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Cloud firm Backbone relegates X-IO SAN with Atlantis tiered storage

London-based Backbone uses Atlantis USX as storage virtualisation layer on top of PCIe flash and X-IO and as a stepping stone to hyper-converged infrastructures

Cloud and hybrid services provider Backbone has deployed Atlantis USX software-defined storage as a virtualisation layer above existing X-IO SAN storage and server-based flash.

In doing so, it has cut storage capacity needs by 75% and has made its first steps towards hyper-converged infrastructure for the company.

Backbone is based in London and has support operations in Bulgaria. It provides general IT services through the cloud, on-premise and as a hybrid of the two. Clients are mostly small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and virtual desktop service provision is increasingly important.

Services are delivered from Backbone’s (mostly) VMware infrastructure at two UK datacentres, with 500 virtual machines on 50 physical servers.

Since inception the company had relied on SAN storage but had begun to run into limitations with its latest SAN infrastructure, with X-IO arrays.

CTO Praveet Zain said this was because a traditional SAN is not flexible enough for a cloud service pay-as-you-go environment and X-IO doesn’t support data deduplication and compression.

“Not having deduplication meant extra cost for us while adding it to the storage would mean degraded performance,” he said.

Zain’s team looked at various systems to its storage-related limitations. These included traditional SANs from Hewlett Packard and NetApp that were rejected on grounds of being hardware-based and a fear of supplier lock-in.

Open source storage from OpenStack’s Cinder was also rejected because Backbone lacked in-house OpenStack storage skills and because some customers were nervous about use of open source.

More on hyper-converged infrastructure

“Our customers want to know what happens behind the scenes and what infrastructure we use,” said Zain.

Backbone has deployed Atlantis USX on six servers. It acts as storage virtualisation on 20 servers with 700GB of flash – protected by Raid 5 between them – while the company’s existing SAN operates as a bulk storage tier.

Currently, Atlantis mostly helps provide storage for Backbone’s desktop-as-a-service offering and uses data deduplication to cut down on storage requirements for multiple virtual desktops. Zain said he has achieved upwards of 80% data reduction in this environment over the flash and bulk SAN tiers of storage.

“Atlantis has accelerated storage from our Fibre Channel SAN and given us better IOPS per volume [40,000 IOPS per 2TB volume] because of the flash memory installed on hosts that Atlantis is deployed on,” he said.

Zain said Backbone deployed Atlantis as a stepping stone on the way to fully moving over to a hyper-converged infrastructure. Currently, the Fibre Channel X-IO SAN acts as bulk storage, but when it is out of warranty Backbone will replace it with JBOD or cheap SATA storage and manage it from Atlantis.

“Hyper-converged infrastructure is something we hope to move to in full as our Fibre Channel storage hits end-of-warranty,” said Zain. “We look at the bigger cloud operators – such as Google – and see hyper-converged proving itself and becoming more stable.”

Hyper-converged infrastructure combines compute, storage and networking in one box. This is a trend in part inspired by the modular hyperscale architectures pioneered by web giants Google and Facebook, for example.

Atlantis Computing’s USX software-defined storage platform comes at hyper-convergence from the perspective of storage. It is highly scalable and flexible and can create hyper-converged infrastructure from existing resources by pooling server-side flash and bringing existing SAN and NAS capacity into its distributed file system.

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