Deduplication General Marketing

Surviving A Down Economy – A vendor Perspective

The outlook on the economy continues to be less than stellar. The National Bureau of Economic Research formally declared that we are in a recession. Thanks guys for stating the obvious! Tough times create difficulties for everyone. We have already seen vendors including NetApp, Quantum and Copan announcing cutbacks. Sequoia Capital added to the bleak forecast with their gloomy outlook slide deck. The big question is what does this mean to technology vendors?

In these difficult times, companies must focus on their bottom line. Every technology purchase will be scrutinized and the payback must be clearly quantified. As I posted previously, ROI is vital.

The good news for data protection companies is that data volumes do not go down in a recession and retention times do not shorten. The current difficulties in the financial sector suggest that we may see even stricter regulations and longer retentions. Deduplication-enabled solutions can still thrive in this environment because they provide compelling value. They reduce backup administration time and cost  while dramatically lowering acquisition cost. However, remember that not all systems are alike and you must consider future performance and capacity requirements. Adding multiple independent systems will negatively impact ROI. The result is that scalable deduplication solutions like those sold by SEPATON can provide strong ROIs and thus can weather the storm of a tough economy better than other technologies with weaker value propositions.

Recently, an independent market research firm who reviews the purchasing trends of companies of all sizes told us that their research indicates that companies over-purchased primary storage in the first half of 2008 and that the outlook for this sector was gloomy. In contrast, deduplication technology was the one bright spot. So far our experience has suggested that their analysis is accurate.

A difficult economy is a test of everyone’s staying power. Companies are scrutinizing every purchase and focus only on those technologies that provide truly compelling value. Deduplication enabled solutions are fortunate because of the value they bring. This is not to say that these technologies are immune, but rather that they will fare better than most.


Tradeshow giveaway gone bad: the video

Tradeshow marketers spend hours trying to scheme up new and unique programs to drive booth traffic and these often include free giveaways. Ironically, the simplest things such as t-shirts or bags can be good traffic generators, and it is amazing that people can get so excited about tchotchkes that cost $2 or less.

One common approach is a two tiered program where you hand out an inexpensive item (like a t-shirt) and tell booth visitors that they must be wearing it to be eligible for a future drawing for a more expensive item. In order for this to work, the vendor must have an ample supply of the initial giveaway and the final item must be of high enough value to encourage participation. As you can imagine, marketers spend a ton of time and money putting together these programs.

Now fast forward to the recent VMWorld show, FalconStor used a two tier program where they offered free t-shirts at their booth and then had a drawing for a Segway scooter. The program stipulated that attendees must be wearing the FalconStor t-shirt at the time of the drawing to be eligible.

Well, in classic case of sales people ignoring the marketing people, the sales folks at the booth picked a winner who was not wearing a t-shirt and decided to give him the Segway anyway. This contradicted the terms of the program and the audience did not react favorably. This is a marketers worst nightmare; their carefully orchestrated program has been ruined and it is clear that many booth visitors left feeling angry. Click more to see the YouTube video which shows what happened; it is quite humorous and makes you wonder “what were they thinking?”

General Marketing

How a lack of innovation put Overland under water

I wanted to post a quick commentary on Overland Data.

I recently ran across this post over at The Register that discusses the fact that Overland Data is at risk of being delisted from the NASDAQ due to a stock price below $1. (Ticker: OVRL, currently $.45)

In a past life, I sold Overland products and was very familiar with their tape and disk systems. They were one of the first companies to provide a cost effective D2D solution targeted at data protection. In 2003, they unveiled the REO 2000 product and 7 months later, they released the REO 4000 which provided greater capacity and scalability. Overland was on a roll with the new REO appliances, generating industry buzz and excitement while their tape library business remained strong.

Fast forward five years, and Overland’s situation looks bleak. Their D2D products have stagnated and their tape business has collapsed. Along the way, they have made a number of false starts including the purchase of Zetta Systems and the launch of the Ultamus array, which they later silently pulled from the market.

Situations like these make you realize the importance of innovation. Initially, Overland was very successful with their disk products, but were unable to maintain their position. As the market innovated, they did not and their financial and business performance suffered. Their current situation is a reminder that you must innovate or risk suffering a similar fate. Steve Jobs said this eloquently:

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

I feel fortunate to be working for a company that has a long history of innovation in data protection and there are more exciting things to come…


Blog commenting

W. Curtis Preston the author of the Mr. Backup Blog recently voiced his frustration with certain bloggers censoring visitor comments. He was annoyed that some folks from EMC configured their blogs for comment moderation (all comments must be approved before they appear on the site) and used the power to delete certain responses. He contrasted this to NetApp whose blogs are not moderated. (As a point of clarification,’s comments are not moderated; reader comments are posted immediately.) Whether you believe in comment moderation or not, at least these blogs all provide a mechanism for the visitor to respond.

Deduplication Marketing

Tradeshow perspectives

I spent last week at a tradeshow in New York. These events are interesting because of the various end user perspectives. Those of us in the industry often get embroiled in the minutiae of products and features, and so it is very useful to understand the views of the end users on the show floor. Storage Decisions is a show that prides itself on highly qualified attendees.

One of the most curious things about the show was attendees’ obsession with inline vs post process deduplication. Numerous end users stopped by asking only about when DeltaStor deduplicates data. In the rush of the show, there was little time to discuss the question in much detail. It struck me as odd that these attendees focused on this question which in my opinion is the wrong question to ask. I can only surmise that they had gotten an earful form competing vendors who swore that inline is the best approach.

Deduplication General Marketing

Exchange deduplication ratio guarantee

Scott over at EMC recently posted his thoughts about deduplication ratios and how they vary widely. I agree with his assessment that compression ratios, change rates and retention are key ingredients in deduplication ratios. However, he makes a global statement, “If you don’t know those three things, you simply cannot state a deduplication ratio with any level of honesty….It is impossible”, and uses this point to suggest that SEPATON’s Exchange guarantee program is “ridiculous”. Obviously the blogger, being an EMC employee, brings his own perspectives as do I, a SEPATON employee. Let’s dig into this a bit more.

As the original author mentioned, the key metrics for deduplication include compression, change rate and retention. Clearly these can vary by data types; however, certain data types provide more consistent deduplication results. As you can imagine, these are applications that are backed up fully every night, have fixed data structures and relatively low data change rates. Some examples include Exchange, Oracle, VMware and others.


Industry analysts and conflicts

Just last week I posted commentary on an analyst’s article on eWeek. Ironically, there is currently a hot discussion going on over at ByteandSwitch on another article from the same analyst. (I am purposely not linking to the article, if you want to read it visit B&S and look for Data De-Dupe Guide 2.) In this case, the discussion revolves around the analyst’s objectivity. The reality is that analysts are paid to write vendor centric papers all the time which is not problematic as long as articles are identified as such. The issue here is that the article on ByteandSwitch is vendor centric, and the author is positioning the content as vendor agnostic. The author further compounds the problem by incorrectly summarizing the available capabilities of shipping deduplication solutions. In his Mr. Backup blog, W. Curtis Preston writes about some of the errors.


A little bit off topic – IBM XIV

I traditionally stay focused on data protection in this blog, but wanted to make a quick digression. Specifically, I wanted to comment briefly on some weirdness around IBM and their XIV product line. IBM has recently been positioning XIV storage inside their new deduplication enabled VTL. Anyone considering these solutions should spend some time trying to understand XIV.

IBM bought XIV about 8 months ago. XIV was an Israeli company founded by industry guru Moshe Yanai. Yanai is clearly a smart guy having developed EMC’s Symmetric Storage system. He is experienced and talented, and his company, XIV, was developing next generation clustered storage. When IBM bought XIV, they said that it “could mark the end to RAID5 and mark the beginnings of a new disk storage architecture” (Quote courtesy of Tony Pearson, IBM employee and author of Inside Systems Blog).

All of the above sounds great, the problem is IBM just announced the first XIV product in Europe only with very little fanfare. It is quite odd, if the product is as revolutionary as they had previously suggested, wouldn’t you expect them to make a big deal out of it? Where are the analyst quotes? Where is the evangelizing? The short answer is that there has been none! What gives?

There have been numerous posts in the blogosphere about this. One of the earliest folks was Barry Burke from EMC on his StorageAnarchist blog. Blocks and Files, NetworkWorld and eWeek have also chimed in. Everyone is confused by this, Network World notes that the features are very limited in the product and eWeek goes so far as to suggest that the entire XIV acquisition was a failure!

The noteworthy point of the announced XIV solution is that its feature set is unimpressive and it only comes in one configuration, RAID 1 and 180 TB raw/80 TB usable. If you want any more storage that means a second XIV; if you want less, that means you get a fully populated XIV and you will only be licensed for the amount you are using. This makes for completely weird economics. No matter how much storage you want, you get 180 TB raw. You want 20 TB, no problem, you get 180 disks. Want 5 TB, they can meet that requirement as well although it requires 180 disks!

I have no idea what IBM is doing with this launch, but in my opinion, IBM has made a big blunder. When announcing a product, you either have to be fully committed with all resources behind or hold off. This half-baked launch where they only announced it in EMEA only is just plain odd and it leaves everyone, myself included, wondering what is really going on. From a product standpoint, I think that they probably encountered more challenges than originally expected and so were forced to delay the launch of the fully functional XIV. Why they launched the half-baked version in Europe is beyond me…