During the LSI Accelerating Innovation Summit we noticed a very intriguing looking device on display that stood alone, in that there was no name, test results or information included. Better yet, NOBODY would speak of it at all!
At the top of what we will call the ‘WarpDrive Family’ case (pic below) was a new family member that, for all intents and purposes, LSI will neither confirm nor deny any performance specifications or capabilities. Needless to say, our curiosity was piqued!
A bit of a mystery board, we have a few ideas of what it may be but any speculation is just that…pure speculation. There was no branding or product naming attached whatsoever, so we will refer to it as the “Hybrid” WarpDrive Two PCIe SSD.
For the readers that are not familiar with the WarpDrive family of devices, the concept is quite simple. These are NAND based devices that are slipped into a PCIe slot on the server. The PCIe lanes allow excellent latency and keeps the data close to the CPU, which is very effective for overall performance. The device incurs very minimal amounts of CPU or RAM overhead in the host system, in effect it does not disturb the server environment.
The bottom right of the case holds the first version of the WarpDrive, and the device in the middle of the case is the high capacity full height variant of that same WarpDrive.
To the left on the bottom of the case is the new WarpDrive 2 that we have featured in a previous article. To the top of the case is the new device that we might bet wasn’t for public display.
The concept is simple, but the beauty is in the complexity of the types of performance that can be gained, and the large amount of possibilities that LSI is integrating into this platform moving forward. Placing the device into the PCIe slot creates some unique opportunities for expanding the functionality of the integrated NAND.
Looking at the device itself, there are a few ‘definites’ regarding its construction.
LSI recently acquired SandForce, a leading SSD controller manufacturer. The previous versions WarpDrive used SandForce technology, so its inclusion here definitely falls into the realm of a “definite”. With its advanced on-the-fly compression technologies and endurance-minded approaches to flash management, SandForce is a very good match for enterprise usage models.
In fact, many have stated that LSIs previous collaboration with SandForce on the previous generation of WarpDrive devices provided the catalyst for the merger of the two companies.
To the right the large silver boxes are going to contain NAND devices that will be controlled by integrated SandForce controllers. Under the large silver heatsink will set the engine of the unit, the integrated ROC. The previous generation of WarpDrive devices utilized the LSISAS2008 ROC, but there is no word on this ROC, or the ROC that will be used in the standard WarpDrive 2 device.
The interesting feature here is the inclusion of the SFF-8087 port. This is a very commonly seen aspect on many versions of RAID controllers and HBAs. This allows them to be connected internally via SAS cabling to the storage devices. The exciting prospect here is the inclusion of this into what is primarily a PCIe SSD.
So the big question is, what is the usage model for these ports integrated into the device? Several theories arise quickly to mind, based upon basic assumptions.
First, simply to expand the capacity of the NAND that will be used on the device. With current capacities of the WarpDrive 2 confirmed at 1.6 TB maximum, this may simply be a way to integrate larger amounts of flash acceleration into the package. The question that this begs is, will these be separate volumes, or will there be a possibility to integrate the connected capacity into the base volume?
This could also be simply a front-end connection for a device that is purely a CacheCade monster. By allowing connection via the SFF port, the user may be able to connect large HDD volumes that will be simply be cached by the integrated NAND. It is extremely important to have the cached data as close to the CPU as possible, and integration of the NAND into the caching device itself is a natural progression.
Another possible usage model is for the integrated NAND to be used as its own caching volume, leveraging the power and capabilities of CacheCade, and the connected devices to be used as a dedicated SSD or HDD volume that operates independently of the integrated NAND.
Whatever the model, one thing is certain, CacheCade functionality is almost certainly going to be leveraged with this device. There simply is no way that LSI will miss the opportunity to further the NAND acceleration of HDD base volumes that has proven so radically productive for end users.
The current plans of expanding CacheCade functionality into host logic, allowing it to cache all types of inter-server traffic are very exciting. Fiber Channel, 10G, and SAS traffic are already squarely in the sites of further development of CacheCade technology, enabling these devices to solve a whole host of problems currently facing server administrators.
With the forthcoming 12Gb/s Controller and the WarpDrive 2 headed to our testbench, it is surely only a matter of time before this new “hybrid” WarpDrive 2 is featured on these pages as well!
It is important to remember that our suggestions above are no more than straight speculation at this point. We have approached LSI regarding the device and they politely declined to comment at this time. We did notice a slight smile on their faces when stating such, however.