Do you need Auto-Tiering?

Let me start off by saying I love all the auto-tiering storage arrays that are on the market today. The problem with most of the auto-tiering arrays is that they’re expensive and you really need to be a customer of that vendor to take advantage of them. With new SSD vendors coming on board I really think there is a great chance to “leverage” your current investments while pushing ahead the technology envelope. Most heavy IO application like databases and VDI allow some form of tiering to help with the placement of data.

Last year at VMworld I stopped by a small booth, Whiptail Technologies. The speed they were promising was crazy fast from IO their SSD array. How fast? 250,000 IOPS! I thought there had to be some catch to it. No catches, just fast. Their pricing was good too or at least they were great to negotiate with.

When I was managing datacenters in the health care space we would buy storage arrays every year, it was like clockwork. We even bought a couple of our vendors 48 drive module arrays to add to our SAN and thought they were going to last awhile. The arrays didn’t even last a year when we used it for our VDI deployments. The 8,000 + IO we got were quickly eaten up by windows desktops.

While at BriForum I had the pleasure of sitting on in a session by Jim Moyle. Jim did a great job of showing what a Windows 7 VM will do when you can give it as much IO as possible. In his white paper, http://jimmoyle.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2011/05/Windows_7_IOPS_for_VDI_a_Deep_Dive_1_0.pdf, he ran a test with a windows VM using over 88,000 IOPS during a AV scan. Absolutely crazy right? His point on the industry averages being low was well received by the audience. With boot, applications, and the general randomness of windows, 20 IOPS for a Windows 7 VM is not realistic when you’re taking into account of dealing with the peaks.

Other reasons why I think Whiptail is smart choice:

Purpose built controller: they don’t have to accommodate traditional raid technologies, they got to start fresh. Their hardware is designed to accelerate writes and mitigate wear at the system level for MLC based drives. The transport layer and the drives use a proprietary, purpose built acceleration stack.

Bench marks: Bench marks are just that and most times not realistic but Whiptails numbers are 4k based on 100% random and 100% write. Not the safe misleading read numbers which Jim Moyle made mention in his session.
VMware: The leader in virtualization think they have good thing going on. VP of Engineering Zayed Hussein is on WhipTail Tech’s Board of Advisors.

Growth: 3 digit growth from last year’s numbers. Company should be around for the long haul. They’re adding more people on to their team.

Power: Power costs are not going away. If you want to be truly green or face the issue of no more power coming into your datacenter this is one why to cope with this dilemma. 180 watts is all they need for 12 TB. At 250,000 IOPS Whiptail can replace 7 full racks of spinning disk in terms of performance. That’s a 95% reduction in power, cooling, and rack space. WhipTail can fit anywhere from 1.5TB to 12TB in a 2U chassis.


Dwayne Lessner


  1. Dwayne,

    Dan and his team @ Whiptail are doing some great things. I agree that auto-tiering is generally higher-cost, which makes SSDs impractical for smaller organization or departments in larger companies with lower budgets.

    We are friends of Whiptail here at Drobo (knowing Dan and Zahid very well), and have a solution that is on the other end of the spectrum; an affordable entry point but moreover fully “automatic” for shops that want acceleration for applications like Email or DB but really want price / performance and a lot of capacity without having to manage multiple boxes / chassis, or manage provisioning to different tiers. Our technology is detailed @ http://info.drobo.com/ebook, would love any feedback you have on our approach for auto-tiering.

  2. Maro, Could someone from your company email me, I would like to talk more. I have a few questions from the ebook

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