Some companies, many in fact, don't have all the cylinders in their product engines firing in sequence. Their results and their product/technology transitions stutter. Thus Overland Storage has just had a primary OEM, H-P, decide not to take its next-generation tape automation product. Back to the drawing board for CEO Chris Calisi's engineers. He'll have Overland sell the product as Overland-branded and hope to be successful. But he's also hedging his bets and will announce the acquisition of a primary disk supplier on or before August 15th. (Extra: He did. Overland has just bought Zetta Systems.)

NetApp has had a minor stumblette and lowered its expected revenue number. CEO Dan Warmenhoven said the main factor was a transition to the company's new FAS3000 midrange storage device. Not to worry though as NetApp still expects to grow revenue 25 percent over the year.

Brocade is experiencing much heavy weather as customers are apparently deserting its fabric switch/director products in favour of ones from McDATA, QLogic and Cisco. It reckons it will make a loss in its third quarter, ending July 30, and puts it down to "lower total sales volumes, as well as additional excess and obsolete inventory reserves recorded due to the faster than expected transition from 2Gbit to the new 4Gbit product family." Brocade is the market leader in SAN Fabric switches and directors and has mis-managed the 4gigabit transition. Brocade is also undergoing an SEC investigation regarding stock options and trying to nullify a contract with previous CEO Greg Reyes concerning his consultancy fees. And it's trying to add a new product line relating to application software management. Lots of activities here, pulling in different directions and distracting top management and its technology directions.

How is it that smaller McDATA is progressing in the storage network switch/director/router space while Brocade is not?

EMC is different
EMC is in a different league. In the last couple of weeks it has refreshed its top-end Symmetrix line, updated its Clariion arrays, upgraded its disk libraries and announced enhanced ILM and a coming continuous data protection product. Impressive or what?

It's added the Symmetrix DMX-3 as the world's largest, fastest and most scalable storage array (eat your heart out HDS). It scales to 1PB, compared to HDS' TagmaStore's 332TB. Not all at once though. EMC is having its cake and eating it by delivering the capacity in stages: 960 drives today; to 1,920 in the first half of next year; and to 2,000+ by the end of 2006. It offers different tiers of storage within the array, using coming low-cost Fibre Channel drives alongside the existing (high-cost?) FC drives. It is also fast, with 'fully mirrored global memory directors using DDR SDRAM memory technology.'

Geoff Hough, product marketing director at 3PAR isn't impressed: "The doubling of cache to enable it to be mirrored without lowering pre-established customer performance expectations simply corrects the array's long-running weakness of a lack of cache mirroring, at incremental cost to customers. Again, the greatly pre-announced increases in drive count address a disadvantage the DMX has had for a long time. The 18-month timeframe set to have support for around 2,000 drives is indeed long - about the time you'd expect a product refresh anyway."

Regarding the use of ATA drives he thinks this choice is odd: "The greatly pre-announced Seagate 400GB drives in the DMX represent an incongruous and misguided combination of technologies: ATA-class drives in a premium-priced monolithic device make little sense for new DMX customers. Considering the applications for ATA-class drives and the objectives people have in using them, what is gained by deploying these drives in connection with some of the world's most expensive hardware architecture, software, and support?"

Clariion calls
The Clariion line has also been updated with better data protection facilities and virtual LUN technology to move data between FC and ATA-class drives within the array non-disruptively. (Aren't all LUN's virtual, though? EMC has added another layer of virtuality here, so now storage admin people have to understand the delightful concept of a virtual logical unit number.)

Clariion-based disk libraries have had capacities much increased so that disk-to-disk backup capabilities have surged forward. It's interesting to see the similarity in views here of EMC and Overland. Disk-based backup is growing and growing and tape-only vendors are going to struggle. Both Breece Hill and Quantum, also ADIC, have disk-based data protection products. Overland also but it is positioning itself to sell protected drive arrays. With EMC, HDS and IBM slugging it out in the heavyweight array class, and Dot Hill, Engenio and Xyratex competing strongly lower down the scale Overland may have its work cut out - unless it buys one of these three and its existing OEM customers.

Software and security
EMC also nnounced it's going to bolster its storage resource management offering, also its data security products. A Storage Insight product, due within nine months, will be provided inside ControlCenter. It will use resource management from Smarts and a workflow engine from Documentum.

The company is going to resell Decru's encrypting DataFort technology. As Decru is being purchased by EMC's arch-rival NetApp this will provide an interesting OEM relationship for NetApp. We can view this as a stopgap whilst EMC develops its own technology and, possibly, acquires some too.

EMC EVP Mark Lewis sad; "Information and security go together." There is a new security group inside the company, reporting to Denis Hoffman, VP software product marketing. Lewis commented at an analyst briefing that security technology needs to be included within all the company's products and not offered as an over-arching framework. However the company will develop a single sign-in module that will work with Microsoft's Active Directory and provide secured access to all EMC's products.

Lewis also talked of a digital rights management approach to sensitive information belonging to customers such as key financial data.

There is no way that security functionality can be added to storage without complicated matters. Storage admins can be sure of this.

Firing on all fronts
This use of acquired technology from Smarts and Documentum is becoming a classic aspect of EMC. It appears not to put a foot wrong as it adds cylinders to its engine and gets them firing in synchronicity with existing cylinders. It is not too fantastical to wonder if VMware capabilities might not eventually appear in high-end EMC storage technology.

Brocade and Overland have technology directions and are pursuing them energetically. Sooner or later they will get their various product lines in sync and power ahead. By then EMC will likely be even bigger than it is now and still surging ahead. Tucci and his team are building a hugely impressive corporate engine and there's no sign yet of any mis-firing.