Blog Archives

NetApp to buy Commvault?

The rumour mill is going again that Commvault is an acquisition target, and this time, NetApp. The rumour is not new but someone Commvault has gotten too big in the past couple of years to be swallowed up. But this time, it could happen as NetApp is hungry, …. very hungry.

NetApp took a big hit a couple of weeks back, when it announced its Q3 numbers. Revenues fell short of analysts expectations and the share price took a big hit. While its big rival, EMC, has been gaining much momentum on all fronts, it appears that NetApp is getting overwhelmed by the one-stop-shop of EMC. EMC is everything to everyone who wants storage, data protection software, services, data management, scale-out, data security, big data, cloud storage and virtualization and much more. NetApp, has been very focused on what they do best, and that is storage. Everything evolves around their crown jewel, Data ONTAP and recently added Engenio to their stable of storage solutions.

NetApp does not mix the FAS storage with the Engenio and making sure that their story-telling gels but in the past few years, many other vendors are taking the “one-stack-fits-all” approach. Oracle have Exadata, where servers, storage, database and networking in all-in-one. Many others are doing the same, while NetApp prefers a more “loose-coupled” partnerships, such as their “Imagine Virtually Anything” concept partnership with VMware and Cisco, in the shape of FlexPod. FlexPod is a flexible infrastructure package comprising presized storage, networking and server components designed to ease the IT transformation journey–from virtualization all the way to cloud computing.

Commvault would be a great buy (going to be very expensive buy) for NetApp. Things fits perfectly if NetApp decides to abandon its overly protective shield and start becoming a “one-stop-shop” to its customers, starting with data protection. Commvault is already the market leader in the Enterprise Disk-based Backup and Recovery market, and well reflected in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant January 2011 report.

It’s amazing to see how Commvault got to become the leader in this space in just a few short years, and part of its unique approach is providing a common core engine called the Common Technology Engine (CTE). The singular core architecture allows different data management components – Backup, Replication, Archiving, Resource Management and Classification & Search – to share resource and more importantly detailed knowledge of true data management.

In the middle of this year, NetApp had an OEM deal with Commvault to resell their SnapProtect solution, which integrates with NetApp’s SnapMirror solution. The SnapProtect manages NetApp snapshots and SnapMirror replications and also enhances the solution as a tape-out for SnapMirror. Below shows how the Commvault SnapProtect fits into NetApp’s snapshots and SnapMirror data protection architecture.

Sources of NetApp’s C-Level said that NetApp is still very much focused on their ONTAP strategy and with their “loosely-coupled” partnerships with key partners like VMware, Cisco, F5 and Quantum. But at the back of NetApp’s mind, I believe, it is time to do something about it. This “focused” (also could be interpreted an overly cautious) approach is probably seeing the last leg of its phase as cloud computing is changing all that. The cost of integration of different, yet flexible components of storage, data protection and data management components, is prohibitive to cloud service providers and NetApp must take a bolder approach to win the hearts of these providers. Having a one-stop-shop isn’t so bad anymore; it is beginning to make sense and NetApp had better do something quick. Commvault is one of the best out there and NetApp shouldn’t lose that chance.

Note: While the rumours of NetApp and Commvault are swirling, there’s been rumours that Quantum could be another NetApp target. 
Advertisements

Falconstor – soaring to 7th heaven

I was invited to Falconstor version 7.0 launch to the media this morning at Sunway Resort Hotel.

I must admit that I am a fan of Falconstor from a business perspective because they have nifty solutions. Many big boys OEMed Falconstor’s VTL solutions such as EMC with its CDL (CLARiiON Disk Library) and Sun Microsystems virtual tape library solutions. Things have been changing. There are still OEM partnerships with HDS (with Falconstor VTL and FDS solutions), HP (with Falconstor NSS solution) and a few others, but Falconstor has been taking up a more aggressive stance with their new business model. They are definitely more direct with their approach and hence, it is high time we in the industry recognize Falconstor’s prowess.

The launch today is Falconstor version 7.0 suite of data recovery and storage enhancement solutions. Note that while the topic of their solutions were on data protection, I used data recovery, simply because the true objective of their solutions are on data recovery, doing what matters most to business – RECOVERY.

Falconstor version 7.0 family of products is divided into 3 pillars

  • Storage Virtualization – with Falconstor Network Storage Server (NSS)
  • Backup & Recovery – with Falconstor Continuous Data Protector (CDP)
  • Deduplication – with Falconstor Virtual Tape Library (VTL) and File-Interface Deduplication System (FDS)
NSS virtualizes heterogeneous storage platforms and sits in between the application servers, or virtualized servers. It simplifies disparate storage platforms by consolidating volumes and provides features such as thin provisioning and snapshots. In the new version, NSS now supports up to 1,000 snapshots per volume from the previous number of 255 snapshots. That is a 4x increase as the demand for data protection is greater than ever. This allows the protection granularity to be in the minutes, well meeting the RPO (Recovery Point Objectives) standard of the most demanding customers.
The NSS also replicates the snapshots to a secondary NSS platform at a DR to extend the company’s data resiliency and improves the business continuance factor for the organization.
In a revamp new algorithm in version 7.0, the Microscan technology used in the replication technology is now more potent and higher in performance. For the uninformed, Microscan, as quoted in the datasheet is:
MicroScan™, a patented FalconStor technology, minimizes the
amount of data transmitted by eliminating redundancies at the
application and file system layers. Rather than arbitrarily
transmitting entire blocks or pages (as is typical of other
replication solutions), MicroScan technology maps, identifies, and
transmits only unique disk drive sectors (512 bytes), reducing
network traffic by as much as 95%, in turn reducing remote
bandwidth requirements.

Another very strong feature of the NSS is the RecoverTrac, which is an automated DR technology. In business, business continuity and disaster recovery usually go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, triggering either BC or DR or both is an expensive and resource-consuming exercise. But organizations have to prepare and therefore, a proper DR process must be tested and tested again.

I am a certified Business Continuity Planner, so I am fully aware of the beauty RecoverTrac brings to the organization. The ability to test non-intrusive, simulated DR, and find out the weak points of recovery is crucial and RecoverTrac brings that confidence of DR testing to the table. Furthermore, well-tested automated DR processes also eliminates human errors in DR recovery. And RecoverTrac also has the ability to track the logical relationships between different applications and computing resource, making this technology an invaluable tool in the DR coordinator’s arsenal.

The diagram below shows the NSS solution:

And NSS touts to be one true any storage platform to any storage platform over any protocol replication solution. Most vendors will have either FC or iSCSI or NAS protocols but I believe so far, only Falconstor offers all protocols in one solution.

Item #2 in the upgrade list is Falconstor’s CDP solution. Continuous Data Protection (CDP) is a very interesting area in data protection. CDP provides almost near-zero RTO/RPO solution on disk, and yet not many people are aware of the power of CDP.

About 5-6 years ago, CDP was hot and there were many start-ups in this area. Companies such Kashya (bought by EMC to become RecoverPoint), Mendocino, Revivio (gobbled up by Symantec) and StoneFly have either gone belly up or gobbled up by bigger boys in the industry. Only a few remained, and Falconstor CDP is one of the true survivors in this area.

CDP should be given more credit because there are always demand for very granular data protection. In fact, I sincerely believe that both CDP, snapshots and snapshot replication are the real flagships of data protection today and the future because data protection using the traditional backup method, in a periodic and less frequent manner, is no longer adequate. And the fact that backup is generating more and more data to keep is truly not helping.

Falconstor CDP has the HyperTrac™ Backup Accelerator (HyperTrac) works in conjunction with FalconStor Continuous Data Protector (CDP) and FalconStor Network Storage Server (NSS) to increase tape backup speed, eliminate backup windows, and offload processing from application servers. A quick glimpse of HyperTrac technology is shown below:

In the Deduplication pillar, there were upgrades to both Falconstor VTL and Falconstor FDS. As I said earlier, CDP, snapshots and replication of the snapshot are already becoming the data protection of this new generation of storage solutions. Coupled with deduplication, data protection is made more significant because it makes smart noodles to keep one copy of the same old files, over and over again.

Falconstor File-Interface Deduplication Systems (FDS) addresses the requirement to storage more effectively, efficiently, economically. Its Single Instance Repository (SIR) technology has now been enhanced as a global deduplication repository, giving it the ability to truly store a single copy of the object. Previously, FDS was not able to recognize duplicated objects in a different controller. FDS also has improved its algorithms, driving performance up to 30TB/hour and is able to deliver a higher deduplication ratio.

In addition to the NAS interface, the FDS solution now has a tighter integration with the Symantec Open Storage Technology (OST) protocol.

The Falconstor VTL is widely OEM by many partners and remains one of the most popular VTL solutions in the market. VTL is also enhanced significantly in this upgrade and not surprisingly, the VTL solution from Falconstor is strengthened by its near-seamless integration with the other solutions in their stable. The VTL solution now supports up to 1 petabyte usable capacity.

Falconstor has always been very focused in the backup and data recovery space and has done well favourably with Gartner. In January of 2011, Gartner has release their Magic Quadrant report for Enterprise Disk-based Backup and Recovery, and Falconstor was positioned as one of the Visionaries in this space. Below is the magic quadrant:

As their business model changes to a more direct approach, it won’t be long before you seen Falconstor move into the Leader quadrant. They will be soaring, like a Falcon.