Pliops – Can We Take Fast And Make It Faster?

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 21.  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.

Pliops recently presented at Storage Field Day 21. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.


The Problem

You might have heard of solid-state drives (SSDs). You might have one in your computer. You might even have a data centre full of them. They’re quiet and they’re fast. It’s generally accepted that SSDs perform way better than HDDs. The problem, however, is that CPUs haven’t kept up with that performance increase. The folks at Pliops have also pointed out that resiliency technologies such as RAID generally suck, particularly when you’re using SSDs. In essence, you’re wasting a good chunk of your Flash.


The Solution?

The solution, according to Pliops, is the Pliops Storage Processor. This is “a hardware-based storage accelerator that enables cloud and enterprise customers to offload and accelerate data-intensive workloads using just a fraction of the computational load and power”. Capabilities include increased performance, capacity expansion, improved endurance, and data protection capabilities.

System Integration

From an integration perspective, the card is a half-height, half-length PCIe device that fits in any standard rackmount server. There’s a Pliops Agent that’s installed, and it supports a variety of different deployment options. There’s even a cloud / as-a-service option available.

[image courtesy of Pliops]

Use Cases

The Pliops SP is targeted primarily at RDBMS, NoSQL and Analytics workloads, due in large part to its ability to reduce read and write amplification on SSDs – something that’s been a problem since Flash became more prevalent in the data centre.

[image courtesy of Pliops]


Thoughts and Further Reading

On the surface, the Pliops Storage Processor seems to be solving a fairly specific problem. It’s not a problem that gets a lot of airplay, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important one to solve. There are scads of solutions in the market that have been developed to address the problem of legacy systems design. For example, the way we addressed resilience previously (i.e. RAID) doesn’t work that well as drive capacities continue to increase. We’ve also fundamentally changed the media we’re working with, but haven’t necessarily developed new ways of taking advantage of that media.

Whenever I see add-in devices like this I worry that it would be a pain to manage at any sort of scale. But then I remember that literally everything related to hardware is a pain to manage at any kind of scale. The Pliops folks tell us that it’s not actually too bad, and any disadvantages related to having super specialised add-in cards deployed in servers is more than made up for by the improved outcomes achieved with those cards.

Ultimately, the value of a solution like the Pliops Storage Processor is absolutely tied to whether you’ve had a problem with this in the past. If you have, you’ll understand that this kind of solution is a reasonably elegant way of addressing the problem. It has the added bonus of taking fast media and eking out even more performance from that media.

Pliops has only been around since 2017, but it recently announced a decent funding round and the product is being ready for mass deployment. I’ll happily admit that I’ve done a fairly poor job of explaining the Pliops Storage Processor and what it does, so I recommend you check out the solution brief on the Pliops website. If you’d like another perspective, be sure to head over to TECHunplugged to read Max’s thoughts on Pliops.