REVIEWER: Bob Tupper, IT systems manager for Solarflare Communications.

BACKGROUND: Solarflare Communications is a silicon vendor delivering Ethernet products that enable the rapid adoption of 10 Gigabit for data center and enterprise networks. The products include 10GBASE-T PHYs and high-performance Ethernet controllers. Solarflare announced the standards-compliant 10GBASE-T server adapter in early 2007. The privately held company is headquartered in Irvine, California, with a development center in Cambridge, UK.

HARDWARE PLATFORMS: Solarflare uses two 2-nodes ExaStore v3.0 clusters, 10TB each, running on SuperMicro servers and a combination of IBM and LSI storage arrays.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With ExaStore, we have reduced complexity of storage, achieved high productivity, scaled performance and capacity with business needs and enabled data versioning through very frequent snapshot intervals, without impacting the high performance of the clusters. This is a mandatory requirement for our chip-design process.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: I use the ExaStore clustered NAS solution as my primary file server. The ExaStore is used as the central repository for engineering designs and the company's administrative documents. We have 70 Linux and UNIX clients and 100 Windows clients accessing the system continuously. We use snapshots as our main means of data versioning and data protection. Our users can restore deleted data by themselves; this requires no education from our side because it's so easy to do.

STRENGTHS: As a semiconductor company providing 10 Gigabit technology, we care a lot about high performance. ExaStore provides us with the necessary high performance we need for our core development efforts performed on the Linux and UNIX workstations and, at the same time, serves as our primary file server for our administration departments. Looking back just one and a half years ago, when we were designing our first product, we were very concerned with scalability. While the other systems we were looking at provided the performance we required, it would have meant costly hardware and software upgrades. Exanet is disrupting the NAS market by allowing customers to upgrade file server performance without additional cost.

WEAKNESSES: I see two weaknesses in the product. We transfer huge design files, sometimes in the hundreds of MBs or GBs. We'd like to see Exanet supporting 10GbE for its interconnect and client-side network, and we understand this is on Exanet's roadmap in the near term. ExaStore provides both command-line and Web-based management and monitoring capabilities. We use ExaStore as a black-box automated storage solution, but we want to have the ability to review the system's performance history every few weeks. It's more of a "nice to have" than anything else.

SELECTION CRITERIA: It has better cost/performance, it runs on standard hardware compared with proprietary systems, and premium support was affordable for us.

DELIVERABLES: Exanet has excellent remote support. They were able to provide a premium support package at the same price that others would charge for a standard one - we have four hours of on-site support as well as a remote helpdesk that is literally looking over the shoulder of our cluster.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We are very pleased with our relationship with Exanet. We have found the presale, installation, implementation and ongoing support phases to be proactively handled with professionalism. The Exanet approach is very communicative and hands-on, showing acute awareness of our business needs.

DOCUMENTATION: The ExaStore product has a very self-explanatory and intuitive user interface. Unlike other products I work with, the descriptions for fields the administrator has to fill in are an integral part of the Web screens. For example, in the screen for adding virtual volumes, the explanation for picking the security style is displayed as well, just before the drop-down list. As an IT manager, I can't afford to have complex products. Having a system that eliminates the need for documentation was actually what I was looking for, and ExaStore provides it well for me.

ExaStore - ICM v3.0
Exanet Inc.
30 Montgomery Street
Suite 604
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(888) 539-2638

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