Newcomer gets out its box, plans to sell it cheaply to all comers

I swing all ways, iSCSI, Fibre Channel, CIFS, long time


Here's another hybrid flash/disk array that's using dedupe and compression to produce impressive cost/GB numbers.

Tegile's Zebi product has been shipping for about a year and been bought by some 75 customers, with 80 per cent of involved in server and desktop virtualisation. It is a multi-protocol box, offering iSCSI, Fibre Channel, CIFS (or should we say SMB now) and NFS, and provides thin provisioning as well as the dedupe and compression.

Tegile's marketing VP, Rob Commings, says it provides performance through having a flash cache and large memory footprint; with from 48 to 96GB of RAM. The RAM is used as a cache for the most active data, with a layer of caching SSDs between it and 2TB 3.5-inch SAS disk drives used for bulk capacity.

There are one or two controllers, providing active-active high-availability. Overall the Zebi box has 10TB to 90TB of raw capacity. The effective capacity through the inline dedupe and compression is three to five times the raw capacity. The HA2100EP model has 96GB of RAM, 1.2TB of flash and 16TB of disk. A J2100 expansion tray has 800GB of flash and another 28TB of disk capacity.

Data management features include local snapshots, asynchronous remote replication and RAID. The company can provide application-level quality of service, like Oracle's Pillar Data's Axiom arrays.

Zebi's file system is based on ZFS and it has inline deduplication, re-written from the ZFS dedupe. Its MASS (Metadata Accelerated Storage) technology optimises caching, dedupe and RAID and generally speeds up storage processing.

Tegile states:

"With MASS, the Zebi storage system organises and stores metadata, independent of the data, on [SSDs] with optimised retrieval paths. This accelerates every storage function within the system, raising the performance of near-line SAS hard disk drives to the level of extremely expensive high-RPM SAS or Fibre Channel drives."

Customers

The array is targeted at server and desktop virtualisation; there are custom configurations for these. Tegile's main messages focus on storage efficiency and performance; 75 per cent less capacity required for seven times more IOPS.

The company cites:

- Washington and Lee University implementing 500 virtual desktop images and doing some file-sharing. The university achieved 7X the IOPS of its previous storage and a 70 per cent reduction in VDI capacity needs.
- Virgin America uses Zebi in a virtual server scenario and found it was three times the speed of NetApp kit at a tenth of the price; at $875,000 vs an $80,000 Zebi box.
- Starwood Capital Group recorded a dual controller Zebi config delivering 180,000 IOPS which was six times the speed of an EMC Clariion CX for v15 per cent of the price.

Tegile says the array can simultaneously serve blocks over Fibre Channel to a server hypervisor and files over CIFS to users in other servers. Users can get reporting on either a physical or virtual basis.

Tegile competition

How would Commings compare and contrast Tegile and Tintri?

"They run the VM right in their box. We're more of a traditional SAN/NAS array. They only run VMware environments [with] no inline dedupe; they have not cracked that. We run our system on top of ZFS [and] had to rewrite the dedupe engine, it being too much of a performance drag, driving latency through the roof. Tintri has good reporting. We have new software that will equal or surpass it."

And Nimble Storage?

"It's iSCSI block access only. Of our 75 customers only 16 per cent are iSCSI-only; so we can drive more customers. We run active-active; they run active-passive. nThey have compression and no dedupe."

Tegile provides a comparison emphasising its advantages against a 75,000 IOPS NetApp FAS 3000 array. The price difference is $400,000, five times the Zebi array's price. Of course EMC and NetApp are the stock targets for storage array start-ups and incumbents with a well-crafted and broad set of data management features and data-centre hardened gear can justifiably charge more than a startup.

Tegile's hope is that such a startling price difference will prise open business wallets for virtual server, desktop and file-sharing use cases bottlenecked by poor disk I/O. Commins said; "We try and get a trial box in to customers. We have an 80 per cent strike rate turning them into purchase orders." ®

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