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Permabit points SANblox dedupe appliance at legacy storage arrays

Permabit puts data reduction on its add-on appliance, but which vendors will sign on to sell it?

Data reduction software vendor Permabit Technology Corp. today branched out into hardware with Albireo SANblox,...

a gateway appliance designed to boost the data efficiency of Fibre Channel-connected SANs.

Sold as a package of two 1U servers, SANblox is built on Permabit's Albireo Virtual Data Optimizer (VDO) software for inline data deduplication and inline HIOPS Compression software for primary storage. The operating system is Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.5 for high availability with Fibre Channel (FC) drivers by Emulex, supporting 16 Gbps connectivity and Gigabit Ethernet management interface.

Like Permabit's software, Albireo SANblox will be sold by OEM partners. The appliance was "compatibility-tested and interoperability-tested by the same partners we're going to market with," said Permabit CEO Tom Cook, although he declined to disclose design wins with OEMs.

Cook added that two OEM deals could be closed this week. Permabit claims it has more than a dozen OEM partners for its Albireo VDO, although Hitachi Data Systems is thus far the only vendor to publicly acknowledge using it. Hitachi integrates Permabit technology in its HNAS network-attached storage product.

SANblox offers SAN vendors data efficiency

"The genesis for SANblox came from storage OEM customers that are in the process of implementing our data-efficiency software in their product roadmaps," explained Cook. "They asked us to please give them our technology in a form that enables them to go to market immediately."

Permabit said SANblox was qualified for use with EMC's VNX and VMAX systems, Dell Compellent SC8000 arrays, Hitachi Unified Storage systems, NetApp's E-Series and Huawei's OceanStor T line, plus FC switches by Brocade and Cisco.

Eric Burgener, research director of IDC's storage practice, said Permabit's appliance could alleviate a huge burden on legacy SAN vendors.

"A good percentage of flash array vendors have not integrated inline deduplication, but it's clear that will be a baseline requirement for those types of arrays going forward," he said. "For incumbent vendors that don't have inline data deduplication, SANblox could be a competitive blocker with no time to market, since Permabit has already packaged it as an appliance."

It will be interesting to see which vendors sign on to sell SANblox. While inline primary dedupe is still rare, many vendors offer some form of deduplication or compression for legacy primary storage arrays. These include NetApp FAS systems, EMC VNX and Isilon, Dell Compellent and EqualLogic, Hewlett-Packard 3PAR, IBM Storwize and Hitachi NAS Platform. Newcomers EMC XtremIO, Kaminario, Nimble, Pure Storage, Tegile and Violin Memory all dedupe inline.

Gateway targets SAN optimization

The SANblox gateway is a "ready to run" appliance that fronts disparate and multiple arrays. It gives storage administrators a way to optimize SAN cache by provisioning a set of LUNs and dedicating them to SANblox, which aggregates the storage into a single data-efficiency pool.

Each two-unit SANblox system addresses up to 256 TB of physical storage, which translates to approximately 1 PB of capacity with Albireo VDO and HIOPS Compression technologies turned on. A storage administrator can create consistency groups comprised of SANblox-optimized LUNs to take snapshots and replicate them off-site.

Louis Imershein, Permabit's senior director of product strategy, said partners tested SANblox with Albireo deduplication and HIOPS Compression on "a slew of key applications." He said they reported data reduction ratios of 6:1 for primary application environments and as high as 50:1 for thick clones of virtual desktop infrastructure images.

"Those performance numbers align with what XtremIO, Pure Storage and other all-flash array vendors have been reporting," Imershein said.

SANblox is not architected for write caching and provides no storage. Writes occur synchronously to underlying block storage before they are acknowledged.

"We don't ever want to be in a situation where SANblox inadvertently acknowledges a write to the array," Imershein said.

SANblox is rated to deliver up to 230,000 and 110,000 random read and write IOPS, respectively, as well as up to 180,000 mixed IOPS.

Jim Miller, a senior storage analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, said SANblox targets a performance chokepoint that legacy array vendors have struggled to address.

"Data deduplication chews up a lot of resources at the storage array, in memory and in processing. Some arrays may not be up to performing deduplication and compression [and able to] provide the high IOPS and throughput needed for a production environment standpoint," Miller said.

"Even if the array is up to the processing task, it's quite an effort to qualify and test something that would run on an array," he noted. "A lot of vendors would be reluctant to do that, especially with a legacy array maybe one generation back. SANblox extends data deduplication into legacy equipment that vendors otherwise may not be able to take advantage of."

Permabit's Cook said pricing will be available from OEM partners.

Next Steps

Why dedupe and compression are quick fixes

Permabit markets dedupe product to low-end NAS

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