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Enmotus FuzeDrive revives caching vs. tiering debate

Startup's FuzeDrive Server software device provides kernel-level tiering that promotes hot writes to flash and keeps it there until displaced by newer data.

Enmotus Inc. in November made its FuzeDrive Server automated tiering software for NAS and direct-attached storage...

devices generally available. Now the startup is trying to convince storage server vendors to integrate the product in their hardware racks.

FuzeDrive provides virtualized "micro-tiering" of block storage devices at the kernel level, including PCIe solid-state drives (SSDs), SAS and SATA hard disk drives and RAID controllers. FuzeDrive creates a virtualized two-tiered hybrid storage volume designed to mirror the performance characteristics of flash storage. The add-on software platform is intended for Windows and Linux Ubuntu servers that run applications and storage in the same physical box.

Enmotus has development partnerships with high-performance computing specialist Colfax International and NVDIMM leader Viking Technology. Its only announced commercial customer is NAS system integrator APY Co. in France, which customizes high-performance storage systems for film and video companies.

The Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based startup's route to market is to sell FuzeDrive directly to legacy server makers to be rebranded and bundled in their software stack. CEO Andy Mills said Enmotus is talking to legacy server manufacturers that use Intel Grantley memory chips and expects to announce some formal partnerships in 2015.

"We're targeting Lenovo, Dell, HP, Cisco … any top-tier server vendor building rack-mounted 2U and 4U systems. We have OEM builders asking to bundle FuzeServer in their VAR channels to create a hybrid storage system," Mills said.

Automated tiering in servers, not storage systems

By default, Enmotus technology places primary storage on a flash tier of SSDs. Rather than using filter drivers, the software installs directly atop block drivers to assume the characteristics of a block storage device. FuzeDrive places a thin remapping layer in RAM to conduct fast lookups, collect statistics and dispatch commands to storage. Each storage tier consumes 20-30 MB of RAM to manage metadata and keep track of usage counts. The software forces a system reboot to get recognized in the device registry.

Enmotus said its technology differs from caching software by moving hot data underneath storage media at the block level, in a way that is transparent to applications, operating systems, hypervisors and file systems.

"We're not trying to be a clustered tiering solution across multiple servers. All of our device tiering occurs inside a server box," Mills said.

The FuzeDrive policy engine analyzes usage patterns, promoting hot data in real time to primary flash storage and relocating inactive data to spindled media. Reads and writes occur at full SSD speeds without incurring additional overhead. Data migration occurs automatically and in real time. Unlike write-back caching, FuzeServer places hot data directly in primary storage and keeps it there permanently or until newer data displaces it.

OEMs deals views as central to FuzeDrive adoption

Randy Kerns, a senior strategist at research firm Evaluator Group, said FuzeDrive Server could be attractive to systems builders that want to accelerate hardware performance.

"With caching, you work off probabilities, but it means you wind up paying for having data in two locations at the same time. Tiering lets you be more pragmatic by looking at usage over time and the likelihood of that data being referenced more frequently than other data," Kerns said.

Enmotus' driver software automates tiered storage at a "small level of granularity, down to the page level. They're doing it in the server environment rather than outboard in the storage systems for spinning disk and SSDs, which is unique," Kerns added.

APY began implementing FuzeDrive soon after seeing a product demo at a trade show this summer. APY storage systems typically consist of 2 TB of flash and 80 TB of fixed disk, APY CEO Simon Feuermann said.

"Our customers are medium-sized companies that need a minimum of 50 TB of storage. The Enmotus auto-tiering software in our systems stores their daily work on SSDs so they have quick access and good I/O performance. When they no longer need access to the files, the files get moved to hard drives," Feuermann said.

Next Steps

Auto-tiering expected to boost SSD adoption

How to implement an automated storage tiering strategy

Dig Deeper on All-flash arrays

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