Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gear6 trailblazing Network Caching

Earlier this week, I had great conversation with Gary Orenstien and Jack O’Brien at Gear6. Here are the excerpts from our conversation.

How is Gear6 doing?

Gear6 seems to be doing well. Several units are currently in field being evaluated by various customers. No specific number of units provided, just a wide range between 10 and 100. Company has over thirty employees and financially all set in the near term. Company has started to focus CACHEfx on financial analytics, energy and animation segments and will expand focus by the end of the year.

What are the benefits of network based caching?

Network caching enables increased cache utilization, flexibility and scalability. Caching is moving from end devices to network and becoming a network resource.

What one factor is attracting customers to your caching solution?

By nature of caching, the obvious benefit to customer is performance. Most customers who come to Gear6 have performance problems, variable workload and demand certain Quality of Service. The success rate is very good with evaluations by customers as CACHEfx appliance doesn’t require forklift replacement.

How is Gear6 doing caching?

CACHEfx appliance doesn’t use any conventional mechanical disk storage internally, 100% RAM cache and is pass through to persistent storage. Robust single purpose appliance designed to do one job and do that job very well.

The caching is performed intelligently. The intelligence focus on how and where data is placed within the appliance. There are extensive built-in statistics. Most customers are impressed by network sniffer like capability.

In the past, cache was a constrained resource. Now, focus is on right-sizing cache. CACHEfx expands from quarter TB to multi-TB, can be preloaded with data from persistent storage and adjust to variable I/O profile.

What are the reliability, availability and scalability features of CACHEfx appliance?

It is a clustered appliance, scalable from quarter TB to multi-TB. The appliance can be expanded on the fly. Also, appliance only acknowledges writes only when persistent storage sends acknowledgment.

Is the CACHEfx installed at D.E. Shaw working with Solaris cluster?

Gary declined to comment on infrastructure details of customer. He claimed customer pleased with the solution.

Any plans to introduce network caching for block-level traffic? The present product seems to focus on NFS only.

The present focus is on NFS, market is large enough. The sweet spot is where customer is using 100+ concurrent clients accessing single dataset, most tend to be NFS. No firm plans for addressing CIFS or block level traffic. The primary industry focus on financial analytic, energy and exploration, electronic design, animation, biotechnology, and media, primarily HPC oriented tasks.

How does network caching stack up with parallel file systems and clustered storage?

Caching addresses I/O constrained systems rather than processing constrained. Parallel file systems and clustered storage solutions are capacity centric not performance centric, providing global namespace for ever expanding storage capacity. They are not low latency solution. Network caching is a complementary solution, capacity complemented by performance. Gear6 solution complements Netapp OnTAP GX, IBRIX, Isilon and Acopia.

Do you have any thoughts on potential application of CACHEfx in a Wide Area Filer Network environment?

The CACHEfx has enormous potential in variety of environment. But we are currently very focused on solving customer problems within the data center. We are open to partnerships in other areas.

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