New features and functionality are constantly being added to storage systems. As operations have come to depend on functions such as remote replication and snapshots embedded in the storage systems, the features have become competitive requirements for products.
We’ve recently seen Storage Resource Management (SRM) software functions move into storage systems. These software functions, generally called operational analytics, work as Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. They collect data from storage arrays, upload it to public cloud services or storage vendor sites, and provide analytics reports to users.
Access and analytics through SaaS makes information more broadly available – access from anywhere is permitted with the correct credentials. Using service providers or vendor sites as the collection point allows multiple storage systems, possibly from different geographic locations, to be monitored and information aggregated. Vendors also use the information for monitoring system health, performing proactive maintenance, and controlling updating of system software. They can accumulate data across their entire product base to detect anomalies and other event commonalities to research and develop remedies before problems affect customers.
Operational analytics provided by storage systems and accessed using SaaS is a valuable development for managing storage. The tools can be understood and utilized without the expertise required when using more comprehensive tools such as SRM software.
The operational analytics functions most commonly introduced into storage systems with SaaS analysis include:
• Capacity planning – reporting that shows past consumption and a prediction showing the expected needed additions. Capacity reporting not only may be on a per system basis but also could be grouped or aggregated across multiple systems.
• Health status – notifications, log events, and drill downs on the systems for monitoring of systems.
• Performance – historical reporting of performance data, isolation to help identify performance issues, and projections on performance needs in the future.
• Dashboards – customizable by LUN, filesystem, group and so on, for use by IT generalist to provide operational information.
• Vendor support – notifications, log analysis, machine status information for support actions.
These programs collect information by allowing the storage system to send data directly to the service provider/vendor site over the network, or by adding software on a server or in a virtual machine that pulls data from the storage system and then sends it to the collection site. Most vendors offer the basic operational analytics information and processing as part of the support contract for the storage system. Some vendors have an advanced offering with advanced capabilities that requires an additional license that is usually priced on capacity. Using external links for the data through a network is a problem for some operations but the operational analytics does enable improved storage management.
Here are a few of the vendors’ operational analytics offerings, listed to give an idea of the availability but not intended to be a complete list. The availability for other products not listed here should be checked with the vendor.
• EMC Unity CloudIQ is the operational analytics feature that requires ESRS monitoring to be enabled. The basic level provides reporting and management with an option to report into VMware vRealize. An advanced version adds more analysis and requires local software to collect additional information.
• HPE StoreFront Remote for 3PAR, StoreOnce and StoreVirtual is the operational analytics solution included with the systems without additional software required onsite. Reporting into VMware requires additional software.
• IBM Spectrum Control Storage Insights requires software to collect and report information for capacity and performance reporting along with a real-time dashboard and future trending. Both file and block storage from IBM are supported. Analytics for optimization are included with recommendations for data movement to different tiers. Software is licensed by capacity.
• Nimble InfoSight predicts performance (IOPS), capacity, and bandwidth needs. “What if” modeling is included for effects of potential changes. Problem analysis from sensor data, dashboards, and device management is also included.
• PureStorage Pure1 Cloud Global Insight includes management and operational analytics. Capacity and performance predictions for systems in addition to monitoring are basic functions. Management includes controlling upgrades and log analysis by support.
• Tintri Analytics provide capacity, performance and throughput analytics and predictions at the VM level. Modeling of “what if” changes are included with the VM view. Isolation to the VM granularity allows for application level view with the analytics.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).
Datrium this week released a software update that enables a doubling of the per-server capacity of the flash cache used with its DVX storage system for VMware virtual machines.
Datrium’s Hyperdriver 1.1 software can enable customers to boost the maximum raw capacity of the flash cache from 8 TB to 16 TB per host. Datrium storage executives claimed the “effective” flash capacity would range from 32 TB to 100 TB after data deduplication and compression.
Data reduction tends to range from 2x to 4x with databases and 5x to 10x with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) with the DVX system, according to Craig Nunes, vice president of marketing at Datrium. He claimed that addressing 100 TB of flash at about $100 per TB on the server would provide an “orders of magnitude difference” for users accustomed to traditional storage arrays.
The Datrium storage system consists of Distributed Execution Share Logs (DiESL) Hyperdriver software, which runs on host servers, and NetShelf disk-based appliances for durable storage on the backend. Customers supply the servers, the flash for the server-based cache and the VMware virtualization software. They manage the Datrium storage through VMware vSphere.
“People want shared storage for consolidation, but flash really ought to be in the host,” said Datrium’s CEO and founder Brian Biles, who also founded Data Domain. “If you do it right, then reads never have to leave the host to get on the SAN. It’s cheaper and faster to buy flash that way [for the server], and it’s much lower latency. Then you don’t need as much in the backend repository, so it could also be lower cost.”
Datrium DVX became generally available in January. Datrium added an “Insane Mode” feature in May that enabled users to increase the number of CPU cores applied for I/O on any given host to boost performance.
With the new DVX 1.1, customers need to get higher capacity flash drives and additional RAM to boost the per-server cache raw capacity from 8 TB to 16 TB. The DiESL Hyperdriver software continues to support 32 hosts and eight solid-state drives (SSDs) per host.
“Typically our customers don’t use more than two [SSDs], but SSDs are definitely getting bigger, so we wanted to make sure that we could facilitate migration of the bigger workload,” Biles said.
Biles said Datrium would continue to increase the maximum capacity for the flash cache over time. Datrium DVX supports any type of flash drives on the VMware compatibility list.
“We access the drives through [VMware] ESX, so it just looks like a drive to us, and then we install our file system magic on top of that,” Biles said. “Normally we recommend lower-priced drives because our software’s very friendly to spreading the load and making them last a long time. Then it’s just lower cost. But we can do whatever the customers wants to do.”
Biles said workloads that might need the extra flash cache capacity to keep all data hot include analytics with data warehouses and large file servers shared across multiple hosts.
“What happens with these powerful servers today and all the cores, each core is basically running a VM, and each VM is asking for I/O,” Nunes said. “And when all those VMs ask for all that I/O in a roughly simultaneous way, it creates that delay across the SAN. In effect, flash has gotten too fast for the SAN. Multicore servers have gotten too fast. And it’s driving the need for the relocation of flash from the array right to the server to deal with that.”
The closing of Dell EMC Sept. 7 will result in a company combining Dell servers, EMC storage and VMware virtualization. That should make it a natural powerhouse in hyper-convergence infrastructure (HCI), which combines servers, storage and virtualization in a box.
EMC’s main HCI product, the VCE VxRail, incorporates VMware’s Virtual SAN (VSAN) hyper-converged software and will soon use Dell servers. Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer of Dell EMC, said VxRail has surpassed VCE’s internal sales forecasts since its February release and now is gunning for Nutanix.
It will be difficult passing Nutanix this year. Nutanix reported $114.7 million in sales for the first quarter of this year – the last quarter it disclosed in its filings to become a public company – and has consistently grown sales each quarter by close to 20%. But Burton said it’s just a matter of time until Dell EMC becomes the HCI leader.
“Our strategy is to be the market leader in hyper-converged,” Burton said during an interview at VMworld this week. “We consider Nutanix No. 1 today. Our goal is to get to No. 1 by the end of the year. We think it’s doable, although it would be a stretch. If it’s not by the end of this year, the worst case is the middle of next year. If we haven’t achieved our goal by then, we’re doing something wrong.”
Burton said after the Dell deal closes, EMC will replace the Quanta servers it currently uses for VxRail with Dell servers.
“Building a hyper-converged infrastructure is a natural leverage point between Dell and EMC,” Burton said. “It’s a server-centric architecture. Dell has a great compute platform, we’ve got the VMware software stack, and chunks of EMC software. It’s a nice collection of the assets of the various companies that we can put out the door as a single product offering.”
Besides the technology, Burton said another huge advantage over Nutanix is the Dell EMC sales and distribution model. Dell EMC already has the type of massive distribution machine that will cost Nutanix more than $200 million this year to build out – resulting in heavy losses despite its market leading position. Burton compared VxRail to XtremIo, which shot past smaller competitors’ all-flash arrays to generated $1 billion in revenue in two years on the market.
“With VxRail, if we get the product right and we get the messaging right, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be the market leader,” he said.
The twist is that Dell is also part of Nutanix’s distribution network. A Nutanix OEM partner since 2014, Dell sells Nutanix HCI software on Dell servers branded as the Dell XC Series. Dell renewed that agreement in June through 2021, meaning Dell Technologies will both partner and compete with Nutanix.
“The delicate balance here is there are a lot of customers who have bought the Dell XC Series and they want to buy more,” Burton said. “I think what the Dell team is trying to do is protect customer relationships. You never want a customer to be caught in the middle of a vendor battle. At least in this interim period, they’re going to carry Nutanix and we have VxRail and the customer is going to decide. We’re very careful not to get the customer in the firing line.”
Remember that strategy. You’ll see Dell EMC take a similar tact with Dell’s Compellent and EqualLogic storage arrays, which both compete with traditional EMC products.
Copy data management specialist Catalogic Software has added two all-flash arrays to its roster of supported platforms.
In separate moves, the Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based software maker rolled out its ECX Instant Copy Data Management tool for Pure Storage FlashArray//m Series and IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R all-flash systems.
The new copy data management tool for Pure Storage works across its FlashArray //m10, //m20, //m50 and //m70 array models. Catalogic and Pure Storage said they plan to jointly deliver the software package in September.
IBM FlashSystem A9000 and A9000R all-flash arrays are geared for hyper-scale and cloud service providers.
Catalogic’s copy data management tool for Pure provides in-place copy data management by integrating with Pure Storage FlashRecover copy engine and FlashReduce data reduction. A policy engine automates how replicas and snapshots are created and deployed on FlashArray storage.
Catalogic additionally integrates those copy processes with commonly used applications such as Oracle, SQL Server and VMware applications. Customers will be able to use Catalogic’s data management tool to catalog and track multiple data copies across their Pure Storage environment.
The ECX copy data management tool for Pure takes advantage of the inherent performance advantages of all-flash storage, said Tom Grave, Catalogic’s vice president of marketing
“All-flash arrays like Pure have the IOPs to drive multiple workloads from a single snapshot image, but they don’t have the management infrastructure to keep track of and easily deploy or integrate those copies with critical applications like Oracle,” Grave said.
“What we do is integrate the Pure snapshots and replication with the application layer, and then provide critical IT operational features on top of that like scheduling, automation, reporting and user self-service.”
Upon installation, Catalogic ECX automatically discovers any installed databases and assembles an index of data copies, including historical access patterns and data lineage.
Pure Storage is the fourth primary storage vendor, and first all-flash-only array maker, to qualify ECX since Catalogic’s 2014 spinout from Syncsort. It follows on the heels of an ECX rollout in June to support EMC Unity midrange hybrid arrays. Catalogic also supports NetApp storage and IBM Flash System and IBM Storwize systems.
Enterprises are just waking up to how a copy data management tool can improve management and help them reclaim storage capacity. A recent report by analyst firm IDC predicts that organizations by 2018 will cumulatively spend $51.3 billion to house copy data.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Dell and EMC made it official today. Dell will close its $67 billion acquisition of the largest storage vendor Sept. 7, following the transaction’s official approval today by China’s Ministry of Commerce.
Executives from both companies had projected the Dell-EMC deal would close within a year of its original disclosure, which was last Oct. 12 The Sept. 7 closing date makes it with room to spare.
Jeremy Burton, EMC’s president for products and marketing, said the process went as smooth as possible from the deal’s announcement to close. Burton will become chief marketing officer for Dell EMC after the close. Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell said in May that his company will change its name to Dell Technologies following the close.
“I’m really sorry there wasn’t more drama in this whole merger,” Burton said in interview at VMworld. “The whole process has been unremarkable. We always figured China would be the long pole in the tent, and it was.”
There was little drama about the deal at VMworld, although EMC-owned VMware is part of Dell’s acquisition. Michael Dell appeared with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger during the Monday keynote, but the official news release about the closing went minutes after today’s keynotes ended without fanfare.
VMware chief communications officer Oliver Roll opened the post-keynote press conference by relaying news about the close. “We’re pleased about that,” Roll said, and the rest of the press conference focused on products and technologies discussed during the keynote.
“This is an historic moment for both Dell and EMC,” Dell said in the press release. “Combined, we will be exceptionally well-positioned for growth in the most strategic areas of next generation IT including digital transformation, software-defined data center, converged infrastructure, hybrid cloud, mobile and security. Our investments in R&D and innovation, along with our 140,000 team members around the world, will give us unmatched scale, strength and flexibility, deepening our relationships with customers of all sizes.”
The release also quoted EMC CEO Joe Tucci: “I am proud of everything we’ve built at EMC – from humble beginnings as a Boston-based startup to a global, world-class technology company with an unyielding dedication to our customers. The combination of Dell and EMC creates a new powerhouse in the industry – providing the essential technology for the next era in IT.”
An equity firm will acquire Rackspace so the cloud vendor can go private and transition away from competing with the likes of Amazon Web Services and partner with them instead. The $32 per share cash deal is valued at $4.3 billion.
Rackspace is one of the earliest cloud providers that tried to compete with Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. Founded in 1998, it has been trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange since 2008. It reported revenue growth of $2 billion last year. Its stock price was once valued at $80 a share but it has been trading at $31.46 a share.
The deal with Apollo Global Management, LLC is expected to give Rackspace cloud the investment dollars it needs to transition as a managed cloud services provider that partners with Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google. The idea is Rackspace will provide customers with the kind of support that the big public cloud vendors lack.
“AWS does not offer high-touch support for people using the public cloud,” said Molly Gallahar Boddy, a research analyst at Technology Business Research, Inc. “You need to turn to an AWS partner for 24-by-7 support.”
Boddy said Rackspace cloud can help customers with data migration to the cloud, optimization and architectural designs.
“One thing a lot of companies at is security,” she said. “Rackspace was in the private cloud so they can cater to certain environments where you need that extra security layer. Smaller customers may not have these kind of services in-house.
“Going private will also give them a chance to partner with all kinds of different cloud companies,” Boddy said. “Going private gives Rackspace a chance to work out not only the messaging but the funding as well. It’s hard to transition from a hosting-based company to a cloud services-based company.”
Rackpace cloud is the latest in the technology industry to go private. Other examples include Dell and Marketo, a software automation vendor that announced it was acquired byVista Equity Partners for $1.79 million and would take it private.
Dell is the highest profile company to make the move, announcing in 2013 a $24.4 billion deal to take itself private as it transition from a personal computers vendor to one that can compete cloud-driven industry. Dell will also take EMC private after it completes its $67 billion buyout of the world’s largest storage vendor.
According to a report written by Boddy, Rackspace’s “shifting business model has created uncertainty for those following the company. Although Rackspace has reported early customer wins and new logos with its recently debuted Fanatical Support (managed services) for AWS and Fanatical Support for Microsoft Azure, the company requires additional capital to further focus its business on third-party Fanatical Support…and to win enterprise accounts.”
Boddy said she expects that Private Cloud OpenStack will be a key tenant of Rackspace’s business going forward since the company is supporting large public cloud vendors while also catering to hybrid cloud customers looking for managed, private OpenStack deployments.
Nutanix, the hyper-converged vendor that may go public within weeks, is expanding its technology base through two software acquisitions.
Nutanix Monday will officially disclose acquisitions of flash and RAM caching software startup PernixData and DevOps automation vendor Calm.io. Nutanaix CEO Dheeraj Pandey said the acquisitions will bring technology to take advantage of next-generation flash and to allow applications to run across any cloud or on-premise storage and server platforms. Those capabilities can accelerate Nutanix’s goal of developing an enterprise cloud platform.
Nutanix did not reveal the price it paid for either company. The PernixData acquisition was expected following a month or so of rumors about the deal.
Nutanix filed for an initial public offering (IPO) in December, and has filed three extensions while waiting for the IPO market to improve. Pandey said Nutanix did not use a $75 million loan from Goldman Sachs to pay for the two startups. Nutanix disclosed the load when it filed its second IPO extension in May.
A source who has spoken to Nutanix bankers said the company plans its IPO in September. The same source said Nutanix paid less than $30 million for PernixData. Industry sources close to PernixData said it had $9.3 million in bookings in 2014 and $17 million in 2016. It raised $62 million in funding, but none since a $35 million round in August 2014.
Nutanix executives said their acquired technologies will lead to new software stacks for storage-class memory systems, enhanced Application Mobility Fabric to enable cross-cloud workload migration, and cloud orchestration and workflow automation. One Nutanix design goal is to bring access to all clouds and platforms under one management interface. Nutanix executives often talk about providing one-click data migration throughout the data center.
PernixData’s FVP software pools and caches flash and RAM across servers. The technology will help Nutanix “hug the application,” as Pandey described it.
“PernixData has built a very strong muscle memory around storage-class memory, better than any of the storage startups we know of,” Pandey said during a conference call to disclose the deals. “They also see every I/O without compromising on data consistency. That vantage point gives them a unique advantage to pull off online application migration – that one-click delight that Nutanix has always worked towards.”
A short-term problem is FVP supports only VMware ESX virtualization. Nutanix plans to modify FVP to work with its Acropolis and other hypervisors.
“Our approach has been about simplifying the data center using the same architecture for virtualized, bare metal or cloud workloads,” said Sunil Potti, Nutanix chief product and development officer. “We want to make sure we can leverage all the goodness of FVP, but in a unified architecture.”
Potti said the hyper-converged vendor will continue to support FVP customers but did not say if it would continue it as a standalone product long-term. PernixData claims it has close to 1,000 customers, but that was not enough to sustain the business long-term.
But Baltazar agreed with Nutanx executives that PernixData technology can help take advantage of next-generation flash technologies.
“A lot of changes are coming soon to flash, 3D XPoint will make solid-state faster. It will be close to DRAM speeds,” he said. “The closer applications and CPUs are to flash, the faster they will be. Caching technology will help Nutanix get a leg up on what flash speeds are going to be.”
Calm DevOps automation software helps manage runtime lifecycle for distributed services running in cloud environments. It can orchestrate virtual machine, container and binary workloads.
Nutanix was among the first vendors to sell hyper-converged systems combining compute, storage and virtualization. It is considered the hyper-converged market share leader — claiming $305.1 million in revenue over the ninth months that ended April 30 – but VMware is challenging that lead with its Virtual SAN (VSAN) software.
When it comes to all-flash storage, Pure Storage claims experience is no match for youth.
The toddler Pure Thursday night reported $163 million in revenue for last quarter, a 93% increase over last year and above the high end of its forecast. Pure forecasted revenue of between $187 million and $195 million for this quarter. That would be 45% year-over-year growth if it comes in at the midpoint of the guidance.
Dietzen said his vendor is outgrowing the market by a long shot because it built its systems for flash from the start.
“Putting SSDs into storage designed more than 20 years ago simply cannot deliver on the demands of modern IT,” Dietzen said on Pure Storage’s earnings call.
Dietzen said Pure’s FlashArray is replacing “complex, services-intensive storage, designed for mainframes or client-server” systems. He called FlashArray smart storage, “that offers the simplicity, automation, resiliency and customer-friendly business model essential for cloud IT. Smart Storage allows customers to keep more data for far less costs, protected with strong security and delivers the bandwidth necessary to mine that data for new analytic insights or even machine learning.”
Dietzen’s critique of the competitors ignores that EMC XtremIO – the all-flash market leader – and IBM FlashSystem were acquired from companies who designed them from the ground up for flash. EMC and IBM also have modified their older storage platforms to work with flash, as have NetApp and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Those four vendors and Pure share the leaders quadrant of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for all-flash arrays released this week.
Pure Storage certainly has the results to back up Dietzen’s claims. As he pointed out, Pure nearly doubled its revenues year-over-year last quarter “at a time when many of our competitors are shrinking.”
He expects the growth to accelerate when Pure Storage’s FlashBlade object and file storage system hits the market. FlashBlade is in limited availability, and while some early beta testers have purchased the array, it will not likely generate significant sales before 2017. But in combination with the SAN-based FlashArray, Dietzen predicted FlashBlade will make Pure a storage powerhouse.
The young company is still going through growing pains, however, particularly on its bottom line. For all of its sales success, Pure loses tens of millions of dollars every quarter. It dropped $63.8 million last quarter as it increased sales and marketing spending to fuel its growth. That was an improvement over the $59.6 million loss from the same quarter last year, and Pure executives predict they will be “cash flow positive” by the second half of 2017. Pure finished last quarter with $570 million in cash and investments.
“With FlashBlade ramping and exciting FlashArray innovations yet to come, we are only getting started,” Dietzen said.
Nimble Storage, which was relatively late selling all-flash arrays, is trying to make up for lost time since launching its Predictive Flash platform in February. The vendor received a jolt from all-flash sales but not enough to stop or even slow its significant losses.
Nimble said it added 133 all-flash customers in its first full quarter selling all-flash arrays. CEO Suresh Vasudevan said 79 of the all-flash customers were new to Nimble. Overall, 23% of bookings in the quarter were all-flash systems.
Nimble Tuesday reported revenue of $97.1 million. That beat the high end of its forecast by $1.1 million, and was up from $80.1 million a year ago.
However, the sales came at a cost as Nimble continues to increase investments in sales and marketing to compete with larger vendors. It lost $39.3 million in the quarter – up from $29.5 million a year ago – and executives would not predict when the company will become profitable. Nimble has $194.2 million in cash and investments as a cushion, which gives it a little time to stop the bleeding.
Nimble projected $100 million to $103 million in revenue this quarter, which at the midpoint is a 26% increase over last year.
Nimble added around 700 customers in the quarter. Most of them bought hybrid arrays, but Vasudevan said the selling price for all-flash often doubled that of hybrid systems. The vendor reported bookings from large enterprises (deals over $250,000) grew 37% over last year.
Nimble is looking to broaden its all-flash market with its new Predictive Flash AF1000 entry level system with a list price beginning at $40,000.
“We believe that complex storage solutions from legacy vendors are no longer competitive creating a significant share shift opportunity,” Vasudevan said during Nimble’s earnings call. “At the same time, we believe that younger storage companies do not have the breadth of functionality of our (all-flash) platform. Consequently, we believe that we have the opportunity to emerge as a leading next generation infrastructure provider.”
He said Nimble’s priorities at the start of 2016 were to invest in building a strong pipeline, drive faster growth in large enterprise and cloud service provider markets and drive traction in sales of all-flash arrays. He said meeting those goals will help Nimble’s long-term financial position. The flash market is as competitive as it is potentially lucrative, Vasudevan said.
“The all-flash array market growth is stronger than what analysts had projected for this point, and it’s continued to remain strong,” he said. “Now that said, every single all-flash win that we’ve had is one where we’ve had to take on two, three other all-flash array vendors so there are no uncontested deals.”
Vasudevan said Nimble’s main all-flash competitors are EMC, NetApp and Pure Storage.
EMC wants to gain a toehold in the market for drone-related scalable storage, particularly its scale-out Isilon NAS and object-based Elastic Cloud Storage. Equipped with high-resolution cameras and sensor technologies, a single drone flight can capture terabytes of data.
Due to the vehicles’ modest size, however, internal drone storage capacity is limited, said Josh Bernstein, a vice president at EMC’s Emerging Technology division.
“We see drones expanding data lakes into data oceans,” Bernstein said.
A report in May by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers pegged the global drone storage market at $127 billion.
Industries such as agriculture, construction, energy and government use drones to generate vast sums of data. Drone technologies capture images with exponentially greater detail. Farmers deploy aerial drone imagery to design more efficient watering plans or pinpoint potential crop threats. The images help building companies improve finite element modeling, fracture analysis and thermal analysis.
Aside from managing the large files, companies need the capability to analyze and mine the data to derive value from it. Bernstein said EMC’s interest in drone storage directly ties to its initiatives in open source software-defined storage.
“To be a good drone pilot, you first have to be a good pilot. You also have to be able to successfully consume open source software. It turns out the people that have (those) skills often are also our customers.”
Bernstein said EMC customer EagleView Technologies, based in Bothell, Wash., uses drones to provide 3D aerial roofing models across a range of industries. EagleView each year adds tens of millions of images to its big data drone storage repository based on EMC Isilon NL series scale-out storage, VCE Vblock 300 converged architecture and EMC XtremIO all-flash storage arrays.
This month, the U.S. government gave Google’s Alphabet Inc. X subsidiary approval to test delivery drones in an effort to formalize safety regulations.