Starboard Storage Systems Launches to Help SMEs Manage Mixed Workloads

Posted on February 14, 2012 By Kenneth Corbin

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As businesses grapple with a crush of unstructured data and the challenges associated with rolling out virtualization initiatives, traditional, siloed storage deployments can present a major management headache, according to Starboard Storage Systems, a startup backing a unified storage array that emerged from stealth mode on Monday.

Starboard is advancing an approach it terms "application-crafted storage" geared for small and midsize enterprises. The company's goal is to enable customers to manage applications, rather than storage, and it pitches a unified, largely automated solution that handles mixed workloads and requires minimal oversight.

"Traditional storage systems are not designed to solve mixed and virtual workload requirements," said Karl Chen, chief marketing officer at Starboard Storage Systems. "And thus, SME customers are forced to maintain their traditional silos of NAS and SAN storage."

Starboard bills its AC72 Storage System both as a replacement for the aging NAS and SAN architectures and an alternative to some of the highly specialized storage systems that emerging vendors offer. By consolidating disparate groups of structured, unstructured and virtualized data into a single array, AC72 can offer significant cost savings compared with legacy systems, according to the company. The consolidation technique also improves the utilization and management of storage resources to achieve improvements in performance -- Starboard claims that its AC72 product can deliver a twofold performance boost over traditional NAS and SAN systems.

At launch, Starboard Storage Systems boasts it has a roster of more than 30 customers managing data volumes in excess of 750 terabytes with the AC72 Storage System.

But Chen described the company's biggest challenge as it emerges from stealth mode as "getting above the noise."

"The storage market is large, and there are many different storage products that can solve customer storage problems, and large incumbent vendors with sizable marketing budgets that promote existing dated storage solutions," he said. "It can be difficult for customers to keep up with the changes in data trends and evolving storage technologies."

One of the key architectural features of the AC72 system is the thin-provisioning Dynamic Storage Pool to optimize volumes for each application, in the process eliminating the need for RAID groups.

Additionally, Starboard's tiered architecture, dubbed the SSD Accelerator Tier, is designed to enhance read and write performance, automating performance optimization by automatically channeling I/O requests through the quickest path. Starboard describes its approach to tiering as "second-generation," citing a significant improvement in performance predictability over existing, time-based policies that can potentially keep important data outside of the solid state tier for a period of days.

Starboard Storage Systems sells exclusively through the channel. It makes its debut with around 30 resellers on board.

Chen is one of several seasoned hands in the storage industry filling out the leadership ranks at Starboard. Chen and Bill Chambers, chairman of Starboard's board of directors, are veterans of LeftHand Networks, which HP acquired in 2008. CEO Victor Walker co-founded ClusterStor and served as a vice president of storage systems at Sun Microsystems.

Starboard prices its AC72 product at $59,995 for 24 TB of storage, as well as three SSD drives included with its SSD Accelerator Tier and other features such as snapshots and asynchronous replication. The product scales up to a capacity of 474 TB.

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here

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