Storbyte looks to displace tape with technologically innovative disk JBOD hardware-defined solution

The Storbyte SBJ family provides a spinning disk JBOD complement for colder data, to the ECO•FLASH flash arrays they released when they launched in the spring.

The Storbyte SBJ 4-96

Nearly three months ago, hardware storage startup Storbyte emerged from stealth, with a new SSD drive technology designed to greatly improve flash memory life expectancy while also improving IOPS and performance, and brought three different ECO•FLASH arrays to market. Today, they are expanding their portfolio with a JBOD-based hardware-defined storage solution, that also brings a significant new technology achievement to the data centre. Their new SBJ series can deliver 100 per cent zero power by eliminating the need for trickle drives, while permitting regular integrity audits that tape cannot provide. It also provides intelligent power allocation that provides 12v Direct DC power without the need for a power supply, and offers a new box design that reduces vibration transfer and improves ease of use.

“Storbyte is a hardware-defined storage manufacturer that holds many patents on many different types of hardware feature sets,” said Diamond Lauffin, Chief Evangelist and Design Architect for Storbyte. “We first brought ECO•FLASH to market, but as a company, we recognize that systems integrators and end users want a full complement of products for a multi-tier environment from a single source. So we are introducing this 4U 96 drive spinning disk JBOD solution designed to support the concept of a true digital library.” The SBJ 4:96 system, the largest in a family of three models, provides 1,344TB of raw capacity complete with a full complement of featured data services.

Lauffin emphasized that the new JBOD array, which uses spinning disks and is designed for colder data, contains multiple innovative features.

“In 2001, when I was at Nexsan, we introduced the ATABeast – the first commercially available high-density box,” Lauffin said. “Many people at the end of 2001 wrote that they didn’t see why anyone would need a box like this, and it got a lot of negative articles, but it became a popular design and was copied in high density multi-purpose designs. The problem is that it is now 2018, and the current design of all the products on the market today are almost identical to the ATAbeast – one big drawer. No one since has come up with any better ideas on a high-density box for a digital library.”

Laufflin said that they wanted a design without rack rails.

“When a unit has to slide out on a rack, racks can and do tip over in data centres, because these single drawers are heavy,” he said. “It’s also hard to get to the back of these big 96 drive drawers. There is really no reason to have a single drawer. So we made six individual drawers, each with 16 drives, which is much easier to manage. In addition to the drive accessibility the six air-gapped drawers greatly dissipate the vibration transfer, by over 50 per cent. There’s nothing to break it up in a single drawer. We also have a completely tool-less drive carrier design, which we have patents on. Its Flex-Suspend design, along with our  Fixed Flex-Frame slide design supports the vibration characteristics of a desktop SATA drive.”

That’s significant, Laufflin said, because it allows customers to use desktop drives instead of more expensive enterprise drives for these seldom accessed data, resulting in a 20 to 25 per cent saving.

“These data are very seldom accessed,” he said. “Our technology lets you use desktop SATA drives as a responsible option for colder data as a responsible option. You won’t burn them out, because you don’t use it much, and because these now meet the vibration characteristics of a desktop design.”

Other innovative features are designed specifically to make the SBJ a more attractive cold storage option than tape.

“Everyone today still supports the old ‘disk spin down’ model, but everyone also keeps a 5-volt trickle charge to every drive when they spin them down, in order to retain connectivity,” Laufflin said. “We give you the ability to spin down any of these drives down to an individual drive level by maintaining initialization between OS and application system. Essentially, we spoof them, so we can deliver 100 per cent zero power. This counters the number one tape argument in the world, that tape on a shelf requires zero power. We can now emulate that exactly with spinning disks.”

The system also has the ability to do a true audit, which will monitor, manage and report the current flow of each drawer.

“We don’t want to keep any piece of equipment turned off forever,” Laufflin said. “Even tape gets repacked once a year to help with the magnetic isolation of the tape. With disk drives, you want to do the same thing, so we have capability to do data integrity audits. Now the key is that 99 per cent of all tape archive systems don’t provide enough tape resources to perform a data integrity audit – so the architecture is based on a wish and a prayer that the data stays good. The fallback is a second or third copy. Now many times, they do stay good, but you don’t know until you need to use it and find out.”

Storbyte’s data integrity audits make sure that there are no issues with the disks in each drawer.

“The greatest benefit this design allows, is that we can give you zero power use, to mirror tape, but that you can also easily spin it up once a quarter and do an integrity audit on the individual drive. The only way tape could do this is if a tape cartridge could assess itself. But it can’t, so you need a tape drive.”

Finally, the solution provides Direct 12 volt DC power through three power buses with a 3×3 very intelligent power allocation system

“We can run 8 of these boxes with a 12v Direct Power distribution, which is as efficient as you can get with commercial grade technology,” Laufflin said. “It eliminates the heat of a power supply, and allows us to have 12 booster fans with unrestricted air flow . It is zero state complete autoregulating.

In addition to the 96-drive model, the SBJ product family also has smaller 48- and 60-drive advanced storage servers and expansion JBODs and JBOFs.