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Frank Berry is CEO and senior analyst at IT Brand Pulse. Mr. Berry is a 30 year IT industry veteran including senior executive positions at QLogic and Quantum. |
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  • Cisco Sweeps FCoE Switch Brand Leader Awards

    Cisco (CSCO) recently swept the FCoE Switch Brand Leader Awards for the second year in a row, based on responses from IT professionals who participated in an IT Brand Pulse Brand Leader Survey. The results demonstrate that the IT community recognizes the leadership role Cisco has played in converged networking and FCoE.

    Converged Networking is a new supermarket being formed by the merger of the Ethernet, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand markets. One of the technologies making this possible is Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), a new protocol that allows Fibre Channel traffic to run over Ethernet.

    Among the many companies involved in creating the new market, Cisco stands out for industry leadership. The company was first-to-market with pre-standard ASICs, adapters and Nexus switches which started to appear in 2008. Distinguished engineers from Cisco were at the center of developing the standards that ultimately were approved in 2009. And Cisco has been at the forefront of providing education to IT professionals about converged networking and FCoE. For over a year, Cisco Nexus switches were the only products available with support for FCoE. As a result, the Nexus brand became a de facto standard for FCoE switches and Cisco established early incumbency in data centers evaluating converged networking.

    In the recent IT Brand Pulse survey that included 7 vendors, Cisco dominated all FCoE Switch categories for the second year in a row by winning the Market Leader Award, and took the five remaining Brand Leader Awards (Price, Performance, Reliability, Service & Support, and Innovation).

    The latest survey suggests that for FCoE switches, a perception of Reliability Leadership drives a perception of Market Leadership. The highest scores in the 2009 and 2010 surveys were in the Market Leadership category. The 2010 results under-pinned the importance of reliability to overall Switch market leadership. The largest gap (30%) between leader and second place and the second highest score, was in the category of Reliability.

    In the 2010 survey just conducted, perceptions of Price Leader changed significantly. In 2009, 47% of the respondents selected Brocade as the price leader for FCoE Switches. In the 2010 survey, less than 20% of the respondents selected Brocade as the price leader. Since the general availability of the Brocade 8000 to OEM partners since April, 2010, perceptions of Brocade Price Leadership changed significantly.

    The survey also unveiled IT's view of HP's and Juniper's role in the converged networking market. IT professionals perceived HP as 3rd in almost every category in spite of the fact HP resells products from others.

    On Interbrand's list of 2010 Best Global Brands, Cisco ranked #14 ahead of BMW, Nike, Pepsi, American Express, and numerous other powerhouse brands. The FCoE Switch Brand Leader award shows that Cisco is again paying off on their brand promise standards-based technology, high quality products, and great customer support.

    The bottom line is this: if IT buying behavior reflects their perception of Cisco FCoE switch brand leadership, Ethernet switch vendors such as Avaya, Extreme (EXTR), Force10 Networks, HP (HPQ) and Juniper (JNPR), who are newcomers to FCoE switching, are going to find it difficult to unseat this incumbent.

    Jan 28 3:31 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Virtual Instruments: Early Incumbents in the VIO Market

    Privately held Virtual Instruments is a company to watch. The company is a 2008 spin-out of Finisar Corporation that has established early incumbency in the nascent market for Virtual Infrastructure Optimization [VIO], the next big wave in management of information technology. Founded in 2008, the company is funded by a group of highly experienced, well known IT industry veterans including CEO John Thompson. The former CEO of Symantec Corporation, Mr. Thompson played a key role in the development of two markets that grew to multi-billion dollars in value — distributed systems management  and  internet applications security. Mr. Thompson brings to Virtual Instruments, world-class leadership experience, familiarity with emerging infrastructure management technology, and a proven track record of successfully exploiting new infrastructure management market opportunities.

    The New World of Virtual Infrastructure
    The discrete physical data center consists of islands of servers, network connections and storage dedicated to specific applications. This discrete infrastructure is rapidly being replaced by virtual infrastructure — physical devices connected by a network, and carved up into “virtual” servers, networks and storage units that IT organizations can provision to applications in the same way your local utilities can automatically deliver more electricity, gas, or water when you need it. The ability to deliver IT resources in this manner is the essence of cloud computing.

    Unfortunately for data center managers tasked to consolidate their resources with virtualization technology, the tools used to optimize the reliability, security and performance of their discrete resources don’t always work the same way for their new virtual resources. And as John Thompson is fond of saying, “you can’t optimize your infrastructure if you can’t measure it.”

    Products from Virtual Instruments tap deep into physical and virtual infrastructure, providing data center managers with vital information needed to proactively optimize their IT cloud. Although early adopters of VIO are large data centers, I believe the technology will follow server virtualization and SANs into the mid-market and beyond, making this technology the next big wave in management of
    IT infrastructure.

    The Next Big Wave in Management of Data Center Infrastructure
    In the early 1980s, client-server architectures emerged from vendors like Sun. In the early 1990s, millions of PC clients, and object oriented programming, transformed the small client-server market into a huge market for distributed systems. As distributed systems scaled up, so did the need for better management tools — and a wave of management products for distributed systems emerged. Today, distributed systems management software is a large part of the approximately $10 billion market for systems management software.

    When the Internet wave came in the late 1990s, Internet-enabled applications accessible from a browser brought the need to combat ever-changing malware and hackers. The billions of internet users created a rich new opportunity for companies, such as Symantec, to provide internet application security—another large part of the overall market for systems management software.

    Today, the newest technology wave is virtualization and cloud computing with the cost benefits of infrastructure consolidation driving a tsunami of virtual server, network and virtualized storage deployments.  Eventually, virtual infrastructure, including servers and storage, will be pervasive. One result will be VIO emerging as the next billion dollar wave in systems management.  VIO includes the optimization of virtual infrastructure performance, availability and utilization.

    Total Available Market Growing to $2.5B in 2014
    Virtual Instruments estimates that the Virtual Infrastructure Optimization market opportunity, which includes virtual server, switch, and storage port monitoring, could exceed $2.5B in 2014. This is derived from reports from research firms Infonetics and the 451Group. The growth in the VIO market is being driven by the “2nd wave” of virtualization. Whereas the 1st wave of virtualization efforts focused on virtualizing test and development environments, file servers and web services, the 2nd wave is all about applying virtualization to production-level business critical applications such as those built on Oracle, DB2, and SAP.   These applications are typically very I/O intensive and are just now beginning to be virtualized thanks to VMware’s new vSphere offerings. Ensuring application performance and the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) associated with virtualized business-critical applications will require VIO solutions such as those offered by Virtual Instruments.

    A New Class of Hardware and Software
    The VirtualWisdom instrumentation, measurement, and analysis solution is designed to provide visibility into complex, heterogeneous virtual infrastructure deployed with Fibre Channel, and eventually FCoE, SANs. VirtualWisdom adds SAN I/O intelligence for VMware performance monitoring and troubleshooting, enabling administrators to better balance the deployment of virtual machines based on real-time measurements and feedback of I/O performance.  Given that over 70% of VMware deployments rely on FC SANs, VirtualWisdom helps solve a critical infrastructure problem. By identifying VMware performance bottlenecks in the SAN, VirtualWisdom enables significantly higher virtual infrastructure utilization and helps administrators deliver the virtualization promise of reduced capital and operational costs promised by data center virtualization.

    Virtual Instrument’s innovative new SANInsight TAP Patch Panel System provides the key to collecting the real-time transaction data from a Fibre Channel SAN.  The TAP copies a portion of the light and sends the traffic data to the VI ProbeFCX for real-time I/O analysis. By unifying TAP and patch functions into a single layer of physical infrastructure, the SANInsight Fibre TAP Patch Panel System significantly reduces the cost and complexity impact of TAP deployment. SANInsight facilitates the broad installation of TAPs into both new and existing data centers.

    Bottom Line
    The bottom line is this: On July 15, Virtual Instruments announced it had more than doubled revenues in its recently finished fiscal 2010 over the similar 2009 period. Short term, considering the rapid pace of virtual infrastructure deployments, I expect healthy growth to become a trend. Long term, by establishing early incumbency in this exciting new market, John Thompson and Virtual Instruments are well positioned to fend off new entrants.

    Disclosure: No positions
    Aug 19 7:51 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Intel and Microsoft Overhaul iSCSI for the Enterprise

    I recently attended a webcast where Jordan Plawner of Intel and Suzanne Morgan of Microsoft described how the combination of Intel Ethernet Server Adapters, Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, and Intel Xeon processor 5500 series-based servers are integrated to optimize iSCSI storage network performance and scalability.  I came away from a follow-up briefing with Jordan and Suzanne impressed with the potential benefits to large data centers, as well as the breadth of integration between Intel and Microsoft products. I was also reminded of the power of the Wintel formula. Intel and Microsoft have essentially overhauled iSCSI for the enterprise.

    The Wintel Formula
    The term “Wintel” is commonly used to refer to a computer with some version of Microsoft Windows running on an x86 compatible from Intel. Since the late 80s when the symbiotic relationship between the two companies started to blossom, end-users have benefited from the powerful but low-cost computing platform the two companies maintain. The key ingredient of the Wintel formula is tight collaboration between Intel and Microsoft. For example, Windows 7 spreads its work across Xeon cores to minimize energy usage and to maximize performance. If one core is sitting idle, Windows sends more work to the idle core. If there is no extra work, the system will power down the core and save energy.

    iSCSI: Wintel’s Secret Weapon for Converged Networking
    What many people don’t know is that a secret weapon for converged networking has been at work since the advent of iSCSI. Long before the FCoE protocol was invented, iSCSI provided the ability to easily converge LAN and SAN traffic over Ethernet. Powerful, low-cost, out-of-the-box Wintel SANs have been available since Microsoft delivered an iSCSI software initiator in June 2003 shortly after ratification of the iSCSI protocol by the IETF. Microsoft’s goal with iSCSI support was to bring high end SAN features to a broader set of customers, thereby increasing the potential SAN attach install base with Windows. In just six years, iSCSI arrays now represent about 30% of the SAN array and host adapter volume with approximately 90,000 iSCSI storage arrays and 900,000 host ports installed in 2009. Thanks to iSCSI and the Wintel formula, mainstream converged networking is a reality today. 

    10 Gigabit iSCSI and Beyond
    iSCSI SANs have been widely recognized mostly for their ease-of-use and low cost, but a barrier to the deployment of iSCSI SANs in large data centers has been the 1 gigabit bandwidth of iSCSI compared to the 8 gigabit bandwidth of Fibre Channel. That obstacle is being cleared by 10 gigabit iSCSI. I expect the availability of 10 gigabit iSCSI arrays to drive continued rapid growth for iSCSI storage as data center managers upgrade their networks to 10 gigabit Ethernet. And looking forward, 40/100 gigabit Ethernet should position iSCSI to open up an even wider lead on the next generation of 16 gigabit Fibre Channel.

    Intel and Microsoft Overhauling iSCSI for the Enterprise
    One dominant initiative in almost every large data center is increasing operational efficiency by consolidating infrastructure. Three key technology trends behind infrastructure consolidation are: increasing server utilization with server virtualization, sharing storage with SANs and the convergence of LANs and SANs on 10 gigabit Ethernet. Intel and Microsoft accounted for all three technology trends and together overhauled iSCSI for use in the enterprise.

    Enterprise Class iSCSI SAN Performance – For starters, Intel Xeon 5500 processors are capable of handling an order of magnitude more I/O than previous generations of processors. Add multiple cores and iSCSI workloads can now be distributed to utilize all the cores. Then to harness all that power; the Microsoft iSCSI software initiator in Windows 2008 R2 is “multi-core,” which means it can scale to distribute I/O to as many as 256 cores. For customers using iSCSI digest for extended data integrity checking, Server 2008 R2/Windows 7 now offers digest offload directly to the CPU through a new industry standard CRC intrinsic which is also supported on Intel processors and results in a 30% improvement in CPU efficiency using digests. It works transparently and auto-configures and is not tied directly to any specific NIC implementation. Finally, the Intel 82599 10 gigabit Ethernet Adapter offloads some or all of CRC Digest, TCP/IP, and IPsec processing so the server can be free to do processing related to the business application it was purchased for. The proof-point for the new performance and scalability of iSCSI and Intel Ethernet Server Adapters was record shattering iSCSI performance of over 1 million inputs and outputs per second (IOPS) with native Windows Server 2008 R2. To put this level of iSCSI performance into perspective, that’s double the IOP performance of the fastest 8 gigabit Fibre Channel host bus adapter available today.

    More Efficient iSCSI for Server Virtualization –Microsoft enhanced support for iSCSI in Windows Server 2008 by reducing the overhead previously associated with running iSCSI from within the Hyper-V VM.  Customers who require advanced SAN features and flexibility such as transportable snapshots, LUN cloning, application level synchronization, and guest clustering tend to prefer using the iSCSI software initiator in the VM as it allows the application, such as SQL to control data disks, easily add/remove new LUNs without requiring administration from the Hyper-V administrator. When migrating from physical to virtual, iSCSI data LUNs migrate to the guest transparently without having to reconfigure disks on the parent. This mode also supports data encryption at the disk level from the context of the VM. In addition, Intel 82599 Ethernet Adapters now support Microsoft Virtual Machine Queue (VMQ) to improve network throughput by distributing processing of network traffic for multiple virtual machines (VMs) among multiple processors. Intel 82599 Ethernet Adapters also include a feature called Virtual Machine Device Queues (VMDq) that works with Windows to offload virtual machine maps to the Intel Adapter. The results are near-native iSCSI performance of 715,000 IOPS with Microsoft Hyper-V, and dramatically lower CPU utilization.

    Converged Networks with iSCSI – The Intel 82599 Ethernet Adapters shipping today feature 10 gigabit Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE), the foundation of networks of the future that will unify LANs, iSCSI SANs and Fibre Channel SANs. The latest in a battle-hardened line of 10 gigabit Ethernet adapters and LAN-on-Motherboard (LOM) products that have shipping since 2007, the Intel 82599 is optimized for use with the trusted iSCSI software initiator in-box with Windows 2008 R2. Doing their part to help large data center managers converge LANs and iSCSI SANs, Microsoft has beefed up support for iSCSI remote boot by increasing redundancy for booting up to 32 simultaneous paths per target. This is a nice complement to the integration of boot support released in Server 2008 allowing remote install directly to an iSCSI disk.

    The New iSCSI will be Very Hard to Beat
    The performance of the new Wintel iSCSI solution is impressive, but the benefits of iSCSI extend far beyond new performance levels. iSCSI features such as native security through mutual CHAP, IPsec, OS integrated remote boot, and advanced data integrity through Digest Offload bring security and ease of management out-of-the-box to a broad range of customers. The new power of iSCSI combined with superior ease-of-use and the ability to leverage existing investments in Ethernet will be attractive to data center administrators who require the flexibility of SANs in both physical and virtual environments. The Wintel formula still works. Intel and Microsoft have done an amazing job of integrating processor, operating system and network adapter to deliver an out-of-the-box, enterprise-class, iSCSI storage network solution that is going to be very hard to beat.

    Bottom Line
    Storage and networking vendors with a focus on rising iSCSI demand will benefit. A great example is Dell (DELL). The company just reported sales from overall storage revenue was down slightly year-over-year from $2.4 billion to $2.2 billion, but EqualLogic iSCSI storage was up 44% over last year. And given that iSCSI = Ethernet, the growth of iSCSI favors networking vendors focused on Ethernet NICs and switches including Broadcom (BRCM), Cisco (CSCO), Emulex (ELX) and Intel (INTC).


    Disclosure: No positions
    Feb 19 11:51 AM | Link | Comment!
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