Startup launches virtualized shared memory product

Earlier this week startup RNA Networks announced that it has launched a software platform that aggregates memory among servers and makes it available to all the servers as a shared memory pool. The company was founded 18 months ago with people from Cray, Akamai, Intel, and QLogic.

The platform at the core of the technology is the Memory Virtualization Platform; the first product based on the MVP is RNAMessenger.

The release doesn’t have much in the way of useful information, but Timothy Prickett Morgan’s article at El Regerino does

While most server virtualization tools aim to carve up a single box into multiple virtual machines with their own virtual processors, memory, and I/O, RNA’s memory virtualization platform aggregates capacity across servers. In particular, the company’s software aggregates the main memory on server nodes in the network and makes a giant shared pool of virtual memory available to each server node, giving it more room for applications to play.

…The RNA product stack has two elements. The first bit of the memory virtualization platform creates the memory pool from bits of server memory carved out from the individual server main memories inside the servers that are given access to the shared memory pool in the network. This underlying software keeps the memory coherent across the server nodes, much as NUMA and SMP electronics do in hardware.

…The second element to the RNA stack is called RNAmessenger, and it adds a messaging engine and API layer on top of this and a pointer updating algorithm that makes an operating system running on one server node see the shared memory pool as its own main memory. Loadable kernel modules or drivers loaded onto the servers gives applications access to the shared memory and also keeps the global memory coherent. The underlying RNA virtualization can take advantage of RDMA technology, but does not require it. (RDMA allows machines linked to each other to directly access the memory of other servers in a network). One of the first products to support RNAmessenger is IBM’s Cell hybrid Power chip, which has a DMA engine on each chip.

The article provides an example of customer performance, citing an increase from 6,000 transactions per second throughput on a trading system to 53,000 transactions per second. The company claims as its target the high performance computing, and is supported on Unix and Linux (no Windows yet, and the company doesn’t seem to care from the article) but I think you have to pull supercomputing out of that audience based on price

RNAmessenger is priced per server node and costs between $7,500 and $10,000 per machine, depending on the configuration and type of the server. The software at the heart of the memory virtualization has been patented and is most certainly closed source.

Shazam. That’s a lot of green. Seems like you’d just buy an SGI machine if you needed shared memory. Seems to be cheaper, cache coherence supported by hardware, and no extra layer of stuff to go wrong.

Comments

  1. “no extra layer of stuff to go wrong” ?

    Worries over stability of SGI? Continuation of product lines? etc

  2. Well, sure Al, but none of that stuff is baked into the machine. I’m not sure a startup with no business track record is any better bet than SGI right now. In fact, you could argue that SGI has already proven they can hang on during tough times, and RNA has not, putting SGI on a stronger footing with respect to that stuff.

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