Xiotech Hybrid ISE delivers 60,000 IOPs per unit at $7 per gigabyte

Over the past two years when we would ask the Xiotech team about their solid state drive (SSD) strategy, the answer was consistently that SSDs were OK for client side use but were not ready for prime-time, enterprise applications. Against this background, and the superior performance and reliability of Xiotech's ISE architecture, we knew that when Xiotech finally released a hybrid array that combines the speed of solid state drives (SSD) with 10K RPM Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) hard drives, the results would be spectacular.

Last year Xiotech released a series of hardware platform enhancements with its ISE 2.0. This included the use of the Intel Jasper Forest processor and replacing the Fibre Channel drive backplane with a 6Gbps SAS interface. Host SAN interface was bumped to eight 8Gbps Fibre Channel ports, which means a good sized server array can be attached without the addition of costly Fibre Channel switches. DRAM has been increased to 8GB and the addition of super-capacitors replaces the need for batteries to protect the DRAM cache in case of a power failure. These platform improvements paved the way for Xiotech's first foray into a hybrid storage array.

Each Hybrid ISE node consists of a 3U unit with a total of 14.4GB of useable storage. This is made up of 20 100GB MLC SSDs and 20 900GB 10K RPM SAS HDD's. All drives are 2.5-inch format. Smart Modular is the SSD manufacturer, using the new SandForce 2000 series enterprise flash controllers and a SATA-SAS bridge. This provides an extremely compact storage footprint that supports all of the self-healing reliability that the Xiotech ISE system is known to represent.

As impressive as the hardware platform is, the real secret to the Hybrid ISE performance and reliability is due to the advanced software that provides automatic, adaptive placement of data in the appropriate media, be it cache, SSD or HDD. The result is far more than an intelligent caching system. The Continuous Adaptive Data Placement feature analyzes I/O-heavy blocks and places the read-intensive data in the SSD while maintaining rapid intake speeds. The system creates an I/O history database and even allows this history to be "played back" in order to prepare an ISE after installation or when redeployed to a different set of storage application requirements. For example, an Exchange Server application will have a different signature than a SQL Server or ERP application. Xiotech has always been known for its advanced storage management and reporting capabilities, and these are further enhanced in Hybrid ISE.

So what about performance? Each Hybrid ISE will deliver in excess of 60,000 IOPs ( an SPC benchmark publication is in process). A single rack can linearly scale to nearly 900,000 IOPs. And at a cost of about $7 per useable GB, it is small wonder that the initial uptake into Xiotech's loyal customer base has been phenomenal, with half of the first quarter's production already shipped.

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