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Lightbits Labs Gets Intel Funding, Touts New Storage Strategic Relationship

‘We’ve gone beyond dating and have gotten engaged. This is a commitment to work together and to allocate resources from both companies. This is not just about money,’ says Josh Goldenhar, vice president of product marketing for Lightbits.

Intel has acquired an equity stake in Lightbits Labs, a developer of composable NVMe-over-TCP storage technology, and is collaborating with the company on future developments of that technology.

Lightbits Labs Tuesday said Intel Capital has invested an undisclosed amount in the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company.

It’s a move that, combined with the new strategic relationship, illustrates how important the Intel relationship is to Lightbits Labs, said Josh Goldenhar, vice president of product marketing for Lightbits Labs.

[Related: The Heartbeat Of Business: The 2020 CRN Storage 100]

“We’ve gone beyond dating and have gotten engaged,” Goldenhar told CRN. “This is a commitment to work together and to allocate resources from both companies. This is not just about money.”

When asked if getting “engaged” means a potential “marriage” or acquisition, Goldenhar declined to speculate.

Lightbits Labs is the developer of LightOS, a software-defined block storage platform that pools NVMe storage across multiple storage into a high-performance virtual all-flash storage array, Goldenhar said.

However, rather than most NVMe storage systems, LightOS connects the NVMe media over industry-standard TCP networking, replacing the need for more specialized storage networks such as Fibre Channel, he said.

The result is storage with less than 300-microsecond writes and less than 200-microsecond reads, with a full range of storage services including logical volumes of any size, expandable logical volumes, erasure coding on the servers, data replication, data compression across all volumes, and thin provisioning. The company also expects to add data snapshot capabilities by year-end, Goldenhar said.

Clusters of up to 16 hosts are supported today, with 64-host and 128-host clusters coming, he said. “There’s no limit on cluster size,” he said.

The new strategic relationship with Intel is based on ways Lightbits Labs can optimize its LightOS technology to take advantage of several recent Intel advances, Goldenhar said.

Lightbits Labs’ LightOS currently works with any off-the-shelf components to build virtual all-flash storage arrays, but Intel has several areas where collaboration could expand the performance of the technology, he said.

For instance, Lightbits Labs is now working with Intel Optane Persistent Memory modules that provide nonvolatile caching memory. Goldenhar said that caching memory today typically uses NVDIMM memory, which is volatile memory and needs battery power to ensure data is not lost.

“Intel Optane provides large volumes of memory at a lower cost than DRAM, which is important for the metadata,” he said.

Another area is low-cost, consumer-grade QLC memory, which typically provides high-performance reads but slow data writes and has issues if data is written to the memory too many times, Goldenhar said.

“LightOS completes writes in a nonvolatile buffer and then writes large chunks of data to QLC,” he said. “This lets customers take full advantage of the low-cost QLC media while extending the life of the media.”

Also key is collaboration with Intel’s Ethernet technology as a way to handle NVMe-over-Fabric networking without the need to add expensive network interface cards or change the networking configuration, Goldenhar said.

“Intel has a new Ethernet feature called Application Device Queues which provide a way to tag certain traffic to give priority to its data,” he said. “That lets customers use NVMe-over-TCP. We wrote the codes used in the standard on which ADQ was written.”

The last area is the Light Field Accelerator card, which is a hardware version of the LightOS software. The card is being built with help from Intel, Goldenhar said.

Lightbits Labs is not disclosing when the new technologies will be available, Goldenhar said.

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