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Upgraded Nexsan Unity unified arrays get jolt of flash

Nexsan eliminated the need to run its E-Series arrays as Unity back-end storage. JBODs with RAID allow FASTier flash cache SSDs to run on 12 Gbps storage shelves.

As Dell EMC showed off new Unity midrange arrays amid a flurry of all-flash storage rollouts this week, the other vendor with the Unity brand -- and the trademark owner -- made its own news.

Nexsan Inc., which recently beat Dell EMC in a trademark lawsuit, today trotted out Nexsan Unity 2.0, with reconfigured hardware and expanded cloud-based file sharing. Upgrades to the multiprotocol NAS and SAN array include heavier doses of flash, twice as much RAM and throughput gains with Intel Broadwell version 4 CPUs.

Most notably, Nexsan eliminated the need to run its E-Series arrays as Unity back-end storage, replacing it with JBODs combined with RAID inside the box. Nexsan has made flash modules available across Unity arrays in 1.92 TB, 3.84 TB and 7.68 TB capacities.

Nexsan's FASTier provides RAM and flash caching. FASTier SSDs originally were in the head unit, but the latest version places the flash directly on the 12 Gbps SAS storage shelves.

Unity 2.0 accelerates reads and frees up drive slots for expanding flash capacity, said Gary Watson, Nexsan’s co-founder and vice president of technical engagement. It also ensures every customer gets flash storage.

"We had resisted doing that before, but the newer processors have enough cores and memory bandwidth to handle hundreds of drives and not hurt I/O performance," Watson said.

Other hardware changes in Nexsan Unity include moving to DDR4 dual inline memory modules to increase DRAM. It integrates the User Datagram Protocol with caching and compression built into the stack to optimize LAN-based packet transfer.

Nexsan added support for SMB 3 and changed its user interface to default to HTML5 instead of Adobe Flash.

"They've gotten rid of the all-disk shelves. That first little bit of flash gets you a lot of performance advantage. You could put the very hot data on the flash and get good bang for the buck," said Howard Marks, chief scientist at IT analyst firm DeepStorage.

An entry-level Nexsan Unity 2000 tops out at 168 TB of raw storage with two storage chassis. Customers get more than 2 PB with the Unity 4000 midrange appliance. The high-end Unity 6000 scales to 5 PB.

New flash configurations are the Unity models, 2200, 4400 or 6900, configured with SAS SSDs in 1.92 TB, 3.84 TB, or 7.68 TB capacities. The maximum configuration supports 216 drives, with a raw capacity of 1.69 PB.

File sharing is secure caring

Users can securely share file folders with Enterprise n-Way Sync cloud software. It supports mobile, web and desktop access, with support for Android and iOS. Enterprise n-Way Sync is Nexsan's branding for the Transporter technology Nexsan acquired when its parent company, Imation, bought Connected Data. Current Nexsan COO Geoff Barrall was Connected Data's founder.

Imation reorganized after spinning out Nexsan as a private company earlier this year to hedge fund Spear Point Capital Management LLC.

Nexsan Unity arrays package the NST operating-system software on a branded x86 chassis. Unified storage support encompasses standard block and file storage protocols. Unity arrays include a software-transparent link to a federated object store with the Nexsan Assureon secure archive. Array capacities remain the same as previous Unity arrays.

Customers can complement Unity with the optional Nexsan Unity Active Archive Appliance for unstructured compliance data. Data ingested in Unity primary storage is instantly replicated to the local Active Archive filer. The goal is to ensure two copies of a file or object are continuously available.

The vendor said it achieved a milestone in April with 100 Unity systems deployed.

Despite Nexsan's victory in a court case over the Unity name in a Massachusetts federal district court last month, Dell EMC has kept the Unity name for its midrange arrays for now.

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