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IBM's mid-range storage blast

Storwize. But without compression

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IBM has announced a new mid-range array made from many existing components. It uses the Storwize brand, but there's no compression. The XIV-style GUI brings Mac desktop graphics to storage admin.

The Storwize V7000 is a mid-range array that is said to complement the DS5000, but it uses modern software components allied to Jasper Forest processors and Xyratex drive enclosures to produce an array platform that looks eminently extensible.

It is a dual controller array, with each controller utilising a quad-core Jasper Forest (Nehalem style) processor to drive a virtualised three-tier storage backend connected over a SAS interconnect. The system uses the SVC (SAN Volume Controller) code stack, with its deduplication, thin-provisioning, virtualisation and data protection features. To this platform IBM has added the XIV GUI and DS8000 RAID and EasyTier features, producing an array from this mixture that could well replace the DS5000 at some stage.

This product takes the SVC idea of an in-fabric storage virtualiser that can embrace both IBM and third-party arrays, and implements it as a true array controller, Hitachi USP/VSP-style - albeit in a dual controller, modular design and not a monolithic array architecture.

It uses the Storwize main brand and V7000 sub-brand to mark a separation from the existing DS branding. We understand that the XIV brand is for enterprise arrays, with the V-brand being for mid-range ones.

Hardware spec

V7000 storage tiers can be 300GB STEC solid state drives (SSDs) which are a brand new 2-bit, multi-level cell design. The intermediate tier is 10,000rpm, 2.5-inch, SAS-interface, 2.5-inch hard disk drives. These use the 6Gbit/s SAS II interface, shades of HP's P9500 here.

The third tier is bulk data storage 7,200rpm, 3.5-inch SATA disk drives.

Hosts interface to the V7000 via 8Gbit/s Fibre Channel or four 1Gbit/E ports, while iSCSI is provided natively. The controller unit is a 2U rack enclosure which can hold 24 2.5-inch drives or 12 3.5-inch drives, with capacity maxing out at 24TB using 2TB drives. The 2.5-inch disk drive capacities are 300, 450 or 600GB.

There can be up to nine expansion cabinets, making a grand total of 240 small form factor (SFF) drives or 120 3.5-inch drives.

Drive types, meaning SSD and HDD, can be inter-mixed in the same enclosure, with drive enclosures being inter-mixable too. Our understanding is that 15,000rpm drives are being qualified.

The performance, as you might expect from a design featuring plentiful flash and spindles, is pretty good. "We've submitted an SPC-1 benchmark with 120 drives and a visualised DS5020 behind it," IBM master inventor Barry Whyte said. "It's not been published yet but it achieved 56,500 SPC-1s." We understand that peer review has been completed and this is number is solid.

"We're running an SPC-2 benchmark and will be doing an SPC-1 with a full 240 drive configuration," Whyte said. "At 240 drives,we still have 50 per cent of the controller functionality left over to virtualise other drives. It means it can keep up with SSDs, and performance is maintained with EasyTier and thin provisioning active. ... We would be quite happy for customers to run a production archive behind it."

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