Building better storage

Editorial Type: Interview Date: 2016-05-01 Views: 1,524 Tags: Storage, HDD, Data Centre, Archival, DAS, AIC, PCICase PDF Version:
Taiwan-based storage/server manufacturer AIC celebrates 20 years in business in 2016. Storage magazine caught up with the company's VP of Sales, David Huang, at Cloud Expo Europe

David Tyler: You are here (at Cloud Expo) with your long-time partners PCICase. Tell us about that relationship, and how important partnerships like this are to your business.
David Huang: AIC has been working with PCICase for around 18 years, they are our main distributor and logistical partner in the UK and central to our business here. We are close partners with the likes of Intel, Hitachi, Seagate, WD, etc. so our chassis are tested with all the latest hard drives and motherboards as they come available. AIC has around 100 dedicated engineers in Taiwan - around 30% of our staff - whose focus is to make sure our new products build on our experience. As a result our customer service is hard to beat.

DT: What technological advances are influencing your product development in 2016?
DH: 12G is now becoming the norm, taking over from 6G. For anything from 12 hard drives all the way up to say 36, 12G is the way to go, but some users are slower on the uptake than others. In larger systems - say 60 or even 90 hard drives - the requirement tends to be long term storage for archive purposes; speed is of less importance to those users.

There is a 'happy medium' though. Where people are looking to future-proof they may well be looking at the 12G chassis - because there are certain advantages to using 12G components with 6G hard drives. Your data throughput will actually be faster, even if you haven't migrated everything to 12G. We have priced our 12G offerings very closely to the 6G equivalents, and we're seeing good take-up in the market.

We have two elements to our 12G offerings. First is the server storage, where the storage is incorporated into the chassis with a motherboard, and then there is the JBOD offering, which is more of a Direct-Attached Storage approach - i.e. no motherboard, just cable connectivity.

DT: What aspects of these products make them stand out in the market?
DH: Our server storage offerings include 2U 24-bay, 2U 12-bay, 3U 16-bay, 4U 24-bay and 4U 36-bay options. One of the key points to emphasise on all these products is that they are largely 'tool-less': this reduces build time, as well as making maintenance much easier and faster. Normally when accessing a server tray the user would have to mess about with 2 or 4 screws every time they replace a hard drive - multiply that by 24, and you can see who much time can potentially be saved with a tool-less design.

We've extended that design innovation to the rack fitting too: the rails are totally tool-less: the inner ones click onto the chassis, the outer ones straight into the rack. We've also made the backplane (into which the HDDs fit) totally tool-less, so if there is a maintenance issue, again you're not having to undo 15 or 20 different screws. With our design you simply pull the drive forward, lift it out, put the new one in, snap it into place. It can take less than five minutes to swap out a drive, where in the old days it could have taken half an hour to do the same job.

On the JBOD side, we've used the same construction know-how: tool-less trays and backplanes. The expanders that go into the chassis at the back are very similar to the access to drives at the front - a thumb-screw mechanism gives easy access to the whole tray, and the expander can be swapped out easily and quickly.

Another interesting aspect to our product is its 'green credentials': the platinum power supplies we use are among the most environmentally friendly you can get.

We have NVMe products available as well: 2U 24-bay, with an option for a dual motherboard. It's possible to split the drives so that some will be NVMe, and some standard 12G SAS, so that 'non-storage' elements like the OS can be kept in a separate part of the chassis.
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