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TrueNAS X10: iXsystems' open source storage contender

The TrueNAS X10 entry-level hybrid array from iXsystems provides a low-cost alternative to legacy arrays. The unified array scales to 360 TB in 6U for $55,000.

Open-source-based server designer iXsystems Inc. today broadened its enterprise storage portfolio with an entry-level TrueNAS array.

The San Jose, Calif., vendor introduced the TrueNAS X10 hybrid array as a complement to its Z Series midrange family that launched three years ago. It also sells a line of FreeNAS appliances for small businesses and home offices.

All iXsystems arrays run the OpenZFS file system with at-rest data encryption, inline compression and deduplication, replication and delta-based snapshots. OpenZFS is the open source successor to the ZFS file system originally developed by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle acquired in 2010 for $7.4 billion.

Privately held iXsystems has been in the server business since 1996, expanding to storage in 2009. The company doesn't publicly disclose revenues, but claimed storage sales are expected to spike about 200% by 2018.

TrueNAS X10 is a 2U chassis that supports 12 hot-swappable SAS HDDs connected via 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Customers can buy a single controller with 20 TB of raw disk capacity starting at $5,500. For high availability, a dual-controller chassis is recommended that starts at $20,000 for 120 TB. Storage scales to 360 TB in 6U with two fully populated SAS expansion shelves with a starting price of about $55,000.

The scale-up architecture nicely balances cost and performance, said Scott Sinclair, a storage analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass.

"This is not a server architecture where you need three boxes for resiliency. They built the hardware, they fitted the box and they use their open source software-defined storage to help you build a traditional array deployment. It's got a dual controller and 120 TB of storage for under $20,000, which is pretty nice," Sinclair said.

The unified storage arrays merge RAM and solid-state drives for caching with hard disk drives for storage. The system-on-a-chip hardware is based on an Intel Pentium Xeon D-1531 six-core CPU.

The storage products integrate iXsystems' FreeNAS converged software on certified server hardware. FreeNAS is available as a download and also as a bundled stack on FreeNAS-branded hardware appliances.

FreeNAS is built atop stripped-down FreeBSD code and supports the FreeBSD-licensed bhyve hypervisor. The system also is certified for Citrix XenServer and VMware ESXi.

TrueNAS X10 hybrid array

Challenge for iXsystems: Win over legacy storage buyers

Projected use cases for the new arrays include backup, big data storage and file sharing. It taps into a swath of underserved small and midsize business customers, said Steve Wong, the iXsystems director of storage product management.

"Until now, we have not had a TrueNAS product at the lower end of the market for customers that need continuous data availability and uptime. We have had a lot of customers that value the capabilities of our other TrueNAS arrays, but the price has precluded them from buying," Wong said.

Wong said iXsystems expects at least half of TrueNAS X10 customers to opt for the 2U high availability option.

"We see it competing with Dell EMC VNX and Unity, as well as NetApp FAS2600 Series and HPE's [Hewlett Packard Enterprise] MSA SAN products," he said. "We also expect it to compete against rackmount systems from Qnap, Drobo and Synology."

Competition also could come from software-defined storage vendors, particularly OpenStack deployments for building private cloud storage.

"The challenge for iXsystems is going up against the big-name storage vendors," Sinclair said. "Those customers tend to be a different type of buyer than those in the SMB, who might be willing to go with a lesser-known vendor. The question is whether iXsystems can sell enough boxes at that price to achieve the necessary scale that makes business sense."

Other iXsystems include TrueNAS Z20 with 400 TB starting at $25,000, TrueNAS Z30 with 1.1 PB starting at $30,000, and the high-end TrueNAS Z35 array that starts at $40,000 and scales to 4.8 PB. The vendor also markets TrueRack rack-scale converged infrastructure to large data centers, combining its storage and servers with third-party networking switches.

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