Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 12. My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event. Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.
So what do they do?
Something called NVMesh Server SAN. And it’s pretty wild from what I saw during the demo. But first, what is NVMesh Server SAN? It’s basically magical software-defined block storage designed for NVMe.
[image courtesy of Excelero]
So what’s so special about this? Well, it provides:
- A virtual SAN solution that is optimised for NVMe, and 100% software-based (using the proper hardware, of course);
- “Unified NVMe” by pooling NVMe across the network at what appear to the host as local speeds and latencies;
- Really, really low CPU usage on the storage target;
- Flexibility, and can be deployed as a virtual, distributed non-volatile array and supporting both converged and disaggregated architectures; and
- Efficiency, with performance scaling linearly at close to 100% efficiency.
According to Excelero, some of the key NVMesh benefits include:
- maximum utilisation of NVMe flash devices by creating a single pool of high performance block storage (they really flog these devices);
- no data localisation for scale-out applications;
- predictable application performance – no noisy neighbours; and
- making storage as efficient as the optimised hardware platform (such as Open19).
What does this mean for your enterprise applications? You get access to:
- Higher performance for random IO intensive enterprise applications;
- A flexible architecture to support multiple workloads;
- lower operating costs through deployment efficiency and easy serviceability; and
- all your data is “local” with no application changes. These is a mighty fine trick.
Excelero’s solution also helps with high-performance computing (HPC) environments, offering:
- massive performance: high IOPS and bandwidth, low latency;
- unlimited scalability, supports analytics for massive data sets; and
- lowest cost/IOP.
Excelero Software Components
[image courtesy of Excelero]
The Centralized Management component:
- runs as a Node.js application on top of MongoDB;
- pools drives, provisions volumes and monitors stuff; and
- transforms drives from raw storage into a pool.
It’s built as a scale-out service to support huge deployments and offers some standard integration, including RESTful API access for seamless provisioning. There’s also a client block driver with the kernel module presenting logical volumes via the block driver API.
From a performance perspective, it interacts directly with drives via RDDA or NVMf offering single hop access to the data, minimising latency overhead, and maximising throughput and IOPS. As a result of this you get consistent access to share volumes spread across remote drives anywhere in the DC. The solution offers “RAIN” data protection (cross-node / rack) for standard servers and from a scalability perspective there’s point to point communication with management and targets, simple discovery, and no broadcasts.
- Performs cluster management to ensure high availability;
- Manages volume life cycle and failure recovery operations; and
- Uses Raft protocol to ensure data consistency – avoiding “split brain” scenarios
- Excelero is a “Software-defined block storage solution” – using standard servers with state of the art flash components and leveraging an intuitive management portal;
- Excelero offers virtual SAN for NVMe – pooling NVMe over the network at local speeds to maximise utilisation. By making all data local you move the compute, not the data;
- Scale-Out Server SAN – scales performance & capacity linearly, across DCs without limits – enabling just-in-time storage orchestration; and
- Converged and disaggregated architectures – no noisy neighbours through full logical disaggregation of storage and compute – grow storage or compute independently
Feelings and Further Reading
Excelero came out of stealth mode during Storage Field Day 12. Ray was mighty impressed with what he saw, as was I. I was also mightily impressed with the relatively inexpensive nature of the hardware that they used to demonstrate the solution. Every SDS solution has a reasonably strict hardware compatibility list. In this case, it makes a lot of sense, as Excelero’s patented RDDA technology contributes a lot to the performance and success of the solution. It’s also NVMe over Fabrics ready too, so as this gains traction the requirement for RDDA will potentially fade away.
Super-fast storage solutions based on NVMe are a lot like big data and bad reality TV shows. They’re front and centre in a lot of conversations around the water cooler but a lot of people aren’t exactly sure what they are or what they should make of them. While Dell recently put the bullet through DSSD, it doesn’t mean that the technology or the requirement for this kind of solution doesn’t exist. What it does demonstrate is that these kind of solutions can be had in the data centre for a reasonably inexpensive investment in hardware coupled with some really smart software. Version 1.1 is still raw in places, and it will be a while before we see widespread adoption of these types of solutions in the enterprise data centre (people like to wrap data services around these kinds of solutions). That said, if you have the need for speed right now, it might be a good idea to reach out to the Excelero folks and have a conversation.
You’ll notice my title was a bit misleading, as I don’t have pricing information in this post. Ray did some rough calculations in his article, and you should talk to Excelero to find out more. As an aside, it’s also worth checking out the Storage Field Day presentation for Yuval Bachar‘s presentation on Open19 as well – it was riveting stuff.