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Hong Kong cloud firm tests Excelero NVMe for video analytics

Vivavo runs Excelero NVMesh NVMe storage at claimed near-bare metal performance to support real-time analytics for face and behaviour recognition on CCTV

Hong Kong-based cloud service provider Vivavo is testing NVMe flash storage from Excelero for video analytics and claims latency only a few microseconds above hardware limits.

Vivavo is based in Hong Kong, with datacentres there and in China and Singapore, and provides cloud services ranging from backup and disaster recovery to analytics and archiving.

The company is currently trialling Vivavo Video Service; a CCTV offering in which it provides not only basic video capture and storage but also video analytics. This uses facial recognition to identify known criminals and facial expressions and actions that allow it to spot behaviours associated with convenience store robberies.

The trial is hoped to be a forerunner to services the company can offer to customers that run airports and railway stations, for example.

The company has storage area network (SAN) block storage in place from suppliers including NetApp, EMC and Dell and relies heavily on hyperscale and hyper-converged IT architectures.

However, CEO Francis Au has said traditional SAN storage could not meet the storage requirements of the video analytics testbed.

“The product requires very high input/output operations per second (IOPS) for high-definition camera images, recording and real-time analytics. Traditional SAN couldn’t offer the kind of bandwidth we need,” said Au.

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Storage to support the video analytics trial comes from Excelero’s NVMesh. It is a software-only offering that Vivavo has deployed alongside four NVMe storage cards with 1.9TB each in four server nodes for a total of just over 30TB.

NVMesh is aimed at webscale and cloud customers, large enterprises and high-performance computing-type environments. It is already deployed at NASA, where a 128-node cluster runs around 250TB of storage using its software for supercomputer simulations.

NVMesh allows server to communicate with NVMe-equipped drives by with NVMe-over-fabrics (NVMf) that uses remote direct access memory (RDMA) as a messaging layer for NVMe commands.

Highest storage tier

For Vivavo, Excelero and NVMe are used as the highest storage tier, and performance gains are only within its datacentre rather than end-to-end with the CCTV deployment.

According to Au, input/output (I/O) performance is “a few microseconds above the limitations of the hardware”, while throughput is 6.6GBps. Au reckoned that would be less than 100MBps with traditional SAN.

NVMe is the latest phase in the development of flash storage. It is a subset of PCIe and is a protocol written for flash storage and which hugely increases access times and bandwidth compared to the SCSI and SATA protocols used by flash in “traditional” disk drive formats.

Currently, however, the industry is trying to find the best way to deploy it while retaining advanced storage functionality provided by the storage controller.

Excelero’s method of putting NVMe storage in servers and connecting via NVMf is one approach that does away with the controller and sticks with hyperscale-type architectures.

Other flash storage makers are happy to leave the controller in the way for now and take a performance hit, while others aim to throw controller CPU resources at the problem via clustering, or some form of disaggregation of controller processing.

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