VM working set inflection points & SSD caching – chart-of-the-month

Attended SNW USA a couple of weeks ago and talked with Irfan Ahmad, Founder/CTO of CloudPhysics, a new Management-as-a-Service offering for VMware. He took out a chart which I found very interesting which I reproduce below as my Chart of the Month for October.

© 2013 CloudPhysics, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Above is a plot of a typical OLTP like application’s IO activity fed into CloudPhysics’ SSD caching model. (I believe this is a read-only SSD cache although they have write-back and write-through SSD caching models as well.)

On the horizontal access is SSD cache size in MB and ranges from 0MB to 3,500MB. On the left vertical access is % of application IO activity which is cache hits. On the right vertical access is the amount of data that comes out of cache in MB, which ranges from 0MB to 18,000MB.

The IO trace was for a 24-hour period and shows how much of the application’s IO workload that could be captured and converted to (SSD) cache hits given a certain sized cache.

The other thing that would have been interesting is to tell the size of the OLTP database that’s being used by the application, it could easily be 18GB or TBs in size, we don’t see that here.

Analyzing the chart

First, in the mainframe era (we’re still there, aren’t we), the rule of thumb was doubling cache size should increase cache hit rate by 10%.

Second, I don’t understand why at 0MB of cache the cache hit rate is ~25%. From my perspective, at 0MB of cache the hit rate should be 0%.  Seems like a bug in the model but that aside the rest of the curve is very interesting.

Somewhere around 500MB of cache there is a step function where cache hit rate goes from ~30% to ~%50.  This is probably some sort of DB index that has been moved into cache and has now become cache hits.

As for the rule of thumb, going from 500MB to 1000MB doesn’t seem to do much, maybe it increases the cache hit ration by a few %. And doubling it again (to 2000MB), only seems to get you another percent or two of more cache hit rates.

But moving to the 2300MB size cache gets you over 80% cache hit rate. I would have to say the rule of thumb doesn’t work well for this workload.

Not sure what the step up really represents from the OLTP workload perspective but at 80% cache hit, most of the database tables that are accessed more frequently must reside now in cache. Prior to this cache size (<2300MB) all of those tables apparently just didn’t fit in cache, thus, as one was being accessed and moved into cache, another was being pushed out of cache causing a read miss the next time it was accessed. After this cache size (>=2300MB), all these frequently accessed tables could now remain in cache, resulting in the ~80% cache hit rate seen on the chart.

Irfan said that they do not display the chart in CloudPhysics solution but rather display the inflection points. That is their solution would say something like at 500MB of SSD the traced application should see ~50% cache hit rate and at 2300MB of SSD the application should generate ~80% cache hits.  This nets it out for the customer but hides the curve above and the underlying complexity.

Caching models & application working sets …

With CloudPhysics SSD trace simulation Card (caching model) and the ongoing lightweight IO trace collection (IO tracing) available with their service, any VM’s working set can be understood at this fine level of granularity. The advantage of CloudPhysics is that with these tools, one could determine the optimum sized cache required to generate some level of cache hits.

I would add some cautions to the above:

  • The results shown here are based on a CloudPhysics SSD caching model.  Not all SSDs cache in the same way, and there can be quite a lot of sophistication in caching algorithms (having worked on a few in my time). So although,  from this may show the hit rate for a simplistic SSD cache, it could easily under or over estimate real cache hit rates, perhaps by a significant amount. The only way to validate CloudPhysics SSD simulation model is to put a physical cache in at the appropriate size and measure the VM’s cache hit rate.
  • Real caching algorithms have a number of internal parameters which can impact cache hit rates. Not the least of which is the size of the IO block being cached. This can be (commonly) fixed  or (rarely) variable in length. But there are plenty of others which can adversely impact cache hit rates as well for differing workloads.
  • Real caches have a warm up period. During this time the cache is filling up with tracks which may never be referenced again. Some warm up periods take minutes while some I have seen take weeks or longer. The simulation is for 24 hours only, unclear how the hit rate would be impacted if the trace/simulation was for longer or shorter periods.
  • Caching IO activity can introduce a positive (or negative) feedback into any application’s IO stream. If without a cache, an index IO took, let’s say 10 msec to complete and now with an appropriate sized cache, it takes 10 μseconds to complete, the application users are going to complete more transactions, faster. As this takes place, then database IO activity will be change from what it looked like without any caching. Also even the non-cache hits should see some speedup, because the amount of IO issued to the backend storage is reduced substantially.  At some point this all reaches some sort of stasis and we have an ongoing cache hit rate. But the key it’s unlikely to be an exact cache hit match to using a trace and model to predict it. The point is that adding cache to any application environment has affects which are chaotic in nature and inherently difficult to model.

Nonetheless, I like what I see here. I believe it would be useful to understand a bit more about CloudPhysics caching model’s algorithm, the size of the application’s database being traced here, and how well their predictions actually matched up to physical cache’s at the sizes recommended.

… the bottom line

Given what I know about caching in the real world, my suggestion is to take the cache sizes recommended here as a bottom end estimate and the cache hit predictions as a top end estimate of what could be obtained with real SSD caches.  I would increase the cache size recommendations somewhat and expect something less than the cache hits they predicted.

In any case, having application (even VM) IO traces like this that could be accessed and used to drive caching simulation models should be a great boon to storage developers everywhere. I can only hope that server side SSDs and caching storage  vendors supply their own proprietary cache model cards that can be supplied with CachePhysics Cards so that potential customers could use their application traces with the vendor cards to predict what their hardware can do for an application.

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Image:  Chart courtesy of and use approved by CloudPhysics

Fall SNWUSA 2013

Here’s my thoughts on SNWUSA which occurred this past week in the Long Beach Convention Center.

First, it was a great location. I saw a number of users I haven’t seen at SNWUSA ever before, some of which I have known for years from other (non-storage) venues.

Second, the exhibit hall was scantly populated. There were no major storage vendors at the show at all. Gold sponsors included NEC, Riverbed, & Sepaton, representing the largest exhibiters presenn. Making up the next (Contributing) tier were Western Digital, Toshiba, Active Archive Alliance, and LTO consortium with a smattering of smaller companies.  Finally, there were another 12 vendors with kiosks around the floor, with the largest there being Veeam Software.

I suspect VMWorld Europe happening the same time in Barcelona might have had something to do with the sparse exhibit floor but the trend has been present for the past few shows.

That being said there were still a few surprises in store, at least for me.  Two of the most interesting ones were:

  • Coho Data who came out of stealth with a scale out, RAIN (Redundant array of independent nodes) based storage cluster, with distributed, mirrored customer data across nodes and software defined networking. They currently support NFS for VMware with a management UI reminiscent of IOS 7 sans touch support. The product comes as a series of nodes with SSDs, disk storage and SDN. The SDN allows Coho Data to relocate front-end (client) connections to where the customer data lies. The distributed, mirrored backend storage provides redundancy in the case of a node/disk failure, at which time the system understands what data is now at risk and rebuilds the now-mirorless data onto other nodes. It reminds me a lot of Bycast/Archivas like architectures, with SDN and NFS support. I suppose the reason they are supporting VMware VMDKs is that the files are fairly large and thus easier to supply.
  • Cloud Physics was not exhibiting but they sponsored a break. As such, they were there talking with analysts and the press about their product. Their product installs as a VMware VM service and propagates VMware management agents to ESX servers which then pipe information back to their app about how your VMware environment is running, how VMs are performing, how your network and storage are performing for the VMs running, etc. This data is then sent to the cloud, where it’s anonymized. In the cloud, customers can use apps (called Cards) to analyze this data in the cloud, which can help them understand problem areas, predict what configuration changes can do for them, show them how VMs are performing, etc. It essentially is logging all this information to the cloud and providing ways to analyze the data to optimize your VMware environment.

Coming in just behind these two was Jeda Networks with their Software Defined Storage Network (SDSN). They use commodity (OpenFlow compatible) 10GbE switches to support a software FCoE storage SAN. Jeda Networks say that over the past two years,  most 10GbE switch hardware have started to support DCB in hardware and with that in place, plus OpenFlow compatibility, they can provide a SDSN on top of them just by emulating a control layer for FCoE switches. Of course one would still need FCoE storage and CNAs but with that in place one could use much cheaper switches to support FCoE.

CloudPhysics has a subscription based pricing model which offers three tiers:

  • Free where you get their Vapp, the management agents and a defined set of Free Card Apps for no cost;
  • Standard level where you get all the above plus a set of Card Apps which provide more VMware managability for $50/ESX server/Month; and
  • Enterprise level where you get all the above plus all the Card Apps presently available for $150/ESX server/Month.

Jeda networks and Coho Data are still developing their pricing and had none they were willing to disclose.

One of the CloudPhysics Card apps could predict how certain VMs would benefit from host based (PCIe or SSD) IO caching. They had a chart which showed working set inflection points for (I think) one VM running an OLTP application.  I have asked for this chart to discuss further in a future post.  But although CloudPhysics has the data to produce such a chart, the application shows three potential break points where say adding 500MB, 2000MB or 10000MB of SSD cache can speed up application performance by 10%, 30% or 50% (numbers here made up for example purposes and not off the chart they showed me).

A few other companies made announcements at the show. For example, Sepaton announced their new VirtuoSO, scale out hybrid reduplication appliance.

That’s about it. I would have to say that SNW needs to rethink their business model, frequency of stows or what they are trying to do at their conferences. However, on the plust side, most of the users I talked with came away with a lot of information and thought the show was worthwhile and I came away with a few surprises.



SNWUSA Spring 2013 summary

SNWUSA, SNIA, partyFor starters the parties were a bit more subdued this year although I heard Wayne’s suite was hopping to 4am last night (not that I would ever be there that late).

And a trend seen the past couple of years was even more evident this year, many large vendors and vendor spokespeople went missing. I heard that there were a lot more analyst presentations this SNW than prior ones although it was hard to quantify.  But it did seem that the analyst community was pulling double duty in presentations.

I would say that SNW still provides a good venue for storage marketing across all verticals. But these days many large vendors find success elsewhere, leaving SNW Expo mostly to smaller vendors and niche products.  Nonetheless, there were a\ a few big vendors (Dell, Oracle and HP) still in evidence. But EMC, HDS, IBM and NetApp were not   showing on the floor.

I would have to say the theme for this years SNW was hybrid storage. It seemed last fall the products that impressed me were either cloud storage gateways or all flash arrays but this year there weren’t as many of these at the show but hybrid storage certainly has arrived.

Best hybrid storage array of the show

It’s hard to pick just one hybrid storage vendor as my top pick, especially since there were at least 3 others talking to me under NDA, but from my perspective the Hybrid vendor of the show had to be Tegile (pronounced I think, as te’-jile). They seemed to have a fully functional system with snapshot, thin provisioning, deduplication and pretty good VMware support (only time I have heard a vendor talk about VASA “stun” support for thin provisioned volumes).

They made the statement that SSD in their system is used as a cache, not a tier. This use is similar to NetApp’s FlashCache and has proven to be a particularly well performing approach to use of hybrid storage. (For more information on that take a look at some of my NFS and recent SPC-1 benchmark review dispatches. How well this is integrated with their home grown dedupe logic is another question.

On the negative side, they seem to be lacking a true HA/dual controller version but could use two separate systems with synch (I think) replication between them to cover this ground?? They also claimed their dedupe had no performance penalty, a pretty bold claim that cries out for some serious lab validation and/or benchmarking to prove. They also offer an all flash version of their storage (but then how can it be used as a cache?).

The marketing team seemed pretty knowledgeable about the market space and they seem to be going after mid-range storage space.

The product supports file (NFS and CIFS/SMB), iSCSI and FC with GigE, 10GbE and 8Gbps FC. They quote “effective” capacities with dedupe enabled but it can be disabled on a volume basis.

Overall, I was impressed by their marketing and the product (what little I saw).

Best storage tool of the show

Moving onto other product categories, it was hard to see anything that caught my eye. Perhaps I have just been to too many storage conferences but I did get somewhat excited when I looked at SwiftTest.  Essentially they offer a application profiling, storage modeling, workload generating tool set.

The team seems to be branching out of their traditional vendor market focus and going after large service providers and F100 companies with large storage requirements.

Way back, when I was in Engineering, we were always looking for some information as to how customers actually used storage products. Well what SwiftTest has, is an appliance to instrument your application environment (through network taps/hardware port connections) to monitor your storage IO and create a statistical operational profile of your I/O environment. Then take that profile and play it against a storage configuration model to show how well it’s likely to perform.  And if that’s not enough the same appliance can be used to drive a simulated version of the operational profile back onto a storage system.

It offers NFS (v2,v3, v4) CIFS/SMB (SMB1, SMB2, SMB3) FC, iSCSI, and HTTP/REST (what no FCoe?). They mentioned an $8oK price tag for the base appliance (one protocol?) but grows up pretty fast, if you want all of them.  They also seem to have three levels of appliances (my guess more performance and more protocols come with the bigger boxes).

Not sure where they top out but simulating an operational profile can be quite complex especially when you have to be able to control data patterns to match deduplication potential in customer data, drive markov chains with probability representations of operational profiles, and actually execute IO operations. They said something about their ports have dedicated CPU cores to insure adequate performance or something similar but still it seems to little to hit high IO workloads.

Like I said, when I was in engineering were searching for this type of solution back in the late 90s and we would have probably bought it in a moment, if it was available.

GoDaddy.com, the domain/web site services provider was one of their customers that used the appliance to test storage configurations. They presented at SNW on some of their results but I missed their session (the case study is available on SwiftTests website).


In short, SNW had a diverse mixture of end user customers but lacked a full complement of vendors to show off to them.   The ratio of vendors to customers has definitely shifted to end-users the last couple of years and if anything has gotten more skewed to end-users, (which paradoxically should appeal to more storage vendors?!).

I talked with lots of end-users, from companies like FedEx, Northrop Grumman and AOL to name just a few big ones. But there were plenty of smaller ones as well.

The show lasted three days and had sessions scheduled all the way to the end. I was surprised at the length and the fact that it started on Tuesday rather than Monday as in years past.  Apparently, SNIA and Computerworld are still tweaking the formula.

It seemed to me there were more cancelled sessions than in years past but again this was hard to quantify.

Some of the customers I talked with thought SNW should go to a once a year and can’t understand why it’s still twice a year.  Many mentioned VMworld as having taken the place of SNW in being a showplace for storage vendors of all sizes and styles.  That and the vendor specific shows from EMC, IBM, Dell and others.

The fall show is moving to Long Beach, CA. Probably, a further experiment to find a formula that works.  Let’s hope they succeed.



Fall SNWUSA wrap-up

Attended SNWUSA this week in San Jose,  It’s hard to see the show gradually change when you attend each one but it does seem that the end-user content and attendance is increasing proportionally.  This should bode well for future SNWs. Although, there was always a good number of end users at the show but the bulk of the attendees in the past were from storage vendors.

Another large storage vendor dropped their sponsorship.  HDS no longer sponsors the show and the last large vendor still standing at the show is HP.  Some of this is cyclical, perhaps the large vendors will come back for the spring show, next year in Orlando, Fl.  But EMC, NetApp and IBM seemed to have pretty much dropped sponsorship for the last couple of shows at least.

SSD startup of the show

Skyhawk hardware (c) 2012 Skyera, all rights reserved (from their website)
Skyhawk hardware (c) 2012 Skyera, all rights reserved (from their website)

The best, new SSD startup had to be Skyera. A 48TB raw flash dual controller system supporting iSCSI block protocol and using real commercial grade MLC.  The team at Skyera seem to be all ex-SandForce executives and technical people.

Skyera’s team have designed a 1U box called the Skyhawk, with  a phalanx of NAND chips, there own controller(s) and other logic as well. They support software compression and deduplication as well as a special designed RAID logic that claims to reduce extraneous write’s to something just over 1 for  RAID 6, dual drive failure equivalent protection.

Skyera’s underlying belief is that just as consumer HDAs took over from the big monster 14″ and 11″ disk drives in the 90’s sooner or later commercial NAND will take over from eMLC and SLC.  And if one elects to stay with the eMLC and SLC technology you are destined to be one to two technology nodes behind. That is, commercial MLC (in USB sticks, SD cards etc) is currently manufactured with 19nm technology.  The EMLC and SLC NAND technology is back at 24 or 25nm technology.  But 80-90% of the NAND market is being driven by commercial MLC NAND.  Skyera came out this past August.

Coming in second place was Arkologic an all flash NAS box using SSD drives from multiple vendors. In their case a fully populated rack holds about 192TB (raw?) with an active-passive controller configuration.  The main concern I have with this product is that all their metadata is held in UPS backed DRAM (??) and they have up to 128GB of DRAM in the controller.

Arkologic’s main differentiation is supporting QOS on a file system basis and having some connection with a NIC vendor that can provide end to end QOS.  The other thing they have is a new RAID-AS which is special designed for Flash.

I just hope their USP is pretty hefty and they don’t sell it someplace where power is very flaky, because when that UPS gives out, kiss your data goodbye as your metadata is held nowhere else – at least that’s what they told me.

Cloud storage startup of the show

There was more cloud stuff going on at the show. Talked to at least three or four cloud gateway providers.  But the cloud startup of the show had to be Egnyte.  They supply storage services that span cloud storage and on premises  storage with an in band or out-of-band solution and provide file synchronization services for file sharing across multiple locations.  They have some hooks into NetApp and other major storage vendor products that allows them to be out-of-band for these environments but would need to be inband for other storage systems.  Seems an interesting solution that if succesful may help accelerate the adoption of cloud storage in the enterprise, as it makes transparent whether storage you access is local or in the cloud. How they deal with the response time differences is another question.

Different idea startup of the show

The new technology showplace had a bunch of vendors some I had never heard of before but one that caught my eye was Actifio. They were at VMworld but I never got time to stop by.  They seem to be taking another shot at storage virtualization. Only in this case rather than focusing on non-disruptive file migration they are taking on the task of doing a better job of point in time copies for iSCSI and FC attached storage.

I assume they are in the middle of the data path in order to do this and they seem to be using copy-on-write technology for point-in-time snapshots.  Not sure where this fits, but I suspect SME and maybe up to mid-range.

Most enterprise vendors have solved these problems a long time ago but at the low end, it’s a little more variable.  I wish them luck but although most customers use snapshots if their storage has it, those that don’t, seem unable to understand what they are missing.  And then there’s the matter of being in the data path?!


If there was a hybrid startup at the show I must have missed them. Did talk with Nimble Storage and they seem to be firing on all cylinders.  Maybe someday we can do a deep dive on their technology.  Tintri was there as well in the new technology showcase and we talked with them earlier this year at Storage Tech Field Day.

The big news at the show was Microsoft purchasing StorSimple a cloud storage gateway/cache.  Apparently StorSimple did a majority of their business with Microsoft’s Azure cloud storage and it seemed to make sense to everyone.

The SNIA suite was hopping as usual and the venue seemed to work well.  Although I would say the exhibit floor and lab area was a bit to big. But everything else seemed to work out fine.

On Wednesday, the CIO from Dish talked about what it took to completely transform their IT environment from a management and leadership perspective.  Seemed like an awful big risk but they were able to pull it off.

All in all, SNW is still a great show to learn about storage technology at least from an end-user perspective.  I just wish some more large vendors would return once again, but alas that seems to be a dream for now.

New cloud storage and Hadoop managed service offering from Spring SNW

Strange Clouds by michaelroper (cc) (from Flickr)
Strange Clouds by michaelroper (cc) (from Flickr)

Last week I posted my thoughts on Spring SNW in Dallas, but there were two more items that keep coming back to me (aside from the tornados).  The first was a new startup called Symform in cloud storage and the other was an announcement from SunGard about their new Hadoop managed services offering.


Symform offers an interesting alternative on cloud storage that avoids the build up of large multi-site data centers and uses your desktop storage as a sort of crowd-sourced storage cloud, sort of bit-torrent cloud storage.

You may recall I discussed such a Peer-to-Peer cloud storage and computing services in a posting a couple of years ago.  It seems Symform has taken this task on, at least for storage.

A customer downloads (Windows or Mac) software which is installed and executes on your desktop.  The first thing you have to do after providing security credentials is to identify which directories will be moved to the cloud and the second is to tell whether you wish to contribute to Symform’s cloud storage and where this storage is located.  Symform maintains a cloud management data center which records all the metadata about your cloud resident data and everyone’s contributed storage space.

Symform cloud data is split up into 64MB blocks and encrypted (AES-256) using a randomly generated key (known only to Symform). Then this block is broken up into 64 fragments with 32 parity fragments (using erasure coding) added to the stream which is then written to 96 different locations.  With this arrangement, the system could potentially lose 31 fragments out of the 96 and still reconstitute your 64MB of data.  The metadata supporting all this activity sits in Symform’s data center.

Unclear to me what you have to provide as far as ongoing access to your contributed storage.  I would guess you would need to provide 7X24 access to this storage but the 32 parity fragments are there for possible network/power failures outside your control.

Cloud storage performance is an outcome of the many fragments that are disbursed throughout their storage cloud world. It’s similar to a bit torrent stream with all 96 locations participating in reconstituting your 64MB of data.  Of course, not all 96 locations have to be active just some > 64 fragment subset but it’s still cloud storage so data access latency is on the order of internet time (many seconds).  Nonetheless, once data transfer begins, throughput performance can be pretty high, which means your data should arrive shortly thereafter.

Pricing seemed comparable to other cloud storage services with a monthly base access fee and a storage amount fee over that.  But, you can receive significant discounts if you contribute storage and your first 200GB is free as long as you contribute 200GB of storage space to the Symform cloud.

Sungard’s new Apache Hadoop managed service

Hadoop Logo (from http://hadoop.apache.org website)
Hadoop Logo (from http://hadoop.apache.org website)

We are well aware of Sungard’s business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) services, an IT mainstay for decades now. But sometime within the last decade or so Sungard has been expanding outside this space by moving into managed availability services.

Apparently this began when Sungard noticed the number of new web apps being deployed each year exceeded the number of client server apps. Then along came virtualization, which reduced the need for lots of server and storage hardware for BC/DR.

As evident of this trend, last year Sungard announced a new enterprise class computing cloud service.  But in last week’s announcement, Sungard has teamed up with EMC Greenplum to supply an enterprise ready Apache Hadoop managed service offering.

Recall, that EMC Greenplum is offering their own Apache Hadoop supported distribution, Greenplum HD.  Sungard is basing there service on this distribution. But there’s more.

In conjunction with Hadoop, Sungard adds Greenplum appliances.  With this configuration Sungard can load Hadoop processed and structured data into a Greenplum relational database for high performance data analytics.  Once there, any standard SQL analytics and queries can be used against to analyze the data.

With these services Sungard is attempting to provide a unified analytics service that spans all structured, semi-structured and unstructured data.


Probably more to Spring SNW but given my limited time on the exhibition floor and time in vendor discussions these and my previously published post are what I seem of most interest to me.

Thoughts on Spring SNW 2012 in Dallas

Viking Technology NAND/DIMM SSD 32TB/1U demo box
Viking Technology NAND/DIMM SSD 32TB/1U demo box

[Updated photo] Well the big news today was the tornado activity in the Dallas area. When the tornado warnings were announced customers were stuck on the exhibit floor and couldn’t leave (which made all the vendors very happy). Meetings with vendors still went on but were held in windowless rooms and took some ingenuity to get to. I offered to meet in the basement but was told I couldn’t go down there.

As for technology at the show, I was pretty impressed with the Viking booth. They had a 512GB MLC NAND flash card placed in spare DIMM slots with MLC or SLC NAND flash storage in them which takes power from the DIMM slot and uses a separate SATA cabling to cable the SSD storage together. It could easily be connected to a MegaRAID card and RAIDed together. The cards are mainly sold to OEMs but they are looking to gain some channel partners willing to sell them directly to end users.

In addition to the MLC NAND/DIMM card, they had a demo box with just a whole bunch of DIMM slots, where they modified the DIMM connections to also support SATA interface through their mother board. They had on display 1U storage box with 32TB of MLC NAND/DIMM cards and a single power supply supporting 6 lanes of SAS connectivity to the storage. Wasn’t clear what they were trying to do with this other than stimulate thought and interest from OEMs. It was a very interesting demo

There a few major vendors including Fujitsu, HDS, HP, and Oracle exhibiting at the show with a slew of minor ones as well. But noticeable by their absence was Dell, EMC, IBM, and NetApp not to mention Brocade, Cisco and Emulex.

Someone noticed that a lot of the smaller SSD startups weren’t here as well, e.g., no PureStorage, NexGen, SolidFire, Whiptail etc. Even FusionIO with their bank of video streams was missing from the show. In times past, smaller startups would use SNWto get vendor and end-user customer attention. I suppose nowadays, they do this at VMworld, Oracle Openworld, Sapphire or other vertical specific conferences.

Marc Farley of StorSimple discussing cloud storage

In the SSD space there was Nimbus Data, TMS, Micron and OCZ where here showing off their latest technology. Also, there were a few standard bearers like FalconStor, Veeam, Sepaton, Ultrium and Qlogic were exhibiting as well. A couple of pure cloud players as well like RackSpace, StorSimple and a new player Symform.

Didn’t get to attend any technical sessions today but made the keynote last night which was pretty good. That talk was all about how the CIO has to start playing offense and getting ahead of where the business is heading rather than playing defense playing catchup to where the business needed to be before.

More on SNWusa tomorrow.

Super Talent releases a 4-SSD, RAIDDrive PCIe card

RAIDDrive UpStream (c) 2012 Super Talent (from their website)
RAIDDrive UpStream (c) 2012 Super Talent (from their website)

Not exactly sure what is happening, but PCIe cards are coming out containing multiple SSD drives.

For example, the recently announced Super Talent RAIDDrive UpStream card contains 4 SAS embedded SSDs that can push storage capacity up to almost a TB of MLC NAND.   They have an optional SLC version but there were no specs provided on this.

It looks like the card uses an LSI RAID controller and SANDforce NAND controller.  Unlike the other RAIDDrive cards that support RAID5, the UpStream can be configured with RAID 0, 1 or 1E (sort of RAID 1 only striped across even or odd drive counts) and currently supports capacities of 220GB, 460GB or 960GB total.

Just like the rest of the RAIDDrive product line, the UpStream card is PCIe x8 connected and requires host software (drivers) for Windows, NetWare, Solaris and other OSs but not for “most Linux distributions”.  Once the software is up, the RAIDDrive can be configured and then accessed just like any other “super fast” DAS device.

Super Talent’s data sheet states UpStream performance at are 1GB/sec Read and 900MB/Sec writes. However, I didn’t see any SNIA SSD performance test results so it’s unclear how well performance holds up over time and whether these performance levels can be independently verified.

It seems just year ago that I was reviewing Virident’s PCIe SSD along with a few others at Spring SNW.   At the time, I thought there were a lot of PCIe NAND cards being shown at the show.  Given Super Talent’s and the many other vendors sporting PCIe SSDs today, there’s probably going to be a lot more this time.

No pricing information was available.



Initial impressions on Spring SNW/Santa Clara

I heard storage beers last nite was quite the party, sorry I couldn’t make it but I did end up at the HDS customer reception which was standing room only and provided all the food and drink I could consume.

Saw quite a lot of old friends too numerous to mention here but they know who they are.

As for technology on display there was some pretty impressive stuff.

Verident card (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc.
Verident card (c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc.

Lots of great technology on display there.

Virident tachIOn SSD

One product that caught my eye was from Virident, their tachIOn SSD. I called it a storage subsystem on a board.  I had never talked with them before but they have been around for a while using NOR storage but now are focused on NAND.

Their product is a fully RAIDed storage device using flash aware RAID 5 parity locations, their own wear leveling and other SSD control software and logic with replaceable NAND modules.

Playing with this device I felt like I was swapping drives of the future. Each NAND module stack has a separate controller and supports high parallelism.  Talking with Shridar Subramanian, VP of marketing, he said the product is capable of over 200K IOPS running a fully 70% read:30% write workload at full capacity.

They have a Capacitor backed DRAM buffer which is capable of uploading the memory buffer to NAND after a power failure. It plugs into a PCIe slot and uses less than 25W of power, in capacities of 300-800GB.  It requires a software driver, they currently only support Linux and VMware (a Linux varient) but Windows and other O/Ss are on the way

Other SSDs/NAND storage

Their story was a familair refrain throughout the floor, lots of SSD/NAND technology coming out, in various formfactors.  I saw one system using SSDs from Viking Modular Systems that fit into a DRAM DIMM slot and supported a number of SSDs behind a SAS like controller. Also requiring a SW driver.

(c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc.
(c) 2011 Silverton Consulting, Inc.

Of course TMS, Fusion-IO, Micron, Pliant and others were touting their latest SSD/Nand based technology showing off their latest solutions and technology.   For some reason lots of SSD’s at this show.

Naturally, all the other storage vendors were there Dell, HDS, HP, EMC, NetApp and IBM. IBM was showing off Watson, their new AI engine that won at Jeopardy.

And then there was cloud, …

Cloud was a hot topic as well. Saw one guy in the corner I have talked about before StorSimple which is a cloud gateway provider.  They said they are starting to see some traction in the enterprise. Apparently enterprise are starting to adopt cloud – who knew?

Throw in a few storage caching devices, …

Then of course there was the data caching products which ranged from the relaunched DataRAM XcelASAN to Marvel’s new DragonFLY card.  DragonFLY provides a cache on a PCI-E card which DataRAM is a FC caching appliance, all pretty interesting.

… and what’s organic storage?

And finally, Scality came out of the shadows with what they are calling an organic object storage device.  The product reminded me of Bycast (now with NetApp) and Archivas (now with HDS) in that they had a RAIN architecture, with mirrored data in an object store interface.  I asked them what makes them different and Jerome Lecat, CEO said they are relentlessly focused on performance and claims they can retrieve an object in under 40msec.  My kind of product.  I think they deserve a deeper dive sometime later.


Probably missed a other  vendors but these are my initial impressions.  For some reason I felt right at home swapping NAND drive modules,…