By Heidi Biggar
Two-year-old start-up Times N Systems (TNS has begun shipping a midrange storage system with network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) attributes. The TNS 1600, which combines standard off-the-shelf networking and server technologies with TNS hardware and software, can handle data at both the file level over IP (NAS) and block level over Fibre Channel (SAN).
"We've taken some of the key characteristics from the SAN and NAS arena, such as ease of use, plug-and-play installation, and low cost of ownership, and integrated them into a single system capable of near-linear performance and capacity scaling," claims Ted Scardamalia, CEO of the Austin, TX, company.
One of the drawbacks of traditional NAS devices is the inability to scale filer capacity without degrading performance, says Scardamalia. "SANs scale better, but there are still breakpoints at which performance begins to level off." TNS says it has seen near-linear performance scaling up to 5TB of capacity with the TNS 1600.
The key is the company's parallel processing architecture, which enables up to 16 Linux or Windows 2000 servers and their storage volumes to work in parallel in the same "storage box" for greater performance and capacity. Via PCI-based server adapter cards, the servers plug into the TNS shared memory node, which serves as a buffer for each server. Access to the node is arbitrated by the company's management software.
This architecture allows users to make multiple, parallel (versus single, sequential) I/O requests. Data is returned in chunks and stored in the buffer until the server making the request is ready to read the data. This has the benefit of reducing the overall time it takes to service I/O requests. TNS claims a 2x I/O performance improvement over direct-attached models, as well as a latency of just 2microseconds.
The product is available in two packages: a build-to-order configuration equipped with four to 16 Linux or Windows 2000 servers for up to 17TB of capacity, or a customer-optimized version, which allows users to integrate their existing servers. The shared memory node, server adapters, and TNS software are standard. Pricing starts at $29,000.