Startup Takes on SANs, NAS

Pillar Axiom system regulates storage.

Pillar Data Systems Inc. will come out of stealth mode and launch the Pillar Axiom Storage System this week.

The fledgling storage companys hardware and software product portfolio is designed to unify and manage SAN (storage area network) and NAS (network-attached storage) environments together or separately on a single platform, said Michael Workman, president and CEO of the San Jose, Calif., company.

The Pillar Axiom Storage System supporting NAS is available now. Next month, the company will enable the system to support SAN or NAS separately or together. The companys offerings range from $50,000 to $500,000, according to officials.

Formed in 2001, the storage startup has 325 employees and has received more than $150 million in private funding from Tako Ventures LLC, the private equity firm of Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corp.

For hardware, the Axiom system offers the Slammer Storage Controller featuring SAN or NAS I/O management as an option, as much as 24GB of RAM, and four Gigabit Ethernet ports or four 2G-bps Fibre Channel ports.

Slammer serves as the key data mover for the new storage system. The box virtualizes a customers common storage pool to easily grow file systems and LUNs (logical unit numbers).

Pillars Brick Storage Enclosure provides dual active RAID controllers, embedded RAID 5 protected disk storage, and a Fibre Channel interface to SATA (Serial ATA) or Fibre Channel drives. The hardware features 256MB of local cache and can plug Brick and Slammer units together.

For its part, the Pilot Management Controller features dual control units, active/ passive high availability, and two hard drives for configuration and logging. Pilot, the central management component for the Axiom Storage System, offers data protection, Snap Fibre Channel and Snap LUN snapshots.

In terms of its attention to software, Pillar Axiom features capabilities such as Storage Manager, Storage Capacity Planner and Configuration Wizard among its management, predictive modeling and provisioning tools.

According to Workman, former vice president of worldwide development for IBMs storage technology division and senior vice president and chief technology officer of Conner Peripherals, Pillars enhanced storage QOS (quality of service) allows customers to manage their most complex applications at all storage tiers with scaled capacity and performance.

"Were not naive enough to think that everyone will consider a new offering from a new company," said Workman. "[But] were being considered by customers for new applications. ... [Our products] have been purchased in order to displace competitors products since we offer better ease of management and less than maintenance costs on existing systems."

Having purchased a total of 14.4TB of storage from Pillar, Robert Moon, CIO of Leapfrog Enterprises Inc., based in Emeryville, Calif., said the storage providers technology has drastically simplified SAN and NAS management for his organization, which manufactures and distributes childrens educational toys.

"When youre transferring data, updating your disaster recovery site and also doing transactions in your system, you need to be able to prioritize how things are happening," said Moon. "With other major [storage] vendors weve used, we couldnt prioritize that. A lot of problems [we] ran into with other vendors in the past—this system just didnt have those issues."

For instance, Moon said Pillar Axiom has allowed his staff to tune the new storage system to treat the organizations large volume of Oracle transactions, which must be processed quickly, as the primary storage consideration.

Older files, such as previous production data or old e-mail and network files that are rarely accessed, can then be shifted to a storage tier that is slower and less of a storage access priority.

In addition, Moon said that Pillar stacked up well against larger storage competitors in terms of the companys more affordable price point and its technical service capabilities.

If Pillars Axiom Storage System passes his two- to three-month stress test, Moon said that he intends to migrate all of his current 20TB storage system and a disaster recovery site in the works onto the startups technology.