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Authored by Jason Van der Schyff, VP Operations


What exactly is an I/O pump? When it comes to achieving wire-speed performance for storage, it plays a critical role. At SoftIron we have pioneered a new I/O pump-based approach and embodied it in HyperDrive®, a high-performance enterprise storage appliance that supports Ceph software-defined storage.


Redefining Storage Performance

The ARM SoC (System on a Chip) architecture is well known as the leading processor solution for mobile devices because of its low power requirements. HyperDrive was built around an enterprise-class ARM 64-bit SoC – a non-standard choice, but one that delivers extraordinary performance advantages.

“When we designed HyperDrive, we took a vastly different approach,” says Phil Straw, SoftIron’s CTO. “We selected the ARM 64-bit SoC, or the ‘I/O Pump’, as we like to call it because it always outperforms the competition when it comes to pushing data from the network interface to the media and pulling it back onto the network when needed. More commonly used silicon is optimized for processing, with a bit of I/O added on; by contrast, the ARM 64-bit SoC is first and foremost a turbo-charged I/O pump, with enough processing to be useful.”


Performance Testing: SoftIron HyperDrive vs. Xeon® Server

Third-party benchmark testing reveals that HyperDrive has outstanding – almost unheard of – performance results compared to traditional x86-based storage. “In head-to-head comparison testing, we’ve seen significant performance increases over dual-socketed x86-based appliances,” Straw explains. “These are impressive results considering that HyperDrive uses 25% of the power of the nearest x86 based competitor”

In one test, the SoftIron appliance achieved a peak write bandwidth of approximately 817 MB per second, which comfortably beat the reference platform’s (an Intel® Xeon® server) sustained peak write bandwidth of 650 MB per second.

In another test, the SoftIron system had 44% faster random cached access than the reference platform. The SoftIron read performance peaked at 3300 MB per second, which far exceeded the reference platform’s peak read bandwidth of 2294 MB per second.


What Makes HyperDrive Different?

HyperDrive was built on the premise that traditional storage appliances aren’t meeting enterprises’ needs for fast performance and low power consumption at an attractive price. SoftIron set out to design the ideal storage solution by challenging many of the industry’s traditional assumptions. “Storage isn’t a compute problem; it’s actually an I/O problem,” explains Straw. “It’s always been assumed that throwing additional compute at a storage appliance is a good thing, but it’s actually a terrible idea because more compute creates extraneous heat which impacts utility costs, rack power limitations, data reliability, drive failures, and much more.”

Instead, SoftIron built a better appliance that’s designed for storage, not assembled from standard server parts, like its competitors. Straw explains, “Most vendors assemble their storage appliances around a server motherboard with a processor, and then the software is added. We started with the ARM chip first and then designed all of HyperDrive’s hardware and software from scratch to work optimally with it. The I/O Pump at the heart of HyperDrive is one of the critical factors in helping it achieve such outstanding performance.”

HyperDrive is also optimized for Ceph, the leading open-source software-defined storage platform, to scale-out distributed storage. By harnessing Ceph’s capability of utilizing clusters to distribute the load, HyperDrive achieves the best possible performance. As more HyperDrive appliances are added, read/write performance and scalability increase exponentially.

Learn more about how HyperDrive achieves outstanding performance.

Get the details on how HyperDrive’s speed stacks up against a traditional Xeon server in the HyperDrive Performance Report.