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NetApp OEM deal helps GridIron widen SAN accelerator platform

Startup GridIron seals OEM deal with NetApp to combine new SAN accelerator device with NetApp disk storage in hybrid flash array.

Startup GridIron Systems Inc. today expanded its OneAppliance platform of flash SAN accelerator devices with the help of an OEM deal with storage vendor NetApp Inc. GridIron added a larger version of its TurboCharger all-flash SAN accelerator appliance and a new hybrid storage system that uses NetApp's E5400 for disk storage.

GridIron's Hybrid Flash Array (HFA) combines its new TurboCharger GT-1500 controller with the E5400, part of the Engenio storage platform that NetApp acquired from LSI Corp. in 2011. The TurboCharger sits between servers and storage arrays to accelerate such block-based applications as Oracle databases. It uses Intel multi-level cell (MLC) flash and the vendor's proprietary Set Ranking algorithms to optimize performance.

The GT-1500 is a 2U rack appliance with 12 TB of flash that Gridiron claims can accelerate 128 TB of primary storage at 550,000 IOPS and 3.2 GB per second bandwidth. Each TurboCharger has four 8 Gbps ports that connect to servers and two Fibre Channel (FC) ports for storage connectivity. TurboChargers are usually sold in pairs for high availability. Customers can cluster TurboChargers through 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

The TurboCharger accelerates read I/Os and passes through write I/Os and status commands to the disk array. "That way, reads happen faster and the array can spend its processing power on writes and do that faster," said Franklyn Jones, GridIron's vice president of marketing.

GridIron began shipping SAN accelerators in September 2011 with the 2.5 TB GT-1100 and the 6.5 TB GT-1100A.

Hybrid array mixes flash, disk storage

The new 8U HFA holds 180 TB of raw disk capacity with 60 3 TB hard drives. It includes 24 TB of MLC flash, 200 GB of memory and 16 8 Gbps FC ports. Gridiron claims the HFA can handle 1 million IOPS and 6 GBps throughput. Two HFAs can be clustered to provide 360 TB of raw capacity.

GridIron relies on NetApp's replication and synchronization features for high availability, but uses the startup's Set Ranking technology to accelerate application performance. GridIron will be the sole provider of HFA appliances. Customers will be told the boxes are "powered by NetApp."

GridIron's Jones said he expects customers who already have a SAN will be more likely to add a TurboCharger, while customers looking for a new SAN for an application are better candidates for the hybrid array. GridIron has about 50 deployments of TurboCharger appliances in production with customers, he said.

Jim Handy, director at Objective Analysis, said the NetApp partnership gives GridIron credibility. And that is crucial with a flurry of flash products hitting the market.

"If the people at NetApp are willing to stick their neck out to work with a startup on something, they must have faith in them," Handy said. "The staying power of the manufacturer will be real important because of all the flash caching devices and full storage devices out there. That's probably more important than technical excellence right now. I can see someone being the winner because its product lets a manager sleep at night knowing they have a solid company behind them."

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