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NVMe flash hopeful E8 Storage goes software-only route

All-flash array startup E8 Storage has expanded into reference architecture with the launch of a software-only version.

The new product, E8 Storage Software, runs on rack servers from Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Lenovo. Customers can buy SKUs through channel partners, or purchase the software-defined flash directly from E8 Storage as an integrated nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) appliance.

E8 Storage Software is qualified with Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd and PowerEdge r64, Hewlett Packard Enterprise ProLiant DL360 and DL380 Gen 10, and Lenovo ThinkSystem SR630. The validated hardware systems need to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux of CentOS 7.3 or higher.

The reference stack includes server chassis with 32 GB to 64 GB of memory, Intel Skylake processors, 24 NVMe U.2 hot-swappable SSDs, two 128 GB RAID 1-enabled M.2 boot SSDs with RAID, and two 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) Mellanox Connect X4-C remote direct memory access network interface cards.

The E8 software-defined flash allows 96 clustered hosts to read and write to shared storage. The vendor’s flagship E8-D24 rack-scale system has dual controllers and scales to 140 TB of effective storage with high-capacity SSDs. E8 Storage also is previewing its E8-X24 block arrays with customers running the IBM Spectrum Scale parallel file system and Oracle Real Application Cluster environments.

Thje recent addition of host-level mirroring enables E8 Storage to market its software-only flash storage on its S10 entry-level appliance to enterprise customers. The S10 has a single-controller and has been used mostly with proofs of concept.

“Customers in database environments want us to fit into their existing disaster recovery environment, rather than running an additional layer.  Larger customers may want to do their own integration. We think smaller customers will still want a (turnkey) appliance,” said Julie Herd, E8 Storage director of technical marketing.

The NVMe standard is based on Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) protocol. It is designed to squeeze the most performance from software-defined flash storage. Rather than running traffic through network host bus adapters, an application uses PCIe to talk directly to storage.

NVMe flash storage is maturing to the point that some industry observers predict an uptick in mainstream adoption in 2018. The NVM Express organization, a consortium of industry partners, is expected to help advanced NVMe over Fabrics technologies this year.

E8 Storage and other NVMe flash startups are jockeying for position, while established vendors Hitachi Vantara, IBM and Pure Storage are bringing systems to market built with custom flash modules.

Herd said the reference architecture stacks will help E8 Storage take on more workloads.  “We are a block system, so this will help us tackle file-based workloads, and also broadens the market for our channel partners.”

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Can these NVMe systems be bridged with NVDIMMs(N,P,F)  to get faster response or any org is doing that?
Yes, but to date, most NVMe vendors seem to be waiting to use Intel Optane SSDs, which use the 3D Crosspoint memory. However, I think the larger trend will be to forego drives in favor of an integrated NVMe flash mesh (ie,CFMs). Pure Storage already does this with FlashBlade; Dell EMC had DSSD D5 but scrapped its version. Watch for more products designed for NVMe over Fabrics this year, starting with Fibre Channel
Thanks. Interesting. NVMe-oF, FC, can they be byte addressable if coming from remote?