Pillar Makes Software Axiomatic

Turns to partners to add VTL and CDP to management suite

July 20, 2006

4 Min Read
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Pillar Data is packaging virtual tape library (VTL) and continuous data protection (CDP) software into the suite used to manage its storage systems.

Pillar will officially unveil its AxiomOne software suite next week, although most of the pieces have been shipping since the well-funded startup's Axiom systems launched 13 months ago. (See Pillar Leaves Post At Last.)

AxiomOne consists of the Pillar operating system, file system, performance manager for quality of service, capacity planning, and the volume and file replication it has shipped from the start. The new features are CDP and VTL for disk backup, and WORM capabilities for compliance.

The single suite is part of Pillar's plan to make its system self-contained, supporting SAN, NAS, and multiple storage tiers in one box. The idea is to give customers management and data protection features in one package along with its controllers and disk enclosures; or "slammers and bricks," respectively, in Pillar-speak.

Pillar's software isn't all that innovative, though. Much of it comes from partners, and some key features now come from a rival. Pillar gets its CDP and volume replication from an OEM deal with Kashya, which EMC acquired in May (See EMC Coughs Up for Kashya.) The VTL comes from an OEM deal with FalconStor, which also supplies VTL software to EMC, IBM, and Sun. Signiant is Pillar's file-replication partner.Russ Kennedy, Pillar's senior director of marketing and strategy, admits the vendor is keeping its eye out for a new volume replication and CDP partner because EMC might decide it's not a good idea to keep doing business with a pesky startup trying to muscle in on its SAN and NAS business.

Pillar customers seem to like the integration of the features into one package, especially quality of service. Nick DeMonner, CTO of college athletic recruiting service AthletiShare, says he's spent little time on the management features since installing an Axiom in December. And that's a good thing.

"I like that you don't have to have any external management software," DeMonner says. "I've worked with SANs in other jobs where you needed four or five pieces of software for their feature set. I think we've touched the management software just two or three times to make adjustments to our quality of service. And with one vendor, we don't have to worry about compatibility issues."

Las Vegas Review-Journal infrastructure manager Steven Olson says he considers Pillar's built-in quality of service as innovative as the system architecture. Pillar lets administrators assign values to applications, giving higher priority to critical data.

"I guarantee you other companies will follow suit and copy their quality of service," Olson says. "I expect to see everybody follow them."But Pillar is still following the pack in some regards. The Axiom system remains SATA only, with Fibre Channel drives not expected until next month. And those drives will be 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel. Although Axion will support 4-Gbit/s on the front end in August, 4-Gbit/s back-end support to the hard drives won't arrive until next year.

Pillar will enter the SMB space later this year with an iSCSI system, trailing NetApp and perhaps EMC's push to expand down market. (See NetApp Zeroes In on SMBs and EMC Eyes SMB Push.) NetApp is shipping its StoreVault SMB system and EMC plans an expansion of its low-end AX platform.

While Olson and DeMonner give Pillar high marks for simplicity, they also see the need for high-performance Fibre drives.

"Ultimately, 7,200-RPM SATA is not going to deliver the performance of 15,000-RPM Fibre connectivity," Olson says.

DeMonner thinks that if AthletiShare expands, it will require that performance boost. The firm allows high schools to upload digital videos of their football prospects to its Website, where college recruiters can access them. DeMonner hopes to eventually expand into basketball and perhaps other sports."We're looking into Fibre Channel, but now it's not a huge priority for us," he says. "We don't have a big number of customers downloading at the same time yet, so the bandwidth advantages of Fibre Channel aren't that important. If we move into other sports and conquer the world, we'll need it."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC)

  • IBM Storage Systems Group

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Pillar Data Systems Inc.

  • Signiant Corp.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.

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