Pillar accelerates disk arrays

By Kevin Komiega

Pillar Data Systems continued to push its arrays from the midrange into the enterprise with the launch of the Axiom 600 and 600MC (Mission Critical), which have more horsepower and application provisioning profiles than previous versions.

Pillar bills the Axiom as an “application-aware” storage system, meaning it differentiates performance based on application priority, allowing users to match multiple application characteristics to service levels. The system applies service levels to a single storage pool for all configurations (e.g., SAN, network-attached storage, or both).

New application profiles for the Axiom 600 include configurations for VMware, multiple Oracle applications, virtual tape libraries (VTLs), Microsoft Exchange, SQL, and others. The pre-configured and user-customizable profiles allow administrators to optimize the arrays for specific applications.

The Axiom 600 was also designed with an eye toward virtual server environments. For example, the system has the ability to dynamically assign or re-assign priorities to applications on-the-fly.

Rob Commins, Pillar’s director of product marketing, says the Axiom 600 is based on an enhanced architecture that doubles the performance of the Axiom 500 via improvements in the Slammer Storage Controllers.

“We effectively doubled the bandwidth and processor speeds, allowing users to support twice as many consolidated applications,” says Commins.

The Slammer controllers feature a dual-processor architecture, automatic fail-over, redundant power supplies, and battery-backed cache. Each Slammer controls a given set of storage capacity “bricks,” which comprise SATA or Fibre Channel drives. Pillar sells the Axiom in a modular fashion, with different flavors of its controllers for different storage technologies.

The Fibre Channel SAN Slammer has four external I/O connections and a data rate of up to 4Gbps.

The iSCSI Slammer provides SAN connectivity over an Ethernet network at wire speed and supports all Axiom configuration and dynamic provisioning features, Internet Storage Name Server (iSNS), and iSCSI Network Boot Protocol (iNBP).

The combination Fibre Channel/iSCSI Slammer supports four Fibre Channel ports and four iSCSI ports. An iSCSI upgrade kit is also available to convert an existing SAN Slammer into a Fibre Channel/iSCSI controller.

The NAS Slammer provides multi-node file services and supports CIFS and NFS.

The SATA Brick provides throughput in excess of 1,000 random IOPS and 350MBps, includes two RAID controllers to manage 12 drives, and supports RAID 5 and 10. The thirteenth drive is a shared hot spare that may be accessed by either controller in case of disk failure. The Fibre Channel Brick features a throughput of 2,500 random IOPS and 400MBps. Each brick can be cascaded to three additional bricks, simultaneously scaling capacity and IOPS. Two RAID adapters manage 12 drives and support RAID 5 and 10.

The differences between the Axiom 600 and 600MC are in data-protection options and redundant hardware components. The 600MC uses the AxiomONE local protection software, including volume copies and replication to maintain data availability. A second system can be provisioned at a disaster-recovery site as a replication target for the main site.

The Axiom 600 supports up to 32 4Gbps Fibre Channel connections with 192GB of cache and 1.6PB of raw capacity using 1TB SATA drives. The system can also be configured with 146GB or 300GB 15,000rpm Fibre Channel drives.

Being that Pillar is backed by Larry Ellison, it goes without saying that the Axiom 600 features some unique storage management and provisioning techniques for Oracle environments.

The Axiom 600 leans on Oracle’s Automatic Storage Manager (ASM) for streamlined management by Oracle database administrators. Axiom storage can now be managed in the context of the Oracle Enterprise Management interface, enabling 10g and 11g administrators to tune storage to the performance service levels required by different applications running in the Oracle Grid.

Additionally, Pillar now allows Oracle write operations to occur in 1MB “wide stripes,” resulting in higher throughput between the storage system and applications.

The entry-level price for the Axiom 600 is approximately $80,000.

This article was originally published on August 01, 2008