LSI RAID Controller Software Uses SSDs To Up Server, App Performance

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LSI on Tuesday launched a new version of its caching software which turns any SSD (solid-state drive) into a high-performance storage tier for frequently-accessed data and mission-critical applications.

The launch of the software is the latest in a string of industry moves to improve application and server performance by adding or making use of SSD and other Flash or DRAM technology.

LSI's new MegaRAID CacheCade Pro 2.0 software substantially reduces the latency for financial, cloud, e-mail, and high-performance computing applications, said Scott Cleland, worldwide channel product marketing manager for the Milpitas, Calif.-based storage vendor.

When MegaRAID CacheCade Pro was launched in May of 2010, it accelerated applications using SSDs for read-only operations, Cleland said. The primary difference with version 2.0 is that it works for write operations as well, he said.

"We're focusing on accelerating I/O and closing the performance gap between CPU and hard drive performance," he said. "We're completely agnostic. If your file system needs acceleration, we do it. If your application needs acceleration, we do it."

LSI's MegaRAID CacheCade Pro 2.0 integrates a server's SSDs and hard drives to write frequently accessed data to the SSD to improve performance by up to 13 times that offered by hard drives alone, Cleland said. "Customers get the performance of SSDs with the low cost-per-GB of hard drives," he said. "Customers see tremendous improvement by just dropping in a couple of SSDs."

The software works transparently to users to continuously monitor data traffic through LSI MegaRAID 6-Gbps SATA and SAS RAID controllers. Frequently-accessed data is written to the SSD for quick access, Cleland said.

The MegaRAID CacheCade Pro 2.0 increases performance at a much lower cost than the common alternative of short-stroking hard drives, Cleland said.

Short-stroking hard drives is a process whereby partitions in a hard drive are turned off to increase performance by decreasing the distance a drive head has to move to read or write data. However, short-stroking results in a significant decrease in the capacity of a hard drive.

Cleland gave an example of the savings that can be achieved by comparing the findings of an actual data center customer who tried the MegaRAID CacheCade Pro 2.0 software. With the software, the customer used four Intel SSDs and 14 Seagate 73-GB hard drives to achieve the same performance as another system with no SSDs and 192 Seagate hard drives, Cleland said.

Factoring in the smaller equipment requirement and the resulting savings in data center cooling and power, Cleland said the MegaRAID CacheCade Pro 2.0 solution costs $27,021over a four-year period compared to $151,128 for the all-hard drive solution.

Accelerating server and application performance via SSD or Flash memory technology has become an important trend in the hard drive industry.

Several vendors, including Hitachi GST, Seagate, Intel, STEC, Texas Memory Systems, and others have introduced a tidal wave of new SSDs. Other vendors, including including LSI and Adaptec, have introduced plug-in cards with integrated solid-state storage to provide high-performance capabilities directly inside a server.

Several other vendors, particularly startups such as FlashSoft, offer software to virtualize Flash memory to increase server and application performance, often over multiple servers.

Cleland said the primary difference with the MegaRAID CacheCade Pro 2.0 software lies in the fact that it is integrated with the LSI RAID controllers, and can be turned on for a list price of $270.

"Who's best to do this?" he said. "We're at the center of all that data traffic. You only need to add a very thin device driver. It works across 14 different operating systems."

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