The solid-state storage devices market expanded this week with newcomer GridIron Systems Inc. lifting the covers on its SAN acceleration device and Texas Memory Systems (TMS) Inc. launching a PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) device based on new controller technology.
These releases follow other news that suggests the SSD market is heating up. EMC Corp. last week previewed its Project Lightning PCIe-based SSD product, as well as plans for all-SSD enterprise and midrange storage systems. On Monday, SanDisk Corp. acquired SSD startup Pliant Technology for $327 million.
GridIron TurboCharger will compete with SAN acceleration devices from Dataram, Texas Memory Systems, Violin Memory, Whiptail and others. TMS' new RamSan-70 (code-named “Gorilla”) competes with Fusion-io and LSI, and will eventually compete with EMC’s server-based PCIe SSD product.
GridIron gives SAN applications a charge
GridIron is still officially in stealth, but has eight customers using its TurboCharger appliances in production; executives gave SearchStorage.com a rundown of the firm's systems.
TurboCharger sits between servers and storage arrays to accelerate block-based applications, such as Oracle databases, filers that use SAN storage such as NetApp’s V-Series and storage virtualization systems such as IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC).
The appliance is designed to lower latency while increasing IOPS. It keeps a history of every time an application accesses data and uses that information to decide whether to place the data in RAM, flash or disk. It puts read-heavy data into flash and data that's likely to be written is moved to RAM. Because the appliance writes data through to disk, the master copy of the data goes on the storage array so applications will run without change if a customer removes or powers down the appliance.
TurboCharger comes in two models: the GT1100 with 2.5 TB of capacity for a list price of $200,000, and the GT1100A with 6.5 TB for $250,000. The systems can be clustered and are generally used at least in pairs for high availability.
GridIron TurboCharger uses Intel multi-level cell (MLC) SSDs. Dave Anderson, in GridIron's chief technology office (CTO), said GridIron can use MLCs -- which cost less and lack the performance of single-level cell (SLC) devices -- and still gain high performance because of its memory management. “We know what data is going to do; if it’s going to get read or written” he said. “If it’s going to get read next, we put it in RAM instead of cache.”
Anderson also said that by only using flash for reads, TurboCharger increases application performance and the life of flash memory significantly.
“We put flash in the network, so all your storage and servers can access flash all the time,” he said.
Online shopping site Shopzilla is one of TurboCharger’s early customers. Burzin Engineer, Shopzilla's vice president of infrastructure & technology, said he went live with eight GT1100A TurboChargers to accelerate a 40 TB five-node Oracle RAC 10g database cluster running on an IBM XIV SAN last August after six months of testing. He said the GridIron appliances more than doubled the throughput of the cluster, from 4.6 GBps to more than 10 GBps.
“We went live on the one SAN environment that is super important to us,” Engineer said. “Our data warehouse is one of the most heavily used applications in the company. We make all of our business decisions based on numbers that come from that data warehouse.”
Engineer said he plans to put TurboChargers in front of VMware blocks and file devices. “It’s an intelligent brain that can figure out what to accelerate and what not to,” he said. “It bridges the gap between where we're headed today and where we will be in five years -- all solid state.”
Engineer said before he installs an inline appliance, he needs assurance from the vendor that the master copy (known as the golden copy) of his database will remain safe. “It’s difficult to put something inline and trust it,” he said. “GridIron guarantees every golden copy is on our back-end storage. If I lose power or switch things off, the golden copy is always on my storage. I need that guarantee before I put something inline.”
Texas Memory Systems offloads management from server
The RamSan-70 is a 900 GB PCIe card featuring a new controller from TMS and 32 nanometer SLC flash from Toshiba. Texas Memory Systems claims the RamSan-70 can deliver more than 330,000 IOPS and more than 2 GBps of bandwidth.
TMS’ Series-7 Flash Controller is based on Xilinx field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) and an embedded PowerPC processor. The controller handles flash management so the server doesn’t have to.
“The big thing is really the new controller,” said James Bagley, senior analyst at Storage Strategies Now. “Fusion-io and the prior Texas Memory [PCIe] products require a lot of work from the server, [the RamSan-70] offloaded all of that into this new controller.”
Texas Memory Systems claims its first half-height PCIe card increases performance by at least three times while doubling capacity of its previous RamSan-20 PCIe SSD card. The suggested retail price is $15,000 per card.
TMS plans to sell the RamSan-70 through server OEMs and is aimed at data warehousing, enterprise resource planning (ERP), scientific markets and web content.
Dan Scheel, TMS' president, said the RamSan-70 uses SLC instead of cheaper MLC flash because its focus is on performance. “Texas Memory Systems isn't in the commodity space,” he said. “It’s in the high-performance end of the market.”
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