SAN JOSE, Calif. – At its annual technical conference here, LSI Corp. launched the first two products in a new suite called Syncro focused on shared server storage. The company believes they address an un-served segment between high-end storage area networks (SANs) and low cost, direct-attached drives.
The most innovative of the initial products is the Syncro Boot Appliance, a 1U box that can handle boot functions for up to 48 servers in a rack. Syncro CS is a family aimed at small- and medium-sized business servers, starting with a re-branded version of LSI’s high availability direct-attached storage.
“We have no illusions of replacing Fibre Channel and iSCSI SANs—what they do they do exceptionally well,” said Tom Kodet, LSI’s market segment lead for mega data centers. “But we perceive a gap between them” and dedicated drives linked to an individual server, he said.
The boot appliance consolidates and shares storage resources in a data center rack, a concept central to the new Syncro brand. Today data center racks typically contain dozens of servers, each with its own low-end hard drive containing a boot image for the server.
The new LSI appliance consolidates 24 of those typically 250 Gbyte drives into two 2.5-inch terabyte drives linked to all the servers over eSATA. The appliance uses existing and new LSI chips that create and manage up to 24 partitions in the drive for the servers.
The box can contain up to four drives to handle up to 48 servers. By sharing drives, LSI estimates it can lower initial capital costs by ten to 15 percent and lower hard disk power use by 60 percent while boosting reliability.
The company plans a series of firmware upgrades that will add new features. One feature is automatically booting a new server when an existing one fails, another saves network bandwidth by allowing the appliance to request a common boot image for all the servers it manages.
“There’s a really killer road map for this both to disaggregate drives and preserve net bandwidth,” said Kodet.
Data center managers at Facebook recently said they will switch from using 250 Gbyte hard drives to low capacity solid-state drives (SSDs) to handle booting individual servers. Kodet said the LSI appliance will provide similar reliability benefits and lower costs than SSDs.
Separately, LSI is re-branding as Syncro CS the high availability direct-attached storage products it has shown in technology demos for several months. The product uses two modified LSI MegaRAID cards to let two servers share a single disk array for increased reliability.
Syncro CS was developed as part of a collaboration with Microsoft on its Windows Cluster Services software. The two companies plan further enhancements, extending the work to more nodes through use of a future LSI fabric switch.
In a Microsoft survey, many IT users said their top concern was reliability of direct-attached storage. But respondents said they could not afford a more reliable SAN. The survey helped spark LSI’s work on the Synchro product family.
The systems-level Syncro designs do not represent a trend of LSI trying to move up to higher levels of integration. “We had to build an appliance to show customers what we are enabling, but we are not dead set to be in the box business,” Kodet said.
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