A Pillar for Green Storage Temples

Storage can be grand and efficient, according to Pillar, makers of midrange NAS and SAN gear swathed in green.

Pillar Data Systems is addressing three big challenges faced by storage intensive businesses. To the company, these boil down to complexity, explosive growth, and as one of the founding members of The Green Grid, energy usage. The company's solution comes in the form of Axiom, an integrated SAN and NAS platform (NAS- and SAN-only deployments are also supported).

From the get-go, the benefits seem obvious: the capacity and relatively straightforward nature of NAS with the scalability and business-enabling prowess of SAN. And with Axiom, there's the added benefit of tiered storage, quickly becoming a staple of effective information lifecycle management practices.

Nonetheless, flexible capacity and advanced capabilities are for all for naught if a data center can't handle the power load. To alleviate this, Pillar has engineered Axiom to consume less power and coordinated feature sets to bolster the effort. For instance, Slammers can be ordered with 750 GB SATA drives, upping capacity by 50 percent over its 500 GB, with no drain on performance and power consumption.

What is a Slammer? From a hardware standpoint, Axiom is comprised of three main building blocks: Slammers, Pilots and Bricks.

Slammers perform much of the heavy lifting, virtualizing storage as well as serving as data movers. This results in configurable and desirably malleable LUNs and file systems that can accommodate rapid changes and segmentations of the storage pool. Indeed, provisioning LUNs (logical unit numbers) can be accomplished in mere minutes, even for non-administrator types as Chris Drago, the firm's Director of Public Relations, confirms from first-hand experience. Slammers ship in NAS, Fibre Channel SAN and iSCSI flavors.

The Pilot keeps things under control, as its name suggests. This policy controller centralizes management and provisions hardware capacity according to quality of service (QoS) thresholds set by administrators.

Lastly, Bricks are drive enclosures that are available in SATA or high performance Fibre Channel versions. Each holds a dozen drives (a baker's dozen for SATA) and ship with dual RAID controllers (optional on FC).

In another example of efficient design, Pillar brings tiered storage to the disk level. Instead of building out with added hardware to roll out tiers of storage, administrators can enjoy the benefits from the disks already occupying their Bricks.

Enlisting the advantage of faster seek times, the hardware writes high-priority data on tracks located on outer portions of disks. Inner tracks can hold data where quick and/or frequent access is not a stringent requirement. Admins, then, can instruct Axiom to prioritize the placement of data depending on its spot on the performance totem pole.

Taken as a whole, the point to Axiom's architecture is to drive up utilization. Pillar's Senior Director of Marketing and Strategy, Russ Kennedy, explains, "The key to the Axiom's efficiency comes in two parts. The first is Axiom's ability to consolidate multiple tiers of storage, applications, and environments into a single platform. The Axiom also achieves up to three times the utilization, averaging at 80 - 90 percent per system. Competing vendors fall in the 30 - 40 percent range in efficiency."

"Combining consolidation with maximum utilization, Pillar's Axiom delivers more performance and capacity while consuming less space and energy than all other midrange disk storage systems," adds Kennedy.

For all of its technical merits, scalability and simplified management also play a role.

Todd Rayl, a vice president who heads up the Managed Security Services division at Business Vitals, says that his cost-effective Pillar deployment replaced an EMC Symmetrix setup. The decision prompted a migration of "all of the production services on Pillar."

For Rayl the attraction to Pillar centered on "the scalability of the product, ease of use, and the licensing model," adding that managing every aspect of the deployment was "simple and straightforward," a prime consideration for an IT security services provider. Under Axiom, for instance, customers can scale by adding Slammers without incurring additional software licensing costs.

And while he's not the one that makes the check out to the local power utility, as a technology professional he finds it encouraging to know that his new systems don't require as much power.

It's a sentiment shared by those striving for sustainable IT.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.

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