Xyratex Goes Green With 'Spin-Down' Disks

RAID vendor looks to tap into users' energy concerns with 'MAID-style' technology

February 28, 2008

3 Min Read
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RAID specialist Xyratex is the latest vendor to spin down its disk technology in an attempt to slash users' power costs.

Tomorrow, the vendor will announce a software overhaul designed to reduce energy consumption across its family of RAID products. Xyratex will also take the wraps off its 12 Tbyte F6412E device, claiming a performance hike on its previous high-end offering, the F5412E.

"The major power consumers within systems are the drives," says Mike Alvarado, Xyratex's senior product marketing manager, explaining that Xyratex has now built power management features into its RAID software. "It lets customers implement a policy for spinning down the drives. By stopping the drives from spinning, we can save up to 40 percent in power."

A number of vendors, including Copan, Fujitsu, NEC, and Nexsan, already tout a disk-based power-saving technology called MAID (massive array of idle disks). And HDS recently unveiled its own power-saving disk arrays.

Unlike offerings from the likes of Copan and Nexsan, which keep disks idle until they are needed, Xyratex keeps disks spinning until they are not needed, at which point they are 'spun down'.HDS also focuses its efforts on keeping disks spinnning, and uses an approach it describes as "powering down" when they are not needed.

"We're looking at the access pattern of the applications and spinning them up in parallel and down in parallel," says Alvarado, explaining that spinning the drives in pairs enables faster retrieval of data than spinning them up one at a time.

Like HDS and EMC, which is also planning its own disk power-down technology, Alvarado refuses to describe Xyratex's technology as MAID.

"This is not MAID -- the idea of MAID is to have a much larger number of disks available in a relatively online state, with most drives in sleep mode," he says.

Version 2.3 of Xyratex's RAID software will be available as a free upgrade for users of Xyratex's existing 5000 Series family of products next month, provided they have maintenance agreements. The software will also be offered on the F6412E device in June or July.The F6412E, which now becomes Xyratex's high-end RAID product, offers up to 150,000 sequential read IOPs compared to the F5412E's 75,000.

The device also offers 1,600 Mbytes/s of throughput, up from 900 Mbytes/s on the F5412E, which the exec attributes to the use of Intel's 1200 Mhz Chevelon chip.

Users looking for this performance hike will nonetheless have to dig a little deeper in their pockets. Pricing for F6412E, which is available now, starts at $7,500, compared to $5,000 for the F5412E.

In addition to the "spin-down" disk features in its software, Xyratex has also overhauled the lithium battery used in its high-end RAID system, touting the F6412E's battery as more environmentally friendly than its previous batteries.

"It's a more stable chemistry that extends the life of the battery and makes the battery much safer," says Alvarado, explaining that the battery, from A123 Systems, uses something called nanophosphate technology."The nanophosphate is a much easier chemistry to recycle, and it lasts longer," he says, and this will extend the battery's warranty life from three to five years.

Xyratex, which sells its RAID hardware to the likes of Overland and Bull, could not offer up any early adopters who are using its F6412E, although the vendor is clearly looking to tap into users' growing concerns about spiraling data center energy costs.

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  • Bull SA

  • Copan Systems Inc.

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701)

  • Nexsan Technologies Inc.

  • Overland Storage Inc.

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