QLogic's New FabricCache: Performance Boost Made Easy

QLogic Thursday unveiled a flash-based caching SAN adapter targeted at connecting flash storage in multiple servers into a high-performance, shared pool.

The new QLogic FabricCache 10000 adapter is the first iteration of QLogic's Mt. Rainier family of high-speed flash storage-based technology that allows multiple servers to share their flash-based cache.

The QLogic FabricCache 10000 adapter is aimed at adding performance to applications that can benefit from high-speed flash storage but increasingly do not run on a single server, said Chris Humphrey, vice president of corporate marketing for the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based vendor.

[Related: QLogic's New Mt. Rainier Tech Uses HBAs, Turns Flash Storage Into Shared Cache ]

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PCIe flash cache in servers is great for adding performance but suffers from a need to add additional software drivers and from the fact that applications today want to run across multiple servers, Humphrey said.

"PCIe flash is server-captive," he said. "It's direct-attached storage, set up only for applications that run on one server. But most data center applications today are clustered. You can't run server-side applications on such cards."

The QLogic FabricCache 10000 overcomes that limit by combining a standard Fibre Channel adapter with SLC flash memory and QLogic's FabricCache software, Humphrey said.

The software combines the cache from multiple adapters over a Fibre Channel network into a pool. For instance, Humphrey said, with a standard PCIe flash adapter, 400 GB of flash storage in a server means that an application can only use 400 GB. However, with a QLogic FabricCache 10000 adapter with 400 GB of flash storage inside four servers, an application can take advantage of up to 1.6 TB of flash cache, he said.

QLogic decided to base its first QLogic FabricCache 10000 adapter on a standard 8-Gbps Fibre Channel adapter because of the huge installed base of servers running 2-Gbps and 4-Gbps Fibre Channel.

"For the installed base out there running enterprise-class applications using clustered shared storage, 2-Gbps to 8-Gbps Fibre Channel is still the primary storage protocol," Humphrey said. "We want to bring this performance acceleration to a large installed base."

That said, QLogic plans to introduce a 10-Gbps iSCSI version some time this calendar year, Humphrey said.

NEXT: FabricCache Targeting Large Installed Base, Easy Deployment

QLogic also decided to start with SLC-based flash storage technology that, while expensive, provides the best performance and reliability, Humphrey said. "eMLC technology is on the road map," he said. "We see this as an enterprise play, so we wanted the highest performance and durability we could get."

While the storage industry has seen a huge spike in the number of vendors developing flash-based caching technology, Humphrey said most solutions suffer from a need for complex deployment and from the fact that they are still relatively new offerings.

"The only thing we run in the host is the same Fibre Channel drivers that have been beaten up in the enterprise for years," he said. "Our business strategy has been to make the QLogic FabricCache 10000 adapter essentially a Fibre Channel adapter. So it's very nonintrusive and is targeting a large installed base dying for application acceleration."

For solution providers, QLogic is introducing an advanced program to help teach them how flash storage works and how it can be used to accelerate applications, Humphrey said.

The new program is available to Gold-level and Platinum-level partners in QLogic's Signature partner program that have both enterprise storage experience and deployment experience with enterprise applications such as Oracle and SAP, he said.

The new QLogic FabricCache 10000 adapter is slated to ship late this month.

Humphrey declined to discuss pricing, as the new FabricCache device prices will be set by the company's solution provider partners. However, he said, final pricing is expected to be very competitive with solutions that either require a host bus adapter, a PCIe flash card, and caching software.