Startup Cooks Up Software Sauce for SSDs

By Nicole Hemsoth

June 7, 2011

A small startup emerged from stealth mode today to announce software that improves the read and write performance of SSDs. Although their product won’t appear until later in the year, they claim their solution packs an order of magnitude price-performance improvement for solid-state drives (SSDs) and, for that matter, anything with a block storage interface.

According to Massachusetts-based VeloBit, which just scored an undisclosed round of Series A funding, SSDs can be simpler to deploy without the need for application or existing storage system manipulation.

CEO and founder, Duncan McCallum is no stranger to technology startups. Before he embarked on the VeloBit venture, he served as CEO for Cilk Arts, a multicore software vendor that was swept up by Intel. Before that the MIT and Harvard Business School alum spent a decade in venture capital circles working as a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners and Flagship Ventures.

McCallum’s co-founder, Qing Yang serves as CTO, bringing his 20 years of computer architecture research to bear. His focus has been on securing patents in the areas of memory and storage architectures, disk I/O systems, as well as parallel and distributed computing

McCallum claims that customers who invest in SSD technology are often already plagued with storage problems, but using SSDs still comes bundled with performance limitations. He says that customers who have made the SSD leap are left with two issues. First they have a write problem since it’s much slower to write to an SSD than to read from it. He acknowledges that this can be solved by companies with workarounds like EMC and Fusion-io but these are expensive fixes for a problem that can be handled off the SSD. According to McCallum, the software-only approach VeloBit created means there is no need for heavy investments beyond the SSDs themselves.

In addition to the write issue, McCallum claims that the complexity of using SSDs alone creates a number of challenges since customers are faced with big investments to simplify data management and protection. He says ‘if you look at a dedicated SSD system like Fusion-io, for instances, you’re changing primary storage and you’re left with data on a system that is not part of your legacy infrastructure…what you’re left with is a data island.”

There are other ways to approach these problems, including buying an SSD from one of several system vendors and put it in as a tier, but McCallum says that when you do this, you’re left with data tiering problems. This requires a thorough inventory of data to determine what data is hot and thus suitable to reside on the expensive SSD, with the rest relegated to the cheaper disk storage. Since your “hot” data can change with the times, this means you’re left moving data around accordingly, which adds complexity and cost.

To solve these problems VeloBit’s software-only approach weaves together caching and data compression. He told us that the compression is happening at line speed, creating a large cache that drives performance. The other ingredient in their software sauce is that they are able to use the SSD to expand the cache, and can thus organize the data in such a way that they can make use of the device as a read cache. McCallum says that when you put these capabilities together, it is possible to use less SSDs and on top of that, to use cheaper ones.

The best description he could give was the pyramid example. Imagine that at the top the server running the application needs to be faster. At that bottom of that pyramid is your primary storage—anything with a block interface—and in between those two is VeloBit’s solution. But here’s the catch. Sitting off to the side of that pyramid is the SSD that we use to expand the cache.

In addition to bypassing the write issue, he says that one other benefit to this approach is that in making use of cache, it doesn’t hold the primary copy of the data. Thus the primary data store remains unaltered so there are no concerns about changing how it is managed or backed up. This is what he describes as a complementary technology to SSDs versus something that will reroute how you use them.

McCallum was adamant that despite the fact that it is possible to get data management from an SSD product since the customer already handles her own caching via built-in SSD management tools, read-write manipulation and optimization, there are clear price-performance benefits.

While McCallum focused consistently on the value of their software for SSDs, he claims that this can be used with any type of block interface. When asked where the caching is done his response was clipped since he didn’t wish to give away trade secrets, but he did note that the key is that they’re running the software on the server between the application and the storage—not on top of the SSD itself. From the perspective of the application and storage though, this is all transparent. Suffice to say, McCallum is claiming that if there is a block interface, there is room for his software.

He repeated that VeloBit’s software solution aims to optimize the read and write performance with emphasis on SSD acceleration, although it can speed up a purely disk-based system as well.

One might guess that there could be potential conflicts with running a software-level optimization when there are other manipulations being made to the same storage medium. He says that since they are sitting above the storage medium this is not an issue

This might lead one to believe that this is the part where he announces that to get these price-performance increases means you need to be tied to their own supplied SSDs. His answer to this was somewhat evasive on the partnership front since he admitted that indeed, they would branch into the hardware sphere, but he was adamant that they were not a hardware vendor and were not going to be selling SSDs or other storage devices.

MaCallum couldn’t offer benchmark data to give us a sense of the kind of price-performance improvements, but said they would be publishing figures at some point. However, he says, even though we are lacking some numbers to verify these claims, in their comparisons against the industry-leading SSD and less expensive ones, the results were a combination of price and performance improvements of an order of magnitude.

This leads to the question of whether or not this is a bid to replace a Fusion-io system for example. He says that is one option but even still, if you use the VeloBit solution on top of a high-performance SSD the order of magnitude improvements on price and performance can still be realized but it makes more cost sense to simply use cheaper SSD options.

With Fusion-io, Virident, Texas Memory Systems, and Micron all boasting faster read performance McCallum claims that their VeloBit technology will still prevail. This is because they are operating a different layer, he says. “Look at a traditional storage systems; anytime you can put a cache in front of it, it goes faster—it doesn’t matter what the storage is. The other part, with any SSD, is that it will always be faster with reading than writing. If you use it for read mostly, it will simply be faster.”

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

IBM Launches Commercial Quantum Network with Samsung, ORNL

December 14, 2017

In the race to commercialize quantum computing, IBM is one of several companies leading the pack. Today, IBM announced it had signed JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Samsung and a number of other corporations to its IBM Q Net Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC Researchers Test AI Traffic Monitoring Tool in Austin

December 13, 2017

Traffic jams and mishaps are often painful and sometimes dangerous facts of life. At this week’s IEEE International Conference on Big Data being held in Boston, researchers from TACC and colleagues will present a new Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in what has become an overwhelmingly two-socket landscape in the d Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Explore the Origins of Space with COSMOS and Memory-Driven Computing

From the formation of black holes to the origins of space, data is the key to unlocking the secrets of the early universe. Read more…

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as several tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of quantum. This week, Microsoft took the next step in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Launches Commercial Quantum Network with Samsung, ORNL

December 14, 2017

In the race to commercialize quantum computing, IBM is one of several companies leading the pack. Today, IBM announced it had signed JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in wha Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as several tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercializ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be care Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Spins Cycle Computing into Core Azure Product

December 5, 2017

Last August, cloud giant Microsoft acquired HPC cloud orchestration pioneer Cycle Computing. Since then the focus has been on integrating Cycle’s organization Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE In-Memory Platform Comes to COSMOS

November 30, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is on a mission to accelerate space research. In August, it sent the first commercial-off-the-shelf HPC system into space for testing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This