IBM Corp. next month will offer some new enhancements to its FAStT600 storage server that it says will improve its performance and double the amount of data that the system can store.

Called the “turbo” option, the enhancements will increase the FAStT600’s memory cache from 256MB to 1GB and allow the system to host 112 Fibre Channel drives instead of the current total of 42. The turbo option will also include new Storage Manager 8.4 firmware.

“It expands the number of options that our customers have, particularly at the lower end of the product line,” said Craig Butler, IBM’s manager of midrange storage product marketing. “If your needs change you can change it markedly in terms of performance, without having to swap out your controller or your drives, or change the Storage Manager.”

IBM will add a third expansion drawer to the FAStT600, which will increase the number of drives the non-turbo systems can hold from 42 to 56. With the turbo option, users will be able to double this number to 112, giving them a total of 16.4TB of storage, Butler said.

For one user, the appeal of the new option comes principally from its larger cache, not its expanded storage capacity.

“It’s a huge upgrade in terms of caching. Instead of reading data from disk, it can read data from RAM, which is much faster, ” said Jeff Rabon, a system administrator for the University of North Carolina’s College of Information Technology in Charlotte, N.C. “We’re not so much worried about being able to quadruple our capacity at this time,” he added.

The University of North Carolina is in the midst of implementing a FAStT600 system with the turbo option to support its college system infrastructure, Rabon said. He expects to see the FAStT600 server’s performance improve by 70 per cent, based on information IBM has provided him.

The FAStT600’s turbo enhancements will be available on Sept. 12, and will be priced at US$26,570 as a “customer-installable upgrade” for current FAStT600 users, Butler said. Complete new systems will start at US$36,569.

IBM will also release new disaster protection software for its FASt600, 700, and 900 servers on Sept. 12. Called VolumeCopy, the new software should allow users to more quickly restore systems in the event of a service outage. Butler was unable to say how much VolumeCopy would cost.