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!

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

ExxonMobil, NCSA, Cray Scale Reservoir Simulation to 700,000+ Processors

February 17, 2017

In a scaling breakthrough for oil and gas discovery, ExxonMobil geoscientists report they have harnessed the power of 717,000 processors – the equivalent of 22,000 32-processor computers – to run complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models. Read more…

By Doug Black

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

O&G Companies Create Value with High Performance Remote Visualization

Today’s oil and gas (O&G) companies are striving to process datasets that have become not only tremendously large, but extremely complex. And the larger that data becomes, the harder it is to move and analyze it – particularly with a workforce that could be distributed between drilling sites, offshore rigs, and remote offices. Read more…

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 16, 2017)

February 16, 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

Alexander Named Dep. Dir. of Brookhaven Computational Initiative

February 15, 2017

Francis Alexander, a physicist with extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research, has been named Deputy Director of the Computational Science Initiative at the U.S. Read more…

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Cray Posts Best-Ever Quarter, Visibility Still Limited

February 10, 2017

On its Wednesday earnings call, Cray announced the largest revenue quarter in the company’s history and the second-highest revenue year. 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

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

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

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

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

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. 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

KNUPATH Hermosa-based Commercial Boards Expected in Q1 2017

December 15, 2016

Last June tech start-up KnuEdge emerged from stealth mode to begin spreading the word about its new processor and fabric technology that’s been roughly a decade in the making. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

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