Xiotech Touts Fresh Take on RAID

After months of secrecy, Xiotech finally spills the beans

April 9, 2008

3 Min Read
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Xiotech took the wraps off the first hardware based on its acquisition of Seagates Advanced Systems Architecture (ASA) group last year, a set of SAN and direct-attached storage systems, which it is touting as an alternative to traditional RAID.

”RAID controllers in this standards-based industry have not changed much for 20 years,” said Steve Sicola, the Xiotech CTO. “The problem is that cache, device, and RAID management are weighing them down -- the solution is to move the intelligence closer to the disks themselves.”

In an attempt to solve this problem, Xiotech and its ASA engineers have developed a technology called the Intelligent Storage Element (ISE), which forms the basis of the Emprise 7000 and 5000 arrays unveiled this morning.

The ISE technology places cache, RAID, and drive management inside sealed drive units, resulting, Xiotech claims, in faster performance than traditional RAID.

Xiotech is also playing up the "self-healing" capabilities of the ISE technology, but was vague on specific details. "It's about preventing failures," Sicola said, explaining that Xiotech has worked to cut down vibration and optimize cooling within the ISE architecture. He added that Xiotech can also control the "backend electronics" of the Emprise hardware remotely in the event of a problem.”Dollars per IOP is the fastest in the industry,” said Sicola, boasting a metric of $3.53 per IOP.

The ISEs are essentially sealed containers, or "DataPaks," containing up to 20 drives. They come in 2.2 Tbyte, 4.8 Tbyte, and 16 Tbyte configurations. Initially, these DataPaks will contain 3.5 inch Savvio and Barracuda drives from Seagate, as well as the vendor’s 2.5 inch Savvio 15K drive.

”This is about homogenous groups of drives,” said Sicola. “It’s about fixing the ills of the SCSI interface.”

Xiotech’s Sicola told Byte and Switch that other drive technology will eventually be supported within the ISEs, including Solid State Disks (SSDs). “You should see something from us later this year."

The Emprise 7000, which supports up to 64 ISEs and is managed by dual controllers, is aimed at SAN environments and can scale from 1 Tbyte to 1 Pbyte. The Emprise 5000, based on a single ISE, is targeted at direct-attached environments, and scales up to 16 Tbytes.Xiotech will also run a demo at SNW with the Emprise hardware running at 636,000 IOPs, according to the vendor’s CEO Casey Powell.

”People have been working for a very, very long time to bring you what we have,” said the exec during this morning’s press conference, explaining that around a million man hours went into ISE and the Emprise systems.

Pricing for the entry-level Emprise 5000 starts at $20,000, and Xiotech says that a typical Emprise 7000 system could cost anywhere from $80,000 upwards. Both systems will be available at the end of June.

At least one analyst feels that Xiotech’s ISE technology offers a fresh approach to RAID. “It’s always nice to see people challenge the rules,” said Mark Peters of the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). “So much of RAID and storage management is about fighting the problems that the technology creates, such as management of RAID and rebuilds.”

Despite the management benefits of ISE, getting users to buy into the Xiotech approach could be easier said than done, according to the analyst: "Unless and until a big enough swathe of the market gets it, they will still have a challenge [on their hands]."Xiotech has nonetheless racked up some 14 early adopters for the Emprise technology, including Newsweek and Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

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  • Decru Inc.

  • Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)

  • Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX)

  • Xiotech Corp.

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