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EMC sees TwinStrata as a cloud tier for storage

EMC acquired TwinStrata primarily for its ability to serve as a cloud tier for its VMAX enterprise arrays.

While EMC's TwinStrata acquisition brings the storage giant into the cloud gateway business, its major goal is to provide a cloud tier within its high-end array platform.

EMC disclosed the acquisition Tuesday as part of its launch of new VMAX enterprise arrays. While EMC will continue to sell TwinStrata CloudArrays, its main use for the technology will be to embed its software into the VMAX architecture to allow customers to move data between private and public clouds.

TwinStrata began selling CloudArray iSCSI appliances in 2010 that allow customers to cache frequently accessed data on-premises while storing other data in the cloud. EMC plans to integrate the software version of CloudArray into VMAX.

"It's a very lightweight technology and we can embed that into VMAX easily," said Barry Ader, vice president of product management for VMAX. "You will be able to move data within VMAX, but also from a private cloud to another private cloud, or another [public cloud] provider."

Ader said the integration will start with VMAX and EMC will consider what other platforms it can embed the TwinStrata technology into. He could not give a timeframe for completing the initial integration into VMAX.

Customers will be able to purchase the CloudArray software as a separate application or as a licensed service with VMAX systems.

"We'll be able to embed different types of data services with file management and backup services," Ader said.

TwinStrata raised $19.4 million in venture funding. Like other players in the cloud gateway market, TwinStrata started by selling its technology as an on-ramp to the cloud. It evolved its product last year when it added a disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) capability to CloudArray, along with volume migration to improve performance and an automated snapshot scheduler.

The DRaaS technology copies VMDKs into the cloud and does storage replication into the cloud. It allows customers to spin up VMware-based vSphere servers in the cloud and recover a live copy of applications and data instead of rebuilding servers for disaster recovery. Along with VMware vSphere replication, DRaaS supports virtual machine (VM) backup software from Veeam Software.

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, said TwinStrata started to gain a lot more market traction when it changed its focus to DR.

"They have been pushing DR," he said. "People liked that approach and that's when their sales went up."

Staimer said EMC will have to do a fair amount of integration before the CloudArray technology will be available in VMAX, which is a Fibre Channel SAN array. TwinStrata's CloudArray is an iSCSI-based file system.

"You have to have a data mover under the covers so you can move data from VMAX to TwinStrata to the cloud," Staimer said. "As far as VMAX is concerned, the data is all local, which is represented by TwinStrata. What they have to do is make a cloud tier within VMAX. So how does VMAX address a different iSCSI target? It also needs to play a part in VMAX management."

Staimer said he expects EMC to use a part of the TwinStrata software to convert block storage to the REST application programming interface and integrate it with VMAX. TwinStrata supports a wide range of cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services, Amazon Simple Storage Services, EMC Atmos, Google Cloud Services and HP Cloud Services.

The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. TwinStrata employees, including CEO Nicos Vekiarides, will join EMC's VMAX team. Vekiarides will report to Fidelma Russo, senior vice president of EMC's VMAX division.

TwinStrata is the second cloud gateway startup to be acquired by a large vendor. Microsoft bought StorSimple in 2012, and uses StorSimple's physical and virtual appliances to move data to its Windows Azure cloud.

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