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Dirt cheap iSCSI software hits the shelves

Although the price for DataCore Software's new SANmelody might be good, the company's performance claims are far from recording breaking.

DataCore Software claims its new SANmelody software, that turns regular PCs into iSCSI disk arrays, whips any other storage array on the market for price/performance, according to a Storage Performance Council (SPC) benchmark.

However, with a bit of digging SearchStorage has discovered that although the price might be good, DataCore's performance claims are far from recording breaking.

SANmelody software runs on top of any standard operating system repurposing it into a disk array. "In the same way that SQL turns Windows into a database server, our software turns a PC into an iSCSI array," says George Teixeira, CEO of DataCore.

Using the software and an off-the-shelf, dual-CPU PC server, DataCore reported 19,949 Input/Output operations (IOPS), equal or better than the performance of any mid-range and many high-end storage platforms, the company boasts. As a result, DataCore says it has established the lowest price per IOPS in the Storage Performance Council's SPC-1 Benchmark for any conventional disk subsystem, $4.06 per SPC-1 IOPS. Only solid-state storage systems show better price / performance, it says.

Breaking these numbers down,19,949 IOPS for a mid-range to high-end system doesn't appear to be very impressive when compared with other systems. 3PAR's array puts out 100,000 IOPS while StorageTek's D280 is roughly equivalent. EMC's Clariion CX 300 manages 50,000 IOPS. Admittedly, these systems use Fibre Channel which increases performance.

Still, even when compared with comparable purpose-built iSCSI arrays, DataCore's software falls short. According to a recent study undertaken by Enterprise Storage Group, Intransa's iSCSI array puts out 28,000 IOPS on a single controller which the firm says is comparable to other iSCSI arrays from LeftHand Networks and EqualLogic.

"It's a compelling story on price but the performance isn't up to a purpose-built system," says Tony Asaro, senior analyst and manager of ESG's labs. He also questions how easy it is to install and integrate with everything else.

For $1200 SANmelody provides RAID functionality, DateCore's performance acceleration software (basically a caching trick) and the ability to hook the system up over Ethernet to other systems. Snapshot, mirroring, remote mirroring for disaster recovery and high availability functions are available as options and all included will bump the price up to about $20,000.

"It fulfills the promise of iSCSI, it's the lowest cost iSCSI SAN on the market," says Teixeira.

SANmelody has been available on DataCore's website for two weeks and hundreds of companies have downloaded it according to Teixeira. The download is free for 21 days and then customers must purchase a software license.

Lay offs
While the new product is interesting and appears to have lots of potential DataCore is counting on it to revive the company's revenue stream. It's building a new channel to market for this product, via resellers, which has resulted in most of the direct sales team being laid off over the past few months. Just this week DataCore cut another 25 people or about 20% of its workforce.

"The business market is still pretty flimsy," says Teixeira. "I had to bring us as quickly as possible to breakeven and we will be this quarter." He says launching SANMelody allowed him to redeploy staff to focus on reseller and OEM-orientated business. "We are aligned to that now." DataCore's headcount after the reduction stands at about 100 people.

For the full SPC-1 Benchmark report check out the Storage Performance Council web site here.

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