The Coming of the StoreAge

Virtualization vendor wins real European contract, and expands R&D -- bish Bosch!

July 17, 2001

3 Min Read
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Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) investment in StoreAge Networking Technologies Ltd. is beginning to pay off. The Israeli startup has just doubled its R&D capacity, and won a major contract with German wasch machine giant Robert Bosch GmbH (see StoreAge Opens New HQ and StoreAge Bags Big Bosch Deal).

Morgan Keegan & Company Inc., Cisco, and other private investors took part in a $25 million round of investment in StoreAge in January, but little has been known about the company until now.

Partly that's because the startup has been frugal with the cash. There was no point in rushing to spend the money in this climate,” says Eli Shapira, CEO of StoreAge [ed.note: StoreAge Man?]. “We have been very cautious to spend it wisely, as there’s not so much around anymore."

Still, StoreAge hasn't been idle: It's used the funding to double its floor space with a new 8,000-square-foot facility in Nesher, Israel. It also plans to “significantly” increase its engineering headcount in the near future, as well as setting up sales and marketing offices in the U.S. Right now it has one office in Scottsdale, Ariz., that is used for technical support

It currently employs 50 engineers in R&D who are working on improvements to its SAN virtualization product -- the Storage Virtualization Manager (SVM). By the end of the year it expects to offer mirroring, replication, and migration services on top of the virtualization.Bosch officials say that their company will save “millions of dollars versus other systems" in total cost of ownership by deploying SVM across its European data centers. However, they declined to disclose details on the cost savings or how much the deal with StoreAge is worth.

The initial rollout includes the networking of more than 100 servers with over 15 terabytes of storage, Bosch says.

“This is a major endorsement of StoreAge’s technology,” says Dan Tanner, analyst with the Aberdeen Group. “It's important because StoreAge has taken a different approach to deploying virtualization than most of the market.”

Virtualization lets IT managers use multiple storage devices as a single, “virtual” pool -- rather than manually assigning specific devices for specific applications.

A key benefit of virtualization is that it makes for more efficient use of existing storage by cutting the cost and time involved in managing it.There are two ways to implement it: asymmetric (a.k.a. "out-of-band") virtualization, versus symmetric ("in-band") virtualization.

In-band is the most popular method, with StorageApps, DataCore Software, Vicom Systems Inc.,and FalconStor Software Inc. and others playing in this space. Here the idea is to have an appliance sitting between the server and the storage systems. The device handles the the exchange of all information required to move the data between the two, taking the burden off the devices at either end of the system.

The downside to this approach, critics say, is that the appliance itself can become a bottleneck on the network.

Which is why StoreAge claims its out-of-band approach is superior. With this method, the virtualization software resides on the server and the storage systems, with an appliance "on the side." The read/write commands go directly from server to storage and back, in theory making throughput much faster as the network is not burdened with any decision making.

The control information about the data -- i.e., when it was created, what it’s for, and so on -- resides on the appliance and can be updated when necessary. Unlike in-band systems, this control data does not have to travel with the actual data across the network each time it is accessed.There is a downside to this architecture, too, which is that it is more vulnerable to spoofing (when a rogue server takes control of the data).

It's important to note, however, that so far neither side of the debate has come up with any benchmark tests to prove their method is faster.

It's also worth noting that Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ) supports the out-of-band approach with its VersaStor system (see Compaq Gains on Virtualization) -- which does StoreAge no harm.

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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