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DataDirect Networks begins its storage apple cart disruption ops

Mainstreamers flounder while data storage company booms

By Chris Mellor, 30 Oct 2015

Comment DataDirect Networks is now in the apple cart upsetting business, selling its arrays into enterprises which don’t buy kit from mainstream storage companies as a result.

It’s just had its best quarter ever in its 18-year history, with double-digit, year-on-year growth, while EMC, HP, IBM and NetApp are facing declining legacy storage sales.

The company has grown strong enough in its high-performance computing base to expand out into enterprises where it can see scope for both high-speed arrays and high-capacity object storage (WOS).

It sees Dell and EMC, both formidable companies, losing focus on the data-intensive product space as they run up up to their merger and then integrate their operations and product technologies, leaving a gap for DDN to exploit.

Molly Rector, EVP for product management and worldwide marketing, is putting this pitch across, saying: "We believe our strategy of organically building a suite of software and specialty hardware using commodity components is better” than EMC’s technology acquisition-led strategy."

It expects to grow its presence in mid- to high-level enterprises as their data needs increase.

DDN is a storage speed king, building better on-premises storage mousetraps, with WolfCreek using NVMe to accelerate data access, with Rector bragging about more than 50GB/sec bandwidth. It has a switched PCIe architecture and will be able to use 3D SSDs.

The company has passed the 600 staff count, and is still the largest privately-owned storage company. It is characterised as a mid-level and profitable company, contrasted by Rector with fast-growing storage startups burning cash and losing money.

She claims DDN is on a roll: “We’re just now increasing our portfolio. Customers haven’t seen anything yet ... We’re completely unchallenged in very large scale situations.”

That portfolio is the WolfCreek IME speedster, the SFA arrays in ExaScaler and GridScaler guise, the MediaScaler and WOS, the object store.

One WOS customer has poured 260 billion files into WOS. Several have 30 - 60PB WOS repositories. There are thoughts about offering WOS as a software platform for people who prefer to source their own hardware.

Rector said every other object storage supplier has a file system between their object scheme and the disk platters: “The other guys are still based on XFS or EFS, and still have a tax on capacity. We provide 100 per cent of capacity with no overhead allocated to a [an intervening] filesystem.”

DDN can thereby store more data on a drive and in an array. She also claims WOS is fast: “V2.0 WOS 360 is the fastest object store available in terms of latency", and characterises it as having a 10x reduction in latency, the initial time to data, compared with competing object storage systems. This make it usable for live video streaming.

Rector thinks that a shift is taking place in the scale-out NAS space, a move away for Isilon and NetApp towards scale-out NAS based on objects stores. We understand DDN may be thinking if having its own scale-out, high-performance NAS product, supporting from 100s to 1,000s of users and, possibly, an OpenStack front-end.

We can also expect, we think, WolfCreek to have separate identities for Windows and Linux, and there’s talk of an enterprise all-flash array.

DDN is all about scale and speed and having an in-house suite of co-ordinated products from high-performance class speed to vast warm nearline stores and cold online archiving. Watch out for product announcements before the end of the year. ®

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