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Starboard Aims for Branch, Remote Offices With Hybrid Storage System

Starboard Storage Systems has rolled out a new hybrid storage product that it says combines both SSD and hard disk drives to deliver a more efficient solution for managing large data workloads in a consolidated way. It's targeted at companies that have branch and remote offices as well as disaster recovery sites.

Starboard joins a growing number of storage vendors implementing a small number of SSDs backed up by a larger set of spinning disks in an effort to improve performance while keeping costs reasonable. According to the company, the Starboard AC45is designed to help organizations improve performance and capacity utilization, while reducing power and cooling, space consumption and operational costs. On average, only about 5% of a company's data is active at any one time, the company maintains, so the system watches usage and ensures that the active data is located in the fast SSD layer, while satisfying other types of workloads with different storage tiers.

"If you look at unified storage systems out there today that do SAN and NAS, a lot of them are essentially gateways put in front of an array, and that means there are multiple boxes and footprints you have to manage [as well as] separate operating systems,'' says Lee Johns, VP of product management at Starboard. "SSD is an afterthought and not designed in at the start."

The combination of SSD and disk drives built on top of the dynamic pool is the next stage of architectures for storage, he says. "It picks up all the legacy concepts we've had and builds in Fibre Channel SANs and NAS, but delivers a new level of value specifically designed to take advantage of SSDs in the most cost-effective way."

Starboard has what it calls a Mixed Application Storage Tiering architecture with an OS that pools capacity from SSD and SAS tiers. It automatically caches and moves data on its SSD tier to allow for optimal performance for random read and writes. It supports multiple protocols, including CIFS, NFS, Fibre Channel and iSCSI.

Starboard's "use of SSDs as a segregated write-back cache in a dual-mirrored mode, and separate SSD dedicated to a DRAM overflow read cache, is an intelligent way to accelerate the relatively small amount of data that is truly hot,'' notes James E. Bagley, a senior analyst at Storage Strategies NOW/Systems Strategies NOW. In addition, he says, "the support of native CIFS, NFS, iSCSI and Fibre Channel at a single interface tier contributes to the efficiency and allows [Starboard] to use the term unified storage, which implies both block and file access capabilities."

The AC45 competes with a number of traditional vendors providing iSCSI storage products or NAS, such as Dell EqualLogic, HP LeftHand, EMC VNXe and NetApp. It also competes with Nimble, a 4-year-old storage iSCSI startup, the company says.

Starboard is also introducing new models of its AC72 storage system, which scales up to 576 Tbytes. The AC72 is used by customers including the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona to consolidate and manage high-capacity, high-performance data for its Large Binocular Telescope Observatory. The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., is using an AC72 to store and manage its mixed workloads, consisting of massive amounts of unstructured and structured data associated with biological sequencing systems.

The Starboard AC45 starts with 12 Tbytes of storage for $39,995 and scales up to 78 Tbytes with one expansion shelf. The AC72 starts at $54,995 for 24 Tbytes.