Spell-bindingly fast box

UPDATED-Atrato is BlueArc for blocks

(Updated information italicised. 27 March 2008.)

Atrato, a startup dedicated to producing highly dense, accelerated I/O storage, has introduced its first product. The Velocity1000 delivers more than 11,000 random read/write IOPS and 3,600 separate parallel data streams from a sealed array of either 1.8-inch or 2.5-inch notebook-class serial ATA (SATA) drives.

(The company is not saying which but does say disk capacity ranges from 100 to 320GB. The latter figure rules out 1.8-inch drives.)

An array sits in part of a 3U rack unit and is divided into two sealed sub-units, each one of which has four smaller units inside it. In other words there is a hierarchical organisation of this sealed array of identical disks (SAID). There is a hot sparing capability within the SAID structure but no hot-swap capability. Atrato software virtualises the disks and offers RAID levels of 5, 6, 10 and 50. It works at a detailed level on the individual drives and can detect and work around failed areas in a kind of bad block fashion.

The V1000 offers block storage in a storage area network (SAN) design with, it appears – the firm is coy on some details – 200 – 400 spindles, depending on its use of either 1.8-inch or 2-5-inch drives – in a 50GB unit offering multiple spindle-based I/O. This I/O capacity is enhanced by field-programmable gate array (FPGA) hardware, similar to that used by BlueArc for its accelerated network-attached storage (NAS) Titan products. The result is quite astounding I/O levels with more than 11,000 IOPS possible with random reads and writes. Expressed another way a V1000 can support 3,600 simultaneous data streams.

The Atrato software provides virtual LUNs and encryption (256-bit AES), SAN load-balancing, health and status monitoring and self-healing through predictive techniques to detect failing drives or drive surface areas and remap storage around them.

The idea is that the SAID units are self-healing and don’t need to be opened for the duration of a 3-5 year lease.

The usable capacity in a 50TB V1000 is 20 – 40TB depending upon the RAID protection scheme chosen. By striping data across multiple drives the rebuild time needed to cope with a failed drive or failed drive area is reduced.

V1000s can be clustered together with, in theory, a 42U rack producing 80,000 IOPS. Pivot3 has its RAIGE clustered storage system for video surveillance that will represent competition.

There are no details available on how the I/O streams are handled and delivered over a network to hosts. It offers I/O performance approaching solid state disks (SSD) but at a much lower cost.

Atrato says the V1000 will cost up to around $250,000 – a 20TB costs $140,000 – and is suitable for high-performance computing where massive I/O capacity is needed – think Panasas – also video recording or streaming customers such as surveillance cameras and cable TV companies, and government applications needing both security and I/O capacity.

Compared to competing products in the cable TV video stream delivery space Atrato says the V1000:-

- Delivers an average of 10,000 IOPS
- Cuts connectivity costs up to 90 percent
- Slashes rack space and cooling requirements up to 80 percent
- Offers three-years of maintenance-free operation on the sealed array

Company story
The company has raised $18 million in initial funding and the line-up of investors and advisors include:-

- Jesse Aweida, Aweida Venture Partners, founder and former president/CEO of StorageTek
- Tom Porter, formerly CTO, Seagate and IBM storage executive
- Gary Gentry, SVP Maxtor, Seagate
- Dick Blaschke, an IBM and EMC veteran

It is led by Dan Macormick and the management team is very strong on disk manufacturer experience. The company’s message can be summarised as instantaneous access to infinite storage.

And the name? The Atrato is the fastest-flowing river in Colombia; odd as the company is based in western Colorado.

See also here and here.


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