LSI Nytro PCIe cards get capacity, feature upgrades

LSI Nytro card upgrades include a 3.2 TB solid-state WarpDrive PCIe flash card and two MegaRAID flash caching and storage cards.

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LSI Corp. expanded its Nytro application-acceleration product line this week with a 3.2 TB WarpDrive PCI Express (PCIe) flash card and two new MegaRAID PCIe intelligent flash acceleration and storage cards.

The LSI Nytro application-acceleration product line features PCIe cards with multiple form factors that can connect internally to direct-attached storage or externally to SANs with both SATA and SAS interfaces.

LSI competes with other solid-state flash PCIe card manufacturers such as Fusion-io Inc., Virident Systems Inc. and Micron Technology Inc. in the burgeoning server-side storage application acceleration market.

The Nytro WarpDrive BFH8-3200 is a full-height, half-length enterprise multilevel cell (eMLC) flash acceleration card that supports the PCIe 3.0 interface specification and sustained throughput of more than 4 Gbps, the company claims.

The 3.2 TB WarpDrive card is targeted at cloud or hyperscale data centers and big-data and virtualization applications, "where they need a large, very fast storage point that they can put stuff in and crank through it," said Rob Callaghan, LSI's manager of outbound marketing.

Souheil Saliba, CEO of Five9 Network Systems Inc., is currently testing the BFH8-3200 WarpDrive PCIe card for use in his company's server and appliance service.

Five9 Network Systems builds high-end server and appliances for specific applications. Some of Saliba's current projects include a color-correction video post-production appliance and a big-data processing appliance for the U.S. Department of Defense.

He said that the larger capacity -- the previous WarpDrive's highest capacity was 1.6 TB -- is a big selling benefit for the new cards. "The new WarpDrive gives us the ability to deploy a single card and be able to handle an image as large as 3 TB," Saliba said.

The new 200 GB MegaRAID 8110-4e and 800 GB 8120-4e eMLC flash-caching and storage PCIe cards integrate intelligent caching software, LSI's RAID-on-chip (ROC) data protection technology and four external 6 Gbps ports, which can support up to 128 SAS or SATA endpoint devices.

All of the control mechanisms necessary for the MegaRAID flash cards are included on the cards, including the caching software, ROC or SAS I/O controllers, and the SandForce flash storage processors.

"It's an all-in-one acceleration device for your disk storage," Callaghan said. He added that having all of the management software on board means there are no large monolithic drivers to install.

"If you're working with a virtualized environment [for example], it's all about utilization of all of your memory, your processing power and your cores," Callaghan added. "We're not taking a huge chunk."

The company also updated its Nytro MegaRAID software with more efficient caching algorithms, the ability to partition part of the onboard flash as primary storage for latency-sensitive I/O and technology that allows administrators to boot directly from the MegaRAID PCIe card.

According to Callaghan, LSI Nytro Boot can partition onboard flash as a boot volume so administrators don't have to dedicate internal HDDs to the same task, which could eliminate a typical big-data problem.

"One of the pain points in the big-data Hadoop space has traditionally been that every server has to have a mirrored pair of boot drives," Callaghan said. "Those boot drives can't be used for anything else, and they take up space inside the chassis."

By partitioning portions of the MegaRAID onboard flash as boot volumes, administrators can not only eliminate the need to dedicate hard disk drives to the same task, but they can also speed up the entire system by booting directly from flash. They can also reduce the amount of disks and servers in the data center.

Callaghan said LSI is working with Hadoop distributors such as Cloudera and Hortonworks to certify its cards.

The LSI suggested pricing for the WarpDrive BFH8-3200 is $28,995. The 200 GB MegaRAID 8110-4e card is priced at $2,795 and the 8120-4e is priced at $6,995.

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