Permabit unveils appliance to let large storage OEMs strike back at hyperscale upstarts

Permabit's SANblox appliance is the software vendor's first hardware product, requested by the big storage OEMs to help them fend off competition from the new hyperscale vendors.

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Permabit’s SANblox appliance

The large storage vendors have been under great recent pressure from the hyperscale vendors. Now, at the large vendors’ request, Cambridge MA-based Permabit is moving into the hardware space, unveiling Albireo SANblox. This is a product the legacy storage vendors asked them to design, which they will be able to OEM, to allow these vendors to strike back at the upstarts with cost-efficient SAN storage.

Permabit’s name is not well known within the channel because they sell to OEMs. In business since 2009, their focus has been developing and licensing high performance inline deduplication, compression, and thin provisioning software through their patented Albireo technologies which deliver more than 1 million deduplicated IOPS. Their new offering, Albireo SANblox, is a ready-to-run high performance data efficiency appliance for Fibre Channel primary storage, delivered as a pair of 1U units configured for high availability.

“This is our first foray into a product that’s delivered in an appliance form,” said Tom Cook, Permabit’s CEO.

Cook indicated that SANblox was developed at the request of their customers – the big storage OEMs – to help them fund off competition from newer companies with very impressive technology. He identified five of these companies by name — Pure Storage, Tegile, Tintri, Nimble, and Nutanix – and for convenience referred to them collectively as the ‘Nutanix-class’ companies.

“These companies don’t just have a different architecture, but a different cost of performance, and the Tier One vendors are looking to get this back,” Cook said. “They all know their models are under severe pressure from these disruptive companies and want to innoculate their portfolio. They all face threat of these hyperscale vendors. If they do nothing, the legacy vendors will wind up battling it out for a dwindling on-prem business. They need to drive technologies more strategically. This is a first step to arm the OEMs for the competition they are facing. Adding dedupe and decompression at a very high performance lets them defend their turf, regain margin dollars and expand market share.”

Aimed at middle to high end SAN storage, the SANblox appliance allows storage admins to leverage existing data management features of their enterprise arrays including thin provisioning, snapshots, clones and replication, but with a higher degree of efficiency, including greater than10:1 data reduction.

“It can deliver up to 180,000 IOPS per appliance, which is a very good number,” said Louis Imershein, Permabit’s Senior Director of Product Strategy.

The SANblox appliance leverages Exulex’s IO connectivity and runs on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux HA OS.

”The Red Hat software lets us support a huge range of devices, and SANBlox just works on all these because they have all been certified on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.5.” Imershein said. This includes EMC VNX, EMC VMAX, Dell SC800 series, HDS HUS, NetApp E-Series, and the Huawei OceanStor T series.

“We worked with our OEM partners on this since they have access to testing we don’t through their customer base.” Imershein said.

So why did a software company like Permabit get into the hardware business with this? Cook said it was all about time to market.

“We heard from a lot of customers of our embedded applications that they needed something to hit the market with immediately,” he said. “There was some transformation that needed to occur, because we really are in the software business. The OEMs all want to get this embedded over time and we certainly expect that to happen.”

Another thing that will happen is availability for interfaces other than Fibre Channel, which he said would be coming down the line.

Cook said that SANblox will be available to solution providers through their OEMs’ reseller programs, although in some cases it may be rebranded by the OEMs.

“We expect it will be broadly available through their channels, since it was done with their blessing,” he said.

Cook said they believe SANblox will significantly strengthen the big OEMs against the hyperscale vendors.

“They will be able to say to customers, if we give the same or better performance, why would you want to move your data and buy an upstart,” he said. “We think that’s a very compelling argument, and will have a very good reception on the VAR network.”

Cook also acknowledged the hyperscale vendors will find ways to answer.

“These guys won’t take this stuff lying down,” he said. “They will respond. It will force the Nutanix class of companies to define their products in other ways when they all have data efficiency. It will be a very interesting next couple of years.”