LSI Nytro MegaRAID 8140-8e8i

LSI has recently released the Nytro MegaRAID (NMR) 8140-8e8i, the latest generation of the company’s PCIe flash acceleration cards for direct-attached storage (DAS). Like the previous NMR versions, this product integrates PCIe flash, caching software and LSI’s MegaRAID technology into a solution for modular, scale-out storage environments. But the NMR 8140-8e8i is designed for use cases with even higher disk counts and storage capacities, plus and a need for extreme flexibility.

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The Nytro MegaRAID 8140-8e8i is a full-height, half-length x8 lane PCIe card that combines LSI’s MegaRAID controller with 2TB (1.6TB usable) of eMLC flash capacity. It provides 16 SAS/SATA connections (8 internal and 8 external) through four mini-SAS HD SFF-8643 x4 connectors. The board can support up to 236 SAS and/or SATA devices at up to 6Gb/s per SAS port.

The NMR 8140-8e8i is architected with four flash modules, each capable of being individually configured for caching or as defined flash storage. This allows users to set up part of the flash capacity as a boot volume, part as a cache and the remaining capacity for storing hot data like database indices. Each flash module has a dedicated Sandforce controller and can be set up in a RAID 0,1 or 5 configuration for added protection. Connected SAS/SATA drives can also be configured in RAID 6, 10, 50 and 60.

By combining a hard disk drive (HDD) RAID controller with a flash accelerator board, LSI has created a product ideally suited for the scale-out market, where large numbers of high-density, rack-mounted nodes are clustered into high-capacity pools. And by essentially doubling the capacity of the existing Nytro MegaRAID offering, in terms of flash storage, flash controllers and drive connections, the NMR 8014-8e8i can support even higher density environments. But LSI has included additional features that make it an even stronger solution for this use case.

Flexible Flash

In the previous MegaRAID product, users could dedicate a single flash module (one of two) and half the total flash capacity (up to 400GB) to something other than caching, such as a dedicated tier of flash for pinning the most active data. In the NMR 8140-8e8i all four flash modules are available to be used as cache or as dedicated storage. With twice the flash capacity users have up to 1.6TB of high-speed flash to divide up as needed. And, with four modules, users can configure a RAID 5 set in flash, for added protection.

Users can also partition some of this flash as a boot volume, eliminating the need for a dedicated boot drive altogether. This saves the cost of that drive and frees up hard drive slots for expanding storage capacity. It also provides a high-speed boot capability, ideal for transaction-based environments where uptime is critical.

Advanced Cache Statistics

Environments like cloud providers that this product is designed for need capacity, performance and flexibility, but also must use that capacity efficiently, especially high $/GB resources like flash. To this end LSI has developed a utility called Advanced Cache Statistics that captures data to help optimize flash use. Data points on cache hits and misses, cache fills, cache window, host and VD statistics are all collected. With these data admins can use advanced diagnostics to help tune cache performance to maximize their investments.

Storage Swiss Take

This upgraded Nytro MegaRAID card is a solid offering from an industry leader (LSI actually holds the #2 spot in market share for PCIe flash). It’s designed for the increasingly common scale-out storage environments where dozens of HDDs are housed in clusters of rack-mounted x86 servers. These are service provider types of companies that often design their own hardware nodes to meet their customers’ needs so flexibility is important, as are capacity and performance. But efficiency is also a key feature since these users need to maximize their resources, especially high cost resources like flash, in order to remain competitive.

LSI is not a client of Storage Switzerland

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Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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