Xiotech Combines SSD, Hard Disks In New Hybrid ISE

Xiotech has unveiled a new version of its self-contained ISE data packs which adds SSD technology and the ability to automatically tier between SSDs and hard drives.

Xiotech's ISE is a self-contained, sealed storage module complete with hard drives; redundant storage controllers with local RAID, cache, and drive management software; redundant power and cooling; and battery backup. It was designed with enough redundant components to eliminate the need to replace or repair them.

Xiotech's new Hybrid ISE adds solid state disk (SSD) technology to the SAS hard drives already inside to provide a significant bump in both performance and reliability for customers' storage infrastructures, said Jim McDonald, chief strategy officer for the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based storage vendor.

"Rather than the traditional tradeoff of capacity and performance, we decided to use SSDs and hard drives to get the best of both worlds," he said. "But we also focus on making sure it looks like what customers expect of storage, such as being sharable and fault-tolerant and being able to replicate data."

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Because the ISE data packs are sealed, they can alleviate customer concerns about the reliability of both SSDs and hard drives thanks to what Xiotech calls "managed reliability," McDonald said.

Xiotech groups the hard drives and SSDs which are treated as separate entities for reliability, McDonald said. "So we can offer a zero dollar, five-year storage warranty," he said. "We're not just saying they're reliable, we're guaranteeing it."

Steve Sicola, Xiotech CTO and one of the lead designers of the ISE technology before it was sold by Seagate to Xiotech in 2007, said that ISE has proven to be 99.9963 percent reliable in the field since it first shipped.

Less than 0.1 percent of ISEs are expected to be pulled out within five years of being shipped, Sicola said. This compared to the typical hard drive failure rate of between 5 percent and 13 percent per year, he said. "It would take a 21 percent failure rate to impact an ISE," he said. "That just doesn't happen."

With the new Hybrid ISE, Xiotech is also adding Continuous Adaptive Data Placement technology which adds intelligent tiering between the SSDs and hard drives, McDonald said.

With Continuous Adaptive Data Placement, the Hybrid ISE sees potential faults in the SSDs or hard drives and in response automatically moves the data to where it is safe. It also understands whether the data should sit on fast SSDs or slower but cheaper hard drives and automatically puts it on the right tiers, he said.

"It's the secret sauce to what makes this very powerful," he said. "There are no tunables. There's no need to set policies. There's no need to be aware of when someone puts a new database on the system. It's all handled automatically."

Next: Automating Storage With Hybrid ISE

For example, McDonald said, a company might require enough capacity to handle end-of-month activities for perhaps three hours, after which that capacity is not needed. With traditional storage, the company would need to ramp up the required storage, and then ramp it down when not needed.

"The Hybrid ISE looks at what blocks are needed to do end-of-month processing," he said. "For the following month, it automatically loads those blocks. This could be something that happens once a day, or once a month, or ad hoc. It's all done automatically."

The Hybrid ISE is available with a list price of around $100,000 for a 3U chassis which includes 14.4 TBs of raw capacity, or 7.2 TBs when configured for RAID Level 1.

Solution providers can plug one or more Hybrid ISE units into customers' existing storage, either directly or via a networking switch, McDonald said. They can also connect multiple units through a storage virtualization gateway such as IBM's San Volume Controller (SVC) or Hitachi Data Systems' USP, or on a similar controller from Xiotech, he said.

"You can use our controller to connect 100 ISCs to build a cloud," Sicola said. "Use our software and controller to build anything you want."

About 50 percent of ISE sales go through indirect channels, more than double the channel proportion of only three years ago, McDonald said.