Back to top

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Intel and Lightbits team up to create high-performance storage solutions

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 12/08/2020
Blog Category: cloud-and-data-centers

A new collaboration between Intel and Lightbits Labs can help your data-center customers lower their storage costs while improving their disk capacity utilization.

This strategic collaboration was announced in September. It brings Intel together with Lightbits Labs, a 4-year-old provider of software delivering composable storage via NVMe over TCP.

Lightbits’ LightOS 2.0 software enables standard servers to become high-performance, high-availability storage servers, and to independently scale storage from compute. That aims to help users gain flexibility, lower costs and achieve storage performance similar to that of local flash memory.


The Intel-Lightbits solution answers a real need. Data-center applications have changed, and legacy storage systems can’t keep pace. One solution IT managers have tried is adding flash arrays. But even when based on NVMe, flash arrays have proven inadequate to the task. The result? Storage bottlenecks.

Another way IT departments have tried to update systems is by adding direct-attached storage (DAS). This turned out to be a good way of implementing NVMe using PCIe. But it also turned out to be less than perfect. DAS users complain of underutilization, a lack of scalability and inefficient data protection.

The IT industry doesn’t give up easily, and sure enough, another approach was tried: NVMe over Fabrics. This approach uses remote direct memory access (RDMA) technologies or the Linux kernel TCP stack.

While NVME-oF using RDMA does deliver strong performance and other improvements, it can be costly to scale. On the other hand, NVMe-oF using TCP is easy to implement and scale. But performance typically lags behind that of RDMA-based solutions.


Along the way in the networking space, Intel developed Application Device Queues (ADQ). This is where the story gets really interesting.

Essentially, ADQ lets users set up express lanes for high-priority data. This not only speeds important data, but also increases latency predictability. Intel now implements ADQ in its Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapters.

Here’s where Lightbits comes in. Working with Intel, Lightbits delivers NVMe over TCP with ADQ for distributed storage. The company does this by combining its own LightOS software with Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapters with ADQ, Intel Optane persistent memory, Intel 3D NAND SSD drives, Intel Xeon Scalable processors, and a compatible Linux kernel.

The offering is being described as a composable disaggregated software-defined storage solution. Okay, but what exactly does that mean?

Composable in this context means the system treats compute, storage and network devices as pools of resources that can be provisioned on an as-needed basis.

Disaggregated refers to the fact that the compute and storage resources serve as flexible, modular blocks, rather than as resources that are bound together.

And software-defined means the storage software is flexible and platform independent, eliminating proprietary hardware lock-in.

Real results

Lightbits tested the initial joint solution, and the results have been impressive. These include an up to 30% improvement in response-time predictability as measured by P99.99 tail latency and up to 50% reduction of average latency.

Testing also demonstrated up to 70% increase in throughput, as measured in IOPS (input/output operations per second), when using ADQ vs. not using ADQ.

One big change in data centers is cloud architecture. Here, Intel and Lightbits say their solution delivers persistent storage for cloud-native applications. And it does so while also improving price/performance, ease of use, availability and scalability.

Lightbits and Intel are together providing complete solutions and developing an ecosystem (including the channel) to drive the approach’s broad adoption. Lightbits sells direct, since it’s a technical sale, but fulfills its orders via channel partners.

If your customers are looking for a data-storage solution that can keep pace with the latest data center applications, tell them about the Intel / Lightbits collaboration. And point them (and yourself) to these related resources:

> Scalable, Low-Latency Storage Using NVMe over TCP (Intel white paper)

> Intel enters into strategic collaboration with Lightbits Labs (Intel press release)

> Lightbits Labs launches LightOS 2.0 with high availability (Lightbits press release)



Back to top