ARIO Makes a Splash in Serial Storage

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ARIO Data Networks emerged from stealth mode today with low-cost, high-performance external storage controllers for serial disk storage, and the company already boasts a number of major OEM wins.

ARIO says its offerings “provide OEMs the essential building blocks they need to create modular, cost-effective Serial ATA storage subsystems solutions.” The San Jose, Calif.-based company’s controller board products include Fibre Channel-to-SATA, Ultra 320 SCSI-to-SATA, and iSCSI-to-SATA interface solutions.

Made for Storage Area Network (SAN), Network Attached Storage (NAS), and Direct Attached Storage (DAS) environments, ARIO says its products “enable storage OEMs to integrate dramatically lower-cost SATA disk drive technology into their subsystems, while providing the high performance and high availability feature sets that are needed in the enterprise subsystems market.”

The solutions are being deployed in applications such as Information Lifecycle Management (ILM), nearline storage, disk-to-disk backup, and high performance scientific and engineering computing across SAN, NAS, and DAS infrastructures.

“ARIO Data is well positioned to capitalize on the growing need for serial storage in the enterprise IT space,” states Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates.

“They seem to have a ton of design wins with a number of OEMs, which in their business is key, and they have some key value-added features that allow them, from a design perspective, to easily take on their competition,” says Steve Kenniston, technology analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.

ARIO has a little more than 50 employees, and 40 of them are engineers, with 30 patents among them, according to ARIO marketing VP Eric Herzog.

“We didn’t get second-place people here,” Herzog says.

The company already boasts eight OEM designs wins, and five of them are already producing revenue. Herzog won’t name the OEMs, but a number of industry heavyweights have voiced support for ARIO, including LSI Logic, Maxtor, Western Digital, IBM, and Marvell.

The company’s secret? Herzog won’t disclose pricing, but he says it is “immensely competitive.”

“Data has just gone through the roof, and budgets are tight,” Herzog told Enterprise Storage Forum.

Serial ATA and Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) are hot right now, he added, with an 84% compound annual growth rate and predictions that two-thirds of subsystem disk drives will use the technology by 2007.

“It’s a hot, hot space, and it’s growing dramatically,” Herzog told ESF.

Dedicated to Delivering Lower Cost and Higher Performance

ARIO is taking a dedicated approach to the storage market, resulting in lower cost and higher performance (including a blistering 100,000 I/Os per second ASIC ), and products that Herzog says are “modular, flexible, dense, and scalable, with enterprise-class functionality.”

The Fibre Channel-to-SATA,Ultra 320 SCSI-to-SATA, and iSCSI-to-SATA controllers support 16 SATA disk channels and offer single or dual host connectivity for 2 Gb Fibre Channel,U320 SCSI, or 1 Gb iSCSI. With dual host connectivity support, the controllers can be scaled to create dense single subsystem capacities. For example, the dual host version of ARIO’s Fibre Channel-to-SATA controller is currently supporting subsystems up to 120 terabytes (TB), with single subsystem configurations up to 240 TB expected to be announced later in 2004.

The modular design results in common hardware, firmware, and software across the three board solutions. This simplifies qualification, design, and test
processes for OEMs for any number of different host deployments, according to the company.

ARIO also plans to support new host interfaces as they become available, including 4 Gb Fibre Channel, Serial Attached SCSI, and 10 Gb iSCSI, and the company says its controllers are also designed for easy migration to 3 Gb SATA II and SAS disk interfaces as well as easy integration into a variety of
mid-plane and backplane subsystem configurations.

“Storage customers want to take advantage of the cost benefits of SATA, but need assurance that their storage investments provide enterprise-level features,” states Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at Taneja Group. “ARIO Data’s technology provides OEMs with these features, including high availability, performance, density, and scalability.”

“SATA promises to bring much change to the storage industry in 2004,” Taneja continues, “and storage technology vendors who can deliver cost savings along with performance will be the key participants in this trend.”

ARIO boasts “a strong serial I/O architectural software platform based on modular software building blocks,” allowing for sophisticated products built
on low-cost SATA disk technology. The software allows OEMs to add new functionality and feature sets, improves time-to-market, and simplifies OEM qualification across a number of board platforms, the company says.

ARIO supports protocol translation from Fibre Channel, U320 SCSI, and iSCSI to SATA; device emulation; bridge capability; and robust error handling. A
comprehensive SCSI/FC command set emulation means that SATA disks attached to ARIO controllers appear to the host and initiator devices as if the SATA disks were standard SCSI or Fibre Channel disk drives, which makes for seamless integration with current systems as well as performance and availability features similar to those available on Fibre Channel and SCSI subsystems.

Advanced features include high availability and dual redundant controller support with active/active failover/failback capability, with high-performance RAID capability on the way.

ARIO also plans ASICs that will integrate high availability I/O functions into single chip implementations that incorporate a storage and RAID processor with disk I/O connectivity. ARIO’s ASIC family provides up to 100,000 non-cached IOPS (I/O operations per second), connects up to 240 SATA hard disks (with SAS planned for later), and supports up to 77 TB of capacity per ASIC.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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