Astute Networks improves ViSX G4 VM storage box with speed, dedupe

Astute Networks upgrades ViSX platform for VM storage; G4 model adds inline data deduplication and is faster with more capacity than G3 line.

Astute Networks Inc. today said it will deliver its next-generation flash storage systems designed to speed performance of storage for virtual machines and virtual desktops.

The ViSX G4 appliances have improved performance and more capacity than the G3 systems Astute launched last year, and the G4 platform includes inline data deduplication.

The ViSX G4 is a 2U iSCSI appliance that comes in three models. All use 400 GB hot-pluggable enterprise multi-level cell (eMLC) flash. The G4 2400 has six flash modules for a total of 2.4 terabytes (TB) of capacity, the G4 4800 has 12 modules and 4.8 TB, and the G4 9600 has 24 modules and 9.6 TB of flash. The appliances include two 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) or four Gigabit Ethernet ports for network connectivity.

San Diego-based Astute Networks claims the G4 9600 can achieve 140,000 random IOPS and has 50 TB of usable capacity with deduplication.

VMware vSphere customers can manage systems through a new vCenter plug-in. Astute provides a FlashWRX GUI for Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and Red Hat RHEV customers.

The G4 will be generally available in September. Pricing is $49,000 for the G4 2400, $89,000 for the G4 4800 and $139,000 for the G4 9600.

Astute will continue to sell the G3, a 3U appliance that has a maximum of 4.8 TB of flash and supports 80,000 random IOPS. Astute CEO Steve Topper said the G3 will be positioned as a lower-end system, while the G4 is Astute's performance play for VM storage. He said the vendor has a little more than 20 G3 customers in one year of shipping.

Like with the G3, the key to the G4 is the DataPump Engine silicon. DataPump is a custom application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) that offloads and accelerates TCP/IP and iSCSI traffic. DataPump selects data packets to be cached in the storage appliances to provide flash performance where it is needed most.

Arun Taneja, president of the Hopkinton, Mass.-based analyst firm Taneja Group Inc., said Astute's main value is the way it handles its custom chip to improve the way flash is used in a storage system.

"Astute's DNA is chip orientation and the ability to put things together on the hardware side in a way that accelerates performance," he said. "The storage controller is the bottleneck with many flash designs."

Taneja added that the ability to dedupe data inline without performance impact is another key feature for Astute, especially when dealing with storage for virtual machines.

"With DataPump, they have so much horsepower that they can also do inline deduplication," he said. "Some other SSD [solid-state drive] array players make dedupe optional because they know there is a performance impact if you turn it on. My view is, if it's going to be inline, it better have the performance to go with it because the customer is not going to like it if it impacts performance. Either make it an option, or have the horsepower to go with it."

Astute cited low dollars per IOPS and dollars per virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) as selling points, but its execs said they won't get drawn into the low-gigabyte-per-dollar battle some competitors are waging. Referring to newcomer Skyera's $3-per-gigabyte all-flash array launched last week, Len Rosenthal, Astute Networks' senior vice president of marketing, said, "We're not trying to play that game. We're focusing on dollars per IOPS, and we tell people to keep low-performance apps on low-performance storage. Dollars per IOPS is why you move to flash in the first place."

Astute CEO Topper added: "We're not racing to the bottom. Some of the numbers we've seen are shocking. In a few months, they'll be giving it away."

Astute's NAND flash comes from Samsung, whose venture capital investment arm led Astute's $12 million Series B funding round last month.

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