NVIDIA recently announced its intention to acquire Excelero, a start-up vendor of software-defined storage solutions. How does this fit into the NVIDIA ecosystem, and what does it say about future storage start-up ideas?
Excelero Storage was founded in 2014, taking in around $35 million to develop a scale-out storage solution based on NVMe over Fabrics. We covered Excelero in a Storage Unpacked podcast in 2017 and as part of our coverage of the NVMe market in our NVMe in the Data Centre report (third edition published in September 2019).
The Excelero NVMesh architecture combines NVMe SSDs and RDMA networking cards to build out a solution of clients and targets where access to NVMe drives is achieved remotely across the network without going through the target server CPU. This workaround uses RDDA (remote direct drive access), a patented solution developed by Excelero and delivers low latency and high scalability.
In April 2021, Excelero announced an implementation of NVMesh on Microsoft Azure, using Infiniband-enabled virtual instances. This makes it possible to build scale-out high-performance, resilient infrastructure using fast storage.
The concept of bypassing the CPU for data transfers is, of course, a story we’ve heard before. We discussed GPUDirect storage in a Storage Unpacked episode in August 2021 and looked at the announcement of NVIDIA’s Grace platform earlier the same year. In both instances, the design of these solutions aims to eliminate the bottleneck introduced by funnelling data through a central processor.
Let’s look wider afield at technologies that offer composability. We discussed Liqid in 2019 (post here) and recorded a podcast with the company in June 2021 (here). Fungible offers similar composable technology (here’s a podcast recording from March 2021 with that company).
Add in new technologies like CXL and PCIe 6.0, and we have all the pieces for highly scalable, composable systems from NVIDIA that now include distributed block storage, onto which scalable file systems can be deployed or simply consumed as block devices.
We don’t know how much NVIDIA is paying for the Excelero acquisition, but as terms haven’t been announced, then it was probably on favourable terms (for NVIDIA, at least). More important, the company has acquired some critical technical skills in the storage market that will expand the platform ambitions of the company.
The Architect’s View™
We naturally hope that the Excelero team received some reward for eight years of software development. The win here is definitely for NVIDIA, with a complementary solution to GPUDirect. We expect that NVMesh as a separate product will be deprecated or offered from the NVIDIA portfolio if it makes sense to do so, although selling storage software alone doesn’t appear to fit with NVIDIA’s ambitions.
What about the broader storage market? Increasingly, storage start-ups are being acquired for technology that disappears into a wider ecosystem (think PernixData, Avere Systems, E8 Storage, Datrium, NooBaa, CloudSimple and DriveScale), whether that be a public or private cloud. The world doesn’t need another shared storage platform – there are plenty of those around. In any event, the previous historical purchasers of those solutions probably don’t have the inclination to go around that loop again.
Instead, the future seems to be focused on developing new solutions that are easily integrated into cloud-like platforms, exploiting modern hardware but developed as software. StorPool, Hammerspace, WekaIO and VAST Data are just some examples in the current market. Will these vendors continue as “pure-play” storage companies or be assimilated into a bigger entity?
Copyright (c) 2007-2022 – Post #839e – Brookend Ltd, first published on https://www.architecting.it/blog, do not reproduce without permission.