Real Storage For Unreal Experiences

At the recent 2019 Augmented World Expo (AWE) and the Entertainment Technology 2019 (ET 2019) conferences in the Santa Clara Valley, I had a chance to catch up on recent developments in immersive environments. These developments included virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 360-degree video and a lot of ways to use these technologies.

At the AWE it was clear that some of the biggest near-term applications will be industrial uses, especially for factory/field troubleshooting and games. In factories and the field, voice commands and wearable displays provide workers with hands free information and advice access for working on systems. A talk by Ubimax realware said that at Shumberger assembly workers were 88% faster with AR gear than with written instructions and 15% faster with those instructions on a tablet. Immersive game experiences are likely the largest near term consumer market opportunity.

Many vendors at the AWE were showing VR and AR google, haptic body suits and other mixed reality gear. Battery life is probably the biggest issue preventing AR/VR glasses from becoming a substitute for our smart phones. Typical battery life for current gear is about 4 hours, unless the glasses are connected by wire to a belt worn power pack. There were vendors selling current battery technology for compact gear as well as folks working on advanced batteries that provide power for a longer period. A keynote speaker from Digi-Capital had survey results that indicate AR leads in platform development, particularly mobile AR technology.

The current market for smart glasses gear is very fragmented. The survey showed that Microsoft’s hololens and magic leap were leading, followed by a not-yet released presumed Apple smart glasses product. By 2023 Digi-Capital projects a $10-15B VR market and a $70-75B AR market. The biggest total growth in this market is expected in China as shown below.

Digi-Capital Immersive Experience Market Growth

Digi-Capital Immersive Experience Market Growth


Advanced high-resolution display devices depend on embedded memory for their operation in the field. This memory is typically SRAM or DRAM and can consume a considerable amount of energy re refresh the content in memory. Non-volatile technologies, such as MRAM could reduce this power draw, giving these display devices a longer battery life.

At the combined Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and Advanced Imaging Society (AIS) ET 2019 there was more talk about the size of immersive imaging projects. Dave Ward from Cisco talked about volumetric delivery for next generation production and consumption. The image below shows the enormous bandwidth and storage expansion that could be required for high resolution (here 12K) 360-degree video, compared with 2K television production. He said that storage capacity growth could rise from 750 GB/hour to 24.4 TB/hour.

Cisco Projections for Immersive Content Network s

Cisco Projections for Immersive Content Network s


He talked about how 5G advanced outdoor delivery will coordinate with Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax), inside a home, to provide full duplex (bi-directional) high performance communication, needed to support VR and AR experiences. The image below shows how this will create a universal high-performance network environment in many urban locations.

Combined Bi-Directional 5G and WiFi 6 Networks

Combined Bi-Directional 5G and WiFi 6 Networks


Providing these experiences, especially for personalized video experiences, such as for on-line games, will require advanced cloud as well as edge network computing, storage and computing and shown below. Naturally, he said that such content delivery networks will require IP-based hardware everywhere for advanced management and cost control.

Glenn Gainor, President of Sony’s Innovation Studios, spoke about their volumetric broadcast studio project. Volumetric imaging requires capturing, storing and processing all of the light, from all directions that come from an imaged object. Once captured, volumetric images can be displayed with a real holographic display with full depth and the ability to modify the focal point on demand. This can be used to take a green screen video of a person and insert it into a fully realistic looking background scene as shown below.

Display of Volumetric Image from Sony Labs

Display of Volumetric Image from Sony Labs


Jon Karafin, Co-founder and CEO of Lightfield Labs in the Santa Clara Valley, gave some ideas of just how big volumetric video content could be. The image below shows the relative size (number of pixels captured or shown) for a 512K video compared to lower resolutions, such as 16K, which is not commercially available to consumers and in early development stages. He projected this 512K video in 2090.

Future Holographic Image Requirements (number of pixels)

Future Holographic Image Requirements (number of pixels)


To create volumetric image projection Lightfield Labs is building volumetric image display submodules that can be combined to create a display panel and these display panels can be used for things such as a display wall with “infinite resolution, modularity and scale). Sounds like a holodeck to me.

The Immersive Digital Experiences Alliance, that includes Lightfield Labs, Cablelabs, Charter Communications, otoy and isby. The image below shows the projected timeline (without dates) for volumetric imaging products and experiences.

Immersive Digital Experience Alliance Roadmap

Immersive Digital Experience Alliance Roadmap


An Intel talk by Jill Boyce addressed new standards in MPEG for immersive content delivery and display. The MPEG-I standard will address ways to delivery and display ever more immersive content as shown below.

MPEG-1 Immersive Video Standard Plans

MPEG-1 Immersive Video Standard Plans


With advancing network, computing and storage technologies and advanced image capture and processing algorithms it will be possible to create environments that mimic, in many ways, reality with unreal content. Storing this unreal content will require large amounts of real storage.


HPE Delivers Storage And Convergence At Discover 2019

HPE CEO Antonio Neri kicks off HPE Discover 2019 in Las Vegas

It seems like it’s been a long time since either storage or HCI were front and center at an HPE event. Hewlett Packard Enterprise fixed that this week with a flurry of announcements during its keynote at its marquee HPE Discover event in Las Vegas.

HPE’s has a robust storage portfolio. Its Nimble Storage and 3PAR products are healthy and meeting the needs of the market. HPE  delivered market-beating growth during the first quarter of this year. HPE supplemented that strength with a new high-end storage offering call Primera.

HPE also continues its investment in its SimpliVity HCI portfolio. Despite many analysts (including this one) reading much into HPE’s budding relationship with Nutanix, HPE is doubling down on SimpliVity. There are two substantial additions to the SimpliVity portfolio, as well as news that HPE’s InfoSight predictive analytics platform now supports Simplivity.

HCI is also at the root of a fascinating product announcement from HPE’s Nimble Storage team called HPE Nimble StoragedHCI. This new product is designed to provide the flexibility of composable infrastructure with the benefits of HCI.

Let’s jump into the details of what HPE announced, along with what it all means.

Primera, a new high-end storage solution

The big storage news is the announcement of a new high-end storage array called Primera.  Positioned above 3PAR in the HPE’s line-up, Primera is designed to compete against Dell’s PowerMax and Pure’s FlashArray//X at the upper edges of the storage market. These are the competitors that HPE sees most often in deals.

Primera is a new product, both hardware and software, but its legacy derives directly from 3PAR. Primera’s software stack is based on 3PAR’s operating system. It uses an ASIC based on 3PAR’s latest generation technology.  But don’t let its legacy fool you. There are some reasonably substantial architectural changes within this product.

The Primera uses dual active controllers (or ‘active-active’) based on new electronics to facilitate near-instant failover times when a controller goes down. HPE is also using container technology to keep non-critical data services on the array isolated.

Primera’s container approach should bring an increased level of reliability to the table. This is the direction that the industry is heading, with even Dell Technologies executives indicating in interviews that the company’s upcoming storage architecture,, will leverage containers for precisely the same set of benefits. This is a nice win for HPE.

3PAR isn’t going away. HPE is using its brand distinction with Nimble, 3Par, and now Primera, to align with natural market tiering for storage arrays.  It’s a brand strategy that makes sense. It will help IT customers distinguish products. It also removes expectations about backward compatibility as Primera evolves.

HPE is incorporating Primera into its Synergy Composable Cloud offering, as well as its Google Anthos hybrid-cloud solutions.  These are integration efforts, not new products, but I’m happy to see it all available at launch.

Primera is a strong offering that will keep HPE competitive at the high-end of the storage market.  3PAR and Nimble are both healthy and competitive, and Primera complements those products nicely.

Simplivity at the edge

HPE wants to be clear. It views SimpliVity is as HPE’s preferred HCI offering.

There have been recent joint announcements from HPE and Nutanix detailing joint offerings, but HPE’s lead dog in the HCI race is its  SimpliVity line.  Nutanix exists in the portfolio to provide choice, HPE executives tell us. Supporting this position are three updates to the SimpliVity line.

The HPE SimpliVity 325 is a new offering that brings the power of Simplivity to a dense 1U form-factor powered by AMD EPYC processors.  HPE is smartly targeting the SimpliVity 325 to Edge applications, as well as remote office and space constrained environments.  Edge is a natural application space for HCI, with SimpliVity likewise being a good fit.

The company also announced a SimpliVity archive node.  The archive node provides a mix of traditional hard disk drives and SSDs in a 2U package to provide long-term storage options for a Simplivity HCI environment.   The SimpliVity archive node is a much-needed offering, as not every HCI implementation exists within a classic IT infrastructure with baked-in archival storage.

It should come as no surprise to see that HPE InfoSight now supports SimpliVity.  InfoSight, HPE’s predictive analytics solution, continues to expand across HPE’s data center portfolio.  The AI-driven predictive capabilities inherent in InfoSight once applied to Simplivity, will become a strong competitive differentiator. I’m thrilled to see this integration happen.

These add up to yield a great set of updates to SimpliVity. HPE is aggressively attacking the HCI market and is not slowing down with its direct investments in this space.

Disaggregating HCI with Nimble

HPE Nimble Storage dHCI (the “d” stands for “disaggregated”) is a bit of an odd duck, but one sitting at a unique place within the HPE portfolio. This software was first developed at Nimble before its acquisition by HPE, but updated to meet the current needs of the market. The offering is a bit of a departure for HPE in that it’s an HCI-like offering that is entirely unrelated to the software powering HPE’s Simplivity HCI.

If not Simplivity, then what it is? HPE’s dHCI is a software stack providing the utility of HCI, including single-pane-of-glass manageability for storage and compute through a sophisticated vCenter plug-in. Instead of a dedicated appliance, dHCI runs on a combination of Nimble arrays and HPE ProLiant servers.

HPE Nimble Storage dHCI provides the simplified experience that has driven the success of HCI, while at the same time providing the flexibility of HPE composable infrastructure. It allows compute and storage to scale independently, delivering the right mix of resources for the hosted workloads. Its Nimble legacy ensures that InfoSight integration is there day one, bringing nearly a decade of predictive analytics models to the storage nodes.

HPE is targeting Nimble Storage dHCI at the mid-market where traditional composable infrastructure may be an over-fit, and traditional HCI too limiting. It’s an unexpected move for HPE, and we’ll be watching to see how the market responds.

The bottom line

There are a few consistent themes embedded within HPE’s announcements. IT is a world filled with many clouds. The software-defined data center is a reality, whether delivered through hybrid-cloud, composable infrastructure, some flavor of HCI, or even the new Nimble Storage disaggregated HCI.  Underpinning it all lay a series of performant products.  It’s hard to disagree with any of that, and I like the announcements.

There are gaps. Late last year when HPE delivered server-class memory with its “Flash Accelerated Memory” into its 3PAR products, the company declared that the Nimble-branded products would be updated with the technology sometime this year. I’m anxious to see how (or if) it makes a difference in those arrays, but that’s a minor disappointment in the face of what was delivered.

There were no updates to its file and object storage offerings. HPE has the StoreEasy line for NAS, but StoreEasy isn’t a strong competitor against either NetApp’s scalable NAS systems or Dell EMC’s Isilon series. Given NetApp’s current struggle to close deals, there’s a real opportunity for someone to come in and steal its existing customers. We’re seeing many of these NetApp deals going to Dell’s Isilon. HPE shouldn’t let itself lose too many sales to Isilon before deciding to address the gap.

HPE also has strong stories around both multi-cloud and its GreenLake flexible capacity model. GreenLake, in particular, is one of the best in the industry for capacity-on-demand. The stories are strong, but they suffer where they meet storage. Beyond incorporating Primera into Synergy, no new announcements touched on cloud storage or storage-on-demand.

HPE has offerings here, but the company is being out-innovated in both cloud storage capabilities and storage-on-demand by both Pure Storage and IBM.  HPE is in good company, as Dell EMC is equally lagging in these spaces (I touched on Dell’s differing strategy in a recent column). Good company or not, HPE needs a fresh vision in cloud storage.

Gaps aside, HPE storage delivered a good set of announcements at Discover. The core of data storage remains block storage, and HPE is making a strong play with the new Primera solution. Primera is an excellent product with smart positioning by HPE.  The company also demonstrated that it’s committed to SimpliVity with substantial updates to the line.  Infosight continues its march to provide predictive analytics across the HPE-power data center.

HPE’s sales teams are hitting it out of the park when it comes to storage.  It grew its external storage revenue over 14% year/year in the first calendar quarter of this year. That is over two times Dell’s growth, and only trailing the perpetually on-fire Pure Storage.

Dell may dominate the storage market, but it is a market that still clearly values choice. The numbers demonstrate that HPE’s global sales teams have figured out how to sell HPE storage against formidable competitors. That’s fantastic for HPE, and this week’s announcements should do nothing but make that job easier.


16 TB HDDs, Zoned Storage And M.2 Computational Storage

Several recent announcements include Seagate’s announcement that it is shipping 16 TB CMR HDDs, Western Digital’s Zoned Storage Initiatives for HDDs and SSDs (with a mention of 20TB SMR HDD demonstration) and NGD Systems 8TB M.2 Computational Storage SSD for edge applications. More details are below.

Seagate Technology announced it has been actively shipping 16TB helium-based enterprise drives as part of the Exos X16 family. The company said that these drives deliver high performance and record capacity for hyperscale data centers to efficiently and cost-effectively manage ever-increasing amounts of data. The company also updated the IronWolf and IronWolf Pro Network Attached Storage (NAS drive lines with new 16TB capacity models.

These are helium-sealed conventional perpendicular magnetic recording drives (CMR), not using shingled magnetic recording (SMR). Seagate’s HAMR drives are expected sometime in 2020. The areal density of these 9 glass substrate disk drives is 892 Gb/in2.

Seagate 16TB IronWolf HDD

Seagate 16TB IronWolf HDD


The Exos X16 HDD runs at 7,200 RPM and includes Seagate Secure instant secure erase for safe, affordable, fast and easy drive retirement. The Exos X16 has an MSRP of $629 and is now available.

The IronWolf HDDs are particularly popular for NAS boxes used in media and entertainment and gaming applications. The IronWolf drives come with 2-year subscription to the company’s Data Rescue service and is built to support workloads up to 300 TB/year. IronWolf has a sustained data rate of 210 MB/s and the Pro version runs at 250 MB/s data rate. These products MSRP is $609 and $664 respectively.

Western Digital announced its open Zoned Storage initiative. The new approach uses zone block management to create a more efficient and disaggregated storage option using tiers of storage. In particular the company is planning on combining shingled magnetic recording (SMR) hard disk drives (HDDs) with Zoned Name Spaces (ZNS) on NVMe SSDs. ZNS was recently approved by NVM Express, Inc. SMR HDDs also use zoning to enable the multi-step write process needed to overwrite previously written tracks.

According to Western Digital, “Zoned Storage is an open-source, standards-based initiative to enable data centers to scale efficiently for the zettabyte storage capacity era. It involves the ability to store and retrieve information using shingled magnetic recording (SMR) in hard disk drives (HDDs) to increase the storage density and its companion technology called Zoned Name Spaces in solid state drives (SSDs).”

Zoned HDDs and SSDs from Western Digital

Zoned HDDs and SSDs from Western Digital


The company said that these ZNS SSDs are designed to lower write amplification, increase capacity, and provide improved throughput and latency. ZNS SSDs achieve these improvements by aligning “zones” to the internal physical properties of the SSDs, eliminating inefficiencies in the placement of data.

Western Digital sees the technology enabling new data center approaches that can scale to exabyte storage capacities, such as composable disaggregated infrastructure to support various workloads without overprovisioning. An intelligent layer on the host side works with the zoned storage devices.

The company says that it has also demonstrated 20 TB SMR drives with expected shipments in 2020. Western Digital estimates that 50 percent of its HDD exabytes shipped will be on SMR by 2023.

A new developer site, hosted by Western Digital on, includes open-source, standards-based tools and resources for ZNS and SMR.

SSD startup NGD Systems announced their computational storage device for the intelligent edge. This is their first M.2 form factor product for their Newport Platform. It has 8 TB of storage capacity combined with and AI-ready processor in the storage device. The company says that the combination of storage and processing provides new ways to scale storage and processors for edge computing, hyperscale and open infrastructure environments.

Using this 8TB M.2 product up to 288TB of storage can fit into a 1U chassis along with 144 ARM processor cores. This enables running various applications directly on the storage device processors as shown in the figure below.

Software can Run on Computational Storage Devices

Software can Run on Computational Storage Devices


According to the company, “NGD Systems’ Newport Computational Storage Platform and new M.2 offering more than double current available capacity and provide innovative flash resources, all in a 22110 enterprise-class form factor. The platform’s programmable computational storage services (P-CSS) allow support for AI and other application workloads without moving data off the disk. Based on Arm Cortex processors running a 64-bit Linux operating system, the platform provides users maximum flexibility of their compute resources.

Larger HDDs are coming with 16TB now and 20TB capacity soon, these will include SMR drives combined with Zoned Name Space SSD and computational storage products to enable future data center and edge storage.


The Sound Of Storage

This piece will look at memory needs for voice recognition and gesture control for the next generation of smart digital assistants. It will also look at some recent announcements for memory for external storage and automotive applications.

Knowles, a company with a long history in the audio industry, has a long history of making audio products such as hearing aids and microphones. The company also provides the microphones used in the voice recognition assistants used in many homes as well as many smart phones. Knowles announced the IA8201, the latest product in its Knowles AISonicTM family of audio edge processors. The IA8201 offers robust voice activation and multi-microphone audio processing optimized for power-sensitive applications. This processor has the compute power to perform advanced audio output, context awareness and gesture control for today’s most advanced consumer electronics. The figure below shows the layout of the Digital Signal Processor (DSP) chip.

Knowles IA8201 DSP Schematic

Knowles IA8201 DSP Schematic


The product can recognize voices even with high ambient sound and works with low power, providing local voice processing for smart digital assistants. This is a small device with a tiny 2.6x3mm eWLB package and a 6.0×6.0mm QFN package.

The memory in the device is 1.44 MB of SRAM and another 100kB of SRAM memory is located in the microphones (often 8 of these are used in today’s smart assistants). Sometime in the future, memory such as MRAM may be used instead of SRAM, allowing even less power consumption.

Toshiba announces the Canvio Slim, the latest addition to Toshiba’s Canvio portable hard drive family. It has a lightweight, aluminium finish and is 9mm thick. The product’s transfer rate is up to 5Gb/s over USB 3.0.

There were also a couple of announcements on digital storage for automotive applications. Western Digital announced that its automotive grade iNAND e.MMC 5.1 EFD storage solution was compatible with Renesas’s R-Car automotive system-on-chip (SoC), enabling automotive applications that require endurance, reliability and a wide operating temperature range.

Western Digital iNAND e.MMC

Western Digital iNAND e.MMC


Micron announced that it is sampling its UFS 2.1 compliant 64-layer 3D TLC NAND flash portfolio with volume production later in 2019. These products range in capacity from 32-256 GB, offering high speeds and resiliency in temperatures from -40 to 105 centigrade.

Micron UFS 2.1 SSD

Micron UFS 2.1 SSD


The product offers up to 940 MB/s reads and 650 MB/s writes. The UFS products deliver up to three times the sequential read performance of the Micron e.MMC products.

Consumer products require storage and memory to make them work. Whether AI functions in today’s digital assistants or in tomorrow’s automobiles, memory allows advanced functions to improve accuracy, privacy and security.


Pure Storage’s Upcoming Accelerate Event Is the Place To Be If You View Data As A Strategic Asset

Accelerate 2019, Austin, TX

I attend around 40 technology vendor or tech association events each year. That gives me a better understanding of each company’s strategies and offerings so that I can make recommendations and, for the lack of a better term, “grade” the vendors on their capabilities. This September 15th-18th Pure Storage will hold its annual Accelerate conference at the Austin Convention Center in my home base of Austin, TX. I am excited about this event, and not just because I can walk to it from my downtown condo.

Pure Storage is a company that we at Moor Insights & Strategy have been following very closely over the past several years as we’ve watched Pure stake out a leadership position in the hybrid cloud storage space. I was impressed with last year’s Data Hub Storage Architecture, and was pleased with the development earlier this year when it announced it was acquiring Compuverde with its unstructured data capabilities.

Pure Storage clearly understands the value of data as a strategic asset and I believe Accelerate 2019 promises to be the place to be for any enterprise, developer, analyst, or industry insider who shares this viewpoint. Let’s take a look at what Pure has in store for its premier customer and partner conference.

It’s all about data, dummy

Data is key to the future of businesses, and enterprise IT needs to have a data strategy to unlock the value of that data.  I have written a lot about that over the past years. The key to unlocking the potential of this data though is recognizing that different kinds of data work best in different homes—whether we’re talking on-prem, at the edge, or in the public cloud. One of Pure’s core value propositions is that it is the one of the only storage companies to unify all three of these data vectors.

Pure Storage customers don’t have to make trade-offs in choosing between private, hybrid, and multi-cloud and the company is aggressive in pointing out that it “liberates customers’ data” from the restrictions of cold data and lock-ins. Who wouldn’t like that?

Pure’s Accelerate show focuses on teaching attendees on how to turn data into a strategic asset.  This allows those who attend to better understand how they can explore new routes to market, such as XaaS, to improve customer loyalty and be more agile.

You may be asking, “where’s the storage”? Pure sells storage, but this show is more about what a company can do to derive value from data.  Storage, when smartly deployed, is a means to that end. Pure Storage understand this, and the Accelerate conference focuses on enabling IT builders and makers to execute their business strategies.

Customized for “Builders,” “Makers” and “Drivers”

With all this in mind, Pure Storage has evolved its 2019 conference in several different ways. The thing that really sticks out to me about the 2019 conference is the bespoke content directed towards so-called “builders,” “makers,” and “drivers” who are busy conceptualizing and constructing the next generation of IT. “Builders” include people like storage and virtualization administrators, along with cloud and infrastructure architects. “Makers” include VP admins and down, while “drivers” refers to C-level executive track folks and CIOs.

As you would expect, tracks and topics span the gamut across these audiences, including:

  • Unlocking Data’s Potential for Digital Transformation
  • AI’s Impact on Business
  • Business Advantage of Data Analytics
  • Using Data to Drive Growth & Productivity
  • Accelerating business apps
  • Enabling hybrid cloud
  • Modernizing data protection
  • Building a Data Hub
  • Enabling DevOps agility
  • Unifying VMware clouds
  • Pure Basecamp

Focus on “Builders”

Pure cares a lot about Makers and drivers, but the 2019 conference appears to be putting a particular emphasis on the “builders.” Pure estimates that half of its Accelerate content is targeted here.

This audience will have access to many tracks and topics that include enabling hybrid cloud, modernizing data protection, building a data hub, accelerating business applications, and more—all with the end goal of embedding Pure Storage technology into an organizations’ hybrid IT strategy. “Builders” can take advantage of various meetups, attend any of 150 breakouts and demos to learn various tips and tricks of the trade. In addition, builders can take advantage of training and certifications that I outline below.

Cloud training and accreditation

One of the things I love about the Accelerate 2019 agenda is that builders can now get certified on leading public platforms at the show for no extra cost. This includes training and certification for Splunk, a four-hour Amazon AWS training (with no certification), and a VMware training with a VVols Deep Dive Jump Start Program, and there are more to come.

These training and certifications open up future career opportunities for attendees, which in my mind is a huge differentiator for Accelerate this year. Imagine that you are a storage administrator in a world where the storage infrastructure is “autonomous.” That world is coming faster than you think. The best thing that an administrator can do is become educated and certified on the leading cloud platforms. This will prepare you for a future as a cloud administrator, which is a critical skill in an increasingly multi-cloud world.

Wrapping up

All in all, Pure Accelerate 2019 looks to be shaping up to be a great conference. I highly encourage anyone who views data as a strategic asset to attend. The various certifications and training available guarantee it should be a particularly enlightening opportunity for builders and those responsible for architecting and modernizing their enterprise’s hybrid IT infrastructure. Stay tuned for my event recap and take on any news coming out of the event. You can see more about the conference here.


Aligning Storage Vision And Storage Products At Dell Technologies World


Dell Technologies World (DTW), held a few weeks ago in Las Vegas, is one of the most important events in the computer industry. It’s an event where nearly fifteen thousand technology professionals gather to hear one the industry’s most powerful companies’ vision for the future. There are visionary keynotes, celebrity sightings (the B-52s,!), parties, dinners, user groups, vendor exhibits, games galore, and dozens upon dozens of deeply technical sessions. It’s a good time for an IT techie.

The press and analyst community have a slightly different experience than the average attendee. Instead of attending technical sessions, Dell Technologies World is where we get to spend quality time with the company’s leadership. We hear the long-term vision first-hand and get to question those defining that vision very directly. Michael Dell and his direct reports are unbelievably accessible at these events, which is something we don’t typically see from any other company with the size and influence of Dell Technologies.

Analysts are also allowed time with CIOs from some of the most technologically innovative IT shops in the Fortune 1000. We spend our lunch hours learning about the emerging IT challenges corresponding with the rise of  AI, multi-cloud architectures, new storage technologies, and a rapidly evolving world of software-defined everything. These engagements are one of the great perks of this job.

Beyond the vision, DTW is about solutions. It’s one thing to talk about a seamless multi-cloud world, where data and workflows migrate to where they are most effective, with data all living on Intel Corporation’s magical nearly-no-latency Optane technology. It’s quite another to learn about the real products that are enabling that future. This year’s DTW saw storage-focused announcements across many vectors. Let’s take a closer look.

Mid-Range Storage: What we saw, and what we didn’t

It’s a problem as old as the computer industry. A company pre-announces a new product or new architecture, and the world waits with bated breath. In the case of Dell EMC, that announcement is its upcoming mid-range storage refresh, “” Instead of customers, it is the press and analyst community who are waiting with breath bated. is expected to replace Dell’s mid-range storage line, which includes its Unity platform, the Dell EMC SC series, and Dell’s EqualLogic products. The new architecture is expected to be a new ground-up architecture designed to leverage the best of modern storage technology. This will simplify the offerings in Dell’s midrange storage line, while also delivering a common set of next-generation technologies that will serve as the basis for years to follow.

Jeff Clarke, Dell’s vice chairman of products and operations, described the new storage architecture in press interviews as a ground-up effort that includes a new software stack comprised of a new filesystem, optimizations for scaling from NVMe to NVMe-over-fabric, and, ultimately, a memory persistent architecture.

It was a great disappointment to all of us storage nerds that Dell didn’t talk to us about the new architecture and underlying technologies. Dell did tell us that the new storage solution is being beta-tested with enterprise customers now. Based on many public interviews we’ve seen with various Dell executives, I expect that the new products hit the street before the end of the year.

Despite no details on, Dell did deliver improvements on its existing product line. The company updated Unity with the NVMe-ready Unity XT. The new Unity box is 2 times faster than the previous generation, and also promises to be nearly 70% faster than its closest competitor. Data efficiency and dedupe effectiveness is high across the industry, and Dell nails it here, gaining up to 5:1 data reduction. The Unity XT should keep Dell’s current Unity customers happy, at least until we see what has to offer.

Speed bumps

It’s not all about the midrange though. High-performance storage and scalable NAS solutions are a critical part of any IT infrastructure. Dell serves these markets with its Dell EMC PowerMax and Isilon series, respectively. We didn’t go into DTW expecting major announcements on these products. Both PowerMax and Isilon are in good shape competitively, and Dell does a great job of keeping them current. It’s in keeping PowerMax and Isilon competitive that Dell announced a series of upgrades that will soon hit the production lines.

Bearing the fruits of a three-year collaboration between Intel and Dell to improve overall performance, scalability, and reliability of storage systems, Dell announced that its PowerMax would be the first storage array in the industry to support dual-port Optane SSDs. The dual-ported parts, which are NVMe-attached and equipped with two PCIe gen 3 lanes per port, purport to cut latency by an additional 50%. Given where Optane and PowerMax latencies are right now, this promises to be an insanely fast storage array. Dell touts the PowerMax as the “fastest storage array in the industry.” It’s nice to see Dell continue to deliver against that trajectory.

Dell’s Isilon line of scalable NAS solutions has long been a good fit for analytics and artificial intelligence. Isilon has a long history in media and entertainment, and it isn’t lost on Dell that its optimizations for media meta-data apply to the needs of machine learning and deep learning environments. As deep learning enters the enterprise, it’s natural that Dell evolves Isilon’s file system to support this new world.

OneFS is the file system at the heart of Isilon. OneFS version 8.2 brings a slew of optimizations targeted at AI and deep learning. Beyond enhancements targeted at performance, cloud integration, and data protection, the new software enables massive scalability. Isilon with OneFS 8.2 delivers up to 75% greater capacity, with cluster scaling increasing from 144 today to 252 nodes.

These all appear to be great updates to an already strong product line.

Cloud storage services

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or capacity-on-demand, is red-hot right now. Every top-tier technology provider seems to have a solution. Pure Storage delivers top-tier storage-as-a-service. Hewlett Packard Enterprises delivers storage and compute with its HPE GreenLake offerings, and announced in a recent earnings call that the service experienced its best quarter ever. IBM Corporation was a pioneer in delivering cycles-on-demand, and shows no signs of slowing down its efforts in the space. Lenovo offers IaaS, as does Huawei.

Dell has been slower than its competitors in entering this space as a service provider. It’s an understandable stance, as IaaS is a dangerous path for a full-stack solution provider like Dell. Cloud-delivered, or even on-site offerings, replace handsome top-line hardware revenue with more margin-friendly, but lower and more spread-out, services revenue. Differentiation becomes difficult. The lines start to blur between cloud providers, MSPs, and OEMs offering competing services. You compete against your customers in that market.

Dell’s approach to this market has been to lever its VMWare-enabled HCI and CI products into the hands of IaaS providers. This strategy seems to be based on the notion that it’s better to power that market than compete in it. It’s a good strategy. Dell has had great success moving its VxRail and VxRack products into the MSPs and other providers of IaaS. That’s not going to slow down.

Even so, the realities of the current IT market demand that full-service providers include cloud-based and IaaS offerings as part of their portfolios. Dell stepped into that game on the storage front at DTW with the announcement of its Cloud Storage Services. Dell EMC Cloud Storage Services extends on-site Dell EMC storage to storage hosted in the cloud. The cloud-based storage links storage-on-demand delivered by Dell’s MSP partners with Unity, PowerMax, and Isilon in the data center.

The initial workload targets for Dell’s Cloud Storage Services include two use cases. Disaster Recovery as a Service automates disaster recovery for customers using Unity and PowerMax platforms. The second use case is multi-cloud agility—the ability to migrate data between various public and private cloud providers.

Dell’s Cloud Storage Services isn’t a direct competitor to offerings such as Pure Storage’s Evergreen Storage Service (ES2). Pure’s approach provides the benefits of its high-performance all-flash arrays to IT shops as a purely OpEx model, delivering storage services on-site, in a colocation facility, or in the public cloud. Dell’s approach is different. Dell’s Cloud Storage Services extends hardware inside of the data center into the cloud, and does so with the involvement of MSP partners.

It is still early in the cycle of enterprise adoption of multi-cloud architectures, and both types of solutions have their place. The market will evolve, as will the OEMs’ approach to that market.

I like Pure’s ES2 model and the high-level of flexibility it offers IT shops and the finance teams who take care of them. It’s also nice to see Dell enabling its MSP partners in solving some genuine problems for big IT. Watching IaaS, multi-cloud, and public cloud impact IT architecture and the vendors who supply it will be endlessly fascinating for some time to come. It’s a fun space.

Wrapping up

There was a lot going on at Dell Technologies World this year. This column is already very long, and I didn’t even begin to touch on Dell’s new data protection announcements, or the invasion of VMware software into nearly every nook and cranny of Dell’s enterprise portfolio. It’s worth looking around to understand everything that was announced.

Dell Technologies is perhaps the most influential company in IT technology. Michael Dell made massive bets over the past decade; bets won on the back of stellar execution and discipline from his leadership team. The company transformed itself from a PC-to-order shop to a lighthouse for enterprise computing technology. It’s been great to watch.

Dell is a lighthouse, but it’s not alone. There is great innovation happening at HPE, IBM, Lenovo, Pure Storage, and even Huawei. Nutanix is stepping up to be a competitor to VMware in a way that nobody expected as we search for solutions to the multi-cloud world. Watch Dell, but watch everyone else as well. It’s an exciting time to be in IT.


Is worst over for mid- and small-cap stocks?

While some analysts said many of the stocks have bottomed out, and are likely to continue rising, others said it isn’t time to buy yet

Mumbai: A month after touching their 52-week lows, mid-cap and small-cap stocks seem to have regained their mojo.

BSE mid-cap and BSE small-cap indices that hit their 52-week lows on 9 October have rebounded 7.48% and 6.77% respectively since then, while the benchmark 30-share BSE Sensex rose a meagre 2.02% in the same period. Eighty-six of 105 BSE mid-cap components and 705 of 866 BSE small-cap components have gained during the period.

While some analysts said many of these stocks have bottomed out, and are likely to continue rising, others said it is not time to buy yet.

“Valuations of a few stocks are justified; the fall was very steep. Mid-caps and small-caps have outperformed Sensex in recent times,” said Rahul Shah, assistant vice-president at Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd.

The BSE mid-cap index now trades at 18.35 times one-year forward earnings, below its five-year average of 18.52 times, while the BSE small-cap index trades 14.41 times one-year forward earnings, below its five-year average of 16.83 times, data from Bloomberg showed.


“I feel the quality mid-caps and small-caps have bottomed out. The sell-off this year, mutual funds’ reclassification, are all (reflected) in the price. Quality mid-caps and small-caps should look up from here,” said Shah, adding stocks such as Finolex Industries Ltd, Bharat Forge Ltd, Birla Corp. Ltd., Can fin Homes Ltd and PNB Housing Finance Ltd are likely to perform well from here.

“That said, there are some which are still expensive,” said Shah.

The top performer in the BSE mid-cap index since 9 October is Adani Power Ltd, which has gained 105.42%, followed by Godrej Properties Ltd, Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd, Shriram Transport Finance Co Ltd and Reliance Power Ltd, who have gained 30.78%, 30.18%, 26.82% and 24.49% respectively.

Top performers in the BSE small-cap index during the period are Sunil Hitech Engineers Ltd, Universal Cables Ltd, Dhanalaxmi Bank Ltd, Capri Global Capital Ltd and PC Jeweller Ltd. They logged 80%, 73.87%, 49.92%, 48.48% and 47.39% gains respectively.

Some analysts are not attracted by the mid- and small-cap stocks yet.

In a note on Monday, UBS said it remains underweight on small and mid-cap stocks. “Given the volatility in the markets and many moving parts, we encourage investors to look at PE multiples on an intrinsic basis (growth, cost of capital and return on capital), rather than just comparing them to historical averages,” UBS analysts said in the note.

“This (9 October-lows) can be a temporary bottom but can also be retested,” warned Arun Kejriwal, director of Kejriwal Research and Investment Services Pvt Ltd.

“The recovery has started after the earnings season kicked off, and the rally was backed by a few good numbers,” added Kejriwal.


Is this the right time to invest in the small-cap segment?


Edelweiss Mutual Fund is launching a new fund offer (NFO) of a small-cap fund, the Edelweiss Small Cap Fund, with an added feature called Smart Trigger-enabled Plan (STeP). As the name suggests, the fund will invest in the small-cap segment of the market and the STeP facility will enable investors to stagger their investments into the market over a period of time as a way to deal with volatility and to reduce timing risks.

What is it?

The Edelweiss Small Cap fund will invest at least 65% of the corpus in small-cap companies. These are companies that when ranked on the basis of full market capitalisation fall below the 250th rank. The fund can also take exposure of up to 35% in large- and mid-cap stocks or debt and money market instruments.

The STeP facility will help invest on market declines. The investment will go into the fund in five instalments. The first 20% of the application amount will be invested upfront into the small-cap fund. The remaining 80% will be invested in Edelweiss liquid fund. The trigger for each monthly transfer from the liquid fund to the small-cap fund will be a 3% decline in the small-cap index from the date of allotment. If the trigger is not hit, then the allotment will be done on the last business day of the month. The number of transfers will be limited to one a month even if the index falls by more than 3%. The idea is to capture a fall in the index, if any, in the election months of May and June 2019.

Investors can choose to transfer any portion of the balance from the liquid to the small-cap fund at any point. They can also invest a lump sum in the NFO and the entire money will be invested at one shot in the small-cap fund on the day of the allotment Or, they can invest through a regular SIP. However, in this option, they won’t have the benefit of the trigger to make investments into the small-cap fund when market declines.

What is good?

Unlike the past, where fund houses have rushed in with NFOsto take advantage of a run-up in the market or a segment, this time we are seeing a slew of small-cap funds when the segment has seen steep correction. The Nifty Small Cap 100 index fell by 29% in 2018 and this NFO seeks to benefit from better valuations and investment opportunities created by the correction. The small-cap fund category reflects volatility. One-year return in the category has been -21.71% and the 3-, 5- and 10-year returns have been 10.92%, 21.38% and 20.47%, respectively.

The fund intends to follow stringent sector and stock selection process to identify good quality companies with strong businesses and return ratios. “We classify stocks in four buckets—strategic, tactical, defensive and options—based on their characteristics and the role we expect them to play in the portfolio,” said Radhika Gupta, CEO, Edelweiss Asset Management (see graph).

Mint Money take

While the small-cap segment has seen substantial correction, not all stocks in the space, particularly the strong companies, can be considered attractively priced yet. The segment has the potential to outperform large-caps and mid-caps but it also sees the deepest cuts when economic and market conditions turn unfavourable. In an election year, fiscal prudence is likely to take a backseat and this, along with the possibility of an election outcome that may not be in the best interest of the economy, will have consequences for the markets.

Sebi’s recategorisation of MF schemes shrunk the investment universe for large- and mid-cap funds, leaving an unattended large catchment area for small-cap funds. While the valuation argument post the 2018 correction is compelling, small-cap funds are not for everyone. The extreme volatility in returns, which is a distinct possibility in the run-up to the election and beyond, may be unnerving for investors not used to it.

If your asset allocation and risk tolerance allow it, then consider investing in the NFO. The STeP facility refines the SIP to enable investors to benefit from any correction in prices of stocks more effectively. Stock and sector selection will be important parameters and the fund house has seen some success in building large- and mid-cap portfolios.

“This fund is trying to normalise volatility through the systematic transfer route but unless you are willing to leave your investment for 3 years, this fund is not for you. Small-cap funds are high-risk, high-reward products but the returns can go down quite a bit before they go up,” said Shyam Sekhar, chief ideator and founder, Ithought. Investors must be willing to ride the volatility and give the investment adequate time for portfolio selections to play out.


Mid-cap, small-cap firms more valuable right now: Kotak

Brokerages value midcap and smallcap more right now.

Mumbai: With the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA)returning to power at the Centre, mid-cap and small-cap companies are likely to be the more attractive options for investors in terms of value, a market analyst report said on Friday.

Mid-cap is the term given to firms with medium-sized market capitalisation.

“With NDA coming back into power we can expect local investors to take comfort in the mid and small-cap space with a longer two-three years horizon and inflows could resume in them,” a Kotak report said.

“In terms of market cap orientation we see more value in mid and small-caps rather than large-caps at this stage.”

Elaborating on the reasons behind its assessment, the report said that local flows, which are the main driving force for mid and small-cap companies, have seen a sharp slowdown in the last six months.

On the overall scenario, the report expressed concerns over economic growth and investment.

“The priority of the government will be to revive economic growth and investment, although the macro-economic situation is quite challenging. There is a need of strong fiscal stimulus but scope of doing so seems limited given the high crude prices leading to higher current account deficit and higher fiscal deficit,” it said.

With the Lok Sabha elections that concluded on Thursday, the report sees the markets going back to the “basics”.

Factors like the US-China trade war, the behavior of crude prices in the midst of the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran, earnings and valuations, the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI)forthcoming policy review, and the build-up to the Union Budget will guide the markets, the report said.

It also pointed out that sectors like capital goods, construction, building materials, corporate banks, power equipment, housing finance companies and rural-focused companies will benefit the most over the next one year.

Consumption stocks, however, could take a back seat because of the slowdown in demand and rich valuations, the report added.


Watching the Sensex can be misleading– India’s mid and small cap stocks have lost ₹2.4 trillion of investor wealth this year alone

The Sensex is up over 8% for the year but the stocks outside the blue-chip space have swung in exactly the opposite direction. The BSE midcap index has lost 6% and the small-cap index has lost a little less than that. The total wealth lost by investors in the two indices is ₹2.4 trillion this year alone.

India’s economic growth hit a five-year low in the first three months of 2019. Simultaneoously, a crisis exploded in India’s financial sector with giant infrastructure lender IL&FS going down. The regulators are are still dealing with but in the mean time, it has led to a cash crunch, a trust deficit, and therefore, reduced risk appetite.

Top 25 mid-cap stocks that have eroded the maximum investor wealth in the last one year ending June 20.

DHFL -89.40%
KIOCL -42.50%
SAIL -42.10%
IDBI BANK -41.90%
EMAMI LTD -41.60%
SUN TV -39.00%
HUDCO -35.10%
NBCC (INDIA) LTD -32.50%
MRPL -31.90%
NALCO -31.40%

Making matters worse is a global economic slowdown and the nagging fear of a full-blown trade war between the US and China that may further dent recovery prospects. “Mid-caps or small-caps in general are smaller businesses and, on an average, are less strong than their large-cap counterparts. Investors need to be aware of this risk and not go blindly after the entire universe, expecting higher returns,” said Samit Vartak, founding partner and chief investment officer of SageOne Investment Advisors LLP told the Livemint earlier this month.

Top 100 small-cap stocks that have eroded the maximum investor wealth in the last one year ending June 20.

KWALITY -92.30%
PUNJ LLOYD -91.80%
8K MILES SOFT -87.10%
ARCOTECH -85.80%
ARVIND -85.00%
SPML INFRA -82.60%
KISAN MOULD. -82.30%
NAVKAR CORP. -79.60%
COX & KINGS -71.70%
SKIPPER -70.30%
DB REALTY -68.50%
KSK ENERGY -67.50%
L. T. FOODS -64.20%
KSE -63.60%
PATEL ENGG. -62.00%
DISH TV -61.60%
HEG -60.20%
ZUARI AGRO -60.00%
NITCO -60.00%
IRB INFRA. -59.40%
ASHIMA LTD. -58.50%

There are those who believe that the steep fall makes spaces for a rebound. “Mid- and small-cap indexes have slumped from their peak in January 2018 and, because of the time and price correction, there’s an opportunity in these stocks,” Dhiraj Relli, chief executive officer at HDFC Securities Ltd., said in an interview at his office in Mumbai.

Five years ago, stocks from the sapce had a historic rally after Narendra Modi was voted in as the Prime Minister. The fact that he has further strengthened the government’s legislative power in the Parliament has also stoked hopes of a repeat rally in the stocks of these smaller companies. However, the hopes did not materialise.

Tushar Pradhan, chief investment officer at HSBC Global Asset Management (India) Pvt. Ltd, had a word of caution earlier this month,“It would be wishful thinking to expect mid- and small-caps to repeat their performance seen post 2014 polls. Valuations may seem to be fair, but they have to be backed by earnings growth.” And earnings growth does not accelerate in a weak economy.

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