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Coming soon - LSI: Filer

A case of ONStor integration

High performance access to file storage

LSI's customers will soon be able to buy a filer from the company as a result of its ONStor acquisition.

According to LSI's product marketing director Steve Gardner, the integration of ONStor into LSI is going well. Fifty ONStor staff out of the overall headcount of around eighty have joined LSI: "We got 100 per cent of who we wanted." It was primarily an intellectual property and people acquisition.

In a way LSI was well-acquainted with ONStor before the acquisition since it used ONStor kit internally. Gardner said: "We were ONStor's largest customer in 2008 (and) we used the ONStor gateway to replace NetApp. In some cases we put the ONStor gateway in front of Clariion."

The ONStor network-attached storage (NAS) technology fills a strategic gap in LSI's offerings. Once LSI realised it had a missing NAS capability it looked at a number of potential acquisition targets before settling on ONStor. Its aim is to bring file capabilities into its storage systems with a product that can serve both blocks and files: a unified storage array.

LSI will sell this through its OEM channel, with Gardner saying: "We think we'll get OEM traction." LSI's biggest customer is IBM and there is the possibility here of IBM having an alternative to NetApp to source its unified storage offerings. LSI also sells to Sun, SGI and Dell, as well as smaller companies like Teradata.

Gardner says that LSI is probably the largest true OEM supplier of drive arrays, suggesting that the Dell-EMC, HDS-HP and HDS-Sun relationships are not OEM ones but really reselling deals. He suggests that such deals don't deliver the margin to fund proper R&D, adding that Fibre Channel over Ethernet, 10Gbit/s Ethernet and integrating with VMware and Hyper-V are storage R&D challenges that need proper funding.

The hint is that LSI's customers could get these things before the companies reselling EMC and HDS kit. This could just be FUD of course, since both EMC and HDS have alternative and sizeable channels to Dell, HP and Sun.

Gardner said that LSI doesn't have a 2.5-inch drive capability at present but "maybe in the future" it will, and also: "We're looking very closely at a hard disk drive implementation of solid state drives."

Gardner said that flash storage is "an ongoing area of interest" for LSI. It understands that flash storage could come as an HDD replacement, a controller cache, or as a "lump in the wire." Streaming applications have different needs from on-line transaction processing ones. Gardner's conclusion: "I don't think there is going to be a single right answer."

The recession has slowed down SSD adoption, which is why there aren't more suppliers: "I think there will be more alternatives in the second round. We'll be ready to talk later." That signal's LSI's potential emergence as a flash storage provider in some shape or form.

When will the ONStor technology appear in an LSI Engenio product? "It's not yet possible to talk timing but we are working hard." If, or rather when, an LSI Engenio array appears with a unified block and file storage capability then that may give competitors Dot Hill and Xyratex something to consider. Should they get into the filer space too?

And, a question for all three, if they are going to start moving storage array supplier controller functionality into their products, then where should they stop? If NFS and CIFS interfaces are fair game, then what about snapshots, replication, thin-provisioning, data moving between tiers and more? Where does this trend end?

Whatever the endpoint is, it's probably no more than a temporary line in the sand before another wave of technology transfer down onto the commodity-supplied array-plus-controller combination starts. ®

High performance access to file storage

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