Monday, 19 February 2018 10:55

Infinidat increases focus on regional storage market

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Two out of three ain't bad, but three out of three is better – and that's what storage vendor Infinidat claims to deliver.

Usually, engineers can deliver products that meet the required parameters for any two of cost, performance and reliability, Infinidat chief executive Moshe Yanai observed.

So if you want high performance and reliability, they come at a high price. Or an inexpensive yet reliable system will provide low performance.

But Infinidat's approach to storage provides all three, he told iTWire.

This is achieved in several ways. The storage devices use a combination of DRAM for very fast access, flash for caching, and spinning disks for capacity. That's not unique, but it is a good start.

Infinidat uses commodity hardware with proprietary software, allowing it to configure systems with as many as 480 drives per controller, keeping hardware costs down despite the use of triple redundancy for high reliability.

Furthermore, the system is designed to detect and correct media errors or silent data corruption he said.

The result is an array that is fast enough for primary storage (it outperforms competing products from Pure and EMC, Yanai said), provides seven nines (99.99999%) reliability — "100 times better than anyone else" — and is attractively priced.

Another contributor to reliability is Infinidat's QA lab – the largest in the world, according to Yanai, covering 3000 square feet (280 square metres) and housing 120PB of storage. The company spends more on QA than IBM, HPE and EMC combined, he added.

Infinidat systems start at 250TB, and scale up to 2.8PB (effectively 10PB with compression) in a single 42U rack.

Infinidat display output 560

One of Infinidat's reference customers is British Telecom, which, Yanai said, went to tender for software defined storage (SDS) systems in 2014 but realised that in the context of tens of petabytes of storage, SDS was expensive, complex and presented an integration risk. So BT instead purchased its first Infinidat system in 2015, and now has around 80 installed around the world.

Other customers include the world's largest bank and the world's largest telco, he added.

More than 3EB of Infinidat storage has been installed around the world, with almost two-thirds of it in the Americas.

The arrays are used for a variety of workloads including VMware, KVM, big data, databases and analytics, and backup – "all in exactly the same box," said Yanai.

"This is the right time for it," he said. Trends such as analytics and IoT are causing an inflection point in storage technology, and Infinidat has the potential to 'own' the market for the next 30 years, just as EMC did during the database era, and IBM before that. "There's a lot of talent and money and effort invested in solving this problem."

Reasonably priced high-performance storage opens up new opportunities for organisations. Yanai pointed to a large telco call centre that was keeping customer data for a couple of months, but using Infinidat means it can afford keep years of history.

"If you keep the data, you always find something to do with it," he said, pointing out that cost, performance and reliability are always important, even for applications that are not mission critical.

The company is working to increase its sales in Asia, and Yanai was in Australia as part of a tour of the region. "We think Australia is a very good market for us," he noted.

ANZ general manager Mark Brown said Infinidat's "capacity on demand" model is resonating locally. The first Australian customer was a small service provider that paid for a few hundred terabytes upfront and is gradually growing into the available capacity.

The local operation is initially targeting service providers, managed service providers, and a few key industries including higher education and research. For example, a proof of concept trial involving Infinidat storage and the University of Queensland's supercomputer is about to get under way.

Another consideration is that prices include service. Customers receive 24x7 remote monitoring, a technical adviser (who acts as an interface between the customer and Infinidat's level three support team), and on-site support within four hours, said Brown.

But "you never need it," Yanai said of the four-hour promise – the use of triple-redundant components means replacement could occur a week later without affecting uptime.

Customers also appreciate the simplicity of Infinidat systems. Brown said South Australia based Regional IT has a staff of less than 20, and previously needed one FTE to manage its old storage system. Switching to Infinidat freed up almost all of that time, which is now put to better use.

In some cases, this comes from being able to replace three or four different storage systems designed for different purposes (eg, block vs file storage) with a single Infinidat array.

Yanai has an impressive track record. Before founding Infinidat, he led the development of EMC's Symmetrix product. After leaving EMC he founded XIV — another storage company — which was later acquired by IBM.

He pointed out that Infinidat's software-based approach means it can address the smaller end of the market whenever it chooses, but "today, we are concentrating on the large customers."

The strategy seems to be paying off: "Something unique about us – we are profitable" where the other companies in this part of the storage market are losing money, he observed.

He questioned how long competitors such as Pure and Nutanix could continue running at a loss. The situation is "like a bubble – they can't continue for many years," he said. "What's their plan? How are they going to be profitable?"

While all of these companies can provide sufficient performance, Infinidat delivers it at lower cost to customers, Yanai claimed.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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