MonoSphere's Back in New 'Capacity'

After failing at virtualization, startup gives storage capacity planning a shot

October 1, 2005

3 Min Read
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MonoSphere Inc., which failed with virtualization software the first time around, is back with a storage capacity planning application. (See MonoSphere Releases App.)

MonoSphere resurfaced this week with Storage Horizon, after learning hard lessons with the virtualization software it started shipping in 2002 but had trouble selling. (See MonoSphere Whirls Out and MonoSphere Feeds Funds Into R&D.) We learned that most users had a strong preference to buy that class of product from big players,” MonoSphere CEO Ray Villeneuve says.

By 2003, he shook the dust from his heels. MonoSphere picked up $11.25 million in funding in late 2003 to fund a makeover and hauled in another $6 million from its previous VCs in August 2005 to bring the total for the 25-person Redwood City, California startup to $30 million.

Villeneuve hired a new engineering team. They scrapped the original software that let users pool heterogeneous storage resources. Instead, the startup developed a capacity planning tool for customers who find storage resource management (SRM) and other tools inadequate to manage storage capacity.

Villeneuve says many storage administrators are still using spreadsheets to handle capacity planning. He says MonoSphere’s design goal was to bring capacity planning capabilities that exist for mainframes and network servers to open storage.Storage Horizon’s dashboard interface can show users volumes that are close to full or underutilized. It also has a forecasting engine that projects volume sizes over the next 90 days. The application will send email alerts if volumes are in danger of reaching capacity or if usage deviates from its forecasts. Storage Horizon will also track utilization by specific applications, such as Oracle, SQL Server, or Exchange.

The application is agent-less, using Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), and Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) protocols to grab information from storage assets. Villeneuve hopes Storage Horizon’s price tag -- it starts at $50,000 -- will sway enterprise customers who already have SRM to give it a try.

Now, it’s no secret that many large enterprises are using far below half of their storage capacity. MonoSphere’s challenge is to prove it can handle capacity planning better, if not cheaper, than existing tools. And there are range of those available.

Most storage resource management (SRM) applications take a stab at capacity planning. It’s also included in change management software from Onaro Inc., and in reporting and monitoring applications from vendors such as DataCore Software Corp., ServerGraph Inc., Tek-Tools Inc., and WysDM Software . Equipment vendors such as 3PAR Inc., Compellent Technologies Inc., and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) attack the problem by thin provisioning.

MonoSphere hopes to make its mark by dedicating itself entirely to capacity planning as distinct from other functions. Since the company hasn't announced any customer wins, it remains to be seen whether the market buys off on the idea of having a standalone capacity management solution, versus one that comes with other NAS, SAN, or SRM gear.“We’ve found a hole here that we can fill,” says Villeneuve. This time, he hopes the filling-in doesn't leave him empty-handed.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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