Intel Catches Kubernetes Glow With Lightbits Labs Partnership

Intel scored some shiny new storage software today, announcing a strategic partnership with Lightbits Labs, the flash-based storage startup that provides non-volatile memory express (NVMe)-based persistent volume storage for Kubernetes.

The global pandemic is forcing businesses to surf the wave of change under constrained budgets while magically improving productivity and delivering secure and compliant services to remote workers across distributed environments. The new partnership aims to “propel development” of disaggregated storage offerings to help organizations struggling to rein in IT-related expenditures due to stranded disk capacity and performance.

To drive development, Lightbits Labs will receive an investment from Intel Capital along with technical co-engineering and go-to-market collaboration with the chip manufacturer.

Lightbits Labs’ composable disaggregated software-defined storage platform, LightOS, is based on NVMe over transmission control protocol (TCP). This technology extends the high-performance features of NVMe flash across storage nodes over a standard Ethernet network. The company’s software-defined platform disaggregates storage and compute, which co-founder and CEO Eran Kirzner in a previous interview said “gives cloud providers and private data centers the capability to scale their storage and infrastructure in a very efficient way.”

Lightbits Labs said LightOS will be fully optimized for Intel products including Intel Optane persistent memory, Intel 3D NAND SSDs, Intel Xeon Scalable processors, and Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapters with Application Device Queues (ADQ) technology. The combination of Lightbits Labs’ NVMe-over-TCP with Intel products will provide improved storage efficiency, reduce underutilization while maintaining compatibility with existing infrastructure, the companies claim.

Lightbits Labs on Intel

Protocols like NVMe and NVMe-oF (non-volatile memory express over fabrics) are enabling super-fast, low-latency flash storage, which means enterprises can run webscale applications and access data in near real time. Flash storage is also becoming cheaper, making it more affordable to buy storage that performs at cloud hyperscaler levels.

The San Jose, California-based startup, which was founded in 2016, considers itself the “originator” of NVMe-over-TCP as it contributed code and worked alongside Facebook, Intel, Cisco, Dell EMC, and Micron to develop the NVMe-over-TCP standard, which was ratified by the NVM Express consortium in late 2018 as a binding transport layer. It’s also worth noting that both Dell and Cisco are Lightbits investors.

“So there is an additional expense associated with that, and it also means it’s a hassle to continually upgrade those systems,” Eric Burgener, research VP at IDC, said in a previous interview. “So the TCP implementation is interesting because it doesn’t require custom content on the servers. It works with standard converged Ethernet adapters. Users can attach pretty much any server in their infrastructure to this high-performance storage, and they don’t have to buy any custom content.”

This is what makes Lightbits’ platform novel, he added. Plus, company engineers wrote a significant amount of the TCP standard, “and that’s important because with any emerging technology, that experience is important and with new technologies, that can often be in short supply.”

When Will the Persistent Storage Surge Cool Off?

The storage startup earlier this summer released LightOS 2.0 with an updated storage framework that targets Kubernetes deployments as persistent volume support. Those updates were a hot storage item this summer. Diamanti went deep in the latest update of Spektra with a ready-made appliance that hosts containers, and more importantly, handles the networking and storage requirements for them.

NetApp launched Project Astra, an enterprise-class storage and data services platform for Kubernetes that enables both application and data portability. In June, Rancher Labs made Longhorn available as a cloud-native container storage service to enable vendor-neutral persistent storage that supports stateful workloads on Kubernetes clusters. And earlier this month, Pure Storage dove head first into containers announcing that it will purchase Portworx in a $370 million all-cash deal.

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