Briefing Note: Sphere 3D and Overland Storage complete merger, introduce new VDI Appliance

On December 2nd 2014, Sphere 3D, manufacturer of the Glassware 2.0 application virtualization platform, completed the merger announced in May with longtime storage vendor Overland Storage, makers of the SnapServer NAS products, NEO tape libraries and RDX portable disk drives. Sphere 3D also added the V50 to their V3 line of “desktop cloud computing” solutions, designed to provide a turnkey environment for up to 50 Windows virtual desktops. The already-available V100 and V200 can support 100 and 200 desktops respectively.

Desktop Cloud Computing

Sphere 3D uses this term to describe their turnkey VDI environment that provides the flexibility of a traditional ‘cloud’ in a self-contained, local infrastructure. By combining storage, compute and networking (a hyper-converged architecture), these 2U appliances support existing shared storage or eliminate the need for a SAN completely, providing more consistent VDI performance and more cost-effective scalability with its distributed architecture. According to the company, V3 appliances are guaranteed to run 2x-8x faster than physical desktops and can be set up and running in an hour or less.

While these appliances are designed as turnkey solutions for the mid-market, according to the company, the V3 solution can linearly scale to 1000s of desktops, effectively serving the needs of larger enterprises as well. According to the company, they’re also being used for managed service provider deployments, where the appliance is offered as a desktop-as-a-service solution.

Overland Storage

Overland Storage has a long history in the tape, backup and disk storage industry. They pioneered the expandable, modular tape library design over a decade ago and have built a business in the NAS market after acquiring the SnapServer technology from Adaptec. Most recently Overland merged with Tandberg, which brought the RDX removable disk drive and InfiniVault archive products. Throughout its history, Overland Storage has always enjoyed a strong VAR and reseller channel, domestically and internationally.

VDI is a technology that should be attractive for smaller companies but, according to Sphere 3D, hasn’t really caught on in the SME space. Part of the challenge has been complexity. Implementing a VDI solution has typically involved an integration project with servers, networked storage and a VDI platform. The V3 appliances were designed to address this challenge by providing all the needed components integrated into a turnkey solution.

Another issue has been the channel. Smaller companies rely on VARs, reseller and MSPs to implement more complex solutions, like VDI, for which they lack the time and expertise. This is where the Overland Storage merger comes in. For Sphere 3D, Overland brings an array of established data protection and storage products, plus, a roster of channel partners that are currently selling them. For Overland Storage Sphere 3D’s V3 product could be an ideal point of entry to the VDI marketplace.

StorageSwiss Take

The term “hyper-converged” in the enterprise storage space usually means server virtualization and typically, larger users. In the Sphere 3D context, it refers to a purpose-built turnkey solution for desktop virtualization. But semantics aside, the key to this application of the hyper-converged architecture is the simplicity it brings to a relatively complex solution, making VDI a better fit for companies well below the enterprise level.

While it can scale out to much larger capacities, the V3 solution is primarily designed for small to mid-sized companies, the kind that Overland Storage’s VARs, resellers and MPs have traditionally served. With this merger, Sphere 3D can leverage Overland’s channel to make desktop virtualization fit in the SMB and mid-market space.

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Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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