Storage Soup


June 12, 2018  7:07 PM

The Tintri storage hourglass is almost out of sand

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz
Storage

Time is winding down for Tintri, whose slow-motion fall could come by the end of June. The remaining question is whether the publicly traded hybrid storage vendor can complete a last-second Hail Mary to force overtime.

Tintri postponed a June earnings call and has yet to announce a rescheduling date. The delay likely is tied to several factors. First, Tintri storage sales aren’t growing at a rate sufficient to cover a high burn rate. That first dynamic has created a second: Tintri’s effort to renegotiate loans and attract much-needed operating capital – and thus incur more debt. Not exactly a winning formula to satisfy investors, much less lure new ones.

Short of a major surge in organic growth, Tintri does “not have the ability to repay” existing debt, nor does it have “sufficient liquidity to continue our operations beyond June 2018,” according to a May 31 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Public companies are required to disclose investor risks within their financial statements, but it is unusual for a company to specify a calendar date on which it may be forced to suspend routine business operations. It is noteworthy that Tintri cited the date after disclosing it had recently been able to extend the maturity of existing credit lines and loans.

The Tintri storage platform launched in 2008 with all-flash VMstore arrays that catered to VMware shops. It was a promising market, but Tintri got passed by with the advent of cloud and containers. Most of its sales now are for EC 6000 Series all-flash and T800 hybrid cloud arrays, which Tintri markets to hyper-scale data centers and service providers.

Fiscal year revenue of $125.9 million was flat with 1% growth. Tintri product sales accounted for $91 million, with support and maintenance contracts generating deferred revenue of $35.1 million.

Tintri’s losses widened last year, with the company spending nearly $97 million more than it took in in product sales. Total operating expenses topped $222.5 million, including nearly $1 million in restructuring costs linked to a round of layoffs enacted in January, dropping headcount from 561 to 445 employees.

Although it has direct sales teams in nine countries, 90% of Tintri storage revenue is derived from its 447 channel partners.

Less than one year after its initial public offering (IPO), Tintri said it isn’t generating enough money to repay existing debt. It also faces unappetizing choices to close the gap; namely, to satisfy debt by taking on more debt, or to sell more shares, which would dilute the value of shareholders’ equity.

Debt terms were renegotiated earlier this year with Silicon Valley Bank, which reduced the aggregate principal available to it from $20 million to $12.5 million. The revolving loan facility allows Tintri to borrow the money, repay it, and then re-borrow it up until May 2019.  Tintri also reworked the loan terms with TriplePoint Capital LLC to extend maturity until April 2019.

New CEO Thomas Barton has yet to publicly disclose a turnaround strategy for Tintri. Barton took the reins in April following the voluntary resignation of Ken Klein, who had led Tintri since 2013. Tintri CFO Ian Halifax resigned several weeks later after Klein’s departure. Tintri declined requests to interview Barton.

Tintri’s slow slide actually began prior to completing the IPO. Spooked by anemic Tintri storage growth, and its staggering debt load, investors forced Tintri to postpone the offering. When it popped one day later, Tintri shares opened at $7 – well off the $11 target price. Tintri expected to net $109 million; it settled for proceeds of $60 million.

The ominous beginning foreshadowed struggles to come. Shares of Tintri, traded under the stock ticker TNTR, hit a high of $7.75 several weeks after its market debut, but have fallen steadily ever since. The stock was selling for 35 cents per share as recently as May. TNTR closed Tuesday at 56 cents.

June ends in 18 days. Will Tintri be able to find a way out of the doldrums in time? We shall know soon enough.

June 11, 2018  8:43 AM

Cohesity backs up truck, unloads $250M in funding

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Storage

Fast-growing secondary data storage vendor Cohesity closed a massive $250 million funding round today, a total that could give it enough capital to become a public company within a few years.

SoftBank Vision Fund led the Series D round, with participation from Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital and previous investors Cisco Investments, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Sequoia Capital. Cisco and HPE are Cohesity partners, making its DataProtect software available on their servers. Cohesity now has $410 million in total funding since 2013.

Cohesity and Rubrik — both have founders with ties to hyper-converged pioneer Nutanix – have championed the converged secondary storage market with management software running on integrated appliances or across clouds. Rubrik ran its funding total to $292 million with an $180 million round in April, 2017.

Cohesity claims its revenue grew 600% in 2017 from 2016, and it gained more than 200 new enterprise customers in the last two quarters. Cohesity chief operating officer Rob Salmon said the vendor grew its headcount from 200 to 600 over the past nine months or so, and he expects growth rate to continue or accelerate with the new funding.

Salmon said the vendor will expand its sales and marketing while accelerating product development. Japanese-owned SoftBank is expected to push the startup into the Asia market to go with its current presence in North America, Europe and Australia.

Salmon stopped short of saying this will be the final funding round or will lead to an initial public offering of stock.  Still, Cohesity seems headed towards an IPO with its impressive revenue growth rate and funding.

“I would expect this check will take us an awful long way,” Salmon said. “We expect that we’ll hit another milestone in the foreseeable future, but we’re not here now to talk about an IPO or if we’ll need more funding. This will help us carry momentum into the market. We have an eye towards continuing to accelerate growth, and also an eye towards profitability and what that brings. We expect to be a big player in this market, and we expect to disrupt legacy solutions in the market. That’s what we’re focused on now.”

Cohesity and Rubrik have had an impact on data protection and data management with what they call converged or hyper-converged secondary storage. Their software uses a scale-out file system running commercial hardware or across multiple clouds to handle all non-primary data. Cohesity uses a broad brush to paint secondary storage, going well beyond backup and even including files that fit in the traditional NAS bucket.

Cohesity’s DataPlatform includes DataProtect software and Hyperconverged Nodes that can be the vendor’s branded appliances or servers from HPE or Cisco.

Since Cohesity and Rubrik came to market, established vendors such as Dell EMC and Commvault have launched appliances with integrated data protection software.

“I would make the argument that over the next three to five years, all secondary architectures will be measured against what Cohesity has done in this area,” Salmon said. “This is the architecture enterprises will measure startups and legacy vendors against.”


June 11, 2018  6:49 AM

Networked storage systems revenue climbs, for most vendors anyway

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Cloud and software-defined products are eating away at traditional enterprise networked storage systems, but the latter category still represents a fairly robust market. In fact, the emergence of managed services providers has given vendors a broader market to sell their storage equipment.

According to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Enterprise Storage Systems Tracker, factory revenue from external storage systems totaled $13 billion during the first quarter of 2018, jumping 34% year over year. IDC said nearly 99 exabytes of capacity shipped last quarter, up 79% over last year.

Of the top five enterprise vendors tracked by IDC, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hitachi Vantana and NetApp all registered year-over-year gains. Dell, HPE and NetApp saw external storage sales grow by double digits. IBM was only one of the top vendors to decline, with sales skidding 15%.

Dell captured 21.6% of the market to maintain a large lead over No. 2 HPE, with NetApp third.

The latest tracking figures are lower than the $13.6 billion of revenue IDC reported for the fourth quarter of 2017, as the fourth quarter is historically the largest for enterprise storage sales.  IDC defines networked storage systems as those that consist of at least three disks (either in a storage array or server chassis) and associated controllers, cables and host bus adapters.

Original design manufacturers generated the biggest impact, bagging $3.1 billion from direct sales to hyper-scale data centers. That marks an increase of more than 80% from a year ago and is roughly one-quarter of total storage investments during the quarter. Revenue from server-based storage products came in at $3.6 billion, tumbling from last quarter’s $4.2 billion.

Sales of all-flash arrays increased 55% last quarter, contributing $2.1 billion. Hybrid flash arrays did even better, with $2.5 billion in sales, up 24%.

Dell shakes off HPE, claims top spot

IDC attributes the external storage rise mostly to stepped-up refresh cycles and broader converged infrastructure deployments. Market leader Dell is a good example of the trend.

On Monday, Dell closed the April quarter with $4.1 billion revenue, up 10% to post its first market-share gain since merging with EMC in 2016.  Dell executives cited increased sales of Dell EMC VxRack and VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure as a big reason for the quarterly improvement.

After finishing in a statistical tie with HPE last quarter, IDC said Dell pulled ahead on the strength of $2.8 billion in new sales. That’s 43% higher than its 2017 performance.   The figures encompass the combined networked storage systems of Dell and EMC.

HPE storage generated $2.3 billion, good for 18% of the market, but a decline of 20% from last year.  IDC reports combined figures for HPE and H3C Group, a joint venture formed in 2017 between HPE and state-owned Chinese company Unisplendour Corp. HPE retains a 49% stake in the venture.

NetApp posted one-year sales growth of 22%. It generated $890 million, or 6.8% of total market revenues. It has been a long, hard road for NetApp to get this far. Until the last two years, the file-storage pioneer lagged competitors in all-flash and hyper-converged markets. It since has turned things around, even bucking trends to grow networked-based storage despite industry-wide declines.

Meanwhile, Hitachi Vantara – formerly called Hitachi Data Systems – had flat revenue growth in storage. Its 3.6% market share is nearly a full percentage point lower than in 2017. That’s not surprising, since part of the vendor’s 2017 rebranding strategy was to deemphasize storage hardware in favor of more services and software.

IBM rounded out the top five with 3% of the market, based on $387 million in revenue. By contrast, IBM’s 2017 share was nearly 4.7% on revenue of $455 million. That’s a drop of 15 percent. On the bright side, IBM started reporting positive revenue growth earlier this year, snapping s string of 23 consecutive losing quarters.


June 8, 2018  7:37 AM

Dell, VMware likely held HCI revenue share leads

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Storage

While IDC probably won’t release its hyper-converged market share numbers for the first quarter until late June, it appears Dell will stay No. 1 on the HCI revenue hardware and software charts.

IDC recognized hardware and software HCI revenue separately for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2017. Dell EMC led hardware with 27.8% share, ahead of second-place Nutanix at 19.5%. IDC recognized Dell-owned VMware as the software HCI market leader with 32.4% of the market, with No. 2 Nutanix at 29.5%.

Nutanix, which is switching to a software-centric business model, reported 41% revenue growth for the first quarter of 2018. Dell said its Dell EMC VxRail HCI appliance and VMware’s vSAN HCI software each grew more than that.

VMware reported vSAN licenses grew 70% year-over-year, including vSAN sold on Dell EMC vXRail appliances.

On VMware’s earnings call, last week CEO Pat Gelsinger said the company finished the quarter with over 14,000 vSAN accounts, and its 10 largest deals included vSAN.

Like Nutanix CEO Dheeraj Pandey, Gelsinger said he still sees plenty of room for growth in the HCI market.

“I tease my team saying, ‘how many vSpheres have storage attached to it?’” The answer is 100%,” Gelsinger said. “And I’d say ‘that’s your market opportunity for vSAN, 100% of vSphere attach rate.’ So I am pushing them to continue to make it that simple and easy that we are attaching vSAN to every one of our compute nodes as part of this larger migration to the complete solution, either software or software plus hardware.”

Gelsinger said that migration is well under way as VMware customers have gone from licensing vSAN separately to using it as part of complete HCI bundles such as VxRail. Those HCI packages often include NSX software-defined networking.

“So that’s the shift in the marketplace we are seeing, where I will say people are no longer putting the Tinker Toys together themselves,” he said. “So, the storage piece by itself is a large market that we have lots of growth to go yet.”


June 6, 2018  7:47 AM

Qumulo files away $93 million for QF2 expansion

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Storage

Qumulo closed a $93 million funding round today, giving the scale-out file storage vendor “fuel” to compete with the established players in a rapidly expanding market.

BlackRock Private Equity Partners led the Series D round, which brings Qumulo’s total funding to over $220 million. Goldman Sachs and Western Digital also participated in the funding, along with previous Qumulo investors Highland Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the Madrona Venture Group, and Valhalla Partners.

Qumulo CEO Bill Richter hinted that this may be the last venture funding the company will need.

“This will fuel the company’s growth for many years to come,” Richter said. “This is enough fuel that we need for the foreseeable future, which is important in this industry.”

He said Qumulo will use the funding to add sales and marketing people, and “especially code-writing engineers” to enhance the Qumulo File Fabric (QF2) software. He sees the market as ripe for software-defined and cloud-based NAS storage in the wake of fast-growing file data driven by technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and 4K video.

Richter said Qumulo is innovating with QF2’s analytics and the ability to run in the cloud, while the established NAS products from NetApp and Dell EMC Isilon are stagnating. Qumulo’s founders were original Isilon developers, and Richter was president of EMC’s Isilon division for three years. He became Qumulo CEO in November, 2016.

“The last generation of storage was all about the box,” Richter said. “The next generation is about the data and the place where data lives. How can we allow customers to interoperate between the public and their private cloud for a true hybrid experience? And how can they really understand their data and not just their storage? Legacy guys, which I was part of for many, many years, were just churning out more boxes.”

Qumulo sells its file system on branded appliances but also through an OEM deal with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and through Amazon Web Services Marketplace.

Richter said Qumulo has hundreds of customers, including nine leading movie studios and Fortune 500 companies. He said Qumulo will use the funding to grow aggressively from its current 180 employees, although he declined to share specific hiring goals.

Richter also said the funding from Black Rock and Golden Sachs does not mean an initial public stock offering is a short-term goal.

“Eventually that might be in the cards, but now we’re focused on growing Qumulo and creating a long-term sustainable business,” he said. “Don’t expect us to try and put ourselves  out to the public market at the first opportunity.”

Despite the cash infusion, Qumulo still faces large challenges. The vendor is far from profitable and is battling giants NetApp and Dell at the top of the market as well as other cloud file system startups such as Elastifile, WekaIO and Quobyte. Object storage vendors are increasingly adding file systems to their products as well.

And despite citing multi-cloud as a big selling point, Qumulo only supports AWS now. Richter said Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform support is on the way. Qumulo is also exploring more hardware partnerships, such as its deal to sell its QF2 on HPE Apollo servers.

“Customers want a better, more modern choice,” said Richter, who now has the funding to fuel those code-writing engineers to help develop that modern file system.


June 5, 2018  3:24 PM

HPE adds bulk to M-series Ethernet SAN switching

Dave Raffo Dave Raffo Profile: Dave Raffo
Storage

Hewlett Packard Enterprise expanded its M-series Ethernet storage switching with a smaller switch and orchestration software designed to improve management features for iSCSI SANs.

HPE first  launched the M-series in 2017, using Mellanox’s chipset. The M-series is one of three HPE storage switching families. The others are the B-series from Broadcom/Brocade and the C-series from Cisco. While the B and C series are Fibre Channel platforms, the M-series is Ethernet-only.

The new SN2010M is a smaller version of the first three M-series switches released in last year. The new switch is a half-width top of rack switch with 18 ports that support up to 25 Gigabit per second Ethernet and four 40/100-GigE ports. Like the larger M-Series switches, it supports zero packet loss and even bandwidth allocation for predictable performance.

The new HPE Smart Fabric Orchestrator (SFO) software handles management and configuration features such as zoning and provisioning that have long been valuable to Fibre Channel but difficult to set up and manage. The design goal is to eliminate the need for SAN administrators to run storage networks.

Marty Lans, HPE’s GM of storage connectivity, said 80% of data is on Ethernet-based secondary storage platforms. That includes hyper-converged storage, virtual SANs and backup data.

“What Fibre Channel does for primary storage, we’ve done for everything else,” he said of SFO’s management capabilities.

That makes Ethernet-based iSCSI storage important for the emerging NVMe-over Fabrics wave, Lans said. HPE has been building out its secondary storage ecosystem through partnerships with vendors such as Qumulo, Cohesity, Rubrik, Hedvig, Cloudian and Scality. It also has its own SimpliVity hyper-converged platform.

HPE’s major primary SAN platforms – 3PAR and Nimble – support Fibre Channel and Ethernet, although 3PAR’s customer base is mainly Fibre Channel and Nimble’s is mostly iSCSI.

“We realized a big part of the opportunity around NVMe is iSCSI-based,” Lans said. “If we can take the features of Fibre Channel and move it to Ethernet, customers have a choice. They can pick Ethernet instead of Fibre Channel. We’re  not suggesting that, we just wanted to build  another protocol for applications.”

Lans said industry-wide attempts to make Ethernet better for storage – including Converged Enhanced Ethernet and Data  Center Ethernet – overlooked the management capabilities.

He said  SFO eliminates the need for interoperability testing between different vendors’ switches. “Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to go to a Website and look it up?” he said of interoperability lists. “We wanted to settle the politics for this. We layered on orchestration software and did all the interoperability testing.”


June 4, 2018  6:29 PM

Dell EMC storage finally gains some post-merger market share

Garry Kranz Garry Kranz Profile: Garry Kranz

Dell Technologies on Monday projected positive share growth in enterprise storage, the first quarter that has happened since the Dell and EMC merger closed in 2016. The next question is whether the growth in storage is sustainable, attributable to a seasonal anomaly, or requires a winnowing of redundant storage platforms.

Dell EMC storage revenue climbed 10% during the April quarter, generating $4.1 billion, which the vendor attributed largely to a triple-digit increase in sales of Dell EMC VxRack and VxRail hyper-converged appliances.

The vendor also claimed progress in midrange storage sales, a chronic trouble spot, although company executives declined to provide specific revenue figures.  In a related move, Dell said it hired several hundred sales reps last quarter specifically for storage.

Only a passing reference was made to sales of the flagship all-flash Dell EMC PowerMax (formerly VMAX), which exited fiscal year 2018 strongly with a $5 billion run rate. Dell executives also made off limits for discussion the status of internal talks regarding a potential merger with VMware, the virtualization subsidiary it picked up through EMC.

Dell EMC rides momentum of cloud, software-defined storage

Dell’s combined revenue last quarter surged 19% to $21.4 billion. That’s on a net loss of $538 million. Non-GAAP operating income was $2 billion, up 42%.

After taking on sizable debt to acquire the EMC storage business, Dell has paid down about $13 billion of the financial obligations, including a $2.5 billion payment last week to satisfy investment-grade notes. All told, Dell’s debt service is roughly $53 billion, excluding debt related to the Dell Financial Services arm.

The Dell EMC storage portfolio is part of the vendor’s Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG), which also includes PCs, servers and networking. Overall ISG product revenue of $8.7 billion was up 25%, getting a bounce largely from customers using Dell PowerEdge servers to run software-defined storage.

A strong quarter by VMware generated license revenue of $2 billion last quarter, including double-digit bookings for compute management, end user computing, NSX and VSAN/VxRail. Deferred revenue of $21 billion is up more than $3 billion from the year-ago period, due to recurring maintenance contracts and increased customer adoption of Dell’s consumption-based services and software.

Research firm IDC projects spending on storage systems will grow nearly 10 percent in the first quarter.  The Dell EMC storage business is positioned to equal if not outpace the market average, said Jeff Clarke, a Dell vice chairman of products and operations.

Clarke said data centers increasingly want to run software-defined storage to support analytics and similar workloads in a multicloud environment. That helped Dell post its sixth consecutive quarter of increased server revenues, although rising DRAM prices pose potential headwinds.

“Storage had a solid quarter as a portion of the Q4 demand (in March). Following positive demand growth in our fiscal fourth quarter, we expect to gain share year over year in storage when the first-quarter industry share numbers are final. This will be our first quarter (with) storage share gains since we closed the EMC transaction,” Clarke said.

So has the flagging Dell EMC storage business finally turned a corner? Clarke sounded bullish on the idea, but acknowledged the recent revenue figures are only a snapshot in time.

“This quarter’s results are an indicator that our actions are having a positive impact. We continue to be focused on improving storage velocity and acknowledge that results maybe lumpy quarter-to-quarter. That said, our FY 19 storage plan is built on revenue growth and to deliver share gain over the full year.”

Despite several all-flash storage moves at Dell Technologies World in May, the only acknowledgement of flash was the new Dell PowerEdge models that integrate NVMe flash drives and support NVMe over Fabrics. Dell reported in March it exited the fiscal year with a $5 billion run rate in all-flash, and that was prior to launching a rebranded VMAX.

All-flash pioneer Pure Storage in April posted year-over-year revenue of 40% and NetApp did even better, closing its year at $2.4 billion and a 43% year-over-year gain. As is its custom, Dell EMC does not provide revenue guidance to Wall Street.

If you read between the lines, it’s possible to imagine that Dell EMC may start streamlining its storage gear. Clarke said the Dell EMC storage road map will aim for “simplification,” which he said started with the reorganization that resulted in creation of the ISG last year.

“Since then we have started simplifying the portfolio into a road map squarely directed at meeting customer needs and winning in the market. We will offer a single industry-leading solution for every segment in which we compete, including entry level, midrange, high-end and unstructured. Those solutions will put forward the best features and innovation from our current portfolio, plus new innovation to ensure we are offering the industry’s best solutions.”

“We are not exiting any market. All the products on our current road map will continue to be supported over their lifecycle,” as part of Dell’s customer loyalty program.


June 4, 2018  7:27 AM

Cloudian makes moves, keeps up with changing object storage market

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa
Cloudian

The flurry of activity surrounding on-premise object storage specialist Cloudian suggests how rapidly the market has been moving during the last year.

Cloudian CEO Michael Tso said 2017 was the startup’s best year, as revenue grew by a factor of 3x and the customer count soared past 200. He said 89% of Cloudian object storage sales came through value-added resellers by the fourth quarter, and the trend continued into 2018 – a significant jump over the 25% in third-party sales in 2015 and 36% in 2016.

“That really is a signal to me that the product is ready for a broader channel,” Tso said.

Cloudian launched in late 2011 with a focus on prominent Japanese telcommunications/service provider customers NTT East, NTT Communications and Nifty that needed multi-tenant, geographically distributed storage after the Fukushima earthquake.

Tso said he expects Cloudian to become profitable over the next few years, with a possible IPO down the road. But he said growth is more important than profitability right now.

“Our board and our investors are telling us to grow just as fast as we can and don’t worry about profitability,” he said. “I think if we stopped growing as aggressively as we are, we either would be able to be profitable this year, or if I look at the numbers carefully, maybe we could have been profitable even earlier. We are looking at a potential IPO probably three to four years down the road. We are not really in a hurry. We expect to be profitable before that.”

Cloudian is concentrating on partnerships with channel and OEM partners to grab a significant share of the storage market. The object vendor followed its 2016 OEM deal with Lenovo with an EMEA-based joint reseller agreement with Hewlett Packard Enterprise in late 2017.  In 2018, Cloudian partnered with Machine Box on a machine-learning option and made available a Cloudian object storage “HyperStore Test Drive” for Google Cloud Platform.

Also, late 2017 conversations with Cisco Systems led to a significant investment earlier this year from Digital Alpha, a private equity firm started by former Cisco executives. Digital Alpha made a $25 million equity commitment to Cloudian and set up a utility financing facility of up to $100 million.

“The goal for the $100 million is to set up a separate company that would purchase appliances and solutions from Cloudian and be able to provide those to the end user through a paper drink consumption model,” Tso said. “They will add more gear when you need it, and they’ll remove gear when you’re trying to take it away. It’s just like the way cloud works except it’s cloud being put into your own data center, because our product is only sold into on-prem environments.”

Cloudian expanded in March with the acquisition of Infinity Storage, an Italian file-based software-defined storage vendor. Cloudian already used Infinity’s technology in its HyperFile appliance that combines file and object storage.

“They make an NFS/CIFS front end that can move data into object storage or into the cloud,” Tso said of Infinity Storage. “We partner with every one of the gateway companies  out there, but we weren’t really happy with any of their solutions. The problem with a lot of products out there is that they’re not in the kernel space. File systems have traditionally always been done inside the kernel. It’s really the only way to do it that’s really robust, but it’s very hard. We spent a year testing pretty much every vendor in the market, and we eventually came on this small company based out of Milan. They’ve been doing it for over 10 years.”


June 1, 2018  9:02 AM

Crossbar ReRAM hits 1x nanometer process milestone

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa
Storage

Crossbar recently chalked up another milestone in its quest to get on-chip non-volatile resistive RAM (ReRAM) technology to market.

The Santa Clara, California-based startup licensed its core ReRAM intellectual property to Microsemi, a semiconductor supplier to the military and aerospace industry. The companies plan to collaborate on the research, development and application of the Crossbar ReRAM into Microsemi products designed for 16, 14, and 12 nanometer (nm) process nodes.

ReRAM is a type of non-volatile memory that consumes less power and offers faster reads and writes, higher endurance and greater storage density than NAND flash. But Crossbar does not position its ReRAM as an alternative to technologies such as flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs). The initial use cases for ReRAM will more likely be under the covers in CPUs, field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and system-on-a-chip (SoC) architectures, possibly as an alternative to slower static RAM (SRAM) or less energy-efficient dynamic RAM (DRAM), according to Sylvain Dubois, vice president of business development and marketing at Crossbar.

Dubois expects the embedded Crossbar ReRAM technology to reach products that businesses or consumers might use in 2019.

ReRAM use case example
In the meantime, Crossbar demonstrated potential use cases in “artificial intelligence applications at the edge” – designed for devices such as surveillance cameras and mobile phones – at the recent Embedded Vision Summit in San Jose, California. The startup showed off ReRAM test chips with applications designed to recognize faces and license plates. Dubois said the test chips integrate the algorithms and the database, enabling classifications to be done efficiently at low latency and low power, with no need to communicate with a distant cloud-based database.

Alternative technologies that a designer might have chosen for such applications include static RAM (SRAM) and dynamic RAM (DRAM), according to Dubois. But he claimed SRAM would have been slower and DRAM would have consumed more energy than the Crossbar ReRAM.

Microsemi did not disclose the types of products that might incorporate the Crossbar ReRAM technology nor the foundry with which it is working. The company’s product line includes PGAs, controllers, communications chips and artificial intelligence computing chips.

“What is unique is that this Microsemi deal is targeted at 1x nanometer,” Dubois said. “Getting to the point where you can prove the scalability is a major milestone. Now we have not only a customer but we also have a foundry that is getting access to embedded ReRAM at 1x nanometer.”

Dubois said Crossbar started its non-volatile ReRAM commercialization phase on 40 nm process nodes with Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (SMIC). He said Crossbar also works with two other foundries and licenses its ReRAM to about a dozen chip designers.

Crossbar ReRAM nanofilament technology is built on standard complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) processes, and the company claims it will scale to below 10 nm without impact to performance.

“The big trick is to get into high volume production because the most important thing in semiconductors is to get the volume high enough so you can drive the costs out,” said Jim Handy, general director and semiconductor analyst at Objective Analysis.

Handy said the Microsemi agreement with Crossbar shows the semiconductor supplier took a hard look at the ReRAM, decided it’s a good technology, and expects other companies to sign on. He said the 1x nanometer process achievement indicates Crossbar could be looking at use cases where NOR flash won’t work any longer due to scaling issues.

“Microsemi supplies stuff for aerospace, and in space, there’s a lot of radiation. Radiation tends to cause NOR flash, or any flash, to lose its content. The radioactive particles go through the chip and drag the electrons out of the floating gate,” Handy said. “The Crossbar metal filament technology doesn’t use electrons. And nuclear particles can go zipping through the chip and not destroy bits.”

Handy said enterprise users aren’t likely to notice ReRAM in their servers or storage systems because it would be buried in places they won’t see. But he said Crossbar ReRAM could lower the cost of SSD controllers marginally by allowing them to scale better.

“Now 80% or more of the cost of the drive is the NAND flash. So this is going to make a small difference, but it will make a difference,” Handy said.


May 30, 2018  4:21 PM

Startup Komprise strikes reseller agreement with IBM

Carol Sliwa Carol Sliwa Profile: Carol Sliwa

Komprise struck its first major reseller agreement, partnering with IBM to offer Komprise Intelligent Data Management software with the vendor’s storage portfolio.

Customers can use Komprise software to move file-based data from network-attached storage (NAS) systems to IBM cloud-based object storage, according to Krishna Subramanian, co-founder and chief operating officer at Komprise.

Users can download the Komprise Observer virtual appliance and point it at their NAS systems. The Komprise software analyzes how much hot and cold data they have and the file growth rate to help them set policies to move data to on-premise or off-site IBM Cloud Object Storage for archival or disaster recovery (DR) purposes. The Komprise Director management console, which can run at the customer’s data center or in the cloud, displays the potential savings considering NAS, backup, DR and new storage target costs.

The Komprise software also handles the file-to-object mapping and non-disruptively migrates the data from the NAS system to the IBM Cloud Object Storage. End users can still access the data with the same permissions and metadata from their source NAS systems, even though the files have been transferred to cloud-based object storage on the back end.

“When we move a file out of NAS into object storage, we put in a link in that NAS so when a user goes to open the file, it looks like the same file. It has all the metadata properties and everything,” Subramanian said. “A Komprise Observer will actually respond, and it will map the object back to file and return it. But that whole handshake is transparent to users and applications.”

Komprise vs. cloud gateways
Subramanian said, unlike many cloud gateway appliances, Komprise does not aim to shift all data to the public cloud and cache the hottest data in local appliances. She said that approach can become expensive if the customer needs to retrieve data from the cloud.

“We’re simply providing a more cost efficient way to manage the data. Essentially we’re saying, ‘Look, your NAS is great for your hot data. But for the 80% of your data that is rarely getting cached, and you need to keep either for business or compliance reasons, let us move that to a cost-efficient store,’” Subramanian said.

The Komprise software also enables customers to migrate data from one NAS system to another NAS system, if they want to replace or decommission file-based storage devices.

Subramanian said Komprise and IBM had joint customers in industries such as financial services, insurance and health care storing large volumes of data. Komprise is part of the Ready for IBM Storage and Ready for IBM Cloud validated solution directory. The new worldwide reseller agreement applies to IBM product sales and services teams as well as IBM channel partners, Subramanian said.

Komprise prices its software based on the amount of data under management. The startup offers a subscription model, at about a half penny per GB per month, or a perpetual license, at $120 to $130 per TB, according to Subramanian.

Earlier this month, Komprise shipped a new 2.8 software update. New features included support for European euros, British pounds and Japanese yen in the product’s ROI calculator, which originally displayed cost savings only in U.S. dollars. The 2.8 product upgrade also enhanced the NAS migration capabilities for SMB environments, adding the ability to preserve access control.


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