Agami's Green NAS Appliance

Low-watt SATA drives, efficient Opterons and performance-boosting technical craftiness combine to form energy efficient storage systems.

agámi Systems, Inc. of Sunnyvale, CA has built an energy-efficient NAS appliance known as the agámi Information Server (AIS). It is a blend of AMD Quad Opteron 64-bit processors and SATA drives (48 Western Digital drives) along with a file system to handle memory, processor speeds and parallel access. The result is a system that consumes the about half the watts per terabyte than many larger storage units. It also achieves this in a smaller footprint and at a cheaper price.

“AIS is a demonstrably high performance NAS offering with several highly differentiated capabilities baked directly into both its systems architecture and file system layers," says Brad O’Neill an analyst at Taneja Group in Hopkinton, MA. “AIS has been built from the ground up to leverage 64 bit architectures, providing it a leg-up on the 32 bit legacy-bound OS platforms offered by competitors.”

The company offers the AIS 3000 and AIS 6000 lines. The 3000 provides less than 10 TB and the 6000 offers capacities up to 24 TB (48 x 500 GB SATA). Its 5U size includes 12 GbE ports. Its OS, agámiOS, is tailored to a multi-threaded platform to increase processing capability. This is backed up by 12GB of RAM.

At the file system level, the company has beefed up its technology to provide system level replication between several systems. According to O'Neill, this means that any AIS file system can be replicated synchronously or asynchronously, and that the unit provides high availability failover.

Since it began shipping in the fall of 2005, agámi has found traction in a number of collaborative and technical/grid computing applications, across a variety of industries. The company reports it has over 60 customers currently.

"We have established a core customer base in manufacturing, media, healthcare and medical imaging, and government," says Paul Speciale, Vice President of Product Management, agámi Systems. "These are markets where customers are looking for highly functional, performance-rich and reliable enterprise storage solutions that offer a better price point and alternative to solutions offered by legacy players."

AIS comes with an AMD Quad processor. So why Opteron? Speciale says that the advent of 64-bit processing technology from AMD has enabled agámi to develop a new style of architecture for NAS file systems. He believes that Opteron processors provide a number of unique advantages for a storage application.

"The AMD architecture can scale the number of processors, as well as the number of processor cores, to provide incredible compute power for file system, replication and management software processing," says Speciale. "AMD processors also provide scalable memory bandwidth, to provide an architecture that provides scalable processing power, read and write caches for memory intensive storage workloads."

Another advantage, he says, is the integrated HyperTransport I/O. This enables ultra high bandwidth access to disk and network controllers for high I/O performance. This allows the company to harness affordable SATA drives. Though they only spin at 7,200 RPM, the AMD Quad Opteron 64-bit processor technology and HyperTransport data link technology, in combination with the agámi file system and OS, provide a high-speed system.

“It is this unique combination that allows agámi to deliver its 1GB per second throughput levels on a single system, use 50 percent fewer watts per terabyte than many of the largest storage vendors and produce a higher density system that uses five times less floor space,” says Speciale.

He compares this to the Network Appliance FAS3000 and FAS6000 systems that utilize high RPM (10K or 15K RPM) disk drives for performance applications. In this scenario, he says, these higher RPM disk drives will drive the amount of watts consumed per Terabyte of storage to over twice the level of the agámi Information Server. In addition, the packaging of these competing systems typically puts a smaller number of drives into a storage enclosure, usually 12-14 drives per disk shelf, which then requires additional power supplies for a given number of disk drives.

The AIS3000 is a 4U rack-mount module with 24 enterprise-class SATA drives, and the AIS6000 series, a 5U rack-mount module with 48 enterprise-class SATA drives.

"Enterprise NAS innovation has been quietly bubbling up for the past several years and we’ve just now begun to witness its impact in the market," says O'Neill. "What we might call 'NAS 2.0' companies like agámi, are doing entirely clean-sheet approaches to enterprise NAS, bringing fresh thinking and design approaches to an established market."

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