QLogic, known for their enterprise storage infrastructure solutions, has announced the release of their Mt. Rainier SSD caching technology. Mt. Rainier is a targeted solution meant to accelerate SAN performance while at the same time simplifying deployment of SSD caching in servers. Interestingly, the caching solution will not only be transparent to server side applications, but to the OS as well, reducing complexity and making it easier to deploy Mt. Rainier across a variety of platforms.
Now, we’ve all seen server oriented SSD caching solutions launched in the past, but what makes this release different is the extra spin QLogic has put on their new product. The secret sauce I speak of is the integration of key parts of the driver stack directly into the hardware’s firmware, which not only simplifies supporting multiple operating systems, but also results in a nice performance improvement in many cases, due to the fact the bulk of the driver is running directly on the card instead of the host system. Now, this may not be a terribly big deal for consumer oriented PCIe SSDs, but as soon as you start throwing things like multiple Virtual Machines into the mix, systems can get bogged down pretty quickly, making every percentage of free CPU time a precious commodity. Because most of the adapter management duties are offloaded to the card itself, the server has more resources available to perform the tasks vital to a company’s everyday operation.
Speaking of jobs vital to everyday operation, Mt. Rainier is able to effectively accelerate a wider variety of applications relative to its more pedestrian competitors. This advantage is due to the product’s unique ability to transparently share a cache across multiple servers. This is in stark contrast to the majority of other caching solutions on the market, which restrict “hot data” to a single server, thereby limiting their utility in an Enterprise environment. One particularly interesting use for this feature is in clusters of servers, where this kind of cache sharing will be a natural fit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mt. Rainier technology show up in super computers over the coming months and years, maybe even helping to set a new record or two in the process. In any case, with it’s high versatility allowing it to support multiple scenarios, I can see many a sysadmin viewing Mt. Rainier as an indispensable part of their setup.
All in all, QLogic has a very intriguing offering on their hands. By releasing an enterprise caching solution with distinct features such firmware level drivers and cache sharing between multiple servers, they have effectively set themselves apart from the competition. SSD caching really is all the rage these days, so it’s nice to see a company do what it can to innovate and push the industry forward. Mt. Rainier sets a lofty new standard when it comes to supporting a variety of applications in a business environment, and as such, QLogic shouldn’t have much of an issue carving out a good portion of the enterprise market for itself. Companies are always looking for products that help them operate more effectively, and in that respect, Mt. Rainier is rock solid.
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