Ceph storage on ARM with SoftIron

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With its storage solution using the Ceph open source stack, SoftIron aims to meet the needs of audiovisual production houses, but also the HPC world.

The software/mat stack

Founded in 2012 by Norman Fraser, President based in London, and Mark Chen (CSO) and Phil Straw (CEO) based in Newark, California, SoftIron was part of the open source stack Ceph (distributed storage object, but also block and file) to develop its HyperDrive Storage bays adapted to the needs of the HPC market (research and businesses). These appliances, which are based on ARM64 controllers, function as scalable storage nodes behind a routing box. The choice of ARM instead of traditional x86 controllers was dictated by key requirements in terms of cooling and energy consumption. Huawei was forced to follow the same path for its OceanStor Dorado v6 storage arrays, as we explained to you last October, but for reasons of a US embargo on Intel Xeon components.

Faced with competition led by Red Hat, Suse, but also the Taiwanese Ambedded Technology, SoftIron intends to distinguish itself with its Hyperdrive storage bays which are available in 100% flash, hard disk and hybrid configurations. The company also provides the acceleration card erasure coding based onAccepherator FPGAs. Ceph can be quite hardware sensitive and it is necessary to leverage the open source stack well to get the best performance out of it. Hyperdrive arrays come with HyperDrive Manager, an intuitive online tool that radically simplifies Ceph cluster management, and HyperDrive Router, which handles Ceph storage requests. HyperDrive Storage Manager can automatically discover and deploy new nodes without the user having to resort to the CLI. SoftIron’s ambition is to enable easy and efficient large-scale deployment in areas such as high performance computing, analytics and data-intensive research projects. Red Hat et Suse focusing on the data center market, SoftIron could find opportunities in healthcare, industry, point-of-sale automation, but also the IoT and its vast amount of data collected by sensors.

Routing and transcoding add-ons

Recently, the HyperDrive Storage family is completed with a range of three high-end HyperSwitch switches based on the network operating system open source Sonic (Software for Open Networking in the Cloud) originally developed by Microsoft for its Azure cloud. Each switch comes with an intelligent platform management interface, two power supplies and an AMD Epyc Embedded 3000 processor, which can be used flexibly by network operators for security applications. Another further addition to the catalog is the HyperCast 4K transcoding appliance, using the open source codec FFmpeg to ensure multi-screen and multi-format delivery. This last market – media and broadcast – seems quite narrow, but the UK supplier sees great opportunities there.

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