May 20, 2020

Doron Kempel is back

For people who used to work in the storage industry for a few decades, I'm sure they all remember Doron Kempel.

Following his experience at EMC in the Media business group, he was founder and CEO of Diligent, the company who developed protecTIER, a deduplication backup engine, sold to IBM for $200M in 2008. Following this big step, he founded a new company and was the CEO of SimpliVity, a HCI pioneer, he sold to HPE for $650M in 2017. We discovered some time ago that he founded in 2017 in New-York again a new company named Bond around personal security. We don't know if the company name is linked to 007 but the codename for this project was TG-17 and received as of today $34.7M raised in October 2018.

Interestingly we also found that Ron Asher who worked with Doron at Diligent joined him again as VP engineering, he spent time at Stratoscale, Primary Data, IBM and Diligent.

May 14, 2020

Moshe Yanai is stepping down as CEO of Infinidat

It's a big news for Infinidat and an interesting one for the storage market meaning that Kariel Sandler, COO and Nir Simon, CFO, become co-CEOs.

We spoke with Moshe Yanai exactly one month before his blog during The IT Press Tour and we didn't notice any indication of such organization change. It seems that only a very few people was in the loop.

This move invited us to put in perspective Moshe Yanai career and professional trajectory with the different brands and products he designed with his team. For more than three decades, Yanai has had a significant impact on the storage industry with essentially three brands and products: EMC with the famous Symmetrix family, XIV and since 2011 at Infinidat. All of them are block storage array and Infinidat has added some file capabilities to address unified consolidation projects.

Born in 1949 in Israel, Yanai earned a B.Sc in electrical engineering in 1975 from Technion, the famous Israel Institute of Technology located in Haifa.

We can split his career in four phases:

The first phase started at Elbit Systems, a joint project with Nixdorf Computer, to build an IBM-compatible mainframe data storage based on minicomputer disks. He then moved to US for Nixdorf to develop high-end storage systems.

The second phase that gave honors at Yanai is of course associated with his time at EMC, for several known by the EMC2 acronym for EMC Corporation. EMC was founded in 1979 by Richard Egan, Roger Marino, ?. Connolly and John Curley to offer memory boards for Prime Computer and later other computers types like DEC VAX and Wang Laboratories minicomputers.

Rapidly, the company was led only by Egan and Marino and a few years later, around mid 80's the team identified the need to develop a mainframe data storage system with a first product in 1998 that appeared to be a disaster. In the meantime, EMC went public in April 1986 raising $30M and the revenue that year was $66.6M.

This decision to address high-end storage needs really transformed EMC to a rocket star in the storage industry but also beyond storage. Recruited by Egan, Yanai arrived in 1987 to develop the Symmetrix line and Mike Ruettgers joined in 1998 as COO to become CEO in 1992 until 2001 and this era was a stellar period.

In September 1990, EMC unveiled its first Symmetrix Integrated Cached Disk Array with some ideas Yanai continues to keep active i.e at that time a cluster of PCs, 5.25 HHDs and a big (at that time) DRAM for caching with RAID 1 data protection scheme. The main idea of Yanai was to write data to a remote memory to then land to HDDs with intelligent caching algorithms. Under Yanai technology leadership, EMC release several generation of Symmetrix and the product was a best seller.

Joe Tucci joined EMC in 2000 as President and COO and became CEO in January 2001 and Yanai quit EMC the same year in 2001 as an EMC Fellow probably due to some strategic divergence around Data General acquisition and the development of storage for open systems. We heard that Yanai got a big check and Symmetrix royalties on every sale following his departure for many years.

The 3rd era is XIV, an Israeli company Yanai started in 2001 to start a new generation of high-end disk storage array. And again the same idea appeared with a grid of x86 servers with their own resources i/e DRAM and disks, some of them acting as interface modules exposing host protocols (FC and iSCSI) and other as data modules for data persistency within the array connected to the interface ones via a fast switched redundant network based on InfiniBand. With SSDs coming to the market, a new level of storage was added between the caching layer and the HDD pool.

XIV releases generation 1 and IBM generation 2 and greater following the acquisition in January 2008 for $300M. Yanai led the XIV team and became an IBM fellow, he left in 2010.

The last and current epoch is Infinidat, Moshe founded in 2011 as CEO and this company represents the last iteration of his idea of a scalable high-end disk array still with DRAM as cache, Flash and HDDs to offer one of the lowest TCO on the market. This time 3 all-active Linux servers acts as interfaces nodes connected to all 816 HDDs drives provided by 8 JBODs via a fast interconnect in the back-end. We expect NVMe over RoCE soon.

Infinidat has proven his success and adoption with already 6EB deployed as of in Q4/2019: 3.7EB in Americas, 1.9EB in Europe and 388PB in APJ. As of today Infinidat has raised a total of $325M in 3 rounds becoming a storage unicorn in April 2015.

Since the first product iteration, Yanai ideas such symmetric clustering, global caching and multi-level storage finally span all these 3 eras - EMC, XIV and Infinidat - with of course significant improvements, new algorithms with machine learning and the integration of new hardware components.

Moving to this position invites us to think about a semi-retirement period or the reverse more time dedicated to technology and future developments at Infinidat. But it exists of course another assumption with an exit always in mind when you reach the age to retire. We all remember Pat Martin who sold StorageTek to Sun Microsystems in 2005 or Joe Tucci who did the same with Dell in September 2016, they both got a big check to protect their retirement and several family generations ... But the difference is they were not founders. The future will tell us the reality but for sure Infinidat is attractive for several companies.

Yanai was also a stakeholder at Diligent, a pioneer in data deduplication, then sold to IBM in 2008 for $200M. In parallel, Yanai has some other board seats result of his investment, at Axxana, a data protection company, and in the medical company Sight Diagnostics. Infinidat acquired Axxana in 2017 and uses the technology as InfiniSync.

Known for several innovations and inventions, Yanai is associated with approximately 40 US patents in the field of electronic data storage.

In June 2011 his Alma mater, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, awarded him the honor Distinguished Fellow of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and in 2012, conferred upon him an Honorary Doctorate. He has been a board of directors member of several companies.

Good Luck Mr Yanai, deep respect for your industry contributions, we wish you all the best.

Photo taken with Moshe Yanai (3rd left), Brian Carmody, CTO (5th left) and Dan Shprung, EVP EMEA Sales (2nd right)
with The IT Press Tour group in November 2016 in Israel

(I wrote this post for StorageNewsletter and it was originally published May 14th)

May 8, 2020

Stellus Technologies lost its CRO

Wow, bad image, Stellus Technologies, a new comer in file storage, just lost its Chief Revenue Officer Ken Grohe. According to his LinkedIn profile, Ken spent just 11 months at Stellus trying to promote and position Stellus Data Platform. What a tough mission when you have to compete against 4 blitzscalers Pure Storage with FlashBlade, Qumulo, VAST Data and WekaIO.

This departure strengthens the mystery around Stellus, its roots, its financing and links with Samsung and its technology. The company is very confidential with almost nothing on its website which is not good. Stellus promotes a new file system, I mean an internal one as it exposes NAS and S3 protocols, and I found some similar ideas in ZettaFS, the file system developed by Zetta, the company co-founded by Jeff Treuhaft, Jeff Whitehead and Lou Montulli in 2008. Hopefully Samsung backs up the company cause as of today they succeed to avoid the market.

April 30, 2020

Report on 34th IT Press Tour

This report was published for the 1st time on StorageNewsletter April 23rd.

The recent 34th edition should have been the 3rd visit in Israel to meet innovators and disruptors in several domains like data and storage management, cyber security and IT infrastructure. Under these exceptional circumstances, these face-to-face meetings were transformed into online sessions with seven companies: CTera Networks, Deep Instinct, Infinidat, Kaminario, Lightbits Labs, OwnBackup and Weebit Nano.

We had the opportunity to get some product announcements, of course company and products refresh, as well as some new strategic directions for them.

CTera Networks
It refreshed the team with its edge strategy illustrating the market penetration of its recent Edge Media Edition and X Series as a ROBO HCI server built with HPE. Nutanix could be the next platform of choice for the X Series. The Edge Media Edition is a high performance edge server dedicated to media production for distributed enterprises.

These two products of course leverage CTera Global File System and create a horizontal and ubiquitous file sharing layer regardless of the distance between systems. The team has also developed a NAS migration tool, delivered with CTera filers, to ease deployments. A new global console CTera Insight acts as the central point of management for the entire environment. And finally, the firm expands its presence and integration capabilities in DevOps world with a SDK and Ansible module.

Deep Instinct
It is a recent player, founded in 2015 with investors such as Samsung, HP and Nvidia, focused on cyber security leveraging deep learning to prevent threats in real time. It capitalizes on years of data, experience and algorithms coupled with AI to anticipate threats before they occur and finally avoid any reaction like several traditional approach do.

Via one single platform, Deep Instinct covers any environment and any OS. Today’s number of devices, connected population and online business create huge exposure leveraged by cyber attackers with 350,000 new malicious programs every day. A big breach costs between $40 million to $350 million for enterprises and it represents 3.5 million new jobs in cybersecurity by 2021. But as things go complex, AI seems to be the right path to control, reduce and prevent attacks and potential associated damages. The company operates in 3 main steps with 20ms spent to detect a potential anomaly, then 50ms to analyze and classify, and then less than 1mn to remediate and contain the threat. Globally, the solution provides less than 0.0001% of false positives.

It did product update. CEO Moshe Yanai confirmed its growing footprint illustrated by 6EB deployed, representing 3.7EB in Americas, 1.9EB in EMEA and 388PB in APJ. This amount validates its approach and value for enterprise around low TCO and performance. A new business model, named FLEX, which aligns public cloud subscription with on-premises purchase completing the classic CapEx, Capacity-on-Demand and Neutrix Cloud. Consolidation is still a real criteria for Infinidat customers. Recently one swapped 18 storage arrays by one InfiniBox and Zerto replaced 12 arrays by also one.

NVMe-oF is in beta at a few customers sites with RoCE and soon FC for internal array needs replacing SAS flash connectivity.

It made a new iteration towards the cloud with its Cloud Data Platform able to run on private cloud and AWS, GCP and Azure. To constitute this cloud-aware storage with mobility capabilities, Kaminario VisionOS, Flex and Clarity are coupled with NVMe-oF, container and Kubernetes.

It turns out that this approach reduces costs by 30% where the TCO is compared with AWS. It is the result of the right provisioning, data reduction and RAID.

Lightbits Labs
It has introduced NVMe/TCP covering its disaggregated model, decoupling compute to storage entities.

The implementation leverages the default Linux NVMe driver being independent on the host side and not intrusive at all in contrary of some other vendors in that category who require a dedicated specific block driver. LightOS is deployed on the storage server transforming it to a NVMe storage array. Version 2.0 of the Global FTL (Flash Translation Layer) introduced a cluster mode with multi-pathing and replication with a N+1 data protection method extended to N+2 planed for the 3.0 release scheduled for the end of the year. To summarize, firm’s differentiators are: 1/ SDS, 2/ Global FTL and 3/ NVMe/TCP driving commodities push.

The company signed a reseller agreement with Dell and Inspur.

It confirms its position in Salesforce backup with the largest market footprint. It has developed the preferred Salesforce data protection solution addressing a famous Salesforce drawback, its inability to protect data. We can understand this for an IaaS vendor but for a SaaS provider this is incredible. And the other surprise is that 88% of Salesforce users don’t backup data at all taking risks and exposing their enterprise to a serious business impact. OwnBackup is recognized as one of the most advanced Salesforce data protection with flexible RPO and RTO. It works one a real CDP mode with a time interval of 2s.

Weebit Nano
Founded in 2014 and traded on the Australian market, it designs and develops ReRAM – Resistive RAM – based on SiOx (Silicon Oxide). ReRAM is promising claiming to be 1,000x faster, 1,000x more energy efficient with 100x high endurance than flash. The team targets to replace flash and provides a cost efficient persistent memory. The market is huge according to Weebit CEO Coby Hanoch and opportunities should come from China thanks to early deals with XTX Technolgoy and SiEn. Production should start at the end of 2020.


April 23, 2020

Igneous and Qumulo enter phase 2 of partnership

Igneous, an emerging player in data management and Qumulo, a leader in file storage, just announced an extension to their partnership in NAS data protection.

It covers essentially Igneous DataProtect - for NAS backup and archives - and DataDiscover - fort fast index and search - and will learn more for DataFlow when it will be ready. With Igneous, Qumulo file servers can be protected by a cloud-based Qumulo instance running on-premises or on AWS or GCP or could be sent directly to AWS, GCP, Azure and even Wasabi.

Does this agreement mean also that Igneous can be sold with Qumulo when Qumulo is sold via Fujitsu and HPE?

The second question is about this reciprocal promotion: Qumulo recommends Igneous for NAS data protection to any cloud and any tier and Igneous recommends Qumulo for NAS backup and archive. Wow Qumulo as a second tier...

What is behind? just a partnership or much more?

We'll learn more during the June IT Press Tour a we got a session with Qumulo.

April 21, 2020

Kaminario pushes its Cloud Data Platform

Kaminario, historical leader in high performance AFA, has confirmed its switch to a real multi-cloud strategy and presence. We had the privilege to organize a session recently with Kaminario to learn more about this adventure. The IT Press Tour in Israel was impacted by the Covid-19 and we did it via Zoom as usual now. We met 4 times Kaminario globally with the tour and this meeting helps us to measure all the progress made by the company for a few years now.

As the session started, we immediately felt a different atmosphere and dynamism when Dani Golan, CEO, jumped into it, refreshed us on the company and the strategy direction towards the cloud.

Kaminario realizes that the public cloud is an obvious choice for users with already 70% of organizations using cloud platforms today. Public cloud is clearly the preferred model and multi-cloud is mandatory to have some opportunities of success confirming the desire for users to be infrastructure agnostic able to offer the fastest time-to-market method to drive digital transformation.

The team has made a clear evolution towards a Cloud Data Platform and the product really rocks. Kaminario is a true believer of the composable infrastructure and promotes the decoupling of the storage from the compute layer to offer business agility and infrastructure flexibility. And to reach the desire state in 2025, Kaminario already started its journey with several key software developments with VisionOS, Clarity, Flex, NVMeoF, container and Kubernetes.

The first key element in the Kaminario approach is the notion of Data Pod which is VisionOS coupled with storage resources such devices and associated networks. Vision OS operates as the data hypervisor able to run on any cloud delivering enterprise class data services. Among them we find:
  • DataShrink for data reduction with compression and deduplication with a high ratio,
  • DataProtect with RAID, snapshot, replication and even AES-256 encryption, up to 8,000 snapshots are supported being just pointers,
  • DataManage with GUI, CLI and RESTful API,
  • DataConnect as an API to integrate vSphere, LogInsight, Microsoft VSS, OpenStack (it's dead), Kubernetes of course and Cisco UCS Director. Hum, why Cisco here, does it mean anything?
The second component is Flex that builds and manages Data Pods, it also assigns them to applications containers in private or public clouds and is able to move them across these clouds. Flex support s AWS, GCP and Azure in a BYOL model as Kaminario is not present at all on any of these cloud marketplace. And the last companion Clarity as the AIOps console to manage and optimize all environments just created.

The team, very early on, understood the need to make its software hardware agnostic to support any infrastructure especially with the cloud coming and most recently with containers and Kubernetes. These 3 key elements - cloud, containers and Kubernetes - coupled with NVMe over Fabrics transform a vision to a reality and makes Kaminario an storage software player fully agnostic of the environment. With such evolution, Kaminario represents today a leading SDS flavor probably one the most advanced on the market.

This approach is supported by a real compelling TCO, reducing costs by 30% over public cloud (example below compares AWS costs), leveraging a right provisioning mode and no cost for snapshot as the technique uses only pointers, meaning that the associated storage space is negligible.

What a journey since the AFA period with physical on-premises deployment a few years ago, the product was really good, to today with a pure software and cloud flavor. We'll monitor carefully Kaminario for the of 2020 as this model should have a real positive impact on their business and make them super attractive.

April 17, 2020

CTERA enters the DevOps world

CTera Networks, leader in file sharing and collaboration for the enterprise, just announced today a new iteration in its product line with an extension towards DevOps.

The team jumps into the development side with a SDK dedicated to DevOps and IT teams to augment their enterprise file services integration and control capabilities. This is a great news for IT admins people and therefore for users. For CTera it's also a way to solidify its footprint. Partners can now embed CTera control capabilities within their own tools very easily and rapidly. The SDK supports Python and is also available as a plug-in for Ansible.

CTera strategy supporting remote users and distributed offices is even more validated by the current worldwide pandemic situation. Such dramatic event confirms the need to automate and provision storage resources like edge filers rapidly, transparently in a very secured way at very large sale. It avoids taking risks with manual configuration and too many repeatable steps. Among key function, the team offers configuration management, IT metrics collection and integration of business logic with enterprise file services. The SDK and Ansible support are available on GitHub.


April 16, 2020

Marc Fleischmann left Datera

Datera just lost one of its founders Marc Fleischmann. It's always a strange feeling when a founder left the company he founded especially here after 7 years of existence and real impact. And here this is pretty strange as the company was in a stellar trajectory and I wonder what is the rationale behind, we'll probably learn more in a few weeks.

Marc Fleischmann co-founded Datera with Nicholas Bellinger and Claudio Fleiner in 2013 as it's one of the Software-Defined Storage pioneer in the block world with Lefthand Networks, Kaminario, Solidfire, ScaleIO, StarWind, StorMagic, Maxta, vSAN at VMware to name a few.

He was CEO from June 2013 to December 2018 then President when Guy Churchward joined as board member first then CEO in December 2018.

So far he's still listed on the leadership age both as President but also as board member. So what's next for Marc?

April 13, 2020

Infinidat confirms a strong market adoption

Infinidat, a leader in high-end storage, did a very interesting session during the recent IT Press Tour transformed into a digital format due to the exceptional situation.

Moshe Yanai, CEO and founder, updated us on the company, the product value proposition and the market climate. To refresh readers, Infinidat sells a super high-end storage array faster than flash, highly scalable, delivering a very low TCO. To achieve that the engineering team mixes DRAM, flash and HDDs. In a nutshell performance are high because hosts write to a remote memory, acting as a write cache, performance is super high as DRAM is faster than flash. No question about that, this is why Infinidat doesn't need to be full flash and users realize that this approach delivers also a compelling price/performance ratio. As HDDs are still less expensive that flash, Infinidat costs less then AFAs.

The current InfiniBox continues to embed 3 batteries, 3 linux servers acting as storage controllers, and 8 JBODs coupling 96 CPU cores, 4.1TB max of RAM, 368TB of flash max and 816 drives (= 8 x 102) for a total of approximately 10PB max of HDDs and delivers 2M+ IOPS.

Recently Infinidat confirmed that more than 6EB has been shipped which represents a key milestones as a company with 3.7EB deployed in Americas, 1.9EB in EMEA and the rest 388PB in APJ. Wow it's huge.

Moshe insisted that the COD - Capacity On Demand - already well adopted and during an uncertain period, it represents a real weapon as users delay new purchases and projects. It's so easy to continue to extend and deploy storage capacity without a pain with internal purchase processes and potential difficulties to contact vendors and them to produce and ship products. Coupled with this is the remote support capabilities that makes IT operations and maintenance transparent for the business.

During this exceptional period, users adopt agility and OpEx represents such model as no budget got approved for CapEx. History has proven that during recession and period right after, cost is the most important metric as users refuse to believe in complex, sometimes hypothetical TCO model.

Three business models are presented, the obvious CapEx one of course, the confirmed now classic COD and the company introduced a new one named FLX as a pure OpEx model. FLX idea is to align purchase behavior to the public cloud with monthly billing, increase and decrease capacity with a minimum of 3 months of subscription, in fact a real elastic model, very common in the public cloud.

Infinidat confirms its go-to-market with 100% indirect sales model with distributors and VARs networks plus system integrators such Capgemini and Accenture...

In terms of customer example, 3 famous examples were displayed, a retail company and Zerto, respectively consolidating 18 arrays into 1 and 12 into 1 and the presentation was concluded by a live moment with Brightsolid, a regional cloud provider based in Scotland.

Coldago Research recent end-users survey shows 2 interesting results, you can download FREE this report here:
  • the first one is about needs and projects and consolidation is still super high,
  • the second one is about end-users block storage vendors rankings and Infinidat is #5 following NetApp, Dell EMC, Hitachi Vantara and Pure Storage but before IBM and HPE.

The team reaffirmed also its Elastic Data Fabric vision with the idea to decouple the data lifecycle from the hardware refresh cycle.

4 key elements support this strategy:
  1. InfiniBox + InfiniGuard Active/Active replication,
  2. FLX acquisition model for both offering,
  3. Hybrid cloud with Infinidat Neutrix Cloud coupled with AWS, GCP or Azure.
  4. and finally a console to manage all sites with InfiniVerse.

The value of Infinidat comes from its advanced cache algorithm based on machine learning (ML) and decades of experiences with strong engineering DNA. ML is used to analyze in realtime workload with a fine grain metadata understanding. Also Neural Cache optimizes data residence, locality and IO operations on 3 tiers - DRAM, flash and HDD - to deliver high performance - high cache hit ratio in read and write mode (write is easy as the ack is made in cache) - as a very efficient cost with 1:90 TB of RAM vs. Flash and 1:2400 vs. HDD.

Neutrix Cloud is the 4th model promoted by Infinidat this time connected to giant's cloud.

Infinidat is a good example of Software-Defined Storage delivered as an appliance for high end needs. Here SDS transforms a farm of servers and JBODs into a large storage pool exposed via file and block access methods. Consolidation goes beyond block for many user and they need to glue NAS to finally consider an unified storage approach and Infinidat is very well positioned for such needs.

We need to pay attention carefully to Infinidat in 2020 gaining market share regularly.

April 7, 2020

Atavium lands on Quantum field

Quantum, a leader in secondary storage, just swallowed Atavium and reorganizes engineering division with new comers from the acquired company. I wrote in 2017 two of the rare articles about Atavium, you can read them here and here.

Ed Fiore, former CEO of Atavium now leads the primary storage effort and we understand it covers the block storage F-Series, Quantum end-to-end NVMe product, and we can expect some file system activity as well. The second nomination is related to secondary storage with the lead of Bruno Hald, a 25 years Quantum veteran, confirming the DNA of the company.

With that Quantum reaffirms its focus to unstructured data also fueled by recent ActiveScale acquisition from Western Digital. 2020 starts pretty well for Quantum and we expect to see soon new developments and product iterations.