Tuesday 8 February 2011

The Register: DataCore Rewrites SANsymphony Score

Better caching and protection

By Chris Mellor:

Storage virtualisation software supplier DataCore has revved its SANsymphony product to provide faster access to virtualised and pooled block-access storage for its mid-market customers.

The product sits in an X86 server between block storage-accessing servers and storage arrays and presents the storage in the arrays – plus storage on the server it is running on if you wish – as a single pool of virtualised storage. It is, in effect, an external storage area network (SAN) controller, in the same technological vein as IBM's SAN Volume Controller.

Version 7 was announced in April 2009 and was a 64-bit version running on Windows Server. It introduced the idea of mega caches, the use of its own server's memory as a cache for the SAN, with up to 1TB of the stuff. There was a high-availability (HA) feature so that SAN components could be upgraded and replaced without taking the SAN offline. It also supported thin provisioning to avoid wasteful allocation of storage capacity before it was actually needed to store written data.

Version 8 of SANsymphony-V adds auto-tuning of the mega cache feature, to improve cache efficiency and get data to servers faster. DataCore says it also offers infrastructure-wide thin provisioning and pooling. The pooling is now organised so that the underlying disk drives can be aggregated into virtual pools with specific performance and cost profiles, and these pools used by the accessing servers. There is, as yet, no mention of tiering pools with data moved between them as it becomes hot or cool in activity terms.

There is SAN-wide centralised management and both automated and guided workflows to make an administrator's job easier. DataCore has also added Continuous Data Protection (CDP) to enable storage admins to rollback in time and recover workloads and virtual machines.

Carla Arend, program manager for European infrastructure software research at IDC, said: "DataCore has redesigned its software for virtual server and desktop environments ... [It] makes server and desktop virtualisation affordable for the broader IT community."

DataCore has some 6,000 customers and hopes that the increased interest in datacentre virtualisation issues will work to its advantage as mid-market customers see the advantages of virtualising across SAN storage arrays. They can have a consistent level of functionality across the disparate feature sets of the virtualised arrays, says the company.

The DataCore pitch is that it can effectively upgrade legacy storage arrays to function as fast-access, thinly-provisioned and continually protected storage resources for virtualised servers and desktops. LSI has recently exited the SAN virtualisation software field, killing off its Storage Virtualisation Manager. This leaves DataCore facing less competition.

DataCore says there are five different SANsymphony-V product models and price points, based on software instances and managed disk capacity. Software licences for a fully redundant, high-availability configuration start under $10,000 and include annual 24x7 technical support.

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