Unisys offers device to pool data on SANs

Joining the move toward storage virtualization, Unisys Corp. last week announced a hardware appliance that pools data from different disk arrays installed on a storage-area network (SAN) and lets the information be managed as if it were coming from a single source.

Unisys’ Storage Sentinel is a RAID controller packaged in a refrigerator-size cabinet with 2TB of internal disk storage. The system can be used to centralize storage management procedures on a SAN, and includes data snapshot, striping and mirroring capabilities that work across storage devices made by different vendors, according to Unisys.

The Blue Bell, Pa.-based vendor said a standard configuration of Storage Sentinel costs US$200,000. The appliance itself accounts for about 75 per cent of the cost, and the price also includes a set of consulting and implementation services.

“The professional services were important to prove out why we’re in this space,” said Jim Thompson, director of the Eastern Development Laboratory at Unisys. The services include SAN design, project management, and network and system implementation.

Bob Passmore, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said start-up vendors such as DataCore Software Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., FalconStor Software Inc. in Melville, N.Y., and StorageApps Inc. in Bridgewater, N.J., are using middleware to offer storage virtualization capabilities on SANs.

But Passmore added that the approach taken by Unisys differs in that Storage Sentinel is set up outside of a SAN’s main data path, enabling storage managers to take snapshots of data for backup purposes without having to shut down any servers. In the long term, that “is a better architecture, if perhaps a more complicated architecture,” Passmore said.

Storage Sentinel is due to be released this week and will initially support Unisys’ ES7000 and ClearPath Plus servers, as well as other systems running Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Linux and Sun Solaris. The device includes a pair of redundant Fibre Channel switches made by San Jose-based Brocade Communications Systems Inc., as well as a built-in Ethernet switch.

Storage Sentinel complies with the Mountain View, Calif.-based Storage Networking Industry Association’s Common Information Model, which specifies a consistent way of mapping the devices on a SAN. Tape storage virtualization capabilities are due to be added next year, Unisys said.