Formulus Black Forsa turns memory into block storage

Forsa allows customers to bring application data into memory, by provisioning DRAM or persistent memory as block access storage with latency several times better than NVMe flash

Formulus Black’s Forsa will see an upgrade to version 3.1 next month that will add wider support for persistent memory products in its product, which can convert server memory to block-access storage.

Forsa comes as software in pre-configured server hardware or in the cloud and allows customers to carve out part of server memory for use as block storage to enable application datasets to be accessed at near-memory speeds.

The product plays in the arena of storage-class memory, which aims to provide a layer of storage capacity between cache/memory and bulk storage, in architectural and performance terms.

Formulus Black’s chief operating officer (COO), Jing Xie, said the product aims to bring in-memory storage “at a reasonable cost, with storage-like capacity”.

Demand is there, he said, with something like 30% of data needed to be “processed in real time or as close”.

Forsa can take server memory – DRAM and persistent memory such as Intel’s Optane – and provision it as a pool of block-access storage across multiple DIMM and CPU sockets.

According to Xie, this brings two times more transactions per second and one-fifth the latency of NVMe flash storage.

“Instead of using memory in the traditional way, as a buffer or cache, it can be allocated as storage instead of that application having to go out to other media,” said Xie.

“The storage is closer to the compute than in traditional architectures and is presented to the application as a standard posix-compliant block device.”

Customers will, of course, be likely to need to buy more physical memory unless they plan to use Forsa with a particularly small dataset.

Use cases targeted are most likely to be databases, said Xie, although almost any application that can benefit from low latency during processing can benefit.

Xie said Forsa allows storage to be provisioned “just like a namespace or LUN”. Configuration can be done from the Formulus Black graphical user interface or programmatically via REST APIs.

Key challenges to develop the product, said Xie, were in “mapping block storage to byte-addressable media – there’s lots you can’t do that you’d expect to be able to do”.

Forsa also brings advanced storage functionality that’s not available from memory ordinarily. This includes snapshots, cloning, role-based access and management, backup and restore, replication, high availability and load balancing.

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