On Par for 2 Billion: 3PAR Discusses Cloud Strategy

By Nicole Hemsoth

September 1, 2010

Back in April when Forbes Magazine released its list of the top 25 tech companies on the swift upward climb, the editors noted that “Cloud computing, off-site data storage, on-demand application delivery, data protection and optimization are all taking importance for companies looking for efficiencies in their information technology systems.” Accordingly, wedged alongside Riverbed and Compellant Technologies in the number four position was 3PAR, a Fremont, California-based storage vendor that has recently made headline news in the mainstream media—and major waves in tech circles following an intense bidding war between HP and Dell that rages on and has stopped at the $2 billion mark.

The core of 3PAR’s business is aimed at the very large-scale and their ability to scale even larger without tremendous investment in new datacenters. The beauty of the model, at least to the big name companies that have used 3PAR to handle these needs, is that they can have just as much storage as they need with rapid scalability and pay for what they use. When it comes to investing up-front capital into alternatives such as those offered by EMC or NetApp, the benefits are clear as well.

3PAR’s “Consistent Cloud Strategy”

Having a chance to discuss the trajectory of 3PAR with someone from the inside was rather limited given legal constraints but it was useful to gain some insight into the cloud strategy of the company, which makes it rather easy to draw some conclusions about why the company would have been so attractive to both Dell and HP if you’re so inclined, although there are already about a thousand blogs on the subject, most of which see clear value in the company but are slightly taken aback not only by the price of the bidding saga but the ferocity with which it was fought.

What’s been difficult to get a handle on is where 3PAR sees itself in the space, both in the historical sense up until now, where they are still making major inroads, including with VMware and Nissho Electronics, both of which were news items this week on top of the bidding bevy.

Interestingly, according to 3PAR’s VP of Marketing in a phone interview with HPC in the Cloud, the company’s cloud strategy hasn’t changed much at all since the company was founded in 1999. Nunes stated, “We’ve had product in the marketplace since late 2002 so we’ve been maturing this utility storage—which is really storage built for internal and external service providers; what the market now calls the public or private cloud—we’ve been building that platform since we were founded in 1999 and we introduced product in 2002.

While the basic cloud strategy has been the same at its core, despite changes in the names of their various products, Nunes notes that there have been some major shifts in IT in general that led to their growing dominance in the market (and might explain, at least in terms of conjecture here, why they were perfect fits with HP or Dell’s currently mysterious cloud strategies.

In Nunes’ view there are two trends that have converged to bring 3PAR to its current position in the cloud ecosystem, and while he was certainly unable to discuss any specifics about the acquisition, his answer does shed some light on the meshing of technologies and IT trends—all of which presented some wide open doors for a company that found a way to make large-scale enterprises and cloud providers themselves take heed.

The reason we have the customer base we do today and the interest in our platform now is due to two major tectonic shifts. First, people running datacenters have figured out that they don’t need the physical dedicated infrastructure for applications; they can virtualize and share that and more flexible infrastructure by doing so; this is the whole move to the virtual datacenter.

The second shift is the move to IT as a Service; companies have been able to provide economic advantage to allow them to avoid investing in their datacenters, but investing in IT by the sip on a monthly basis based on needs.

Those two trends, with the latter enhancing and stimulating the former, is the impetus for really a whole new set of infrastructure. We see the interest and desire to deploy things like VMware on the server side and that same interest on the storage side in terms of highly virtualized storage platforms which bring a lot of the same benefits like efficiency and flexibility.

Core Competitive Elements of 3PAR

During the phone conversation, I hinted that there are companies who are doing some of the same things that 3PAR is doing, which definitely added some fuel to the conversation. While it may be true that there are really no other storage vendors operating on 3PAR’s same core set of systematic offerings for customers, what they’ve done to revolutionize the storage space in the age of virtualization is starting to garner some considerable attention and momentum.

The category of virtualized storage is smaller than the market has to offer today and the list gets rather short when you start thinking about virtualized storage arrays. Think about a lot of the arrays now like the Clarian, the NetApp array, the HP array—all of those traditional dual controller arrays, they’ve been around since the 90s and were built for that dedicated Unix or Windows Server world and now they’re trying to be repurposed in this virtualized datacenter but they really don’t bring the attributes that people are looking for in terms of virtualization and efficiency.

So the list is pretty short in terms of newer-generation virtualized array architectures and 3PAR is the only game in town in terms of a virtualized storage array that stretches from the mid-range to the high-end. The high-end of our product line runs stock exchanges and banks and there are really no alternatives for virtualized storage outside of 3PAR in that regard. The same software, the same UI from top to bottom—we’ve done a good job of scaling our product offering to Tier 1 to Tier 2 and so on.

Nunes spent some time detailing how 3PAR is a lone wolf in the market and while it’s tempting to temper the marketing speak that’s inevitable when you ask any company what makes their own better than any competitor, it is apparent that 3PAR does have a unique angle.

Broadly speaking, there are three aspects to our product line that have made us standalone in the industry.

First, around efficiency, (and a marquee product there is thin provisioning) there are loads of what we call thin technologies around copy and integration with things like Oracle and VMware and Symantec that in effect allow you to store more data on less disk than other platforms. That’s something we’ve been recognized for many years running.

Secondly, block storage has traditionally been really hard to manage. You’ve needed smart, separate, well-trained people for every kind of product because they’ve all been different. What we’ve done to block storage is to simplify it and make it what we call autonomic—think of it as a lot of mundane administrative tasks happen in the array without the administrator being involved, which means that as an administrator I spend  90% less time managing storage with a 3PAR array than with another. Our leadership in that area is the reason why many of our customers are with us today.

The third area in terms of our leadership is in the area of multitenancy—supporting loads of different users on a single platform cost effectively. We can grow; it’s a clustered architecture so we can start small and grow organically as we deploy more and more and it’s an innovative architecture that brings great cost structure. For those who started with a small mid-range array and then had to buy a second, third, twentieth, etc.—the operational cost of that scaling that kind of infrastructure crushes them. Our multitenant architecture allows them to grow into the array, not out of it and that’s a special capability that we get a lot of preference for.

It’s efficiency, simplicity and multitenancy where we shine.

The Thin Provisioning Parallel

One of the standout aspects of 3PAR’s business and its long-running mode of attracting customers comes via the art of thin provisioning, a technology that the company pioneered. According to Ted Samson, “Thin provisioning offers a means of essentially pooling all of your various storage resources such that space can be easily allocated to servers on the fly, and just as much as needed. Coupled with storage virtualization, it can help organizations not only get a better handle on storage management but boost storage utilization.” Sampson goes on to note that for many, “storage resources tend to be grossly underutilized” which is wasteful and expensive. Convincing customers of the value of switching to a more efficient platform to eliminate such waste has been a key to the company’s growth, particularly over the last two or three years as big data has increasingly gone virtual.

Of thin provisioning, Nunes stated:

You use the same amount of physical disk capacity but support three or four times the amount of data than you would have so you can, in effect, shrink your storage infrastructure in half or more and you’ll get the same job done for your users and, at the same time, for external service providers, for them to drive revenue is basically as fast as one can move the infrastructure—get it up and moving for the customer so they can get paid. As soon as you can fire up your infrastructure, the sooner you get paid. Now instead of weeks or months for some sophisticated deployments, it’s now hours or minutes. Now there’s a huge return for service providers having the right kind of equipment set in their datacenters.

We talk about these ideas of efficiency and agility being key aspects for these service providers building out these new datacenters and you can measure that at every stage.  

If there is an element of the 3PAR story and product line that seems to fit well with the as-of-yet crystal clear cloud ambitions of Dell or HP, it seems to lie in this concept. While Nunes was unable to discuss how this might or might not be the case, it is at the core of most arguments about the rationale behind the sky-high bidding price for the company.

The Future of 3PAR’s Technologies

Admittedly, by the time you read this article there will be an announcement about who will be the official storage-sugardaddy for the cloud age, but if we step back for a moment it’s possible to see the wider trend that’s emerging in the world of virtualization and storage. When a company that is able to spin up and refine a solid, proven technology that streamlines work and cash flow for large enterprises and providers alike it proves to be an enormous asset—so much so that it’s possible to make tech giants dig deep to pull out enough for a company that until relatively recently, was on the map but perhaps not the radar, at least not from the height Dell and HP look down from. No matter what kind of ending this story has, the tale is just beginning for storage virtualization companies eager to jump into any space 3PAR might vacate—although if 3PAR continues making inroads, they will continue to be a hot force to blow past.
 

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Geospatial Data Research Leverages GPUs

August 17, 2017

MapD Technologies, the GPU-accelerated database specialist, said it is working with university researchers on leveraging graphics processors to advance geospatial analytics. The San Francisco-based company is collabor Read more…

By George Leopold

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Centers (IPCCs) has resulted in a new Big Data Center (BDC) that Read more…

By Linda Barney

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last week the cloud giant released deeplearn.js as part of that in Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Leveraging Deep Learning for Fraud Detection

Advancements in computing technologies and the expanding use of e-commerce platforms have dramatically increased the risk of fraud for financial services companies and their customers. Read more…

Spoiler Alert: Glimpse Next Week’s Solar Eclipse Via Simulation from TACC, SDSC, and NASA

August 17, 2017

Can’t wait to see next week’s solar eclipse? You can at least catch glimpses of what scientists expect it will look like. A team from Predictive Science Inc. (PSI), based in San Diego, working with Stampede2 at the Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Bolsters Azure With Cloud HPC Deal

August 15, 2017

Microsoft has acquired cloud computing software vendor Cycle Computing in a move designed to bring orchestration tools along with high-end computing access capabilities to the cloud. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Ships Supercomputer to Space Station, Final Destination Mars

August 14, 2017

With a manned mission to Mars on the horizon, the demand for space-based supercomputing is at hand. Today HPE and NASA sent the first off-the-shelf HPC system i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD EPYC Video Takes Aim at Intel’s Broadwell

August 14, 2017

Let the benchmarking begin. Last week, AMD posted a YouTube video in which one of its EPYC-based systems outperformed a ‘comparable’ Intel Broadwell-based s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Thrives in Cancer Moonshot

August 8, 2017

The U.S. War on Cancer, certainly a worthy cause, is a collection of programs stretching back more than 40 years and abiding under many banners. The latest is t Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Raises the Bar for Distributed Deep Learning

August 8, 2017

IBM is announcing today an enhancement to its PowerAI software platform aimed at facilitating the practical scaling of AI models on today’s fastest GPUs. Scal Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Storage Breakthrough Paves Way for 330TB Tape Cartridges

August 3, 2017

IBM announced yesterday a new record for magnetic tape storage that it says will keep tape storage density on a Moore's law-like path far into the next decade. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Stuffs a Petaflops of Machine Intelligence into 20-Node Rack

August 1, 2017

With its Radeon “Vega” Instinct datacenter GPUs and EPYC “Naples” server chips entering the market this summer, AMD has positioned itself for a two-head Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This