Storage Soup

March 1, 2010  10:50 PM

Ding dong, VCB is gone

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

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.

March 1, 2010  9:41 PM

Pivot3 grabs $25M funding, prepares to spin into new markets

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

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.

February 26, 2010  4:05 PM

EMC shifts Ionix data center management software to VMware

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

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 sister site.

February 26, 2010  9:30 AM

02-25-2010 Storage Headlines

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

(0:24) Iron Mountain Digital spends $112 million on Mimosa Systems for on-premise data archiving

(1:54) SGI buys Copan for $2M

(3:59) Double-Take, Amazon form disaster recovery cloud with Double-Take Cloud

(4:33) Fibre Channel switch port shipments expected to spike after 2009 drop, then decline over long term

(5:41) EMC’s Slootman: Data Domain planning global deduplication, NetWorker integration this spring

February 24, 2010  4:16 PM

Deleted scenes from Q&A with EMC’s Frank Slootman

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

This morning we published a Q&A with EMC backup and recovery division president and former Data Domain CEO Frank Slootman on our 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.  

February 24, 2010  1:39 PM

SGI buys Copan for $2M

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

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.

February 23, 2010  11:37 PM

Data storage and computing history at the Museum of Science

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

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.

Continued »

February 23, 2010  7:25 PM

Tandberg aims disk with deduplication at SMBs

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Tandberg Data is getting into the data deduplication game for SMBs with a new application for NAS and removable disk systems, with the help of a little-known dedupe developer.

Tandberg today launched AccuGuard dedupe software, which is available with its new DPS2000 NAS and all of its RDX removable disk systems Eventually, Tandberg will sell AccuGuard as a standalone application. Tandberg’s product manager McClain Buggle says AccuGuard comes from an OEM deal with Colorado-based Data Storage Group (dataStor). dataStor customized its dS Shield deduplication software to work with Tandberg’s storage, Buggle says.

AccuGuard is source-based global dedupe for physical and virtual Windows servers. Tandberg claims dedupe ratios up to 20-1 in its press release, but Buggle says much larger reduction ratios are possible on some data sets.

While the DPS2000 can serve as a general storage system (it also supports iSCSI), Buggle says he expects customers to use it for backup. “Our focus is on data protection,” he says. The DPS2000 is available in 4 TB desktop and rackmount and 8 TB rackmount configurations.

Pricing for the DPS2000 NAS with AccuGuard starts at $2,290 for 4 TB systems and around $3,800 for 8 TB.

Buggle says AccuGuard is available in a single server edition now with the ability to scale to thousands of servers planned for the next release. That’s consistent with the dS Shield product, which comes in single server and enterprise editions.

Buggle says deduplication was a necessary feature for Tandberg Data to expand from its legacy tape business to disk backup, less than a year after its parent company went into bankruptcy. “To be successful, we had to grow our product portfolio for end-to-end data protection for SMBs,” he said.

February 23, 2010  1:34 PM

Brocade’s Foundry business flounders

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

It’s been a little over a year since Brocade completed its $2.6 billion acquisition of Foundry Networks, and the Ethernet thing isn’t working so well so far.

Brocade reported $97.1 million in revenue from Ethernet switches last quarter, down 26% from the previous quarter. That caused Brocade’s overall revenue of $539.5 million to fall below its previous forecast, despite a 16% increase in revenue from its core Fibre Channel storage equipment business.

The Ethernet sales dip came in a quarter when competitors Cisco, Juniper, and Hewlett-Packard’s ProCurve platform increased revenue in network switches.

Brocade executives blamed lower sales to the federal government and poorer sales through its new Ethernet OEM deals with IBM and Dell for the downfall. They said they will put more sales people on the Ethernet side to help drive demand, rather than leaving it to the OEMs.

“We don’t need to do a research project on what happened and why,” Brocade CEO Mike Klayko said during the vendor’s earnings call. “We know what to do and we’ve taken immediate actions to get our Ethernet business back on track. … Experience is a valuable teacher, and we’ve learned a valuable lesson here.”

Several Wall Street analysts downgraded Brocade’s stock price today, both because of the results and lack of confidence in the vendor’s plan to improve.

“We are frustrated with Brocade’s results, not just government Ethernet switching, but also the clear market share losses in enterprise and persistent declines in service provider Ethernet switching, as well as what we consider a lack of definitive color with the company’s strategic direction toward a recovery going forward,” Aaron Rakers of Stifel Nicolaus wrote today in a note to clients explaining his downgrade of Brocade.

For storage customers, the big issue is whether a concentration on Ethernet will cause a lapse of concentration on the Fibre Channel side. Brocade took share on the FC side from Cisco last quarter, but it’s storage growth was likely a bit below the industry at large and its HBA revenue is negligible more than a year after it moved into that product area. Klayko said on the earnings call that a concentration on Ethernet sales will likely cause “greater normal seasonal declines in our SAN business over the next few quarters.”

Still, Klayko says having an Ethernet switching portfolio has helped the storage business by letting customers lay a foundation for the converged networks expected to emerge over the next five years or so. He also says it’s mandatory for a storage networking vendor to have both Ethernet and Fibre Channel “or you are just going to get put into a box as a point solution.”

Overall, Brocade’s revenue increased increasing 3.4% sequentially and 25% year-over-year, and it earned $51.1 million in profit for the quarter.

Klayko says he has no regrets about the decision to spend billions on Foundry.

“Would I make the same decision today?” Klayko said. “The answer is yes. The customers we talk to today do want to have an end-to-end solution. There is a tremendous amount of change going on in the data center right now as customers are trying to figure out how to handle this explosive growth not only in just data, but in networking traffic. And if you don’t have the entire product portfolio, I think you are disadvantaged. And so strategically, it is the right decision.”

Not all financial analysts are down on Brocade. According to a note issued today by Wedbush analyst Kaushik Roy: “It may not happen overnight but we believe that the management will be able to fix the sales issues and put Foundry/IP business back on track. While it is true that Brocade lost market share in the IP/Ethernet market in the past quarter, we believe that the market share gain story is yet to be played out.”

February 22, 2010  9:21 PM

Iron Mountain and Mimosa — A canary in the cloud?

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Iron Mountain’s $112 million acquisition of Mimosa Systems today is an admission by Iron Mountain that the concept of cloud archiving is not yet ripe. Iron Mountain bought Mimosa as an on-premise alternative to the cloud strategy it has been pursuing.

“We cannot wait for data to come to us in the cloud,” Iron Mountain Digital president Ramana Venkata told me this morning, predicting that it will be another few years yet before enterprise cloud data storage adoption picks up.

For cloud- and services-focused vendor Iron Mountain to cite slow enterprise cloud data storage adoption in its decision to buy Mimosa seems to signal an end to the wall-to-wall hype that dominated the industry discussion around the cloud last year.

Signals about this had begun to filter through in the form of two analyst reports released last month from Forrester Research and TheInfoPro that concluded enterprise data storage and IT pros are not as interested in the cloud as their vendors have been in recent months.

Taneja Group founder and consulting analyst Arun Taneja said Iron Mountain’s outlook could signal a shift to a more balanced view of cloud and on-premise data storage going forward, one that has a longer adoption timeframe than many predicted in 2009.  “Whether this is a revelation on Iron Mountain’s part that the cloud isn’t happening fast enough, I’m don’t think so,” Taneja said. “It’s more like they don’t really care – it’s clear across the industry that customers are going to need both. No broad-based supplier like this can afford to ignore that.”

According to Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Brian Babineau, ESG’s reasearch alo indicates comapnies aren’t moving to the cloud as fast as some in the industry had originally anticipated. In 2010, a soon-to-be-published ESG survey found only 17% of respondents will investigate cloud this year, Babineau said. “I don’t think we’re abandoning the cloud story, of course,” he said. “But certain applications have to evolve into the cloud, and that evolution isn’t happening as fast as some people want to see it happen.”

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