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Starboard Seeks To Be The iPhone of SME Storage

Starboard Storage Systems, a relatively new entrant into a very competitive SME storage market, believes its initial product, which delivers double the performance of legacy SAN/NAS products at half the cost, will help it stand above the crowd. The company says its AC72 (Application-Crafted Storage) system dramatically simplifies managing mixed workload environments that include unstructured, virtualized and structured data.

It has already signed up more than 30 customers managing more than 750 Tbytes of capacity. One customer, DigeTekS, reported I/O performance 20 times faster than the previous iSCSI solution it was using.

Starboard says in a comparative test run by Evaluator Group last month, the AC72 achieved 100% better performance in the Iometer test and 42% more transactions per second in the JetStress performance test. Comparing its major competitors--including Dell Compellent, EMC VNX 5000, NetApp FAS3000, HP P4500 (LeftHand) and Dell PS 6000 (EqualLogic)--the company says it outscored its rivals in the five key customer buying criteria: mixed workloads; simple management; consistent performance; scalable, efficient storage; and cost-effective, single pricing.

One of the big opportunities in the midmarket is to consolidate applications that may be using different storage systems to a single storage system that has the performance to handle those applications, says Randy Kerns, senior strategist of the Evaluator Group. "The advantages are in operational expense in few devices to administer and less power, floor space and cooling requirements. To do this, the storage system needs to be able to handle the different types of workloads simultaneously. It also needs to be "simple"--administrators don't need to understand all the special considerations--the system just handles the potential mix of workloads. So, there's value in doing this. For products in this space, it is usually a new design that requires investment in development and testing which takes longer to bring to the market."

Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group, says what Starboard is doing is building the iPhone of storage--storage that is a platform with a set of pre-defined applications and a ton of value-add applications that can be added simply and easily. "I love the idea."

He says the company has taken measured steps early on. In this way, the company can work to perfect the product and the go-to-market strategy so that when it launches, it is ready to go. "I suspect you'll see them push much harder and faster now that they are out of the closet."

The Colorado-based company was started by a team of storage industry veterans from Compellent, HP, LeftHand Networks, LSI and Sun. It absorbed Reldata, a storage company formed in 2005 by the merger of Reliable Data Technology and Germany-based Reldata Europe, under the new management team and company structure. The AC72 leverages technology that was developed by some of the engineers at Reldata in addition to new engineers that were hired at Starboard. The new company owns all of the intellectual property of Reldata, and the 9240i product will be supported by Starboard.

The AC72 features the SSD Accelerator Tier, a second-generation tiering architecture that lowers operational overhead and provides predictable performance when and where it's needed, says the company. Starboard Storage Apps simplify provisioning of volumes across multiple storage protocols including CIFS, NFS, iSCSI and Fibre Channel, and an all-inclusive software license includes thin provisioning, mirroring, asynchronous replication and snapshots.

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