Consumer Tech Shows Up in Business Storage Products

Blu-ray disks, home media storage center showcase the trend of low-end technology moving upstream to enterprise markets

October 16, 2008

6 Min Read
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One of the key technology trends in recent years has been the migration of innovation from the consumer technology market into the enterprise IT market. The same thing may be starting to happen in storage.

We've seen advancements in wireless (think smartphones, WiFi, touchscreens) and other fields (cloud services) have a major impact on user expectations of what services and capabilities should be available in the workplace. And if IT doesn't make those services available, users will bring them into the office on their own and do an end-around the IT department. Add to that the appearance of technologies like solid-state drives (once only seen in personal music players) in high-end enterprise storage systems, and it's clear that technical advances are moving upstream as frequently as they're moving downstream.

One example of a business storage vendor taking advantage of consumer technology is on display at Storage Networking World in Dallas this week. PowerFile Inc. is showing off its version of "hybrid storage" in an archiving system that uses standard disks at the front end to take in data and then stores it for the long term on a massive array of optical Panasonic Blu-ray disks.

"We can get 140 TB of raw storage in a standard 42U rack," says CEO Kirk Dunn. "With compression, we can get about 250 TB in a rack. And because it is optical, it takes less power than any other form of storage."

Using optical technology best known for showing high-definition movies on DVDs solves several problems, Kirk argues. The main one is longevity. "Panasonic estimates these disks will last 30 to 50 years, and it is a good way to avoid the constant data migration problems IT managers have as they move from one technology to another for long-term archiving," he says. It also keeps data online and accessible and it offers low costs. "It is easy to manage and it doesn't cost much to operate, power or cool," he says. The street price of the company's appliance runs between $1.50 and $3 a GB.Earlier in the year, Powerfile released its Archive Facilitator appliance, which takes data and archives it on the vendor's other appliances, the A3 and PSA series, which store data on 50-Gbyte Blu-ray media. The Archive Facilitator, like Powerfile's other appliances, is sold as a turnkey unit with all hardware and software included. A basic box, licensed to migrate about 25 Tbytes to 50 Tbytes of storage to the A3 or PSA boxes, costs about $40,000.

Also announced today was Iomega Corp. (NYSE: IOM)'s StorCenter ix2, a storage appliance rolled out by the EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) unit for the home and small office market that promises ease of use, high-end features, and large capacity at entry-level prices. Offering 1 TB for $330 and 2 TB for $480, the two-drive NAS box includes support for Active Directory and Bluetooth, and has the ability to work with security camera systems, display pictures, and videos on a big-screen TV. It also includes security from RSA, another EMC company. It uses EMC's LifeLine software, a Linux operating environment and suite of storage management applications.

Touted as a streaming media hub for the home as well as a secure and easy-to-manage system for small businesses, the company says a user can set up and configure the storage appliance with four mouse clicks. It is compatible with Windows, the MAC OS, and Linux. Data is stored on two SATA-II drives.

"With 75 percent of all data being created by individuals, we wanted to bring all of the advanced storage technologies available within the EMC family into a single device," Iomega president Jonathan Huberman told ByteandSwitch. "This can be a primary system for the home user or a small business, or for larger businesses like an insurance company that have thousands of small offices that look like small businesses."

Also announced today, Carbonite Inc. upgraded its online backup services for consumers and small businesses with an easier interface that lets customers search for and restore files by name, file type, and date. It also said it has improved performance for user's initial scan and backup upload.Of course, most of the storage news announced this week is focused on the enterprise market, although more companies are trying to bring high-end features to the mid-market.

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IBM Storage Systems Group , for example, today announced it is repackaging its storage virtualization software into the SAN Volume Controller Entry Edition to appeal to the SMB market, which it called one of the fastest growing segments of the storage marketplace. The SVC software is designed to create consolidated virtual pools of storage and improve storage utilization rates while making it easier for administrators to manage and move growing amounts of data.

The biggest change for the disk virtualizing appliance is pricing. "We're pricing it on a per-drive basis, rather than a per-terabyte basis, to make it more affordable. And we've also cut the price," said Charlie Andrews, a director of marketing for IBM System Storage. An SVC Entry Edition managing a four TB configuration using 10 500-GB drives will cost around $40,000, down from around $63,000, while a system to manage 14 TBs on 35 drives will cost around $64,500, down from around $111,000, he said.

Andrews acknowledged to ByteandSwitch that SMBs won't see the highest performance if they're using lower-cost disks and the SVC Entry Edition, but said system performance will be fine for most customers and can be upgraded by using faster disks. IBM also announced that the SAN Volume Controller interoperates with the new IBM XIV Storage System, the IBM System Storage DS5000, and the IBM System z/VSE, as well as Microsoft Hyper-V, HDS Universal Storage Platform, and HP XP20000/XP24000.Mimosa Systems Inc. today announced the Tiered Storage Option add-on module to its NearPoint Live Content Archiving Platform, which lets administrators set policies to automate migration of email and file information while preserving integrity for legal and compliance requirements.

"We give people an infinite mailbox, but we also preserve a forensically sound copy that is searchable at the item level," said Scott Whitney, vice president of product management at Mimosa.

The new module lets users deploy mixed storage devices, provides file-level and partner-provided block-level data de-duplication, uses policies to automatically migrate data between devices, easily change retention policies, monitor and report on storage pools at each tier, and provides an audit log.

SteelEye Technology Inc. announced its Protection Suite for Linux Multi-Site Cluster, which extends its business continuity products by letting companies with shared-storage Linux clusters replicate over a WAN to an off-site node for disaster recovery. It supports Red Hat, Novell, Oracle and CentOS Linux distributions and offers automatic switching between all-clustered systems.

C2C Systems said it was extending its Archive One system to provide automated, policy-based record retention, discovery, and search for Microsoft Windows file systems. The system offers automated data management, and helps administrators deal with compliance, e-discovery, and storage capacity management. The company said it can handle one million messages an hour.0

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