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Starboard Storage scales down unified storage platform

Starboard Storage goes after EMC and NetApp with unified storage system using hybrid flash for remote offices and virtualized environments.

Starboard Storage Systems Inc. today rolled out a smaller model of its unified storage system -- the Starboard AC45 -- that is targeted for remote, branch office and disaster recovery (DR) sites.

Starboard's AC45 storage system is designed to dynamically pool capacity and automatically deliver mixed workloads of unstructured, structured and virtualized data to appropriate storage tiers.

Parsippany, N.J.-based Starboard Storage came out of stealth mode last February when it announced its larger Starboard AC72 Storage System, aimed at small-to-medium enterprise customers.

The AC72 and AC45 use a single-level cell (SLC) solid-state drive (SSD) performance tier along with SAS hard drives in a hybrid flash setup. They support CIFS and NFS protocols for file storage and iSCSI and Fibre Channel for blocks.

Starboard is driven by what it calls a Mixed-workload, Application-Crafted Storage Tiering (MAST) architecture. Its operating system pools capacity from SSD and SAS tiers, automatically caching and moving data on its SSD tier to optimize performance for random writes and reads. The system stores large sequential writes on hard drives.

The AC45 starts with 12 TB of capacity with six 2 TB drives of 7,200 rpm nearline SAS. It can expand to 78 TB with a 3U, 16-drive expansion shelf.  It holds 24 GB of memory per node.

Its standard SSD accelerator tier consists of a mirrored pair of 100 GB write caches and a 100 GB spillover read cache. An optional 500 GB spillover read cache is available.

The AC45 ships standard with four Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports for NAS and iSCSI, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet and 8 Gbps Fibre Channel connectivity is optional. Target workloads include Microsoft applications, virtualized servers and remote disaster recovery sites. The operating system handles thin provisioning, thin conversion, replication, snapshots, clones and space reclamation.

For DR, customers can replicate between AC45 systems, as well as between an AC45 and AC72.

The AC45 system is available now and it is priced at $39,995.

Unlike the AC72, the AC45 does not support 15,000 rpm performance SAS drives. The AC72 also supports two 16-bay or 45-bay expansion shelves for greater capacity. Starboard has reduced the AC72 entry-level pricing from $60,000 to $54,995.

Karl Chen, Starboard Storage's chief marketing officer, said the AC45 is competitive with the NetApp FAS2000 and EMC VNXe3000 low-end unified storage systems, and Dell EqualLogic and Hewlett-Packard LeftHand iSCSI platforms.

"We are delivering hybrid storage to that segment of the market," Chen said.

Randy Kerns, senior strategist for the Boulder, Colo.-based Evaluator Group analyst firm, said Starboard's storage systems have a unique way of handling I/O acceleration through a multi-tier cache. The cache has three levels, starting with level 1, which stores, reads and writes data in DRAM. Starboard's level-2 cache is a mirrored SSD that optimizes random writes. Read data that has less activity when stored in DRAM is moved to level 3.

"Large sequential writes are put in hard disk drives because they are rarely referenced," Kerns said. "Their I/O accelerator is somewhat different than competitors, but it performs well based on the minimal amount of hardware, so it gives them a price advantage."

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