Sun/Oracle is back in the news this week because of the demise of the HDS partnership, leaving Oracle’s portfolio stocked mainly with Sun’s ZFS-based open storage products.
Meanwhile, one of the more interesting aspects of the Sun/Oracle enterprise data storage hardware business going forward is how much of it operates outside Sun’s control.
One example of this is a company called Nexenta, which develops Sun’s open-source file system independently. This week, Nexenta became the first commercial company to offer inline data deduplication developed for ZFS. Nexenta claims its software has more than 12,000 registered users.
What does it mean when someone else can take source code from a product now owned by Oracle to market before Oracle does? It’s a question that will become central, I think, as Oracle/Sun begin offering hardware products.
In the meantime, one service provider which has deployed 400 TB Nexenta’s version of ZFS says the price is right and the flexibility to modify the open-source code to the needs of customers was a key factor in picking the product over proprietary competitors.
However, according to Jeremy Miller, head of virtual private server operations for web hosting company Site5, he’s hoping to see Nexenta develop a graphical user interface (GUI) for deploying the plugins that give the system advanced features like failover and support for iSCSI. Nexenta has a GUI for day to day management, he said, but requires management of plugins through a command-line interface (CLI).
One question about Oracle’s plans for Sun storage was answered today – by its enterprise array partner Hitachi Data Systems.
HDS notified its channel partners by email that its nine-year partnership with Sun will end on March 31. Sun sells HDS’ Universal Storage Platform V (USP V) and USP VM as the StorageTek StorageTek 9990V and StorageTek 9985V.
HDS told its partners it will make its USP systems available to them under the HDS brand. It is still unclear whether Sun will look for another enterprise storage system partner.
Here’s the text of the HDS email:
Dear Valued Partner:
Due to the recent acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle Corporation, there has been much speculation as to the effect the merger will have on the market, product offerings and partnerships. As you are aware, Hitachi Data Systems and Sun Microsystems have enjoyed a successful business partnership. On March 31, 2010, the current distribution agreement that Hitachi Data Systems and Sun Microsystems have been jointly operating under for the past nine years will come to an end.
This relationship has given our partners access to industry-leading storage solutions built on Hitachi technology on which many of the world’s top enterprises have come to rely. With the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems and Oracle agree that the time is right to evolve this relationship into one reflecting the priorities of the new company. We are jointly determining the positioning of the products and solutions based on Hitachi Data Systems that you have deployed with clients. We understand you and your customers have questions and concerns surrounding service obligations to the global install base moving forward.
Hitachi Data Systems will be answering all questions and concerns with solid transition programs and will focus on meeting the demands of the continued excitement in the marketplace around the Hitachi Data Systems technology and the unique leading edge solutions that the Hitachi Data Systems brand has, and will continue to bring to market. These solutions will continue to be made available to you and your customers under the Hitachi Data Systems brand name.
Details will be forthcoming on programs and processes that will help guide you and your customers, as we transition this business moving forward. A new chapter is here, and Hitachi Data Systems sees great opportunities for you that will materialize in the market. Protecting, developing and growing your business is our top priority.
Hewlett-Packard also sells an enterprise storage array – the StorageWorks XP series – based on Hitachi’s technology. There was speculation last year when HP hired former EMC executive Dave Donatelli that HP would also drop the HDS platform, but there has been no indication of that from HP.
Xiotech has made sweeping changes in its executive suite over the last four months, beginning with the hiring of CEO Alan Atkinson last September. Atkinson revamped his management team, bringing in chief strategy officer Jim McDonald and VP of marketing and business development Brian Reagan.
Now the new team is ready to make product changes. First, it is getting rid of the Magnitude SAN platform. The Magnitude will be end-of-lifed at the end of the month, although the vendor will support systems in the field.
That’s no surprise. Xiotech shifted its resources to the Emprise series based on Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) technology two years ago after buying the technology from Seagate, and the new management team is fully committed to continuing down that path.
“That is what we’re about,” Reagan said of ISE. “All coming product announcements will be ISE-centric.”
The strategy now is to make the Emprise more of an enterprise play to broaden Xiotech’s market from primarily a midrange play.
“We have ambitions to take Xiotech public,” Reagan says. “We’ve been a midmarket storage company. We see an opportunity to move into the enterprise in a greater fashion. To do that, you need a presence in specific industries such as financial institutions. We see a need to embed ISE technology behind other technologies to make them work better with ISE.”
A big part of the strategy is to make Emprise work better with server virtualization stacks from VMware, Microsoft and Citrus, Reagan says. Another step is to make ISE technology work better with home-grown code financial institutions often use for their storage systems.
Support for solid state drives is also in Xiotech’s plans for the Emprise platform this year. Reagan says the systems can support SSD now, but Xiotech has reliability concerns about SSDs. “The problem we have with solid state is, from a reliability and performance standpoint, SSDs operate like regular hard drives but are massively more expensive,” he said. “As they become full, they become slower. We offer a built-in five-year hardware warranty. Solid state can’t live up to our reliability requirements now. It will get there eventually, though.”
That’s the happy tune VMware backup pros are likely singing today, after VMware officially sent out a statement to customers announcing that VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) will bite the dust with the next vSphere feature release this year.
In the letter to customers, VMware said its data backup partners will offer integrations with new vStorage APIs for Data Protection to replace VCB with the next vSphere release.
Industry experts say VCB had fallen short of its promise to simplify virtual machine backups in networked storage environments. To wit, according to backup expert W. Curtis Preston in a story we did recently about vSphere and backup:
“At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if 80% of users currently have agents in guests,” said data backup expert W. Curtis Preston. There are two ways to use the current VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) option, which transfers the quiescing of applications and execution of snapshots to a proxy server. One is a virtual mount, which means that the C: drive of a guest machine is transferred to the proxy server and backed up using regular backup software as if it was a local drive on the proxy machine. The other is to send an image of the virtual machine itself to the VCB proxy, where it can be backed up in its entirety.
According to Preston, “at the least it’s a two-stage backup and restore” process to use VMware Consolidated Backup. If a virtual mount is used, the user must have a separate tool. Popular choices include Vizioncore’s vRanger Pro and Veeam Software’s Backup & Replication to back up the guest machine itself. If an image-level backup is used, the full Virtual machine disk format (VMDK) file is copied to the proxy machine and then backed up. Should users need to restore a single file or object from an image level backup, the full virtual machine must often be restored. Even incremental backups often copy the entire VMDK file over to the proxy server, Preston said.
The new APIs will allow data backup software tools to query virtual machines directly.
Meanwhile, there’s palpable joy in at least some parts of the IT blogosphere about this announcement. “Boy-oh-boy-oh-boy, this is the best day since I know what VCB is! Finally, it’s being retired!” exulted Joep Piscaer, a product manager for a Dutch VMware partner.
Another blogger wondered aloud if VMware Data Recovery (vDR), VMware’s own backup tool launched with vSphere 4, will take over for VCB, but I would be surprised if that happened. DataRecovery is based on the same vStorage APIs VMware is making available to partners, but VMware has said DataRecovery will be limited to disk-based backups of virtual machine images only, and will support up to 100 virtual machines or 2 TB of storage. So for the low end of the market, probably, but most users will still be working with third-party tools.
Pivot3 just closed a $25 million funding round, which the serverless IP storage system vendor plans to use to beef up its international sales channel for the video surveillance market as well as add new features to make the platform better suited for more conventional IT environments.
Chief marketing officer and founder Lee Caswell says Pivot3 has more than 140 customers for its Serverless Computing storage systems – mainly for video surveillance. While Pivot3 executives and their investors see that market continuing to grow for casinos and other high-security industries, they are also looking to take on new markets.
That’s where the new features come in: RAID 6x to support five simultaneous disk failures, parallel flash cache to reduce latency, and Intel Nehalem multi-threaded processors for a performance bump.
The new RAID is a software upgrade that will let Pivot3 place data and manage RAID sets across appliances. “This higher level of data protection would be helpful in mainstream IT sites,” Caswell said.
Parallel flash cache would be an alternative to the disk caching used on Pivot3 systems now. The flash will come from 2 GB chips connected to on-board SATA ports working in parallel. Caswell says the parallel flash cache will improve random workloads while current Pivot3 systems are built for sequential workloads.
The Nehalem CPUs will replace the quad-core Xeon processors Pivot3 uses now. “This gives us more performance and more CPUs for brining other applications and more virtual machines on each hardware platform,” Caswell said.
Caswell said the new features will be available in a three-month beta programming beginning this month, and will likely show up in shipping products in the fall.
The funding round was led by Focus Ventures, and brings Pivot3’s total VC funding to around $75 million. Previous Pivot3 investors InterWest Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Mesirow Financial Capital Partners IX, and Silver Creek Ventures also took part in the round. Caswell says Pivot3 will double its sales force and expand its total headcount from 55 to about 70 or 80 over the next six months.
EMC has sold its Ionix data center management software to VMware — which EMC owns controlling interest of — for $200 million.
The software VMware acquired includes Server Configuration Manager (formerly Configuresoft), FastScale, Application Discovery Manager (formerly nLayers), and Service Manager (formerly Infra). EMC will retain reseller rights to Ionix, while VMware will take over its engineering, marketing, sales and support operations in the United States, Europe, Israel, India and Australia.
Owning this portfolio was kind of a head-scratcher for EMC — while it has been steadily expanding its business well beyond storage hardware, it seems a more organic fit for customers to buy systems management software from the closest thing EMC has to a server hardware division in VMware. This also fits in with VMware’s ambitions to be the data center operating system — and management console — of the future.
According to a blog by Ben Verghese, chief management architect in VMware’s Virtualization and Cloud Platforms business unit, “An IT-as-a-Service model demands strong capabilities and automation across several aspects of management: provisioning, capacity, configuration, performance, business continuity. With the acquisition of the Ionix products, VMware will extend the capabilities of vCenter in order to meet these demands, especially around configuration management and compliance in the enterprise private cloud.”
The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of 2010. For ongoing analysis of what this move means for VMware users, stay tuned to our SearchServerVirtualization.com sister site.
(1:54) SGI buys Copan for $2M
This morning we published a Q&A with EMC backup and recovery division president and former Data Domain CEO Frank Slootman on our SearchDataBackup.com site. However, not all of our conversation with Slootman made it into the final piece. Following are a few of the more interesting tidbits from the cutting room floor, including shifting competitive dynamics following the EMC/Data Domain acquisition, whether Dell will sell EMC’s backup product portfolio, and general trends in data deduplication.
EMC said that Data Domain gained 600 new customers on its fourth-quarter earnings call. Is there anything different about those customers from Data Domain’s existing customer base?
Slootman: I think it’s more concentrated on the global enterprise account side as you can imagine with EMC’s global channel and account presence, that part of the business grew disproportionately fast. That’s one. The other is our international business grew much faster than it historically has. A third thing, which kind of surprised me, is that of these 600 customers who were new to Data Domain, 300 were also new to EMC, which is very significant, because how many companies have not bought products from EMC in their lifetime?
Storage tends to be a trench war – everybody has their accounts and it’s an inch to the left, an inch to the right but it’s relatively static. But this market is not like that – it’s wide open and there’s a tremendous opportunity to just sort of move the boundaries.
Who would you say is EMC’s biggest competition in backup right now?
Slootman:It’s IBM by a considerable margin. Our competitive dynamic obviously changed because of being in the EMC orbit. Number one, we don’t have EMC to kick around anymore. [laughs] Which changed a lot, of course … but secondly, it puts us much more in the enterprise game than we already were. We look at our CRM statistics in that type of engagement, and IBM is very prominent, number one, and then there’s a few others coming after that – NetApp, Symantec, that sort of thing.
What are you seeing from NetApp?
Slootman:They’re getting rid of the VTL. I think that’s a wise move because they pretty much telegraphed to the world that they didn’t think much of their own product, so it’s kind of hard to keep selling it at that point. NetApp is retrenching to their core platform, which I think is a logical way of doing things. They were really fragmenting their platform before by having a separate VTL. So now they’re saying we’re going to sell our core platform and it has data protection built into it, and so that’s what we’re going to represent to the world. Makes sense to me.
It seems pretty obvious Dell might be inclined to expand its relationship with EMC to cover the backup products. There are also some rumors that Dell has already started selling Data Domain. Is that something that you could clarify?
Slootman:They’re already able to sell it through a brokerage relationship ,and they did in the last several quarters. That is not terribly unique and surprising because just about any vendor is capable of taking business down through a brokerage arrangement. So I wouldn’t necessarily take that as a huge revelation – that’s fairly common, sometimes people just have procurement relationships when they need to drive a contract this way or that way. .. The other relationships are still awaiting announcement. There’s a lot of anticipation around it, but I think that will get cleared up pretty soon.
It seems like deduplication has filtered its way into backup software in the last year. Do you see dedupe moving up the stack, or is there a home for it at different levels?
Slootman:It’s kind of interesting, because the two original products that pioneered data deduplication are Avamar and Data Domain. One is storage, the other is software. So from the very beginning this has been true. The other thing I’ll tell you in terms of relative share – at the time Avamar was acquired by EMC three years ago now, Data Domain was sort of 3:1 relative to Avamar, and it still is to this day. That tells me that the relative proportion in terms of how customers deploy the technology hasn’t really changed. I think that an overwhelming amount of dedupe is still deployed as storage, not as software and that’s a sore topic for CommVault and Symantec, which I can understand, but there’s reasons for it. Compelling technology reasons, not just because we’re good salespeople here.
Copan has finally found a buyer, at the fire-sale price of $2 million.
SGI said Tuesday night it picked up Copan’s assets in a foreclosure sale, including its product portfolio and “select” employees, and will maintain the MAID vendor’s Longmont, CO, headquarters.
Copan has been on the block for at least a year, and has been without a CEO since Mark Ward stepped down last July following layoffs in late 2008. There were frequent rumors of Copan’s demise in recent months but the vendor kept a skeleton staff until it could complete a sale.
SGI’s press release announcing the acquisition said it will now “be able to offer an expanded portfolio of purpose-built, innovative, massively scalable high performance storage products. Specifically, with the COPAN platform, SGI will be able to offer new storage technologies that target Persistent Data storage.”
The product page of SGI’s web site lists three Copan products: Data Archive 300A, Native MAID 300M, and 300T/TX Virtual Tape Library.
Copan’s investors took a beating on the sale. The vendor took in more than $100 million in funding, including an $18.5 million round a year ago. The MAID disk-spin down technology that Copan pioneered was a hot technology a few years back, but larger vendors such as EMC and Hitachi Data Systems have since incorporated it (without many sales) and competitors such as Nexsan have added intelligence to spin down that was lacking in Copan’s products.
SGI has its own history of financial problems, and last year was acquired by Rackable for $25 million. Rackable then assumed the SGI name. SGI’s storage platform includes InfiniteStorage NAS and RAID systems, and Rackable Storage Servers.
This past Sunday, a friend of mine and I took a trip to a staple of most New England childhoods (mine included): Boston’s Museum of Science. As we explored the exhibits, a surprising number of which remain unchanged since I was a kid, an exhibit called “The Computing Revolution” caught my eye for the first time.
This exhibit was kind of the inverse of the rest of the museum — while the main exhibit halls contained relics unchanged since my childhood, the computer retrospective introduced machines I remember using as a child to the museum. I’ve never had the experience of seeing things I’ve actually used displayed in a glass case as historic artifacts — but that’s computer time for you.
Luckily I also had my camera with me, and the Museum allows photography — so I can share some of this trip down memory lane with the people in my audience I know will appreciate it.
Photos after the jump.