TechEd: LSI, Microsoft Team On Low-Cost Clustered Server, Storage Solution

LSI will use next week's Microsoft TechEd conference to unveil a new solution that allows high-availability storage clusters to be built with commodity hardware and Microsoft's Windows Server 2012.

The new LSI Syncro CS solution allows high-availability storage clusters with shared storage and storage controller failover, by modifying the company's RAID controllers, to actually talk to each other, said Tom McCarthy, senior product manager for the RAID Storage division of San Jose, Calif.-based LSI.

Current storage solutions are typically either single-node solutions that directly attach to a single server, which means no scalability or other advanced services, or multi-node solutions that use Fibre Channel or iSCSI to provide advanced features at a much higher cost, McCarthy said.

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While multi-node solutions using storage area networks provide performance and availability to enterprise data centers as well as to public and private cloud providers, they do not address the needs of small and midsize data centers or remote data centers, McCarthy said.

"We're filling that gap with hardware technology that provides shared storage and hardware RAID with the simplicity of server-based storage," he said.

Unlike traditional RAID controllers, which allow a server to connect to internal or external storage and which are not available for use by other servers, the LSI Syncro CS, built on LSI RAID controller technology, allows multiple servers to talk to external storage, McCarthy said.

LSI Syncro CS is sold to channel partners or storage OEMs as a way to provide clustered data protection to direct-attach storage environments in the event of a power failure.

The storage solution is available in two versions.

The first, the Syncro CS 9286-8e, is a kit including two Syncro CS controllers with brackets and two energy cells for protecting data if power is lost. It works with two industry-standard servers to provide shared storage and controller failover in Microsoft Windows Server 2012 environments.

The second, the Syncro CS 9271-8i, allows OEMs and system builders to use the Syncro CS controllers to build a two-node "cluster-in-a-box" solution for high availability in a single self-contained system.

Both solutions allow vertical scalability with the addition of external storage nodes, CPUs and memory as well as horizontal scalability via clustering with Microsoft Windows Server 2012.

NEXT: Microsoft's Partnership With LSI Syncro CS

Other services include the ability to do live migrations of virtual server and storage in Microsoft Hyper-V environments, as well as the ability to use Hyper-V to set up disaster recovery solutions, LSI's McCarthy said.

John Loveall, principal program manager for Microsoft Windows Server, said that when Window Server 2012 was released last year, it was designed to be cluster-friendly.

"We figured out that high availability has evolved from a nice-to-have to a table-stakes feature for SMBs and SMEs [small and midsize enterprises]," Loveall said.

Loveall said the LSI Syncro CS, while offering high availability, is not a fault-tolerant system like those offered by Stratus Technologies.

"Servers like those from Stratus are hardened for five nines [99.999 percent] availability," he said. "We can't touch that. That's a huge bar for availability. Ours offers high availability for small businesses or branch office, with a failover time of maybe 15 to 20 seconds, and works with customers' existing applications."

Microsoft worked with LSI to develop the LSI Syncro CS solution for a couple of years to take advantage of LSI's advanced storage hardware, Loveall said.

"Microsoft has partnerships for cluster-in-a box solutions, and works with almost every vendor," he said. "This is all about a pre-cabled, pre-configured solution."

One of those partners is DataON Storage, an Anaheim, Calif.-based developer of storage solutions, which it sells direct to customers with custom integration or to other solution providers in 15 countries.

William Huang, vice president of sales at DataON Storage, said that clustered solutions with Windows Server 2008 cost about $3,000 per node for the enterprise version of the operating system, along with $10,000 to $20,000 for high-availability external storage.

"Or customers can go to EMC, NetApp, Hewlett-Packard or Hitachi for high-availability shared storage via their proprietary solutions," Huang said.

While LSI provided great RAID controllers with its MegaRAID family, customers couldn't use two of those controllers for high availability, Huang said.

Therefore, he said, DataON Storage is happy to be working with Microsoft and LSI to develop its own cluster-in-a-box solution. "We believed external storage should be like Lego blocks, easy to deploy," he said.

Rocky Shek, technical product manager for DataON Storage, said his company will use the LSI Syncro CS to provide a Microsoft-based cluster-in-a-box solution with two nodes and its 2U, 12-drive or 4U, 70-drive storage enclosures.

NEXT: Complete LSI Syncro CS Solutions Available

DataON will also provide a "cluster-out-of-a-box" solution with two server nodes and external storage for easy scalability, DataON's Shek said.

Trenton Baker, DataON Storage's vice president of business development, said his company built the demo system that LSI will use at the TechEd conference, and will also demonstrate the solution in its own booth at the show.

While Microsoft will be showing some clustering solutions via its Storage Spaces software RAID technology, the LSI Syncro CS is a much more mature and robust solution, Baker said.

"For now, the only solution complete and fully robust is the LSI Syncro CS system," he said. "The Microsoft Storage Spaces part is more forward-looking."

Microsoft's Loveall said several server OEMs are already using the LSI Syncro CS technology including Quanta and Wistron Wiwynn, which are offering such servers as either a Microsoft Hyper-V appliance for SMBs or branch offices or as a private cloud NAS server.

The LSI Syncro CS is the second of LSI's Syncro line of storage solutions based on its MegaRAID RAID controller to be released.

LSI in November unveiled the Syncro MX-B rack boot appliance, a 1U appliance that can be used to boot up to 48 servers, eliminating the need for each server to have its own boot drive.

PUBLISH MAY 31, 2013