Starboard Debuts Hybrid SSD-Hard Drive Storage For SMEs

Starboard Storage Systems expanded its line of hybrid SSD-hard drive storage systems with a new entry-level model that combines enterprise SSDs with low-cost spinning disks.

Starboard, which unveiled its first SSD-hard drive array in February, is looking to expand its reach into small and midsize enterprises, said Karl Chen, chief marketing officer for the Broomfield, Colo.-based company.

The new Starboard Storage AC45 hybrid storage system, which features NAS, iSCSI SAN, and Fibre Channel SAN capabilities, uses the same software and technology of the company's AC72, which was introduced earlier this year, Chen said.

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However, unlike the Starboard AC72, which expands to up to 474 TBs of capacity, the new AC45 tops out at 78 TBs, Chen said.

The Starboard AC45 has a base configuration including 12 TBs of 7,200-rpm nearline SAS hard drives and three enterprise-class SLC flash-based SSDs. "Customers can also order with non-enterprise MLC SSDs," he said. "We use two SSDs as a write-back cache and one SSD as a spillover read cache, although customers can purchase a second spillover read cache SSD if needed."

Starboard does not use a traditional RAID architecture in its hybrid storage systems, Chen said.

"We leverage dynamic pooling so customers can leverage different sizes of drives without reducing performance and capacity to the lowest common denominator," he said. "Dynamic pooling carves up the volumes to leverage different drive types to maximize performance."

Starboard's unified SAN-NAS storage capabilities is what got infoStructure to sign up with the company, said Greg Wilson, CEO of the Littleton, Colo.-based solution provider.

"We're seeing huge growth in unstructured data," Wilson said. "But the NAS offerings in this space are limited. I'd been looking for a unified storage alternative to NetApp."

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Many of the alternatives run the ZFS file system, an open source file system for which development is spearheaded by Oracle thanks to its acquisition of the original ZFS developer Sun Microsystems, Wilson said.

"I'm not sure what Oracle's plans are for ZFS," he said. "Many unified storage startups are based on ZFS. But it's a political risk, not a technology risk. ZFS is a great file system."

Starboard's technology is based on the open source XFS technology, which is strong in terms of parallel file systems, Wilson said.

"Starboard has a strong product offering at a fantastic price point," Wilson said. "And the company is 100-percent channel, and has a simple pricing structure. Its pricing includes nearly everything. No gotchas."

Wilson also likes Starboard's simple cache-oriented approach to deploying SSDs in its architecture. "It maximizes performance, and provides a performance boost without having to worry about cache complexity," he said.

Since Starboard came out of stealth, over 50 of its hybrid storage systems have been installed, Chen said. The company already has over 50 active solution providers in North America, and distributes its products through Annapolis Junction, Md.-based Promark Technology.

Wilson said there is a risk-reward balance his company considers when working with a startup vendor like Starboard.

"Once we do a demo of a product from such a vendor, most customers are satisfied with the solution," he said. "We need customers who are more progressive than most. There are a lot of SAN products in this space. But most don't include NAS. Starboard brings unified storage without the need to pay [a premium for better-known brands]."