Storage Soup

April 21, 2017  8:57 AM

IBM flash storage helps snap 22-quarter downslide

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

IBM storage sales rose in the first quarter of 2017, for the first time in more than five years.

IBM snapped a 22-quarter string of storage declines on the strength of flash hardware and software-defined products, according to its earnings report this week. Big Blue didn’t give much detail on its storage revenue numbers, except to say storage hardware increased 7%, with all-flash arrays growing by more than 10% over last year. CFO Martin Schroeter said IBM flash storage drove the hardware surge, across midrange and high-end platforms.

“Storage grew after repositioning for flash across our portfolio,” Schroeter said on the earnings call.

“In storage, we continue to see the shift in value toward software-defined environment, where we continue to lead the market. We again had double-digit revenue growth in software-defined storage, which is not reported in our system segment,” he said. “Storage software now represents more than 40% of our total storage revenue. Storage gross margins are down as hardware continues to be impacted by pricing pressure.”

IBM did not provide figure for its storage revenue, but IDC put IBM’s first quarter storage systems revenue in 2016 at $476 million. That would place its first quarter 2017 hardware revenue slightly above $500 million.

Storage is part of IBM’s systems group. That group’s $1.4 billion revenue in the quarter declined 16%, with Z Systems mainframes and Power Systems servers taking big hits.

IBM storage GM Ed Walsh

Ed Walsh

The improved storage sales come less than a year after Ed Walsh took over as general manager of IBM storage and software-defined infrastructure. In a February interview with SearchSolidStateStorage, Walsh highlighted flash as a key to IBM’s storage strategy.

“Our portfolio is going to be ‘flash first.’ IBM sells a lot of hybrid block arrays and we’ll obviously continue to give you choices,” Walsh said. “But we definitely see flash becoming pervasive. We also are thinking through flash for every workload, which is why we have multiple flash products.”

The IBM flash storage strategy didn’t start with Walsh. The vendor acquired all-flash pioneer Texas Memory Systems in 2012, and also launched all-flash versions of its traditional storage platforms.

Of course, every other major storage vendor is also fully stocked with all-flash systems, so IBM still has a battle ahead of it. The IBM flash storage portfolio will face fresh challenges. We’re about to enter a new generation of flash products with the advent of NVM Express. Over the next few quarters, we’ll see if the first quarter of 2017 was a turning point or just a blip for Big Blue.

April 20, 2017  7:42 AM

Court to Dell EMC: Nexsan Unity branding gets priority

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz
Dell EMC

Nexsan won a court victory over Dell EMC, right in the giant’s back yard.

A Massachusetts federal district court sided with Nexsan Inc. this week in its trademark dispute with Dell EMC over use of the Unity brand name. The ruling gives Nexsan Unity priority based on the timing of Nexsan’s patent request. The decision also dismisses Dell EMC’s claim of patent infringement.

It allows Nexsan to continue selling its Nexsan Unity multiprotocol storage array. Unless Dell EMC decides to appeal, the Hopkinton, Mass.-based division of Dell Technologies would need to come up with new branding for the EMC Unity midrange array it launched last year. Dell spokeswoman Lauren Lee said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Nexsan CEO Ron Bienvenu hailed the court’s decision in a prepared statement. “Nexsan filed its Unity trademark application first, and so we are extremely pleased today that the court has given Nexsan priority.”

The dispute arose nearly a year ago, as EMC was finalizing its merger with Dell. Nexsan Unity was launched in April 2016, one week before EMC formally christened its rebranded VNX/VNXe hybrid arrays at EMC World 2016.

EMC claims it used the Unity branding in customer presentations as early as March 2015 and threatened Nexsan with legal action unless it abandoned the brand name. Nexsan countered by filing a complaint for declaratory judgment for priority to use the mark.

The decision hinged on the timing of the respective vendors’ trademark request with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office. In its court filing, Nexsan said it registered the trademark and serial number for Nexsan Unity on March 22, 2016 with the U.S. Patent and Trade Office. EMC filed its patent registration 38 days later, on April 29, 2016, and formally unveiled the EMC Unity product on May 2.

Nexsan is wholly owned by NXSN, a holding company owned by Spear Point Management Capital LLC and Gsubsidiary Inc. (formerly Imation Corp.). It claims more than 100 customer installations of Nexsan Unity since the product became generally available in September. The platform supports block, file and object storage with enterprise file sync and share.

Dell paid more than $60 billion to acquire EMC in 2016. The merger closed last September, creating a company with annual revenue of more than $74 billion.

April 11, 2017  12:00 PM

Tegile funding round gives it $33 million for NVMe push

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Tegile Systems closed a $33 million funding round that the flash array vendor intends to use to invest heavily in NVMe, the next big thing in solid-state storage.

Like other flash vendors, Tegile has been looking toward non-volatile memory express (NVMe) for months. It stressed during its last product rollout in November 2016 that its new all-flash and hybrid arrays would support NVMe when drives become available.

The new Tegile funding will help market the NVMe systems.

Tegile rival Pure Storage today said it would ship an NVMe array in July. Tegile CEO Rohit Kshetrapal said his company is poised to ship NVMe as soon as drives become available.

Kshetrapal said current Tegile systems have four available slots for NVMe drives, and the vendor will also have an all-NVMe platform that it demonstrated last year at VMworld.

Tegile Systems CEO Rohit Kshetrapal

Rohit Kshetrapal

“We’ll use this funding to continue our vision of building out storage at the speed of memory,” he said. “We already have a high-density flash system. Now [with NVMe], you can get half a petabyte of data in 3U and accelerate performance to less than a sub-millisecond level,” Kshetrapal said.

Storage media vendor Western Digital led the Tegile funding round, which brings Tegile’s total funding to $178 million. Venture firms Meritech Capital, Capricorn Investment Group and Cross Creek Capital also participated in the Tegile funding round.

Both Western Digital and SanDisk — now part of Western Digital — were previous Tegile investors. They are also Tegile business partners. Tegile gets its flash drives from SanDisk and sells the SanDisk InfiniFlash enclosure arrays as Tegile IntelliFlash HD array through an OEM deal. Kshetrapal said the relationship is important for Tegile’s product development.

“They provide us access [to NAND flash] when the market is in tight supply, and now we partner on development of our next set of platforms,” he said.

Kshetrapal said he has no wild headcount expansion plans, although the Tegile funding will be used to help fuel sales. “We’re looking for growth at the right cost,” he said. “We can grow new markets and go into joint ventures with other companies. It’s always been about the balance of performance and cost.”

Kshetrapal said Tegile will build out its installed base by going after Nimble Storage customers now that Hewlett Packard Enterprise is buying Nimble. “We’re seeing a lot of reach out” from Nimble customers and channel partners, he said.

April 10, 2017  9:16 AM

Toshiba ships capacity-optimized 8 TB HDD

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa

Toshiba has started volume shipments of its MG Series 8 TB HDD — the largest capacity-optimized, 3.5-inch enterprise HDD the company has ever produced.

The 7,200 rpm, 6 Gbps SATA HDD improves sustained transfer-rate performance by 12% over the prior MG04ACA model, according to Toshiba. The vendor said the capacity and performance characteristics of the new MG05ACA800 8 TB HDD would match up well for use cases such as public and private cloud deployments, digital archives and data protection.

The new capacity-optimized enterprise 8 TB HDD is designed for round-the-clock operation and has a workload rating of 550 total TB transferred per year, according to Toshiba. The vendor said the MG05ACA800 is the first Toshiba enterprise capacity HDD to support a new industry-standard host-initiated power-disable feature to improve device management. The 8 TB HDD also supports Toshiba Persistent Write Cache technology to protect against data loss in the event of a sudden power outage.

John Rydning, research vice president for HDDs at International Data Corp. (IDC), said the new capacity-optimized 3.5-inch 8 TB HDD is important for Toshiba to be able to compete with Seagate and Western Digital in the enterprise HDD market. Seagate and Western Digital already ship 3.5-inch 8 TB enterprise drives.

IDC predicts 8 TB capacity drives will have the highest shipment volume this year in the capacity-optimized HDD segment. IDC expects the petabyte demand for capacity-optimized 3.5-inch HDDs will grow by more than 40% in 2017 compared to 2016, according to Rydning.

Toshiba also sells 6 Gbps and 12 Gbps SAS “enterprise performance” 2.5-inch HDDs, at rotation speeds of 15,000 rpm and 10,500 rpm. Other enterprise options include capacity-optimized 12 Gbps SAS 3.5-inch HDDs, at 7,200 rpm, and cloud-targeted 6 Gbps SATA 3.5-inch HDDs, at 7,200 rpm.

Earlier this year, Toshiba launched a new line of 3.5-inch MN Series HDDs — at capacities of 4 TB, 6 TB and 8 TB — to try to bridge the gap between its high-end enterprise capacity HDDs and entry-level desktop HDDs. The 7,200 rpm, 6 Gbps SATA MN Series HDDs MN Series HDDs target mid-level, entry-level and small office NAS enclosures; remote and home office backup and archival storage; and fixed-content object storage, according to Toshiba.

April 4, 2017  10:09 AM

Qumulo funding set for sales/marketing expansion

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Qumulo, Scale out NAS

Qumulo closed a $30 million funding round today, which the scale-out NAS startup will likely use to hire more former Isilon employees.

Qumulo is striving to replace Isilon as the scale-out NAS system of choice in today’s data centers. The company’s DNA is heavy with former Isilon executives and engineers, who helped build Isilon into a $2.25 billion acquisition target for EMC in 2010.

A band of original Isilon engineers founded Qumulo in 2012. When one of the founders, Peter Godman, moved from CEO to CTO in late 2016, he hired another former Isilon hand, Bill Richter, as CEO. Richter has since brought in a new VP of worldwide sales (Eric Scollard) and vice president of marketing (Jay Wampold), both former Isiloners. Now Qumulo is poised to significantly build out its sale and marketing staffs with its $30 million funding haul. The Qumulo funding round brings its total investment to more than $130 million.

“This is the right time to grow out sales and marketing,” Richter said. “We’re hiring as fast as we can.” He said the 150-person company will add its first international offices this year, either in Europe or Asia.

Qumulo funding will also make its way to R&D

Richter said Qumulo is still investing heavily in research and development as well to help it take on NAS giants Dell EMC Isilon and NetApp.

He said Qumulo’s advantages over those vendors are that its engineers are doing this for the second time, and they have designed file systems for the 21st century.

“NetApp was built in the 1990s and Isilon was built in 2001,” he said. “None of the other products out there now are built for the modern world. They’re not software-defined, there’s no integrated analytics. These file systems are incredibly hard to build. Our guys started in 2012. It’s their second time going through this, and by starting when we did, we were aware of what the modern world looked like. We can swing for the fences.”

Richter said Qumulo has already done most of the heavy lifting by building in features such as erasure coding and snapshots into its file system. “Those are big rocks to put in the bag,” he said. “Now we get to focus on pure innovation.”

Another focus will be on the cloud. Last year, Qumulo signed an OEM deal with Hewlett Packard Enterprise for HPE to sell Qumulo software on HPE Apollo servers. Richter said he will look for more OEM partners, as well as integration with Amazon and other public cloud providers.

“We’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes with public clouds,” Richter said. “You can’t found a company in Seattle in 2012 and not build a public cloud strategy.”

Qumulo claims it had a 425% year-over-year growth in petabytes shipped to customers, but does not say what its revenue growth is. Richter makes it clear that the young company is not yet close to break-even and the current funding likely will not be its last round.

“We’re in investment mode,” he said. “We’re hiring sales people as fast as we can. At the same time, we’re certainly cognizant of building a business structure with a long-term, sustainable profit model.”

Northern Light Venture Capital led the latest Qumulo funding round with previous investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Madrona Venture Group, Top Tier Capital Partners and Tyche Partners contributing.

March 28, 2017  11:06 AM

ZeroStack gives Intelligent Cloud Platform Nimble back-end

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Nimble Storage, ZeroStack

ZeroStack’s “private cloud in a box” software is now available on Nimble Storage boxes. The vendors this week launched a joint partnership to sell ZeroStack Intelligent Cloud Platform software on Nimble Storage arrays. The goal is to provide a pre-tested, automated private cloud system with the ability to connect to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud in a hybrid setup.

The partnership comes in Nimble’s final days as an independent company, pending Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) closing on its $1.2 billion Nimble acquisition.

Kamesh Pemmaraju, ZeroStack’s vice president of product management, describes the Intelligent Cloud Platform as “a self-driving private cloud.” ZeroStack manages and supports the platform, either on appliances it sells or on partner hardware. ZeroStack software can move workloads back and forth from AWS to VMware-centric on-premises workloads for a hybrid cloud setup.

Customers running Intelligent Cloud Platform on other hardware can use Nimble as back-end storage. Intelligent Cloud Platform will enable customers to manage Nimble Storage volumes through the ZeroStack interfaces, supporting Nimble features such as quality of service, deduplication and encryption.

With a KVM-based hypervisor built in, Intelligent Cloud Platform can bring hyper-converged-type cloud capabilities to a Nimble array.

“This is a Nutanix killer,” Pemmaraju said, referring to the hyper-converged leader that is expanding into private cloud-building.

Of course, the partnership could mean zero if HPE decides to discontinue it. But ZeroStack’s Pemmaraju said his company already partners with HPE to sell its software on HPE servers, 3PAR StoreServ storage arrays and SimpliVity hyper-converged systems.

“We already work closely with HPE on a number of fronts,” he said. “That relationship is strong and we’re happy about this [Nimble] acquisition.”

ZeroStack software is also available on Dell EMC, Cisco, Lenovo and Supermicro servers. Appliances sold by ZeroStack use Supermicro servers underneath.

March 23, 2017  11:18 AM

GDPR compliance grips U.S. firms, too

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

U.S. organizations are taking General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance at least as seriously as their European Union counterparts, according to a recent survey commissioned by Veritas Technologies.

The GDPR passed in the EU will put in place privacy rules across all EU countries. Organizations that fail to comply can be fined up to 20 million Euros or 4% of their worldwide revenue. The regulations call for organizations to disclose retention times for personal information and allow customers to demand organizations to erase their personal data if they do not consent to its collection. In many cases, companies must notify authorities of data breaches within 24 hours. To reach GDPR compliance, many companies must make significant changes to their business practices around collecting and storing data. Organizations must be compliant by May 26, 2018.

In a survey of 900 companies worldwide with at least 1,000 employees, Veritas found less than 31% of global companies meet the minimum standards today. That may not be a great surprise, considering companies still have nearly 14 months to comply. But it is a surprise that U.S organizations are running ahead of those in the U.K. and European Union in meeting GDPR compliance. Of 200 U.S. companies in the survey, 35% were in compliance, and U.S. companies plan on spending 20% more than European companies to comply.

PwC survey released in January that polled 200 U.S. companies with more than 500 employees found 77% plan to spend at least $1 million on GDPR compliance.

“The expectation was that European organizations would be further ahead,” said Zach Bosin, Veritas director of solutions marketing. “But American companies have taken a thoughtful approach and started investing in becoming compliant.”

Why should U.S. companies care about an EU regulation? Because GDPR applies to any data held in connection to an EU resident. Any U.S. organization selling to customers in Europe would have to follow GDPR guidelines. That includes e-commerce companies who reach a global customer base.

Organizations need to know what personally identifiable information (PII) they have on European residents, and they must be able to present that information upon request by consumers to be in GDPR compliance.

Veritas and other data protection vendors say they can help because their technology is already used to store vast amounts of companies’ data in backup and archiving systems. Bosin said Veritas has created a framework for staying GDPR compliant built around its products such as NetBackup, Enterprise Vault, Data Insight and its Resiliency Platform. The vendor is also offering assessment services to help organizations gain GDPR compliance.

Bosin said the five key stages for becoming GDPR compliant are locating the relevant data, searching it, minimizing data through retention and deletion policies, protecting data transparently with audit report and monitoring data so a company can respond to a breach within 72 hours.

“We will integrate more advance search, classification, and protection tools in our products,” Bosin said.

March 23, 2017  11:02 AM

New Drobo NAS eyes home business, department workgroups

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Low-end NAS specialist Drobo is pushing further down market, launching a performance-oriented hybrid NAS aimed at small businesses and distributed collaboration.

The five-bay 5N2 Drobo NAS is a desktop model that sits between Drobo’s 5C and 5D direct-attached storage and its block-based B810i and B1200i iSCSI midrange SANs.

Raw storage tops out at 60 TB with 12 TB SATA disks, with 48 TB of effective capacity.  Performance characteristics include the ability to bond two Gigabit Ethernet ports for adaptive link failover. Linking does not require the purchase of special routers. A sixth drive slot, known as the Drobo Accelerator Bay, supports a hot data flash cache with mSATA devices.

Drobo said the 5N2 provides twice the performance of its 5N NAS and boosts Drobo file sharing up to seven times. DroboDR disaster recovery allows site-to-site replication between source and target Drobo NAS devices, including user configurations and settings.

The new Drobo storage targets media, prosumer and small businesses with about 250 users.

The 5N2 Drobo NAS marks the vendor’s second product release after years of transition. Founder Geoff Barrall launched Drobo in 2005 and served as CEO until 2009. Barrall later started file-sharing startup Connected Data, which acquired Drobo in 2013.

Connected Data planned to integrate its Transporter file sharing and data migration technology across Drobo NAS and SAN devices, but that integration never took shape. Instead, Connected Data targeted Transporter at the enterprise market and spun out Drobo as a separate company, selling it in 2015 to a group of investors headed by former Brocade Communications’ executive Mihir Shah, Drobo’s current CEO. Connected Data subsequently was acquired by Imation Corp., the holding company for Nexsan Inc.

Drobo employees are glad to put the turmoil behind them and concentrate on Drobo’s NAS roots, CTO Rod Harrison said.

“It took us about nine months to prime the pipeline and get new products out. We have more than 400,000 units sold and will have a lot of new stuff coming this year,” Harrison said.

As with other Drobo storage gear, the 5N2 appliance supports 64 TB thinly provisioned volumes with its BeyondRAID data protection. Journaling is protected by internal backup battery. Data in flight is written to an embedded USB flash stick.

The MyDrobo software platform provides remote data access with end-to-end encryption. DroboAccess allows mobile file sharing across Drobo storage. List pricing for Drobo 5N2 starts at $499.

March 22, 2017  10:12 AM

Reduxio Systems snares venture funds, moves closer to IPO

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Storage startup Reduxio Systems has bulked up its venture capital, a stepping stone to a potential public stock offering.

On Monday, the hybrid flash vendor nabbed $22.5 million in Series C financing from private and institutional investors. It is the first of two tranches anticipated in a funding round subscribed at $32 million. An additional $9.5 million is expected to be finalized by the second quarter.

London-based C5 Capital is the lead investor, with participation from original investors Jerusalem Venture Partners and Carmel Ventures, both based in Israel. Institutional investors Intel Capital and Seagate Technology also participated. The startup has collected approximately $65 million in equity capital since its 2015 debut.

Reduxio Systems sells branded block storage software bundled on standard Seagate servers. Its TimeOS provides continuous data protection with BackDating, which timestamps metadata to allow data to be recovered from any point in time. The software tiers deduplicated writes to disk and keeps active data on flash storage.

Proceeds will help Reduxio Systems expand its engineering, marketing and sales teams. A planned software upgrade this year will support cloud tiering and shared storage, said Mike Grandinetti, Reduxio’s chief marketing and corporate strategy officer.

“We are an appliance-based company, but 99% of the customer value we provide is in software. Over time, our vision is to be a fully software-defined model,” Grandinetti said.

Grandinetti said Reduxio has about 150 storage arrays deployed by more than 100 customers.

Reduxio’s executive team includes several data storage industry veterans. CEO Mark Weiner in 2010 sold clustered NAS vendor Exanet to Dell, which integrated the technology in its EqualLogic and entry-level PowerVault iSCSI systems. Prior to that, Weiner sold virtualization startup StorAge Networking Technologies to LSI Corp. (now part of Avago Technologies).

Grandinetti claims Reduxio Systems can reshape storage “very much the way NetApp did 20 years ago.” What Reduxio needs to avoid in that analogy are the fitful starts that stalled NetApp’s momentum in flash and the cloud.

“We’re not in this for the short term; this is a legacy play for all of us,” Grandinetti said. “Our ideal is to take this thing as far as we can, and that would mean an initial public offering.”

March 21, 2017  3:00 PM

Avere Cloud NAS receives Google funding injection

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Avere Systems

Google is throwing its investment weight behind the Avere Cloud NAS technology.

Google joined Avere Systems’ $14 million Series E funding round that closed today, highlighting the importance of Avere’s focus on the private cloud over the past few years. The vendor created virtual versions of FXT Avere Cloud NAS filers for Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Compute Cloud in 2014, Google Compute Engine in 2015 and Microsoft Azure in 2016.

Avere founder and CEO Ron Bianchini said revenue from the cloud should save Avere from having to raise more funding after this round, which brings the vendor’s total to $97 million.

“This is it,” Bianchini said of Avere’s funding. “Our goal is for this to take us to break-even in 2018. We’ve been waiting for this day for a while.”

Most of the funding will go toward outbound marketing, with plans to invest in the product development to keep up with the latest cloud technology.

Bianchini said Avere’s Avere cloud NAS revenue almost doubled in 2016, with close to half of new bookings coming from cloud business.

“We started in 2008 very much as a data center company. Then we started our transition to the cloud in 2014, and it’s been a really big change in the company since then,” Bianchini said.

‘Not a one-trick pony’

The change began with Avere’s FXT Edge Filers in 2012. Until then, its FXT Core Filers used flash to accelerate the performance of NAS on disk systems. FXT Edge Filers serve as gateways to move data into the cloud. Avere followed with Virtual FXT (vFXT) Edge Filers starting in 2014 that serve as NAS on public clouds, allowing customers to connect on-premises storage to AWS, Google Cloud and Azure services.

Bianchini said many Avere customers use the vendor to store data both on-premises and in the cloud.

“People don’t want one product in the data center and a different product in the cloud,” he said. “We can do both. We can play in the data center, in the cloud or as a hybrid. We’re not a one-trick pony.”

In addition to NFS and SMB protocols, Avere Cloud NAS appliances support object storage from IBM Cleversafe, Western Digital, SwiftStack and others through its C2N Cloud Core NAS platform.

As a private company, Avere does not disclose its revenue, but a source close to the company put its bookings at $7 million in the fourth quarter of 2016 and $22 million for the year. Those bookings were up from $4.8 million in the fourth quarter and $14.5 million in 2015.

Previous Avere investors Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Tenaya Capital and Western Digital Technologies participated in the Series E funding.

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