Storage Optimization


Compression – A Matter of Life and Death

Posted in Featured,Storage by storageoptimization on February 9, 2009
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Nice piece today in Bioinform about our compression solution for genomics data. Carter George of Ocarina spoke to the author of the piece, Vivien Marx, last week, as did Dave Lifka at Cornell. The article details the work we’re doing with Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Computing (CAC) in partnership with DataDirect to increase their capacity by up to 90 percent.

Gene sequencing has opened up new vistas in medical research that could lead to a completely new era of “personalized medicine,” with targeted treatments and few or no side effects from medications. Momentum for this type of medicine is building–the FDA announced today that it has created a new position dedicated to “coordinating and upgrading” the agency’s involvement in genomics and other elements of personalized medicine.

The potential is huge, and it’s truly horrifying to think that all this progress could be slowed or stopped due to the cost of storage. Thus, freeing up disk space truly can be a matter of life and death.

We’ve addressed this by developing compression solutions specifically designed for sequencing technologies such as those from Illumina and Affymetrix.  The Bioinform article offers significant detail on the types of files we compress as well as the checksums Ocarina performs on each before any shadow files are deleted. We hope you’ll take a look at the piece.

What’s Next for Online Storage

Posted in Featured,Storage by storageoptimization on February 4, 2009

Pete Steege has a post today that rightly alerts us to the next wave of storage capacity demand–fatter network pipes, which, as he puts it, “beget fat storage.”

Also worth noting today: The NY Times is reporting that Netflix is taking a step closer to an “any movie, any time” model. 
Plenty to consider in the upcoming storage crunch.

Coming Soon – Blog Face Lift

Posted in Featured by storageoptimization on January 30, 2009

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Great news — the Storage Optimization blog is getting a face lift. Stay tuned as we will be changing our look and feel, with a lot more features, and a tie-in to microblogging. For those of you who subscribe to this blog or have it bookmarked, look out for a new Web address.

Thanks to all our readers and we hope you’ll enjoy the new, improved Storage Optimization.

Yet another Ocarina

Posted in Featured by storageoptimization on November 12, 2008
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As someone who enjoys my iPhone, I was surprised and pleased to discover a new app that’s getting a lot of attention, the “Ocarina” by Smule–the same folks that came up with the sonic lighter app. According to TechCrunch, it’s a “Textbook example of how to build a great iPhone app.” 

Looks like it could be fun to play, and seems to work something like a real ocarina–the musical instrument, that is. See below for a demo.

The other reason that I am mentioning it is that my company, Ocarina Networks, is, in my humble opinion, a textbook example of another kind. That is, how to build a company that serves a growing and urgent need. In our case, this need is for reducing the storage load in the arena of unstructured data. Like the ocarina iPhone app, we are responding to something that has become extremely popular in this day and age.

The folks at Smule are responding to the fact that the iPhone is becoming a source of entertainment. In our case, we are responding to the immense uptick in the amount of data that must be stored due to the number of photos, videos and, yes, music files that are being shared in our social networking era.

For all this, we never expected that the actual instrument known as the ocarina would be making such a comeback. When we came up with the name Ocarina Networks, our biggest consideration was that it is a real word, rather than one of those conglomerated computerized type monikers like Zminlglynx or … well, like “Smule.”

In any case, glad to share the stage with you guys. And look us up if your storage capacity starts to get too high.

Sea Change – Google’s latest scheme makes waves

Posted in Featured,Storage by storageoptimization on September 16, 2008
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This week Matt O’Hern called out my company Ocarina Networks on the Marketing Shift blog as an example of what’s being done to manage the upwardly spiraling load of online data. Google’s latest data storage scheme–placing data centers on barges and creating an offshore “waterworld” of data–may seem bizarre to some, but this move on their part perfectly illustrates the desperate situation many such companies are in, as the tide of data reaches ever more oceanic levels. This is particularly true for those which, like Google, offer free, unlimited storage to their users for photos, emails, videos, and other files. As O’Hern rightly points out, companies are turning to Ocarina to help them optimize that data, reducing their data footprint. Glad to be mentioned in this timely and important story.

This year’s big storage story

Posted in Featured,Storage by storageoptimization on August 5, 2008
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My company Ocarina Networks is one of Network World’s “10 Storage Companies to Watch.” We’ve been given this honor before, by Byte and Switch in 2007. This is not just to toot our horn, but to mention that more and more, we’re confirming our hunch that primary storage is where there is an immense need for new and innovative optimization solutions.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the kind of data that’s driving much of today’s storage growth–files–demands a file-aware solution for shrinking them down. It’s clear to me that there is an emerging set of opportunities in this space, and we are only beginning to see where this will lead.

In Startup City’s spotlight

Posted in Featured,Storage,Video by storageoptimization on July 21, 2008
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I was interviewed on video by John Foley for InformationWeek’s Startup City a month or so ago, and have just discovered that the video is now up on the site. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to explore this blog. Foley does a great job of covering the vast and growing landscape of IT startups. Enjoy.

What’s Hot in Storage — Spending Less

Posted in Featured,Storage by storageoptimization on July 18, 2008
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Byte & Switch has once again released its “Top 10 Storage Startups to Watch” for 2008, and it’s definitely worth a read. My company Ocarina Networks was on that same list last year, and so I can say with confidence that they got it right at least once before. 

As reflected in this year’s list, data reduction technologies continue to be hot. Makes sense in a down economy that anything that increases capacity will continue to get budget dollars. As we’re finding, dollars for stuff like Ocarina is already there in every data center’s budget – it’s just listed as disk expense. We’re not only ahead of our revenue goals for our storage optimization product launched in April, but we’re having to triple the size of our sales force to keep up with demand. 

If you have planned to buy 100 TB of disk, and can spend half as much for an optimization solution that shrinks your files that means you don’t have to buy any disk at all. A win all the way around. While Ocarina started out with wins in large web sites – where the fastest year-to-year storage growth is taking place – we’re now seeing installs in life sciences, energy, movie studios, and finance.  

The chief takeaway from what I’ve seen: some nice-to-have new technologies may be facing a tough summer with an economic downturn, but data reduction scores high on both saving money and green IT, and is likely to stay strong, or maybe even move up in priority, during a down cycle in storage spending.

Saturated: The Cloud’s Storage Dilemma

Posted in Analyst,Featured,Storage by storageoptimization on May 22, 2008

Yesterday’s Mashable post looking at online file storage providers caught my eye. Right now, online “cloud” storage providers are all targeting different markets, but the competition is fierce in all segments. Some are going after the consumer – such as AOL X-Drive -, some are going after online backup, and some are going after web site data. Actually, that article doesn’t even mention Amazon’s S3, for example, which is a huge online repository.

The obvious benefits are basically twofold: ease-of-use and – for most of them – the fact that they manage your data for you in terms of backing it up, replicating it, etc. The biggest drawback here is that you have to be connected to a network to get to your files.


Most customers will still look at cost/Gigabyte as the main motivator to use a service like this and, at the right price and benefit point, people will put their files online. Since all these storage service providers all buy their disks from the same small number of companies that actually make disk drives, the costs are all roughly the same for the physical infrastructure needed to build an online storage service and compete.

I think that the real solution here is that, for anyone to breakthrough and get some separation from the crowd, they are going to have to incorporate breakthrough storage optimization in their offering – and do so in a way that’s transparent to the end user. That could be dedupe, that could be compression, or it could be something more sophisticated like Ocarina. The main thing is that if you can get 5:1 or 10:1 ratios on how much logical space you can provide via the cloud to how much physical space you, as a provider, have to buy, then you can have a compelling proposition. The competition is fierce in this market and in order to grow and thrive in any business that offers online storage, the providers are going to have to develop a strategy to significantly increase their online storage capacity without increasing cost and overhead in step.

Who’s Really Melting the Ice Cap?

Posted in Featured,Storage by storageoptimization on May 21, 2008
Jon William Toigo’s blog “Drunken Data,” which has fun with its headlines, has a post titled “Climate Change or Silly Season?” In it, he references an article that ran in Macworld UK stating that Apple Computer–that darling of uberyuppies and designers–has been rated as a contributor to global warming.
Credit Flickr User Tom\'s Caps
Toigo’s response: “While I agree that the company generates a lot of hot air, the truth is that storage hardware, not PCs/MACs/servers, is the big power pig. Behind it all is a total mismanagement of data. Think about naming your files better and deploying archive technology the next time you see that video of a chunk of ice breaking off from a glacier.”
In truth, servers (and computers in general) give off a lot more heat per unit of rack space than storage. Processors that are running full out generate a lot of heat, and consume a lot of power. At the same time, both individuals and corporations have a high ratio of storage to servers, so if you add it all up, it might be the case that a data center uses as much power for storage as it does for servers.
That being said, I don’t think “naming your files better” is going to turn out to be the answer. Some combination of thin provisioning (waste less free space) and storage optimization (store things efficiently, along the lines that virtual machines use CPU efficiently) is the direction that things are headed.
The key thing to keep in mind is: are the servers and storage being used efficiently? In the server arena, virtualization has turned out to be the magic answer – allowing data centers to consolidate multiple logical servers on to one physical one to make sure each physical server is being used efficiently, and that a lot of idle servers aren’t wasting power, rackspace and cooling.
In short, I think that “storage optimization” is to making storage more efficient what “server virtualization” was to making servers more efficient.
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