Crossroads Unveils SPHiNX, a New VTL Solution for i OS
September 22, 2009 Alex Woodie
Crossroads Systems last week took the covers off SPHiNX for Power Systems, a new virtual tape library (VTL) offering designed for IBM Power Systems running i OS. The SPHiNX lineup is largely based on the company’s preexisting lineup of Virtual TapeServer (VTS) products, but features some changes in product packaging and lower pricing, in addition to the name change. The announcement was made at the COMMON show in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Crossroads Systems is an accomplished storage technology vendor based in Austin, Texas, that’s looking to grab its share of the growing market for VTL solutions. Earlier this year, we covered the company’s VTS line of products and its business plan for focusing on the IBM Power Systems (System i) market, which the company considers ripe for VTL solutions.
With last week’s SPHiNX for Power Systems announcement at the COMMON Focus and Directions education and training conferences in Indy, Crossroads has re-jiggered its VTL lineup and adjusted pricing and functionality, all with the goal of giving it a stronger competitive edge against the VTL products from FalconStor and others that are also finding their way into AS/400 (System i, iSeries) shops.
The biggest change with the introduction of SPHiNIX is the elimination of the low-end VTL offering, which was previously called UniFlex. The company decided to eliminate the low-end UniFlex product, which previously started at $17,000 for 1.5 TB of disk capacity, primarily due to reliability concerns stemming from the fact that it only had a single power supply, says Crossroads product manager Glenn Haley.
The current SPHiNX for Power Systems lineup is based on the higher-end OmniFlex VTS product that Crossroads previously sold. OmniFlex features redundant power supplies and fans and is more reliable, Haley says.
Crossroads’ SPHiNX offerings will start at $19,950 for 3 TB of usable SCSI disk capacity and 16 virtual tape drives (which emulate LTO 4 tape drives). Customers can upgrade their SPHiNX devices in 3 TB increments all the way to 9 TB. Customers can also get Fibre Channel versions of the SPHiNX devices in increments of 3 TB of usable capacity, all the way up to 9 TB.
For customers that need to go beyond 9 TB, Crossroads offers the XpanDisk card that allows the SPHiNX deviced to connect to external Fibre Channel arrays. The XpanDisk FC card is included with the cost of the device, thereby giving customers freedom to use their own FC disk arrays; there is no XpanDisk for SCSI-based external disk due to speed concerns, Haley says, but a SAS option is in the works. The company also moved from using RAID 10 protection to using RAID 5 data striping.
Crossroads also changed its pricing model–from charging based on the number of virtual tape drives to charging based on the usable disk capacity of the VTL device–to be more competitive in the VTL market.
“We discovered that some customers were putting multiple partitions on their AS/400 and that they wanted to support multiple drives per partition,” Haley says. “From that standpoint, it was getting hard to be an apples-to-apples comparison to most of the competitors in the space. Most vendors are pricing by capacity, so we looked at a capacity-based license model. We’re very confident, based on data points from partners, that SPHiNX for Power Systesms is going to be dollar-per-terabyte price leader.”
Then there is the matter of the name change. Crossroads was running into confusion in the IBM community with the name VTS. As it so happens, IBM uses the acronym VTS to refer to several virtual tape solutions, in its storage and mainframe divisions. To avoid the confusion, Crossroads decided to rename the software SPHiNX, which is a cool and catchy name that, as such, makes it off limits to IBM’s product naming committees.