Wednesday, 31 October 2007

CU Free

Does anyone use CU Free? Here's the reason for my question.

I've just implemented a migration from a pair of 9980V and 9970Vs to a single USP in one site and a 9970V and 9980V remaining in the other site. All of the MCU->RCU relationships (4 of them) are being used between the USP and the 99XXV boxes.

If I implement another USP in the site with the 9900's I want to replicate from the existing USP. Will CU Free let me exceed the MCU->RCU restriction or is it just a helpful way of saving me having to enter all the paths for all the CU relationships I want to use? i.e. is the restriction of 4 still there regardless?

Monday, 29 October 2007

Analysis: Seagate

This is the first of a series of posts looking at storage companies and their investment potential.

** DISCLAIMER: This and related blog entries are for fun only and do not represent investment advice. You should make your own opinions on investments or consult a financial adviser **


Seagate's main business is the manufacture and distribution of hard disk drives. The company was founded in 1979 by Al Shugart and Finis Conner. Shugart is regarded as the father of modern hard disks, being involved with the teams that invented both the first hard drive at IBM in the 1950's and with inventing the floppy disk. Today, Seagate offers products for business and consumer markets including the latest portable devices. These range from 8GB 3600RPM Compact Flash drives to the sixth generation of the Cheetah drive - a 15K RPM drive with 450GB capacity.

Market Details

Seagate is quoted on the NYSE with the code STX.

Shares outstanding: 528,788,000
Market Capitalisation: $14.55 billion
Earnings Per Share: 2.28c
P/E Ratio: 11.82
Yield: 1.45%

* figures from on 29 October 2007.

These are lots of interesting numbers, but what do they mean? I've linked to Wikipedia entries which explain what most of the important terms are.

The P/E Ratio gives a good idea of how fairly valued the shares are. It is a ratio of the price of the shares compared to the earnings of the company, therefore the lower the number, the better. For comparison, here are a few more P/E ratios; Netapp - 28.79, EMC - 39.03, Google - 47.4, Brocade - 17.67. Seagate therefore seems low, but P/E can't be looked at in isolation. Higher P/E ratios may indicate a company with potentially higher future growth prospects. I would say that Seagate's business is purely incremental growth as they are not likely to be bringing a new product class to market or radically changing their business model.

Yield indicates how valuable the last dividend was as a percentage of the share price, so at 1.45%, the return on $100,000 of stock would be only $1450 per year. If dividends were the only reason for investing, it would take 69 years to return your investment! Obviously Seagate is declaring dividends, so value in the shares is being realised in both capital appreciation and dividend earnings.


The hard drive industry is small. In fact Seagate recently acquired Maxtor (although the brand is still retained) and made the industry smaller. The major competitors in the hard drive market are Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (which is a combination of the Hitachi and old IBM storage businesses) and Western Digital. HGST and Seagate together own the market for 15K Enterprise (FC) drives.


The hard drive market is continually challenged to increase capacity, improve performance and reduce the power and cooling demands of hard drives. All manufacturers are innovating to get ahead of the competition, however most advances seem to be small steps rather than giant leaps and so no one vendor in the market stands out as having a big competitive leap over the others. It is certainly true to say that the hard disk has become a commodity item.

As a technology leader and considering the future demand for storage (which shows no signs of diminishing), Seagate is set to continue to grow their business. At this stage whether Seagate will form part of my virtual portfolio, only time will tell, however I would say that one HDD vendor will be there.

Storage Stocks

Josh's recent posts have reminded me of a little piece of work I started but didn't finish a few weeks ago.

I've been compiling a list of storage companies which are publicly traded and trying to determine which I feel are value for money as an investment.

** DISCLAIMER ** This blog does not provide investment advice and all opinions on the values of stocks are mine entirely. You should not act upon these opinions but make your own judgements on the merits of investing in any company.

Phew, now that's done, let's get on with it. I guess the first question is why am I doing it? Well, of all the industries in which to invest, I would like to hope I understand the most about storage IT companies than any other. I say hope, as understanding what makes a company good as an investment will be not just their current figures, valuation etc, but rather there future potential for generating revenue and business. That's where things get difficult. There are the easy major players which are guaranteed to make revenue; just think of EMC, Cisco, IBM, Sun, Seagate, Netapp and so on. These companies have established businesses and make money. However not all pay dividends, so money has to be made on capital growth from some of the shares. There are also plenty of blips and gotchas to deal with. For example, Sun and Netapp - how has their current "misunderstanding" over patent rights affected shares?

Then there are the startups which then go IPO. Compellent recently floated. 3Par are planning to. How can these businesses be evaluated (other than by gut instinct) to see whether they are worthwhile?

So, for fun only (which is the main reason for doing this) I will be attempting to review one stock per day, which I will discuss and give my opinion on. I stress - *my opinion*. I could be (and probably will be!) wrong, however those I believe are worth investing in, I will start a "fantasy" investment portfolio just to see how things go!

If you have any opinions or comments, feel free to add them. The first company under review tomorrow will be Seagate.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Storage Expo

Yesterday and today is Storage Expo in the UK. I haven't bothered to visit for a few years but I decided to go this year and see if things have changed. I even took my camera with the thought of taking a few pictures.

Unfortunately I was less than impressed. Yes it was a good opportunity to catch up with old friends I haven't seen (some since the last time I went to Expo!) but there wasn't anything new to see that I wasn't already aware of. Worst of all, nobody was giving away freebies, which was a huge disappointment.

Anyway within an hour of wandering and chatting we'd hit the pub. Perhaps next year I'll avoid the show and just go directly to th pub first!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

New Celerra Simulator

Thanks to all those who drew my attention to the new version of the Celerra Simulator. EMC have done the right thing and made this version freely downloadable to anyone with a Powerlink account. This is a good thing as it gives everyone a chance to have a go. Just go into Powerlink and search on Celerra Simulator; the new version is

There have been a few changes made with this version. Firstly there aren't the unwieldly restrictions on the ACE (I think that was the Assured Computing Environment) which meant installing only on an Intel platform and having no other version of VMware installed on the target machine. This was a real pain as I use AMD a lot and I had to install on a machine that was less than desirable. EMC also time expired the previous versions which required a patch to extend the expiration date. Fortunately the latest version has no such restriction.

So I've installed the simulator under VMware on my test machine. After a few niggles with the network settings I managed to get onto the web-based administration tool. So far I've found the simulator slow. That could well be my test machine or the way I've configured the VMware guest the simulator runs in. I need to do some experimenting to get that right.

If you're not familiar (like me) with Celerra, using the simulator can be good and bad; good because you can familiarise yourself with the terminology the product uses; bad because there's a new learning curve to get anything working. In particular to see whether the simulator can actually store any data (which the Netapp simulator can).

Download and have a go - I'd be interested in everyone's feedback.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Disk Sizes Continue to Dazzle

HGST (Hitachi Global Storage Technologies) announced yesterday that they have managed to further miniaturise the drive heads they use in the hard disk drives. I hadn't realised exactly how small these recording heads were; apparently 2000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. Called "current perpendicular-to-the-plane giant magnetoresistive1 (CPP-GMR) heads" (I copied that from the press release to save me getting it wrong) which is a snappy title for any technology, these new heads will apparently move us closer to 4TB drives.

As I previously posted, hard drive technology these days is just amazing. All I can say, is keep it up guys!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Your Data on a Knife Edge

I read this interesting article on the BBC website today. It talks about how two European scientists (Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg) have won the Nobel prize for physics for GMR (giant magnetoresistance). This technology has enabled hard drives to be made smaller and to hold more data. What I liked most was the following comment, used to describe the technology:

"A computer hard-disk reader that uses a GMR sensor is equivalent to a jet flying at a speed of 30,000 kmph, at a height of just one metre above the ground, and yet being able to see and catalogue every single blade of grass it passes over."

What a great description of the (extremely cheap) technology we simply rely on every day to provide us our data. With those kinds of tolerance levels, our information really is on a knife edge.

So next time, you moan about a disk failure, just imagine being on that jet...

Monday, 8 October 2007

Storage VMotion

I read the following interesting news release from VMware today. It covers lots of new features for the future release (3.5) of VMware but the one that caught my eye discusses a new feature called VMware Storage VMotion.

This feature will apparently allow the migration of a VMware virtual disk between different storage systems in the same manner that VMotion allows a virtual host to be moved between physical servers. I'm interested in how VMware will have chosen to implement this as there are lots of places in the stack they could choose to do it. For example, will there be any integration with array vendors' technology (like SRDF/TrueCopy) to manage the replication at the lowest level? Will the replication be managed via a virtual target/initiator in the fabric or will the VMware O/S manage the duplexed data writes at the application layer?

The difficulty of using replication outside of the application layer will be managing data integrity and also speed of replication cutover as the VMware guest is shifted to the new physical location. Add into that the complexity that each member of the VMware "cluster" will probably want read/write access to the virtual disks on which the virtual hosts are defined, then technologies like SRDF aren't going to work.

What about the CDP products? These seem to be a good logical fit as they replicate and track each block change independently, but I think the same issues of read/write access will apply and therefore these products will be equally unsuitable.

I think it is likely VMware will implement a "standard" cluster with multiple disks being written to by all members of the cluster and using IP to manage synchronisation. This may be good for a local solution but in reality what does VMotion then buy you? As a tool for managing the location of virtual machines across a farm of servers then VMotion is a fantastic tool. I just love the ability to move a host around to manage performance/workload on physical machines and to provide the ability to take physical servers out of a complex in order to do maintenance work.

But with today's 99.999% available storage subsystems, which can be maintained and expanded online without outage, is there any benefit in being able to move a VMware host to another storage system, unless that storage system is remotely located?

Storage VMotion sounds like a great idea but I'm not sure of the practical use of it - especially bearing in mind there will be a significant cost associated with the new feature.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007


According to Wikipedia, lightning can travel at a speed of 100,000 MPH, however I think storage vendors are even faster than lightning when it comes to highlighting or dissing the competition.

Mere microseconds after reading Claus Mikkelsen's blog on the USP-V SPC figures, there are posts from BarryW and BarryB, doing the highlighting and dissing respectively (I almost wrote respectfully there; that would have been a funny typo). BarryB must have no real work to do other than to write his blog, looking at the size of the posts he does!

Anyway. I'm not going to comment on the results because the others have done that enough already and I don't think the details are that relevant. I think what's more relevant is the stance EMC are taking in not providing figures for customers on the performance of their equipment. I can't decide whether its a case of arrogance and therefore a feeling they don't need to provide details because as BarryB says, the customer will buy anyway, or is it because the DMX will not match up to the performance of its competitors. I think it is a mixture of both.

EMC aren't an array vendor any more and haven't been for a long time. OK, it is the product they're most remembered for historically, but their reach is now so wide and deep I think Symmetrix isn't the focus of a lot of their attentions. If it was, DMX4 would not just scale by the GB, it would have more connectivity, more cache and EMC would have been the *leader* in the implementation of technology like thin provisioning, not the also ran.

On reflection, I think EMC should provide SPC figures. If DMX is better than the others and is "Simply the Best" prove it; bragging starts to sound hollow after a while.