Start-up Gear6 claims to have the cure for I/O bottlenecks between servers and storage often found in high-performance computing (HPC) environments. The company has developed a new line of massive caching appliances to help IT groups avoid over-engineering their environments to meet application performance requirements.

The company’s CACHEfx appliances complement existing NAS systems by centralizing a large pool (up to 1TB) of coherent memory that serves data 10 to 50 times faster than mechanical disks, eliminating I/O bottlenecks and “hotspots,” according to Gary Orenstein, vice president of marketing at Gear6.

Orenstein says over-provisioning disk resources, a common approach to boosting file-server performance, simply isn’t enough to overcome the performance gap between servers and storage in compute-intensive environments.

“Disk drives are no longer the answer to performance problems,” he says. “The bottom line is applying high-capacity, high-speed RAM to the infrastructure to provide a massive performance boost.”

CACHEfx appliances support a baseline of 250,000 I/Os per second (IOPS), 16Gbps of throughput, and microsecond response times, and can scale linearly to handle millions of IOPS. The system utilizes software called Reflex OS to virtualize appliance memory into a coherent cache pool and optimize data delivery through parallel I/O channels. Initial products support NFS and include browser-based management tools for statistics and I/O profiling.

The appliances are currently available in two models: the 250GB G200 and the 500GB G400. The starting price for a CACHEfx implementation is $400,000. Gear6 is also offering customers a free acceleration analysis to locate I/O problems in data centers.

The company’s centralized storage caching technology extends to I/O-intensive applications requiring immediate data access, such as databases and other transaction processing applications. The result is improved response times through increased file server throughput.

Putting a scalable, clustered cache appliance in front of NAS resources is a unique approach to solving performance problems, according to Steve Norall, senior analyst and consultant with the Taneja Group.

“Gear6 has a novel approach. Users in the high-performance computing verticals are always desperate for more performance and they will always pay for it,” says Norall.

Gear6 is targeting end users who can draw a straight line from processing time to revenue, including companies in electronic design, energy and exploration, media delivery, and animation. But while Gear6 is currently marketing primarily to the HPC crowd, Norall believes the commercialization of HPC applications will generate a larger addressable market for Gear6 down the road.

Noral adds that “there is a whole class of applications that I would dub clustered computing applications that are migrating from HPC environments into much more commercial computing environments.”

Norall cites the rise of Web-based infrastructures, technical computing applications, and virtual server environments as the next wave of applications that require high IOPS and low latency access to disk. “Gear6 is riding that wave,” he says.