Pavilion Data Systems Overview

I recently had the opportunity to hear about Pavilion Data Systems from VR Satish, CTO, and Jeff Sosa, VP of Products. I thought I’d put together a brief overview of their offering, as NVMe-based systems are currently the new hotness in the storage world.

 

It’s a Box!

And a pretty cool looking one at that. Here’s what it looks like from the front.

[image courtesy of Pavilion Data]

The storage platform is built from standard components, including x86 processors and U.2 NVMe SSDs. A big selling point, in Pavilion’s opinion, is that there are no custom ASICs and no FPGAs in the box. There are three different models available (the datasheet is here), with different connectivity and capacity options.

From a capacity perspective, you can start at 14TB and get all the way to 1PB in 4RU. The box can start at 18 NVMe drives and (growing by increments of 18) goes to 72 drives. It runs RAID 6 and presents the drives as virtual volumes to the hosts. Here’s a look at the box from a top-down perspective.

[image courtesy of Pavilion Data]

There’s a list of supported NVMe SSDs that you can use with the box, if you wanted to source those elsewhere. On the right hand side (the back of the box) are the IO controllers. You can start at 4 and go up to 20 in a box. There’s also 2 management modules and 4 power supplies for resiliency.

[image courtesy of Pavilion Data]

You can see in the above diagram that connectivity is also a big part of the story, with each pair of controllers offering 4x 100GbE ports.

 

Software? 

Sure. It’s a box but it needs something to run it. Each controller runs a customised flavour of Linux and delivers a number of the features you’d expect from a storage array, including:

  • Active-active controller support
  • Space-efficient snapshots and clones
  • Thin provisioning.

There’re also plans afoot for encryption support in the near future. Pavilion have also focused on making operations simple, providing support for RESTful API orchestration, OpenStack Cinder, Kubernetes, DMTF RedFish and SNIA Swordfish. They’ve also gone to some lengths to ensure that standard NVMe/F drivers will work for host connectivity.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Pavilion Data has been around since 2014 and the leadership group has some great heritage in the storage and networking industry. They tell me they wanted to move away from the traditional approach to storage arrays (the dual controller, server-based platform) to something that delivered great performance at scale. There are similarities more with high performance networking devices than high performance storage arrays, and this is by design. They tell me they really wanted to deliver a solution that wasn’t the bottleneck when it came to realising the performance capabilities of the NVMe architecture. The numbers being punted around are certainly impressive. And I’m a big fan of the approach, in terms of both throughput and footprint.

The webscale folks running apps like MySQL and Cassandra and MongoDB (and other products with similarly awful names) are doing a few things differently to the enterprise bods. Firstly, they’re more likely to wear jeans and sneakers to the office (something that drives me nuts) and they’re leveraging DAS heavily because it gives them high performance storage options for latency-sensitive situations. The advent of NVMe and NVMe over Fabrics takes away the requirement for DAS (although I’m not sure they’ll start to wear proper office attire any time soon) by delivering storage at the scale and performance they need. As a result of this, you can buy 1RU servers with compute instead of 2RU servers full of fast disk. There’s an added benefit as organisations tend to assign longer lifecycles to their storage systems, so systems like the one from Pavilion are going to have a place in the DC for five years, not 2.5 – 3 years. Suddenly lifecycling your hosts becomes simpler as well. This is good news for the jeans and t-shirt set and the beancounters alike.

NVMe (and NVMe over Fabrics) has been a hot topic for a little while now, and you’re only going to hear more about it. Those bright minds at Gartner are calling it “Shared Accelerated Storage” and you know if they’re talking about it then the enterprise folks will cotton on in a few years and suddenly it will be everywhere. In the meantime, check out Chris M. Evans’ article on NVMe over Fabrics and Chris Mellor also did an interesting piece at El Reg. The market is becoming more crowded each month and I’m interested to see how Pavilion fare.

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