Silverback Sees Bright Future for IP Storage

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Silverback Systems has begun shipping its speedy iSNAP 2100 storage network access processor, claiming the chip’s performance has more than doubled since March.

Silverback says the iSNAP 2100 is “the highest-performing and only such storage networking processor available,” a hardware and software turnkey solution that allows combinations of TOE, iSCSI initiator, and target functionality.

Silverback is now reporting 220,000 IOPS (I/Os per second) for the dual-channel, gigabit Ethernet chip, demonstrating iSCSI performance for both database and OLTP traffic, and far surpassing the 92,000 IOPS per port announced in March.

“Silverback is the only vendor to publicly announce and demonstrate pure iSCSI performance metrics,” the company says.

The benchmark was derived using Iometer, an analysis tool developed by Intel for servers that measures I/O performance while stressing the system with
a controlled workload.

The company also claims a sustained, full-duplex, dual-port throughput of 440 MB/s for the 2100, which it says was verified by the industry-standard TTCP (Test TCP) benchmarking tool, which measures TCP send and receive bandwidth. TTCP was developed by the U.S. Army Ballistics Research Lab.

Trebia Missed the Market, Silverback Says

With Trebia Networks, another iSCSI chip start-up that earlier this year claimed blistering performance, apparently shutting down, the question arises: How can Silverback succeed where Trebia failed?

The answer, Silverback contends, is that Trebia missed the market opportunity.

Trebia initially focused on multiprotocol storage routers with its SNP1000, says Mike Strickland, Silverback’s director of product management. However,
Strickland continues, the bigger market for iSCSI acceleration is in “edge” devices, or application servers and storage devices.

“Trebia’s SNP1000 was a good technical accomplishment, but it missed the larger edge device opportunity,” maintains Strickland.

In the edge segment, it’s important to be able to get traffic across a PCI bus efficiently using Direct Data Placement (DDP), Strickland says. DDP is used by Fibre Channel HBAs to efficiently DMA (Direct Memory Access) data in and out of application space buffers. Since Trebia’s SNP1000 did not have the correct DMA engine, the company started development on the SNP500 to address that market segment. Trebia proposed that edge device customers put both an FC chip and the SNP1000 on an HBA, but cost, footprint, and power consumption proved prohibitive, according to Strickland.

“So the SNP500 was started much later than the SNP1000, and it’s not easy for a start-up to focus on multiple chips and firmware images,” continues Strickland. “OEM customers were able to get a stable, dual-port iSNAP2100 solution while the SNP500 was still in development. The iSNAP2100 is in many evaluations right now, so there’s definitely a good market for iSCSI acceleration in edge devices.”

After three rounds of funding totaling $32 million, Silverback reports it still has lots of money in the bank. Trebia, meanwhile, burned through $50 million before shutting its doors.

IP SANs Have Bright Future

The IP storage market has enough potential to reward those companies that are well positioned for it.

A recent report by IMEX Research predicts that the iSCSI SAN market will reach $1.5 billion by 2005, and that lower-cost IP SANs will overtake Fibre
Channel SANs, even at the high end, by 2006.

“Though the market is still in ramp up mode, we can claim that iSCSI is here, and it is real,” says Ron Kroesen, Silverback’s VP of marketing and sales.
“The early round of tire-kicking has been replaced by customers taking products for a test drive. We are no longer having to convince people of the
logic behind sending block level data over the Internet.”

“We expect adoption of IP SANs by small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) first,” continues Kroesen. “Eventually, we anticipate large enterprises to begin augmenting current storage networking architectures with cost-effective products using iSCSI.”

The iSNAP processor terminates and processes IP-based storage traffic at gigabit Ethernet, full-duplex line speed, and can process various combinations of TCP/IP and upper layer protocols (ULP) such as iSCSI, NFS, CIFS, and others. iSNAP can be used in a variety of IP-based, data-center applications and SAN edge devices such as servers and storage arrays, and storage-aware devices in the SAN cloud such as virtualization engines.

Pricing for the processor has been set at $150 in quantities of 1,000.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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