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Xiotech rings up first sale for self-healing Emprise systems

An information provider buys into Xiotech's Emprise 5000 for its performance and scalability. The idea of not having to swap out a drive for three years didn't sound so bad either.

Xiotech Corp. announced its first customer for the new Emprise self-healing storage systems. The customer, Argus Information & Advisory Services, isn't just dipping its toe in the water -- it's ordering 16 of the self-healing storage systems that Xiotech launched in April.

Argus collects information from financial institutions, including behavior, risk and pricing data, then processes that data to help its clients make risk management and marketing decisions. Argus president Michael Heller said the company issued an RFP in April, looking to upgrade from its Hewlett-Packard storage system. It sent the RFP to seven storage companies and received five responses. Argus executives wouldn't identify the other vendors, but said the major storage vendors were included. Argus executives hadn't heard of the Emprise when they issued the RFP in April, but said that Xiotech won the bid on performance and price.

After testing three Emprise 5000 systems, Argus ordered 16 of the systems that Xiotech launched in April around its self-healing Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) technology.

"We found our bottleneck was throughput," Heller said. "Performance was the big requirement we had when we went out with the RFP."

According to Argus principal Nick Daffan, Argus' data warehouse contains "billions of rows of data. We collect the data, and then we have to do transformations to normalize it and bring it into a standardized structure so we can do apples-to-apples comparisons on the data." That translates into a small number of large transactions and makes throughput crucial.

Argus tested three Emprise systems and will move the data on those systems into production. Daffan is targeting July 15 as the date to have the systems live. Over the next six months, he plans to add off-site replication.

Argus has about 40 TB of raw data now, and Daffan projects that to grow to around 90 TB within a year and around 200 TB in three years.

Daffan was most impressed with the throughput and scalability of the Emprise. Each system delivered between 600 MBps and 800 MBps of throughput, and scaling two systems provided from1.2 GBps to 1.5 GBps.

Because of their need for throughput, the Argus executives said Xiotech's ISE self-healing capability wasn't the major consideration in their purchase, although that received most of the attention when the Emprise launched. Each ISE includes two sealed DataPacs, along with redundant power and cooling, battery backup for 96 hours and redundant Managed Reliability Controllers. Xiotech claims that, on average, an ISE will incur no service events in five years of operation.

"I can't say that was our primary focus, but it entered into the equation," Daffan said of the self-healing claims. "We're not doing OLTP where we have to be online 24/7. But there's a lower maintenance cost, and the idea of not having to swap out a drive for three years, maybe five years, was attractive."

Argus also takes advantage of Xiotech's support for different drive types inside the Emprise, using 15,000 rpm 300 GB Fibre Channel for high performance and 1 TB SATA drives for less frequently accessed data.

Daffan is waiting for Xiotech to add more automated management to complete the package. "I think their plan is to come out with more management features, we would be interested in that," he said. "As we build LUNs and assign LUNs to a host, we're doing all that on a scripted basis. We've automated it, but their plan is to provide better interface to do that."

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