About a month ago I was approached by Matt Mancini and Adam Baum who had read my blog and wanted to invite me to an ATNG meeting in Phoenix. ATNG is a new user group founded in January of 2011 by Matt Mancini who is the former Phoenix VMUG founder that has now founded ATNG, a technology user group that meets once a month to discuss the latest technology trends to include meeting with vendors on occasion. The group is composed of members with technical backgrounds ranging from virtualization (the group’s primary focus), storage and networking. I’ve only attended one meeting, which I believe was the first official ATNG meeting and it was a blast. This meeting’s focus was on virtual I/O and it spotlighted two virtual I/O companies, Xsigo and Virtensys. Both companies were alloted an hour and a half to present their virtual I/O solution to the group. The premise of this meeting was for each company to present their virtual I/O solution, without the typical marketing bloat, along with a given scenario in which their solution would best perform. I’m impressed with Matt and the rest of the founding members of ATNG for putting this together and inviting two companies who are both incredible in their own way.

Xsigo Systems Presentation
The Xsigo presentation was given by Joel Epstein, the Managing Sales Engineer for North America. Right off the bat, Joel pointed out that Xsigo is pronounced “Seego”, which seems to be a point of contention with Joel as I’m sure he’s heard every possible pronunciation possible, “drop the X, and you have Sigo” at least that’s how Joel put it. According to Matt (ATNG founder), each of the companies were not supposed to touch on marketing at all, literally zero marketing, but alas this was not the case with Xsigo. The thing with Xsigo is their product speaks for itself, if you understand the technology, you know that it sells itself. That being said, Joel brought the marketing slides in tow, a big no-no with ATNG. I want to say at least 60% of the presentation was marketing centric, then towards the end it got technical but not technical enough. Not only was there far too much marketing talk, Joel had at least 3 slides that either mentioned Gartner or contained quotes from Gartner analysts, a faux pas with us technical types as evidenced at Tech Field Day 5 in back in February of this year.

Like I said earlier, Xsigo’s products and technology sells itself, and it sold me again at the ATNG meeting. One of the first questions that Joel brought up was “what are your pain points?” This is a great question, it made me think about my own datacenter. The pain points he mentioned were resource utilization, budget pressure and complexity. I’m sure we all deal with these issues in our datacenters. His argument is that by implementing Xsigo hardware in your datacenter you can alleviate those pain points immediately. Joel did bring along one of Xsigo’s I/O Director VP780, which is an incredible piece of hardware. With Xsigo you are in fact virtualizing your datacenter’s I/O which is incredible. Xsigo allows you to push back virtual NICs and HBAs as well as deploy MAC addresses and WWN directly from the chassis. As a datacenter administrator, this is a very attractive solution.

Okay, let’s actually get to the hardware, yes Joel did bring some hardware with him to display. The hardware he brought was the Xsigo I/O Director VP780, which is a sweet piece of hardware. It is a 4U rack mountable

Xsigo VP780 I/O Director
chassis (note: Matt pointed out that you have to add a U when racking, it’s actually a 5U chassis), which is actually “the industry worst racking standard” according to Joel. The box comes empty with 15 I/O module slots, the available I/O modules are 10-port Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Dual 4 Gigabit Fibre Channel. For server connectivity only Xsigo lets you connect to servers via standard 1G and 10G server ports. No need to add cards such as converged network adapters. What is also really cool about the I/O director is that the Xsigo driver resides on each server. It creates virtual NICs and HBAs under the control of the Xsigo I/O Director, replacing the standard NIC and HBA drivers. Xsigo also has a proprietary management software suite called Xsigo Management Software or XMS. With XMS you can manage up to 2,000 Xsigo systems, which is great but a license is required for each chassis that you manage, which I don’t like. Xsigo also has a vCenter plugin for XMS which Joel spent all of 1 minute on during the presentation, that was disappointing.

The Case For Xsigo
What I liked about Xsigo’s presentation was the case study that they provided of an actual customer using the Xsigo VPX780 I/O director. The company is Disney Internet Media Group, and this is a break down of how Xsigo helped to streamline their datacenter:

Without Xsigo
-192 fibre channel Mezzanine Cards
-48 switch modules
-48 fibre channel pass through modules
-384 fibre channel director ports
-48 10G ports
-408 cables
Total capital cost: $2,085,000

With Xsigo
-192 InfiniBand Mezzanine cards
-48 InfiniBand switch modules
-No pass through modules
-8 fibre channel director ports
-4 10G ports
-60 cables
Total capital cost: $668,000

As you can see, with an actual client’s results, Xsigo does bring great ROI immediately upon implementing in your datacenter. To summarize, why should you buy Xsigo? Here’s three reasons I can think of off the top of my head are, 1. I/O mapping-visualize and manager you entire I/O infrastructure on a single screen 2. Fast moves, adds and changes allow you to manage connectivity on live servers with minimal to zero downtime and 3. Investment protection, Xsigo can easily upgrade to support the latest technology, plug in a new I/O module and all servers have immediate access to the new technology. The verdict, buy Xsigo! As an administrator it will make you life easier, your budget lighter and your cabling mess much cleaner.

Greg W Stuart
Greg is the owner and editor of vDestination.com. He's been a VMware vExpert every year since 2011. Greg enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids. He works as a Sr. Consultant at VMware and resides in Northern Virginia, 15 minutes west of Washington DC.

2 thoughts on “Xsigo: A Closer Look at Virtual I/O

  1. Thanks for the comments about ATNG, your right it was our first meeting and the foundation members and myself (Matt Mancini) are VERY dedicated to keep OUT SALES AND MARKETING. We could have done a better job with explaining our intentions to Xsigo, lesson learned and we will improve the group over time. It will only get better from here!

    IF any of your readers want to start an ATNGroup in their area, contact me at http://www.atngroups.com

    Greg – Thanks for your support and see you at our next meeting!

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