Storage Soup

May 21, 2012  10:52 AM

EMC World 2012 Day One: Where’s the flash?

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

By EMC’s count, the vendor made 42 product announcements on day one of EMC World 2012 today. At first glance, it appears only a handful at most were major product launches.

EMC did no pre-briefings for the rollout, so it’s hard to say exactly how important they are. All we know is what is in the press releases, and the press releases are stingy with details. The VMAX 40K is important because it is EMC’s highest end array and the platform was due for a refresh. There is a larger Data Domain disk backup device, and performance improvements to the Isilon OneFS scale-out NAS software. Nothing else jumps out as game-changing.

The biggest surprise is lack of a flash announcement. EMC is expected to disclose more details of its “Project Thunder” PCIe-based shared storage appliance and reveal more details of its XtremIO flash array acquisition at EMC World. But there will be no actual product launches for Thunder and XtremIO at the show, however. XtremIO isn’t close enough to having a shipping product to talk about yet, apparently.

More product details will come out at the keynote today given by CEO Joe Tucci and COO Pat Gelsinger. There will also be briefings on the products launched today. Check back here for updates during the day, and at our’s EMC World site for more detailed analysis of news from the show.

May 18, 2012  2:25 PM

HP gives EVA SSDs, 3 TB SATA

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Hewlett-Packard keeps upgrading its EVA line, although 3PAR is its high-growth midrange and high end storage platform. HP this week rolled out two new EVAs, the P6350 and P6550, with incremental additions to the HP EVA P6000 arrays launched last year.

The new models have twice the cache as the EVA6300 and EVA6500 they will replace. The EVA6350 has 8 GB of cache memory, and the EVA 6550 has 16 GB. The new EVAs also support solid state drives (SSDs). The previous generation EVAs support SSDs, but the original P6000 arrays did not. HP is selling 200 GB and 400 GB single-level cell (SLC) SSDs with the 6350 and 6550. Each controller can handle up to eight SSDs with a maximum of 25 SSDs in an array.

HP also added support for 3 TB SATA drives to bring the maximum capacity to 720 TB on the 6550. The new models are also the first EVA arrays to support vSphere Storage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI).

Pricing starts at $18,993 for the arrays, and 200 GB SSDs have a list price of $9,800.

The new systems include no features that other major storage vendors don’t already have, and will fail to quiet critics who claim HP fails to innovate with the EVA. But HP storage product manager Matthew Morrissey said there remains a place for the EVA and HP remains committed to it with more than 10,000 units in the field.

“HP’s view on storage is that it’s evolving,” Morrissey said. “We don’t think every business is ready to make a move to the cloud or virtualization, and we think the EVA plays well in optimized traditional IT environments.”

May 15, 2012  8:27 AM

Confusion over storage consolidation

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

Storage consolidation seems to be a simple concept. If you reduce the number of storage systems, you benefit from fewer devices to manage, less space required, and less power/cooling demands. Yet there is confusion over exactly what the term storage consolidation refers to.

The confusion comes from some vendor messaging and what IT storage professionals actually view as storage consolidation. This leads to miscommunication and different sets of expectations about storage optimization projects.

For IT storage professionals, storage consolidation is about storage efficiency. A new storage system can be deployed to meet the aggregate performance and capacity demands to replace disparate storage systems. The simplest form of storage consolidation is to reduce the number of boxes on the floor. But storage consolidation does not mean one storage system for all purposes.

There are legitimate reasons why IT operations end up with multiple storage systems over time. While people claim this can be avoided through better management and planning, things just don’t work out that way. Multiple storage systems come about because:

• Projects that require more storage come with a budget to purchase new storage systems specifically for that project.
• IT operations consolidate because of acquisitions or mergers.
• New capacity demands require more storage, and it often makes sense to purchase additional systems instead of expanding existing storage systems. That’s because adding capacity to existing storage reduces the access density and overall performance. Also, the asset depreciation schedule for the existing storage system may make it impractical to reset the schedule with an addition.

The “single box for everything” concept is not practical. From an economic standpoint, not all data has equal value and less valuable data can be stored on less expensive, lower-performing storage. The economics of storing data includes the cost of the storage system and the operational costs for protecting and migrating data. The data typically has a lifespan that long outlives any storage system, and managing data over its lifespan is more important for the IT storage professional than the box currently in use. And storage systems are transient. They last a maximum of four or five years before they are replaced with the latest, greatest technology.

Tiered storage can lead to consolidation and enable storage efficiency. Using solid-state technology as a performance tier is a hot trend. Tiered storage allows for greater consolidation by managing the variations in performance requirements, which is really an exploitation of the change in probability access of data over time. This allows the storage system to support a greater amount of consolidation in support of performance and capacity demands.

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

May 14, 2012  7:57 AM

Starboard brings new investor and $13 million on board

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

A $13 million funding round will help accelerate the transition from Reldata to Starboard Storage Systems.

Starboard closed the round today, three months after re-launching with a new name and re-architected multiprotocol storage system, the AC72. Its lone venture capitalist investor at the time was Reldata investor Grazia Equity of Germany. Starboard’s latest round is led by another German VC, JP Ventures GmbH, with participation from Grazia.

Starboard chief marketing officer Karl Chen said Starboard will use the funding to expand its sales, marketing and customer support. Chen said Starboard has about 40 employees now at its Broomfield, Colo., and Parsippany, N.J., offices and he expects that number to increase significantly over the next three months.

Starboard claims more than 40 customers and more than 1.5 PB of capacity sold for its AC72 systems. Chen said the vendor competes mostly with NetApp FAS2000 and FAS3000 and EMC VNX 5000 unified storage systems.

The AC72 supports Fibre Channel, iSCSI and NAS storage but merely having multiprotocol support isn’t enough these days because the market is flooded with unified storage systems. Starboard will only win if it can live up to its promise to deliver greater storage efficiency and performance at substantially less cost.

Each AC72 system includes three solid-state drives (SSDs) for an acceleration tier. The system automatically writes large sequential workloads to cheaper capacity SAS drives and writes random transactional workloads to 15,000 rpm SAS drives.

Chen said the Starboard’s typical customer is a small enterprise with 50 to 5,000 employees, $10 million to $1 billion in revenue and 50 to 500 virtual machines. “Our customers want to consolidate mixed workloads of unstructured, structured and virtualized data,” he said.

May 10, 2012  10:54 AM

Quantum partners with Amplidata for object storage

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Quantum will add object storage as a tier on top of its StorNext file system with the help of an OEM deal with startup Amplidata.

Quantum revealed the OEM deal Wednesday, and said it will have a new family of disk systems with the object storage later this year.

CEO Jon Gacek said Amplidata will eventually become part of Quantum’s cloud architecture, but a “big data” appliance will be Quantum’s first product using the technology. That product will incorporate object storage as a tier on a device running StorNext. Quantum is targeting petabyte-scale content and data analytics with the product.

“The first incarnation will show up as a tier underneath StorNext,” Gacek said. “Some customers will use it with tape, and some will use it to replace tape.”

Gacek said Quantum looked at several object-storage vendors but picked Amplidata because of its performance and the way its BitSpread erasure coding algorithm disperses data to guarantee accessibility.

“Amplidata’s performance is very strong,” Gacek said. “More important to me is Amplidata’s ability to do bit spreading to protect data and expand that to geospreading data, opposed to doing RAID and replication. That really lowers the cost of archiving.”

May 10, 2012  8:44 AM

EMC confirms XtremIO acquisition

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

EMC today confirmed the poorly kept secret that it is buying flash array startup XtremIO. EMC did not disclose the price, but Israeli business publication Globes -– which first reported a deal was likely last month -– put the price at $430 million.

That’s a steep price for a company that is not even shipping products yet, but it underscores EMC’s serious push into flash. EMC said it will reveal details about its plans for XtremIo at EMC World later this month. EMC is also expected to flesh out details about its PCIe-based “Project Thunder” shared storage appliance at the show.

According to the XtremIO website, it’s product is a clustered flash array that scales out for capacity and performance. XtremIO claims the system can be rapidly deployed with simple steps for creating volumes, defining hosts, and mapping volumes to host. The arrays support thin provisioning and global deduplication for primary storage, and XtremIO said it would be cost competitive with performance spinning disk storage.

May 9, 2012  8:44 AM

Pivot3 pivots more toward VDI, View

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

By Todd Erickson, News and Features Writer

Pivot3 is continuing its push in the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) space by working closer with VMware.

Last week, Pivot3 announced that its virtual storage and compute (vSTAC) line of appliances for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments for SMBs now support VMware’s View 5.1 virtual desktop system as part of the Pivot3’s participation in VMware’s Rapid Desktop Program.

According to Lee Casswell, Pivot3’s chief strategy officer, the Rapid Desktop Program and View 5.1’s new vCenter Operations for View (vCOV) and View Storage Accelerator (VSA) features will help speed SMB virtual desktop pilot programs and deployments.

Pivot3’s vSTAC appliances use a distributed RAID and grid computing infrastructure to allow individual appliance resources to be shared among an entire vSTAC deployment to better handle a VDI deployment’s need for increased input-output operations per second (IOPS) and easy scalability. Each vSTAC appliance can support 100 virtual desktops. To increase an environment’s number of virtual desktops, administrators add more appliances.

Casswell said View 5.1’s vCOV will benefit SMB virtual desktop deployments because it allows IT departments without dedicated storage or virtual desktop administrators to monitor individual desktop and system health, troubleshoot issues, and assign resources from one pane of glass.

The VSA is similar to vSphere’s Content Based Read Cache (CBRC) in that it takes advantage of linked clones by caching desktop image blocks to reduce storage I/O while reading View images, Casswell said. The VSA reduces performance bottlenecks and lowers storage costs.

Pivot3 is targeting state and local governments, education and remote offices and branch offices (ROBOs) of larger firms. The main driver for these markets, particularly education, is the increased use of personal computing devices in the classroom and business by end users, the so-called bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend.

“Users are expecting to use their own PCs,” Casswell said. That includes laptops, smartphones, and tablet computers. The IT administrators Casswell has talked with are shifting their focus away from standard desktop computing devices. “Rather than have to go and invest money in the end points, [administrators are] investing money in providing more intelligent centralized classroom designs,” Casswell said.

James Bagley, a senior analyst with the analyst firm Storage Strategies Now, believes Pivot3 has positioned itself well for its VDI-in-a-box solution. “They are targeting the right markets,” Bagley said. “Places where you have a medium-sized VDI environment and they’ve got a really easy way to address it.”

Bagley continued to say that the SMB VDI storage market has no clear leaders yet.

“I don’t know of anyone who right now really stands out,” Bagley explained. “All of the [storage] manufacturers right now are working on similar capabilities.”

Pivot3’s vSTAC View 5.1 support is available immediately with pricing starting at $350 per desktop, which includes all licensing fees.

May 6, 2012  8:31 PM

Advent of modern storage

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

Storage systems are undergoing important changes. New systems are becoming available that are both sophisticated and make storage “simple.” Simple is mainly a euphemism for automating many complicated tasks that administrators had to deal with before, but there’s a lot more to this than just automation of tasks.

There are modern architectures where the underlying device abstraction or virtualization has been changed to enable advanced features such as:

• allocating capacity only on write operations (thin provisioning)

• distribution of data across devices to maximize the number of possible I/O operations (wide striping)

• applying device protection algorithms such as RAID or Forward Error Correction at the abstracted level

• and other advanced capabilities

I wrote about some of these architectural changes here.

Other updates have changed the way storage is configured. For advanced systems, element managers are made simpler by automating underlying actions. And, the tuning that was a cross between tribal knowledge and super specialist training is built into these systems.

Another ongoing change is the elimination of electro-mechanical devices for storage. The current trend is toward NAND flash used in solid-state drives (SSDs). These devices provide less power consumption, greater performance, and potentially longer lifespans than disk technology. Currently undergoing a rapid price decline, flash and the solid-state technology to follow will become the foundation of modern storage devices.

To use an automobile analogy, storage systems have moved from a relatively primitive state to a modern system that makes it seem simple. Automobiles that used to require a crank start, manual adjustment of the spark advance, and points changes every 10,000 miles are inconceivable to most of today’s drivers. How many car owners today know what a manual choke is?

Storage systems are making that same type of modernization transition. We’re at an inflection point for storage as we move to a modern generation of systems.

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

May 3, 2012  8:03 AM

Nirvanix receives funding to seed cloud development

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Cloud storage provider Nirvanix completed a $25 million Series C funding round today with plans to build out a new engineering center in Colorado, and move toward an IPO.

The round brings Nirvanix’s total funding to $70 million. CEO Scott Genereux said the company is expanding its “Cloud Competency Center” in Boulder under its new VP of cloud storage engineering Dave Barr, who previously led engineering for LeftHand Storage iSCSI SANs at Hewlett-Packard. Nirvanix is also keeping its San Diego engineering team.

“Over the next six to 12 months you can expect to see our engineering team deliver innovation aimed at addressing petabyte-scale clouds,” Genereux said. He said NIrvanix will also likely increase its data centers from eight to at least 10, with additions in Europe, Asia and perhaps South America.

Nirvanix is trying to establish itself as the leading enterprise cloud storage provider, with the help of an OEM deal with IBM Global Services signed last October. Nirvanix is managing a 9 PB digital repository cloud at USC, and Genereux said the provider will soon announce another customer with even more data in the cloud. He said Nirvanix has signed 30 customers already through IBM.

“Customers are frustrated with the same old story, buy a box, hope you have enough capacity and manage it the same way and do a tech refresh in three years,” he said. “It’s a circle that box vendors have formed for them.”

Genereux said Nirvanix competes more with the “box vendors” than with other cloud services. He said EMC is the most frequent competitor, but most of the data Nirvanix moves to the cloud is coming off NetApp storage. “EMC might be losing against us when we’re bidding, but NetApp is losing the footprint,” he said.

Genereax said he hopes Nirvanix can reach profitability without another funding round. “We’re marching towards an IPO,” he said. “Our business strategy is based on taking the company to the public markets over the next few years.”

Khosla Ventures led the funding round, with previous investors Valhalla Partners, Intel Capital, Mission Ventures and Windward Ventures participating. Khosla general partner David Weiden joins the Nirvanix board.

May 1, 2012  9:54 AM

EMC intends to kick start the CAN with Thunder

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Move over SAN, WAN, LAN and MAN. EMC is pushing the notion of a CAN – cache area network – with its upcoming Project Thunder product.

During the Solid State Storage Symposium last week in San Jose, Calif., Brian Sorby, an EMC business development director, provided more details on the Thunder product for analysts and bloggers. EMC first disclosed Thunder when it officially launched its VFCache – formerly Project Lightning – in February. VFCache is a PCIe flash card that goes inside a server. Thunder will expand that by using PCIe flash in an appliance.

Sorby said Thunder would consist of a high-speed front end (InfiniBand or 40-gigabit Ethernet), a lightweight operating system and VFCache cards inside a 2U or 4U appliance.

He said that while VFCache lets end users accelerate LUNs on their SANs, it is limited because “putting these cards into every server in an enterprise is a tedious process.” That’s where Thunder comes in.

“Thunder is a perfect complement to blade servers and rack servers that can’t be messed with,” Sorby said. “It’s a cache area network to bring this above a storage area network to today’s 21st century storage bottleneck elimination. Our new term or new vision is to bring SSDs out of the array, and also to bring the SSDS out of having to buy an entirely different type of product just to get access to it, also to alleviate the problem of having to put a PCIe card in every server in your environment to take advantage of some high I/O feature. This is establishing our cache area network. It’s the next logical step, and the direction EMC is pointed in today.”

EMC is certain to provide more details of Project Thunder at EMC World later this month, and may even officially launch the product.

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