Repost from Storage Channel Pipeline: SSD Arrays

August 26, 2010

Posted by: Eric Slack
SSD, Eric Slack, Storage Channel

The term “SSD” has usually been a mnemonic for “solid-state disk” drives, as in flash memory modules that are put into traditional disk drive form-factor packages. This format is perhaps the easiest to integrate into an existing storage environment, either as replacement server-based disk drive(s) or for use in an external disk array. But this packaging includes a SAS or SATA interface for each SSD itself and for legacy external arrays and involves running solid-state storage devices through a controller designed to support spinning disk. New, dedicated SSD arrays are available that integrate the flash memory modules directly onto cards inside the array and skip the disk form-factor package altogether. Storage Switzerland was briefed by two of these companies at the recent Flash Memory Summit.

Violin Memory’s Memory Array supports up to 10 TB of single-level cell (SLC) flash on hot-swappable, internal circuit cards the company calls “VIMMs” in a 3U enclosure. Card-mounted flash provides better density than drive form-factor SSDs, lowering the cost per gigabyte and providing better performance through the elimination of the SAS or SATA protocol. Putting more flash modules together on each card also improves the write performance, since writes can be spread over more flash modules and overhead can be done more efficiently.

Nimbus Data Systems’ dedicated flash array also puts flash modules onto hot-swappable circuit cards, or “flash blades.” A 2U array holds 24 of these blades and provides 2.5 TB of capacity. Nimbus’ HALO operating system includes storage features like snapshots and replication but also deduplication and thin provisioning. These capabilities give the system a much larger effective capacity and lower its cost per gigabyte.

Solid-state storage is moving into the dedicated array space with some compelling capabilities and price/performance numbers. These “pure flash” SSD arrays deserve a closer look by any VAR that’s serious about storage.

full post here:

Xiotech Bolsters Storage Partner Push

April 7, 2010

If you’ve got data problems or simply are looking for a better data solution, you might want to check out Xiotech. Wrought out of Seagate, these guys know storage down to the firmware on the driver board. Any storage VARs, or ISV’s might want to read on, check out what Xiotech is about, and their upcoming announcement for April 12th 2010…

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Brian Reagan, senior VP of marketing and development at Xiotech, and Jason Sprenger PR Manager. Upbeat, they quickly gave a rundown of Xiotech’s place in the storage cosmos, and why they’re different than other storage companies out there.

“We’re essentially largest privately held data storage company in the world. [We were] bought by Seagate and then spun-out in 2002 as a mid-market storage player. [But in] mid-2007, [we acquired] the Advanced Storage Architecture team and technology from Seagate,” noted Reagan. And this was the impetus for their new ISE (pronounced ‘ice’) technology.

And what is ISE exactly? “ISE (Intelligent Storage Element) represents the industry’s first storage blade [with] massive computing and linearly scaling performance capacities,” explained Reagan. For a laymen’s translation, you can do more buying less storage, because storage is treated entirely differently than it has in the past.

Market Focus

So here’s the problem ISE is here to solve: Previous data storage solutions become giant behemoths of conglomerated drives, all acting on their own. Virtualization and cloud computing, to name a few, are the big culprits of this data consumption. To maintain performance, more drives are needed, but according to Reagan, drive usage is never utilized at near capacity, and to do so results in a decrease in performance; I/O demand is too high, and Apps, virtualized or not, tend to demand a lot out of the controller. Drive usages also is viewed as disposable; if one drive fails, toss it, plug in another.

But Xiotech turns this paradigm on its head and invents a new one. Since Xiotech has an intimate relationship with Seagate (as you might imagine), they’ve got a few tricks up their sleeves. Like I mentioned, they’ve actually tinkered with the firmware on board the drive, and what this means is that Xiotech can actually tweak, fix, recover, repair and control the drives at the platter and head level. What’s more, they’ve lumped a huge amount drives together inside a tightly knit 3U package dubbed the “DataPac” or more plainly “sealed drive canisters.” Each DataPac has typically has 10 drives, but with 2.5” drives you can fit 20 drives into a single DataPac. Customers can choose how many DataPacs they want in each ISE unit; one or two. But options are open to choose two DataPacs with 20 2.5” drives each, essentially giving them 40 drives into a single ISE unit. That’s dense storage.

The “Data Pack” has a 4Gb switches inside them making everything accessible at once in parallel. And at 96% full, performance is blazing fast. “[We’ve] create[d] super-drives instead of individual drives,” remarked Reagan.

Where Partners Fit In

So, once you have Xiotech’s fancy data package, how do you implement it? This is where VARs and ISVs might get really interested: The new CorteX API being introduced this month is a RESTful solution. And what does that mean? It means that the CorteX API can be written to using basic HTML and communicated via simple HTTPS. Data storage and manipulation front-ends, software, web-gateways, or any other custom apps or widgets can be provisioned to take care of everything, without complicated coding. All the firmware level hard-drive head tweaking? Nearly a hyperlink away.

And what about the channel, right? Well, as of 2009, 1/3 of business has gone through the channel, but both Reagan and Sprenger wanted to get it over 50% — nearly 65% for this upcoming year.

And how can VARs really propel in this arena? Reagan says that Microsoft had conducted a survey, analyzing Xiotech’s data solutions versus an unnamed ‘competitor’ (this blogger thinks IMB or HP…) for Microsoft Exchange deployment. The result? Xiotech’s solution outperformed and provided more data with half the number of drives, a fifth of the rack space, which translated to lower watt usage, and in the end, merely 1/8th the cost of the traditional setup. The competitors solution cost almost half a million, while Xiotech’s cost only $53K.

Couple the cost-savings with the value-add of the CorteX API, and Xiotech is looking like a good company to partner with.

lifted 100% from Dave Corbanou:  THE VAR GUY

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