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Dataram XcelaSAN Speeds Storage Retrieval

Dataram Corp. has released the XcelaSAN, a solid-state appliance that applies intelligent caching algorithms to data storage and retrieval requests made across an entire storage-area network to reduce latency and improve overall storage performance. The XcelaSAN begins shipping during Q4 in the United States and in the first half of  2010 throughout Europe and Asia. Pricing starts at $65,000.

According to Jason Caulkins, Chief Technologist at Dataram, the new device uses solid-state storage for speed and spinning disks for capacity, maximizing the advantages of each type of storage. Caulkins says that the XcelaSAN "can collapse the number of SAN devices and the number of servers in order to have good storage performance." Because of this, Dataram says that by allowing the company to boost the performance of existing storage rather than purchasing new SAN components, the appliance can boost performance while saving money for the organization in the long run.

The XcelaSAN connects to a storage network using eight 4Gb/s Fibre Channel ports and can connect to the storage switch fabric or directly to back-end storage. The appliance includes a number of features intended to improve operational reliability, including hot-swappable, redundant power supplies, ECC, chip kill, internal mirrored flash drives and active-active SAN configurations. Caulkins says that the XcelaSAN is intended to install quickly, with minimal setup and IT staff intervention. The unit installs transparently in about an hour and requires no new host software. The system is managed through a web-based browser.

Solid-state disks have been hailed in the IT press and general market for their reliability (no moving parts) and access speed. The downside has been lack of capacity and high price, compared to traditional spinning magnetic media. With an approach like XcelaSAN, the benefits of solid state storage are clear, while the actual amount of SSD required to make an impact is minimized.

Caching has been used to improve storage performance for years, though experts have understood that limitations in algorithm efficiency have meant that merely adding cache memory beyond a certain point didn't necessarily provide a large performance boost. If Dataram has improved the efficiency of the caching algorithms they use in the XcelaSAN, it could provide a significant performance benefit. As with most caches, though, it's likely that the precise level of improvement will depend heavily on the nature of the I/O access taking place within the SAN.