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March 20, 2019

Formulus Black’s DRAM Persistence Tech Now GA

Formulus Black yesterday announced the general availability of ForsaOS, a piece of software that allows any KVM-compatible application to run entirely in memory, without any modification.

In-memory computing has enjoyed a renaissance of late, as organizations seek to speed up their applications and lower the I/O overhead that they encounter when fetching data from traditional disk and solid-state disks (SSDs) over the PCI bus.

Organizations facing time crunches with critical applications have turned to technologies like in-memory data grids (IMDGs), in-memory databases, and in-memory processing frameworks to give them a processing boost. However, these approaches typically require programmers to re-develop parts of the applications to get the benefits.

What’s unique about Formulus Black‘s approach to in-memory computing is that no modifications are required to turn an existing disk- or SSD-bound application into an in-memory application. The company accomplishes this through a bit of hardware and software trickery that results in the complete elimination of traditional persistent storage I/O that travels across the PCI bus.

Wayne Rickard, the CMO for the Jersey City, New Jersey-based company, explains how ForsaOS eliminates the need for traditional storage without losing the capability to actually store data.

“What we’ve done is made DRAM look persistent,” Rickard tells Datanami. “And the way we do that is we take advantage of the fact that today’s always-on data center usually has dual-redundant power rails that are all backed up with UPS. When we detect a power fail event from the UPS…we basically do the same thing as NVDIMM does, and we move the DRAM data off the system into SSDs. And then we can recover the DRAM during a boot or restart from those SSDs.”

The company’s second trick is called memory amplification, which essentially is a form of compression for DRAM. Formulus Black says ForsaOS’s memory amplification algorithms recognize patterns in the data, and then apply bitmarkers to enable the application to recall those patterns. The result is that a DRAM chip with 1TB of capacity can actually store up to 4TB of data, without any degradation of performance.

“This is a way of optimally storing data in memory without using compression or de-dupe,” Rickard says. “The result is you get a much smaller data footprints. It’s the equivalent to saying you have much more capacity than you physical have.”

The company today can support two-socket servers running Intel Skylake, Haswell, or Broadwell chipsets. These motherboards can support up to 3TB of DRAM each, which translates to 12TB of addressable DRAM-based storage using ForsaOS.

ForsaOS includes a full Linux operating system, and since it supports the KVM hypervisor, companies can run any KVM-compatible OS or application combination, including Windows workloads.

One of the “sweet spots” for Forsa is analytics, Rickard says. “We have a customer that has a risk management platform where latency is key to their execution,” he says. “They’re trying to do hundreds of thousands of credit card transaction verifications in a very short period of time.”

The client was able to move their entire custom-written application, including the underlying database, into ForsaOS, without any modifications. “The difference between one minute and 15 seconds is a pretty significant improvement for them,” he says.

Another early adopter is running a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment on ForsaOS. The company was able to get 20 VDIs per server before, and with ForsaOS, it’s able to support up to 60 with no loss in performance, Rickard says.

ForasaOS includes a full Linux operating system. But since it supports a KVM hypervisor, it can also run Windows applications, Rickard says. The software also allows users to dedicate CPU cores to memory, giving storage isolation and protection from “noisy neighbors,” he says.

The software currently only supports two-socket Intel machines. But the company plans to eliminate that limitation soon, enabling it to run on four-socket servers, giving customers up to 24TB of effective storage in DRAM.

And by this summer, Formulus Black will introduce eight-way clustering over the NVMe channel, which will then enable hundreds of terabytes of RAM available to look like traditional storage accessed over the PCI bus, but without the latency. “You’re getting into the type of numbers that can pretty much handle any workload,” Rickard says.

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