Alacritech accelerates NFS NAS

Posted on January 11, 2011

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By Dave Simpson

Leveraging its experience in protocol acceleration, Alacritech introduced the ANX 1500 appliance today, which accelerates NFS in NAS environments without requiring any modifications to existing NAS filers.

The ANX 1500 is an alternative to NAS acceleration devices from vendors such as Avere Systems and Violin Memory, as well as products such as NetApp’s Flash Cache (formerly PAM II) and scale-out NAS systems from vendors such as Isilon (which was acquired by EMC).

Alacritech’s ANX 1500 NFS accelerators, which are based on the company’s NFS Bridge technology, also reduce NAS “sprawl.”

The company claims performance of 120,000 operations per second (OPS) on an ANX 1500 appliance with 4TB of solid-state disk (SSD) drive capacity and 48GB of DRAM. In addition to SSDs and DRAM, the appliances include Alacritech’s ASIC-based hardware accelerators.

The appliances function as a cache between clients and the back-end NAS filers, and store most-frequently-accessed data in high-speed DRAM and SSDs. In Alacritech’s approach, the existing NAS filers retain control of the file system.

The 3U ANX 1500 is available with up to 20 SSDs, and comes in two versions: 2TB or 4TB of SSD flash drives. Both versions have 48GB of DRAM. In addition to NFS accelerators, the appliances include TCP/IP offload engines (TOEs). Pricing starts at $70,000 for an appliance with 2TB of SSD capacity, and a system with 4TB of SSD capacity is priced at $100,000.

The NFS accelerators can be used with any NFS-based NAS filers, including systems from NetApp, EMC, Isilon and BlueArc.

According to Doug Rainbolt, Alacritech’s vice president of marketing, the ANX 1500 accelerators can provide up to a 5X reduction in backend capacity (and costs).

“Leveraging SSDs, and the efficiency that comes from the protocol acceleration, delivers some serious bang for the buck that goes well beyond the performance acceleration available from inserting cache in a filer head,” says Jeff Boles, an analyst with the Taneja Group research and consulting firm.

Boles says that Alacritech’s spec of 120,000 OPS is conservative. “I’ve talked to Alacritech customers, albeit in metadata-rich NFS environments, who are pushing the ANX 1500 past 500,000 NFS OPS without even breaking the CPU load past 10%,” says Boles. “Three years ago, that would have been a million dollar solution. Now it’s a $70,000 solution, and that’s for an appliance that can simultaneously be applied to many different filers.”

According to Alacritech’s Rainbolt, key target markets for the ANX 1500 include electronic design automation (EDA), seismic analysis, entertainment, genomic sciences and software development.

Alacritech hopes to capitalize on the rapidly growing NAS market. IDC expects the NAS market to grow from about $3 billion in 2010 to $5 billion in 2014.

Alacritech holds 52 patents in network storage acceleration, and has received $34 million in venture capital.

Related articles:

NetApp Overhauls Product Line, from Arrays to OS

Violin’s Cache Appliances Accelerate NFS NAS

Avere Systems Speeds Up Tiered NAS Appliances


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