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Summer Weddings: EMC+Datadomain and HP+IBRIX

July 18, 2009 – 9:57 am

Storage I/O trends

Are you friend or family of the bride or groom?

Here’s comes the bride! (Audio)

That’s a question me and Mrs. Schulz were asked recently when we attended a wedding.

Summer months particularly June and August are known as wedding months (Hmmm, more merger & acquisition activity to come?). Summer is a nice time of the year for marriages at least in the U.S. and how ironic that we have already seen two well publicized IT data storage industry unions in the past couple of weeks, not to mention other smaller less publicized ones.

In one case, the California based bride (Datadomain-DDUP) had two courtiers (Massachusetts based EMC and California based NetApp, plus rumors of others). Fortunately one of those had a prenuptial that earned them a cool $57 million for their efforts (NetApp-NTAP) when EMC won the bride. Read more including some of my comments and perspectives among others about EMC, NTAP and DDUP here and here.

Yesterday, on a mid-July Friday, when things are normally quiet, in true wedding industry forum, news was released (here and here) that California based HP announced that it had bought Massachusetts based data and storage management software vendor IBRIX.

That’s a lot of activity involving California and Massachusetts in the past couple of weeks, not to mention the tornado sightings in the vicinity of EMCs Hopington Massachusetts headquarters coincidently around the same time the marriage to DDUP was formerly announced! What’s’ next, Aerosmith is out on tour, perhaps the Del Fuegos or Boston will perform at one of these wedding parties?

Within the data storage industry, publicly traded Datadomain (DDUP) is fairly well known to many for their role in helping to popularize the data footprint impact reduction technique refereed to as de-duplication (e.g. normalization, commonality factoring, intelligent compression, etc.). Adding to the awareness of DDUP was the recent highly public courtship with EMC eventually out-bidding NTAP with a dowry of about $2.1B USD. That type of press coverage and monetary amounts might normally be expected for the likes of a Madonna, Brittney Spears, Michael Jackson-RIP, Paris Hilton, Elizabeth Taylor or other celebrity unions covered by paparazzi with a similar number of attorneys involved.

On the other hand, IBRIX while known to some, is a lessor known entity compared to DDUP having taken a lower profile than even some of their close competitors. However for those who have been following and covering the clustered storage market (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here ), IBRIX is a well known entity.

IBRIX also has had ties to EMC having been involved in a pre-mari age affair with an reseller arrangement along with being "rumored" ;) to have been involved with ATMOS cloud or policy based storage solution formerly known as "Hulk". IBRIX has also quietly been involved with others like Dell as well as HP in similar to EMC reseller arrangements. Where IBRIX has been positioned is to address high performance, scale out parallel or concurrent clustered file system needs, both big and small I/O, sequential and random data storage and access. For example, in the media/entertainment and other industries along with enabling large Internet providers a bulk (low cost, high capacity) scale-out NAS (NFS & CIFS) option.

One of the reasons that IBRIX has been involved with the likes of EMC, Dell and HP among others is that unlike other vendors such as BlueArc, the once high-flying Isilon, NetApp, Onstor or Panasas, not to mention EMC Cellera NAS , is that those solutions are all bundled with proprietary hardware while IBRIX is software based. Where IBRIX Fusion fits is to enable NAS storage solutions using industry standard hardware (servers and storage) that are capable of being configured for both high performance compute (HPC) along with for low-cost general purpose bulk storage to support Web 2.0, social networking, home directories or on-line archives.

Consequently, and HP or Dell who just happen to sell servers, have had the ability of meeting large scale out and scale up NAS file serving applications by re-selling IBRIX installed on their servers or blade servers with either their own entry to mid-range lower cost, high performance and high capacity storage along with that of 3rd party vendors.

Ironically one of IBRIX’s competitors in the software NAS solution market was and remains PolyServe, software that HP acquired a couple of years ago to create their own scale out NAS solution (e.g. EFS). Other software based solutions include among others Lustre (Sun), CXFS (SGI), EMC ATMOS (I’m sure some will argue this is not scale out or NAS, will leave it at that for now) ;) not to mention those from IBM, Microsoft, Quantum (also re-sold by HP) or Symantec.

What does HP get with IBRIX?

Simple, the ability to own the IP (intellectual proprietary) that one of their competitors had been "rumored" to have been working with at one point, IP that their competitors had been reselling like themselves.

Thus HP gets more software IP that can and has been sold along with their hardware such as the Proliant servers and blade servers giving their customers choice, similar to what HP and other vendors do with their open servers. For example, HP had the ExDS9000 extreme storage system built on a blade server with high density, low cost, high capacity HP storage (e.g. HP Modular Disk System 600, HP MSA or even EVA).

This makes for a nice solution for bulk on-line and near-line storage applications where the emphasis is not as much on performance, rather massive scalability for storing on-line documents, archives, videos, images and other unstructured content which is where there is a lot of growth activity. The challenge is that the ExDS9x00 has only been available with the HP PolyServe software which works good for some environments, yet, for others, the clustered file system scale out capabilities of IBRIX were deployed.

With the addition of IBRIX, HP now should be able to provide their customers and prospects the choice of software to meet specific needs while maintaining an HP footprint, that is both hardware, software and services. HP has several different storage software stacks that they now own (e.g. Lefthand for clustered iSCSI, PolyServe for NFS/CIFS NAS, IBRIX for Clustered File system scale out NAS) not to mention those that it OEMS including among others Bycast (Medical Archive System) that is also OEM’d by IBM as their Medical Grid combined with IBM SOFS, Quantum StorNext and Microsoft Windows Storage Server and Sepaton (VTL and Dedupe) to name a few.

Do I think this was a good move by HP?

Yes as it gives them control over IP that they had been reselling as had some of their competitors who left IBRIX to HP to grab up. HP now has the IP which they can package with their hardware similar to how they have been doing, and giving customers choices to align the right hardware and software technology to the task at hand.

Whether it be Bycast for medical archiving, PolyServe or IBRIX for scale out NAS, Lefthand for clustered iSCSI, Sepaton for VTL and dedupe, Microsoft, Quantum StorNext for shared block storage serving or any of the other software packages HP offers with their industry standard servers, the customer has options.

For IBRIX customers and prospects, this move will give them a boost in a confidence that their decisions and investments are safe.

Ironically, vendors like Symantec with their Scaleable File Serving (SFS) clustered NAS solution that is also software based and runs on anyone’s open servers including those from HP gets a potential shot in the arm with HP validating the model and approach for bulk-storage and clustered NAS (Oh Mr. Salem, Mr. Dell is holding on Line 1, Mr. Chambers is on line 2 and Mr. Ellison on line 3 ;) )

Who’s going to be at the alter next? IMHO, I would keep an eye on (and this all just pure speculation) Bycast, Symantec, EMLX (Broadcom was a wake up call), Quantum, Sepaton, STEC, StorMagic, or ACS, maybe even 3PAR among other possibilities (think outside of the lines). I would not rule out a major game changer such as someone buying NetApp or the likes of an HP buying an EMC or Oracle buying a CSC, maybe even a CSCO buying someone like NTAP, how about Oracle buying NTAP and putting some attorneys out of work, not to mention, who will MSFT hook up with? Anything is possible as we have seen and traditional M&A wisdom is out the window.

Have fun at the next wedding you attend, go easy on the cake and wedding punch, especially if you will be doing any dancing (please, no You tube videos of the chicken dance) and be careful throwing rice or other items.

Ok, nuff said.

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
twitter @storageio

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