Storage Soup

November 17, 2016  5:24 PM

NetApp’s hyper-convergence answer? All-flash and CI arrays

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
FlexPod, Hyper-convergence, NetApp, SolidFire

NetApp’s hyper-convergence strategy is to address that market through FlexPod and SolidFire.

FlexPod is the NetApp-Cisco converged infrastructure program, and SolidFire is the all-flash array platform NetApp acquired early this year. Those were the technologies NetApp CEO George Kurian spoke about Wednesday when asked about hyper-convergence on NetApp’s earnings.

Kurian sounded as if the major focus of hyper-convergence is to provide infrastructure for departments and remote offices.

“We have two approaches to compete with hyper-converged solutions,” he said. “One is a set of innovations that we brought to the FlexPod family called FlexPod Automation and the second is with SolidFire, which provides a zero touch storage provisioning solutions. The release of SolidFire that we introduced in the summer of this year called Fluorine allows us to compete very well with hyper-converge solutions and VMware environments, and we have been seeing wins.”

FlexPod with Infrastructure Automation provides a way for smaller companies to expedite the ordering and installation of a bundle consisting of Cisco UCS Mini, NetApp FAS arrays, hypervisors and other management software. But the server and storage are distinct products, while hyper-convergence puts all of that into one chassis.

Fluorine is the latest version of the SolidFire Element operating system. It included support for VMware VVOLs and greater virtual machine integration, but SolidFire is an array without a server built in.

While FlexPod with Infrastructure Automation and SolidFire can serve as storage for virtual desktop infrastructure and remote offices, many hyper-converged products are moving beyond that to serve as organizations’ primary storage.

Hyper-convergence appears to be the biggest hole in NetApp’s product portfolio, now that it selling a good deal of all-flash arrays. Kurian said NetApp was on track to hit $1 billion annual revenue in all-flash, counting All-Flash FAS, E-Series and SolidFire arrays. Still, NetApp’s product revenue of $741 million declined 13% from last year and its overall revenue of $1.34 billion slipped 7.3%. Both results were below Wall Street expectations. The vendor’s $109 million profit was below last year but better than expected, mainly because of cost cuts including layoffs.

NetApp forecasted revenue for this quarter of between $1.325 billion to $1.475 billion, which means it will likely increase over last year’s $1.386 billion.

“We are on track to return the company to long-term growth,” Kurian said.

November 16, 2016  12:23 PM

Pure Storage: We’re NVMe-ready

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Pure Storage

Pure Storage isn’t riding the NVMe bandwagon yet, but it has reserved a seat.

Pure promises its customers they can upgrade all new FlashArray//M systems to NVMe by the end of 2017 through the vendor’s Evergreen Storage program.

NVMe is a memory-class protocol for communications between CPU and flash. NVMe SSDs are expected to replace SAS SSDs. Bulk shipments are expected in 2017 although arrays such as EMC DSSD D5 and systems from startups E8 Storage and Apeiron Data Systems already use NVMe.

Pure today said it is offering an NVMe-Ready Guarantee. Pure VP of products Matt Kixmoeller said the guarantee means if Pure cannot upgrade an array to NVMe in 2017, the vendor will replace that customer’s system with a new NVMe array.

“We think we’re well set up compared to the retrofit legacy vendors,” Kixmoeller said, referring to storage vendors who were around since before the days of flash in enterprise storage. “We believe NVME is the next big thing and will be a strain to those legacy architectures. It’s a dramatic change.”

Although Pure isn’t first to ship NVMe SSDs, Kixmoeller said the vendor has prepared for the new technology since the start.

All FlashArray//M arrays have shipped with dual-ported hot pluggable NVMe NV-RAM devices since 2015. Every flash module slot is wired for SAS and PCIe/NVMe connectivity. Pure maintains its controllers can be upgraded non-disruptively from SAS to NVMe, and its Purity Operating Environment is optimized for NVMe with a massively parallel and multi-threaded design.

Kixmoeller said Pure will support M series arrays with NVMe and flash, or allow customers to switch completely to NVMe. He predicted the full transition to NVMe will take a year or two.

“When we built the Flasharray/M, we wanted to build a product that was upgradeable,” he said. “We foresaw the change in flash would be much faster than disk. If we built an array that needed to be upgraded every three-to-five years, it would seem like a dinosaur.”

November 15, 2016  7:17 AM

Qumulo scales out hardware options through HPE partnership

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Qumulo has scored an OEM deal with Hewlett Packard Enterprise to sell the startup’s data-aware scale-out NAS software on Apollo hardware.

Qumulo Core on HPE Apollo will be available on 2u 4200 appliances starting at 180 TB raw per node. Qumulo Core is also sold on 1u and 4u Qumulo QC-Series commodity hardware appliances.

Jeff Cobb, Qumulo VP of product management, said the vendor intends to extend its hardware compatibility list to more HPE models and other server vendors.

“This is definitely the first in a series,” Cobb said. “We’ll follow this with difference sizes and price performance points with HPE, and we’ll add other vendors to our hardware compatibility list.”

DataGravity, another data-aware storage vendor, has stopped selling its own appliances and now sells only software. DataGravity is pursuing partnerships with hardware vendors but has not disclosed any major OEM deals.

Cobb said the HPE Apollo products give Qumulo customers a denser hardware option, and could appeal to organizations that have standardized on HPE hardware.

“We’re a software company, and the value that we have comes from software,” Cobb aaid. “That software has to run on infrastructure, and our philosophy has always been the customers should choose the infrastructure.

He said Qumulo will also extend its file system to public clouds.

Qumulu’s QC-Series includes 1u QC24 (24 TB) and QC40 (40 TB) and 4u QC104 (104 TB), QC 208 (208 TB) and QC 260 (260 TB) nodes. Like the QC-Series, the Qumulo Core on Apollo appliances require four-node minimum clusters.

Qumulo also launched Core 2.5, adding snapshots to its file and object storage. Version 2.5 also includes throughput analytics, intelligent caching of metadata on solid-state drives and improvements to the erasure coding added in version 2.0 earlier this year.

November 7, 2016  5:48 PM

Formation Data adds cloud replication

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Formation Data, the software-defined storage vendor that wants to help enterprises build full-featured storage systems without an array, today added replication to the cloud for its FormationOne Dynamic Storage Platform.

Formation Data launched FormationOne this year with features such as dynamic tiering, snapshots, multi-tenancy, quality of service and the ability to pool storage across virtual machines. The new addition is Formation SafeGuard, which replicates data to Amazon Web Services and can be used for copy data management, disaster recovery and backup.

Customers can replicate between primary clouds or from a primary cloud to AWS. Formation Data CEO Mark Lewis said the idea is to turn AWS into an extension of on-premised storage. FormationOne supports iSCSI block storage, NFS file storage and Amazon S3-compatible object storage.

“You can use AWS as a DR site, you can use it as a content repository, a place to push content or if you need more capacity,” Lewis said. “Most public clouds have gateways and focus on ingestion only, not recovery and they’re bi-directional. We focus on the idea that the public cloud can be an extension of your private clouds.”

The initial SafeGuard release only supports AWS. Lewis said Formation Data is working on added Micrososft Azure support.
He said SafeGuard will be “minor” licensing addition for FormationOne. Formation Data charges by usable capacity under management.

November 3, 2016  10:13 AM

Quorum onQ update offers faster DR, smoother management

Paul Crocetti Paul Crocetti Profile: Paul Crocetti

The latest Quorum onQ disaster recovery platform update features faster disk writes, increased capacity and a redesigned user interface.

Quorum onQ 4.0 provides a suite of high availability, disaster recovery and DRaaS. All of its features are delivered and managed from a single console. The new browser-based UI makes it easier to manage a large number of servers, according to Darin Pendergraft, Quorum VP of product marketing.

“Quorum has re-architected the storage architecture of our hardware appliance to allow for disk writes up to two times faster and to allow for virtually unlimited storage capacity,” Pendergraft wrote in an email. “Customers will notice a large improvement in performance and will have more options when expanding local storage capacity.”

Quorum onQ 4.0, which will be generally available the first week of December, features instant recovery — one click starts a virtual clone of production servers, allowing recovery time of minutes. It also includes automated DR testing — clones are started and verified after each backup — and replication. It sends compressed and encrypted backups to the customer’s DR site or the Quorum cloud.

Target customers include anyone looking to move backup and recovery into the cloud, Pendergraft said.

In a study, “The State of Disaster Recovery Report,” conducted by Quorum in October and released Tuesday, 75% of respondents said they are using cloud-based disaster recovery, with 36% using a hybrid model and 39% using only DRaaS. The report also said that 89% are planning or interested in implementing more cloud-based disaster recovery and 90% would be interested in consolidating DR into one dashboard.

“The results show us that what we have done with onQ 4.0 is right in line with what customers are looking to buy now and increasingly in the future,” Pendergraft said.

In terms of recovery time, most respondents (55%) said it takes from one to two hours to recover from a server failure. More than one-quarter (26%) said it takes more than two hours, and only 19%  said it takes them less than an hour to recover.

Pendergraft said he believes Quorum onQ stands out in an increasingly competitive market because of its speed of recovery.

“Our architecture and hardware updates have demonstrated at least two-times performance in the lab, and we expect that to translate into a dramatic decrease in the backup and recovery times in customer environments,” he said.

Quorum introduced onQ in 2010. The vendor is offering a trade-in program for existing customers. A sales engineer will evaluate the age and configuration of a customer’s existing hardware to create an appropriate credit against a new hardware appliance purchase.

Local protection pricing for Quorum onQ is based on the number of servers being protected. A customer who replicates to Quorum’s cloud will pay based on the amount of storage, memory and CPU cores required to host a copy of the local environment.

October 31, 2016  2:32 PM

Broadcom reportedly ready to swallow Brocade

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Broadcom, Brocade

Brocade, the largest Fibre Channel networking vendor, could be joining the Broadcom empire soon.

Bloomberg reports that Brocade is close to being acquired and that Broadcom is among the interested parties. Bloomberg mentioned no other possible suitors. The story and talk of the deal helped Brocade’s stock price soar 21.98% today.

A Brocade deal would fit in with Broadcom’s recent strategy and its current products. Broadcom chips are used in Fibre Channel and Ethernet switches. Avago Technologies bought Broadcom for $37 billion in 2015 and changed the company name to Broadcom this year. Avago also acquired Emulex for $606 million in 2015, picking up Emulex’s Fibre Channel host adapter and Ethernet adapter business. Brocade is the FC switching leader, with Cisco its only rival, and also sells Ethernet switching from its 2008 acquisition of Foundry. Brocade acquired Ruckus Wireless for $1.2 billion last April.

Broadcom’s enterprise storage revenue of $527 million last quarter represented 14% of its overall revenue. Brocade reported $591 in total revenue last quarter, with $282 million coming from SAN products.

The Bloomberg report said a Brocade deal could be disclosed this week.

Brocade actively shopped itself soon after buying Foundry, but Hewlett-Packard acquired 3Com instead in 2009 and Dell bought Force10 in 2011. Talk of an acquisition cooled after Brocade hired Lloyd Carney as CEO in 2013.

October 31, 2016  11:51 AM

A defense of tape storage systems and how they’re improving

Paul Crocetti Paul Crocetti Profile: Paul Crocetti

Tape gets less respect than Rodney Dangerfield among the IT crowd. But tape still has its staunch defenders who say the medium remains technologically sound and continues to improve.

A major challenge is being able to communicate the advantages of tape storage systems, Fred Moore, president of Horison Information Strategies, said at the Fujifilm Global IT Executive Summit in Boston last month.

“The game has really changed,” as tape storage systems have made progress in the last 10 years, Moore said. “That’s the good news.” The bad news, he said, is that people don’t know it yet.

There is a tendency now to favor the tactical quick fix over strategic planning and regard cloud as a storage game-changer, said Jon Toigo, managing principal of Toigo Partners International and founder and chairman of the Data Management Institute. That mindset leaves tape on the outside looking in.

But using tape is getting much simpler thanks to the Linear Tape File System, Toigo said at the summit.

Other advantages of tape storage systems include their affordability, security, energy efficiency, long life and reliability, said Calline Sanchez, vice president of enterprise storage at IBM, in her presentation at the summit.

As an archive medium, tape’s capacity improvements are outperforming all other kinds of storage and it is ideal for storing less frequently accessed and modified data, Toigo said. LTO-7 offers 15 TB of compressed capacity and sustained data transfer rates of up to 750 megabytes per second for compressed data.

Is tape good for randomized access?

“No,” Toigo said. “It never was.”

But accessibility in tape storage systems is improving. Quantum, with its StorNext AEL6 appliance, combines the new Scalar i6 library with Quantum’s StorNext data management software. StorNext enables easier access to data stored on tape, with options for CIFS, NFS and RESTful interfaces.

“When we announced the [new Scalar tape platform], it was in the context of helping companies manage the rapid growth of unstructured data,” said Kieran Maloney, manager of archive and technical workflow solutions at Quantum.

The platform provides high-density storage for Quantum’s overall multi-tier portfolio that includes hybrid flash, object-based, cloud and tape storage.

With the cloud, too many administrators “think about how they can leverage cloud to replace tape” instead of how they can leverage cloud with tape, Maloney said. But as the amount of data and its time in storage rise, the cloud becomes more difficult to afford.

It makes sense to use tape for cloud seeding, Toigo said.

Compared to disk, tape storage systems provide more security against ransomware attacks and other hacks. Since tape isn’t online all the time, “it’s easier to keep away from ransomware,” Maloney said.

Disk is a breeding ground for hacks, Moore said.

So how does the tape community get its message out?

The message has to be engaging for millennials who don’t know about the technology, Toigo said.

“When they get it, we’ve got a whole new generation of tape users.”

October 31, 2016  7:12 AM

WD claims strong demand for HDDs, flash with cloud customers

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa
SanDisk, Seagate, western digital

Western Digital reported revenue of $4.7 billion in the first full quarter after its SanDisk acquisition closed, claiming demand was strong for hard drives and flash-based products with cloud and mobile customers.

CEO Steve Milligan said WD made significant progress in the quarter on its top two priorities: integrating its SanDisk and HGST acquisitions and transitioning to second-generation 3D NAND flash. He said WD remains on track to begin a significant ramp up to 64-layer 3D NAND in the first half of 2017.

WD said a net quarterly loss of $366 million included charges related to its recent acquisitions and its re-pricing and repayment of outstanding debt. WD reported net income of $283 million in the same quarter last year. WD generated $3.4 billion in quarterly revenue a year ago, for the period ending on Sept. 30, while SanDisk reported revenue of $1.45 billion for its third quarter, ending on Sept. 27.

This year, WD originally projected revenue in the range of $4.4 billion to $4.5 billion for the quarter ending on Sept. 30. But on Sept. 7, the company ratcheted up its prediction to $4.45 billion to $4.55 billion and exceeded those numbers, with $1.4 billion of the $4.7 billion total coming from data center products.

Milligan attributed the overachievement to higher than expected demand and “a bit better” pricing.

Capacity shipped on nearline hard disk drives (HDDs) grew nearly 50% for the quarter on a year-to-year comparison basis. Michael Cordano, WD’s president and chief operating officer, said cloud customers drove the increase in nearline HDDs. Cordano also said that WD’s 10 TB helium drives are gaining adoption among OEM and cloud customers. WD claims it has shipped more than 10 million HelioSeal drives since their 2013 launch.

Milligan said the capacity growth rate for flash exceeds disk, largely related to hyper-scale deployments. Still, Cordano said “Going forward, we don’t see a convergence to an all-flash world anytime soon, frankly, anytime in our planning horizon.” Milligan said the price differential between a solid-state drive (SSD) and an HDD can run between 5x and 10x, depending on performance requirements and other factors.

WD predicted that quarterly revenue would be flat this quarter compared to last quarter.

On Oct. 19, rival Seagate Technology reported revenue of $2.8 billion last quarter. That was up from the prior quarter’s $2.7 billion but down from  $2.9 billion a year ago. Seagate noted record growth in exabytes shipped of HDDs for the quarter ending on Sept. 30, 2016. The 66.7 billion in exabytes shipped marked an eight percent increase over the prior quarter.

October 28, 2016  8:09 AM

StorNext sales help Quantum scale revenue

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Data protection, DXi, Quantum, Scale-out Storage, StorNext

With its StorNext revenue rising while data protection sales remained flat, Quantum achieved its second straight growth period last quarter.

The StorNext file system is at the heart of Quantum’s scale-out data management products. Scale-out storage made up more than one-third of Quantum’s revenue according to its Wednesday night earnings report. However, Quantum will have to continue to land big scale-out deals to maintain growth. Its forecast for this quarter calls for a sequential drop in revenue.

Quantum’s $135 million in revenue in the quarter increased 15% from $117 million in the same quarter last year. A 56% increase in scale-out storage drove the revenue surge. The company reported $3.8 million in profit for its second straight profitable quarter.

Scale-out revenue hit $47 million, its highest quarter ever. CEO Jon Gacek said the increase came in sales to media and entertainment, video surveillance and technical industries such as life sciences and gas exploration. Quantum scored $1 million-plus deals with a media company and a consumer electronics company. Quantum added 85 scale-out customers in the quarter.

Quantum’s backup revenue was flat year-over year at $78.5 million. Tape automation revenue dropped $3.2 million to $45.2 million while disk backup increased $600,000 to $18.7 million, and devices and media increased to $14.6 million from $11.6M. Gacek said Quantum added 60 new branded tape automation customers and around 40 disk backup customers in the quarter.

“We’re getting growth on the scale-out side,” Gacek said in an interview after Quantum’s earnings call. “We still have lots of opportunity for improvement there. We have a unique product for video surveillance and we’re winning deals.”

Gacek said Quantum’s DXi disk backup sales “have been more stable, and they’re more reflective of the overall storage market.” He said the backup appliances do well in competitive deals but they are not the company’s main focus.

“If we have extra money to spend on go-to-market, we’re spending it on scale-out,” he said. “We’re not spending a lot of money to drive growth on disk backup. The opportunity is better on the scale-out side.”

Despite the growth expectations around StorNext, Quantum forecast a drop in revenue this quarter. Its forecast of $125 million to $130 million represents an unusual decline in the final quarter of the year, which is usually the best revenue period for storage vendors.

Gacek admitted the fourth calendar quarter is usually Quantum’s strongest but the uptick in larger deals makes it tough to predict. He is taking the conservative approach to guidance.

“We’re setting guidance based on what we see and we’re excluding large deals that we can’t predict in good conscience,” he said. “We’ve been closing those deals and that’s been driving us higher. If big deals close this quarter, our revenue will be higher, but we’re trying to be prudent.”

October 27, 2016  11:43 AM

Cloudian raises $41 million in a Series D funding round

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii

Cloudian today closed a $41 million in a Series D funding round that it will use to help increase its sales footprint in Europe and Asia in the second half of 2017.

New Cloudian investors in the round included Lenovo, City National Bank, Epsilon Venture Partners and Delta Venture Labs. Previous investors Intel Capital, INCJ, Eight Roads, Fidelity International Limited, and Goldman Sachs also contributed to the round.

Cloudian’s largest funding round brings total investment in the object storage vendor to $79 million.

Cloudian’s software is based on Amazon S3 APIs for on-premises and public cloud storage. Cloudian secured partnerships with Amazon, Google and Lenovo this year.

Customers now can purchase Cloudian’s flagship object storage-based HyperStore through Amazon Web Services marketplace. They can deploy the software in their data center and centralize usage while getting billed through a monthly AWS invoice. They can also purchase both on-premises storage and Amazon S3 storage on a metered-by-usage basis and manage it as a single pool.

Lenovo sells a DX 8200C appliance with Cloudian software integrated. Cloudian HyperStore software. HyperStore is also integrated with Google Cloudline, allowing customers to migrate files based on age, frequency of access and file type. Customers can search data locally for discovery purposes, and administrators can manage it as a single pool.

“We need to scale our team to work with them,” Michael Tso, Cloudian’s CEO and founder, said of the startup’s partners. “The marketplace that we are attached to is starting to take off. We are at the convergence of the demand for our product. We have been relatively quiet (but now) we are ready to step up on the marketing side.”

Cloudian claims it has experienced a 300% increase in bookings and 100% growth in its customer base over the past year.

The company raised $11.58  million in a Series A funding round in April 2012, followed by $5,1 million in October 2013 and another $24 million in June 2015. The initial investment money that took place in May 2007 was not disclosed.

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