Flash storage vendor GreenBytes closed a $12 million funding round this week, led by Al Gore’s venture capital firm.
GreenBytes sells two platforms of hybrid arrays combining solid-state drives with hard drives, and in February launched Solidarity – an all-SSD drive with a starting price of under $100,000 for 13.4 TB. The startup said it will use its second funding round to expand sales, marketing and channel development.
Generation Investment Management LLP, co-founded by Al Gore in 2004, led the round with a contribution from Battery Ventures and GreenBytes management. Former U.S. vice president Gore is chairman of Generation Investement, which claims to make investments based on a company’s economic, environmental, social and governance sustainability factors.
That means it’s probably more interested in the green than the bytes with its new investment. Flash vendors say they are green because their systems have a smaller footprint and use less power than spinning disk storage.
Regardless of their environmental impact, flash array vendors are pulling in the green. EMC reportedly paid $430 million for XtremIO this month, and Violin Memory, Whiptail and Starboard Storage have closed funding rounds this year.
Last week’s EMC World would have to be viewed as a major success for EMC. There were customers, press, analysts, resellers, and even other vendors there with something around 20,000 people – counting EMC employees. The crowd was so large, getting through the corridors of the Venetian was a moving body rub.
The access to EMC executives and staff was a real credit to the event. They provided information and fielded questions and did not just “make an appearance” and then bolt. EMC technical people were available as well, and many attendees took advantage to ask about usage in specific environments. For analysts, there was a program to meet with executives and product owners and find about directions and new capabilities.
There has certainly been a sea change in storage events over the years. Meeting with vendors and hearing about their products or their latest announcements was done at large, multi-vendor events such as Storage Networking World (SNW) in the past. Now, the information is more available at the vendor events such as EMC World.
Most vendors have also changed their approach to releasing information. The vendor events are when the next generation of products or features are announced, and future capabilities previewed. There was a time when vendors rarely pre-announced products or capabilities. The announcements came when the products were available.
That practice was relaxed somewhat to coincide with major industry events and products or features were announced that were going to be available within the next quarter. At the major vendor events now, the announcements may be for features or products that will come out over the next three quarters. This is a much longer view and has both positive aspects such as creating interest and publicity for the vendor and negatives in that it may freeze purchases while customers wait for future releases.
EMC uses its show as what the vendor calls a “mega launch,” with significant announcements or releases involving most of its key products. It creates interest and has turned EMC World into a must-attend event where the amount of information is so great that not attending will leave people feeling they might be missing valuable information. Certainly that is the intention and it works well. The result may be that the industry-wide events such as SNW have less new information and their importance has diminished in the minds of many.
As an analyst, access to the executives and product people along with the explanations about the announcements are incredibly valuable. It is also a great chance to catch up with friends that you’ve worked with in the past.
The economics for these mega events are well understood by marketing – they cost a great deal and must result in increased or sustaining revenue to justify the investment. EMC has certainly set the bar for these shows, and we can expect more of the same from their rivals in the storage arms race.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).
Like EMC, NetApp executives say they expect to offer flash in many areas of their storage systems. But NetApp so far only sells flash as a cache in storage arrays (Flash Cache), and solid state drives (SSDs) that can complement hard drives in a hybrid approach.
EMC has a VFCache server-side PCIe card, and its roadmap includes a PCIe-based shared storage appliance and all-flash array — all pieces NetApp lacks. And while EMC predicts a hybrid implementation of SSD and hard drives in the same system will be the most popular, NetApp maintains Flash Cache is the best way to go. NetApp is also more guarded about its flash roadmap than EMC.
“We have consistently said that flash will be deployed throughout the hardware stack, and our flash offerings will be aggressive and multi-faceted,” NetApp CEO Tom Georgens said on the vendor’s earnings call this week. “Our belief is that offering flash primarily in the form of the cache is the most efficient and effective way to deploy this technology in storage arrays, and most of the industry is now following this approach.”
Georgens said all NetApp FAS6000 systems have 500 GB of flash embedded, and most FAS3240 and3270 arrays ship with flash. “Our R&D pipeline contains projects to further the use of flash on other layers of the stack, and our next release of OnTap [NetApp’s operating system] will contain additional flash-related offerings,” he said.
NetApp executives visited XtremIO’s Israeli headquarters before EMC grabbed the all-flash array startup for $430 million. An analyst on the call suggested EMC outbid NetApp for XtremIO as it did for Data Domain three years ago, but Georgens would not confirm that NetApp wanted XtremIO.
“Obviously, we spend time with a lot of people and visit a lot of people, talk to a lot of people about potential engagements,” he said. “As far as flash goes, I see that as an innovation and a way to promulgate our data management capability. And that’s going to be the key part of our strategy. So I think you’ll see NetApp participating in flash on multiple dimensions, and primarily, it is to expand our data management footprint.”
Hewlett-Packard’s storage team maintains it remains committed to the EVA midrange platform, and continues to upgrade the product. But you have to wonder how long that commitment will remain as the company faces restructuring and EVA sales keep dropping while 3PAR’s soar.
HP CEO Meg Whitman characterized HP’s storage as “a tale of two cities” during the company’s earnings call Wednesday. “3PAR continued to gain strong traction in the marketplace, growing more than 100 percent year-over-year,” she said. “At the same time, tape and EVA are declining. This is an anticipated product transition and we’re effectively managing the shift to our next-generation storage arrays.”
This trend has been ongoing ever since HP acquired 3PAR in late 2010. HP CFO Cathy Lesjak added on the call that 3PAR has replaced EVA as the vendor’s largest revenue storage array. She said the two midrange platforms grew a combined 19% year-over-year compared to one percent overall storage growth. That means without 3PAR, HP’s storage revenue declined.
HP said its StoreOnce deduplication software nearly doubled in revenue, but that product had little revenue a year ago before it was relaunched last November.
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — EMC was stingy with details of its pet flash projects during most of EMC World 2012, but offered glimpses of early versions of “Project X” and “Project Thunder” Tuesday during chief marketing officer Jeremy Burton’s keynote on future technologies.
Burton called up XtremIO’s product manager VP Josh Goldstein for a quick demo of what EMC is calling Project X – XtremIO’s all-flash array. Goldstein showed how the flash array scales out by adding nodes for “unlimited IOPS,” said it takes only 20 seconds to provision 1 PB of data, and claims a single node can produce 150,000 write IOPS and more than 300,000 read IOPS. He said it can handle a mixed load of reads and writes at 180,000 IOPS. Goldstein said the product is made up of commodity components to keep the price down. EMC execs say Project X is entering pre-beta deployments and will not be generally available until next year.
Project Thunder is an appliance with up to 10 1 TB flash cards and connects to servers through 40-Gigabit Ethernet or InfiniBand switches. Dan Cobb, CTO of EMC’s flash, gave a brief demo on stage and strongly hinted that Thunder will be shipping by the end of the year. “[EMC COO] Pat Gelsiner would like an early Christmas present, and he seems like he’s the kind of guy who gets what he wants,” Cobb said. …
Even with Projects Thunder and X, EMC expects most flash implementations in the near future to be the addition of SSDs to hard drive arrays. Or, as the president of EMC’s unified storage division Rich Napolitano put it, “A little flash goes a long way.”
Napolitano said if a storage array has five percent of flash, that flash can handle 70% to 80% of all IOPS. He also said more than 60% of EMC’s midrange storage systems now include flash, and claimed that all-flash systems are too costly for midrange systems. “Ninety percent of use cases will be covered with a hybrid array,” he said. “The challenge with all-flash arrays is, if they’re not hybrid, they just can’t hit the cost point for the midrange.” …
Syncplicity customers hoping that EMC will improve the online file-sharing service’s enterprise features might get their wish. Jeetu Patel, chief strategy officer for EMC’s information intelligence group, said there are plans to add enterprise features.
“We looked at many products in this space and found that Syncplicity was the best at providing a simpler user experience with the richest set of security, policy and management controls for IT,” Patel said. “It is already enterprise-strength and we have numerous exciting enhancements planned.”
Patel said recent customer surveys indicated more than 80% want an enterprise solution for syncing and sharing files. “It is critical that our solution breaks down the barriers between operating systems, devices, and business apps to allow data to reside everywhere users need it,” he said.
Patel said there are no pricing changes for Syncplicity planned “at this time.” …
EMC CEO Joe Tucci said the vendor will continue to split its product development resources between internal development and acquisitions. He said EMC spends about $2 billion a year each on R&D and M&A.
“We never comment on what technology areas we’re interested in acquiring, that only ends up working against us,” he said during a Monday press conference. “We will do multiple acquisitions a year. XtremIO will not be the last one we’ll do this year.”
He was proved correct on that last claim hours later when EMC announced it acquired Syncplicity. …
Facebook is in the news for other reasons these days, but the social media giant may have set a record for the largest storage purchase in history earlier this year. Computer Weekly’s Jennifer Scott reports Facebook is the customer EMC CFO David Goulden referred to during the company’s earnings call last month when he said a web company bought 28 PB of Isilon storage. “We believe it was the largest capacity single-order in the history of storage,” Goulden said. EMC execs have refused to publicly name the customer. …
A representative for cloud service provider Nirvanix claims EMC’s Atmos upgrades this week shows the vendor still doesn’t understand the cloud storage concept. Steve Zivanic, Nirvanix’s VP of marketing, dashed off an email mocking EMC for thinking speed enhancements to its Atmos object-storage platform will help customers who want cloud storage.
Zivanic wrote the Atmos upgrade shows that EMC still views storage as a product instead of a service. “When it’s a storage product, the risk is all on the buyer,” Zivanic wrote. “When it’s a service, the risk is on the seller. Atmos is still a product customers have to buy and manage and operate and maintain, versus a cloud service they can simply access as required.”
Zivanic wrote that customers have to pay up to millions of dollars to build private clouds using EMC technology, and its talk of hybrid clouds is hollow because the vendor has no public cloud of its own. That means it cannot enforce SLAs and security policies between a private and public cloud in a hybrid setup.
“EMC is still stuck in the old paradigm,” he wrote. “Once a customer uploads data to the cloud, it’s the last data migration they’ll ever do. That’s the new paradigm that EMC refuses to fundamentally embrace. It doesn’t matter how much faster Atmos is, EMC is still fighting the disruptive change that cloud storage represents.”
EMC’s new Federated Tiered Storage (FTS) for VMAX arrays allows customers to run other EMC platforms or competing storage systems behind VMAX, much like Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has virtualized arrays for years behind its Universal Storage Platform (USP) and current Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) systems.
Not surprisingly, EMC claims its virtualization features go beyond those of Hitachi’s, and HDS claims EMC is off base with those claims.
Brian Gallagher, EMC president of enterprise storage, made the case for EMC’s virtualization Monday during the opening of EMC World.
“We’ve extended Symmetrix’s data integrity to non-EMC devices. Hitachi does not do that,” Gallagher said. “Also, our technology is free of charge. You can virtualize any amount of non-EMC storage behind Symmetrix. Hitachi gives you a certain amount of terabytes for free, and then they charge when you go beyond that. Hitachi will also tell you not to use virtualization for databases, we don’t say that. We also extend FAST to other arrays. They [Hitachi] don’t extend auto tiering [to VSP].”
Claus Mikkelsen, chief scientist at HDS, disputed EMC’s points in an e-mail to Storage Soup. He said the HDS VSP supports “full inheritance” on externally virtualized storage devices from HDS or other vendors.
As for EMC’s free claim, Mikkelsen said “EMC states that software license enablement of FTS is a no-charge feature to customers, but fails to mention the future impact on software maintenance costs for the FTS license and any other EMC software license that charges maintenance based on installed capacity. With the Switch It On program from HDS, virtualization is free and third-party capacity is deeply discounted.”
Mikkelsen said HDS offers “prudent” advice on using virtualization with databases.
“We state that that Hitachi Dynamic Tiering on VSP will intelligently place data pages based on an application’s I/O access pattern,” he said. “Additionally, we recommend that customers do not immediately place OLTP database environments with high I/O transaction rates and low average response time requirements as externally virtualized storage. This is prudent advice that any intelligent storage vendor would recommend.”
Finally, Mikkelson said HDS’ technology does extend its Dynamic Tiering to third-party virtualized arrays.
EMC’s FTS will require time for users to kick the tires before it can be accurately judged, but the virtualization features are welcome additions.
“This is at least a step down the path to VSP-style virtualization,” said Ray Lucchesi, president of Silverton Consulting.
You can expect more steps – and more spats with HDS – before EMC’s array virtualization story is finished.
If the EMC World 2012 logo using the head with a cloud on top of one half and weird-looking tubes sticking out of the other half makes no sense to you, you’re not alone.
EMC CEO Joe Tucci commented on the face during the opening minutes of his keynote today, pointing to it behind him on stage and asking “How many of you does this guy creep out?” After applause, he added “I’m not the only one. Let’s have a contest and see whoever comes up with the best name for this person. But I’m glad I’m not the only one creeped out.”
By EMC’s count, the vendor made 42 product announcements on day one of EMC World 2012 today. At first glance, it appears only a handful at most were major product launches.
EMC did no pre-briefings for the rollout, so it’s hard to say exactly how important they are. All we know is what is in the press releases, and the press releases are stingy with details. The VMAX 40K is important because it is EMC’s highest end array and the platform was due for a refresh. There is a larger Data Domain disk backup device, and performance improvements to the Isilon OneFS scale-out NAS software. Nothing else jumps out as game-changing.
The biggest surprise is lack of a flash announcement. EMC is expected to disclose more details of its “Project Thunder” PCIe-based shared storage appliance and reveal more details of its XtremIO flash array acquisition at EMC World. But there will be no actual product launches for Thunder and XtremIO at the show, however. XtremIO isn’t close enough to having a shipping product to talk about yet, apparently.
More product details will come out at the keynote today given by CEO Joe Tucci and COO Pat Gelsinger. There will also be briefings on the products launched today. Check back here for updates during the day, and at our SearchStorage.com’s EMC World site for more detailed analysis of news from the show.
Hewlett-Packard keeps upgrading its EVA line, although 3PAR is its high-growth midrange and high end storage platform. HP this week rolled out two new EVAs, the P6350 and P6550, with incremental additions to the HP EVA P6000 arrays launched last year.
The new models have twice the cache as the EVA6300 and EVA6500 they will replace. The EVA6350 has 8 GB of cache memory, and the EVA 6550 has 16 GB. The new EVAs also support solid state drives (SSDs). The previous generation EVAs support SSDs, but the original P6000 arrays did not. HP is selling 200 GB and 400 GB single-level cell (SLC) SSDs with the 6350 and 6550. Each controller can handle up to eight SSDs with a maximum of 25 SSDs in an array.
HP also added support for 3 TB SATA drives to bring the maximum capacity to 720 TB on the 6550. The new models are also the first EVA arrays to support vSphere Storage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI).
Pricing starts at $18,993 for the arrays, and 200 GB SSDs have a list price of $9,800.
The new systems include no features that other major storage vendors don’t already have, and will fail to quiet critics who claim HP fails to innovate with the EVA. But HP storage product manager Matthew Morrissey said there remains a place for the EVA and HP remains committed to it with more than 10,000 units in the field.
“HP’s view on storage is that it’s evolving,” Morrissey said. “We don’t think every business is ready to make a move to the cloud or virtualization, and we think the EVA plays well in optimized traditional IT environments.”
Storage consolidation seems to be a simple concept. If you reduce the number of storage systems, you benefit from fewer devices to manage, less space required, and less power/cooling demands. Yet there is confusion over exactly what the term storage consolidation refers to.
The confusion comes from some vendor messaging and what IT storage professionals actually view as storage consolidation. This leads to miscommunication and different sets of expectations about storage optimization projects.
For IT storage professionals, storage consolidation is about storage efficiency. A new storage system can be deployed to meet the aggregate performance and capacity demands to replace disparate storage systems. The simplest form of storage consolidation is to reduce the number of boxes on the floor. But storage consolidation does not mean one storage system for all purposes.
There are legitimate reasons why IT operations end up with multiple storage systems over time. While people claim this can be avoided through better management and planning, things just don’t work out that way. Multiple storage systems come about because:
• Projects that require more storage come with a budget to purchase new storage systems specifically for that project.
• IT operations consolidate because of acquisitions or mergers.
• New capacity demands require more storage, and it often makes sense to purchase additional systems instead of expanding existing storage systems. That’s because adding capacity to existing storage reduces the access density and overall performance. Also, the asset depreciation schedule for the existing storage system may make it impractical to reset the schedule with an addition.
The “single box for everything” concept is not practical. From an economic standpoint, not all data has equal value and less valuable data can be stored on less expensive, lower-performing storage. The economics of storing data includes the cost of the storage system and the operational costs for protecting and migrating data. The data typically has a lifespan that long outlives any storage system, and managing data over its lifespan is more important for the IT storage professional than the box currently in use. And storage systems are transient. They last a maximum of four or five years before they are replaced with the latest, greatest technology.
Tiered storage can lead to consolidation and enable storage efficiency. Using solid-state technology as a performance tier is a hot trend. Tiered storage allows for greater consolidation by managing the variations in performance requirements, which is really an exploitation of the change in probability access of data over time. This allows the storage system to support a greater amount of consolidation in support of performance and capacity demands.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).