Start-up ships low-cost SATA appliance

By Heidi Biggar

Candera, a vendor of network storage controllers, last month announced the availability of a Serial ATA-based disk appliance that it claims is nearly half the price of comparable ATA-based disk arrays from larger vendors, such as EMC's CLARiiON. A 4TB appliance is priced from $86,500.

The Candera ATA Appliance integrates a pair of the company's SCE 510 network storage controllers,

Serial ATA (SATA) disk drives, and management software and is intended to help users create low-cost tiered storage environments.

The Milpitas, CA-based start-up came out of stealth mode last September with the introduction of its SCE 510 network storage controller. Similar to a new breed of intelligent switches beginning to hit the market, a pair of the controllers sits in a storage area network (SAN) fabric and hosts storage services such as virtualization and provisioning.

However, unlike switch-based alternatives, the controllers terminate the data path, which means that users can share data across multiple SAN islands without any zoning or security issues (see "Candera tackles SAN problems," InfoStor, October 2003, p. 20).

"It may take a leap of faith for users to put a controller into their existing storage infrastructure—

especially if it comes from a start-up—but an appliance can be added to an existing SAN without much perceived risk," says Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner at the Data Mobility Group consulting firm.

According to Stephen Terlizzi, Candera's vice president of marketing and business development, the primary reason users consider the company's controller technology is because they want to bring a new tier of low-cost storage into their environments.

"They can't afford to put monolithic storage in and they don't want to create SAN islands every time they add an array," says Terlizzi. By implementing a pair of SCE 510 controllers in their storage environments, users can add an ATA-based tier to their existing infrastructure, he claims.

For example, Oxygen Media, a provider of 24-hour cable networking television, installed a pair of SCE 510 controllers in its existing storage environment to create a single data pool—a "unified" SAN—to facilitate management, SAN expansion, and data sharing.

"It appears that the Candera appliance is easy to install, and it is inexpensive," says McAdam. "The target market is small and medium-sized businesses that need high-capacity storage but don't want to pay a lot for it."

The appliance is available in 4TB, 8TB, 12TB, and 16TB configurations (using 7,200rpm 250GB SATA drives) but can reportedly scale to more than 180TB in custom configurations. It has eight Fibre Channel ports for external connection and supports up to 48 host bus adapters.

Other features include active-active cluster nodes, hot-swappable fans and power supplies, quadruple redundant metadata drives, distributed RAID processing across multiple controllers, and non-disruptive microcode upgrades.

The base appliance supports Serial ATA drives only and has been certified with external subsystems from vendors such as Medea and Xyratex. However, for users that want to bring non-ATA disk arrays into a Candera SAN environment, a $30,000 upgrade option is available that includes support for disk arrays from EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, LSI Logic, StorageTek, and Sun.

This article was originally published on March 01, 2004