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9/6/2012
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QLogic Announces Fabric-Based SSD Cache

Fibre Channel host bus adapters provide transparent application acceleration and sync cache across multiple physical machines.

QLogic announced Thursday its Mt. Rainier project that weds storage area network host bus adapters (HBAs) with industry-standard solid state drive (SSD) technology to provide a transparent cache within the Fibre Channel fabric. By placing the SSD within the server but behind the HBA, the benefits of a local server cache are combined with the ability for physical hosts to access the cache in other servers, making the high speed SSDs part of the shared storage system.

The implementation at the host bus adapter (HBA) level also makes the installation and management of server-side SSD caching very simple, because the HBA knows what data should be cached because it is monitoring all the I/O across the storage area network, and knows the contents of all HBA caches across physical machines.

QLogic's Mt. Rainier system is transparent to operating systems, hypervisors, applications, and storage subsystems. The configuration allows high speed peer-to-peer mirroring between physical machines because the adapters can directly communicate with each other across the fabric. Since the HBA does the cache management, server resources are not used, freeing the server to handle more compute operations or support a higher density of virtual machines.

[ Solid state storage device proliferation leads to sprawl and performance problems in data centers. See how to Stop SSD Sprawl. ]

The pool of SSDs can be shared across multiple virtual machines for applications that require a high quality of service regardless of physical location of the data. If a virtual machine is moved to a different physical server, it can still access its cache from its prior location, without having to rebuild the cache locally.

Current caching products require separate device drivers for storage area networking HBAs, SSD adapters, and additional caching filter drivers and software.

Mt. Rainier adapters use only one lightweight QLogic adapter driver and allow customers to connect different SSDs, including PCIe flash-based storage cards and industry standard serial-attached SCSI SSDs. They will be implemented as either a QLogic adapter with a separate SSD adapter, or as a QLogic adapter with a separate SAS SSD daughter card or an integrated SSD daughter card.

QLogic, a manufacturer of Fibre Channel HBAs, Ethernet adapters, and Fibre Channel switches, will initially deploy Mt. Rainier in its line of Fibre Channel products, with initial products arriving later this year. Subsequent models will support 10Gb Ethernet and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). Pricing has not been announced.

Deni Connor is founding analyst for Storage Strategies NOW, an industry analyst firm that focuses on storage, virtualization, and servers.

New innovative products may be a better fit for today's enterprise storage than monolithic systems. Also in the new, all-digital Storage Innovation issue of InformationWeek: Compliance in the cloud era. (Free with registration.)

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