QLogic’s New Mt. Rainier Tech Uses HBAs, Turns Flash Storage Into Shared Cache1:38 PM EST Fri. Sep. 07, 2012
QLogic on Thursday previewed a new technology that puts high-speed SSD storage on a SAN host bus adapter to allow multiple servers to share their flash-based cache.
This new technology, dubbed "Mt. Rainier" by QLogic, will allow an application running in one server to grab data sitting in the flash storage cache of another server with nearly the same performance as if it were sitting in the same server as the application, said Chris Humphrey, vice president of corporate marketing for the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based vendor.
The goal is to help applications run faster, Humphrey said. "The reason apps can't run fast enough is not because of the servers," he said. "It's because they need more I/O bandwidth, but mechanical storage can't keep up."
Mt. Rainier integrates a QLogic SAN adapter with the company's intelligent routing software and either a separate SSD flash storage card or a daughterboard that connects to SSDs inside the server, Humphrey said.
The caching software runs in the SAN adapter and not in the server's operating system or in a hypervisor. "Because of that, it looks like a standard SAN HBA," he said. "All interoperability testing is done the same as you would for an HBA."
The routing software allows the SAN LUN of each server to be accessed by the other servers, essentially tying the flash storage cache of the servers together into a single shared cache.
"If one Mt. Rainier sees data on the LUN on another Mt. Rainier, it can grab the data directly from cache," Humphrey said. "So it becomes a shared cache. This effectively combines the cache of multiple servers."
Mt. Rainier also pools the cache from multiple servers into a pooled SSD resource, which allows customers to move virtual machines from one physical host server to another without removing the data from cache first, he said.
Server-based flash storage and SSDs have become the latest front in the battle to improve application speed by keeping a cache of frequently accessed data available for quick access.
NetApp, for instance, is developing software to manage PCIe flash-based cache in multiple vendors in conjunction with its storage appliances.
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EMC developed VFCache, a PCIe flash cache for use in servers. EMC is also is preparing to introduce a flash memory cache-based appliance that connects to multiple servers across a network, as is flash storage developer Fusion-io.
IBM has even brought flash storage into its mainframes.
Humphrey, however, contrasted many of those approaches to QLogic's Mt. Rainier by saying that flash memory in servers requires the management of additional software drivers and typically cannot be used to accelerate applications in more than one server at a time.
"It's important to make the flash storage a shared resource so it can accelerate more apps," he said.
Mt. Rainier is expected to be available for field testing early next year and to ship in production by the end of the first quarter of 2013, Humphrey said.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 7, 2012