LSI Introduces Data Centre PCIe Cards

Datacentre © Leo Lintang -

LSI’s Nytro line of PCIe cards combines fast flash hardware with its own intelligent caching and management software

LSI, one of the few IT companies that makes semiconductors, board components and all their accompanying software, revealed on 2 April that it is now producing its own branded PCIe cards for data centre servers.

The company has provided these as an OEM partner for EMC and its VFCache server add-on card, which it introduced about a year ago. PCIe (peripheral component interconnect express) is now a frontline product at such companies as Fusion i-o, Micron, STEC, Texas Memory, OCZ and a few others.

Performance boost

eWEEK identified PCIe in the data centre as having gone mainstream in mid-2011. PCIe flash cards use low-power/high-performance flash storage processors to improve application performance.

Because they fit directly into a server (replacing much slower hard disk drives), the data sits right next to a server’s processing chips. As a rule, the closer a data store is to the server processor, the faster the data travels and the better the application performs.

In its new Nytro product line, LSI combines fast PCIe flash hardware with its home-developed intelligent caching and management software to improve application performance.

“We’re bringing intelligence to the technology and are very much focused on acceleration solutions,” Gary Smerdon, Senior Vice President and General Manager of LSI’s Accelerated Solutions division, told eWEEK.

“When you look at the gap in the performance of the (modern) CPU and that of the storage system, there are multiple orders of magnitude difference in performance when you’re working in the memory domain versus working in traditional storage.

Best of both worlds

“This is where a lot of the solid-state, flash-based technologies are working to fill this gap. What LSI is uniquely positioned to focus on is bringing the best of both worlds. You need hard drives for the vast quantities of data out there, but you also need performance, which is where solid-state comes into play,” Smerdon said.

LSI’s Nytro line includes three new products:

LSI Nytro WarpDrive Application Acceleration Cards: This is a second-generation line of PCIe flash adapters for drop-in high performance and low latency to accelerate transactional application performance and response time. Nytro WarpDrive cards range in capacity from 200GB to 3.2TB of MLC or SLC flash memory and use LSI SandForce flash storage processors with LSI SAS controller ICs, which are OEM’d by most major storage makers.

“A single Nytro WarpDrive card delivers the I/O performance of hundreds of hard disk drives while requiring less power, cooling and physical space,” Smerdon said.

LSI Nytro XD Application Acceleration Storage Solution: This is where the intelligence comes into play. This package combines the WarpDrive card with Nytro XD intelligent caching software for out-of-the-box application acceleration for storage area networks and direct-attached storage. The Nytro XD automatically caches frequently accessed data reads and writes to high-performance PCIe flash storage, reducing latency and delivering up to a 30x performance improvement over HDD-only storage systems, Smerdon said.

LSI Nytro MegaRAID Application Acceleration Cards: These provide acceleration of SAS-connected DAS storage by combining RAID performance and data-protection capabilities of LSI MegaRAID controllers with on-board flash and intelligent caching software. Nytro MegaRAID cards automatically move data between integrated flash storage and hard drives to blend high-performance and high-capacity storage without requiring software tuning or rewrites.

LSI also announced a Nytro Predictor Software Tool, which provides a guide to uses in choosing the right Nytro application acceleration package.

Intel introduced PCIe in 2004. The PCIe standard is based on point-to-point serial links rather than a shared parallel bus architecture, and is designed to replace the older PCI, PCI-X and AGP standards.

Dominance of enterprise SSDs

Solid-state storage analyst Jim Handy of Objective Analysis has forecast that the PCIe interface will become dominant in the enterprise SSD market in 2012, with unit shipments greater than the combined shipments of its SAS and Fibre Channel counterparts.

LSI Nytro packages are currently sampling with OEM customers and are expected to be generally available beginning in Q2 2012. Pricing for Nytro WarpDrive cards starts at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $6,600 ($4,120); pricing for Nytro XD solutions starts at $9,400, and pricing for Nytro MegaRAID cards starts at $1,799.

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