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E8 Storage adds file to flash with BeeGFS overlay for HPC

NVMe all-flash startup E8 Storage forms 'symbiotic' relationship to support BeeGFS scale-out parallel file system on its NVMe block arrays. Vendors plan to attack the HPC market.

All-flash block vendor E8 Storage has found a scale-out file partner to help it break into high-performance computing.

E8 said it will integrate the BeeGFS parallel file system in its NVMe-oF D24 arrays as the culmination of a two-year "symbiotic" development partnership with German vendor ThinkParQ.

Open source BeeGFS is a POSIX-based distributed file system that turns commodity servers into large clusters of scalable storage nodes. The file system spreads data across the nodes to avoid a single point of failure. BeeGFS aggregates disk capacity and server performance in a single namespace.

ThinkParQ, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany, developed the BeeGFS file system after spinning out of the Munich-based Fraunhofer Center for High Performance Computing.

BeeGFS lacks the heft and maturity of Lustre file system and IBM Spectrum Scale, formerly known as IBM General Parallel File System. Those are the two parallel file systems most often used for high-performance computing (HPC). But E8 Storage CEO Zivan Ori said BeeGFS has been "gaining traction" in HPC environments.

The partnership comes less than one year after HPC storage vendor DataDirect Networks acquired Lustre from Intel. That transaction has prompted file vendors to tweak their offerings to attract disaffected Lustre users.

Easier ordering and deployment

E8 Storage focuses mostly on hyperscale data centers running Linux, and unlike most array vendors, doesn't present itself as a system of cloud arrays. E8's customers include Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and The Perfect Processor, a payments-services company.

"If an E8 customer wants a scale-out file system for their E8 Storage system, and they don't have any strong brand preferences, then this 'packaging' with BeeGFS makes it easier for them to buy and quicker to get the solution set up," said Eric Burgener, a research vice president of storage at IDC.

"Some customers want to buy just the hardware and obtain their own file system separately, and others would prefer to get it all under a single SKU for ease of ordering and deployment. This partnership provides another consumption model option for E8 customers," Burgener said.

E8 block array designed for NVMe

E8 Storage arrays use dual-ported servers and racks from AIC. The shared block system supports multiple file systems, including IBM Spectrum Scale and Oracle RAC. Until now, E8 lacked scale-out file storage to support emerging AI workloads, which depend on NVMe flash.

"This is truly a symbiotic relationship. E8 didn't have a scale-out file system, and BeeGFS didn't have high availability, RAID or [redundant] power protection," Ori said.

E8 clustered NVMe hosts allow data to be read and written to the same volume in parallel and at line rate. The goal is to provide locally attached storage, with fewer servers than a traditional Fibre Channel or iSCSI SAN.

The NVMe transport is designed for flash. NVMe speeds network traffic across a PCIe bus. Bypassing host bus adapters enables PCIe-connected devices to communicate directly with back-end storage.

E8 Storage was the first startup to launch an all-flash array designed for NVMe, but most legacy storage vendors are shipping primary arrays that support both NVMe SSDs and traditional SAS and SATA media. Other NVMe-focused array startups include Apeiron Data Systems, Pavilion Data Systems and Vexata, plus software-only Excelero.

There is no formal reseller agreement between BeeGFS and E8, but Ori said the vendors have mutual HPC customers.

Early all-flash storage systems focused on block storage, but flash is now also used to run NAS-based file storage. Dell EMC sells an all-flash version of its Isilon scale-out NAS, and all-flash pioneer Pure Storage added a FlashBlade NAS system to go with its original FlashArray SAN system. Pure Storage this month acquired file storage software startup Compuverde, and plans to use the technology to turn the block-based Pure FlashArray into a unified protocol system.

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