X-IO Technologies stacks ISE blocks into new Iglu SAN

X-IO Technologies adds a SAN controller to give its ISE storage blocks the management and data protection customers want in traditional arrays.

X-IO Technologies today launched a SAN array based on its self-contained ISE blocks.

The vendor calls its new SAN platform Iglu, because it is a collection of ISE blocks. The Iglu Blaze is a scale-up system now shipping with a clustered scale-out version, Iglu Inferno, due later this year.

Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) has been X-IO's core product since it acquired the underlying technology from Seagate Technology LLC in 2008. ISE arrays are single blocks that include management, self-healing capabilities and capacity. However, ISE arrays cannot be tied into a SAN and lack common storage services. New X-IO Technologies CEO Bill Miller has made it a priority to ship complete SAN arrays for customers who don't want to buy third-party software or build their own software to add storage features.

Miller likens ISE to the engine of a car and says X-IO Technologies now wants to sell the entire car, rather than selling engines and expecting customers to build the car themselves.

"We've been criticized for not having features to play in the traditional SAN marketplace," said Gavin McLaughlin, X-IO's vice president of strategy and communications. "We've always been defensive, and we've had to walk away from deals when people say 'I want to go down the software-defined route, but I'm not convinced the market is ready yet and I want to stay with a full-featured SAN.'"

Unlike ISE, Iglu has external controllers that handle storage services. McLaughlin said the new features include "an element of OEM" code along with X-IO's own technology. The OEM code comes from FalconStor Software, and is similar to that which Violin Memory Inc. added to its all-flash arrays in February.

Iglu Blaze has dual controllers, which consist of x86 hardware running in an active-active configuration. A 9U Blaze rack holds up to 11 ISE blocks. X-IO Technologies sells ISE blocks that all-flash, all-spinning disk, hybrids and any combination of blocks can run inside Iglu.

Each Blaze rack includes eight 8 Gbps Fibre Channel and six 10 Gb Ethernet ports. Iglu supports FC or iSCSI block storage.

Blaze scales from 28.2 TB to 310 TB of usable capacity in a rack, depending on which ISE blocks are used. Pricing begins at $103,000 for a rack with 28.2 TB.

The storage software features include thin provisioning, replication, data mirroring for fault tolerance, the ability to take 1,000 snapshots per volume, remote snapshot mounting, WAN compression and encryption, the ability to migrate from another SAN, and VMware and Microsoft hypervisor support.

McLaughlin said current ISE customers often rely on DataCore SANsymphony-V software or IBM SAN Volume Controller -- now IBM Spectrum Virtualize -- for these features.

Data deduplication is planned for the Inferno release. Inferno customers will be able to add controller heads or expansion shelves to increase performance or capacity.

This has been a busy year for X-IO Technologies, which already launched a G3 (third-generation) ISE hybrid system in January and ISE 800 all-flash array in March.

"Now we have a fully featured storage array," McLaughlin said. "We're filling a lot of gaps."

X-IO executives have to hope they didn't wait too long to fill this gap. They are rolling out a traditional SAN as the market transitions to hyper-converged systems, storage designed from the ground up for flash and virtual machines, and software-defined storage that runs on commodity hardware.

"It's a bit overdue, but a good move," said Tim Stammers, senior analyst at 451 Research. "The [traditional SAN] market will not go away overnight. This should help X-IO."

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