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Memory/Storage??

Startup Gear6 touts novel RAM cache scheme

Posted: 20 Oct 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Startup Gear6? RAM cache? Rick Merritt?

Startup Gear6 will announce a novel concept for boosting performance in the data center with rackable RAM cache systems that sit on an Ethernet network.

The CacheFx appliance creates a scalable pool of shared semiconductor memory that fills a gap between an individual server's main memory and the data center's storage-area network.

"Disks alone are no longer sufficient to power storage for the data center," said Gary Orenstein, vice president of marketing for Gear6. "Server performance has been growing astronomically, but storage performance has not."

The Gear6 concept of centralized storage caching lacks the raw performance of cramming more DIMM slots in a server or array. Instead, it provisions a pool of up to a terabyte of RAM that multiple servers can dynamically share as needed. Even over an Ethernet link, access time for the cache appliances is 10 to 50 times faster than getting data from a storage network, said Orenstein.

Gear6 is not yet sharing product details about its appliances, which are in beta test with customers, except to say they use a network-attached storage approach to handling NFS file data. Future products will sit on Fibre Channel and iSCSI networks.

The performance gap between main memory and storage arrays is a chief problem in the data center today. A principal engineer from Google shared the stage at an industry event with Intel Corp. CTO Justin Rattner in September, citing the need for something to help fill that performance gap.

The systems are expected to boost performance for a broad range of applications including databases, financial and scientific modeling, and animation and digital media delivery. "Anything that's transactional in nature can benefit from this approach," said Orenstein. The startup closed a $10 million round of financing in March that will take it through 2007. To date, Gear6 has raised $13.5 million.

"There are other people working on specific database accelerators, but we couldn't find anyone else doing this kind of I/O acceleration at the application level of a storage request," said David Liddle, a principal with U.S. Venture Partners who sits on the Gear6 board.

The hardware behind the Gear6 appliance is relatively straightforward. The startup's secret sauce is software that makes the systems easy to use. "The underlying technology of how you make these systems fast and scalable is complicated," said Liddle.

The startup has already forged partnerships with Sun Microsystems Inc. and Network Appliance Inc. to ensure their systems interoperate with the CacheFx boxes.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times




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