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NetApp MAX Data adds persistent memory tier to OnTap storage

MAX Data is a software-defined product that runs on commodity servers and can use non-NetApp storage. The codebase came from NetApp's acquisition of startup Plexistor.

LAS VEGAS -- NetApp is making use of the Plexistor persistent storage memory technology it acquired in 2017, launching software that moves data to NetApp storage and tiers it to hybrid clouds.

NetApp today launched MAX Data, a software-defined product based on its flagship OnTap operating system, Intel Optane dual non-volatile memory cards and commodity servers. The product was unveiled as part of OnTap 9.5, rolled out at the NetApp Insight user conference.

Plexistor software converged server memory and NVMe flash as non-volatile storage. It enables in-memory databases to run without a dedicated compute-storage cluster.

NetApp MAX Data storage memory provides a front-end acceleration tier for scalable and relational databases. The file system moves data to NetApp FAS and All Flash FAS back-end storage, with NetApp FabricPool tiering data to multiple clouds.

Non-OnTap customers can purchase a MAX Data license separately and run it on any storage. Using it with NetApp storage gives enterprises shared storage with native OnTap data protection and tiering, said Bharat Badrinath, a NetApp vice president of storage systems and software marketing.

"MAX Data is our persistent storage class memory using Intel Optane DIMMs," Badrinath said. "Intel is now moving Optane technology into servers. Up to now, getting single-digit microsecond latency hasn't been affordable. Now you can speed things up dramatically just by adding a card to your server infrastructure."

Octavian Tanase, a senior vice president of the OnTap software and systems group, said NetApp MAX Data will hit the market in servers from Cisco and Lenovo equipped with Intel Optane DC NVDIMMs. Formally, though, NetApp did not disclose pricing or any OEM partners to sell MAX Data.

NetApp Data Fabric integrates persistent memory

The MAX Data file system manages data in persistent memory and uses external storage as a back-end data store. The file system sees all access requests as coming from the local memory bus.

NetApp will aim MAX Data at customers using high-performance transaction systems that need to crunch data in real time, said Randy Kerns, a senior strategist and storage analyst at Evaluator Group, based in Boulder, Colo.

"It has the potential to give you a tremendous latency reduction. MAX Data uses the characteristics of persistent memory and NetApp's file system software to manage the movement of data to the backing store and to protect write data to another node," Kerns said.

The original Plexistor code resided in the Linux kernel. Badrinath said the code was ported to user space and made a part of the file system, easing MAX Data integration in the NetApp Data Fabric.

NetApp MAX Data provides acceleration without the need to rewrite applications, Badrinath said.

Intel Optane storage media are based on 3D XPoint technology, initially developed jointly by Intel and Micron Technology. Although uptake of Intel Optane SSD has lagged expectation, Badrinath said Optane-based memory cards should "light a fire" under the technology.

"You can speed things up dramatically just by adding a card to your server infrastructure," Badrinath said.

"MAX Data becomes tier 0. Flash by itself is already fast. Now you can put MAX Data in the server using and NVMe fabric, and it's like rocket fuel" for AI and dense analytic workloads, Badrinath said.

NetApp devoted OnTap resources to improve the performance of in-memory applications. Badrinrath said NetApp testing indicates MAX Data could speed performance of typical NoSQL databases up to eight times and helps Oracle environments cut the number of Exadata servers it needs by 60%.

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