Infinidat adds predictive analytics to Infinibox OS. But what's it mean?

Enhanced QoS for service providers in Moshe's big iron storage box

Clear instruments

Comment Infinidat says that its upcoming OS release will provide advanced performance analytics with across-the-board instrumentation, and enhanced quality of service (QoS) facilities.

Infinidat, founded by Moshe Yanai of Symmetrix and XIV fame, provides probably the most reliable and available monolithic primary data storage array in the industry, with seven nines reliability and low latency access.

Its business is continuing to grow and revenues in the recently-ended quarter were the second largest it’s ever recorded.

Chief product officer Jacob Broido said reliability at petabyte scale is critical for Infinidat’s customers. “We’re constantly over-delivering on their expectations.”

He said the focus is on further developing its existing array product while keeping an eye on emerging technologies that could enable it to be a stronger offering in the future.

He said there would be improved quality of service management, such that service providers could throttle IOPS and bandwidth, with array management geared to enabling them to offer tiered QoS levels (Gold, Silver, Bronze, etc.) to their multi-tenant customers.

Infinidat's array is a hybrid, employing disk for bulk data storage and flash (SATA SSDs) for caching data. There are, Broido believes, at this point in time, no good cost and performance reasons for adopting an all-flash array architecture or a flash storage tier, not when it wins bake-offs by customers against all-flash array vendors' products.

The 10:1 to 25:1 cost/GB differential between nearline disk drives and SATA SSDs is to prevent Infinidat replacing disk with flash.

Flash and fabric

Views on data access latency are changing, with Broido saying: “Now every microsecond counts. Five years ago it was every millisecond.”

The design architecture of the array means that a flash tier could be adopted in the future, if, for example, its performance/capacity and cost characteristics meant the Infinibox it could cost-effectively deliver greater performance. Broido said the system doesn’t write in place but uses log-structured writes instead. Possibly NVMe flash, perhaps using 3D NAND technology, could provide this, making flash more affordable without compromising reliability, and then Infinidat could evolve Infinibox to adopt a flash tier.

“Today we deliver much faster write performance than most all-flash array,” said Broido. “What’s capping us is the network and protocol stack.”

The company is well aware that network transit times contribute to data access latency.

NVMe over fabric (NVMeF) could get Infinidat over that hurdle but, according to the firm, “NVMeF has not yet come to full maturity.” There are multiple NVMeF flavours (such as RoCE, iWarp, ISER, and an InfiniBand one.) The SNIA, storage vendors and adapter vendors all have a role in helping NVMeF mature, with the implication that one agreed flavour should become prominent, which would help wider adoption.

So, at some stage in the future, technology like NVMeF, potentially using RDMA over Ethernet (our guess), could enable Infinidat and its customers to sidestep Fibre Channel/iSCSI-type network transit delays and provide very much faster access to data by servers.

Future storage media

Infinidat is looking intently at post-NAND technologies and Broido says 3D XPoint memory could provide a caching facility. It could greatly extend and lower the price of the memory tier in the array.

He says most storage systems use some DRAM for metadata handling. Much larger DRAM amounts would increase array performance but DRAM is expensive: “Technologies like 3D XPoint are the next best thing,” but he has not yet seen product in the wild.*

Host server offload

We discussed application software running in arrays and Broido said there was a continuum between arrays just looking after storage to ones running full-blown applications in the array. He said there was a point part way along the continuum where some limited application functionality ran in the storage – for example, via an FPGA, which would then offload the hosts.

This makes sense in a file environment where the array already handles file semantics. That would be the place to build offloading technologies to deal with things like transcoding, indexing and compression.

We asked if Infinidat was interested in the business high-performance computing market.

“Not immediately,” Broido said. “It’s not a short-term focus.”

The company is focussed on traditional enterprise and service provider customers, with close attention paid to throughput, where an offloading mechanism could help.

Analytics

A future release of Infinidat's operating system will include an an Advanced Performance Analytics engine. The aim is to deliver capabilities, such as identifying where access delays occur in the array, so that they can be fixed and array performance optimised. Customers could tell the system to show them a heat map, show the top accessing hosts in real time and over time.

“It’s the key to building an efficient array today,” Broido said.

Infinidat is also adding instrumentation across the board, he said: “There is an insane amount of metering we can add to the system without impacting performance. … The APA will help pin-point where latency is used up.”

It occurs to us that a large storage array is a specific case for Internet of Things treatment, as Nimble Storage originally realised, with sophisticated software needed to take myriad detailed performance measures and, in a Big Data fashion, group them and analyse them to extract information about array performance per host, per component, per subsystem, and overall, with a view to optimising performance

The company will focus on providing on-premises analytics initially, and then extend this over time to provide remote-access analytics in an Infinidat cloud, with customers' arrays transmitting sensor information to Infinidat, where its software can chew through the data and analyse it, looking for problem areas. Infinidat thinks that the idea of only placing analytics in the cloud is not right.

This OS release with extended QoS and extra analytics could/should come by the end of the year. The APA facility will evolve and be developed over time.

And another thing

Infinidat is intent on building the best storage array it can today. It is not involved with converged systems in the EMC/VCE sense. Broido said: “We engage with customers in building reference architectures … In the service provider area there are recurring solutions and at some point we’ll make them more available.”

He wanted us to understand that Infinidat’s architecture is far from monolithic. The reason it’s in this space is down to strategy, and it’s constantly evaluating its strategy “and asking where do we take our flexible architecture in the future.”

Infinidat is still a very young company and it’s “trying to keep a laser focus on what it’s doing and not get distracted.” This is in the management DNA, Broido said, adding: “We’re here for the long run.” ®

*Our information from an industry insider close to Intel is that beta testing of XPoint “drives” (SSDs or DIMMs, we don’t know which) is taking place now.




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