I realize I’m dating myself here, but I get a kick out of seeing H. Ross Perot Jr. surfacing in the news this morning with the announcement that Dell Inc. has bought his IT services company Perot Systems. Perot is the son of onetime US Presidential candidate H. Ross Perot Sr., who was a prominent and colorful character in the first American national elections I was old enough to be aware of at the time, in 1992 and 1996.
This acquisition isn’t directly related to storage — industry observers like Steve Duplessie describe it as analogous to Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. buying EDS. However, storage is included in the infrastructure services Perot Systems offers. Also relevant to the storage world is the work the two companies have already been doing in the electronic medical records space, an area where storage managers in healthcare IT are struggling right now.
One Wall Street analyst who follows the storage market predicted the deal could have a short-term impact on shares of CommVault Systems Inc., writing in a note to clients this morning,
We believe shares of CommVault, which have been up approximately 109% since the early March lows and approximately 30% over the past three months…have been partially driven by investor sentiment on the thesis that the company would be on a short-list of potential acquisition candidates for Dell.
“While I agree that Dell may be less likely to acquire in general due to this major outlay, I see Perot and Commvault as filling very different needs within the Dell portfolio,” wrote Forrester Research analyst Andrew Reichman in an email to Storage Soup. “If they needed it before Perot, they still need it after, so I disagree that this takes Commvault off the table.”
Added Gartner analyst David Russell, “I think that a counter argument could be made that the Dell/Perot deal could lead to expanded CommVault sales if a backup and archiving practice is established.”
The Taneja Group’s Jeff Boles said this deal raises questions for him about the impact on EqualLogic services. “What does Dell/Perot do for EqualLogic? What do they do with EqualLogic within an increasingly virtual infrastructure? EqualLogic has great scale, and great economics – there might be a tremendous solution set here that gets really energized in the larger scale business through this professional services coupling.”
Dell has announced SaaS services for storage, and Perot’s SaaS expertise was also emphasized in this morning’s announcement. But, as is to be expected this soon after an acquisition agreement, Dell’s not yet revealing its plans.
“We view this acquisition as completely complementary to Dell’s current services business,” said a spokesperson reached today for comment by Storage Soup. “We have begun integration planning and will have more information on it upon closing.”
Backup expert and Tech Target executive editor W. Curtis Preston Friday wrote on his Backup Central blog about a discovery he made regarding MozyHome online backup service – something he wasn’t pleased with. When he switched laptops and didn’t re-install the Mozy client, Preston wrote, Mozy kept charging him for 11 months without backing up data or connecting to his workstation.
Preston didn’t lose any data and acknowledges it was his fault that he didn’t re-install the Mozy client when he got a new laptop. “I’m not saying that the fact that I didn’t use their service for 309 days was even their fault,” he writes,
What I’m saying is that for almost a year they took my money to perform a service, they knew I wasn’t using that service, and they never said squat. This is a typical business model for an ISP…but this isn’t an ISP. It’s a backup service. They don’t know I’m Mr. Backup. I could just as well be my Mom (who is on Mozy) and have no idea that I’ve done something dumb like accidentally uninstall the application or set it never to backup. When you’re selling a backup service directly to the consumer, the least you owe them is an email if they’re not backing up, don’t you think? I still like Mozy. But I think they should change this practice…
We reached out to Mozy to determine their notification poliy, whether you are Mr. Backup or not, and they emailed the following response:
We decided to put our notifications in the client instead of in e-mail because people get so many e-mails that they may miss the notification. We want our customers to know if a backup isn’t happening. For this reason, the client pop up box doesn’t go away until you click to remove it. That said, we expanding our notification options so that people can have more ways of receiving notifications than through the client only.
Keep in mind that [Preston]was still using the Mozy service even though he wasn’t sending new files to us. We were still storing his information, which includes the power, cooling and management costs incurred to keep his data protected.
Mozy rivals including Carbonite notify users outside the client, according to Preston. “Competitors catch those who uninstall it unintentionally or forget to reinstall after a system change,” he pointed out.
This isn’t the first complaint to surface about Mozy, which EMC Corp. bought in 2007. Users have also complained of slow restore performance last year, a problem Mozy officials blamed on an “isolated bug”, saying customers affected by slow restores would receive discounts or have subscription fees waived in response.
Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) continues to play both the server and array sides of the SSD fence, today announcing Samsung SSDs will be supported in its ProLiant servers.
According to a Samsung press release issued yesterday, its 60 and 120 GB SSDs have been qualified with all HP ProLiant G6 and G5 servers. The two companies claim the drives in ProLiant servers draw 1.9 watts of power when writing to the drive and 1.5 watts when reading; power usage in idle mode is 0.1 watt. The drives are rated for random read commands at 25,000 IOPS and random writes at 6,000 IOPS, with a sequential read speed of 230 MBps and a sequential write speed of 180MBps.
Initially HP officials seemed keener on putting SSDs into the server side of the house, arguing that the closer to the server bus the SSD, the more performance benefit there was, though HP also added array-based SSD options in its most recent EVA refresh. On the server side, HP has also been linked with Fusion-io.
As the SSD market continues to mature, anything that increases competition among product offerings is seen to be a good thing–even STEC’s CTO said recently he’s hoping for more competitors. Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers pointed out in a note to investors today that STEC’s ZeusIOPS drive claims random IOPs of 80,000/40,000 and 350/300MB/s performance; “While we continue to view STEC’s competitive positioning as solid, we believe HP’s announcement with Samsung reflects what looks to be an increased amount of news flow regarding SSD competition in the enterprise server/storage market going forward,” Rakers wrote.
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.”
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.”
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.
…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.
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.
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:
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.