Meet Xsigo and I/O Virtualization

Xsigo is not likely to be welcomed by companies in the server and storage system infrastructure business.

SAN FRANCISCO—Xsigo Systems might look like just another IT company with a strange, unpronounceable name, but it stands a good chance of becoming well known in data center circles.

The company, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., which spent three years in R&D, officially launched itself and a product line here at VMworld Sept. 11. It then met the press Sept. 12 to explain three things: what it makes, why it matters to the data center, and how the company name is pronounced (phonetically, its simply See-go).

Xsigos main product is a $30,000 data center box appliance called VP780 I/O Director, which the company insists will open up the heretofore hardly touched world of I/O to data centers.

I/O Director uses specialized processors and Infiniband connectivity to overcome the limitations of regular server I/O by virtualizing the flow of data through a system. It consolidates cabling and replaces multiple physical network and storage interfaces (network interface cards and host bus adapters) with virtual resources that appear to applications and operating systems exactly as their physical counterparts.


To read about Rackable Appliances plan to smooth out storage I/O problems, click here.

I/O Director has a foundation of purpose-built silicon designed to streamline the management of complex I/O resource mappings. Traditional server I/O employs physical interfaces with fixed identities that are "mapped" to storage and network resources. Because these mappings are time consuming to change, applications become locked to specific devices, thus impacting agility and overall resource utilization.

StorageIO Group, located in Minneapolis, Minn., is a leading researcher on storage I/O technologies. The company reports that I/O performance issues are a growing concern for data center operations teams by creating both direct and indirect problems.

Front-line problems include system and application slowdowns, which cause sluggish response times and availability issues. Indirect impacts include the need for additional IT staff to troubleshoot, analyze, re-configure and react to application delays and service disruptions.

Xsigo is disruptive. Replacing HBAs and physical network interfaces is a radical idea that will not be welcomed by companies such as Cisco, Brocade, Emulex, Adaptec, AMCC and others whose livelihood is the server and storage system infrastructure business.

"At every juncture in the development of IT systems, the bottleneck for overall production moves to a new place as new ideas move into the data center," Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers venture capitalist Ray Lane, a Xsigo board member and former Oracle president, told a group of journalists and analysts here at the W Hotel.

"Virtualization has opened up the possibilities for much better execution in the data center. However, even though you might have great processors and efficiencies in other areas, if the data doesnt move quickly enough form one point to another, you still have a bottleneck. Xsigo can make I/O work better, and were the only ones addressing it. Were saying that we can save companies a lot of money."

Lane said that Xsigos I/O Director is estimated to save large enterprises 50 percent to 80 percent on capital and operational costs in data center environments. The company is currently aiming most of its marketing and sales efforts toward the Fortune 1000.

Page 2: Meet Xsigo and I/O Virtualization

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...