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!

Mellanox Reacts to Activist Investor Pressures in Letter to Shareholders

March 16, 2018

Activist investor Starboard Value has been exerting pressure on Mellanox Technologies to increase its returns. In response, the high-performance networking company on Monday, March 12, published a letter to shareholders outlining its proposal for a May 2018 extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of shareholders and highlighting its long-term growth strategy and focus on operating margin improvement. Read more…

By Staff

Quantum Computing vs. Our ‘Caveman Newtonian Brain’: Why Quantum Is So Hard

March 15, 2018

Quantum is coming. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon enough. Within 10 to 12 years, we’re told, special-purpose quantum systems will enter the commercial realm. Assuming this happens, we can also assume that quantum will, over extended time, become increasingly general purpose as it delivers mind-blowing power. Read more…

By Doug Black

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise IT in its willingness to outsource computational power. The m Read more…

By Chris Downing

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Achieve Optimal Performance at Scale with High Performance Fabrics for HPC

High Performance Computing (HPC) is unlocking a new era of speed and productivity to fuel business transformation. Rapid advancements in HPC capabilities are helping organizations operate faster and more effectively than ever, but in today’s fast-paced marketplace, a new generation of technologies is required to reach greater scalability and cost-efficiency. Read more…

Stephen Hawking, Legendary Scientist, Dies at 76

March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking passed away at his home in Cambridge, England, in the early morning of March 14; he was 76. Born on January 8, 1942, Hawking was an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and director of resea Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Stephen Hawking, Legendary Scientist, Dies at 76

March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking passed away at his home in Cambridge, England, in the early morning of March 14; he was 76. Born on January 8, 1942, Hawking was an English theo Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hyperion Tackles Elusive Quantum Computing Landscape

March 13, 2018

Quantum computing - exciting and off-putting all at once - is a kaleidoscope of technology and market questions whose shapes and positions are far from settled. Read more…

By John Russell

Part Two: Navigating Life Sciences Choppy HPC Waters in 2018

March 8, 2018

2017 was not necessarily the best year to build a large HPC system for life sciences say Ari Berman, VP and GM of consulting services, and Aaron Gardner, direct Read more…

By John Russell

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SciNet Launches Niagara, Canada’s Fastest Supercomputer

March 5, 2018

SciNet and the University of Toronto today unveiled "Niagara," Canada's most-powerful supercomputer, comprising 1,500 dense Lenovo ThinkSystem SD530 high-perfor Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

Alibaba Cloud Launches ‘Bare Metal,’ HPC Instances in Europe

February 28, 2018

Alibaba, the e-commerce giant from China, is taking a run at AWS in the global public cloud computing market with new offerings aimed at the surging demand for Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and 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

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? 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

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

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

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

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

V100 Good but not Great on Select Deep Learning Aps, Says Xcelerit

November 27, 2017

Wringing optimum performance from hardware to accelerate deep learning applications is a challenge that often depends on the specific application in use. A benc Read more…

By John Russell

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par 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

World Record: Quantum Computer with 46 Qubits Simulated

December 18, 2017

Scientists from the Jülich Supercomputing Centre have set a new world record. Together with researchers from Wuhan University and the University of Groningen, Read more…

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

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