Storage Soup

April 20, 2016  6:28 PM

Gridstore to CEO: Great job, now get lost

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Gridstore apparently grew so fast under CEO George Symons that its board decided to change CEOs to keep up with the rapid growth.

Gridstore founder and CTO Kelly Murphy has moved back into the CEO role on an interim basis until the hyper-converged vendor finds a replacement for Symons.

“Gridstore closed out a record year in 2015 in both revenue and customer acquisition and launched 2016 with a new round of investment,” Gridstore VP of corporate communications Douglas Gruehl said in an e-mail statement. “In order to manage the companies’ hyper growth, the board has decided that a new CEO with experience in managing a fast growing company is needed. A search for a new CEO is underway.

“With the new investment Gridstore is expanding rapidly, adding to sales, support, and R&D worldwide; it is truly an exciting time for us.”

When Gridstore closed its $19 million funding round in January, Symons said he was looking forward to growing the business and doubling its headcount, particularly in sales and marketing. But that funding round brought other changes that may have spelled the end for Symons. Gridstore replaced chairman Geoff Barrell with Nariman Teymourian, who ran Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Converged Systems Division of HPE. Kevin Dillon of Atlantic Bridge Capital, which led the funding round, also joined the board.

Gridistore got a head start on rebuilding its executive team at the same time bringing in Dell veterans James Thomason (chief strategy officer) and Kevin Rains (chief financial officer) and a VP of sales, Phil Lavery, who also came from Atlantic Bridge.

Symons became Gridstore CEO in 2013, after stints as a CEO at Yosemite Technologies and Evostor, CTO at EMC, COO at Xiotech and chief strategy officer at Nexsan. He transformed Gridstore from a company that sold storage appliances for Microsoft Hyper-V to an all-flash hyper-converged vendor, still focused on Microsoft. In January, Symons said Gridstore revenue grew 343% year-over-year in 2015. “It surprised me how quickly it happened,” he said at the time.

So quickly that his board felt he couldn’t keep up.

April 20, 2016  3:41 PM

EMC sales decline, says Dell deal on track

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Dell, EMC

EMC’s storage sales declined more than expected last quarter as the vendor waits to become part of Dell.

EMC executives offered several reasons for the drop in sales, but not the most obvious one. That would be, customers are reluctant to buy now until they see what happens if and when the $67 billion Dell deal closes.

EMC CEOs Joe Tucci and David Goulden – who heads the storage business – say the decline was due to product cycle transitions and an overall caution in IT spending that caused a backlog of deals. Those reasons are often cited by storage vendors for poor results, and may be valid in this case. But it’s unrealistic to think that none of the reluctance to buy is related to the pending Dell deal.

Tucci did emphasize that the Dell deal is on track to close “under the original terms and under the original timeframe,” on today’s earnings call. The original timeframe called for it to close between mid-2016 and October. And Tucci said EMC’s plans for 2016 call for revenue growth, indicating he expects the sales declines to be reversed in coming months.

Tucci called the Dell deal “a great strategic option” and said “the combination of EMC and Dell creates a powerhouse in the IT industry. Integration planning has accelerated. [Dell and EMC] have developed detailed integration plans to assure we hit the ground running when the merger closes.”

He said regulatory approval has been granted throughout the world except for China. EMC stockholders still have to approve the deal. And of course, the $57 billion in funding must also be secured but Dell and EMC execs have said that is no problem.

Tucci would not comment on what role he would play in the new company, which will be headed by Michael Dell. He didn’t exactly sound like he is resigned to ride off into the sunset for his long-anticipated retirement, though.

“I’m going to punt a little bit, and then I’m going to tell you the absolute truth,” Tucci said when asked about his role after the Dell deal. “To me, this is all about making sure it’s a good deal for our customers, our shareholders and our people, and they’re all priority number one to me. And it’s not about me. I have a lot of energy left, I’m going to continue to work doing different things. Potentially I could help advise Michael, but I just don’t want to go there yet, and Michael and I have not gone there yet.”

EMC Information Infrastructure (the storage group) reported $3.8 billion in revenue for the first quarter, down six percent year-over-year. Storage product revenue of $1.96 billion dropped 10%, partly because of $75 million worth of unfilled late orders. EMC II CEO Goulden said sales of its XtremIO all-flash storage asold well, and the VMAX All-Flash array is one of the new products he expects to pick up steam.

Goulden said he expects VMAX All-Flash arrays to make up at least half of new VMAX sales by the end of the year. And there will be another all-flash array coming at EMC World in two weeks. That will be a midrange all-flash array that will either be part of the VNX family or replace it.

“VMAX All-Flash is a game-changer,” Goulden said. “We will have a major new mid-tier announcement at EMC World that will be the start of a new cycle where the traditional VNX plays.”

April 19, 2016  3:16 PM

Microsoft Azure adds Talon’s CloudFAST to marketplace

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Cloud storage

Microsoft Azure is throwing its weight behind startup Talon Storage, offering Talon’s CloudFAST file sharing and acceleration software available from the Azure Marketplace.

CloudFAST for Azure StoreSimple is a joint offering between Talon and Microsoft Azure’s StorSimple cloud storage. CloudFAST Core software runs on-premise on StorSimple appliances, which cache the most active data and send other files to Azure. CloudFAST Edge runs in remote offices, caching files and sending them to the Core system in the data center. CloudFAST’s features such as global namespace and file locking allow collaboration among workers in different locations without losing data because it gets overwritten.

Representatives from Talon and Microsoft said they have integrated CloudFAST for StorSimple, and customers can buy CloudFAST directly from the Azure Marketplace instead of buying CloudFAST from Talon and setting up an Azure account.

CloudFAST for StorSimple costs three cents per GB per month. That would come to $9,200 per year for 25 TB of data center file storage, $36,800 for 100 TB and $148,000 for 400 TB.

While other cloud NAS vendors allow customers to choose between public clouds, Talon senior vice president Charles Foley said Azure is the only cloud partner for CloudFAST. Foley said Azure is the best fit because CloudFAST is used primarily for Windows and is an enterprise product.

“We’re putting our wood behind the Microsoft arrow,” Foley said. “Microsoft is the number one enterprise vendor in the world by virtually any spending survey you look at. Azure is an enterprise cloud platform. Our target customer is not a small business. Our target customer is looking for collaboration and distance- based performance. If you’re separated by oceans and continents, you probably need us.”

Azure partners with many software vendors, but Microsoft Azure director of product marketing Badri Venkatachari said Talon’s file locking adds value for StorSimple customers.

“A lot of our customers feel the need for a data center consolidation and collaboration story,” Venkatachari said. “Talon offers a storage layer with file locking. The storage platform sits in the data center and extends to branch offices. Think of Talon as a software layer and StorSimple as the storage platform.”

Web printing company Cimpress has been using StorSimple and Talon together since late 2015, soon after Talon launched CloudFast for Microsoft Azure File Service.. Mike Benjamin, manager of enterprise applications at Cimpress, said the combination helps him manage file storage for more than 7,000 employees across 50 worldwide locations. He called CloudFAST “tailor-made for my team” because it runs on Windows, and said its file-locking was a feature he sought for years. Benjamin said he previously tried DAS, NAS, SAN, WAN acceleration and other cloud appliances but could not find the required level of performance and user experience.

“Talon allows us to distribute our files so they can be consumed and collaborated on in a global fashion,” he said. “The way our teams are collaborating, they were stepping on each other, and my [IT] team had to ease the burden. We were looking for robust file locking.”

Benjamin also cited Talon’s visual indicator that shows which files are in cache and which are in the cloud. “The user knows if it’s in the cloud it will take an extra second to be brought down,” he said.

He said while CloudFAST isn’t as fast as an on-premise file server, it’s fast enough for the files his users deal with – mostly Office files. “You’re not going to get the same performance you get with a local file server but you get the global collaboration, so there’s a trade off,” Benjamin said.

April 12, 2016  1:59 PM

Cohesity adds cloud to its converged data protection

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Cohesity, Data protection

Cohesity, which bills itself as convergence for secondary data, is adding public cloud support to its data protection platform.

Cohesity’s  converged data protection strategy combines data storage for backup, archiving, test/dev and other non-production workloads into one scale-out platform. Today it added the ability to use Amazon, Google and Microsoft public clouds to free up on-premise capacity.

Cohesity’s cloud features are CloudArchive, CloudTier and CloudReplicate.

CloudArchive lets customers set policies to archive datasets off Cohesity for long-term retention to Google Nearline, Microsoft Azure and Amazon S3 and Glacier services for cold data.

CloudTier moves seldom-accessed blocks into the same public clouds, but not their cold data services. CloudTier moves data that must be accessed occasionally and isn’t yet ready for long-term archiving. It tiers the data after a given capacity threshold is met to insure an on-premise cluster never runs out of space.

“With CloudTier, the cloud is acting like a remote disk,” Cohesity CEO Mohit Aron said. “With CloudArchive we’re moving a full image and essentially providing an alternative to tape.”

CloudReplicate copies local storage instances to public clouds or remote private clouds. Customers can spin up new instances in the cloud to recover data to on-site appliances.

Customers set the cloud target through the Cohesity Policy Manager. For instance, a customer can set all backups associated with a policy to move to CloudArchive once a week and retain snapshots for 120 days

CloudArchive and CloudTier are available now. CloudReplicate is expected later this year. They are included in Cohesity’s base product for no cost, but customers must subscribe with the public cloud vendor they choose.

Cohesity VP of product management Patrick Rogers said the cloud integration fits with Cohesity’s strategy of converging all non-primary storage onto its platform.

“Customers say the model of having distinct backup software, backup targets and archives has to change,” he said. “We also believe they will continue to have significant on-premise infrastructure. They will use the cloud for the economic advantages and scale that it provides them, but maintain on-premise infrastructure for regulatory and competitive reasons.’

Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst Scott Sinclair said using the cloud for selected data sets will give Cohesity customers flexibility in the way they use public clouds.

Secondary storage can be considerable, running to hundreds of terabytes or petabytes,” Sinclair said. “If you move all of that off to Amazon and find out it’s more expensive than you thought, getting that back [on-premise] is difficult. Cohesity lets you move some of those copies to the cloud as a tier or move essentially snapshots to the cloud in an archival fashion. Organizations don’t always understand their workloads. They might say ‘No one ever accesses this, let’s move it to the cloud.’ Then they realize it’s being accessed by quite a few people in the company. Cohesity lets you move data to the cloud and if it doesn’t make sense, you can move it back.”

April 11, 2016  5:33 PM

IBM Research builds ‘cognitive’ system to cut big data storage costs

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa

IBM researchers are developing a cognitive storage system designed to automatically differentiate high- and low-value data and determine what information to keep, where to store it and how long to retain it.

Zurich-based IBM Research scientists Giovanni Cherubini, Jens Jelitto, and Vinodh Venkatesan introduced the concept of cognitive storage in a recently published paper in the IEEE’s Computer journal. The researchers consider cognitive storage a way to reduce costs to store big data.

The IBM Research team drew inspiration for cognitive storage from its collaborative work with the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (known as ASTRON) on a global project to build a new class of ultra-sensitive radio telescopes, called the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

The SKA won’t be operational for at least five years. Once active, the system will generate petabytes of data on a daily basis through the collection of radio waves from the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago, according to IBM. The system could reap significant storage savings if it could filter out useless instrument noise and other irrelevant data.

“Can we not teach computers what is important and what is not to the users of the system, so that it automatically learns to classify the data and uses this classification to optimize storage?” Venkatesan said.

Cherubini said the cognitive system draws a distinction between data value and data popularity. Data value is based on classes defined by random variables fed by users, and it can vary over time, he said. Popularity deals with frequency of data access.

“We like to keep these two aspects separate, and they are both important. They both play a role in which tier we store the data and with how much redundancy,” Cherubini said.

The cognitive storage system consists of computing/analytics units responsible for real-time filtering and classification operations and a multi-tier storage unit that handles tasks such as data protection levels and redundancy.

Venkatesan said the analytics engine adds metadata and identifies features necessary to classify a piece of information as important or unimportant. He said the system would learn user preferences and patterns and have the sophistication to detect context. In addition to real-time processing, the system also has off-line processing units to monitor and reassess the relevance of the data over time and perform deeper analysis

The information goes from the learning system into a “selector” to determine the storage device and redundancy level based on factors such as the relevance class, frequency of data access and historical treatment of other data of the same class, according to Venkatesan. The cognitive system would have different types of storage, such as flash and tape, to keep the data.

IBM researchers tested the cognitive storage system on 1.77 million files spanning seven users. They split the server data by user and let each one define different classes of files considered important. They categorized the data into three classes based on metadata such as user ID, group ID, file size, file permissions, file creation time/date, file extension and directories.

Cherubini said the IBM Research team developed software for the initial testing using the information bottleneck algorithm. He said they’re currently building the predictive caching element, “the first building block” for the cognitive system, which he said should be ready for beta testing by year’s end.

“Beyond that, it’s harder to make predictions,” Cherubini said. “If everything goes well, I think we should be able to have the full system developed at least for the first beta tests within two years.”

IBM researchers said early testing has fared well for data value prediction accuracy with the contained data set. But additional research is necessary to address challenges such as identifying standard principles to define data value and assessing the value of encrypted data.

Although the cognitive storage system is designed to classify and manage enormous amounts of data, the researchers said the benefits could extend to IT organizations. Venkatesan said the potential exists for a service-based offering.

“We think that this has a lot of potential for application in enterprises because that’s where the value of data becomes of highest importance,” Cherubini said.

The IBM Research team is looking for additional organizations to share data and ideas and collaborate on the cognitive storage system. Click the following links for contact information: Cherubini and Venkatesan.

April 8, 2016  3:08 PM

Drobo launches mobile file sharing for unstructured data

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii
Drobo, file sharing

Drobo this week unveiled DroboAccess to enable mobile file sharing on its NAS boxes.

DroboAccess lets customers access and share files stored on Drobo NAS  from any device or location. The capability is available on the Drobo 5N for small businesses and the Drobo B810n for larger configurations.

The new software capability, which is part of the myDrobo suite of applications, allows customers to access and share files on their Drobo with end-to-end security. The mobile file sharing capability also allows users to share files or folders that can be designated read-only or read/write with password options.

“Three out of 10 of our customers are asking for this,” said Rod Harrison, CTO at Drobo.

Harrison said Drobo is using Pagekite as a partner to provide a secure tunnel for the data. Data is encrypted on the Drobo device before it is transferred. DroboAccess is an extension of the company’s myDrobo service platform that encrypts data end-to-end.

“This is something that can be complex getting it all to work for yourself. Your cable wire will have a firewall and you have to figure out the right ports and you have to worry about security,” Harrison said.

DroboAccess currently is available for free on 5N and B810n on the Drobo dashboard. The iOS and Android applications are available for 99 cents on the App Store and Google Play.

When Drobo and Connected Data merged in 2013, there were plans to combine Connected Data’s file-sharing Transporter technology with Drobo hardware, but  Drobo was spun out in 2015 to a separate group.

April 8, 2016  9:35 AM

Veeam sets out to orchestrate DR

Sonia Lelii Sonia Lelii Profile: Sonia Lelii

Veeam Software moved further beyond pure virtual machine backup this week by unveiling Veeam Availability Orchestrator, a multi-node hypervisor orchestration engine for disaster recovery.

The Veeam Availability Orchestrator, which will be available the second half this year, is an add-on to the Veeam Availability Suite and Veeam Backup and Recovery in for VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors.

The orchestrator software helps manage Veeam backups and replication via a disaster recovery plan that can be tested and automatically documented.

Doug Hazelman, Veeam’s vice president of product strategy, said the orchestration tool helps customers manages cross-replication across locations in the enterprise. Customers can set up policies, test against those policies for disaster recovery and get automated documentation for compliance requirements.

The software will be licensed separately from the Veeam Availability Suite. Veeam has not set pricing yet.

“It will be price per VM rather than out standard per socket,” Hazelman said. “You do have to have the Veeam Availability Suite installed and replication set up. The orchestrator has a separate interface to define the policies. Veeam Availability will hold rules in the event that a failover happens.”

Hazelman said the orchestrator is for enterprises looking to automate DR processes.

In February, Veeam announced it will add a fully functional physical server backup product this year. The company has focused on virtual machine backup and, had resisted supporting physical server backup. But Veeam customer requests as the vendor moves into the enterprise with its Veeam Availability Suite have prompted the change. With the Availability Suite, the company has emphasized what CEO Ratmir Timashov calls protection for the “modern data center” rather than only protecting virtual machines.

April 7, 2016  3:53 PM

Dell’Oro: FC back on top in networked storage ports in 2015

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa
Fibre channel, Storage

Fibre Channel (FC) took back the port count lead over Ethernet in external storage systems in 2015, after Ethernet had gone ahead in 2014, according to Dell’Oro Group’s latest numbers.

Chris DePuy, a vice president at Dell’Oro, noted that his market research showed FC ports gained share over Ethernet despite declining in overall ports shipped. The Dell’Oro forecast projects that FC ports shipped on external storage systems will grow 3.7% this year, while the number of Ethernet ports on external storage systems will decline by close to 1%.

“Fibre Channel’s going to take share,” DePuy said, “but it’s a very modest growth market in terms of ports attached to external storage systems.”

Here are the Dell’Oro’s figures for the past three years along with projected 2016 totals:

Networked port

Note: The table does not include SAS or InfiniBand ports. 2016 numbers are projected.

DePuy attributed the FC share growth to enterprises moving to higher bandwidth 16 Gbps FC and adopting all-flash or hybrid arrays, which combine solid-state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs).

“For companies that have been using Fibre Channel historically, they’re very likely to continue to use Fibre Channel,” DePuy said. He said it would cost more if they switched to something else to upgrade their network.

Dell’Oro’s 2016 projections show the total number of networked ports on external storage systems will grow 1.5% this year, after at least three consecutive years of decline. But, DePuy said he expects the reversal to be temporary. He pointed out that the 2016 projected total of 3.683 million networked ports on external storage systems is still lower than the 3.949 million ports in 2013. His projected numbers show both FC and Ethernet with fewer ports in 2016 than in 2013.

“The real trend is away from networked storage,” DePuy said.

DePuy cited the use of servers with internal storage, including hyper-converged infrastructure, and direct-attached storage (DAS) as areas of growth. He defines DAS as the storage enclosure, or JBOD device, attached to a server.

“It has a lot to do with what’s going on with cloud service providers. They are purchasing a very different architecture than enterprises historically have used,” he said. “They use software-defined storage on top of standardized servers. And that is very similar to the hyper-converged products that branded vendors are selling now to enterprises.”

Here are DePuy’s rounded estimates for the number of external storage units:


Source: Dell’Oro Group

“We’re seeing a shift towards direct-attached and away from networked – in other words, the kind that use Fibre Channel and Ethernet,” DePuy said.

He noted that the external storage unit statistics specifically exclude servers with internal storage and hyper-converged infrastructure – an area for which Dell’Oro has not publicly released data.

DePuy said the number of adapter cards or built-in Ethernet in servers significantly outstrips the total of all ports on external devices. Ethernet ports outnumber FC ports by 2.5 to 1 when DePuy considers networked ports associated with internal storage systems and server ports associated with directed-attached external storage units.

Despite the growth challenges for networked external storage, vendors have been able to maintain their revenue roughly flat over the past few years through the introduction of products such as software-defined storage, hybrid cloud and hyper-converged systems, DePuy said.

“The big picture here is that enterprises looking at storage have an awful lot of choices that they have to make,” DePuy said. “And it’s getting more complex, not less complex, than it has been in the recent past.”

April 5, 2016  9:53 AM

Nutanix updates IPO filing

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo

Nutanix has been waiting so long to complete its initial public offering (IPO) that the hyper-converged pioneer updated its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Nutanix’s amended S-1 filing includes results from the last quarters that weren’t included in its original filing in December. The good news is, revenue climbed significantly over those six months. The bad news is, so did losses.

For the quarter that ended Jan. 31, Nutanix reported $102.7 million in revenue compared to $56.8 million the previous year. That was Nutanix’s best revenue quarter ever, but it lost $33.2 million for the quarter compared to $28.3 million the previous year.

Nutanix is on track to rack up more revenue and more losses than its last fiscal year, which ended July 31, 2015. The vendor has $190.4 million in revenue and a loss of $71.8 million for the first two quarters of this fiscal year compared to in $241.2 million revenue and a loss of $126.1 million of for the entire last fiscal year.

The new filing also shows Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey forfeited $17.5 million worth of restricted stock in March. Those shares go into the equity pool for employees and other investors to split without diluting the number of total shares.

Investors expected Nutanix to complete its IPO by now, but the IPO market has cooled and no technology company has gone public in 2016. The new filing shows Nutanix is still a candidate to become the first.

April 5, 2016  8:01 AM

Dell keeps hyper-converged options open

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Dell, EMC, Hyper-convergence, VMware

Still months away from closing its $67 billion acquisition of EMC, Dell today said it would  immediately start reselling several EMC federation converged products and updated others it already sells.

Dell revealed the deals as part of a “doubling-down” on hyper-convergence and a push into selling EMC’s VCE products.  And yes, Dell also moved forward with its Nutanix OEM deal by upgrading its XC Series of hyper-converged products using Nutanix software.

Dell XC Series appliances will now use the latest Intel “Broadwell” processors, which are Xeon E5-2600 v4 chips. The XC Series is also now certified for SAP NetWeaver. Travis Vigil, Dell executive director for product management for Dell storage, said Dell will offer XC Series appliances with Nutanix Acropolis, VMware or Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors.

Acropolis competes with the VMware hypervisors that will become part of the Dell family when the EMC deal closes. Nutanix also competes with VMware’s Virtual SAN (VSAN) hyper-converged software. Still, Vigil said Dell will continue with both platforms.

“We are 100 percent committed to our XC Series,” he said. “We have had tremendous success with that product.”

Vigil said Dell has hundreds of XC customers since its Nutanix OEM deal started in 2014.

Dell has added upgraded its VMware VSAN Ready Nodes that compete with Nutanix appliances. Dell Ready Nodes now include an all-flash option using Dell PowerEdge R730xe servers, as well as Broadwell chips and factory-installed VSAN.

Vigil said Dell will continue to sell its current EVO:RAIL hyper-converged systems, but there will be no upgrades because VMware is phasing out its EVO:RAIL OEM program in favor of building more Ready Node partnerships. Dell and VMware will offer a transition program for EVO: RAIL customers who want to move off that platform to other VSAN products.

Dell will also resell VxRail Appliances and VxRack Systems from VCE, EMC’s converged infrastructure division. VxRail is a VSAN-based hyper-converged product that EMC launched  in Februrary. VxRack Node and VxRack System 1000 Flex use EMC’s ScaleIO block-based storage software for hyper-converged infrastructure ranging from hundreds to thousands of nodes. Customers can also run VxRack on PowerEdge servers through the Dell Reference Architecture for EMC Converged Infrastructure.

Dell is also adding VSAN to the Dell Hybrid Cloud Platform for VMware reference architecture program. That reference architecture includes Dell Active System Manager, VMware vCenter, vRealize and VSAN for customers looking to build private and public clouds.

“We’re doubling down on providing the best portfolio for hyper-converged infrastructure,” Vigil said.  “Dell identified hyper-converged infrastructure [as a growth market] early and will hopefully expand on our lead with this announcement.”

Gartner Research distinguished analyst Dave Russell said Dell was covering three bases with its converged platforms. “They have three camps – their EMC-based portfolio, their VMware-based portfolio and their Nutanix-based portfolio,” he said. “This is a case of, ‘If you have a preference, we want to satisfy that preference for you.’”

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