SAN JOSE – Startup Skyera Inc. debuts its first product today, a flash-based storage appliance for business networks it claims will rival prices of some hard-disk arrays. It claims its SkyHawk system will pack 44 Terabytes of flash memory in less than a 1U rack for $3/GByte or a dollar per gigabyte when using data compression.
“By the end of year people will realize flash is at mainstream pricing with disk… getting out of niche market thinking,” said Radoslav Danilak, Skyera’s co-founder and chief executive, claiming competing products cost at least twice as much.
Danilak co-founded SandForce, a startup that became a leading player in controller chips for solid-state drives (SSDs), acquired by LSI Corp. in October. Three years ago he and a core team left SandForce, believing consolidation will sweep SSD makers away, driving the next big opportunities to storage systems.
“Three or four years down road 80 to 90 percent of SSDs will come directly from flash vendors--there is no room for margin stacking,” said Danilak.
Skyera enters a rapidly emerging sector where competition is hot. More established startups including Nimbus Data and Violin Memory have been shipping flash arrays for some time at prices below $10/GByte. Earlier this month SSD maker Fusion-io announced software that will make its drives in servers look like flash arrays.
Danilak said the Fusion-io software lacks the business networking features of appliances from Violin and others. But those appliances are still significantly more costly than SkyHawk, he added.
Skyera designed into SkyHawk new flash and RAID controllers, implemented as FPGAs or gate arrays, and a new communications protocol between them. The flash controller sports novel DSP-based error correction code, and the protocol helps reduce the typical overhead in write operations.
The startup designed its own flash modules so that its chassis uses less than a full 1U rack slot in depth. An unidentified network controller acts as system host, chosen for its ability to easily terminate TCP and iSCSI traffic.
SkyHawk builds in an Ethernet switch with 10 and 1Gbit Ethernet ports to link to storage networks. Users will be able to stack future versions of the system to create larger arrays. They also likely will support other popular storage networks such as Fibre Channel, he said.
Skyera claims SkyHawk, based on 20nm flash chips, supports up to 300,000 flash writes for an estimated lifetime of five years. The system will be available before April in 12, 22 and 44 TByte models for prices starting at $48,000.
The startup is operating on self-funding from its founders and $6.35 million in seed funding from an unnamed storage vendor. It is about to close a deal to take funding from a flash chip maker as well.
“After my experience with SandForce, I did not want to take money from VCs,” said Danilak. “We want to control our own destiny and keep our team intact,” he said.
Another order of magnitude reduction would give this pricing statement real meaning. Perhaps just a half-order of magnitude in the enterprise space, if the operational specs are all attractive. Would love to see what folks like Anandtech or Tom's would have to say after evaluating one of these.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.