A Look at Xiotech Storage

At Westminster College, I’m back on the hunt for storage. Our EMC AX4 has been a reliable, dependable partner for quite some time, but we’re in need of space. Rather than simply adding another shelf of disks to this now end-of-life platform, we’re weighing the option of moving forward with a new storage platform on which we can build as time goes on and eventually supplant the AX4. To this end, we’ve also been looking at EMC’s pretty compelling new VNX/VNXe lines, and two Dell options: the enterprise grade EqualLogic line – which I have previous experience with – as well as Dell’s rebranded LSI box, which carries the Dell moniker MD3220i. Obviously, all of the choices have pros and cons. As we navigate our journey, I’ll be keeping you apprised in this space about our status and, eventually, our eventual decision.

The problem: We’re moving to a fully virtual environment. We’re about 75% or so (probably more) virtual right now with a goal of getting as close to 100% as reasonable. We fully understand the benefits of virtualization, hence our desire to get everything virtual.

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend most of a day at a Xiotech office in Kansas City where I spent some time with Xiotech engineers and folks from some of the local K-12 schools. We reviewed Xiotech’s distinctive features and use cases and I walked away pretty impressed. I’ve looked at Xiotech in the past, but this was the first time I was able to get up close and personal in looking at the solution.

What I like:

  • High IOPS. Xiotech has engineered their solution to maximize storage performance without sacrificing capacity.
  • Reliability. If the claims are to be believed (and, I’ve done additional research, so I do believe the claims), the Xiotech solution is pretty darn reliable, even when using RAID 5 on the storage.
  • Ongoing performance. Xiotech claims that their box does not suffer performance degradation even as the unit gets filled to the brim with data.
  • Up front with performance specs. Xiotech puts it all out there in a way that’s accessible. It’s ridiculously easy to learn, for example, that the company’s ISE 19.2 has 13.966TB of usable space and provides 8,003 IOPS when used with RAID 5. Of course, the published numbers would need to be verified in the real world, which they have been
  • 5 year hardware warranty. Nothing more to spend for 5 years unless I need more storage.

Potential downsides

  • Higher up-front costs. The 5 year warranty is not free; it’s baked into the up-front cost even if it’s still comparatively less than competing products, but does make it much easier to plan budgets.
  • Fewer advanced features in the storage elements. No array replication, thin provisioning or other advanced features are included in the base storage product. However, for VMware environments, vCenter can easily provide a lot of this and for other uses, Xiotech sells a controller that can add these capabilities.
  • Xiotech independence. I hesitate to include this, but I worry a little about the fact that Xiotech has not yet been snapped up by a larger company a la 3Par and Compellent. That said, the company appears strong and I would be amazed if they stay independent forever.

I’m now awaiting pricing for Xiotech’s solution. I can’t directly share what I receive, but I will report back later and tell you whether or not we’re able to move forward in considering the product. We’ve asked for a single 3U chassis and the 19.2 TB Integrated Storage Element (ISE) bundle.

Questions? Find me on Twitter! http://www.twitter.com/otherscottlowe

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