New AMI StorTrends 3500i Array Adds SSD Cache, Tier For Improved Performance

American Megatrends (AMI) on Tuesday unveiled a new storage array it claims is the first to tier SSD cache and SSD storage along with spinning hard drives in a single enclosure.

AMI's new StorTrends 3500i SSD array, which can also be configured as an all-SSD array, provides iSCSI connectivity for up to 256 TB of storage capacity, said Justin Bagby, director of sales, marketing, and support for Norcross, Ga.-based AMI, better known as the world's top supplier of the BIOS used in PC and server motherboards.

The StorTrends 3500i comes configured with two SSDs uses specifically for cache, as well as two SSDs used for storage tiering, Bagby said.

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"We can guarantee a sustained latency of under 3 milliseconds in a hybrid array, or under 1 millisecond in an all-flash array," he said. "We'll give customers their money back if they're not happy with it."

In addition to the performance guarantee, AMI also offers to provide the StorTrends 3500i to partners as part of a proof-of-concept demonstration to customers for no charge, Bagby said.

"We want customers to really try it out in their environment," he said. "And we offer free installation and training remotely so customers really understand the technology."

AMI has already released a number of StorTrends 3500i arrays through channel partners, a couple of which have found them to be the right fit for their customers.

Stanton Girod, solutions architect at AR Consultant Group, a Monroe, Ga.-based solution provider and AMI partner, said the 3500i is priced like an SMB array but competes with the likes of Hewlett-Packard's 3PAR or Dell's Compellent offerings.

One of AR's health-care customers had cobbled together iSCSI storage and servers, including three database servers grouped geographically, to manage its health records, Girod said. The busiest server was managing the data at 17,000 IOPS, while the servers were offering a consistent 12,000 IOPS, which he said were extraordinary requirements that pushed the customer to look for higher performance from its storage.

"We went to several vendors about the time the 3500i was just coming to market," Girod said. "AMI said we could use SSDs as a cache, and as tier 1 or tier 0 storage, however we wanted to. The customer had archival data, but also had SLAs on offering the records to their customers. We found we could use the 3500i to do reports while not impacting day-to-day queries."

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Ron Robinson, president and CEO of IT Data Storage, an Atlanta-based solution provider and AMI partner, said he likes how AMI lets partners conduct proofs-of-concept and technology validations before customers purchase the arrays.

"Customers try the arrays before they are put in production to prove they can sustain the IO throughput AMI said was architected in the box," Robinson said.

In addition to the performance offered by having SSDs configured for both cache and for tiered primary storage, the StorTrends 3500i also provides several features making them suitable for enterprise use, AMI's Bagby said.

These include auto-tiering of data between cache, SSD tier and disk to keep frequently accessed data ready for use while moving less-accessed data to disk, he said. "It watches hot blocks in each tier and promotes them to higher-performing tiers within an hour, or demotes them to lower-performing tiers within a week," he said. "We also support pinning of a volume in the SSD tier so it's never demoted to ensure highest performance."

Also included is the ability to use data snapshots for high-speed disaster recovery, as well as deduplication, compression, WAN optimization and data encryption, he said.

The array's technologies and software allow a throughput of up to 256,000 IOPS, Bagby said.

The StorTrends 3500i is priced starting at just under $36,000, which includes two 200-GB SSDs for cache, two 200-GB SSDs for the performance tier, and 1 TB of hard disk storage, he said. The company has a handful of direct solution providers, but the bulk of its business is done via such distributors as Ingram Micro's Promark and technical distributor Envoy Data.