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Skyera launches 136 TB skyHawk, delays meatier skyEagle

Skyera launched a denser 136 TB single-controller skyHawk all-flash array but pushed its dual-controller skyEagle to next year.

Skyera today launched a 136 TB version of its single-controller skyHawk all-flash array to further distinguish itself in an increasingly crowded market with its concentration on high density and low power consumption in a 1U box.

The small physical size of the new 136 TB (raw) skyHawk FS, which stands for Fixed Storage, and 44 TB (usable) skyHawk make them suitable for enterprises with space constraints, especially in mobile data centers. The unified SAN/NAS systems feature hardware-assisted inline compression to potentially boost the capacity even higher, depending on the data set.

But the single-controller skyHawk lacks many enterprise features that have become common in all-flash arrays, such as snapshots, clones, inline deduplication and replication. Skyera has long pledged to deliver the enterprise capabilities, along with significantly higher capacity, in its long-delayed, dual-controller skyEagle.

Skyera postpones skyEagle to 2015

The startup, based in San Jose, Calif., has now pushed the skyEagle release date to the first half of next year and, in the process, furthered its reputation for overpromising and under-delivering. Skyera CEO Frankie Roohparvar acknowledged the complaints, saying, "Where there's smoke, there's fire."

"I realize that we went out there way too early and announced what is possible versus what have, and a lot of people got confused. That's been a behavior pattern that we are not going to return to," said Roohparvar, who became CEO in August. "We really are rebuilding our image as people that can deliver on time on what we promise."

Roohparvar was Skyera's chief operating officer before becoming CEO. Before that, he was general manager of the NAND flash division at Micron, which acquired his startup company, Micron Quantum Devices.

Roohparvar's predecessor, Skyera co-founder Radoslav Danilak, shifted from CEO to chief technology officer. Danilak also was a co-founder of SandForce, the flash controller company acquired by LSI in 2012. Avago Technologies closed on a deal to buy LSI earlier this year, and in May, Seagate announced an agreement to acquire LSI's flash business.

"One of the things you need to do as a CEO is under-promise and over-deliver. Rado was more of a CTO, where he talked about future stuff, and he talked about it probably way too early," Roohparvar said. "I think we've kind of shot ourselves in the foot by doing that. That's the reason I'm basically staying away from having a lot of future conversations."

Analysts: SkyEagle needed for enterprise market

Industry analysts say the dual-controller skyEagle is necessary for Skyera to make a serious play in the enterprise market, which has come to expect high availability and advanced storage features in all-flash storage systems.

"Skyera seems to be focusing on maximizing density, where they rule. They're so far ahead of everybody else in terms of density," said Tim Stammers, a senior analyst at New York-based 451 Research. "But, with a single controller, they can't really address the enterprise market. They don't have the availability. You lose one controller, you lose the box."

Roohparvar said customers that want high availability can buy two boxes, which he claims is still significantly cheaper than competitors' offerings. He also noted that most customers use their existing software and are not looking for Skyera's systems to be HA.

Marc Staimer, president of Dragon Slayer Consulting in Beaverton, Oregon, said enterprises can use the current skyHawk as a dense solid-state brick fronting a storage software stack from vendors such as DataCore, Nexenta or Microsoft. The customer could use the storage features from those products.

Eric Burgener, a research director at International Data Corp., based in Framingham, Mass., maintains skyHawk is also suitable for databases and single applications that need a performance boost and can provide their own data services for high availability and disaster recovery.

But Burgener pointed out the latest focus for most all-flash array vendors is mixed workload consolidation so that AFAs can ultimately replace the current crop of "enterprise storage workhorses" for primary data.

"You have to have more than density and low price per GB to do that," Burgener wrote via email. "You need a full complement of data services as well as an ability to integrate well into preexisting data center workflows."

Roohparvar said Skyera released skyHawk first to prove the concept and generate revenue, based on its power and space advantages for select use cases.

"We have a significant number of enterprises interested that are saying, 'Hey look, just give us higher capacity. Don't worry about some of these features that you're going to be having in Eagle, because we actually have software that manages all that,'" Roohparvar said. "So, we kind of shifted a little bit of our focus in trying to get something that we can get out with minimal features that increases the market penetration and position while we're developing the skyEagle."

Skyera's new 136 raw TB skyHawk FS lists at $406,000, and the first-generation 44 usable TB skyHawk sells for $131,560, according to a company spokesperson. Roohparvar said the list price per raw GB is roughly $2.99, without data reduction factored into the equation. He claimed Skyera's all-flash arrays approach the pricing of top disk-based arrays that sell for $2.50 to $5 per GB.

"They're going at it from a price angle, but I think that the real attraction is the size," said Jim Handy, chief analyst at Objective Analysis in Los Gatos, California. "If people have space limitations in their data centers, this would be a real godsend for them. It's pretty amazing that they can get that much flash into that small of a box."

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