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!

Women Coders from Russia, Italy, and Poland Top Study

January 17, 2017

According to a study posted on HackerRank today the best women coders as judged by performance on HackerRank challenges come from Russia, Italy, and Poland. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 12, 2017)

January 12, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

NSF Seeks Input on Cyberinfrastructure Advances Needed

January 12, 2017

In cased you missed it, the National Science Foundation posted a “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL) late last week seeking input on needs for the next generation of cyberinfrastructure to support science and engineering. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization: An Integral Technology for Upstream Oil & Gas

As the exploration and production (E&P) of natural resources evolves into an even more complex and vital task, visualization technology has become integral for the upstream oil and gas industry. Read more…

NSF Approves Bridges Phase 2 Upgrade for Broader Research Use

January 12, 2017

The recently completed phase 2 upgrade of the Bridges supercomputer at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) has been approved by the National Science Foundation (NSF) making it now available for research allocations to the national scientific community, according to an announcement posted this week on the XSEDE web site. Read more…

By John Russell

Clemson Software Optimizes Big Data Transfers

January 11, 2017

Data-intensive science is not a new phenomenon as the high-energy physics and astrophysics communities can certainly attest, but today more and more scientists are facing steep data and throughput challenges fueled by soaring data volumes and the demands of global-scale collaboration. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

A Conversation with Women in HPC Director Toni Collis

January 6, 2017

In this SC16 video interview, HPCwire Managing Editor Tiffany Trader sits down with Toni Collis, the director and founder of the Women in HPC (WHPC) network, to discuss the strides made since the organization’s debut in 2014. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Fast Rewind: 2016 Was a Wild Ride for HPC

December 23, 2016

Some years quietly sneak by – 2016 not so much. It’s safe to say there are always forces reshaping the HPC landscape but this year’s bunch seemed like a noisy lot. Among the noisemakers: TaihuLight, DGX-1/Pascal, Dell EMC & HPE-SGI et al., KNL to market, OPA-IB chest thumping, Fujitsu-ARM, new U.S. President-elect, BREXIT, JR’s Intel Exit, Exascale (whatever that means now), NCSA@30, whither NSCI, Deep Learning mania, HPC identity crisis…You get the picture. Read more…

By John Russell

AWI Uses New Cray Cluster for Earth Sciences and Bioinformatics

December 22, 2016

The Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), headquartered in Bremerhaven, Germany, is one of the country's premier research institutes within the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, and is an internationally respected center of expertise for polar and marine research. In November 2015, AWI awarded Cray a contract to install a cluster supercomputer that would help the institute accelerate time to discovery. Now the effort is starting to pay off. Read more…

By Linda Barney

Addison Snell: The ‘Wild West’ of HPC Disaggregation

December 16, 2016

We caught up with Addison Snell, CEO of HPC industry watcher Intersect360, at SC16 last month, and Snell had his expected, extensive list of insights into trends driving advanced-scale technology in both the commercial and research sectors. Read more…

By Doug Black

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Genomics Pipeline Combines AWS, Local HPC, and Supercomputing

September 22, 2016

Declining DNA sequencing costs and the rush to do whole genome sequencing (WGS) of large cohort populations – think 5000 subjects now, but many more thousands soon – presents a formidable computational challenge to researchers attempting to make sense of large cohort datasets. Read more…

By John Russell

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

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