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Astute Networks

Astute is the leading provider of performance storage appliances for physical and virtual environments that increase performance, enhance user productivity, and lower IT costs.

The company's ViSX family of Networked Flash appliances is based on a 100% solid state flash technology that cost–effectively delivers a high number of sustained IOPS to dramatically increase application performance. Powered by its patented DataPump Engine™, ViSX overcomes performance limitations by non-disruptively delivering shared performance to all servers and virtual machines over Ethernet networks. As an iSCSI attached device, ViSX is primarily focused on mid-market customers and is available through the company's network of authorized AstuteNet channel partners. Headquarted in San Diego, Ca, it's largest investors are Samsung Ventures, Tallwood Venture Capital, Narra Venture Capital, and ICCP Venture Partners.

see also:- Astute Networks - editor mentions on StorageSearch.com, Astute's SSD blog

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Astute Networks - recent mentions in SSD market history

In February 2009 - Astute Networks launched a SAS compatible SSD Storage Blade for use with Sun servers.

In May 2011 - among other things - Astute Networks was marketing a 3U SSD accleration appliance for VMware - which offers 4.8TB of iSCSI compatible storage.

In April 2013 - Astute Networks launched new models in their ViSX family of fast-enough iSCSI rackmount SSDs - which have upto 45TB of raw SSD storage in a 2U rack which with dedupe enabled can deliver $2,000 / TB and even with dedupe switched off - comes in at about $5,000 / TB while being able to offer more than double the IOPS of much higher priced competing SSD systems.

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"Adding SSDs to traditional SANS is like driving a racecar on a dirt road"
Was an interesting quote I found in a 2011 whitepaper from Astute called - Storage-bound Random I/O and the Need for Performance VM Datastores - the Promises and Pitfalls of Virtualization (pdf).

Astute has removed this from their web site - possibly because it included some outdated projections about the market penetration of VM technology - and the ageing of some of the SSD vs HDD comparisons which were made at that time. Nevertheless I still like the sentiments revealed in the quote .
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"iSCSI used to be a yawn zone for SSD developments. But no longer. These 6 companies are worth knowing about if you have any iSCSI related plans.
Editor:- June 10, 2013 - iSCSI SSD market
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...Next on the SSD world domination agenda - create better value in the cost sensitive iSCSI market
Editor:- April 23, 2013 - The iSCSI market hasn't been a fertile business development ground for SSD sales - a factor which I ascribe to the mood prevailing at its birth.

At the start of 2001 - when the idea of iSCSI first attracted interest on the web - the storage market was still in a recession which would continue for another 2 years. Users could buy new or little used servers and storage recycled from the spending spree of failed dotcom companies for next to nothing. There was already a proven fast way of doing fast network storage - fibre-channel which had been around since 1994 (but it was complex to set up). Those various factors meant that iSCSI evolved - by necessity - into a cheap, simple to set up and maintain storage ecosystem for frugal applications which needed data.

Although there was nothing hard wired into the technology which prevented it from being scaled up - most of the early attempts by vendors to nudge iSCSI into the fast lane with dedicated hardware accelerators failed. There was no real customer appetite in the iSCSI base to encourage vendors to push for fast random IOPS or low latency. iSCSI was the frugal way of doing complicated network storage.

That's another reason why - prior to 2013 - none of the top 10 enterprise pure SSD array companies started in iSCSI. There wasn't enough market demand for the kind of low latency and fast IOPS which could open enough doors for SSDs in storage cabinets to make it worthwhile. Instead, most of the iSCSI arrays which have been in the market until recently were originally developed around technology optimized for FC SAN or were simply iSCSI HDD arrays with some SSDs thrown into some of the bays. When you saw "iSCSI" on the datasheet of a fast SSD you knew it had most likely been added to a model which had already been optimized for another market.

You could say that iSCSI has been a safe haven for enterprise hard drives - because whenever there has been a tension in the feature set between the cost of incremental capacity versus the value of incremental performance - it was cost - and getting the cost down as low as possible - which usually won.

I explained in my Petabyte SSD roadmap article a few years ago why one day - even the mantle of low cost per raw terabyte wouldn't be enough to protect delinquently slow and ineffcient hard drives from being evicted from enterprise network storage racks. And this culture shock will be knocking at the door of the iSCSI market from various different vendor directions in the coming year - with increasing urgency.

I was pondering these factors last week when I was waiting to dial Len Rosenthal, Senior VP Marketing Astute Networks who wanted to talk about the launch of new models in their ViSX family of fast-enough iSCSI rackmount SSDs - which have upto 45TB of raw SSD storage in a 2U rack which with dedupe enabled can deliver $2,000 / TB and even with dedupe switched off - comes in at about $5,000 / TB while being able to offer more than double the IOPS of much higher priced competing SSD systems.

The first thing I asked about was the company's iSCSI accelerator chip - which is one of the two technology factors which give them an edge in iSCSI. I had heard about it many years ago - but the company doesn't say much about it now. Len told me they were now on the 3rd generation of their iSCSI accelerator chip. The 1st generation had been designed for a US Navy project to enable fast access to embedded storage located around a ship while using COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) servers and storage.

In Astute's current ViSX systems I think you can view the iSCSI accelerator as being the technology which buys the time (in latency cost) which can then be spent on dependable real-time dedupe.

Len told me that although Astute have always known this gives them a theoretical performance advantage compared to competitors who use similar types of flash - it's only when he engaged Demartek to do some comparative testing recently and gave them a free hand to explore the differences - that they realized just how good their systems were. (I've seen summaries of these benchmarks - and they do confirm the advantages of the iSCSI silicon.)

Astute's new systems do now seem to offer a hard to beat SSD package for users in the mainstream iSCSI market. Len described this as "making flash affordable for the mid market."

Astute's earlier generations of iSCSI flash were too expensive for most users. But the current generation - not only offers attractive pricing - but comes with proven technologies - and cost effective replication - by what the company calls "high availability groups" (pdf)- which enables users to choose which systems provide failover clustering - and whether that's local or remote. In addition to providing data continuity when things fail - this scheme can also provide load balancing and imporved performance in the normal (unfailed) state.

One of the things which came across clearly from talking to Len is that Astute Networks is totally focused on the iSCSI SSD market. They know the market, they know the apps - and they aim to be one of the leading suppliers in this niche. For them iSCSI isn't something on the tick list - it's the whole list.
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