New SANsymphony-V Provides Auto Tiering Across Heterogeneous Storage Hardware

The move represents the first time that auto tiering has been applied to heterogeneous storage environments, said George Teixeira, president and CEO of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based vendor.

Automated tiered storage, or dynamic tiering, is the ability of a storage device to automatically migrate data from one type of media to another based on how "hot," or frequently accessed, the data is and on the cost of the different types of media.

With automated tiered storage, data which is frequently accessed by an application should be sitting on the fastest available media so that it can be read or updated quickly. As that data ages, or becomes less frequently accessed, it can be migrated to slower hard disk drives or eventually to tape or a storage cloud where the cost of storing it is much lower. However, that data can also be migrated back to higher-speed media if access to it increases.

While auto tiering is an important tool for increasing storage efficiency, the capability is not available from every storage array or software vendor, Teixeira said. And, if it is available, it only works with a single vendor's arrays, he said.

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"Customers want best-of-breed, but that can be cost-prohibitive," he said. "DataCore allows customers to buy the storage they need or utilize their existing storage hardware."

DataCore's SANsymphony-V software is focused heavily on the virtualization of heterogeneous storage, giving it the capability to add such features as heterogeneous auto tiering. SANsymphony-V, which was released in February, also allows surplus servers from multiple vendors to be turned into virtual storage pools.

The new version of SANsymphony-V can work across multiple arrays to automatically move the most commonly accessed data to the fastest storage devices according to pre-defined rules, said Augie Gonzalez, director of product marketing for the company. System administrators can also designate from which tier a virtual disk is allocated, as well as force certain volumes to work at slower tiers to save the higher-speed tiers for other data, Gonzalez said.

It also works with SSDs, Teixeira said.

"SSDs are a big driver for this," he said. "DataCore already provides a caching layer. Customers can add cache RAM to increase performance. Caching can also offload much of the write functions of the SSDs to increase SSD life spans."

SANsymphony-V's automated tiering function also lets customers specify the storage specific arrays to be used for handling data, Teixeira said. "We've seen customers with Hewlett-Packard SATA arrays and no-name SATA arrays name their SATA capacity to different tiers," he said.

The software can be used to specify up to 16 levels of auto tiering, Gonzalez said. However, he said, no more than three or four tiers will typically be used.

The SANsymphony-V auto tiering capability is available. It is priced at $2,000 per node of DataCore software. Customers usually purchase two node licenses for SANsymphony-V in order to provide redundancy for high availability environments, Teixeira said.

However, he said, for customers with 50 TBs or more of high availability data being protected by SANsymphony, the new auto tiering capability is available at no cost.