Storage Soup


September 17, 2009  9:44 PM

Pillar insists it’s not putting Intel SSDs ‘in the ditch’

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

A Pillar executive responding to a Computerworld report that the vendor is “kicking Intel’s SSD to the curb” says Pillar is still considering Intel as an SSD supplier for future releases, while confirming it switched to STEC drives for its Axiom SSD bricks.

Bob Maness, Pillar’s VP of worldwide marketing and channel sales, says Pillar pitted Intel and STEC drives against one another in a qualification process, and “STEC finished first.” In March, Pillar said it would ship Intel SSDs with its Axiom systems but Maness says Intel’s X25-E SSD caused timeout errors with the Axiom controller during multiple concurrent write operations. He said two companies are still working on fixing.

Earlier this year, Intel issued a firmware update to its X25-M consumer SSDs for performance issues due to data fragmentation. Intel executives said at the time that the glitch did not apply to the X25-E.

Pillar also recently swapped out its storage controller processors from Intel to AMD, which Maness said was the result of a similar “first come, first serve” process of qualification. “For most vendors, this is the way they operate with components suppliers,” he said.

Maness said Pillar has used Intel processors in earlier iterations of Axiom and will continue to keep up with its products. “We have had an ongoing relationship with them,” he said. “We’re not putting Intel in the ditch.”

A bigger question for Pillar as it refreshes Axiom with 2 TB drives as well as the SSDs, is whether it will be PIllar’s or Sun’s midmarket storage product lines left in the proverbial ditch by Oracle, whose CEO Larry Ellison is Pillar’s primary investor.

Maness, not surprisingly, says Oracle will pick Pillar. “If you look at the Sun storage product line, you can assume, in my opinion, they probably won’t continue the OEM relationships based on margin,” he said.

He was referring to Sun’s 9000 product line, a rebranding of Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)’s USP high-end disk arrays, as well as the 6000 and 5000 series it rebrands from LSI.

That leaves the Sun 7000 series, or Amber Road, in Pillar’s competitive sights. “Sun servers are already being put in the midst of the Oracle stack,” Maness said, referring to this week’s announcement of Exadata 2. “But they haven’t talked much about storage. Maybe that’s because Pillar is a superior storage product.”

September 16, 2009  1:42 PM

Former Avamar chief Walsh to run Storewize

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Storage

The appointment of Ed Walsh as Storwize CEO this week has people in the storage industry wondering how long it will be until the primary data reduction vendor gets acquired.

EMC bought data deduplication specialist Avamar 17 months after Walsh became its CEO, and it took Walsh 19 months to sell virtualization startup Virtual Iron to Oracle this year. But Walsh says there’s plenty of room for Storwize to grow on its own.

“I think this company has a lot of legs,” he said. “The opportunity is quite large.”

Walsh certainly knows the data reduction space. Outside of Data Domain – also part of EMC now – no company did as much to market data deduplication in its early days as Avamar.

“Data deduplication was not a term until Avamar used it,” Walsh said. “Data Domain called it capacity optimized storage. At Avamar, we had to teach the market that data deduplication was something that you wanted. Now the market is rife. The technology has proven itself.”

While the industry is now filled with backup vendors doing dedupe a la Avamar, only Storwize and startup Ocarina Networks are dedicated solely to reducing primary data. NetApp also has dedupe for primary data on its storage systems, EMC this year added single instance storage to its NAS filers and Riverbed is working on a primary dedupe device – although it’s taking longer than originally thought.

“The difference for primary data is, there’s no tolerance for any performance degradation,” Walsh said. “Storwize really cracked the code on that. We get 6x or 9x improvement and no performance degradation. That gives us a long lead time on the competition.”

Storwize and Ocarina originally referred to their technologies as compression instead of dedupe. They work different than dedupe, and dedupe was considered a secondary storage technology. Ocarina has relented and refers to its product as dedupe now, because that’s the term potential customers want to use.

Storwize has emphasized its STN appliances do compression – not dedupe – but its release announcing the new CEO had the headline, “Deduplication pioneer Ed Walsh takes the reins at Storwize.” Walsh says it really doesn’t matter if it’s called compression or dedupe, as long as it works.

“Everyone does it slightly different,” he says. “In the end, it’s still data reduction.”


September 15, 2009  7:40 PM

Dot Hill goes in software direction with Ciprico IP

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Dot Hill Systems, which sell storage systems that are rebranded by OEM partners, is entering a new market thanks to intellectual property it acquired from bankrupt vendor Ciprico last September.

Dot Hill today launched what it calls a virtual RAID adapter (VRA), which is basically a software-based host bus adapter for low-end storage systems.

“This is a pure software play, it goes inside Windows or Linux servers,” said Andy Mills, Dot Hill’s VP of marketing and business development. “We’re doing it entirely on the host.”

Development of the product was well under way by Ciprico, which had exclusive rights to license Broadcom’s RAIDCore technology. The RAIDCore VRA software supports Intel servers’ SATA I/O ports and I/O ports on SAS/SATA controllers, and adds RAID functionality without a RAID-on-chip device.

VRA software is aimed at entry level direct attach storage for now, rather the high-end Fibre Channel storage systems.

The product brings Dot Hill a different set of OEM partners. While it now sells storage systems rebranded by NetApp, Hewlett-Packard, Sun and others, VRA software will be sold by server vendors. Mills says he expects an OEM deal with a Tier 1 server vendor by the end of the month. That deal was in the works at Ciprico before Dot Hill picked up its IP.

Mills says Dot Hill plans to eventually add data management and protection features such as snapshots and thin provisioning to the VRA platform. Customers will be able to unlock those features with license keys.

Mills also hinted that Fibre Channel support could be coming down the road, too. “We’re not ready to talk about that yet, but we eventually plan to manage a unified protocol,” he said.


September 15, 2009  6:53 PM

Spinnaker founders bring Avere out of stealth …

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

…but few other details are known yet of the new storage product to be released in three weeks by the original founders of Spinnaker Networks, which now forms the basis of NetApp’s scale-out OnTap GX and OnTap 8 offerings.

Avere CEO Ron Bianchini, who held the same title at Spinnaker, says the new company began in a coffee shop after he and other Spinnaker execs left NetApp in late 2007. “Initially, Spinnaker was a separate group [within NetApp],” he said. “There was a huge process of merging the two technologies, but after that there was less and less for the Spinnaker business unit to do, and the three of us left NetApp.”

The other two former Spinnaker founders now with Avere are CTO Michael Kazar and VP of engineering Daniel Nydick.

The startup today disclosed a $15 million Series A funding round. It’s preparing to roll out what it calls Demand-Driven Storage, which Bianchini described as “looking at an application workload and looking at the types of storage available, then matching the workload to the storage media.” He said the idea sprang from increasing diversity in the types of storage media available, whether SAS and SATA drives or solid-state disks (SSDs.).

So is this going to be something along the lines of EMC Corp.’s Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) and Compellent’s Data Progression? “That’s very good directionally–we go in that direction, but much further,” Bianchini said. “When we finally can talk about the technology in detail, we’ll differentiate against those products with something broader and with more efficiencies.”

Will the product also draw on Spinnaker’s scale-out heritage? What market will it address? Is the product primarily software-focused? “All will become clear in three weeks,” Bianchini said.


September 15, 2009  1:25 PM

Broadcom accuses Emulex of patent infringement

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Emulex hasn’t heard the last from Broadcom after all.

Broadcom, which unsuccessfully tried to acquire Emulex this year, Monday filed a lawsuit charging that the HBA vendor infringed on 10 of its patents for storage and networking technologies. The chipmaker is seeking monetary damages and injunctions to stop Emulex from using the technology.

The patents include Fibre Channel, FCoE, TCP offload engine, remote direct memory access (RDMA), and serializer/deserializer (SerDes) technologies.

“As we developed our plans for the Fibre Channel over Ethernet market, we discovered that Emulex is infringing multiple Broadcom patents in an effort to use Broadcom technology to compete against both our existing and future products,” Broadcom VP for intellectual property David Rosmann said in a statement. “We believe Emulex is infringing a broad range of Broadcom patents; we are concerned that Emulex’s infringement is pervasive.”

Emulex released a brief statement, claiming: “Emulex is reviewing the patents associated with the complaint filed today by Broadcom. Emulex has a policy of vigorously defending the company against assertions of this kind.”

Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research analyst Aaron Rakers maintains the suit is a reaction to Emulex fighting off Broadcom’s hostile takeover attempt. He says it also indicates Broadcom is now looking to develop its own FCoE technology rather than trying to acquire a company with the technology.

“This is not a move against Emulex to reconvene discussions on a possible combination,” Rakers wrote in a note to clients.

Rakers also wondered if Broadcom found any patent infringements against Emulex rival QLogic, but when he brought this up to a Broadcom representative he was told Broadcom has not looked at QLogic’s product portfolio.

Broadcom successfully sued its rival Qualcomm several years ago for violating patents, and Qualcomm agreed to pay Broadcom $891 million in a settlement earlier this year.


September 14, 2009  9:20 PM

Oracle set to make hardware splash with Sun-based Exadata

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

It began with a full page ad from Oracle in the Wall Street Journal last week, throwing down the gauntlet for server hardware giant IBM, and the first definitive statement from the company in the midst of its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems about the fate of Sun’s hardware product lines.

Speculation has been widespread since the acquisition was revealed that Oracle wants Sun for its Java and Solaris software IP and planned to do away with the Sun’s server and storage hardware business. Instead, Oracle followed the WSJ ad with an invitation sent to press earlier today:

Photobucket

Oracle launched a database machine with Hewlett-Packard hardware a year ago. There is no indication about the fate of that partnership in light of this announcement.

Also, while the Sun/Oracle Database Machine will contain storage, as the HP/Oracle version does, the fate of Sun’s data storage-specific product lines — including disk arrays as well as tape libraries acquired with StorageTek — has yet to be settled one way or another. The merger between Sun and Oracle itself remains hung up in European Union regulatory review.

One thing’s for sure–Sun storage hardware competitors aren’t waiting for an answer before they pounce.


September 14, 2009  3:17 PM

EMC replaces Donatelli with Intel exec

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Hewlett-Packard Co (HP) poached EMC Corp. storage division head David Donatelli earlier this year, and now EMC has nabbed one of Intel’s top executives to take over running EMC’s storage products division.

Patrick Gelsinger, who heads Intel’s core chip business, has been named President and Chief Operating Officer, EMC Information Infrastructure Products, overseeing Information Storage, RSA Information Security, Content Management and Archiving and Ionix IT management divisions, according to an EMC press release. EMC also promoted Howard Elias, 52, to president and COO, EMC Information Infrastructure and Cloud Services.Wrapped up in this announcement is the first specific indication from EMC CEO Joe Tucci of when he plans to retire. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Tucci indicated he plans to step down in three years, when he’s 65. According to the Journal piece, Tucci considers Elias, Gelsinger and CFO David Goulden potential candidates to succeed him in the CEO position.

Gelsinger reportedly got to know Tucci when he worked with EMC to transition between proprietary IBM microprocessors in earlier models of the Symmetrix high-end disk array to Intel chips with the release of Symmetrix V-Max earlier this year.

Financial analysts noted that the move could quell speculation that EMC might be a takeover target. “While the [Journal] story notes that this announcement could ease some investor sentiment that EMC would be a takeout candidate, we view this announcement as a positive as the company looks to further deepen what has been a very strong executive management bench,” wrote Stifel Nicolaus equity research analyst Aaron Rakers in a note to investors Monday morning.


September 11, 2009  7:30 AM

09-10-2009 Storage Headlines

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Stories referenced:

(0:23) Texas Memory Systems acquires storage virtualization IP

(2:06) Adaptec blows hot and cold for SSDs

(3:38) Hitachi Data Systems adds midrange NAS, courtesy of BlueArc

(5:00) VMworld 2009: Storage vendors showcase new vSphere 4 products
VMWorld 2009: storage vendors continue vSphere 4 product updates
VMware Site Recovery Manager to add support for NFS, multi-site failover
2009: VMware and Cisco support distance VMotion
VMworld 2009: Storage admins grapple with growing VMware deployments

(8:00) Iron Mountain Digital to add e-discovery features to PC cloud data backup service


September 10, 2009  7:25 PM

Seeding the clouds

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

 

When we all get around to writing up those “Look ahead to next year” stories in a few months, there no doubt will be lots of wondering if 2010 will be The Year of the Cloud in storage. It’s obviously too soon to tell if 2010 will indeed by a big year for storage clouds, but it’s becoming clear that late 2009 is The Half-Year of Setting the Table for Cloud Storage.

 

Whether it’s Hewlett-Packard acquisition of clustered file system vendor Ibrix, NetApp finally getting out its scale-out version of Data Ontap, or the EMC-Cisco-VMware VCE cloud alliance – not to mention the much rumored EMC-Cisco joint venture – the major storage vendors are putting their cloud strategies on the table.

 

When will customers flock to the cloud for storage? Carpathia Hosting CTO Jon Greaves, whose company launched its storage cloud last April, is banking on that happening next year.

 

 

“This is the year everybody wants to talk about the cloud and put their toe into the water,” Greaves said. “Next year will be a key year for the cloud, and storage is the onramp to the cloud for a lot of customers, particularly in the enterprise space because the storage cloud is low risk.”

 

Carpathia is still putting together its own pieces for its storage cloud product. The hosting service has used ParaScale Cloud Storage (PCS) for NAS since launching its cloud service, and two weeks ago added more pieces for its storage cloud by acquiring security hosting services company ServerVault. Greaves says ServerVault will provide compliance and security for Carpathia’s storage cloud.

 

“Now we can take the cloud and treat it as a compliance solution,” Greaves says. “We’ll add compliance services by the end of the year.”

 


September 9, 2009  5:25 PM

Adaptec blows hot and cold for SSDs

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

As solid state drives (SSDs) gain more play in enterprise storage, the emphasis shifts from the drives themselves to the software used to control data on SSDs and hard drives.

That management capability was the impetus for Texas Memory Systems’ acquisition of Incipient’s storage virtualization IP, and for intelligent data placement software that EMC and IBM have pledged to deliver.

That is also the key to the MaxIQ SSD Cache Performance Solution that Adaptec rolled out today. Billed as a hybrid SSD-hard drive system by Adaptec, it is actually Adaptec’s MaxIQ SSD caching software combined with a 32GB Intel X25-E SATA SSD.

The software serves as a higher-performance cache by copying frequently accessed “hot” data directly into the SSD cache to improve performance. I/O for the hot data comes from the SSDs, while “cold” data goes to spinning disk.

“Our controller is an agnostic piece in the middle of the data traffic and does all the monitoring,” Adaptec marketing director Scott Cleland says. “If a read request meets the threshold of hot data, it gets copied to the MaxIQ SSD and subsequent requests come from the MaxIQ SSD.”

Adaptec claims it can deliver more than five times the IOPS of disk arrays. It also uses NAND flash instead of DRAM to keep down costs, much like NetApp did with the Performance Acceleration Module IIit launched last month.

MaxIQ will be delivered mostly through distributors and resellers, and Cleland says a MaxIQ SSD Cache Performance Kit costs $1,295 for a 32GB X25-E Extreme with the caching software.


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