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Pillar refresh alert as R5 hits the streets

Pillar talk: 'Think VMotion' says head tech officer

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Pillar has a near-term refresh of its Axiom array coming by the end of the year, in the form of a release 5 (R5) system, to be followed by more updates in 2011.

R5 is focused on a management update which will lay the groundwork for the management of multiple Axioms through one pane of glass. Mike Brewer, Pillar's VP for engineering, said: "Everything we do with data movement in one Axiom will also be able to be done between them."

Pillar will set the scene for new media types, with Release 5 adding Storage Domains to quality of service (QoS) and media type as ways of delivering Axiom storage services to users. With Storage Domains, Brewer said: "We have the ability to take physical assets in the system, say four Fibre Channel bricks (storage enclosures) and 2 SATA bricks from a system with six Fibre Channel bricks and 14 SATA ones, and put them in a domain which becomes a virtual Axiom machine to which QoS can be applied. It's a way to isolate customers' data in a cloud environment."

The management of a Storage Domain looks like the standard management of a full Axiom. There is an obvious multi-tenancy aspect to this. Brewer said: "We have customers with more than 40 bricks in a single system. Storage Domains will help here because you can more easily keep things isolated between customers... You can force a backup copy of data to go to different spindles."

In the R5 release you will be able to move an entire consistency group of connected storage resources for an application suite between Storage Domains or from one Axiom to another. Axiom's tiering data mover can move data between solid state and various disk drive tiers, then between Storage Domains, with the next step being to move data between different Axioms. Brewer said: "It's the ability of the storage pool to span multiple Axioms. Think VMotion."

In the future there will be a new set of brick enclosures standardised on a physical SAS interface. A 3.5-inch drive enclosure will be able to house both SAS and SATA drives with this interface. A smaller brick enclosure will be used for 2.5-inch drives. Both of these enclosures will be larger than today's enclosures and will have twice the number of disk drives in the same space by using the full depth of the enclosure.

Brewer said: "SSD technologies will evolve next year with a family of SSD drives. We'll present different qualities of service with different classes of SSD. For example, multi-level cell for a read-intensive QoS, with too much writing prevented to preserve reliability levels, and single level cell for write-intensive and performance-intensive QoS.

"We will be buying SSDs from suppliers and using our own controllers to affect QoS." This refers to the RAID controller in the bricks and not the use of a SandForce-type controller.

Brewer thinks there will be different Fibre Channel drives in Axioms as well, such as 15,000 and 10,000rpm ones.

Axiom users can look forward to R5 this year and then probable enhancements of R5 next year and in 2012.

Pillar CEO Mike Workman said the company is growing with a slightly bigger headcount this year as compared to 2009, at 363 staff, and a higher budget as well. ®

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