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Pivot3 Acuity X3 eyes big opportunities in smaller spaces

Pivot3 expands its Acuity hyper-converged line with X3 Series. The NVMe flash appliances help smaller departments consolidate mixed application workloads on a common system.

Pivot3 Inc. has extended its flash-based Acuity hyper-converged systems to the midmarket, rolling out 1U models of the platform first introduced 11 months ago.

The Pivot3 Acuity X3 Series, as with the 2U Acuity X5 family, is available in two all-flash or two hybrid configurations. It has a multi-tier architecture that incorporates read-ahead RAM and PCIe-based nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) flash to accelerate critical applications.

The Acuity X3 arrays incorporate 960 GB of U.2 flash directly in the NVMe controller. The systems became available this week. By comparison, the Pivot3 Acuity X5 models launched in April 2017 are designed with standard add-in cards.

The 1U X3 6500 all-flash hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) starts at 7.6 TB and scales to 30.7 TB per node with SSDs, excluding the NVMe flash tier. Acuity X5 uses disk for primary storage, scaling from 8 TB to 16 TB per node. It also includes NVMe flash for a performance boost, making it a hybrid system. The nodes contain 192 GB to 768 GB of RAM and Intel Skylake processors.

Pivot3 Acuity emerging as new flagship HCI?

HCI systems allow an organization to consolidate networking, servers, storage and virtualization in a single appliance. Pivot3 launched Acuity based on quality of service (QoS) and PCIe flash technology it acquired from buying NexGen Storage in 2016.

Pivot3 Acuity HCI is distinct from Pivot3 Edge Office hyper-converged infrastructure, which runs vSTAC software. Pivot3's Acuity stack provides application-aware snapshots -- using Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service -- asynchronous replication, erasure coding and thin provisioning.

NVMe flash devices are expensive, so we put in only a fraction of the NVMe flash, but allow you to get more efficient management than you would otherwise be able to do.
George Wagnersenior product marketing manager, Pivot3

"We're bringing the same Acuity feature set [as in X5 systems] to a more space-efficient form factor. The classic use case is [a] midsize company that wants to transition from separate servers and storage to a hyper-converged infrastructure to run multiple applications," said Mike Koponen, senior director of product and solutions marketing at Pivot3, based in Austin, Texas.

Acuity QoS consults user policies to automatically determine the best placement of data to meet application service levels.

"NVMe flash devices are expensive, so we put in only a fraction of the NVMe flash, but allow you to get more efficient management than you would otherwise be able to do," said George Wagner, a Pivot3 senior product marketing manager for Acuity storage.

Customers have the option to mix all-flash and hybrid systems in a cluster up to eight nodes. As with most hyper-converged products, customers are required to purchase a minimum configuration of three Pivot3 Acuity X3 nodes.

Demand for HCI gear surged 68% year over year last quarter, according to analyst firm IDC. Most early HCI deployments focused on virtual desktop infrastructure or server consolidation, but companies are starting to run HCI to support a broader range of business applications.

Pivot3 Acuity X3 HCI array
The Pivot3 Acuity X3 is a 1U flash-based hyper-converged appliance.

Eric Sheppard, an IDC research vice president of server and storage infrastructure, said the NexGen purchase positioned Pivot3 to aggressively pursue larger data center customers. That is mainly because of the addition of QoS.

"The more that hyper-converged infrastructure starts showing up in the data center, the more it needs to behave like a traditional scale-out array. You need to guarantee the performance to be taken seriously in the data center market," Sheppard said.

He said Pivot3 Acuity X3 is well-suited for "edge environments," defined as any deployment outside a main data center. 

Enterprises can order AcuityX3 in prepackaged SKUs known as Fast Packs. The entry-level bundles start at about $20,000 per node. A three-node starter pack runs about $59,000.

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