As a Coloradoan, I was greatly pleased to see the purchase of SolidFire by NetApp, another data storage success in our state. But I was concerned when I read an article last week about how X-IO, the storage manufacturer in Colorado Springs, was laying off about 100 people and shifting its focus to software. So I got on the phone this week to get some details.
The company assured me that they are definitely staying in business, and are not abandoning their existing storage products. They acknowledged that the storage business has become so busy and crowded that it’s tough for smaller companies to capture the attention their technologies deserve. So X-IO has switched from a direct-sales to an all-channel model, a move that required them to reduce their staffing levels in sales, marketing and associated support roles.
They’re committed to selling, supporting and continuing to develop their existing products, ISE and iglu, but are also developing some new high-performance, high-density software-based storage technologies around NVMe and PCIe fabrics.
Almost 2 years in the works this new storage platform, called Axellio, is designed around NVMe (NonVolatile Memory Express) and some other recent developments in the storage industry. What will start as a hardware product will evolve into what the company’s calling a “next generation” storage technology.
They looked at how to leverage commodity hardware while keeping true to a philosophy the company calls “better by design”. This new technology is focused on extreme performance and compute density, a market that’s best served by focusing on Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs) and System’s Integrators (SIs), rather than a direct sales force.
High density, low latency
As an example, these enterprise-class, dual controller storage solutions pack up 72 NVMe-connected SSDs into a 2U box. With up to 88 CPU cores and 2TB of memory, Axellio generates 12 million IOPS and 20GB/s of sustained throughput with a mere 50us latency.
This kind of performance is due to an internal PCIe fabric and the use of NVMe flash modules, up to 230TB in each chassis. The Axellio technology is also designed to support the next generation of flash/memory technology, called 3D XPoint, which is being jointly developed by Intel and Micron. Intel is also strongly behind Axellio.
One use case for this technology is in the big data analytics market. Due to its high IOP density and the bandwidth of NVMe, Axellio can collapse the typical Hadoop cluster by a factor of 10-15x, reducing the number of physical server modules required to accomplish a given map/reduce job. As an example, X-IO ran a 1TB TeraSort benchmark in 410 seconds, a result that would typically come from running on a 25-30U infrastructure stack. This was accomplished on a single 2U box. X-IO is also testing this technology in scale-out hyperconverged infrastructure designs, using extended PCIe fabrics.
Storage is a tough business and success doesn’t come easily, especially for smaller companies trying to create awareness in a crowded market. X-IO seems to be addressing this reality by making some difficult but necessary choices to change their go to market strategy while maintaining their 2-year investment in the Axellio technology.
Many products have long lists of features that sound the same but work very differently. It’s important to think outside of the checkbox of similar-sounding features and understand how technologies and products differ.