Storage Soup


January 21, 2011  8:19 PM

Data miner strikes gold with DRAM storage appliance

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

We’ve seen that these are still early days for solid-state and Flash adoption in enterprise storage, and people are still trying to figure out the best way to implement the technology. That leaves the door still open to new approaches.

One of those new approaches is that of Kaminario, which in mid-2010 came out of stealth with a DRAM-based solid state storage appliance that it claims can provide faster access to data in key applications. Kaminario also uses hard drives in its K2 appliances, which consist of blade servers with redundant hard drives, Fibre Channel switches and redundant UPS. Its KOS operating system controls load balancing of data across the DRAM of each Data Node, making the DRAM of the entire system look like a single high-speed disk to the application.

Now that K2 appliances have been on the market awhile, Kaminario has been identifying customers using them for a performance boost. One of them is Digital Trowel, an Israeli based Web data mining company that sifts through Internet records to find relevant data quickly for customers. Digital Trowel CTO Anton Bar said it took more than a week to crawl five billion database records for his customers, find errors and correct them with EMC Clarrion SAN arrays. Since adding a K2 appliance, he said it now takes three days to mine those records.

“The bottom line is, our identity resolution process was shortened by about 50 percent, and that’s very important in our line of business,” Bar said.

Bar said he considered several solid state approaches, including adding SSD drives to his EMC Clariion array, going to an all-flash SSD appliance and using Flash on PCIe cards. He tried SSDs in his array first, but said that didn’t give him the performance increase he needed. K2 appliances start at $50,000, and Bar said that was a bargain compared to other methods.

“In addition to simply shoving flash discs into our Clarion, which didn’t improve the throughput at all and was terribly expensive, we considered also the Texas Memory Systems RamSan products,” he said. “However, they had the same price, half of the storage space and lower speed [than K2] — a clear no-brainer.  We also considered Fusion-io ioDrive Flash cards – but they weren’t fail proof. There was (no redundancy at all.”

The K2 appliance may not win out over other approaches in all cases, but it shows that solid state storage options are still expanding.

January 18, 2011  5:39 PM

Dell to resell EMC VNX, not VNXe

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

There has been a lot of speculation as to whether Dell will offer EMC’s newly launched VNX and VNXe unified storage systems. The EMC-Dell OEM relationship has been on the rocks and unlike previous Clariion launches, Dell was not a part of Tuesday’s EMC event as EMC said it was expanding its channel partner program.

A Dell spokesman said EMC will resell the VNX midrange systems but not the VNXe SMB products. The spokesman first said that Dell will be an EMC channel partner on the VNXe system, but later clarified that VNXe will not be part of the EMC-Dell relationship. The two vendors are still deciding if the VNX platform will be an OEM product sold under Dell’s brand or only sold through a reseller deal.

According to an email from Dell spokesman David Graves: “Dell is selling VNX through our reseller agreement. A Dell-branded OEM version of VNX is still in discussion. Dell and EMC have mutually agreed not to use Dell as a channel for the VNXe product – either as a reseller or a Dell-branded OEM offering.”

Dell currently sells EMC’s Clariion SAN, Celerra unified storage and lower-end Data Domain dedupcliaction backp systems under its brand. The Clariion and Celerra converged into the VNX platform. EMC also launched new Data Domain systems today, but they were enteprise systems and not in the range of those branded by Dell.

Dell’s partnership with EMC took a large hit last year when Dell attempted to acquire EMC rival 3PAR. Hewlett-Packard outbid Dell for 3PAR, but Dell answered last month by saying it would acquire Compellent – another EMC competitor. The VNXe is competitive to Dell’s EqualLogic and PowerVault NAS brands.


January 18, 2011  2:08 PM

EMC beefs up VMAX and Data Domain while launching VNX

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Storage

EMC made its big product launch today, and while the VNX and VNXe systems were no surprises, the vendor did roll out a few other new products that had been kept secret. Those included new Data Domain data deduplication backup arrays and an archiving product, and software enhancements for the Symmetrix VMAX enterprise SAN array.

You can find details on the VNX systems at SearchStorage.com and the Data Domain systems at SearchDataBackup.com. VMAX enhancements include a new version of FAST (Fully Automated Tiering Software) – now called FAST VP (Virtual Pools) — and new operating system software that EMC claims can double performance with no hardware upgrade.

EMC said its Symmetrix Enginuity OS delivers twice as many OLT transactions and Decision Support System (DSS) queries as the previous version. The new OS allows up to five million virtual machines on one VMAX, and EMC claims new VMware API support provides 800% faster management and provisioning, and 300% faster replication than VMAX supported before the enhancement.

EMC also gave VMAX new Federated Live Migration software built into the array — claiming that it allows technology refreshes with zero application downtime — and added native 10-Gigabit Ethernet support and built-in RSA Data Protection Manager to encrypt data at rest.

One thing EMC did not include in its releases this morning was any mention of its long-time storage partner Dell. The EMC-Dell relationship has been on the rocks since Dell tried to buy EMC rival 3PAR and then did purchase another rival Compellent last year. When Dell announced the Compellent deal in December, its executives said Dell would continue to sell Clariion, Celerra and Data Domain products. VNX replaces the Clariion and Celerra platforms, and the VNXe “channel optimized” SMB system is a direct competitor to Dell’s EqualLogic iSCSI SAN products.

EMC CEO Joe Tucci gave a state of EMC address to kick off the live product launch, summing up the vendor’s new product line and overall strategy as the “intersection where cloud – IT as a service – meets enterprise data meets big data.”


January 17, 2011  1:46 PM

Storage specialists giving way to IT generalists

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

When I meet with IT personnel or speak at events, I always try to find out what people are doing in their positions in IT. Finding out what their daily work entails gives a good barometer on what is happening in IT and helps to identify where the problems are. One trend I notice is there are fewer storage specialists these days. A storage specialist is someone who understands how the storage systems work, how data flows through IT operations, and how to manage the information.

There is a great deal of tribal knowledge that the storage specialist learns, especially around Fibre Channel. This knowledge may be critical to maintaining operations, but this is changing as storage specialists give way to a growing number of IT generalists.

There are several reasons why IT generalists are replacing storage specialists. A generalist may have more flexibility because he or she can work in many areas. The generalist probably is not as well paid as a storage specialist would have been on average (and the generalists appear to be much younger than storage specialists I’ve known), so. IT managers have consciously developed the generalist to provide the resources that can be applied where needed.

But the movement to server virtualization has done more to develop the IT generalist than probably any overt IT management plan. The management of the virtual machine operating system – specifically VMware – is closely linked to storage. VMware has included storage management functions and has continued to improve those capabilities. This has led to the task of storage administration increasingly being included with the server virtualization function. Evaluator Group has an article on simplifying VMware storage management and the emergence of storage and server management for virtual environments.

A question to ask is whether the trend to IT generalists at the expense of storage specialists is a detriment to IT or not. The answer is not simple. Storage system vendors have recognized this trend and reacted by greatly simplifying the configuration and administration of storage systems. They have intentionally targeted the IT generalist with the system management software. Movement to the IT generalist may be considered a good idea, but that really doesn’t matter. It is happening anyway.

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


January 17, 2011  1:43 PM

HP dumps EVA Cluster, SVSP storage virtualization

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Hewlett-Packard has scrapped the StorageWorks SAN Virtualization Services Platform (SVSP) that it sold through an OEM deal with LSI, as well as the EVA Cluster SAN system that used the SVSP to cluster two EVAs.

According to an email statement from director of HP storage marketing Craig Nunes, HP notified customers last November that it would discontinue development of the SVSP and it stopped selling the EVA Cluster at the end of last year. Nunes said HP would support SVSP customers’ service contracts for five years.

HP was LSI’s only major customer for the SVSP, and last week LSI closed the Israel office where SVSP was developed (LSI acquired the technology from StorAge Networking in 2006). As EMC has found with Invista, no market ever developed for switch-based storage virtualization software.

HP launched EVA Cluster last June, months before it acquired 3PAR for $2.35 billion. Nunes said 3PAR’s storage platform will replace EVA Cluster on the market, but he insisted that the standard EVA platform is alive and well.

“The EVA Cluster was a stand-alone product and its discontinuation has no bearing on future EVA investment and roadmap,” Nunes said in the statement. “The EVA Cluster previously filled a need in our portfolio for Fibre Channel clustered storage arrays that we now address with our newly-acquired 3PAR Utility Arrays.”

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, storage is one area – along with software and networking — that new HP CEO Leo Apotheker wants to focus on. There have also been whispers in the industry that HP will cut all of its storage OEM deals and concentrate on developing all of its storage in-house or through acquisitions. Other OEM partners include Hitachi for HP’s HP StorageWorks P9500 Disk Array enterprise storage system and Sepaton for its virtual tape libraries (VTLs).

Nunes would not comment on HP’s other OEM deals.


January 12, 2011  8:27 PM

Slootman leaves as EMC backup boss for Greylock VC firm

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Today marked the end of an era in storage when Frank Slootman stepped down as president of EMC’s Backup Recovery Systems (BRS) division to join Greylock Partners venture capitalist firm as a partner.

EMC veteran William “BJ” Jenkins will replace Slootman. Jenkins has spent 13 years at EMC, and was chief of staff of BRS under Slootman. EMC said Slootman will retain a formal role with the company as an adviser.

Slootman’s tenure at EMC was relatively short but loud, as he took the lead in EMC’s backup division after it acquired Data Domain for $2.1 billion in July of 2009. Slootman remained outspoken after the deal and EMC’s backup revenue grew substantially during his tenure, but it was his time as Data Domain CEO when he really made a mark on the backup world.

When Slootman joined Data Domain in 2003, disk-based backup was in its infancy and nobody was talking about data deduplication. Now disk has pushed tape most into an archiving role, deduplication is a mainstream technology that is considered a must-have for all new backup products and EMC’s Data Domain platform is the market leader. Slootman also led Data Domain through a successful IPO in 2007 that led to a 2009 bidding war between EMC and NetApp, a precursor of the Hewlett-Packard and Dell competition for 3PAR last year.

In a blog posted on Greylock’s website today called “Why I’m joining Greylock Partners,” Slootman said he left EMC because he needed a new challenge. “I was tempted and flattered by interest to run other companies, but I could not easily see topping the experience of Data Domain,” he wrote.

Greylock was an early investor in Data Domain. Another Greylock partner, Aneel Bhusri, was Data Domain’s chairman at the time of the sale to EMC. Greylock remains active in storage, and is an investor in Actifio, Data Robotics, SilverPeak System, Xsigo and stealth Flash storage startup Pure Storage. It’s real gems, however, are Internet companies Facebook, Groupon and LinkedIn.

According to Greylock’s press release today, “Slootman will invest in data center infrastructure start-ups, particularly in the virtualization, networking, storage, cloud and enterprise application sectors. He will also coach and mentor up-and-coming entrepreneurs and executives.”

Slootman also compared his new job as going from a player to a coach in his blog. “I’d like to think I have learned enough lessons about building companies to provide valuable coaching and guidance to up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” he wrote.

Of course, a lot of players can’t stay on the sidelines and a lot of entrepreneurs fall into the category of serial entrepreneurs. Will Slootman get the itch to run another company?

“Never say never,” he replied in an email today when I asked him that.


January 12, 2011  1:39 PM

DataDirect Networks called No. 1 among private storage vendors

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

After all the acquisitions of 2011, which is the largest private storage vendor still standing? According to IDC, it’s DataDirect Networks.

An IDC report issued last month ranked DDN as the largest private storage company by revenue. Of course, it helps DDN that 3PAR, Isilon and Compellent got scooped up in late 2010 acquisitions.

DDN CEO Alex Bouzari said he expects his company to remain private through 2011. Seven months ago as rumors swirled about DDN getting acquired, Bouzari told me the company was not for sale and he says that is still the case. Bouzari said DDN increased revenue 40% last year, driven by a growth in unstructured data across its core markets — media and entertainment, life sciences, high performance computing (HPC) and other verticals that require high bandwidth. He’s happy to stay on that growth track.

“We’re not pursuing M&A,” he said. “Our best opportunity is to scale up as an independent company.”

(Translation: it will take at least a 10-figure deal to buy DDN).

Bouzari doesn’t discount going public if the IPO market comes back as expected, but he doesn’t plan an IPO this year. Still, Bouzari is presenting at a Needham Growth Conference for investors today in New York, which isn’t something private companies usually do. Certainly not if they intend to stay private for long.

But to continue to grow, DDN needs to become more of an enterprise play, especially if it is to compete with EMC’s new “Big Data” tag team of Isilon and Atmos. DDN has its Web Object Scaler (WOS) object storage system to compete with Atmos, and Bouzari said it will add an enterprise NAS product late this year to challenge Isilon. The roadmap also calls for upgrades to two existing hardware platforms this year and the addition of enterprise software such as snapshots, deduplication, thin provisioning and replication to follow in late 2011 or 2012.

DDN has high-speed parallel file system storage for HPC and supercomputing, but no mainstream NAS. Bouzari said the NAS product will be a clustered offering that can scale up and scale out for customers who expect to have to add capacity and performance.

He’s also planning a refresh of DDN’s S2A6620 midrange and SFA10000 high-end product in 2011. He said the SFA10000 upgrade will boost that product’s IOPS and virtualization capabilities.

Still, it’s likely that when people talk about DataDirect Networks this year, it will be less about product upgrades than about M&A speculation.


January 12, 2011  12:34 PM

EMC finally ready to consolidate Clariion, Celerra midrange platforms

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

As EMC counts down the seconds to its product launch set for next Tuesday, details have leaked about its upcoming and long-awaited unified storage system combining the Clariion and Celerra platforms.

According to published reports and other leaks, EMC is preparing to launch a VNX family of products that includes code from the Clariion Flare and Celerra Dart operating systems on a common hardware platform. The new systems include several midrange models – the VNX 5100, VNX 5300, VNX 5500 and VNX 7500 – as well as VNXe 3100 and VNXe3300 SMB systems. The systems will be available as block storage, file storage, or unified systems. The midrange systems were code-named Culham and the SMB systems went by the code-name Neo.

The midrange systems will support Fibre Channel, iSCSI and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) block storage and CIFS, NFS, MPFS and pNFS on the file side. The SMB systems support iSCSI, CIFS and NFS.

The midrange systems will include the management features EMC rolled out for the Clariion earlier this year – including FAST automated tiering and block compression – as well as Clariion’s data protection software.

On the hardware side, there is one notable departure from existing EMC systems. The new systems will not support Fibre Channel hard drives. The midrange family supports Flash solid state drives (SSDs) and SAS for performance and nearline (NL)-SAS for capacity. The SMB systems support SAS and NL-SAS.

All the new systems will support VMware integration with the vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI) and Virtual Storage Integrator (VSI).

None of the new systems are surprises. EMC executives admitted last April that they would converge the Clariion SAN and Celerra NAS platforms, after denying a consolidation move was under way when talk first began circulating. EMC added a Unisphere unified management console for the two platforms last year. And EMC CEO Joe Tucci began teasing the new SMB system last July.

The big question now about Tuesday’s launch is whether it will include other products. EMC is believed to be close to rolling out new Data Domain, VPlex and Isilon systems, but the timing of those releases is unclear.


January 11, 2011  2:06 PM

Multiprotocol storage vendor Reldata changes CEOs

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Reldata has a new CEO, a little bit of new funding, and plans to expand its product platform and go-to-market channel.

Former Sun VP Victor Walker is the new CEO. Walker worked on Sun’s open storage and 7000 Unified Storage line. He left Sun in 2009 to become COO of file system startup ClusterStor, which was acquired by Xyratex last year. Walker replaces Steve Murphy, who left the CEO post after barely a year on the job to join a private equity firm but remains on the Reldata board.

Walker actually took over as CEO in October, but Reldata kept the changes secret until now. The vendor also got $4 million in funding from Grazia Equity, a German VC that has put up all of Reldata’s more than $18 million in funding. Walker said he plans to raise more money from U.S. VCs later this year.

But Walker’s immediate job is to make the Parsippany, NJ-based vendor better known in the storage world. He compares Reldata’s 9240i unified (iSCSI and NAS) storage systems to Sun’s 7000 platform (now the Oracle ZFS Storage Appliance) and wonders why more people don’t know Reldata.

“I can’t figure out why Reldata isn’t a bigger company,” Walker said. “It’s technically accomplished the same thing Sun accomplished with open storage and its 7000 Unified Storage systems. The difference is, Sun built it on Solaris, Reldata built it on Linux.”

Walker said Reldata will add a platform around March that will be an addition to its current 9240i systems. He said the new systems will be in the high availability market. He also said Reldata’s roadmap includes data deduplication for primary data to go with the compression it offers now for remote replication.

Walker said about 60 customers purchased Reldata systems in the last year, and the vendor’s revenue increased 135% last year. He said Reldata added customers in healthcare, higher education, legal, cloud-based application services and energy last year.

Walker added that Reldata customers average between 20 TB and 40 TB, but one customer last year bought 1 PB of storage in a single site. He wouldn’t name the customer but said it deals in e-discovery and uses the Reldata storage in a private cloud.

Walker said the funding will be used to grow Reldata’s sale force and to attract new VARs and distribution partners — a task his predecessor also said he would focus on. Walker is going after channel partners looking to replace vendors that have been acquired in recent years, particularly Compellent (in the process of getting bought by Dell) and even LeftHand (acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2009).

“We want to get our name recognition out there and aggressively pursue channel partners who are disenfranchised with the recent consolidation,” he said.


January 10, 2011  5:29 PM

Storage spending: the big picture

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

I’m always interested in reading stories about expectations for spending on storage. There are the continuing prediction stories where it is reported that next’s year’s spending will be x% up or down from last year. Those stories are interesting but not always illuminating. They remind me of an article I read about predicting the weather. In that article, a comparison was done for the last year of the predicted weather versus the actual, and the accuracy of just saying tomorrow’s weather will be just like today’s weather. Obviously, the latter was statistically much more accurate.

For storage spending, the bigger picture economic indicators are more interesting and probably much more helpful to truly understand the market. I found the Jan. 3 Wall Street Journal, “Big Firms Poised to Spend Again,” interesting. The article reported that big companies (Fortune 500 in my estimation) had cleaned up their balance sheets and conserved cash over the last year and were ready to invest again in R & D, expand manaufacturing and sales, and so on. Basically the point of the article was that these companies were ready to spend money to make money.

The article cited several companies that had money to invest, and the numbers were in the billions of dollars. These expenditures will result in requirements in IT infrastructure and certainly in storage. Interestingly, the top three industries that had the greatest amount of cash accumulated to invest were Information Technology, healthcare, and industrials.

From a storage standpoint, the question is “where will the primary areas of spending be?” Given the conservatism that occurred over the last few years when many companies postponed purchases, you can probably figure out where spending will go. It’s likely that companies will look to replace aging or obsolete systems, add new systems to meet expansion and growth demands, and carry out postponed or new projects to improve operations and reduce operational expenditures.

These indicators present opportunities for the storage industry, if the industry is ready to take advantage of those opportunities right now. The products to solve problems and meet customer needs must be there. There won’t be time to take requirements and develop or modify a product. By the time that is done, competitors will have captured the business. The opportunity is about sales and marketing in the near term to deliver products needed when the customer is ready. Vendors will continue to develop new shiny toys but these major firms with money to spend to expand their businesses won’t wait for them.

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


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