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By | Chris Mellor 2nd November 2010 08:30

Overland Storage reboots with product and tech drive

Loads of 'cool, exciting' products on the way

Why do people leave a successful startup and, rather than join another startup, join a mature and almost failed tape storage vendor – one that's escaped Nasdaq delisting by the skin of its teeth, twice, and has a share price determined to show that gravity exerts a downward force?

We met Jillian Mansolf at SNW Europe 2010 in Frankfurt and talked about the launch of Overland's SnapSAN S1000 product, as well as asking her about leaving the Drobo company and joining Overland.

She said she had a terrific time at Data Robotics, helping to take this company and its Drobo product to a market-leading position in its external storage niche. After leaving the sleek motor yacht that is Data Robotics in 2009 she could have had the pick of many larger companies but instead, in July she transferred to the leaky old tramp steamer that was Overland Storage, becoming VP for global sales and marketing under new broom CEO Eric Kelly.


Mansolf said: "My work at Data Robotics was done ...  Data Robotics was a risk when I went there. People thought I was insane. [But] it seemed like a great opportunity [and] I love building things. It was a ton of fun, a great team and I'm sure it will be successful.

"I have a relationship with Eric [Kelly] that spans a decade. ...  Overland is a unique challenge, no doubt about it. It has a lot of great people, great technology. At Overland we completely changed marketing. It was an opportunity to come into a big publicly-traded company."

She continued: "I'd do it again ... even with what I learned."

How is business at Overland? "Good. We have an amazing channel, we have a lot of people rooting for us. We're hiring a lot of engineers [and] have a lot of cool, exciting, things coming in the next 12 months."

Well, yes, she would say that wouldn't she but product matters at Overland do seem to be getting a lot sharper with the pace of product introduction and technology development speeding up. Last month the company announced it was buying the IP and some assets of clustered filer startup MaxiScale. Last week it introduced its second SnapServer-based storage area network (SAN) product, the SnapSAN S1000, aimed at the small and medium business market.

Surprisingly for an aggressively priced low-end product, it has both Fibre Channel and iSCSI connectivity, and gives Overland's channel a box that can meet both the low-end block storage market and medium business market needs. And all this without requiring a product change, as is the case, Overland EMEA head Andy Walsky says, with Dell: "You have to go to EMC CLARiiON to get Fibre Channel."

Walsky said: "Our first order was for dual fibre, and it was from a well-known enterprise in Europe but not for the data centre ... We don't position it as an enterprise product."

The S1000 has a 2U enclosure containing one or two controllers which can be set up in an active:active relationship with automatic failover. These are hot swap controllers accompanied by hot swap drives, power supplies, and fans. There are 12 2TB SATA drives and there can be four E1000 expansion boxes, taking maximum capacity up to 120TB.

Customers can also use SAS and green SATA drives, plus controller-driven spin down for power-savings when data has a low access rate.

Walsky said 3TB drives would be used as soon as they are qualified. There are no solid state drives as they are not needed in this section of the storage market. The interfaces available are 1 and 10 GigE, 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel and 6Gbit/s SAS, and there are multiple RAID levels including RAID 6.

Overland provides online RAID migration and volume expansion, plus copy on write snapshots and Microsoft VSS support. The host operating systems supported are Windows, Mac OS X, VMware(ESX 4.0 and 4.1), Linux and Unix.

Walsky said the competition includes Dell, the main competitor, Dot Hill, HP and NetApp, as well as Infortrend and Promise. The starting list price is $6,995 (£4,550), which is a nice low number.

Slowly at first, and now with a quickening pace, the old tramp steamer that was Overland is being rebuilt. It is not a sleek super-yacht yet, but the channel has new products to sell. The SnapServer, NEO libraries and REO tape product ranges have all been refreshed and, under the stewardship of engineering VP and chief technology guy Geoff Barrall, new product developments are coming out.

It is as if a startup egg has been laid in the Overland nest and is now hatching out, reshaping the company from the inside. Mansolf is excited. Watch out for new products hatching out well before the end of next year. ®

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