Gear6 goes semi-public today with their new network storage cache, saying what the product does, but not releasing configuration, pricing and other key details until later. So some of my questions, and probably yours, remain unanswered. Here’s the Cliff Notes version.

Network storage cache cluster
It is a network cache appliance for, initially, NFS filers. Plug it into the same ethernet switch the filers are on, perform some voodoo at the Gear6 management interface to assign filers to be cached, and you now have a really large – how much joy can you afford? – and scalable cache sitting between the servers and the filers.

  • Cache scales to single-digit terabytes
  • Packaged in pizza boxes loaded with RAM – I’d guess 32GB per
  • The boxes are clustered, internally redundant and new ones add on non-disruptively
  • No server software
  • Supports millions of IOPS at microsecond response times
  • NFS only today, iSCSI and FC at some unspecified future date
  • Their goal: Enterprise class, redundant, high-performance network cache

This isn’t a RAM disk, because you don’t need another disk to manage. Gear6 says they have significant IP in the tools that automate the populating of the cache.

Why bother?
Gear6 says their beta customers work across many industries and applications with a few common characteristics:

  • Large data sets
  • Random data access
  • Large-scale concurrency
  • Bursty traffic

If this sounds like you, check out Gear6.

Adding capability to the network
Three months ago I did a once-over-lightly competitive analysis of Gear6 and concluded they were building a

. . . honking-fast Linux-based parallel MIMD FC-SAN non-blocking I/O NAS appliance designed to handle hundreds of thousands of concurrent I/O’s from large numbers of servers, clustered or not. . . . highly scalable, you’ll be able to add processors and network interconnects just as you would in any cluster or grid. [No] custom hardware, preferring to use very smart software, such as the CxC parallel computing language, on commodity clustered servers and interconnects.

So it’s Gig E instead of FC, and millions of IOPS, but overall I ‘d give myself a B+ or even an A- for that prediction.

The take
Blowing functionality across the network is a long-term secular trend. By focusing on building an NFS SAN cache appliance I believe Gear6 has picked a niche ripe for change. Depending on their pricing and management mojo it may make sense for F1000 customers to start buying really cheap filers with minimal cache and let the Gear6 cache cluster do the heavy lifting.

Comments welcome, of course. Moderation is turned on to control comment spam, but no registration required.