Making storage all the RAIGE

* New approach to storage lowers the price and raises the bar

After several years of operating in stealth mode, a new storage company is emerging on the scene this week, and we think it’s going to shake up the storage industry. Pivot3 is introducing a product that breaks previous price/performance benchmarks with exciting new technology. Pivot3 also is breaking the perception that reliable storage has to be complex, expensive and proprietary to be good.

We recently had the opportunity to visit the company’s Houston headquarters to talk with a couple of the product engineers and see a demonstration of how easy system administration can be. We’re impressed; Pivot3 is using standard hardware, Ethernet and the iSCSI protocol to create a simple yet powerful IP storage-area network.

Pivot3 began as a company of engineers who wanted to take some of the cost and complexity out of storage systems. These engineers – several of whom are the original inventors of the RAID architecture -- developed technology they call RAIGE, or RAID Across Independent Gigabit Ethernet. The RAIGE Operating System turns discrete standard server hardware into an enterprise class, scale-out storage device, the RAIGE Array. According to Pivot3, the RAIGE Array is well suited for many storage applications because it offers better performance and protection than traditional RAID architectures at a more affordable price.

The key to it all is the RAIGE OS, which has several technical innovations that provide significant storage improvements. First of all, RAIGE OS distributes the array’s RAID protection across boxes (called Databanks) as opposed to just across disks in a single box. This creates a high performance storage cluster (called a RAIGE Storage Cluster) where data is distributed, protected and accessed in parallel across multiple Databanks connected via common Gigabit Ethernet. The unique configuration breaks the limit of physical RAID devices by using a totally virtualized environment, resulting in far more flexibility and space efficiency than traditional storage systems offer.

This virtual architecture allows you to add more Databanks to the cluster at any time for linear scalability to hundreds of terabytes. Remember that a Databank is an inexpensive industry standard server, meaning that you can add capacity cheaply and easily, and you can start small and grow capacity as needed. Even better, each Databank adds processing power, cache, and network ports that contribute to an overall increase in performance and bandwidth. So contrary to most storage systems whose performance degrades as capacity is added, the performance of a RAIGE Storage Cluster actually improves with the addition of each new Databank.

Another advantage of the RAIGE OS is the ability to dynamically change data protection levels and volume definitions. Storage pools can have their rebuild priority changed at any time to give I/O or rebuild precedence in the system. Storage pool capacity can be changed dynamically, shrinking or growing as an application's needs dictate. In a similar fashion, the capacity of logical volumes can be increased on the fly. And, you can change the RAID level, name, and rebuild priority at any time and any number of times after creation, increasing the flexibility of your storage configuration.

The RAIGE Storage Cluster uses multithreaded input for fast data transfer rates. This is especially good for applications like video surveillance, satellite imagery, geothermic records and other uses that need to stream lots of data onto the storage array quickly.

We talked with a couple of Pivot3’s customers who are using the RAIGE Storage Cluster solution for storing video. They are quite happy with the price/performance ratio of the solution, as well as the manageability and scalability. Because the solution is relatively easy to configure and manage, there is no need to have a storage expert on staff to install and maintain the system. And when more capacity is needed, it’s as simple as adding another Databank to the configuration. This takes some of the headache and guesswork out of planning for long-term storage needs. Now that is exciting!


Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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