Dataram accelerates FC SANs

Posted on September 29, 2009

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-- Known primarily as a system memory supplier (since 1967), Dataram this week entered the broader storage market with the introduction of the XcelaSAN appliance for accelerating application performance in Fibre Channel SAN environments.

Each caching appliance includes 128GB of DRAM storage, multi-level cell - or MLC - flash memory, and eight 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports. The amount of MLC NAND flash memory is vendor-configurable, but the devices will typically come with 320GB. The appliances, which can be combined for high availability, sit between Fibre Channel switches and disk arrays.

According to Jason Caulkins, Dataram's chief technologist, XcelaSAN offers an alternative to buying large amounts of disk drives or arrays for performance purposes and/or buying expensive high-end arrays. The caching appliances are also an alternative to short-stroking disk drives in order to increase performance (which decreases usable capacity).

"Users are operating in cache-starved mode," says Caulkins. "They add capacity and arrays but they haven't increased their cache. We turn a SAN into a solid-state SAN."

XcelaSAN appliances function as caching devices for frequently-accessed and I/O-intensive data. The secret sauce is in the appliance's software, which puts the most- frequently-accessed block data in solid-state memory.

The company claims 450,000 I/Os per second (IOPS) on cache hits, or in real-world scenarios (cache and backend array hits) application performance increases of 5x to 30x vs. traditional SANs. Throughput is pegged at 3GBps.

In the case of a power outage, data is de-staged to flash memory and automatically restored.

XcelaSAN appliances are priced at $65,000, and are typically sold in pairs for high availability. Shipments in the U.S. are expected by mid-October, and in the first half of 2010 for Europe and Asia.

The XcelaSAN appliances are the result in part of Dataram's acquisition of SSD supplier Cenatek last year.

Dataram currently has three VARs signed up: ASG, Continental Resources and Melillo.

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