EMC has previewed Project Lightning, a flash-based technology designed to speed the passing, caching and storage of data to and from storage hardware.
The project will integrate flash memory with EMC hardware via a PCIe server-side card, EMC announced on Monday at EMC World in Las Vegas. The technology will work in servers as a cache and in storage arrays as a further storage tier.
Because the technology relies on flash — fast, solid-state memory — it provides a low-latency and high-bandwidth storage or caching pool for the hardware it plugs into. EMC says it will integrate the technology with its Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) software, which should allow for network infrastructure to be more flexible in the routes and places it uses to store and call data from.
Generally, PCIe-linked flash has an applicable use for processing tasks that benefit from minimal latency, such as real-time financial data processing or content caching.
EMC would not say whether it had developed the Project Lightning technology in conjunction with a partner, such as Intel, though Pat Gelsinger, EMC's chief operating officer did say in a press briefing that "Intel is one of our core technology partners."
The technology is due to launch in the second half of this year. Pricing was not disclosed.
EMC creeping into server space
As Project Lightning will come in the form of an add-in for servers, multiple EMC executives were asked during a press briefing whether this meant they were moving into the general purpose server market.
"There's a few, very few, application levels that are best run on a server blade inside a storage box," Joe Tucci, EMC's chief executive said. "[But] we're not going to get in what I would call the naked server business."
Tucci said EMC would continue to sell standard x86 servers as components within its overall big boxes of integrated hardware, such as the Greenplum Data Computing Appliances.
"[EMC's] not trying to compete with HP bladeservers. I sell lots of servers in my appliances, VMAX is a server, Isilon is a server — It has an x86 in it, a fabric, a disc drive, so essentially everything we're selling is a server but we're not competing in the general server market," Gelsinger said.
The purpose of Project Lightning is not to provide a server-specific technology, but one that allows better linking between storage and servers for specific applications, Gelsinger said.
He explained that EMC thinks of the technology as a way of bringing the compute cluster to the storage and the storage to where the data is being processed by providing a technology that allows for an additional storage tier to be located on top of a data processing server.
The technology is similar to that which start-up Fusion-io develops and sells.
HP resells Fusion-io hardware through its HP IO Accelerator server plugin.
Fusion-io's biggest customers, according to its recent SEC filing, are HP, IBM and Facebook.
Jason Sobel, an engineering manager for Facebook, has said the PCIe-flash technology allows the company to use Fusion-io as a supplementary storage pool that is local to servers.
Fusion-io is used within Facebook similarly to how EMC expects Project Lightning to be used, with the hardware deployed as an additional storage tier that sits between on-server RAM and disc storage, Sobel said.