Storage Soup

October 3, 2012  10:49 AM

Riverbed’s enhanced remote-office appliances include vSphere support

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii

Riverbed Technology today announced that the Steelhead EX remote-office WAN acceleration appliances now come with VMware vSphere 5 support, while introducing a new version of its Riverbed Optimization System (RiOS) operating system. The company also introduced two new Steelhead core WAN acceleration appliances.

The Steelhead EX devices work in conjunction with the Granite remote block-based storage appliances Riverbed launched in February. Granite centralizes the local storage in the Steelhead devices. Files can be written directly to Granite, which does asynchronous writes to the storage array in the data center.

“Granite presents data center storage locally, so you can scale up and scale down the amount of storage from the data center,” said Miles Kelly, senior director of product marketing at Riverbed.

The Steelhead EX’s integration with VMware vSphere hypervisor lets administrators use vCenter to centrally manage virtual machines. Previous EX models were integrated with VMware Server, which didn’t include vCenter for central management of VMs. Kelly said up to five virtual machines can be managed on an EX appliance.

Riverbed also added new Steelhead CX pure WAN acceleration devices. The Steelhead CX5055 and CX7055 appliances have more TCP connections than the 5050 and 7050 models that they will replace. The 5055 and 7055 series contain solid-state drives (SSDs) for better performance. Previously, only the 7050 contained SSDs.

RiOS 8.0 has been upgraded to automatically recognize and control more than 600 applications, and has a new quality of service capability to prioritize PCoIP traffic, which is the protocol used for VMware View.

September 27, 2012  7:47 AM

Don’t let your data center turn into a storage museum

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

Did you ever have a visitor to your data center say, “I didn’t know any of these systems were still around?” The implication here is that your data center is one step away from being a museum. Having “museum worthy” systems is not a badge of honor. It means that the systems in the data center are probably not delivering optimal value.

For a storage system, this can be especially bad. Disk systems are typically in use no longer than five years. There’s good reason for these systems to have a limited lifespan. They are electro-mechanical devices that wear out when in constant usage.

Another reason not to let a disk storage system grow old is the continued advances in technology that allows more data to be stored in a smaller space with less power and cooling requirements in a new disk system. Every new disk generation, which changes on about an 18-month cycle, adds to the storage efficiency equation. New disk systems increase performance and often add new capabilities that can be exploited for improved operations. For instance, newer features in current systems include support of APIs for server virtualization hypervisors.

But, some storage systems may still be in use even though there are more efficient systems available. Reasons for storing information on these include:

• They may be used as secondary storage for less critical data.
• The costs may be minimized by not having full maintenance or support and IT has made a decision to take the risks.
• A legacy application may be running that has not yet been virtualized.

Sometimes the five-year lifespan might start just prior to a major technology shift such as the transition to systems that can incorporate solid state technology. In that case, a system that appears to be an artifact because it does not support the latest technology or features really is not old and may have years left before the asset is depreciated. This may be a good candidate to turn into secondary storage.

Maybe there are good reasons why some data centers look like museums. For storage, however, not keeping up with technology can impact in other areas. The older system may lack support for new server virtualization features while consuming more physical space and power and lacking performance requirements for demanding applications.

So take a long look at the museum quality of the storage in your data center. It can be a major indicator of inefficiency … and of optimization opportunities.

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

September 25, 2012  12:43 PM

Red Hat CEO calls storage interest red hot

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Red Hat’s storage platform is still mostly in the testing stage, but CEO Jim Whitehurst said the company took its first six-figure order last quarter and sees a bright future for its software-based clustered NAS.

Whitehurst talked up storage throughout Red Hat’s earnings call Monday, claiming significant interest in Red Hat Storage Server. He doesn’t expect significant revenue until next year but said many customers are running proofs of concepts for storage. He also identified storage as an area where the Linux vendor will heavily invest in, with plans to integrate storage with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) server virtualization platform.

“We’re excited about the potential to disrupt traditional market plays for big data,” Whitehurst said.

He sees Red Hat storage as a low-cost alternative to hardware-based clustered NAS, such as EMC’s Isilon. Red Hat’s storage technology – acquired from startup Gluster for $136 million last year – can’t match Isilon features, but Whitehurst expects it to be enough for many customers.

“The storage space obviously has some well-established, well-regarded vendors,” he said. “But it also looks a lot like Linux did a decade ago with relatively inexpensive solutions. Not all your unstructured data really needs to fly first class.”

Red Hat has already embraced cloud storage with an appliance for Amazon Web Services (AWS) with plans to expand to other cloud providers.

“Not only do we have a significant cost advantage by being software-based,” Whitehurst said, “we also offer huge amounts of flexibility so you can burst up on the cloud and move your data [to the cloud].”

With clustered NAS, storage integrated with virtual servers and cloud storage, Red Hat certainly bears watching as a storage vendor.

September 24, 2012  7:35 AM

SimpliVity receives $25M to push its converged OmniCube

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

SimpliVity closed a $25 million funding round today, giving the startup ammunition to market its OmniCube converged storage stack due to ship later this year.

SimpliVity came out of stealth in August when it started its beta program for OmniCube, which has storage, compute and virtualization in one box. CEO and founder Doron Kempel said he expects the company to grow from 60 people to around 80 by the end of the year, and the new funding “gives us cash to fuel everything we want to do in 2013 in sales, marketing and engineering.”

One of the things Kempel wants to do is convince people that SimpliVity is unique among converged storage systems. He positions it as primary storage that can do just about everything, replacing the need for discrete devices for deduplication, backup, WAN optimization and cloud connectivity.

“We have defined the new IT building block,” he said. “It’s an accelerated software stack that runs on commodity hardware and one person manages it.”

SimpliVity is among a small group of vendors – Nutanix and Scale Computing are others – using the term “hyper-converged” to describe their systems. Kempel said he is trying to differentiate OmniCube from converged stacks sold by established vendors that combine a group of products that were originally created by different companies or different groups inside of a company.

“Convergence is a nebulous term,” he said. “Everybody and their husband says, ‘We’re converged too.’ We want to establish metrics for framing the convergence market. Not all cars are created equal — there are sports cars, trucks, hybrids. It’s the same with converged systems.”

SimpliVity’s B funding round brings its total to $43 million. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) led the round, and original investors Accel Partners and Charles River Ventures also participated.

Kempel sold his last company, backup dedupe vendor Diligent Technologies, to IBM in 2008. He founded Diligent with Moshe Yanai, who led development of EMC’s Symmetrix platform and founded XIV before selling that systems startup to IBM.

When asked if Yanai was involved with SimpliVity, Kempel laughed and said, “I’m not allowed to talk about people I can’t mention.”

Yanai left IBM in 2010 but may be restricted from working with other storage companies.

September 20, 2012  3:03 PM

Flash startup Virident pockets $26M and storage-savvy CEO

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

PCIe flash card startup Virident Systems closed a $26 million funding round this week, and hired a CEO that signals the vendor is entering a new phase.

Former BlueArc CEO Mike Gustafson is Virident’s new boss, replacing founder Kumar Ganapathy. Ganapathy will remain with the company and work closely with the executive team on business strategy, new product development and strategic partnerships.

Ganapathy’s background is in engineering, while Gustafson ran sales and marketing at Fibre Channel switch maker McData before moving to BlueArc in 2005 and selling the NAS vendor to Hitachi Data Systems last year. The change comes as Virident is ready to make its FlashMax II cards generally available following years of intense product development.

“We were looking for somebody who could take us to the next level as far as sales and marketing, and Mike has a lot of experience there,” Virident’s VP of Marketing Shridar Subramanian said. “He enabled the growth of BlueArc in the NAS space, established a strategic OEM relationship with Hitachi, and was responsible for the acquisition of BlueArc.”

Gustafson will likely pursue partnerships with large storage and server vendors at Virident. Although Mitsui Global Investments led the Series D funding round, it also included previous strategic investors Cisco, Intel and an unidentified storage vendor who industry sources say is EMC. To compete with the likes of Fusion-IO, Micron Technology and LSI, Virident will need the types of OEM and reseller deals those players have with storage and server companies such as Cisco, EMC and their competitors.

Subramanian said Virident isn’t finished with product development either, and will add software products and features to make its products better equipped for the enterprise than its competitors’ devices.

“There are quite a few players in the market with products,” he said. “But it’s pretty easy to put a bunch of flash chips together and claim you have a flash-based product. What’s difficult is to optimize performance and provide enterprise-class performance. A lot of differentiation will be in software, and that’s where we are investing with the new money as well.”

The round brings Virident’s total funding to $76 million. New investor Hercules Technology Growth Capital and previous investors Globespan Capital Partners, Sequoia Capital and Artiman Ventures also participated.

September 20, 2012  8:35 AM

Dell says having one IT vendor simplifies storage

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Despite recent market trends to the contrary, Dell storage executives maintain customers want to buy storage and servers from the same vendor.

To make this case, they point to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Consulting and sponsored by Dell. That survey of around 800 IT leaders and storage administrators in the U.S. and Europe shows that most see value in buying storage, servers, networking and IT services from one vendor.

That’s not how it’s been working out, though. Recent storage revenue tracking reports from IDC and Gartner – as well as vendors’ earning reports -– show pure-play storage vendors EMC, NetApp and Hitachi Data Systems have gained market share at the expense of Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard (HP). Pure-play storage vendors say that’s because they innovate more than server and infrastructure vendors who dabble in storage.

Dell has built its storage business independent of servers, however, with the acquisitions of array vendors EqualLogic and Compellent plus storage software acquisitions. And Dell execs point out revenue from products with their storage IP have increased over the last year. Dell’s overall storage numbers are down because they reflect the loss of revenue generated by Dell’s discontinued OEM deal with EMC.

“There’s another story on Dell’s numbers,” said Travis Vigil, executive director for Dell storage. “PowerVault, EqualLogic and Compellent sales are increasing. With EqualLogic, we went from 4,000 customers to close to 50,000 customers [since 2008]. The Compellent business has also scaled quickly at Dell. When you look at Dell storage IP, we’re gaining share in the market.”

While developing its own storage, Dell is also integrating it with its server and networking technology in converged products. Today marked the general availability of the EqualLogic Blade Array previewed at Dell Storage Forum in June. The Blade Array packages EqualLogic iSCSI storage with PowerEdge blade servers and Force10 MXL switches in a 10U chassis.

Mike Quirin, IT manager for the SAN and VMware for Italy-based transportation company Ansaldo STS, said he tested the EqualLogic Blade Array and will likely purchase a few. Quirin, based in Ansaldo’s U.S. data center in Pittsburgh, Pa., said he uses EMC storage in the data center but finds the blades a good fit for systems sent out to customers with custom applications for monitoring and reporting.

He said the Blade Array lets customers quickly configure the converged system without any IT intervention.

“Most of the solutions we sent out to customers are blade solutions,” he said. “We had a chassis filled with eight blades and separate storage. With the Blade Array, we could send out a data center in a box without external cabling and hassles. I could get this up and running in 15 minutes without any instructions at all.”
Quirin agrees there are advantages to buying equipment from one vendor. He said he bought most of his EMC storage through Dell. “It makes it easier for us to not run around with too many different vendors,” he said.

The Forrester survey of 513 IT storage administrators and 284 CIOs, managers and directors, found that 54% of each group said they see “some value” and consider buying storage from the same vendor they buy servers and networking from. Thirty-four percent of the storage admins and 32% of the CIO group said they do it when possible, but only 9% of each group said they do it exclusively.

Other findings in the survey weren’t exactly shocking. Most IT leaders and storage admins find managing storage a complex task, they want technology that is automated and easier to use, and 48% said they could spend more time developing business strategy if managing storage didn’t take up so much time.

One noteworthy finding was that 85% said they would consider paying more for a storage system if it saves a considerable amount of work time.

September 14, 2012  8:08 AM

Evaluating storage performance requires credible information

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

Almost every conversation about storage includes performance. That’s because storage system performance is important for the responsiveness of applications. Most vendors go to great efforts to provide performance data for their storage systems. This performance data provides valuable information for making decisions about deployment and how particular applications are used.

But the performance information must be credible for it to help make decisions. If the performance data is inaccurate or not applicable for the way the customer will use the system, that vendor’s performance data will be discounted by decision makers in the future. Vendor performance information is greeted with skepticism anyway. Producing inaccurate or inapplicable information quickly turns skepticism into distrust.

For performance information to be useful, the correct performance testing software must be used in a controlled environment that represents the customer applications and configurations. The use case dictates the type of information required, and performance testing software must be capable of reproducing the desired environment. Using the wrong storage exerciser program can give misleading information and misrepresent the performance for a particular application.

A good example would be performance for a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment. VDI represents a complex workload for storage that changes quickly. A storage system that can respond to changing workloads would have advantages over one that may be excellent in certain aspects but cannot adapt quickly.

The performance testing of storage for VDI environments must replicate the dynamics of the changing VDI workloads. A standard exerciser test program for storage meant to exhibit storage system characteristics by driving I/Os with predefined read/write ratios cannot mimic the actual workload. The only way to accurately get useful information for a storage system’s capabilities in a VDI environment is to use actual workload captured streams that are played back against the storage system. The storage system’s capability to adapt to the complexity of the I/O characteristics can be demonstrated this way. Scaling the workload can show how many virtual desktops the system can support within the acceptable parameters.

For IT personnel making a strategic decision, evaluating performance requires testing in their environment, running industry standard benchmarks specific to the types of applications they use, or using third-party supplied information. Results should only be considered if they are relevant to the application.

Introducing new storage systems into environments represents risks for IT. The big risk is not having the performance to meet the needs. Performance information obtained with relevant testing and test software can help minimize those risks.

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

September 12, 2012  11:15 PM

HGST prepares helium-based hard drives to increase density

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii

Western Digital’s Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) intends to ship its first 3.5-inch, helium-based hard disk drive in 2013.

A technology that’s been under development for about eight years,  helium-based hard drives are the next evolution in drive technology, according to  HGST’s vice president of product marketing Brendan Collins. Helium will replace air in the Sealed HDD platform that HGST announced today. Helium has one-seventh the density of air, allowing manufacturers to build in seven spinning disks instead of five in a 3.5 inch drive. That could boost capacity in the 3.5-inch form factor by 40%.

“It’s going to radically change the way data is stored,” Collins said. “By using helium, you lower the power consumption by 23 percent while increasing capacity by 40 percent. It’s the same form factor so you don’t have to change anything on the system level.”

Collins said air-based drives are reaching a point of diminishing returns because manufacturers will no longer be able to add tracks to increase capacity. Since air is dense, it tends to affect spinning disks with vibrations. Helium puts less drag force on the spinning disk stack so the mechanical power in the motor is reduced. Helium’s lower density reduces the force buffeting the disks and the arms that position the heads over the data tracks. That means disks can be placed closer together. It also allows data tracks to be positioned closer together to scale data density.

“The sealed helium HDD platform will provide high capacity storage for the next 10 years,” Collins said. “It’s an ideal platform for bulk and cold storage.”

September 12, 2012  9:49 PM

Amplidata gets $6 million in funding and a new CEO

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii

Object-storage startup Amplidata today unveiled its new CEO and another $6 million round of funding with OEM partner Quantum Corp. as a lead investor. The new funding brings the company’s total investment to $23 million.

Mike Wall takes over as CEO. He replaces founder Wim De Wispelaere, who moves into the chief technology officer spot. Wall, a member of Amplidata’s board since April, was CEO of backup software vendor Atempo when it was acquired by ASG Software Solutions last December. Prior to that, Wall was a founding member of Intel Corp.’s storage division.

Amplidata’s new round of funding will be invested in growing marketing, sales and engineering, Wall said. The company will move its headquarters from Belgium to the U.S. over the next year or so. Amplidata currently has a small direct sales force, but Wall said OEMs, the channel and service providers will make up 75% to 85% of revenues.

“We are working with several large customers that plan to integrate the technology both from an OEM perspective and cloud service providers,” Wall said.

Amplidata’s AmpliStor object storage system consists of a controller, storage node and monitoring software for cloud storage and arching large digital data and online media applications. AmpliStor offers the ability to dynamically configure systems, change policies in real time and migrate to new hardware. The product was launched in early 2011. Wall said Amplidata’s main competitors include EMC, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, along with Scality and Cleversafe.

Quantum is integrating Amplidata’s optimized object storage technology into a new family of “Big Data” management and tiered storage products as part of an OEM deal disclosed last May.

September 11, 2012  7:03 PM

Shameless Plug: Storage Decisions 2012 NYC

Rich Castagna Rich Castagna Profile: Rich Castagna

Normally, I’d feel a little creepy making a pitch about one of our own conferences, but there are two reasons—really good reasons, in fact—why I feel just fine about making a shameless plug for the 2012 fall edition of our Storage Decisions conference in New York City on September 24 and 25.

First, I routinely attend and report on all kinds of storage conferences, so why not Storage Decisions, too? Granted, Storage Decisions is a little different from most of the other conferences I attend. It’s really built around editorially driven and unbiased sessions presented by some of the biggest names—and smartest people—in storage today.

The second reason I don’t feel guilty about making this pitch is that I’m not trying to sell you anything. In fact, I’m trying to give something away. As a user active in storage management and procurement, the cost for you to attend Storage Decisions is $0. Zippo. Zilch. Zero. Apply online, and if you qualify, all you have to do is show up.

This year’s lineup is among our best. Jon Toigo is back again, with a classic Toigo take on the storage “infrastruggle”; joining Jon will be a stellar lineup of experts, including Howard Marks, Dennis Martin, Marc Staimer, Randy Kerns, Brien Posey, Ben Woo and, making his Storage Decisions debut, virtual desktop authority Brian Madden.

Our goal is simple: Providing storage pros the best technical and practical information available. So… apply, attend and let me know how we do.

 –Rich Castagna, Editorial Director, Storage Media Group

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