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Xiotech execs are betting the company on ISE

Bigger ISE coming

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Xiotech has abandoned the Emprise brand, and is focusing on ISE, its intelligent super disk enclosure product line, with a high capacity product coming.

In a briefing at Cloud Expo in the UK, CEO Alan Atkinson reckoned that the recently launched Hybrid ISE – the one with solid state drives (SSDs) as well as hard disk drives inside – is opening more enterprise customer doors. Business wants faster storage access and would like it without the restrictions imposed, Xiotech says, by server PCIe bus-attached SSD arrays from Fusion-io and Violin Memory.

He says Hybrid ISE looks like a disk array and is more scalable than PCIe flash arrays. Customers with shared storage will find it easier to adopt Hybrid ISE than sticking a flash array into their server bus infrastructure.

A bigger ISE is coming, bigger in capacity terms. It will still use the 3U form factor but will be "very big". This implies it will use 3.5-inch disk drives, as capacity-optimised ISE products do now, but larger capacity ones. Hitachi GST has just introduced a 3TB enterprise drive but Seagate, Xiotech's disk drive supplier, reckons it has a six- to nine-month areal density lead on the other disk drive suppliers this year.

Xiotech has a 16TB ISE using 20 3.5-inch drives. That's 16TB usable, or 800GB per drive, so what is the underlying raw capacity from the Seagate-sourced drives? We think they are 1TB Constellation enterprise drives spinning at 7,200rpm, making 20TB raw capacity, with 20 per cent of that used for internal ISE functions.

Hitachi GST has just introduced a 3TB enterprise drive, the Ultrastar 7K3000, while Seagate is at the 2TB level with Constellation but claims it has a six- to nine-month areal density lead over its competition. Xiotech's language, the "very big" phrase, suggests more than a doubling of capacity to me.

Putting one and one together and making three, El Reg thinks we are possibly seeing here either a 3TB Constellation or, more speculatively, the first indication of a 4TB Seagate enterprise drive. A 3TB capacity level would enable Xiotech to produce a 48TB (usable capacity) ISE and lower the cost/GB and watts/GB of ISE storage accordingly.

But we might think Seagate would be thinking it could leapfrog the competition and go to the 4TB level with its claimed areal density advantage. Pursuing that thread leads to an ISE with 80TB raw capacity and 64TB usable. That sounds a fantastic jump from the current 16TB usable so we'll go with the 3TB drives and 48TB usable ISE capacity as our bet.

We understand the very big ISE will talk to Hybrid ISE and other ISEs, implying some kind of data tiering or data protection scheme between ISE versions.

With Intel Jasper Forest CPUs inside ISE there is a huge amount of processor cycles Xiotech's ISE code can take advantage of. Xiotech is also working on incorporating Permabit's Albireo deduplication software but we understand this will not be in the coming "very big" ISE, so we have another huge potential jump in logical capacity coming for an archival ISE should Xiotech produce one.

There is a pronounced air of excitement in the Xiotech exec ranks. They are betting the company on ISE, and have made progress in penetrating enterprises with a significant chunk of the Fortune 500 using its products. They hope that the use of SSDs will lay to rest single-sourcing worries customers might have, and that their claimed advantages in IOPS and GB/watt and IOPS/watt from their 3U ISE boxes will crack the enterprise market wide open for them this year and give Xiotech, finally, its lead. ®

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