Who is this “max” bloke anyway? (maxCachePlus that is)

March 21, 2014

Someone in Adaptec marketing has a son called “Max” … that’s my theory anyway … because just about everything we do these days has letters “max” involved.

The latest incarnation is maxCachePlus. This is an evolution of our previous maxCache product – maxCachePlus (mcp for short) is a teiring technology, as well as a caching technology like our previous versions.

You’ve all seen and heard of Seagate’s hybrid drives – a spinning drive with a chunk of flash storage built into the drive – with the theory being that what is required to be “fast” gets put on the flash and what is not so important stays on the spinning media. This is great for laptops and single drive systems, but it doesn’t work in RAID or large configurations because … (basically too many cooks spoil the broth – the controller can’t tell where the data is residing in the individual drives).

mcp does the same thing on a much larger scale.

In the past, maxCache (caching only) copied the hot data onto SSDs acting as fast storage – the data still remained on the hard drives with a copy of “hot” data on the SSD. This works pretty well, but you don’t get to see, or use, the capacity of the SSDs … it’s hidden from you. Combined with the fact that this only works on drives attached to the controller and there are “some” limitations.

mcp can use any storage in your system (with the usual proviso’s) … and can combine all that storage into a single volume, of which you get to see and use the entire capacity.

Now the simple easy way to think about this is that you take 8 x 4tb hdd and put them in a RAID 5 – not all that fast and certainly no good for random data, but big (eg 28tb). To this you might add 4 x 250gb SSD in a RAID 10 (good for random data) – that’s 512gb of storage that you’d like to see and make use of. With mcp you combine all that into one volume – giving a total of 28.5tb.

When you store data on that volume, the controller and associated software looks at the blocks of data, learns the usage patterns and moves the “hot” blocks onto the SSDs. So what you see is a file or files on your drive like any other drive in your server, but some of that data lives on ssd and some lives on hdd (even within the one file). This means that random data (read and writes) get placed on the storage that suits its requirements, while “cold” or streaming data remains on the hdd. All this, without you having to do anything – the controller and software works it out for you.

Now take that a step further. You’ve spent a lot of money on a flash controller drive – it’s very, very fast, very, very expensive but limited in size. You put some data on that, and you put some data on your RAID array … but you have to manage what goes where and keep managing it as your data needs change – painful.

As I said before, mcp can use any storage in your system, so you can create a single volume that is a combination of the fast expensive flash drive you purchased, and a bunch of hdd connected to our RAID controller. Imagine that … a disk that is both big and fast and cheap (the hdd component at least) … you get to see all the capacity of the storage, and the controller/software works out what data should live on the flash drive, and what should live on the hdd.

Pretty cool. No management required and you get the flexibility of purchasing different storage media to save money – all handled by the management of the controller/software. This makes a lot of sense in a lot of environments. Many general servers have the requirement for fast database storage, along with a bunch of word documents and videos – it’s too expensive to put it all on ssd, and hdd just don’t give the performance requirements of the database – but mcp will work out what goes where and place the data accordingly.

At the other end of the spectrum, I can think of many cloud providers selling platform as a service (PAAS) – instead of having your server in your office you use a server provided by a cloud provider somewhere in the stratosphere. Problem for that provider is that he doesn’t know what your data requirements are … so he sells you what he thinks will do the job, or charges you an arm and a leg for fast storage you don’t need.

If he used mcp, then the controller/software would work out the user requirements and place the user’s hot data on flash/ssd, and leave the rest of the not-so-hot data on the hdd – theoretically reducing both his and your costs in implementing storage platforms for the cloud.

That makes a bit of sense doesn’t it. Talk to your Adaptec rep about mcp – it’s worth getting to know.