Article

Compellent adds disk stroking and app tuning to SAN

Beth Pariseau

Compellent Technologies upgraded its StorageCenter SAN system with a faster controller as well as enhancements to its block-level storage automation software.

New block-level features include Fast Track, which automates the placement of blocks on the tracks of each individual disk drive according to frequency of access. This is similar to the way StorageCenter already automatically moves blocks between different classes of drives for tiered storage. Like Pillar Data Systems Inc.'s disk short-stroking feature, Fast Track places more frequently accessed blocks on the outer tracks of individual disk drives and less-accessed blocks on the inner part of the disk.

StorageCenter SAN users can preselect classes of service for applications, but the SAN handles placement of blocks on the disk tracks in the background, according to Compellent vice president of marketing Bruce Kornfeld. The processing of blocks for the Fast Track and Storage Progression tiered storage features runs once a day, at a time set by the user.

Compellent claims that Fast Track will improve disk utilization in existing StorageCenter SANs by 30%, citing lab tests. One Compellent customer said he's been able to defer disk purchases with the feature in limited deployment and anticipates being able to avoid more costs during an upcoming move to a new data center.

"We've been able to recover some costs by moving things to SATA [disks] because we don't need as many disks dedicated to

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I/O," said Ping Ooi, assistant vice president of technology for Los Angeles-based investment management firm Ares Management. The company is moving to a new data center this spring, and Ooi said he expects to be able to save $50,000 to $80,000 on the cost of disk drives by using thin provisioning and the disk-stroking feature to consolidate data. On the downside, Ooi said he's still waiting for Compellent to add support for SAS drives.

Other updates to StorageCenter include Free Space Recovery, which defragments free space in thin-provisioned storage pools, and Thin Import, which is designed to avoid copying empty volumes from legacy disk arrays onto the Compellent system.

Another new feature, called Application Optimizer, gives customers the option of three different page-file sizes to match the I/O profile of different applications. High I/O applications can use a 512 KB page file size, while large files, such as streaming video, can use 4 MB page files. The system default remains 2 MB. This feature is comparable to a recently announced update to Pillar's Axiom arrays, called Application-Aware Storage.

Compellent has also added a new hardware module with faster controllers that will be backward-compatible with its existing Series 10 and Series 20 array building blocks. The new Series 30 box adds dual-core processors at 3 GHz, a PCI-Express architecture and 3.5 GB of cache, up from 2.25 GB in the Series 20.

"There isn't any one feature in this release that's earth-shattering by itself," said Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group. "As a combination, I think it shows fantastic progression for [Compellent]. They've added intelligence to the storage system that in the past hasn't been there or has come from a software layer above the array."

Compellent still working toward profitability

Compellent, which went public last October, reported revenue for the fourth quarter of 2007 of $16.9 million, an increase of 124% from $7.5 million a year ago and up 26% from the third quarter. Net losses in the quarter narrowed from $2.0 million to $1.8 million. For the year, revenue increased 119% to $51.2 million from $23.3 million in 2006.

The company is still looking for its first profitable quarter, which CEO Phil Soran predicted on last week's earnings call will come in the second half of 2008.

"Compellent isn't quite at the point I thought they'd be at by now," Taneja said. "But there's a certain level of inertia in the storage market, and they're growing as fast as their feet on the street can go."


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