Aberdeen's AberSAN Puts Sharable Storage on the SAN
Scalable System Combines SAN and NAS Functionality Over iSCI or Fibre Channel
Murat Karslioglu: The new AberSAN combines NFS and CFIS, which are two file-level storage protocols, and iSCSI and fibre-channel block-level storage in a single box.
Trenton Baker: It brings sharable storage to a SAN environment. It functions as a NAS and a SAN together. If you’re already using iSCSI or Fibre Channel in your company, you’re usually not allowed to have sharable storage in the SAN environment. If you already have a pure-Fibre company, you can bring this in and let everyone have sharable storage hooked up to the Fibre.
MK: Actually, it still uses block-level sharing, but our management software allows system admins to share the same LAN.
SB: It will function on that network as if you had network-attached storage.
MK: It’s similar to that, but the storage will appear as a physical hard drive. You will be accessing the same drive other editors are addressing at the same time, but the virtual volume appears as a physical hard drive on an editor’s system. Tens of editors can simultaneously read and write to the same storage.
SB: Is this a unique product, or are there similar products from other vendors?
TB: We’re not ashamed to admit that we’re not a tier-one company. There are some tier-one companies focusing more on IT-level solutions that have similar products.
MK: But the costs of their solutions are much higher than ours.
TB: You can configure one of these right on our website and get a price immediately. With some other companies, if you want the pricing you have to call and go through a qualification process to get a quote.
SB: How big a part of your business is content creation?
TB: It’s still a niche market for us, since we’re an IT company by trade. But we’ve been doing NAB for seven years, so we understand the market. We come back every year and try to create a product to satisfy that market. They’re on the forefront of technology, and some other markets drag behind. Government and education are still our bread and butter, but we try to learn about new technology at a faster rate than what those customers need.
SB: The most important thing people need in this business is reliable bandwidth. You can’t drop a frame.
TB: It was a learning curve for us to understand what speed options everyone needed because the terms are slightly different. We can explain the speed in IOPS [input/output operations per second] and megabytes, but that doesn’t translate to people who understand frame rate. It’s the same thing – we just have to learn the language.
SB: And the other thing people are looking for is scalability.
TB: That’s our focus in all our products. We have an enterprise-level product, but you can get in at the entry level and scale up without scrapping the system you originally bought. We want to always be able to daisy-chain with JBODs or DAS boxes so that you can scale up to enterprise-level quality.
SB: So, again, the big picture is that you’re simplifying network setups by combining the functions of a NAS with a SAN.
TB: For editors, it also offers simultaneous access to a file so that you’re not writing over each other. We’ve learned from attendees at NAB how many people might need access to a file, versus how crucial it was that you couldn’t write over each other. Plus you also needed the scalability and the speed. So we needed to figure out how to marry several different products together.
What are some other features that will appeal to the StudioBytes readership?
MK: The new AberSAN series supports block-level inline deduplication, which is the best type. It compares the bytes and reduces the storage usage by finding similar bytes in other blocks.
TB: There are lots of virtualization features that editors might not need to take advantage of, but more corporate and broadcast companies would be interested in. That’s more higher-end enterprise stuff. You won’t use too much VM inside a small editing studio. But this is already certified by Aberdeen to be compatible with any kind of VM environment.
SB: What types of customers you have in this industry?
TB: This was launched at NAB, and we’ve had a huge interest. We quoted several at the show, and actually sold one. As far as feedback, there have been no complaints, but we haven’t had the time to create a case study yet. We came across a mix of the smaller, two- to three-person editorial shop that just needs speed and reliability as well as the huge corporation that’s interested in half a petabyte to start. It fits both markets.
SB: And if that small shop eventually becomes a bigger operation Ã¢Â€Â¦
TB: The smaller companies have to be careful what they invest in. If they throw money into hardware that’s outdated or doesn’t work or doesn’t fit their growth, they’re in trouble.
SB: And openness is important, as well.
MK: HBAs [host bus adapters] are interchangeable. If you buy a 4-gig interface today, you can switch it to 8-gig or 16-gig Fibre Channel in the future. Everything in the server is interchangeable as long as we support it.
TB: And as far as support goes, we’re still the only company that offers a five-year warranty on our hardware. That includes the tier-one companies for some reason. They offer three years.
What about the ZFS file system?
MK: It’s an enterprise-level 128-bit file system. It allows you to have a virtually unlimited single-partition size and unlimited snapshots. A snapshot takes a copy of your data, and if one of your editors makes a change, you can take it back. De-duplication includes the snapshots, so any changes made to existing files are included in the de-duplication. It doesn’t take much space.
SB: Any other general comments on the speed and/or efficiency of the AberSAN?
MK: Having server-based storage allows you to eliminate the cost of a Fibre switch. If you have a mid-size video shop with four to eight or 16 editors, and you don’t want to invest in an expensive Fibre Channel switch, you can just just plug a regular Fibre Channel HPA card in the AberSAN and have up to 24 4-GbE or 8-GbE ports on the storage. You can physically connect up to 24 editors point-to-point without using a Fibre Channel switch. Even if you have a fibre-channel switch, it helps you get higher bandwidth. You can combine all 24 for ports and have 24 x 8 gigabit bandwidth. It’s a great feature, because most SAN products don’t have more than four or eight ports on the back.
TB: As far as the speed issues, the majority of what we quote are SATA drives, but these can also be populated with SAS drives to increase your speed, or even SSD drives, if you’re really focusing on lower capacity but maximum speed. With some of the larger boxes, you start getting maximum performance once you’re around 16 drives. That’s one of the benefits of getting larger server to start: the RAID controller takes advantage of 16 drives completely. On a lower number of drives, it’s not being fully utilized.
OK. What’s the starter system, and what’s the practical upper limit?
MK: You can start at any storage capacity. There is no limit. Our suggestion is eight drives, which can be 8 TB or 16 TB, but we also have smaller units, like 1U, 4 TB systems.
TB: The 2U eight-drive system is the AberSAN Z20. We’re a customizing company, so if you wanted a 3U or 1U we would customize that. We throw a bunch of ideas on the website and in press releases to give you an idea of what can be done, and then you tell us what you actually need. That’s our company’s working model. You can get in with an ISCSI 16 TB model for under $9,000. We can increase the chassis or storage capacity or add-on features depending on what you need, whether it’s high availability for replication or de-duplication, or whether you need fibre or ISCSI connectivity.
MK: The upper limit on the storage side is 256 zettabytes of pooled storage, which is close to unlimited.
Did you say petabytes?
MK: No, zettabytes is past petabytes. There are petabytes, exabytes, and then zettabytes. 256 zettabytes is practically unlimited.
TB: When we launched the product we had four base models – the same hardware with different size capacities. We have a 2U model, a 3U, a 5U, and an 8U. An 8U would have approximately 100 terabytes within one server, and scale up from there. It depends on how much capacity you need to start and also not having to worry about your scalability. It’s going to be there no matter what model you’re getting into.