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Hifn adds speed and software to data reduction cards

Hifn (now part of Exar Corp.) is taking another crack at getting major OEMs to ship products integrated with its DR line of compression, encryption and deduplication hashing acceleration cards, which could potentially spur the development of primary storage data deduplication offerings.

Prior to its acquisition by Exar, Hifn began sampling Express DR 250 and 255 cards to OEMs, but they hadn’t made their way into any announced third-party products. At this spring’s SNW, Hifn launched its own product based on the DR 255.

It was unclear why the chip boards, which perform processor-intensive data reduction and encryption in silicon, hadn’t caught on with OEMs. Maybe Hifn’s announcement today of its new DR 1600 series may tacitly answer that question with new features such as high availability and boosted performance.

The DR 1600 line consists of six new models offering different levels of performance and combinations of compression, encryption, and dedupe. The Express DR 1600, 1610 and 1620 perform LZS compression and encryption only, at speeds of up to 300 MBps, 900 MBps, and 1800 MBps, respectively. The Express DR 1605, 1615, and 1625 run at the same three levels of throughput, but offer compression, encryption and hardware-based hashing for data deduplication (hash comparisons must still be performed by an OEM in software).

Hifn has also developed new software to go with the cards for this release, which includes a new API to standardize and ease integration of the cards into storage products to make it quicker for OEMs to take them to market. The 1600 series includes new high availability software for failover between cards, or to “pass through” traffic. That means if one card fails, the other can still perform compression, encryption, and dedupe in software.

According to Zack Mihalis, director of product marketing for Hifn, the new cards are sampling to OEMs and will become generally available at the end of July. Mihalis claimed that several large OEMs are considering the cards, potentially for primary storage dedupe. EMC, NetApp and Quantum are traditionally among Hifn’s OEMs, but Mihalis declined to disclose if any of them are sampling the DR 1600 cards.

Still, some industry analysts see this as the first step toward primary storage data reduction products becoming as ubiquitous as those for backup workloads. “Hifn has some very major OEMs as clients,” said IDC analyst Benjamin Woo. “This release is very timely – in this downturn we need to be more efficient with how we deal with data.”

However, Taneja Group analyst Jeff Boles pointed out that there’s still plenty of engineering work to be done to produce primary storage dedupe products, even with some of it already completed by Hifn. “Keep in mind that Hifn is hashing at 1,800 megabytes per second, but that’s not the speed of writing out to disk,” he said. “It’s still up to someone to make maximum use of this on disk, with caching, etc. Can you use this to service a random workload? That may be an engineering feat in itself.”

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