Moving Beyond The Flash Status Quo – E8 Storage Briefing Note

There are an increasing number of environments where the flash status quo will not deliver enough performance to meet the demands of the organization. IT planners at these data centers need to deliver unprecedented levels of application response time by either increasing storage IO performance or building out storage class memory environments.

The problem for most of these environments is, to meet these unprecedented performance expectations requires complicated work arounds, like server side storage, that break the best practices of shared architectures. Instead of giving up on the efficiencies and availability advantages of shared storage, they need solutions that will provide near in-server performance in a shared model.

An end-to-end NVMe architecture delivers that capability. E8 Storage for example, is an NVMe native storage system that connects into any RDMA capable ethernet switch. The hosts also connect through NVMe Ethernet network adaptors. The result is a very efficient, low latency infrastructure designed specifically to communicate with memory based devices.

At Flash Memory Summit 2017, E8 Storage is announcing its platform is entering a new phase of increased agility and new products. The new release provides the ability for a connecting host to be able to leverage multiple E8 Storage arrays. An IT planner can choose to span multiple E8 Storage arrays to meet the capacity and performance demands they require.

The release also features the ability to have shared writable volumes so that in a clustered database environment or file system multiple nodes can write to the same volume at the same time. Initially both Oracle RAC and IBM Spectrum Scale are supported. The result is not only improved processing performance but also the ability to scale compute and storage independently.

Potentially the biggest news is the introduction of the E8-X24 which leverages Intel’s Optane Storage Class Memory SSDs. Intel Optane combines 3D XPoint memory media, Intel memory and storage controllers, Intel interconnect IP and Intel software to create a new tier of solid state device that is suitable as a high performance alternative to flash media or a cost-effective alternative to large DRAM pools.

The E8-X24 is an NVMe storage system dedicated to Intel Optane SCM. It provides in-memory level performance and scalability beyond the internal limits of a typical server. Given E8 Storage’s ability to span storage systems, the data center is now empowered to grow memory limits as the application demands. The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange is an early tester of the technology, using an E8-X24 with Intel Optane in their high frequency trading application.

The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s SVP, CIO, IT and Operations Department Uri Shavit stated, “E8 Storage allows us to build a shared storage solution with latency that rivals in-memory database clusters, but unlike in-memory solutions it allows us to scale capacity easily as well as share volumes between many nodes in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange cluster. E8 Storage’s solution, coupled with Dual Port Intel® Optane™ SSDs, has potential in the field of high-frequency trading and represents a new breed of storage product that we have not seen before.”

Another important update is the ability for the system to support multiple RAID groups. The prior release only supported a single RAID6 group. While the reliability of flash storage made an array group with this number of drives practical, some enterprises expressed concern over the size of the potential failure domain. The new release allows IT planners to create smaller array groups to ease their concern.

Multiple RAID groups has other benefits. First, the customer no longer needs to buy a completely full unit. They can now start smaller, and then add drives as their capacity demands dictate. Drives can be hot added to an existing RAID group.

The second benefit is the customer can mix flash SSD and storage class memory (Intel Optane). Extreme performance in-memory database applications can be assigned to the SCM RAID group and other applications can be assigned to the NVMe Flash RAID group.

StorageSwiss Take

In some ways E8 Storage is reminiscent of the early days of high performance storage, where a customer might choose a DRAM array or a new flash array to solve a specific performance problem. As flash came down in price, its use case became more widespread to the point where many data centers place all active data on flash storage.

The problem is the performance demands of the enterprise didn’t stop increasing in 2010. Quite the opposite, the hunger for more and more performance continues unabated, especially for applications where performance translates to revenue or customer satisfaction. End-to-end native NVMe solutions like E8 Storage, with the option of either flash storage or storage class memory, are the storage systems that organizations are looking to now to solve these specific use cases.

Storage Switzerland is at Flash Memory Summit 2017. Click here to see all our FMS2017 posts.

Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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