NexGen Storage Embraces PCIe Flash to Speed Arrays

By Pedro Hernandez

While data storage vendors are improving I/O's on their arrays by replacing disk drives with solid-state drives to (SSDs) or layering SSDs onto traditional drives via tiers of all-SSD storage, Louisville, Colo.-based NexGen Storage is taking a different direction.

The company's new n5 Series arrays blend flash and SAS disk-based storage in an architecture that yields 5x to 10x lower cost per gigabyte than all-SSD arrays while delivering SSD-like performance, according to NexGen. The trick, according to NexGen's vice president of Marketing, Chris McCall, is to "put SSDs directly on the compute bus."

And that means adding PCIe flash acceleration cards to the storage controller.

Slotting SSDs into traditional arrays "reduces the performance of solid state drives," argues McCall. Typically added to application servers as a way to boost data retrieval times and storage I/O performance, PCIe flash add-on cards have taken off this year. Several vendors, including EMC, Intel and SanDisk have lined up to serve this hot new market.

NexGen is incorporating PCIe cards -- from Fusion-io in this case -- into its new n5 arrays. The result is an environment where SSD components can "run at true solid state speeds," McCall said. By putting "SSD directly on the compute bus," McCall added, his company's arrays are "not imposing those backplane bottlenecks on solid state drives at all."

The result, says NexGen, are arrays that can deliver 10x more IOPS per rack than purely disk-based systems. And the company is taking a quality of service (QoS)-based storage management approach to allow IT administrators exploit that performance.

NexGen's n5 lets storage techs "manage performance just like capacity," said McCall. For example, if a system is rated for a total 100,000 IOPS, administrators set QoS levels and can "start carving out IOPS for the different applications," explained McCall. The n5's automated storage management features then prioritize workloads to adhere to guaranteed minimum performance thresholds.

Three NexGen n5 arrays will debut in August 20, starting with the n5-50 and n5-100. The n5-50 features 700 GB of solid-state storage, 16 TB of raw storage capacity and it is capable of delivering 50,000 IOPS. The n5-100 model doubles the IOPS to 100,000 and features 1,280 GB of flash storage with 32 TB of capacity.

The NexGen n5-150, delivering 150,000 IOPS, 2,400 GB of solid-state storage and up 48 TB of raw capacity, is available on September 30. All models sport dual, active-active controller designs along with 10GbE and 1 GbE network connectivity. Prices range from $55,000 for the n5-50 to $108,000 for the n5-150.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Follow InfoStor on Twitter

This article was originally published on July 17, 2012