Monday, February 28, 2011

Chelsio challenges Emulex, QLogic, Intel, et al

February 28, 2011 – If you look at the converged network adapter market through the eyes of a storage professional, the first two vendors that may come to mind are Emulex and QLogic. If you look at it from a network professional’s view, you might think first of Intel and Broadcom. And if you’re into the high performance computing/clustering space, you might think of Mellanox.

There’s another key player in the converged adapter market: Chelsio Communications, which today announced a line of Unified Wire Adapters based on its Terminator 4 (T4) chips.

I recently spoke with Kianoosh Naghshineh, Chelsio’s CEO.

In the converged adapter market, vendors tend to crow about a few things: first to market, which generation silicon they’re on, how many storage/networking protocols they support and/or offload, how many virtualization standards they support, and how many ports per adapter they have.

Chelsio is firing on all those fronts. For example, the company introduced seven fourth-generation (T4-based) PCIe 2.0 adapters today with a variety of port configurations, including a version with four 10GbE ports and a version with four 1GbE ports. That differentiates Chelsio from some of the other players in the converged adapter market.

I hate to draw up laundry lists, but there’s no other way to convey how Chelsio differentiates itself from some of the other, more well-known, players – so here we go:

In terms of offload functionality, Chelsio has a TCP/IP Offload Engine (TOE), and also claims to be able to offload iWARP RDMA, iSCSI (full offload in T4), FCoE (open FCoE as well as full HBA, or hardware-based, FCoE offload ), UDP, and Multicast – most of which is new in the fourth generation adapters. The adapters also support the Data Center Bridging (DCB) protocol. (Of course, this begs the question of who would possibly want, or need, to run all of those protocols, but that’s a subject for another blog post.)

In terms of virtualization-related standards, Chelsio claims to support SR-IOV, VEB, VEPA, Flex10 and QFC/VNTag in its fourth-generation T4 adapters. The converged network adapters also include an embedded switch, which can be beneficial in virtualized environments because it can switch traffic from as many as 140 virtual and physical ports per adapter.

And Chelsio supports all that stuff on a single card and with one firmware version. (Some other converged network adapter vendors have different cards/firmware for different protocols.)

Pricing for Chelsio’s adapters starts at $579.

Unlike some other converged network adapter vendors, Chelsio does not announce all of its OEM design wins, but its publicly-announced server/storage OEMs include EMC (Isilon and Data Domain), HP, IBM, NEC and SGI. And Chelsio claims more than 100 OEM platform wins; 100,000+ ports shipped; and year-over-year revenue growth of 50%.

My point? The market for CNAs will be much more crowded and competitive than originally expected.

Related blog posts:

Intel’s card play in unified networking

Broadcom claims 2 million+ IOPS on converged controller

Related articles:

Emulex ships 10GbE CNAs to the channel

QLogic announces 10GbE NICs, CNAs

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cloud storage: Nirvanix takes shots at Amazon S3, EMC Atmos

February 24, 2011 – IDC predicts that by 2014 the cloud storage market will exceed $7 billion per year. That compares to about $1.5 billion in 2009. Assuming IDC’s prediction comes true (which is debatable), it’s no wonder that so many vendors are crowding into the cloud storage space.
But every small cloud storage equipment/services provider has to come up with a business case that sets them apart from the 800-pound gorillas in the market, most notably Amazon and EMC.

All of the smaller players have value propositions versus the big boys, but Nirvanix has recently become one of the more vocal challengers. To back up their claims, Nirvanix officials cite customers such as NBC Universal and GE, both of which deployed Nirvanix’s cloud storage platform after evaluating Amazon S3, EMC Atmos and other alternatives.

I recently chatted with Geoff Tudor, vice president for strategy and business development at Nirvanix, and Steve Zivanic, Nirvanix’s new vice president of marketing.

Versus Amazon’s S3, Nirvanix claims a number of advantages. For example, unlike Amazon, Nirvanix allows customers -- including security auditors -- to inspect its data centers (of which there are seven worldwide). That might not be a big deal for many companies, but for those that still harbor concerns about certain aspects of the cloud – such as security – it might be important.

Nirvanix also allows customers to determine where their data will reside, and to provision their data, and guarantees Quality of Service (QoS) levels. And Nirvanix enables federation of public (remote) and private (local) clouds.

Versus EMC Atmos, Nirvanix claims scalability advantages (billions vs. millions of files), the ability to federate public and private clouds (vs. only private clouds), and independence from specific hardware and file systems. Nirvanix’s Web Services Layer can sit on top of virtually any file system, including those from NetApp, EMC (Isilon and Celerra) Exanet and Ibrix. In addition, Nirvanix users only pay for usable capacity (aka storage-as-a-service); there are no extra charges for data protection capacity (e.g., replication, RAID 6).

Nirvanix also differentiates its approach to cloud storage by offering different deployment options, which the company collectively refers to as “CloudComplete.” At the heart of each deployment option is the CloudNAS gateway.

From there, users can leverage Nirvanix’s Storage Delivery Network (SDN) public cloud platform, which provides a federated, tiered grid with a single namespace and unified view, or go with the company’s hNode software, which provides a cloud services layer for hybrid (public and/or private) cloud architectures.

More cloud storage articles:
Is cloud-enabled DR ready for prime time?
EMC debuts self-service platform for cloud storage
eSilo tackles cloud-based backup, DR
3X upgrades cloud storage appliances

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NetApp profits up, shares down

February 16, 2011 -- NetApp reported results for its fiscal 2011 third quarter on Wednesday. Revenue and earnings numbers were impressive, but guidance was apparently viewed as weak because investors sent NetApp’s stock price south.

NetApp raked in revenues of $1.27 billion in the third quarter. That compares to slightly more than $1 billion in the same period a year ago – a 25% growth rate.

Revenues for the first nine months of the fiscal year were $3.61 billion. And NetApp officials estimated revenue for the upcoming fourth quarter of approximately $1.38 billion. That means that the company has a good chance of topping the $5 billion mark for the full fiscal year.

Net income in 3Q2011 was $172 million, or $0.42 per share, compared to net income of $108 billion, or $0.30 a share, in 3Q2010.

Hardware (or what NetApp calls “product”) revenue was $818.6, up 32% year-over-year and +5% over the previous quarter. Software (“software entitlement and maintenance”) revenue was $183.8 million, which is a gain of 8% y-o-y and 3% sequentially. Revenue from services was $265.7 million, up 20% over the same quarter a year ago, and +6.5% sequentially.

I’m not a savvy investor, but those numbers look pretty good to me. Nevertheless, at one point after the report NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) shares were down about 6%. I’d guess that they’ll recover fairly rapidly.

During its third quarter, NetApp made the biggest product launch in company history (see “NetApp overhauls product line, from arrays to OS” ).

More recently, the company bought Akorri (see “NetApp to acquire Akorri Networks” ), and plans to roll Akorri’s BalancePoint management suite into the NetApp OnCommand management suite.

Related article: “EMC announces 41 new products”

Monday, February 14, 2011

LTO crushes other tape formats

I’ve been around long enough to remember when the tape format wars were among the more interesting skirmishes in the storage industry. Remember LTO vs. DLT, DAT vs. AIT, 8mm vs. QIC, Stones vs. Beatles?
Today, the LTO tape format commands 87.2% of the tape cartridge market (excluding mainframe-oriented formats), according to tape media market research from the Santa Clara Consulting Group (SCCG). In the fourth quarter of 2010, revenue from LTO tape cartridges was about $182 million, vs. $209 million for the total tape cartridge market.

The surge in shipments of LTO cartridges is due in large part to the popularity of the newest generation of the format – LTO-5. Shipments of LTO-5 cartridges doubled in Q4 vs. Q3 (as was the case in Q3 vs. Q2), accounting for 10% of total cartridge sales and 25% of total revenue.

Even shipments of LTO-4 tape cartridges were up in the fourth quarter, representing 48% of total unit shipments and 24% of revenues.

At its current rate of market share gains, LTO will command more than 90% of the tape cartridge market by the end of this year.

HP led the LTO media market with a 34% market share, followed by Fujifilm and IBM, according to SCCG.

Near the end of last year, the LTO Program vendors (HP, IBM and Quantum) claimed that more than 3.3 million LTO tape drives, and more than 150 million LTO cartridges, have been shipped since the format was introduced.

Shipments of all other tape formats – including DDS/DAT, DLT, AIT, QIC and 8mm -- continued their ongoing declines. However, revenue from QIC cartridges – the oldest of the mid-range tape formats – still exceeded $1.8 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

Other tape-related blogs:

Who says tape is dead?

Tape: Spectra revenue up 60%, Oracle ships 5TB drive

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Top Ten Storage Startups

UPDATED Feb. 4, 2011 – Last year, the number of startups that entered the storage market just about equaled the number of storage vendors that were acquired in the M&A fever. I have no idea when a startup ceases to be a startup, but when I first started this top ten list I gave it a three-year window. That proved too daunting, and the startups that launched two or three years ago have received plenty of coverage anyway. So I made it easy on myself and limited my picks to startups that either launched or shipped their first products during 2010. I also factored in technology innovation, company management and funding.

In alphabetical order, here are some of the more promising startups:


Actifio coined the term “data management virtualization,” or DMV (but don’t try googling that acronym), to describe its software suite, which is packaged in appliances. The software is designed to reduce storage management costs (by as much as 90%, according to the company) by virtualizing storage resources and streamlining processes such as data protection, disaster recovery and business continuity. The goal is to reduce or eliminate separate silos of data protection point products.

“The paradigm we’re applying to data management is analogous to what virtualization did to servers,” said Ash Ashutosh, Actifio’s CEO (and formerly a founder of AppIQ, which was acquired by HP).

Related article: “Actifio introduces data management virtualization” (InfoStor)

Related blog post: “Keep an eye on this startup” (InfoStor)


BridgeSTOR may be the youngest startup on this list (the company shipped its first products in late November 2010), but founder John Matze has been around the block, having started storage companies such as Siafu Software (acquired by Hifn, which was acquired by Exar) and Okapi (acquired by Overland Storage).

BridgeSTOR’s Application-Optimized Storage (AOS) appliances can combine data reduction technologies such as data deduplication, compression and thin provisioning, as well as encryption. The appliances are currently available in three models tuned for specific application environments, including VMware virtualization, backup applications, and network storage (iSCSI and NAS).

“BridgeSTOR does for storage what VMware does for servers,” said Matze.

Related article: “Startup BridgeSTOR enters data reduction market” (InfoStor)

Cirtas Systems

Cloud storage is clearly among the top storage technologies for 2011, so Cirtas seems to be in the right place with its Bluejet Cloud Storage Controller. The controller migrates data between a high-performance local cache and the cloud based on data access patterns.

“Today’s cloud is not truly a replacement for enterprise storage,” said Josh Goldstein, Cirtas’ vice president of marketing and product management. “Enterprise organizations won’t use cloud storage as is because it is insecure, slow, costly and lacks enterprise-class features.”

Cirtas hopes to change that situation with the Bluejet Cloud Storage Controller, which includes features such as data encryption, automated tiering, data deduplication, WAN optimization, compression and snapshots.

Last month, Cirtas tapped Gary Messiana as CEO. Messiana formerly held CEO positions at Netli and Diligent Software. Cirtas co-founder Dan Decasper continues as CTO. The company also announced Series B funding of $22.5 million, led by Shasta Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners as well as first round investors NEA, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Amazon.

Related article: “Cirtas launches cloud storage controller” (Enterprise Storage Forum)


Gridstore’s NASg software virtualizes NAS nodes into a single pool of shared storage in a grid-based, parallel-processing, scale-out NAS architecture.

“The software resides on client systems and aggregates the processing power of those machines,” said Gridstore CEO and co-founder Kelly Murphy. “All of the storage processing is done on the client side, and we stripe data across all of the storage nodes.”

Gridstore won a “Best in Show” award in the “Best SMB Solution” category at the ITEXPO West 2010 show.

Related article: “Startup Gridstore addresses ‘NAS sprawl’” (InfoStor)


Infineta hopes to solve the problems associated with moving data between data centers. The startup’s Velocity Dedupe Engine appliances include hardware-based data deduplication and are aimed at storage applications such as SAN replication for disaster recovery, backup and recovery, data migration, and cloud deployments.

Related article: “Infineta unveils deduplication for inter-data-center traffic” (InfoStor)


Plenty of vendors are touting the performance improvements from integrating solid-state disk (SSD) drives in their arrays, but if you want really fast I/O consider Kaminario’s DRAM-based K2 system. The K2 architecture has two key elements: ioDirectors and Data Nodes.

Kaminario claims performance of 1.5 million IOPS, or 16GBps of throughput, on a high-end K2 configuration with eight ioDirectors.

Related blog post: “Startup claims 1.5 million IOPS on RAID array” (InfoStor)


Nasuni launched its Nasuni Filer cloud gateway software in early 2010. The 2.0 version of the software includes enhancements for Windows environments, as well as support for Hyper-V, Azure and DFS namespaces. Nasuni 2.0 cache keeps copies of working files in local storage for fast access and deduplicates, compresses and sends file changes to the cloud. The software is available as a downloadable VM image.

Related articles:

“Startup Nasuni puts primary NAS in the cloud” (InfoStor)

“Nasuni overhauls cloud NAS filer for Microsoft environments” (Enterprise Storage Forum)

Nimble Storage

Nimble Storage is taking a somewhat unique approach by converging primary and secondary storage in a single iSCSI system that includes flash drives and SATA drives. The company’s Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) architecture uses multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash as a caching layer while offloading “cold” data to the SATA tier.

Features include inline data compression, data deduplication and WAN replication.

Nimble Storage recently received $16 million in Series C funding.

Related article: “Nimble iSCSI array merges primary, secondary storage” (Enterprise Storage Forum)


Pancetera is focused squarely on improving storage applications – primarily backup – in virtual environments. Last week, the company introduced Pancetera 2.1. New in the release is a SmartMotion module, which makes it easy to move VMs for applications such as backup, replication and migration, according to Bart Bartlett, Pancetera’s vice president of marketing. Bartlett claims that SmartMotion enables up to a 90% reduction in the bandwidth and time required to move VMs over LANs or WANs.

Pancetera also added change block tracking to its SmartRead module in the Unite 2.1 release, as well as a VMware vCenter Plugin.

Related article: “Pancetera reduces I/O for VM backups” (Enterprise Storage Forum)


StorSimple is combining four of the hottest technologies in the storage industry – cloud storage, tiered storage, data deduplication and SSDs – in its “application-optimized” cloud storage appliances for Windows applications. The startup shipped the StorSimple 5010 and 7010 appliances in December.

The company’s BlockRank technology automatically applies a priority to each block of data and places the data on the most appropriate storage tier (e.g., SSD, SAS, cloud), with the most-frequently-accessed data remaining on-premise. StorSimple’s appliances work with a variety of public cloud providers, including Amazon, AT&T, Iron Mountain and Microsoft’s Azure.

StorSimple has received a total of $21 million in funding (led by Mayfield Fund, which also funded 3PAR).


Rounding out our list is yet another cloud storage specialist: TwinStrata began shipping CloudArray in May 2010.

CloudArray is available as a software-only virtual appliance or in a bundled iSCSI hardware appliance. CloudArray provides a hybrid (private and public) cloud storage architecture, and can be used with cloud services platforms from vendors such as Amazon, AT&T, EMC, Mezzeo, Scality and others.

The software features dynamic caching, which enables administrators to create multiple caches to tune application performance. Other features of CloudArray include snapshots, inline compression, AES encryption, replication, and a "compute anywhere" feature that allows users to run the software in a public cloud.