TMS releases upgraded OS, flash array with 40Gbps InfiniBand

The RamSan OS now allows 512-byte block access

Texas Memory Systems (TMS) today announced an upgrade to its RamSan operating system that's designed to support high-speed access to large and small block data sets.

The company also announced its next-generation multi-level cell NAND flash storage array, the RamSan 820, which offers enterprise-class hardware redundancy and 40Gbps InfiniBand connectivity.

The predecessor to the RamSan-820 -- the RamSan-720 flash array, which has an identical architecture

The RamSan-820 comes with either 12TB or 24TB of usable capacity without system-level RAID, or 10TB or 20TB of usable capacity with RAID, which is exactly double the capacity of its predecessor, the RamSan-720.

The biggest difference between the RamSan-720 and the new RamSan-820 is the NAND flash being used. The RamSan-720 uses more-expensive, less-dense single-level cell (SLC) NAND, while the 820 uses enterprise-class multi-level cell (eMLC) NAND.

"You get the density of MLC but closer to the reliability of SLC flash," said Erik Eyberg, a senior analyst at TMS.

And TMS is selling the new system at a far lower price. The RamSan-720 was priced at $25 per usable gigabyte of capacity; the RamSan-820 is half that price, at $12.50 per usable gigabyte.

In a typical consumer drive, which uses MLC flash, the number of program-erase cycles (which determine a drive's life span) varies from 3,000 to 5,000, while an eMLC drive can endure an average of 30,000 P/E cycles, or roughly 10 times more than consumer MLC systems. In comparison, a top-tier SLC-based SSD can endure up to 100,000 P/E cycles.

TMS's previous eMLC array, the RamSan-810, has the same performance as the 820, but it wasn't built with a fully redundant hardware architecture. Instead, the 810 is targeted for use in high availability environments where the resilience come from outside of the storage, through software such as Oracle Automatic Storage Management or hardware like IBM SAN Volume Controller, a storage virtualization appliance.

On the performance front, the RamSan-820 offers up to 400,000 sequential I/Os per second (IOPS), or 4GBps throughput.

In addition to the upgraded InfiniBand (IB) ports, the RamSan-820 offers 2Gbps, 4Gbps and 8Gbps FPGA-based Fibre Channel. The RamSan-720 offers 20Gpbs IB and 2Gbps or 4Gbps Fibre Channel.

Like the RamSan-720, the 820 is also fully redundant for enterprise-class data center use. The 1U (1.75-in. high) box has redundant management controllers, interfaces, cross-bar switches, data buses, RAID controllers, power supplies, power paths, clock circuits and batteries. The flash cards are also dual-ported for redundancy.

TMS also announced a firmware upgrade to its RamSan operating system (which resides in the flash controller) that allows 512-byte, sub-page access to data. The previous iteration of the operating system was tuned for 4KB or 8KB page access, meaning large block access.

"We had not as great small-block support," Eyberg said. "Now the firmware upgrade allows for great 512-byte support and 4KB support. So our box is even better for mixed workloads."

While most file systems hold to a single block access size, some large-scale, clustered file systems have access patterns that vary between 512-byte and 64KB block sizes.

"By introducing this support, we have extreme performance on any block size," Eyberg added.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and healthcare IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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