Xiotech Aims to Please - EnterpriseStorageForum.com

Xiotech Aims to Please

Midwesterners are not the bragging sort, but privately held Minnesota-based storage solution provider Xiotech is proud of its dedication to its customers — with 96 percent of customers reporting they were "satisfied" and 75 percent saying they were "extremely satisfied" with the company's products and services in a recent NOP World survey.

Xiotech, which has been in business for 10 years, aims to create products that are easy to use, manage, maintain and upgrade — and customers and analysts seem to think the company has achieved that.

"Does Xiotech live up to its promises? Is it on the same technological level as its competitors? The answer to both questions is 'yes,'" says Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, who doesn't hesitate to recommend the company. "Their cluster technology is quite good, and the company has been paying increasing attention to standards compliance."

One Happy Customer

Gary Joppich, network administrator at State Employees Credit Union (SECU) of Lansing, Mich., has been a Xiotech Magnitude user for three years now — and is a storage area network (SAN) evangelist. ("If you don't have one, buy one," says Joppich. "It's as simple as that.")

SECU originally purchased a Magnitude. Then last October, the credit union — which had grown to more than 88,000 members and $761 million in assets and from 40 to 76 servers — upgraded to a Magnitude 3000e (though they still have the original Magnitude). Since then, SECU upgraded the 3000e to a 3000s and added a second 3000s to use for disaster recovery.

Why Joppich's dedication to Xiotech and the Magnitude line?

"Being a credit union, we didn't have millions of dollars to spend on a SAN solution. We needed something that was affordable," explains Joppich. "We needed something that would be very easy to use, easy to learn. With a staff of one full-time person and two part-time, we didn't have time to send people to long courses. We needed something that was user-friendly and fit our needs. Looking at the various systems out there, the Xiotech seemed the one built for our type of organization."

Since installing the first Magnitude, SECU has upgraded several times, adding terabytes as needed, which is easy since the Magnitude system is modular. The credit union is also working with Xiotech to move to a tiered-storage environment, so that less-important data won't take up space on high-performance machines.

Other features that appealed to Joppich are the ability to boot directly from the Magnitude SAN and the lack of downtime or interruption, since the system can be upgraded hot, on the fly.

And Joppich still has not attended a class. He hasn't had to, although Xiotech does offer a three-day Xiotech Certified Engineer course as well as training both through the company and third-party providers.

Anticipating Needs

Xiotech also sells a variety of tape libraries, switches and directors, and a replication appliance called TimeScale, which delivers data protection across remote sites, with restoration times in minutes or seconds. Xiotech also has a monitoring solution called Storage Monitor that allows companies to monitor their entire IT environment, including databases, e-mail, and backup applications, as well as servers, Fibre Channel switches and other SAN devices.

The goal, says Mike Stolz, vice-president of marketing at Xiotech, is to anticipate customers' storage needs — whatever they may be — and deliver products that are easy to use, easy to manage and maintain, and easy on the budget.

"We have been pioneering this whole area of tiered storage for a couple of years," says Stolz. "It's one that a lot of users can really take advantage of because you don't need to provide the same level of service to all your data."

The name Magnitude 3D denotes the company's three levels of spinning disk drives: very high-performance Fibre Channel disk drives; an economy enterprise Fibre-Channel-based drive developed with Seagate that provides the same robustness and reliability of a Fibre-Channel drive but at slightly lower cost and performance; and serial ATA (SATA) for older reference data.

"We have policy engines capable of allowing our users to write scripts that allow you to move data from one tier to the next if you wanted to," says Stolz. "We allow our users to create a lot of scripting and so forth from a very easy to use interface that allows them to manage their data within the unique environs of that organization."

Xiotech also supports new and emerging industry standards, including SMI-S, the Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Initiative (SMI), which promotes an open interface for the management of different storage networks, and iSCSI, an IP-based storage networking standard for linking data storage facilities. The company also provides hardware for Microsoft's Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) and support for Microsoft Virtual Disk Service (VDS) and Multipath I/O (MPIO) technology.

Xiotech last year dropped its proprietary platform for one based on Linux and Intel Xeon chips, which the company says has resulted in improved performance and investment protection for customers.

"Data is growing at phenomenal rates, and customers are being asked to do lots more with less," says Stolz. "So the solution they choose needs to be easy to use and to manage as well as very robust and reliable. That's where Xiotech really shines."

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