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Posted on April 01, 2009

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Isilon expands NAS lineup

Isilon Systems has added to its product line with the availability of three new NAS platforms for transactional applications, nearline storage, and traditional scale-out implementations. The company is also integrating compression and de-duplication technologies from Ocarina Networks to tackle data reduction in archive environments.

The additions to Isilon's IQ portfolio—the S-Series, NL-Series, and a new model for the X-Series—are all based on the company's OneFS file system architecture.

For performance-intensive workloads, the IQ 5400S delivers more than one million I/Os per second (IOPS) and 30GBps of aggregate throughput from a single file system, according to the company. The IQ 5400S combines 15,000rpm SAS drives, Quad-Gigabit Ethernet front-end networking, and InfiniBand back-end interconnects with up to 16GB of globally coherent cache per node.

The new Isilon IQ 36NL marks the company’s first foray into the nearline storage market. The system packs 36TB of capacity in a 4U chassis with a maximum capacity of 3.45PB. Isilon is positioning the IQ 36NL as a consolidation platform for multiple archiving systems. The IQ 36NL can also be used as a disk-based disaster recovery system with the company's SyncIQ asynchronous replication software.

Isilon upgraded its X-Series family with the release of the IQ 36000X, which provides up to 3.45PB of capacity and more than 30GBps of throughput. The IQ 36000X provides a 3X increase in capacity per node and a 33% increase in disk density per rack unit over previous X-Series models.

The IQ 5400S is priced from $49,999 per node, the IQ 36000X from $137,000 per node, and the IQ 36NL costs $72,000 per node.

Isilon also announced an archive system comprised of the 36NL and integrated compression and data de-duplication technology from Ocarina Networks.

Ocarina's ECOsystem software provides content-aware compression and de-duplication for the entire Isilon product line, but is "specially optimized" for the 36NL. The 36NL with ECOsystem software can produce data reduction ratios of 10:1 and storage utilization rates of up to 90%, according to Appalaraju.

Nexsan enters iSCSI fray

Nexsan entered the iSCSI market last month with a series of SAN systems that also support Fibre Channel and NAS. The company's iSeries can be connected to any of Nexsan's disk subsystems, including the SATABoy, SATABeast, SASBoy and SASBeast.

Nexsan hopes to differentiate itself on a number of fronts. For example, the iSeries comes with a variety of "enterprise-level" software functions, such as virtualization, snapshots, replication, real-time mirroring, and data migration, at no extra charge.

The company claims "Tier 1 functionality at Tier 2 prices," citing an entry-level price of $25,000 for a 4TB configuration with a SATABoy array on the back end. Users can scale the iSeries up to 1PB with SATA drives, and all of Nexsan’s disk subsystems support SATA and/or SAS drives (up to 42 drives per 4U chassis).

Another potential differentiator for the iSeries, at least for "green-conscious" IT departments, is Nexsan's AutoMAID technology, which provides three levels of energy savings. According to the company, Level 1 provides up to a 20% energy savings with sub-second response times; Level 2 provides up to 40% savings (SATA only) and a response time of less than 15 seconds; and Level 3 provides up to a 60% cost savings with a response time of less than 30 seconds.

Other features of the iSeries include VMware certification and up to four RAID engines per system (with up to 4GB of cache per dual-controller configuration).

Two models are available. The 200i has up to four iSCSI ports, 500TB of capacity, and two Fibre Channel storage ports. The 400i has up to six iSCSI ports, 1PB of capacity, and four Fibre Channel ports.

Texas Memory ships PCIe SSD

Texas Memory Systems' RamSan-20 solid-state disk (SSD) drive packs 450GB of flash memory on a PCIe card. The card can be plugged into a server's PCI slot (minimizing latency between the host CPU and storage) or could be integrated into a RAID controller, according to Woody Hutsell, Texas Memory's president.

The company claims performance of 120,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) on random reads, and 60,000 IOPS on random writes. In terms of throughput, Hutsell claims a random read rate of up to 650MBps and a random write throughput of up to 500MBps.

The RamSan-20 is based on single-level cell (SLC) NAND flash technology.

For end users, the 450GB device has a list price of about $18,000. But Jim Handy, director at the Objective Analysis research firm, notes that with SSDs, $/IOPS is a more relevant metric. In terms of random reads, the RamSan-20 is priced at $18,000 for 120,000 IOPS, or $0.15 per IOPS. By comparison, according to Handy, a traditional SATA hard disk drive (HDD) is priced at $0.45 per IOPS, and high-speed enterprise-class HDDs typically cost around $2.50 per IOPS.

Unique features of the RamSan-20, according to Handy, are that the SSD is flash-based and does not require a relay rack; does not require special software (other than a "light" driver that enables the operating system to see the device as a standard disk drive) or extra DRAM in main memory; and that the RamSan-20 uses higher levels of onboard error detection and correction, as well as RAID-based protection, than other PCI flash devices. In addition, the SSD-based application accelerator does not consume host CPU cycles.

Data Domain boosts performance

The Data Domain operating system (DD OS) 4.6 release increases the performance across the company's line of de-duplicating disk-based backup systems by as much as 100%.

The software uses a proprietary technology called Stream Informed Segment Layout (SISL) to achieve high throughput while minimizing system and disk hardware. The software is CPU-centric and can be used to upgrade system speeds without adding controllers, compression hardware, or extra disks.

According to company officials, the new software will increase the performance of all of its systems across all protocols, but large data centers using the flagship DD690 system with Symantec NetBackup OpenStorage (OST) and 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) will see the best results. Using DD OS 4.6, the DD690 can now support accelerated backup throughput of up to 760MBps, or 2.7TB per hour. The upgrade raises the DD690's throughput by 90% over its initial release.

The new benchmark was established with a minimum DD690 configuration of two disk shelves and some extra tuning and parallelism possible with this combination of fabric and software.

Data Domain's systems typically get a performance upgrade as processor speeds increase. This time, however, the extra speed is based entirely on software.

"Our data de-duplication is CPU-centric, but this release is all about software," says Brian Biles, Data Domain's vice president of product management. The benefits of upgrading to the new OS, he says, are shorter backup windows on existing infrastructure.

VI ships SAN I/O software for VMware

SAN optimization vendor and Finisar spin-off Virtual Instruments' VirtualWisdom software peers into SAN I/O in VMware environments to help administrators troubleshoot the links between virtual machines (VMs) and storage.

The software measures I/O performance in real time, tracks application latency and bandwidth consumption, and provides advanced notification of device failures, congestion, and errors. VirtualWisdom also produces real-time performance information from VMs on servers through HBAs, out through the SAN switch and to LUNs on disk arrays.

ProbeVMW, another piece of the product, collects information specifically about the utilization and performance of VMs. VirtualWisdom correlates information from ProbeVMW with performance data from the SAN.

Virtual Instruments officials say the monitoring and analysis capabilities of VirtualWisdom allow for a baseline characterization before a VMware deployment, which helps improve data center efficiency and eliminate bottlenecks, helping users buy the right-sized fabric for their VMware infrastructure.

VirtualWisdom also includes a customizable dashboard that allows administrators to focus on specific VMs, servers, and application I/O data points. The dashboard includes user-definable associations that let administrators monitor and correlate performance data among all of the components that make up the I/O path for an application, including CPUs, memory, HBAs, switch ports, and storage arrays. The dashboard is designed to simplify the problem identification and resolution process by providing real-time root-cause analysis.

Pricing for the software is based on the number of monitored links/ports, but generally ranges from $300 to $500 per link; a typical VirtualWisdom installation starts at approximately $50,000.

VirtualWisdom will be available as a stand-alone software application and as a part of the new Virtual Infrastructure HealthCheck Service. The service is available now and the VirtualWisdom software is slated for availability mid-year.

Virtual Instruments also plans to support Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer environments in the future.

LSI adapters support SSDs

The 3.6 release of LSI's MegaRAID management software, which works with the company's MegaRAID SAS 87XX and 88XX adapters, supports solid-state disk (SSD) drives. A feature dubbed SSD Guard increases reliability and adds data protection functionality for RAID-0 configurations.

Other enhancements include a MegaRAID Dimmer Switch, which reduces power consumption of devices attached to LSI's adapters by spinning down a drive after 30 minutes of inactivity; enhanced support for VMware ESXi; and Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) 2.0 support for Intel's Tylersburg chipset.


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