Astute introduces lower-cost MLC option for all-flash appliances

San Diego-based Astute Networks, one of the entrants in the all-flash storage derby, and the only one that had offered solely eMLC flash technology rather than the less expensive MLC flash option, has addressed that issue. Astute now has a less-expensive MLC option available on its ViSX family of appliances.

“Since the time we made our design decision for eMLC flash, advances in MLC have been significant,” Jim Bahn, senior director of product marketing at Astute. That improvement in MLC technology made the price differential for eMLC much more problematic than Astute had anticipated, Bahn added.

“All our competitors were using MLC, and had a price advantage over us,” Bahn said. “Moving to MLC allows us to drop our prices. MLC gets our street price down where we will be hyper-competitive.” For instance, pricing on the ViSX entry level system drops from $49,000 to $32,000 with MLC technology.

Astute will continue to offer a choice of eMLC, for customers who want the higher write endurance eMLC flash.

“There’s almost no overhead for offering both, only a small premium in the test environment,” Bahn said. He noted that their average customer size is not large – typically 2.5 to 10 TB of storage, and that the eMLC will be more attractive at the lower, most price-sensitive levels.

In addition to the eMLC option, Astute also announced the availability of ViSX Replicator, a flash-optimized data availability solution that supports both synchronous and asynchronous replication. The ViSX Replicator software can be deployed in a local or remote redundant configuration for increased overall data availability.

“Replication isn’t bleeding edge at this point, but there are customers who want to get it from the array vendor, and this responds to that demand,” Bahn said.

Bahn said that Astute’s delay in making the less expensive flash available isn’t likely to have any real longer term impact.

“We are still early in this flash market,” he said. “Most people still don’t know much about it.

Bahn also thinks Astute has a market advantage over some other flash competitors because ViSX is offered as a supplement to traditional arrays, not a substitute for them.

“We are not trying to position ourselves as a replacement for an array,” he said. “We tell them they can  put applications on our appliance in the same environment, where they don’t have to worry about tweaking or tiering.”

Astute sells exclusively through partners, and has been adding about 15 per quarter since introducing a partner program late last year.

“Most of our partners are regionally-focused, rather than vertically-focused,” Bahn said. “They bring us in as an alternative and add-on for people with specific problems.

The Astute ViSX Performance Storage Appliance, when combined with the ViSX Performance Dedupe facility, now costs less than $2 per GB at industry-leading IOPS per dollar.

“We had been selling on dollar per IOPS — but  we found that almost no one measures IOPS — so we hadn’t been getting a lot of traction there,” Bahn said. “But they do measure it based on GB, and we now have a strong story there.

The new flash storage modules are available in 400GB, 800GB and 1.9TB capacities which can be mixed and matched within the same ViSX 2U appliance.

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