Credit Where Credit is Due

by Administrator on June 22, 2007

My good friend, George Teixeira, CEO at DataCore Software (and fellow Floridian), copied me today on an email that went out to editors and storage writers.  Basically, he is on a personal quest to set the record straight regarding who pioneered Thin Provisioning. 

Guess what: it wasn’t 3PAR or HDS or any of the other folks who have lately been claiming credit, much to the chagrin of George and company.  It was DataCore. 

I know this for a fact because I was in Ft. Lauderdale in 2001 with George and Ziya Aral, top DataCore braniac, who briefed me on their thin provisioning technology and demonstrated its operation on FC. Ziya and I debated whether it would be possible to do it on IP, which the company did in January 2002.

Now that HDS has announced Thin Provisioning (more than 5 years after DataCore), it seems to George as though HDS, as well as 3PAR and others, are taking credit as the inventors. He says, “What amazes me is how this stuff gets into the news and no one ever checks out the claims… I am on a mission to let reporters know the facts and I have sent you an excerpt of my note to the PR team, an example e-mail I am sending out and the attachment of info I found by doing a quick Google search.” [SEE BOTTOM OF THIS POST]

Anyway, here is the cover letter on George’s email to the editorial community.

From George Teixeira

I had asked our PR team to contact you on your articles covering Thin Provisioning.

As the CEO of DataCore Software, I am on a quest to right a wrong that is being propogated in the press…I do feel like the guy in the movie NETWORK that proclaims “I am not going to take it anymore!”

The subject is Thin Provisioning and I would like to ask your help to set the record straight. I am following up personally with each and every reporter that continues to give credit to others on an accomplishment that we at DataCore are very proud to have pioneered. DataCore actually announced this breakthrough technology back in January 2002 and it was widely covered in the press. We actually shipped the software to customers in 2001.

I did a few minutes on Google and found many examples of the articles and white papers on our announcements that occurred over a year and a half before the likes of 3PAR and others got in the news (see the attachment for the details and links).

I have attached a Word document that I have sent to our PR team, to help enlighten folks on the facts – when DataCore announced the product, customer testimonials of the capability, etc…  Note that all of this press is dated well before others had the gleam of the idea in their minds.

There is a story in how facts and history get forgotten or accepted as urban legend.

We first announced the capability in Jan, 2002. We also recently announced a release of Thin Provisioning in 2007 (it is our 6th release and part of SANsymphony 6.0).  What is interesting is that we have continued to innovate and advance this technology and, with 6.0, we support different classes of thin provisioning pools and “hot swap” capabilites that makes migration of arrays into and out of the thin provisioning pools completely automatic and without ever losing high availability mirror protection. In addition, last year, we announced a version of SANmelody along, with thin provisioning, for under $1,000 — a breakthrough price point for the industry that allows SMB customers to finally afford this high-end capability.

I would appreciate in future coverage if Thin Provisioning is mentioned that at least we get the credit for what we did versus others…

I thank you for your help and consideration.

Regards,

George

George S. Teixeira
CEO & President
DataCore Software Corporation
6300 NW 5th Way
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
T. 954.377.6000
F. 954.267.0244
E. george.teixeira@datacore.com
DataCore news: www.datacore.com

Now here is the Word attachment to which George referred in his missive — a sort of Thin Provisioning time line:

DataCore pioneered, developed and installed Thin Provisioning technology back in 2001 and 2002, below is some background info on the subject. [Others now appear to be claiming credit.]

HDS and others recently announced Thin Provisioning and this has spurred a number of articles on the subject: See for example this article on Byte and Switch, this one in eWeek and this one on Yahoo! Business.

From the coverage you would think that HDS, 3PAR or others pioneered the technology and that they were first to deploy it in an enterprise account. However, the truth is a different matter. 

DataCore pioneered the capability well over 5 years ago and we have thousands of users around the world and hundreds of HDS customers who have used our Thin Provisioning along with HDS hardware. However, when we developed the technology, we named it Dynamic Virtual Capacity and talked about automatic provisioning (and “Just in time” storage allocation) and referred to it then as Network Managed Volumes (ie, the network automatically managed it versus the individual clients). We had customers using the technology in 2001 and we made a formal announcement as in January 2002, we had a number of customer testimonials and articles and interviews written on it in 2002 and 2003.

We had briefed all the major reporters and analysts as part of our SANsymphony 5.0 launch in late 2001.

From a marketing standpoint Gartner named it Thin Provisioning, but that happened late in 2002 and then 3PAR came along in mid 2003 and shipped a few systems late that year, they made a big splash with the name and announced took credit for the technology.

A number of white papers and articles were written in 2002 in leading magazines.  Two examples among many:

InfoStor–Paper on Just in Time LUN management

Windows IT Pro Best Storage Products –September 2002

From the Windows IT Pro piece, “SANsymphony doubles effective disk utilization by pooling disk space from multiple vendors and automatically allocating just enough capacity, just-in-time. Automating and consolidating storage control increases administrator productivity. SANsymphony further enhances productivity by eliminating storage-related downtime through non-disruptive provisioning and affordable business continuance options.”

Additionally, DataCore made a major business getting enterprise customers up and running on Thin Provisioning using DataCore Software products with HDS boxes over the last 5 years.  You can check out some early Enterprise users like SES Astra, etc., noticing, we hope, the dates and names on these customer testimonials, which are all prior to any 3PAR shipments.

  • Lufthansa – December 2002: Byte and Switch wrote “SANsymphony permits dynamic allocation of storage resources.”
  • Conseco – December 2002: Computerworld reported, “The IBM xSeries 440 boxes are assigned a 2TB virtual disk on DataCore’s SANsymphony product. This network managed volume is used for allocating virtual disk space to each of the virtual servers running inside the xSeries 440 boxes. The actual physical storage comes from EMC storage servers.”
  • SES Astra – From our own press release in 2005, “SES Astra will also benefit from Networked Managed Volumes (NMV), DataCore’s unique feature for the automatic management of dynamic logical volumes “
  • Zurich Bank – November 2002: Byte and Switch reported “SANsymphony’s unique Networked Managed Volumes (NMV) capabilities for auto-storage provisioning. NMVs take the guesswork out of how much storage capacity to assign to support its mission- critical data for trading databases, e-mail and other applications.”

Other DataCore thin provisioning wins are here and here.

BTW, IBM resold DataCore, Hitachi invested and did an OEM deal with DataCore years back and we did OEM deals with NEC and Fujitsu all of whom recognized the impact of DataCore virtualization and worked with our thin provisioning technology.

These are historical facts that anyone with Google can find in minutes:

DataCore shipped systems with Thin provisioning in 2001 and we made our official announcement in Jan 2002.

SANsymphony assigns arbitrarily large virtual disks to hosts and automatically apportions physical space in smaller chunks only as needed. The benefits include ‘just enough and just-in-time’ dynamic capacity allocation from network storage pools, disk space requirements collapsed to a minimum, fully utilized capacity without over provisioning and no downtime or administrator intervention to resize or repartition host disks, as reported on SNW OnLine in 2002.  The piece went on to cite other improvements, including dynamic storage allocation via a feature called Network Managed Volumes (NMVs). From the piece, “NMVs appear to the client as the largest addressable disk but only use physical space as needed, with automatic just-in-time allocation. This approach eliminates many issues related to manually managing allocations. These issues include wasted unused space within LUNs and LUN extensions. This approach can also greatly simplify storage administration while avoiding planned downtime.”

Another article about DataCore’s pioneering work in this space can be found on SearchStorage.

Given the facts above, how can others can claim they developed the technology first, years after we were selling it in the market?  Maybe we need to remind the industry of our accomplishments.  Here are a couple of cases of disinformation:

See “3PAR was first to market with thin provisioning in 2003″.  3PAR may have been first to use the term, Thin Provisioning, in relation to a product in 2003, but what about our release a year and a half before? While 3PAR might have been first to use the term Thin Provisioning in their product marketing, Gartner used it first after learning about DataCore.

Byte and Switch recently referred to “thin provisioning, a technique first developed by 3PAR” and repeats this error in their reportage of 3PAR’s June 2003 announcement.

Now, Hitachi is following 3PAR’s lead. In their release around Thin Provisioning, HDS uses Evaluator Group to tout the new capability “developed by HDS” — which is not consistent with what the Evaluator Group said in 2002 about DataCore SANsymphony.

Check out what the Evaluator Group said in early 2002:

Evaluator Group comments: The announcement by DataCore is very significant. There are some very valuable features/capabilities in the new software release. The most important is the NMVs capability. The ability to dynamically allocate capacity while the operating system and application deal only with a maximum size LUN opens up tremendous new possibilities. Add-in software or special storage systems that can expand the LUN size became unnecessary. Space can now be over-committed because only used space is needed – allocated but unused space is no longer wasted. This will set a new bar for the competition and we expect that eventually all competitors will have to match this function (until then, watch for denials and other obfuscation to buy time for development)…

Again, this is a very significant announcement. It represents a generational improvement or maturing of the virtualization of storage. We expect this to be an incentive for other vendors to be aggressive with their products.

It is pretty clear to me that George, Ziya, Bettye and the rest of the gang at DataCore have every right to be upset over the unsubstantiated claims (and/or shoddy reportage thereof) being made by other industry vendors.  I hope that this post helps to give credit (or blame, depending on your view of thin provisioning) where it is due.

Readers of my work might know that I am not hugely fond of thin provisioning when it gets in the way of my visibility into actual storage capacity.  This is often the case when thin provisioning goes on behind a proprietary RAID controller from a frame vendor.  In the case of DataCore, however, thin provisioning is a network service and not a feature set of a particular controller.  One reason why the company was initially regarded as “Peck’s Bad Boy” was because they were seeking to reduce storage to its most generic form so that capacity could be provisioned more efficiently and at a lower cost to the consumer. 

I like these guys and highly recommend them.  As for supporting the factual historical record, I have done my job.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Chuck June 22, 2007 at 6:21 pm

Is Sun next to claim they invented thin provisioning (actually STK) with Log Structured Array on Iceberg in 1993 (not certain the year it first melted on a data center floor)?

Administrator June 23, 2007 at 6:35 am

I would acknowledge this development as a precursor to disk-based thin provisioning. However, I think that DataCore deserves credit for applying the technology to LUN aggregation (aka virtualization).

Pq65 June 23, 2007 at 9:15 am

Very true DataCore deserves credit. In fact I’d played a little bit with SANsympony back in late ’02 from what I recall. However, what matters most isn’t who gets the credit but who gets the revenue.

Frankly, the majority of ITs have not warmed up to the idea of deploying TP given that’s it can be a risky proposition and nobody wants to get caught with their pants down.

Having said that, there are some areas where I’d glagly consider deploying it…i.e Home directories most of which reside on NAS devices.

I’d think that ultimately NAS devices will, most likely, be the primary beneficiary of TP given that the host/client does not control the filesystem in this case.

I believe there’s still a lot work that needs to be done on the TP front from a block’s perspective starting with integration with the host filesystems to Storage Management SW. For a lot of environments chargebacks are a significant issue.

Once a year we’ll see a flurry of Thin Provisioning coverage either due to some vendor announcing support or because those who already have it decided to make yet another marketing push for it. Then it gets quiet until the next vendor comes out with it…

David Scott June 23, 2007 at 3:58 pm

First, I would like to acknowledge DataCore’s early contributions to thin provisioning technology. The clarifications I post here are simply to try and make sure that George does not, in turn, intentionally mislead.

1) Datacore’s claim to have been the “first” vendor with thin provisioning is clearly not true given STK’s much earlier introduction of that technology in its SVA platform. In this respect George is making the same mistake of which he is accusing others.

2) Datacore can clearly claim to be the first vendor to pioneer thin provisioning in a network-based appliance (of the category of SVC, FalconStor etc.) designed to support multi-vendor storage, but it is not, and would not claim to be, a storage array.

3) 3PAR has only ever claimed to be a “pioneer” of Thin Provisioning technology and was probably the earliest existing vendor to have implemented it in an array designed specifically for opens systems server connect (as opposed to the mainframe world with the STK SVA). I can assure you that when asked, we always credit other vendors’ precedence even when they are not in our category.

4) As for the term Thin Provisioning, I can absolutely confirm that 3PAR first introduced the term at a Gartner Group conference in June 2002 when we first introduced the 3PAR InServ Storage Server. I made the presentation myself. It was a term created by the 3PAR marketing team to differentiate this approach from the concept of more traditional fat provisioning found in storage arrays. George is again incorrect in claiming that this was a term Gartner Group invented to which 3PAR then laid claim. We deliberately did not trademark the term to encourage its broad use in the industry, a goal which has been successful. This is also a probable reason why people acknowledge us as a pioneer in thin provisioning.

It is a shame that George’s justified press blitz contains so many inaccuracies of the type he rails against in its own rights. I agree that credit should only be where it is really due. Maybe a few questions from you Jon to other vendors (like 3PAR) could have ensured that the claims you relayed on your blog were actually correct. After all, this was exactly the behaviour of industry watchers and journalists of which George was complaining.

David Scott
President & CEO, 3PAR

Administrator June 25, 2007 at 7:49 am

Thanks, David, and the point of this blog is to get to “truths” and “facts” that are not readily apparent from industry marketecture and press coverage — the old fashioned way — via a contest of views. DataCore has expressed theirs, you are expressing yours. I will let the netizens decide.

George Teixeira June 27, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Jon and David,

First let me thank Jon for this great blog site and for posting this discussion.

Secondly, I apologize for not mentioning STK and for any oversights on my part. I am very passionate on the subject of DataCore. At DataCore we are very proud of our role in pioneering open system and network-based Thin provisioning technology and that we were shipping it to customers in 2001.

David, I had no intention to mislead or for my note to be considered a comprehensive research note on the history of the topic. I was only trying to get our fair share of the credit and to make the point that even with just a few minutes on Google a reporter should be able to validate claims like “who was first to ship and when,” etc.

On the term Thin Provisioning, 3PAR does deserve the credit for getting the marketing job done. I honestly remember hearing the term and the ‘talk’ prior to your announcement but I would not dispute your claim to when you invented the term and for making it popular. At that time, we were also talking to many of the same Gartner folks, who also talked to 3PAR, and maybe they picked it up from your folks.

Also please know that my focus was not directed specifically against 3PAR but at the press articles and reporting research that fails to mention DataCore’s accomplishments or that we were shipping the technology back in 2001. I would like to point out that I have nothing but the highest regards for 3PAR and for the outstanding job you and your team have done in making Thin Provisioning a household word (at least in Storage Geek households ;-).

George Teixeira
President & CEO, DataCore Software Corporation

Administrator June 27, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Okay, is everyone happy now?

berniebgf October 29, 2008 at 6:39 am

Funny enough,

I was at a NetApp course today and what do you know, a slide devoted to “Innovation firsts”…..and what do I see?? “2005 – Thin Provisioning”..

Maybe they mean innovation first for Netapp?

In the end what is important to the customer/client is, who’s “flavor” of thin provisioning fits best to meet their specific needs and budget being a small (but significant) component of the complete storage solution.

Certainly Netapp have the jump on most with their “deduplication” offering, its a compelling story.

best regards

Bernie.

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