Reldata has produced a new storage virtualisation controller that it claims will put it on a par with EMC and NetApp.

The IP Storage Gateway 9400 can virtualise a SAN and serve it up as NAS or iSCSI both faster and cheaper than its rivals, the company said.

The device has a stack of connectivity - dual 4Gbit Fibre Channels and two Ultra-SCSI ports for hooking up storage arrays, plus six Gigabit Ethernet ports to deliver the result, once it's all been virtualised and carved into new storage volumes.

Reldata CEO Boris Anderer said that as well as having more bandwidth than its predecessor, the 9400 also has a major firmware upgrade and an update to the Linux 2.6 kernel. "We have significantly improved its performance and reliability, and removed the volume size limitations - iSCSI volumes can now scale to terabytes or even petabyes," he said. "You can also re-size a volume or file system while it's mounted and online," he added, noting that the price is all-inclusive - there are no extra per-user licence costs.

Anderer said that although the 9400 can be used to consolidate, virtualise and manage a user's existing storage arrays, he expects most sales to be part of a complete bundle, alongside disk storage from one of Reldata's partners such as Nexsan, DotHill or LSI Logic.

He claimed Reldata has a significant performance advantage over others such as NetApp because of the way it has built its software. Its core TrueBlock platform virtualises right down at the disk block level, and can do snapshots and replication down there too. By comparison, NetApp and EMC virtualise at the file system level, so their software must first provision disk blocks as a file, and then virtualise that file to appear as the blocks that make up an iSCSI target volume.

"The disadvantage of that is performance because they have to process I/Os as block/file/block, and there's also a reliability problem because if a snapshot is corrupted, you affect the file system itself. We have a full logical volume manager, integrating physical resources into one logical pool of blocks, and then provisioning them as file systems or volumes," Anderer said.

He added that although a 9400 gateway could be used to extend an existing Fibre Channel SAN by adding iSCSI access, IP SANs are now capable of competing with Fibre Channel for new SAN business on a roughly equal footing.

"From a technical perspective, today's high-performance iSCSI SANs come very close to the 2Gig Fibre Channel that most SAN users have, and also provide much lower cost of ownership," he said. "With 10Gig Ethernet, iSCSI will have a significant advantage, even over 4Gig Fibre Channel."

The IP 9400 will be available from 16 December for €25,000 (£17,000).