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Whiptail wants to scale to 'Infinity'

With major storage vendors in various stages of preparation to launch all-flash arrays in 2013, the startups already selling flash storage are working to stay a step ahead. For some, this means adding storage management and data protection, while others work on making systems redundant and still others try to reduce costs.

Whiptail’s plan for staying ahead of the game is to make its all-flash arrays the most scalable in the market. The startup is preparing to launch its Infinity architecture in the first quarter of next year. Infinity is an expansion of the vendor’s current Invicta platform, except for it scales to 30 nodes and 360 TB of flash compared to Invicta’s six nodes and 72 TB.

And that’s just the beginning, says Whiptail CEO Dan Crain. “Our largest tested configuration is 30 nodes,” he said. “We can probably go 10 times that, but we haven’t tested it.”

It’s unlikely that anybody will need – or want to pay for – 3.6 PB of flash in one system for a while, so Whiptail has time to test larger configurations. But Crain said his strategy is to have an architecture in place for his early customers to grow into as flash takes hold.

“Our basic message always has been organized around building a platform that folks can invest in and keep building onto,” he said. “People can take anything they’ve ever bought from us and organize it into Invicta.”

Whiptail claims it has achieved 2.1 million IOPS and 21.8 GB per second throughput in testing with a 15-node 180 TB set-up, and projects more than 4 million IOPS and 40 GBps with 30 nodes.

Infinity requires several pieces of technology, including version 5.0 of Whiptail’s Racerunner operating system, and enhancements to the array’s silicon storage routers.

Crain said he doesn’t expect flash to take over the storage world overnight. He predicts it will be a gradual process as early customers use it for high-performance applications and eventually move other critical data onto flash.

That’s why he wants to get an early customer base that will grow into Whiptail storage as it supports higher scale.

“We’ve always said we’re going to build into the market,” he said. “We never go out and tell everybody we’re going to take over the world because that’s not rational. Adoption of our technology is in its infancy.”

Crain said Whiptail already does things such as real-time error correction, clustering, auto-failover and asynchronous replication. Deduplication, a potentially key feature for SSD because of its limited capacity, remains a roadmap item.

“Over time we’ll have dedupe,” he said. “We’re very sensitive on performance latency, so we tend not to compete on cost per gig. Dedupe has benefits in general, but it’s still not yet widely deployed on primary storage.”

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