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March 11, 2013updated 19 Aug 2016 9:27am

Dell gets flash with cache

Last week Dell launched Fluid Cache application accelerator technology, providing a 'hot' storage tier within the server itself. I talked to Tony Parkinson, vice president EMEA Enterprise at Dell to get the low-down.

By Jason Stamper Blog

The Dell Fluid Cache for DAS is based on technology that Dell bought with its acquisition of RNA Networks two years ago. This latest iteration of the technology uses Express Flash solid state disk (SSD) memory that Dell can plug into its PowerEdge servers, to intercept storage calls and decide whether to service those requests out of high speed flash or from one of the system’s RAID controllers. The idea being to bring all (as much as possible) of the accessed data into this high speed flash medium.

Dell says the Fluid Cache for DAS 1.0 combines Fluid Cache software and PowerEdge servers with Express Flash PCI Express SSDs and optional PowerVault storage, and is designed to dramatically accelerate Linux-based applications with a ‘hot’ tier of storage inside the server itself.

The impact of this approach to building an SSD cache is said to bring pretty dramatic improvements: the firm is claiming a factor of 23X higher I/O operations per second (IOPS) and up to 7X better on writes. Average transaction response time is said to be reduced by up to 95%, while for database workloads, transaction throughput can be upped by a factor of two.

Parkinson told me this morning that the boost in server performance will be particularly valuable for Big Data, high performance trading, transactional websites, manufacturing automation and the like.

You’ll note that this caching technology is currently only available for direct attached storage (DAS), however Parkinson told me there will be a version for Dell’s Compellent storage area network (SAN) "this year".

The backend SAN network will not be impacted by the Fluid Cache for SAN solution as the initial release will utilise a low-latency high-speed interconnect for the server-to-server communications. The first iteration will support the Fibre Channel networking standard, but he said Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface) support is probably on the cards some time later.

One downside is that Fluid Cache is currently only available for Linux: Red Hat or SUSE to be precise. Parkinson said a SAN-based Windows variant is already going through testing and certification, however.

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"Accelerating both data reads and writes, Fluid Cache delivers performance that is simply not available from read-only caching solutions," Brian Payne, executive director of Dell’s PowerEdge line, wrote in a blog post. "Using Fluid Cache, we can increase the concurrent users of a database by over 60 percent while at the same time doubling the number of transactions per second."

He added: "This allows your business to address seasonal spikes in online transactions, significant new user onboarding, or any organizational challenge quickly, easily and cost effectively. And by journaling and replicating all data in cache, Fluid Cache can reduce database average response times by up to 95 percent without compromising data integrity."



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