Storbyte Exits Stealth With 'Eco-Flash' Storage, Promises Performance, 10-Year Warranties, Channel-Only Focus

Flash storage technology developer Storbyte on Tuesday exited stealth mode with the introduction of new flash storage arrays that offer enterprise-level performance using modular flash memory combined with patented proprietary technology it promises will significantly increase the lifespan of that memory.

Washington, D.C.-based Storbyte, which has as one of its founders one of the best-known channel advocates in the storage industry, also promises to utilize a channel-only strategy offering partners consistently large margins.

Storbyte's all-flash arrays are based on the company's new Eco-Flash all-flash storage modules, which initially come with a total of 16 TBs of Samsung industrial-grade, commodity flash chips combined with Storbyte's proprietary Hydra ASICs. Four memory modules are controlled by a single Hydra ASIC, while four Hydra ASICs are in turn controlled by yet another Hydra ASIC serving as a master controller to form one Eco-Flash drive.

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The Hydra chips provide a modified RAID data protection scheme across the four independent memory modules as a way to enhance the lifespan of the memory. This helps to mitigate the write-cliff issue that happens when data is written to a memory cell enough times to make that cell unable to store data, said Diamond Lauffin, co-founder of Storbyte.

Most flash memory has warranties based on total write limits, Lauffin told CRN. Unfortunately, the flash memory "garbage collection" feature that cleans up unused data in memory cells also causes write operations, which count in the total write limit, he said.

Manufacturers of standard flash memory also increase the voltage of the memory chips to increase performance. However, that also increases their temperature, which decreases flash memory lifespan, Lauffin.

As a result of these two issues, flash memory, which five years ago may have come with a five-year warranty, now often comes with a three-year warranty, he said.

The Storbyte's Eco-Flash drives' modified RAID technology cuts back on the write operations and decreases the voltage used, significantly increasing the lifespan of the memory cells, Lauffin said.

"We offer a 10-year unconditional write warranty on our drives," he said. "No exclusions."

Storbyte introduced three Eco-Flash-based arrays, including a 1U model with 131 TBs of raw capacity, a 2U model with 262 TBs of raw capacity, and a 4U model with 786 TBs of raw capacity. They support existing file systems and third-party storage software, and support a simultaneous blend of Ethernet, iSCSI, NAS, and InfiniBand connectivity, Lauffin said. They were designed for easy scale-up and scale-out capabilities with hot-swap redundancy, he said.

For workloads with data that can be migrated to lower-performance, less expensive capacity, Storbyte also offers its own spinning-disk-based JBOD (just a bunch of disks) storage expansion system. Combined, the Eco-Flash flash storage and spinning disk storage can provide up to 11.4 petabytes of raw capacity in a single 42U rack.

The cost of the Storbyte offering is about 54 cents per gigabyte of raw capacity in a 42U rack. Lauffin said using Storbyte's own tiered dedupe and compression technology can bring the cost down to under 1 cent per gigabyte.

The Storbyte offering was designed to work with any file system a channel partner's customers use, or with Storbyte's own ZFS-based file system, which is provided at no charge.

Lauffin, who has designed and implemented channel programs for decades, is doing so with Storbyte. "I've never taken a deal direct. Never," he said.

The company plans to start working with about 10 channel partners in 2018 initially. One of them is very happy to see Lauffin back in the storage industry.

Bill Allen, consultant and chief technology officer at Westlake Technologies, a West Lake Village, Calif.-based solution provider who has worked with Lauffin both as a colleague and as a channel partner for about 30 years, told CRN he is excited to see Lauffin's new venture.

"With Diamond on your side as a reseller, you know you are protected," Allen said. "Diamond is the first to introduce a channel program with integrity. When he does something with the channel, there's no doubt. Diamond has never took deals direct. He's always offered deal registration and protected his partners. To see Diamond involved with a technology as solid as Storbyte's with a program he designed, that's just golden."

Another solution provider who has known Lauffin for years said Lauffin has a solid reputation in the storage industry.

That solution provider, who preferred to remain anonymous because he is selling competing all-flash storage, said Lauffin has a good nose for finding and capitalizing on storage industry trends.

"Diamond is very good at finding the appropriate use cases for what he is working on," the solution provider said.

Allen said he took some of his customers in the movie studio and petroleum businesses to see Storbyte at the recent NAB show in Las Vegas, and they were impressed with the technology.

"It's nice to see Storbyte have its own intellectual property," he said. "The technology is stellar. The price point can't be beat. And the margins are set up so resellers can build the business. There's nothing limiting how much resellers can make. Diamond would never do that."

The Eco-Flash technology was developed over several years by Joseph Drissel, co-founder and chief technology officer for Storbyte. Lauffin said Drissel worked for years on cybersecurity for the U.S. government and built huge multi-petabyte flash storage farms to do packet capture for the government.

Drissel found that, because his systems were running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the flash drives he was using had an average lifespan of only seven months to nine months, which meant changing thousands of drives on a regular basis. "He invented the Eco-Flash drive as a result," he said.

Drissel is also the founder and CEO of Cyber Engineering Services, a Baltimore, Md.-based developer of security technology for monitoring of mission-critical networks.

Storbyte is totally self-funded, Lauffin said. "We don't have to worry about making anyone else happy," he said.