DataCore adds auto tiering note to SANsymphony-V storage virtualization software

Unlike most storage system vendors’ auto tiering, DataCore’s SANsymphony-V lets customers move data across heterogeneous storage devices.

DataCore Software today added automated tiering to its SANsymphony-V storage virtualization software, giving customers the ability to dynamically move disk blocks among different pools of storage devices.

DataCore’s tiering works similarly to EMC FAST VP, Dell/Compellent Data Progression, Hewlett-Packard/3PAR Adaptive Optimization, IBM Easy Tier and Hitachi Data Systems’ Dynamic Tiering. But except for HDS, those vendors only support their own arrays for auto tiering. SANsymphony-V’s tiering works across any storage device.

DataCore launched SANsymphony-V in January, replacing SANsymphony and its SMB SANmelody storage virtualization applications. SANsymphony-V virtualizes storage across pools of heterogeneous systems, adding management features such as thin provisioning, RAID striping, asynchronous replication, snapshots and continuous data protection (CDP). The new application was designed specifically for organizations using server virtualization.

But moving data across storage tiers was still a manual process for SANsymphony-V customers until today’s addition. They assigned virtual or logical disk to a class of storage but had to manually change those assignments as workloads changed.

Now the application will tier data at the sub-LUN level, tracking disk block activity and moving less critical and infrequently accessed blocks to lower-cost disk while keeping more critical and more active blocks on higher-cost disk and solid state drives (SSDs). 

“We heard back from customers that this kind of auto tiering is moving into the mainstream, but their big complaint is that it’s isolated to specific brands and devices,” DataCore CEO George George Teixeira said. “If our customers like what 3PAR and Compellent did [with tiering] but want that outside of a particular array, we let them bring their storage into the world of auto tiering.”

Auto tiering is seen as a major driver of SSD adoption, and most of the large storage vendors added the capability after introducing SSDs into their arrays. Tiering frees costly SSDs to handle only the most important data – improving utilization and extending the life of the devices. However, Teixeira said server virtualization is another drive of auto tiering because it complicates the manual tiering process.

DataCore includes auto tiering at no charge for SANsysmphony-V node licenses supporting over 100 TB. Customers managing less than 100 TB with SANsymphony-V must pay $2,000 per node for auto tiering.

SANsymphony-V customer Ed Walsh, director of engineering for Stamford, CT.-based cloud service provider Amnet Technology Solutions, said he intends to use auto tiering to move data across storage arrays from EMC and Dell. Amnet uses EMC VNX 5100 and AX45 and Dell EqualLogic iSCSI arrays to set performance tiers for its customers but has no way to automatically move data across tiers.

Walsh said he considered EMC’s FAST VP, but decided to wait for DataCore to add automatic tiering. “All of our storage runs behind DataCore,” he said.  “We don’t use other storage vendors’ [management] technology.”

Amnet’s tiers include 15,000 rpm SAS, 7200 rpm SATA and iSCSI arrays. Walsh said he might add Fusion-io flash PCIe cards for a solid state tier, which would increase the need for auto tiering.

“It’s a manual process now,” he said. “We don’t have the ability to automatically switch between tiers. A lot of our servers are multi-tenant, and when we build them we decide what tier we think they should be at. It would be nice to automatically drop down to a lower tier if they don’t need the performance, or raise performance when that is needed.”

Randy Kerns, senior strategist at Evaluator Group analyst firm, said auto tiering can simplify management while reducing cost and boosting storage system performance.

“Tiering across different vendor systems gives DataCore some advantages because it’s not tied to any one vendor solution,” Kerns said. “The economic value from tiering is important, and storage solutions seem incomplete without it. DataCore was able to add it to their virtualization software rather simply.”

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