AMD spinning drives give way to WhipTail

LONDON — AMD’s System Optimisation Engineering Department has today announced plans to replace 480 of the 15K spinning drives in its data centres with WhipTail solid-state storage arrays, in a bid to eliminate slow response times associated with traditional storage arrays.

AMD designs semiconductors that power a variety of solutions including PCs, game consoles and the servers that drive the Internet. The company’s System Optimisation Engineering Department is working to continuously improve the performance of the AMD Opteron processor. 


The department chose the WhipTail array because of its ability to support all storage interfaces and protocols out of the box, as well as its ease of installation and operation. Since implementing the WhipTail storage arrays, the System Optimisation Engineering Department claims to have seen a 50x improvement in latency and a 40 percent increase in performance.

“WhipTail’s interface flexibility is unparalleled. Other options would provide one (maybe two) interfaces or protocols; WhipTail supports them all,” said Fred Abounader, performance systems engineer in AMD’s System Optimisation Engineering Department. “What’s also key is that the WhipTail solid-state array arrives pre-configured for performance – eliminating the need for us to do the amount of storage tuning required with our old setup.”

The WhipTail flash-based storage array, called XLR8r, supports up to 12TB of MLC flash. According to Steven Starbuck, VP and General Manager at Whiptail, traditional hard disk drives are now limited by the laws of physics. They reach their apex of 15,000 RPM with an output of 200 I/Os per second, and this is as fast as they can ever go. 
Meanwhile, XLR8r can deliver 250,000 I/Os per second in an industry standard rack-mounted 2U device that draws just 180 Watts, and with a starting price of in the region of $70,000

“To throw it into stark contrast, you would have to provision between 1,250 and 1,500 traditional drives to give the same amount of I/Os,” he said. “So if you wanted to put a cost on that, it could be anything up to 5 racks, 5kW of power, a million bucks.”

One of the advantages of WhipTail’s XLR8r product is that it is able to integrate easily into existing environments and sit alongside traditional hard drive infrastructure, because it looks to the system like another SAN array. Starbuck told Techworld that the company has managed to get it up and running on within 20 minutes of first plugging it in.

This was an important factor in AMD’s decision to choose WhipTail, according to Abounader.

“The standalone SSD array architecture of WhipTail as opposed to other forms of SSD architectures that are becoming obsolete didn’t tie us to the outdated hard disk drive technology we were trying to leave behind,” he said.

“We’re choosing not to pick a fight with the storage vendors because they also have an important part to play,” added Starbuck, “but what we’re seeing is there’s an opportunity for us to supplement the shortcomings of that technology and be able to put our stamp on the market.”

Starbuck told Techworld that WhipTail, which is headquartered in the US, has plans to expand its European presence in 2012. The company has already appointed two channel distributors – one in the UK and one in Holland – and has a rapidly-growing number of clients and committed investment in the region.

“We have an appreciation for the fact that EMEA is a different market to the US,” said Starbuck. “The US is prepared to take gambles, take risks on startups, whereas Europe tends to want proven solutions. They want to make sure that you have all the correct HCL approvals from the key vendors like VMware and Citrix, so we’ve made sure that we have those in plac(e.”


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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