Has the hard disk run its course?
WhipTail, a startup specializing in NAND flash storage, argues that in an era of virtualization, ubiquitous streaming and big data, HDD solutions, or even hybrid HDD-flash technologies, fail to deliver the performance improvements and latency reductions that modern enterprise-class storage requires.
The company's all-flash storage arrays offer a solution that "processes data at the speed of life," according to Max Riggsbee, WhipTail's chief marketing officer.
"WhipTail's silicon storage arrays enable databases, virtualized and online environments to process more data in significantly less time," Riggsbee said. "WhipTail's customers experience substantial operational improvements because data processing time shrinks from days to hours or hours to minutes. Time is money."
WhipTail released the first version of the XLR8r SSD storage array to general availability in late 2008, billing the product as the market's first all-flash storage array.
The XLR8r is powered by the Racerunner operating system, which is designed to offer optimal, sequential write management. WhipTail's array is built to deliver 250,000 random write I/Os with response times ranging less than one millisecond.
The company, based in Whippany, N.J., derives its nomenclature from the Racerunner lizard, a species of the whiptail family of lizards found in North America.
By the specs, WhipTail boasts that the XLR8r provides a throughput of 1.9 GB per second and a latency of 0.1 milliseconds, which the company describes as "essentially nonexistent." That compares favorably to the rotational latency common to hard disk drives that can range between six milliseconds and nine milliseconds.
WhipTail's storage arrays sport proprietary embedded software that the company claims will extend the lifespan of the drives past seven years, addressing a critical shortcoming of flash storage.
The company also positions its arrays as a smart solution for green IT initiatives, claiming that the XLR8r can offer a 90 percent reduction in space and power consumption.
As flash storage technology has gained broader adoption in the industry, WhipTail is quick to differentiate its pure-flash arrays from hybrid offerings.
"We notice that legacy storage providers are looking to stitch NAND flash into their offerings," Riggsbee said. "This leads to a hybrid of performance and capacity, neither of which can be optimized within a mixed solution."
He explained that WhipTail, in its pitch to potential customers, emphasizes the urgency of application performance as a business imperative. Moreover, the mounting challenges of virtualized infrastructures, exploding data volumes and a new class of mobile devices and Internet applications together have outpaced the performance ability of HDD technologies, WhipTail argues, asserting that its silicon storage arrays are uniquely positioned to dynamically handle the modern data requirements.
"We strive to highlight that the problem is not about storing things -- a legacy of the hard disk itself -- it is about being able to transact very quickly. Capacity is not the full issue, and it is only a part of the solution," Riggsbee said. "There is a new standard for the way businesses operate."
WhipTail sells both directly and through its network of channel partners. In the second half of 2012, the company plans to begin bringing the second generation of its storage arrays to market.
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