DataON Storage hyper-converges Windows Storage Spaces

The DataON CiB-9112 V12 hyper-converged appliance is aimed at branch offices and small businesses with small virtual machine farms that consume shared local storage.

Storage hardware maker DataON Storage has released a turnkey hyper-converged appliance designed for Microsoft Windows Storage Spaces.

DataON is the storage subsidiary of Area Data Systems, a Microsoft OEM partner. Windows Storage Spaces is the underlying software-defined storage management layer in Microsoft Azure Pack software for building private cloud storage.

Storage Spaces are built into Microsoft Windows Server 2012 and enable users to provision and virtualize storage. Storage Spaces are virtual drives that users can carve out among a pool of physical drives. The virtual drives appear in Explorer.

Billed as a "cluster in a box," the entry-level DataON CiB-9112 V12 appliance is a 12-bay hybrid storage system that scales to 70.4 TB of raw capacity in 2U. Storage Spaces also support data deduplication on a volume basis to reduce the amount of back-end storage consumed by Hyper-V instances. List price for the CiB-9112 V12 is $20,000.

DataON's hyper-converged system is aimed at businesses with small virtual machine farms that consume shared local storage. Customers also could use it as a scale-out file server. 

Use cases include branch office storage and customers in regulated industries, such as medical offices and law practices. Those entities typically are Microsoft shops.

Hyper-converged platform turns JBODs, servers into storage nodes

DataON Storage sells disk enclosures for clustered storage and storage subsystems. Trenton Baker, DataON VP of business development, said it has approximately 25 PB of Windows Storage Spaces that are under management with beta customers.

"We look at converged architecture from a JBOD perspective, as opposed to a server node perspective. When we looked at Windows Storage Spaces architecture, we saw it as just a bunch of disks," Baker said.

"The I/O modules in the back are wasted space, so we turned them into nodes. We basically condensed two file servers and a JBOD into a single appliance with 100% internal failover capabilities."

Appliances use flash as write-back caching, pinned apps

The two-node hyper-converged system combines compute, tiered flash storage, dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) networking ports, and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization in a 2U rack-mount chassis. Each array supports up to 64 TB of disk storage and 6.4 TB of flash capacity, 64 Intel Xeon E5-2600 V3 Haswell processor cores, and up to 1 TB of DDR4 error correcting code memory.

The CiB-9112 V12 system optimizes HGST Ultrastar SAS solid-state drives (SSDs) as a hot tier and uses capacity hard disk as a cold archive. Storage is shared across CiB-9112 nodes via 12 Gbps SAS expanders. By default, SSDs are used simultaneously as write-back cache and to pin hot files to flash. Windows Storage Spaces features a tuning algorithm that automatically moves frequently accessed file storage to the flash tier. The two nodes are protected with a 10 GbE heartbeat for failover and high availability.

Intel mezzanine boards can be inserted to accommodate organizations that use GbE networking. The CiB-9112 V12 cluster includes two expansion slots for PCIe Gen 3 flash cards.  Each DataON Storage node has a dedicated 10/100 RJ45 management port and supports Intelligent Platform Management Interface v2, including onboard KVM over IP remote server management.

DataON Storage is jumping into a market in which established hyper-converged vendors are revamping product lines to address small and midsize companies with distributed storage. Nutanix last year released its open source KVM-based Acropolis hypervisor for customers who want to avoid VMware vSphere or Hyper-V licensing, while SimpliVity added to its OmniCube appliances with a model aimed at remote branch office storage.

"We're seeing more and more players getting into the hyper-converged game," said Colm Keegan, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass. "And we're increasingly seeing more down-market offerings that are designed to be consumable by smaller data centers and enterprise edge locations that have been priced out of the market."

Baker said DataON is the first vendor to build a hyper-converged appliance around Windows Storage Spaces. GridStore also sells hyper-converged appliances exclusively for Microsoft Hyper-V storage, but those systems are not yet geared for Windows Storage Spaces. Baker said DataON Storage does not view Gridstore as a competitor.

"From a storage perspective, Microsoft is the new guy on the block," Baker said. "Microsoft has never had a small business play for Storage Spaces. We think of it as a burgeoning market but one that already has a huge installed base."

The vendor's product roadmap includes an all-flash hyper-converged configuration based on its CiB-9224 V24 2U hybrid storage appliance, but no timeframe is set for that product's availability.

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