Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/07/05/qantum_big_data_and_cloud/

Quantum says it's back and ready to join the storage fray

'The cloud is nothing new'

By Chris Mellor

Posted in Storage, 5th July 2011 09:30 GMT

Comment Quantum is heading towards big data and the cloud. It will produce its own big data arrays with StorNext software controlling them, and add cloud storage tiers for DXi and StorNext.

The company is a legacy tape vendor, being a member of the LTO consortium as well as a manufacturer of Scalar tape libraries, which has transitioned to add DXi deduplicating drive arrays for backup data and StorNext heterogeneous file management software popular in the media world. NetApp has just announced it is reselling StorNext software.

At Quantum's San Jose HQ, CEO Jon Gacek said he didn't originally feel very positive about a StorNext deal with NetApp, as StorNext would turn NetApp's FAS arrays into plain disk. He said he didn't like it "until they bought Engenio, which is plain disk". NetApp bundles StorNext with Engenio and "the E3000 Full Motion Video is the first product". Said Gacek: "I like that deal."

Quantum CEO Jon Gacek

Jon Gacek, Quantum's CEO, makes a point.

NetApp is also now a supplier to Quantum; the DXi8500 is based on Engenio disk shelves.

Will Quantum sell its own drive arrays bundled with StorNext? "I think you'll see us selling an appliance with disk and StorNext," says Gacek, although Quantum mustn't compete with its disk array partners. "We sell 6x the hardware with a dollar of StorNext software. We should get some of that."

Gacek continued: "We're going to have a series of StorNext appliances focused on specific user problems."

About StorNext, he said: "When you sell a dollar of StorNext you sell $5 to $6 of disk. The disk array vendors like it. HP, IBM, DDN: they'll all sell it."

StorNext will connect with LTFS: "We'll believe LTFS is a good thing. StorNext will be capable of LTFS exchanges and interaction."

DXi and Pancetera

Quantum bought VMware virtual backup specialist Pancetera last month. Gacek said: "Pancetera allows to provide solutions of DXI and StorNext products in virtualised areas. We sell into virtualised environments today. With Pancetera DXi will be differentiated from Data Domain there."

"Pancetera's Unite SW cracks open a virtual machine (VM) and clears it out – then we can move the data quickly and dedupe it. We're moving the technology into our DXI roadmap and it will allow DXI software to run in a VM with no hardware.

"Pancetera's Smart Motion software is not a backup app, but we can use it to move data and get rid of the backup headache for certain apps. It gives us the idea of virtual backup appliance with dedupe and scrubbing... We can combine Unite and Stornext to move files from a VM to StorNext... We're going to be very aggressive here. We're going to have products... Backup is old and boring. Virtualisation is young and hot."

Currently Quantum has its v2.0 DXi deduplication software rolled out on two of its DXi products. Gacek said: "I'm very focused on getting that product out on our whole portfolio. Today we're selling two products. In a month, v2 will be across all DXi products."

Asked about flash storage and the DXi products, chief technology officer Mark Himelstein said: "We already have flash in some of the DXi boxes ... [They] have dedupe metadata on SSDs. The DXi 8500s do not. We will look at each generation and do what's right."

Quantum_CTO_Mark_Himelstein

Mark Himelstein, Quantum's chief technology officer.

Will 3-bit multi-level cell (MLC) flash make flash more affordable? Himelstein said: "We're hopeful. At some point I'm hoping the cost and performance relationship changes so we could look at flash as a great big memory. I know of at least two startups looking to create all-flash arrays. We won't be at the leading edge but we'll be there."

The cloud tier

What about Quantum and the cloud? According to Gacek, the cloud is nothing new: "When I hear cloud it's about centralisation and sharing, about consolidating a bunch of resources in the same centre and sharing them with people. It's not a brand new idea."

But: "We'll play in the cloud for sure. Our products will catch and throw to the cloud ... I think StorNext is a key cloud technology for us."

Himelstein said: "We're well on the way for using the cloud as another tier of storage ... StorNext and DXi both see cloud as another tier of storage and can take advantage of dedupe."

He pointed out: "DXis replicate today ... We could add a cloud spigot to DXi, and add Fuse, and it makes cloud look like a filesystem. We're figuring out what the right technologies are for doing this."

He is careful to say that he is speaking from a technological possibility point of view. It is Quantum's business and product people who decide about products and he doesn't speak for them, he said.

Tape innovation and business

Asked about Quantum's business, Gacek said: "We make money on tape but we lose money on disk and software. The break even on disk and software is $30m to $40m a year. ... We have a 22 to 23 per cent market share in tape."

We make money on tape but we lose money on disk and software.

The general strategy is to make money in a flat or declining overall tape market, win new customers and take advantage of channel stress. Gacek pointed to Oracle as the cause: "Our biggest tape competitor has been StorageTek/Sun. Oracle buying them has changed that. Oracle is not a channel company. Tactically they've raised maintenance pricing and gone direct with many accounts."

Quantum reckons it can pick up dissatisfied Oracle tape channel players because of this.

Will Quantum bring out a high-end library? No, it won't; the i6000 will stay at the top the library range and there is no StreamLIne 8500 or Spectra T-Finity-class product coming. Quantum may add more than 8 frames to the i6000 and thus increase its scalability. The main focus is going to be on increasing library availability, reliability and software functionality.

Quantum will innovate to accelerate the access to tape data. How about deduping tape contents to increase the effective capacity?

Quantum Scalar i6000

Scalar i6000 Tape LIbrary.

Himelstein said: "Putting dedupe data on tape is possible .. LTO has multiple channels [and] you can partition the tape ... It's what you need. It is a reasonable idea. ... The data [space] on the tape can be sufficient to be context-inclusive [referring to the dedupe metadata]. We do this already today with our DXi replication technology."

This is a theoretical discussion though. There are no products promised.

With recent good results and the Pancetera acquisition it looks as if Quantum now back from its hard times. Gacek is optimistic: "Our business health is very good. We'll be close to paying off all our senior debt this year ... I use a sports analogy. It's the start of the season. We look as if we can compete with everybody. Now we have to go and play, show we can grow. I'm a sports guy. You have to be aggressive. We have to get used to that attitude. It's all about winning and growing."

Once Gacek gets Quantum making money from the DXI products and from StorNext, then Quantum will have three profitable businesses instead of one and be in a whole lot better shape. Its branded tape business is already good and the OEM agreements for the i6000 with HP and StorNext – with NetApp providing validation support – should encourage channel support. Quantum is back to health and about to join in the storage fray as a full-time player again. ®