We chatted with Roger Walton (VP, EMEA) and Gavin McLaughlin (Solutions Development Director) of X-IO a couple of weeks ago to find out more of a company which has rave reviews from one of the users we have been interviewing for our storage hypervisor multi-client research.
The company changed its name from Xiotech to X-IO in 2011, partially because it better reflects its concentration on performance-driven storage. Founded as part of Seagate in 1995, it was spun out in the early 2000s. Roger is a relative newcomer and has been responsible for launching the company in EMEA by focusing on OLTP, Business Intelligence software and VDI solutions.

X-IO claims Hyper ISE balances cost, growth and risk issues well
Its range of storage systems is based on its Intelligent Storage Element (ISE), which ditches controllers and the need to constantly swap data in and out. In 2011 it added Hyper ISE, which accommodates the use of Solid State and Hard Disks in a single unit. X-IO’s Continuous Adaptive Data Placement (CADP) algorithm automatically looks at the data in real time, finds hotspots and provides automatic tiering: it claims its systems will run constantly in high performance mode, even at 100% utilisation.
X-IO offers a 5 year warranty on its products and claims it has only ever had to replace 2 data packs on the 7k ISE systems installed with a total of 1,200 customers to date. We know of one vendor who recently reduced the warranty on its SSD products from 2 to 1 year – not a good sign of its views on reliability.
X-IO argues that its hybrid approach balances cost, growth and risk issues in overcoming storage bottlenecks more effectively than adding pure SSD arrays (as offered by vendors such as Violin Memory, Whiptail, Nimbus and Pure Storage), SSD cards to hosts (Fusion IO), or adding SSD drives to existing SAN storage (EMC FAST, Dell Compellent).

Partners and customers
Its partners include VMware, Citrix, Oracle and Microsoft – the latter used its arrays to demonstrate significantly improved benchmarks for SQL Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 at its TechEd conference this year.
Its customers include Microsoft’s Partner Solutions Center, Redknee (a supplier of communications software) and Temenos (banking software). Before our discussion with X-IO we spoke to a medium-sized customer in the UK who now uses 2 ISE arrays; it was very enthusiastic, having experienced significant performance improvements in its VDI environment and lower costs than its previous arrays, noting that many standard features of its new storage would have been available only as option extras with its previous boxes.

How its approach stands up
X-IO is not a new vendor, it has been building its approach for 15 years; by re-branding under a new name it sits well along side a number of new companies with storage solutions designed to overcome the application bottlenecks associated with advanced virtualisation.
This is not storage hypervising of course, because its ‘secret sauce’ works only inside its own arrays. We have discovered an important group of enterprises and aggregators who’s needs go beyond balancing the needs so ably addressed by X-IO: for them mixing heterogeneous arrays in pools managed by storage hypervisors allows them to address new priorities of array vendor choice, data migration and life cycle management.

Image Credit: Martin Hingley

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