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Marvell to release DRAM, SSD-based accelerator card

Lucas Mearian, Computerworld | April 4, 2011
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Solid-state drive chip maker Marvell Technology today announced that later this year it will release an accelerator card designed to deliver a tenfold increase in storage network throughput by caching and sorting data at the server before sending it to back-end arrays.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Solid-state drive chip maker Marvell Technology today announced that later this year it will release an accelerator card designed to deliver a tenfold increase in storage network throughput by caching and sorting data at the server before sending it to back-end arrays.

The new product, the DragonFly Virtual Storage Accelerator (VSA), was designed for the virtualized server environments that have been saturating storage networks in recent years, Marvell said in an announcement at the Storage Networking World conference here.

"Virtualization solved a big problem in past: It addressed low server utilization rates. But it also created a new problem: When you have many virtual machines in a server, it can bottleneck performance on one of three things -- the CPU, the network bandwidth or storage I/O," said Shawn Kung, Marvell's director of product marketing.

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The DragonFly Virtual Storage Accelerator

The number of chip sockets is increasing, clock speeds are improving and Gigabit Ethernet LANs are growing more common -- therefore the biggest performance problem typically lies with storage I/O, Kung explained.

"Even if each individual [virtual machine] has a workload profile that's sequential, the combination of so many VMs all trying to write I/O to the back end results in the arrays seeing a very highly randomized write pattern," Kung said.

The DragonFly VSA card comes in a PCI Express (PCIe) form factor, allowing it to be used in servers regardless of the protocol used to attach to back-end storage, Kung said.

The DragonFly is powered by what Marvell calls its "HyperScale" embedded processor technology, an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) that controls nonvolatile RAM as L1 cache and SSD chips as L2 cache to maintain highly consistent writes by placing them in sequential order, according to Kung.

"What's happening is we gather writes in cache and reorder them before staging them to a SAN or NAS array. The way it works is it coalesces the writes and then prunes the overwrites, the multiple updates and edits, so that the effective number of write [I/O per second] drops by 10 times," Kung said. "We've proven this in real-world benchmarks."

Marvell claims that no changes to applications are required for the accelerator card to perform and that it is storage agnostic, meaning it can work with NAS, SAN or DAS.

Arun Taneja, founder and lead analyst with market research firm Taneja Group, said the DragonFly VSA represents a "paradigm shifting product," because it will make a huge difference in enhancing the speed with which VMware and other hypervisors will bring mission critical applications under the purview of server virtualization.

 

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