QLogic launches FabricCache storage solution: Caching SAN Adapter

21 March 2013

The new QLogic FabricCache 10,000 Series adapter is aimed at heavy financial services and other industrial users of data centres that need superfast enterprise application performance. The caching storage area network (SAN) adapter can be specified with a 200 or 400 gigabyte (GB) SSD flash card and comes with lots of plug-in options for VMWare virtualised and Citrix environments to enable brokers and traders to easily get more speed and performance out of their existing computer server estates and enhance virtualised desktop infrastructures (VDI) for other end users. The latter is likely to be the primary use for the adapters, outside of the data centre (DC). An eight-node cluster can deliver a maximum of 1.6 terabytes (TB) of extra capacity.

The claimed industry first caching SAN adapter is based on QLogic’s Mt. Rainier technology. The FabricCache 10,000 series combines QLogic’s Fibre Channel adapter, intelligent caching and input/output (I/O) management with connectivity to a server-based PCIe flash card.

FabricCache is simple to deploy and manage and transforms single-server, captive cache into a shared, performance-enhancing resource for a wide range of enterprise applications that rely on SAN storage, says the manufacturer.

Unleashing Shared, Enhanced Performance in DCs
Clustered and highly virtualised servers continue to expand their footprint in financial services data centres, generating large numbers of highly randomised input/output per second (IOPs), and producing some of the most performance-challenged environments in the enterprise. FabricCache unleashes the power of server-based caching and defines a new solution category for enterprise application acceleration, transparently pooling individual server cache across multiple, physical servers.

All servers equipped with FabricCache adapters access, share and utilise the combined cache of all FabricCache adapters in a cluster. This approach delivers new levels of scalable performance for the most demanding mission-critical applications in the data centre, dramatically lowering latency and increasing throughput for clustered and virtualised applications, including database and enterprise collaboration.

FabricCache adapters also enable hypervisor-transparent caching of SAN storage in highly virtualised, clustered environments. During live virtual machine (VM) migration between physical servers, FabricCache ensures the shared cache stays warm, keeping performance high and supporting critical features such as automated VM and workload balancing across clustered servers. Since only one active copy of cache exists for any SAN logical unit number (LUN), FabricCache adapters deliver cache coherence and can maximise utilisation of server-based flash capacity. The product will also ensure all cached data is synchronised with SAN storage, maintaining existing data protection and compliance policies, claims the vendor.

Speaking at a pre-launch event in London on Tuesday for the new product, Henrik Hansen, Europe, Middle-East and Africa (EMEA) marketing director for QLogic, said that the firm was not in the business of selling SSD flash cards but that “the FabricCache adapter happened to be in this space”, before reiterating that it combines the firm’s Fibre Channel adapter, intelligent caching and I/O management, with connectivity to a server-based flash card, for ease-of-use purposes. “We’re agnostic towards flash cards,” he added.

Simon Biddiscombe, the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of QLogic, said in a statement that: “QLogic possesses the combination of industry experience, installed base in the enterprise, global customer relationships, technology assets and R&D talent needed, to define and bring to market performance-enhancing solutions such as FabricCache.”

“QLogic has a rich heritage of delivering innovative, high-performance data centre connectivity solutions to our customers and partners,” he added.

Technical Details
Compatible with the vast majority of SANs deployed today, the dual port 8GB Fibre Channel FabricCache QLE10000 adapter comes bundled with an enterprise ultra-low latency, high-performance SLC PCIe flash card. FabricCache will be available through QLogic’s Authorised Channel Partners by the end of March 2013. QLogic’s new Advanced Solutions Partners are FabricCache-certified resellers who have the skills and training to identify customer requirements, along with the tools and expertise to support customised installations.

FabricCache uses just a single standard adapter driver per OS, the same QLogic field-proven adapter driver stack that has shipped with more than 13 million Fibre Channel ports. The FabricCache adapter appears logically to the server as a single QLogic HBA, resulting in a simpler solution that consumes no additional server resources and is completely application-transparent, as well as infrastructure and storage subsystem-agnostic. The product integrates seamlessly into current enterprise server and infrastructure environments, claims the vendor, simplifying deployment and management, thereby potentially reducing total cost of ownership (TCO).

Unlike alternative offerings that require resource-heavy separate installation, management and maintenance of server-based software and drivers for the I/O adapter, PCIe flash card and caching, this new approach offers efficiency savings, asserts QLogic. Intelligent cache processing, pooling and clustering are completely offloaded from the server to dedicated cache processing hardware on the FabricCache adapter, freeing up capacity and enhancing performance without burdening firms with a large permanent infrastructure that needs expensive support staff and equipment.

“The FabricCache 10,000 series is just the beginning of a range of new and highly differentiated solutions to come from QLogic’s Mt. Rainier technology,” explains Shishir Shah, senior vice president and general manager, storage solutions group, QLogic. “We are deeply engaged with several strategic enterprise application partners and major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and look forward to bringing additional breakthrough solutions to market.”

Industry Analyst Support
According to David Floyer, chief technology officer (CTO) and co-founder of Wikibon: “By placing the cache in the fabric, and supporting it with a standard Fibre Channel HBA driver, the caching becomes transparent to the application host system and storage system. For FC SAN environments this is a simpler and lower cost implementation to install, manage and grow.”

Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst of Taneja Group, is excited that the new product line makes SSDs a shared SAN resource. “Today’s server-based caching solutions are beginning to break down the I/O performance gap between high performance servers and slower, mechanical, disk-based arrays,” he added. “Solutions like the QLE10000 adapter will finally enable clustered enterprise applications to take advantage of SSD performance acceleration typically found only in individual servers.

Gary Chen, a research manager covering cloud and virtualization system software at IDC, points out the size of the potential market. “Virtualisation is the default in today's data centre with virtualised workloads eclipsing physical workloads. Nearly 91 million VMs are going to be deployed between now and 2016 and we are also seeing the rise of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), a market which is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14% over five years.”

Launch customers for the new storage product include Constant Contact, a marketing firm that sent out 45bn emails last year, and Carrenza, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider in the UK.

Become a bobsguide member to access the following

1. Unrestricted access to bobsguide
2. Send a proposal request
3. Insights delivered daily to your inbox
4. Career development