Pillar Promotes Application-Aware Storage

Claims new profiles advance manageability and efficiency of data storage systems

February 6, 2008

3 Min Read
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Pillar Data Systems has unveiled a new "application aware storage" capability for its Axiom arrays. Claiming an industry first, Pillar says the feature automatically assigns LUNs to specific applications based on values and characteristics of those apps.

Storage managers select storage capacity, I/O rate, and priority of assignment to disk via drop-down menus that specify the application's behavior -- whether it's transaction-intensive, for instance. A variety of application types are supported, including email, SQL databases, Oracle databases, business intelligence applications, and unstructured data stores.

The feature, now an integral part of Axiom's operating system, supports storage of apps from virtual, as well as physical environments, Pillar says. And all on a single platform supporting SAN and NAS, 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, SATA and Fibre Channel drives, and, through partnerships, de-duplication.

The announcement is reminiscent of Pillar's claims nearly three years ago, in June 2005. At that time, the vendor boasted software for configuring data placement on disk, spindle striping levels, mirroring, and network bandwidth.

Back then, Pillar also claimed to have caching algorithms that let storage managers prioritize specific applications in the Axiom system. For instance, Pillar said database applications that require fast access could be stored in the outer edge of an Axiom disk, where data rates are higher, while lower-priority data could be stored in the inside tracks with lower data rates.Now, Pillar insists there's new stuff here. "The difference is that we have added a series of profiles to our software for canned and customizable applications," says Bob Maness, VP of marketing at Pillar.

At least one analyst thinks that's significant. "Pillar lets the end user create their own profile for in-house-developed applications," says Deni Connor, principal analyst at Storage Strategies Now. "I haven't seen that before."

It's tougher to maintain that Pillar is unique in supporting applications in general. Sun has claimed application awareness for its Sun StorageTek 6920 system since 2005. Other vendors, like 3PAR, allow for flexible allocation of storage by a range of criteria. And Overland Storage claims to have its own tiered data protection strategy with its arrays.

"It's good to see Pillar extending their offerings and becoming easier to use, more flexible and adaptable, including joining others who have gone from just talking about application-aware storage to delivering upon it," says Greg Schulz of the StorageIO Group. "Certainly, providing application profiles, templates, guides or configuration options in a single storage system is nothing new for the industry."

Today's announcement also begs questions about how Pillar is living up to the expectations set by the $250 million invested in it by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. Three years into sales, the company claims 300 customers and 500 total systems installed -- nearly a match-up with its 500-employee census. The Ellison money raised expectations that some feel aren't being met.But Pillar's party line is that all is better than well. "We are real happy with our traction... We've been one of the fastest-growing storage companies ever in terms of revenue and customers," says spokesman Chris Drago. Pillar is further along in its first three years of shipping product than 3PAR or Compellent were at comparable junctures, he says.

Drago denies any rumors that Pillar's in financial straits or losing personnel, ideas he says are often fueled by competitors, perhaps ones not happy about the hefty funding Pillar's enjoyed.

Besides today's news, Pillar is readying thin provisioning, originally announced in June 2007, for GA shortly. There are executive additions as well: Lewis Winning, formerly of HDS, is moving in as Pillar's VP of worldwide sales operations, reporting to Curt Wittich, VP of worldwide sales. Bob Maness took the job as VP of marketing last summer when Brenda Zawatski left the company.

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  • Compellent Technologies Inc.

  • Overland Storage Inc. (Nasdaq: OVRL)

  • Pillar Data Systems Inc.

  • 3PAR Inc.

  • The StorageIO Group

  • Sun Microsystems Inc.0

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