The “also ran” Clareti VTL (or as I called it, “the only VTL going after the enterprise not doing dedupe”) from Gresham software was quietly sold to Tributary Systems, Inc (a storage VAR) in October. I’ve never heard of them prior to today. Maybe I’m a cynic, but I doubt this move will change that much.
When I think about the Gresham Clareti VTL, I think back to a briefing meeting I had with them at SNW a few years ago. It was a guy from marketing, and a techy-type (who I later found was the core architecture of the product). They were doing what I would describe as HSM for tape; that is, they were using disk as a high-speed cache to large tape libraries. They would stack smaller virtual tapes onto larger physical tapes allowing you to seamlessly migrate physical tape types in the background while keeping everything the same on the front end. The problem was that I hated this idea. I think tape stacking is evil and unnecessary in the open systems world. (It was necessary in the mainframe world where you couldn’t append to tapes, resulting in lots of unused tape. So replacing that with virtual tape on the front and stacking all those data sets onto physical tapes gave huge value. In the open systems world we know how to append to tape and this really isn’t an issue.) I also didn’t think that tape conversion was that big of a deal. There are ways to migrate from LTO-2 to LTO-4 without making all your tapes completely invisible to the backup app (which is what happens when you virtualize and start stacking them). Oh, and they had no plans to do dedupe because they saw disk as just a cache to tape.
So when they asked me what I knew of their product, I said that from what I understood, the whole world was going one way (dedupe and less tape) and they were going the other (more tape and no dedupe. It was blunt, but very truthful. The result? The techy guy said “well, I guess there’s no point in us talking to you!” and stormed out of the room! The marketing guy convinced him to come back, but you could cut the tension with a knife for the rest of the meeting. I called his baby ugly and he did NOT like it. Hey, dude. I calls em as I sees em. I may be wrong, but you’ll get what I think one way or another.
So fast forward two years and the product was acquired for $1.4M dollars. Wow. That’s even less than the cheapest one I know about when NetApp acquired their VTL from Alacritus for something like $12M. What’s even weirder is that they get half now and half later. There’s no performance stuff attached to the deal, but they don’t get all their money now. They got $300K in October, another $300K new year’s eve, then $600K in June ’10, and $200K more new year’s eve 2010. Call me crazy, but that sounds like a loan to me. So Tributary wanted a VTL but they couldn’t scrape together even $1M for it? Or was it that Gresham was just so desperate that Tributary struck a deal that limited their cash outlay even though they had the money. Who knows, but either way it’s almost a non-deal that was about .05% of the Data Domain deal.
They functionality offered by the VTL reminds me of another failed VTL company – Neartek. They were also an HSM-for-tape VTL that also knew how to talk to mainframes and open systems. They also weren’t doing dedupe, and they got sold for an undisclosed amount to EMC and basically disappeared.
How do you sell a VTL in today’s world without dedupe? Their shiny sheet talks about doing remote site backups with their VTL. How do you do that without dedupe? Seriously! They talk about this VTL having more functionality than any other product out there. Really? Have you looked at any of the other products?
Update: Some sent me private messages suggesting that I am saying this VTL has no value. I’m not saying that. I am saying that it’s far from being the best and it’s missing the single biggest feature that people are currently talking about (dedupe), so I don’t see how the CEO could say what he said.
it reminds me of the time I was in the Javits center at Unix Expo many years ago. A sales guy from a disk company was showing me hot-swappable disk drives and at that time they were pretty slick and new. He showed how easy it was to put them in and take them out and said, “it’s so easy a blind man could do it.” (He was blind.) We were impressed and asked him if they were the only ones doing it. He said yes. Then we walked around the show floor and saw nothing short of 6-7 vendors doing exactly the same thing. We laughed and said, “In all fairness, he is blind. Maybe he didn’t see the other vendors.”
Now before I get emails about making fun of a blind guy, I actually really respect this guy — and I make fun of everybody. Let me tell the rest of the story. The blind sales guy was (and is) named Michael Hingson. He and his guide dog, Roselle, survived the 9/11 attack of the WTC! Roselle lead Michael down from the 78th floor after the first plane hit! Who needs eyes when you have a dog like that? Michael now does keynote speeches and is now the national sales director for the National Federation of the Blind. Read more about him on his website. If you’re still mad at me, go ahead and click the Contact Curtis button and tell me what you think.
Maybe the Tributary CEO that said that this was the most advanced VTL is “blind.” He wouldn’t be the first “blind” CEO I’ve met. Go ahead, guys. Prove me wrong. I love it when I’m wrong about this sort of thing. But I think you just blew $1.4M dollars. You probably would have gotten a better ROI buying a house in San Francisco.
(Now I’m betting that core architect guy will never talk to me again.)
----- Signature and Disclaimer -----
Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.