In this episode, we talk with Zivan Ori (@ZivanOri), CEO and Co-founder of E8 Storage, a new storage startup out of Israel. E8 Storage provides a tier 0, next generation all flash array storage solution for HPC and high end environments that need extremely high IO performance, with high availability and modest data services. We first saw E8 Storage at last years Flash Memory Summit (FMS 2016) and have wanted to talk with them since.
Tier 0 storage
The Greybeards discussed new tier 0 solutions in our annual yearend industry review podcast. As we saw it then, tier 0 provides lightening fast (~100s of µsec) read and write IO operations and millions of IO/sec. There are not a lot of applications that need this level of speed and quantity of IOs but for those that do, Tier 0 storage is their only solution.
In the past Tier 0, was essentially SSDs sitting on a PCIe bus, isolated to a single server. But today, with the emergence of NVMe protocols and SSDs, 40/50/100GBE NICs and switches and RDMA protocols, this sort of solution can be shared across from racks of servers.
There were a few shared Tier 0 solutions available in the past but their challenge was that they all used proprietary hardware. With today’s new hardware and protocols, these new Tier 0 systems often perform as good or much better than the old generation but with off the shelf hardware.
E8 came to the market (emerged out of stealth and GA’d in September of 2016) after NVMe protocols, SSDs and RDMA were available in commodity hardware and have taken advantage of all these new capabilities.
E8 Storage system hardware & software
E8 Storage offers a 2U HA appliance with 24, hot-pluggable NVMe SSDs connected to it and support 8 client or host ports. The hardware appliance has two controllers, two power supplies, and two batteries. The batteries are used to hold up a DRAM write cache until it can be flushed to internal storage for power failures. They don’t do any DRAM read caching because the performance off the NVMe SSDs is more than fast enough.
The 24 NVMe SSDs are all dual ported for fault tolerance and provide hot-pluggable replacement for better servicing in the field. One E8 Storage system can supply up to 180TB of usable, shared NVMe flash storage.
E8 Storage uses RDMA (RoCE) NICs between client servers and their storage system, which support 40GBE, 50GBE or 100GBE networking.
E8 does not do data reduction (thin provisioning, data deduplication or data compression) on their storage, so usable capacity = effective capacity. Their belief is that these services consume a lot of compute/IO limiting IO/sec and increasing response times and as the price of NVMe SSD capacity is coming down over time these activities become less useful.
They also have client software that provides a fault tolerant initiator for their E8 storage. This client software supports MPIO and failover across controllers in the event of a controller outage. The client software currently runs on just about any flavor of Linux available today and E8 is working to port this to other OSs based on customer requests.
Storage provisioning and management is through a RESTful API, CLI or web based GUI management portal. Hardware support is supplied by E8 Storage and they offer a 3 year warranty on their system with the ability to extend this to 5 years, if needed.
One problem with today’s standard NVMe over Fabric solutions is that they lack any failover capabilities and really have no support for data protection. By developing their own client software, E8 provides fault tolerance and data protection for Tier 0 storage. They currently supported RAID 0 and 5 for E8 Storage and RAID 6 is in development.
Everyone wants native DAS-NVMe SSD storage but unlike server Tier 0 solutions, E8 Storage’s 180TB of NVMe capacity can be shared across up to 100 servers (currently have 96 servers talking to a single E8 Storage appliance at one customer). By moving this capacity out to a shared storage device it can be be made more fault tolerant, more serviceable and be amortized over more servers. However the problem with doing this has always been the lack of DAS like performance.
Talking to Zivan, he revealed that a single E8 Storage service was capable of 5M IO/sec, and at that rate, the system delivers an average response time of 300µsec and for a more reasonable 4M IO/sec, the system can deliver ~120µsec response times. He said they can saturate a 100GBE network by operating at 10M IO/sec. He didn’t say what the response time was at 10M IO/sec but with network saturation, response times probably went exponentially higher.
The other thing that Zivan mentioned was that the system delivered these response times with a very small variance (standard deviation). I believe he mentioned 1.5 to 3% standard deviations which at 120µsec is 18 to 36µsec and even at 300µsec its 45 to 90µsec. We have never see this level of response times, response time variance and IO/sec in a single shared storage system before.
Zivan and many of his team previously came from IBM XIV storage. As such, they have been involved in developing and supporting enterprise class storage systems for quite awhile now. So, E8 Storage knows what it takes to create products that can survive in 7X24, high end, highly active and demanding environments.
E8 Storage currently has customers in production in the US. They are seeing primary interest in their system from the HPC, FinServ, and Retail industries but any large customers could have the need for something like this. They sell their storage for from $2 to $3/GB.
The podcast runs ~42 minutes, and Zivan was easy to talk with and has a good grasp of the storage industry technologies. Listen to the podcast to learn more.
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Zivan Ori CEO & Co-Founder, E8 Storage
Mr. Zivan Ori is the co-founder and CEO of E8 Storage. Before founding E8 Storage, Mr. Ori held the position of IBM XIV R&D Manager, responsible for developing the IBM XIV high-end, grid-scale storage system, and served as Chief Architect at Stratoscale, a provider of hyper-converged infrastructure.
Prior to IBM XIV, Mr. Ori headed Software Development at Envara (acquired by Intel) and served as VP R&D at Onigma (acquired by McAfee).