Enmotus Blog

A New Age Storage Stack

Posted by Jim O'Reilly on Jun 4, 2018 3:42:54 PM

For over three decades, we’ve lived with a boring truth. Disk drive performance was stuck in a rut, only doubling over all that time. One consequence was that storage architecture became frozen, with little real innovation. RAID added a boost, but at a high price. In fact, we didn’t get a break until SSDs arrived on the scene.

SSDs really upset the applecart. Per drive performance increased 1000X in just a few years and all bets were off at that point. Little did we realize that the potential of SSDs reached into stratospheric levels of millions of IOPS per drive.

All of this performance broke the standard SCSI model of the storage stack in the operating system. An interrupt-driven, verbose stack with up to seven levels of address translation just doesn’t cut the I/O rate needed. The answer is the NVMe stack, which consolidates I/O’s and interrupts efficiently and uses the power of RDMA to reduce round-trip counts and overhead dramatically. IOPS rates in excess of 20M IOPS have been demonstrated and there is still room to speed up the protocol.

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Topics: NVMe, autotiering, hyperconverged, NVMe over Fibre, enmotus, data analytics, NVDIMM

Evolution of Storage - Part 2

Posted by Jim O'Reilly on May 10, 2018 10:30:51 AM

Part 2 …The Drive

Over time, the smarts in storage have migrated back and forth between the drive and the host system. Behind this shifting picture are two key factors. First, the intelligence of a micro-controller chip determines what a drive can do, while secondly, the need to correct media errors establishes what a drive must do.

Once SCSI hit the market, the functionality split between host and drive essentially froze and continued so for nearly 3 decades. The advent of new error-correction needs for SSDs, combined with the arrival of ARM CPUs that are both cheap and powerful, making function-shifting once again interesting.

Certainly, some of the new compute power goes to sophisticated multi-tier error correction to compensate for the wear out of QLC drives or the effects of media variations, but a 4-core or 8-core

 ARM still has a lot of unused capability. We’ve struggled to figure out how to use that power for meaningful storage functions and that’s led to a number of early initiatives.

The first to bat was Seagate’s Kinetic drive. Making a play for storing “Big Data” in a more native form, Kinetic adds a key/data store to its interface, replacing the traditional block access altogether. While the Kinetic interface is an open standard and free to emulate, no other vendor has yet jumped on the bandwagon and Seagate’s sales are small.

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Topics: NVMe, enmotus, software defined storage, SDS, NVDIMM

A.I. For Storage

Posted by Jim O'Reilly on Dec 18, 2017 2:12:46 PM

As we saw in the previous part of this two-part series, “Storage for A.I.”, the performance demands of A.I. will combine with technical advances in non-volatile memory to dramatically increase performance and scale within the storage pool and also move addressing of data to a much finer granularity, the byte level rather than 4KB block. This all creates a manageability challenge that must be resolved if we are to attain the potential of A.I. systems (and next-gen computing in general).

Simply put, storage is getting complex and will become ever more so as we expand the size and use of Big Data. Rapid and agile monetization of data will be the mantra of the next decade. Consequentially, the IT industry is starting to look for ways to migrate from today’s essentially manual storage management paradigms to emulate and exceed the automation of control demonstrated in 

public clouds.

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Topics: NVMe, Data Center, NVMe over Fibre, enmotus, data analytics, NVDIMM, artificial intelligence

Content driven tiering using storage analytics

Posted by Adam Zagorski on Aug 9, 2017 10:05:00 AM

IT has used auto-tiering for years as a way to move data from expensive fast storage to cheaper and slower secondary bulk storage. The approach was at best a crude approximation, being only able to distinguish between objects on the basis of age or lack of use. This meant, for instance, that documents and files stayed much longer in expensive storage than was warranted. There simply was no mechanism for sending such files automatically to cheap storage.

Now, to make life even more complicated, we’ve added a new tier of storage at each end of the food chain. At the fast end, we now have ultra-fast NVDIMM offering an even more expensive and, more importantly space limited, way to boost access speed, while at the other end of the spectrum the cloud is reducing the need for in-house long-term storage even more. Simple auto-tiering doesn’t do enough to optimize the spectrum of storage in a 4-state system like this. We need to get much savvier about where we keep things.

The successor to auto-tiering has to take into account traffic patterns for objects and plan their lifecycle accordingly. For example, a Word document may be stored as a fully editable file in today’s solutions, but the reality is that most of these documents, once fully edited, become read-only objects moved in their entirety to be read. If changes occur, a new, renamed, version of the document is created and the old one kept intact.

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Topics: autotiering, big data, Data Center, NVMe over Fibre, enmotus, data analytics

Virtual Reality Drives Data Center Demand for Storage

Posted by Andy Mills on Feb 8, 2017 11:39:41 AM

Twenty seven years ago in 1989, I attended one of the very early virtual reality (VR) headset demonstrations in the UK. It was put on by a bunch of ex-INMOS engineers demonstrating the use of Transputers and Intel’s i860 to generate real time image rendering in VR environments, along with the first VR gloves.

Apart from the obvious VR wow factor, a significant memory of the event was someone falling off the stage as they lost their balance and orientation, which was quite impressive given the low resolution graphics at the time i.e. CGA, 640x200 pixels at 4-bit resolution. Luckily they were not seriously injured.

The killer app presented at the time was remote VR teleconferencing where individuals would magically appear across the table in front of you and be able to push an electronic document toward you which you could manipulate, read and mark up, all virtually of course. Wind forward to 2017. VR, thanks to dramatic advances in display technologies and smaller compact VR gear, is finally making it into some mainstream applications with far more realistic video and smoother graphics at a much lower cost point, along with a growing amount of web based or gaming content to fuel demand.

So why to do we care about this in the world of storage?

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Topics: Data Center, virtual reality, virtualization, enmotus

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