Talking Storage with Jerome Wendt, DCIG: Part One
I had a chance to sit down with Jerome Wendt, founder and principal at DCIG, an analyst firm that is heavily focused on data center technologies, with deep roots in the storage industry. Jerome and I have known each other for years, and he was gracious enough to talk through areas of recent focus and provide a little more detail on the work he and others at his firm have been doing with the Buyer’s Guides. The following is the first in a two-part conversation with Jerome.
Don: I know we're entering a very busy tradeshow and event season that began as far back as the late March, early April timeframe with SNW. You've been to most of the events that have taken place over the past 4-6 weeks and are in Boston this week attending the Dell Storage Forum. What have you seen that’s particularly interesting, and what are you seeing develop?
I guess what caught me most recently at Symantec Vision was just how much they are talking about backup appliances. That has clearly piqued the interest of their user base and, in talking to the folks at Symantec, it's just going gangbusters in terms of how fast the adoption of their NetBackup and Backup Exec appliances are going, specifically the NetBackup appliance.
Apparently this has been a real pain point in organizations. The time it takes to buy the backup hardware, buy the backup software, assemble it and then deploy it could take four to eight weeks, even up to three months to complete. Now it's just submit a purchase order against a specific SKU, you install it, and then, in 30 minutes or less, you got a fully functional NetBackup appliance up and running.
As I look around the industry at competitors, a company that I'm not terribly familiar with is Unitrends. It also does backup appliances. If you look at their web site, they’re also showing record growth - along the lines of 14 consecutive quarters of growth.
So clearly backup appliances are a huge trend in the industry right now, and I think you will see more of that going forward. You like to think backup has been addressed, but it really is not. One of the most fundamental tasks in the process – getting a backup appliance in place – is still a big problem for organizations.
Another thing caught my attention recently was when I was at Interop. I've been to Interop once or twice before, and it was always very networking focused. But this year I saw a lot more cloud storage and managed service providers. It's not as if they were not there before, but there is definitely a direction towards providing these types of cloud services.
I spent two full days at Interop just talking to people (vendors and attendees) to understand what they're doing, how their products are changing and what's going on in storage, storage networking, cloud storage and cloud computing. So even in conferences like Interop that tended to have a strong network bent, I am seeing a real shift in the user challenges that vendors are trying to address.
Don: Most importantly I know you have spent a lot of time, energy and effort with the team at DCIG on the Buyer's Guides. I know you just came out with the Big Data Tape Library Buyer's Guide that was well-received. I'm curious to get the reaction and your take. Also what can we expecting the focus on the Buyer's Guide to be in the coming months?
Jerome: One of the things that we debated internally at DCIG was if we even wanted to do a tape-based Buyer’s Guide. We weren’t even sure there would be interest, or it would be viable to do. In other words, is it something that people would still be interested in, and will there be interest in the Buyer’s Guide topic once it is produced?
What we began to find as we were doing this research is that Big Data in the cloud really lends itself well to tape. Since it is unstructured data, sometimes the value of that data is hard to quantify, plus it often needs to be kept for long periods of time.
People also don't want to pay for the operational costs. One thing we began to see as we're doing this Buyer’s Guide is that once you get data on the tape media, it could essentially stay there forever. There is not a lot of the wearing that normally goes on during backups. It is a “store once, keep forever” type concept and that really plays to tape's strengths - plus there is really no operational costs.
You do not have to power it up. You do not have to keep it cool. You put it on the shelf, you store it and away you go. That is really what motivated us to produce the recent Big Data Tape Library Buyer's Guide.
Frankly, some companies even came out of the woodwork for it. I talked to one cloud provider while we were doing this who said he stores all of his data on tape. As data comes in (they only take deep archive type data), they just have a front end interface that people connect to through the cloud. Then on the back end, they first cache the data to disk and then store it on tape for an indefinite period of time.
That's where we see tape libraries evolving in the use of Big Data in the cloud. People are going to have all of this data, but they don't necessarily know its value, and they are going to need to store it for a long time.
Ultimately the real impact of tape as described in this Tape Library Buyer's Guide is still to be determined. But if it is like other Buyer’s Guides, it creates an initial ripple in the water that it is going to build up over time as people see it out there, see its value and understand the new value that tape provides going forward.
We're also exploring a Cloud-based Storage Appliance Buyer's Guide. This one is sort of interesting. We know there is user interest, but we did not find as many companies out there as we thought we would. For all the talk about getting data out to the public cloud, there are not a whole lot of vendors that provide that interface to get data to the cloud, and that surprised us a little bit. You would think there are more out there, but there's less vendors and products than you might imagine.
Another thing that also caught us a bit by surprise is we are also doing a Buyer’s Guide on NAS and Unified Storage. Late last year, there was only lukewarm to tepid interest in the topic and now, all of a sudden, everyone wants Unified Storage and NAS products. So we just sent out the surveys in early May, and we anticipate that Buyer's Guide coming out this fall.
In terms of other ones that DCIG is working on, we are doing one on eDiscovery, and we are refreshing our Virtual Server Backup Software Buyer’s Guide that was so popular about a year and-a-half ago. We also plan to do one on backup appliances, and we're also looking at doing one on SSD appliances and are doing the preliminary research on that right now.