Astute makes flash appliance less expensive with MLC, adds replication

Astute Networks says giving its ViSX flash appliance MLC drives lowers the price to $5 per gigabyte, and to even less if you buy its deduplication.

Flash appliance vendor Astute Networks Inc. this week added multi-level cell flash and synchronous and asynchronous replication technologies to its ViSX line of iSCSI solid-state storage systems to bring down the cost of flash-based storage for midrange and smaller companies.

Astute's previous ViSX flash appliances used 400 GB enterprise multi-level cell (eMLC) flash drives in its standard 2.5-inch storage modules. The new systems offer 400 GB or 800 GB MLC modules, and 800 GB or 1.9 TB eMLC modules. The standard 2U enclosure can now hold 45.6 TB of raw capacity.

Len Rosenthal, Astute's senior vice president of marketing, said that customers are becoming less willing to pay a premium for eMLC flash. He credits better flash-management techniques with the rise in use of MLC flash in enterprise storage systems today.

"As an industry, I think we have solved the reliability and endurance issues with flash," Rosenthal said. "Between the various techniques that the controller vendors are [using], the overprovisioning of flash … error correction code and other algorithms, no one is concerned about the 10-year longevity of flash."

The addition of MLC flash technology to Astute's iSCSI ViSX appliances brings down the cost of the box to around $5 per gigabyte for an appliance with at least 4.8 GB of capacity, which Rosenthal called a "realistic configuration."

The entry price for an MLC-based ViSX appliance is about $32,000, compared to the eMLC-based appliances, which start at about $50,000.

If you add Astute's optional inline deduplication technology, the cost per gigabyte drops more. Dedupe is a licensed feature for ViSX appliances. Using the deduplication feature, the standard 2U enclosure can hold upwards of 250 TB, Rosenthal said.

"When you combine dedupe with the pricing that we have … we can get down to $1 to $2 per gigabyte for a realistic configuration," he said. "We think it's really going to increase adoption; it's going to get us much more competitive with these disk-based and hybrid-based solutions."

Astute also added an optional synchronous replication and asynchronous replication feature called ViSX Replicator.

The synchronous replication technology is typically used inside a data center for real-time continuous data protection (CDP), while asynchronous replication is used more for remote data protection and disaster recovery (DR). ViSX Replicator can replicate only to another ViSX appliance.

Astute offers a high-availability bundled package with two ViSX units with 3.2 TB total capacity, two licensed copies of the replication feature, and three years of premium technical support for $68,000, which is a 20% discount from the products sold separately, Rosenthal said.

James Bagley, a senior analyst at Storage Strategies Now, said that Astute will be competing with hybrid solid-state and spinning disk solutions from such companies as Nimble Storage Inc., as well as from all-flash storage vendors. He said the lower per-gigabyte pricing will allow Astute to compete in a number of attractive vertical markets, such as school districts and local government.

"They have developed a lower-entry-level product so that they can get into the midmarket and even high-end small market with the product," Bagley said. "The entry price is a big deal."

All of the 400 GB and 800 GB modules are available now, and Astute plans ship the 1.9 TB eMLC modules in June.

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