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Verari previews SSD for blades

It's all about the IOPs

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Boutique blade server maker Verari Systems was on hand at the Storage Networking World trade show in Dallas this week to preview its foray into solid state drives (SSDs) for its blade servers, which will come to market at the end of the year.

Like other server makers, Verari is trying to figure out how to leverage the high-bandwidth of SSDs and weave them into disk subsystems based on slower (but cheaper and much more capacious) hard disk drives. And the answer Verari has come up with - called the HyDrive blade - is pretty straightforward.

The HyDrive disk array takes one of a number of blade servers from Verari and uses them as the head node to control a set of a dozen drives hosted in a blade-style form factor that plugs into the blade chassis beside the head node. According to Eric Seidman, manager of storage solutions at Verari, the company will let customers create a HyDrive array with any number of its single- or dual-socket blade servers, which support quad-core Xeon and Opteron processors at this point.

The blade is linked to the bunch of drives through 3 Gb/sec SAS channels, which link into a quad-channel SAS expander that in turn link to the drives. The interesting bit is that the HyDrive enclosure can be equipped with 3.5-inch SAS disk drives or 2.5-inch SSD drives, both of which are hot-swappable.

Verari has chosen Intel as its SSD supplier and is using Intel's X-25E high performance SSDs (which come in a 32 GB capacity now but will be doubled up to 64 GB, according to Seidman) as well as its X-25M high-volume SSD, which comes with an 80 GB capacity right now.

The X-25E SSDs have higher I/Os per second (IOPs) on both read and write operations. Verari is selling these Intel SSDs immediately in its rack servers, but blade customers have to wait until later in the fourth quarter to get the HyDrive enclosures. Intel list price for the X-25E SSD is $695 in 1,000-unit quantities. It is rated at 35,000 IOPs on reads and 3,300 IOPs on writes.

Seidman says that the typical Verari customer looking to boost IOPs in their storage subsystems will probably want to put four SSDs in the enclosure backed by eight 1TB SAS disks. By doing so, customers will be able to fully load the RAID controllers in the box, maximizing the performance of the storage array. On one test performed by Verari and a customer that runs an online reservation system, the combination of SSD and disk storage boosted IOPs by between 50 and 60 per cent on the real workload.

Still, because disk capacity sells for around $1 per GB on a fat disk drive compared to $8 to $10 per GB for SSDs, don't expect everyone to suddenly start buying them. One prototype customer that Verari has given the HyDrive arrays to - an unnamed Web content hosting company looking to boost the performance of the metadata that supports its file systems - was very happy with the performance increase, but wants to wait until SSD prices drop before cutting any checks.

Verari did not announce pricing on the HyDrive enclosure. That comes with the gear ships later this year. ®

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