Intel – They really are “Inside”

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 8.  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.

For each of the presentations I attended at SFD8, there are a few things I want to include in the post. Firstly, you can see video footage of the Intel presentation here. You can also download my raw notes from the presentation here. Finally, here’s a link to the Intel website that covers some of what they presented.



If you’ve spent any time shooting the breeze with me, you’ll probably know I’m into punk music. I may have also gotten into a monologue about how much I enjoy listening to the Dead Kennedys. I have a vinyl copy of Jello Biafra‘s third spoken-word album, “I blow minds for a living“. This is a great album, and I recommend listening to it if you haven’t already. While this is a somewhat tortured segue, what I’m trying to say is that a few of the guys working at Intel seem to also specialise in blowing minds for a living, because I walked out of that presentation at SFD8 with very little understanding of what I’d just seen :)


Intel is working hard so you don’t have to

There’s a whole lot to the Intel presentation, and I hearty recommend you watch it for yourself. I found Nate Marushak’s part of the presentation, “Enabling the storage transformation – Intel ISA-L & SPDK” particularly interesting. As I stated previously, I didn’t really keep up with a lot of it. Here are a few of the notes I was able to take.

Intel are keen to address the bottleneck pendulum with a few key pieces of technology:

  • 25/50/100GbE
  • Intel 3D XPoint
  • RDMA

They want to “enable the storage transformation” a couple of ways. The first of these is the Storage Performance Development Kit (SPDK), built on Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) it provides

  • Software infrastructure to accelerate the packet IO to Intel CPU

Userspace Network Services (UNS)

  • TCP/IP stack implemented as polling, lock-light library, bypassing kernel bottlenecks, and enabling accessibility

Userspace NVMe, Intel Xeon / Intel Atom Processors DMA and Linux AIO drivers

  • optimises back-end driver performance and prevents kernel bottlenecks from forming at the back end of the IO chain

Reference Software and Example Application

  • Intel provides a customer-relevant example application leveraging ISA-L, with support provided on a best-effort basis


What is Provided?

  • Builds upon optimised DPDK technology
  • Optimised UNS TCP/IP technology
  • Optimised storage target SW stack
  • Optimised persistent media SW stack
  • Supports Linux OS

How does it help?

  • Avoids legacy SW bottlenecks
  • Removes overhead due to interrupt processing (use polling)
  • Removes overhead due to kernel transitions
  • Removes overhead due to locking
  • Enables greater system level performance
  • Enables lower system level latency

Intel Intelligent Storage Acceleration Library

This is an algorithmic library to address key storage market segment needs:

  • Optimised libraries for Xeon, Atom architectures
  • Enhances performance for data integrity, security / encryption, data protection, deduplication and compression
  • Has available C language demo functions to increase library comprehension
  • Tested on Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS and Windows Server OS

ISA-L Functions include

  • Performance Optimisation
  • Data Protection – XOR (r5), P+Q (r6), Reed-solomon Erasure Code)
  • Data Integrity – CRC-T10, CRC-IEEE (802.3), CRC32-iSCSI
  • Cryptographic Hashing – Multi-buffer: SHA-1, SHA-256, SHA-512, MD5
  • Compression “Deflate” – IGZIP: Fast Compression
  • Encryption


Closing Thoughts and Further Reading

As I stated at the start of this post, a lot of what I heard in this presentation went way over my head. I urge you to check out the Intel website and links above to get a feel for just how much they’re doing in this space to make things easier for the various vendors of SDS offerings out there. If you think about just how much Intel is inside everything nowadays, you’ll get a good sense of just how important their work is to the continued evolution of storage platforms in the modern data centre. And if nothing else you might find yourself checking out a Jello Biafra record.