Xiotech Emprise 7000: A Well-Designed Storage Solution

Data StorageStorage

Xiotech goes where few other storage vendors go in terms of a commitment to high availability and fault tolerance.

It’s no secret that the enterprise storage market is growing, fueled by insatiable storage demands, and this big problem just can’t be ignored in order to pinch pennies this year.

Most companies need to address storage issues even if they aren’t spending on anything else. So once you make your storage spend, how do you know that you’ve made the right choice and chosen a solution that is scalable, extensible, high-performance, reliable, and available? And above all, will there be unanticipated maintenance costs and downtime?

Xiotech goes where few other storage vendors go in terms of a commitment to high availability and fault tolerance—and then adds an intuitive and powerful management GUI.

The Emprise 7000 is actually a group of products: a single ICON (1U), dual Emprise 7000 Controllers (each 2U) and one Emprise 7000 ISE (Intelligent Storage Element) with upwards of 5 terabytes capacity, all for about $95,000 (£66,000). Customers can then scale up by adding more ISEs. By contrast, the Emprise 5000 will run you about $40,000 (£28,000). Most customers aren’t buying 1 TB, more like dozens of TB and up into the petabyte range.

Xiotech’s Emprise 7000 ISE is very well designed. All subsystems are modular and field-replaceable. It is overall a tight little package for all that you get. The ISE is a 3U module that mounts 20 3.5-inch or 40 2.5-inch drives on two aluminum frames, called DataPacs, in back-to-back pairs, so the drives’ rotational vibrations negate each other. DataPacs become the unit of physical storage. Data is stripped across drives, DataPacs, and even ISEs transparently, quickly and efficiently using the ICON Manager GUI. Each ISE also includes dual active/active controllers with 1 GB of battery-backed-up cache and 4-Gbps Fibre Channel interfaces.

The typical way to grow the Emprise storage infrastructure is by adding 1.1-, 2.4-, or 8-TB DataPacs. This way, as you add storage capacity, you’re also increasing reliability and availability while preserving performance by adding more RAID controllers and more cache memory. On a typical array, adding more drive shelves for new applications would mean sharing I/O channels and cache. An Emprise 7000 system can manage as many as 64 ISEs for as much as a petabyte of storage.

We tested at Xiotech’s New York City facility using an ingeniously racked test centre consisting of an Emprise 7000 system, an Emprise 5000 system, two Dell 1950 servers, two Cisco Systems 9124 Fibre Channel switches, power management, and an Ethernet switch mounted in a single 22U portable shock rack that weighs roughly 800 pounds. One of the Dell servers ran Windows Server 2003 and the other ran VMware ESX 3.5.

Everything can be controlled through the ICON Manager GUI, which achieves an excellent balance between ease of use and power. I was able to easily create and resize volumes on the fly and assign them to specific servers from the Server View page. Snapshotting, which can be done on the same unit or between geographically separated units, can be set up with a few clicks.