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Western Digital Makes Significant Enhancements To Three Storage System Lines

The company, best known for its disk and flash storage drives, rolled out big upgrades to its IntelliFlash high-performance flash array line, its ActiveScale scalable object storage line, and its Ultrastar storage server line for software-defined storage.

Western Digital on Thursday proved it is serious about the storage systems business with the rollout of enhancements to three of its primary and secondary storage lines.

The changes to the storage systems lineup of Western Digital, the San Jose, Calif.-based storage vendor that until a few years ago was mainly known as a leading manufacturer of hard disk drives and SSDs, were made possible in large part thanks to the company's long-term experience in storage components, said Phil Bullinger, senior vice president and general manager of the company's Data Center Systems business unit.

Western Digital has a long history of developing technology from the silicon to the platform to the final products, Bullinger told CRN.

[Related: Western Digital Hammers Down On MAMR, Not HAMR, For Spinning Hard Drives]

"We are able to leverage that intimacy to bring to market products that provider longer lifecycles," he said.

Western Digital has succeeded in the storage systems business thanks to its own integrated design, test, and integration capabilities combined with its own supply chain, Bullinger said. The company has more than 2,200 customers who have deployed over 3,500 systems, both on a capex basis and on a pay-as-you-go model, he said.

Western Digital rolled out changes to three storage system lines.

The first was the introduction of a new flagship line in the company's IntelliFlash enterprise storage system, which is based on the technology Western Digital received with its 2017 acquisition of Tegile Systems, a developer of all-flash and hybrid-flash storage systems.

New to the lineup is the N Series of NVMe-based storage systems with SAS-based flash storage expansion capabilities, said Rob Commins, senior director of Western Digital's commercial and enterprise brand marketing.

The N Series of arrays with high-performance NVMe flash storage technology are targeted at real-time transactional applications, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and deep analytics, Commins told CRN.

The line consists of six new arrays ranging from an entry-level model with a raw capacity of 23 TBs to 184 TBs to the highest-end array with up to 1.26 petabytes of raw NVMe capacity.

Prior to their introduction, Western Digital's IntelliFlash arrays featured SAS-based flash storage on the front end for performance storage combined with disk-based storage on the back end for primary or secondary storage, Commins said.

Western Digital also introduced a new version of its IntelliFlash storage operating system, which provides up to 2.5-times the performance of the previous version, along with flexible data reduction and non-disruptive data migration, he said.

Bringing a full NVMe lineup to the old Tegile IntelliFlash line is a big move by Western Digital, said Charlie Collins, director of sales at Secure Data Technologies, an O'Fallon, Ill.-based solution provider who has worked with the Tegile line for about four years.

"The first company that shows it understands NVMe gets a leg up in the market, and Western Digital is definitely one of the first," Collins told CRN. "As a Cisco partner, we get 40-Gbit networking backplanes, which need the high-performance storage. So we're set for the future. NVMe is still two to three years away from being common, but being early to the market is important."

The IntelliFlash line offers the kind of performance expected from a high-performance flash storage system, Collins said. It differs from many of its competitors in that there are no limits in the protocols it runs, he said.

Even more important is the financial background that Western Digital brought to the line when it acquired Tegile, Collins said.

"Tegile was a great product developer, but its limiting factor was capital," he said. "Growth and funding were hampered. But that has changed under Western Digital, a $20-billion-plus organization."

The second major enhancement comes from upgrades to the software in Wester Digital's ActiveScale line, said Stefaan Vervaet, senior director of strategic alliances and market development for the vendor.

The ActiveScale line, which is a direct descendant of AmpliData, a developer of scale-out object storage technology acquired three years ago by Western Digital, was given a software refresh to support improved cloud capabilities and new hardware improvements, Vervaet told CRN.

The biggest change was the addition of NFS file storage capabilities and a new Amazon Web Services S3-compatible interface, Vervaet said.

"Now customers can connect both NFS and object storage directly, with built-in replication in and out of AWS storage buckets," he said.

The ActiveScale software also now supports Docker containers to help bring workloads closer to the storage, as well as the option of new 12-TB high capacity hard drives, Vervaet said. By year-end, it will also support drives designed to work in FIPS regulatory environments, he said.

The third major change to the Western Digital storage system line-up is enhancements to the company's Ultrastar hybrid storage server platforms, which are targeted at software-defined storage and cost-sensitive environments.

New to the line is the Ultrastar Serv60+8 high-capacity, performance-optimized storage server. It features dual Intel Xeon processors with 60 drive bays in 4U of rack space. Bullinger said they can be configured with up to 60 hard drives, with up to 24 of those drives able to be replaced by SAS or SATA SSDs. An additional eight NVMe SSDs are separately mounted in the chassis for caching purposes, he said.

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