ChinaIT: Infocore (信核数据)

2014, September 7

Storage virtualization is not a new concept, but in the light of disaster recovery requirements, cloud computing and big data, it is still a hot topic. Storage virtualization allows your applications to see data being stored on a logical volume, while the configuration and location of the physical storage resources are unknown to you and completely irrelevant. This allows transparency in moving the data from one location to another, uninterupted service delivery during infrastructure migrations and increased data protection during disasters.

Storage virtualization controller is a device that is actually doing the whole work : mapping the underlying disk systems with logical volumes, replicating data to your secondary data center, providing data snapshots for the database backups, deciding and automatically moving data to the faster flash-based SSD disks if they are frequently accessed, etc. This is a very sophisticated piece of equipment that has to perform flawlessly, since all applications and business processes depend on the underlying data.

Infocore (信核数据) is a Chinese supplier of storage virtualization technology. It is a small company, and practically not present in the worldwide market (their presence is estimated at 0.7%), but it has been ranked on the third place based on the domestic market share in China.

The company is based in Hangzhou with two subsidiaries in Shanghai and Nanjing. It employs about 100 staff and holds 9 patents in the domain of storage innovations. The revenues in 2012 were modest $3.3M out of which $1.1M was reinvested in R&D. But starting from 2013, the company has grown its business significantly and has already a long list of client references from hospitals, universities, banking and petrol industry, with the most of presence in government and military departments. Among more recent marketing initiatives, Infocore has provided a reference architecture for the software-defined data center based on Infocore storage virtualization engine, and in collaboration with Nanjing university they are launching Infocore cloud solution.

One might doubt in the capacity of a small startup from China to develop a reliable solution, since in this industry only the companies with very advanced technologies and heavy investments in R&D are able to produce such a product. But there is one detail we should know: the CEO of Infocore is Ren Yongjian, former chief technical solution designer and one of the founders of Datacore, the company that claims to have invented storage thin provisioning. So, Dr Ren Yongjian brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in development of storage technologies, which gives much more confidence in the company’s ability to execute.

Main Infocore products:

1. OSNSolution
OSNSolution is a software appliance that can provide complete storage management. Core of OSN is storage management and virtualization engine with pooling, physical volume and LUN management functions. This engine can manage up to 128 disks of up to 1PB and 1024 logical volumes. Complementairy components is a NAS gateway for file-based access supporting NFS and CIFS protocols, high-availability module with automatic failover mechanism, backup module with interfaces to major databases like Oracle, SQLServer for hot backup procedures, and remote replication and graphical management interface for the administration and monitoring of all those functions.

2. Nextor SS6500/SS6520
Nextor disk arays are enterprise-class devices, with single and dual RAID controllers, support to RAID 0,1,5,6,10, two kinds (512B and 4KB) sector size, and up to 24 disks of various types (SAS/SSD, 10/15K RPM).

3. Tigler SC10000
Tigler SC10000, flagship product, is a high-performance storage controller that supports up to 224 FC ports, 12TB cache, eight CPUs, 4 built-in high-performance storage virtualization engines, and features fully redundant hardware architecture design. Tigler includes advanced OSNSolution software functionalities like thin provisioning, automatic tiering, remote synchronous and asynchronous replications, data snapshots, continuous data protection and hybrid SAN+NAS applications.

Infocore solutions come at the prices 30-50% less than those of top 5 storage vendors. The conditions of their after-sales services: second-level support is provided on 24*7 bases, and 36-months repair guarantee is included in the price.

My conclusion is: Infocore is a small, but very dynamic independent vendor of storage solutions, with in-house developed leading technologies for storage virtualization and management. They have become very visible lately in China as regular winners of many awards, they are present in the cloud market, and got their foot in the door of many government and defence data centers. Their revenues are doubling every year, and while their short-term strategy (2-3 years) is to leverage the growth of the internal enterprise market in China (see the source), I believe that it will not take long before we see them going international and start competing with other major vendors.

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