Storage Soup


July 20, 2010  1:09 AM

Dell buys Ocarina, plans dedupe across its storage portfolio

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Dell bought its primary deduplication OEM partner Ocarina Networks today before it even integrated Ocarina’s technology into Dell storage.

Dell last month hinted at an OEM deal with Ocarina when a Dell storage executive was quoted in a press release Ocarina put out about its OEM product. Following the deal today, Dell product manager Brett Roscoe confirmed there was an OEM deal in the works but said Dell wanted more control over the dedupe technology.

Unlike Dell’s acquisition of EqualLogic in 2008, Dell isn’t getting a mature business with Ocarina. This was a pure technology buy, which highlights the importance storage vendors place on dedupe for primary data.

“We believe that deduplication is a key strategic pillar for storage going forward,” Roscoe said. “We started working with Ocarina some time ago, developing solutions around EqualLogic and other storage products. The more we worked with them, the more interesting they became.”

Dell did not disclose the price of the acquisition.

Although Roscoe wouldn’t discuss specific products, sources familiar with the Dell-Ocarina relationship say Dell was already working on integrating Ocarina’s dedupe in three products: EqualLogic iSCSI SANs, a scale-out NAS product it is developing from IP it picked up from Exanet this year, and a disk backup target. Dell currently OEMs dedupliation backup products from EMC Data Domain and software partners CommVault and Symantec.

Roscoe talked about dedupe for EqualLogic and for unstructured data, but wouldn’t get into using Ocarina for backup. “We’re going to look at all our opportunities,” he said. “There’s nothing specific around that now.”

The future of  Ocarina’s current shipping products — appliances aimed at reducing unstructured data — is unclear although Dell plans to sell and support the appliances until it can develop its own branded version and move the technology to other platforms.

Storage vendors are moving to incorporate technology in their storage systems to shrink primary data. NetApp has had dedupe for primary data for three years. Hewlett-Packard last month launched its StoreOnce deduplication for backup and primary data. IBM has been linked in a possible deal for data compression vendor Storwize, and EMC is planning on delievering compression for primary storage on its Clariion and Celerra platforms.

“We knew having IP in the deduplication space was going to be strategic for all Dell storage products going forward,” Roscoe said. “We believe we had to have the ability to build deudpe into our product set.”

Roscoe wouldn’t say how close Dell is to having dedupe in any storage products, but hinted that it’s not far off. “Let’s just say this isn’t a five-year project.”

July 19, 2010  2:36 PM

Does Nimble dedupe?

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Nimble Storage Thursday came out of stealth with a storage system that the startup’s executives said combines primary storage with deduplication for backup in the same device. It makes sense that Nimble would use dedupe, considering its founders were former Data Domain engineers.

But Frank Slootman, president of EMC’s data backup and recovery division and Data Domain’s CEO until EMC acquired the company last year, says there is no dedupe in Nimble’s storage. Slootman saw my story on SearchStorage about Nimble, and sent an email claiming “there is no dedupe in

Nimble whatsoever. Read their white paper, or just ask them. We did. They do have local compression.”

I did ask Nimble CEO Varun Mehta when I spoke to him before their launch. He said his storage systems use inline compression for primary data and dedupe for backups. And according to Nimble’s press release on its product launch (emphasis added):

The CS-Series is based on the company’s patent-pending architecture, Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL™), which enables fast inline data compression, intelligent data optimization leveraging flash memory and high-capacity disk, instant deduped backups, and WAN efficient replication – all in a single device. CASL allows organizations to reduce their capital expenditures for storage and backup by at least 60 percent, while eliminating the need for separate, disk-based backup.

And a data sheet on the Nimble web site states:

Nimble slashes IT costs by converging compressed primary storage, deduped backup storage, and disaster recovery into one solution.

Slootman is correct about the whitepaper, though. A paper called “A New Approach to Storage and Backup” on the Nimble site does not say it uses deduplication. It claims “Nimble Storage CASL provides in-line compression on all data” and in a section on its backup technology says “CASL enables instant, application-consistent backups on the same array with very efficient (up to 20x) backup capacity optimization.”

Capacity optimization could be dedupe or compression. But nowhere in the 15-page whitepaper does Nimble claim to dedupe backup data.

While Nimble execs said in press interviews that they dedupe, they had a different message at a blogger TechField Day in Seattle where the startup officially launched Thursday. Nimble presenters did not mention deduplication at the blogger event.

I asked Nimble for clarification about its mixed marketing, and its VP of marketing Dan Leary replied via email:

“Sorry if there was any confusion regarding deduplication. Nimble does not deduplicate in the Data Domain sense, where all duplicate blocks are eliminated using a content-based signature. Our snapshot-based block sharing eliminates duplicate blocks across backups like deduplication systems. Nimble compresses, but does not deduplicate, within a primary storage volume. However, we offer better space savings compared with any secondary storage. Secondary storage systems require a baseline copy of the original data to get started. Because converged storage doesn’t require a baseline full backup, Nimble provides even better capacity optimization than secondary storage. Look for an upcoming blog from our CTO who will cover this topic in more detail.”

If Nimble can shrink data enough to make backups and replication for DR more efficient without taking much of a performance while compressing, it may not make much of a difference how it’s doing it. Nimble beta tester Dave Conde, IT director of eMeter, says he’s found performance outstanding and he’s getting a reduction in data although he hasn’t measured the actual rate.

But if Nimble is deduping, EMC execs probably want to know just how close the startup’s dedupe technology is to the dedupe it paid $2.1 billion for when it acquired Data Domain.

In a follow-up email, Slootman attributed Nimble’s mixed message to “a disconnect with marketing. They probably mean like NetApp that their snapshots use block differentials. They should not be using the term [deduplication] so indiscriminately.”


July 13, 2010  6:53 PM

CommVault says its sales took a hit last quarter

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

After a couple of strong quarters with its Simpana backup and storage management software fueled by data deduplication, CommVault sales tumbled last quarter.

CommVault today gave preliminary revenue results for last quarter of approximately $66.3 million, below the approximately $71.7 million financial analysts expected. The new forecast would be about a 10% increase from a year ago and a 10% decrease from the previous quarter.

“We had a big miss here,” CommVault CEO Bob Hammer said on a conference call to discuss the results. Hammer called the results “very disappointing,” “surprising” and “unacceptable” and blamed the problems mainly on a restructured sales force.

“This was not the result of losing deals to a competitor,” he said.

Hammer said the reason for restructuring was to concentrate on more enterprise deals. He said after a strong previous quarter, the company overestimated its ability to close deals last quarter.

“We underestimated the distraction to our sales force and the ability to close forecasted deals by the end of the quarter,” he said. “To put it bluntly, we could’ve managed these processes more effectively.”

Still, he said he did not regret making the changes and he expects the “vast majority” of deals that slipped will close this quarter.

Hammer said market conditions in the U.K. and Europe also added to the problems. He said it is taking longer for companies to make buying decisions in those areas, resulting in an “unprecedentedly low level” of close rates. Government sales were also lower than he expected.

Hammer said he still expects CommVault’s revenue for the year to grow in double-digits, which would likely require strong sales this quarter. He said many deals that slipped past the end of last quarter have closed and CommVault is off to a good start for this quarter.

Hammer said he took a close look at the deals that did not close, and was confident those customers did not buy a competitor’s product. When asked about any changes in the competitive landscape, he said Symantec was weaker and EMC stronger, although he maintains that CommVault partner Dell’s decision to OEM EMC’s Data Domain deduplication target “wasn’t a major issue.” When asked about EMC’s products that compete with CommVault’s Simpana, Hammer said, “Legato [backup software] is still a relatively weak product. They’re doing well with Data Domain and OK with Avamar.”


July 6, 2010  3:09 PM

Coraid pulls Z-Series NAS after NetApp threatens lawsuit

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Coraid has suspended its recently launched EtherDrive Z-Series NAS appliance after receiving a legal threat from NetApp, which claims the Z-Series infringes on NetApp’s ZFS patents.

In a letter to customers notifying them of the situation, Coraid CEO Kevin Brown said he hopes to continue selling the ZFS-based NAS appliance after a long-standing legal dispute between NetApp and Sun (now Oracle) gets settled.

“We hope to reinstate our Z-Series offering in the coming months,” Brown wrote to customers, after noting that the ZFS file system has been downloaded nearly one million times by customers and vendors.

“We made the decision to suspend shipment after receiving a legal threat letter from NetApp Inc., suggesting that the open source ZFS file system planned for inclusion with our EtherDrive Z-Series infringes NetApp patents.”

NetApp filed a lawsuit against ZFS creator Sun in 2007 claiming patent infringement and Sun promptly countersued. The suits were still pending when Oracle acquired Sun, and now Oracle and NetApp are attempting to settle out of court.

Coraid launched its Z-Series May 19, adding the NAS device to its ATE over Etherenet (AoE) SAN platform. Brown said Coraid is still selling the SAN systems, which are not affected by the NetApp patent charge.

In his letter to customers, Brown included a letter dated May 26 that he received from Edward Reines, a patent litigation attorney from Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP who represents NetApp in its ZFS litigation. Reines’ letter read in part: “Coraid must cease infringement of NetApp’s patents and we reserve our rights to seek all appropriate remedies for any infringement.”

The letter to Brown points out that Coraid uses the term “unified storage” to describe the Z-Series, and NetApp’s patents involved in the litigation with Sun “cover a host of features, including unified storage …”

Brown, who served as VP for NetApp’s Decru security platform for 18 months before joining Coraid, apparently took the NetApp threat seriously.

His letter to customers didn’t say how many if any have purchased the Z-Series, only that Coraid has received “dozens of customer inquiries.”

Compellent, which is more competitive with NetApp than Coraid is, launched its zNAS system based on ZFS in April. If Compellent has been threatend by NetApp, it hasn’t said so publicly.


July 6, 2010  2:18 PM

The Cloud goes to Washington

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Last week’s Congressional hearing on cloud computing served as a condensed version of the cloud debate that has been ongoing for about two years now. Congress heard definitions of different types of clouds, government representatives voiced concerns over security and other issues associated with cloud computing, and vendors extolled the cloud’s virtues while promising their technology can overcome all of its hurdles.

But the hearing made it clear that the federal government — which is forecasted to spend about $76 billion on IT this year – is serious about the cloud. Government agencies see the cloud as a method of data center consolidation. According to s federal CIO Vivek Kundra, the U.S. government has nearly tripled the number of data centers from 432 to 1,100 over the past decade while many corporations have reduced their data centers.

There wasn’t a lot of specific talk about storage during the hearing, although Nick Combs, CTO of EMC’s Federal division, was part of the vendor panel.

“There’s a whole lot of concern about the number of data centers out there in the federal government today, and what’s the right number,” Combs said in an interview after the hearing.

Much of Combs’ testimony focused on security, which EMC delivers through its RSA division. The security talk is also where the various types of clouds came in.

“There were lots of questions around security in the cloud and where clouds wouldn’t be appropriate for government information,” Combs said. “We talked about the multitenant cloud – are there sufficient protections to put information in the cloud and what level of risk are we talking? How do we provide compliance and meet government regulations? Only public-facing information should be placed on public clouds. Information that is sensitive in nature needs to be protected in more private-type clouds. That seemed to resonate pretty well.”

As part of his prepared remarks, Combs offered the NIST definitions of four types of clouds:

– Private Cloud is infrastructure deployed and operated exclusively for an organization or enterprise. It may be managed by the organization or by a third party, either on or off premise.
– Community Cloud is infrastructure shared by multiple organizations with similar missions, requirements, security concerns, etc. It also may be managed by the organizations or by a third party on or off premise.
– Public cloud is infrastructure made available to the general public. It is owned and operated by an organization selling cloud services.
– Hybrid cloud is infrastructure consisting of two or more clouds (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities but that are tied together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability.


June 30, 2010  4:10 PM

Oracle gives Sun 7000 storage a Fibre Channel option

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Oracle upgraded its flagship disk storage platform this week, adding Fibre Channel host connectivity to the Sun Storage 7000 multiprotocol series while doubling down on its SAS disk interface support.

Sun originally launched the 7000 as a ZFS-based Ethernet platform, mainly focused on handling file data with iSCSI thrown in for block storage. That was in late 2008, more than a year before Oracle closed its acquisition of Sun. But Oracle’s senior director of storage products Jason Schaffer says customers wanted Fibre Channel to make the 7000 better suited for primary storage.

“When we first launched the 7000, we had a strong lineup of Fibre Channel with our 6000 series and the gap in our portfolio was NAS,” he said. “Early adopters used [the 7000] mainly for disk-to-disk-to-tape backup. Over time people started to trust it in other environments, like for virtual servers, and it was being brought in more as primary storage for consolidated workloads.”

Schaffer said current customers can download software for Fibre Channel support. He says about 15% of 7000 customers already downloaded software to use it for Fibre Channel over the past few months, even before Oracle officially announced FC support.

The 7000 also features built-in data deduplication, which Sun added to ZFS late last year. Another big part of the 7000 upgrade is support for 2 TB SAS drives, doubling the total capacity of the system to 576 TB. Schaffer says he sees no need for FC drives because the 7000 supports 6 Gbps SAS, solid state drives (SSDs) and SATA – especially with ZFS’ ability to use SSDs as high-speed disk cache.

“DRAM flash and SAS drives are more cost efficient than 15,000 RPM Fibre Channel drives,” he said.

The 7000 also takes advantage of data deduplication built into ZFS.

Oracle severed its OEM deal with Hitachi Data Systems to sell the Sun StorageTek 9000 enterprise SAN systems earlier this year, choosing to concentrate on the 7000 platform. But Schaffer said Oracle also remains committed to the Sun StorageTek 6000 series of Fibre Channel arrays, which consist of LSI Corp. controllers and Sun management software. “We’re still supporting and growing the 6000 platform,” he said, “although the bulk of our engineering will be on the 7000 series going forward.”


June 23, 2010  7:07 PM

HP beefs up convergence, solid state storage with partners

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

After two days of trumpeting its own new product launches at HP TechForum, Hewlett-Packard today disclosed new deals with storage and networking partners. Besides its sworn enemy Cisco, all the major storage networking players had HP news to share.

Both Emulex and QLogic have ASICs involved with HP’s FlexFabric 10-Gigabit Ethernet adapters. The adapters are part of HP’s Virtual Connect platform for a converged network-storage infrastructure.

HP is using Emulex’s OneConnect Universal Converged Network Adpater (UCNA) in the ProLiant G7 server blades inside the HP NC551i Dual Port FlexFabric 10Gb Adapter. This includes the LAN on motherboard (LOM) that Emulex recently acquired from ServerEngines. Emulex UCNAs support hardware protocol offload support for TCP/IP, iSCSI and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).

HP is also using QLogic’s new Bullet switching ASIC on its Virtual Connect FlexFabric 24-port 10-GigE BladeSystem module. QLogic’s Bullet supports Ethernet, Fibre Channel and iSCI, and lets administrators change protocol support on the fly.

While Brocade isn’t part of HP’s FlexFabric yet, HP launched several 8 Gbps Fibre Channel products from Brocade today. They include the 804 FC HBA for HP c-Class BladeSystem mezzanine card, the HP StorageWorks P2000 G3 MSA Virtualization SAN starter kit with six HBAs and two FC switches from Brocade, and the 64-port StorageWorks B-series Data Center SAN Director Blade. The Director Blade is based on a DCX Backbone blade Brocade launched earlier this month.

HP also added flash SSD products from Fusion-io and Samsung to its ProLiant servers. HP extended its OEM deal with Fusion-io, adding IO Accelerators for ProLiant DL and ML servers. The new PCIe form factor IO Accelerator will be available with ProLiant servers in 160 GB and 320 GB SLC capacities and 320 GB and 640 GB MLC capacities. The Fusion-io IO Accelerator was previously available for ProLiant server blades.

HP is also selling Samsung Enterprise SSDs with the ProLiant G6 and G7 servers. The Samsung SLC SSDs scale to 512 GB.


June 17, 2010  2:27 PM

FalconStor signs up Hitachi Data Systems as dedupe partner

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

FalconStor made its virtual tape library and data deduplication partnership with Hitachi Data Systems official today, disclosing that HDS will resell FalconStor’s VTL with dedupe and its File-interface Deduplication Software (FDS) integrated with the HDS Adaptable Modular Storage (AMS) 2000 platform.

During their last earnings report conference call in April, FalconStor execs hinted that they were working on partnerships with HDS. They didn’t disclose what products were involved, but there were rumblings around the industry that HDS had agreed to sell FalconStor’s FDS dedupe either through an OEM or reseller deal.

The reseller arrangement means HDS will sell the FalconStor products under the FalconStor brand rather than the HDS brand.

Nexsan and SpectraLogic also resell FalconStor deduplication software, but HDS is now the largest FalconStor dedupe partner as the software vendor looks to replace revenue lost from EMC and Sun over the past year. EMC sells a lot less FalconStor VTL software now that it has Data Domain deduplication boxes in its portfolio. After buying Sun, Oracle ended Sun’s reseller arrangement for FalconStor VTL and dedupe software.

“We have a very tight relationship with HDS now,” FalconStor marketing VP Fadi Albatal said. “There’s a lot of collaboration between the two companies.”

But FalconStor’s collaborator was strangely silent for this announcement. There were no HDS executives quoted in the press release, and requests I made to HDS for comment over the last two days went unanswered. The HDS deduplication strategy remains unclear. It sells CommVault’s backup software with dedupe through an OEM deal, and has a reseller deal for Diligent ProtecTier VTL and dedupe software dating to before IBM acquired Diligent in 2008. Sepaton uses HDS hardware as the backend storage for its VTLs with dedupe. Sepaton execs claim HDS sales people have financial incentives to sell Sepaton’s VTLs, but HDS hasn’t confirmed that.

If HDS has a preferred dedupe partner among those options, it isn’t saying.

Meanwhile, Albatal says FalconStor is considering extending its dedupe capabilities to primary storage. “We have the building blocks,” he said. “Primary deduplication has to be a post-process method, which is the nature of our solution. We won’t have something in the near future, but it’s something we will be looking at.”


June 16, 2010  1:55 PM

Gear6 caches out; Violin Memory scoops up assets

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Flash memory appliance vendor Violin Memory today said it acquired the assets of failed caching startup Gear6 for an undisclosed price, and plans to add Gear6’s NAS and Memcached software to Violin arrays.

Gear6 sold its NAS product on large appliances – the smallest was an 11u device that cost $150,000 when it launched two years ago, and larger systems cost more than twice as much. Violin’s 3u arrays range from $30,000 for 700 GB to $200,000 for 10 TB of single-level cell (SLC) solid state capacity.

Violin Memory CEO Don Basile said Gear6 and Violin both set out to eliminate I/O bottlenecks in the data center.

“Instead of using a Gear6-type appliance, we’ll bring the software of both solutions on top of Violin devices,” he said.

Basile said the NAS caching product is the more interesting of the two Gear6 offerings, adding “we need a little more study on Memcached,” a web caching product based on open source software.

“The NFS piece aligns with Violin’s mission and its vision for the data center evolution,” he said. “Violin’s array is far denser and far faster than what Gear6 was able to do. We’ll take expensive complicated hardware from Gear6 and make it more scalable. We can extend our footprint by offering NFS caching in front of NAS devices, and solve performance problems without people needing to replace their NAS infrastructure.”

Violin last month launched the Violin 3200 SSD with plans to eventually scale it to 100 TB. The 3200 holds 84 128 GB SLC memory modules for 10 TB of total capacity, and can have up to 500 GB of RAM cache.

Gear6 filed to liquidate its assets earlier this year after burning through $24 million in venture funding and failing to get more. Basile said Violin bought its technology and patents, and will hire some Gear6 engineers. Violin identified at least 30 Gear6 customers, and Basile suspects there could be as many as 60. He said Violin is “sorting through contracts” to determine its support obligation. He says some of those Gear6 customers are also using Violin products.

Analyst Greg Schulz of StorageIO says Gear6 likely aimed too high with its products and ignored the mainstream NAS market.

“Gear6 was trying to create a market, but I think they focused on higher-end customers as opposed to making it more viable for general purpose NAS,” he said. “They were also going after read-intensive NFS-type environments that may be looking to use deduplication as opposed to an accelerator.”

Schulz says the Gear6 technology will expand the Violin offering.

“They’re adding additional personality to their solid state system,” he said. ‘The real secret to Gear6 was its caching algorithm and its ability to support files. Now Violin has a NAS solution.”


June 14, 2010  8:21 PM

Let the primary reduction deals begin

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

IBM is looking to grab primary data reduction vendor Storwize for $140 million, according to Israeli financial news websites Globes and TheMarker. Whether that deal comes off or not, you can expect a series of either OEM deals or outright acquisitions involving large storage vendors and suppliers of primary reduction technology – which now includes Permabit Technology, Ocarina Networks and Storwize.

Permabit and Ocarina each say they have one large OEM primary deduplication deal nailed down and are working with more storage vendors to secure others. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, and LSI are all believed to be on the prowl for the technology and it’s a matter of whether they will forge OEM deals or acquire the technology outright. NetApp and EMC already have primary reduction capabilities.

Ocarina has been the subject of acquisition rumors, and Ocarina director of marketing Mike Davis says an IBM-Storwize deal would raise his company’s value.

“There’s demand for this technology, and we’ve had contact and serious conversations with all the OEMs out there,” Davis said. “We don’t know how serious IBM’s interest is [in Storwize], but Storwize only does a subset of what Ocarina does. So if they’re worth $140 million, Ocarina should be worth even more than that.”


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