Vendor Metamorphosis, Or Resurrection?

Back in July, I was skeptical that longtime tape automation vendors Tandberg Data and Overland Storage would successfully transit the tempest that is the SMB storage market in the recession. Both are announcing products and road maps that fit their SMB customers better, and Overland has both managed to raise another $12 million and hire Geoff Barrall to be their CTO, which could keep them around long enough to deliver on the vision. MAID pioneer Copan wasn't so lucky, however.

Howard Marks

March 4, 2010

4 Min Read
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Back in July, I was skeptical that longtime tape automation vendors Tandberg Data and Overland Storage would successfully transit the tempest that is the SMB storage market in the recession. Both are announcing products and road maps that fit their SMB customers better, and Overland has both managed to raise another $12 million and hire Geoff Barrall to be their CTO, which could keep them around long enough to deliver on the vision. MAID pioneer Copan wasn't so lucky, however.

The core of Overland's vision is to make the transition from collecting 80 percent of revenue from HP's OEM tape automation sales to resurrecting the once incredibly valuable SnapServer brand. Their new CEO, Eric Kelly, has an attachment to Snap, having been part of the team that bought it from Quantum for $10 million and sold it to Adaptec for $100 million, now bringing it to Overland for $3 million. As often as Snap's been bought and sold, a guy could make a good living just being their investment banker. Kelly's made some good decisions at Overland, killing off their Ultamus SAN array being at the top of my list.

I had lunch with Eric and Overland's marketing and sales VP Jillian Mansolf a couple of weeks ago, and they get that the keys to the SMB market are making things easy to use and developing channel loyalty. This is, by the way, a model that the pre-Dell Equallogic executed very well.

Now they've added Barrall, who founded BlueArc, which makes high-speed NAS devices. Barrall also founded Data Robotics, which makes the Drobo NAS, and he developed the "Beyond RAID" technology that allows a NAS to use different sized disks in a RAID array. Barrall clearly understands how to make a successful NAS company, so I won't count Overland among the walking wounded just yet.

The new S2000 iSCSI array isn't just a re-package of the iSCSI target Snap servers have had for years. They've re-written both the iSCSI target to make it faster, and the user interface, replacing the web GUI with Windows plug-ins that greatly simplify provisioning. They've also added a vCenter plugin and high availability for VMware via replication and failover. With SAS and SATA options and expandability to 120TB via SAS JBODs, S2000 is competitive with other entry-level SAN arrays like HP's MSA and Dell Equallogic and is probably a step up form EMC's AX.Even if it's just for sentimental reasons I hope Eric and his team can turn Overland and Snap around.  After all there was a time when NAS brought NetApp and Snap to mind.

Tandberg Data recently made the brilliant move of buying Exabyte, just as disk-to-disk backup became the new conventional wisdom, leaving them supporting four-tape format families, two of which, SLR and VXA, were proprietary.  They were batting .500 in their first two attempts to move into the disk market, scoring a single with the RDX removable cartridges and a strike on the DPS1000 iSCSI VTL.  I just don't see the need for a VTL in the SMB market where there's only one media server and you can use NAS or even DAS with acceptable performance at half the cost and complexity.

Their latest product the DPS2000 NAS is a 4-bay, Linux-based unit with an Atom processor that Tandberg is packaging in both rack-mount and desktop cases for secondary storage applications like back-up and video surveillance.  It has features like remote replication and the ability to grow capacity without losing data by swapping out a drive for a bigger one, and then waiting for the rebuild to complete before swapping out the next. The low-end NAS market is very competitive with Buffalo, SnapServer, EMC's Iomega, NetGear and an apparent cast of thousands pushing  their systems to SMBs.

To stand out in that crowd Tandberg's bundled AccuGard backup software for Windows, an OEM version of Data Storage Group's DS Shield Professional that has built-in data deduplication. They're also bundling AccuGard with their RDX kit, which could be a great solution for SMBs. A 640GB RDX cartridge with dedupe should hold all a typical SMB's data, and is a much better solution to removable back-up than any low-end tape drive like DAT 160.

Finally SGI (actually Rackable), who bought SGI last year and adopted the moniker, snapped up Copan's assets for $2 million. MAID will live on but the limits of Copan's revolution -- mostly that its power supplies could only spin up a quarter of its drives at a time along with other vendors implementing spin down -- left Copan without a competitive advantage.

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at: http://www.deepstorage.net/NEW/GBoS

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