 GB solid-state drives (SSDs) per engine for 4 TB of global memory and 264 SSDs. The storage connected to the host system with 128 Fibre Channel links.

The list price for the system tested was $4.9 million, although SPC used a discount price of $1.9 million for its price/performance calculation.

SPC-2 uses three workloads executed separately to gauge system performance. The Workloads are large file processing, large database query and video on demand. Besides the VMAX and HP XP7, other enterprise systems that have run the same benchmark include the Eternus DX8700 S2, IBM DS8870 and XIV Gen3, and Hitachi Data System VSP.

The VNX 8000’s 435,067.33 SPC-1 maximum IOPS finished second behind Huawei
Oceanstor Dorado 5100’s 600,000 IOPS rate. Its price/performance rating of $0.41/IOPS finished behind Infortrend EonStor DS 3024B ($0.17/IOPS), the second-place X-IO ISE 820 G3 and third-place Dell SC 4020. The SPC-1 test measures a system’s performance on an OLTP IO workload.

The VNX tested was also an all-flash system, with 40 100GB eMLC SSDs for 3.9 TB of capacity and four 300GB SAS disk drives for the VNX operating system and other system information.

The system had 256GB of DRAM and was connected with 32 8-GBps FC links to 16 host systems. The list price was $317,000, but a street price of $177,000 was used for price/IOPS.

To see active results on the SPC web site, click here for SPC-2 and here for SPC-1.

July 30, 2015  9:27 AM

FalconStor lands OEM deals with Kaminario, X-IO

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
FalconStor, Kaminario, Violin Memory, X-IO

FalconStor’s 2015 revenue has been paltry at the mid-way point of the year, but the vendor is crowing about new OEM deals for its FreeStor data services software.

FalconStor said it signed three OEM agreements and four service provider deals for FreeStor last quarter. The OEMs include storage vendors X-IO Technologies and Kaminario.

X-IO is using FreeStor for software services in its Iglu SAN platform launched Tuesday. X-IO did not advertise FalconStor as the OEM technology for Iglu, but did not deny it and gave FalconStor permission to disclose the deal.

All-flash vendor Kaminario is expected to use FreeStor to add more storage management features to its K-2 arrays, which were originally designed with performance in mind more than manageability. Kaminario added thin provisioning, inline deduplication and compression, and encryption in 2014, but replication remains a roadmap feature. Replication is covered by FreeStor, which was originally developed for all-flash vendor Violin Memory and is used with Violin Concerto arrays.

FalconStor CEO Gary Quinn said cloud service providers Egenera and Telefonica have signed on to resell FreeStor. He said FalconStor now has six OEMs for FreeStor along with four service providers.

FalconStor can use the sales help. Revenue for last quarter was $9.6 million, down from $11.3 million last year and $10.1 million in the first quarter of this year. The vendor lost $2.2 million, down from $3 million last year. With $18.8 million in cash, FalconStor needs to reverse historical trends and start turning a profit soon.

Quinn is trying to spin FreeStor and its partnerships as a turning point for the company.

He began FalconStor’s earnings call Wednesday by saying, “The first half of 2015 is a tale of two cities story. It’s the beginning of a new era and winding down of the past.”

He ended with: “Past performance and future opportunities are on the opposite ends of the spectrum” for FalconStor.

None of FalconStor’s OEM partners are market leaders, however, so it will need a lot more deals and enterprise customers to turn things around.

July 30, 2015  9:27 AM

Storage should take high priority

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns
Data storage, Information management

Few people argue that information is important. The value of information varies and changes over time but is the most critical resource for most organizations.

Yet, we see storage products where the importance of storing, accessing, and managing information is not addressed effectively or is seemingly trivialized.

There is complexity in managing information, especially as value changes. Requirements must be met when storing and managing information. It must be available, 100 percent valid, secure from an access standpoint, and protected from disasters, hardware failures and human errors.

People in IT often forget about these requirements, as do vendors. We see storage products that only emphasize moving data to execute a program against it, assuming there is no real issue regarding storage beyond that. They ignore that with the high value of information, the residency of information is with storage and is transient for servers and networks. The stewardship of information required for the processing and analysis is the responsibility of where the data is stored.

Another important consideration is that information is stored for a long time, typically for decades. The real concerns are about storing, managing, and administering the information over that period. The infrastructure will change over that time. Think of how many servers will be replaced over the information’s lifespan. This is also the area where major costs are incurred. The costs for storing and managing information over its lifespan can be far more significant than other technology costs.

Systems and solutions must make allowances for the cost of storing information for the lifespan of the data. When solutions do not address that concern, someone (the customer who understands the value of the information) must incur greater cost and effort to add those capabilities. To not do so adds an unacceptable measure of risk. The priority of information must be covered effectively when evaluating and making decisions about storage.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

July 29, 2015  10:19 AM

Is Veeam’s gain causing Commvault’s pain?

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Commvault, Veeam

Commvault’s revenue keeps sliding while data protection software rival Veeam makes steady gains. Coincidence, or is Veeam taking deals that Commvault used to win?

Commvault’s revenue of $139 million was down nine percent from last year and eight percent from the previous quarter. Software revenue of $56.5 million fell 22 percent from last year and 19 percent from the previous quarter. Revenue from enterprise deals ($100,000 or more) dropped 29 percent from the previous quarter.

Commvault executives forecast revenue for the fiscal year, which ends in March 2016, to be roughly the same as last year — $608 million.

Veeam, which is a private company but discloses partial financial results, said its revenue bookings increased 22 percent last quarter over the previous year. Veeam claims its enterprise revenue (Veeam considers this deals of more than $50,000) increased 64 percent year-over-year.

Veeam said its total 2014 revenue bookings were $389 million and it has grown more than 20 percent in each of the first two quarters of 2014. That would bring its 2015 revenue close to $500 million if it keeps going at this pace.

“The headlines for the quarter are that we had a more challenging quarter than expected,” Commvault CEO Bob Hammer said on his company’s earnings call.

Commvault has actually had five consecutive challenging quarters as it rebuilds its sales organization and shifts its product strategy. Hammer said the company and the industry are in transition, but he doesn’t see Veeam as the cause of Commvault’s problems.

Hammer said Commvault, which handles virtual and physical backup and recovery, archiving and compliance and cloud data protection, goes far beyond Veeam’s technology. Veeam’s specialty is virtual data protection, but it has added replication and cloud capabilities in its move from SMB play to the mid-market and enterprise.

“As far as Veeam and the enterprise, Veeam does not have a platform,” Hammer said. “If you want to talk about enterprise, you can incrementally improve scale, but the scale we are talking about is nowhere near where Veeam’s is in terms of big enterprise scale.”

Commvault COO Al Bunte added: “It’s hard to do big enterprise scale and operational automation without a platform … And to my knowledge, the Veeam folks aren’t there yet.”

Doug Hazelman, Veeam’s VP of product strategy, sees it differently. He said Commvault has been the main competitor for Veeam as it moves into the enterprise.

“Commvault is definitely the one we’re competing with most as we go up market,” Hazelman said. “Look at the results we’ve had. We’re growing, and they’re not.”

Both companies have major upgrades coming.

Veeam is preparing to launch Veeam Availability Suite 9 with image-based VM replication to the cloud to enable disaster recovery as a service and greater storage array snapshot support.

Commvault also plans a 2015 launch of the next version of its Simpana platform, although it might not be called Simpana. Commvault executives never said the word Simpana on the earnings call Tuesday. They repeatedly referred to their “platform,” and emphasized the point products they have added in the past year in areas such as virtual data protection, cloud and end point protection. After all the changes Commvault is going through, it would not be surprising if they re-branded their platform.

July 28, 2015  3:57 PM

Cisco throws in the towel on all-flash array

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Cisco finally figured out what to do with its Invicta all-flash array acquired from startup Whiptail for $415 million. It killed it off.

Cisco put out an end-of-life announcement last Friday for Invicta, and has stopped taking orders for the array. If you’re one of the few who bought an Invicta array, your final day to renew your service report is Oct. 19, 2019 with July 31, 2020 designated as the last day of support.

Cisco bought Whiptail in Sept. 2013, but the deal had problems from the start. With close storage partners such as EMC and NetApp pushing into flash storage at the same time, Cisco hesitated to declare the Whiptail arrays storage products. They were rebranded as Invicta, sold by the Cisco UCS server group, and omitted from the Vblocks sold through Cisco’s VCE alliance with EMC and the FlexPod reference architectures with partner NetApp.

However, quality issues prompted Cisco to take Invicta off the market last September with plans to fix the problems and bring it back out. That never happened, however, as Cisco confirmed last week that the product is finished.

July 27, 2015  5:06 PM

Google ramps up partnerships for its Storage Nearline service

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii
Cloud archiving

Not only did Google offer new incentives with its Cloud Storage Nearline service to tempt customers to switch from Amazon and Microsoft Azure last week, the company also beefed up its ecosystem to make it easier to change cloud platforms.

Google added Actifio, CloudBerry Lab, Pixit Media and Unitrends as Google Cloud Platform partners. They join earlier partners Veritas/Symantec, NetApp, Iron Mountain and Geminare.

The partners have integrated Cloud Storage Nearline with disaster recovery, backup and archival and hybrid cloud solutions using Google’s open APIs. For example, copy data management vendor Actifio has mostly focused on selling into enterprise-level environments but now has set its sights on cloud platforms.

Actifio customers will be able to add a Vault profile that lets them move an application directly into Nearline.

Actifio CEO Ash Ashutosh said it makes sense to become a Google Cloud Platform Premier Partners program because “50 percent of our business comes from these cloud service providers.”

Cloud backup vendor CloudBerry allows its managed service provider (MSP) partners to integrate Nearline with all other Google Cloud Platform services using the same unified API.

Unitrends Free for Google Cloud platform will also support Nearline. Unitrends Free is free backup software that deploys as a virtual appliance in VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, backing up data locally and connecting to the cloud.

Pixit Media, which sells storage for broadcast companies, has object plug-ins to Google Cloud Storage and Nearline.

EMC NetWorker and Avamar, and CommVault Simpana backup software also allow users to move data to Nearline, as does Egnyte’s file sharing application.

Google is trying to make an aggressive run at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure with its Nearline archiving service, plus new services such as the Cloud Storage Transfer Service and the Switch and Save progream. Switch and Save offers 100 PB of free storage in Nearline for up to six months for customers who switch from any other cloud provider or on-premise environments.

Google’s Nearline Storage is the answer to Amazon Glacier for cheap, cold storage. A new on-demand I/O service works with Storage Nearline to allow faster recovery for customers with large amounts of data.

July 22, 2015  9:47 AM

EMC tempers expectations, accelerates shift to emerging storage technologies

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

EMC executives reduced their 2015 revenue forecasts for the second time this year following a quarter of tepid growth. They also said the vendor will implement plans to cut costs by $850 million a year and shift investment from traditional storage products such as its VMAX and VNX arrays to emerging technologies including flash and software-defined storage.

EMC CEO Joe Tucci also continued to defend keeping the EMC Federation intact instead of spinning off VMware or other significant pieces.

The forecast reduction and spending cuts came out during EMC’s quarterly earnings call. The vendor reported revenue of $6.1 billion last quarter, up three percent year over year. The storage business grew only one percent to $4 billion. As a result of those results, EMC now expects $25.2 billion in 2015 revenue, a $500 million downward adjustment over its previous guidance and $900 million from its original 2015 forecast.

“The results were mixed. We fell a bit short of revenue expectations,” Tucci said, noting profit of $487 million was a bit better than expected.

The plan to save $850 million annually in cost cuts will be in place by the end of 2016, with $50 million in cuts coming this year, according to CFO Zane Rowe. Tucci and Rowe said some of those savings will be shifted to growth products such as flash and ViPR, ScaleIO and Elastic Cloud Storage.

EMC emerging storage products, which include Isilon clustered NAS along with flash and software-defined storage, increased 49 percent year over year to $718 million. XtremIO grew more than 300 percent.

On the downside, VMAX revenue fell 13 percent to $892 million, and backup and data recovery dropped nine percent to $1.43 billion.

David Goulden, CEO of EMC Information Infrastructure (storage), said he expects traditional storage – VMAX and VNX – to grow two percent annually until 2018, and only about one percent this year.

“We believe the traditional storage market will not improve this year,” he said, adding that EMC will invest in flash, software-defined storage, big data and the cloud “to remain ahead of the market. We will rebalance resources to self-fund growth initiatives.”

Goulden said he expects a new Isilon release and the generally availability of the DSSD flash system in the second half of 2015 should help sales. Tucci said “I’ve never seen a product with as much demand for betas as DSSD.”

Tucci repeated that he is opposed to breaking up the EMC Federation, which includes VMware, Pivotal and RSA Security. Tucci said EMC II and VMware realize twice as much revenue from deals where both companies are involved than when each is in deals alone. He maintains that in the shift to convergence and cloud computing, the combination of companies makes EMC stronger.

“Splitting this federation or spinning off VMware is not a good idea,” he said. “One of the biggest transitions every company has to do is move to the cloud. Data centers are moving to cloud technology, both private and managed clouds. If you are doing that, would you rather do that as just VMware, as just EMC, as just Pivotal? Or are you much stronger doing it together?”

Tucci, who is also the EMC chairman, would not speculate on when EMC would name his successor as CEO. “I don’t want to comment on the timing,” said Tucci, who has postponed his retirement several times. “I am committed to giving the board the time they need to make sure the succession process works terrifically. I don’t want to put a deadline on the board, but they are actively engaged [in the succession process].”

July 20, 2015  10:37 AM

SimpliVity says sales still surging

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

SimpliVity claims its second quarter sales bookings increased 250 percent over last year, fueled by its Cisco partnership and an avalanche of interest in hyper-convergence.

SimpliVity does not give as much information on its financials as rival Nutanix, but is widely believed to be No. 2 behind Nutanix in hyper-convergence market share. The two private companies were pioneers of hyper-convergence, which combines storage, servers, virtualization and networking in one box.

SimpliVity began selling its software and the ASIC than handled data deduplication along with Cisco UCS servers in early 2015. It also continues to sell its OmniCube bundled appliances.

SimpliVity CEO Doron Kempel said sales with Cisco increased four times from the first quarter to the second, although he said Cisco still accounts for less than 20 percent of SimpliVity sales. He said the company has more than 550 customers and 2,000 units in the field.

Kempel said besides the bump from Cisco, SimpliVity also benefitted last quarter from hype around hyper-convergence. That hype is also attracting more competition, though.

“The market is starting to mature. There is much more noise about hyper-convergence,” Kempel said. “Now large vendors are trying to convolute what it means. A lot of analysts are completely confused. They confuse hyper-convergence with convergence.”

Many vendors are pushing converged systems – packaging discrete servers, storage and hypervisors – but they are also getting into hyper-convergence. VMware is among them with its Virtual SAN (VSAN) software, which it makes available to hardware partners through its EVO: RAIL program. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, EMC and Hitachi Data Systems are among large storage vendors who sell EVO:RAIL systems. Dell also sells Nutanix software on its PowerEdge servers through an OEM deal.

Kempel said most of SimpliVity’s deals are still against legacy storage, with about 20 percent coming head-to-head against Nutanix.

He said SimpliVity rarely sees VMware or EVO: RAIL appliances in the field. “The customers we talk to expect hyper-convergence to run tier one applications across sites,” he said. “EVO:RAIL and Nutanix are focused on single sites and VDI.”

Kempel will be talking to a lot more customers personally. Despite the increase in sales, he said he has replaced Mitch Breen as senior vice president of global sales.

“After 19 months with us, he completed his mission and I have assumed the role of global head of sales,” Kempel said. “We are intensifying our go-to-market activities.”

SimpliVity also added Jose Almandoz as SVP of operations and Randi Nichols as VP of human resources to help manage growth that Kempel said amounts to 10 new employees per week. He said he plans to grow from its current 550 employees to around 800 employees.

SimpliVity closed a $175 million funding round in March.

July 17, 2015  9:19 AM

SIOS launches iQ, seeks more intelligent analytics

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Data protection software vendor SIOS Technologies is branching out into IT analytics.

The vendor this week launched SIOS iQ, an analytics platform developed for virtual machines and their infrastructure that collects data and runs algorithms to identify patterns and possible problems. It can be used to troubleshoot or project the effect of changes to the technology.

The initial release works only with VMware hypervisors, but SIOS COO Jerry Melnick said the platform is designed to work with any virtual environment and he expects it to be expanded in future releases. The application tracks performance, efficiency, reliability and capacity metrics in an infrastructure, and alerts customers if it detects a potential problem or a way to make improvements.

Melnick describes iQ Vision as “a simple way to get answers to difficult questions in a complex environment. A lot of customers have moved into these [virtual] spaces with good intentions, but they’re dynamic environments and they keep getting bigger and bigger.”

Customers download iQ, install it and it works without needing any configuration, Melnick said.

The software isn’t specific to storage, but does look at the storage as well as hosts, VMs, applications and networks.

“Storage is probably the most interesting space,” Melnick said. “There are more issues in that space than the others.”

SIOS iQ’s host-based caching analytics can help improve storage performance. It analyzes blocks written to disk and identifies the read ratio and load profile to identify the VMs and disk that will benefit from caching. The application uses that information to make configuration recommendations on how much cache to add and what size the cache blocks should be, and predicts the performance impact from implementing the recommendations.

SIOS iQ also identifies under-used VMs and unnecessary snapshots that can be eliminated to prevent snapshot sprawl.

Other features include performance root cause analysis and advanced analytics for Microsoft SQL Server.

Unlike newer array management software, iQ is not cloud-based but SIOS plans to automatically deliver product upgrades every four to six weeks in what Melnick calls a SaaS (storage as a service) delivery style. SIOS iQ is sold as an annual subscription, with a list price of $150 per host per month.

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