The industry’s two hard drive vendors had a busy week with product rollouts and future-gazing.
Western Digital’s HGST division launched a flurry of products Tuesday, including 8 TB and 10 TB helium drives, nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) PCIe flash drives, and flash software. It also revealed its air-filled UltraStar hard drives will be replaced by the helium drives after the current generation.
Rival Seagate launched a raft of products Wednesday, and talked about its business strategy today at an analyst day.
Seagate’s new products include the ClusterStor 9000 Lustre-based high-performance computing system that it gained from its Xyratex acquisition; an EVault Enterprise Backup and Recovery Appliance that handles up to 100 TB of usable capacity with data reduction; Nytro XP6302 (1.75 TB usable) and XP209 (1.86 TB usable) PCIe flash cards; and 15,000 rpm and 10,000 rpm hard drives, including a 2 TB 2.5-inch drive.
While HGST is pushing hard to expand into solid-state storage, Seagate seems more interested in refining its hard drive technology for the cloud. It did buy LSI’s flash controller technology to “control NAND better than anybody else,” as Seagate president of operations and technology Dave Mosley said, but its executives seemed most excited about the cloud during analyst day.
“I think people accept that the cloud architecture will be the architecture of the future,” Seagate CEO Steve Luczo said.
“Cloud storage is the thing that’s really exploding,” Mosley added.
Seagate set up a cloud systems and solutions division this week, headed by Cisco veteran Jamie Lerner. Its Kinetic open storage architecture revealed last year is also built largely for the cloud.
CFO Patrick O’Malley said cloud and flash products can bring Seagate $2 billion in revenue over the next two years, before adding the hard disk drive business “is [still] a story of growth.”
Luczo played down the emergence of flash in enterprise storage, saying nearly all of the flash in use is connected to computers (clients and servers) rather than the storage bus.
Mosley said Seagate is on track to deliver a 20 TB hard drive by 2020. That’s twice the capacity of the largest HGST rolled out this week, and 2.5-times the 8 TB drive Seagate announced last month.
Companies are offering a number of deals to lure customers to the cloud, the most popular is bargain-basement price cuts on per-gigabyte storage. Riverbed Technology has joined in with a slightly different take. Riverbed is offering a virtual version of its SteelStore appliance, formerly known as Whitewater, with up to 8 TB of storage for six months but you have to sign up over the next month.
The deal started on Sept. 9 and runs through Oct. 9. The SteelStore appliance is bundled with the 8 TB of storage and six months of Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) for backup and archiving.
When customers reach the 8 TB limit, they will have to upgrade and purchase and license one of Riverbed’s eight other physical or virtual appliances. Riverbed supports up to 95% of the cloud providers in the market but this deal is strictly tied to Amazon’s cloud.
“The idea is to give customers a kick start in cloud storage,” said Rachel Dines, Riverbed’s senior product marketing manager. “We wanted to give customers a way to dip their toes in cloud storage.”
This deal is only being offering in the United States and Canada. Customers can download a link from Riverbed’s website for the SteelStore virtual appliance and get the promotional code to connect to Amazon S3 storage. Dines said they are targeting small and medium-sized enterprises and only one appliance is being offered per customer.
SteelStore uses compression, de-duplication, network acceleration and encryption to increase performance and secure data moving to and from the cloud.
Dell’s newest PowerEdge servers are going to use the SanDisk DAS Cache software to automate high-performance data on SSDs.
The next-generation R730, R73oXD, R630, T630 and R920 uses direct-attached disk storage with SSDs to boost performance for OLTP, OLAP, analytics, business intelligence, HPC and other enterprise applications. The software supports up to 16 TB in each cache, whether it is SATA-based or PCI-e SSDs.
“The software observes the data reads and writes,” said Rich Petersen, SanDisk’s director of software marketing. “It sees data blocks that are accessed more frequently and put it in cache. It’s transparent inside the operating system. It has a very light footprint in the server. The applications don’t see it. They just see it runs much faster.”
The software supports any type of SSD, with customers choosing write-back and/or write-through caching modes. It supports multiple host operating systems, including Windows) and Linux, and Microsoft Hyper-V and KVM hypervisors. VMware and Ubuntu support on the roadmap. The SanDisk DAS Cache will work in any server rack, tower or blade server configuration.
“From the application’s perspective, the write is executed faster,” Petersen said. “It provides redundancy with either software or hardware RAID. Redundancy generally is not needed for reads.”
Scality’s Ring software came into the market focused on object storage and added support for unified file storage last year. Now Scality has extended Ring’s reach with VMware support.
Philippe Nicolas, Scality’s senior director industry strategy, said the goal is to consolidate multiple workloads in a single platform and have the software behave like Amazon EBS for an on-premise cloud.
“(Virtual machines are) so well adopted by the enterprise that, for us, it is a request from users,” Nicolas said. “Scality can behave like Amazon for on-premise cloud. The focus target is the VMware environment, especially vSphere. VM can talk to it parallel to the Scality Ring. ”
The company next year intends to support vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI), an API framework from VMware that enables certain storage tasks, such as thin provisioning, to be offloaded from the VMware server virtualization hardware to the storage array. It will also support VMware Storage API for Storage Awareness (VASA).
Scality claims Ring 5.0’s performance matches Amazon EBS at 200 IOPs per virtual machine, with bursting capabilities of 3,000 IOPs per virtual machine. Scality Ring supports replication and erasure coding in virtual machines for data resilency.
Nicolas said the software supports OpenStack Cinder to provision Scality VM storage. Ring 5.0 also supports virtual machine file system (VMFS) and NFS.
“We let the customer chose if they want VMFS or NFS,” he said. “We don’t prefer one or the other. Some use enterprise backup solutions for VMs so they can use those for backing up.”
Revenues for external disk storage among all vendors fell 1.4% from last year during the second quarter, according International Data Corp.’s worldwide disk systems tracker.
It marked the fourth consecutive quarter that high-end storage sales declined, and IDC noted that midrange system revenue also dropped.
Startups and smaller companies made up a bigger piece of the external storage pie, which came to about $5.9 billion in the quarter. The “others” category – all vendors except for EMC, NetApp, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Hitachi Data Systems — increased revenue 11.1 percent in the quarter and market share was at 21 percent compared to 18.7% during the same time last year.
IDC reported that leader EMC experienced a 5.2 percent decline in year-over-year revenue for the second quarter, with NetApp registering a 3 percent decline and IBM a 4.7 percent drop in external storage sales. Hitachi was hit the hardenst with a 12% year-over-year decline and Dell with the lowest at one percent. HP experienced a nominal gain with a 0.4 percent increase. EMC grabbed 30.1% of the external disk storage revenue during the second quarter but that was down 31.2% from the prior year.
NetApp and IBM followed EMC with shares of 13% and 12.1% respectively. In comparison, NetApp had 31.2% in revenue sales in the second quarter last year and IBM had 12.5% in the same time period. HP gained share during the second quarter with 10.1% compared to 10% in second quarter last year.
This picture is in stark comparison to smaller companies, like hyper-converged vendor Nutanix and flash vendor Nimble. Nutanix reported that it had exceeded $50 million in revenue for the second quarter that finished in July this year,more than tripling its revenue for the same quarter a year ago. The company picked up larger customers with 29 companies buying more that $1 million of Nutanix products and services. That number has more than doubled since January when Nutanix had 13 million-dollar customers.
Nimble reported it had hit record numbers with $53.8 million in revenue and 663 new customers during its fiscal second quarter this year and closed 444 deals in excess of $100,000 for the 12-month period ending on July 31. Nimble’s revenue increased 89 percent over last year.
“Large companies are starting to feel the impact,” said Nutanix senior vice president of product management Howard Ting. “The disruption created by young companies like Nutanix is eating into their revenue.”
It seems clear that all solid-state technology will become common in primary storage systems soon. In our IT client engagements, we see many companies including the transition to all solid state in their storage strategies.
As with many new technologies, there are both compelling reasons to adopt solid-state storage and valid reasons for waiting.
The reasons for using flash as primary storage include:
• Performance – As a memory-based technology, flash eliminates latencies seen with electro-mechanical devices (hard disk drives). The performance bump is especially noticeable for random access to data and the time to first byte of transfer, and changes the value from storage by accelerating critical applications.
• Reliability – Improving the reliability of the technology has been a hallmark of storage vendors and this continues with flash-based storage systems. Without the mechanical wear and the heat generation, solid state inherently is more reliable.
• Longevity – With greater reliability and intelligence added to manage page erases, the flash storage systems have been given longer warranty periods by many vendors. Customers are beginning to budget for a longer lifespan for flash-based storage systems than mechanical-based storage systems.
• Power, space, cooling – Flash storage systems require less power and cooling for a given capacity than a system with disk drives and are more efficient in space usage.
• Data reduction – Most of the flash-based storage systems include compression and/or deduplication. The data reduction exploits the performance of memory-based technology and provides the benefits of reducing the cost of data stored while contributing to the page erase management for flash.
Another advantage comes from the fact that many of the flash storage systems are scale-out architectures. Scaling out not only allows the capacity and performance to scale in parallel, it changes the acquisition model for storage. Additional capacity (without reducing effective performance) is added to the storage system when needed. With the continuing decline of the price of flash storage, the additional storage is less expensive than the initial purchase.
So when will flash systems become predominate as primary storage rather than used for particular applications such as virtual desktops? The triggering events for change are usually technology updates, new applications or major deployments such as a new site. However, several factors make people hesitate from making a transition:
• Operational changes are difficult to make because they require additional effort and introduce risk. These changes could include script changes and training. Consequently, flash storage systems that have evolved from existing architectures have less of an impact on the requirements for operational changes than new architectures built for flash.
• Not all flash systems can handle advanced capabilities such as stretched clusters and multi-site replication that are part of many IT operations. This removes them from consideration for primary storage, and relegates them to specialty usage.
• Vendor product support and system maturity are always a consideration for enterprise environments when considering primary storage.
The use of solid-state arrays as primary storage will bring an increase in the average size of the systems deployed. Significant capacity increases beyond the early use cases of application acceleration (primarily databases), server virtualization data stores, and VDI will be the bell-weathers of the transition. Actual primary storage capacity size changes may also be affected by another IT trend – moving data for non-tier one applications to less expensive storage platforms with different performance and data protection requirements.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).
At a time when most of the activity in the storage market seems to be focused on taking away as much intelligence as possible from physical storage devices, there’s one vendor bucking that trend. DataGravity, which recently emerged from stealth, rolled out a couple of new arrays that up the ante for data intelligence and management in a storage system.
DataGravity’s Discover Series comprises two unified arrays at this time: the DG2200 with 48 TB of combined flash and hard disk raw capacity and the DG2400 with twice that capacity. These are dual controller systems that support both block—iSCSI—and file (CIFS, SMB and NFS) storage. Both models are configured with what DataGravity refers to as 2U “computing” and 4U “storage” enclosures. DataGravity was founded by Paula Long, CEO and John Joseph, president; the two previously teamed up to create EqualLogic, the iSCSI storage pioneer that was acquired by Dell in 2007.
So far, these two boxes from DataGravity might sound like just about any other midsized array that mixes in a little solid state with hard disk storage—right? As unremarkable the hardware configurations might be, it’s the systems’ software that’s the real story here.
A while back in an editorial in Storage magazine (Data protection methods, define thyself), I suggested that stored data needed to carry more intelligence about itself. In the context of the editorial, that intelligence would be in the form of metadata that instructed data protection systems on how to handle that particular piece of data and what to do with.
DataGravity’s Discovery Series takes a different approach, but the results are pretty similar to the system I imagined. The differences are that DataGravity isn’t imagining it—it’s here now—and they pool the metadata the system gleans in a central repository as opposed to packing it in with the data itself.
The clever engineers at DataGravity realized that a key component of a high availability storage system—the secondary controller—spent much of its time sitting idle. They use the horsepower of the controller to index stored data and to parse that data into useful information about the file. DataGravity also does the usual stuff and keeps track of creation and modification events and who was responsible for those activities.
But the collected metadata reveals even more about the contents of the data, allowing searches for specific items such as “personally identifiable information“—or PII—that could include social security numbers, credit card numbers or email addresses. Information governance, whether internal corporate governance or compliance with legal regulations, is aided by the ability to do complex, sophisticated searches that can identify some of the interrelations among disparate files.
This deep dive into data can also help add another level of protection to the data itself. The DataGravity system can create DiscoveryPoints which keep track of all changes and activities related to a piece of data. DiscoveryPoints work like snapshots and allow recovery of previous versions of data if the primary copies become damaged or corrupted. One of the neat things about DiscoveryPoint is that data can be recovered at the file (even from a VM’s VMDK), VM, file system or LUN levels.
The Discovery Series is brand new, but it isn’t tough to envision it serving as a platform for archiving, data protection and disaster recovery systems. As DataGravity opens their APIs to other companies, those vendors will be able to hook into the boxes and integrate their capabilities on top of the data intelligence that DataGravity provides.
[DataGravity recently won a Best of VMworld 2014 Award for New Technology; the award was presented by TechTarget’s SearchVirtualServer.com site.]
Nimble Storage Inc. hit record numbers with $53.8 million in revenue and 663 new customers during its fiscal second quarter and closed 444 deals in excess of $100,000 for the 12-month period ending on July 31.
The San Jose, California-based storage vendor, which specializes in hybrid arrays that combine flash and hard disk drives, may have caused some of the major storage incumbents to prick up their ears with the release of its financial results for the 2015 fiscal second quarter, which ran through July. Nimble surpassed its own guidance and beat its Q2 2014 revenue by 89%.
Although Nimble posted a second-quarter net loss of $26 million, the company claimed it remains on track to break even and achieve profitability by Jan. 31, 2016, the end of its next fiscal year.
“That’s about six quarters away, and in the meantime, we’ve talked about investing for growth,” CFO Anup Singh said during the Nimble’s earnings call. Singh noted R&D investments in scale-out capabilities and its Adaptive Flash Platform, both of which launched in the first half of the year, and support for Fibre Channel enterprise storage networking, which is due in the fourth quarter.
Nimble also shipped a new CS700 Series high-end array and All-Flash Shelf in connection with the June release of the Adaptive Flash Platform, which combines its cache-accelerated sequential layout (CASL) file system and InfoSight cloud-based management and support system.
“We had a lot of excitement coming out of the major launch, and that led to record net new customer acquisitions and increased follow-on sales,” said Dan Leary, vice president of marketing at Nimble. “Our existing customers who were looking for more performance purchased additional systems. Scale-out benefited us because of their ability to cluster those systems together. And all of that really helped in delivering the really strong results that we had for the quarter.”
The new high-end CS700 factored into the largest deal ever for Nimble – a seven-figure transaction with a large government agency, according to Leary. The agency, which Leary declined to name, chose Nimble storage for its performance-sensitive Oracle databases, VMware server farm, mission-critical vertical applications and video repositories.
Nimble CEO Suresh Vasudevan said the customer’s CIO told him, “The single biggest factor that drove the deal was InfoSight.” InfoSight was able to troubleshoot problems with the agency’s network on two or three occasions, and the experience caused the CIO to think the Nimble system could support the organization’s environment better than products from some larger storage vendors, according to Vasudevan.
Nimble, which incorporated in Jan. 2008 and went public in Dec. 2013, has been trying to expand its customer base beyond the mid-sized companies that factored into the majority of its early sales. Leary said the bulk of the early customers were typically in the range of 250 to 2,500 employees with a storage footprint of 10 TB to 100 TB.
With the release of its financial results this week, Nimble noted that its installed base of large enterprises stood at 235 at the end of its 2015 fiscal second quarter, up from 130 on July 31, 2013. (The company defines a large enterprise as a Global 5000 company, according to Leary.) The current roster of 3,756 customers includes seven of the global top 50, 13 of the top 100 and 53 of the global top 500 enterprises, according to Nimble.
Cloud service providers represented another substantial area of growth. Nimble claimed to have 156 cloud service provider customers on July 31, 2013 and 341 by the end of last month. And the cloud service providers increase the amount they spend by 3.5 times over a two-year time frame after their initial purchases, according to Nimble. For Global 5000 customers, the multiplier is 3.3.
Yet, despite the flurry of activity with large customers, Nimble’s average selling price remained flat.
“We are growing the number of large deals substantially, which is moving the average sale price up, but at the same time, we’re also acquiring record numbers of new customers, and there’s a lot of smaller customers with that,” said Leary. “You blend those two together, and it’s kept our average selling price roughly flat for the past few quarters. And to us, that’s not a bad thing. We want to be doing both.”
Caching software startup PernixData’s recent funding round was heavy in cash and even heavier in cachet.
The $35 million funding round was far from the richest of the year – Nutanix last week scored three times more – but attracted individual investments from industry heavyweights. Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Seagate CEO Steve Luczo and Silver Lake managing partner and founder Jim Davidson joined the round, signifying a good amount of industry buzz around PernixData. The startup’s previous investors includedl Virtual Instruments CEO (and former Symantec CEO and current Microsoft director) John Thompson and former Palo Alto Networks CEO Lane Bess.
PernixData will need that buzz as much as the money as it tries to convince enterprises to run its software on mission critical data. The company’s FVP software virtualizes and pools flash and RAM across servers to accelerate reads and writes to shared storage.
“Most startups try to establish a beachhead, and the beachhead is something like VDI that is not mission critical,” PernixData CTO and founder Satyam Vaghani said. “We go after mission critical applications. Most of our sales are an infrastructure play.”
PernixData claims 200 customers in little more than a year of being in the market.
Those include infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provider Virtustream, which uses FVP to help meet service level agreements (SLAs) for the highest performing of its four storage tiers.
“We put teeth behind our latency SLAs with financial penalties,” said Matt Theurer, Senior Vice President of Solutions Architecture at Virtustream
Theurer said Virtustream has flash in all of its SAN systems, a mix of NetApp, pre-Dell Compellent and Hitachi Data System arrays. But he relies on FVP to reduce latency and quickly expand flash pools as new customers come on board running enterprise applications.
“PernixData has the right approach of separating performance from capacity, and it scales linearly,” he said. “But the key for us was that it had write caching.”
Virtustream began using FVP in May of 2014 in its Amsterdam data center. It has since expanded to other data centers, and Theurer said it will soon be deployed in all of its data center sites, which include San Francisco, Vienna, Virginia, two in London and the SuperNAP colocation facility in Las Vegas.
PernixData’s Vaghani said the next version of the software will virtualize file storage to go with its current block virtualization.
Menlo Ventures led PernixData’s Series C funding round with previous investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Lightspeed Ventures, Mark Leslie, Lane Bess and Thompson participating. Its total funding is $62 million.
Switch vendor Brocade is doubling down on its efforts to prepare for the emergence of solid state drives (SSDs) and flash in storage arrays.
Brocade earlier this year instituted a Solid State Ready program for flash and hybrid array vendors to test their systems with Brocade’s Fibre Channel switching. This week it expanded that program to include testing of Ethernet for NAS and iSCSI SANs. Fujitsu America Inc., Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard, NetApp, Nimble Storage, Pure Storage, Saratoga Speed, SolidFire, Skyera, Tegile Systems and Violin Memory are part of the Ready program.
Brocade executives have pointed to SSDs as a driver of 16 Gbps FC SANs because SSDs are used in high performance use cases.
Jack Rondoni, Brocade’s VP of storage networking, said Solid State Ready will help vendors prepare for changes that SSDs will bring.
“People are thinking about their storage architecture differently” because of SSDs,” Rondoni said. “I believe it will be as disruptive as server virtualization.
“We’re doing more than others – short of buying a company, which we won’t do – to help transition to SSD technology.”
That was a poke at Brocade’s switch competitor Cisco for its 2013 acquisition of flash array vendor Whiptail.
Rondoni said Brocade added Ethernet to the Solid State Ready program because, while SSD “deployments have been clean for Fibre Channel, they can get dicey with Ethernet.”
“FCoE to a storage array is a dead technology,” Rondoni said. “It has value in a top of rack switch to the server, but not to storage.”