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Starboard Storage offers unified storage system with SSD storage tiers

Newcomer Starboard Storage brings out a unified storage system that uses solid-state drive (SSD) storage tiers for performance acceleration.

Starboard Storage Systems came out of stealth today with a unified storage system -- the Starboard AC72 Storage System -- designed to dynamically pool capacity and deliver mixed workloads of unstructured, structured and virtualized data to appropriate storage tiers.

Starboard is driven by what it calls a Mixed-workload, Application-Crafted Storage Tiering (MAST) architecture. Its operating system will dynamically pool capacity from tiers that include multi-level cell (MLC) solid-state storage, and SAS and near-line SAS hard disk drives.

Each system has a solid-state drive (SSD) accelerator tier and built-in I/O detection technology, so a virtualized database workload with random I/O will be automatically stored on the SSD tier, while a workload with unstructured files with sequential reads and writes will be stored on less expensive near-line SAS drives.

“The system does the auto-tiering in real-time without the use of a manual policy,” said Karl Chen, Starboard’s chief marketing officer.

Starboard is a re-launch of Reldata, which sold unified storage systems. Reldata chief executive officer (CEO) Victor Walker and chief technology officer (CTO) Kirill Malkin hold the same titles at Starboard Storage Systems. Starboard owns Reldata intellectual property, but Starboard executives say the AC72 is a different architecture than Reldata systems. Starboard will continue to support the Reldata 9240i system, but will no longer sell any Reldata products.

The Starboard AC72 head unit comes in four 3U dual-controller models, two geared for performance and the other two for capacity. The performance systems begin at 7.2 TB with 15,000 rpm SAS drives, while the capacity units begin at 24 TB with 7,200 rpm near-line SAS drives.

Besides the drives, the other differences are in the processors and memory. The base performance and capacity systems include an Intel Xeon 5600 processor with 24 GB of memory per node. The expanded performance and capacity systems have dual Xeon 5600 processors and 48 GB of memory. All models support Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit Ethernet and 8 Gbps Fibre Channel connectivity.

Pricing starts at $69,995 for the performance model, $89,995 for the expanded performance model,; the capacity model and expanded capacity models start at $59,995 and $79,995, respectively.

Starboard sees the AC72 unified storage system competitive with midrange iSCSI or multiprotocol systems such as the EMC VNX 5000, NetApp FAS3000, Dell EqualLogic PS6000 and Hewlett-Packard LeftHand P4500.

The AC72 can scale out with ES16 and ES45 expansion shelves. The 3U ES16 scales to 224 TB with each shelf containing 600 GB SAS or 2 TB near-line SAS drives for high-performance workloads. The higher density ES45 scales to 474 TB with 600 GB SAS, 2 TB SAS in front-side bays and 2 TB near-line SAS in the back bays.

The Starboard AC72 manages file and block data through one console. The console includes storage application selections that help administrators set up volume and logical unit numbers (LUNs) across the workloads. The initial systems come with five storage apps, two for unstructured NFS and CIFS unstructured data, two for structured data on iSCSI and Fibre Channel, and one for replication. Chen said Starboard will roll out more storage apps in future releases.

Randy Kerns, senior strategist at Evaluator Group, said Starboard’s unified storage system is part of a newer breed of unified systems that implement storage pooling first, with RAID protection added on top of the storage pooling. That allows the system to add RAID to data segments or chunks based on workload requirements. When data is reconstructed, only the segments that are needed are rebuilt rather than all the data across the physical devices.

“Some of the newer architectures had the opportunity to do that,” Kerns said. “They're designed to use the storage pooling technology and build on top of that. They're taking advantage of all the things we have learned over the years.”

He said Starboard’s architecture has file and block capabilities built into each controller, compared to older systems that have file built into one controller and block built into a separate one.

Starboard claims it has more than 30 systems installed at customer sites, including the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO), which is the research arm for the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona. The observatory purchased two Starboard AC72s with expansion shelves running Linux database and Microsoft SQL Server data. This is the observatory’s first unified storage systems implementation.

“We wanted a solution that we could consolidate and it would be less of an administrative burden,” said Norm Cushing, software group manager for the observatory. “We wanted redundancy within the unit itself. It had to be self-contained and this passed all of our metric specifications for performance. Plus, the Starboard system was a better purchase for our dollars.”

Starboard Storage Systems has a mixture of storage veterans from Hewlett-Packard, LeftHand Networks, Reldata and Sun. Walker was previously CEO at Creekpath and a vice president at Sun and StorageTek. LeftHand founder Bill Chambers is the Starboard chairman.

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