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VAST, with Intel Optane tech, offers next-gen storage

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 11/12/2020
Blog Category: cloud-and-data-centers

You may already know how Intel Optane persistent memory and Intel Optane SSDs can help your data-center customers optimize, store and move large and complicated data sets.

But did you know that Intel Optane technology is also the secret sauce behind an innovative new approach to data-center storage?

That approach is being offered by VAST Data. This New York-based company, founded in 2016, has been shipping product since 2018.

Hot storage

VAST is one hot startup. Earlier this year, privately held VAST became a technology “unicorn” by earning a $1.2 billion valuation.

The company was founded by a former executive with flash-array vendor XtremIO. It has since attracted investments from Goldman Sachs, Dell Technologies Capital, Nvidia and others. VAST’s customers now include the National Institutes of Health, Zebra Medical Vision and the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging.

From a tech provider’s perspective, the real excitement is around VAST’s product promise. The company aims to democratize flash storage, consolidate the storage stack in a way that unleashes insights, and provide a new storage approach for the next generation of machine intelligence.

VAST also intends to do this in a way that’s both highly scalable — think exabytes — and affordable. VAST’s low overhead data protection and powerful data reduction enables a lower cost of flash storage acquisition. In effect, the economic arguments for hard disk drives are no longer applicable. VAST calls this “Tier 1 performance at Tier 5 economics.”

VAST says key target applications for its storage approach include big data, log storage, AI/machine and deep learning, and enterprise backup. Verticals that can benefit from the technology include life sciences, financial services, HPC, content delivery and film animation.

Under VAST’s hood

At a high level, VAST’s vision is pretty simple: Put all your data in just one tier of storage. Then have it be fast enough, scalable enough and affordable.

To do this, the company uses Intel Optane SSDs, Intel QLC 3D NAND SSDs, and 2nd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors. VAST connects them using NVMe over Fabrics to provide massive scale along with the performance of direct-attached storage (DAS).

In VAST’s disaggregated, share-everything approach, servers are disaggregated from storage so that performance and capacity can be scaled independently. The servers are stateless, too. Each operates independently while sharing a global namespace. (A namespace is a set of signs used to identify and refer to objects.)

Additionally, if a server fails, there is no loss of data. You just fix or replace the server, without having to reconstruct data across the network.

Collapsing the storage pyramid

Here’s the problem VAST aims to solve: As companies implement new applications such as AI, machine learning and analytics, they need fast, scalable and consistent access to all their data. However, most of their storage systems are instead tiered, fragmented and inefficient.

In the traditional storage pyramid, cheap archival storage (such as tape) sits at the bottom tier. Then, moving up, come tiers of backup, network-attached storage (NAS), all flash arrays and then, at the very top, Intel Optane technology. Because data gets moved or even copied across and into multiple tiers, that can result in complications, errors and high costs. Moving storage to the cloud doesn’t solve the problem, either. It’s still tiered.

By contrast, VAST collapses the pyramid and eliminates the storage tiers. VAST calls this approach Universal Storage. It promises to reduce complexity, allow scaling and provide access to all your all data through a single global namespace.

In addition, VAST’s global flash translation uses Intel Optane technology to absorb all of the writes. This spares the QLC drives from excess wear, extending their useful life to a guaranteed 10 years — or 20x greater endurance than standard QLC drive deployments.

This also significantly lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO). Compared with hard disk drives, QLC-optimized flash can reduce the TCO by up to 85% over 10 years, VAST says.

VAST differences

VAST currently offers 2 main hardware components:

> Data protocol server: This is a stateless rack server with 4 compute modules. There are two 2nd gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors per module, for a total of 8.

> All-flash storage enclosure: It’s based on an Intel Optane SSD P4800X up to 18TB; and Intel QLC 3D NAND SSD, up to 675 TB.

Your customers can deploy the VAST solution in either of 2 ways:

> Full appliance: VAST provides a turnkey appliance

> Software-defined: Enclosures + VAST container software on VAST qualified servers

Are your data-center customers looking for the next generation of large-scale storage, complete with the latest Intel Optane technology? Then tell them about VAST.

Explore next-generation storage:

> VAST Data leverages Intel technology to redefine storage (video)

> Increase performance, improve reliability, and reduce costs: Redefine your storage solutions with VAST Data and all-flash Intel technologies (Business brief)

> Intel Optane technology – data center business (Intel Partner University)

> Intel Optane technology - data center technical (Intel Partner University)

> Data center storage (Intel Solutions Library)

> VAST Data website



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