There have been numerous attempts at repackaging high-end enterprise products for a wider audience, but few get it right. One exception, however, could be IBM's new Storwize V7000, which mixes enterprise-class storage virtualisation with custom hardware and an intuitive management interface to create a highly scalable, yet easy-to-deploy, mid-range storage solution.
The V7000 is effectively an implementation of IBM's highly regarded SAN Volume Controller (SVC) software, complete with thin provisioning, fast snapshotting and Easy Tiering data migration technologies.
However, instead of general purpose servers, the V7000 runs SVC on a custom 2U rack-mounted storage appliance complete with dual redundant RAID controllers and hot-plug power supplies. Up to 24TB of storage can also be accommodated within the same enclosure and more added by attaching up to nine 2U expansion units.
The disks are naturally hot-pluggable, sliding into the chassis at the front while the interfaces are all located at the back with eight 8Gbit/s Fibre Channel ports (four per RAID controller) and four Gigabit iSCSI interfaces, similarly evenly split between the two controllers.
In addition, the Fibre Channel ports can be used to connect the V7000 to external storage networks, IBM claiming support for products from all the leading Fibre Channel vendors.
This ability to integrate external SAN storage is a real selling point with the external storage managed and virtualised alongside the disks in the V7000 itself. Moreover, doing this allows existing data to be dynamically migrated to the V7000 while still in use, dramatically reducing the amount of downtime normally needed when moving to a new SAN platform.
Wizards take you through the steps required to virtualise and configure the storage in the V7000 array
It's not the only advantage, however, as we discovered when we put the V7000 through its paces. Two different chassis are available, one to take 2.5in disks and the other 3.5in, which can be mixed together as required. For our tests we were supplied with a base unit capable of holding 24 2.5in disks, the 3.5in alternative having room for just 12.
The V7000 is incredibly well designed, right down to built-in batteries inside the power supplies, enabling cached data to be written out in the event of a total power failure.
The browser-based V7000 GUI features animated graphics to help simplify management tasks
You also get a choice of two types of disk, either near-line SAS devices (effectively SATA drives with dual-ported SAS interfaces) or solid state (SSD) modules. The latter are the faster by a huge margin, but are a lot more expensive. The enterprise-grade 300GB SSDs in our unit cost just over £21,000 + VAT each.
The SSDs are responsible for the big price hike in the configuration we looked at, which has a list price of £126,352. Take them out of the equation and a typical starting price is just over £85,000, or a little over £5 per GB. Discounts will also be available to many customers in the market segment.
However, best use is made of this costly storage by employing it to store data needed most often using a technology called Easy Tiering, which is designed to take the hassle out of the process.