Engenio disk arrays are used much more than you might think. It sells through some of the best-known storage suppliers, such as IBM, StorageTek and Sun, who brand its arrays with their own names. The business is part of LSI Logic and an IPO was shelved last year due to economic conditions. Tom Georgens is Engenio's president and CEO, and Techworld talked with him to find out more about Engenio's plans and its thinking on the storage scene.

TW: What’s happening about the IPO?
TG: The IPO is still on plan, still on track. It’s not about money but about independence.

Techworld: Can you say anything about new product plans?
Tom Georgens: “We’re going to bring out a high-performance, high-reliability disk array equivalent to EMC’s Clariion area. It is a new high-end product bigger than the CX700, and it will be a 4 gigabit compatible array product. We’ll probably not go into the DMX area. It’s more interesting at the low end with modular arrays. Clariion is growing at a high rate and lots of that is coming from DMX conversion.”

Techworld: Modular arrays have a lot of appeal then?
Tom Georgens: “IBM’s DS6000 is a ‘modular Shark’. We’re seeing it have lots of appeal compared to the DS8000. The modular approach seems to prevail. (Hitachi Data Systems’) TagmaStore is a very big box. I was very surprised to see that. Shark IP migrated to the (DMS) 6000. I was expecting a modular Lightning, not a bigger Lightning. Modular offerings are the dominant paradigm in open systems. I’m seeing high-end array functions move to modular ranges – remote mirroring, remote snapshotting, and virtualisation. Such arrays serve many servers and have the ability to partition the array and give each server its own view.”

This interview took place before HDS launched its Thunder replacements, the CMS500, CMS200 and AMS100 together with the downsized TagmaStore USP virtualisation device – the NSC55. Georgens was right o the button in regard to everything he said, except that it was the Thunder range that was focussed on by Hitachi.

Techworld: Should array manufacturers provide multi-vendor virtualisation?
Tom Georgens: “I’m torn. The installed base is very small. The SVC from IBM has gained 1,000 customers in two and half years. It’s not rapid-fire acceptance. Engenio array controllers virtualise inside the array. We’re the storage behind IBM’s SVC. That’s a perfectly good relationship.”

“For us we can go either way. (But the) SAN is already too complex. If you introduce another box you add complexity – like intelligent switches. It takes more brain power to run it; it’s harder to diagnose when it goes wrong.”

“Spend your money on storing stuff rather than complicating the infrastructure. We’re embedding a switched front end into our array soon to up the port count. I’m somewhat dubious of multi-vendor virtualisation and intelligent switches as well.”

Techworld: What about mixed-mode arrays?
Tom Georgens: “I think this is going to happen. In the interface area it’s been relatively calm for quite a wile. We had Fibre Channel and ATA. Now here’s SATA – cheaper. It helps disaster recovery.”

“Complexity applies to everything. With ILM (Information lifecycle management) you put real important data on Fibre Channel drives and older data on SATA. It’s all well and good but harder to manage. The process has to be automated. Dynamic HSM (hierarchical storage management) needs to be automated. There is a much more significant opportunity for HSM now. Once automation comes then customers will use it a lot.”

Techworld: Who are your biggest customers?
Tom Georgens: “StorageTek is our second or third biggest customer. IBM is the biggest. NCR is after IBM and StorageTek. IBM’s DS4000 is Engenio technology, a re-naming of the FastT. IBM has made public statements about extensions to that technology which we’ll see shortly. We also supply BlueArc – we work as the storage array behind their NAS head." There's also Sun of course.

Techworld: What’s your thinking on SAS?
Tom Georgens: “SAS was originally uninteresting, but since it began to use the same interface as SATA it’s become a big deal for us as one system can support both types of drive. SAS may become an alternative to Fibre Channel drives in the long run. That’s a trend we want to see go by quickly. We do both Fibre Channel and SATA now in two different ways; either with different enclosures or enclosures with both Fibre Channel trays and Fibre Channel-accessed SATA trays. We don’t do both within a shelf.”

“SAS allows intermix at the shelf level and a much simpler array infrastructure.”

Techworld: Infiniband and iSCSI?
Tom Georgens: “ISCSI has a role but there’s no traction yet. It still seems another year away from high volume. Infiniband is now back and hot and heavy – a server cluster interconnect. So use it as a server interconnect too. I’ve seen this in high-performance computing. We’re now seeing more and more companies running 1U Linux servers”

Georgens discussed a possible high-end array product with pluggable front end interconnects: 4Gig Fibre Channel; Infiniband; and iSCSI (some day). He also said if Engenio was ever going to cluster then the technology is likely to be Infiniband.

Techworld: What’s your take on 2.5 inch drives?
Tom Georgens: “I think they are definitely coming. At what point does the (drive market) sweet spot become smaller than one platter? I think this will be the transition to 2.5 inch – i.e. 100GB on one platter. We’ll (then) have 3.5 inch drives for archiving, disk-to-disk backup and nearline storage. The 2.5 inch drives will be used for transactions. Customers want I/Os per sec for transactions rather than high-capacity drives. Use them for streaming applications."

Techworld: How do you regard Network Appliance?
Tom Georgens: “We don’t do anything with them. NetApp is undergoing a transition from a filer company. More and more of their business is becoming block-oriented. NetApp doesn’t have a solid SAN offering – a Clariion. Now they realise they need a full portfolio against EMC. I regard NetApp as an OEM opportunity.”

Techworld: Any other OEM opportunities in view?
Tom Georgens: “EMC extended Clariion – the AX – to the bottom of the market. It’s harder competition there. We’re seeing OEM opportunities at the low-end, to enable OEM companies to better compete with AX and let them compete with EMC. (Also) I see more deals like Sun in the future.”