SanDisk expanded its enterprise flash product line today by acquiring PCIe flash leader Fusion-io for $1.1 billion. However, SanDisk provided few specifics about its plans for its newly acquired products.
SanDisk is known primarily as a PC solid state drive (SSD) vendor although its enterprise revenue shot up in 2013 and this is its second acquisition for server-side enterprise flash in 10 months.
Fusion-io was an early flash success story, turning its dominance in the PCIe market to an initial public offering in 2011 but fell on hard times last year.
“This will position us for a leadership position in enterprise storage,” SanDisk CEO Sanjay Mehrotra said on a conference call this morning to discuss the deal.
SanDisk last August acquired SSD and flash controller company Smart Storage for around $307 million. Smart Storage sells ULLtraDIMM flash memory cards that sit in the server’s motherboard and have lower latency than PCIe cards. Mehrotra said the Fusion-io technology complements SmartS torage’s UltraDIMM product, which is seen as competitive with PCIe flash. He claimed there is a market for both types of products as well as SAS and SATA SSDs.
Fusion-io expanded its product line in April 2013 by acquiring storage array startup NexGen Storage for $114 million. Fusion-io sells the NexGen hybrid flash arrays under the ioControl brand. Those arrays use Fusion-io flash instead of solid state drives (SSDs).
However, Mehrotra would not commit to the ioControl product. He did not mention the arrays when discussing Fusion-io technology during the call. When asked twice if SanDisk would continue the hybrid SAN array product, Mehrotra said he would talk about that about it after the deal closes. He expects that to happen in Setember.
Mehrotra also declined to say how the deal would affect SanDisk’s current early development of PCIe flash products.
SanDisk moved into the enterprise SSD market when it acquired Pliant Technology for $327 million in 2011.
The combined revenues from SanDisk and Fusion-io would have made SanDisk the No. 2 overall SSD vendor last year behind Samsung, according to Gartner’s SSD and solid-state array market share report published last week. SanDisk and Fusion-io combined for more than $1.6 billion in revenue in 2013.
According to Gartner, SanDisk jumped from fifth in SSD shipments in 2012 to third in 2013, passing Fusion-io and Micron. SanDisk’s SSD revenue increased 263 percent over the year (compared to 53 percent growth for the entire market), from $355 million to $1.3 billion and its market share grew from five percent to 11.7 percent. It grew more than any other SSD vendor in 2013.
While most of SanDisk’s 2013 revenue came from PC SSDs, it did jump from eighth to fourth in revenue from enterprise SSDs. SanDisk enterprise revenue increased 181 percent (compared to 47 percent for the entire market) to $375 million and its market share went from 4.4 percent in 2012 to 8.5 percent last year.
Meanwhile, Fusion-io’s revenues declined sharply in 2013 as its early large customers Facebook and Apple greatly decreased their spending while competition grew after storage giant EMC and others entered the PCIe market. Fusion-io switched CEOs in May 2013, pushing out David Flynn and replacing him with Shane Robison.
Robison is out now, too. Mehrotra said Fusion-io president/COO Lance Smith will become senior VP and president at SanDisk, leading the Fusion-io development and marketing teams.
Fusion-io fell from fourth in 2012 in total SSD revenue to eighth in 2013. Fusion-io’s revenue declined 18 percent to $339 million last year. It stood eighth overall and fifth in enterprise SSD revenue. Its market share of 7.7 percent of the enterprise market was down from 13.6 percent.
Coraid Inc. recently introduced its EtherDrive EX unified storage system, a high density array for block and file storage, as the company continues to try and push into large-scale cloud deployments.
The EtherDrive EX system comes with an integrated dual controllers and other redundant components within a single chassis for high availability, compared to block-based Coraid’s EtherDrive SRX and file-based EtherDrive ZX systems that each have single controllers.
A single EX chassis holds 60 drives and can scale incrementally by adding more chasses. An EX in a 4U form factor provides up to 240 Terabytes of raw capacity, while users can tailor its storage performance with a mix of SSD drives, nearline SAS drives and cache drives. The system currently is available and it has a list price starting at $700 per Terabyte.
Gokul Sathiacama, Coraid’s vice president of product management, said the EX allows customers to start using Coraid systems at a small scale.
“We are trying to go after cloud service providers and enterprises that want private clouds,” said Sathiacama. “In that market, the agility of the platform is paramount. If you want to scale performance and capacity in a linear fashion, you can do it with the EX.”
Ashish Nadkarni, IDC’s research director in storage systems and software, said the company has been working on transitioning from being primarily a traditional storage player to a cloud supplier. Amazon uses technology that is similar to Coraid’s for its elastic block storage (EBS).
“They want to be the Amazon EBS equivalent,” he said. “Coraid wants to be the block cloud storage supplier, by making their technology friendly with things like OpenStack. They also has a software solution that helps it do cloud management. It’s a tough road to make the transition because the story is different on the cloud side. It’s about ‘How much do I get for my dollar?’ The enterprise storage (market) is crowded and crowded to the core. Even HP and Dell are struggling.”
Fueled by triple-digit percentage growth in revenue, IBM and Pure Storage were the market leaders for solid-state arrays (SSA) in 2013, according to a report released this week by Gartner Inc.
Revenue from IBM’s FlashSystem product line increased 278% year-over-year from $43.4 million in 2012 to $164.4 million in 2013. IBM commanded about a quarter of the all-flash array market, as its share grew from 18.4% to 24.6%. The FlashSystem platform came from IBM’s 2012 of Texas Memory System.
Pure Storage’s revenue spiked 642%, from $15.4 million to $114.1 million, and its market share surged from 6.5% to 17.1% in 2013.
“Pure Storage has broad applicability predicated on its data reduction abilities and fresh marketing approach that has resonated well with customers,” Joseph Unsworth, a research vice president for NAND flash and solid-state drive (SSD) technology at Gartner, wrote in an e-mail.
Unsworth wrote the “Market Share Analysis: SSDs and Solid-State Arrays, Worldwide, 2013 report with the revenue figures.
Violin Memory dropped from first in 2012 to third last year. Violin’s revenue increased by 22.6%, from $72.1 million to $88.3 million, but the company’s market share fell from 30.5% to 13.2% in 2013, according to Gartner.
Unsworth noted in the report that the U.S. government shutdown and missed sales targets hurt Violin after its initial public offering in September 2013. He wrote the company has top hardware but suffered from less than optimal data management software. Violin is working on its software strategy, trimming operating costs, refocusing on core customers and geographies and returning to the channel with a fresh management team in place, Unsworth wrote in the report.
Gartner changed the way it reports revenue for solid-state arrays with the release of the 2013 market analysis. The Stamford, Connecticut-based company now includes only the revenue from SSA products with a dedicated model and name that cannot be configured with hard-disk drives. By contrast, in 2012, Gartner also included general-purpose disk storage arrays that were configured only with SSDs, such as Hitachi HUS VM, Dell Compellent, EMC VMAX, IBM DS8000, HP 7000 series, NetApp FAS and others.
Those general-purpose storage arrays configured solely with SSDs accounted for $128 million in sales in 2012 and an estimated $170 million in 2013, but Gartner has now stripped that revenue out of its solid-state array market calculations.
Under Gartner’s revised SSA market calculation, EMC is now able to count revenue from only its XtremIO and VNX-F arrays, which were released last November. Despite the short time frame, the EMC all-flash systems placed fourth for the year, with $73.9 million in revenue, and EMC held 11.1% of the market.
In fifth place, NetApp all-flash revenue grew 126.5% for its EF540 all-flash array to $71 million. Nimbus Data Systems also more than doubled its revenue, from $21.6 million to $43.4 million, and placed sixth for the year, according to Gartner.
Filling out the top 10 were Kaminario ($22.5 million), Cisco ($21.4 million), SolidFire ($20.4 million) and Hewlett-Packard ($8.8 million). The total market grew 182% from 2012 to 2013, from $236.5 million to $667.3 million, using Gartner’s revised SSA reporting metrics.
According to the Gartner report, end users purchased 5,281 solid-state array units in 2013 at an average selling price of $126,360, or $9.70 per GB. The most popular capacity range was 10 TB to 19.99 TB, with a total of 2,126 units shipping at an average selling price of $118,647, or $11.59 per GB.
Runners-up were solid-state arrays in the range of 20 TB to 49.99 TB. A total of 1,629 units shipped at an average selling price of $180,699, or $8.82 per GB. Just 171 solid-state arrays of greater than 50 TB shipped last year, at an average selling price of $223,169, or $4.36 per GB. But, that could change this year now that most SSA vendors are making available arrays at higher capacities.
The Gartner analysis also included SSD revenue. Samsung, the largest supplier of NAND flash chips, maintained its overall lead in SSD sales with $3.1 billion in revenue, with the majority of its revenue from the PC SSD segment. Intel ($1.4 billion) held onto the No. 2 overall spot. SanDisk ($1.3 billion) jumped from fifth place in 2012 to third place, and Micron ($0.8 billion) improved from eighth to four. Toshiba ($0.6 billion) fell from third to fifth.
In the enterprise segment, which combined enterprise server and enterprise storage SSDs, Intel was No. 1 with 18.5% market share. Samsung (14.6%) jumped from third to second place, Western Digital (at 10.6%, with sales mostly from high-end storage through its partnership with Intel) moved from fifth to third, SanDisk (8.5%) leapt from eighth to fourth and Fusion-io (7.7%) fell from No. 2 to No. 5.
The Gartner report showed that total sales of enterprise SSDs grew from $3 billion in 2012 to $4.4 billion in 2013. Unsworth cited the main drivers in the enterprise SSD space as hyperscale customers purchasing low-cost SATA SSDs in huge volumes and storage manufacturers buying higher-quality SAS SSDs. He said hyperscale users and server manufacturers were prominent in sales of high-performance PCIe SSDs, but lower-cost PCIe SSDs “tempered revenue.”
Breaking down enterprise SSD sales, Intel was the leading producer of SATA SSDs followed by Samsung, Smart Storage, OCZ and SanDisk in 2013. Western Digital was No. 1 in the SAS-based SSD market, followed by SanDisk, Seagate, Toshiba and Hitachi. Fusion-io continued its dominance in PCIe SSDs, with Google, NetApp, LSI and Western Digital behind. Google, NetApp and Hitachi use their SSDs only within their own data centers or products, Gartner noted.
Intronis, a cloud backup and recovery provider, has ended its per-gigabyte storage pricing model for its IT Channel partners who are starting to feel the brunt of the pricing war between heavyweight cloud providers like Amazon and Google.
Aaron Dun, Intronis’ chief marketing officer, said the company now is offering a flat, per-month storage rate for unlimited cloud and local storage pricing, which they expect will give partners the ability to compete against the major cloud providers that have been driving down costs in what analysts describe as a “land grab” for cloud customers.
Google introduced its more dramatic price reduction in March, slashing pricing for its cloud storage services by as much as 69 percent while it eliminated pricing for tiered services and introduced a flat rate for its Google Cloud Storage standard and Durable Reduced Availability (DRA) storage. Amazon followed with cuts in its Simple Storage Service (S3) by an average of 51%, with cuts varying between 36 percent and 65 percent spread across the different tiers of the service.
Intronis has about 2,000 channel partners that support about 35,000 small-medium sized businesses. Dun said the cloud storage wars have created a challenge for its partners who are finding it harder to justify the cost of their services on top of the per-gigabyte cloud storage cost.
“That’s been an increasingly difficult conversation (for our partners),” said Dun. “They are faced with a market headwind. We are giving our partners some cost certainty and also a way to have a better conversation with their customers.”
Dun said Intronis made this move based on discussions they had with partners who were bundling cloud backup as part of a managed service plan.
“They were having a different conversation with customers, a more strategic discussion,” he said. The Intronis U2 plan allows managed service providers (MSPs) and resellers to address data storage and protection needs with a single solution that is supported with simplified pricing.
It comes as no surprise to anyone who followed vendors’ most recent earnings reports that storage systems revenues dropped significantly during the first quarter of 2014. Or that sales of high end storage systems were way down.
External disk storage revenue fell 5.2 percent from the first quarter last year to $5.6 billion, according to IDC storage tracker figures released today. That followed a 2.4 increase in the fourth quarter of 2013 over the previous year.
The big drop last quarter was driven largely by a 25 percent decline in high-end storage spending. IBM and EMC cited steep revenue declines in their high end arrays during their earnings reports. Erick Sheppard, research director for IDC storage, said other factors driving down revenue include better adoption of storage optimization technologies, companies are keeping their systems longer, economic uncertainty, and more data is going to public clouds.
IBM’s performance was especially dire. Its $497 million in revenue fell 22.5 percent and its market share dropped from 10.8 percent to 8.8 percent. But all of the top five vendors’ revenue decreased. EMC maintained its big lead in market share, but its revenue fell 8.8 percent to $1.64 billion and its market share decreased from 30.2 percent to 29.1 percent. NetApp remained second and its revenue fell 2.8 percent to $854 million but its market share increased from 14.8 percent to 15.1 percent.
Hewlett-Packard and Hitachi Data Systems were in a statistical tie for third with IBM (all three were within one point of market share). HP’s revenue fell only .7 percent – the lowest drop of the top five – to $498 million and its market share increased from 8.4 percent to 8.8 percent. HDS fell from 8.9 percent to 8.7 percent market share after a 6.8 percent revenue drop to $493 million.
The rest of the market increased revenue 3.7 percent to $1.66 billion. That includes Dell, which finished sixth with 7.3 percent market share. Market share for “others” increased from 26.9 percent to 29.4 percent.
Overall storage revenue – including servers – dropped at an even greater rate. The total market dropped 6.9 percent to $7.32 billion. The revenue for EMC and NetApp were the same because they do not sell servers, but IBM dropped 20.5 percent, Dell declined 19 percent and HP was down 8 percent. Revenue from the rest of the market increased 6.8 percent and went from 25.1 percent market share last year to 28.8 percent share.
Cloud backup vendor Infrascale today closed a $16.3 million Series B funding round and immediately made an investment by acquiring backup deduplication appliance vendor Eversync Solutions.
Infrascale did not disclose the amount of the transaction, but its CEO Ken Shaw said Eversync has millions of dollars in annual revenue and will expand Infrascale’s technology.
Infrascale’s products include Infrascale Backup for physical and virtual servers, Infrascale EndGuard for end point devices, Infrascale FileLocker for file sharing, and SOS Online Backup for consumers and small businesses. The company was known as SOS Online Backup until 2012 but changed its name because the SOS brand was associated with consumer backup, Shaw said. Eversync also goes by a different name than it used originally. It started out as Revinetix.
The Eversync appliances hold from 2TB to 176TB of raw data, and can handle more than 1 PB of usable capacity with dedupe. Shaw said Infrascale will continue to sell Eversync’s current products but will add its own software to create disk-to-disk-to-cloud backup products later this year.
“We [Infrascale] do source-side and target-side dedupe but we haven’t gotten into the appliance space yet,” Shaw said. “This allows us to put a lot of our technology onto their appliances. We’ll do that for physical and virtual appliances.”
All Infrascale applications back up to the cloud, as do the Eversync appliances.
“Cloud backup and integrated appliances are two parts of the backup market that are growing,” Shaw said.
Shaw said Eversync’s 18 employees will join Infrascale. The Eversyc team will remain in Salt Lake City. Infrascale is based in Los Angeles.
Carrick Capital Partners led the funding round with DH Capital participating.
Shaw said Infrascale is profitable and the funding round “is not about sustaining runway. It’s about making long-term strategic additions to our technology.”
EMC CEO and chairman Joe Tucci this week left open the door to remaining as CEO past next February, and slammed it shut on the possibility of selling off VMware.
Tucci spoke Thursday at Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions 2014 investor conference. Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi introduced Tucci by saying “This is purportedly Joe’s last year as CEO.”
Sacconaghi then asked Tucci about his plans as EMC Federation’s CEO. Tucci has already postponed his retirement twice, and his contract expires in February 2015. After that, plans call for him to remain as chairman and relinquish the CEO job to a person within EMC – likely either EMC storage CEO David Goulden, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger or Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz.
But Tucci said that plan is far from cast in stone. He said he would stay on if the board –- which he chairs – wants him to.
“What I’ve said to our board is, that’s like a target date,” Tucci said. “First of all, we’re blessed with some great CEOs in the federation today. And if they think the timing is right and they’d like to do it previous to February I’m fine with that. If they think they’d like a little more time, I’m also fine with that. And I’m not talking about years, I’m talking in terms of months. So there is no bright line drawn in the sand that February 6 at two o’clock in the morning … There is a lot of flexibility and if asked, and that’s the way the board is indicating they’d like me to, I would gladly stay on.”
Sacconaghi asked Tucci how he would react to shareholder calls for EMC to sell off all or some of the 80 percent of VMware that it owns. Tucci said EMC Federation, which includes VMware, Pivotal and RSA Security, provides all the pieces for a software-defined data center and is better as a large company.
“It’s better together,” he said. “Collectively, it’s just a lot stronger story. If you look at who is going at this market, these are big companies. These are companies called IBM, these are companies called Cisco. I think if you break it up, you just weaken every part.”
He added, “I don’t have any plans to buy back the 20 percent (of VMware) we don’t own. I don’t have any plans to sell any of the 80 percent we do own.”
Violin Memory sold off its fledgling PCIe flash business to SK hynix for $23 million this week as it tries to dig out of the financial hole it fell into late last year.
The sale gives Violin much-needed cash while allowing it the focus on its all-flash array platform. It was a priority for new CEO Kevin DeNuccio when he took over the company last February, two months after the board fired his predecessor Don Basile following Violin’s rocky start as a public company.
The PCIe sale accompanied layoffs as Violin moved to reduce expenses last quarter. The expense reduction worked, although the reduction and reorganization of Violin’s sales team played a role in a huge revenue drop.
Violin Thursday reported $18.1 million in revenue last quarter, down 35 percent from the previous quarter and 27 percent from last year. Violin also lost $30.1 million in the quarter.
The loss was actually an improvement over the previous quarter when Violin lost $56.5 million. DeNuccio said Violin cut expenses by about $8 million last quarter.
“This will be a transitional year for Violin,” he said on a conference call. “There will be a lot of moving pieces. We made dramatic financial improvements during the quarter.”
Of the $10 million sequential drop in revenue, $4 million came from the fall in PCIe revenue from $5 million to $1 million
DeNuccio did not give any revenue guidance but said he expects it to begin growing in the second half of the year. As for the drop last quarter, he blamed it on the sales reduction and “not a reflection of demand for our products or the flash market in general. It’s the results of changes we made to position the company for long-term success.”
He also said Violin will have a significant new product launch over the next few months.
“It’s been our cash burn rate, not our technology that has caused concern,” he said.
Burn rate remains a concern. Pointing to Violin’s $87 million in cash and recent losses, Sterne Agee financial analyst, Alex Kurtz wrote in a note to clients today: “Without a bounce back in [second half] growth as management has outlined, liquidity concerns would become a significant issue, especially as new competitors enter the market and pricing pressure becomes more acute.”
Surrounded by large and small storage competitors diving into the all-flash array market, Nimble Storage CEO Suresh Vasudevan said his company is at least three years away from taking such a step.
Vasudevan said Nimble’s CASL file system will support an all-flash array, but market demand is not yet there because of pricing dynamics.
He said Nimble meets the requirements for all flash, with features such as scale-out, data reduction and file locking. But he said Nimble’s hybrid systems have enough performance to compete with all-flash arrays without the cost.
“I will say the architecture itself is broad enough to enable us to go towards the flash-only array,” Vasudevan said Thursday on Nimble’s earnings call.
“The more difficult question to answer is when or whether we think it will become necessary. That question entirely revolves around the endurance of flash coupled with the price of flash. Will the price of flash go down without compromising endurance to a point where the economics start to favor an all flash array? At this junction, not even the semiconductor industry will give you a clear answer that says endurance will stay roughly where we need it to be for enterprise flash arrays and price will go down. So that’s the big unknown. What I am sure of is it is not happening in the next three to five years.”
Nimble’s CS200 and CS400 iSCSI arrays all combine flash and spinning disk. The vendor will also launch a higher end system that includes what Nimble calls Adaptive Flash in June.
Nimble is competing well as is, with revenue of $46.5 million last quarter more than doubling over the previous year as its larger competitors saw their revenue shrink. The vendor exceeded its revenue goal and added 450 new customers in the quarter. The forecast for this quarter is for $49 million to $51 million in revenue.
Nimble also continues to lose money while in growth mode (76 employees added last quarter to bring the total to 668). It lost $10 million last quarter and expects to lose between $11 million and $12 million this quarter. Vasudevan said he doesn’t expect to break even for nearly two years.
Despite the losses, Vasudevan said Nimble is moving into larger companies. He said the vendor had 400 deals of more than $100,000 over the last year, twice as many as the previous year. The addition of Fibre Chanel support planned for later this year should also help Nimble move into the enterprise.
Established storage companies are apparently taking Nimble seriously now. Vasudevan said price competition is “more intense” as large vendors fight harder for deals. “I would say that’s the one change versus the large incumbents,” he said when asked if large vendors are getting more aggressive on pricing.
Unitrends today added cloud backup technology to its data protection product line, which already includes physical backup (Unitrends integrated appliances), virtual backup (PHD Virtual) and disaster recovery failover, failback and testing (ReliableDR).
The cloud backup comes from Yuruware, an early stage Australian-based startup that Unitrends acquired today.
Yuruware technology is months away from shipping, but will be built into the ReliableDR software that PHD Virtual acquired from VirtualSharp last year before Unitrends acquired PHD Virtual. ReliableDR allows customers to replicate between sites or into a Unitrends cloud. ReliableDR technology has been integrated into PHD Virtual and Unitrends backup products, and Yuruware technology will extend its capabilities to public clouds such as Amazon Web Services.
“With our backup products today, we have the ability to replicate between two end points,” said Mark Campbell, Unitrends chief strategy and technology officer. “We start running into problems with public clouds when we have to transform a VMware machine into an Amazon machine. We also have problems around the network because VMware has a virtual network and Amazon has its own network [programming] language known as CloudFormation. Yuruware can spin up machines and networks from a local infrastructure into the cloud.”
Campbell said Yuruware has technology similar to Amazon’s pilot light pattern that replicates data that resides outside of a critical database but must be failed over and back to recover from a disaster.
“Yuruware has technology that does that but doesn’t use compute resources [such as Amazon EC2],” he said. “It only uses compute cycles when you want to assemble those objects into an Amazon Machine Instance.”
Unitrends acquired Yuruware out of the Australian incubator NICTA. The startup consists of seven developers and patented intellectual property, which Unitrends plans to expand into full-blown public cloud backup. Campbell said Unitrends will keep the Yuruware team in Australia and add developers.
The roadmap includes expanding Yuruware’s current support for AWS and OpenStack to other public clouds, including Microsoft Azure.
Campbell said Yuruware IP is expected to show up in Unitrends products by the end of this year, with more to come in early 2015.