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Nevex adds flash caching software, Overland revamps RAID for SnapServer

Sonia R. Lelii, Senior News Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Startup Nevex Virtual Technologies came out of stealth with flash caching software that uses NAND and DRAM to speed performance of

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file storage, and Overland Storage released a RAID-alternative unified storage system today at Storage Networking World (SNW) Fall 2011.

Nevex has developed selective caching and multilevel caching features to help ease I/O bottlenecks between primary storage and Windows-based application servers.

The company enters what's becoming a crowded market. Its competition includes startups FlashSoft Corp. and VeloBit, Fusion-io’s IO Turbine software, solid-state drive (SSD) manufacturer STEC’s EnhanceIO SSD Cache Software and EMC’s Project Lightning server-based PCIe product. These products are all in beta or shipping.

The software manages what data is cached to and from the device, and whether future requests come from the cache or primary storage.

-- Steve Lamb, Nevex CEO

CEO Steve Lamb said because CacheWorks operates at the file level instead of the block level, caching can be selectively optimized to adjust performance by targeting data by application, file name and type, directory and path. The roadmap calls for the ability to optimize cache by targeting data by user, process and time. The software also allows administrators to target a specific database within an instance for performance acceleration.

“Files have contextual data,” Lamb said. “It’s that knowledge that allows you to selectively cache files. At the block level, we don’t have a true understanding of where blocks belong in the larger system.”

CacheWorks is tightly integrated with the Windows memory file cache to allow multilevel caching. The software takes highly accessed data and stores it in the DRAM for high-speed access, while lesser accessed data is stored in NAND flash. Both the DRAM and flash cache are used to offload IOPs from primary storage.

“Nevex uses flash the same way a portion of the server memory is used to cache active data,” Lamb said. “The software manages what data is cached to and from the device, and whether future requests come from the cache or primary storage.”

CacheWorks is agent based so it has to be loaded on each physical server or in each virtual machine. Its list price is $2,495 per server. Lamb said the software will be generally available in November.

Overland unleashes the ‘SnapDragon’

Overland Storage launched its SnapServer DX unified storage series -- codenamed “SnapDragon” -- that uses what the vendor calls DynamicRAID to eliminate the need for provisioning storage.

The latest member of Overland’s SnapServer family consists of four models ranging from 2 TB to 36 TB inside the box and scaling to 288 TB with expansion shelves. The systems support network-attached storage (NAS) and iSCSI storage.

DynamicRAID is built on Overland’s GuardianOS operating system. Customers can choose traditional RAID or DynamicRAID as well as the preferred drive type -- SAS or SATA -- at the initial set-up. Geoff Barrall, Overland's chief technology officer (CTO) and vice president of engineering, said DynamicRAID lets customers mix-and-match drive sizes while the system automatically chooses the RAID level and either single- or dual-parity protection.

A volume is created in seconds and the customer never has to resize volumes or migrate data, Barrall said. Customers grow storage pools by hot-swapping larger disk drives, and volumes can automatically grow or shrink independently to add storage back into a common pool.

After setup, customers can't reverse their choice of traditional RAID or DynamicRAID. Barrall said he expects most new SnapServer customers to use DynamicRAID while existing customers might want to stick with traditional RAID to stay consistent with their previous systems.

“With traditional RAID you create a volume and you can expand volumes, but you’re really tying disks to different volumes,” Barrall said. “We pull drives into one storage pool, and all the drives live in that pool. You can grow volumes and if volumes shrink, you add that capacity back to the pool.”

Terri McClure, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), said DynamicRAID should appeal to small- and medium-sized business (SMB) customers, although some shops may not want to give up control of their RAID groups. She said customers may want to start with smaller deployments to get familiar with the new RAID and then expand.

“The tradeoff is administrators give up the level of control they’re used to having, but Overland is giving them choice,” she said. “As much as people want to automate everything, some want to control everything. When you set it up, you choose the level of control you want.

“If somebody’s bringing it in as a backup target and they don’t want to spend time managing it and doing RAID layouts," McClure continued, "they might try DynamicRAID and get comfortable. Then if they need to expand it for server consolidation or a remote office, they can deploy DynamicRAID for that.”

SnapServer DX systems come in 1U (DX1) or 2U (DX2) models. The DX1 scales to 156 TB with a SnapExpansion shelf and the DX2 scales to 288 TB. DX1 models cost $1,699 for 2 TB and $1,999 for 4 TB. DX2 models run $3,999 for 4 TB, $4,999 for 8 TB and up to $7,699 for 36 TB.

Avere adds new models to its FXT series 

Avere Systems Inc. rolled out new new SAS-based FXT 3000 and SSD-based 4000 appliances to its NAS acceleration platform, and added advanced analytics to the Avere Operating System (AOS).

The FXT 3200 and 3500 have significant increases in memory and capacity over the FXT 2700 systems they'll replace. The FXT 3200 comes with 96 GB of RAM and 4.8 TB of SAS drives, while the FXT 3500 has 144 GB of RAM and 9 TB of SAS disk. The FXT 2550 has 72 GB of RAM and 3.6 TB of disk. Pricing for the FXT 3200 is $79,500, and the FXT 3500 starts at $96,500.

The FXT 4200 and 4500 models are the successors to Avere’s FXT 2750 single-level cell (SLC) SSD model, which holds 73 GB of RAM and 500 GB of SSD capacity. The FXT 4000 series uses enterprise multi-level cell (eMLC) SSDs. The FXT 4200 has 96 GB of RAM and 1.6 TB of SSDs, while the 4500 has 144 GB of RAM and 3 TB of SSD. The FXT 4200 is $99,500 and the FXT 4500 is priced at $159,500.

The maximum cluster of Avere FXT appliances has been doubled from 25 to 50 with the new models. The AOS 2.1 now has an analytics tab where administrators can create customizable views, compare statistics in time, drill down by node and statistic, and create heat maps.

For instance, through the analytics tab, a view can be built that sees how reads are trending in a cluster. The administrator can see the amount of reads in a cluster-wide view or drill down to a particular node, application or user. Views and graphs can be created to view statistics from a particular IP address and how the systems connected to that address are working in the data center.

Customers can also compare statistics on a day-to-day view or over a longer period. New histograms let administrators create heat maps to pinpoint application behavior, such as the size and frequency of large reads over time.

Riverbed broadens Whitewater cloud support

Riverbed Technology expanded data protection and cloud provider support for its Whitewater appliance that customers use to connect to a public cloud.

Riverbed added support for Microsoft Azure, OpenStack Object Storage and Rackspace Cloud Files cloud providers, as well as CommVault Simpana, Hewlett-Packard Data Protector and Veeam Software Backup & Replication backup applications. Whitewater also now supports backups directly from the database via Microsoft SQL Server Backup and Restore and Oracle Recovery Manager (RMAN).

Emulex delivers 16-gig FC HBAs

Emulex Corp. rolled out its LPe16000 Series 16 Gb Fibre Channel (FC) host bus adapters (HBAs) that run on its Emulex Engine (XE201) I/O Controller launched in May. Emulex said the LightPulse LPe16000 single-channel 16 Gbps Fibre Channel HBA and the LightPulse LPe16002 dual-channel 16 Gbps Fibre Channel HBA will be generally available by the end of 2011.

Imation expands removable hard drive platform

Imation Corp. introduced four InfiniVault archiving appliances and three DataGuard backup appliances based on its RDX removable hard drive platform. The vendor also said it will have four LTO tape libraries available next month.

(Senior News Director Dave Raffo contributed to this story)

This article was previously published on SearchStorage.com.