Data moving and de-duplication

Overland Storage’s roadmap

Vern Loforti is the CEO of Overland Storage, the tape automation and disk-based data protection company. He has to lead the company back to health and earnings prosperity after the upset caused by Chris Calisi’s mis-steps, Calisi being the former CEO who was separated from the company last year.

Overland Storage has a strong heritage in the data protection business, and has four product lines:

- NEO tape automation products

- REO disk-based protection products

- ArcVault archive Appliance

- Ultamus protected disk arrays, originally positioned as protected primary storage.

We had the opportunity to talk to Vern Loforti when he visited London and ask him questions about the business. He was accompanied by Chris James, Overland’s EMEA marketing director.

B&F: How would you describe Overland Storage? What sort of Company is it?

Vern Loforti: “Overland has the cachet of a great tape heritage but the technology has expanded, to disk-to-disk protection for example. The percentage of companies still backing up to tape is 70 to 80 percent. Tape will still be there for years to come. Our new products are more in the disk backup space. I’d like people to think of Overland for disk protection products. How do we best message that? We’re a provider of tiered data protection appliances for small, medium and distributed enterprises.”

“With Ultamus there was a mis-step in our strategy of tiered protected storage by going into protected primary storage.

“We’re best sticking with data protection. So the products are: tape; disk – our VTL (virtual tape library) is one of the best in the market with its dynamic virtual tape (which is) a kind of thin provisioning; and nearline storage (Ultamus).”

B&F: What is Overland doing with de-duplication?

Vern Loforti: “The 9500D uses licensed Diligent (de-duplication) software. It was needed to achieve a time-to-market product. ”

“Diligent is a good partner. Below a certain point they refer customers to us. It’s a good relationship.”

“De-uplication has come up quickly. Now de-dupe is a checkbox item. We could layer the Diligent software solution on an appliance. But Diligent doesn’t have replication which Data Domain has convinced the market it needs. It blocks out 85 percent of the market although only 10-15 percent of people need it.”

B&F: Could you describe Overland’s roadmap please?

Vern Loforti: “One of our next-generation products is a data-mover. It is in development and will give us a better DR (disaster recovery) solution. It has been inspired from our multi-site pack to move data between REOs, and leverages a $1.25 million purchase from a Denver start-up for the core of the data mover product.”

“We have de-duplication coming, an in-house development with all IP (Intellectual property owned by Overland. It will really fill out the portfolio. This is relatively near-term.”

He added: “Quick installation is key for the reseller market. It is aimed absolutely at the sweet spot.”

“People don’t understand that in-line de-duplication slows down backup. The REO 9100 provides the fastest backup. So backup to a REO, then de-dupe it and data move it to a remote location. Then move it to NEO or to ARCvault for long-term retention.”

Overland’s CEO asserts that: “De-duplication is important,” agrees that: “Replication is needed for remote offices,” but gets excited with data movement: “Data movement is a very good topic. The data mover product will be embedded in our REO products. It will be better than the replication part of the 9500D.”

“With data we’ll be able to de-dupe it, compress it, and encrypt it,” and move it. The ability to move data fast and economically across network links is important: “Not everyone has a T1 line.”

Referring to online data protection services, Loforti added: “Overland uses an Iron Mountain service to backup laptops. Neo Telecom in France offers online backup using Overland products. It’s a subject that relates to our data mover product. There are possible partnerships coming.”

“The data mover product is very exciting to us.”

Overland also will have compression and encryption and synchronisation of backup catalogues. The Ultamus line of protected nearline drive arrays will have power-down within twelve months, through an advanced power-management system.

B&F: What about branded sales?

Vern Loforti: “We’re transitioning to more branded revenue sales and becoming less dependent upon OEMs, so the OEM proportion of our revenues will be declining.”

B&F: How about green isues?

Vern Loforti: “Tape libraries are the greenest (most energy-efficient) storage of all.”

Chris James, Overland’s EMEA marketing head, added: “Greeness is actually about power-consumption. A tape library uses 5 percent of the power and emits 2 percent of the heat of a drive array.” If drive arrays use power-down techniques they still consume power and emit heat whereas a tape cartridge on a shelf emits no heat and draws no power at all.

Data’s final destination can be either tape or disk. From the green point of view, James says: “We would tend to take a disk-to-disk-to-tape approach. It’s more efficient in terms of power consumption.” From a green point of view: “De-dupe and tape start to become really important technologies.”

B&F: How about data retention?

Vern Loforti: “Companies need to have a data retention policy. It’s a very difficult thing to do. You need to have a specific policy and carry on doing whatever it is you’re doing and not knowing about it.”

Conclusion

Overland Storage is moving on. The main hardware foundations of its product line are given and in good shape. The focus is on adding value to them to help customers better protect their data, making the most efficient use of drive array capacity and network bandwidth to provide centralised protection facilities for remote offices, disaster recovery, fast backup and restore plus policy-driven retention on archival media for long-term backup.

Green concerns are helping to drive the adoption of de-duplication and better power management, as well as reviving the perception of tape storage.

Tape is no longer the place where information goes to die; it is the safety deposit box where information that is precious goes to be preserved and held in trust. Tape is the bank vault for information you don’t need now but may need in the future and absolutely cannot throw away.

Overland is rounding out and strengthening its product line with its own de-duplication and data-moving technology. Its future is bright

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