Dell Fluid Cache Pools Multiple Servers' PCIe Flash For Fast App Performance

Dell this week provided new details and updated availability of its Dell Fluid Cache for SAN, a new technology that ties the flash storage of multiple servers into a pool of high-performance storage for mission-critical applications.

Dell unveiled a major new version of its Dell Compellent Storage Center software, which supports live volume movement of application data between storage systems and servers using Dell Fluid Cache. It also introduced new capabilities in its Dell EqualLogic and VRTX storage solutions.

Dell Fluid Cache for SAN targets the elimination of the performance bottleneck between traditional storage and server technologies as a way to increase application efficiency, said Brian Payne, executive director for Dell server solutions.

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"If you have a system with servers, storage and networking working together, you can eliminate the bottlenecks," Payne said. "With Dell Fluid Cache for SAN bringing servers, storage and networking together, customers are able to ensure data is available for the best performance."

Dell Fluid Cache for SAN is a caching software that runs across a minimum of three Dell servers, each of which includes a Dell PowerEdge Express Flash PCIe flash storage device, Payne said. Up to eight servers can be tied together with Dell Fluid Cache for SAN as long as at least three are Dell servers with the Express Flash PCIe devices, he said.

"It creates a new caching layer across up to eight servers, all of which are connected by a low-latency, RDMA over Ethernet networking," he said. "That allows the servers to share application data without the need to go to the shared storage network."

Fluid Cache, which brings solid state storage to the server bus, is an order of magnitude faster than solid state storage in the SAN, said Paul Clifford, president of Davenport Group, a St. Paul-based solution provider and longtime Dell channel partner.

"Solid state storage is changing everything," Clifford said. "By moving it to the server bus, you can build a pool of cache large enough to move data while keeping it in cache, mirror it in cache, and then flush it out when needed. Now applications are no longer waiting for data. And all this is offered in such a way that the solution won't bog down."

NEXT: New Compellent Storage Center 6.5

Dell is really the only vendor that can deliver a simple virtualized environment across eight servers, load them up with memory and cache, tie it to a Compellent storage array and move the data to where it needs to go, Clifford said.

"EMC will say, 'Look at our cache,'" he said. "But cache is traditionally used to speed the delivery of data, which means the server applications are still a bottleneck. Dell has built a cache network shared across several servers, and all eight servers can use it. So they all get the benefit of the cache, which is used to increase operating speed and not just to buffer storage."

Dell Fluid Cache for SAN can be deployed by just loading the software, which then automatically manages which data is written to cache, Payne said. It also ensures service availability by allowing the Express Cache PCIe devices to be replaced on-the-fly or added without system downtime for increased performance, he said.

Dell Fluid Cache for SAN is slated to be released in June starting at about $12,000 for a cluster license covering the minimum three required server nodes, with an expansion license for each additional server mode priced at about $4,500.

On the Dell Compellent storage side, Dell introduced Compellent Storage Center 6.5 array software, an upgraded operating system that brings block-level dedupe to the array, said Bob Fine, director of product marketing for Dell Storage.

Compellent Storage Center 6.4 had file-only dedupe, Fine said. "In some of our test sites, customers were getting up to a 77 percent reduction in data capacity with Storage Center 6.5," he said.

The new software also includes Live Volume, a new capability that allows data to be moved with an application across multiple servers to speed up data restores and keep applications running during unplanned outages, Fine said.

Compellent Storage Center 6.5 also supports Dell Fluid Cache for SAN, and adds FIPS 140-2 encryption for data at rest, he said.

Clifford said that, in many ways, the combination of Fluid Cache and Compellent Storage Center 6.5 represents the fulfillment of promises Dell made when it went private to focus on developing enterprise solutions.

"These things are something all customers want," he said. "It's astounding. In a simplified, unified environment, we are managing data at the lowest level. Everyone tiers data. But when you can grab data at the 512-KB level and put it where it is needed when it is needed, that's amazing."

NEXT: New Dell EqualLogic, VRTX Solutions

Dell this week also increased third-party support for its Dell EqualLogic storage line, including support for the latest VMware, Microsoft and Linux environments, Fine said.

Also new from Dell are improvements to its Dell OpenManage management software to increase customer efficiency and ease the configuration, deployment and upgrading of Dell servers.

Finally, Dell has updated the Dell PowerEdge VRTX converged infrastructure offering with integrated server, storage and networking technologies targeted at small and midsize businesses, and remote offices of midsize and larger businesses, Payne said.

New for VRTX are optional redundant storage controllers that provide the four server nodes inside the VRTX with improved availability to up to 48 TBs of storage. Also new is support for 4-socket server nodes, compared to the previous support of 2-socket nodes, he said.

Customers deploying virtual desktops also now can add a GPU into a PCIe slot inside the VRTX to support graphics-intensive applications, he said.