We're seeing this more and more in enterprise servers: a return to an older-style architecture where certain high-bandwidth, full-time functions are supplied by hardware. This time it's from BridgeSTOR, which is known for its deduplication software suite for Windows Server 2008 R2 and VMware.
The Exar 8200 series processor is already well-known for its ability to encrypt and compress data, using LZS, eLZS, and Deflate algorithms. It uses the QuickAssist API suite from Intel to enable compression and encryption tasks to be offloaded from the CPU onto the dedicated processor.
As you may know, encryption algorithms utilize hash functions, especially for generating public and private keys; and compression algorithms utilize hash functions for error correction. It just so happens that deduplication relies on hash as well - specifically, to generate signatures that tell management software which storage clusters are duplicates, and which others are unique and should be duplicated.
When Exar began selling its 8200 chip in the spring of 2010, it made note of this fact, saying such algorithms could come in handy for deduplication for reducing the size of backups, should anyone care to notice. Apparently someone did.
BridgeSTOR's new VS-ADR (Advanced Data Reduction) combo, announced today, plans to pair the company's existing virtual storage management software, geared to work with VMware vSphere 4.1 vCenter, with the Exar 8200. The chip's support of Intel's QuickAssist API should enable the new VS-ADR software to pass arithmetic functions used in encryption and hashing through the PCIe bus, to the chip when it's available. If the chip is not available or if it fails, the software will handle these functions just as it used to.
Management software firms tend to perceive the role of hardware are for accelerating or "assisting" backup. You could say that about VS-ADR, in a way, if it indeed does its job as advertised. The software and hardware will team up to tackle NTFS volume deduplication at the cluster level. As a result, many of the best practices and suggested strategies for many virtual storage management tools may be rendered moot - the new "dedupe layer" may render all your higher-level storage strategies moot.
The chart above from BridgeSTOR shows the results of a demonstration system test using VS-ADR, where NTFS storage volume capacity was reduced by as much as 79%.
BridgeSTOR promises as much as 60% reduction in volume size, using its hardware-centered dedupe. Coupled with thin provisioning, this could lead to virtual volumes that are 2.5 times greater than physical capacity, the company says.
During RWW's inaugural Solution Series chat session on Tuesday afternoon, among the attendees polled, some 65% have already implemented deduplication technology in their data centers, with another 14% planning to do so within the next six months.