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Storage startup Pliops aims to boost flash performance

News Analysis
Mar 10, 20213 mins
Enterprise Storage

With backing from Nvidia and Intel, startup Pliops is working to make data-center storage more efficient.

Rivals Intel and Nvidia are on the same side when it comes to the funding of a startup that promises to make flash storage orders of magnitude faster.

The two are among numerous investors in Pliops, which is developing a specialized storage processor that it says allows applications to access data kept in flash storage up to 100 times faster than with traditional approaches while using a fraction of the electricity required by traditional hardware.

Pliops has a list of investors that’s hard to ignore. In addition to Intel and Nvidia, the startup’s investors include Xilinx, Western Digital Corp., Viola Ventures, SOMV, SoftBank Ventures Asia, Expon Capital and Sweetwood Capital. Its most recent round of funding, announced last month, totaled $65 million. Founded in 2017, Pliops has raised $115 million in venture funding to date.

The most recent investment will be used to continue development of the Pliops Storage Processor (PSP), a hardware-enabled storage engine on a PCIe card form factor that works with storage class memory (SCM) (Intel’s Optane) and QLC NVMe SSDs to accelerate and protect databases for cloud and enterprise applications.

The PSP targets databases for an inherent inefficiency. Both relational and NoSQL databases today use “key-value” (KV) storage engines: The data is indexed by “keys” and stored as “values.” KV engines typically enable variable-sized keys and values, which can be problematic with high IOPS SSDs because you are dealing with variable-sized data on devices with a fixed block size. That means lots of compression and lots of disk writes.

Flash’s performance and endurance, meanwhile, are limited by the number of writes. Flash drives eventually wear out and retain less data the more you write to them. Therefore, you would ideally want to do less compression and a lot less disk writing, which is where the PSP comes in. It does the compression and reduces the number of writes that need to be done.

Pliops claims the PSP offers a very simple and effective option for lowering the total cost of ownership of public/private cloud infrastructure and on-premise data centers.

The accelerator card can be plugged into existing servers, and organizations don’t have to rewrite their existing applications to take advantage of the speed boost. Mark Mokryn, vice president of products at Pliops, dives into the technical detail in this blog post.

Since its PCIe accelerators are attached to servers, Pliops supports on-prem data centers and is targeting cloud service providers. In announcing the funding, the company said it is engaged with leaders in the “cloud service provider and broader enterprise market segments.”

They are clearly on to something. Last November, Pliops won the “Best of Show Award” in the Most Innovative Flash Memory Enterprise Business Application category at the Flash Memory Summit (FMS) 2020.

Keep an eye on this company. I know I will.

Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in southern California who has covered the computer industry for 20 years and has built every x86 PC he’s ever owned, laptops not included.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, Network World, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.